Day 12 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Prep Your Smoothies

As mentioned, I was skeptical of this one. The idea is to combine all the fruits and veggies in the quantities which you’ll need them, and then freeze together. But since we make smoothies that also include fish oil, water kefir, chia and hemp seeds and fresh fruit, it didn’t seem like this step would save us much time. Turns out I was wrong!

This tip comes from PopSugar‘s “DIY Smoothie Packs” post. The claim? “You can prep a whole week’s worth on Sunday night so a nutritious fiber- and protein-packed breakfast is just minutes away. It’s a great way to not only ensure a healthy start to your day, but you’ll save money since you can buy greens and fruit in bulk and won’t have to worry about them spoiling by the end of the week. Aim to use your smoothie freezer bags within a few weeks to avoid freezer burn.”

Well in fact, this was great timing! We are drinking green smoothies for breakfast every day, which means every morning one of us spends about 15 minutes gathering a couple different kinds of frozen berries and usually another frozen fruit (mangoes, peaches or pineapple); juice, coconut water, water or water kefir; hemp and chia seeds; spinach or lettuce; fish oil; as well as a fresh banana and avocado; then mixing those all up in the blender. The reason I was skeptical was that the frozen ingredients were such a small part of this equation. But this turned out to save us a lot of time!

Here’s what went into each large freezer bag: one banana, at least two cups of spinach (making it easier to buy large quantities of organic spinach and store without it getting slimy), a handful of raspberries or pineapple, and berries or other fruit to fill.

In the morning, we dump the bag in, add chia and hemp seeds (which we have pre-mixed in small jars near the blenders – less thinking!), measure out 2 tsp of flavoured fish oil (by NutraSea), carve out half an avocado and finally dump in at least half a pint jar of water kefir, which is also stored right by the blender, where it sits to ferment. It’s still a lot of steps, but now it takes 5 minutes or less. This is great!

Not the best photo, but aren't the colours pretty?

Not the best photo, but aren’t the colours pretty?

The easiest way is to make smoothies for breakfast on Sunday, and prep all the bags for the week at the same time. Healthy breakfasts for the week – check!

Tomorrow I’ll cook ground beef in the slow cooker. No photos, I promise!

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

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Day 11 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: Set a Timer

Before I even start, let me just say that I love this one! It’s not like it’s a new idea, but it’s definitely one I should be using daily. It’s easy to get distracted or perform tasks less efficiently than you could, or just work on things (say, cleaning the bedroom. Or weeding the garden.) for a longer period of time than you need to.

This tip comes from the blog Living Well Spending Less, in a great post entitled 10 Tips for Getting More Done Every Single Day. Ruth lays out some great tips here, especially (in my opinion) for stay-at-home or work-at-home moms. So check it out!

By User:S Sepp (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Staying true to my strategy thus far, I chose one tip from the post, and it was “Set the timer.” Ruth says:

“Setting the timer can be one of the best ways to motivate yourself.  For instance, if you give yourself only 30 minutes to tidy your house, you will most likely get more cleaned in less time than if you weren’t racing against the clock.

Limiting your time on seemingly endless tasks like email and Facebook helps a lot too.  If you only have 15 minutes to sit at the computer, then you have no choice to prioritize.  Likewise, setting the timer helps accomplish tasks you might normally procrastinate, such paying the bills.  Telling yourself you only have to do it for 45 minutes is powerful motivation to get it done.”

So basically I love this strategy and I hereby endeavour to use this simple tip to help me with everything – like she says, even time-wasters like Facebook. Today I used it for work. I have estimated times for each task in my To Do list, and I used those times to set limits for myself today as I worked from home. I checked clients’ social media accounts more quickly, I gave myself half an hour to write something personal, I was super-efficient checking my email and as for the tasks where my time estimate was way off? I either gave myself a more realistic limit based on how long it had taken so far, or moved on to something else and changed the estimate in my To Do list for when I have to do that task again in the future.

And of course I LOVE this for cleaning and chores! I can clean anything for 5-10 minutes!

Tomorrow I’ll prep my smoothies for the next week. I’m a bit skeptical and there are dry goods, liquid, frozen fruit and fresh veggies that need to go in there so it’s four different things to prep, but we’ll see!

Check out the Pinterest board for this series.

Image credit: S Sepp (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Day 3 of 28 Days to Simplify My Life a la Pinterest: “Start the Day”

The real name of this tip is “How to… Start the Day,” and outlines the things that different very successful people do first in their day. Pin here.

“How to Start the Day” – part of a life-hack pin by Anna Vital.

When Day 3 came around and I looked at this a little more closely, I realized that this tip is actually six different tips, two of which I will be doing on other days and one which is not applicable (no opportunity for customer service this morning!). I chose Steve Jobs’ quote: “Every morning I asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?'”

We were having a snow day, and didn’t have anything to do or anywhere to be. The plan for the day was to stay in bed until about noon and spend the morning drinking coffee while watching New Girl on Netflix. If today were the last day of my life, is that how I would want to spend my morning? Yep.

Not a real goldmine of a tip here, but given that I fulfilled my plan for the morning and it felt great, we’ll call this a win.

Tomorrow, I’ll be identifying what is unessential in my life, and eliminating it, apparently. I am not quite sure what I am going to eliminate… hopefully I can come up with something. Pin here.

Once again, the dedicated board for this series is here.

Day 2 of 28 Days to Simplify my Life a la Pinterest: Pick Out Your Clothes and Shoes the Night Before

I liked day one, and this idea for day two seemed great. Although really, do you save that much time? Either way, you have to pick out clothes. Five minutes in the morning is just being moved to nighttime, right? Oh well. Mornings are tough – maybe the point is to start the day with as little stress as possible and set a positive tone. Sounds good to me!

This is one of those suggestions that came up again and again in my Pinterest mining, but I took it from Stylecaster, where author Perrie said:

“Pick out your clothes—and shoes—the night before.

We realize that you’re not an 8-year-old girl, but laying out tomorrow’s outfit tonight, intuitively, is a huge time-saver. Be sure to iron, steam, lint-roll, or treat anything else you need to the night before as well, and hang your outfit on a hanger outside your closet, so all you have to do in the morning is reach for it. It helps to keep your shoes out, too, since digging through your footwear collection in the morning could get distracting (the “this shoe or that shoe” game can be a massive time suck, right?).”

Check out all Perrie’s tips on getting dressed more quickly in the morning here.

Pretty standard - tunic, tights, legwarmers, cardigan. Add some wool socks and sneakers and I'm out the door.

Pretty standard – tunic, tights, legwarmers, cardigan. Add some wool socks and sneakers and I’m out the door.

The verdict? I think I’ll try to do this on a regular basis. It did save me a couple of minutes in the morning, and I actually got out of bed more quickly because deciding what to wear was one less thing to dread and feel anxious about. I really did used to do this when I was eight, and reinstating this habit doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all. We have another winner!

Tomorrow, I’ll be trying this slightly more complicated set of suggestions for how to “Start My Day.” Pin here.

And of course, the dedicated board for this series is here.

28 Days to Simplify My Life… a la Pinterest

I’ve spent the past couple of years in a series of major transitions, something that I have to remind myself of fairly regularly. I beat myself up a lot, or feel down about some of the things I haven’t been doing lately. I haven’t gardened since 2012; I haven’t felt my love of canning since 2012; I’ve stopped running now because my knees have started crunching (I know what I need to do to remedy the situation and start a moderate running schedule again, but I haven’t done it yet); and I’ve barely been writing at all. Meanwhile, Neko and I have moved in with Andi and her kids (Justan mostly has as well, but he insists on keeping the other small house because it’s clean and quiet, unlike a house with a bunch of kids in it); I’ve switched jobs; I’ve taken on a parenting role to a few more kids; and we’ve embarked on this new relationship which doesn’t exactly have a roadmap (I’ve looked in the Relationship section at Chapters for the Triad book, with no luck… which means I’ll just have to write it).

Of course, life is a series of transitions. I don’t mean to make excuses. But I also think that I need to remember what I am doing and not focus too much on the things I’m not currently doing. Just because I barely canned a thing this year doesn’t mean I never will again or that I’ve forgotten how. It’s been heartening to feel the urge to write again, very recently. I’ve set up an office and workspace for Andi and myself, and it’s gorgeous. I want to be in it all the time (I’m in it right now, listening to Basia Bulat, sipping red wine and sniffing the bergamot and jasmine diffusing on the desk).

IMG_3838 Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Part of my struggle now is setting up new routines and habits for myself within this new life. I find myself wasting a lot of time wondering what to do, where to sit or work, and getting distracted by laundry, dishes, and all those messes that the kids are constantly making. I make endless lists to organize myself – To Do lists, grocery lists, schedules, meal plans, workout regimes, learning plans for homeschooling… Some of them are helpful and they stick. Others get relegated to the List Pile. I look at those again later and think, “Boy, that was a good idea!”

And every day I kick myself for not working out, not writing, not focusing well enough on homeschooling Neko. Every day I pick out the ways that things could have run more efficiently. I could have premade the components of that meal, or realized there wouldn’t be enough time to cook it in the evening before the kids (and we adults) became rangy. I could have spent less time doing laundry and more time working for money. Items get shuffled to the next day or later on the To Do list. I revisit all the other plans and adapt them.

Lately, one of my tasks at one of my jobs (in wholesale sales for a local skincare company) has been developing and managing social media profiles. Most recently, I set up and propagated our Pinterest page. I spent hours and hours slogging through the Pinterest pages of our clients and repinning. And then saving some pieces just for my personal page. After a while, I started to notice all the pins about productivity, efficiency, time management, life hacks and money- and time-saving techniques. I wondered, “Do any of these actually work? Do they make a measurable difference? Does anyone try these, or do they pin them, feel better about their life, and go have a beer?”

29 Morning Shortcuts That Will Save You Time - Pin

29 Morning Shortcuts That Will Save You Time – Pin

Well, lord knows I could use some more time, be a little more efficient, use more time for things I love (right now I’d love to add 15 minutes of yoga and 5 minutes of meditation to each day). I’d love to spend as little time as possible tidying, washing dishes and doing laundry and spend more time creating freely, walking in the woods and, well, taking baths, really.

So here is what I propose. I am going to spend the next 28 days testing some of the techniques I’ve pinned on Pinterest. Each day, I will try something new. Some are recipes or kitchen hacks. Some are work habits. Some are cleaning tips. When I try a new daily habit, I will do it for the remainder of the 28 days. Each day, I’ll report back on the results.

I need to disclose a few things, first. For one thing, I am already a pretty organized person. I’m a Virgo (there I go again with my crazy astrology talk!). I make lists, I make schedules, I make meal plans and fitness dates and then I get claustrophobic and overwhelmed and my Libra side rebels by hiding from it all and doing nothing scheduled or planned for weeks at a time. But the lists and plans are always there, easy to find, ready to pick up again (I’ve built in parameters for this rebellion, you see).

I use a GSD (oops, I mean GTD… Getting Things Done. Please disregard my own personal version…) system on Remember the Milk. I obsessively log everything there, from my grocery list to my car registration to homeschooling events to work tasks. I check it constantly. Until I don’t check it for six months. But the beauty of the system is that it takes less than an hour to bring it up to speed after that long gap.

My To Do list on Remember the Milk - organized using a GTD system. AKA my lifeline.

My To Do list on Remember the Milk – organized using a GTD system. AKA my lifeline.

I make meal plans. I’m not strict about them, but I do use them to build my grocery lists.

I do practice several habits which I ran across again and again as I went through the pins on time and space management, including purging my closet often, meal planning, making lists, prioritizing my lists, and quick, efficient tidies. Because of all this, there will be several fundamental tips that I will not be testing. It dawned on me as I curated the tips that I’m starting from a pretty good base here.

I have, however, picked out 28 tips to try. I can’t wait to see which ones stick! If I can find time for yoga, walking or running, and writing by the end of the month, I will be so happy.

Watch tomorrow for the first post: Before you get up each morning, set an intent for the day. Pin here, Blog post here.

And please feel free to follow the dedicated board for this post! I will add the source pins as I add posts!

Our Pinterest Spree

We found ourselves with an unexpected free day on Friday, so we chose a few ideas from Pinterest and had some fun!

First, we painted rocks with little hearts on them. The original idea is here – I found it so charming. Here are our finished stones (it’s winter, so we chose stones from our own rock collections. We both find pretty stones irresistible, so there are always extras around!):

Our finished heart rocks.

Today (Sunday), we placed our stones all over in unexpected spots in the front yard. We will definitely be doing this again in the future and taking them out into the world! It’s so simple but it made me really happy, and I know it would make me happy to find one while I was out and about.

Neko chooses the spot for her first stone.

Justan says this picture is creepy. I think it’s cute.

We have a lamp post in front of our house. I wonder how many people will notice this stone!

This one is tucked into the peeling bark on our Mountain Ash.

Look carefully when you climb our front steps!

Neko placed this one outside her window. Yes… our window frames are dirty.

Then Neko had a bath with glow sticks. So simple, but a big hit! Works even better with two or more kids.

Her new toy bearded dragon joined her as well.

While she was in the bath, I put together some “ice eggs” for another day. Here is the inspiration for these:

“A Little Learning for Two” had this fun idea for a hot summer day!

We’ll be playing with these in the bath sometime soon. Right now there are a bunch in my deep freeze!

Friday: Enjoy the Journey

This post is the seventh in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Friday is a day of Detachment. The message for today is, “Enjoy the journey.”

The idea for today is to stop worrying about controlling the outcome of everything. Ideally we will teach our kids to throw themselves into things with enthusiasm despite the fact that we never know what the outcome will be. While I feel like this will take a long time for Neko to understand, I also think this is extremely important for children to learn. Right away, I can see the situations where this would be a valuable lesson – board games, for instance.

We had a nice day on Friday, and I felt like it was fitting for the “Detachment” idea. Mairead and Finn were supposed to come over in the afternoon, but the whole family was sick, so they stayed home. Justan had to work nearby, which meant Neko and I were left alone, but with the car. This hasn’t happened in a long time! Mairead and Finn don’t fit in our car (well… they do. But there is not enough room for three carseats.), and usually when Justan is working, he has the car. I thought it was funny that we had an unexpected turn of events today!

I turned to my Pinterest boards for fun ideas, and Neko and I chose a few. We then made a list of the supplies we needed, and visited the thrift shop, the dollar store and the craft store.

We chose….

I can’t find the original poster of this one, but it’s made the social network rounds and has been anecdotally proven to be a hit!

This charming idea from the Color Me Katie blog really captured our attention. We both love rocks! How simple and cute!

I will do a separate post with the results of these. We had a lot of fun. I have quite a few ideas for things to do on future Fridays. I think this will be one of the days we have the most fun! Here are my ideas:

a) do unpredictable experiments – I don’t have any specific ideas yet. This is a little tricky, because usually experiments suggested for kids have a set outcome. But maybe something weather dependent, or maybe testing out different styles of paper airplanes? Lots of wiggle room here, though, as many experiments are unpredictable to kids. I’ll be keeping this in mind and I’ll see what I come up with. As always, I would love suggestions!

b) talk about our own lives, and what might happen – I personally find comfort in thinking of all the most likely outcomes and being okay with any of them. I’d love to pass this on to Neko.

c) play a board game – win or lose, it’s about having fun. Hey… kind of like life!

d) enter a contest – Neko is always seeing contests (usually drawing contests) on kids’ morning TV. I’m sure there are better contests for learning this lesson – like entering for a door prize at an event we attend – as it has more of an impact if you can see the contest results.

e) burn or release the intentions from yesterday – if you wrote intentions on paper yesterday, how about cooking over the fire (or lighting a fire in the fireplace) tonight and burning those intentions to release them. Don’t be attached to the outcome!

f) play with a tone matrix – yes, it’s true, you could figure out what each combination will sound like. But the fun is on choosing random spots and checking out the result. Try this tone matrix  or this one that “pulsates” and looks and sounds a bit like raindrops.

Neko really enjoyed trying both. They kept her amused for quite some time!

Embarrassingly, I have not been able to come with any story ideas yet. Not for lack of trying! I’m sure Helen Lester must have one about not being a sore loser.

Movie ideas: Homeward Bound, Up!