Realistic cookie decorating

Quick post today, but I’ve been drooling over everyone’s fantastic looking cookies this holiday season. I thought I had what it takes to bust out some adorable cookies, but I might have over estimated my abilities.

It’s not brain surgery, but it does require patience, trial and error, and a good recipe.

The cookie recipe is something I am pretty confident with, I’m very happy with the way the actual cookies came out. They’re soft but not too soft, and before this recipe I had literally never made a soft cookie before. They’ve always come out blobby and hard and mostly unrecognizable as whatever shape they were supposed to be.

Raise your hand if that describes cookies you’ve made before. 🤚

Not anymore, I swear, I’m telling you, something about this recipe makes perfect cookies. Its magic, probably.

The icing on the other hand… kind of a fail. I realized it was too runny after I got it into the bag. So I just ran with it and instead of outlining neatly, I made blobs and forgot about caring if I got icing everywhere.

BUT it does dry hard enough so you can stack them. I’m just not super crazy about the flavor either, I feel like I can taste the powdered sugar and it seems really fake to me.

I’m really on the lookout for an icing recipe that fits all my criteria before I’m going to try again.

I don’t want to waste my precious powdered sugar that I had to wait in line for. Yes there was a LINE in the baking aisle at Walmart today. Never again.

So if you have a great icing recipe you’re willing to share, please do! Also I might make a separate post about that cookie recipe because seriously I’m in love.

Talk at ya later!

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My First Time: ClickList

I’m sure if you have ever listened to the radio you’ve heard a dozen commercials for grocery pick-up. They talk about how convenient it is, but what can you really expect when someone else picks out your groceries?

If you’ve been hesitating to order your groceries online, I’m here to break it down for you and see if it was really worth it…

I shop at Kroger, I am a ‘best customer’ according to the packets of coupons that come to my mailbox twice a month. I’m almost obsessed, I really think you can get really good deals there, and I am very comfortable with the layout of the aisles. This is not something I can say about other big grocery stores in my area (cough, walmart, cough)

I was perusing the Kroger app this morning looking for electronic coupons to use for my afternoon shopping trip. I decided on a whim to try the clicklist thing, as I already had my list prepared. It was only a matter of using the search bar to find the item I wanted, and clicking on “add to cart” and selecting the quantity.

I had zero problems ordering, everything I searched for, I found, so all that was left to do was input my credit card information and select a pick-up time.

It was about 5:30 AM when I ordered and the closest pickup time was from 11-12 this afternoon, and since I like to get my shopping done early this is the option I chose.

One downside is that you cannot modify your order once it has been placed, but this is something I completely understand and they warn you of this before you finalize the order.

I still forgot the milk. Woops!

Of all things to forget… Anyways, so I pull up to the assigned parking area about 5 minutes before 11 (being the compulsively over-punctual person that I am) and called the number on the sign as instructed in the confirmation e-mail.

She asked me my name, I told her, and an employee came out with my groceries right away. He informed me that they didn’t have the ground pork I ordered and that they didn’t charge me for it. All the substitutions or omissions are on a printout stapled to the receipt, which was nice.

He asked if I wanted my eggs in the front with me, which I agreed and thought was nice. They rode shotgun next to my purse, safe and sound. He also asked if I used fuel points because if you do the survey at the bottom of the receipt then you get 3x fuel points. Or something.

I got home and tried to do the receipt survey, but for some reason I couldn’t find the “entry id” so I couldn’t start the survey. I would have given him five stars, though, for the egg thing alone.

Also something I forgot to mention was that you can use paper coupons once you arrive, and I had mine in my hand when he came out but for some reason I froze up and hid the coupons and never gave them to him. My brain is weird sometimes. I guess I didn’t want to inconvenience him once I realized he was standing out in the rain. My husband said you’re not even allowed to tip these people, so I just wanted him to get back inside. Weird, I’m usually so on point with my coupons but my brain just derped! Ha

95$ for 50 items and the 5$ pickup fee was waved since it was my first time. I’d say it was worth it to not have to deal with the pre-xmas crowd or even get out of my car. I was browsing the app anyways and it really only took probably five minutes to get everything in my cart. I’d say if you can find 5$ worth of coupons (and actually use them) then it’s worth it if you are short on time. Or, in my case, patience.

Have you guys ever done grocery pick-up before? What were your experiences?? I want to know!

Thanks so much for reading, see you guys soon!

DIY Image Transfer Candle

I have really been trying to make this holiday season as special as possible while also staying within our budget. I found this idea on Pinterest and I knew it would be perfect for my mom.
My family lives about a hundred miles away, so they don’t often get to see me or my daughter in person. We video chat and send pictures in a group chat, but they don’t have very many actual physical photographs of us. A product of the internet age, I suppose.
I think my mom will really love this gift, and after seeing how easy it was to actually make, I contemplated making one for everyone in the family. I already bought or made everyone else’s gifts this year, so maybe next year everyone will get a candle with our faces on it!

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YOU’LL NEED

  • A candle with suitable surface for the size of the picture you’ve chosen
  • A printer
  • Tracing paper
  • Plain printer paper
  • Tape
  • Wax paper
  • Heat source like a hair drier or heat gun (I actually used a curling iron, but I don’t recommend this unless you are prepared to clean the wax off the iron thoroughly afterwards.)

First you start by selecting the picture you would like to transfer. I used a black and white image partly because my printer only had black ink but also because I thought color might not show up as well.
I taped the tracing paper to a piece of regular printer paper on the top, bottom and both sides. I actually only taped the top and sides at first but when I ran it through, it crumpled the tracing paper from the bottom. Tried again using tape on all four sides and it worked perfectly.
I put the paper in and for my printer, it needed to be put in tracing paper side down. I printed 9 images on the one sheet of paper and selected the one that turned out the best. Some of the other pictures had smudges and I used one of them for a test run on a smaller candle.

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Align the picture ink side out where you want to transfer the image, and wrap tightly with wax paper.
Apply the heat source to the image, and you will start to see the image more clearly. Make sure you heat every part of the picture and are maintaining an even grip on the wax paper.
Slowly peel off the wax paper, ensuring that your image has transferred evenly, and let cool completely.
That’s it, we’re done!

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I got my candle on clearance and the tracing paper was pretty inexpensive so now I have like 100 sheets of it to image transfer my little heart out. Now, I’m on the lookout for other stuff to put my face on, so if you know of any other cool crafts like this, drop them in the comments and I’ll definitely try them out!
Thanks so much for reading, Happy Holidays!

Grocery lists and tips

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I’ve been grocery shopping as a grown up for long enough now that I have learned a few things I want to share with you today.

How I make my grocery list, the route I walk through the aisles (yes this is important) and also getting the best deals and the best quality food. Time is money and no one has time to aimlessly wander through the grocery store.

In my last post about meal planning, I touched briefly on decision fatigue and how having so many options can lead to making decisions you didn’t plan for. This also applies to the grocery store and one way to avoid this is to make a specific list and stick to this list.

It’s important for budgeting and also for ensuring that you don’t buy too much or too little of something.

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The first step to having a comprehensive grocery list is to pop open that fridge and see what’s in there. Is it totally empty? Do you have anything that needs to be used before it goes bad? Leftovers that can be transformed? Ideally this should be happening before you make your meal plan, but it’s also a lot to digest. (ha)

Find out what you have, what you can do with it, and write it down. Cross check your meal plan, see what’s in the freezer, and don’t buy things you already have.

Moving on, grab your meal plan and associated recipes and find out what you need to buy. Seems simple, but can be tedious and a lot of people skip this step thinking they can just do it by memory. I cannot tell you how many times I thought I knew what was in a recipe only to realize I forgot something really important. Here’s how this looks for me:

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this menu should cost less than 50$!

If you only plan for dinners, like me, you’ll need to find out what extras you’ll need. For us this usually looks like apples, eggs, cheese sticks, lunch meat, bacon etc. You might not need a set plan for those mid-day meals, but it’s important to put them on the list. It may be helpful to plan it, but if you’re new to meal planning it can get overwhelming. Don’t stress yourself out! Practice makes perfect.

Coupons!

I shop at a grocery store that has online coupons, and their app has their weekly advertisement on it. If yours doesn’t have coupons, it likely has a weekly flier of all the sales that you should be checking. If you realize that chicken is on sale, and ground beef is not, you may want to re-evaluate your meal plan to include more chicken meals. You don’t have to, but if your goal is to save $$ then shopping the sales is the best way to get started.

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My “fairy” category refers to the coupon fairy who sprinkles her unused coupons throughout the store for other people to use.

They send out a variety of different coupons to my house as well, some very useful- like onions. Some, though are kind of a trap to get you to buy things you wouldn’t normally buy. Don’t fall for it! The 50 cent off coupon for *insert name brand product* will never be a better deal than the store brand (that is probably made in the same factory by the same company, but….. 🐸🍵)

Although I have been known to buy Sargento cheese slices if there’s a coupon because it is actually better. You’ll have a better idea of what works best for your family than me, so use your best judgment!

ALSO

There have been many instances where I bought all the vegetables I needed for two weeks worth of meals, only to realize that many vegetables didn’t last that long. I remedy this by only buying one week’s worth of vegetables and then popping back in the store for the rest at a later date.

Pantry items such as rice, dry beans and canned goods are usually great to have a stash of in your house.

Speaking of pantry items

I only had one new year’s resolution for 2018 in an attempt to save money. “Get good at dry beans”

My daughter is picky about meat but loves beans, so I found myself buying oodles of canned beans. They’re convenient and already cooked so it seems like an easy choice, but if you look at the price vs. how much you actually get, I quickly realized that dry beans were a better value. This article breaks down that math for you.

I had tried many many times soaking the beans, boiling, soaking for different times, salt, no salt, I just really struggled with dry beans. They never turned out right and I wanted to “get good” at dry beans!

I read this article that gave me a lot of great tips. I usually put them in a crockpot for 4 hours on high (I add a few spices sometimes, but not salt, it makes them smooshy for some reason) and it works perfectly.

So, now you can ‘get good’ at dry beans too, it’s worth it!

Alright, bean tangent over, let’s talk about..

Aisle route

Everyone’s grocery store is different, but what I like to do is start on one side and weave my way through the aisles so that I end up at the checkout lane. I can usually buy 145$ worth of groceries in about a half hour. With a toddler in tow!

I only have a couple things that influence this route

  • Dairy products, I like to put in the cart last because warm milk or ice cream makes me queasy.
  • Which side of the parking lot I park on (one side is closer to pantry items, one side is closer to produce.
  • How much produce I need to buy, I might hit the deli before the produce depending on what I need

I go down each aisle I need only once (usually…) I check off my list as I go, and I write my list BASED on the aisles.

Typically looks like this: produce, deli, meat, cans and broth, dry goods and sauces, snacks, cheese, butter, eggs, milk and other dairy.

I usually have no reason to be in the frozen aisles, so I avoid them altogether since frozen pizza is just too tempting. Your mileage may vary.

I skim through those aisles, grab and GO. Your planning has been done before you get to the store so your brain doesn’t even have to be activated, just check off your list and run!

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be such a nightmare. Use your coupons, shop the sales, and most importantly STICK TO YOUR LIST. Don’t get lost trying to make hard decisions while you’re there. The more familiar you are with your grocery store’s set-up and sale schedules, the easier this all becomes.

If it seems like a lot of work, I promise it gets easier and you can email me with any questions you have. I could ramble on about this stuff forever. That’s why I’m here! Also let me know if any of you have a specific route you take to navigate the grocery store or if you can think of any other ways to cut down on browsing time.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my tips, I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Today’s To-Do’s

I’ve got some things to catch up on today. Nothing major, but while I was writing today’s to-do list last night before bed, I figured I’d share a little bit of my process with you guys!

I start by doing a walk-through of my house with a pen and my notebook writing down all the little things that I see need to be done. All the little weird things that need to be picked up, laundry that needs done, unfinished projects, meat I need to put in the fridge from the freezer to thaw, whatever.

I scribble the tasks down as I’m walking. Then I sit down and categorize them by what time of day they need to be done by, or what time of day it would be easiest to do them. Like dishes in the sink need to be in the dishwasher at some point in the morning or I wont be able to do basically anything else in the kitchen.

Some days I feel extra motivated and knock some things off the list as I’m writing it, if it’s something quick, but a lot of things I leave for the next day so I can move on with my life and play video games with my husband.

It was almost bedtime for our two year old when I was writing this list, so she helped me categorize the tasks and got some writing practice in at the same time! She’s got her “H” down, now we’re working on her “A”

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most of my lists look like this

Then she went to bed, so I rewrote the list in order of time to be completed, along with a reminder of the recipe I wanted to make for dinner today. White chicken lasagna soup!

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It’s currently 7:47 and I’ve crossed 10 things off my list, the kid is fed and playing peacefully (for now) on the floor and I actually finished my cup of coffee! Today is already a success!

Hope you guys are all having a fantastic day and stay tuned because my in-depth grocery shopping guide is in the works and coming soon!

Beginner’s guide to meal planning

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Meal planning can be intimidating. Whether your goal is weight loss or to better organize your day, I’ve come up with a few tips to help you figure out what works best for your lifestyle.

I struggled most with the commitment aspect of it in the beginning. How on Earth could I know what I wanted to eat for dinner next week? The secret here is that the simplicity of already knowing what is on the menu narrows down your options. You have a choice of what you planned, what’s in your pantry, and you don’t have the entire internet worth of recipes to choose from anymore.

They’ve studied this phenomenon, it’s called decision fatigue -when you have a million things to choose from, it’s harder to make that choice. When you have one week of meals planned, that’s seven meals you can choose. If you don’t feel like making what you planned, it’s okay to swap days around! You’ll find you do it less the more you meal plan, though.

It’s soo much less stressful for me to know what’s for dinner, make the dinner and be done with it. My grocery shopping is done, no running to the store for last minute items, and ultimately more time spent with my family. Or bubble baths…

First thing’s first, you must assess your abilities. When I first started meal planning, I literally thought meat sauce with spaghetti was an accomplishment (sometimes it still is) and if I’m being real here, my first meal plans consisted of sauce with different types of pasta at least three times a week.

If this is you, that’s perfectly okay! If you’ve been cooking for longer or are naturally a gifted chef, you can get a little bit more complicated. Whatever your speed, choose recipes that are attainable and fit your lifestyle and schedule.

Making a master list of your favs is also a good idea.

The way I usually plan, I pick recipes for two weeks. Payday to payday, mostly so I have fewer trips to the grocery store. I write a list of days of the week- FSSMTWTFSSMTWTF

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I break those days down into the “type” of day they are:

O– days hubby is off work, we cook together and don’t need leftovers for his lunch

W– days he works and needs lunches and I’m mainly on my own as far as cooking

V– days I volunteer and he cooks, and I usually need leftovers for my lunch

This way I know what days I’ll need to cook meals with enough leftovers, and which I don’t.. basically.

Figure out your “type” of days (you can have more than three!) and what types of meals fit in best. Maybe you have a recurring activity each week where you don’t have time to cook and those can be your crock pot “set it and forget it” meals. Or you can even plan to eat out. It’s your life, you know it best. Observing dinner trends in a journal may seem obsessive but it really helped me recognize my patterns in the beginning.

When I write out my meal plan, I include the day of the week, the type of day, the meal itself, the protein, and the carb/starch (it’s not dinner if it doesn’t have both, according to my husband)

I do this for a couple reasons, one being that it makes writing out my grocery list easier if I know that six meals include chicken breast, three are ground turkey, five are beans, etc… but also because I make my own tortillas, buns, bread, dinner rolls, and need to know what needs to be made ahead of time. You may not need to be that specific, but it really does make the grocery list a little easier to plan out if you know what you are going to be using.

I have a lot to say about grocery lists and grocery shopping, but I’m going to make a separate post about that!

The reason I’m mainly focusing on dinner is because that’s the meal most people actually cook for, and is the best way to ease yourself into a schedule. Starting out planning breakfast lunch and dinner can be a bit overwhelming or hard to stick to, and that’s where I made my first few mistakes.

I keep toddler-friendly breakfast and lunches on hand, like quick grab and go kind of things because that’s easiest for me, and I end up just eating her scraps anyways (like the apples left to wilt with literally half a bite taken out)

So you’ve found your recipes, figured out what day you’re most likely to cook and eat those recipes, wrote them on your calendar, got your groceries and are moving and grooving through life. Dinner time comes around and you realize that agreeing to make lasagna noodles by hand for tonight’s lasagna isn’t going to be in the cards today.. What do you do?

You’ve got a few options. You can swap meals with another day you’ve planned for. This always drives me crazy, I don’t know why I just don’t like to swap days. My favorite solution for this is to find another way to use the ingredients in the meal you planned for. You can turn that lasagna into some other kind of pasta dish. Get creative, maybe throw some balsamic vinegar into the sauce, slap some ricotta on top and you’ve got yourself a really tasty experiment that no one knows wasn’t planned!

Once, I planned for a chicken and squash casserole only to find out that my squash went bad. I live a ways from the grocery store, so I had to get creative. I threw some rice in the rice cooker with a little broth and soy sauce, and there you go, chicken and rice! Getting creative with food is half the fun of cooking. Something I never understood until I (reluctantly) started cooking full meals every day!

This is the video that popped up on my subscription feed that really inspired me to get more serious about my meal plan and she has a lot of great tips as well! She’s great, I watch every video she puts out no matter what it’s about.

There is no one solution to the perfect meal plan, no micromanaged checklist that I could ever come up with will ever be perfect for you. You’ve got to just do it! Trial and error, and learning from mistakes (we call mistakes ‘experiments’ in our house) is how you learn!

As long as you learn something every time you burn dinner or try to thaw chicken in the microwave and end up cooking it (and then crying and having to throw it all away) then all hope is not lost!

I just know that there is an organized brilliant genius chef inside everyone and I want to help find them! I believe in you!

I would really love to read about all your meal planning or prep fails or triumphs in the comments, I’m really interested in learning where everyone is coming from on the subject and keep the learning going!

Hope to hear from you guys! Thanks!

Meet the planner

I never liked the term “lazygirl” but like, that’s exactly me.
I would much rather be sitting comfortably, scrolling endlessly through pinterest than mess my nails up doing dishes all day.
(Seriously invest in gloves, and use them. I wish I would have started using them ages ago)
I think sometimes my mind is so full that its easier to bail out of thinking and let a device think for me. I know we all struggle with the scroll. For me, using a paper planner was a good way to get me to put my phone down and getting something done in the process!
I’ve tried planners with discs, ringed weekly planners, binders, post it notes, you name it, I bought it. I saw it work for so many people, so I had to just keep trying. Desperate to find some way to bring all my thoughts and plans into one place so they could stop clouding my brain.
I came across Boho Berry’s bullet journal videos (here) and really liked the idea of a bujo of my own. I could turn my love for aimlessly doodling into the conduit for having my crap together!
My first bullet journal I got for Christmas from my other half- a leuchtturm1917.
I was looking for a dot grid notebook that laid flat and that my ink wouldn’t bleed through. I loved that thing, I took it everywhere, testing out different pens and layouts.

OH and washi tape, I do love putting washi tape on the edges of my pages.

When I finished that one I ended up going to the grocery store and bought my current one. To be honest, the quality isn’t as good but the pages are thicker and ink doesn’t bleed through as much. (Also over half the price 🤷‍♀️)

Alright let’s crack this bad boy open and see how he works his magic on my life…

Important dates

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Oops I actually use google calendar on my phone for this. I’ve tried paper calendars bullet journal layouts that have it all on one page and I just found that it isn’t as convenient as having it at hand on my phone.

I actually have my calendar as a widget on my home screen so when someone says “Hey, can you volunteer this tuesday?” I can just unlock my screen and schedule it right from there! I haven’t had this luck with other types of digital planning.

Meal planning

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I used to browse pinterest and pray I remembered that I needed to buy kale for some white bean soup I might potentially have the energy to make at some point this week. Then that evolved into actually writing “buy kale for white bean soup” in my notes app.

One day I finally sat down and found five recipes I wanted to make (and that my cooking ability allowed me to attempt) and assigned them all days.
Example-

Monday- white bean soup
Tuesday- spaghetti
Wednesday- you get the jist..

Then I started to panic, what if I was tired on monday and my stage five clinger newborn wouldn’t let me stand in the kitchen long enough to chop vegetables? What if I wanted to take a nap? What if my husband got off work early?

What if what if what if…
I had to convince myself that swapping tuesday’s spaghetti for monday’s soup wasn’t a sin against the planning gods. That if I still didn’t want to make the soup on tuesday, we could just eat kale salad with white beans on top and we would probably all still survive. That was a hard pill for me to swallow and I still struggle with not “following through” on my meal plan sometimes.
Its OK! I promise!
My meal planning can sloppy, yet is refined and works great for me. I’ll make a separate full in-depth post about my process sometime really soon. Once you get the hang of meal planning or have found some recipes you plan on planning (that darn word keeps following me, I cannot escape plan) you can move on to the next item on our list.

Grocery lists

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Now I consider myself a professional grocery shopper. Not because someone pays me, but because I have specific list making tactics that coincide with my route. Yes, the route I walk with my little buggy around the grocery store. Sounds neurotic but grocery shopping with a toddler has made me really appreciate the most efficient and quick ways to do just about everything. I write it out on paper, then arrange the things I need to buy into a neat list on my phone’s notes. This just makes it easier to check things off at the store and stick to the list.

I wasnt always this way!!
I write my list, I (over)estimate the cost from memory, I put it in my budget, and I STICK TO THE LIST. More on that for another post.

Chore management

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Yes, our cat likes to puke right in front of doors and walkways ugh

I never was a clean person. As a teenager, I could stare at the same coke can on my nightstand for like a year and not think twice about picking it up to throw it away. Maybe I could convince myself it was a science project?

Even as a young adult i would put things off until it got so overwhelming that the only way to get anything clean was to spend all day doing 10 loads of laundry and scraping two week old jelly off my countertop.

Then, I had children. That helped get me pretty motivated to get rid of the junk and keep to specific schedules and routines. That’s the honest truth, its hard to put off vacuuming when a scrap of paper on the floor is a literal hazard to little curious baby mouths. Staying strict-ish to my routines makes it feel like less of a chore, if you can believe it.

Schedules

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I break up my days into categories. Days husband’s at work, days he’s off, and days I volunteer. I do this mostly for chore planning and meal planning. Knowing what days I’ll have time to cook and clean, when I’ll need leftovers for lunches, and when I wont be home. Also, any activities my daughter has can be scheduled for when both parents are home, because life’s just more fun that way.

Im so lucky to have so much time to devote to our home this way, and I really feel at ease when I do have down time because I know that everything is well taken care of. That peace of mind is just worth it to me and something I really value.

Budgets

We have one income and our bills are on a specific schedule, so our budget is pretty easy. Paycheck turns into bills, groceries, necessities and the rest we save. Keeping a budget laid out on paper gives you something to look back on and help you visualize how your money flows. Fun, cheap or free (here) has great videos about budgeting and I get a lot of inspiration from her in general.

Brain dumps

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Sometimes I need to sit there, pen in hand and write down every little thing that comes to me. Homeschooling topics, goals, chores, a song I cant get out of my head, whatever. Just write it down, dump it out of your brain and at least it’s there if you need the info later. Plus it just feels good.
My home philosophy is that when you put in the work time, the play time is so much sweeter. I can fully sit down to enjoy five minutes of a book without a hundred other things stealing my attention. I can better connect with my family and we are all happy about that!
I hope that this little walk through my planner has given you some insight into how I run my life, why it works for me, and hopefully something resonates with you so you can keep living your best life!
If you do any of these things or can relate I would love to hear from you and read any comments you may have!
😍