Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Paper Planners

I started 2021 with a paper planner, which is surprisingly something new for me. In the past, I typically kept my plans all digital with an occasional paper to-do list on the side. I’ve loved having a paper planner to map out my days and keep my lists all in one place.

Boy, are there tons of planners out there to explore and try out! I had no idea. I had to create a list of requirements to narrow down my choices.

I wanted daily and weekly pages with room to take notes. I didn’t want a calendar-focused planner because I have digital calendars. I wanted space to keep my projects and to-dos organized.

So, I started the year with a Panda Planner. I really enjoyed this book. Given the number of daily pages in it, each book is filled within 3 months. This was a great choice if you’re working on gratitude, trying to bring deep work or focus into your life, or reset your personal priorities. There are multiple spaces to answer printed reflective and planning-based questions on the daily and weekly pages. I used these at first, but I found myself getting repetitive. I’m in a good space at work being balanced and focused on what’s important. I didn’t feel like I needed those question sections.

I eventually just focused on the schedule, tasks, and notes section on the daily pages. I like having a daily page where I can block large chunks of time for deep work and list what I must get done for the day.

Image from Amazon’s website

After I filled the Panda Planner, I picked up a Wyze Planner. They are similar. The Wyze Planner has less reflective questions and, therefore, room for more daily pages. It should last me 6 months – double the time of the Panda Planner.

Image from Amazon

I still don’t really use the monthly pages, but I’m all over the weekly and daily pages.

On the weekly pages, I use the free space to list every to-do item I have for every work project. It’s my master list of tasks with due days next to each activity. If I take on a new task or assignment, it goes on the list. My must-dos for the week are listed in the weekly section call Plan Upcoming Week.

The daily pages are more distilled than the Panda Planner. Here we only have the sections I care about most: my top priority, my schedule, today’s to-dos, and a notes section (where I document how many hours I need to bill to each project).

I’ve been in the Wyze planner for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve really liked it. There are sections up front for goal setting that I need to leverage more. You can even track habits too. I tried to adopt that practice, but I’m just terrible at it. I don’t care enough to track.

That’s all for now. Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Geocaching

Our son’s cub scout pack introduced us to geocaching, which has been a fun way to explore new areas in our county and get in some hiking miles.

What is geocaching? Well, it’s a bit like a treasure hunt while hiking. You’re looking for a cache box typically slightly off a hiking trail. These boxes range in size to shoebox-sized plastic containers to pillboxes. Once you find the cache, you open it to discover the treasure (typically small trinkets) and write your name in a log noting that you found the cache.

If you want to try it, check out http://www.geocaching.com where you can create a free account and explore the geocaches near you. (There’s over 6,500 near me!)

Once you pick a cache to try, find the GPS coordinates and look for the clue on the page that will help you find the treasure. We’ve had several clues with ciphers that point us to where the treasure can be found, like “Under several tree roots” or “By a fallen tree.”

Things to know before you go:

1) Make sure you have access to GPS. (A cell phone map app work fine.)

2) Either solve the clue before you go or have a pen and paper to solve it on the trail.

3) Be dressed to go off trail to find the treasure.

4) Bring a pencil/pen to log your find.

5) Bring a trinket to exchange in case this geocache offers a toy swap. (Toy swaps are usually reserved for the larger sized boxes.)

6) Place the cache back in the same spot hidden in the same way. Don’t let anyone else see you opening it (that’s called getting muggled).

In the process of writing this post, I realized there are a few caches on the trails in our neighborhood and along the parkway. I guess I know what we’ll be doing this weekend!

Happy Friday!

Image by Settergren from Pixabay

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Female Friends

I have a dear friend who is moving away, and I’m…let’s just say…not thrilled about it. It’s made me reflect on my female friendships and how important they are to me.

I’ve never felt very good at maintaining multiple female friendships simultaneously. High school was not my jam. I felt like a 40-year-old stuck in a teenager’s body, and I was probably perceived the same way. I was into my studies, after school activities and sports, and hanging out with my boyfriend (now husband). Yup, I snagged him early.

Things turned around after high school. I was able to make friends in college pretty easily. There were a bunch of us thrown together into residence halls, and I was able to find people to hang out with, share an apartment with, join on trips to the library, and travel abroad with me. Then we all graduated and spread ourselves throughout the country. Ugh.

After college was a different story. I jumped right into the working world where I made friends with coworkers. I’ve been with the same company since I graduated college – a rare occurrence these days. Many of those work friendships persist today, especially with my colleagues I’ve collaborated with for years. There are few that I get to see outside of the work day though, since our teams are all over the country.

Then came my kids. I sought out new people with shared experiences. I tried a couple of different mommy groups and finally jived with one I found on the Meetup app. What a relief it was to find a group of women who were trying to figure out this whole parenting thing at the same time my little ones came around! I will forever be grateful for their support during that time, though they probably don’t realize how our library meetups, home art projects, and outdoor play dates saved my sanity.

Once we moved to our “forever” home, a new world of friendships opened up. There were a ton of new friends to meet at the bus stop, and I met so many more during our neighborhood’s monthly ladies’ night. (Boy have I missed those during COVID!) We have a neighborhood tribe of women I know I can reach out to and that I aim to serve, whether that’s to pick up a kid from the bus stop, host an outdoor movie night, celebrate major life events, or give a hug when the going is tough.

I’m incredibly lucky to have all of these wonderful women in my life. Some friends have come and gone over the decades due to the nature of our busy lives and where time has taken us, but I’m thankful for each and every one of them. I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative for relationships to change over time.

I want my female friends to know, near and far, no matter what stage our relationship is at today. I am grateful for their friendship. I’ll cherish the memories we’ve created together and the times you were there for me. I can only pray that I was just as good of a friend.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: In-Person Kindergarten!

Our youngest recently stepped foot into his elementary school for the first time and started in-person kindergarten. He was so excited to meet his friends and teachers that he’s only ever seen on a computer screen. You should have seen his little legs run full speed with a heavy, laptop-laden backpack to get to the bus stop. Adorable!

Now, I fully recognize – at least in my school district – that families had choices. Choices seemed to range from undesirable to unworkable, and each family had to pick the best option for them. We considered homeschooling, private kindergarten that perhaps would be more likely to stay in person, and public school where we eventually got the choice to stay 100% virtual or come back to school two days a week. I have full respect for whatever choices families made this year. We are all doing the best we can.

For us, we knew Mr.-5-Year-Old would need some in-person instruction for his benefit and ours. Here are some things to consider if you are sending a child into the classroom anytime soon:

  • Kids are cleaning their hands 1,000 times a day and the little ones come home with such chapped hands. A neighbor wisely suggested to pack a small container of lotion, and it really helps!
  • Pack multiple masks. They get gross and wet throughout the day, I guess especially for kindergarteners. I have a baggie labeled with a clean mask each day and another labeled dirty.
  • If your child wears glasses, you know that they can fog up with a mask on. Sometimes it helps to fold up a tissue and put it on your nose. This blocks the air from going out of the mask and absorbs the moisture. The trick is to ensure the mask still goes around the face properly without air gaps.

Fridays are another in-person school day for us, so I’m off to get kids ready for the day. Happy Friday!

Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Wow in the World Podcast

Perhaps I should have titled this post as my sons’ Friday Fav because this is actually one of their favorites.

Wow in the World is a podcast provided by NPR. It is pitched as “The #1 podcast for kids and their grown-ups. Hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz share stories about the latest news in science, technology, and innovation. Stories that give kids hope, agency and make us all say ‘WOW’!”

Mindy and Guy Raz are wacky characters who keep the show interesting and end up teaching our kids a bunch of interesting facts. From what I’ve heard, Mindy is the comic relief and constant goofball, while Guy Raz is more practical.

We’ve started using the podcast as an incentive to get to bed. If the boys are ready for bed on time, they can listen to a podcast while tucked in their beds. If they go to bed early, they can have two podcasts. They decide who gets to pick the podcast for the evening based on whether it’s an odd or even day.

The next morning, we get a rundown of all of the new information they’ve learned. I got a full debrief on bees the other day after they listened to The Buzz on Bee Barf! Over the holidays, there was even some contest where the children were asked to submit a design for a gingerbread mansion in hopes of win a prize. Mr. 7-Year-Old is never into these activities, but he jumped at the chance to participate in this one.

I’ve found that kid centric podcasts are not only a great option at bedtime. They are helpful during long car rides (when we actually went places) or when you want the kids to stay engaged in a boring task like cleaning. It’s a win for them because they are entertained and a win for me because it’s educational. Love it!

Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Costco Bookcase

It’s January, which means it’s that time of year again that Costco removes the Christmas trees and replaces the floor space with furniture. I spotted my Friday Fav there again this year: the Bayside Furnishings room divider/bookcase. And, it’s been on sale (in store only) for $99.99 rather than its older price of $129.99!!

I know, it’s a piece of furniture. I shouldn’t be so excited, but I just love it! It is hefty, versatile, and provides larger storage bins than those I see often at Ikea or Target.

We originally bought it for our townhouse to store baby toys in the living room. When we were staging the house to move, I took out the storage bins and turned it into a nifty dining room buffet table.

It moved to the playroom when we moved to our house, and I picked up an extra one that year to use as a credenza in my office. Now, both of them are flanking the TV in the kids’ playroom.

If you are in the market for additional storage, then check it out at Costco warehouses. It will likely be unavailable and out of stock by the end of the month.

Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Nice Cream

Move over, banana bread. You had your time to shine during this pandemic. Now it’s time for nice cream!

What is this deliciousness? It’s a non-dairy ice cream alternative made with bananas that hits the spot without all of the added sugar.

There are tons of flavors and varieties that you can find online, like here and there. My favorite is Cherry Garcia, made with only frozen bananas, frozen cherries, and chocolate chips all thrown together in a food processer until creamy. I think I lean toward this flavor because it is not one of my preferred ice cream flavors. (I mean, I’d never pick it if there was anything with chocolate ice cream available. Let’s be real.) Since I’m not comparing nice cream with its ice cream step brother, it stands alone and provides a guilt-free dessert that satisfies.

Based on this picture, I’m clearly not a food blogger.

The links above provide some recipes, but I don’t really follow a recipe anymore. After my mother showed me how to make nice cream, I just eyeball it based on the number of servings I want to make.

This is by no means a food blog, so you won’t find a traditional recipe blog post here. The directions are to literally put all of the ingredients into the food processer and blend until creamy.

However, here are a few tricks I’ve learned.

Image courtesy of Mr.-4-Year-Old
  1. Ripe bananas provide the best flavor. I just plop the entire unpeeled and brown bananas into the freezer and wait for the urge to strike for dessert. When I’m ready to make nice cream, I leave the bananas on the counter for a few minutes, then use a knife to peel away the skin.
  2. You can just drop the cutup frozen bananas, some frozen dark and sweet cherries, and a small handful of chocolate chips into the food processer and have dessert in a matter of minutes. If you want to get fancy, add a splash of vanilla.
  3. If you find the ice cream is too thick, add a bit of non-dairy milk. I use almond milk, but any milk or its alternative would work. Oftentimes, I don’t have to add anything extra.
  4. We have used semi-sweet chocolate chips in the past, but I found these Hu dark chocolate “gems” at Costco that are on point. I highly recommend them.
  5. Speaking of Costco, there you can also find a large bag of frozen dark sweet cherries, which is helpful when you plan on making lots of nice cream like our family.
  6. Personally, I think it’s best eaten the day it’s made. You can freeze leftovers, but I don’t like the ice crystals that form in the nice cream at that point.

So there you have it! I share in the spirit of giving during a time when many people likely have New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier. It’s not only my Friday Fav but one I share with my entire family.

Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Time with Family

Merry Christmas! I’m wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and peace for the new year.

My Friday Fav this week is certainly time with my family. They may be constantly underfoot these days and it may be difficult to find a moment of silence during daylight hours, but I love spending time with them all. I’m thankful we are together and healthy this holiday season. I’m grateful my husband and I have jobs, particularly ones that allow us to take time off during the holiday season.

We have been blessed beyond measure, and this year in particular I’m trying not to take that for granted.

So I will try to embrace the loud children bouncing off the walls at their excitement for Christmas. I will make the best of virtual get togethers with family instead of in-person gatherings. I will be grateful for my husband’s constant playing of YouTube videos and podcasts because that means he’s home and near me. I will read that one extra chapter of Harry Potter after the kids’ bedtime to get a few more minutes of cuddle time under the blankets with the boys.

On this Christmas day in particular, I’ll slow down. I’ll soak in the magic of the day and the good fortune that we get to spend it together.

Please hold your loved ones close and treasure their presence. That’s the greatest gift I’ll get this Christmas, and I know it.

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: 3D Christmas Glasses

Our family loves to drive around the neighborhoods this time of year to look at Christmas lights. I feel like there are more decorations up this year than ever before! One thing we always make sure to bring with us when we’re out looking at lights are these cool 3D Christmas glasses my in-laws picked up for the boys a few years ago.

These glasses transform the look of Christmas lights into a variety of holiday shapes like Santa Clause, candy canes, snowmen, or reindeer (like the picture included in this post). Bob your head around, and you can see the shapes move!

Besides Amazon, I’ve seen classes like these at Walmart and Lowe’s. They are typically a couple of dollars for a pair. Although the frames are only made of paper, we’ve largely kept them in one piece for many years. I highly recommend trying them out, if you can find them.

Happy Friday!

Posted in Blog

Friday Fav: Short Days and Long Nights

In just a few weeks it will be the Winter Solstice, which means that we have limited daylight hours and long nights. Normally I’d hate this change. It means my husband is driving to and from work in the dark. It feels like you need to get everyone home and immediately start dinner and the whole bedtime routine. I’m ready to pass out for the night by 8pm.

However, this year, with the whole family home 24/7, I’ve embraced the extended nights. No longer are we sneaking in sports practices right after school before the sunsets or coming back from Scout meetings in the dark. Most nights we are instead home, warm and cozy under covers on the couch reading together or watching a family TV show in front of a roaring fire. It’s transformed from a chaotic and rushed part of our day to calm (usually) and peaceful (usually) segment of the day.

As a bonus, my children are old enough to get themselves ready for bed. They can shower themselves and get their pajamas on without constant support. We’ve started sending one kid to get ready at a time, giving my husband and I bit of alone time with each of our sons. I’ve really lost that one-on-one time with my kids now that we’re all home constantly, so it’s nice to get some of it back, especially during a quiet evening hours.

Given the year 2020 has been, I’ll take whatever positives I can get. This type of family time is definitely one of them…whether it’s Friday or any other day of the week.

Happy Friday!

Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash – This image captures how cozy I feel at home with my family.