Turkey Day Preppers

Get Organized Already

Photo credit to Vicki Nikolaidis via Flickr

Preparing for Thanksgiving is kind of like preparing for the end of the world. Everyone is hoarding food, the store shelves are stripped bare, and everyone is running around like they are never going to see the light of tomorrow.

The biggest stresser is timing. I mean, the turkey takes hours, the gravy takes minutes. There are sides, and salads, desserts, and cocktails. How in the world are you going to make sure everything comes out at the right time?

Plan ahead.

This important step may add a little more time to your prep routine, but it will be worth it. It’s something I have done to keep me from losing it every holiday season. Plus, once you have your routine down to a science, you can it apply it to other times like birthdays or the super bowl party your other half springs on you a week before.

First things first: The guest list. You can’t possibly know how much to make if you have no idea how many people are coming.

Once you have your list, prepare 1.5 servings per person even for children, because while they may not eat their allotted serving, that extra will be there for the person who comes back for their third plate.

Get Organized Already

Photo credit to Bruce Turner via Flickr

Next thing: Grocery list. Decide ahead of time what you’re going to make and write a list of food items with each one’s ingredients underneath. You don’t need to include measurements in this list. Go through your pantry and cabinets and cross off what you already have on hand. Eggs, butter, and milk are things to buy even if you have some on hand. Chances are you’re going to need more than what you have.

To make your big day easier, prep some of your food the day before. Assemble the baked macaroni so all you’ll have to do is pop it in the oven while the turkey is resting. Boil your potatoes the day before and mash them on the day of. You can even put pies together, refrigerate, and bake them while everyone is eating.

How much early preparation you do depends on your comfort level and what you’re making. To make it easier (and because I’m a huge list person), write out everything you will be making the day before. List all of the preparatory steps one food item at a time. The list will keep you from feeling frazzled, and going in circles.

What are some Thanksgiving cooking tips and tricks you find helpful?

Or is this your first Thanksgiving? If so, what are some concerns and worries you have?


2 secrets for Mommy-Work-Life Balance

Is there such thing as life-work balance when you are a mom? Lots of people have been asking this question.

work-life-balance-signFor some, it’s more comfortable to assume there is such a thing–to assume it is possible–and therefore assume it must be our fault for really messing things up. But, it ain’t necessarily so!

This being said, there are some tangible things we can do to be more organized with our limited mommy-time every day.

First of all, I’m going to assume you are taking care of yourself. Because it goes without saying that if you don’t get enough sleep, exercise most days, and eat fresh foods there is no way to find balance in your body, much less your whole life!

After that, I’ll tell you two things that have been monumental in helping keep my family schedule organized so I can be more productive than the average bear.

shared mobile calendar

The first is a shared mobile calendar. We Driskills use google calendar, but any online calendar will allow you to see what your partner or childcare provider is doing and vice-versa. This in turn will give you a chance to plan without having to discuss or argue about priorities at every turn.

School gets out early next Friday. No problem. It’s on the calendar. Both parents are aware.
You are both working late Monday night. The last one to book work, books the sitter.
You want to go out with the ladies. Check the calendar to see if there’s a night you wouldn’t have to hire a sitter at all because another adult will be home.
There is a bit of a learning curve as you all get used to relying on an app instead of your day planner or wall calendar to tell you when to go to the dentist. But the payoff in increased communication, and the practice of actually planning ahead, will seriously change your life and possibly save your marriage.
Can I get an Amen?!

hire some help

The second thing I recommend is hiring household help. I don’t mean a butler or a catering service to cook your meals. (However, if you can afford it and hate to cook, then I do mean exactly that!) I mean taking an honest look at some things you really prefer not to do and figuring out who could do them for you.

6 year olds can do laundry

6 year olds can do laundry

There are small jobs in every home that can be outsourced—maybe to your own children as chores (bingo!) Or consider help that is already in place. How happy was I when I discovered the dry cleaner down the street will iron a man’s shirt for $2? I thought for sure I was going to win the noble prize for marital harmony! Now, instead of spending over an hour ironing (and not very well), I spend $10 and pick those puppies up later. $10 is worth 85 minutes to me.

If money is tight, get creative about how to outsource. There are young students in every town who want to earn money. Find those and let go of the guilt because you may be saving money by doing it yourself, but you are still spending–spending your free time. You may also be building up some resentment. (Not that I know anything about that!)

There is no cookie-cutter model for achieving a work-family-self balance in your life. Finding balance is like parenting itself. Everyone feels like they could be better at both things. But the reality is, the majority of us are doing a pretty darn good job.

Just in time for December! Time Management Tips

The holidays are here and your To Do list just got an augmentation to make Dolly Parton proud! So, since we are all adding stuff to our days I have one question:

What are you subtracting from your list to make room for the Christmas chores?

Do you think you can just pile the decorating, shopping, wrapping, writing, singing, and event attending right on top and the peace and joy of the season will magically just happen?  YOU CRAY-CRAY!

Something has got to go and if you don’t plan for it, the thing to go will probably be your sanity. 

Being organized simply means being prepared. So, plan ahead a little for December right now. Think today about what you really love about Christmas or Hanukkah. What do you look forward to?

Put that thing (or, if it’s a feeling, an activity that invokes that feeling) on the calendar. Maybe tomorrow in the shower you think of another thing. Put that on the calendar, too!

Now you’ve given the good stuff some space in your month to happen. Step two, what can you cut out that you aren’t so excited about? Maybe something you always do because your mom did it, but for you the ROI isn’t worth it. Maybe something you do all year but could afford to take a break from for a month. How about the Facebook? Take the app off your phone for a week. See how much time you gain. Maybe none. Maybe a lot. You’ll never know til you try!

How about TV during a part of the day? Turn it off and put on music while you do holiday things instead.

How about the gardening? Dry cleaning? etc. Let it go for a month if you can.

Let me know what you are going to do to make room for your holiday pleasures.


Fighting off a cold, Part II

You remember the post I wrote a couple months ago about fighting off a cold? Of course you do because you follow my blog. (Click “Follow” in the upper left of this screen.)

In said post I talk about drinking large bottles of honey/lemon water to fight off a cold. It really worked! For a few days I didn’t have any alcohol, any dessert, and I got a lot of sleep and it worked!

I was so impressed with myself I wrote a blog post about it.

And so it is only fair that now I let you know I have gotten sick in earnest.

So disappointing! I saw people around me dropping like flies thinking to myself, Humpf! It’s a good thing I drink vegetable juice and go jogging!

The new year brings many, MANY resolutions to get organized. My phone has been ringing off the hook. And so thrilled am I with this surge of new clients I have neglected to exercise or plan time for myself all week. No time!

Well, Little Ms. Time Management, who’s sorry now?

Yesterday I felt like a truck had hit me. And still had to go act perky and organized for 6 hours.

Also, let it be noted that last night I got into bed at 9 with the Costco-sized tub of Nutella and a spoon. Health kick be damned! I feel bad and want my comfort food! I’m writing this while my huge pot full of Martha’s mac-n-cheese bakes. And while this sounds impressive and show-off-y it is really the opposite. I should be in a horizontal position with a vaporizer hooked directly to my nose via shop-vac tube.

Next time you read a post of mine and think to yourself, Nonnahs is so annoying in her self-righteous perfection. Remember this: Even cowgirls get the blues and Even a time-management guru/health nut makes a lot of poor decisions every now and then. Usually on Tuesdays.

Holiday Organizing: A letter to my people

Friends of Get Organized Already,

I’m looking forward to some down time this holiday season.  You, too want to have a peaceful end of the year I’m sure.  Here are a few (unsolicited, but still awesome) tips from me for keeping your party season calm:

  • Say yes to no more than 2 parties per weekend.  I don’t care if you are only invited to 4 all season and they are all on the same day.  Do yourself and your family a favor and only go to two in a weekend and enjoy them completely.  (This includes kid parties.)
  • Get out your calendar now and schedule your Christmas dinner shopping trip.  I don’t want to hear about any of you getting a headache from going to Bristol Farms on the 23rd.  Put two hours on the calendar right now.
  • Think about the things you love most about December and the advent season.  What are they?  Put up a reminder of those things.  For example:
    • (easy version) Write “football, sweaters, cooking a pie” on a piece of scrap paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror.
    • (advanced) Print out a photo of your family at a game, rip out a picture of some cashmere, and find your favorite pie recipe and put them all up on the fridge.
    • (Martha Stewart style) Make a collage.  Read a novel about football.  Start designing your Christmas cards.

At whichever level you choose to participate do these things with no pressure on yourself about whether or not you do these activities perfectly or even at all.  Just think on them.  See what happens.

  • Call a relative or old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while who will love hearing from you.  Ask a couple of open-ended questions and just listen.  When are you going to do this?  Sooner is better.
  • If you feel stressed about what to wear to holiday events, take time now to go into your closet and put together a comfortable nice outfit.  Now wear that outfit to every holiday party/gathering this season.  Problem solved.
  • Think for a minute about other such things that stress you out over the holidays: gift buying, recipe planning, mingling, holiday card mailing, etc.  Take a deep breath and let yourself decide whether or not you are going to do that activity this year.  You could probably drop it right off of your plate.  Or you could (at least partially) delegate it.
  • Don’t buy gifts you aren’t inspired to buy.  This is not the year to be giving frivolous gifts.
  • Call me for some relief.  :o)  We can get the kitchen ready for cooking, the guest room ready for your aunt, your shopping done, your menu planned, gifts wrapped, the living room de-cluttered.  YOU NAME IT!  It’s a lot quicker and more fun when you have a helper.

I hope you find some ideas for yourself in these tips.  I’ll be writing more here on my blog about once or twice a week if you want to stay inspired.  Please click the Follow tab up there on the upper left part of the gray bar on this screen.

And let me know what you are up to and what you are going to say NO to this December.



Growing Old: Too Busy to Read

Reading “The Not So Big Life”. One of the observations author Sara Susanka makes is about how she hates conflict and avoids it at every turn. Hating conflict is an easy character trait to recognize in oneself. I know a lot LOT of people who hate conflict. The repercussions of this hatred are what surprised me though. Because I hate conflict, I learned at an early age to anticipate problems and fix them as soon as humanly possible. I don’t even give a fella a minute to ask for help. I am all up in your business fixing the problem you are just noticing you have. Oh! Wait! Now there it’s gone. Nonni handled it. Isn’t she great?
Second personality quirk: love praise! So I got a lot of praise from my parents and other adults as a child when I would do this trick—this fix a problem before it was a problem trick. And now, as an adult I am still doing it. I do it for kids, for men, for friends, for clients.
Fixing problems—or really just perceived, would-be problems—is what fills my days.
Let me restate that. Fixing problems USED to fill my days. After spending some time with my lady-friends reading and journaling about this book, “The Not So Big Life”, I have taken a few steps back and decided that I don’t want to spend my days putting out fires and fixing everyone’s problems. I have come to realize that the catastrophes I have been fearing—a dirty countertop, a fight between siblings, an unmade bed, a day without milk—are not really that scary. And the real kicker is that sometimes the catastrophes don’t even happen! I’m not kidding. Sometimes no one comes over and sees that my living room is dusty and disheveled. And sometimes, when people do come over and it’s messy, they don’t mind. They don’t even mention it! Isn’t that friendly of them?
I still love to fix a problem. I still love to clean a countertop and fold other people’s laundry. And I still get to do this stuff. But once I noted this pattern in my life–Immediate Problem Solving—I could begin to recognize it easily and stop being its slave. I can solve problems when I chose to solve them. Just because someone is texting me or emailing me for some information does not mean I need to stop reading my book or practicing piano with my daughter to answer them. It can wait. It really can.
If I take control of my time and schedule a time to answer emails, a time to play around on fb and a time to take care of business it is truly ASTOUNDING how much time there is left in the day.
Last year I found myself jealous of my mother because she reads so many books. I thought to myself, I can’t wait to retire so I can read all the time! Then I heard someone say—for the 1000th time—you have time to do whatever you want if you make it a priority. I took inventory of my time and I cut out the immediate problem solving.
Now a few months later, I am happy to report that not only have I found some time to read–I have read completely through the stack of books by my bed. I have read a few from the library and I am getting into the books that have been waiting downstairs for me for years! I made time for reading. I set up a reading area on my porch and I started reading.  It is so simple I am embarrassed by how long it took me to realize this and just do it.
It’s at times like this when I am so happy to be getting older. My birthday is approaching and it isn’t exactly a sexy number. But when I think about this revelation with the reading and how much more peaceful and relaxed I feel because of this simple thing I am so grateful to not be 29 anymore. To not be living my life in fast forward trying to go to every party and seize every minute of the day.
How about you?

Think of something you have been wanting to do. What are you waiting for? Retirement? The kids to grow up? Your husband to clean out the garage? HA! Stop waiting and start doing. You have just as much time in your day as everyone else does. The difference is in how you manage it. Schedule some reading on your calendar, or yoga or some hiking—whatever it is that you are waiting to start doing.  It’s time.