Dressing Up | Oatmeal

There’s little that can be as filling as oatmeal for breakfast. It’s full of good carbs and, when cooked well and mixed with the right things, it’s downright COZY. It’s also a milk-booster for nursing moms, so sign me up! However, the same thing over and over for breakfast can get boring, and for me to eat breakfast, it basically has to be ready to eat when I get up with little or nothing more to do than pop it in the microwave. So my stipulation in searching out these options were that they 1) had to be make-ahead-able or require extremely little effort and 2) had to really vary in flavor so I don’t get sick of this nutritious goodness. Here are some great ideas for dressing up your morning bowl.

Classics:

  • maple syrup, pecans, bananas (super easy if you just keep chopped pecans on hand–I’m actually SUPER lazy and pull out as many pecans as I need the night before–and slice the banana in the morning)
  • diced apples, cinnamon, and walnuts
  • blueberries and brown sugar (totally works with any frozen berries too, especially if you’re already heating up the oatmeal again)
  • peaches and cream–add nutmeg and cinnamon to basically have peach pie for breakfast (I absolutely use frozen peaches for this)

Fun ideas:

  • mango and coconut (and cashews? Maybe?)
  • yogurt and orange marmalade
  • peanut butter and strawberry jam
  • banana and molasses
  • maple, brown sugar, sweet potato, and pecans
  • chocolate chips and raspberries
  • banana and nutella

Savory: Totally appropriate for lunch or a quick, solo dinner as well as breakfast. I had to give these names so that my sweet tooth and I are more likely to make them!

  • The Grits Treatment: cheddar cheese, scallions, and a sprinkle of paprika
  • Mexi-Oatmeal: avocado, salsa, and a fried egg
  • The Baked Potato: cheddar, fresh tomatoes, chives, and bacon
  • Oatmeal a la Provence: apples, rosemary, and gruyere

 

What are your best oatmeal hacks? Any favorites that aren’t on this list?

My Dinner Clean-up Routine

Let’s be real, friends: it does NOT happen on its own. Honestly, I love having a clean kitchen, but I don’t love putting in the work to get it there. So, routine! Not that it makes me like it more, but it gets it done (which is the goal) and gets it done more quickly (which kinda makes me dislike it less). There are necessities in here, naturally, but there are also a couple things I wrap into this routine that simply won’t get done otherwise.

I start off with the dishes being removed from the table and put in the dishwasher as much as possible. Between me and my husband, that just kinda happens as part of dinner. Then I just move anything I haven’t already washed during dinner prep over to the sink. Aaaaaaand here we go:

  • Wipe off stove. I’m the worst about my stove. I love cooking at it, I just hate cleaning it. So I committed to doing it every single night. Kinda like when I was a kid and was afraid of the toilet flushing, so my dad locked me in the bathroom and made me flush it ten times. I was TERRIFIED and super annoyed, but I got over my long-held, deeply-rooted belief that the Beast from Beauty and the Beast was going to come roaring out of the flushing toilet, teeth-bared, ready to kill me. I was an imaginative kid, okay?
  • Wash and PUT AWAY dishes. This makes a gigantic difference in the morning when I get to the kitchen. I will absolutely go out of my way in the evenings to not walk into a pile of dishes first thing in the morning. It’s just so stressful and feels icky when that happens. When I prep ahead and wash-as-I-cook, this is a relatively small task anyway. And putting the clean dishes away makes all the difference in the world the next day. It’s all about the prep.
  • Scrub high chair. Something I only do once a day (I’ll sweep crumbs out of the seat and wipe off the tray as needed after other meals, but I only go to town with the rough side of the sponge once a day), but something that definitely does need to be done that often. Maybe Baby Girl will be a cleaner eater? …maybe?
  • Wash sink. Our sink gets a real workout everyday, and dude. It gets grimy. I just squirt a little soap in there, swish it around, and I’ve got a sparkling clean sink to use the next day. Or for Kyle to pile more dirty dishes into throughout the night as he snacks his way to bedtime. Honestly, I feed the man four square meals a day, but you’d never guess it.
  • Take out trash, compost, and recycling. No, I don’t do all three of these every night. Only as needed. But I try to not let them get too full before taking them out. Mostly because I don’t take them out…Kyle does, and he hates when they get too full. It’s also nice to come into the kitchen the next day and have not-too-full bins to work with.
  • Toss the dirty dishtowels in the laundry bin. My laundry room is off of our kitchen, so I keep a basket out there specifically for this. Once I’ve cooked, cleaned up, and dried the dishes, the towels have done their duty and usually need a long soak in a hot bath.
  • Sweep. So tempting to skip. So so extremely tempting. But I only do it once a day, and it really does make me feel better walking in there in the morning when I’ve swept the night before. And it makes me feel a lot better when I don’t have to sweep up a week’s worth of crumbs off the floor all in one go. Because gross.

Doesn’t seem like a lot, and when I get going it’s not. Sometimes before I get going it can seem like an unsurmountable task!

What’s your dinner clean-up look like? Anything important I’ve left off? Share below!

My Afternoon Routine

After I’ve set myself up well for the day with my morning routine, there are still little maintenance things to do. Around the same time every afternoon/evening, I fit dinner prep and this afternoon maintenance routine together and make life a little easier  🙂

  • Mama tea: I have a little cup of herbal tea in the afternoons, partly just to signal to my body that we’re getting ready to wind down, and because I like to know I’m getting the benefits of the herbs. It steeps while I’m doing the rest of the routine.
  • Grind coffee for the morning: We have a small house and a loud coffee grinder, so I go ahead and grind beans for Kyle each night so he can use them the next morning. It’s also easier (and significantly quieter) for him to just dump grounds into the coffee pot from a little jar than it is for him to shake them into the pot from the grinder.
  • Fill kettle: To make the mornings easier for both Kyle and me. Push one button and be seconds away from caffeinated bliss? Yes please.
  • Light candles: It’s just nice! And it takes so little time to actually do this.
  • Close curtains: Because I don’t like the idea of living in a fish bowl.
  • Fluff pillows: Because company, and it looks nice.
  • Pull out clothes for the following day: This goes for everyone in the family, save my husband who is a grown man and can dress himself. Right now that means me and Nolan, and pretty soon it’ll be Baby Girl too. I get out my workout clothes for first thing in the morning, as well as regular clothes to wear when I actually get dressed. Each of the kids has a basket on the changing table that is intended to hold clothes for the next day. This little prep act saves so much time, hassle, and headache in the mornings. We’re more likely to actually be dressed during the day, and on weekends or days when Daddy is home, he knows just what to put on our boy and doesn’t have to guess.
  • *Bonus: When I’m pulling out Nolan’s clothes for the next day, I also get out his pyjamas and overnight diaper for that night. So easy to just have them waiting for us on the changing table whenever we need them.

Morning routines are pretty common, but do you have one for the afternoon, also? Share below!

My Morning Routine

Since this blog is a totally selfish endeavour of documentation for me to look back on later, here’s my morning routine. I’ll be completely upfront: this isn’t really “5 simple steps to turn you into a morning person.” I’m not a morning person, and I don’t think I ever will be, but over time my personal priorities have changed. Mostly from, “Sleep. At all costs,” to something more like, “Please…pleasepleaseplease can I have just FIVE DAMN MINUTES TO MYSELF?”

My weekday morning routine is really just a wonderfully productive 20-minute walk from my bed to my dining room.
I start in the bedroom. I’m already there and I’m unlikely to go back, so I just plug away at stuff right away.

  • Make the bed. Mostly so I can’t get back into it as easily. And because if I’ve just gotten out of it, it’s right there. And once it’s done, it’s like I’ve jumped a hurdle. I’ve accomplished something, and everything else seems easier.
  • Change into workout clothes. Because it preps me to work out, which removes an obstacle to actually following through on that. And if it doesn’t happen that day, at least I’m not still in my pajamas.
  • Gather the laundry. Because the floor grows it overnight. All on it’s own. Constantly.
  • Grab my water bottle. Because if I don’t make it an intentional part of the routine, I’ll probably forget.

Then I head to the bathroom (see what I did there? No? Forget it…):

  • Put laundry in the bin. Works out well because suddenly the laundry that’s grown on the bedroom floor and the laundry that’s grown on the bathroom floor is all in the same place, so it can all make its way into the bin at the same time.
  • Clean up after Hubby. Because, like I said, the bathroom floor has grown laundry since I was last there. And because I keep low expectations for him, since he has bigger things to worry about than whether or not absolutely everything makes its way back into the cabinets and drawers.
  • Personal hygiene. Minor, because it’s usually like 6:17am and zero percent of me cares about being fancy at 6:17am.
  • Put bath toys away, if needed. We usually let them dry out on the counter overnight after a bath, so on the mornings after bath nights I just tuck them in their basket.
  • Replace tea lights. Candles are nice, and we often won’t even use lights in the bathroom at night when the candles are lit. So that saves electricity! Or something…
  • Wipe the sink. Remember my goals and how being ready for company is one of them? We have one bathroom in our bitty house, shared between two adults and a toddler, and it’s just not always clean. This is one way I keep it looking clean. So if a friend wants to come over for a playdate, I can panic a little less than I would otherwise.
  • Spritz room spray. Because it smells nice, I like nice things, and it takes no time.

And on to the kitchen:

  • Kettle on, mug out, tea at the ready. I’m pretty sure I basically do this while I’m still half-asleep.
  • Replace tea lights. So I can light them later that evening. Again, just because it’s nice  🙂  And takes very little time, since I keep a stash of tea lights in the kitchen.
  • Replace water in flowers, and water herbs as needed. I usually get flowers when I go grocery shopping. It’s an inexpensive way to make me feel special and give me a shot of joy during the day. Different flowers have different needs/preferences/thriving conditions, but they all need clean water, so I change it regularly. Also herbs. Because herbs. They get watered roughly once a week. Ish.
  • Fill and run oil diffuser. I’m already by the sink, so might as well get water for the diffuser. In the mornings, I like sweet orange oil. I can honestly feel a difference in my mood and my brain cognisance when I run this oil. So, obviously, it’s made of magic.
  • Put clean, dry dishes away. Anything left from the night before, and empty the dishwasher if needed, because this makes my life WAY EASIER than trying to do it with Nolan “helping.”
  • Clean up after Hubby (lunch dishes away, clean coffee pot). Again, I have very low expectations for him. And he’s not going to clean the coffee pot before he leaves for work, that’s just silly. And if I don’t do it right away, it absolutely will sit there all day long till I do it–no joke–rightbeforebed. I know this because it has happened probably hundreds of times.
  • As I’m getting the milk for my tea, I pull a sandwich out of the freezer for Kyle for the following morning and tuck it into the fridge. We’ve found that they thaw out best this way, so he doesn’t end up with a toasty english muffin ensconcing a frozen egg.
  • Open curtains. In the winter it’s nice to watch the sunrise, and in the summer it’s nice to have curtains open for the mornings, before it’s too ridiculously hot and we need them to keep the heat out.

And finally, my reward for roughly twenty minutes of very mindful work. Because yes, I just got all of that done in twenty-ish minutes. My time, with my tea:

  • Vitamins. Because it will not happen until bedtime otherwise. Also because I have magic prenatal multivitamins that I can take on an empty stomach.
  • French practice (Duolingo). This takes five minutes or less, unless I choose to do more. And it’s fun. And it kinda wakes me up. And I’m becoming a more well-rounded person during those five minutes, so it feels awesome.
  • Bible reading. If I’m working through a study book, I use that for this time. If I’m not, I use a timer set for five or ten minutes. Because it needs to be done, but sometimes it’s hard! If the timer goes off and I’m in the middle of something, I’ll totally read more. Not a slave to the timer.
  • News (theSkimm). I love this daily email I get. So cleverly put, and it quickly fills me in on the basics of what’s going on in the world.
  • Workout. I looooooove Barre3. Their online subscription workouts are perfect for me. Right now I’m trying to get in a better habit of doing it super regularly, so I’m trying to do it everyday, but only for ten minutes (because they’re awesome and understand real life and have ten-minute workout videos). But if I can start by a particular time, I’ll do a thirty minute video.

By that time, Nolan usually wakes up. His wake up routine is short (change diaper, turn off fan and humidifier, open curtains), and we snuggle and sometimes watch a show while he wakes up because it’s a process, man. We have breakfast at the same time every morning, then play and get some housework done. Sometimes he’s allowed to watch another show or two if he’s particularly cranky or if I have to buzz about to get other things done. We’re usually ready to go by 9 or 9:30, so we can get errands done or just get on with our day.

What does your morning routine look like? Anything I’m leaving off here? I’d love your input!

Routines: A How-To

So routines are good for us, right? And they make our homes run more smoothly, right? Then why can’t so many of us make them work better?!

Unfortunately, getting on a routine is not as easy as taking someone else’s plan and plugging ourselves into it. It takes some serious thought to get it started, then it requires tweaking, and because it requires tweaking, it takes commitment to keep it going.

However, I find that when I’m in a routine, everything really truly does run better at our house, so I’ve established a few that have made a big difference for us! Here’s how I got started.

DETERMINE YOUR PRIORITIES

– What do you do regularly?
– From that list, is there anything you could combine, delegate, or drop?
– From that list, what would cause utter chaos if you didn’t do? These are your “musts.” If nothing else makes it into the routine, these need to.

WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER

With priorities in mind, and keeping the combine/delegate/drop thought nearby, I thought about how I could streamline my time. What things are you doing that are eating into your time? Are you spending valuable hours paying bills each month, or are you signed up for automatic bill payment services? Do you take time every single night to prep snacks to take/send to work the next day, or do you do that once a week? Do you comb through cookbooks and Pinterest each week trying to come up with a meal plan, or do you have a list of favorites you can pull from? What takes the most of your time, and how can you cut down on that?

SET YOUR GOALS

This is your “why.” This is what will keep you going when you feel brain-stumped while planning your routine, or when your commitment to the routine falls off the rails, or when an hour of extra dozing in bed sounds better than anything else possibly could.
– What do you want to accomplish?
– What would make your life less stressful?
Here are mine:
1. Have the house be generally less cluttery and more pleasant.
2. Be ready for guests pretty quickly.
3. Make time for myself to work on habits/goals.

COMMIT

You have your “why” already, but here are some tools to help keep you on track with this new routine.

  • Outsmart yourself.
    Do you realise how much harder it is to get back into bed if your bed is already made? Make it as soon as you get out of it. Or how much easier it is to actually go through with your workout if you’re already prepped and ready to go for it? Change into your workout clothes before you have a chance to change your mind.
  • Make your stuff work with you.
    I’ve found that keeping things where I use them is hugely helpful in making a routine that’s quick and nearly mindless to execute. So, for example, I keep my bathroom cleaning stuff in the bathroom (locked up, of course, so kids can’t get anything out…don’t call CPS…) to wipe up the counter every morning, and my vitamins, Bible/books, and phone/charger in the dining room, where I use them first thing (perks to not keeping a phone in your bedroom here). I also keep a stash of tea lights in the kitchen, where I use them in the mornings to replace the ones on my sill.
  • Create routines that feed off of each other.
    It’d be harder to follow through with my morning routine if I also had to get my workout clothes out, put ALL of the dishes away, or even do something as simple as fill up the kettle. And it’d be more of a pain to go through with my evening routine if I had to also replace the tea lights or put dishes away from beside the sink. So I worked those kinds of prep things into each routine, and it makes my life a lot easier.
  • Figure out what works for you.
    My routines took SO long to put together! That’s why I wrote a freaking blog post that’s basically a “how-to” on setting up a routine…because life happens and I’m going to need a tutorial later. Honestly, finding what works for me during any given month can be a challenge. This is what seems to work well right now and it has for a while, but things and needs change. Roll with it! Don’t throw out the entire concept just because it will take some tweaking from time to time.

What are your routines like? Do you find it hard to stick to them? Share below!

 

What’s In Her Bag?

Oh boy, do I remember the days not so long ago when Nolan was a newborn. I’d purchased [what I thought was] an admirably practical, versatile, attractive, functional, inexpensive diaper bag that I was so excited to use and get all decked out with baby’s stuff. Things went the way that they do: that precious bag soon proved highly inadequate and I resorted to using a favourite old tote. Same old song, sung by mothers everywhere.

Over time I decided that I’d go ahead and design the perfect diaper bag, and I did. It’s still on paper, but I designed it, man…right before The Honest Company came out with theirs. Naturally. Since it’s a lot easier to buy theirs than to make my own, and since theirs was much more practical than our diaper bag or my big ol tote, that’s what we’re rolling with.

THE BAG

While we were traveling last year we decided that a backpack style bag would be best for getting through the airport, being on planes, and walking around all day. We were looking for something not-monstrously-sized, relatively lightweight, durable, and with great accessibility. So while I’d kill LOVE to have this bag for everyday use, this backpack has been fantastic, particularly for traveling and days out. We got it with our bundle, so it was 25% off. Not bad for a great-quality diaper bag! Kyle doesn’t mind carrying it around either, since it’s a neutral color and doesn’t look too much like a lady-bag  🙂

THE GOODS

– We love the zippered pocket on the back of this backpack. It makes accessing the changing pad SO easy. We keep the changer stocked with travel wipes (usually in the wipes dispenser because it makes life a lot easier) and one diaper.

Diapers and an extra pack of travel wipes because you juuuuust never know. We can keep four of Nolan’s diapers in one of the interior pockets, and a decent number of newborn diapers.

– I try to always have a spare outfit for Nolan in our bag. He was a spitter as a baby and now he’s an adventurer. And a boy. So yes, extra clothes.

– A spare pacifier. Nolan usually only has his while he’s sleeping, but sometimes we miss nap time at home, or he starts feeling out of sorts, and the pacifier just makes life easier on everyone! He’s also addicted to it. Which is unfortunate. But works in our favor when we have to leave Mimi’s house and would prefer to do so without a full-blown tantrum.

– A bib. Self-explanatory. I also carry stain spray (see below), but I don’t like creating situations where I’ll have to use it.

– Nolan’s cup of water. We’re loving these Kleen Kanteen sippys and anticipate accumulating many of them over time. When the sippy lid is no longer appropriate, the 12-oz. bottle can be used with any other Kleen Kanteen lid.

– We have a couple reusable liquids bags similar to this that, naturally, we planned to just use for traveling. But then this one time we got back from a trip and I never unpacked the bag from the diaper bag, and it’s one of the best parenting hacks that my laziness has ever helped me find. You could use any small bag for this, or even just a quart-size baggie. Ours has had stuff spilled all in it and hasn’t leaked at all! Which is incredible! In it we keep:
1. A small spray bottle of stain remover: This is a LIFESAVER. You should steal this idea if you don’t have one already.
2. Hand sanitizer: because typical soaps turn my boy’s hands red, because I’d rather him zap the playground off of his hands before eating with them, and because sometimes it’s just easier and quicker than actually washing my own hands post diaper change or whatnot.
3. Organic healing balm: to use for everything…diaper rash, chapped baby lips, dry skin, cuts, burns, and anything else in the whole wide world.
4. A small spray bottle of surface/multi-purpose cleaner or vinegar water: to wipe down restaurant tables before we pull the high chair up to them, or to clean toys that he’s sneezed over before we infect other children with our excellent sharing skills, or to scrub down particularly grotty shopping carts. I’m all about building immune systems, but I’m less about actual grime and spreading whatever germs we’re already in possession of.
5. A container of chamomilla: because it’s magic. Calms my boy down and turns him into, at worst, a manageable crisis, and at best, a freaking angel.

– I keep the second reusable liquids bag stocked with snacks, because, while we do eat at really regular times and limit snacks in between, a hungry growing toddler is not something to mess with. We usually have small jars/containers of raisins, Annie’s organic cheddar bunnies, a couple Kind bars (because a hungry mama isn’t anything to mess with either), and some trail mix (because a hungry daddy is the worst of all beasts).

– And a third quart-size-equivalent bag of small toys, crayons and a tiny notepad, and other small entertaining things, including toy straps because they make life easier.

MAMA’S BAG: This is where I’ve condensed pretty much the entirety of what I used to carry in a whole pre-children purse. Turns out, I didn’t need the vast majority of that stuff! Everything I actually need just for me fits in a small, probably-intended-for-cosmetics bag, which is red and white striped with a twirly pattern on the inside because things should be pretty. I keep all of this in there:
1. Phone charger and battery-powered phone charger (yes…two phone chargers…in addition to the cord in my car…stop judging me…), bound with twist ties
2. A small clip-top bag that I got in Paris (again, pretty things) with bobbi pins, hair ties, an extra set of earrings for when I want to feel like a grown-up but don’t realise that before I leave home, and lip balm.
3. A travel-size first aid kit picked up at Target for $1.19 with bandaids, Advil, q-tips, sanitising wipes, and a gauze dressing. The bandaids get used surprisingly frequently. I expect this to change a bit pretty soon as I learn about more natural first aid options and how to keep those close at hand. And actually, to be completely straight up, I may have added the Advil myself…can’t remember, it’s one of the travel-size canisters that holds like nine tablets.
4. Feminine hygiene products.
5. Pens…because pens.
Obviously I also carry my phone, wallet, and keys as well, but they often end up in coat pockets.

Once Baby Girl arrives, we’ll add the following for her:

  • Newborn diapers (including one in the changer, along with her brother’s much larger diaper)
  • A change of clothes
  • An extra pacifier and leash
  • A compact swaddling blanket
  • Nursing pads
  • A couple burp rags, if she’s anything like her brother  😉

Any brilliant additions to your diaper bag that you’re willing to pass on? I’d love to hear them!