After Hours

In the evening or weekend hours, when your job is done, your brain opens up to other possibilities. I’m calling this section “after hours” and not “hobbies” on purpose. Hobby makes it sound fun but insignificant. In that time after your regular schedule you should be squeezing things worth pursuing. Whether it’s learning how to bake so you can start selling cookies on the side, reading to explore your horizons or figuring out how to grow tomatoes on your roof top, these are the things that fill you with passion and give you energy to face another day.

This project is becoming my “after hours” and I’m very excited about that right now. I am making (not finding) time for it in addition to all the other things that are important in my life.

Meal Planning

I found quite a few blogs that have absolutely amazing tips for meal planning. I’m not going to pretend I’m good at it, because I’m not. I’m going to share with you resources with good ideas.

In my personal journey with meal planning I went so overboard that my family will not eat beef meatloaf or chicken enchiladas for years to come. It’s been 3 years since they told me never to make it again and clearly they’re still not ready to try these dishes again. I read few blogs about meal planning. I made monthly calendars, weekly calendars and weekly grocery shopping lists. I over engineered the experience so much that those two dishes are on the “never again” list. 🙂

I hear over and over again that we are so busy most of us don’t know what’s for dinner that day at … 4 pm same day. Scary but real. This is the reason why so many parents go to the drive through or if their budget and zip code can handle it are getting Postmates or Grubhub delivered to their house.

Just like planning your budget, any planning you can do towards what you’re going to feed your family so you’re eating healthy, will get you far. Nothing worse than hungry bunch and all you have is a jar of peanut butter and some apples (if you’re lucky!) in the house.

I don’t try to plan monthly, it just doesn’t fit our family right now. I start the week with simple plans like Taco Tuesday and Meatless Monday and go from there. In winter months I make chilli or soups that can feed us for two days at a time. If I’m completely stressed out I try to at least make time during lunch break at work on Monday to write down enough for couple days and get the ingredients for those meals. I’ve also gotten a lot better at keeping few staples in the pantry, freezer and fridge for simple healthy meals I can make from scratch in very little time.

One of my favorite blogs and great moms who now also published couple cookbooks are Sweet Potato Chronicles.

Let’s start with the fact that I love the name and sweet potatoes, but I can’t make my family eat them. I have to hide sweet potatoes or squash in chicken chili and hope they don’t notice. 🙂

I absolutely love their cookbooks and highly recommend them to get ideas that are more sophisticated but very kid friendly:

Few other places that get into meal planning and freezer cooking:

If you want to get even more organized and don’t mind spending money on it, here’s a great post comparing paid menu planning services:

Word of the Year

Have you noticed the new-ish trend… it’s not enough to have goals, plans and vision for the new year. Now we are focusing on one single word to describe our future year and help us focus on achieving our goals. I heard about it couple years ago on a podcast and frankly spent the last two years pondering what my word of the year would be. Silly. Apparently it took me this long. 2020 was starting and I came back to the idea, seeing a flurry of posts from other bloggers about their words. It’s not enough to have a word, you can get a custom notebook, bracelet, etc made with it to really help you focus.

Gretchen Rubin word for 2020 is Infrastructure – listen more about it on her podcast

Crystal Paine word for 2020 is Savor – read more about it here

It took me a long time but inspired by couple recent discoveries I found my word. I recently listened to audiobook “The Year of Less”, which I highly recommend. It is not an easy read as it highlights deep problems and struggles with addiction. There were moments it was hard to get to the next chapter. The narrative though of one person’s journey realizing the excess of alcohol and things in her life and building slowly a new life with fewer things is very inspiring. I don’t think I can go as drastic as not to buy anything for a year or live with only one sweatshirt but I can understand how in order to fight excess one must sometimes swing the pendulum to the complete opposite.

The second inspiration has been Courtney’s blog “be more with less”

I also read her book “Soulful simplicity”.

It’s fascinating how many common threads are there in these journeys but yet each one is completely unique and opens our eyes to questioning our own lives.

Both women inspired me to finally get my act together and choose a word to focus on in 2020: “LESS”. Simple word, which my girls put into a beautiful handmade bracelet. I have to add that my 6 year old said – if you focus on less than isn’t getting yet another bracelet the complete opposite? Smart girl.

Balancing family, work, career and life is no easy task. After our family move to new state, new jobs for both of us, new schools and remodeling a house… all I need is “LESS”. Less stress, less clutter, less / fewer commitments. I really need to focus on eliminating all the noise and the distractions and focus on listening to my heart, to better understand what I need and how my balance can help my family as well. It felt a bit embarrassing to choose such a simple word. As you’ll see from other blogs, some women choose very inspirational words, very focused on growth. Maybe that will be me next year, for now I need to keep things simple.

How I got here

I was stuck at O’Hare waiting on a delayed flight. Early winter in Midwest often means delays so I wasn’t too surprised. Normally I spend that time reading a book or catching up on work emails. In my carry on I had a beautiful colorful notebook just purchased, that was asking to be filled with ideas not boring to do lists for the upcoming weekend. I was thinking about my life. My constant balancing act between pursuing my career and trying to be the best wife and mother I can be. Finding the work- life balance or what some days I call work-work balance, is not an easy task. Us working parents don’t have it easy. If you’re a stay at home parent you also have to realize it. Our lives are full of juggling, no matter how we pay our bills and who’s waiting for us at home (even if its a succulent in a pot that needs watering). I realized that I need to do a better job finding things that are worth pursuing both in work life and real life. There’s so much to learn, so many things to explore. While I’m not an expert in many things I do have a knack for connecting people and finding answers to all sorts of questions.

This blog came out of the desire to create a space where we can all find something to fill our lives with a little more. Whether you’re trying to excel in your career or manage meal planning, I hope to show you resources to get there.