On Meal Planning

Dear readers, I’ve been wanting to run a series on meal planning for approximately ever.

polished.:

Like, since I started this blog in the Golden Age of blogs, 2009, forever.

see through.:

I finally started figuring some real true, good stuff out.

family space.:

But I need to know what you want to know.

better than subway tile.:

Do you meal plan?  Wing it every night?

windowsssss.:

Wish you had a plan?  Don’t care?

windows open.:

Tell me everything, and ask me all your questions.

wood.:

Please?

1//2//3//4//5//6//7

Thursday Check In – On Being Full

Whenever I watch someone blast their life all over Facebook and Twitter, declaring their happiness each step of the way, I always stop and wonder,

“If you need to announce your happiness to everyone, are you really that happy?”

Happiness just is.  It doesn’t need to be announced.  It’s a feeling that takes over every part of you and makes you feel full inside.

I want to feel full.

carefree.:

And for once, that has nothing to do with food.

When I feel full, I don’t check my phone compulsively.  I don’t worry about what everyone else is doing rightthissecond.

When I feel full, I make time for friends.

When I feel full, I’m not afraid to say no to something, if it means more quality time spent on something else.

When I feel full, it feels like my priorities are in line with my actions.

When I feel full, it means I’m happy to sit on the floor with Gooplet and watch him try to figure life out.

It’s the best feeling.  And I’m making it happen more.

Starting now!

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On Gooeyness [Ali’s Cookies]

In college, I spent junior and senior years living in my sorority house.  If I remember right, there were 33 of us there at any given time, and plenty of other sisters who would drop by for dinners, especially on nights when the cook, Blanca, put out her cookies. There were always several flavors, but the ones we all went crazy for were some magical combination of chocolate chip and toffee, completely underbaked, so that everything remained as gooey as possible. We were all hopelessly addicted.

 Ali’s cookies are the closest I’ve come to repeating that gooey-ness in my ten (!) years since graduating. The entire point of these cookies is that they are loaded beyond belief with chocolate chips, both white and semi-sweet.  Like, you can’t take a bite without landing at least five. They’re amazing.

The recipe comes via her husband’s family, and is famous among our friends and former coworkers.  Just like with a regular chocolate chip cookie, you can prep the dough, and leave it in the fridge or freezer to have it at the ready anytime. That is, in fact, how I recommend making them because it is absolutely impossible to eat just one.

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And maybe, just maybe, I used them as a vehicle for my Ben and Jerry’s brownie ice cream the other night. For testing purposes, of course.

To make Ali’s cookies, you will need:

  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • 1 C brown sugar, packed
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 3/4 C flour
  • 1 1/2 C chocolate chips
  • 1 C white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter and sugars with a mixer till light and fluffy, a couple of minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat till incorporated. Add baking soda, salt, and flour and do the same. Fold in chocolate chips by hand.

Bake cookies on a parchment-lined cookie tray for seven minutes. They will still look underbaked. And they might be a little. And that’s part of the magic.

Thursday Check In – Planners

Can we use Thursdays to check in with each other, dear readers?  Can I ask you random questions and tell you random thoughts about important (read: not important at all) things?  Okay, great.

Sixth grade was the year I ditched the school-provided assignment book for a seriously swanky planner I scored at CVS.  (It was the most boring, gray book in the world.  But it was mine to do with as I pleased.)

I practiced writing my assignments in my best handwriting.  The girl who sat near me in science had the most perfect handwriting in the history of ever and I strived to make mine the same.* She “crossed out” her to dos in highlighter, and I tried so hard to make it work for me, but I’m forever a scratcher-outer girl.

As the years went by, my planners got fancier, until one year, when I splurged on my first Day Designer (side note-I miss vlogging).  It was the first time I went from the layouts showing me a week at a glance, to each day at a glance.  I haven’t looked back since.  (The last two years, I’ve purchased my Day Designer through Whitney’s line at Target, and I love those just as much as my big purchase.)

There are so many great-looking planners out there, I thought I’d round up the ones I see on my Instagram feed the most, along with a bonus accessory to go with each.  Do you use any of these?  Is there one you love I’m missing?  Is your Instagram feed not clogged with planners because you’re maybe a little less type-A than I am?  Strange!

Undated Blank Day Designer - A Yearly Strategic Planner & Daily Agenda for the Creative Entrepreneur. $55.00, via Etsy:

The Whitney English Day Designer / Day Designer for Blue Sky
(source)

Whitney English Day Designer For Blue Sky at Target:

Day Designer for Blue Sky desk accessories
(source)

Giveaway: Win a Free Simplified Planner by Emily Ley! // by gabriella @gabivalladares:

The Simplified Planner
(source)

May Designs Blog:

May Designs x Emily Ley Collection
(source)

How I use my Get To Work Book | Nicole Reaves:

Get to Work Book
(source)

“I put my new Clearly Kelly planner stamps to work in my @gettoworkbook to organize details for the PDX workshop this weekend. Look how well they work…”:

Clearly Kelly planner products
(source)

*Bonus point to SCL and Queen Cupcake if they know who I’m talking about.

On Weeknight Dinners [mediterranean chicken stew with cinnamon couscous]

There are few things in life I’m more wary (warier? I like the sound of that) of than a recipe that contains the words simple or easy in the title.  This chicken stew is not that.  It claims to be a weeknight dinner, and I think that’s an adjective I can get behind in my dinner descriptions.  While “simple” and “easy” recipes often skips steps, or entire ingredients, to save time, that also often leaves them lacking in flavor or substance.  But a “weeknight” dinner is most likely both simple and easy, without having to be directly advertised as such.

Did I just overthink that?

I overthink almost everything.

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I made this weeknight dinner from The Kitchn on a weekend, which is good, because while I’m fairly confident in my ability to put dinner on the table on a weeknight, I’m certain I can do it on the weekends.  I wanted to add toasted almonds, but otherwise, it’s a great dinner, and a real departure from our usual standbys (read: PASTA).  I’d make the cinnamon couscous on its own, should I find myself alone for a meal in the future.  That’s the stuff dreams are made of.

To make Mediterranean Chicken Stew with Cinnamon Couscous, you will need:

For the chicken stew:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, in puree
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, cut into bite sized pieces, skin removed
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped (I left this out because I hate olives)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the cinnamon couscous:

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (10-ounce) box plain, quick-cooking couscous
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice (throw some zest in if you’re using juice from a real, live orange)

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and oregano, cook for one minute while stirring. Pour in crushed tomatoes, chickpeas, chicken broth, bay leaves, and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Add chicken, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
For couscous, heat chicken broth, oil, and salt until boiling. Add couscous and raisins, stir, remove from heat and cover. Let rest until all liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, add cinnamon and orange juice. Use fork to mix until combined. Set aside.
Remove stew from heat. Add olives and lemon juice. Serve hot over couscous.

On Junk Food

Dear readers, what are your junk food weaknesses?  My number one is probably M&Ms.  Either plain or peanut butter.  I can get into the coconut ones for about two handfuls before I’m over them.  And second is ice cream, a dessert to which I cannot say no.  When it comes to crazy desserts, I’m hit or miss.

AGOMYR sent me these browned butter oreo nutella blondies, and I made them almost instantly.  And they were good.  But maybe, a little much?  Maybe a browned butter blondie, sans Oreo and Nutella would be better?  And maybe an Oreo and Nutella blondie would work too?  But everything all together? Too much for me.

I would say I’m more of a junk food purist, but some of my most recent pins would dispel that theory.  Here’s what I want to make soon:

chocolate churro crunch.:

White Chocolate Churro Crunch, please and thank you.

waffle cookies.:

Chocolate Dipped Waffle Cookies (Oh, hey Lauren Conrad)

Simple frosted circus animal cookie bark recipe - sugar and cloth:

Animal Cracker Bark, but I think I’d make mine with dark chocolate

When You Have Leftover Ginger Chicken [indonesian ginger chicken]

If you’ve ever made anything with fresh ginger, it’s likely you’ve bought a sizable knob of the stuff, only to shred half a teaspoon and wonder what to do with the rest. 


Wonder no more dear readers, because when this was my predicament not so long ago I did what I always do. I turned to Ina. I remembered that a long time ago a friend had mentioned she loved Ina’s Indonesian ginger chicken, and made it regularly. 

The flavors, at least for us, were a great departure from the usual roast chicken recipes we try, and any leftovers would be great in your favorite Asian salad recipe. 

To make Indonesian ginger chicken, you will need:

  • 1 C honey
  • 3/4 C soy sauce
  • 1/4 C minced garlic (from 8-12 cloves)
  • 1/2 C peeled, grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 chickens, cut into pieces (bone-in skin-on)

Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Arrange the chicken in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown*.
*I imagine this is equally amazing, if not more so, when grilled. 

What I Read on my Summer Vacation

LOL, I went nowhere, really, except for our annual beach vacation, which was cut a tad shorter than I would have otherwise liked because one of our party stopped sleeping.

I digress.  Already.

I always have my phone in hand, which means I always have a book at the ready, thank you Kindle App.  And so I got a lot of reading done this summer, mostly while holding a baby who chose to only sleep on me.  Whatever works, right?

I am incredibly picky when it comes to books.  I’ve read a lot of them, which means the odds the next one I choose will change my life is slim.  Only a handful of books can do that, and I’m not likely to come across them very often.  But the search for the next one is always so enticing that I keep on keeping on.  Here are my 3 and 4 star picks:
Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty: I was so skeptical about this one because all I had read by her was The Husband’s Secret and I did not love it.  But this was the best page-turner I read all summer.  I couldn’t put it down, and if I had to, I kept thinking about the plot.  It’s about a group of elementary school parents, and while what happened to them seems far fetched, the ways in which they interact hit close to home.

Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan: I have loved this author for years now, and her latest installment was captivating.  It’s three separate stories, about how three characters from different time periods come to love a particular instrument.  That sounds kind of boring, but because of the history the characters live through, the stories are rich and compelling.

Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne: I came across this while browsing the library’s website, and borrowed it simply because it was a classic I had never read.  I’m hit or miss with classics, but so many people I know have talked about the humor in this book.  It’s delightful and oh-so-charming.  I can’t wait for Gooplet to grow up so I can read it to him already.

Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull: This one did that thing a lot of non-fiction books do, where they go on for a little longer than I think they really should.  But there are some great anecdotes about the Disney and Pixar movies I love.  What was most fascinating to me is that someone suggested The Princess and the Frog not be called that because boys wouldn’t go see a movie with “princess” in the title (or any girl’s name).  Whoever was making the big decisions stuck to their guns, but in fact, the movie got great reviews, and tanked at the box office.  And so Tangled became Tangled, not Rapunzel.  And Frozen is Frozen, not Elsa and Anna.  Fascinating!

Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight: Another page turner, and though I could see the ending as it drew nearer, I’d still recommend it.  The story pieces together what happened to a high school girl, Amelia, who jumped off the roof of her fancy private school.  It struck me as Gossip Girl meets Pretty Little Liars.

With Malice, by Eileen Cook: In the same vein as the book above, this one looks at a girl who wakes up from a car accident with no memory of what happened.  And it turns out she is being accused of murdering the passenger in the car, her best friend.  Again, a fairly predictable plot, but a fun read nonetheless.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion: I had seen this book recommended in so many places and was happy to finally get through it.  Which I did in just a couple of days.  It’s such a cute and quirky read about a man, who the author implies has Aspergers, and his search for the perfect wife.  He creates an extensive questionnaire to find the best possible suitor, and then meets Rosie, who, of course, meets hardly any of his qualifications.  And yet.

Eight Things

On the eighth:

Habit Tracker Loving the neon staedtler pen habit tracker!:

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TV tracker.:

  1. Everyone keeps talking about bullet journals, and it’s totally something I’d get into, but I’m just…not?  I love pretty notebooks and list-making (hello, this post), but I don’t know.  Maybe it’s that I don’t see the advantage over just using a regular planner.  Someone enlighten me?  And how do you know how many pages to leave for each list?
  2. I am not going to say I want Meg’s life.  I watch Meg from afar on the internet, and I have no idea what difficult things she is working through.  But I do know her house is stunning, and I adore the way she writes about life with her 5 children.  This post about how they all do their own laundry in particular.  I know that’s random.  But I love it. (I also love doing the laundry, so maybe I’ll still do that, but teach my kids to do the dishes and vacuum.)
  3. I loved Elise’s podcast on the 100 Day Project.  Loved it so much it got me thinking about what I could do for 100 days.  I don’t know.  Yet.  But I hope I keep mulling it over.
  4. Speaking of lists and doing all the things, I wrote a 101 in 1001 list.  And then had a Gooplet, and LOL, that’s not all getting done.  But a lot of the list items don’t even matter to me anymore.  I’d love to redo it and restart.  Meet Oprah will obviously remain on the list.
  5. Alison Krauss Pandora is pretty much getting me through anything stressful right now.
  6. It’s so stressful when you get a bunch of holds in at the library at once and you know you can’t read everything as fast as it’s coming at you.  (The History of Great Things, Shop Class as Soulcraft, What Alice Forgot, Love that Boy, Do No Harm, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage)  I still haven’t even touched the new Harry Potter.  Who even am I?
  7. I need to ruthlessly weed through my closet.  I always need to ruthlessly go through my closet.  Why do I have so many clothes?  Why do I keep buying more?
  8. Washi tape is still awesome.  Ali got me two new gold rolls from Target, and I picked a flamingo roll up at Paper Source.  I love anything that dresses up snail mail.
  9. Wait, I’m adding a bonus ninth thing.  Tsh wrote how all she needs to get the school year off to a good start is adequate sleep and a good diet.  My first reaction was yes!  And then, hah!  That’s so much easier said than done.  But it really shouldn’t be.  And I should figure out why it sounds so impossible, and how I can make it as easy as it should be.  Goals!

(bullet journal; Meg’s porch; tv bullet journal)

A Roast Fit for The Times [mississippi roast]

I might have hit the slow cooker dinner Holy Grail. I recently lamented that seemingly every slow cooker recipe I find is some variation of chicken and cream of mushroom soup. Enough with the cream of mushroom soup.

Cathy touted this roast as one of her family’s favorite dinners, and I pinned it immediately. I put it on our family’s weekly meal plan, and didn’t think too much about it. The night came to make it, we fell appropriately in love, and when I set about to write this post, I found out about a zillion other people have too.


So many people, in fact, that The New York Times wrote about it. Mississippi roast has an utterly charming backstory, as all the best recipes do.

This particular recipe is Ms. Chapman’s original, artificial mixes and all. The paper has a more homemade version that skips the MSG, but right now, I just can’t be bothered.

To make Mississippi Roast for 6, you will need:

  • 3 lbs chuck roast
  • 1 packet ranch dressing mix
  • 1 packet au jus gravy mix
  • 6 T butter
  • 1/4 C water
  • 5-6 pepperoncini

Pour water in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add roast and sprinkle the two mixes on top. Place butter and peppers in slow cooker and cook on low 8 hours. Use two forks to shred beef, and serve hot.