As the pace of the month calms after the holidays, let this be a time to regroup and get organized in the New Year. Meal planning can be easy step towards a more organized week for many families. We had a lovely Christmas holiday and now enjoying some quality family time at home this week. The kids are playing with toys, Daddy is enjoying vacation time and I’m reading lots of the articles I find on Pinterest, instead of just pinning them! I love that so many planners are now available with meal planning space and I may be tweaking how I plan my weekly meals.

Without further ado, here is our last meal plan of 2013. Enjoy!

Meal Plan December

Sunday~ Chicken Tortilla Soup

Monday~ Meatballs and Spaghetti (Madison’s choice) and sautéed green beans with grape seed oil.

Tuesday~ Beef Tenderloin for New Year’s Eve with a red wine marinade. Roasted carrots and potatoes on the side.

Wednesday~ Basque Fish Soup for New Year’s Day and Popovers

Thursday~ Clean Out Refrigerator Night

Friday~ Pizza night with our bread maker pizza dough.

Do you make a meal plan each week? What tips would you share with people just starting out?

 chicken tortilla soup

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans. 

Get back to the family table #getfresh

This week’s meal plan is a little different. I’ve partnered with The Fresh 20 on their fall campaign to #getfresh, empowering children to take charge of their health. Making the right food choices for your family, and especially children, is so beneficial to long-term health.

Here’s a little more info on the #getfresh campaign:

The Fresh 20 supports healthy eating habits as kids head back to school this year.  They’re on a mission to find The Freshest Kids in America by asking kids the question, “How do you #getfresh?” Utilizing any social platform, parents can submit either a video or a photo of how their children #getfresh on health.  The campaign offers children and their parents a unique opportunity to get creative with their fresh and healthy habits and to get kids involved in their own health decisions. Check out their site for #getfresh back to school ideas.

This week’s meal plan features some of the menu options from The Fresh 20’s meal planning service. I was given a complimentary membership so I could get a sense of the variety in their dinner plans each week. There is a classic menu, gluten-free and vegetarian options. Newly added menus are For One, Kosher and Dairy Free. (I remember nursing baby #2 and having to go Dairy Free…this menu would have been a lifesaver!) My favorite part of the menu plan is that there is usually one bigger meal made that is then re-made into a new dinner later that week. We usually just eat leftovers but I’m inspired to reuse my leftover and be a little more creative with them go forward.

Sept meal plan week 2 via RandomRecycling

Sunday~ Hubby’s BBQ Birthday bash (Hence the late post today!) We had amazing grass-fed rib eye steaks, local corn, potato salad, salad with roasted golden beets, apple pie with apples from Smolak Farms, and peanut butter brownies. I haven’t been so full in a long time!

Monday~ BBQ Chicken Thighs. New recipe I’m testing out from The Healthy Lunchbox ebook. I want to see if the kids like it for dinner before I send it along for lunch. Always a good idea to test out new foods at home before sending them along to school. There will be broccoli and some pasta on the side. I’ll be sharing more about the ebook in the coming weeks as it’s a great resource for any parent in charge of making lunches every day.

Tuesday~ Cumin Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Peach Chutney. (Fresh 20 menu item). These will be used again for a later meal. We will have salad on the side with our garden tomatoes that are ripening fast and furiously.

Wednesday~ Whole Chicken in slow cooker. I love one pot meals like this where I can throw in the potatoes and carrots too. The kids love egg noodles so I’ll serve the dinner over some yummy noodles.

Thursday~ Chopped Asian Slaw. (Fresh 20 menu) Uses the leftover pork tenderloin and a little of the peach chutney to create an entirely new meal. I’m already excited about having nearly all of dinner ready ahead of time. There are also tips in each week’s meal plan on what you can prep ahead of time. (cutting veggies, spice mixes, etc.)

Friday~ Pizza night with our homemade dough. I have found the dough a little stickier when making it on warmer days. I think I need to increase the amount of flour in it by a little.

If you want to learn more about The Fresh 20, you can learn more at their newly redesigned website. With a membership, you get 5 dinners planned out for you using only 20 ingredients. I think it’s a great option if you really want to start meal planning, but need a little structure to get going. There’s also a really cool Pin 2 Win event happening with the Fresh 20’s Pinterest board. Check out the details here.

Other big news on the cooking front this week here…we just signed up with 4 families for 1/2 a cow!! Can’t wait to see what we get.

What are you making this week?

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.

Tiny Prints Back to School

When we think about back-to-school it’s usually about getting the kids ready. But really it’s mom’s time to get ready for back to school. Here’s some quick tips for getting Mom ready for afterschool sports, birthday parties, meal planning and more.

School Zone at Home

  • Pick a spot for backpacks. Have the kids leave them there when they get home and return them there after completing homework so they are ready for the morning.
  • Put together a craft supply basket with scissors, pencils, markers, etc. to be used in a homework zone. Now is the time to stock up with back to school sales.

Meal planning

  • Pick a Sunday afternoon to put together a few freezer meals for when life gets busy and you don’t have time to make dinner.
  • A new notebook and meal planning printables are a great way to stay organized. Make notes of what dinners are favorites and incorporate them into your week’s meal plan.
  • Pinterest is my go-to for meal planning. You can find my meal plan posts here and dinner recipes here. If you need some lunch box inspiration, head over to my Lunch Love board.

Play dates

  • Schedule one or two in advance so you can plan for some free time to check things off your list.
  • Mom contact cards make connecting easy on the playground or in passing at pickup time.

After school activities

  • Pack a bag in advance with sports gear, clean and ready to go. (Pack second small bag for siblings if they will be hanging out waiting)
  • Keep some snacks ready to go and prepackaged so getting out the door is a little easier.

Birthday Parties

  • Buy a few gifts at a time for a certain age group so you are always ready
  • Gift tags are handy to have on hand and personalize a store wrapped gift.

Tiny Prints Labels


To help get Moms (and Dads) ready for Back to School season, Tiny Prints is offering a great package of products to get you started! The giveaway is up to a $97 value!

  • 5 sets of 24 gift tag stickers
  • 1 – 5×8 lined notebook
  • 100 – mommy/play date/contact cards

Giveaway is open until August 22nd to US and Canada residents only. (Canada must pay for shipping~ sorry!) Please enter using the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get another chance to win by entering Tiny Prints Back to School contest for another $200 in prizes! Contest is open until August 28th.

I will also be receiving my own customized Tiny Prints back to school package…I can’t wait to pick out some new labels for the kids and I will get new mommy cards with all THREE kids names on them! All opinions shared here are my own. 

It’s the last week of Project Simplify and the task was to finish a “Put Off Project.” Hmmm…where to start? As we prepare for the new baby’s arrival in the coming month(?) we have been frantically purging the house of unused items, extra furniture and dealing with issues that come from having siblings move in together. The biggest task of all is to organize the kids playroom area. They have a great selection of toys, games, crafts and activities, but not a great place to store them. First part of Operation Playroom was to clean out an overcrowded closet and make it a cozy play closet for the kids.

This truly is a “closet under the stairs” play area. The before picture shows how crazy crowded the closet was with bedding, baby toys in storage, gift wrap and my wedding dress. (See how I organized my gift wrap stash in a previous post.) Some of the bedding was donated, the baby toys were paired down and stored in the nursery and my wedding dress actually still needs a new home. It is amazing to me how much dead space there was in the closet once I saw it in the photo. If the kids outgrow this space, I’ll add in some vertical shelving.

Crowded Closet Before

Next up was to add some light to the closet since there are no overhead fixtures. I found one nightlight that goes on the wall that the kids can turn on and it automatically shuts off. I plan to add another one for a little more light in case the kids want to read in the nook at the back.

Play Nook for Kids

There are two main activities in the cozy nook, dress-up and baby dolls. Both of these activities tend to sprawl when the kids get into them with their friends. My hope it to potentially contain some of the craziness behind closed doors. I used the removable Command Hooks to hang up the dress up items and the accessories are stored in two baskets below. A princess needs her shoes, bag, gloves and tiaras close at hand.

Dress Up Zone for Kids

Madison’s favorite part was actually the bedding at the back that we saved for guests. I may expand this space a little more so it’s truly a cozy spot for the kids. I’ll also be on the lookout for two additional dress up items when I shop the Parent Talk Sale this weekend. We have a large assortment of tutu’s, but not a lot of gender neutral options.

Wish Love Dream art

The other addition to the room is this sweet wall art I found and printed out myself. I may add in a few more frames of quotes in the realm of the importance of pretend play. I started saving a number of them, and other playroom ideas, on my Pinterest boards.

For more organizing ideas, head over to the collection of posts on Simple Mom’s week four round up of “put off” projects.  You can see all of my other Project Simplify posts here. Thanks for everyone’s comments on the past few Project Simplify projects. I hope to have more updates for Operation Playroom once our new storage unit arrives from Ikea!

I’m sharing this over at OrgJunkie too!

The Project Simplify challenge this week became a little more in-depth so I decided to split it out into two separate posts. This project features the creation of a quiet activity desk for my preschooler. I used some wasted space to carve out a special area for her to enjoy in the nursery when I’m busy with the new baby next month.

Preschooler Quiet Desk

I recently had an interior designer, Dina from Honey & Fitz, come for a visit to help me plan out the kid’s room as it shifts from a girly one to a shared girl/boy bedroom.  We also reviewed the layout of the nursery and debated what to do with this random desk space that was built into the room. We never used it as a desk, even when the room was my home office. Once I cleared off all the clutter, including the day care notes from years past, the desk looked so lonely. I realized that it could be a good place for the kid’s to be entertained while I’m busy nursing the new baby. This led to the creation of the “Quiet Desk.”

The desk offers great work space and it’s just the right size for a child. Madison said, “I can do my homework here.” Cute since she is a long way off from homework days, but she already gets the concept of it. While I’m happy the desk is now functional, I would love to add a couple more interesting things on the wall to look at. Maybe a fun map to start talking about geography, or some hanging clipboards with activity sheets attached to them. The goal is to have some activities that the kids can do independently when I don’t have any hands free.

Create a Quiet Desk for Kids

When I search on Etsy for Quiet Books, there are so many fun options, depending on the age of your child. I really like this quiet book from Handcrafting Harmony as it offers lots of fine motor skill practice.

I’m curious to see how well the two “big kids” share this new space. When I introduced it to them it was a hit, except it’s a little tight for two little people at the same time. I also need to find a little place mat as I think the crayons will soon decorate the desk instead of paper the way my little guy colors.

What other activities would you add to this quiet space? Any other tips for entertaining older kids while you are busy nursing a newborn? 

For Part 1 of this week’s Project Simplify, check out the How to Organize Your Gift Wrap post.

For more organizing ideas, head over to the collection of posts on Simple Mom’s week three round-up of “pile” projects.  You can see all of my other Project Simplify posts here. Up next week~ the put off project! You know you have one…

This is shared with Growing Slower’s Tuesday Baby link-up

Call it Project Simplify. Call it nesting. What I really call it is getting rid of the junk. This week’s Project Simplify focus is on “piles.” Pretty vague, but I know we all have them. Some of those piles had been there for just too long, so this week I tackled, sorted, purged and organized them. The hot spots getting organized were my gift wrap stash, the nursery desk, and the closet under the stairs.

Organizing the Gift Wrap

This turned into a fun project for me. While not all of our gift wrap is green, I do try to reuse a lot of the gift wrap that comes through our house. The biggest collection of gift wrap are the gift bags, both large and small. I found the perfect 3-Drawer organizer that could organize the gift wrap and tissue paper.

Organize Your Gift WrapI cleared out our gift wrap stash a few months ago, but after the holidays and the kids birthdays I needed to sort through it all again. I was left with good quality tissue paper, small and large gift bags, ribbons and bows. Going forward, I like the eco-friendly gift wrap line from Jillson Roberts.

Organized Gift wrap

The Closet Under the Stairs

Feels very Harry Potter doesn’t it? This little room under the stairs is in our basement. We had it build in when we redid the basement a few years ago. It became a bit of a catch all: gift wrap, baby stuff when not in use, extra bedding for guests, and my wedding dress. (Still don’t know where to keep that huge box!) Everything got cleaned out and I have a new plan for the space. Look for the big reveal next week!

Under the Stairs Closet Project

For Part 2 of Project Simplify this week, check out the post where I create a Quiet Kids Activity Desk.

For more organizing ideas, head over to the collection of posts on Simple Mom’s week three round up of “pile” projects.  You can see all of my other Project Simplify posts here. Up next week~ the put off project! You know you have one…

Disclosure: Some affiliate links are included in this post. I’m sharing this over at TidyMom and at OrgJunkie too!

Today’s Project Simplify post is sponsored by Listia, a new online site where you can give away the items you no longer need or want. When someone chooses your item, you earn credits that can be used to buy something you can actually use.

It’s the second week of Project Simplify and the target area are closets. Organizing closets seems to be a bit challenging lately as we are still in limbo between the winter and spring season. I decided to focus on the other closets that needed attention, the laundry closet, pantry, and linen closet.

As the nesting phase begins before the new baby arrives, I find myself in purge mode. If I haven’t used it in the past year, or with the last baby, then it’s time to donate it. Once you get into this mindset, it’s so easy to keep going and clear through the clutter from room to room. I finally finished reading Organized Simplicity and it has helped me focus on what I really want to keep and what is just “noise.” Space is going to get a little tight in our house so I want to make sure what we hold on to really is usable and special.

The Laundry Closet

Laundry Closet

I used my favorite chalkboard contact paper and my craft punch to label the first row. The shelves went in last year but I never really set-up a good system to keep things organized. It’s all fine and good to clean up a space, but unless you create a process that you can maintain, it’s not going to stay clutter free.

Laundry Organization


The Pantry Closet

Pantry Before


I purchased the elfa closet door organizer from Container Store for this project. I love that I could install it in 5 minutes and didn’t need to drill into the door. I think I have room for one more wide bin shelf to give me even more storage space.

Pantry Closet After

The Linen Closet

I was amazed at how much stuff has accumulated in our linen closet. There were things in there we haven’t used in four years. Time to let go.  My motto was not to move, but to remove. Out went the extra sheet sets we no longer needed and the extra blankets we no longer used. Our local Community Council got a big donation of bedding, towels and curtains today. A few other things will go on Listia. The linen closet is not super pretty yet, but there is space.

Linen Closet Organization

For more organizing ideas, head over to the collection of posts on Simple Mom’s week two post for Project Simplify. You can see all of my other Project Simplify posts here. Up next week~ piles! You know you have one…

On Listia, you can give away useable stuff you don’t want or need.When someone “buys” your items, you earn credits, which you can redeem for goods offered by other users.  Or, if you are trying to live simply and give back to the world, you can donate your credits to charity. I like that you can search by what’s local, which makes it more like a Craig’s List or Ebay service. As you participate in Project Simplify this month, you can list the items you no longer need, earn credits, then pick out something you can actually use. All opinions shared here are my own.

Also sharing this with OrgJunkie.

Craft Cabinet Project

It’s the first week of Project Simplify and the focus is on shelves and drawers. I decided to put my efforts into creating a craft cabinet that is easily accessible,pretty and organized. Since we have limited storage space on our main level of living, I found the kid’s toys and crafts creeping into every corner. I like having a variety of crafts to play with, but I don’t want them too accessible for the kids. J.J. tends to draw on everything, including the walls and his sister. The elevated cabinet in our half bathroom became a good spot to keep things handy, but out of the reach of little hands.

I had already organized the left side of the cabinet a few months ago and used the Martha Stewart labels so I stuck with the same color story for the right side. The robin’s egg blue color is pretty and the material is pretty durable if I need to wipe off some markers or play dough from a box.

Craft Clean out

The first step is to clean out and take an assessment of what you own. Organize it into like items, purge what you don’t need, move seasonal crafts (i.e. Christmas stickers) to the basement, and then decide the storage system that will work for you. I like the document boxes because I can reuse them long after the kids outgrow this craft organization system.

Budding Blogger

I enlisted some help organizing the crafts. However my helper was quickly distracted by all the fun craft projects she found on the table.

Craft Cabinet Storage

My organizing supplies came from Staples. I got free delivery and it basically came overnight since they are local. Nothing makes like easier than home delivery! I got three document boxes, a desk organizer with drawer and metal book-plate. Everything fit well, except the drawer didn’t quite have enough clearance to make it easy to pull out. I decided to separate the drawer from the box which created a two tier organizer for papers and coloring books, which actually worked out better. The drawer is open storage at the top for larger items like play dough and accessories.

Craft Cabinet Organized RandomRecycling

Part of what works in any organization system is making it easy to use and also making it pretty. I think it’s easier to maintain if both of these factors are met. So far I just love opening the cabinet and not seeing a jumble of crafts and “other” stuff. It’s amazing how many random things were tucked away on the shelves. I finally tossed some scented candles that I just don’t want  in my house any more. I felt guilty throwing out something that worked, but I just don’t want the toxic fumes in my house. I already feel better that the clutter is gone.

Up next week is closets…which one is on your list?  If you are tackling any spring cleaning projects, please share in the comments. I’ll be sharing my post over at SimpleMom each week of Project Simplify.

Craft Cabinet After

It’s the most, wonderful time, of the year…Project Simplify time! This is my third year participating in Simple Mom’s annual spring organizing challenge. I look forward to tackling some projects around the house, both large and small. For all my past Project Simplify posts, you can find them in the menu bar above, or click here.

Here is the run down on what we will be tackling during the month of April.

  • Week of April 9: Drawers and Shelves
  • Week of April 16: Closets
  • Week of April 23: “Piles”
  • Week of April 30: The Put-Off Project
Project Simplify on Simple Mom
I know toys, kid craft supplies and our garage are big to-do’s on our list. Oh, and we need to move my little guy into his big sister’s room to make room for baby.
For more details on how to link up your completed projects if you have a blog, visit Tsh’s post at Simple Mom. I would love for you to share in the comments here what you are working on and any tips and tricks you have. I know I’ll be interested in them, plus I’ll be digging through my Organization Pinterest board. Good luck everyone. Stop in to see the progress over the next month, there will be two posts per week sharing the before and after photos.

Craft time Random Recycling

As we try to clean up post holiday, I want to know the answer to this question. How do you store your kid’s art supplies? It’s a hot topic in our playgroup right now and I thought I would ask if anyone has a great suggestion to share. Leave a note in the comments and moms everywhere may thank you. I’ll be running an organizing series in early spring and plan to tackle all the art supplies floating around the house.

Project is from January’s Kiwi Crate, “Family Game Night.”