Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cut the Crap I: Streamline Your Life

Cut the Crap part 1: Streamline Your Life

image from here

I'm starting a new series called Cut the Crap. It's really for my benefit, but I'm hoping it can help some of you who may be in the spirit of "I am tired of feeling stressed and rushed every second of every day and I need somewhere to focus my controlling energy!"

No? Just me?

Well either way, I find the start of a new year the best time to simplify life. The daily processes that sometimes bog us down in very mundane and un-exciting ways; the over abundance of "stuff" that surrounds us that we aren't sure what to do with; those parts of life.

This is the first order of Marden family business in 2011.

One thing I struggle with is constantly feeling like I have errands to run. There is always that one extra thing we need from the grocery store, or we're out of diapers, or it's so and so's birthday at work and I completely forgot. And when you have a little one and you work full-time, the one thing you don't have a lot of is spare time, and what you do have you want to spend with your family. Not behind someone with 27 things in the express lane at Publix.

So, here are a few things I've started doing and hope to do this year to keep things running smoothly, and to give me back some time. Hopefully you find these helpful too.

1. We all have smart phones by now, so let's use them. I created a contact card in my blackberry contacts called Store List. In it I have a section for the grocery store, Target, and Costco. Any time I think of something I need at one of these places I immediately I add it here, then it's always with me at the store. I add it right then or I swear it's gone from my brain. Plus, this is much more efficient than keeping a list at home because you don't always remember to carry that with you.

2. At the beginning of every month Matt and I are going to sit down and talk through what we have going on that month, from both a social and financial perspective. We're going to plan our budget based on specific expenses for that month which may include car repairs, hair cuts, etc, and also so that I can go ahead and think of any gifts, cards, etc. I need to pick up at the store.

3. I'm starting to grocery shop and menu plan for two weeks at a time instead of one. I hate (seriously, hate) having to run to the store to get one or two things. It drives me bananas. And, I'm starting to hate grocery shopping because it's become a bit of a time sink. Doing this gives me at least an hour back. On top of this, I cook and prep most of our food on Sunday. That way all I have to do the remaining days is heat it up or throw it together. Because coming home to a whiny, hungry baby and no idea what to cook for dinner at the end of the day is not my idea of bliss. And no amount of wine can fix that.

4. Keep a shopping bag in the trunk of your car for things you no longer use, and when it's full drop it by Goodwill. Example: When you take a top out of your closet to wear on three separate occasions but never actually leave the house in it because something isn't right, it needs to go in this bag. Right then. Don't come back to it later and create more work for yourself. I'll elaborate more on this later as it's a subject near and dear to my nerdy minimalist heart.

5. And finally, I've put together a list of the must-have items we rely on weekly if not daily that I like to make sure we have on hand. Before I head to the store I'll check to make sure these are present so we don't run out mid-week. This includes things like dish detergent, diapers, toothpaste, etc...don't hesitate to add things like wine, chocolate, or an anti-stress detoxifying face mask. I won't judge.

Here's to less stress in 2o11!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

As promised...

As promised, here are pictures from our Christmas. Notice we did not get one single good family picture. I guess the 976 pictures of Madelyn will just have to do.

We kicked off Christmas Eve with a lunch at my house that included my mom, Matt's parents, his brother Luke and my new sister-in-law Lacie. Since I was busy cooking Matt dressed Madelyn for the occasion...and this is what she came downstairs in...

Camo. On Christmas.

Proceed to check "let Matt dress Madelyn for special occasions" off my list of things to delegate and add "my husband is a redneck" to list of items for he and I to discuss.

After lunch we moved on to presents. Madelyn helped uncle Luke open his gifts and then she moved on to hers which included her new BFF, this bear that is twice the size of her.

The next morning Madelyn eagerly tore in to her gifts, most of which we caught on video. The pictures really don't do it justice, so I'll just include one of her in her cute jammies. Aww.

The next day my mom headed back to Florida and we went up to Matt's parent's house where Madelyn proceeded to reorganize the tupperware cabinet and learn to "play" the piano.

And last but certainly not least--the snow!! It was gorgeous.

With Christmas and 2010 nearly in the books we're working on our family goals and plans for 2011, and just enjoying life being back to "normal". Of course, every time I say that some random cosmic act occurs which throws everything off, but for now, it's nice and quiet :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Practical vs. Not So Much

Merry late Christmas everyone! I hope you are all recovering from the holiday whirlwind. I feel like no matter how much I clean I just can't quite get the house back to normal because every time I move I step on a barbie doll or errant bow.

Santa was very good to us. As were our families, and our neighbors who kindly provided us with enough baked goods to pad my tummy for winter hibernation. Thanks for that.

We really had a wonderful Christmas. Madelyn had a ball opening her gifts (pictures and videos to come thanks to a new toy from my sister, aka, Aunt Lulu), we spent a lot of time with family, and to top it all off, it snowed on Christmas! In Atlanta! It was gorgeous. We got about 3" which was just enough to be pretty without causing any major travel issues, at least for us.

On a random note, one thing that always makes me laugh at Christmas is the vast difference in my Christmas wish list versus Matt's. You see, Matt is a 9 year old boy at heart and he LOVES Christmas. And he isn't shy about his wish list. At any given moment he can spout off idea after idea about what toys he wants. And they are all toys. A four wheeler, an iPad, some fancy accessory for his car; he's really quite ambitious and not at all practical.

And every year I ask for the nice things I won't buy myself but that would really benefit the household: new (super-soft organic) sheets, cookbooks, face wash, and other miscellaneous items that Matt considers totally boring but that I take some ridiculous delight in.

I guess it's just one of our polar differences.

That being said, I was showered with gifts both practical and impractical. All in all I feel very spoiled and very very lucky. And now I know what my parents meant when they used to talk about how it was so much more gratifying to watch your little ones open gifts than to open your own. That is so true.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


If there is ever a time for family tradition, it is Christmas. And I love traditions. To me, they are like these little comforting moments in a life that often chaotic and overwhelming. It's not likely that everyone will remember the gifts you got them every year, but they will remember the moments you shared around the tree, the amazing food you ate, the stories you read, and the little things you did to add some personal meaning and sentiment to the day.

When you have a child, this responsibility is heightened. I've racked my brain (and the internet) trying to think of ways to plant these little jewels of tradition into Madelyn's memory, and to make her family Christmas unlike any other. Should we make an annual personalized ornament? Should we buy her a book where we record Christmas memories every year? Bake cookies? The possibilities are endless.

In the end, Matt and I decided to keep it simple. After all, I'm am a "less is more" kind of girl.

So, without further adeu, Marden family tradition #1: On Christmas Eve we're planning to cuddle up in bed together and read Twas the Night Before Christmas. On the inside of the book we'll write a small note each year about where we are, who we're with, etc...

And tradition #2: Pancake breakfast on Christmas day. Because every good holiday should start with an ample serving of carbs.

And tradition #3: We'll give. To everyone we can. I want Madelyn to know that Christmas has little to do with Santa and more to do with helping others in the spirit of Jesus. We have everything we need and far more than what we could ever want, and it's important to us that Madelyn grow up knowing the value of helping others, especially this time of year.
So there you have it. Let the festivities begin!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

My nemesis

Approximately three years ago I received a wedding gift in the form of a cuisinart. I thought with this new apparatus I was well on my way to unlocking the domestic genious within. I was going to shred, chop, and puree my way into my husband's heart. Every time he saw that blessed tool on the counter he'd know something tasty was about to be revealed.

Now, three years later, I have yet to even take that little guy out of the box.

In fact, I'm downright scared of it. Kind of like the first time I bought mango. It's fear of the unknown. With the mango I didn't know how to cut it or what to do with it once I did, and for years I avoided recipes including this ingredient (mango salsa, salmon with mango rice, many very delicious things) because I felt inadequately prepared to handle it. Kind of how I feel about my cuisinart. When I see that a recipe involves the use of this tool I immediately flip the page and move on.

I'm not sure what it is. I mean, it's an inanimate object for crying out loud. I think partially I just see all of those little parts and don't want to try and figure out how to assemble, disassemble, and then let's be honest, CLEAN all of those tiny separate pieces. And I don't want to take the time to learn it, which is just plain laziness.
But not this year. 2011 is the year of the cuisinart. No longer will I subject myself to carpal tunnel from chopping every.single.ingredient for guacamole, or resist making delicious soups because I have puree-a-phobia. Me and my Cuizy are finally going to become BFFs. After all, it's been three years in the making.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Slightly spoiled

I'm spoiled. I don't act like it, but I've always been just slightly spoiled by my parents. My mom gives me back rubs every time I see her and cooks me anything I want. My dad sends me a card almost every week, and often sneaks in a little money for Matt and I to have a nice dinner out. Backrubs and food? These people obviously know the way to my heart.

That being said, my dad told me several years ago that he would continue to spoil me and my sister until the day we acted spoiled. At that point it would end. I don't take Anything for granted, I think God for my blessings every night, and I know how lucky I am. Spoiled or not.

But the spoiling I've seen directed toward my offspring has taken on a life of it's own.

This week we received THREE boxes in the mail addressed to Madelyn, each larger than her in size. And she's a tall one and a half year old. We have a tree full of presents underneath and they're pretty much all for one special little girl. Matt and I were trying to decide what to get her for Christmas and we're at a loss! Her grandparents have covered every necessity, every want, and every possible wish. We are truly so blessed.

It may take three days for her to tear through all of her little tokens of love from family and friends, but we'll enjoy watching every single one.

And here she is in all of her glory in front of the tree. Disreguard her wind-burned cheeks, it's been a literal arctic tundra in Atlanta this week. Oh, and please also disreguard the fact that there aren't ornaments on the bottom 1/3 of the tree. We're having a contest to see how many ornaments Madelyn grabs and shatters on the ground in fits of joy before this holiday is over. Let's just say she's winning.

(here she is concocting her next plan of attack. She's had her eye on my shiny penguin ornament all week)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Where my bells at?

Has anyone noticed a serious shortage of Salvation Army bell ringers out this year? What the heck? I set a personal goal every year to give at least a little bit to every single bell ringer I pass, but at this rate I won't even go through the change under my car seats!

Oh, and to the grammar police out there, I know you aren't supposed to end a sentence (or blog title) with a preposition, but I just couldn't help but give a subtle homage to my favorite ad campaign and hilarious you tube video found here.

Anyways, I am back from Paris. I published a post right before I left but for some reason it showed up several posts down the page. Blogger error? Not sure. More likely user error. Anywhoo-- it was a very quick, very busy trip. I arrived to the city of lights lightly blanketed in snow which I didn't expect. It was stunning. I loved seeing those little villages covered in snow from the plane. So quaint and sweet. I imagined every one one of those houses looking just like Kate Winslet's character's house in The Holiday and I could practically smell the chocolate croissants baking in the kitchen.

Speaking of chocolate croissants, or pain au chocolate if you will, I ate many many of these during my stay. I wasn't a huge fan of the fancy food we had available at our meeting so I pretty much ate carbs the entire time. I swear the bread and butter there is the best I have EVER tasted. I also made a cab driver take me past the Eiffel Tower so I could see it decorated for Christmas one night. So worth it. The entire city was decorated, it was so gorgeous. And, in a move that seemed to shock both of us, I told said cab driver where I wanted to go in a full French sentence and he actually understood!

But as they always say, there is no place like home. I am happy to be here and to wake up to Madelyn's sweet sounds, eat homemade American food, and speak a language who's grammar rules I know enough to actually be aware when I'm breaking them.
© Living the Good Life. Powered by