Our Favorite Winter Foods + a Chili Recipe

Winter sucks. Especially this year’s winter. But a few things make it better, namely fuzzy jammies, hot cocoa, weekends snuggled on the couch with blankies and kitties, and soups and chili. While those jammies warm your outside, soups, stews, chili and the like warm your insides. Together, it’s magical.

So in this spirit of this polar vortex, here’s what we like to cook in our house come wintertime. Consider these my go-to trusty recipes and a few new ones that have surprised me enough to make it into rotation:

-Tater tot hot dish. Some of you non-Midwesterners may not know what this is, and I certainly didn’t know either until I moved to these parts. It’s wonderfully Minnesotan, and my mother-in-law makes the best, but mine isn’t bad either. Just bake together a bag of frozen tater tots, some cooked hamburger, cream of whatever soup, some frozen veggies, and there you go.

-Pesto pasta. Any kind of noodle, any kind of pesto sauce (I love the Bertolli kind), together. Easy and delicious.

-Meatloaf. Lately, I’ve been making mini meatloaves instead. Just combine some hamburger, cheddar cheese, chopped onion, BBQ sauce, bacon bits and garlic, and cook in cupcake tins. Delicious.

-Green bean casserole. I could eat this every day. With my mom’s home grown and canned beans, it just can’t be beat. Goes great with mini meatloaves!

-Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato or whatever kind of soup you have on hand. Gooey cheese is one of the best things on this planet. A fun variation we tried was to make it “monkey bread” style – cubed up pieces of cheese wrapped in packaged refrigerated dough baked together, for pull-apart pieces you can dunk in soup. Fun for kids AND adults.

-Breakfast. We’re guilty of having breakfast for dinner many times year round. But warm eggs, fluffy pancakes and bacon hit the spot any time.

-Chowders. Two total hits I made from Pinterest were a brat and beer cheese chowder (recipe here) and a potato corn chowder (recipe here).

-Chili! The best thing about chili is it’s hard to mess up. Some meat, beans, white or red brothy presence and whatever else your heart desires, and you’ve got yourself a chili that pretty much always tastes good. I’ve made many varieties over the years, and learned some fun shortcuts along the way. My friend Jenessa told me once she likes to use salsa in her chili so that she doesn’t have to chop veggies. The second I heard that, I totally stole the idea. It’s saved me lots of time, and turns out, I like the taste better anyway with it! I also one time heard a tip to try using a can of tomato soup in place of actual tomatoes, and for our household that really isn’t a big fan of tomatoes in the first place, it’s been a wonderful variation. I love that it adds a bit of a creamy note that you don’t get otherwise. Lastly, since my discovery of quinoa and a pin for quinoa chili, I add that in now too for additional texture and nutrition. Those, my friends, are my three top chili tips.

Now we all have our own specific tastes, so you should always feel free to adapt recipes. Add or remove ingredients to what you like. No one will know, and it won’t get screwed up, I promise. That being said, here’s the recipe for my chili, Hofland style:

hearty chili with quinoa recipe



Hearty Chili with Corn and Quinoa

-Brown 1 – 2 lbs of ground hamburger in skillet. Drain. Put in crockpot.

-Add 2 cans of your favorite beans to crockpot. (I use one can of navy beans and one can of dark red kidney beans.)

-Add 1 or 2 cans of tomato soup (I’ve used both Campbell’s and Amy’s organic and both are lovely) to crockpot.

-Add salsa to crockpot. However much you want. I probably dump in 1 cup or so.

-Add any additional veggies you heart desires. I love corn and want it in everything, and since it’s not in most salsas, I add a jar of corn as well.

-Cook quinoa according to package directions and add to crockpot. I use approx. 1 cup of cooked quinoa, give or take.

-Add spices to crockpot. I use different spices and amounts each time. I just gather whatever I feel like and dump stuff in. Usually present are a few dashes of onion powder, garlic powder, Lawry’s seasoned salt, regular salt and pepper, cumin, and chili powder. It doesn’t really matter.

-Stir together and cook on low 6ish hours or high 3ish hours or until you can’t wait anymore.

-Serve with cheese, sour cream and crackers. I can’t tolerate spicy food, but if you’re a fan of the heat, add your hot sauce too. My husband throws in a few squirts of Sriracha on top.

I also recommend making a huge pot and adjusting the ingredient amounts based on your family size or willingess to cook in the coming days. One crockpot worth of chili will feed our family of 2 for lunch and dinner for about 2 or 3 days.

What is YOUR go-to winter pick-me-up meal?

From Ms. to Mrs: The Story of Changing My Name

I was pretty certain my whole life that when I got married, I’d change my last name. Being a sociology minor though, I did have a period of doubting that. I actually met a few people who broke the societal norm – the chair of the department took his wife’s last name, and a classmate who got married made up a new last name that both she and her husband took. I thought it was super cool, and I totally got it. Why should the woman have to make the sacrifice? It’s essentially like a new identity, especially if you’re well into your career and have established yourself with your maiden name. My own mom has some regrets about changing hers for various reasons.

For me, in the end, I still wanted to take my husband’s last name. In several ways, I consider myself modern and sometimes even a feminist. But another part of me is very traditional. I liked the idea of being unified with my husband by name. It shows the world we belong together. It showed his family that I was proud to join them. If and when we have children, we’ll all share one last name. The idea of saying “the Hoflands” was really appealing to me.

At the same time, I spent 27 years of my life with one name, and parting with it made me a little sad. It became my identity. I was attached to it. My nickname in high school was my last name. Few people actually called me Amanda. Plus, I had many published stories from my time at the magazine and other endeavors in my maiden name. I didn’t have it in me to totally throw it away.

My compromise to please both the nostalgic part of me with the traditionalist was to make my maiden name a second middle name. In the eyes of the law, I’m a Hofland. That’s what I scribble on my checks now. But knowing that my maiden name is still legally a part of me, now as a middle name, is comforting. It’s just tucked in there whether I want to use it or not. For my professional writing post-marriage, I did decide to use both so my articles could be linked.

I gotta tell you though: Holy cow, I was not prepared for the process of changing it. It was for more involved than I ever could have imagined. If you’ve ever moved, you know how many places you have to change your address. But for changing your name? Double it. Or more.

To do it, I took a few name-change checklists from the Internet and combined them into what applied to me, adding and deleting till I had a complete list of every single place I could think of that had my name somewhere. Of course there’s the social security office, DMV, banks, credit card companies, TV and Internet service, etc., but so many other forgotten places like the library, magazine subscriptions, dentist, even your Amazon registration.

I printed out my massive list and carried it around with me for months. During breaks at work, I’d go through a few each day. What no one told me about this process was how many copies of my certified marriage certificate I’d need. Not just any old photocopy. A CERTIFIED copy. With some kind of “seal” from the courthouse. Which cost $10 for each copy. And most places wanted to keep that one copy that cost me $10. Awesome.

Thankfully not every entry on the list needed a certified copy, but probably at least 5 or more did. Some wanted that certified copy mailed to them with an application for a name change, some wanted a regular copy faxed to them with a hand-written cover sheet, some allowed me to just email them a scanned file of it, and a select few needed no evidence and took my word for it (God bless those ones).

Every single one required an initial phone call to find out what the procedure was, and that meant lots of time on hard-to-navigate automated systems that takes you in circles, talking to foreign people with such thick accents I couldn’t understand a thing, being transferred around multiple departments, multiple times, and playing many rounds of phone tag. I was on the phone so much over those few months changing my name that I went over on my voice usage. Which I’ve never done before.

It was a GIANT pain. That’s one of the things no one warned me about, how dang time-consuming it would be. The best part: Some still haven’t gotten it right. Many months later, Wells Fargo is still struggling to get it changed (three emails, many phone calls and two in-person branch visits later). DirecTV was the next worst. Because my old roommate was still listed on my account, they had to have her permission first, which in itself was a pain. She and I were both on the phone with them about three or more times each, each time getting a different story from each person we talked to. I wanted to scream. Actually, I did. I screamed a lot. I didn’t see why it was so hard and was taking so long.

But was it worth it? Absolutely. I love being a Hofland. One night I told my husband that I’m glad I have his name. His reply: “No, it’s our name now.” I melted.

Conquering the Clutter: Our Apartment Overhaul

Maybe it’s New Year’s resolutions, maybe it’s a new epidemic, maybe it’s pure luck, but I’m well aware of how many blogs very recently have posted about deep cleaning, organizing and decluttering. Well, add me to the list because I am all about it right now. This is not at all Pinterest perfect, but it’s real, and it worked for me. (Please forgive me for the awful photography. I will never claim to be good at taking good photos in good lighting, nor am I any good with editing them.)

My husband groaned when I told him we had an agenda full of cleaning, organizing and decluttering for the weekend. But as soon as we started, we got in a groove and both loved the results. Cleaning can be very therapeutic for me. It makes me feel good. I love the feeling of knowing that I worked to make something look better than it was before. Plus being in a nice, clean environment just makes you feel good, ya know?

What really gets us is clutter here and there. It’s easy to start thinking we need so much stuff, but really, we don’t. I cringe and feel anxious when I see piles of clutter in my house. I try to pick up a few things every day, but it’s SO HARD to keep up! It feels like as soon as you clean one area, you turn around and there’s another problem area. But that wasn’t going to stop us from tackling it all anyway, with the promise to try and keep the areas clean. I thought, if we can devote one entire weekend to nothing but cleaning, surely, we can get it all, right? Well, mostly anyway.

Source: hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

Source: hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

Finding the Inspiration and Tips & Tricks

I was most inspired by my friend Lindsay’s blog post about living a more minimalist lifestyle. Ever since she wrote it months ago, it’s been in the back of my mind, and I put an item purge on my mental to-do list. I started becoming more aware of all the stuff I had and started feeling guilty and upset with myself that I’ve become such a hoarder and a messy jessy. Lindsay’s argument made so much sense to me. The less stuff you own, the less stuff you have to clean or keep organized, and even more compelling, the more time you have to spend on things that truly matter.

Since then, some more blogs have caught my attention on this same subject, and it seemed like the stars were aligning to give me the kick in the pants I needed to once and for all, conquer my clutter. Wifessionals gave me more inspiration by realizing the less stuff I have, the less stuff we have to pack up and move with us when we get a house. Then, Kate’s post at The Florkens gave me the idea to actually try on the old stuff I have. So glad I did, because a lot of the clothing I had that wasn’t in current frequent rotation was so easy to give up. I definitely encourage trying all items on, because just from glancing at stuff on a hanger doesn’t do the trick. By taking them out and putting on, you see the things that have stains or got stretched out, realize the pants that you can’t even zip anymore, and question your fashion choices from years ago. Then, my Cara Box partner Kathryn posted this, also about clearing the clutter. Lastly, I found this awesome guest post about how to hausfrau here. Yes, it was definitely my turn to clean all the things.

One quote I came across in searching for ideas and inspiration online said: “Cut down your closet by 25% by asking yourself, ‘If I were shopping right this second, would I buy this?’ If the answer’s no, out it goes.” That helped me a lot when it came to every area of the house … and not just the closet.

Another trick I figured out that has worked really well for me in the past is that for any item I’m hesitant if I’m ready to part with, I put it in a bag and hide it away for awhile. Then in a few months, I’ll open up the bag. Most of the time, I don’t even remember what’s in it, and that’s the sign I won’t ever miss it and it’s time to say goodbye. If I’m still in doubt though, store it for another few months and do it again. If after the second round, I didn’t miss it but am still hesitant, I suck it up and donate or toss it anyway. If I don’t draw the line somewhere, I’d keep things around forever that I never use or wear, “just in case.”

I have a habit of keeping around things I bought for a special occasion just in case the same occasion comes around again. Think themed parties. Ugly Christmas sweaters, ’80s parties, etc. 75% of the time, I never use it again. So just toss it now. If another ’80s party happens, it will probably be years down the road and my current items may not even fit then, so I’ll buy something on sale in the future to use, or just improvise and go with colorful accessories, high ponies and full-on makeup so I don’t have to spend again. In the meantime, there’s no use in it keeping around.

We’ve cleaned up our spare bedroom about four times in the past year. But it seems like as soon as we get it looking nice, all of a sudden it looks like an episode from Hoarders. What was key for us this time was not just rearranging the items, but getting rid of what was there in the first place. I had several stacks of old magazines, about three comforters and even more blankets piled in the corner, tons of empty cardboard boxes that I keep “in case we need them for moving,” several kitchen appliances that are too large to fit in the kitchen cabinets, a big ol’ stack of leftover wedding things, and who knows what else landed in there over the past few months.

Getting Started

Before we actually started the big clean, I went to the dollar store and purchased tons of different sized bins – some very small to use to store my chapsticks in the nightstand, and some larger to store the pet toys, collection of TV remotes, etc. I purchased far more than what I had actual plans for because I knew I’d end up finding a purpose for them all eventually, and can you ever really have too many bins to put stuff in? Any container you can use to store items that otherwise would be scattered somewhere is worth it.

cubeicalI also caved and finally bought a Cubeical organizer at Target because I was so sick of odds and ends on the floor in the living room. Getting them up into little storage spaces makes a world of difference. Word of advice though: Check the storage bin sizes before you buy. I accidentally came home with the teeny weeny bins when I meant to get the large bins that would actually fill each cube. Oh well, live and learn.

Getting Down to It

I decided to start a little while ago actually, and tackled some of the small areas after work on a few nights while the husband was at band practice. That’s when I was able to go through my bookcase to gather up old books I had already read and don’t plan to read again, and some I never read and know I never would, to do a swap with friends and donate what was left. I also went through the kitchen cabinets and tossed expired spices and rearranged all our food so we didn’t have to take 10 items out just to find the baking soda. We also had a knack of collecting lots of loose packets of ranch mix, sauce and dip mixes, etc., that were scattered all over the cabinet, so I repurposed a nice box of hot cocoa packets to put all the packets in. Also, I highly recommend those spinny things to keep cans and spices in.

cabinets before and after

I emptied the random drawer with medicine and band-aids, etc., and moved the contents into the bathroom closet for an actual organized space for our medicine and first aid supplies. While I was in there, it seemed as good a time as any to tidy up that closet too.

bathroom closet before and after

I organized my nightstand drawer from a cluttered mess into something actually functional again. And don’t ask me why I keep the tape in my nightstand – I really don’t know why.

nightstand before and after

I rearranged the fridge door and moved the card photos elsewhere to reduce visual clutter there, and threw out any old magnets that we got for free with logos of businesses we don’t even care about.

fridge before and after

I took the stash of pet toys that was cluttered in the corner and put them in a basket. At least the ones the animals don’t use on a daily basis. There’s still a few little kitty balls scattered around and the one bone that Brick actually chews on, and that’s enough.

pet toys

Once the smaller tasks were done, we waited till we had a weekend with zero other plans to really tackle the big spots. So pretty much my entire Saturday was spent in my closet and dressers (yes, plural because I’m a hoarder). I channeled the Florkens and tried on everything. I got pretty depressed for awhile because about HALF of the pants, shorts and skirts I used to fit in a year ago or so I could no longer zip, or if I could, it was skin tight and barely fit over my thighs. I even had to walk out in the living room to show my husband my muffin top and love handles in several garments. Then I sucked it up and continued on because what use is there in being sad about gaining some more junk in the trunk. It happens. I cleared out about five bags just of clothes to either throw away or donate.

Then I had to go through all the crap that was piled on the closet floor and on the shelf. Boy was that a mess. I hadn’t gone through that since we moved in. Yikes. I had about five purses I no longer use or even like, so many free totes I got here and there that I literally never once used, a pile of stuffed animals, ski boots that I no longer use because I don’t ski anymore, tons of belts that are very much out of style, and lots of other odds and ends. It was bad. But, I powered through and said goodbye to so much stuff.

I think the key to cleaning out a closet is to definitely take all the items out first, go through them on the bed or floor, weed out stuff you don’t want anymore, then dust/vacuum/sweep the now empty closet, then put the to-keep items back inside in an organized fashion, using those totes and baskets to hold the things like belts, scarves, etc. Also a shoe organizer is an absolute must. I know old cardboard boxes aren’t super eye appealing, but I was out of big totes, and they still worked as containers for my large items like stuffed animals (only kept my faves!) and purses. Works for me.

bedroom closet before and after

clean bedroom closet other door

Sadly, cleaning up my closet and dresser sucked up all of Saturday. Granted we did take one small break to go out to eat at a new restaurant in town. I was in no mood to cook after all that cleaning.

Sunday was the day we rallied together to hit the rest of the apartment hard. And we did! Cal handled the spare bedroom slash mancave all by himself, so I unfortunately don’t have photos of that, as I was not allowed to disturb his work … and also I was preoccupied elsewhere. That place was by far the worst, and it took him over half of the day. But finally, we can see the carpet again, the futon is a functional guest bed again, and my pile o’ wedding stuff got weeded out into one small tub and is tucked away in the closet.

I attacked the entry closet, which had become the place where we threw all our board games (and we had A LOT), coats and hoodies, cat carrier, old sewing machine, big cooler and the shoes we wear most often. I weeded out about half of the hoodies that I don’t wear anymore to free up more space and about 10 board games and puzzles we don’t play anymore. We were using the space in there really poorly, so I got a basket to put our gloves and mittens so they weren’t floppping around the shelf, and stacked the cooler and cat carrier on top of eachother on the shelf, freeing up lots of room there too. I organized our shoes to make much more sense and cleared out all the dust bunnies (there were a ton. Ick!). Sadly, I was too in the zone to remember to take photos of this space, so use your imagination.

We ended up having too much space in that closet, so we repurposed some old shelves we had laying around and put them in there to store our kitchen items that otherwise were stacked on top of the cabinets. It was such an eyesore, and I hated the kitchen because of it. Seeing pots and pans, blenders and griddles just strewn across the top up there was awful. Finally we had the perfect spot to put them that was out of sight. And now our cabinets are tidier, which makes me so happy. We left a few mugs up there as decoration, and just the couple pots and one griddle we use on a regular basis for easier access. There’s now so much space up there that Little Girl is having a heydey running around, whereas before she stumbled around and straddled the stuff. Ugh, right?!

I didn’t take a before picture, but imagine every inch of these cabinets covered in stuff. Just add a blender, popcorn popper, deep fryer, crockpot, baking dishes, and about 5 more pots and pans and you’ve got it.

clean kitchen cabinets

I feel like we did more, and we probably did a few other small things, but those big areas take a lot of time, especially when you have to combine purging, cleaning and organizing all in one. And multiple trips outside to the dumpster, finding time to eat lunch, feed the animals, take the dog out to potty, go potty yourself. Wow does it all add up, and all of a sudden you can’t believe all you did was get through one closet and it’s been four hours.

In the end when all was done, we both looked at the giant pile of items to be thrown away or donated, and said ‘Wow, we had this much stuff?!” While I’m ashamed we had collected so much stuff we didn’t use, I feel good that someone else will get the chance to use it now, and it’s fewer things taking up space in our place.

donation pile

Once the heavy lifting was done and everything was back in its place, I went did some general cleaning to put the cherry on top. I went around with my Swiffer duster and dusted any areas that weren’t involved in the clean up (small shelves holding picture frames on the wall and such), swept and Swiffered the floors, vaccumed and wiped down all counters. Last, I followed the recommendation of a pin I saw about the 15 surfaces you should be cleaning that you’re not, and went around and sanitized our light switches, door and drawer handles, sink handles, TV remotes, alarm clocks (yes we’re old school and have actual alarm clocks instead of using our phones) and any other surface that we frequently touch.

Cleaning Virtual Clutter

Sidenote: Sometimes a technology cleanup is in order too. I already decluttered my Pinterest, and cleaned up my email, which was ridiculous at over 1,000 unread emails. It’s now a nice 0. In my effort to keep it that way, I unsubscribed from many email subscriptions from stores or restuarants that I don’t really care about, because all it does is add virtual clutter.

dvrOur DVR has been near capacity for months. Like, hovering around 10-30% free. When it got down to 7%, we knew we had a problem. So we deleted a few movies and groups of shows that had been on there a long time since we knew we weren’t actually going to watch them, and during any free time worked hard at getting through what was left. After a couple weekends of hardcore DVR catch-up, we actually got it 100% cleared out. I had to take a photo because it’s never been like that since the day we got it in 2006.

Anyway, back to the weekend cleanup. By the end of the day on Sunday, I was absolutely beat. I flopped on the couch and didn’t move until bedtime. Cal had to make dinner that night because there was no way I was moving. Thankfully he was nice about it, even though he worked as hard as I did. What a guy. Side note: He’s also a great cook. Having a juicy pork roast and cheesy potatoes to top off our weekend was amazing. I know — a guy who cooks AND cleans with little to no grumbling?! AND still let me pick out the TV show to watch while we ate?! He’s all mine, ladies:)

Again, none of these photos are Pintastic and perfect, but to me, our problem areas are far better than they were, and I feel that it was all worth it. It feels so good to finally have a home again that I am actually proud of. I don’t know why it took me so long to do all of it. I think I should make this an annual event to stay on top of everything.

What are some of your tips for decluttering, reorganizing, purging or cleaning?

My Favorite Blog People

When I decided to start my blog, I looked at tons of similar blogs to get inspiration. I LOOKED AT SO MANY. Now that I am blogging, I do keep up with most of them, but there are a small handful of bloggy gals that I adbsolutely adore. I read every single post they publish. I find them fascinating, inspiring, friendly, relatable and just awesome. I consider them my virtual BFFs, even if they don’t know it. Who are they, you ask? Chances are, if you’re reading this and you blog, you’re one of them. It’s one more reason I love these gals so much, is beyond contributing so much to the bloggy world, they also have supported little ol’ me. With emails and words of encouragement, or just some blog comments, I feel like these are all genuine women who are just lovely people. So without further ado, here they are!

-Allison from Texas Mrs. She will always hold a special place in my heart because she was the very first blogger I emailed when I was just getting started. Allison gave me words of encouragement and advice when I was struggling with how much I should open up on my blog. And she is just so darn cute. Her video on her favorite makeup products was my favorite.

TexasMrs

-Brianna from Endlessly Beloved. What an amazing girl. Brianna is in a long-distance relationship and is the most cheerful lady in all of bloggy land, in my opinion. She always puts a smile on my face. Brianna was also the first blog I bought a sponsorship from, and boy did she set the bar high. She was a JOY to work with for that, and she graciously and patiently led me through the first-timer ropes. I felt so supported! Even after my sponsorship ended, she still comes by to comment and give some love, and that, I think is awesome.

-Amanda from Voyage of the MeeMee. This girl is HILARIOUS. I seriously want to hang out with her and be her BFF because I think she is a riot. She’s the funniest lady in all of blogdom, but so real! She just puts it all out there. I am amazed, too, at how much of herself she gives to blogging. She posts probably every day, and comments on every single other blog I read. She is all over! How she manages to do it all, I do not know, but this gal is awesome.

Voyage of the Mee Mee

-Amberly from Life with Amberly and Joe. I think of Amberly as my blog mom. Or wise aunt. She just knows so much! She posts the most useful, interesting, relevant, helpful content ever. I get so much out of every single post. And when I ashamedly emailed her because I didn’t understand the envelop system in her money-saving series, she was patient and kind and helped me understand it and loaded me up with even more tips! I look up to her so much. She is the reason I made an actual plan to get out of debt and hunker down and save money to reach my financial goals. But beyond money, she is an inspiration for her marriage and life advice, too.

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-Kathryn from The Grace-Filled Home. She is my very first Carabox partner, and I have so enjoyed getting to know this awesome lady. She’s in my neck of the woods (good ol’ Dakotas) and is such a lovely lady devoted to her family and her faith. I think she’s super inspiring and I love her journey. But more on her later … like when it’s time for the Carabox reveal!

Source: thegracefilledhome.wordpress.com/

Source: thegracefilledhome.wordpress.com/

jennaI have two real-life friends that also blog that I’ve followed for years. Neither are in this niche of blogdom, but they still helped me learn a lot before I even got this thing started. Jenna blogs about bookish things at Lost Generation Reader, and is the one who answered my 8 million questions about what I should name my blog, if I should use WordPress or Blogger, how to get started and what to do. She’s also the biggest Harry Potter fanatic I know and carries around a Snape cut-out almost everywhere she goes. Though this is on her old blog, my absolute favorite post she did had a scene-by-scene Lego battle over popcorn between Harry and Malfoy.

lindsayLindsay blogs at That Mutt. Now, Lindsay is the real deal. Meaning she does it full time. She quit her job at the newspaper (which is how I know her) to start her own pet running business and her blog all about it. I don’t know that I would ever have the guts to do that, but she is proof it is possible. She is so succesful! She knows so much about dogs, training, behavior, etc., and was also my doggie advisor when I was going through the process of adopting Brick. She recently moved away, but I love that I get to keep up with her still through her blog.

There’s lots of other blogs I follow and try to read as much as I can, and there are some really amazing people in this niche of the blog world. I’ve been inspired and learned from many others I didn’t name, so no discredit to anyone. But the ladies I mentioned above are the ones that have had the biggest impact on me so far. The ones I will go out of my way to read every post whether I have time or not.

In conclusion, thanks to all you lovely ladies for being awesome. Ya’ll are the bees knees.  To any readers not familiar with them, go now!

Project Pinterest Clean Up

Pinterest is both a blessing and a curse. It gives you so much inspiration and great ideas, but it can also set you up for unrealistic expectations and make you feel like a giant failure. To me, Pinterest is more helpful than not, but it can also be overwhelming. I’ve found some amazing recipes on it and easy and useful DIY projects, plus some super cute animal photos.

pinterest screenshotBut my boards were all amess. I just pinned whatever I wanted without much thought. My boards weren’t very well thought out, and some were far too full of useless pins in bizarre categories. I don’t even know how many total pins I had in my recipes board, but it seemed like I had to scroll for days just to reach the end. And when I wanted to make “that one recipe,” it was so hard to find.

Enter New Year Resolution: project Pinterest. I tackled this resolution first because it seemed easy and achievable. First, I renamed existing boards and added more boards. The prior “Food & Drink” board was split into two – Recipes to try, and Recipes tested and approved. I moved all the recipes that I had made AND enjoyed (yes, some were total fails) into the tested and approved board. Now I can much easier find that ones I have already made that I know I will want to make again. All the recipes I made that were fails, I just deleted so they stop taking up space. I also deleted several recipe pins that I know I will never actually make.

I also had a “Style” board that had pins of clothing I liked, makeup and hair pictures/tutorials, and beauty tips like making DIY bronzer. Then I had a “For the home” board that had cleaning tips, DIY crafty projects, cleaning tips, organization inspiration, and random products that I want to buy like a giant cat beanbag, and tips on how to leave a more frugal life. What a hodgepodge, and several pins overlapped categories. So I made more subcategory boards where everything made more sense and would be easier to find for later.

A few boards remained relatively untouched, like my cute cats board, though I did go in and delete just a few photos that were only mildly cute. I don’t actually look at that board often, aside from when I need a dose of something to perk me up. My criteria for what made the cut here was if I had a genuine smile, chortle or ‘aww’ after looking at it again.

I also rearranged all the boards order so my most frequently pinned and used boards were first.

I found that cleaning up your Pinterest is a lot like cleaning up your closet. It can be hard, and you want to hoard some, but deep down you know that “just in case” actually means “I’m never going to use this,” so you have to go with your gut and sometimes have a heavy hand. But the end result is so worth it.

Pins are easier to find and my boards make much more sense. It feels good to clean up, even virtually. Next up: my physical closets. Oh boy.

Things I Love About My Husband’s Family

I love that the annual Hofland family gathering takes place at Pizza Ranch. I love the Ranch.

I love that his aunts fight about which is the favorite.

I love that his cousins are amazing women that I really like! On both his mom’s side AND his dad’s side.

I love that his dad is an amazing cook. Seriously, he makes the BEST fried chicken and biscuits and gravy you’ll ever eat.

I love that his dad one time sucked the mustard he spilled out of his shirt with no shame.

I love that his uncle got to be the pastor at our wedding, and in the process, got to know me AND Cal better.

I love that I got to meet his grandfather at his 100th birthday party and he was the cutest, smiliest old man who couldn’t hear a thing. Also, Cal says I cough just like Grandpa Mel.

I love that his mom is a master baker and also makes the best tater tot hot dish I’ve ever had (which hasn’t been much actually; it’s such a Minnesota thing).

I love that his sister treats me like her sister. Also that she owns the cutest and silliest pittie ever. Second only to my own.

I love that his nephew is the cutest kid ever and is obsessed with Star Wars.

I love that his sister-in-law and nieces love to read.

I love how obsessed they are with the Vikings. I didn’t come from a sports-loving family, so this is new to me. In the family Christmas photo one year, they all wore their Vikings jerseys and forced me to wear one too.

I love that they all accepted me.

Let Me Tell You About Little Girl

This is part of the Pets Are People Too linkup with Jade and Oak and Karly Kim.

Jade and Oak

My cat Little Girl is pretty much the weirdest cat I’ve ever known. She’s a goof. She’s kind of dumb. She’s ditzy. She’s strange. She’s a hot mess. She’s incredibly annoying. But she’s lovable.

I can’t count how many times we joke about this cat. Almost every day. Compared to my other pets, she was really cheap. My other cat Captain was somewhere between $100 and $200 when I adopted him, and our dog Brick was the same. Little Girl was $30. She was cheaper than a tank of gas. I sometimes call her the “clearance kitty.” Don’t worry, her feelings don’t get hurt. Nothing fazes her. Seriously. It’s one of the things that makes me love her.

485872_691656797817_496097360_n[1]I think she has the motto that any attention is good attention. My husband and I tend to amuse ourselves via her. For instance, he likes to hold her up and sing in his Little Girl voice “My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard.” (Yes, each of our pets has their own voice and we talk like them ALL the time. Her voice is kind of like the Long Island Medium lady because we gave her a shrill Jersey accent, but with a lisp). He also holds her face in a way that makes her look like an alien and is hilarious. I like to make her dance. I hold up her arms and make her do the “Thriller” moves. She’s got it down. I put her in silly costumes, and she even has a party dress that I put on her when we have company over. Yes, we mess with her so much because it’s so easy. She doesn’t wiggle out of anything, doesn’t complain, and when we’re done, she acts like nothing happened and snuggles back down with us. It’s so bizarre.

She gets bursts of energy after she eats and literally runs around the whole house, often barfing because it was too much activity too soon after eating. But she never learns.

5888_536432807937_4235521_n[1]She usually has this drunk and/or confused look on her face. But she is SO CUTE when she’s napping. She has this happy, snuggly type smile that makes me happy. And she LOVES my husband. Her favorite spot to sleep is curled up on his chest, right up on his neck. It’s so cute.

But most of the time when she is awake, she is so annoying. We’re constantly yelling at her because she’s always into something. Years ago, we stored the pet food in the cabinet under the sink. Years ago. We’ve sinced moved it into the storage closet because she found a way to open the cabinet and would have a feast. But she still hasn’t figured that out because she still tries to get in the cabinet and look, so we constantly hear the banging of that door.

246464_673764025077_1720230580_n[1]Then at night, she’s rustling around everything in the bedroom. She hops from dresser to dresser, to the bed, to the laundry hamper, to her cat tower by the window and back and forth. On the dresser, she knocks off everything, so we hear the thud of my deodorant as it hits the floor. I had to relocate my jewlery, because when I had my necklaces on a tree/stand thingy, she would jingle them all night. Then, the closer morning comes, she sits right by our faces and meows. And meows. And meows. And paces, walking all over the bed … and our faces. And we can’t just close the door because then she howls on the other side of it and scratches up the carpet.

Just yesterday, my husband was loading the freezer up with the massive amounts of meat I bought on a super sale at the grocery store. Little Girl was sitting on top of the fridge watching (she intently watches everything we do when we’re cooking too from her perch up there). He closed the door for a moment, and she scooted up to the edge and had her front paws on the top of the freezer door. My husband then realized he forgot something and opened the door again, causing the cat to slip and do this super ungraceful but so funny recovery and scuttle to the back. She definitely did not get the gracefulness that many cats have. Again, she’s a hot mess.

We also usually get her the lion cut shave in the summer because her hair gets so clumpy. But she looks ridiculous without hair. I’ve only ever seen fat cats shaved, and they’re kind of adorable. But she just looks strange. She’s actually a really small cat, and most of her is hair, so when it comes off, there’s not much left. My husband says that she looks like an ’80s aerobic workout squirrel (because we keep her leg hair, so it looks like she’s wearing legwarmers, and without the hair she resembles a squirrel more than a cat). I think she looks like an awkward bobblehead the way her fluffy head looks against her hairless body. It’s kind of pathetic, but also endearing.

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Before

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After

Even when she’s not shaved, that’s kind of how she always is. Incredibly annoying about half the time, but the rest when she’s being a goof, letting us make her dance and snuggling, I adore her. She makes our lives interesting, that’s for sure.

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My 2014 Resolutions: EFFORT

I’ve been working on this post for well over a week. It’s been a draft that I just keep adding to and tweaking till it felt right. Finally, 14 revisions later, the big reveal!

If 2014 wants to be nearly as awesome as my 2013 was, it’s got a lot to live up to. But, I have high hopes and want to use every day to work toward changes. I’ve read articles that suggested making much smaller, achievable goals like giving more hugs or eating more leafy greens, but I decided to go big this year. I want to be ambitious. I may not achieve all my resolutions, and that’s OK. I at least want to put forth that effort to try.

I was inspired by Charlene’s blog post about picking one word to define your goals, your year, and for me that word is effort. Because I need to make much more effort in each of the areas below that I’ve made resolutions. Here’s to effort in 2014!

Financial goals

GET OUT OF DEBT!  I am already working hard on paying off my credit cards, and just instituted Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball idea to help me get there faster. In just 6 months, I think I can eliminate half of my credit card debt, and I WILL stick to that plan. I’m very motivated for this one. Because otherwise, no house for me, and I badly want to be in a house. And be able to comfortably afford it without living paycheck to paycheck. Once my cards are in a much better spot, we will…

Build up savings. We need to be saving for a house and an in general emergency fund. I have some in savings already, but I’ve dipped into it for bad reasons, and that also has to stop. With proper budgeting, meal planning, couponing, checkbook balancing and planning ahead, I should never ever have to touch my savings again except to put more in or take some out for that house or major emergency.

Pet-related goals

Last year, I had a resolution to walk my dog more often, and while I succeeded a little bit, I still didn’t do it nearly as often as I should have. I blame the combination of laziness and frantically planning my wedding, then the summer and fall to follow with more commitments than I’ve ever had and a seriously busy year. Anyway, no more excuses! This year, I’m carrying over that resolution again: to walk Brick more often, and if I can’t because of whatever reason, he at least deserves more play time and training.

My other dog-related resolution is working on ways to keep Brick from jumping on guests when they come in the house. I knew it was a nuisance, but just never took the time to really correct the behavior. I would use “band aids” by physically preventing him to jump and holding him by the collar as guests entered, then letting him loose once they were settled. But this just builds his excitement even more. I’ve made some small steps already to work on it by using common sense and basic training techniques, but I know there has to be even more I can be doing.

Relationship goals

Always put effort into my marriage. Like I want to give 100% in my job, I need to give even more to my marriage. I need to be more patient in general, but also with my husband. I need to stop interrupting and really listen. I need to be there more, like emotionally present and understanding.

I also really want to do regular date nights. Not too often, because we have a house to save for, but if we can find cheap way to dedicate to connecting on a regular basis, I think it will do us a lot of good. Now that I’m meal planning for us to save money, we haven’t actually gone out just the two of us, for a long time. And I miss it! Some days we can stay in and have a planned activity, or do free activities like picnic in the park, but we also really enjoy eating out, so we’ll fit in some of those trips as long as we can afford it and do it wisely (i.e., with coupons, gift cards, during happy hour, etc.).

Personal goals

Work on my punctuality and time management. One of my biggest flaws, in my opinion, has been that I am perpetually late. I rarely am on time for most things. It annoys me and I hate that about myself, but I just can’t seem to find ways to fix it. It’s not intentional by any means; it just sort of happens. I lose track of time. I get caught up in XYZ and realize all of a sudden, ‘OMG, I need to be there NOW!’ and rush out the door. That leaves me feeling frantic and upset that I let that happen, and I hate that I made people wait on me. I’ve got to find some ways to fix that. Anyone got some tips?

Be happier. I have a bit of a temper. I have anger issues. I have little to no patience when it comes to certain things. The dumbest part is it’s usually over really small, stupid things. I think the root of it is that I’m not very understanding of strangers’ situations. The biggest issue I have is with people that I think are inconsiderate. Most any time I go to the store, I rage about someone who is blocking an aisle and seems oblivious to it. I get upset that a child is screaming and stomping around next to me. What a waste of emotion to get worked up about that! Maybe the person is just really sidetracked about something in their life, or is intent on reading the label on something to make sure it’s a good product and simply didn’t see me. So instead of steaming that they’re jerks, I should step back and give them some slack. And maybe that screaming child is simply acting out because he’s sick and doesn’t feel well but doesn’t know how to contain it, or maybe he’s neglected or dealing with his own issues and is simply acting out to get attention from his parents. Who knows, but it’s not worth me self-sabotaging my own shopping trip because I can’t handle a few people who are doing something I think is annoying. Get over it and move on! Really, what I think I need to do is notice all of the good in the world around me, not the bad.

Worry less. I have a tendency to overanalyze. Many tasks I have to do I obsess over. And anything that happens in my life I obsess over. Every little thing gets me worked up. If I overdraft in my checking account, I think that I’m doomed and will end up homeless soon because I can’t manage my money. If my husband doesn’t text me back within a couple minutes while he’s out at band practice, I think he got stuck in a ditch and is dying.

I have to consider every scenario. Which made planning my wedding particularly hard. I thought that if I didn’t give my bridesmaids awesome gifts, they would hate me and not be my friend anymore. If I had to choose a caterer, I contacted every single caterer in a 30-mile radius, stalked their websites and Facebook pages, picked out my theoretical menu and calculated the cost at each. Because if I didn’t have the perfect menu at the right price, obviously my guests would be disappointed in the wedding and never speak to me again. What a waste of time and emotional energy! Let’s focus on the things that truly matter. Otherwise do a quick, rational analysis and move on.

Kick butt at my job and other commitments. Now that I’m in a job that truly fulfills me, where I feel appreciated and respected, I want to do my absolute best to reassure them and myself that I am the right person for this job. That means trying to not get sidetracked, staying on task, doing things ahead of schedule and putting 100% into everything I do.

I need to apply these same principles to my volunteer and freelance work. Because why bother with any of it if I’m not going to be doing my best at it?!

Eat better and live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been surviving off junk food and couch potatoing for years. It’s got to stop. I have already been doing significantly better with my meal planning, but I need to be even stricter about it. I have meals planned now, but not snacks, so I still reach for those chips far more than I should. I’ve found that healthy food CAN be yummy too, so I want to keep trying and discovering new things that are better choices. Similarly, I’ve found some cool beauty and household products that are organic and natural, and I’d like to  be more conscious of the things I put ON my body and use in the house, too.

I also need to be more active. I used to do sports in high school, then pilates around college … but then I got lazy. We have a free gym at my new workplace. I should use it. I should dust off those pilates DVDs and do them on the weekends.

Maintain the house and organize more. I do a pretty good job at basic home maintenance, doing a few things every single weekend like sweeping and Swiffering, wiping off the counters and cleaning the toilet (and my husband vaccuums every weekend and does the dishes every day, bless his heart), but there are some areas that I let accumulate too much stuff. The kitchen table is absolutely awful, and the day after I get it looking presentable again, it’s messy once again. I need to come up with some kind of better filing system or a mail organizer or something to keep the clutter off the table. Our spare bedroom is also a disaster zone and the dumping ground for anything we can’t find a good place to put otherwise. We clean it up if we expect company soon who will be staying in there, otherwise, some days it’s like an episode straight out of Hoarders. Not even kidding.

Likewise, I need to tackle small spaces that have too much “stuff” too. I’ve done a couple closet clean ups, but I want to do a massive overhaul. I still have things in there I know I’m never going to wear again. And you don’t even want to see the magazine rack. I literally have magazines piled up on top of it feet high from 2007 and on. I will stop subscribing to new magazines, even if they are free (that’s been my downfall. A free subscription to Oprah, Brides and Better Homes & Gardens? Don’t mind if I do! But I never read them. I throw them in the corner.), until ALL my current ones are gone, and I will slowly start getting through the ones I have. Goal: Read one old magazine a week. Bring it to work to flip through on breaks.

My bookshelf is organized neatly, but has far too much in it. I recently came to the realization that of all the books I own, there are only a very small handful I actually ever intend to read more than once. So after I offer the ones I have read and won’t again, or never have and never will, to my friends, what is left over is going to Goodwill. End of story. On a kind of similar note, the recipe board in my Pinterest is overflowing with the same thing – stuff I’ve tried and won’t make again, and some things I pinned for fun that I never really plan to make or do. I will organize my pin boards and delete pins that aren’t useful. Who wants to scroll till the end of time trying to find that one recipe that I did actually like? Of the probably 100+ recipes pins, there’s only 5 or so that I have made and were successful enough I would make again.

My email is also full of clutter. I need to unsubscribe from newsletters that I just scan and delete anyway and work at getting my unread count to 0. I have 500 unread emails in my box right now. That’s down from 1,100 I had about a month ago when I did one round of purging. Don’t worry, I do scan it every single day for things from friends, coupons, blog related or other important things, but 90% of the junk I get I don’t care about. Arby’s has a new sandwich? Who cares; I haven’t been there in years! Unsubscribe please.

Be more fashion conscious. I’ve been working on my style more in the past yearish, but I can be even better. I have too many slept-in-too-late-throw-on-the-first-thing-I-see days. I saw a pin that had a weekly outfit organizer – it was a shallow, long storage tub that had cubes for each day of the week. I’d like to try each Sunday planning my outfits for the rest of the week so it’s one less thing I have to think about in my morning haze. After my closet is more cleaned out and I have the money to, I also need to add more staples to my wardrobe. I need more versatile pieces like plain T-shirts and tanks, cardigans, jeans and boots that I can rewear and accessorize in many different ways. Plus a few statement pieces for days when I feel a little wild. Rawr.

My faith. I grew up in a religious household in a religious family. But since I’ve been on my own, I’ve let my religion slide. Granted it has changed a little bit – I question some things and just don’t think I’m ever going to be a super religious person in general, but a few core basics of religion in general I miss. I used to pray, all the way through high school. Then in college I stopped. Who knows why. No good reason. I didn’t prioritize it. But now that I’m an adult and may have children on the horizon, I want to take some time for reflection and remember what values are important to me. I still won’t go to church every Sunday, read the Bible frequently or pray over every meal I eat, but I should fit in SOME aspect of faith back in my life. Which is pretty much nothing right now, which makes me feel really ashamed. Praying when there’s something worth praying about is something I want to do again. And maybe even expanding my horizons and reading up on other religions, or just spirituality in general, would benefit me. Remembering and trusting that something out there is bigger than me. I lose sight of that a lot.

Read more. I read about one book every other month for book club, but I have so many more books I want to read, some of which I already own. Set aside some time each week to read for fun too.

Blog goals

Schedule time in my day/week to devote to posting, as well as reading and commenting on other blogs. I was beating myself up for awhile because I felt like I was starting to fail already, but thanks to the advice I received, I realized that I can only do what’s achieveable, am inspired to write and have the time for. The goal will be at least one post a week, but if that doesn’t happen, that’s OK. If it’s more, even better!

I’m considering making a blog calendar so I have set goals and topics I should be posting about. I’m not sure if that will work for me, but I like the idea of scheduling that time. Of course, I can switch it around, but having some kind of outline might make me feel better about this whole thing.

Accountability

If I want to have greater chances at success at these goals/resolutions, I need to make a plan how HOW I will try to achieve them. My first step  will be literally penciling some of them into my planner. I live by my planner and setting deadlines for myself, so if I see that next Tuesday I’m supposed to organize the closet, I will. Simply saying, “some day” doesn’t work for me. I need to define specific times I’m going to work on tasks.

Some of them aren’t things I can schedule though, like being more patient and listening more, so I’m going to print out my resolution list and post it on my fridge, maybe even in the bedroom, bathroom and my work cube, so I see all the time the things I need to be focusing on. Maybe I’ll fit in some blog posts about it too!

Again, to me, making resolutions is about acknowledging areas in which I can improve upon and making the conscious effort to work toward those things. It’s self-awareness. Even some amount of effort or small success is worth it. I’m not setting out thinking I will accomplish all these things, because I probably won’t. But I will try! That’s the promise I’m making myself. Wish me luck. We shall see!

The Truth About Marriage Is

The other day, my bestie who is engaged showed me an article she came across called “5 ways to secure your happyish ever after.” I found it refreshing and it slapped me in the face a bit. Here’s why. This line: “Invest in your marriage, not your wedding.”

Wow. I mean, it’s common sense, but why on earth did I not apply that thought to my own wedding?! Before we were engaged, we both had debt, but that sure didn’t stop me from overspending on my wedding. I used the logic, ‘It’s the biggest day of my life’ as an excuse to buy every little thing that struck my fancy. I also wanted to have lots of small personal touches that I thought would make my wedding stand apart. But now that that day is gone, did it really matter that I had personalized napkins? No. Even though I bought them on sale, no one would have been upset with me if I didn’t have them. Because napkins aren’t what makes a wedding awesome. It’s the people who are committing their lives to each other.

It’s hard to realize that every little expense adds up really quickly, and impulse purchases did me in. I’m now literally paying the price of my frivolous spending when it came to my wedding. And I HATE myself some days when I realize that the money I’m using to pay off my credit cards with ridiculous interest could have all been going toward a down payment on a house or a new car for my husband who badly needs a more reliable vehicle. It could have started a savings account for our future children. It could have been used wisely. Instead I’m throwing hundreds, more likely thousands, of dollars into paying off my wedding and other purchases that I really didn’t need to make. But there’s no use in dwelling in the past, and the best thing is to move forward and make better decisions from now on. Which I am trying really hard to do. Changing bad habits is really friggin’ tough. If I can curb unnecessary spending, I’m going to be setting better examples for any future children and set up a better foundation for our marriage and lives together. Not to mention cause less stress for both of us!

This article had some other really solid points, like this one: “The truth is that cleaning up socks and trying to get someone to really listen to you IS marriage. It’s less sweep you off your feet and more sweep the kitchen four times a day.”

The point is that marriage is most of the time not glamorous. It’s work. Hard work.

When I got engaged, I thought to myself often, ‘I got this. I’m going to be an awesome wife. It won’t be hard. Nothing’s going to change.’ Wrong. I thought that just because Cal and I had dated for eight years that I knew everything there was to being married because it wouldn’t be different than dating. But it is! It so is!

That’s the one thing that has surprised me the most about being married. It is very different from dating or even being engaged. Because it’s so much more serious now. It’s locked in. I gave my commitment that I am going to be with this person for the rest of my life, and we have to make it work. I mean, if we want to have a happy and healthy relationship anyway. We have to combine two totally separate lives into one. We have to make decisions together. We have to manage money and the household together. Not to mention potentially raise children together! That one is terrifying. But that’s another blog post in itself.

I think that it’s incredibly hard to be a good wife and live up to the expectations I thought I had about marriage. I often compare myself to others. I think that other couples have no issues. I think that I should be more like so-and-so. Or even worse, I put unfair standards on my husband. ‘I wish he were more like so-and-so.’ But that is toxic thinking. He is not anyone else but himself, and I am myself. I married him and I accepted everything about who he is by doing so. Sometimes when I hear stories about husbands who do X for their wife (start their car in the morning, rub their feet every night, buy them unexpected gifts and shower them with kisses 24/7, whatever it is), I get jealous. But it is so unfair to put that kind of unspoken pressure on someone. I need to focus less on what my husband doesn’t do and instead on the things he DOES do. It’s not like he does nothing for me. He does so much! And I need to be more grateful of that.

As humans, we’re naturally selfish. Seeing the big picture is hard. Especially for people like me who tend to overanalyze everything. But we all have self doubt, jealousy and strange emotions that make us human. Reminding yourself of that and taking the time to realize that, then fix bad behaviors, is important. And that’s what makes us good wives and husbands, I think. Remembering to accept each other as is and work together to deal with life, to be a team and have a happy and healthy relationship.

I also read an article that a friend shared on Facebook about how Brad Pitt even considered divorcing Angie when times got tough. But instead of throwing in the towel, he tried. Putting our own needs aside to help our spouse can be hard too, because often we get so wrapped up in our own individual lives that we forget there’s another person we need to consider. That makes me respect their marriage much more, though it’s hard to compare to a Hollywood A-list couple. But the lesson is universal: Be considerate, be there and TRY.

I’m sure that I’m going to learn so much more down the road about marriage, relationships and life, but if our foundation can stay solid, we’ll make it through whatever comes our way. To stay solid though, we have to keep making that effort. I think that’s most important.

What lessons have you learned about love? Any surprises? Advice?

Seeking Blog Advice

This post is for all you bloggers out there! I’m still feeling very newish to blogging and am having some early struggles. I wish that I could blog all day. If I didn’t have a job, I’d probably sit for hours every single day thinking about and writing my own blog posts, reading and commenting on other blogs, finding new ones, reading blog tips. I love doing that. But here’s my dilemma and a confession: At my old job, the one I was at when I started this blog, I did a lot of blogging at work. I know, so bad. But in my defense, I still got all of my work done, and darn well if you ask me. But I had lots of extra time in the day, and I was just obsessed with bloggy land and stalked all that had to do with it.

The problem is now that I have a new job and just can’t work on my blog during daytime hours anymore, I’m struggling keeping up with it. I’m behind in my daily blog digest emails and don’t get to comment on others as much as I did in the beginning, let alone write as many posts as I wish I could. Then when I get home, I have so many things on my to-do list, from making dinner to doing laundry to cleaning up cat puke, doing my volunteer and freelance work, reading for book club and paying bills…you know, life. By the time the weekend is here, I am so tired from the week that I just zone out to the TV pretty much all weekend in between snuggles with the husband, other social commitments with friends or family or running errands. I just am having a really hard time finding time to give my blog, or maybe it’s the motivation to MAKE time for it. It’s really important to me, and I do NOT want to become one of those blogs that starts out strong then tapers off till posts happen a couple times a year and each of those posts start off with an apology for the time since the last post. The graveyard of blogs – I don’t want to end up there anytime soon.

I follow several bloggers, and small handful of some I really admire. They update about once a day, write great posts that I find engaging and interesting and clever and insightful. And I think they all have FT jobs too. HOW DO YOU DO IT? I want to know. What’s your secrets?

If I could cut a few hours of sleep out of my day and just blog till my heart’s content then, I totally would. But this girl without her 8-9 hours is a mess. Trust me, it’s bad. So how do I balance this new part of my life with my other life of being a wife, a fur mom, a working professional, and whatever other titles might define me? Help!