simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

October 12, 2012

Let’s Get Organized for the Weekend

Happy Friday my friends. I hope you had a terrific week. It was a good week here. I feel like I got a bunch of stuff done, both at work and at home, which feels good. And now I’m looking forward to the weekend ahead. Here’s what’s on my lists this weekend.



  • Spend Time with Kailea. We will either be driving up to Normal, IL for the State Cross Country meet to cheer on her teammates, or we will be going to watch a black belt test at her Tae Kwon Do school. Or we may try to do a bit of both—depends on the weather forecast and start time of the belt test. Either way, I’m looking forward to spending a good part of Saturday with my girl.
  • Run 3 Miles. Okay…so I mentioned in my Monday check in that I was falling behind on my 43 miles in October goal. Well…I’ve made good progress this week, logging in over 9 miles so far. If I run at least 3 miles on Saturday or Sunday, then I will once again feel like this goal is in reach. Whew.



  • Laundry. As always, right?
  • Plan weekly meals + grocery shop.
  • Organize and edit cross country photos.
  • Make progress on at least one current project. I have a bunch of options ;) and will let inspiration be my guide.
  • Send some cards. By the way, this week I finished the thank you notes that were on last weekend’s list. Yay!


I think it’s a plan. (Considering Saturday could be spoken for time-wise, I think this is plenty to do on Friday night and Sunday!) What’s on your to-do list this weekend?


Have a terrific weekend!


October 05, 2012

Let’s Organize Our Weekend Plans

Hello and happy Finish It Friday to you! I hope you had a terrific week. Are you ready to organize your plans for the weekend? Here’s my list.


  • Boot camp.
  • Go out with Jay. Dinner? Drinks? Movie? Not sure yet…
  • Knit.




  • Take the kids shopping. It’s time to get some new clothes…that fit!
  • Organizing project. I’m working on a team organizing project this weekend. It will be fun…but will definitely fill a good portion of my weekend bucket, which is why there isn't much else on my list this weekend. :)
  • Send thank you notes.
  • Plan meals for the week and shop.
  • Laundry. It's in pretty good shape at the I'll just need to do a load or two. 


I think that's it. As of the moment it's a cool, rainy Friday morning. It feels like a good weekend to get some stuff done. :) Hope you have a great weekend!


September 05, 2012

5 Ways to Simplify Dinner During Busy Times

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Around simplify 101 you might say we have dinner on the brain. No, we're not sporting spaghetti on our heads or anything crazy like that. Instead we've been talking about dinner and cooking and meal planning and how to make the whole thing a few notches easier. Why all the talk about dinner? Well, tomorrow our new online "Easy Meal Planning" workshop is  starting up, and with the new school year in full swing, it's a good time to take a step back and simplify dinner. In the spirit of making dinner easier, in this post Jennifer shares five ideas to simplify getting dinner on the table. Hope you enjoy!  ~ Aby


Is it fair to say that back-to-school time can be a bit, uh... hectic? The transition to our “new normal” – complete with school days, homework, and after-school activities – takes a bit of getting used to in my family. This time of year can make simple things like getting dinner on the table seem anything but simple!


Whether it’s back-to-school, a job change, holidays, or sports seasons, certain times of the year are simply more hectic than others. When you approach these seasons, think about what you can scale back on. Cooking dinner is an area that I try to put into auto-pilot at these times. While dining out and carry-out can work in a pinch, my family values home-cooked meals. Here are some things we do to simplify dinner time.


Simplify-dinner-salad simplify01

Salad can save the day. Not everyone feels that salad is satisfying enough, but I think with the right combination, it can be. First, you’ve got to go big. And second, you’ve got to include some protein in the form of cheese, beans, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, or even some grilled meat leftover from the night before. Third, pull out some crackers or crusty bread, and then even the carb-lovers are happy.


Slow down when you’re in a hurry. I like that bit of advice for life and meal-making! The slow cooker is my best friend this time of year, and I often prep it the night before or while I am making breakfast and packing lunches. This may be silly, but when I have prepared 3 meals for my family by 9 a.m., I feel like some sort of super hero. My latest favorite slow cooker recipe is Honey Sesame Chicken from 5 Dinners in One Hour. Oh, so good!

Honey-sesame-chicken copy

Slow Cooked Honey Sesame Chicken
5 chicken breasts
¾ C. honey
¼ C. light soy sauce
½ C. chopped onion
¼ C. ketchup
2 t minced garlic
¼ t red pepper flakes (optional)
2 t olive oil
4 t cornstarch
6 T water
Place chicken in slow cooker. Mix next 7 ingredients and add to cooker. Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Mix last 2 ingredients in a small container, adding to slow cooker the last 15 minutes of cook time. Stir to combine. Before serving, sprinkle chicken with 2 T sesame seeds. Serve over cooked rice with steamed broccoli.


Count on casseroles. I love casseroles during busy times, not just because of their ease but also because it’s often great comfort food. When I know we are heading into a busy season, I will double a few of our favorite casserole recipes — one for now and one to freeze for later. Keep in mind, though, that certain foods common to casseroles don’t freeze well. Avoid potatoes, sour cream, and cream cheese. Also, slightly under-cooking vegetables or pastas for casseroles will help them maintain a better texture during freezing, thawing and ultimately baking.


Bring on “brinner.” Breakfast for dinner gets raves at my house. In fact, my kids would love it if I served it once a week! Pancakes, waffles, fresh fruit, and yogurt are some of the staples for our brinner. Most recently, I served it up in the form of a DIY yogurt parfait bar with various types of yogurt, fruit and toppings. It doesn’t get any easier than that!


Yogurt-parfait-bar simplify101

Embrace a wrap. Why I don’t turn to sandwiches and wraps more often, I honestly don’t know! If I’m OK with serving breakfast food for dinner, why would I feel badly about lunch food at dinner? Really, serving up a sandwich — maybe even toasted or grilled — is a cinch. And as an added bonus, my kids are completely delighted with PB&Js and baby carrots for dinner. Score!


Soup is so simple. For that very reason, I think it can sometimes be overlooked. But, a hearty soup with bread makes for a very satisfying meal. I remember coming home from elementary school on fall days to the delicious aroma of homemade soup. My mother would make it while she had time in the afternoon and let it slowly simmer. Mmmm, this is making me anxious for cooler weather so I can make some of my favorite soups! My mom had a great idea to prepare it as she had time before we arrived home from school. Another option is to choose quick-cooking soups. Keeping broth, canned tomatoes, canned beans, frozen veggies or other favorite soup staples on hand allows you to whip up a soup super-fast! One of my favorite fast soups is a Tortellini Soup recipe I adapted from eMeals.


Tortellini Soup
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 10-oz. package frozen tortellini
16-oz. package California blend frozen vegetables
14.5-oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
Bring broth to boil. Add vegetables and tortellini. Return to boil and boil gently for 5-7 minutes or until tortellini is cooked through and vegetables are tender. Stir in tomatoes. Serve with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.


What’s your favorite tactic for dishing up dinner during busy seasons? Feel free to share your recipes with us in the comments!

  Jens signature black

July 30, 2012

Monday Morning Check-In

Good morning! I hope you had a great weekend. Mine was…relaxing. Exactly what I needed. I did pretty well with my to-do list and even got a few bonus things done. But mostly, I watched the Olympics and read. The best part of the whole weekend was waking up on Sunday morning to RAIN! It is so dry here and even though we didn’t get a ton of rain, it was nice to get some rain. It restored my faith that it won’t stay hot and dry like this forever. Alright…here’s the run down on my list…


  • Boot camp. Check! It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be—hooray! I’m sore but I have been much, much worse before. Yay.
  • Read. I finished my book. I’m so glad I read it. Cute, fun, funny. (Note to self: read more just for fun books!)
  • Movie night with friends. Check! We watched Crazy Stupid Love. I’m no movie critic…but I enjoyed it. 


  • Laundry. Hello, how did I go from in good shape on Friday to three loads to do on Sunday? Seriously? How does that happen? I haven’t a clue…but the good news is…it’s all done again.
  • Plan next week’s meals. (And shop.) Check and check. And here's the new dish we're trying this week: Gazpacho. Hope it's yummy. 
  • Clean. Check! But I ran into a little snag with the shower cleaner thing. (I didn’t have the dish soap. So that is on my errands list for the week. I haven’t given up that this is the thing that will simplify my least favorite cleaning job.)
  • Start and finish an important writing project. Okay…so I was doing well until I got here. There is no set deadline for this project at this point. I definitely need to be in the right frame of mind to do it…so I will wait and do it when the timing is right. No worries.


Add On To-Dos

  • Declutter my command central binder. This is crazy but true: my kids start school two weeks from Wednesday! In preparation, I cleaned out our home reference binder to create space for the new papers that will be coming home from school very soon. 
  • List new workshop for sale! Hooray! Want to know what it is? Here you go...



So that’s my check in! How was your weekend? Thanks for sharing your updates and thanks for your support about my challenging situation. I really appreciate it. And thank you for joining me for Finish It Friday. It definitely helps keep me motivated and focused on having fun while getting things done over the weekends. I hope you have a great week! 


P.S. One more thing for my scrapbooking buddies. Lain has put together a special offer on my two True Scrap Videos. If you were kicking yourself for not getting in on Trues Scrap I or True Scrap II's your chance to get in on my classes (for a really great price!). Click here to view more details.

July 27, 2012

It’s Time for Finish It Friday

Hello friends. It’s hard to believe that its Friday again already, isn’t it? And it’s hard to believe I haven’t blogged a bit since Monday. I intend to get back into the “regular” blogging groove again here soon. There’s been lots going on around here this summer. There’s been some really good and exciting stuff…like a new workshop (that I’ll be announcing very soon) as well as some other exciting changes we’ve been hard at work making happen. And there’s also been some challenging things I’ve been dealing with this summer. These haven’t been fun or exciting at all. Both of these things…the good stuff and the bad stuff…have kept my creative juices tied up in other places. So, this explains the rather lackluster blogging as of late.


But, I will be back.


I’m really excited to let you in on the exciting stuff that’s been going on…and I think I’m almost ready to give you some insight into the challenging stuff as well. But for now…it’s time to share our weekend to-do lists.


Thanks for hanging in there with me during this blogging dry-spell. And thanks for joining me in Finish It Friday. I think now, as much as ever, I'm in need of the friendly accountability I get from Finish It Friday. So thank you, thank you. :)’s what’s on tap for me…



  • Boot camp. Oh dear, I haven’t been to boot camp in two weeks. I’m scared. Really. Scared. ;) Wish me luck.
  • Movie night with friends.



  • Laundry. I’m in good shape here. And I love starting the weekend in good shape laundry-wise. Don't you?
  • Plan next week’s meals. (And shop.) By the way, the two meals I tried last week (which are here and here) were both great. I’m planning to try a couple more new meals again this week.
  • Clean. Ugh. So not fun, right? Organizing, yes please. Cleaning, no thank you. But I’m going to try this for one of my least favorite cleaning tasks…cleaning the shower. Hope it works great and simplifies that task for me. That would be nice.
  • Start and finish an important writing project.


I’m going to leave my list at this and see what inspires me into action…or relaxation. How about you? Do you have a busy weekend planned? Thanks for sharing your to-do list! Have a great weekend.


July 20, 2012

Let’s Get Organized for the Weekend

Happy Friday to you! I hope you had a fantastic week. I woke up this morning all ready to write my Finish It Friday post…and then went on and did other things on my to-do list! A few minutes ago I gasped and said “It’s Friday! It's Finish It Friday! Oh no!” So…here is the post—and my to-do list—a bit later than intended. Sorry about that! 


  • Spend time with my family. It seems like we have been running around like crazy this summer. Some nights I go to bed and literally have to remind myself who is home and how is away! But this weekend we will all be together – hooray! So I’m going to keep the to-do list very light and enjoy this. Summer is flying by. Time to slow down just a bit. 



  • Laundry.
  • Plan weekly meals.
  • Organize some papers in my office. And end the week with a nice, clean slate. 


As I said, I'm keeping my list simple this weekend. How about you? What’s on your to-do list this weekend? Thanks for sharing. Hope you have a great one!


July 16, 2012

Monday Morning Check-in!

Good Monday morning! How was your weekend? I hope it was fantastic...and that you made lots of progress on those fun and done lists. Here's how the weekend turned out for us...




  • Pick up Kailea! Hooray – she is home! Thanks for all of your kind words in your Friday posts about picking her up. It is soooo good to have her home. She had a blast and even went on a zip line. That is definitely the kind of thing you're happy to hear about after the fact!
  • Dinner out. Check!




  • Laundry.  I did lots of laundry this weekend. A week's worth for Kailea, and then, Collin went away for the weekend, and brought home even more laundry for me last night. I decided that really dirty laundry is the sign of lots of fun. (Collin had lots of fun this weekend! One load to go....)
  • Plan weekly meals + grocery shop. Check! We're trying out a couple of new dishes this week. Should be fun. I've started a new Pinboard on Pinterest called “This Week for Dinner." This board has the new dishes I'll be trying this week. (Just in case you're dying to know, LOL.) And this way, I'll only print the recipe and put it in my binder IF it's a keeper. 


Aside from the above planned activities, I also finished reading a book, played UNO with Kailea and Jay, watched a movie with Kailea and Jay, cleaned the house with Kailea and Jay, and just enjoyed hearing about camp and having my girl back home. Amazing how much more relaxed I am today than I was last week at this time. :)


How was your weekend? Thanks for sharing in the comments. And thanks for joining me for Finish It Friday. Have a great week!


July 13, 2012

Let’s Get Organized for the Weekend

Happy Friday! I hope you had a wonderful week. Are you up for another round of Finish It Friday? I am! Let’s do this…


  • Pick up Kailea!
  • Dinner out.



  • Laundry.  I’m in good shape at the moment which is good, because that first bullet point is going to create a lot of laundry for me. :)
  • Plan weekly meals + grocery shop.


And that’s all I’ve figured out so far. I’m having a hard time thinking past that first bullet point. ;)


What’s on your Finish It Friday list this week? If you’d like to join in the fun…simply post your weekend to-do list here in the comments. And then, check back in on Monday to report your progress! It’s a form of friendly accountability to help you…have more fun and get more done.


Enjoy your weekend!


July 06, 2012

Let’s Get Organized for the Weekend!

Happy Friday my Finish It Friday friends. I hope you had a fantastic week. Did the mid-week holiday (for those of you in the U.S.) throw you off like it did me? Yesterday felt like Monday, which makes today feel nothing like Friday. It’s a nice little surprise each time I remember that it is actually Friday.


Here’s how my to-do list is shaping up this Friday:




  • boot camp.
  • hang out with Kailea. She leaves for camp on Sunday…so I’m going to keep my to-do list light this weekend so I can hang out with her as much as possible before she leaves.   



  • finish packing for camp. I'm sure this will involve a quick run to Target. But all in all, she's in good shape.
  • clean. (Yawn.)
  • laundry. It’s essentially caught up at the moment…but I’m sure there will be a load or two this weekend, in the spirit of keeping it caught up (and making sure the girl has everything she needs for camp.)
  • unpack some boxes from Michigan. My mom sent me home with some of her crystal…lots of boxes (hoping she used bubble wrap generously!) This weekend it’s time to find a home for these things. 
  • schedule eye exams.
  • schedule mammogram.


And there we have it! So exciting, right? What's on your to-do list this weekend? Hope you have a great one filled with a nice mix of fun + done. Enjoy!


July 02, 2012

Monday Morning Check-In

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? I hope you had a fun and productive weekend! Around here it was hot, as expected, but we had a nice weekend despite the heat. Here’s how it all come together…




  • Bootcamp. Check! For some reason, it was incredibly hard this week. I’m still feeling it.
  • Visit with my niece and nephews. Check! And it was a great time. Yesterday was my nephew’s birthday. His family is here, visiting from out of town, so we thought it would be fun to do some sort of outdoor, water-related birthday gift. I saw this sponge ball project on Pinterest and thought it would be a fun project and an even more fun gift. But…we had a tough time finding plain, rectangular sponges. A lot of sponges these days have those rough sides for scrubbing pots and pans, which didn’t seem like a good idea when creating sponge balls for kids to throw at one another. the second store we found some small foam balls from Poof – and they were perfect for what we had in mind. A nice little water ball fight in July. The kids had a great time…and we were all pretty well soaked by the end of the evening. A perfect way to end a hot summer day! If you're looking for a fun, water game for the kids this summer...I highly recommend this. 





  • Catch up on laundry. Check!
  • Clean the house. Check! I tried this shower cleaning concoction I found on Pinterest. This stuff totally messed me up! Mixing vinegar with Dawn dish soap and then spraying it created a very strong smelling fume that made my lungs very unhappy…and it gave me a headache. So…I had to open the window in the bathroom (and it was over 100 degrees outside) just to survive getting the stuff off the shower walls. The good news is that this stuff worked quite well to get a bunch of hard water induced yuckiness off my shower walls. (There is another pin that uses the same ingredients but says to put the stuff in a squeeze bottle. I think that's the way to go.) Oh, and by the way…the rest of the house cleaning went off without a hitch. ;)
  • Do some simplify 101 stuff. Nope…but that’s what today is for. Right? ;)


How was your weekend? I hope you had a great one! Thanks, as always, for joining me for Finish It Friday. I hope it gave you that extra boost of motivation you needed to get some stuff done...and have some fun, too. See you back here on Friday for another round of Finish It Friday!


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