What do you consider to be staples?

What do you consider to be staples?

I just looked up the actual definition of “staple:” it’s a main or important part of your diet.

That means that what I consider to be a staple may be something you never keep on hand. And an item you never consider being without might be one I only buy when I need it for a specific recipe!
Staples are important because they simplify in meal planning. If we know what we keep on hand, we can just buy the fresh items, or the things we use an entire container of (like a jar of pasta sauce). (that’s not a good example. In my family growing up, pasta sauces were a total staple. We had a TON of them sitting in the pantry!)

Some of the things I just refuse to be out of (because I’ll be in trouble when I go to make a meal and realize I’m missing a key ingredient):

  • onions (sorry, mom)
  • minced garlic (I know a lot of people want to mince it fresh, but I love the convenience)
  • peanut butter (not just for emergency PBJ sandwiches: I love Thai and that features PB frequently)
  • soy sauce (I didn’t realize just how important this ingredient is until I ran out last week and suddenly couldn’t do half of the recipes I’d planned for the week!)
  • tortillas (for quick wraps, quesadillas, and for my daughter’s favorite snack, a tortilla filled with shredded parmesan!)

What do you make sure you have on hand? And even more helpful (I hope ;) ) , what should you start making sure you always have on hand?

One big (simple!) tip:

I have a whiteboard on my fridge, and as soon as I get close to running out of a staple, I write it on the board. Then when it’s time to write out the grocery list, I grab the whiteboard to make sure they get included. So no more soy sauce emergencies!

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What day is the most stressful for you?

What day is the most stressful for you?

I think for me it’s Thursday. There are no classes Wednesday, so it feels like a mini-Monday. But unlike Mondays when I feel optimistic about tackling everything on a to-do list, Thursdays feel exhausting.
Today’s letter is as much for me as for you, because I need this encouragement big-time!
First off, it’s important to show yourself grace
No, more than that. It’s vital that you show yourself grace. We need to recognize that we can’t do it all…and that that’s okay. We need breaks.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we let our commitments drop. We still have to eat. Our kids still need to have school and make it to dance.
But on days like this, maybe dropping the to-do list is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Instead of trying to tackle more projects, find something unusual to occupy your mind. Listen to a podcast while you go for a walk, call a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile..something that elevates the day from ‘let’s just make it through’ to ‘hey, this is a good day!’
If you just have to do a long list for the day, though, and there’s not room for something extra, you can still squeeze in moments of joy.
Here’s stuff I do:

  • Turn on fun music while you go about your day. Whatever music makes you happiest, make sure it’s playing when you’re doing your thing.
  • Find mini rewards for getting things done. I’ll pause my coffee break until after I knock something unpleasant off my to-do list, so it feels even more like a prize for accomplishment. And coffee makes everything better (can I get an amen?)
  • Remind myself: this is a stage in our family’s life. Someday our schedule won’t be so packed.It may be that a few years from now, I’ll be snuggled up with my husband, watching a movie every Thursday evening, instead of running to the dance studio. And I know I’m going to miss being surrounded by the dance life. (of course, I’ll still be taking pictures, so I won’t be completely out of the world of dance).

 

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Simplifying Meals

Simplifying Meals

Because of our busy dance schedule, I’ve found some little things to plan ahead on our meals. This is not to say I have it all together. I’m not that amazing, but I know that if I don’t have a few standard things pre-prepped, I’ll never make those recipes.
And none of these involve spending all day Sunday in the kitchen. I’ve never gotten into doing the whole week’s/month’s meals in one day.

What I do:

  • bacon: a lot of recipes need a small amount of crumbled bacon. I like to cook up a package, and freeze it in 2-3 little containers. Often I’ll cook it up so I can use half that day, and then freeze the other half for a quick addition later.*
  • chicken. So many recipes call for cubed cooked chicken, which is such a pain when all the chicken in the house is frozen and raw. Even with my Instant Pot it’s still more work than I’m willing to do. So I do a bunch at once, boiling it with my favorite spices (or throwing them in the Instant Pot), then cubing and freezing in one-cup portions.
  • Ginger: If you like Asian food, you probably use fresh ginger a lot. I buy a big piece of it, peel, and chop the whole thing. Then I can just grab a little bit. It thaws quickly since it’s tiny pieces.
  • If you’re making a recipe later in the week that needs cooked rice (like this week’s meal), that’s something you can do on a separate burner while you make tonight’s dinner. I have to admit, I’ve always liked this idea but I’ve never actually pulled it off. But it helps the consistency if it’s not fresh for this kind of recipe.

*We like turkey bacon. I know it can be not as crispy as “real” bacon, but I’ve gotten it closer lately. When it’s getting close to being finished, I add about a tablespoon of oil to the pan. This gives it a crispier texture that’s closer to what everyone expects out of bacon.
What’s your favorite shortcut? I’d love to hear!

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Self Care

Self Care

Can I be honest? I hate this concept. People use it all the time and seem to imply you need to spend copious amounts of money. Or at the very least time I don’t have.
I don’t go for manicures. The last time I got my hair styled was probably 4 years ago. A simple cut is all I do. I’m low-maintenance and don’t want to feel guilty about that!
BUT!!! taking care of yourself doesn’t have to mean spending money. My wise friend said a dance mom is like the pit crew.  If the pit crew isn’t at the top of their game then nobody else is either! We’re so busy getting our dancers’ schedule organized, getting them to and from class, balancing activities for non-dancing members of the family, and making sure everyone has dinner, but are you taking the time to take care of yourself?

Here’s what I AM good about:

  • getting enough sleep*
  • drinking enough water (guideline is to take your weight, divide by two, and drink that many ounces of water each day.)
  • getting time to myself. Reading, playing mindless apps…it means more if I use these with intention (either as a reward for getting something done that I’ve been putting off, or just in specific times and not whenever I get a spare minute)
  • eating well. I know I could make even more improvements, but at this point I feel pretty good about what I’m putting into my body.

I’m not going to challenge you to do something that I don’t find necessary. BUT!!! I will challenge you to give this some thought. Is there an area of this that does need more attention? Do you get enough water? healthy food? sleep? time to yourself? Make a small challenge for yourself in whatever area needs some help (if you want to reply to this email and tell me what you’re going to work on, that will help you stay more accountable).

*It’s best if you can wake up naturally. But not everyone homeschools and has a husband who works from home, so here’s my recommendation: If you have to use an alarm to wake up, I recommend the app “SleepCycle.” It pays attention to your movement as you sleep and senses when you’re between cycles of sleep, so it wakes you up when you’re closer to waking up naturally, and not in the middle of a cycle. It makes a huge difference in how we feel when we actually do need an alarm!

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Conquering those to-do lists

Conquering those to-do lists

Okay, I know your children may do something other than dance, but since my world revolves around the dance school’s schedule, I’m going to refer to you that way. Feel free to swap out that for “soccer” or “karate” or “gymnastics” or whatever. But ultimately, we’re all in the same boat. We have an incredibly busy schedule that I had absolutely NO idea about until I was in so deep I could never dream of getting out again!

(and seriously, I don’t want to. I love seeing my children grow as dancers. I’m happy it’s my world!)

But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t use some things to make life easier. Seriously.

So I’m going to be sending out weekly emails that will be short and hopefully super encouraging to you. If you use the ideas, I’d LOVE to hear from you about how it went.

This week’s tip: Don’t make such an extensive to-do list!

Seriously.

If I told you just not to make one, you’d laugh at me, unsubscribe, and go on making your lists. And that would be purely hypocritical on my part, because I LOVE lists. LOVE them with a passion.

But I think we tend to expect far more of ourselves than is possible or sane.

The list in my head for today looks like this:

  • Clean the house
  • Make healthy meals for lunch and supper
  • Work with my son on his spelling
  • Edit the pictures from last week’s photo shoot



In reality, I’ll get done 2.5 things from this list: spelling, cooking, and get through about half of the pictures. So when I’m lying in bed, I’ll think about how much didn’t get done. And tomorrow I’ll wake up thinking “oh man, now I need to finish yesterday’s list AND start today’s!”

Not a healthy mindset.


So instead, this is my list for today:

  • Lunch and supper
  • Help my son with spelling
  • Get through the pictures from last week: tag favorites and delete the obvious junk
  • Clean up one area for 15 minutes



You know the best part of this list? Not only am I actually likely to complete it, but there’s a good chance I’ll get something else done too. So instead of going to bed with items left un-checked, I’ll be able to smile knowing I did MORE!

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When you sign up, you’ll get a PDF to help get your weekly schedule under control!

Organizing Life

Organizing Life

We’re busy. Whether we work outside the home or not, just the fact that we’re raising dancers means our lives take on a rhythm unique to the dance world.

I may have an exaggerated schedule, because in addition to dance classes, I’m also working at the front desk for the bulk of the studio’s open hours. It means we leave the same time every day, but it also means I have to pack supper every evening (and for a different number of people each day).

Here’s what I’ve currently found to streamline our dance-night process:

I figure out meals for the week and shop before the week starts. I make sure dinners are portable and good out of the cooler, and that they’re a good combination of protein and carbs so the dancers have the energy-refueling they need.

The kids are responsible for their water bottles getting filled and brought to the car, as well as a snack for between back-to-back classes.

The kids each have a dance bag at the door with all dance shoes in it.

They have to be dressed an hour before we leave (so there’s no last-second “where’s my leotard??” panic)

What have you done to simplify the process? Any pointers that would help us move more easily and with less panic? Feel free to suggest your thoughts on FB or Instagram!