This photo has nothing to do with being organized. But it is salt water taffy…and that’s fun, plus it’s organized into nice little bins. And this post was written by Kristin Paull. And she’s fun and organized. And it’s her birthday. Happy Birthday Kristin! We would like to give you a cake made out of salt-water taffy. And a gin and tonic.
We have one more Back To School Night to go, and then we are officially back in the swing. It doesn’t always feel that way though. I have to say that each year I feel like the year starts faster- like I am jumping on the treadmill that is already going at top speed. Sundays are the nights I get organized for the week and use the tricks that help me feel like I am taming some of the chaos. Maybe these can help you manage your circus. Our current circus involves an ongoing leak repair from a bathroom remodel combined with the arrival of a puppy. We officially live in Crazy Town right now, and I am the mayor. Here is what is keeping me from losing it.
Every year I have a monthly calendar where I enter all of the big things- school holidays, late starts and early dismissals, practices and games, tests and quizzes. Now, I don’t use this to helicopter my kids, though I know that can be tempting sometimes. I do use this to know what they have coming up that week. I want to see if my 10th grader is really prepping for that Chem test, my 8th grader is studying for a few days leading up to the Geometry test or my 4th grader is preparing for that History project. I check in with them after it is done- “How was your test today? Did you feel prepared? How did you prepare?” I grew tired of feeling surprised that they had tests and quizzes, because they never talked about it or stressed over it. This makes me feel more connected to what they are doing rather than just relying on watching for the grades as they roll in. If I am more concerned about the work ethic and effort going into school, then I need to put my money where my mouth is. This helps me focus on the process and not just the result.
I also sit down to go over my calendar for the week. I break it up into AM and PM sections for each day, and I write down all of the appointments or practices that have a start time. Then, I work in all of the other things I am hoping to tackle- exercise, working in the yard, organizing projects, etc. It’s a lot. But it helps.
This leads me to my next big help- my menu board. This is a chalkboard sticker I found at a shop in Austin, but I have seen them on Amazon as well. I love to cook, but I don’t always have the time. And, my kids don’t always want to try new things. The Sunday night discussion of what we will eat for the week allows them to put any requests out there, and usually leaves me with a couple of nights where I can cook something new and fun.
My kids complain far less now that they feel like they are heard or at least had the chance to be heard. Also, I know can make my grocery list, and grab ingredients for two nights at a time. I waste so much less this way, and I only have ingredients for two nights in case we have to pick up dinner unexpectedly. I can always just push it to the next night. If it is going to be a truly tight night, then I can do a slow cooker meal or a dinner like nachos or breakfast for dinner that I know I can execute in 20 minutes (the time it takes for them to run through the shower- two birds one 20 minute block). This has been a huge game changer for us all!
We have a few responsibilities that the kids assume at certain ages. By 3rd grade, we are packing our own backpack. In 4th grade, we are managing our own workload, signing of papers or assignments, remembering to get our stuff ready for activities the night before, etc. In 7th grade, the kids take over making their own lunches and managing their lunch accounts. I deposit a certain amount in their lunch accounts, enough to cover two lunches a week, at the beginning of the month. They can blow it all in the first week passing cookies out to friends in the lunchroom, or they can use those days when they are just over making lunches. I do prepare four vegetables and four fruits in containers that we can all use to make the process so much faster. Bonus- I can use the left overs to pack as snacks for my 4th grader!
I HATE making lunches, and this has made it all so very tolerable and lightning fast. Making the same lunches day in and day out (as my kids won’t eat leftovers) makes me want to poke a fork in my eye. Instead, I prep on Sunday nights while I am having a glass of wine or gin and tonic. Everything is better with a cocktail!
Oh yes, Cocktails!!! Speaking of cocktails, my family spent six fabulous weeks in Spain this summer. There will be more on that later (specifics on Spain as well as traveling with kids). One of the most interesting and delicious discoveries was the Gin and Tonic.
To say they have taken this drink to a new level does not even come close to the reality. It would often take at least 10 minutes to order! You start by either picking a garnish or a gin, and then they have some sort of complex algorithm that they follow to craft your perfect drink. Certain gins call for certain tonics which lead to specific garnishes.
I am going to share my very favorite combo with you- fast, easy and so refreshing. It is the perfect Sunday drink while I look at the week ahead. I love Hendrick’s Gin- if you want refreshing cucumber taste then this is the gin they would always bring me. Turns out, I already loved it and had a bottle at home. You will also need tonic water. I love Fever Tree Light (less sugar), but you can also do any of the other flavors or Schweppes. Lastly you need ice cubes and garnishes. I have a great little silicone ice tray- they don’t melt too fast, but help to mellow it all together nicely. The garnishes I love are two slices of cucumber, a twist of lemon and half of a dried cinnamon stick. Here we go!
Kristin’s Favorite Gin & Tonic from Spain
Here’s What You’ll Need:
Gin (Hendrick’s recommended)
Tonic water (Fever Tree Light recommended)
A small cucumber
Half of a dried cinnamon stick
Here’s What You’ll Do:
Grab a big balloon wine glass if you have one or at least a glass that is big enough to accommodate the ice cubes. Place the cucumber slices, lemon and cinnamon stick in the bottom of the glass. Add about 2oz of the gin, and stir with a spoon. Add the ice, and stir again. Lastly, you will add the tonic. If you have a gin spoon (I hunted high and low for one), you are supposed to pour the tonic down the swizzle of the gin spoon. Allegedly, this adds more bubbles to the drink. I doubt it, but it is fun anyway! You should have a 2:1 ratio of tonic to gin. I usually have enough for two drinks from each small bottle of Fever Tree. In Texas, where we are still enduring the 95 plus degree heat, we will be enjoying this cocktail for many weeks to come.
Kristin Paull is one of the most thoughtful, fun (and organized!) people that we know. Plus today is her birthday! And she gave us a gin & tonic recipe (how thoughtful and fun of her on her own birthday!) You can read more about Kristin here.