Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Planner Post [Plum Paper]

Today I'm joining Alexandra and Lauren for the "Keep It Together" link-up about all things planning & memory-keeping.

After four years with the Erin Condren Life Planner I decided to switch it up for 2018 with Plum Paper. I liked the ECLP - See my review here - but they are really expensive ($50+) and also I thought it would be fun to try something new. Honestly, I don't think I *need* to use a paper planner but I really enjoy it. I love seeing everything laid out so neatly - "Outer order = Inner calm."

One of the cool things about Plum Paper is how there are so many options for customization (although if you choose too many that will drive the price tag right up there with the ECLP so I had to keep it somewhat simple). Also I like that they are based in San Diego, CA - My original hometown!

I picked this pretty floral design for the cover and added the year and my name.

Inside we have the monthly calendar pages and the weekly calendar pages.

On the weekly calendar pages I chose to customize the sections with labels for: Plan, Actual, Day, Evening, Blog, Dinner, and Misc. Most of these are pretty self-explanatory. Plan and Actual are what I scheduled to do for exercise and what I actually did. On the far left I'll make notes for things that have to happen at some point during the week but not on any specific day.

On the monthly page I also make a note of whatever exercise I did that day because I like to see all the highlights filling up the month. The stickers are old ones from ECLP that I didn't use up in previous years. On the far left, similar to the weekly pages, I make notes for things that I want to do at some point in the month.

Before every month is this "Monthly Highlights" page which I haven't really been utilizing at all yet. There's also a blank page that I use to make notes on blog ideas, things to buy, favorites, etc. I also added 10 blank pages in the back that I use for random notes and lists.

Looking at these photos it seems a little blank but that's because I've been so busy with work lately. There really isn't that much else going on. I don't put any of  my work meetings or to-do lists into this planner. I expect things will fill up a little bit more as they usually do in the summer and fall.

For many years my favorite pens have been the Pilot Precise V5 but I found that these pages don't really "take the ink" [Hey Mom! Do you know what movie that's from?] so I have been using a couple Le Pens that came with my Hi-Five stationary subscription. They are OK but I don't love them. It's hard to find the right pens that are rich enough but don't show through the pages.

OK! I think that's all that I have to say. It's probably more than you imagined anyone could say about a planner! Overall I think the Plum Paper is nice but I'll probably try something new next year. Any suggestions? Although it's probably a little early to start thinking about 2019 planners... Even for me!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Day in the Life - Busy Season Edition

Happy Tax Day! Now that I've reached the deadline I can finish up this post from two weeks ago about what an everyday day in tax season looks like. And hopefully I can also return to being a semi-regular blogger again!

5:30 - My alarm goes off. I change into workout clothes and head to my office. I check my email, make a priority list for the day, and take care of the some random administrative tasks.

6:15 - I do a 20-minute "Cardio Sculpt" workout from YouTube.

6:40 - I take a quick shower, get dressed, and dry my hair.

7:00 - The kids are up! For breakfast the kids split a mini bagel with cream cheese and a strawberry-banana smoothie. I make a vanilla latte for myself.

7:30 - Jonathan and I start the getting-dressed process with the kids which often takes much longer than I think it should. I grab the bag of preschool gear (water bottles, nap-time blankets, diapers & wipes for Abel) that I hopefully remembered to pack up the night before.

8:00 - I take the kids to preschool. They are at preschool on Tue/Thu and with my mom on Mon/Wed/Fri which is such a great balance for us.

8:30 - I'm back home and get started on the priority list. Mostly what I do in busy season is, obviously, tax returns for individuals and businesses. As a manger I don't prepare tax returns anymore but I plan, review, & update them. Another big aspect of my job is communicating with clients - to get tax information from them, follow up with questions, deliver the returns, and obtain signatures.

10:45 - It's time for Lunch #1. I have Triscuits with this dip - I'm addicted! - and a pear. While I'm up I put a load of laundry into the washing machine. I clean up my email while I eat and then get back to review work.

12:30 - It's time for Lunch #2. I move the laundry into the dryer and then put together a mish-mash of leftovers from the last few nights' dinner.

4:00 - My in-laws pick up the kids on preschool days and bring them home. I get big hugs from the kids and get them settled in with some art projects while I send and file a few last emails.

4:45 - I start making dinner. We're having quinoa & black bean tacos.

5:15 - Dinner time. We eat super early, I know. Swede eats whatever I've made for dinner unless it's too spicy. Abel is still in the super-picky toddler stage so first he has a huge meltdown because we won't let him eat chocolate chips for dinner then eventually settles for yogurt, applesauce, and Goldfish crackers.

FYI: This is the BEST hot sauce!

5:30 - The kids watch part of Wreck-It Ralph while Jonathan does the dishes and I take Gumball for a walk to get the mail. We've been watching this movie on repeat for the past three weeks and Swede has re-named everyone after the Sugar Rush go-kart racers - She is Jubileena Bing Bing and I'm Swizzle Malarky. 

6:00 - Bath time! While the kids splash around I fold the laundry that Gumball has been sleeping on all afternoon - At some point in the afternoon I moved it from the dryer to the couch.

6:30 - The kids are in their pajamas with teeth brushed - It's story time! I read to Abel and Jonathan reads to Swede tonight - We alternate most nights although I'll sometimes read a few stories to them together.

7:00 - Lights out for Abel. Back to work for me. Swede reads to her stuffed animal friends for 30 minutes, coming out once to get more books from the "library."

An unfortunately blurry photo of Swede and Pony

7:30 - Time for "cozy-up" with Swede aka hugs and kisses and songs and getting snuggled into bed.

7:40 - Back to work again. Plus a glass of wine.

9:45 - I'm done working for the day. I get ready for bed and read for 20 minutes, then do my 10-minute guided meditation from Headspace.

10:30 - Lights out!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Book Day - April 2018

Book Day! As usual I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books.

Here's what I read in March:

1) Still Me by Jojo Moyes. 4 stars. I don't think this is a popular opinion as I know everyone loved Me Before You, but I think this book is my favorite in the series. Maybe the whole tragic situation with Will was too over-wrought for me. In this book I really liked the NYC setting and several of the new characters. especially Margot DeWitt and Dean Martin (who is a dog, BTW, not the real Dean Martin). I loved seeing Louisa develop into her own person and figure out what she wants from life.

2) Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson. 4 stars. This is a sweet little love story set in Regency England. It's Jane Austen-esque (but in no way associated with or a re-do of any of her stories, which I appreciate since that doesn't usually work for me) but it does lack her wry humor and keen social observations. Also I do think the characters acted a little more modern than they would have been in that era. That said - I did really enjoy the book! It was very cute and fun.

3) Girl in Disguise by Green Macallister. 3 stars. I wanted to like this book more than I did. Set in the 1860's, it's about the first female Pinkerton agent, Kate Warne. The setting was interesting as is Kate's character but the plot seemed to drift along without much direction from one investigation to the next for more than half the book. In the last third or so with the start of the Civil War I think she tries to pick up the pace with a more continuous plot but it was too late for me.

4) I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos. 4/5 stars. A couple years ago I binged through all four book by de los Santos in a month. My favorites were Love Walked In and Belong To Me, so I was so glad to realize that this book follows the same characters. I enjoyed this one but I didn't love it the way I did her earlier books. There is a back-and-forth in time between Clare in the present day and another semi-related character, Edith, in the 1950's. If you've been reading my Book Day posts for any length of time you probably know I struggle with the back-and-forth in time books. I liked both stories in this book but as always I found it hard to fully commit to either.

That's all! Does anyone else out there struggle with the back-and-forth in time premise (which seems to be so popular these days)?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter 2017

Apparently I'm a slacker when it comes to Easter. Of course it doesn't help that Easter usually falls near the end of tax season so I'm always very busy with work. Also when I was growing up my family didn't do Easter baskets or fancy new Sunday church outfits so I don't feel the need to perpetuate those traditions. As a Christian I do think Easter is the most meaningful religious holiday of the year. But maybe that's another reason why I'm less inclined to make it all about Easter basket goodies. Although I did admire everyone's cute photos on social media!

We did still do a few fun Easter activities. Last weekend there were carrot muffins with cream cheese frosting and Easter sprinkles. This weekend on Saturday I dyed eggs with Swede. We used brown eggs and I was worried the colors wouldn't be bright enough but I think they came through nicely although a bit muted & earthy. Maybe I like them even better this way! I'm intrigued by the swirly shaving cream eggs - Did anyone have success that method? I thought about trying it but in the end the classic $1.99 kit from the grocery store won me over.

On Sunday we went to church and then to my parents' house for the annual Easter egg hunt. Swede was on a mission to gather as many eggs as fast as possible. Abel made slower progress as he wanted to open each egg as he found it and to gobble up the yogurt-covered raisins inside. Both of them had so much fun!

In the afternoon we went over to Jonathan's parents' house. For dinner we had hot dogs, baked beans, and macaroni salad, which seems much more like a summer holiday BBQ meal than Easter. It was all delicious though! I made Key Lime Bars for dessert. The kids did get several Easter fun presents from Jonathan's presents as well, so you don't need to feel too bad for them.

That's all! For comparison HERE is my Easter post last year. Apparently Swede was equally focused on the egg-hunt last year. Abel was such a baby though! And it was a few weeks later so look at my mom's beautiful daffodils! It's about this time every year that I swear I will plant some bulbs in my own yard this fall.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

In Review - March 2018

Hello! It's been a little while. I decided to take a break since I've been super busy with work this month. This is my 10th tax season and I think it's been one of the better ones, at least from a stress management perspective, but I am definitely starting to feel a little frayed around the edges.

Here's what else happened last month...

A favorite photo -

By the numbers -

     - Run: 67.5 miles
     - Strength/HIIT: 6
     - Yoga: None... :-(
     - Books: 4
     - Meditation: EVERY DAY!
     - Piano: None... :-(
     - Average phone usage per day: 27 minutes

I managed to stay consistent with running three days a week this month, but everything else has suffered a little. Except phone use is also down! So that's a bright side to having limited free time.


Baking projects:

     - Not-so-Boring Bran Muffins from Seriously Delish
     - Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
     - Baked Blueberry Crumb Doughnuts
     - Wholesome Carrot Muffins (with cream cheese frosting and Easter sprinkles)

Favorite dinners:

     - Roasted Vegetable Winter Crumble <-- A repeat from January but it's so good!
     - Buffalo Chicken Pizza <-- Comfort food
     - Marinated Chickpeas
     - Broccoli & Cheddar Casserole <-- Swede's favorite!

Shopping -

     - I bought a new cookbook, The Pretty Dish. I want to make ALL the recipes!
     - Spring candles from B&BW - Lilac is my new favorite scent.
     - A few cute things from Boden for the kids plus new pajamas from Carters.
     - Entry fee to the New York Marathon - That was not cheap.
     - I couldn't resist this sweater from Title Nine on a one-day 40% off sale.
     - A couple random purchases for the kids that have been big hits: a set of dinosaur/vehicle books and a wooden mixer set

Happenings -

So much work. That is all.

OK - That's not technically all that happened in March but it feels that way sometimes.

Swede and I went out for hot chocolate and then to the playground with one of her school friends.

Jonathan and I went out to a nice dinner at Cyrpus Cafe.

We celebrated my parents' birthdays with cinnamon rolls (for my dad) and brownies (for my mom).

It snowed a couple inches on the 18th. Normally I'd be peeved at snow in March but it's been such a mild winter otherwise that it was fun.

Aside from those thrilling highlights there has been much coloring, reading stories, Lego-ing, several trips to the playground, and probably a little too much TV-watching and snacks-instead-of-dinner.

That's all! In April I'm looking forward to: All things related to the end of tax season.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Day - March 2018

Book Day! As usual I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books.

Here's what I read in February:

1) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I've been hankering to re-read a few childhood classics and started with this lovely illustrated version which was a gift from my grandma in 1989. Honestly - It's a little slow compared to most books that we read nowadays but charming nonetheless.

2) The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn. This book was so fun! It's about time travelers who go back to steal Jane Austen's last unfinished manuscript. I'm a big fan of Jane Austen and generally enjoy time travel so this was a great combination for me. Most of the book takes places in Regency England but there are some glimpses into the futuristic world as well. I liked the characters, especially Jane herself. Thanks to Nadine for sending this to me in our pen pal Christmas exchange!

3) The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis. This is a past & present book that goes back and forth between NYC in 2016 and in 1952, centering around the Barbizon Hotel for Women. As usual, I enjoyed the setting in the past better and wished the whole book had been set then. I get frustrated when the big secret is finally unraveled 60 years later as if that makes up for the previous decades of loneliness and suffering. Is this supposed to be a happy ending?

4) The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. I'm having a hard time writing about this book. There were many things that I liked - the modern fairy tales, the magical land just beyond the edge of normal life - and some other things that I didn't like as much - YA is just not my thing as I find teenagers in fiction generally annoying and angsty, and it dragged a little at a few points along the way. I did love the world she created but there were some things that just didn't make sense or weren't fully explained. I liked it but I didn't love it. I would probably read a sequel though; I assume there will be a sequel.

That's all! What have you been reading lately?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Currently - March 2018

Today I'm linking up with Anne to chat about what I'm currently...

{PLANNING} To run the New York City Marathon! I was inspired by Shalane Flanagan's win last fall to enter the lottery for 2018 but I didn't really think I'd get in. Miraculously I was one of small percentage of over 105,000 people who entered the lottery to get a place. I am pretty much equally thrilled and terrified.

{SEEING} The view from my office window a little too much. March is the longest busiest month of tax season and it's already starting to wear me out.

{MAKING} An effort to eat less sugar. Some small steps - 1) No more sugar in my afternoon tea, 2) Started to buy plain yogurt, and 3) Sometimes choosing healthier treats to bake with the kids. This weekend we made my favorite Not-So-Boring Bran Muffins from Seriously Delish.

{PRETENDING} I can think of a creative answer to this prompt, but nothing is coming to me...

{WEARING} The classic winter uniform of skinny jeans, boots, tunic, and scarf. My favorite skinny jeans are either these or these, and I love this tunic I bought in January. I am looking forward to bringing back some of my spring wardrobe soon though.

That's all! How is March going for you so far?