My No-Fail System for Getting. Shit. Done.

Hi! Long time, no see! ✨

In all honesty, I haven’t been making time to write lately, and I have been feeling real crappy about it. This blog was totally off my radar, so much so that I’d be taken a little off-guard if a friend asked me when I’d have a new post up. If you’re one of those friends, thank you. Without your reminders, I seriously may not have gotten my butt back in gear.

Ok, on to the topic of the day: PLANNERS AND SCHEDULING, I.E. MY FAVORITE TOPIC

Last week, I was engaging in my favorite procrastination activity — watching Instagram stories. A creative, smart, and funny woman that I really enjoy following, Miranda Anderson, was talking about her lack of organization skills.

She said that, while she may be a good mom in a million other ways, she’ll never be a good school mom. She held up her son’s school calendar and said that she didn’t know what to do with it and that she would probably throw it away. I started giggling, in shock, I think. What does she mean, she doesn’t know what to do with it? She should add all of those dates to her calendar right now, and make sure her husband does the same. How can she not know that?

She then held up a nametag that her son had received in a back-to-school packet. He was supposed to wear it on the first day of school. She just knew it would get lost, and she didn’t know where to put it to prevent that from happening. Again, my reaction was just like WHAT?! What do you mean?! PUT IT IN A SAFE PLACE, WOMAN!

Now, we all have our strengths, and organization just isn’t one of hers. I tell this story with no judgement, at all. Miranda has infectious positivity and a great eye for design. BUT, her Insta story made me realize something that seems silly and obvious now: not everyone enjoys planning like I do and that may mean that they don’t even know how to do it.

I am bad at a million different things: I have terrible handwriting, my balance is a joke, and I can’t carry a tune (that never stops me from singing along, don’t worry).

But I am excellent at schedules and organizing and to-do lists and planning every hour of the day for maximum productivity. And you know I’ve never heard a tip that I don’t want to share with all of you!

If you’re like Miranda and can’t figure out which way is up when it comes to organizing your calendar or your family’s schedule, you’re in the right place.

My No-Fail System for Getting. Shit. Done.

Note: This is my tried-and-true system. I have tried many, many, many alternatives, and this combo is what works for me. Don’t feel like you have to follow this exactly. Take what works for you and leave the rest! There’s no right way to do this.

  1. Use a digital calendar and a paper planner in tandem

This may seem like overkill, but it is so worth it, I promise. Documenting schedules in two places is my secret.

I have a Google Calendar where I log and schedule everything. Upcoming events, planned workouts, upcoming blog topics, date night, must-see T.V. (hi, Bachelor Nation!), what I’m making for dinner, and more. If Grant is invited to an event, I literally invite him via email on the calendar event. He also has access to my calendar, so he can easily check if I’m free next Thursday.

All that said, I am still an analog planner at heart. I love, love, love my Simplified Planner. I have the Academic Daily in Gold Pineapple. The format is of this planner is awesome: an hour-by-hour schedule for the individual day is in one column, and a to-do list for that same day is in the other column.

During the day, I refer to my planner constantly. My to-do list lives there, so I’m x-ing items off, assessing how much time I have to complete the next task, and checking if I’ll have a minute or two to take an afternoon walk.

I typically check GCal in the morning and in the afternoon. First thing, I check in to make sure that I haven’t forgotten any upcoming events or tasks for the day. Towards the end of my work day, I check in again. I assess how much I got done from today’s to-do list, think about which tasks need to be “rescheduled” for tomorrow, and adjust tomorrow’s schedule as necessary.

And, yes, I literally block off chunks of time to write or clean or exercise. If it’s not on the calendar, it is all too easy to “run out of time” for these tasks. Saying that I will work out at some point on Saturday does not work for me. Scheduling a run at 10 a.m. Sunday morning means that, come hell or high water, I’ll be lacing up my sneakers that morning. I have a personal rule that, once I have scheduled one of these blocks of time, it can be rescheduled, but not deleted. That workout has to happen at some point, even if I’m nursing a sore knee.

  1. Download on Sundays

    On Sunday, I open my GCal and my paper planner at the same time. I transfer any relevant info from the GCal to the planner for the upcoming week: coffee with Maggie at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, movies with Grant Thursday after work, early meeting at the office Wednesday morning, etc. Once I have these events in my paper planner, I can start distributing my to-do list throughout the week. If I know I have a freelance deadline Friday, I’m sure to block out several 90-minute chunks of time. I may not use all of the time that I schedule, but a surplus is better than a scramble to meet deadline. (And usually means that I have time for coffee and a book.)

Grant and I do a short pilates workout together every weekday (thank you, The Balanced Life YouTube channel!), so I write “pilates” on my to-do list Monday-Friday. I do this for two reasons: 1. It feels good to cross it off, and 2. It’s a great reminder that’s staring at me all day long if we oversleep and don’t get the workout done in the morning.

If you’re ever in doubt about whether or not you should write something down, WRITE IT DOWN. A superfluous reminder or to-do item is WAY better than forgetting something or someone or some paperwork.

  1. Make it messy

    This is the best tip I’ve got: make your planner a MESS. Do not care if it looks pretty or if anyone else can read your chicken scratch. Being hesitant to mark up your planner because you want to keep it neat is holding you back. It’s not uncommon for me to plan out a busy Saturday hour-by-hour, and then have to cross it all out and start over when plans change. I really do not care if it’s messy, but I know that some women tape scrap paper over their “mistakes” so they’ve got a clean slate to work with.

    Daily messy planner page

I usually keep another small notebook with me, where I can take further notes, or brainstorm various ways that I’ll get all my shit done. It’s a real mess, and it’s full of meal plans, tentative schedules, estimates for how long tasks will take, and more. I carry this notebook so I have more space to write, not so my planner stays cute.

Wrenches will get thrown, and you will have to cross a list out and start over. It doesn’t matter. No one is looking over your shoulder or checking your work. Your planner is only valuable if you use it!

  1. Set up a reminder system

Of all the tips, this one is the most personal, and it’s totally trial-and-error based. No matter how much planning you do, no matter how organized you are — you’re going to get distracted, and you’ll need to be reminded about something. For example, I need to bring my friend a book they want, and we’re meeting for drinks Thursday evening. I would never forget about our date, but sometimes I might forget that I promised them a book. Solution: I set several reminders. First, when they ask for the book, I add a red all-day event to the day I’ll see them next in my GCal (Thursday all-day event: GRETCHEN RUBIN BOOK FOR KARAH). On that prior Sunday, I’ll see the red reminder in GCal, add it to my paper planner, AND I set an alarm on my phone for Thursday morning at around the time I’ll be packing my lunch (Thursday 7:30 a.m. alarm: GRETCHEN RUBIN BOOK FOR KARAH).

Yes, this is a lot of steps. But they take, what, two minutes total? And that way Karah gets her book!

Second reminder tip: clip any paperwork you’ll need to the planner day that you’ll need it! If your dentist appointment is Monday, clip the check for the dentist to Monday in your paper planner. This tip is new to me, and I’m not great at implementing it. But when I remember to do it, IT WORKS! Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the fact that my bills have always been largely online, but whatever it is — paperwork is my downfall. (Sorry, dermatologist, I know I owe you that form.)


What do you think? That this is overkill? Maybe. What I know is that this level of planning allows me to relax and to get a large amount of stuff done. I work full-time, write freelance, exercise daily, see my friends every week, and make most of our meals from scratch. The only way I get this done is by planning every single day. On weekends, I’m way more flexible. I usually plan the first half of the day with exercise, chores, and errands, and then leave the rest of the day open to veg out and read. And, I know y’all with kids are laughing at me. It’ll be a whole new ballgame once I have kids with their own schedules. (But I can’t wait to get some sort of color-coding system going when I do!)

What I know now, and what works for me now, is that whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I get my pen and my planner, and I start figuring stuff out.

As my favorite internet celebrity, Ben Franklin, said: “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” Do you think I should get that quote as a tattoo? I’m considering it.

How do you plan your life? Is it different now if you have kids? I know you’re just as busy as I am, so what tips do you have for me?

Reminders to Myself // 5 ways to get back on track when Monday sucks

We’ve all been there. It’s Monday evening, and the first day of the workweek just did not go as planned. Maybe you slept through your alarm, missed your workout, and forgot to pack a lunch. Or maybe you pressed snooze on purpose, grabbed coffee instead of a gym session, and couldn’t resist the call of pizza in the cafeteria. I’ve been there. Often.

Or maybe your 11 a.m. meeting goes over time, and you can’t run those errands over lunch like you needed to, which means that your quiet evening at home has turned into a mad dash to Target, Trader Joe’s, and the bank. Been there.

And I’ve told myself that since I blew my Monday, I might as well wait until the next Monday to get back on track. I should just relax into the fog of a rushed, frantic week with pints of ice cream, oversleeping accidentally-on-purpose, and skipping the gym. Then, next Monday, I can really do it right. I just need to get to next Monday. 

This is so stupid, so self-defeating, so damaging. Perfection isn’t necessary or even really attainable. The perfect week does not exist, no matter how much planning you do.

I need this reminder. Often. I’m betting you do, too. As the great Miley Cyrus once said: “Nobody’s perfect. I gotta work it.”

Here’s to a new week: a new chance at being better than we were the week before. When I totally eff up a Monday (or a Wednesday!), here’s what I do to get back on track.

  1.     Let myself wallow.

Just for a minute! But I let myself, usually on my drive home, think about the ways that the day went wrong. I think about why I made the choices I did and how ANNOYED I am about it. If I skipped my workout, was it because I was genuinely sore and tired, or was it because I was feeling lazy (um, prob the second one)? Understanding my motivation helps me to figure out how to make more positive decisions the next day.

Often, if I have a freelance deadline early in the week, I’ll try to write for a couple of hours early Monday morning. This means that the deadline is off my back, and I can enjoy my week (and watch TV with Grant that evening). When I sleep through my early morning, I’m really punishing my evening self. I then have to come home from a full day of work and write some more. Reminding myself of that consequence helps me to make more fruitful choices next time.

  1.     Drink an obscene amount of water.

Nothing helps me feel more like I’m in control than getting my preferred amount of water every day. Lots of water makes my skin clearer, my belly less bloated, and my mind sharper. In a day where my choices felt negative, this is an easy way to reset.

  1.     Make a plan.

Saying that I want to do better tomorrow is useless if I don’t make a plan to make it happen. I grab my little notebook and plan the next morning. What time am I waking up, what time do I need to leave, and what needs to be in my bag?

If that plan includes a gym bag, I’ll often pack it the night before or at least mentally pick out an outfit that I’ll pack in the morning. I usually don’t pack my lunch in the evening, but I do think about what I’ll pack in the morning, so I’m not going at it blind.

  1.     Eat a healthy dinner.

Even if my bad Monday was because of a missed deadline and not three break room donuts, eating a healthy dinner is a good reset. It’s a positive button on the end of a day. Plus, eating a lighter dinner means that the next goal will the all the more achievable ⬇⬇⬇.

  1.     Get to bed on time.

If I want to kick tomorrow’s ass, I have to go to bed on time. For me, this means 9:30 or 9:45. Making this a priority for the evening (and skipping that next episode of The Leftovers) means I’ll be able to pop out of bed in the morning, ready to hit the gym or get some writing done.


Reminder to myself: Being perfect isn’t possible, but being my best self is. To feel my best, I need to sleep a lot, drink a ton of water, and read and write and sweat on most days.

One lunchtime pizza on a Monday isn’t going to break those habits, even if it might make me feel like taking an afternoon desk nap. Skipping the gym once shouldn’t lead to skipping it daily.

I’m not perfect, and I’m not trying to be. That reminder feels powerful when we all spend entire days running ourselves ragged, striving for the next, the biggest, the best.

Reminder to myself: Perfection isn’t attainable. Goals are. Happiness is. So Monday was the worst? OK. Get back up. Dust off. And keep going.

What are your Monday pitfalls? How do you reset for a better week?

One Month Vegan: What I’m Eating and What I’ve Learned

As of Tuesday, my husband will have been eating vegan and gluten-free for a whole month. The reasons why are complicated and health-related and none of your business 😝, so let’s get to the real question: WHAT THE HELL DOES HE EAT?

Lots of chickpeas, really. Also, did you know brown rice pasta tastes basically the same as regular pasta? I’m finally figuring out tofu, so that’s been fun.

Even if this diet doesn’t end up doing the trick for Grant’s allergy problems (which I alluded to here), I’m really enjoying learning new techniques and trying new things. Once it’s consistently warm outside, I can’t wait to check out some vegan grilling options. (Not sure what those will be. Eggplant? Tofu planks? Hit me up if you have ideas!)

Once we decided to give vegan a try, I started reading. Before, when I had served G meatless meals, he had a hard time getting full. I think some of that may be psychological and based on expectations of what a meal should be, but I was legitimately concerned about getting enough protein into his diet.

Well, guess what? Vegan diets are, like, super full of protein. Lentils and quinoa and nuts, oh my.

My initial research was fueled by this cookbook ⬇⬇⬇, which I’ve had for a long time, but hadn’t done a whole lot of cooking out of. Isa has stews, pastas, sandwiches, salads, everything.

Meal planning in bed.

I read the whole thing like a novel, earmarked a bunch of the recipes, and I’ve been aiming to make one each week. Our very favorite so far has been lentilroni (another blogger made it here). It’s kind of like canned beefaroni (I always preferred the ravioli). But instead of weirdly textured “ground beef,” there are lentils, and pureed cashews make the sauce creamy and delicious. (I also forgot to soak the cashews the first time I made this, and it didn’t matter at all. I ground them to a powder in my food processor, and they incorporated with the vegetable broth perfectly.)

Minimalist Baker is another plant-based inspiration. Her roasted garlic mac and cheese is incredible.

One cannot live on peanut butter sandwiches on super-expensive gluten-free bread alone, so here’s a by-protein breakdown of what we’ve been eating (and really enjoying (mostly)).

PINTO OR BLACK BEANS

I made a big batch of pintos in my slow cooker, stuck most of them in the freezer, and now they’re ready to pull out for burrito bowls or taco salads at any time. Beans and rice is also an easy, simple meal, especially so with avocado and hot sauce.

TOFU

Whenever I’m at an Asian restaurant, I almost always order tofu as my protein. The crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside texture is so delicious, and I know that texture is accomplished with lots of oil.

A good runner-up tofu prep – and one that’s healthier and easier to make at home – is baked in a hot, hot oven. I press extra-firm tofu for at least 90 minutes to get excess water out, cube it, toss it in cornstarch, soy sauce, and olive oil, and bake it for 25 minutes at 425, tossing the tofu halfway through.

Crispy tofu, broccoli and tomatoes, and this creamy coconut turmeric rice. We topped it with bottled carrot-ginger salad dressing.

This method is easy, quick, and the resulting crispy tofu soaks up any sauce you drizzle on it. I’m partial to a homemade teriyaki or a citrus vinaigrette.

LENTILS

I’ve taken to making a batch of green lentils over the weekend to have on hand when we need a protein. I’ll stir them into salads or serve them with leftover grains and roasted vegetables.

CHICKPEAS

Hummus is a regular in our house, vegan diet or no, but I’ve learned some new ideas. Hummus pasta is my new Friday night too-tired-to-read-a-recipe meal. Boil pasta in well-salted water. Saute onions, garlic, and big handfuls of fresh spinach. Reserve a mugful of the pasta water and drain. Add half a container of hummus to the saute pan. Heat until creamy, adding splashes of pasta water as needed. Add drained pasta and stir. It will be so creamy, and it really scratches that mac and cheese itch. I add lots of red pepper flakes to serve.

We’ve also been eating chickpea scrambles a lot. Saute onions, garlic, and whatever veggies you’d like, add drained chickpeas. Smash them up a little and let them sizzle for 5 or so minutes, adding paprika, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with salsa and roasted potatoes on the side.


What’s true regardless of which vegan protein you pick: there is little flavor in these plant-based options on their own. They all can take a lot of salt and a lot of hot sauce. They’ll also meld super well with whatever sauce you choose. On my list for this week is tofu cubes in BBQ sauce with corn, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. Maybe some fresh pineapple for a “Hawaiian” vibe?

I don’t think we’ll be eating vegan forever. G really likes and misses chicken, and you all know how I feel about a whole roasted bird. But I think we will stick to the routine of more meatless meals. It’s heart-healthy and planet-healthy, and a bag of lentils is a hell of a lot cheaper than a package of chicken.

What are your favorite plant-based meals?

Currently: April 2017

Hi, friends! Long time, no see. In fact, it’s been so long, I have a new name. Nice to meet you. I’m Caitlin Wallace.

I’ll write a longer wedding post when we have photos back (I cannot WAIT to see more of what the talented Elizabeth Thomas captured of our day!⬇⬇⬇), but it was perfect. It was everything I wanted it to be, which honestly still feels surprising to say. I am very pragmatic (some may even say I’m negative). Realistically, I just assumed that something would go wrong. And nothing really did 😍

UM!!!!! #aprilfoolsforlove #wallacewedding

A post shared by Caitlin Wallace (@caitlinmwallace) on

I’m easing back into blogging — along with some fun new freelance projects — with one of my favorite posts: CURRENTLY. I love hearing what people are reading, shopping for, and listening to. Hopefully you do, too.

Currently, I’m still struggling to get back on my feet and back on a regular schedule after the mad dash that was the past couple months. Life is feeling more and more normal each day, and I promise you wedding guests will be getting your thank you notes soon. Well. Soon-ish.

//INSPIRED BY//

Now that the countdown to the wedding is over, I can focus all my excitement energies on my next big event: attending RISE with my bestie Brooke. It’s a conference in Austin for women entrepreneurs, and I cannot wait to eat tacos, take a crazy amount of notes, and get inspired. It’s no secret that my day job isn’t the most exciting to me, so focusing my off-time on ✨fun✨ projects (like this blog) feels very important.

The conference isn’t until June, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I know the women attending will be a mixed bag of women with big-time, self-made careers and women like me, who are still really figuring that shit out. That feels really exciting. The first couple of speakers have been announced, and I am particularly excited to see Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show. She’s weird and fun, and she’s owns it. She also built her own brand from the ground up. Very bad ass.  

//WATCHING//

The premiere of Fargo season three was so good. Loving the dual characters played by Ewan McGregor, and that window A/C unit?! Woah.

I cannot, cannot, CANNOT wait for the premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s been on my special favorite books shelf for the past ten years. Elizabeth Moss is perfect for Offred. I’ve heard some small details have been added to update the dystopia to a 21st century reality, so I am real excited to see those.

G and I saw Life in theaters, and it was one of the most genuinely scary movies I have seen in a long time. The writing is a little stilted and annoying at times, but I jumped out of my seat more than once. A fun date movie, for sure.

ALSO, the Henrietta Lacks movie premieres on HBO tomorrow, and you KNOW I will be watching that. Based on an incredible book AND starring my buddy Oprah?! YEP! 🌈

//READING//

I am so, so thankful to get some of my reading time back now that wedding planning is done. My book club is meeting Wednesday to discuss Dreamland, by Sam Quinones. It’s a nonfiction, heavily researched book about the many complicated arms of the opiate epidemic. It is intense and scary, but also deeply interesting.

//LISTENING TO//

ONLY THE NEW KENDRICK LAMAR, AND THAT’S IT.

OK, not totally true, but I am loving this album. Definitely on repeat throughout the long-ass work day.

I’ve also been loving Girl’s Girls, Brittany Gibbons’ new podcast. It is deeply irreverent and not for any person who is squeamish about sex or body talk, but it makes me laugh out loud every week. It’s a great show to commute with.  

//EATING AND DRINKING//

G has been dealing with some unexplained allergic reactions, so we’re trying a vegan and gluten-free diet to see if that helps. My new husband has been eating a lot of tofu and chickpeas, and he hasn’t complained once. We love Minimalist Baker’s roasted garlic mac and “cheese” and baked, crispy teriyaki tofu.

I’m learning a lot about vegan cooking. I plan to write more about it later, once I have more experience with lentils under my belt.

What have you all been up to? Miss you all!!

Magical Roasted Chicken // Winter Go-To

Each season, I fall into a pattern with my cooking. Grilled meat and fresh veggies in the summer, chili as soon as it’s chilly outside, and roasted chickens at least once a week from September through May.

Roasted whole chicken is really the perfect food. Juicy and flavorful, a combo of white and dark meat (legs for me, please!), and the crispy skin that is better than any potato chip.

And, even better, it’s an entrée that you cook once and can eat multiple times. I’ll roast a chicken on Sunday, and we’ll eat some of it with simple sides like mashed potatoes and sautéed greens. I’ll pull the rest of the chicken, and then it’s ready for WHATEVER. Stir into soup; add to a green salad; make a panini.

What comes next is the magic part.

I didn’t take advantage of this magic for years, and I wish someone would have schooled me sooner. Until a few months ago, I would pull all the meat off the chicken carcass, and then I’d toss the bones.

What was I thinking?!

Now I know better. I put the carcass – bones, skin, and all – in the crockpot. I fill the crockpot with water. I turn it on low, leave it overnight or longer, and THAT’S IT. That’s chicken stock.

When I wake up in the morning, the whole house smells like a vat of chicken soup, and that’s not as gross as it sounds. It’s the best.

Even without adding any extra seasonings or aromatics, this stock tastes 10 times better than the stuff in the carton. And it’s FREE!

I’ll freeze half of it and put the rest in the fridge. Later in the week, I’ll use it to make soup. This one, with red lentils, butternut squash, and russet potatoes, is my current favorite.

MAGICAL ROASTED CHICKEN

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. This is HOT, so anything on the floor of the oven will smoke. Turning on your hood fan is a good idea (I learned this the hard way).
  2. Dry the chicken (around 5 lbs) thoroughly with paper towels. Put the chicken, breast side up, in a cast iron skillet. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Season heavily, inside and out, with salt and pepper.

    Before.
  3. Roast for 25 minutes at 425.
  4. Reduce the heat to 350. Baste the chicken all over with olive oil.
  5. Roast for 45 more minutes, basting with olive oil every 15 minutes.
  6. Take the chicken’s temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thigh of the chicken (picture of what this looks like up top!). This is the thickest part of the bird, and dark meat takes longer to cook than white. The bird is ready to remove from the oven when the thigh registers at 165 degrees. The drumstick should also be very wiggly, like the bone will slip right out. This may take an additional 10 minutes or so.
  7. Let the chicken rest, tented with foil, for at least 10 minutes while you finish preparing the rest of the meal. (The skin will lose some of its crispness when you tent the chicken, so eat a little first!)

Chicken roasting method inspired by What’s Gaby Cooking.

FREE CHICKEN STOCK

  1. Add the chicken carcass and any leftover skin to the crock of a slow cooker. Mine is 6 quarts.
  2. Add water to fill the crock.
  3. Turn the slow cooker to low, and let the broth simmer for at least 12 hours (overnight).
  4. Turn the slow cooker off. Let the broth cool for about an hour.
  5. Strain the broth through a mesh strainer into a large container. Discard the solids. BE CAREFUL; it will still be hot.
  6. Use for whatever your heart desires. Some of my faves: boil egg noodles in the stock, add chicken and frozen peas; egg drop soup; minestrone with meatballs; and farro soup. Stock keeps for several months in the freezer.

Good luck! Let me know what ✨magic✨ you cook up.