The Perfect Meal

What do you consider the perfect meal?

Does it consist of your favorite foods? Your favorite restaurants? Is it sharing it with people you care about?

Eating a meal is such a typical every day thing we do…most of the time I feel like we just go through the motions.

I make my breakfast each morning half asleep. (I even almost forgot to put a mug underneath the Keurig for my tea. I realized at the last second and luckily one was in reach.)

My lunch is either a salad or leftovers eaten at my desk while I continue to work.

Dinner is the only meal I ever seem to slow down for. It seems to require more thought. What am I in the mood for? What do we need to use up? Do I need to stop at the store?

Dinner is also the meal where families and friends come together more. Whenever we’re in Cape Coral, Sunday night is a big family dinner night, where everyone pitches in. Dinner out with friends is also a great mid-week or weekend treat.

Dinner is (usually) the meal we take our time on. There’s nowhere to be but there at the table.

And speaking of tables, Jon and I think it’s important to sit at the table for dinner. There are occasions where we set up the tv trays, but most nights we eat at the table like “civilized people”. Sometimes even candles and music come into the mix 🙂

Monday night I was invited over to my dear friend Lora‘s house for dinner. Lora and I are both busy people. And while our lives are bustling, we always try to make time to see one another. This dinner was a perfect example.

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Lora made a delicious (and healthy) pasta with pancetta and spinach. We ate in her complex’s courtyard, enjoyed some wine and laughed and talked more than we had in a while. Perfect.

Yesterday, I offered to make dinner for Jon and I. Problem was I had no idea what I was in the mood for. After looking at the Publix weekly ad and through saved recipes on Pinterest and Foodgawker I came up with a menu.

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Roasted mustard salmon, honey rosemary roasted sweet potatoes and sauteed spinach.

Salmon was on sale at Publix, I love sweet potatoes and we had spinach to use up at home.

This was one of the easiest and tastiest meals I’ve made to date. I think mustard sauces are my favorite sauces. So simple and so flavorful. The sweet potatoes were AWESOME. Loved the sweetness of the honey and the hint of rosemary. The spinach is a simple side I learned from Jon. Heat some oil, add a minced garlic clove, a bag of spinach and half a lemon and voila!

Add dining at the table with my love and our furball by our feet? Perfect.

What do you consider the perfect meal?

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First Hibachi Experience and Delightful Dunedin

So, I have a confession to make…

I’ve never been to a hibachi restaurant.

Apparently it’s one of those things that I should have done long ago and just never did. Like learning how to ride a bike. Ya, I don’t know how to do that either, but that’s a different story for a different day.

My friend Ashley has been particularly adamant about taking me to hibachi so finally on Friday, we went.

I love new experiences and was excited to go! Everything from the sky-high flames on the hot top to the food was excellent.

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We went to Tsunami. We didn’t make a reservation, but only had to wait about 15 minutes. The place was bustling.

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I like the idea of sitting in a family style set up. There was an adorable little boy across from us that we made faces at throughout the night. We were next to two families and while they were friendly no one seemed to strike up a conversation. Oh well!

Jon and I shared some sake (2 for 1!)

Our meal started off with the traditional miso soup and salad with ginger dressing. Pretty typical, nothing mind blowing here. I also had a few pieces of Ashley’s sushi that she ordered, which was pretty good.

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Then our chef came out and put on a little show.

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Fire in the hole!

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This huge bowl of butter kind of scared me.

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I had the shrimp and steak. The steak wasn’t my favorite, but I really liked the shrimp. I wasn’t a fan of the noodles (too greasy) but the rice was awesome! Loved the seasoning they added to it.

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A LOT of food!

Awesome first hibachi experience!

photo8Have you ever been to a hibachi restaurant?

Saturday was a busy day. I’ve applied to be on the Junior League Board of Directors for 2013 and Saturday morning I went in for a “meet and greet”, which is pretty much an interview so the nominating committee can see how you’d fit with the positions that you want. I was uncharacteristically nervous, even though I knew most of the women and they were all so nice. They give you a list of questions ahead of time, but they asked a few I felt I wasn’t prepared for (I’m a person who doesn’t do well when caught off guard). Hopefully it still went well!

The rest of the day was spent cleaning! I sorted through some papers, got rid of some junk that had been sitting around forever. It felt so good to empty out our place some!

On Sunday, we had a fun day planned!

After bench presses and pull ups at CrossFit, I came home and Jon and I got ready for a drive over to Honeymoon Island in Dunedin. I’ve heard great things about Honeymoon Island, especially about the dog beach so we finally decided to make the hour drive and see what it was all about.

Luckily the drive wasn’t too bad and it was fairly easy to get to. There’s an $8 charge to get into the park, but since we were planning on being there a few hours I didn’t think it was too bad.

We parked, lugged all our stuff out (a beach bag, two chairs, an umbrella, a blanket and a cooler) and made the trek to the beach. I say trek because it was a 1/2 mile walk from the parking lot! Oi vey. It was unexpected, but once we got to the water we quickly found an open spot. There were a lot of people there, but not too many people that it felt overcrowded.

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This was Maddie’s second time at the beach. Poor girl is still not a big fan of the water 😦 We tried to get her to swim, but eventually retreated to our umbrella for people/dog watching.

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Beach babe.

While we had a nice time, Jon and I both agreed we liked Ft. Desoto a bit better. It’s closer to home, cheaper and just as nice of a beach. Plus, dogs can be leash free. We had to keep a leash on Maddie, which was fine, but it gets all icky and she can’t run around as freely.

We left around 3 and decided to stop in downtown Dunedin for a bit. I had looked up pet friendly bars on Yelp and found Rosie’s Tavern.

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Rosie’s was such a cute place. What makes it different is that dogs are actually allowed IN the bar so owners are not restricted to stay outside, which is nice. The staff was super friendly and we chatted up some locals while we enjoyed our drinks.

photo12Maddie enjoyed cleaning up dropped popcorn (it’s free!) on the floor.

Afterwards we walked along Main Street and checked out the store fronts and an art walk they had going on. Dunedin is so cute! I wish we were a tad closer so we could visit more often.

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It was a delightful day indeed! So nice to get out of St. Pete for the day and explore more of what our area has to offer.

Have you had any fun day trips lately?

 

Foodie Friday: Cuban Night

We had a mighty delicious dinner last night.

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Oh yes.

I have many favorite meals that Jon makes, but his black beans and rice? I could happily eat those for the rest of my live and be perfectly content. They’re my form of comfort food.

And when I threw them out as an idea for last night’s meal, we realized it had been almost a year since he made them. Blasphemy!

On the menu:

Black beans

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Jasmine rice

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Pulled pork

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Tostones

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For those who are unfamiliar, tostones are fried plantains. Not as popular as their cousins, sweet plantains, but just as delicious. Oh and those little guys in the back there? Those are chicharones, aka fried pork skin. I’m not the biggest fan, but Jon loves it. They’re not bad…just a little too much for me.

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You can buy plantains at your local grocery store (a local latin market would be better though…they have fresher ones). Jon cuts them into about 1 1/2 inch pieces and shallow fries them in a pan until they’re browned. Then he places them in the plantain skin and flattens them. Then back to the oil they go to finish off. A little sprinkle of salt and they’re ready for eating!

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Not the greenest meal, but boy was it delicious!

Other cuisines I can’t ever get enough of: Mexican, Italian and Vietnamese.

What are your favorite cuisines?

 

Chicken Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

Before I get into my culinary adventure of the week let’s recap the past few days shall we?

I started the weekend off with doing the infamous “Fran” WOD at CrossFit.

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It’s a no joke workout. I managed to finish in 7:52 with mostly using a 30 lb weight for the thrusters and a band for the pull ups. I actually started off with 40 lb, but had to scale it down after the first round.

I also made some CrossFit goals for the year 🙂

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I’m just starting to learn how to do kipping pull ups, which makes it easier to do a pull up. So far I’m not so successful, but everyone keeps telling me it’s a movement you just need to keep practicing and then one day it will “click”.

Saturday was a fun filled day. After CrossFit, Jon and I took Maddie with us to the Saturday Morning Market. After battling the crowds for an empanada and a smoked turkey leg we walked down to North Shore Dog Park so Maddie could play. This is the second time we’ve been to this dog park and will probably be the last. The whole park is pretty much dirt with pockets of mud (ew) and Maddie doesn’t seem to like it too much. She won’t try to play with any of the dogs and just runs to the gate like she wants to leave. Jon ended up taking her to our usual park later on in the day and she had a much better time. Maybe she just missed her doggie friends? 🙂

Later that night we met up with a group of friends at our fav bar, Ale and the Witch.

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It was a grand time. Good friends, good conversation, good band. And I discovered the awesomeness that is Zombie Killer cider.

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Now, on to my latest culinary adventure. The more time I spend in the kitchen and study recipes, the more I’m becoming more comfortable with adapting recipes and making them my own.

Case in point: Chicken Broccoli Quinoa Casserole.

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I’ve mentioned before about how much my inner housewife loves casseroles. Seriously, they’re so easy.

I’ve been in the mood for quinoa lately and we had some broccoli to use up so I looked through a few broccoli quinoa casserole recipes and decided to just go with the flow and adapt a few recipes to make my own.

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This came out soooo good. I loved the creaminess from the cheese, soup and yogurt, and the crunchiness of the broccoli. And adding the chicken made this meal a one dish dinner.

These kinds of recipes are very easy to adapt so feel free to experiment! Don’t like spice? Leave out the red pepper flakes and sirachi. Or you could use more greek yogurt in place of the soup. Or chicken stock instead of vegetable stock. So many variations!

What recipes have you created lately?

Welcome 2013!

Happy 2013 everyone!

I hope everyone had a fun time celebrating…and not TOO much fun 😉

Jon and I started the year off with fun and friends. There were no parties going on and we didn’t want to brave downtown so we decided to just stay in. Our neighbor and friend, Ashley, joined us!

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Hey, we figured we could still dress up even though we were staying in!

Jon and I made some yummy appetizers for us to snack on throughout the night.

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Stuffed mushrooms, Zannie’s Black-Eyed Pea Dip, spinach artichoke dip and ramaki (bacon wrapped water chestnuts).

The drink of the night was pomegranate prosseco cocktails. Basically prosseco with a little fresh pomegranate juice and pom seeds for garnish. Delish!

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It may have been this cocktail that inspired our ’90s dance party…it started with Ashley wanting to do the Macarena. Then I played Spice Girl’s Wannabe. From there we were yelling out nostalgic songs faster than our fingers could type into the YouTube search bar. Christina Aquilera, Backstreet Boys, Blink 182, Everclear, Natalie Imbruglia, New Found Glory, Aqua, Ace of Bass…it was all played!

As midnight drew nearer we decided to go downtown to see the fireworks. We parked by the Dali museum and had a perfect view.

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Happy New Year!

After sleeping in the next day, we headed over to my friend Lora’s. She was having a get together in her complex’s courtyard, where they were there was a live band playing.

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Collared greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread for a lucky and prosperous new year!

As the sun started to set Jon and I headed to the dog park with Maddie. And we took a nice stroll along the waterfront.

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Picked up Taco Bus on the way home and watched Looper, which was really good!

It was the perfect first day of the new year!

Now, on to what my plans are for 2013…

I still want to keep last years goals in mind, but this year I want to get more specific in some of my goals in an attempt to actually achieve them. I also want to carry with me certain thoughts and attitudes throughout the next year (overall goals).

Overall Goals

Be Positive

I feel like I’m already a pretty positive person, but it never hurts to be more positive, right? I do consider myself a realist, but at the same time I always try to see the silver lining in bad situations. This year I hope to keep and enhance this mindset, as well as spread my positivity onto others as well.

Be Healthy

Obviously I love CrossFit and want to continue with that. I have a feeling I’ll be accomplishing a lot of fitness goals as I continue on with CrossFit! And obviously I want to continue eating healthy, which to me is “everything in moderation” and making sure I get my fruits and veggies in.

Be Happy

There are some areas in my life that still get me down. I need to find ways to fix them. Life is too short to be unhappy! I want to live a happy life and stress less (don’t we all?)

Be Successful

I want to continue making opportunities for myself. I want to continue to educate and train myself for a successful career.

Read More

I go in phases where I’ll read one book after another and then suddenly I’ll stop reading for months. I love reading and I love books so I hope to start going to bed an hour earlier so I can get my reading in. Also, I need to start reading the news every day to keep up with what’s going on in the world.

Love More

Love me more. Love Jon more. Love my mom more. Love my friends more. Love people more. By this I mean showing my love more and loving more by understanding more.

Specific Goals

Make a Savings Plan

I don’t know what is holding me back on this…I’ve been meaning to get a savings account for over a year and just haven’t done it yet. I also really, really need to start a 401k or some sort of retirement savings.

Enhance My Blog

I plan to make the switch to self-hosting soon! And from there I hope to give the blog an uplift. Also, I want to comment more on my fellow blogger’s blogs, read some new blogs and participate more in the local blogger community.

Start Volunteering at a Soup Kitchen

This is something Jon and I have talked about doing together. I volunteer through Junior League and with other organizations, but I want to do something more and have a direct impact. This seems like something we can easily fit into our weekly schedule.

Start a Journal

I have a friend who writes in a journal every morning and I’ve been wanting to do this for so long. I want to free write each morning in hopes of discovering more about myself.

De-clutter Each Month

Clutter seems to create itself constantly. I’d like to set up a weekend each month where we go through the house and get rid of unneeded items.

Cook Once a Week

Jon has been taking over the kitchen lately, but I’d still like to get in there and keep up my cooking skills each week.

Start Recycling

Another thing that we’ve been meaning to start doing, but haven’t yet. St. Pete doesn’t recycle, but there is a recycling center just down the street from us so it would be easy to drop our items off there. No excuses!

Start Buying Produce at Local Markets

Yet another thing Jon and I have talked about, but haven’t done yet. Publix is just so convenient, but we’re constantly disappointed by the quality of produce. Any local market suggestions?

What are your goals for 2013?

Motivation

I thought this workout was hard, but I had no idea what was coming on Saturday.

Every now and then my CrossFit box does a hero workout that’s dedicated to a fallen solider or a certain person who is considered a hero. These workouts are usually pretty intense and longer than most WODs.

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On Saturday our WOD was dedicated to Victoria Soto, a teacher of Sandy Hook Elementary who died while trying to save her students.

This workout was really tough. After the first round I was already ready to wave my white flag. I was really lacking motivation. But then I thought about Victoria and why we were dedicating this WOD today. We were doing this as our tribute to her. For being brave. For being strong. For being a hero. These thoughts gave me that extra push I needed to keep going. By the last round it was like I left my body. I was on autopilot, going through the movements until I was finished.

My results: 33:40 (40# 1st rd/35# 2nd rd/30# last 4 rds, step-ups, 20# KB)

When it comes to working out, it’s really hard for me to motivate myself. That’s why I love group classes so much. Everyone else around me is working their butts off so I need to as well! Anytime I start to slow down a coach calls out “Come on Katie, let’s go!” and that’s enough to give me a bolt of energy.

When it comes to life motivation comes easy to me. I’m a planner and organizer by nature. I live by to-do lists. If I have a goal in mind all I have to do is think of the end result and it’s enough for me to kick in gear whatever steps I need to take to get to that goal.

Motivation is different for everyone. Some people can motivate themselves, others need a little help from others. Sometimes motivation comes in the form of a song, a quote, a book, a photo or a good conversation.

As 2012 comes to a close I encourage you all to pinpoint what motivates you. Whether it be for working out or for life in general. This is the motivation that’s going to help us all achieve our New Year’s goals and resolutions so it’s important to know what gets you moving!

It was a nice, quiet weekend.

Saturday I had plans to see Lincoln with my friends Kyle and Lora. Seems like everyone else had the same idea as Lincoln was sold out when we got to the theater! The whole theater was bustling with people so we gave up and caught up at Starbucks instead.

Later that night we all met up again (with Jon, Kyle’s fiance Jesse, and friend Karen) for dinner at The Avenue. I’ve been to The Avenue a few times and have always enjoyed their food. But now that I’ve been to Engine No. 9 I have to say I don’t think their burgers cut it for me anymore 😦 After dinner Lora and Karen headed home while the rest of us had a drink at World of Beer and then another at Central Avenue Oyster Bar. We don’t see Kyle and Jesse a whole lot so it was great to spend time with them…lots of interesting and funny conversations!

Sunday was a day filled with deliciousness.

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Walnut and wheat germ pancakes topped with fried apples.

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Short rib sandwiches with carrot ginger soup.

Yum and yum!

We have no real plans for NYE tonight and I am perfectly content with that. I don’t want to go downtown and deal with craziness and no friends are throwing parties. I am actually looking forward to curling up in my pjs with a glass of champagne and watching a movie. That may sound boring, but it sounds like the perfect NYE to me!

Hope everyone has a safe and happy new year!

Foodie Friday: Naturebox

One eating habit that is hard for me to kick is not having enough variety. Dinner is always varied, but I usually always have the same breakfast, lunch and snacks and it can get quite boring.

For snacks, my go-tos are usually hummus and carrots/pretzel crisps, greek yogurt with fresh fruit, trail mix or almonds. Yummy, yes, but after eating them for long periods of time I yearn for something new to chow down on.

So when I first found out about Naturebox I loved the idea. Healthy, organic, all natural snacks delivered to my front door every month? Sounds awesome to me! However, the $20 a month price tag kind of threw me off. It’s not a huge amount of money (and there’s no extra charge for shipping), but I can be pretty stingy with money…especially since I didn’t even know if the snacks were going to be any good.

Then, about a month ago, Naturebox had a Black Friday deal where you could try your first box for $1. $1? Sign. me. up.

I love getting packages in the mail. It’s always like Christmas to me! And Naturebox does a lovely presentation.

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I was pleasantly surprised by all the variety of snacks. And everything was very tasty! After seeing what comes in a box I think $20 is a pretty good deal.

Here’s what came in my box:

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Dried pineapple. My biggest pet peeve about dried fruits is that there is ALWAYS added sugar when all I want to taste is the yummy fruit! These pineapple rings had one ingredient: PINEAPPLE. They were awesome.

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Almonds. I can’t remember the name of them, but they were one of my fav snacks in the batch. The seasoning dusted on these babies was addicting!

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Yogurt covered pretzels. These are usually very sweet and taste sinful. But again there was no added sugar so these were much better for you than normal yogurt covered pretzels. So good!

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Granola. I sprinkled some of this on greek yogurt for breakfast and it was heavenly. Nice, soft granola, which is my fav.

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Trail mix. Similar to other trail mixes I’ve bought, but that didn’t make it any less tastier! Chock full of nuts, seeds and dried fruit, this was a winner.

If you’re looking for a cure to “snack boredom” then I definitely recommend trying Naturebox. I can’t wait for my next box!

That Time I Threw Up At CrossFit

Ok, so I didn’t actually throw up. But I was VERYCLOSE.

Yesterday’s workout was a doozie.

Two rounds for time of:
Run 800 meters
30 Pull-ups
115 pound Front squat, 30 reps
30 Toes-to-bar
115 pound Power clean, 30 reps

Holy moly…this was the most difficult WOD to date. I’m sure it didn’t help that this was my first time back after 5 days. It’s crazy how much strength I lost in those few days. Plus I’d been sick for a few weeks before that so I was missing some WODs and taking it easy. I can usually bang out a pretty good string of pull ups, but I had to switch to the thickest band half way through the first round. And to toes-to-bar? Phishhh ya I’m not there yet at all.

I was really excited to be back…my body felt refreshed after a break and I was ready for a good butt kicking. But this almost killed me. Once I started the second round I started to feel nauseous and the last round of power cleans I really had to push through that urge of running outside and hurling. In-tense.

My results: 33:11 (40# 1 rd/30# 1 rd, black band pull ups, hanging crunches)

We had an out-of-town friend stay with us last night and Jon made an amazing dinner.

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Short ribs, celery root puree and sautéed broccoli rabe. Who needs a 5 star restaurant?

After dinner we went downtown to meet up with some other out-of-town friends that we hadn’t seen in a while. We started off at Ale and the Witch, but it was crazy busy so we decided to head over to Mandarin Hide.

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They had a HUGE beautiful Christmas tree that I was afraid was going to fall over on us.

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Nolet’s Nectar. Gin, grapefruit, grapefruit bitters and some other delicious sounding ingredients. The bitters threw me off upon first sip, but overall I really enjoyed this drink.

It was a great night and so nice to see old friends!

What’s the toughest workout you’ve done recently?

Getting Organized

I’ve always considered myself an organized person (partly because I’m a Virgo), but as I get older I find myself letting go of my organized self more and more. Call it laziness, call it indifference…whatever it is I’m just not as excited as I used to be at the thought of cleaning out closets.

But recently I’ve made myself do a few “housekeeping” tasks and I feel like a weight has been lifted. Now that the holidays are winding down it’s the perfect time to “start a new”. Here’s a few tips on how I helped myself…hope you find them useful too!

1. Clean Your Office

It’s a quiet week in my office. A few people have taken the whole week off and lots of outside people I deal with are also out for the week. So I have some extra time on my hands. My office is definitely a place that needs to be worked on. My desk always has papers all over it, I have no artwork or photos, there’s boxes everywhere…A few days ago I decided this was the perfect time to tidy up. I combined boxes and was able to eliminate so many ugly boxes and free up some space. I reorganized shelves, filed papers that had been piling up for MONTHS and moved around the few pieces of art and knick knacks that I have to make my space more appealing.

And it. felt. great. Anytime I clean my office I always think, “A clean office is a happy office.” And it makes me work better. Clutter can be very stressful and distracting, and now that it’s gone I can focus more!

Any suggestions on what I can add to my space to make it more productive? I’ve always thought of adding a plant.

2. Clean Out Your Email

You know how frustrated you get when you get yet another email offer from a store or magazine? I always get annoyed at how many emails I end up deleting. Finally, I decided that each email that came in that I didn’t want to receive any more, I was going to unsubscribe. I must have unsubscribed from like 20 email lists! And it feels good. Then I realized there’s a lot of those emails that I’ve read and never deleted and it’s just taking up space. So I’ve been going page by page and not only deleting unneeded emails, but also putting certain emails into folders. Having a cleaned up email inbox and knowing where to look for certain emails is SO rewarding!

Same goes for work email. I REALLY need to create folders and organize my emails in Outlook.

3. Catch Up On Your Reading

If you’re reading this then you must be an avid blog reader like moi 🙂 My bloglovin’ has been stressing me out with how many unread posts I have. I’ve gone through my lists, deleted the blogs I don’t seem to read or find useful anymore, pinned recipes that needed to be pinned and read ALL the unread posts that I wanted to read. I’m all caught up!

The same could go for any magazines or newspapers you have piling up.

5. Organize Files

I need to do this on our home computer and my work computer. Just simply putting all those random documents into their proper place. This will make things so much easier to find!

5. THROW AWAY UNUSED STUFF

Jon and I have talked about this, but haven’t yet accomplished it. There is so much junk that we’ve been holding onto that NEEDS to be thrown away. Old notebooks and books from school, items we never use, clothes we never wear. It needs to GO. This is especially noticed when trying to find room for new Christmas gifts. I have gone through my closet recently, but I feel like no matter what I do it always looks a mess and has too much stuff in it. But I still have drawers I need to go through that are becoming hard to shut. And a junk drawer that needs to be organized. Oi vey.

How do you organize your spaces?