Friday, May 2, 2014

My To-Do and Shopping List Printables

Holy shmaholy, a 24-hour trip back to the states, reconnecting with everyone and getting baby things in place took a lot out of me.  BUT I'M STILL HERE!!!  So much for that blog-planning binder, huh?  (Actually, it's super-useful in getting me back on track, right now).

Last time I featured 3 of my favorite keep-me-on-top-of-things printables created by other bloggers.  The really remarkable thing about those printables is that they work fantastically for me, without any changes or tweaks.  This hardly ever happens!  Usually even the best printables are almost-but-not-quite what I need.  Or they’re perfect and just waaaaaaaaay too pink and cutesy.  That’s been known to happen as well.  In these cases, I usually just wind up making my own.

So here are a couple of my own recent printables for you to download, use or be inspired by.  I’d be thrilled if these worked well enough for you to adopt seamlessly into your routine.  If not, feel free to riff on the ideas to make your own printables (but give me a shout-out if you do, and maybe I can share your printables back – there’s plenty of love to go around here).  And if these are almost-but-not-quite perfect for you, please let me know!  I can make versions of these available with small tweaks as well, or in different colors, if there’s interest.

First up is my List of Doing (direct PDF download)!  I was inspired by this almost-but-not-quite-perfect-for-me to-do list printable from Mommy Tracked (click for even more great printables).  While it’s a cute, solid printable, I found I didn’t use the “score-card” section much, and I really needed a running list of longer-term to-dos to help me keep track of things.

So my list is divided into three columns – this week, next week and beyond!  I pretty much concentrate on “this week,” tackle some “next weeks” if I find myself with some time to kill and ignore (without losing track of!) “beyond.”  As the weeks tick by, I cross things off of “beyond” and “next week” and move them to the left as needed.  If I complete a recurring task, I’ll immediately jot it down with its next due-date in the appropriate column, to keep things trucking along.

Next up is my List of Shopping and Eating (also a direct PDF download).  Meal planning has been a life-saver for me.  We eat out a LOT less when I’ve got a plan for the week, and we eat better at home too.  Sitting down on a certain day of the week with some cookbooks helps me actually get around to USING the cookbooks and trying out some new recipes, keeping us out of ruts and night after night of hotdogs and frozen spinach (my go-to "screw it, I'm pregnant!" meal).  I put my big, involved meals on the weekends and leftovers or crockpot meals on days I know we’ll have a lot to do.  I also will make-ahead some breakfast and lunch items during the weekend, if I’m feeling on top of things (big pots of oatmeal, things like ants on a log, pre-cut veggies and dips like pesto, sauces to slap on some meat for a quick, easy dinner).  And, of course, I always stay flexible and alter the meal plan to fit our week as it happens, not the other way around.  Kids, I could do a whole post on meal-planning ideas!

I love the idea of having a meal plan and shopping list on one printable.  I typically do my meal planning on Wednesday and my shopping on Thursday, so that’s how the days of the week are laid out here.  I could easily rework this printable to start on different days of the week, though, if there’s interest.

So there ya go!  Two of my most-used printables.  Feel free to use them, share them, make them yours.  I hope you find them as helpful as I do.  And stay tuned for the next and final post in this series of sanity-saving printables – my vacation packing lists!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Other People's Printables!

Much beloved and free printable planners

When I'm on my game, I'm pretty organized.  I'm good with calendars and lists - basically the less I have to keep in my head, the better I function!  This keeps me plugging along in a happy, generally on-top-of-things state until something goes insane, and then I let go of...many things, and first on the list is usually my lists.  But here's the thing:  I find that when I start from a place of being organized and on top of things, then when disaster strikes (pregnancy-induced insomnia, revolution in the streets, the specter and reality of Russian invasion, cancer in the family OR SOME DELIGHTFUL COMBINATION THEREOF) I don't fall as far, I don't crash as hard, I don't actually run out of clean underwear and it's a lot easier to claw my way back to a functional existence!

Home organization binders and whatnot seem to be all the rage on teh homey intarwebz these days, and I find a lot of the printables out there to be extremely helpful.  So over the next few posts, I'm going to share with you some of the printables that are currently helping me wrap my mind back around my life.  Today we're starting with three of my favorite printables-I-didn't-come-up-with (that are, of course, free - disposable income or no, we're still cheap bastards around here when we can get away with it)!

Russia still looms large to the east, but life in Kyiv is, if anything, back to better-than-normal.   And we're trying to get back to normal too.  Hopefully these will help you out as well, whether you're trying to scale Mt. Holy Crap along with me, or just trying to plug along at a sustainable pace.

The Daily Docket free printable planner page
The Daily Docket

First on my list of lists-that-keep-my-life-together is definitely the Daily Docket, from the The Art of Simple.  This is your basic daily planner sheet, and it happens to work an absolute charm for me with no tweaks or alterations (and I can be pretty picky when it comes to these things)!  In particular, I appreciate that the daily schedule and to-do-list are melded into one list.  This keeps me from cramming in more to-dos than I'll have time to accomplish in a day packed with meetings or whatever, and helps me to visualize when I'll be able to get certain things done.  You can download a couple of iterations of the docket at the link just below the photo above, including a pocket-sized version, and also browse the other great printables by The Art of Simple.

Goal Setting Planner free printable
Goal-Setting Planner

Next up is a neat set of goal-planning worksheets by Dani Schnakenberg Studios. There's a lot I'd like to accomplish in the foreseeable future, and I have a knack for launching forward on something guns blazing either to then run out of steam or...direction, I guess.  Or realize that this OTHER thing I'd been neglecting needs urgent attention and then drop the first ball entirely.  This is a good tool to help you collect your thoughts, plan a roadmap and keep yourself focused.  Find the printable at the link below the photo.

Blog Planner free download
2014 Blog Planner

Aaaaaand of course one of my goals is to build up this here blog into something cool and, um...reliable.  So I've started using what I believe is the awesomest blog planner ev4r.  Seriously, I looked at a LOT of blog planners, and while there are a BUNCH of very functional and attractive ones out there, this one won my heart and has been working great.  This one comes in three styles from the eminently talented A Well Crafted Party. You can find all three at the link below the photo.  You do have to sign up for her newsletter to get access to the free downloads, but it's not spammy at all.  You won't regret it!

Much beloved free printable planners I didn't make

So there you have it.  I hope you find these as helpful as I hope I find them myself.  :-D  Ok, I'm already finding them to be extremely helpful.  May we all find some peace and quiet by getting things down on paper where we can safely forget about them for a bit, without dropping any balls.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Easy-Edit Bunting Printable

I mentioned in my last post how amazing our Ukrainian staff at work has been throughout this difficult time in the history of their country.  At work, we decided to thank them by taking over a window in the section and covering it with notes from the American officers letting them know how much their strength and dedication mean to us.  We taped our notes up under a big bunting "thankyou," recreated here in my apartment.

And as a big thank YOU, for coming back and checking despite my extended absence from the blog, I'm putting up the template I created for the bunting as a free printable.  It's a word document, so you can just plug in whatever letters you want on each triangle and go, or you can futz with the fonts and colors to your heart's content!

Tape your bunting triangles to some pretty ribbon or whatever.  I used kitchen twine.  Dental floss would probably also work a treat.  Then tape or tie your garland up to wherever you want to see it displayed.  At work I just taped the triangles directly onto a window.

Friends, as much as I'd like to get on a real regular posting schedule, I'm not sure when that is going to happen.  We're fine, but things remain crazy.  (More on that later...maybe).  I DO have projects in the works, some of which I actually NEED to get done pre-baby, some basically ready to post but for pictures.  Etc.  So apologies in advance for the continued sporadic nature of the posts.  While I hope to up frequency, I won't tell you to expect a whole lot of consistency for a while.  But I do promise I'm not going anywhere!

Shared on The Girl Creative's Sunday Best Link Party.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Recipe: Easy Eggdrop Soup

My poor husband, who shall remain nameless, is miserably sick right now with a nasty sinus infection.  So soup happened.

Eggdrop soup has always been one of my favorites.  As a kid, it was as ubiquitous and necessary a dish at a Chinese buffet as the fortune cookie, or those ridiculous little fried doughnut-ball things that were covered in sugar (you know the ones).  Turns out eggdrop soup is like...the second easiest soup in the entire world to make.  Second only to warmed up clear broth.

So here's what ya do!

Easy Eggdrop Soup (as opposed to the difficult kind, which does not exist)

Prep time:  stupid quick
Cook time:  stupid quick
Serves:  this is enough to make 2 huge bowls, or 4 small bowls, of soup


  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 dash five spice powder (not too much)
  • 1 slice fresh ginger

  • Dump the stock into a pot, and add all other ingredients except the eggs.
  • Bring the stock to a boil.  While it's heating, beat eggs lightly in a separate bowl.
  • Once the stock is boiling, reduce to a simmer.
  • Slowly pour in the eggs, stirring constantly.  The eggs will feather out and cook all whispy-like.

Tips and Variations

  • Paleoize it:  Soy sauce contains gluten and (obviously) soy.  Substitute coconut aminos for the soy sauce for a squeaky-clean paleo version.  Or for a gluten-free (but still soy-full) version, use tamari.
  • If I really loved my nameless husband, I'd have snipped some fresh scallions over our bowls of soup.  But, know how it is.
  • You can really use any stock you have on hand.  Chicken stock will give you the classic clear broth, but full disclosure:  I used homemade goose stock here.
  • Serve with hot tea - oolong tea is the traditional choice for the classic Chinese-buffet experience.  For the sickie, I made Pink Pepper Chai from Savoy Tea Co.  And for myself - Lapsang Souchong from The Tao of Tea.  This last tea hails from Wuyi, China, so it was definitely the most authentically Chinese thing on our table tonight.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Слава Україні!

Well, it's been nearly a month since I've posted anything here.  I know I said I wouldn't be talking about work on this blog, but sometimes the rest of it just doesn't make any sense unless I do.  So lest you think I've abandoned this blog entirely, here's a little bit about what's been going on in our neck of the woods.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti
If you keep up with the news, you'll know that there's been a good deal of unrest and turmoil in Ukraine lately.  (And if you don't keep up with the news, please Google it - it's worth knowing about!)  The short version is that the people of Ukraine rose up in protest against a regime that had been robbing them blind for years.  The epicenter of these protests was Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Squre, in Kyiv not too far from our apartment.  The protests began peacefully, but escalated to violence before the end, with protesters being kidnapped from their hospital beds and tortured, protesters lobbing bricks and molotov cocktails at lines of riot police sent to clear the Maidan and snipers shooting at protesters from tall buildings not long after we last spoke.  Since then, Russia has invaded Crimea, a region of Ukraine with close historical, ethnic and linguistic ties to Russia.

A line of protesters faces down a line of Berkut riot police, before the worst of the violence

Needless to say, it's been a stressful few weeks (few months, if we're being honest).  We've been working extra shifts at the embassy on nights and weekends supporting our diplomatic efforts, supporting visits of high-level officials from Washington and making sure that American citizens in Ukraine have access to the support they need.  We spent a week living in a hotel room with our cats because our apartment was too close to the flash points.  We've been riding an emotional roller coaster as every time it seems like the situation is headed toward a peaceful resolution - Russia freaking invades the country or something!!!  

Secretary of State John Kerry lays flowers and lights a candle at the Shrine of the Fallen in Kyiv

We're physically and emotionally exhausted, and our apartment is barely functional.  But as rough as it's been for us, it has been an order of magnitude harder on our Ukrainian colleagues.  Our local colleagues are a great bunch.  They are trustworthy, reliable, fun to work with and great at their jobs.  And they held up, and continue to hold up, under tremendous pressure, putting in the extra hours right along side us while their city was literally burning.  When it's YOUR country that all this is happening to...that's something that those of us who were born and raised in the U.S. truly cannot fathom.

The Maidan barricade on Khreshatik

Anyway, all that to say that I haven't given up on the blog - I swear!  Things are back to a sort of normal in Kyiv, at least.  The violence is over, the streets are safe.  Really, although several government buildings were deserted when the Yanukovych administration left, there has been no looting whatsoever, which to me says a lot about the honor and character of the Ukrainian people!

A young boy at the protests with his parents, before the violence escalated
I have no idea what will happen in Crimea or in general in the coming weeks.  But I do know that it's time to get things back to normal.  Time to clean house, time to start cooking meals again, and time to start indulging in my creative outlets - like that knitting pattern I've been working on FOR EV ER, and this blog in general.

I've got a recipe I'll post tomorrow, some printables I'll put up for download, and plenty of other projects and fun things in the works, as the smoke continues to clear.  I hope you'll stick around and enjoy everything that's coming next!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sasha's Top 10: Valentine's Day Roundup

Valentine's Day is less than a week away, and boy I've been surfing Pinterest like I have a room full of baby furniture that I don't want to assemble!  Or something.

Anyway, I'll be the first to admit, there's a lot about Valentine's Day that makes me gag.  I don't go in for artificial sugar, y'know?  Food coloring, heart vomit and sparkly, glittery, "LOOKIT HOW IN LURVE WE ARE, SHNOOPY SHNOOPY!" are really not my thing.  That said, it can be a fun excuse to show a certain someone or someones in your life how much they mean to you - said someones to include significant others, children, good friends, cats or even thy sweet self.  Also chocolate.  There is SO MUCH CHOCOLATE lying around this time of year, and that can only be a good thing.

So I've compiled a collection of Valentine's Day ideas that I actually quite enjoy.  I think there's something for everyone here, so I hope that no matter who you are or who you're with, you'll find something you can enjoy here.

These decadent cupcakes are perfect for you, your sweetie or your best friend.  They're impressive to look at, easy to make, and Lemon Sugar lays out the whole recipe for you.

Step-by-step instructions on how to create your own edible chocolate cups, to fill with whatever kind of berries or deliciousness you want, really.  Or you could spend lots of money for the same thing at Godiva.  I vote handmade, of course!

If, like me, you're actually capable of getting sick of all the ooey-gooey sugary crap you have to wade through this time of year, this simple technique will be just the thing!  Easy, and healthy and bite-sized!  The darker the chocolate you use, the more anti-oxidants you get, you know.

An easy, personalized gift - perfect if you have kids, or are in a polyamorous group relationship.

Oh man, I would TOTALLY have my husband, who shall remain nameless, wake up to this on Valentine's Day!  If Valentine's Day weren't on a workday this year.  Instead, I think I shall blunder around trying to put clothes on right-side-out before the sun rises and save this for another year (and the idea for another holiday!)

No really, you have GOT to check out this guy's Etsy shop.  There are many more cards where these came from, each one as geeky and great as the last!  I don't care what you think of Valentine's Day, if Yoda Cupid and Heart-Throb Lando don't make you smile, then man...I can't help you.

I love these printables.  Lovelovelove them!  They're cute without being cutsey, they're literary and they really mean something.  If you don't know how to express your love, you can't go wrong letting the bard do it for you, with these free printables.

Another quick, healthy snack that still gets the "look, we're going for pink things that are vaguely heart shaped and sweet" thing across.

I love this wreath, because it fits the theme with a nod to the lingering winter.  

These free printable cards say things like "You are pretty much my favorite husband," and "You're the one I want to be next to when you're on your computer and I'm on mine."  They're awesome cuz they're true!

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Buttercream frosting recipe

Now I'm not saying I'm above eating cake frosting with a spoon out of the can, but let's face it:  making your own buttercream is the way to go if you've got a few extra minutes (which you do while your cupcakes are baking).  It is stupid simple, all natural and ridonkulously tasty.  Here's the recipe I use.


  • 1.5 cups (3 sticks) butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Beat the butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  • Sift the sugar over the butter and mix together.  Start on low speed so you don't poof a cloud of sugar right into your face, and then increase to full speed.
  • When combined, your buttercream should be frosty and spreadable.  If your icing is more crumbly than spreadable, add more butter 1 tbsp at a time until you reach the right consistency.  If your buttercream is still buttery and slippery, sift more sugar into the bowl, 1/8 cup at a time, until it looks how it's supposed to.
  • Splash in the vanilla extract and mix everything up well.
Tips and Variations:
  • Your buttercream will be the color of whatever butter you used - likely the yellower the better.  It takes coloring well, though.
  • For some color and added flavor, try adding pureed strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.
  • For still more flavor (but not necessarily much in the way of noticeable color), try adding some mashed banana or banana extract.
  • A small amount of beet juice will get you a nice, vibrant red or pink without actually tasking of beets.
  • A small amount of tumeric will get you a nice yellow color without actually tasting of Indian food.
  • For April Fools cupcakes, dump in the tumeric and add some curry powder.  MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
Basic Non-Ugly Icing Technique:
I am not a professional cake decorator, and I do not have children who require Martha Stewart-level birthday confections.  I do not own a piping bag, and if I did I wouldn't know what to do with it (ALL those NOZZLES!).  But here's a cheap and basic way to ice cupcakes that comes out a bit more polished-looking than haphazard slathering.  I also used this technique to create the dots around the base of this cake.
  • Let your cupcakes cool completely before icing, or your buttercream will become a melty, runny mess (or at the very least, be hard to spread evenly).
  • Transfer buttercream into a ziplock bag and snip a tiny bit off of one corner.
  • Squeeze the buttercream out onto the top of each cupcake in a spiral pattern.  If you work from the outside in, you'll be able to form a nice peak in the center.
  • You can leave the spiral pattern as-is.  This will also give you a good, even base if you're inclined to smooth everything down with a butter knife.