Ridiculously easy meal: Trader Joe’s marinated pot roast

Trader Joe's Marinated Cabernet Pot Roast. Super easy and yummy!

It is pot roast week and I forgot to add pot roast to my husband’s grocery list. (Insert head palm here.) So I ran up to Trader Joe’s for a few other things, and came back with a Cabernet Beef Pot Roast. Pre-marinated.  It looked good.

I always mix my own pot roast marinade. Usually with onion soup, beef broth and other seasonings. Throw it in the crockpot for the day and voila! Still a ridiculously easy meal.

But the Cabernet Beef Pot Roast marinade was good. Very good. And was even less work on my part. I just threw it in the crock pot and it was better than my original.

Looking forward to the leftovers tonight!

My first step at decluttering my son’s toys

A few ways I started to declutter all the toys in our houseIt’s a new year, and if you are on social media, it’s hard to miss that resolutions are in full swing. In my feed, everyone is decluttering. There are so many tips and tricks out there that I am having trouble decluttering the decluttering process!

However, I decided to take some of this advice to heart. ZJ’s toys were taking over our living space to a point where we were all a bit unhappy. I definitely had enough.

I would like to think we have an average number of toys — more than some and less than others. My two-year old was still a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of play choices, and they were poorly organized.

How I started to declutter my son's toys!

Help! I am surrounded!

In addition, we were constantly picking up after him. He does understand how to clean, but we can’t expect him to if there is no clear place where to stow his toys.

Since he is still young, we decided it was a good time to clean out the toys.

Here is what I did:

1. We have a toy storage bench in the living room. It works great but we let the toys flow out and take over the living room. I chose his favorite toys and found a place in the bins. Once the bins were full, that was it (for the most part).

Decluttering toddler toys Decluttering toys!

2. I put the leftover toys in a large plastic tub, and brought it to the basement. We also have a few toys in his room. He gets to enjoy them when we are downstairs or upstairs. Every few weeks, we’ll rotate the toys.

3. We put away the toys he has outgrown, or will soon outgrown, or that I simply didn’t like. This includes very loud electronic toys. These are marked to either be used again if we have another child or to be donated or given away.

This isn’t rocket science and this idea is not new. But in the few days since we did this, I can already see results.

ZJ can more easily focus on his toys. I can see a difference in his play and he has a new interest in toys that he hasn’t touched in a long time.

He is even happier and plays better on his own.

We are all happier that our living room is less cluttered.

Everyone has a different philosophy toward children and toys in the house. I’ve seen minimalism work quite well and I’ve seen families work with toys in every corner of the house. We didn’t go gung-ho with this process and kept a lot. We will regularly assess when a toy needs to leave circulation.

But we will keep out only what we have room for.

This one small step is showing us how curating the toys — even just a little — is working for us. And I got part of my living room back!

I found some good tips in these articles:

From one of my favorite bloggers, Janet Lansbury: Play Space Inspiration

Tame the toys: 5 great ways to manage the messes

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas! (3)I love January because it means the holidays are over, and the quiet allows us all to get back on track.  It was a particularly busy holiday season for our family this year, and I have a lot of shortcuts to catch up on!

ZJ is almost two years old. It’s amazing how much he grew up over the last year and how much more difficult it is keeping up with an active toddler. It’s also more fun!

This year, I will be focusing this blog on how to find shortcuts as we deal with growing children, or even just a busy life. I want to find more meals that are extremely easy and healthy (with minimally processed ingredients). I want to find ways to organize my time so I can get to the stuff that is important. I want to clean more efficiently (and ideally less often, but I am not optimistic on that point).

And most importantly, I want to let go of the stresses of being a parent and let JOY be more present in my life.

Here is to a joy-filled, less stressed new year for us all. Thanks for joining me at The Shortcut Mom as I try to figure this all out!

Happy New Year!

Kitchen hack: Clean your blender faster!

Clean your blender faster! #momhack

I love using my blender but sometimes the thought of cleaning it afterwards stops me in my tracks. No, it’s not that difficult to clean, but it does take a little extra effort.

And sometimes that extra effort needs to go toward a spirited toddler who is resisting his bath!

Recently I experimented with a green smoothie recipe and I was inspired to hack my blender cleaning. Why not let your blender clean itself?

After whipping up salad dressing or a smoothie, quickly rinse out your blender. Then add warm water and dishwashing soap to your blender.

Turn your blender on again, and voila! Perfectly clean. I can’t believe I never thought of this before.

(Caution: You will have suds on your counter if you fill your blender too high with water and soap. I speak from experience.)


Traveling with kids this holiday? Here’s my round-up of travel-tip resources

Good tip round-up for traveling with young onesHoliday travel isn’t always fun. It’s great when you get to your destination but the road traveled is often bumpier than normal, especially with kids.

Our holiday travel started last week and we have more miles to cover. This prompted me to research how to keep my kid somewhat pacified during our trips.

Here are some of my favorite resources and pieces of advice from the blogosphere:

1. What’s a road trip without music and videos? In addition to your kids’ favorites, Cool Mom Picks has found some awesome videos on YouTube for kids of all ages, perfect for a road trip.

Watch here: 14 of the best (this means fun!) YouTube videos for kids

2. I love this post on Kids Activities Blog. As the title suggests, the blogger lists more than 40 travel activity options for your children. I keep going back to this blog to find new ideas for our trips.

Read here: 40+ Tips for Road Trips with Toddlers & Preschoolers

3. Last month, the Life as Mom blog addressed a different aspect of family travel every day of the month. This series covers money saving tips, packing, kid tips and more.

Read here: Travel with Kids {A Series Recap}

4. Speaking of Life as Mom, I really like this post too: Tips for Flying with Kids

Holiday travel tips with kids

5. Check out  my earlier post on “How to fly with an 18-month-old.”  My favorite piece of travel gear was the carseat trolley pictured above. It made it easier to get the carseat to the gate and doubled as a stroller!

How to fly with an 18-month-old

6. Still need more? Red Tricycle created a list of the top 30 family travel blogs here.

Happy travels!

6 surprising walls to clean crayon off walls

6 surprising ways to clean crayon off your walls

Have your walls become a gigantic canvas for your kid’s crayon masterpieces?

My toddler son is starting to figure out that he can make a permanent artistic addition to our house. He has already colored blue scribbles on a white pillow sham and on our arm chair. No walls yet but I imagine that’s next.

It made me think: What’s most effective in cleaning up crayon markings?

I remember my mother scrubbing our walls furiously when my younger siblings would color on them. There’s gotta be a better way, right?

I did some digging and found some simple and surprising solutions to cleaning crayons off your walls.

1. Cucumber: Keep the peel on and just rub the outside of the cucumber on your wall. Seems crazy, right? I haven’t tried this yet but I will.

2. WD-40: Rumor has it that it will also clean crayons and markers off of furniture and appliances too.

3. Toothpaste: Make sure you use the regular paste. I don’t think the Spongebob Squarepants gel will work very well! (I’d also caution you to test this out somewhere first so you don’t ruin your walls or wallpaper.)

4. Mayonnaise: Let it sit for a few minutes before wiping off.

5. Goo Gone: Some mothers swear by this!

6. Blow dryer and dish soap: Heat up the crayon markings first with a hair dryer and then clean your walls with soap.

Of course, there are more common ways of removing crayon markings. The Magic Eraser sponge has supernatural properties and so do pencil erasers.

Our hope is that we took adequate preventative measures: Our living room walls are a darker blue, which we hope deters our budding artist!

Here are some more resources:

3 Ways To Get Crayon Stains Off Walls
21 Crayon Busters: How To Remove Scribbles From Walls
How to Get Crayon Off the Wall: 7 Speedy Solutions

It's so much fun to clean with a power drill!

Power drill cleaning: That’s what I’m talking about!

Do you ever run across a cleaning project that needs more elbow grease than you can muster? This pretty much describes my life!

We live in a house built in the 1940s. It has wonderful charm but also many of its original fixtures, which attract grime a lot quicker! Or at least it feels that way.

Use your power drill to get a deep clean!Recently I bought a brush attachment for our power drill. It’s a round bristled brush and it attaches to your drill just like a bit. It was relatively inexpensive — only $7 from Amazon.

And boy is this fun! Just turn the drill on and you have a crazy-strong cleaning machine.

I had a spot in my bathroom that I needed to attack. I loaded the drill, and applied the cleaning solution to the spot. I saw progress on grime that I’ve been working on for years!

I should warn you of two things:

  1. Depending on your drill, there can be some kick-back when cleaning. You are dealing with a powerful tool, mind you. You may have to adjust the settings so the brush doesn’t rotate as fast or as forcefully.
  2. Not all surfaces can take this kind of pressure. You should test an area first, or at least be very mindful. I would be ultra careful on surfaces like a bathtub, which may have a more delicate coating.

Even if you don’t need extra power, adding a drill to your cleaning routine makes it a lot more fun!

Cut up food for baby quicker! #Momhack

Mom hack: A quicker way to cut up baby food into tiny pieces

Do you regularly need to cut up food into little pieces? Try using a pizza cutter.

Every baby hits a magical age when he eats real solids (that aren’t liquid). You are not sure how much those four front teeth will really cut into the food, and you start chopping.  And chopping. And chopping.

For me, I spent plenty of time cutting ZJ’s food into baby portions. We transitioned into some baby-led weaning techniques that didn’t require a knife, but we did our fair share of slicing and dicing in the beginning.

A pizza cutter would make the task that much quicker!