Double it up Double it up

A great time saving tip that I recommend for busy people is to double up recipes.  Why, you ask?  Well, for one thing it really doesn’t take much extra effort to just make more of something.   You already have the ingredients out, the measuring cups or pans are already dirty and you are already in the kitchen cooking.  The reason it will make your life easier is that when you don’t have the time to cook, pulling a homemade ready made meal out of the freezer is easy.  Instead of stopping to get pizza, you can have a healthy meal that you prepared in advance. 

The other great thing about making extra is having left overs.  You can take them to work so you don’t have to buy lunch or you have them for dinner in a couple of nights.  It saves time and money when you cook in larger quantities.

It is also nice if you are having company over that may be unexpected or last minute.  You can pull out one of your delicious dishes from the freezer and still have time to tidy up before they get there.  They will be amazed and you will be less stressed if you have a back-up plan.  With a busy family comes uncertainty and a back-up plan is always a good thing to have.

One of my favorite recipes to double up on is cookies.  I never make one batch of cookies.  I always double it and freeze most of the dough.  I separate it into smaller containers and whenever my family wants fresh cookies, I just pull the dough out of the freezer and in 20 minutes we have freshly baked homemade cookies.  It does not take long when you pull the dough out of the freezer for it to soften enough to drop it onto a cookie sheet.  Make sure that you lable and date anything you put in your freezer so you can rotate and use the oldest first.

I hope that the next time you go to make chili or chocolate chip cookies that you will double the recipe and then pack some away in your freezer for the next rainy day or cooking craving!


Dust off your slow cooker and save time

When you are looking for ways to make your life easier, sometimes you need to look towards the tools in your home that you already have that you are under utilized.  I love my slow cooker.  I use it on a regular basis to cook delicious and hearty meals.  With a little planning, it can help make meal time easier after a long day at work.  

You can make one dish that you can stretch to make two or three dinners in a week saving you time and energy.  For example, you could roast a chicken in the slow cooker and enjoy that on the first night.  The next night, you could take the left over chicken, shred it and add some taco seasoning to have chicken tacos.  If you have more chicken left over, you could stretch it a third night and add it to salad with egg, bacon, avocado, tomatoes and some cheese for Cobb salads. 

The other nice thing to do with your slow cooker is to make a large batch of your favorite dish of chili, stew or soup and have it for dinner one night and freeze the rest to have in the future.  That way when you are at a loss for what to have for dinner, you can just pull out a serving of your homemade slow cooker masterpiece and just add a salad or some rolls for a complete meal.

Another great use for the slow cooker is for parties.  I often cook pulled pork in my slow cooker when having people over for a party.  I serve it with buns and coleslaw and people love it.  It cuts down on the amount I have to prepare before the party as I just put it all in the slow cooker and forget it.

A great website for slow cooker recipes is The Taste of Home Slow Cooker Recipes:  I like these recipes because they have reviews and include nutritional information for each recipe.

I hope that you will take a moment to plan a meal to cook in your slow cooker.  You will be glad you did when you come home from work and smell the delicious dinner that is hot and ready to eat.


Get your Groupon Coupon!

My favorite fairly new discount website is  This website offers discounts of usually a minumim of 50% off of the value of the daily offer.  How it works is that there is a daily coupon for a local business such as a local restaurant, wine bar, tour, museum, experience or merchandise in Seattle.  The offer will be for $40 worth of food or merchandise at the discounted price of $20.  Then, if enough people buy the groupon, then the deal goes through and you get your discount.  You then get your certificate e-mailed to you and you just print it to take with you and enjoy your discount.  You do have to check to make sure that follow any restrictions.  You may need reservations or there may be a restriction that you can’t use it on Valentine’s Day.  However, in my experience, I have not seen a lot of restrictions for the groupons.

Groupon offers daily coupons in many major cities.  You can look up any city you like such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. or San Francisco and they will have a deal of the day as well.  If you are travelling, it is nice to watch the groupon offers for that city for a few weeks so you can see if they offer anything that you might want to do while you are visiting.  I recently did this on a trip to New York City.  I got $60 worth of food for $30 in a restaurant I probably would have never found and it was the best meal of our entire trip.  Groupon also offers tourist type activities such as discounts on local attractions.  You might be able to get a tour or museum ticket that you were going to buy anyway but you can get for half-price.  You can also become a tourist in your own city by taking a tour that maybe you have been meaning to do but haven’t gotten around to it.  If you can do it at half-price, it would make it all the easier to go.

You can sign up on the groupon website to get a daily e-mail of the deal of the day.  It just takes a few seconds to glance at the e-mail and see if it is something your interested in or not.  The groupon usually expires at the end of the day unless there is limited availability and it sells out.  I have only seen that a few times.  So by all means, get your groupon!




Being organized = less stress

Do you find yourself stressed and rushed as you leave for work? A little evening planning can alleviate the stress and get you to work early instead of late. The more that you do the night before to prepare for your day, the easier the morning can be for you. For example if you go to the gym after work, pack your gym bag the night before. That way, you won’t be running around trying to find your favorite gym shoes before you have had your morning cup of coffee. Another great tip is to make your lunch and your snacks for the day and have them ready to grab on your way out the door in the morning. You can save money by not eating out and it will probably be healthier too.

If deciding what to wear is always a challenge or takes up too much time, you can decide on your outfit and lay out your clothes the night before. This is also a great tip for children that struggle with getting out of the door on time. Another tip for kids is making sure that their backpacks with their home work, permission slips and gym clothes are packed and ready to go. Leaving those things to gather in the morning can lead to forgotten items or documents. Being organized helps make responsibility easy for children and hopefully their day will go better too.


The Battle against being over-scheduled

Being a personal assistant, I love helping busy people organize their lives and make things easier by taking tasks off of their plate. That being said, I believe that it is always good to re-evaluate what you have in your daily, weekly and monthly schedule. We can become slaves to our schedule and it is good to ask yourself occasionally, “Is this really how I wanted to be spending my time?” If you are involved in a community organization and find that it has started taking up much more time than you originally committed to, it could be time to re-assess and set some new boundaries. It is important to keep your activities in check so that you are not exhausted which could lead to you neglecting your mental and/or physical health. If you are giving more of yourself than you are comfortable with, it could also result in feelings of being taken advantage of and being under appreciated. It is good to re-set your boundaries with whatever activity it is that has started to take over your day. If you do that, you will find you enjoy the activity more and you will have more time for yourself which gives you a more balanced and healthy you!!


What do to with that old cell phone? Help someone else!

A question that comes up when I am assisting my clients with cleaning out their spaces is, “What do I do with my old cell phones?” The good news is that a lot of charities will accept cell phones and it is good to recycle. Old cell phones have a huge impact on the environment and if they can be repurposed to help someone, everyone wins. Cell phones, even without a wireless plan, can always call 911 for emergency help. This allows old cell phones to be of great use to vulnerable populations. Some of the places that you can donate old cell phones are to senior centers, women’s shelters and senior citizens with disabilities or limited income. Another option is to donate your old cell phone to soldiers serving in the military. They can use a calling card to call home while they are serving our country. An important thing to remember is that you will want to erase the data on the phone before donation. Most cell phones have a “master reset” function which will clear your information. You will also want to verify that your account has been cancelled with your service provider. Donate away!!!


OHIO and I don't mean the state

This little acronym is helpful when sorting through anything but can be most impactful to change our lives when we apply it to paperwork. We have all done it, looked through a stack of mail or papers on our desk and dealt with the easy things and set the rest aside to be looked at later. Sometimes it may seem that the pile of paperwork did not get any smaller even after it was sorted. An acronym that I find helpful to solve this problem is OHIO. OHIO stands for Only Handle It Once. When you decide to sit down with a pile of paperwork it is best to do it next to the shredder and the filing cabinet so they are easily accessible. The key to only handle it once is to deal with each item individually and immediately. Once you are done with it, it should be put it in its proper place. If you need to make a phone call or fill something out, if at all possible, do it before moving onto the next piece of paper. This may seem easier said than done and I admit that it will take some practice. However, if you keep repeating the phrase in your mind while sorting through your stack of papers, you might find that it does get easier and quickly becomes a habit. Hopefully, a habit that will leave your world free of unnecessary paperwork and will cut down on the time you spend searching for that receipt you need because it is in your file where it belongs. Go OHIO!


Limiting your to-do list to get it done

I recently took a look at my to-do list and found that it was always too long. My solution was to break my list down into smaller portions and do a little bit each day. I limit my to-do list for each day to five things. This was a workable solution to the never ending list and found that I had a sense of accomplishment each day when the list was done. The beauty of a personal assistant is being able to finish your to-do list by having your personal assistant do the things that you would otherwise spend a lot of your free time getting done. There are some things that you will have to ultimately do yourself like renew your driver’s license. However, wouldn’t it be nice to have your personal assistant tell you what day of the week and when the Department of Motor Vehicles lines are the shortest so you can get it done fast. In addition, a personal assistant can help you prioritize and manage your to-do list so you don’t have to.


The Art of Delegation

As a personal assistant, I see times where people have a hard time letting go. Whether that be letting go of things that are creating clutter in their life or that household task that could really be done by someone else. We are all too busy. Too busy at work, too busy at home and too busy in our minds. Learning how and when to delegate is a skill and being able to really let the task be done by the person you are delegating to can be an emotional journey. The main hurdle in delegating something to someone else is figuring out what tasks can be delegated. With good instructions and a person who is willing to listen and pay attention to the details, you can gain hours in your day to do the important things in your day that no one else can do but you. This could include things like going to the gym, reading a story to your children and sitting down after dinner to spend time quality time with your spouse.


Welcome to The Zen Maker

I am excited to be starting a new chapter in my life with The Zen Maker. I am a personal assistant because I like to help people make their lives better, every day. This blog will be a place to come to find ideas on simplifying your life, organizational tools, and other helpful tips that will make your life better. You might be saying to yourself, I am not a movie star or the CEO of a large company, what am I going to do with a personal assistant? How much free time would you have if all you had me do for you was grocery shopping twice a month, picking up your dry cleaning and buying a birthday present and having it come to you gift wrapped? That might clear out two Saturdays worth of errands for you and allow you to enjoy your free time doing something else such as going to the zoo with your family, going away for the weekend or taking a day to spend with your loved ones. It is easy to get started and The Zen Maker packages and prices will be up on the website very soon. Stay tuned!!!