It is a Wednesday in May and I am STRUGGLING. If you are in education at all, you know that the closer you get to June, the harder it is to even get out of bed in the morning. Powering through is the only way and that is hard when you are a high school counselor and you have logged 40+ hours of proctoring AP and state exams in the past month. By the end of June, I will be well into 60 hours. Being locked in a room that I can’t leave for hours with kids I don’t even know can be mentally damaging. Especially when your job is usually to run around and talk to people and solve problems. Also, I have “testing responsibilities” like reading the same instructions about bubbling in answer sheets and cell phones being prohibited, over and over and over again.
But really, I shouldn’t complain. I have racked up a lot of hours on Pinterest and gained a lot of useful knowledge about gardening in the past couple weeks. They might be testing, but I am pinning. I also have had a lot of time to THINK, which is never really a good thing for me. I get a bit overwhelmed by my own thoughts and when you are trapped in a room and can’t do anything that feels productive, your thoughts start instigating fights with you. Therefore, I started a bullet journal this week at the recommendation of an awesome teacher friend. I had never heard of it before she started one herself, but it is pretty well known apparently and very intriguing. It is basically a way of using journaling as method for motivating, planning, and brainstorming. You use shorthand methods that are quite helpful and there is a “system” that is much more flexible and non-linear than your traditional planner.
I resisted starting one at first because I keep my Outlook and Google calendar well-organized (subjective opinion), but there are just things that you don’t tend to put into those calendars. Like lists, menus, ideas, and random things I want to remember. I always have a notebook nearby to write down ideas in (one in the coffee table, one in the nightstand, one in the car, one on my desk, even one outside next to the porch swing), but I found myself starting the same stuff in new notepads and notebooks all the time. I wanted everything in the same place, but didn’t know how to go about it without everything looking really messy. And so enters the Bullet Journal.
I found this canvas notebook last year at Target and I really should have bought like three of them as like gifts or just to keep. So freaking useful and cute. It is a soft, cute canvas and has a zippered pouch for your pens and post-its. Duh. Every notebook should come like that. I got it for like $12 but the closest one to it is on Amazon for $24 which is way overpriced. I will hopefully be able to find a notebook filler that fits inside it as it is a slipcover! Brilliant. I use the Starbucks card in the pocket as a mini ruler. I know, I am a genius.
So what I like about bullet journaling is that you can do all your thinking and planning in one notebook because there are different “layouts” you can use. I didn’t come up with any on my own, I just googled until I found different styles that worked for what I wanted. I am only sharing mine because it shows a good crappy one. The ones you see online are so adorable, thoughtful, and well-executed. I got inspiration from them, but unless it goes in an oven and gets frosting smeared on it, I don’t have the patience for artsy stuff.
So far I have the following pages:
Index: Very important. It just tells me where my pages are and I like that it doesn’t have to be in any order. You don’t have to put every page in the index either, just the ones you might want to look up. I had some cheap Washi tape from the dollar store to dress it up and let me know. I started my journal after having used like 20 pages randomly for grocery lists, menus for birthday dinners, and to-do lists so I clipped the rest off and started here.
Future Planner: This is not as important to me, but I included it because one of the ones I saw online had it. At first I was like, eh I should have skipped this, but over the course of the last couple days, I found that I like it for planning vacations! Looking at my days off and when holidays are, I realized I could start planning out family vacations and weekends away better like this. I have gotten into a bad habit of realizing I have a three day weekend coming and then trying to book affordable and pet-friendly places last minute. This way, I can start planning ahead of time which is the whole point of the Future Log.
Month Tracker: I have done May and June only so far. So you write in all the dates of the month and then the first letter of the day. This is more like a calendar/event tracker.
Left: Daily To-Do List: You just start it on whatever page you have and continue it from there.
Right: Household Chores. I am working really hard at establishing some better habits lately so I divided up the household chores into days and my goal is to do a little everyday.
I haven’t quite gotten a hang of all the symbols yet but this is my understanding (although everyone does it a little different)
- Square= Task (you can fill it in halfway or all the way depending on how much you did! I love that since sometimes I start but don’t finish)
- Triangle= Event (fill it in once you attend)
- Dash or circle or dot= Note or idea
- Exclamation point= something you want to remember
- Arrows= to migrate something to the next day. Clearly, I do this all the time
Daily Tracker: This page is my favorite so far! So like I was saying about healthier habits, this tracker allows you to list the things you want to do daily or monthly and then you fill it in as you go. That way you can track how often you are doing something. I think that these two pages are going to be a game changer for me.
Weight Tracker: So I just moved the chart I made for tracking my weight loss to my bullet journal. I will shade in boxes as I move closer to my ultimate goal weight! I love that I have the healthy dinners that I rotate right on the next page. On the page behind that are restaurants that we can eat healthy at.
So there we have it. Another method for me to stay accountable and more organized. I think people assume I am organized because I do so much thinking and planning, but I am actually a mess most of the time. You should SEE some of the bullet journals on Pinterest. Don’t actually. They are great for ideas and templates, but make you think your journal should be perfect, mistake-free, and flourish-y. I tried a little bit, but mostly I was bored while proctoring so I doctored up the pages a little and tried to not care about my lack of artistic ability. My friend Annie uses a cheap composition notebook but makes it beautiful with her gratitude page, cute handwriting with fine point markers, and some washi tape on the edges. I needed a fancy notebook to make mine pretty, but I love to shop so I am okay with that…
I think my headline promised lemon bars. This recipe is AMAZING. I promise. Every single time.
Oh wait, except for that time that my dad brought home salt and sugar in bulk and I used two cups of salt instead of sugar for the filling. I was more sad about the wasted, fresh squeezed lemon juice and butter than I was about the fact that I had a mouthful of salt from just one tiny crumb. Although that was pretty damn bad.
So I have made this a countless number of times and they get a lot of compliments. They taste like summer. Ryan tries not to play favorites with the things I bake, but this one gets requested the most in the spring and summer. If you know me at all, you know I prefer cake to cookies and bars, but I crave these like crazy when the weather is beautiful like is has been in WA lately. Just lighter and more appropriate than cake. In the summertime, I bake them with a cup of fresh blueberries in the filling. It is beautiful with the blueberries popping out of the bright yellow bars and the sweet flavor contrast is really nice from the tang of the lemons. I have tried frozen but they made the filling watery and didn’t set up right so I don’t recommend it.
The crust is like shortbread and is very easy to press down into the pan, which I appreciate. What I like about this recipe is that it is the perfect combination of sweet and sour. I hardly ever put more than a little sprinkling of powdered sugar on it (and I just do that for how it looks). It sets up nice and doesn’t melt all over the place like some recipes I tried before discovering this one. It also has a perfect crust to filling ratio as I like a lot of crust on my lemon bars.
One of the best things I ever bought at TJ Maxx is this citrus squeezer that fits over a mason jar mouth. It has a strainer built in so it catches the seeds. Then my mason jar measures for me! Totally worth the $5 that I probably used my Rewards coupon from my TJMaxx credit card with.
I made these last weekend for Mothers’ Day and didn’t go with blueberries this time as they were ridiculously expensive. I am going to wait until my own blueberries grow up and the goal is to not buy any this year. I was thinking about waiting on sharing this recipe until I make them with blueberries this summer, but these are so great for picnics, graduation parties, and potlucks that I wanted to share now. Lemons have been way cheaper lately too! They are delicious without the blueberries as well and I couldn’t stop myself from taking one bite a day from the one leftover lemon bar for the week after Mothers’ Day. Oops.
I have actually been eating super healthy and clean six days a week, but am giving myself a lot of freedom one day a week. I would miss baking and pizza too much if I didn’t. The weight loss has slowed down a lot in the past month and I am trying to be okay with that. I need all these things I am working on to become real habits and so I have to be realistic. No more “lose weight fast” schemes for me. Slow and steady wins the race. Right? Right??? And I don’t want to imagine a life without these lemon bars anyways.
(adapted oh so slightly from Family Circle cookbook)
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup blueberries, rinsed (optional)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
4. While the crust is baking, in a large bowl, mix granulated sugar and flour. Whisk in eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon zest and juice. Fold in berries. Pour filling over crust.
5. Bake in 350 degree F oven until set (not jiggly), about 30 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack. Dust with the 1/4 cup or less of powdered sugar. Wait until completely cool before cutting for clean lines. Makes about 20 lemon squares.