Making Sense (and Order) Out of Pinterest

Everyday Adventures

Sometimes it just feels good to organize something!

Decluttering and organizing are right up there with a nice hot shower for busting through a creative block, but even when I’m not facing a challenge it’s just nice to sit back and see a nice, orderly space, you know? And since so much of my day (and yours, too, admit it) is spent online, it’s important to do some digital organization from time to time.

(Even though it’s a lot easier to ignore a digital mess–chances are we’re not going to trip over it!)

My current task is to get Pinterest under control. I was an early adopter but slow to actually put my account to good use. When I started planning a wedding, though, it became a really useful tool. Not only is it great for it’s intended purpose–keeping track of visual elements in a pretty package–it’s great for communicating. I created a board of engagement shots I liked and sent it to my photographer and we were able to work many of them in. Some didn’t work as well as others, but at least we gave them a try!

These days I mostly use Pinterest for keeping track of recipes. At first this was my least favorite thing–I own well over a hundred cookbooks and don’t even cook from a recipe half the time, so why do I need to pin other people’s recipes? Because there’s so many tasty things to try, of course! I’m not going to go into my menu planning method in this post (because I already covered it here) but instead of bookmarking the recipes I want to try in my browser, I’ve been saving them to my Foodie Goodness board. It’s a lot easier to click on them through the Pinterest app on my phone when I’m in the kitchen than to scroll through the Chrome bookmarks (which also could use some serious housekeeping). Of course now that I’ve started doing that, the FG board is getting a little out of hand.

What I really wish was that Pinterest had a folder option or that I could nest boards inside of other boards. This would make my profile much more streamlined if I could have a board for Food with boards inside it for different types of recipes. Same with the wedding boards that I no longer need but don’t want to delete, either, because a) they’re still getting repins on a regular basis and b) I might want to refer back to the for other reasons.

Now, you can move pins between boards, but combining all my wedding or food boards would just get me right back where I started. Instead, I just try to keep my boards in groups that make sense to me (and hopefully anyone else looking at them).

If you’re already pretty Pinterest-savvy, these next few tips you probably already know. But I’ve learned never take anything for granted or to assume that what I think is common knowledge really is, so here are some basics on how to deal with your Pins if they start to get wild and wooly.

Rearranging Pinterest Boards

Click, hold, and drag the board where you want it!

Click, hold, and drag the board where you want it!

The easiest thing to do is to move an entire board to where you want it. To do that (from your computer, at least, I haven’t tried this on a tablet and the mobile app brings up other options when you press and hold a board) you click and hold your mouse over the board you want to move and just drag it around the screen. As you can see, the other boards will shift around, making room when you get close to one side or another of a board and you just lift off the mouse button when it’s where you want it.

I like to group my boards into like little clumps–so my house boards all together, my food boards all together, wedding boards all together (and those are now down towards the bottom of my profile since I don’t need to access them very often). Again, folders or a nesting function would be my biggest Pinterest wish, but until then I’ll just work with it like this.

Moving Pins from Board to Board

There’s two ways to do this (three if you count repinning a pin you’ve already pinned onto a different board, and how many times am I going to use the word pin today? the word is losing all meaning!).


Hover over a pin, click on the pencil icon along the top of the pin to bring up the Edit screen.

To move a single pin between boards, you just need to open the “Edit this Pin” window for the pin. If you hover over the pin some icons will appear at the top of the image, one of which is a pencil (aka the universal symbol for edit). Click it and this screen opens. You can select a different board from the drop-down menu or you can create a new board on the fly by just typing it in (there’s a text field that will show up when you click on the down arrow on the menu).

You can also update the description, website url, and location of the pin on this screen. Handy if you need to fix a link or the description is something like IMG_1245.jpg instead of something useful.

Alternately, if you’re in a board with a lot of pins that need to mass-migrate to another board, use the Move Pins button (it’s up along the top, above the actual pins).

This lets you click on several pins to move at once, very useful if you're subdividing your content!

This lets you click on several pins to move at once, very useful if you’re subdividing your content!

Click on the check boxes on each image that you want to move, turning them red, and then click the now-red Move button up there on the top. This will open a window for you to select the destination board. You can also copy pins in bulk using this same screen, see the “Copy” button up there? Useful if you’re repinning some of your pins to a group board!

Editing Pinterest Boards

Change the name, add a description, and (sometimes) edit the cover image.

Change the name, add a description, and (sometimes) edit the cover image.

Below each board (when you’re on your profile, not within a specific board) is an Edit button that opens a screen where you can change some of the particulars of the board, including making it secret or not. Foodie Goodness wasn’t really working for me anymore–it was overgrown and had a lot of different types of food content inside. So I decided to rename it “Recipes to Try” and move all the rest of the stuff into other boards. (This is an ongoing process, there were almost 200 pins in that board!)

A word about editing cover images. When I was shifting and creating new boards I found that the boards created on the fly didn’t have cover images assigned and, horror of horrors, the Cover > Change option wasn’t showing up in the edit field?!?! After refreshing the screen a couple of times a randomly assigned cover image was at least showing up on the new boards, but only some had the option to edit the cover image. Almost all my old boards had it, though, so it could be something you need to allow a little time for.

When the Cover > Change option is there, though, you can flip through the pins on the board and even adjust what part (of tall images) is seen in the thumbnail. Some uber-users even create specific board covers (you can upload images directly to Pinterest, you don’t have to pin them from another site) to really spiff up their profile. I’ve not felt the need just yet, but I can see the appeal.

Commenting on Your Own Pins

Remind me if I liked this?

Remind me if I liked this?

It sounds a little vain or weird, right, commenting on your own pins? But Pinterest is a social network in its own right, and likes and comments can become valuable parts of a pin. I like to use it to follow-up on a recipe I’ve tried, for instance, to say if I liked it or if I would change something about it, were I to make it again. These sorts of notes are not only helpful to me, but could spark a conversation or help someone else who finds the pin later.

I still have a lot of pins to go through, but when I’m done (for this round) accessing the pins that I need will be easier and some things that I’ve pinned and forgotten about might move up on the to-do list!

When’s the last time you spent some time organizing your pins?

Our First Foray Into Freezer Meals


Almost a year ago I finally started putting my Sam’s Club membership to good use by stocking our chest freezer with meat every two months. At the time I said something along the lines of ‘I haven’t graduated to full-on freezer meal prep yet’ and here we are now at the yet.

I was going to wait until our February trip to Sam’s to try out Freezer Meals (mostly because we still had quite the stash from our December trip and it’s generally not good to defrost and refreeze meat without cooking it in between), but two things changed my mind:

  1. The impending bathroom renovation (which will require weeknight attention as well as weekends, and weeknight hours are scarce what with the cooking and all).
  2. My innate impatience.

Once I get something into my head it’s tough for me to let go of it. (q.v. my current puppy obsession) So the challenge, at least for this round, was to pick meals that would work as “kits” (separate components grouped together for ease of planning and preparation) as well as others that wouldn’t require me to defrost everything this weekend. But first I had to know what I was working with.

Into the freezer for you!

Into the freezer for you!

So Saturday afternoon I grabbed my clipboard, pen, and kitchen scale, propped open the chest freezer lid, and got to work listing everything. As I suspected, we still had the lion’s share of December’s stock-up trip plus a little left from the October run in some cases. Since I figured we’d be using 3-4 freezer meals a week, I didn’t want to put all our stock into meals, so I did more or less 50% into freezer meals and left the other 50% for general use (the other 3-4 meals a week).

Then it was time to figure out what to make and make my grocery list. But just to add another facet to the challenge, let’s add a super-strict grocery budget to the mix?

I may have let my budget slide a bit last year. And I may have a bad habit of spending whatever I feel like at the grocery store and, hey, if it’s “over budget” letting it come out of the savings buffer I keep in my checking account. And I may have done that so often that said savings buffer has all the integrity of a cheap air mattress–it ain’t gonna cushion much!

Saturday was also the day I sat down with my January budget worksheet and determined exactly how much said grocery budget would be for the month and it was a number I was not happy with. (In my defense, having a restricted diet means cheap food–even some staples like dried beans–and a lot of the coupon-able items out there just don’t work for me, and we all know about the cost of eating healthy vs not; but still, I need to be better about the grocery budget.) So not only was I planning my own menu for the week, I was also prepping 20+ freezer meals, and needed to do it at a price that was 2/3 of what I spent on my average grocery runs.

But I did it! I picked simpler menu items and focused on freezer meals that would require a minimum of expensive ingredients to put together while still offering us a pretty good variety to choose from. It helped that we usually have a certain amount of things already in the pantry that we just don’t run out of, or had stocked up on before the holidays, and that I didn’t have to buy freezer bags, etc. as part of this (since we’d picked up cases of them this summer; we’re still good and set). The other thing that helped was I kept the calculator app on my phone open and I added each item there as I put it into the cart, subtotaling periodically to see where I was.

This did two things: it made me very aware of what each item cost and it kept me sticking to my list, not just tossing things in if it sounded good or was on sale. Yes, it took some of the enjoyment out of the shopping trip (I really do enjoy grocery shopping), but it’s a necessary thing.

When people ask what feels like success (money-wise, at least),
I always say not having to worry about what I’m spending
at the grocery store or on dinners out. 

Anyway! Back to the freezer meals.

Once I got home and unloaded the groceries, I sat down with my freezer bags and a sharpie to do all the labeling ahead of time. Nothing too mysterious,here, just the name of the meal and the date I bagged it and then basic cooking instructions. I made sure to list if it needed anything added (most often water for the slow cooker meals where I added bullion or soup base in lieu of prepared stock–less bulk for the bags) and if there were serving suggestions. I also have these things noted on the very bare-bones spreadsheet I compiled with the freezer meal recipes. The spreadsheet allows me to sort by ingredient (in case something goes on sale and I want to take advantage of it), but it also allows me to share it with Todd through Google Drive. I added a second sheet to the document that is the inventory of the freezer meals as well as the other frozen meats and vegetables in there. If we each update it after we make our weekly menus, this’ll help us keep on top of things!


I spent about four hours putting together our freezer meal stash. Starting with the simplest bits to put together and leaving sauces that needed blending or the making of meatloaves until last. At the end I had made:

  • 3 Sweet-Potato Kale Turkey Patties (4 patties per bag)
  • 2 Lime and Coconut Chicken
  • 2 Coconut Curry Chicken
  • 2 Pineapple Salsa Chicken
  • 2 Lemon Dump Chicken
  • 2 Garlic-Parmesan Pork Chops
  • 1 Maple Mustard Pork Chops
  • 1 Bacon Potato Soup
  • 1 Chipotle Shrimp
  • 2 Cheese-Stuffed BBQ Meatloaves
  • 2 Taco Soups
  • 1 Pan of Fabulous Meatballs
  • 2 Beef Stews

(I was a bad blogger an copied the recipes down from various sources–in a notebook, by hand!–making adjustments as I added them to the spreadsheet, so I don’t have the links handy. I’ll try to track them all down and come back and edit this list )

I know Todd is looking forward to the convenience of having meals prepped ahead of time and I’m looking forward to getting our bathroom remodeled. Win-win! Depending on how these go over will tell us whether we’ll shop with freezer meals in mind on our next Sam’s trip or if we go back to our old ways.

Evolution of a DIY Planner {video}

Creative Business

This one’s for all my planner fans out there, you know who you are!

DIY Planner Evolution

Back in September I shared my Fabric Fauxdori Cover video and promised that I would go more into what’s inside it at a future date. Of course, then October and the Halloween madness struck, and now it’s November and I haven’t fulfilled that promise yet! Allow me to fix that.

(Direct link for the feed readers: DIY Planner Evolution + Clean and Simple Plan with Me November)

The decision to decorate your planner is apparently fraught with peril. As much as I love stickers, I have a lot to keep track of, so I dress my planner up in small ways like with the washi on the page edges. Another benefit of that washi? It reinforces the edges of the paper, making the planner a bit sturdier (at least in my experience). And I’m still absolutely loving my faux-dori planner cover and how easy it is to work with and add things to–I don’t miss ring binders at all!

For anyone still on the hunt for their 2016 planner, the Creative Days Monthly/Weekly Planner is available now in my Etsy shop.

If you want to try your hand at creating your own planner, you can do it in just about any program (Word, Publisher) but I really do prefer InDesign (Scribus is a good open-source alternative). It helps to start by figuring out what you want in a planner–sometimes that means trying out a lot of them or just doodling your own in a spare notebook to find out what sort of information you really need to keep track of. As I said in the video, my biggies are

  • daily to-do lists
  • blog posts
  • menu planning

with fixed appointments only an occasional thing in my life. So all the planners out there that are 50% or more time slots? Not for me. I noticed, back on my hunt for a 2012 planner that started me down the DIY road, that the planners with menu sections were either geared towards moms or had an overly simplified week on a page layout (or other froufrou decorations that didn’t suit me). Of course, had the planner community been then what it is now (or had I known of it), maybe those not-quite-right planners could have benefited from some serious sticker action!

Whatever format you choose to use, I really think everyone can benefit from some sort of time management system. Whether it’s a bullet journal, ongoing to-do lists, even chore charts–whatever takes the guesswork out of the day is going to help you get more done. And it’s not just about making more money and being more productive at work or in your business, it’s about making time for the fun stuff, too. If you check off those boxes for the things you need to do, then you can do the things you want to do with less (or better yet, absolutely no) guilt!

Do you plan? If so, what sort of system do you use? If not, why not?

What to Feed Your Halloween Party


In addition to my regular menu planning this weekend, I had to finalize our party menu, too! Saturday was our bi-monthly Sam’s shopping trip–excellent timing on that one–so we took advantage of already being in the warehouse store to stock up on the usual goods plus anything else we’d need for party food.

We also stopped by Trader Joe's on the way home. (This doesn't include the cooler full of meat or the case of beer.)

We also stopped by Trader Joe’s on the way home. (This doesn’t include the cooler full of meat or the case of beer we also purchased at Sam’s.)

Todd’s trunk was so weighed down it made alarming noises when we stopped at red lights! And there was no way everything was fitting in the pantry, so party prep items are still hanging out at the end of the dining room table until needed. I’d estimate we spend $200-$300 extra in groceries when prepping for a big party like this, and it always feels like money well spent. Our guests have plenty of options and the leftovers feed us (and sometimes our offices) in the days after the party so we don’t have to worry about cooking after the fun. It all evens out.

Speaking of those options, this is what the menu is currently set at:

Spanish Pulled Pork with Kings Hawaiian Rolls
Vegan Corn Chowder*
Roast Beef and Swiss Pinwheels
Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese Pinwheels

Bacon-Wrapped Artichoke Hearts*
Stacked Spuds*
Spinach Puffs*
Spicy Black Bean Dip* with assorted crackers and chips

Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread
Chocolate Chip Brownies*

Paladin Punch* (non-alcholic)
Mulled Apple Cider
Frank-n-Brew (tequila)
Black Juleps (whiskey)
Beer: Yuengling Oktoberfest and Not Your Father’s Root Beer
Assorted wine, sodas, full bar, and mixers are always available

(Menu items marked with an * are from my cookbook, What to Feed Your Raiding Party.)

It’s very similar to last year’s menu with a lot of “fan favorites” like the bacon-wrapped artichoke hearts and the pinwheels. I had multiple dips on last year’s menu, but with so much food they got overlooked, so I slimmed it down to only one (and one that is always a hit at out parties). I also had a couple more desserts on the menu for last year, but I know that at least one guest is bringing a couple of sweet items for the table, so I lessened my to-do list knowing that we’ll have plenty.

We had all of this, plus 3 more items on the table in the kitchen that we just couldn't make room for!

In the end we had all of this, plus 3 more items on the table in the kitchen that we just couldn’t make room for!

And last year’s table was so jammed full that I thought it would be nice to have a little more room to maneuver this year!


This picture is from last year, too–I like to plan what is going where on the table and what serving dishes I’ll need before I start filling platters and dressing up the table. It looks like we only had 2 of the 3 leaves in place–I guess we only added the third leaf for Thanksgiving, though we’ve left it in place since. Good! That means we’ll have even more room to work with!

Okay, now back to work on my costume!

On the Plate October 5-11 + 5 Meal Planning Tips


We interrupt the Halloween merriment to get a handle on menu planning. After all, how can you get decorations up and costumes made if you’re floundering with the “what’s for dinner” question every night?!

A varied menu makes the week go by!

A varied menu makes the week go by!

Monday: Herbed chicken breast, savory mashed sweet potatoes, green beans
So, the sweet potatoes were supposed to the Garlic-Herb Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Parmesan from Cooking Classy. Instead, I was scrambling to finish the outdoor decorating before I lost the light (hah! didn’t exactly happen that way, but it got done), so I didn’t start dinner until almost 8pm. Not wanting to wait on roasting the sweet potatoes, I popped them into the microwave on the magical “potato” setting (seriously, best thing about our new microwave) and whipped them up with the herbs and Parmesan that the original recipe called for. Just as tasty in half the time.

Tuesday: Dinner out @ Northside Pies in Tallahassee, FL
I’ll do a proper write-up of Northside Pies one of these days, but our monthly meet-up there with friends was fun as always. Even though their menu doesn’t mention it, they do carry a gluten-free pizza crust in the 10″ size, though their salads aren’t bad at all if you’d rather not. I opted for the Figure 4, this week, and a Black Julep (copycat recipe to come on that one, it was so good!) cocktail. Since the fresh garlic was very large and in charge, along with the figs (both High-FODMAP ingredients), I only ate half while there and was fine. (It was only after I scarfed the other half after getting home that there were issues. Oh, well, it was worth it!)

Figure 4 on gluten-free crust and a Black Julep at Northside Pies

Figure 4 on gluten-free crust and a Black Julep at Northside Pies

Wednesday: Bang Bang Shrimp, coconut rice, and garlic spinach
If you have ever been to Bonefish Grill and tasted their signature shrimp dish, yes, this is virtually the same thing and so worth the effort, even the deep frying, on a weekday night. I used the copycat recipe from Fake Ginger and substituted gf flour and breadcrumbs where applicable. Point one: No recipe ever seems to allow enough breading material–I had to triple it, in the end, to do a pound of medium shrimp (enough for four servings). Point two: though it seems odd to do a back-and-forth breading like this, it actually worked really well, so I’m glad I harnessed my natural inclination to switch to a more traditional 3-step breading.

Thursday: Pepperoni Pizza Pasta and a green salad
Based on A Night Owl’s One Pot Pizza Rigatoni, this seemed like a quick and easy option, even if mine was more of a two-pot, slightly more involved version. First, I don’t trust gluten free pastas in a toss it all together and cook situation–there’s just way too high a chance for error. Second, I was going for a more budget-friendly meal so used the ground beef we already had in the freezer and a quick sauce made in the pan (rather than purchasing a $9 jar of Rao’s Sensitive Formula Marinara). I also didn’t put it under the broiler to finish, just put the lid on after combining the sauce and pasta and topping it with the mozzarella and reserved (turkey) pepperoni. Still excellent!

Friday: Fish Taco Nachos
Nacho night! I’s been thinking of doing fish tacos at some point, but the fiddliness of it all just made me not want to, but fish taco nachos–why not?! I seasoned some rice flour with cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, salt, and black pepper and dredged the tuna steaks in it before searing in garlic olive oil, crumbling the tuna steaks once they’d cooled enough to handle. Then I built the pan of nachos with my sweet potato refried bean substitute, shredded fiesta cheese blend, and green onions; topping with shredded cabbage and an avocado crema once they were out of the oven. We like to just take the whole pan to the coffee table and munch while catching up with our shows on Hulu.

Saturday: Waffles, Eggs & Bacon
I kept putting off trying the whipped egg white waffles I’ve seen in several places, but that’s also what the Pamela’s mix called for so I gave it a shot. Dude… such amazing gluten-free waffles we’ve never made or tasted elsewhere. The egg whites were so worth it! I don’t see us going back to the old way any time soon!

Sunday: Pot Roast, Potatoes and Carrots
One-pot slow-cooker perfection for a Sunday supper. And, no, I don’t fool with the canned soup or dry soup mixes, I just add salt, pepper, garlic oil, Worcestershire sauce and a little parsley and it’s good to go. We have a few pieces of the roast leftover after making up the lunches and I’d be lying if I said debris fries weren’t a distinct possibility.

# # #

Two weeks ago, when I posted my last On the Plate, several readers remarked about needing to meal plan more often or otherwise not being able to make the time to do it. So here’s my process for putting together a week’s menu, in the hopes that it’ll help those of you still on the fence or wondering where to start.

  1. Inspiration sources. I “save for later” anything I find possibly interesting while going through my blog feeds in Feedly. This way, when I sit down to menu plan, I can click on the sidebar link and scroll through easily. If something sounds good, I decide what day it’ll be best on and plug it into my Google Drive document. Pinterest is another good inspiration source, naturally, so if I know I’ve pinned something over the last couple of weeks, I go check there to refresh my memory. And, then, there’s always grabbing a cookbook off the shelf at random and thumbing through until something catches my eye (or going straight to the post-it notes if I’ve already flagged things in the book). Checking your store’s sale paper online is also a good way to dream up dinner ideas.
  2. Inventory. “Shopping” the pantry and freezer to see what we have on hand not only reduces the chances of over-buying but also tells me if something needs to be used up before it goes bad. We stock up on meats every couple of months at Sam’s club, so looking to see what we have left usually grants a certain amount of direction.
  3. Routine. We don’t tend to follow a prescribed schedule on what to eat on what days, but if that helps you, use it! Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, etc. can make things a lot easier and it helps set expectations among the family. Our routine is more along the lines of knowing that we’ll cycle through the main proteins of any given week (pork chops, chicken breasts or thighs, beef, fish or shrimp) plus a breakfast for dinner night and maybe a meatless meal. So if I’m planning and I have a few spots to fill, I run through the list and see what’s “missing.”
  4. Favorites. We don’t eat the same thing each week, but we do have certain favorites that we fall back on to fill menu gaps. For me, it’s most often Sushi bowls, for Todd it’s Jambalaya or a Shrimp and Orzo dish we both loved from our Menu Mailer days.
  5. Balance. Don’t plan multiple ingredient or technique-heavy items in the same meal. Just don’t do that to yourself! Take, for instance, Bang Bang Shrimp. That requires a sauce, breading, and deep frying. No way was I going to, say, make handmade spring rolls on top of that! Instead, I made coconut rice (1 can of coconut milk, 1 can of water, 1 1/2 cups white rice) in the rice cooker and put some frozen spinach in a pot on the stove with some water and garlic oil to simmer until done. Keep in mind what preparation each item needs, and swap out something if you’ve got two heavy hitters in one meal.

I hope these tips helped you get a handle on weekly meal planning. If you’re still feeling a bit overwhelmed at the process but want more organization to your dinners, there are services out there to help! Three we’ve used in the past (yes, even a former chef doesn’t always want to think about what to make every night) are Menu Mailer ($21/quarter and up), eMeals ($39/quarter), and Paleo Plan ($9.99/month). Menu Mailer and eMeals also offer shopping lists as part of the weekly planning service, I don’t think Paleo Plan does, but it’s been a while since I’ve used any of them.