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  • My Favorite Pick-Me-Up: Happier Podcast

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    Over the last few months, I’ve discovered a really easy way to snap myself out of any bad mood, whether I’m sad, angry, irritated, or just blah. It’s the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, which is hosted by author Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project), and her sister, Elizabeth Craft (a TV writer and producer).

    Happier Podcast | CFO's Favorite Things

    Luckily for me, they produce a new episode every week, and there are almost two years’ worth of archives, so I always have something new to listen to (although I’m about to finish listening to the old episodes I’d missed before I discovered the podcast). In fact, this podcast works so well to keep me upbeat that I only let myself listen when I need a pick-me-up.

    I listen in the car, when I’m stuck in traffic.

    I listen when I’m exercising.

    I listen when I’m cleaning the house.

    And of course, I listen whenever I’m feeling down.

    Gretchen and Elizabeth feel like old friends at this point, and since Elizabeth lives in LA, I harbor this stalker-ish fantasy about meeting her sometime and freaking her out by acting like I totally know her. They are both marvelously positive without being fake, and I can’t help but wonder if I’m entertaining the people who see me laughing as I walk outside during my sons’ practices while I listen to the podcast.

    I’ve adopted numerous positive habits and tricks from listening to the podcast, since Gretchen’s most recent book, Better than Before, is all about habits. In fact, I use a strategy called “pairing” to make unpleasant tasks like cleaning more palatable. (I know some people actually like cleaning … I am not one of them!)

    Do you have a favorite podcast? If so, please let me know what it is in the comments. I feel lost thinking about what I’ll do when I’ve listened to all of the Happier episodes and have to wait for the new one to be released each week!

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for clicking through them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things: Shutterfly Freebies as Gifts

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    Chief Family Officer's Favorite Things: Shutterfly's Custom Freebies

    Since we’re getting ready for the holidays, I want to share how I get some of my favorite gifts to give. Shutterfly has always been generous with their freebies, but they’ve really kicked it up a notch in the last year or so with free items almost every weekend, as well as free item codes offered through partners like Kellogg’s Family Rewards and Bing. With these free item offers, you just pay shipping, which varies according to the type of item ordered.

    These Shutterfly freebies make fantastic gifts.

    Custom photo mugs, photo books, and calendars are easy and totally appropriate gifts for grandparents and great-grandparents. They do require some time, since you have to upload your photos and create the item (the last calendar I made took me over two hours). But they’re relatively inexpensive since you’re just paying for shipping, and they delight doting grandparents and great-grandparents.

    Plus, you don’t have to stop at the people who spoil your children.

    Kids love custom photo gifts too. You can make books that memorialize special events or times like a performance or party, or a sports season or play from rehearsal to performance. Or make magnets or reusable shopping bags with their friends’ faces or sports team logo.

    You can give custom photo gifts to friends too. Instead of your kid’s picture, put an inspiring quote on a mug or mouse pad. My kids are on sports teams with another mom’s kids, so I once gave her magnets adorned with the teams’ logos.

    The list goes on, limited only by your imagination and what your recipient likes!

    See all of Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things here.

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things: Ball-Cap Buddy

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    This post may contain affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for clicking through them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    With two athletic boys around, it’s no surprise that my house is overrun by baseball caps. I still don’t have a great storage solution, but I’ve finally found an easy way to clean the hats: the Ball-Cap Buddy from Lids.

    Ball-Cap Buddy

    It’s basically a plastic cage that keeps the hat’s shape while it’s in the dishwasher. Here’s an example of my older boy’s White Sox hat. As you can see, the front and back are both filthy:

    Front of Dirty Hat

    Back of Dirty Hat

    I ran the hat in the Ball-Cap Buddy through the quick wash cycle of my dishwasher, in the top rack, using OxiClean Diswasher Detergent. Here’s what it looks like after being washed and dried:

    Clean Hat Side 1

    Clean Hat Side 2

    I wouldn’t call it a miracle-worker – the hat definitely doesn’t look new. But it looks so much better than it used to, such that I’m not embarrassed to let my child out of the house with it on. And since most of our baseball caps run in the $30 – $40 range, the $6 Ball-Cap Buddy is going to save us a lot of money on new hats!

    See all of Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things here.

    Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things: Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

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    Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate - Chief Family Officer's Favorite Things

    One of my favorite discoveries this past year has been Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate:

    TJ Coffee Concentrate

    This coffee concentrate makes for the easiest iced coffee ever! The directions say to use one part of coffee concentrate to three parts of water or milk. However, I’ve been using about three parts of nonfat milk, a splash of heavy cream and a splash of maple syrup to make my iced coffee. If I’m not out and about to grab a chai tea latte at Starbucks, the iced coffee really hits the spot.

    Each bottle contains 32 ounces and costs $7.99 (at least here in LA – prices may be regional). Once opened, you can refrigerate the bottle for up to 30 days. (I write the date I opened it on the label with a Sharpie.) If you don’t use up the whole bottle, you can freeze what’s left in an ice cube tray. I’ve done this and used the frozen coffee cubes when a recipe called for coffee or when I wanted to keep my coffee cold in an insulated travel mug (these Contigo mugs are my favorite because they don’t leak and keep drinks hot or cold for hours).

    See all of Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things here.

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things: Progressive Chop Turner

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    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Progressive Chop Turner - Chief Family Officer's Favorite Things

    Over ten years ago, when I first began cooking for my husband, one of the first things I learned was that he likes his ground meat to be as miniscule as possible. We have a wooden spoon that curves into a point on one side, much like this OXO Wooden Corner Spoon:


    It was our utensil of choice to mash ground beef and turkey as it cooked, but the cooking process required a lot of intensive attention – time that I could (and preferred to) spend on other meal prep tasks while the meat cooked. Still, I love my husband and I want him to enjoy his food, so I did my best to get the ground meat as small as possible.

    Then, one day, I received a promotional pack for some product. The box included the item I was supposed to promote {I honestly don’t even remember what it was anymore}, as well as various kitchen items, including the Progressive Chop Turner:

    It’s really odd-looking, and I didn’t know what to make of it. I’m not even sure why I decided to use it, but I’m so glad I did! More than any utensil I’ve ever used, it gets my ground meat down to uniformly small pieces:

    ground meat using the Progressive Chop Turner

    It’s hard to make out each individual lump of meat because of the uniform color, but that’s now how all of my ground meat comes out looking if the recipe calls for crumbling it – tiny! And the best part is that I don’t need to stand over the stove while the meat is cooking. I can wander away for a few minutes to do something else, then come back, vigorously stab and turn the meat a few times, then leave again. (Yes, I get to work off some angst too!) I repeat the process for as long as it takes the meat to cook, and by then, I’ve accomplished quite a few other tasks around the kitchen too.

    Not long after my husband and I got together, I discovered that one of my friends likes her meat the same way {I learned this because she pulled out a lunch from home one day, and I gawked at how perfectly small and uniform her ground turkey was}. So for perfectionists and picky eaters alike, I highly recommend the Progressive Chop Turner!

    You can buy the Progressive Chop Turner for $7.99 at Amazon.

    See all of Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things here.

    Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things: The Sneaky Chef’s No Nut Butter

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    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Chief Family Officer's Favorite Things: The Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butter

    I have been meaning to write this post for quite a while now, because The Sneaky Chef Creamy No-Nut Butter has become a staple food in our house.

    It’s not the healthiest food, nor does it follow the “real food” rules of being minimally processed. The ingredients include powdered sugar with cornstarch, palm fruit oil, and mono and diglycerides from a vegetable source. But at least the main ingredients, golden peas and canola oil, are non-GMO.

    And it’s a great replacement product for us. Because where most families can use a 100% natural, organic, minimally processed nut butter like peanut butter or almond butter, or the popular alternative, sunflower butter, we eliminated those options when we discovered one of the boys is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, and most seeds, including sunflower. Thankfully, his allergy is not so bad that the tiniest whiff of one of these forbidden items produces a reaction. But I certainly wouldn’t risk having any of these things in my house.

    I stumbled across No-Nut Butter about six months ago while doing research for an article, and since peanuts and soybeans – like golden peas – are legumes, I wasn’t entirely sure that it would be safe for my son. But he’s been able to tolerate it without issue, and I’ve been delighted to discover that No-Nut Butter freezes and bakes well.

    In fact, I can prep ahead and make No-Nut Butter & Jam sandwiches to freeze for school lunches:

    Freezer-friendly No-Nut Butter Sandwiches - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I freeze half-sandwiches, since that’s what I pack for each boy. Each half goes into a plastic baggie, and then the baggies go into the bag the loaf of bread came in. When I’m getting lunch ready in the morning, I just pull a sandwich out of the freezer! {Making my own sandwich bread is one of my cooking dreams/goals, but I’ve yet to find a recipe that the kids like.}

    No-Nut Butter also served me well in a modified version of these Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies, and is great in smoothies as well.

    Of course, if you know of any other peanut-free, nut-free, seed-free alternatives, especially if they’re less processed/more natural, I’d love to try them, so let me know in the comments!

    Buy The Sneaky Chef Creamy No-Nut Butter for $7.49 at Amazon or Vitacost.