Household Habits Feed

The File Crate: An Update & Overview!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! If you've read my blog for any length of time then you know I frequently post about my file crate system - a kind of "tickler file" arrangement I've been using for many years. Actually, I have an entire archive devoted to this topic, and in the past I've spoken about it at a conference, in a webinar as well as during an interview for a podcast. So clearly I have a lot to say about my file crate! I can pretty much find any old excuse to talk "file crate," but I especially like to hash it out at the turn of the academic year when I reboot the whole thing with fresh folders. :)

So first, for those new to the concept, I'll give you a quick lengthy overview of the basic system along with a look at my file crate's new digs, and then we'll take a peek inside my current folders, as I get ready to switch them up at the end of the week.

THE FILE CRATE SYSTEM

The file crate system is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a crate filled with files, which I use as part of my overall planning system. The "files" are simply weekly folders that help me organize various areas of my life - home, family, finances, health, homeschooling, faith traditions and seasonal awareness. ETC. As a mom homeschooling three of her four boys - one with special needs - there's a lot on my plate! And I am grateful for all of it but it does take a lot of thought and energy to keep things running somewhat smoothly around here!

So the "crate" itself is a rather plain plastic bin inside which I place six hanging folders. Each of those six folders represent two months, or one season of the year:

May-June (Late Spring)

July-August (High Summer)

September-October (Early Autumn)

November-December (Late Autumn)

January-February (Deep Winter)

March-April (Early Spring)

Stored inside those six hanging "seasonal" folders, are file folders for each week of the year - 52 folders in all! I tend to use fresh supplies when I reboot the crate, since each year's folders get pretty roughed up. (I reuse and/or recycle the old ones.) This year I decided to go with a whole new color scheme, in order to match my pretty new Day Designer planner ...

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Who says office supplies can't be fun?

Next I write the dates for each week on every folder and place them all in the crate - divided by season. (So, the current May-June season holds nine weeks' worth of folders. The first folder reads "May 1-May 7" and the last reads "June 26-July 2." The folder after that, "July 3-July 9" can be found in the High Summer hanging folder. (And so on.)

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(That's erasable ink so technically I could reuse those folders - if I can keep them in better shape!)

So now I have my crate full of weekly folders, divided by season. That's the basic set up, but I like to find multiple uses for my crate if I can. So this year I decided to utilize the front of the crate itself for a little more planning space ...

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It's hard to see in this picture, (and I forgot to take a "before" picture), but this is an adhesive plastic pocket stuck to the front of the crate. Bill trimmed it for me so it fits flush against the sloped lines of the crate and I added a little washi tape to cover up the sheared opening. (He did a neater job than I would have, but it still left a little jaggedness to the pocket.)

I'll be using this front pocket to hold the "active" folder of the week ...

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I am also tucking a monthly calendar in here ...

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This calendar - as you can see - has yet to be filled in. I just bought it recently, on a bit of a whim, because it was pretty and ahem matched the rest of my supplies. Plus, the boxes are lined and I LOVE a lined calendar. I have another monthly calendar I'm using in my homekeeping binder, but that's not one my family can easily reference. I've tried a few other "family calendar" ideas that have fallen flat ... so maybe this one will click. We shall see!

There is also space for my Day Designer here, as well as my Homekeeping Journal, and the whole kit and kaboodle is set in the top tier of a rolling cart (one of the four I bought in March and blogged about here) so I can keep it handy to my command central. At the end of the day (in theory) I can take all my planning stuff off the kitchen counter and move it to the cart. I can even roll the cart out of the kitchen if needs be.

Here's how it looks:

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Note the pretty silk flowers I added to the front of my crate! I bought those at the craft store a while ago and had been waiting to find a use for them when it struck me ... they kind of match all my new planning paraphernalia! So, with a touch of hot glue, they've dressed up my crate in a rather fun and funky way! :)

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No one will doubt this is MAMA's cart! ;)

Ok, back to the folders ... because some of you might be wondering what all the fuss is about!

THE WEEKLY FOLDERS

So in each week's folder I keep papers that pertain to that specific week: reminders, ideas, resources, photocopies - pretty much anything that corresponds with the theme, activities, events and special days coming up in the week ahead. The folders are kept in the crate until they are "active" - meaning their time (as marked on their label) has come!

Active folders are kept at my command center and/or displayed in that crate pocket I showed you above. By week's end I am ready to start planning for next week so this is when I actually have two folders "in play" ...

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On Thursdays I pull the file folder for next week and see what's inside. I use this folder (along with my weekly planning sheet) to get a handle on what next week looks like and then start planning out my weekend prep:

  • What do I need to pick up (ingredients or craft supplies)?
  • What can I do to prepare for next week?
  • What things do I need to print out?
  • Do I need to make any requests from the library?
  • Are there emails to send or people to check in with?

Then I go through the current week's folder to check the status of those items:

  • What items can be left behind for year-end review?
  • What items can be saved for next year?
  • What items should be filed somewhere else? (Another weekly folder or perhaps a household file?)
  • What items can be moved along to the next week's folder?

Here's what's in my two active folders right now:

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Note: If you want really detailed notes on my folder contents, please read on ... but if not, to summarize, my current folders hold packing slips for recent deliveries, subscription renewals marked paid, library request forms (current and future), printouts and photocopies pertaining to the current week's lessons/seasonal theme, current project info and recipes to try, and information re ~ timely town events. You can now skip down past the pink text to continue with the post. :)

Inside the purple folder (5/1-5/7):

  • receipts for items that were shipped this week
  • subscription renewals marked paid (I wrote the renewal dates on a subscriptions list I keep in my homekeeping binder)
  • library record sheets for books and a video we used this week in our homeschooling (helpful reminders for year-end reports)
  • craft project instructions: color changing pinecones (this was "spring fire" week)
  • a page about salamander folklore (this was also "salamander" week)
  • photocopy of "amphibians in the night" page from a favorite naturalist resource
  • extra Mexican flag coloring page (the boys did these for Cinco de Mayo; I saved one for next year)

^ the above items I will leave in the folder when I file it back in the crate on Sunday ...

v the ones below I am moving into next week's folder ...

  • a new recipe for crockpot chicken taco meat (was going to be Cinco de Mayo dinner - will keep it "active" until we try it)
  • information packet re ~ homeschool prom (need to read over it then will file in the week it's being held)
  • a recipe for lactose-free "ricotta" (will keep it "active" until we try it)
  • directions for making a homemade multipurpose cleaner (haven't made it yet, will keep it active until I do)
  • a photo project I'm working on for a new frame (still haven't gotten around to it - need Bill's help!)
  • a "family favorites" recipe chart - a work in progress
  • library record sheets for resources I'd like to request in the near future
  • info. sheet re town's large metal pick-up day (need to read over, write dates in calendar, file in town/parish binder)
  • political information from our town with lots of dates and upcoming events (need to read over, write dates in calendar, file in town/parish binder)

Inside the pink folder (5/8-5/14):

  • Mother's Day cards (when I bought them I slipped them right in this folder)
  • printouts about a couple of town meetings this week
  • a printout with information re ~ Crackerjack's service project
  • Our Lady of Fatima coloring pages (her feast day is 5/13)
  • a recipe for "Fiori di Scilia Spritz Cookies" (to be made for this week's Full Flower Moon)
  • a few photocopies for the learning line this week re ~ woodland flowers
  • lily of the valley coloring pages (we'll be observing them in our own woodland garden this week)
  • printout: "May Flower Lore" (from The Farmer's Almanac)
  • photocopy from Mary's Flowers re ~ Lily of the Valley (aka Mary's Tears)
  • photocopy from a favorite naturalist resource: "Woodland Flowers" (will be colored in using field guides, personal observation)
  • photocopied pages from Handbook of Nature re "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" (another woodland plant I spied flowering in our woods - we'll investigate!)
  • photocopy of "The Lords-and-Ladies Fairy" (aka Jack-in-the-Pulpit) a poem by Cicely Mary Barker
  • library request sheet for Jack-in-the-Pulpit by John Greenleaf Whittier
  • printout of vintage artwork from above title (the plant drawn as a minister speaking to a choir of flower children)
  • photocopy from favorite book of moon poems: "The May Flower Moon"
  • photocopies of state coloring pages/illustrated maps for the western states (we're wrapping up our US study soon!)

Now, yesterday (Friday) I looked through these folders and started filling out my planning sheet for next week. (I'll work on it more over the weekend.) In our P.o.W. notebook (a family weekend "agenda" described in this post) I listed a few things I could do to set our week up (ex. scout out woodland walk for next week, refresh book displays and learning line), and I also updated my weekend shopping/errands list, noting items I'll need to pick up. 

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On Sunday, during "office hours," I will put last week's (purple) folder back in the crate (filed in the back of the "Late Spring" hanging folder) and keep next week's (pink) folder out for the week ahead. All those pink items listed above will be referenced/used throughout the week in one way or another. 

Now, a quick note about the pale pink planning pad you see above stapled to the front of the folders ...

I go back and forth on the concept of using the front of my file folders for planning space - to serve as a reminder of what is happening through the week, and a record when looking back later. I don't always do this because I've had mixed results with this idea, but I couldn't resist the pretty "weekly planning pad" I spied at Staples last week. It is made by "Ashley for Blue Sky" and is a thick pad of tear-off sheets. (I have other methods for tracking our weekly agenda, but have yet to nail down a platform that really works well.)

So as you can probably tell, a lot of what I include in my folders is tied to our seasonal living and homeschooling. Generally speaking, I rotate the same weekly themes every year, revisiting that familiar and beloved rhythm of the seasons, while exploring new resources and experiences to keep it fresh. So, for example, the theme of "blueberries" always falls in mid-August around Assumption Day (the crop is at its peak, blueberries are traditional Marian feast fare) ... and during the week of the Full Sap Moon in March, we always explore "maple sugaring" (a time honored, New England tradition and harbinger of warmer days as winter nears its end).

My love for the the seasons is something for a whole 'nother post, but suffice it to say, I take such joy in their timeless cycle as they return from year to year. There's a comforting familiarity in every nuance, but it all seems new at the same time. Life is beautiful that way. :)

Well, I know this was a lot to throw at you, lol - but I hope if you are into planning and organization this was interesting to you! And I know this system wouldn't work for everyone, but maybe there's one or two things in this post that you might find helpful. For me, with the paper load I work with each week (especially re ~ our seasonal homeschooing) this has been a good way to keep organized and somewhat "on top of things." 

I'd love to hear about your own file system, if you have one, and how it's working for you. What are your challenges? I've heard from a few friends that they find it hard to keep the file crate somewhere handy enough to be useful but not just another piece of planning clutter in the way. And I struggle with that, too! I've tried to keep the crate somewhere else - at my desk, say, or in a slide out file drawer - but I really do use it most efficiently when it's in the open, kept within easy reach. This is why I hope the cart will be a good remedy for that challenge. I can keep the crate close by, but tuck it away when I need my kitchen to look clean and simplified. It sounds great in theory, doesn't it? :)

Ideally I'd like to do a video about this file crate system because I think it is easiest to explain in person! I'd love to walk through each step of my basic set up and perhaps a weekly folder switch up to show how it works for me. Because the moral of the story is - it does work for me. It's one of the few planning tools I've actually consistently kept up with since I began using it - oh, maybe 17 years ago now? (Around the time I started homeschooling - I liked having papers, lessons, and craft ideas, etc. all lined up weeks in advance.) So if I can get myself organized (and brave!) enough, I will ask my older sons to help me "film" a file crate how-to video - and I'll keep you all posted on that project!

So for now I will (finally!) wrap up. I do thank you all for stopping by and taking the time to read (or peruse as the case might have been), and I wish you all a very pleasant weekend! I hope it is filled with the rest and refreshment you need ...

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again sometime soon!


Command Center Cleanup ❤

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! I hope you've all had a good week. :)

It's snowing lightly here today but yesterday that late winter sun was just glorious! I had just tidied up my "command central" when I stopped to appreciate the pretty light filling the kitchen, so I snapped a quick pic. In my last post I promised a peek of "where I work" ... and so, here it is! Not that I don't love getting to sit down at my desk when I can ... but this spot is where I work throughout the day as I check in with my daybook or perhaps jot a note in my journal.

Here's a closer look because I want to talk about that small upright planner ...

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I showed you this compact and cute woodland planner in a post last December, and it's something I've been using on and off. It fits in my purse rather nicely, but mostly I use it right here in command central, propped up over my Day Designer and my homekeeping binder. It helps me keep an eye on where I'm at in the week - reminding me in one glance just how busy each day will be and showing me when I'm doing something outside of my normal routine.

And how cute is my new mug?! I spotted it at Michaels earlier this year and just loved the sentiment! It's wide and deep and I use it for tea only - unlike the yellow mug in the top photo which is one of my go-to morning coffee mugs but can also be used for tea, too.

(Yes, I'm afraid I really am that obsessive about my hot beverage habits!)

Also seen in that above photo is my project clipboard - the thing that's covered in yellow post-it notes!

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What I'm working on here is a new printable ... an "office hours agenda" that will hopefully make it easier for me to work through my list of planning tasks ...

Nest with Office Hours Agenda

I started by playing around with some vintage clipart (found on Pinterest) and creating a new "Pages" document on my computer. Then I started brainstorming just whatall goes on during said office hours (which generally take place over the weekend).

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I find post-it notes so very helpful when trying to organize my thoughts. I write one specific item/idea/action on a note and then - a gazillion notes later - move the notes around, grouping them in ways that hopefully make sense. Loosely arranged in the order in which I do things, and separated into things I do on my own as opposed to things I do with the rest of the family. 

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My next step will be filling out the sheet using the post-it notes as a guide and then saving it as a PDF. Then I can print it out, stick it in my binder, and use it as a guide each weekend as I prepare for the week ahead. Because even though I've been doing these things for years and could probably rattle them off in my sleep, I find it helpful to list them in a visual way. Sometimes my brain deserves a break and needs to go on auto-pilot! Plus, checking things off is always very satisfying. :)

(And yes, I will make the PDF available at the blog as one of my printables - in case this list might be helpful to someone else!)

Something else I did today ...

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Switched up my weekly file folders ... looking back over the contents in last week's folder and finding things saved in next week's. In a separate post I'll walk through that process so as to give you a better idea of just how I use my file crate folders.

Before I go ...

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Note the child racing towards me on the lefthand side of the shot. :) I was taking more random shots around the house (I get inspired when things are clean and the light is bright!) when Little Bear smelled the popcorn I had just popped (seen there on the island) and came running. I love how he's running! Hair flying and all ...

And I love the fox on his shirt ...

O popcorn

And I love the smile on his face!

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this "command center check in!" I'll have more on this topic in the week(s) to come ... and I'll be back this weekend to catch up with comments and questions. Sorry I've been a little slow on that lately! I do appreciate each and every comment and do eventually catch up as I can!

Well, I hope you have a great Friday evening and as always, I thank you for stopping by!

See you here again very soon ...


#52 Weeks: My Cookbooks & Recipes ❤

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Hello and Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week is going well!

Well I've been terribly lax on the progress reports, but I am still following the "52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge!" We just received our decluttering calendar for March and I am sooo excited about the upcoming target areas - laundry, cleaning, household routines, and ... gulp basement! All things I need to work on for sure! But first let's catch up with February's missions ...

So at the beginning of the month we were assigned "Cookbooks and Recipes," and then came "Trash/Recycling," "Coupons" and most recently, "Meal Planning" (our current week's mission). I loved the Cookbooks and Recipes challenge especially, though it did take me some time to get all the way through it. The Trash/Recycling mission I kind of skimmed over since we're pretty good in that area - didn't actually take any photos, though I can if anyone's really interested in how we do trash and recycling! :) As for coupons - currently I'm not doing them because honestly, I just wasn't using them and it was taking up a lot of time and creating a lot of clutter! That's not to say I don't use a few store-produced coupons on occasion - most notably, the craft stores, the supermarket and Bob's clothing store (for the boys). Those I just keep clipped to my errands notebook and that's worked out well. I will say I would like to revisit the "Price Book" challenge because I think that's a good thing to have in one's meal planning/money-saving arsenal ...

But for today, let me share what I did to declutter and organize my cookbook collection and horde of amassed recipes ...

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Cookbooks were easy enough - I tackled them not too long ago, back when I ran a blog series called, "Kitchen Chat." But as you can see, I have added many more cookbooks to my shelf than I had in that earlier post! (Many were still packed in moving boxes until recently.) This might look like a lot of cookbooks to you, or maybe not that many, but all of these are valuable to me and if nothing else, I like the way they look in my kitchen. :)

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Now, my recipes on the other hand ...

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Well, they hadn't been addressed in some time ...

I had basically been setting aside recipes to try, as well as recipes tried and liked, AND recipe cards from friends and family, together in a bin. Or bins, I should say - there were more than just this one to begin with! And at one point I had some things in file folders but that system had pretty much fallen apart ...

Well, I took ALL those loose things and went through the whole big pile of them! This took several days because it was a rather time-consuming activity - though quite a pleasurable one! I found so many things I thought I'd lost or had forgotten! So for a week or so, in the late afternoons, I'd make a cup of tea, sit in the family room with the boys and just sort through all these clippings one by one. I purged a lot of things - found a lot of things I'd been missing! - and kept a pile of things to organize by type.

While I was doing this I also went through my rather large collection of "foodie" magazines, whittling it down to what I truly wanted to keep on hand. First and most importantly was my Everyday Food mags ...

Everyday food mags

Everyday Food - published by Martha Stewart but sadly, no longer in print - is hands-down my favorite food magazine. I have every single issue! This was a small-sized monthly publication filled with wonderful, useful, and family-friendly recipes. And best of all, lots of seasonal flavor. (Eg. rhubarb in May, tomatoes in August and squash in the fall.) I store the bulk of my EF collection in the library along with my main magazine "stash" but I've brought the current and upcoming months out to the kitchen to keep in a small basket situated between my cookbooks and recipe binders (more on those down below).

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My other favorite foodie magazine (which is also, unfortunately, out of print) was King Arthur Flour's The Baking Sheet ...

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I don't have every issue, but I do have a lot! At first they were published in a rather small size (seen above on the left) but eventually they changed it to a larger format as seen in the photo below ...

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The Baking Sheet is filled with baked good recipes, obviously, and the recipes range from easy to more advanced - but what I loved most was their wonderful seasonal flavor and the many traditional New England recipes they shared. I was so disappointed when KAF stopped publishing The Baking Sheet ... I haven't quite warmed up to their newer publication, Sift. Sift is quite lovely - and large - but awfully expensive.

Anyhoo ... I keep a great deal of my TBS issues in a handy binder (a gift from my folks) and the whole collection has also found a home on my cookbook shelf. I guess that tells you how important Everyday Food and The Baking Sheet are to me! :)

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But let's get back to recipes - and that overstuffed bin! I took that pile of clippings - still hefty but now, purged ...

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... and set about separating it out into recipe types ...

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Once I had them all sorted, I stacked them back in a pile (separated by sticky notes - you can see this pile in the very top photo) and dashed off to Staples for some binders ...

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I went in thinking, "plain white binders" and came out with these beauties!

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I have such a fondness for a bright, feminine floral set against a dark background - just like this one! (I'd love a Vera bag in this pattern!) I also liked how this floral picked up my soft green cabinets and black appliances. :) These binders are part of the Cynthia Rowley collection at Staples and have very smooth-working D-rings. (D-rings are so much better than regular round rings!) I also bought a few coordinating binder pockets, tabbed dividers and sheet protectors.

Now, this is where things stalled for a while as I decided how to set up the binders! But then eventually - aka this morning - I got down to organizing the three binders. I had all the clippings separated by recipe type in this way:

main dishes - beef, poultry, pork, seafood, vegetarian

side dishes - vegetable, other

vegetables, general

breakfast

baked goods

fruits/herbs

soups/stews

appetizers

beverages

ice cream/sorbet

frostings/jams/sauces/candy

pickles & preserves

food gifts

holiday spreads (entire articles focusing on a particular holiday)

non-food recipes (eg. cleaning products, natural egg dye and play dough, etc.)

sentimental (family and/or handwritten recipes)

general food information/meal planning

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I used a purple pen for the tabs - not just because it matched the floral binders, because it reminds me of my late grandmother. 💜  Purple was "her" color and my mum often uses a purple pen, especially when we're writing out holiday meal plans. It just felt special to me. :)

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I found it handy to use small sticky notes to move the categories around as I decided which binder would hold which tabs.

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Then I started filing those pages into sheet protectors and adding them to the appropriate binders!

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Naturally, I had help ... :)

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Oh, forgot to show you the binder pocket!

Cookbooks binder pocket

Each binder has one of these - to hold recipe cards and small or oddly-shaped recipes like the punch booklet shown above.

At last the binders were ready to go up on that shelf ...

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I used a beige "vintage-look" sticker to dress up the binder labels ...

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Now I have another area of recipe storage to tackle, and that I will save for a separate post because it's a rather complicated affair ...

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If you've read any of my posts on journaling then you know I have a habit of storing pretty/interesting/timely/seasonal recipes in my domestic journal. I know many journal-folk who set up an "index of information" to use when they want to find something in particular from a random journal page. My indexing has been fairly hit or miss over the years so I am currently embarking on a quest - yes it's that epic, lol! - to comb back through ALL my journals and create a master index of information and observations. Well, I'll begin with recipes anyway ... :) 

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My current journal shown above and a few older ones shown below ...

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So more recipe talk to come ... though it will be a bit before I get through all the journals. I think I'll try to comb through them a seasons' worth at a time and then do separate posts - like say, "Early Spring Journals" and then "Late Spring Journals" and so on. Otherwise that would be one monster of a post!

And speaking of monster-like posts, I'd best wrap this one up! I do hope you've enjoyed this progress report and would love to hear about how you organize your cookbooks and recipes. Also, if you have any questions, please let me know - I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. Drop me a note in the comments box below if you have time ...

For now I wish you all a nice afternoon and a pleasant night ahead ... hope to see you here again soon! :)


My Weekly Planning Routine: Part One (of Two)

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope your week is off to a great start! :)

Recently, Rebecca left a thoughtful question and I'd like to address it here in this post ...

How much time do you think you spend on your planner (not journaling) per week? It looks like a lovely planner, but I wonder how much time it takes up?

 
So I will try my best to be concise in this post, but you know how I get when I'm talking about planning! What I decided to do was to take pictures as I go through my week-ahead planning routine. I didn't actually time myself, but I hope this gives you an idea of just what is involved when I plan out a coming week.
 
I first look at my current month-at-a-glance calendar and see what next week will bring ...
 
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What activities and events are coming up? What is our seasonal theme for next week?
 
I then begin planning out the weekend ahead ...
 
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Because a great week starts with a good (productive) weekend! Monday through Friday we're quite busy with work and the kids, so the weekends are where we "catch up" and hopefully, catch our breath. I use the small notebooks shown above to organize our Saturday and Sunday. Where are we going? How busy will we be? Where can we squeeze in tasks and to-dos? What ARE those tasks and to-dos? What errands need to be run and which purchases need to be made?
 
So the smaller notebook is for listing errands and groceries and the slightly larger one underneath is for weekend planning. We call this duo our "POW" (plan of the weekend) because ... well, we're silly like that. ;)
 
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Next I add tiny post-it notes to the top of a notebook page (one page per weekend). (There are three notes here rather than two here because Bill has a long weekend.) I jot down the agenda for each day like so ...
 
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Pretty simple stuff, but it works! 
 
And then beneath the notes I write down our weekend to-do list. I had only just started this list in the picture above, but what I also do is add little circled initials to indicate if a task is for Bill or myself (or one of the boys).
 
Now, to formulate this list I look at last week's POW page for any tasks that didn't get done or moved to the current week's to do list. I then look at the current week's to-do list on my planning sheet (shown below).
 
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By mid-week I can usually identify a few tasks that are best moved to the weekend.
 
(This notebook gets left open on the kitchen counter all weekend so any and all can look and see what's what. We also have "pow" meetings on Friday evening and Saturday/Sunday morning - to give everyone a chance to add their own goals and set expectations.)
 
On the little errands pad I start writing down places I know I need to go and the things I need to pick up ...
 
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On the lefthand side I write groceries (my last stop is always the supermarket) and on the righthand side I note other shopping errands. These would be things like a library pick up, a post office visit, or stops at local shops like the craft store or clothing store. These lists will reflect ordinary goods as well as particular items we need for projects and events.
 
Now, if I'm really firing on all cylinders, then I also plan out next week's menus so I can be as efficient as possible in my grocery shopping.
 
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I do this on my weekly planning sheet. I list what is "of note" for that week - for example: holidays, a day when Bill is working at home (meaning I could schedule something he cooks), and any busy evenings which would require an easy, quick supper. Sometimes I can't decide what I want to serve each night but still jot down meal ideas on a sticky note and leave it here on this page.
 
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I use my menu plan to jot down ingredients we need in my errands notebook - for example: ground beef, russet potatoes, fresh mint, heavy cream and dark chocolate.
 
Next I pull out the coming week's file folder ...
 
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... and look over the papers I've filed (if any). I highlight pertinent information with a highlighter pen ...
 
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In this week's folder I found:
 
A bluebird treat recipe.
 
A library record for the next audiobook to request.
 
An info. sheet for Crackerjack's service project with deadlines and due dates.
 
A recipe for National Mint Chocolate Day (Feb. 19th).
 
Letters from Earlybird's neurologist that need responses.
 
Using these highlighted notes I add to-dos and reminders to my POW notebooks and next week's planning sheet (shown below).
 
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So for example ...
 
Ingredients for the bluebird treat and mint-chocolate mousse are written down in my errands notebook.
 
Project due dates/deadlines get noted in my calendar.
 
Action items go on their appropriate lists:
 
    "Request Snow Queen" goes on my POW list - I want to do that over the weekend.
    "Reschedule June appt." and "Call Dr. F to discuss R's med" both go on my to-do list for next week.
 
Note: planning sheets for each week of the year are all kept in my homekeeping binder, divided into monthly sections. I can flip to any week and jot down an idea or activity as it comes up.
 
Now I gather any books we'll be using in our homeschool next week ...
 
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I store our books and other home learning resources in various ways - on display in the learning room, in tote bags and in themed baskets. Some things we keep out all year and other items get cycled in and out according to learning topics and season.
 
As I consider each book, I begin filling in next week's home learning worksheet.
 
And bring books that need photocopying to the printer station ...
 
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I place photocopies for the week ahead on a clipboard ...
 
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The copies are a combination of work pages for the kids and things for me to read and hi-light and refer to throughout the week.
 
Photocopies on my clipboard this week:
 
"Snow Queen" coloring pages
A Valentine verse for circle time (cut and glued to an index card)
A "Winter Walk" nature study (from Golden Books: Nature Hikes)
This week's Earth Psalms activity page
"Making Friends with the Birds" (from Round the Year with Enid Blyton)
Unit 62 "What Shall We Eat and Drink?" (from Natural Science through the Seasons)
 
"State Birds and Flowers" coloring pages (midwest states)
 
Now, these are all steps I try to get done, ideally, before the weekend. This allows me to use the weekend hours most efficiently and really get a head start on the new week. Sometimes though, I get distracted or busy or - let's face it - lazy, and find myself scrambling early Saturday morning to make thoughtful lists.
 
As I said, I didn't time myself but if I had, I'd say all of these steps might have taken about an hour. In my next post I will describe the rest of my planning routine which I do over the weekend and into Monday morning.
 
Well friends, I hope I was not too rambly, but please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to clarify any points. Remember, this is what I TRY to do, but not every week is as cooperative as I'd like!
 
So as ever, I thank you all for stopping by and wish you all a pleasant evening ... morning, day, what have you! Hope to see you here again very soon!
 

#52 Weeks: My Fridge & Freezer!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope you all had a nice weekend. :)

Well it's time for another "52 Weeks to an Organized Home" progress report! And this past week we focused our decluttering muscles on the refrigerator and freezer, two spots in my kitchen that are almost never as clean and well managed as they should be. I can't fault the refrigerator anymore ... our appliance is relatively new, since the old one went kaput last October. The shelves and compartments are supposed to make sense and lead one into an easy and efficient (not to mention edible) state of organization. Even so, I still manage to have overcrowded, sticky shelves and somehow food still gets overlooked (and goes bad). Not all of it of course, but enough of it that I cringe when a visitor takes a peek in our fridge or if someone brings something to a party that - heaven forbid - needs refrigerating!

But no more! I spent a few mornings this week working on this very area and all its - er, my - faults. With my trusty helper by my side, natch!

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Well, in this picture he's just moved on to the ovens but honestly, do you see the sheen on that refrigerator? Little Bear's been such a wonderful cleaning assistant - just as he loves working outside with Daddy (gathering branches is a favorite task), he also enjoys "working" inside with Mama. As soon as he sees cleaning spray in my hand or a chair pushed up next to the cabinets, he's all: "I help, Mama?" So I give him a damp dishrag and set him to work! :)

Ok, so here's the before picture of my fridge/freezer ...

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So maybe it doesn't look too bad, but clearly it was pretty crowded ... and that's because there was a lot of old food that needed clearing out. Salad dressings for example. (For people who don't eat nearly enough salad we certainly have more than enough dressing on hand!)

Oh, and note the dead/dying flowers on top of the fridge. These were a lovely birthday gift from my husband ... but because we have naughty cats who like to eat plants - poisonous or otherwise - any type of floral arrangement must be kept well out of reach. Where it's usually forgotten and left to die.

Anyway, I cleared EVERYTHING out - the fridge kept beeping at me because the door was open too long! - and got rid of food that had spoiled. (For the record, we did clean out and recycle the containers.) Then I gave some thought to how I had items organized, tweaked the plan a bit, and then put it all back.

Oh yes - we wiped each shelf and drawer as we went!

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The after ...

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I don't think you need to hear about all the food, but there is a rhyme and reason to it. And look! SPACE! There's a whole shelf there that has next to nothing on it. (Save some lettuce put aside for "the girls.")

Interesting fact: This particular fridge came with an easy-access door which I almost never use but does seem terribly smart. It's hard to explain, but there is a latch on the fridge handle that allows you to open an outer door that reveals the things you see on the shelves inside the door itself. The milk and whatnot ... the things you'd need to grab most often. This is supposed to conserve energy since you don't need to open the fridge wide every time the kids want a glass of juice or a cheese stick. I didn't take a picture of that but if I think to do so I'll grab one tomorrow and plug it into this post. 

(Note: I don't usually have so much pudding on hand, lol - but I'm currently nursing a "dry socket," which - if you're not familiar with this affliction - is when a wisdom tooth extraction goes awry. Very painful! Soft foods have been the norm for me for the past 10 days. God bless my mum, she brought me all kinds of yogurt and pudding and protein drinks and applesauce AND made me egg salad to have on hand. I'm healing slowly but surely - but boy, am I getting tired of pudding!)

And here's the freezer ...

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... which we did a few days later. :)

The freezer was in better shape than the fridge, but there wasn't really a good system in place. After removing it all and weeding out old items, it's a little better now ... And yes, we have a lot of ice cream on those shelves, but no they don't have anything to do with my tooth! We host a lot of parties as you know, particularly birthday parties, so ice cream gets bought - half eaten - and then returned to the freezer. Bill can't eat ice cream (he's lactose-intolerant) and I try not to, if you know what I mean. ;) And the boys are allowed ice cream only on occasion ... so it really piles up!

Oh, and did I mention Bill's new hobby is making ice cream?

Ha-ha, go figure! Seriously though, his lemon sorbet and vanilla custard ice cream is to die for! (Especially since the latter is made with our hen's fresh eggs!) Those white containers are holding his recent concoctions and the white object in the bottom drawer is the ice cream maker bowl. (Kept frozen and ready to go!)

Now one of the things I just LOVE about this program is how Taylor assigns a challenge (or zone) for each week - case in point, "fridge/freezer" last week and "recipes" next week - but then instead of just sending you off on your own, she ALSO gives you daily missions that will help you on the way to conquering that challenge! So this past week, on one day we decluttered the fridge, and on another we cleaned the fridge thoroughly. Then we tackled the freezer another day, and the front and top of the fridge another day entirely. This challenge is so VERY doable!

Speaking of the front of the fridge, here is mine ...

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Love this sweet teapot wallie!

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On the left is a board for Earlybird's ABA weekend homework, and on the right is a pen cup, the teapot wallie (which is like chalkboard) and our week-at-a-glance. I love how they look against the black fridge! I am using the teapot to list a seasonal verse or idea each week - something that ties into our home/learning theme (which next week is "candles"). The calendar is pretty self-explanatory ... I have this here so the rest of the family can see what's going each day of the week. :)

(I bought the homework board at Staples (Martha Stewart Office) and the items on the right were found on Amazon.)

So there we have it! Another week behind us and several spots in my kitchen are much cleaner than they were on January 1st! This coming week we are targeting "recipes and cookbooks" and I am SO looking forward to digging into those things. I will be back with a report on how that challenge went and I hope to also return in a few days with a peek at my binder's February section ... how those planning sheets are working for me and some thoughts on the month ahead!

For now though I will leave you, but as always, it's with my thanks for your time and attention. I hope you all have a nice week ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Pantry & Bakeware ...

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Hello, my friends and Happy Tuesday! I hope your week is off to a great start! I have just finished up week three of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge and I'm here to report in! (Please see my previous progress reports here and here.)

Above you see my kitchen pantry and if I may say so, I just adore my pantry. It's located in the kitchen proper, on the wall across from the kitchen "nook" and just before the passageway into the family room. When we were first shown this house (almost four years ago now) there were several things that really stood out to me as a prospective buyer (already half in love with the house from the first foot out of the car!) and one of them was this pantry. It was built by a local craftsman and apparently several homes in our town have the same feature. Short of a separate room with a utility sink and work table - and maybe rafters for drying herbs - I thought this was pretty perfect as pantries go! Certainly a "luxury" we had never enjoyed before in our previous homes. Food storage was always tricky especially as our family grew and I yearned to cook more at home.

Now, I grew up with a back hall pantry (the stairwell down to the back door) and my grandparents had a wonderful pantry in their basement (also in a back stairwell). My grandparents went through the Great Depression and lived by the old adage "use it up, wear it out, make do or do without" ... AND, always be prepared. I remember having such a feeling of comfort and security just knowing those shelves existed. Grama would often send me down to fetch a can of this or that ... but sometimes I looked it over all on my own ... just because. Full of jars and bottles and cans of all kinds, I found them fascinating and maybe even a little mysterious. :) Both my mother and grandmother were fabulous home cooks (my mum still is!) who loved caring for their families and so by extension, their pantries provided more than just physical nourishment. Nowadays of course we can just run to the grocery store and get what we need - almost at any time of day - but still, my Yankee roots urge me to secure for the future, stock up on goods, fill the larder, and never take any of it for granted. How blessed we are to know we can feed those we love when they are hungry ...

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Art by Tasha Tudor

Well, anyway ... back to the pantry in question! And if you can't tell, the photo at the top is the "before" shot. ;) I was told by a few folks that this looked pretty good as is (was), but honestly, things were really quite messy. There was so much out-of-date food (that moved with us from the old house!) and crumbs and stickiness of all kinds. And I really didn't have a good idea of just what all was in here. It's hard to "work" a pantry with which you're not completely familiar! And as I've mentioned before, one of my 2017 goals is to cook more at home - to make more of the food we eat rather than rely on packaged/prepared/processed kinds of foods. Better for us and our budget!

So the first thing I did was to empty the WHOLE thing out, shelf by shelf, and place things on the kitchen table.

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(I mean, how many bags of flour does one family really need?)

See, here's an example of one of my problems. I don't cook with flour as often as I should (or would if I had my A-game going) so I had no idea how many bags of flour we actually had. I'd buy flour if I saw it on sale, or if I was at the store thinking how I'd like to make pizza dough from scratch, then I'd buy flour just in case I didn't have the right kind on hand at home. Several of these bags were past their expiration date and honestly, that is just shameful.

(I'm baring my soul here friends ... just in case you thought I was some kind of super-organized, homemaking maven! Lol.)

I also had SO many supplies for cupcake baking ...

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But that makes sense because we do make cupcakes quite often (apparently not from scratch though) and sprinkles don't ever really go bad. (Do they?)

Ok, so once I had ALL the foodstuffs out (I worked cabinet by cabinet - my kitchen table's not that big) I stood on a chair and vacuumed and wiped all the shelves. (The boys were beside themselves ... Mama, come down from there! That's not safe! We'll tell Dad!) Next I combed through it all and got rid of expired items. (This was better done when my husband was at work ... he would have fainted to see me toss so much food!) Finally, I set things back in place, again going shelf by shelf - trying to come up with some efficient storage solutions as I went along.

And voila!

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A trimmed down, clean and organized pantry. With plenty of room for adding more! Generally speaking, the left cabinet holds savory things, the middle cabinet is for baking, fruits and sweet mixes and the last cabinet is for health, pets, baby and breakfast items.

How about a tour? :)

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Top shelf has beverages. We don't drink soda often, but keep it on hand for company and large-scale entertaining. The shelf just below that has snack-type foods - chips, taco shells, crackers and salad croutons.

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Next shelf down is for rice and soups ...

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There are two handy pull-out metal drawers for seasoning packets/sauce mixes, soup bouillon, and seafood cans/pouches.

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Ok, on to the middle cabinet ...

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Top shelf has flours, oats, cornmeal and pancake mix. (p.s. As I went along I worked on a pantry inventory - using handy printables from Taylor at Home Storage Solutions 101, noting any pre-made packaged foods I'd like to make from scratch - such as pancake mix.) The next shelf down has sugars (confectioner's sugar, brown sugar (hidden in an air-tight container just behind the Domino boxes), stevia, organic raw sugar and plain old granulated sugar. Also, a bin full of decorative sugars, colored sprinkles, icing gel, cupcake liners and toppers, etc.

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Moving down ... we have the spice shelf! The rack on the far left has pull out shelves and the two bins hold spices for cooking (left) and baking (right). (Generally speaking of course. Just how it made sense in my own head.) Then there is a mortar-pestle for grinding whole spices, an air-tight jar with cinnamon sticks, a pretty crock of Herbs de Provence (a gift from a friend), and a few other assorted spices ... vanilla beans, dry mustard, Bell's seasoning, cream of tartar, chili powder and seasoned salt.

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More pull-out drawers below  ... these hold gelatin, yeast, pudding mixes, and chocolate chips/baking chocolate of all kinds. Just below that are assorted baking ingredients: cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, coconut oil, corn syrup, molasses, honey, shortening, and cocoa.

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(Notice I'm spending more time on these shelves ... I'm much more a baker than a cook. Flour issues notwithstanding.)

Ok, next we have flavorings and seasonings ... salt, No-Salt (for my dad), assorted seasoning rubs and blends, cinnamon sugar and vanilla sugar (in the latched jar), packets of raw sugar, vanilla and assorted flavorings (peppermint, almond, lemon, orange, hazelnut, etc.), a large bag of mulling spices, a small bag of dried flower petals, cloth spice bags, and rosewater and orange blossom water. And a pack of flavored Italian honey. This is a fun shelf - it might be my favorite! :) Madagascar vanilla is my favorite thing in my kitchen. Well, after coffee ... and maybe tea.  

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Ok, on to the next shelf! Here we have dried fruits (dates, raisins, cherries and cranberries), a good ol' jar of Marshmallow Fluff (a New England staple), a jar of mincemeat (which actually contains no meat whatsoever) and many, many cans of squash and pumpkin. (One can never have too many cans of pumpkin, imho.)

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Allrighty, last cabinet!

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At the very top is a cabinet with medicinal things, matches, bandaids, sunscreen and, oddly enough, bubble solution. Bubbles bring high emotions in this household, so it's best to keep them somewhere out of sight when not in use.

The next shelf down holds my "master stash" of tea and a basket of assorted cocoa packets ...

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Then we have a shelf for larger containers of cocoa, marshmallows and leftover Halloween (and um, Thanksgiving and Christmas) candies. Nobody eats these really, but I can't bear to throw them out! (Actually, that's not entirely true - the Annie's Halloween bunny grahams are gone now.) And behind the tea tins on the left is a large container of protein powder we never remember to use. I love reusing those pretty Harney & Sons tea tins for storage!

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And here we have the pets and baby shelf, holding a basket of canned food, pouches of treats (one for cats, one for hens), a tupperware container of homegrown catnip, Little Bear's toddler snacks and bottle liners. (He's actually off bottles now - he really held onto that bedtime bubba! - but we're saving those liners in case my sister-in-law - who is due soon with her first baby - might need them.)

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Next shelf down holds cold cereal boxes - they don't fit standing up and we have yet to find another storage spot - and a bin of oatmeal packets, plus a jug of spring water.

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And then we have ... hey, wait a minute!

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Oh, do cats love it when you clean. :) But this is actually an empty shelf! (Which is fine ... sometimes, especially when Bookworm is home, we have lots of cold cereal boxes on hand.) And below that is a bottom shelf holding extra boxes of food wraps.

Ok, a couple more photos showing you how I tackled the "organize bakeware" mission ...

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Same procedure as the pantry, more or less - took everything out of these cabinets and weeded through it all. What do we need up here in the kitchen? What can go down to storage in the basement? Then cleaned out the cabinets themselves and finally, placed all of my bakeware back inside.

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Far left holds baking molds and and muffin pans, plus a large half-sheet cake pan. The middle cabinet holds bundt pans, springform pans, quiche/tart pans, and regular 9" round pans. Also, a couple of waffle makers. And the third cabinet holds a bin of random baking supplies - cookie cutters, candy molds and popsicle molds - as well as our Griddler and deep fryer.

You can probably see that these under-counter cabinets have a neat feature - a surprise cabinet on the backside of the jetty! (Do you see Little Bear's tiny face peeking in through the light in the back? :)

In this cabinet, which opens on the kitchen nook side, we store our crockpots, pressure cooker, juicer and salad spinner just behind.

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(The crockpot on the let was missing its inner pot - it was in the dishwasher!)

So that was last week's challenge in a nutshell. Pretty big nut there, Dawn - I bet you're thinking! Well, you know how I can talk. But thanks so much for sharing in my pantry joy - I hope you enjoyed hearing about the process! This week we're assigned missions that target the refrigerator and freezer and as you can see below ...

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I'm getting a lot of help from my little guy! :)

Well my friends, thanks again for stopping by and I'd love to hear about your pantry if you have the time to leave a comment. Or pantry memories? I'm very fond of those. :) I'll be back next weekend (or so) with another progress report ...

As I've said before, I am really enjoying this challenge! It feels so good to devote my time and attention on my home and really get things back in order. This is my workspace after all! I'm here all day (for the most part) really using these spaces with my family and it's my hope to become even more comfortable in the kitchen, cooking more often and with more purpose than I usually do. I think a tidy pantry is a good step in that direction, as will be a clean fridge and freezer!

So see you next time ... I hope to be back again this week, perhaps with a "home office" kind of post, but we shall see what the week brings!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


#52Weeks: My Kitchen Cabinets & Drawers ...

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Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! I'm here with a report on my "Organized Home Challenge" progress! And I'm happy to say it's still going well ... :)

As I mentioned in last week's post, I am following a challenge called, "52 Weeks to an Organized Home" this year. It's run by Taylor Flanery of Household Storage Solutions 101 and each week we tackle a different section of the home, working our way through daily "decluttering missions." Along the way there are all kinds of supportive posts to encourage us (on Facebook and Instagram) and daily email reminders to keep us on track ...

Happily, I'm finding it easy to keep up and honestly, I'm having fun too!

You can find out more about the program through links provided in my earlier post, but here is a peek at the Challenge printables I have stashed in my planning binder for easy reference ...

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On the left is a breakdown of all 52 challenges - one for each week of the year - and on the right is January's daily decluttering missions calendar. I have been using a blank cleaning schedule I found online to keep track of my weekly tasks as seen here ...

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I just copy the daily missions into each daily block and use a red pen to mark off each completed task. This sheet shows tasks for the next two weeks - 1/16-1/22 "Pantry/Food Storage" and 1/23-1/29 "Refrigerator/Freezer." The underside of this sheet shows the last two weeks' tasks which I'm pleased to say is filled with red checks! :)

Anyhoo - today I am here to catch up and show you how last week went. I really hope to do this each week as a means of keeping myself motivated and dedicated! (And don't hesitate to nudge me or ask about my progress if I've gone quiet on the topic, lol!)

Well, our first week of the year focused on The Kitchen Sink, Table & Countertops, while this past week's challenge targeted "Kitchen Cabinets & Drawers." And I think I'll probably say this each week but, BOY did my cabinets and drawers need a lot of work! But by taking just one small challenge each day I found it to be definitely do-able. I even finished a day early - doubling up yesterday by tackling food storage containers AND pots and pans. :)

Ok ... here we go!

Here is my utensils container on the kitchen counter, parked next to the microwave ...

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I could probably fill three of these stands, but instead, I pared things down, including only the tools we use most often. The rest of our utensils were placed in a small pile tucked rather tidily in this bottom drawer filled with random things ...

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Which also now holds paper bags, wax paper sandwich bags, paper plates and a small amount of paper napkins. (We try to avoid using disposables, but sometimes they're handy to have on hand!)

I did remember to take before pictures of that above "junk" drawer ... hang on:

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Above as it first appeared, and then below, after removing a layer of debris ...

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(Is it just my kids or do yours also come out of the woodwork whenever you start "weeding out" some kind of stuff and so suddenly they MUST be involved in order to see whatall is going down and whatall might be of use to them. Heaven forbid you get rid of anything as essential as an oversized warped wire whisk!)

So yes, this was very much a JUNK drawer and had not been cleaned out ... well, ever. Things just got stashed here when we moved in (3 1/2 years ago!) and stuff kept getting thown in here. Extra utensils, party goods, plastic utensils, egg cartons ...

Once I removed EVERYTHING from this drawer and the one above it  ...

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... I got down to business. In each case I cleaned the space first (vacuuming and/or wiping out with a damp cloth) and then went through all the items, whittling down what was essential and what was not. Once I had those essential items in neat piles, I returned them to the clean spaces.

Here is the potholder/kitchen cloths drawer now:

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It might not look like a lot of towels, but these are very deep drawers. Under that basket (which holds smaller-sized dish rags and microfiber cloths) are more folded towels. And under the oven mitts (which are scorched and well used!) are even more pot holders. Under the scented bluebird mug mats are a few trivets.

I can't tell you how good it felt to get these drawers - long neglected and forever overcrowded - all tidy!

Ok, moving on ... here is my silverware drawer:

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This didn't need too much decluttering, but I did lift out the divider and vacuum all the crumbs! (Cute story about the dual sets of stainless steel measuring cups and spoons ... many moons ago, Bill and I each bought the other a set of these for our first Christmas as husband and wife. It's actually convenient to have two sets since we do cook and bake quite a bit.)

One of the more time-consuming challenges for me was this absolute mess ...

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So yeah, that happened. Lol, I can't believe I'm showing you this! As you can see from the scribbles somebody once made use of the Sharpies hidden in this drawer ... only he didn't bother to find paper. sigh Eventually we will paint the drawer to cover up all the scribbles ... but today was not that day!

So what's in this drawer? Well, what isn't, lol? Clearly a real hodgepodge of things - kitchen twine, garden twine, writing utensils, take out menus, notepads, batteries ... and um, a Christmas ornament???

Anyway, here's the after ...

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:)

Small glass jam jars for glue sticks, rubber bands, erasers, paper clips and thumb tacks (in the covered jar). Local menus, notepads, an assortment of pencils and pens, stapler, scissors, tape, rulers and a bin of index cards which I use for Earlybird's daily therapist. I'm also considering using the alphabetical tabs for a simple and easily accessible family address/phone book.

Next up I tackled foils, plastic wraps and plastic bags ...

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It's a bit of a tight fit but it's everything I need. Actually, I really don't need that second box of Press n' Seal. That could be kept in the pantry ...

And here is last Friday's challenge: Food Storage Containers.

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We use all glass containers made by Pyrex. It took a while to phase out the Tupperware but it was worth it! These take up one end of the cabinets where we keep our dishes.

And here we have our pots and pans ...

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This is a rather dark photo (this cabinet is under our island, facing the sink) but what we have here is a large wok on the top shelf, sitting on top of an oversized cookie sheet. The orange thing is a flexible cutting mat. (Or I'm pretty sure it is, anyway. It could be a silicone baking mat, but I've yet to test that theory.) The lower level has a pull-out rack with (not seen, tucked in back) a few fry pans, including our cast iron pans and our two main pots. (Above the fridge I have our oversized dutch oven and stockpot.) Stacked on the right hand side are cookie sheets, cookie racks, cutting boards and our pizza stone.

Last but not least, it was time to address the cabinet under the kitchen sink! A rather gloomy and cluttered cabinet if ever there was one! I had hoped to paint the inside of this dark cabinet as part of the challenge, but ... not enough time! (Added to our master household task list!)DSC00313

I basically cleaned everything out - tossed or recycled old stuff - and then set up some nice storage containers.

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The blue plastic bins I found at Target and the aqua wire bin I picked up at Michaels. I pared down the cleaning supplies to sponges, cleaning sprays, sink powder, dishwashing liquid, dishwasher tabs, hand soap and an all-purpose cleaner.

(Note: We have a child-proof lock on the outside of this cabinet!)

And now a sneak peek at next week's challenge ... the pantry!

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As you can see, I will DEFINITELY have my work cut out for me here!

Taylor has a great suggestion to go along with the challenges for the next couple of weeks. We're going to - as much as possible anyway - eat from the pantry, fridge and freezer in order to use up what we have on hand and make space where we can. I will have to tweak my menu plan a little but I think this makes sense and clearly, we have plenty of foodstuffs to choose from ...

I tend to over-buy food, but hey - we are a family of six including four growing boys - and because we homeschool we eat at home quite a bit. Plus, we hardly ever eat out and only order take out once or twice a month (if that). So it's good to have plenty of food on hand! Non-perishables are fine in that scenario, but I have a hard time keeping the fresh foods in balance. How many times do I buy produce only to have it spoil before it's been utilized? And UGH do I hate wasting food. It's a waste of money, yes, but it just makes me feel awful. Too many people go hungry and I honestly feel shameful when we let food go bad. A goal this year is to be less wasteful - all around.

So clearly my pantry shelves are not as organized as they once were and honestly, I've lost track of what we have here. Plus there are likely some things in here that are out of date and/or need replacing. (Especially baking supplies and such.) Another family goal for the year is to eat less prepared and processed foods so keeping basic ingredients on hand is important. If we're going to make our own pizza dough we need our yeast to be fresh!

But all this is something to tackle next week ... I am looking forward to it, though! :)

One more thing before I go and I know I've kept you here quite long!

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I have had this book on my shelf for a few years now, but have yet to really dig in. (I tend to over-buy when it comes to books, too!) Well, I found it the other day on my library floor - yes, just sitting right there on the floor as if it leapt off the shelf and then waited there for me to stumble over it! (Which I did, because I'm graceful like that.) So I perused the contents for a moment - and found my interest piqued because the program is divided by weeks AND they are starting in the kitchen. Which is of course right where I'm at! I am going to try reading along as I work on the #52Weeks Challenge and see what kind of extra tidbits of encouragement and information this book brings me! More on this later though ... I've only just begun reading! :)

Well my friends, I thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed my weekly "progress report!" I'll return next weekend with another check-in ... but this week I will also be sharing pictures from my "Birthday Tea" and I hope, a close-up look at my Day Designer daily page. But for now I leave you with my gratitude and my wish that your evening is pleasant and peaceful. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


My Kitchen Table, Countertops & Sink ...

In other words ... it's week one of the Organized Home Challenge! Who's with me? :)

Hello my friends and Happy Friday! 

As I've mentioned a couple of times on Facebook, this year I am following along with Home Storage Solutions 101's 52 Week Organized Home Challenge. (Boy that's a mouthful isn't it? Lol.) I was all ready to revamp my housekeeping calendar (since it didn't work as well as I'd hoped last year) when I came across this program (hosted and created by Taylor Flanery) and I thought, "You know, this sounds pretty do-able!"

I like that Taylor's really thought out where to start and how the tasks should flow. And I really I like that the challenge is broken down into 52 weeks - that means there's plenty of time to get around to all the THINGS. (Take a peek at the 52 Week breakdown here. It makes such sense!) And I need ample time like that. I would LOVE to have my house clean and organized as soon as yesterday, but realistically I need to go slow. I know I'm not alone when I say I have a lot on my plate and not a lot of extra time in my day! Another plus is the program is free, and there are printables, email reminders, a Facebook group and even Instagram sharing, too. There is also a coordinating Daily De-Clutter Calendar for each month of the year. I signed up for that, too!

Ok.

You can read more about the 52 Week challenge here.

You can sign up for the daily emails here.

You can get the monthly Decluttering Calendars here.

So this week, for example, the Weekly Challenge is "Kitchen Organization: Countertops & Sink." This is where our organizing focus will be aimed this week! And today's decluttering mission was the kitchen table. (Yesterday's was the sink.) I LOVE how this program is mapped out! It feels really "possible" and I love all the support and encouragement that comes with it! I especially love perusing her various "Halls of Fame" - which are collections of pictures that people share when they get their missions completed. All very inspiring!

Anyhoo, let me know if you are following this program too ... I'll be posting at Facebook and #hashtagging at Instagram and ... what I'm going to TRY to do each week is to blog about how things went for me in the assigned challenge area. Now, I say TRY because you know me - and I know me - and we both know I won't always find time to post. And if we're going to be brutally honest ... I won't alway keep up with the challenges!

But as best as I'm able, I'll try. I am resolved to make THIS the year we finally really move into this house and make it our own. And treat it with the respect it deserves. 

So we're off to a pretty good start so far, even though this week was pretty tricky because we were all sick (some of us still are) but fortunately, when you're sick, you stay home ... and then as you start to feel better you just want to get everything back to normal. So, because I had all week and could do a little here and there, I got most of it done!

(And now you're thinking, Dawn, enough of the rambling - let's see the pics! So here they are ... but um, conveniently I forgot to take "before" pictures ... 😳 )

Walking into the kitchen from the foyer, look at all that (visible) counter space!

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Don't look further into the family room though ... that zone has not been assigned yet! ;)

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I find keeping my sink neat (and the surrounding area) nearly impossible. For one thing, it's just so hard to get ahead - and keep ahead - with the dishes! We are a family of six (four of them boys, mind you) and we homeschool - so we're here a lot. We eat here a lot. The kitchen sink gets used ... A LOT. And dagnabit, my sink is porcelain and darn near impossible to keep white! I don't like to use Soft Scrub but it seems to be the only thing that does the trick ...

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But since I needed to declutter here, I pared down the sill to have just a few things. I will try to keep it that way but this is definitely - to use a bit of FlyLady speak - one of those hot spots in my house. I'm always putting out fires here!

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have to have my hand lotion here even if that bottle isn't the prettiest. I use it constantly throughout the day, especially after washing up - dishes, hands or eggs and such. Next is a small china dish where I place any eggs I've gathered that day - a kind of "holding zone" before they get sorted into cartons. Then we have my small cross and peace rock ... and a pretty snowflake-design candleholder, a gift from my cousin Kara.

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I like to keep a candle on my kitchen windowsill year round, changing it with the seasons. I do adore candles - but with young kids and curious cats around, they need to be lit somewhere well out of reach. I find it so deeply satisfying to light a candle at the end of the day as I putter about my kitchen ...

In the far corner there is a small golden pot in which I keep syringes for administering Earlybird's twice daily anti-seizure meds. And a sweet and colorful glass rooster that holds a small photo of my beloved grandmother ... whom I miss dearly and who, without a doubt was the best homemaker I've ever known. I try to be like her in so many ways and one of them is in the care and commitment I show to my home.

Now, along the top of the window is the garland of herbs I grew and dried this year as well as our "winter blessings" angel. And finally, on the back of the sink itself is our preferred liquid hand soap and the dish wand resting in its metal tray.

And that's as pared down as I could get it! It may still be considered a bit cluttered, but I'm ok with that. :)

Ok, the rest of the counters ...

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These countertops - also white - are no fun to keep clean either. One day we might replace them with something different. I'm just grateful there's a lot of them - because in our old kitchen we had very little workspace. Here above you see where I'm parking my homekeeping binder these days. I am trying very hard to whittle down what I leave out here because this is probably the worst hot spot we have in the house. I can get a little carried away with the "stuff" I feel I need to have in my line of vision ...

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At the end of this stretch of counter there is a simple basket where I'm now keeping the mail. I wanted to move it (the mail, not the basket) elsewhere but Bill said he likes to look at the mail in this spot so I let it go. He's the one that deals with the bills so I can't complain there! (I deal with other types of mail but he's the finances guy.)

Also seen in this photo is a book stand with Earth Psalms open to this week's passage. I had been keeping it in my personal reading basket, but because I want to make this a family devotional I decided to try keeping it open on the kitchen counter - where I might remember to share it with Bill and the boys each week. This week we're marveling at sunrises and sunsets and contemplating how they're like God's way of saying good morning and good night. It's really a very lovely book ...

The small red tea light lanterns were an Advent purchase at Michael's and I just like how they sit here - how there are four of them, one for each of my boys. :)

There is also a small tv here as you can see in this photo below ...

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It's not a fancy one - just antenna, no cable - but it allows me to catch the news as I can through the day. And ok, yes - turn on PBS Kids when we need the little guy otherwise occupied!

Also you can see this final counter (the "jetty" we call it, as opposed to the "island," lol) divides the kitchen proper with the kitchen nook. Today's decluttering mission was to clear the kitchen table ... another scorching hot spot in my home!

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I love this tablecloth - it belonged to my grandmother and it's soft as butter! (These are my favorite table linens ... made in Vermont and very "New England!") My mum and grandmother always had a few of these on hand for their kitchen tables, and now I'm collecting them. I "inherited" this soft blue and an olive green ... I'd love to purchase a deep blue someday and perhaps a butternut ... something to tie in with the braided rug underneath the table:

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In the middle of the table is a lovely "led" lantern my parents gave us for our anniversary in October. I love having it lit after dinner as the household slows down and we button up for the night. We eat most of our meals here - unless we have company in which case we move to the dining room. (Which is a zone for October!)

From Taylor today at FB:

"The results from completing this mission are so beneficial, from encouraging family meals, allowing kids to get their homework done, and even letting you just sit and relax with a cup of coffee or tea at a nice clear table. It really just makes you say, ahhhh."

Very true. What a difference in your day when you have a nice table to sit at - especially at suppertime with the family. But in my house, any "horizontal surface" is vulnerable, and this particular surface attracts all kinds of things: dishes, schoolbooks, magazines, novels, newspapers, toys, coupons, cats ...

So there has to be some sort of strategy, doesn't there?

Ahhh ... so that will be a post for another day because I'm running long here - plus it's something I need to think on a bit anyway! How do we cultivate habits that support this decluttered lifestyle? I am going to have to come up with some routines for myself and my family ... and I'll be back to share my thoughts on that soon. And I'm all ears if you would like to share your own methods for keeping your kitchen areas clean and simplified! And please, if you decide to follow the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge, let me know! It would be fun to compare notes and share strategies! :)

But for now, I'll be off ... my kitchen is still pretty clean, but as the dinner hour draws near, I'd best strategize a little to make sure we stay on top of our game!

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Reds and Greens and Orange and Blue ...🍂

(And yellows and browns and black!)

Happy Friday, my friends! Here's a little bit of Autumn from my home & garden to yours ... 💛

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Autumn is truly settled in around here as you can see - inside and out! The weather has been just glorious, as it tends to be in New England at this time of year: brisk, bright and OH the colors! Although ... we are expecting a brief return of summery weather this week - 80s even! - but since St. Luke's Day is this Tuesday, I'm not one bit surprised. ;)

Why you might wonder? Well, have you ever heard of St. Luke's Little SummerAccording to The Old Farmer's Almanac ...

Lovely, summerlike days that occur around October 18 are called St. Luke’s Little Summer in honor of the saint’s feast day. In olden days, St. Luke’s Day did not receive as much attention in the secular world as St. John’s Day (June 24) and Michaelmas (September 29), so to keep from being forgotten, St. Luke presented us with some golden days to cherish before the coming of winter, or so the story goes. Some folks call this Indian Summer, but that officially occurs between November 11 and November 20.


This brief warmup may be unseasonable, but it will be nice ... because any day we can throw open our windows and spend time outside comfortably is a gift. Dark and gray days are coming, I am ever aware! I can feel my internal clock slowing down, taking its cue from the world around me. The crickets are still chirping but more slowly, and the breeze is a noisy rustle as crisp leaves shake from their branches and head for the ground. I don't mind this slowing down though - in fact, I relish it. It's all part of life's rhythm and, after all, we humans are part of that great cycle, even if we can ignore it with all our modern conveniences! I feel it's a good thing to embrace the season's changes ... I've been turning more of my attention to the inside of our home (and the inside of my head), concentrating on domestic comforts and inner lights - cooking, reading, writing, planning, nesting ... preparing my family for the long winter ahead.

Anyway, speaking of domestic appreciation, here's my dinner menu for the coming week. It's been way too long since I've shared this (and to be honest, it's been too long since I've been consistent with meal planning)!

S - (Full Hunter's Moon) Hunter's Stew (A chicken-sausage/sundried tomato dish served with rice - one of Bill's specialities!)

M - (Practice night) Baked ziti, meatballs, garlic bread, salad

T - (St. Luke's Day) - Burgers on the grill, corn-on-the-cob, farmstand salad, fries

W - (It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV tonight!) - grilled cheese with tomatoes and ham, chicken soup, apple-pumpkin dump cake & steamed almond milk w/spiced pumpkin marshmallows

T - meatloaf, roasted multi-color carrots, stir-fried broccoli & whole grain rice

F - (Practice night & Bookworm home for the weekend!) - crescent dogs, baked beans & brown bread, tater tots

S - (Family Anniversary Lunch) - leftovers since we'll be eating a big lunch!

Well I guess I'd best wrap up now, as this post is getting rather long ... but as always I thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and would love to hear how your autumn is unfolding if you have a chance. In an upcoming post (hopefully sometime this week) I will give you a tour of my new desk and chat a little about how I'm keeping organized these days. I am also working every moment I get on the next set of seasonal planning sheets. I'm hoping to have Late Autumn pages available to you well before the end of the month!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

p.s. Don't forget to watch that moon rise tonight! 🌝


On Meal Plans & Seasonal Eating

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Hello my friends and Happy Friday! I hope this post finds you well ...

Today I'd like to talk a little about menu planning. I'm wondering when you all do it ... once a month? Once a week? On the fly? And where do you make note of your meal plans ... in a planner? On a white board? On your phone?

I've been posting our dinner menus on my sidebar for a couple of months now, but you may have noticed I fell behind recently. For one thing - well, I got lazy, lol - but also, I'm trying to keep our meals rather simple throughout Lent, so it's kind of the same menus over and over again. That said, tonight our Bookworm comes home for his spring break! #happymotherdance! So I'm putting aside "simple" for savory and satisfying over the next week. I have planned a few of his favorite meals as well as a couple of new recipes I've been waiting to try when he's home.

Friday: spinach-cheese ravioli, tossed salad, artichoke bruschetta

Saturday: takeout from our local pizza place

Sunday: beef & ale stew with cheddar-mustard dumplings, rose-vanilla custard

Monday: American Chop Suey, roasted winter veg, garlic bread

Tuesday: cookout (cheeseburgers), pasta salad, green salad, rhubarb grunt

Wednesday: homemade calzones & pizzas, zucchini tots

Thursday: slow cooker cashew chicken over rice

Friday: lemon-roasted shrimp with asparagus and linguine 

Saturday: beef pot pie from local farm, roasted potatoes & carrots, biscuits, lemon cake

Sunday: leftovers!

**

Now, while we're talking about menus .. a few people have asked me to write about seasonal meal planning and I would love to investigate this further in a future post. (Three of my favorite things - food, seasons and planning!) But since Little Bear's nap is stretching on, I'll share a few thoughts on the topic today ... :)

Eating with the seasons - that is to say, using produce that is at its peak and available locally - is always a goal of ours, because it makes solid economic and environmental sense. But to my mind, it's also the kind of food that truly nourishes both body and soul. And this goes beyond fruits and vegetables - special seasonal meals figure into this, too! But we'll get into that in bit ...

Obviously it's much easier to eat seasonally at certain times of the year than others, especially if you live in colder climates. There are strategies one can employ, of course; with careful planning and preserving and such, there are ways to stick to a seasonal schedule. I'm certainly no expert in this area, but I'm always eager to learn and do better!

First up would be understanding what fruits and vegetables are available in your area and when ... and where you can get them! Visiting local farms with year-round markets is a great place to start. You can keep tabs on what's available and strike up conversations with the folks who run the market. They may have a schedule they can share with you so you'll have a rough idea of availability and can make notes on your home calendar. (Even if the farm is closed, check their website - many post seasonal calendars online.) Lots of farms these days also offer shares for the growing season - you pay a subscription for a preferred portion (family, single, etc.) and each week you take home your "share" of the farm's bounty. We've done this several times and it is SUCH a fun experience plus it's great to support local farmers.

Also easy - especially if you're on Pinterest - is to just type in the search term, "seasonal eating" and up will pop many charts and references for you to work with when making your plans. Speaking of, here's a neat graphic I found in one of my old journals - aka old-school "pinning." ;) It's a handy kind of list to keep in the meal planning section of my home keeping binder.

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(Of course it goes without saying - home gardening is a fantastic way to eat seasonally! Eating something you've grown, picked fresh from the garden is perhaps the best form of seasonal eating - in every sense! Not everyone has the space or desire to do so, but I think growing your own food is a wonderful learning experience for old and young alike.)

 In addition to using peak produce, I like to plan meals that are in keeping with the "spirit" of the season. This is easy enough for anyone to do really - just start by asking yourself (and your family): what are meals that appeal to you in each season? Jot things down as they come to you - in a loose seasonal outline. Maybe "applesauce" in autumn, "clambakes" in summer, "strawberry-rhubarb pie" in spring and "pot roast" for a cold winter's day. That kind of thing.

Now, your food lists might not resemble mine at all, because A. we may live in different parts of the world, so our growing seasons are slightly (or perhaps vastly) different, and B. seasonal eating is often tied to memory, preference and emotions, which makes it all quite personal! So there are certain foods and meals that really MAKE a season for me and my family - but they may not appeal as much - or at all - to you and yours.

After you exhaust your memories, take a look around for more inspiration. There's the internet of course, but how about good old-fashioned cookbooks? And I mean that quite literally - I find older books tend to focus more on seasonal foods (fresh and preserved) because they were cheaper and plentiful and people were making things on their own more back then. (Ketchup and jam and bread and the like.) Not to mention grocers of long ago were not as diverse as ours are today. Not to say our food system is better today - it's probably not - but it is more convenient.

So unsurprisingly, I tend to collect cookbooks - old and new - that organize their contents in a seasonal way and/or highlight natural foods at their peak. Here are a few ...

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For fun seasonal menus, my favorite of all time is The Silver Palate Cookbook. There's a bit of nostalgia tied to this particular book - I received it before I was even married, from my high school best friend who knew I was enamored of homekeeping and home cooking. I have read it many times over  - before I had my own kitchen! - simply for the seasonal inspiration. Also, a little story - before I was married I worked as a journalist for a Boston-area newspaper and my kind editors let me try my hand at food writing. Oh, the fun I had with those assignments! Well, I once got to meet the Silver Palate authors, Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso! And they were really fun and lovely ... though I only stood nearby and smiled when they looked my way, lol. Still, that's a fun memory for me. :)

Anyhoo - here's a look at the book's contents to give you an idea:

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And I know I don't have to tell you that the library is THE place to turn for cookbooks of all kinds. I do love the books I own but of course, they can be expensive! And they take up precious shelf space. I love to search my library system for cookbooks I've made note of at Barnes & Noble or books that are no longer in print ... then I can photocopy recipes I'd like to try someday.

Magazines, too, are a great place to find seasonal recipes - by their very nature they are seasonal, usually on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. And don't forget your local paper's food pages! We no longer get the daily Boston Globe but when we did I was always finding wonderful regional and seasonal recipes in the Wednesday food pages! (The Sunday Globe has a lovely magazine though, with a regular food column.)

Now, I don't want you to think that every meal I prepare is completely in sync with the season! Hardly, lol. What works for us - not that it's perfect but it gets us by - is a repertoire of our usual meals (things we all like that fit our budget) and then I work in seasonal items as I can. Usually as side dishes or baked goods - banana bread in January, strawberry bread in June ... acorn squash in November, asparagus in May. And there is always an occasional "seasonal" meal, and Sunday dinners are a wonderful time to do this. Holidays and liturgical feast days are also perfect opportunities to embrace seasonal foods! 

I store my recipes mostly on Pinterest these days, but the ones I've clipped from a magazine or newspaper I file in seasonal folders, while precious recipe cards written by my mother or grandmother are kept in a very special box. (I'd like to do a separate post about recipe organization in the future.) When I do my weekly menu plan, I like to look at the calendar as well as my Pinterest boards. I have a board called Feeding the Family, as well as one for Seasonal Fruits & Veggies and yet another for Baking. Recently I started boards for each season and I store links for things particular to those two months. So for example, in my March & April board I have seasonal recipes for St. Patrick's Day and Lent.

 (Another time I'd love to address the topic of preserving foods in season to enjoy later. I'd like to do more of it myself and would love to hear about other folks' experiences.)

What I love about seasonal eating is how it reinforces that connection to the natural rhythm of the year: to everything a season ... and all that. :) Fresh peaches don't taste, smell or feel right in January ... but in July? Oh, what heaven! A beef stew on a blustery Sunday makes me so happy it's winter ... and the same thing goes for a tomato sandwich in summer. It's all about nurturing that awareness of where we are in the year. Such a simple way to increase our family's overall comfort and joy! (All while respecting the earth ... and our household budgets!)

There's so much more to say on this subject, but for right now, here is a lovely passage from a book I'm reading this week. It's called A Sense of Seasons, and it was written in 1964 by Jean Hersey of Connecticut.

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"Every month has its satisfactions." YES! And on the previous page not shown, "Each month has its passions and plans, its idle dreams and ruminations, even its colors." 

There are so many blessings in every year - and they are all the more beautiful when savored in season. :)

I'm grateful to my friend Kimberly for recommending these books to me - I am just loving them! (They are much like One Woman's Year which I raved about recently.) Mrs. Hersey writes just as I'd like to someday ... narrating her joy in the seasons and sharing her observations of the world around her. 

 Ok, I will wrap up now, I promise ... I've kept you here so very long today. Clearly this is a fun topic for me to discuss! If you have any questions or something I said needs clarification please let me know. I tend to go on (and on) and then run out of time to tighten things up! And of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts on meal planning - seasonal and otherwise!

Enjoy your weekend, my friends and I will see you here again very soon ...


A Fresh Start: My 2016 (Homemade) Planner

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Planners are an important tool for multi-tasking, care-taking mamas, and they're always a popular topic of conversation. (Case in point, my bulging "Calendars and Planners" archive!) Well, today I'd like to show you the planner I'm using for 2016, and you're probably not surprised to hear it's homemade ... ;)

(Now, I'm going to try my best not to be overly wordy, but we are, after all, talking about one of my passions!)

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So I started with a notebook I really liked ... loved, in fact, upon first sight. Funny thing was, I had just had a "planner" bound for myself at Staples the week before, filled with favorite loose-leaf and pretty scrapbook paper, when I came across the above beauty at the Paper Source. It was a nice size and weight - easy to hold in one hand (so, portable) and sturdy. The paper itself was gorgeous - a comfortable off-white, lightly-lined, and trimmed in a shimmery silk. The bindings, made of a copper metallic, were strong and tight and the cover ... well, it just wowed me. At the time of my "discovery" I was out Christmas shopping with Bill, and I just looked at him, notebook in hand, and with a big smile said, "Merry Christmas to me?

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(Here's the notebook set on a file folder to give you a better idea of its size: 7.5 x 9.875").

My long-time tussle over planners has played out something like this: commercial planners, while undeniably beautiful, never quite fit my "exact" needs. (And, when it comes to planners, I can be a bit exacting, lol.) Homemade planners can be tailored to my own specifications but tend to come out a bit too oversized to be practical, and I've never liked the plastic binding to be honest. They're also, admittedly, rather time-consuming to create ... though I do enjoy the work of it. So I decided this particular (and very pretty) notebook was simply made to be a planner and by golly, I was going to be the one to make it! :)

So here's what I did ...

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First I counted the pages and determined a weekly spread would fit well in this book, with plenty of room for seasonal planning. (This is what I've found lacking in most planners - seasonal organization and workspace.) I also listed out the events of note for which I need to plan this year. Then I worked in the very back of the book on a "dummy" design ... starting with a wish-list of all I'd want to SEE in my weekly planning, measuring columns and counting lines, etc. And, once I nailed it, I divided the notebook into seasonal sections, including room for each planning project. Then I added monthly tabs for structure and convenience ...

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And colorful flags to denote event/project planning sections ...

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(Some events fall within the seasons themselves, while other projects are set in the back of the planner.)

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Inside the front cover I adhered a year-at-a-glance calendar for handy reference (a printable found online), and the first page (a bit blurred out for privacy) serves as a title page, with my personal and emergency information (name, address, email, phones, kids, who to call ...). I named my planner "My Yearbook," but I also like thinking of it as an almanac of sorts ... eventually filled with all my annual "doings" and seasonal observations.

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:)

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The next pages are for my New Year's planning ... a quote for our family "word of the year" and then an overview of monthly events - from recurring holidays and full moons, to things like inspection stickers, tax collections, and jury duty. Then I listed out my own personal resolutions (or "goals" as I prefer to call them) on the next page.

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Beside each goal I made small, succinct notes for next steps to take - i.e. how to make the goal happen. These will get funneled into the planner itself. (Yes, I'm confessing to you all, by sharing this photo, that my old pants don't fit me ... but we're all friends here, right? Lol.)

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Now we get to the meat of the meal! On the next pages we find my first seasonal planning section of the year (Deep Winter: January-February). On the left side I (washi-) taped a folded copy of my Deep Winter Overview, which I shared in my "printables" post. This is a breakdown of seasonal notes, things to focus on, each week. (There is space on the front of the fold for more notes.) On the right side I have a page for listing more practical concerns - household tasks, projects and goals. As you can see, I've only started filling in this section!

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I used a lot of washi tape and coordinating fine-point markers, as well as several kinds of post-it notes to add color and vibrance to my planner. I think it makes the pages pop. :)

Planner 10

After the seasonal overview comes my monthly calendars. Now these (12 in all) took me a while to create, but I'm so pleased with how they came out! I used the Pages application on my Macbook (just as I did with the printables mentioned above) and chose seasonal shades, quotations and vintage clipart for embellishment. THIS was such fun - if perhaps a bit fiddly - and I love how they look! I printed each month out and cut it to fit the planner page and then simply taped it down. Not the slickest looking calendar you've ever seen I'm sure, but boy do I love it! :)

Now comes the weekly planning spreads for this season ...

Planner 12

My weekly agenda allows a column for each day of the week, as well as one for tasks and to-dos. I like a Monday-Sunday rhythm because Sunday is the "dessert" in my week. :) I used a ruler and pencil and then a Sharpie marker for color. Yes, I did this by hand - 52 times - and yes, it took quite a while. But you know what? I enjoyed it ... I found it kind of soothing. I would work on this when I had quiet times (like now, with Little Bear sleeping beside me) and I would think about each week as I drew its planning page ... and pray for it, as corny as that might sound. I "visited" each week of the year in my mind and breathed hope into those days, and asked God to bless them with His grace and guidance. So it was good work, I think, all in all. Time well spent. 

Let's take a closer look at the agenda itself:

Planner 13 (1)

The start date is noted in the top left-hand corner for reference, and the first column lists things I need to do sometime THIS week. On the very top lines I listed this month's housekeeping zone and the individual tasks to focus on that week.

Planner 13

There are quotes peppered in the generous white space above the agenda - they reflect the week's seasonal theme (winter stars, here - warming drinks and birthdays, below). Weather and nature notes are scribbled along the far left margin. I leave a check next to each date as we move along in the week.

Planner 15

Along the righthand margin (tough to see in these pics) I have the time ordered from 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. This allows me to write appointments and activities in the daily columns in a timely manner.

Planner 16

Above each date I write what is "of note" that day: a birthday, a feast day, a full moon ...

Planner 14

Beneath the to-do list is a place where I can check off everyday repetitive tasks as I complete them. I had a post-it note for this in my domestic journal, but it makes sense to move it here. I started doing this when I had to keep track of medicine for my special needs son, and it helps remind me what still needs doing in my day. The next section of this column is for recording money spent through the week. 

Each day's column is split into agenda (top half), supper, and to-dos. The to-do's include, first, my housekeeping calendar chores (the ones from those index cards, you may remember?). The very bottom line across the whole agenda is for planning my posts here at the blog. :)

Planner 18

In the Deep Winter section of my planner there are nine weeks (1/4-2/28) and one planning section for Lent. Here is where I will plan out our family Lenten journey and activities. I've allowed two spreads (page turns) for this project.

Planner 21

And next we have the second season of the year: Early Spring! (March & April)

Planner 20

Planner 22

Planner 50

Planner 24

And several pages for planning Holy Week and Eastertide ...

Planner 48

Late Spring! (May & June)

Planner 51

Planner 49

Planner 23

Planner 52

High Summer! (July & August)

Planner 42

Planner 40

Planner 41 (1)

Planner 25

In late August there is a planning section for Back-to-School notes. I adore that washi tape!

Planner 26

And then we have Early Autumn! (September & October)

Planner 44

Planner 35

Planner 43

Planner 34

A couple of pages for Hallowmass planning ... includes Halloween, All Saints and All Souls.

Planner 45

Late Autumn! (November & December)

Planner 36

Planner 46

Planner 27

Planner 28

Planner 37

Planner 29

And here we have space for Thanksgiving planning ...

Planner 30

I love that turkey! :)

Planner 38

There are purple-lined pages for planning out Advent ...

Planner 31

And, of course - space for Christmas plans! This section is several pages long ...

And after the last week of the year (12/26-1/1) I have planning sections for: Blogging, Gardening, A Certain Party We're Hosting, Vacation/Travel, Gift Ideas and Miscellaneous Notes. I can add more tabs for projects as they come up through the year - there are plenty of pages back there!

A note on the monthly tabs (which are made by Avery and are adhesive) - I place them on the page where the first of the month falls. So, the January tab is placed on the weekly spread for 12/28-1/3 and the March tab is on the spread for 2/29-3/6, etc. They lead me, not to the monthly calendars, but to where my weekly planning starts for each month.

Oh, and by the way ... that notebook I had bound at Staples? The one with the loose-leaf and vintage paper? I have an idea how I'll use it, so it will not go to waste ... :)

***

Well, I am sure there is more I could say about my planner but in the interest of time (mine and yours) I will bring this post to a close. I know many of you are planner junkies like myself, so I hope you enjoyed the tour ... and for everyone else, I hope I didn't bore you too much! ;)

I'd love to hear your thoughts or any questions you might have, and I will be happy to talk more about my planner and seasonal planning in future posts AS WELL AS during the planning chat I'm doing with Mystie and Jen on Saturday! That's just two days away, so don't forget to sign up! You can listen in live (and ask questions) and/or watch the video after it's recorded. We're meeting quite early to chat - 10 a.m. EST! - so you can be sure I'll have a mighty large cup of coffee in hand! It should be such fun!

Well my friends, as always, I thank you for stopping by and I wish you all a pleasant evening ...

See you here again very soon!


Planning for A Fresh Start!

Fresh start button final

Happy Thursday, my friends!

Now, not to rush the year's end - because this is certainly a season to savor - but I always like to keep one eye on the calendar so I can see how quickly its pages are turning. And as usual, they're flipping fast! Well, my wheels are turning too as I consider planning ahead for a great year! So as I gather my resources (and hopefully my wits) about me, I thought I'd begin a series of posts about preparing myself for a new year of home keeping. The series will pick up speed after Christmas, but here is a first quick installment.

:)

Very early this morning, as I lay in bed yearning for coffee, and marveling over my inability to sleep in past 5:30 a.m. - despite all my children still abed - my mind started wandering to my housekeeping schedule, and how it has (and has not) been working ... 

It looks really good on paper, and it's certainly thorough, but it hasn't been easy to accomplish the goals I've set for myself. Ok, let me rephrase that - I have not been able to accomplish most of the goals laid out in that calendar.

(As in, my house is a mess.)

Now, this could be the result of unrealistic planning (thinking I can do more than I can - I'm really good at that) or it could be I haven't found the right time in my day for these tasks. It could also be due to significant changes to our routine this year with the addition of Earlybird's daily home therapy. Most likely, it's a combination of all these things ...

Anyway, I next started thinking about the rooms in my house and how ridiculously cluttered they've become since ... oh, since forever, but especially since Summer when time seemed more plentiful and was definitely more flexible. So right then and there I worked out an "order of cleaning" for my new year:

>> one month = one room <<

I'll keep up with my basic weekly housekeeping as best I can, but as for decluttering and deep cleaning, I'll pace myself by concentrating on one room at a time. I'll think more about where I can make time for these tasks (weekends? evenings? lunchtimes?) and how to work them into my planner pages, but here is the basic timeframe as it appeared to my rather sleepy mind this morning:

January: The Nursery

February: Master Bedroom

March: Earlybird's Bedroom

April: Older Boys' Bedroom (before Bookworm moves home for the summer)

May: Family Room

June: Sunroom/Patio (in time for outdoor living)

July: Basement (cool work during the hot months)

August: Garage (cool work during the hot months)

September: Kitchen

October: Dining Room (ahead of Thanksgiving next month)

November: Library (ahead of Christmas next month)

December: Attic (as we bring decorations up and down)

***

Next I'm going to work up a to-do list for each room: what needs to happen to get things back in order? As I move through the house, I would also like to create a floor plan and an inventory for each room; this would be good information to store in my home keeping binder. And ultimately I will need to look over that original housekeeping calendar - the tasks and the routine - and see where I can tweak things to make it more do-able.

It's a big project, and I'm up for it! But you know, sometimes it feels like I'm forever tweaking things ... and often I worry I spend too much time on the planning and not enough time just getting things done. Do you ever feel that way? It seems like THE PERFECT PLAN must be out there, somewhere - at someone's blog or in a new book or hidden in the depths of Pinterest, perhaps ...

 I try not to get discouraged, though I think it's very easy to feel defeated when things are not going well or something we've planned (and put a lot of work into) proves an ill-fit. But none of us are perfect and so our plans - even the one that seem awesome - will never be perfect. Learning from what we've done, and striving towards something better is all we can do. Everything we do to serve our families matters ... and these are "the small things we can do with great love." 

I might wish I could keep up with my family's needs a little better, but I know in my heart that I'm trying. They know I'm trying. HE knows I'm trying ... 

So I'll keep trying! 

(Which means I'll be back to talk more about this topic in a future post!)

My friends, I hope you'll join me as I look for a fresh start, and plan for a happy and homey new year. I think it will be both fun and helpful to discuss these topics, and share our pictures and progress with each other. Next time I will talk about what I'm hoping my planner will do for me this year ... and how I'm working towards making that happen!

But for now, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you here again very soon!


Planner Party Guest Post Number Seven: Tanya!

{Happy Friday, my friends! It's Tanya's turn today!}

***

Hello Dawn! Thanks for hosting this planner party!  

First, I must say that I feel as if I am floundering along this autumn. I’ve cobbled together some plannerish things but by no means is my system complete and I have found that things are falling through the cracks as a result. Two of the three systems I’m going to share are working….one decidedly is *not*! 

The first thing that is working is this little daily planner page. I made it up for myself while Steve was away for five days. (I was solo parenting and quite desperate!) Since then, I’ve adopted it wholeheartedly and (other than wishing I could pre print it) it continues to work well for me. I modeled it a bit after your homemade planner but tweaked it to work for my family. I love having a column for each child. Two of my kids require therapy and medications so it’s helpful to see them all laid out for me in the morning! 

  Planner party tanya 1

The other part of my planning trio that is working is my lesson planner. I used an inexpensive coil bound book and used it to plan lessons. This has been SO helpful. Especially when I have been able to preplan a few weeks in advance. I’m careful not to plan too far ahead as often my son’s chronic illness will dictate how much work we are able to get to each day. I love having everything set out for me though! 

  Planner party tanya 2

And the part that definitely isn’t working for me? My wall calendar. It makes it easy to see what appointments are coming up but it isn’t doing the job I need it to anymore. I’m definitely at a point where I need a proper paper planner rather than only the wall calendar.

Planner party tanya 3

Thanks for hosting Dawn! I’m looking forward to learning from others and gleaning some great ideas. 

 Tanya

***

Tanya, you and I have "talked shop" a lot through the years, and we are often on the same "page" so to speak. :) Like you, I find myself floundering this autumn and some things are slipping through the cracks ... I feel like it's my own fault because if I could just stop being so picky and just stick with something - even if it's not exactly what I want - I'd do so much better overall in keeping up with ALL THE THINGS ... but there it is.

So I thank you for sharing your planners with us, Tanya! They look very much like things I have going on at this time! There is just something about putting our own pen to paper that creates a more meaningful and workable planner ... even when my head get turned by professionally made planners, I truly love the homemade ones best!

Now, I really love clipboards - I think they are perfect for daily planning as you show above. And they're so portable. I still like my Day Designer planner, but I don't care for how heavy it is - I don't really feel like grabbing it if I'm heading upstairs or if I'm going out somewhere. It's just a bit took bulky to come-with, so I tend to leave it on the counter ... but a clipboard is so easy to tote around - and clip things on if you need. Right now my clipboard holds my master to-do pages as well as our weekend POW pages. (Something we can all work off of all weekend.) Basically, I think clipboards are brilliant and much underused.

And also, I LOVE making planners out of spiral-bound notebooks as you have! In fact, I really like your simple, straightforward layout - a column for each day. I used a plain notebook for a lesson planner this year and I like it but I think I might have made it more complicated than it needs to be ... 

As for the wall calendar - I had one on the fridge but Earlybird commandeered it, lol. He wanted it on the December page AT ALL TIMES so we could see when his birthday was. (As if I'd forget!) I finally took it down and hung it out near his play area in the family room. I like having a large monthly planner that all the family can refer to when we're making plans or kids/husband are wondering what's going on when.

Great food for thought, Tanya! Friends, what say you?

I hope you'll drop Tanya a note if you have a chance! Are you someone who prefers making a homemade planner? I think that's becoming an increasingly popular project - just check out Pinterest! (But only if you have a few hours to spare ...)

Also, before I go, I wanted to mention something I posted about on Facebook yesterday ...

As I am working on my next-week plan I realized that November 1st is just ONE WEEK away from this Sunday! Which means I need to get my gratitude project in order if we're to start on the first of the month. (Our remembrance altar as well.) So this weekend I've made a note to finalize a design and pick up any supplies I need. Next week I'll get the projects pulled together in my "spare" time (ha!) and hopefully be ready to roll on Sunday morning.

But for now, have a nice evening my friends - and Happy Weekend! Today is a special day for us - Bill and I celebrate 22 years of marriage! Where has the time flown?? Anyhow, I am going to take the weekend off from posting, but will be back on Monday with more party plans! Happily, we still have a few more guest posts in queue! :)

See you here again very soon ...


Planner Party Guest Post Number Five: Mary!

{Good morning, my friends! Today's planner post is brought to you by Mary!}
 
*** 
I currently use the Motivated Moms chores calendar - I print out the day-by-day pages, hole-punch them, and divide them into four binders (with three months in each binder). Also in each binder go monthly decluttering calendars from Home Storage Solutions 101. I was inspired by your 'Book of Days'.
 
  I like this calendar because it gives me a daily schedule area and lots and lots of room to write! I keep it open on the kitchen counter and co-ordinate it with my 2 other calendars. I also keep a daily/monthly planner in my purse that I purchased at the dollar store, and a calendar on the wall by More Time Moms, that I buy every year at Costco. 
 
This is how the web site describes the Motivated Moms calendar:
 
The Motivated Moms Chore Planner printable chore list is an e-book to be downloaded and saved to your computer. You can then either print the full year out at once, print a week at a time or just view it on your computer. These printable chore lists are just what you are looking for if you need to know exactly what to do each day in your home and love to be able to check items off a list to feel that sense of accomplishment.
 
I am very happy with my system, and maybe it will help others. I do a little decorating with Washi tape and stickers, but I try to keep the pages clean as I refer to them for addresses, phone numbers, etc. There are pockets in the binders, so I store papers in there as well.
 
All the best!
Mary
***
 
I can't figure out how to post a sample page here, but you can see one at the Motivated Moms website - they provide many samples (like this one) for you to check out before purchase. (Or even if you're just lurking.)
 
Mary, I love the straightforward simplicity of your planning system - and I also like the way you divide the days into four binders (like seasons). Makes perfect sense! I also relate with the way you keep your planner open on the kitchen counter - it's where I can be found much of the day! - but like others, I fret about spills!
 
I am fairly certain I have looked at the MM system a time or two before, but not in a long while. I really love the layout of the daily pages and how they describe them:
 
"... if you need to know exactly what to do each day in your home ..."
 
Yes, that's me!
 
*raises hand and waves it around wildly*
 
Some of you might remember, a while back I put a lot of time and effort into creating a home keeping calendar for myself, breaking down general and intensive housekeeping into annual, monthly and weekly chores ... then filtered it all down into what needs doing every day. I am/was using index cards to keep the daily housekeeping chores straight, but as others have said before me - it's just become one more thing to keep track of! Not sure why a small bin of index cards looks so much like CLUTTER to me on my workspace, but it does. (Never mind the giant pile of magazines, the file crate, the open binder or scattered piles of post-it note pads!)
 
(For example right now that index card basket is out on my living room desk ... not here on my kitchen counter workspace as it should be. That might tell you how well it's "working" for me right now.)
 
So I LOVE the idea of keeping all of it in one place. The to-dos and the tasks and the agenda and the dinner plan. I'd also add if I could, lesson plans, blogging, faith at home, nature study - but I know that's cramming a lot into one daily space! Still, a girl can try ... and try ... and try!
 
:)
 
But now I'm kind of taking over Mary's post so I will wrap up and leave it to you, dear readers! Please leave Mary a comment if you have a moment and let us know if you've tried Motivated Moms or if you use a daily planner that incorporates all those housekeeping chores that might not otherwise get done. We're eager to hear from you!
 
*And remember, I'm still accepting planner posts! If you'd like to send me pics of and/or thoughts about your planner, you may do so at the address below, and I'll add you to the queue!
 
bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com
 
Let's keep this party going!

Planner Party Guest Post Number Four: Amy!

{And now we hear from Amy - I am having such fun with this series!}
 
***
This is so exciting. Thanks for this invitation! How fun - like my own little blog post, as I get to explain to you just how and why my planning looks the way it does at this time.
 
First I will show you my wall calendar. We have had this system for many years, at least 7 or 8 at this house and I can't remember when I began doing it this way, but the important part is that it shows three months at a time - usually the current, and two upcoming months, though sometimes I don't update so fast and we have the previous-current-future instead.
 
For years I had two 12x12" heavy-duty, somewhat-glossy card stock sheets attached to the wall to create a 12x24" rectangle background, and the calendar pages were held onto that with tape rings on the backs, but that was tedious, and then made saving the old calendars a pain: you have to remove those tape rings so the old pages don't stick together! But at least the tape peeled off the semi-gloss card stock easily so I could quickly take down the old pages, move the current ones upward, and add the new ones at the bottom.
 
However, every summer the papers AND the card stock would curl so badly from the humidity! Between that, and the tape hassle, I finally had my husband install a piece of sheet metal. Now I use magnets to hold up my calendars. What is funny is that I had the magnet idea years ago, and we talked several times about going to pick up a piece of sheet metal and cutting it to size; then, just as we finally got over the hump of indecision (really, just being too busy with all the other small - or extra-large - projects we always have to do) and ordered the sheet metal, we were able to get just the right size (12x24") from Amazon, AND my very next trip to Joann Fabrics revealed that they, too, were selling these pieces of sheet metal! Some were plan, others were filigree.
 
I have been printing my calendar pages from WaterproofPaper.com for years; I think before that I might have gotten some from DonnaYoung.org or elsewhere.
 
It just occurred to me yesterday that perhaps I should have seasonal magnets instead of this random assortment of whatever isn't needed on the fridge. Wouldn't that be nice?
 
Oh, just a note, the clock on the wall used to be a "Maine" thing around here; a local family used to make these "Fox clocks," there were at least a dozen designs, all of them from that kind of 40's diner era. I am fairly certain that they also were a homeschooling family! They don't make them anymore, very sad. I always love it when I walk into someone's home or business and spot one of these clocks - they are unique, local, and becoming rare! We've had ours for 12, maybe all 13 years that we've lived in Maine and just this past year someone knocked it off the wall and we lost the glass. It still works, I will just have to be careful about dusting it more often!
 
And then, you will probably appreciate this: yes those are two thermostaats on the wall. :) (This is also just about our only kitchen wall, 2.5' wide, as most of our kitchen is taken up by windows, exterior doors, and interior doorways - what a pain.) We have the old thermostat from the old oil system, which we had replaced a few years ago. Above it is the new gas thermostat. And we have 3 zones. That is on top of the wood stove in the living room and electric on the third floor... we have an interesting and ancient house!
 
Oh my, this is so long! No wonder I don't blog anymore, sheesh!
 
{Dawn here, popping in to say: I'm loving this, Amy! You are so fun to read and never-ever apologize for wordiness ... I'm a big fan of wordiness!}
 
 
Planner party amy 2
 
Now on to the fun part!
 
I have a few photos for you of the planner I was using until the end of the summer. I tend to be a 9-months kind of plan lady, and then I get an urge to switch up my system. That worked well with the Franklin Quest (then Covey, then Planner) products because they offered sets that start on all the quarters! Now most of their paper products seem to start on the half-years only, but I think a few classics still start on the quarter...
 
Of course that did get expensive on our single income and often I would just bide my time by making new inserts for my binder....
 
A number of years ago I switched to Michelle Quigley's beautiful Catholic dayplanners (and I used a few others too that were less expensive than the Franklin products) but eventually I got tired of nothing seeming quite-right.
 
So I made my own, of course.
 
{Dawn here again - we are kindred spirits, Amy!!}
 
This one I started in January. I've had a couple of other iterations in the very recent past few years. This one in particular is a Canson sketchbook and I like it for the thickness of the paper  and also because it is book-bound. I found that the spiral-bound planners would get caught on things in my purse/bag, if/when I took them out with me. And the binder-style ones are just so thick and cumbersome.
 
So I have been making this style for a few years now, and I often use colored pencils that either reflect the season or reflect my whim. :)
 
I've got a couple of photos here of my monthly pages, and I leave a blank page behind each month for who-knows-what, maybe a phone number or a prayer or a birthday idea etc. I leave a few pages after Dec. for Christmas planning and card lists. And I always have the current and future year-at-a-glance calendars pasted in somewhere - usually the only thing that I print and glue in. You can't glue in too much or else you strain the binding, and I do want to leave just a little space in case of wanting to add in a photo or a bookmark or a sticky note etc.
 
SO. I am sending you photos of my monthly spreads, and my weekly spreads. The weekly spreads I have tweaked so many times; this layout I found in one of the Franklin catalogs and I essentially copied it. It's called the "Five Choices" planner and I don't really know what the "five choices" are, maybe once I looked into it and decided those few extra encouragement pages wouldn't be worth the $28 when I could just fill in my own $10 notebook! I really just like the clean style of the layout, and this is one of very few that go horizontally across the top. The bottom half the the spread is reserved for my to-do lists, which are: do, call, comp(uter), and go(errands etc.). That's it!
 
But like I said, I stopped using it abruptly at the end of the summer and I have something much simpler that is working for me right now. 
 
Planner party amy 5
  
Planner party amy 6
 
Ooooh I love what Cay says about adding to our favorite planner and helping us focus on what is most important. YES.
 
And the thing about having stopped using my hard-bound homemade planner is that now I don't have a keepsake copy of what was important to me at any given point. I do save our wall calendars but they don't capture the smaller details, like the things on my to-do lists or my weekly focus notes to myself (at the top of some of my weekly spreads, such as a particular bible book, a verse, a reminder to myself about a child's habit or my own habit... etc.)
 
So.
 
What am I using now?
 
A totally disposable, totally simple stack of papers in a mini binder clip.
 
My main scribbling/planning/jotting/thinking spot is in my kitchen, standing at the breakfast bar, and at my house, that breakfast bar frequently has someone eating at it. And so any time I leave my planner there, it is at risk! Even though I don't think I had ever had any major accidents with it over the years, the risk is still very great (and case in point, just on Saturday I dumped a child's water glass onto my stack of papers and had to rewrite them... a first, I'm pretty sure... but there it is).
 
So one problem is that I often put my planner "away" to keep it safe. Even if that means putting it into the family command center in the kitchen, or onto the kitchen table where there is actually less snacking and drinking, that is several steps out of my way, and not where I am currently trying to do my thinking.
 
The other problem with the book-style planner (and this might sound ridiculous) is that you have to open the cover to get to the important/pertinent part!
 
I know that sounds like no big deal, because we spend all day opening books to the pages we need, and my planners always have the month and week tabs easily graspable from the outside, so it's just one quick flip of the wrist to get to where I need to be.
 
But.
 
It's a step. And performing it many times a day does add up, and it does become an impediment. 
 
Now I have, at times, experimented with a list attached to the front cover of my planner, or a sticky note attached to the cover, but those don't end up working the way I hope they will.
 
(And the last part is that there are always crumbs about. Having my "thinking spot" being in the midst of food prep - and really I have tried to come up with a better spot, there just isn't one - means that even though whole bowls of soup or full mugs of coffee don't usually land on my planner, there are always tons of crumbs that need to be brushed up all day! That is probably the reason why I keep it closed, which means I always have to be opening it...  So now that I have a disposable clip of paper, I'm not nearly so worried about it, which means I am much more apt to actually use it.)
 
(Can you believe anyone else thinks in such specific, minute details about her planner situation? Isn't it ridiculous, in a way?)
 
{Dawn again, here - I can absolutely believe it and to be honest, I am relieved by it! I am so glad I'm not alone in my obsession! It might be a bit ridiculous but that doesn't mean it's wrong!}
 
Okay, so now I am using scrap paper, which we have in abundance because of having printer rejects or just papers that got scribbled on one side, etc. I tear it into 1/4 size sheets, which is a little bit smaller than I would prefer a planner to be, but because there are no bindings or covers etc. to get in the way, it's working so nicely! And because it's so small and "disposable" looking, it ends up being rather private too. Nobody bothers to waste their time with it.
 
My top sheet is my brain dump, and it gets filled quickly. I end up refreshing/rewriting it every few days. And because the whole thing is disposable, I don't mind crossing out heavily anything that I have done or deleted etc. (That was another problem with my planner, I wanted to keep it neat so "done" items simply got a check-mark, which didn't make them get out of my field of view! I wasted so many accumulating nano-seconds skimming things that had already been checked off, because I could still see them!)
 
Sometimes I have a totally urgent sticky note attached to my top sheet, reminding me that we really really need to cook the fish before 4pm, that sort of thing... because if it's not written down right under my face I am apt to forget that sort of thing.
 
Beneath my top sheet, I have several longer-term sheets that I actually have stapled together, which helps me to understand that, as a group, I don't need to review them too often. A couple of times a week is fine. Each sheet is a little bit different, but basically I have a non-urgent shopping list that has things like a new belt for myself, a smaller crock pot, etc. just things I should keep a lookout for but don't need to worry about.
 
Then there is a list of places we can go if we need to get out of the house. On those rough days, I usually end up walking around in circles muttering about how awful everything is (not really, but in my mind I worry a lot!) and if I could just remember to look at that list, it might, maybe, spark me into a spontaneous trip to: the beautiful working waterfront; the gluten-free bakery; a different library branch; the beautiful cemetery in our neighborhood; the arboretum which is only 40 minutes away; etc. I have a list of indoor places and a list of outdoor places that we could easily get to, thus making memories instead of stewing and being angry with one another while the dinner doesn't get made, the laundry doesn't get done, and the homeschooling gets neglected. (Really our lives are not angry and bad like that at all, but again, inside my own head it gets kind of ugly and no matter how lovely and sweet things might be inside our own home, I know we need to get out and do more interesting things sometimes, esp. outdoor things.)
 
And I also have a sheet of other long-term things I need to keep in mind, like I am starting to jot down Christmas ideas but that will probably become several full-size pages in my housekeeping/homeschooling binder which I am not going to bother to include in these emails, it is rather separate from my main calendar/planner habits. 
 
Oh, and the very last page I have in my binder clip is a little vitamin/supplement weekly chart. If it's there and can be checked off, I am much more likely to be getting those supplements! I have it oriented as a landscape so that I can easily flip it open 3x/day.
 
This system is working so well for me - but honestly now that I've been talking about this stuff with you, I am tempted to try my book-bound planner again. It's just so very nice!
 
Now I'm not sure how these photos will be ordered for you, but one photo shows two stacks of paper, wet, because I had just dumped water all over them. You can also see the scribble marks from my helper, and it doesn't bother me at all because I now these pages will just be recycled when I am done with them. :)
 
The other two photos show the new (dry) stack earlier, and then later, during the weekend as I added more and more items. And since then I think I have re-written a clean list for the beginning of this week.
 
Well that sure was fun for me! I hope you aren't entirely overwhelmed. I hope some other people are joining your party too! I guess my kitchen is pretty dark, we've got all southern exposure but some fools put a giant garage at the back corner of our house about 25 years ago and it blocks all the morning sun from the kitchen! And there is also a gorgeous sugar maple in our neighbor's yard, I have no problem with that, but until it loses its leaves it also casts shadows (which helps keep our house cool).
 
Planner party amy 7
 
Planner party amy 8
 
Planner party amy 9
 
***
 Amy I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this post! I love - LOVE - your stream of consciousness and I also LOVE that you are as mindful and - ok, I'm going to say it, but I'm right there with you - persnickety about planners! Thank you so much for sharing not just your planners but yourself and your family life, too. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that this current system is working so well for you ... and yet you feel pulled to go back to the book-bound planner. I am always in this situation. I find something that works well - maybe even really well - for me, and us as a family ... but I am constantly feeling pulled to something else that might appeal to me on a more aesthetic sense. It's a tough thing to balance!
 
The three-months at a glance on the wall are fantastic - I really like that the whole family can see these calendars and that you have a "season" in view at a time. My whole fridge is taken up with a large whiteboard I use as a schedule for Earlybird, otherwise I'd be on this. And now our one big kitchen wall is adorned with three very large framed prints. They are so pretty and just what I wanted but there goes my wall space.
 
(Seasonal magnets would be lovely, but there's something very genuine about those random magnets.)
 
Ok my friends, please let Amy know your thoughts and if you have any questions on her planners ... drop a note in the comments box below if you have time! 
 
Isn't this so fun? I am having SUCH fun with these guest posts and I hope you are too! I have several more to share so I hope you enjoy and I hope to see you here again ... tomorrow!
 
:)

Cozy Corners: Laundry Closet

A project in progress!

New laundry set up

:)

The units above were just installed, but we are planning to re-do this laundry closet - spruce things up a bit and make it more efficient for the head washerwoman. (Aka, moi.) But it's been a bit of a funny story, getting these new units in place ...

What happened was, a few weeks ago I was running a wash when we suddenly noticed a strong odor from the basement. Kind of chemical-y, definitely burn-y. Well, we determined it was the washing machine and that the motor had burnt out. Both the washing machine and dryer had been here since we moved in (no idea when the previous owners purchased them) and were quite inefficient. Our clothes were never quite cleaned thoroughly (sometimes they plain smelled funky) and the energy drain was awful, too.

Moral of the story: it was high time to buy a new washer-dryer set!

So research ensued and we decided on Samsung, front-loading units - and last week, Holy Thursday to be exact, they were installed. I ran my first wash - a laundry comprised of Little Bear's baby things and my brand new pair of (very pretty) spring pajamas ... 

Some time later I went back downstairs to see if the wash was done ... and it was stopped so I assumed it was. I opened it up and realized it was still soaking wet! So I closed it back up and tried to start a spin cycle ... only everything just locked up! And then it stayed that way ...

So here we had a soaking wet wash locked in the washing machine and nothing we did seemed to budge the situation one way or another. We called Samsung (the manufacturer) ... and they had us call Best Buy (the installers) ... and we finally got a repair appointment to come ...

... for the FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY.

Ack.

Mind you, this was but a few days before Easter ... and I had table linens to wash! Not to mention Easter outfits and the usual array of dirty laundry a houseful of people creates. And meanwhile, that wash - the one with all those tender little clothes (and my brand new pajamas) - just sat in that broken machine.

Sopping wet. 

Anyhoo, I'm rambling on, and this is becoming another one of my long stories, but on Wednesday of this week the repairman came and opened the unit for us - informing us a defective sensor was at fault. Not in transport or installation or use, but right at the point of manufacture. Thankfully the clothes - though wet and a bit smelly - were not awful.

So fast-forward to yesterday, when a new unit was delivered and installed and I am happy to say it is working beautifully! I've run several loads and I am very pleased with the way the machines are cleaning our clothes! And that original (smelly) wash? It washed up just fine and does not smell at all - except for a slight hint of lemon ...

:)

 I must pause here to express my gratitude to my dear mother who went above and beyond doing laundry for us while this whole fiasco unfolded. And by that I mean, LOTS of laundry. (You never realize how much dirty laundry you create until you have to load it up and hand it over to someone else!)

So the picture above shows you another cozy corner in my home - the laundry closet which is in the lower level - near the bottom of the stairs and mudroom - and a stone's throw from the "man cave," lol. I was so happy when we first toured this house because it was such a nice little spot. Not huge, but efficient - with doors that close the whole zone off entirely. Those wire racks were there too (we removed the lower one to make room for the taller units). 

We'd like to re-do this laundry "room" a bit by painting the walls a soft blue/green (that says "clean and fresh" to me) and installing some better shelving or perhaps cabinets. The "pedestal" drawers in the bottom of the units are wonderful storage areas - for detergents and the like - but since I have a toddler in the house we'll use them to store something non-toxic for now.

So please stay tuned for more laundry-themed posts! I'll keep you posted on our progress. :) I will also be organizing my laundering materials - the products we use (homemade is a goal!) and any equipment like an iron and folding table, bins/baskets etc.

(Perhaps an old-fashioned, outdoor drying line?)

I hope you'll be willing to share your laundry routines (and secrets?) as well!

:)

Well my friends, I'll be off now ... but I wish you all Happy Friday and a very pleasant weekend ahead. We are beside ourselves with excitement here in New England because our forecast calls for several days of sunshine and temps in the 60s, near 70!

See you here again very soon ...


Housekeeping Calendar Q & A

  Cards q and a 1

Oh, my friends - this post has taken me so long to compose! I see my draft was originally started on March 5th! But let's talk about those cleaning cards, shall we? I currently have a crayon-wielding toddler climbing up my back but I should be able to type while he climbs ...

:)

Now, I must admit, I sort of fell off the "cleaning cards wagon" back around Easter - not that I wasn't cleaning furiously for the holiday, but not at all according to my cards. I'm happy to say, however, I'm right back on track - in spirit if not yet totally in practice. And I still feel this system can and will work well for me. 

So I want to share this week's cards with you (and later, my master lists) and talk about the concept of "off weeks," but first I want to address some questions that were posted a while back ...

First question, from Leah:

Q. Did you write out the whole year's worth at once?

I am working on it, Leah! I would really like to have them all filled out ahead of time because it bodes better for me down the line. Firstly, I like the commitment of it - if they're all done ahead then I'm less likely to give up on them. Goodness knows I might fall off the wagon on occasion, but if the cards are already written out then they're available for me to use whenever I'm ready to climb back on that wagon. I'd like to think I will become devoted to my calendar, but I'm only human - and a human mother of four boys at that! But I know if I do get away from it, I'm much less likely to get back on track if I have to stop and write out cards first.

(Am I talking in circles, lol? I feel like my blogging "skills" are a bit rusty ...)

Q. And, assuming the tasks are the same next year, do you plan to rotate through the same stack again?

Well, yes - that's my plan, though I feel like I'm getting ahead of myself by saying that! But that's the heart of the matter, isn't it? Housekeeping is neverending - by its very nature it needs to be repetitive to be efficient. The tasks are all pretty basic but I may tweak things as I go along. Some tasks may not need to be done as often as I think while others may actually need more frequency.

Q. Do you keep a master list somewhere other than in the cards now that you are done?

Yes, I have master lists for all tasks, broken down by room/zone and frequency. (Discussed in this post.) The post-it note grid I made on posterboard has been transferred to paper as well - as a set of schedules (first week of the month, second week of the month and so forth). I keep those in my planning binder and use them to write out the cards as I move forward on the calendar.

Q. Do you have your basic daily chores (dishes, etc.) as a part of this system? 

Leah, daily chores are separate for now. I have a post-it note checklist in my master planner-binder (see below) that I use for marking off daily tasks as the day goes along. I use a new post-it note each week. It is absolutely low-tech, lol - but it works! It has occurred to me though, that I could list my daily chores on the back of each cleaning card ... I like that idea a lot, but that would mean even more time and energy put into creating the cards.

Rd q and a 2

(Note: as we discussed in an earlier post, this cleaning calendar is reminiscent of the system designed by Pam Young and Peggy Jones - aka the "Slob Sisters" - many years ago. Index cards are really indispensable when it comes to organizing tasks!)

So now for a question from Sue:

Q. I, too, tried Pam and Peggy's system, but found myself constantly refiling cards for tasks that did not get done. So, what if you do some but not all of the tasks on the card for that day?

Sue, this calendar is very much a work-in-progress and I am finding that many days I just can't get to all the tasks. It's still better than before when I wasn't even aware of whatall I should be doing! That said, if a task doesn't get done, typically I let it go until the next week (or next month). If it's a task that is assigned only a couple of times a year, however - for example: clean out bureau drawers - I try to fit it in somewhere, sometime soon. Typically his means pushing it onto the weekend ... where I hope with the assistance of other family members, it might get done.

So this bring up a thing I've been wanting to blog about for a while now, but have yet to mention. Bill set up the board shown below a while back ... It's called a "scrum board" based on a book/system he and his team are employing at the office.

Scrum board

(I don't think they use floral Washi tape on their board, however.)

We use this board to get a handle on what needs to be done - who's doing it and how tasks are progressing. On the weekend, we discuss (as a family, ideally with boys present) what we want/need to get done. We write each action/idea on a post it note - assign importance (low, medium or high) - and stick it up in the TO DO column. Then we all work together to make these things happen - either doing the task itself or supporting the person doing it. As tasks are in progress, the note gets moved to "DOING" and then finally, to "DONE!"

This is basically a "master to do list" but I have added some cleaning calendar tasks to the board - tasks I don't want to go undone and hope to get to at some point, assisted by my family. 

 (More on the scrum board in a future post!)

 Now, before I go, I just want to mention another thing: "off weeks" in the cleaning calendar. The calendar I designed is set up as a four week cycle; the 1st week of the month has its set of tasks - as does the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. As no month is exactly four weeks long, this system will get off balance. So I decided I will take "off weeks" on occasion. These weeks will coincide with holidays and vacations. Holy Week was one such week.

OFF WEEKS

July 27th-August 2nd (vacation/summer project?)

November 23rd-29th (Thanksgiving week)

December 21st-27th (Christmas week)

2016

March 21st-March 27th (Holy Week)

July 4th-July 10th (vacation/summer project)

September 5th-September 11th (1st week of school)

November 21st-November 27th (Thanksgiving week)

December 19-December 25th (Christmas week)

***

Well, this post has gone on rather long now, so I will stop here and in my next post (up on Friday, I hope) I will share a week's worth of cards with you all.

:)

Ok my friends, wishing you all a pleasant mid-week and thanks so much for stopping by! Please let me know if you have any questions - about this topic, or anything, really. As always, I will do my very best to answer ...

Once I get the crayon-weilding, mama-climbig toddler down for his nap. ;)

See you here again very soon!

 


Setting Up a Housekeeping Calendar ...

(Part Two)

Housekeeping calendar 4

Happy Tuesday Wednesday Thursday, my friends!

(It's taken me so long to finish this post, I have to keep changing my greeting, lol.)

Well, here at long last is the second part of my Housekeeping Calendar post! I'm still working on this rather large project, and it's taking me a while to get all my cards written out ...

Housekeeping calendar 1

I'm pretty much working on it whenever I get a chance, using the large post-it note grid to guide me as I write out each day's tasks. (Explained here.) I'd like to get the whole year's worth of cards filled out, but so far I'm taking it a week at a time. I find it helpful to look over the coming week's cards ahead of time, so I can see if there are any extra chores that might need special supplies or preparation.

But on to the calendar itself! As you can see in the top photo, I have filled a small bin with index cards (one for every day of the year), and 12 tabbed monthly dividers. Each one looks something like this (today's yesterday's card):

Housekeeping calendar 8

The upper corner has the date and day of the week and then I have listed my housekeeping tasks for the day - weekly, monthly, seasonal/annual. At a glance I can see what needs to be done according to the master cleaning schedule I worked out recently (which I explain in this post) ...

Wednesdays are my kitchen days, so I've listed the basic upkeep tasks here: sink, counters, fridge/freezer, appliances, wipe surfaces, floor

I also do laundries daily, M-F.

Also on Wednesdays, since I'm working in the kitchen, I find it a good time to start my meal plan and marketing list for next week.

Two monthly kitchen tasks that are assigned to this particular (1st) Wednesday of the month:

wipe cabinet and drawer fronts

empty fridge/pantry of old food

run disposal with ice/citrus peels

Now, I know without a doubt there will be days when I don't get much of my card done (case in point yesterday, lol), but as I've said before, that's OK. I can only ask myself to do the best I can and some days my best won't include anything other than feeding, dressing, listening to and loving up my kids. Nonetheless, the tasks are there for the doing if time and energy are available.

A few of you asked when in my day I am fitting in these extra tasks (on top of the daily must-do's that often barely get done) and the answer - right now anyway - is whenever and wherever I can. With an active toddler and a special-needs son as well as a busy high schooler needing rides here and there, it's tough to designate a set time for doing chores. I do like to do things early if I can, so I try to "get on with it" before the day really gets going - but later in the day works sometimes, too ...

For example, yesterday was a long day, and not much on my card got done. But then as I was preparing supper - waiting for water to boil and a timer to ring - I grabbed a damp cloth and started wiping the kitchen cabinets and drawer fronts. In less than 20 minutes I was done. It wasn't a deep cleaning, mind you, but the fingerprints and spills were gone. (I never realized we spilled so much coffee, lol!)

*Just for the record, I don't usually do chores during nap time. I try instead to rest - and blog! - while Little Bear sleeps. Case in point, this very moment! It's a good chance to recharge my batteries! :)

Before I wrap up, here are a couple of "cozy corners" from Tuesday's cleaning (bathroom zones) ... 

Cozy corners master bath

Above is the master bathroom ... and below is the foyer half-bath.

Cozy corner foyer bath

We have four baths in all here, which is a big change from our old house where there were two (but only one working!). There is also a boys' bathroom upstairs with a shower and tub, as well as a small bath with a shower in the basement. The two shown above get the most use - for some reason the boys use the foyer bath most of the time - and they also prefer our shower - so these are the two that need a real cleaning each week.

Several readers also remarked on how my calendar is similar to the index card system described by the "Slob Sisters" back in the 1970s. And YES! I LOVED that book and even tried their system a time or two through the years. When I decided to use index cards for this new housekeeping calendar I was tempted to read back through that book of theirs, but decided not to. I liked what I had planned and since I'm easily distracted I would be second-guessing and changing things up and would probably try to over-complicate my idea. I remember (I think) they had cards for each task and some cards were white (daily?) and some were blue (monthly?) and so forth. I do highly recommend their book - Sidetracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise - for some great ideas and a good laugh, too. They're very funny ladies!

Ok, I'd best wrap up now as I finally seem to have reached the end of this post and may actually press "publish" before the baby wakes up! Let me know if you have any questions about my housekeeping calendar ... it's going well so far, I think! I will do another post about my master lists and delegating tactics ... and I still have that cleaning supplies post to get to! I would love to talk homemade cleaners and using essential oils in our housekeeping ... Speaking of, are any of you planning to do Spring cleaning this year?

See you all again soon - or as soon as I'm able! And thanks, as always, for stopping by.

:)


Cozy (Clean) Corners ...

Family room 1

Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Sunday!

I thought it would be fun to share pictures of the corners I clean as I dig into my new housekeeping calendar. So for instance, I took these pictures last Thursday. On Thursdays, according to my weekly routine, I concentrate my housekeeping efforts in the family room and adjoining sunroom. Basic cleaning duties include de-cluttering/tidying, dusting/wiping surfaces, vacuuming rugs and sweeping floors. And because it was the fourth Thursday of the month, I had two extra chores on my card:

* clean out copy corner/check printer supplies (above)

* wash the baseboards and registers (below)

Baseboards

I cannot tell you how messy that above cabinet corner was before I got to it today! There were so many papers strewn about - laying on top of, and around, the printer - miscellaneous toys and whatnot in piles ... the bottom cabinets were open a bit because stuff was spilling out from inside. (I kid you not.) So I first decluttered and neatened the whole area, then I wiped it down (hand-vacuumed behind the printer) and got it all pared down and clean. And now it just makes me so happy. :)

The cabinets do still need re-organizing. They've basically held the same mishmosh of paraphernalia since we moved in - copy papers, and oddly enough, tech stuff like cords, keyboards, and other things I can't even name. What I'd like to keep here is stuff for the printer - paper, ink etc. - and maybe ... other supplies for homeschooling? Paper, pens, pencils, rulers, etc.? Maybe also, movies to play on the dvd player? I'll have to think on this a bit. The bottom cabinets are obviously quite accessible to toddler hands ... so maybe that will be a toy cabinet ...

The registers were a bit of a pain to clean, but boy did they need some attention. They were quite dusty and there were even some old spills ... I wiped them down with hot water and then dried them off as I went along. The heat was on at the time, so it was a bit tricky, lol! (Not to mention I had a "helper" crawling along beside me trying to alternately climb on my back or pull off my sweater.)

But you know, I really appreciated my housekeeping cards last week. They kept my immediate tasks in one place where I could quickly refer to them throughout the day. And what I'm finding is that, although I'm not getting everything done, I am able to get more done than I previously thought possible. Tasks don't actually take quite as long as I fear imagine they will!

***

Well my friends, thanks so much for joining me today ... I hope to have my next housekeeping post up early this week ... I will go through the cards and show how I'm using them as a calendar. And I will have some more cozy corners to share with you next week, too!

For now, Happy March! See you here again very soon ...


Setting Up a Housekeeping Calendar

(Part One)

Routine planning 1

Hello, my friends! Today I'd like to share with you a project I've been working on for the past few weeks: creating a new housekeeping calendar. I'm still ironing out a few details, but I am quite eager to share it with you all ... so here goes!

 As I've mentioned before, I still have yet to set up a new housekeeping routine - one that works for this house, which is decidedly different from our old house. Now mind you, I'm not a white-glove kind of gal, but I've been feeling badly about the lack of upkeep around here. Now that Little Bear is a toddler, I find myself spending time in the oddest places - huddled in random corners, behind draperies and under tables. Toddlers love sliding down a wall and just hanging out by the baseboards ... sharing a snack in a doorway ... or dropping small toys behind the bed. And what I've been noticing - while catching crumbs and rescuing toys - is that there is a lot of wear and tear happening to our "new" house. Smudges, stains, scratches, lurking dust bunnies and gritty bits caught in crevices. For example, the layer of dust along the register behind our bed ... ? Oh, my.

Now, I'm not asking for my house to be pristine - that would be fruitless and, frankly, boring - but I don't want to let things go on as they are. I need to find a way of doing a few things each day, as I can, that will keep our home's condition at a certain standard: hygienic, presentable and comfortable for my family. And by "hygienic," I mean clean enough for healthy living; wholesome. Also, on a practical level, I'd like to keep the overall value of our home intact as much as possible.

So, I figured during this long house-bound winter I could turn my attention to my surroundings and start making amends - on paper first, and then hopefully in practice. Because as with anything, I like to think before I do, and so first, I would need a plan ... 

And here's what I did. :)

Routines 1

I started with a list of things that need to be done daily. I just walked through my day and wrote down what we are already doing and what I would like to see done in addition. In composing this list, I referenced previous lists I've made, as well as information found in favorite household books and on Pinterest. I live by my own standards, but often I'll see something on someone else's list that I've overlooked.

Weekly planning notes

Once I had the day mapped out, I did the same thing for the week. I thought about our weekly rhythm - what days take us out and about, and what days allow more time spent at home. I gave each day a zone - bedrooms on Monday, bathrooms on Tuesday, etc. - and filled in each day's grid with its obvious to-do's. I then went in search of more information to add, as described above. 

Planning routines 1

Now, I've made cleaning lists before, but for some reason, just thinking about and writing down all those tasks doesn't actually get them done. Go figure, lol! But it's hard to keep the big picture in mind when you live your days hour-by-hour, just keeping up as best you can. Things like "dusting lampshades" and "vacuuming stair treads" kind of fade into the background when you have more pressing matters in queue, such as smelly diapers, dirty dishes and hungry kids ...

What I need, I decided, was a daily calendar with housekeeping tasks listed out for me beforehand - the must do's and the could do's - so I don't have to think about it in the heat of the (smelly/dirty/hungry) moment. A calendar that would be entirely devoted to housekeeping only - and yes, I can hear some of you saying, "Oh, Dawn - another calendar?" ;)

But yes, I think another calendar, one made just for housekeeping, makes sense for me. I might write "bedrooms" on my Monday planning page, but I can't list out all the steps. And for some reason, no matter how often I clean bedrooms, I still find it helpful to read each task separately: strip beds, tidy and wipe surfaces, vacuum, launder bedding, etc. That's not all going to fit in my planner!

Anyhoo! I decided to get EVERYTHING listed out and then schedule EVERYTHING according to how often it should be done ... keeping in mind, however, not EVERYTHING will ever get done ... but that's ok. It's a step up from what I'm doing now, which is clearly not enough. And my motto is, it's always good to get things down on paper. It's a good place to start ...

(Still with me, lol?)

To continue creating the master list, I walked through every room in the house and just wrote down things that need attention. I began with my Monday zone - Bedrooms & Upper Hallway - and simply looked the whole area over, writing down what would need cleaning (the when came later.) I started with one wall and moved along ...

Wall a week 1

... mentally assessing any and all cleaning tasks. Little things like "make the bed," and big things like "clean closet shelves." At this time, I also started a separate list of "projects and issues" to address in each room (for example, dress up hearth, replace master bedroom mattress, find bureau tray at flea market, etc.).

(Now, don't think for a minute I didn't move a whole lot of laundry out of camera range before taking this picture!)

Finishing up the in-house list, I consulted with Bill on areas with which I'm not as familiar - the garage, attic, basement, outdoor buildings, vehicles, grill and driveway/patio/deck etc. Though we do share chores around here, he has his zones and I have mine. ;)

Finally, I wrote out a list of housekeeping tasks that don't really have a physical space but are quite important in running a home - filing school reports, renewing subscriptions, updating addresses, arranging travel plans and filing taxes, etc.

Once I had all my tasks written out, I started to work on a schedule ...

Routine planning 2 

To start this next step, I covered a poster board with a grid of post-it notes, creating a month at-a-glance framework. Starting with the first Monday of the month, I wrote out the weekly tasks (clean bedrooms, upper hallway, laundries, trash & recycling) and then checked my master list of bedroom tasks for monthly chores. I kind of randomly assigned monthly (and seasonal/annual) bedroom chores to different Mondays of the month.

I just worked through my task list and as I wrote a task down on a post-it note I checked it off.

Routine planning

(Can you see now why this post has taken me so long, lol? The project itself took forever and is still ongoing!) 

By the way, I'm not a housekeeping expert, so I referenced various sources to determine how often these tasks should be done - Home Comfortsfor one, which is a great resource for housekeeping information. Also, considering I can't seem to get my daily chores done, never mind any extras, this could prove to be an exercise in frustration. And perhaps it may be ... but at least I have something to keep in mind and works towards. 

New routines 2

To further organize myself, I set up this grid for monthly tasks at a glance ...

Now as I organized tasks into time slots, I started thinking about how my daily housekeeping calendar might look and work. I considered a few different designs - binders, clipboards, etc. - but finally ended up choosing an index card system ...

New routines 1

But! Since this post has gone on quite long enough, I will stop here for now ...

:) 

In my next post I will show you how I've organized the index cards as a daily housekeeping calendar. (There might be some multi-colored cards involved, too.) I will also talk about how I'm planning to delegate some of these housekeeping tasks - because honestly, I'm only one (often busy, usually tired) woman! And in a future post I'd like to tackle the topic of housekeeping supplies, because I feel having the right equipment, stored in a convenient way, is half the battle.

Also, if you'd like, I will share my master list of housekeeping tasks. Not that I think it's necessarily something that would work for someone else, but like I said, I find it helpful to see other people's lists because it inspires me when making my own.

Ok, that's all for now, my friends! Thank you so much for joining me and as always, I hope you all have a wonderful day/evening ...

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see you here again very soon!