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Themes & Plans for April (Updated!)

Daffodil 1

(Note: This is an updated version of a post I wrote back in 2008 - I added a bit of content, fixed broken links and revised event dates for the current year, 2016. I hope you enjoy - I've had such fun with this series!)

April brings the primrose sweet, scatters daisies at our feet ...

April also brings us (at long, long last), the first true Spring days: mild, soft, fresh and alive with sound and color. Nature is finally shrugging off its Winter shawl, and showering us with a warm and friendly welcome.

It feels so good to open the windows again, and to leave the house with just a sweater - or none at all! There are so many joys to expore with our children this month, and what follows is but a sampling, just my own thoughts for the season. As always, I'd love to hear yours! But for now, please join me as I consider ...

~ Themes and Plans for April (PDF) ~

Nature

  • Crocus are now in full bloom.
  • Skunk cabbage grows in marshy areas.
  • Bears are waking in the (deep) woods.
  • Daffodils are in their full glory.
  • The skies are gray one minute, blue the next ...
  • ... and so rainbows are quite possible.
  • Forsythia is bursting all over.
  • At night we hear the spring peepers.
  • Mourning cloaks are the first butterflies we'll see.
  • Returning ~ thrush, phoebe, mockingbird and catbird.
  • The smell of wild onions is in the air.
  • There could be a light flurry or two.
  • We'll have rainy days; the rivers will swell.
  • Warm days are more frequent now.
  • Juncos leave; chipmunks re-appear.
  • Humpbacks are migrating back north.
  • Time to check for ticks again.
  • Dandelions are plentiful underfoot.
  • The Full Pink Moon rises on April 22nd.
  • There are buds on the cherry tree ...
  • ... which the sparrows love to nibble.
  • Bluebells appear along the wood's edge.
  • The grass is greening.
  • The goldfinches are brightening.

Folklore

  • Gem: diamond
  • Flower: sweet pea
  • Saying: April showers bring May flowers.

Food

  • chives
  • new potatoes
  • asparagus
  • fiddlehead ferns
  • dandelions
  • radishes
  • spring lamb
  • pasta primavera
  • snap peas
  • artichokes
  • spinach
  • sorrel
  • goat cheese tart
  • rhubarb grunt

Faith

  • April Devotion ~ The Blessed Sacrament
  • Liturgical Season: Easter (Paschaltide)
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (3)
  • The Annunciation (4)
  • St. George, Patron of England (23)
  • St. Mark (25)
  • St. Catherine of Siena (29)
  • Walpurgisnacht (30)

Household (& Garden)

  • Take outdoor furniture out of storage.
  • Rent de-thatcher; aerate lawn.
  • Harden tender seedlings.
  • Plant trees and/or shrubs.
  • Clean out potting shed.
  • Establish new garden beds.
  • Prepare containers; purchase new ones.
  • Purchase summer blooming bulbs.
  • Organize garden tools.
  • Prune flowering bushes after blooming.
  • Visit the nursery for spring plants, garden structures.
  • Rake and compost leaf litter/debris.
  • Spread fresh mulch.
  • Spring cleaning (if not done before Easter).
  • Have lawnmower serviced if necessary.
  • Family meeting re ~ summer plans.
  • Turn off fireplace.
  • Turn on outside faucet.
  • File taxes by 4/15.
  • Organize financial files.
  • Clean dryer vents and hoses.
  • Spiff up the bikes.

Life

Book Basket 

Field Trips & Outings

Crafts & Activities

  • Make wilding sticks and nature bracelets.
  • Clean up litter in a local park.
  • Prepare field bags for spring.
  • Begin new nature journals.
  • Hang a hummingbird feeder.
  • Paint a butterfly house.
  • Catch tadpoles at the pond.
  • Conduct a rainbow experiment.
  • Paint rocks for garden markers.
  • Dig in the dirt.
  • Set up a nature table at home.
  • Make tissue paper butterflies.
  • Color a butterfly guide.
  • Befriend a tree; start a notebook.
  • Re-enact St. George & The Dragon.
  • Build a bluebird house.
  • Look for nests before leaves come in.
  • Update our Bird List.
  • Prepare May baskets.

Well, I think I'd better stop there, as my lists are getting rather lengthy! I do hope this post gives you some ideas for the month of April, though. I keep this outline in my home keeping binder, (alongside the other months) and hope that I remember to notice, savor or do some of these things - but I never expect to get to them all!

April is fleeting - so let's make the most of it, my friends! Happy Spring!

"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March."
-  Robert Frost


Themes & Plans for March (updated!)

Crocus

{Happy Monday, my friends - and Happy Leap Year, too! I have started the process of updating my old Themes & Plans series (eight years old and in need of some pruning!) and I thought I would start with March since that month begins TOMORROW! So I'm fixing broken links, adding new ones, and correcting dates to correspond to 2016 ... I hope you find these posts useful or at the very least provide something happy to read. πŸ˜Š} 

March brings breezes loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodil ...

So tell me friends, how will March greet you this year? As a LION or a LAMB? Or perhaps somewhere in between? Pansyegg_2

Here in New England we've enjoyed a relatively mild Winter and this week looks to follow a similar pattern. Tomorrow (March 1st) is forecast to be sunny and 50Β° - not too lion-ish I'd say!

Though Old March can be fickle - chilly and gray one day, mild and bright the next - he brings with him Spring's first tender tidings - a soft breeze, a few bits of green, and the stirring of hope in our hearts. And so, with faith in Spring's return, I offer you some ...

~ Themes and Plans for March (PDF) ~ 

Nature

  • a quiet gray landscape, awaiting its green garb
  • the old March wind arrives to blow winter away
  • blackbirds returning (that squeaky gate sound)
  • drip, drip, drip - melting underway
  • pussywillows along the riverbank
  • mud, mud and more mud!
  • potholes that will eat your car in one gulp
  • forsythia blushing yellow
  • little pots of shamrocks at the grocer's
  • The Full Sap (or Worm) Moon (23)
  • migrating salamanders on mild, wet nights
  • robins hopping in the yard
  • maple sugaring in the woods
  • the first colorful crocus, tiny jonquils, too ...
  • the sun gains warmth; the days lengthen
  • skunk cabbage in wetland areas
  • fox sparrows passing through
  • lambing time at the farm
  • a surprise snowstorm is not out of the question ... ?

Folklore

  • March gem: aquamarine
  • March flower: jonquil
  • March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.

Food

  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • turnip
  • radishes
  • spring onions
  • early rhubarb
  • leeks
  • meatless Lenten Fridays
  • egg custards
  • maple syrup
  • shamrock shakes
  • Girl Scout cookies
  • corned beef and cabbage
  • Irish soda bread
  • Irish coffee
  • oatmeal scones
  • sloppy joes
  • donuts for St. Joseph
  • fig tarts on Palm Sunday
  • Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday
  • cheesecake
  • ricotta pie
  • lamb cake
  • baked ham

Faith

  • Month of St. Joseph
  • Liturgical seasons:
    • Lent
    • Eastertide
  • St. David (1)
  • Laetare Sunday (6)
  • St. Patrick (17)
  • St. Joseph (19) 
  • Holy Week:
    • Palm Sunday (20)
    • Holy Monday (21)
    • Holy Tuesday (22)
    • Spy Wednesday (23)
    • Holy Thursday (24)
    • Good Friday (25)
    • Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil (26)
    • Easter Sunday (27)

Household

  • Rake winter debris from yard.
  • Sweep porches, doorsteps, decks and driveways.
  • Inspect yard and home exterior for winter damage.
  • Clean birdfeeders thoroughly.
  • Plan garden plots.
  • Start seeds indoors.
  • Arrange for mulch delivery.
  • Purchase fresh sandbox sand.
  • Put windowboxes up; fill with hardy pansies!
  • Launder spring bedding.
  • Plan Easter dinner.
  • Order ham.
  • Order basket goodies.
  • Buy Easter lilies at the nursery.
  • Organize Easter clothes.
  • Shampoo rugs.
  • Take down storms; hang screens.
  • Wash windows
  • Polish woodwork with beeswax.
  • Re-stock craft supplies for the spring.
  • Organize rainy day play gear.
  • Start planning summer vacation time.

Life

  • National Craft Month
  • National Hobby Month
  • American Red Cross Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • Irish-American Heritage Month
  • National Umbrella Month
  • March Madness
  • Peanut Butter Lovers Day (1)
  • Dr. Seuss's birthday (2)
  • Alexander Graham Bell's birthday (3)
  • Antonio Vivaldi's birthday (4)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birthday (6)
  • National Mario Day (10)
  • Daylight Savings Time begins (13)
  • Uranus discovered (13)
  • National Pi Day (14)
  • Albert Einstein's birthday (14)
  • The Ides of March (15)
  • Return of the Swallows to San Juan Capistrano (19)
  • National Agriculture Day (20)
  • First Day of Spring (20)
  • National Waffle Day (25)
  • Make up Your Own Holiday Day (26)

Book Basket

Field Trips & Outings

  • Maple sugaring demonstration
  • Visit new lambs & fresh eggs at farm
  • Children's Passion Play at church
  • Museum of Science: Planetarium

Crafts & Activities

Crocus clipart

Now, I'd like to clarify that my family will not be observing each and every one of these March ideas! (Who ever could?!) But having them in mind - and even better, on paper - is a big help when I'm trying to weave a little seasonal awareness, organization and fun into our family life! I like to sit down once a month (usually the second to last weekend) to do a little planning ahead on the seasonal front. I make it part of my weekend "office hours." :) It might seem silly to work "seasonal planning" into an already busy family schedule, but honestly - if I didn't, it's unlikely I'd remember or even try to fit it in!

Well my friends, I've rambled long enough ... thanks so much for stopping by and I hope your March is just lovely, whether wild or mild!

P.S. I wasn't on Pinterest back when I first wrote this post in 2008 - maybe it didn't even exist yet? - but I now have boards for "storing" seasonal ideas such as the ones linked above. I will go through these links to be sure the are still valid and then add them to my March & April board.)


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." β€

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!


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!

 


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!


Journal/Planner Q & A ...

Journal workspace 7

Hello, my friends ... I hope this post finds you well! A few people had questions about my domestic journal and homemade planner, so I'd like to answer what I can today. Journal junkies and Planner people - this post is for you! Everyone else ... well, I hope you enjoy, too!

(Even if it's not your cup of tea.)

:)

First, from Kristie:

Do you like having it in your binder rather than a separate notebook?

I do! It's quite convenient to transfer completed sections to a storage binder and work with a smaller amount of paper, one month at a time. My notebooks would get very bulky and unwieldly by the time they were half-full! Also, I really like this particular paper for writing so it's a joy to "scribble" on.

Do you write to-do lists and shopping lists in here or do they go in another spot?

I keep daily to-do lists here (more about them below) and while I might jot down a quick shopping note - I keep my shopping list separate from the journal. I'd like to talk about shopping lists in a future post because I'm forever moving mine around.

And are you using all those different binders you once blogged about as well?

I am, and I'm putting together a post about them for later this week. (Or let's face it, as soon as I can get them up! Me and my promised posts, lol.) 

Do you work on your journal in little bits through the day or spend one big block of time putting in clippings?

I'll get more into this in Amy's question next, but it's a little of both. Ideally I would just work in it throughout the day, but sometimes I have to play catch up with my clippings! I try to keep up with them though, since they are quite timely/seasonal.

Do you take your binder out with you at all?

No, I don't. I leave it at home on the kitchen counter at all times - unless we are having a party in which case it all gets folded up and put aside somewhere until life returns to normal. :)

Do you think I can come up with any more questions?!?

Well if you do, Kristie, you are welcome to ask them! I love doing Q & A. :)

***

From Amy:

How... How? Can you tell me how and when you have time to do this? I am not asking this in a snarky way, not at all. When do you find time to organize, write lists, cut and glue things...? I love it! I want to do it! I would if I could. When do you get these moments? I don't have time to scrapbook usually, I don't have time to blog anymore, I barely have time for a decade or two of the rosary... our families are similar: oldest in college, youngest in diapers, I have three more in between, two homeschooling and one of those with sensory processing, it's so similar to autism. I do once in a while find time to write a note on paper to a friend and pop it in the mail, but otherwise I don't do Facebook (all my friends are hidden so I only use it for messaging, and not often), I don't do instagram or twitter... I skim just a few blogs throughout the day for encouragement, they are all Catholic, and until this week I wasn't even commenting on any of them. I always have little hands trying to type when this machine is open. People want to draw in my planner - and sometimes I let them. Sorry if this sounds like a lot of complaining, I just really want to find a bit of quiet time for that lovely habit of record keeping, journaling, praying-on-paper etc., and you do it in such a lovely way that I am inspired and hopeful. :)

First of all, Amy - thank you. I am glad you feel inspired when you read here - that is always my hope when I write! And please don't apologize for "complaining" - it's a very realistic question! We have similiar families and time is precious and fleeting. (As is energy.) So as for the how and the when ... well, yes. It can be tricky. And there are days (weeks) when I get very little journaling done. Then I'm playing catch up over the weekend when Bill is home to help with the kids. Journaling might seem like an indulgence, and in a way it is (because I enjoy it so) but I really feel it helps me in so many ways - with the children and the house.

What I do first of all, is to make it casual and convenient. I keep my journal in a central location where I can stand (because who has time to sit?) and do a little entry now and then. Or cut a few things from a magazine or newspaper. The baby might be playing with potatoes at my feet or napping upstairs or sitting in the high chair by my side ...

Journal workspace 6

I have my laptop, current magazines, mail pile, tape dispenser and scissors here as well as my planner and favorite pencils. It's all right smack dab in the middle of the kitchen - I've staked a claim on the "jetty" counter as we call it. (It's not quite an island, more of a peninsula.) The idea of sitting down at a quiet desk in the living room, sounds lovely and very "Jane Austen," but not realistic for me. Because the moment I sit down, A. someone needs me and, B. I lose all focus, lol. That's not to say I don't sometimes relish spreading out at one end of the dining room table when Bill is minding the boys ... then I can immerse myself in my domestic journal and focus on what's been going on in my life and the "world" around me ...

My journaling style is quick and efficient. I grab the pencil and write the date when I first wake up, wherever I left off on the open page. I make a quck note about weather and how the day is significant and then I just go about my business. If something comes up I want to journal about I just get it in there as soon as I can and as neatly as I can but I don't fuss over it. Today I added the label from the bakery box where Bill bought my birthday cake last night, a snippet from our newspaper about "Pet of the Week" entries, a note re ~ a new binder theme, something neat EB said this morning as we listened to Little House in the Big Woods and a note re thank-you's to send out asap. None of this was done slowly or with the finest of penmanship. Just quick scribbles - but they've been "caught," as I like to say.

And somehow in this way, day after day, page after page gets filled up and pretty soon I have a month full of thoughts and remembrances. They're not always profound or super pretty but they are authentic and pleasing to me. :)

Hope that helps a bit! We can talk more about "finding time" in a future post if you'd like. I think it's something mothers really struggle with - some years more than others!

***

From Lisa R: 

Hi Dawn! Like everyone else I love how you share your life at home with us. It is so inspiring! Can you give a close-up picture and explanation of your daily task list that's in the middle of your binder? It's the little marker in the rings. How did you make that? Thanks!

Sure thing, Lisa - and thank you for your kind words! I actually just redesigned that task list-page marker because the old one still corresponded to the chore schedule at our old house. I will do a separate post about the chore schedules themselves (like, what chores are done on which days), but here is where I keep the reminders ...

Journal workspace 3

This is a giant (#12) "craft tag" purchased at my paper store - I liked the look of it! (My old page-finder was just a trimmed piece of thick scrapbook paper. Cardstock or tagboard would work well here, too.) I used a three-hole punch to fit the tage here in the middle of my binder and added some pretty twine as a marker. The washi tape just dressed it up a bit. Across the top is a "Tiny Type" sticker which reads: "Rhythm and harmony will find their way ...".

On one side I keep two (sometimes three) post-it notes. These are lined post-it notes made by 3M. The top one is a daily task checklist - by placing the note on its side, I have a column for each day of the week. On the left side I have listed those everyday actions I must remember to do - meds, cats, dishwasher, sweep, tidy, mail, review, etc. I add a check when that task is completed each day. I started using this to keep track of Earlybird's medications and supplements and found it very helpful in keeping things straight!

The post-it note underneath is for THIS day's to-do's. So I write the date in the corner and then jot down things that must be done today. (Not tomorrow or sometime this week.) Things like, "launder crib bedding," "mail a check to X," or "proofread CJ's paper." I often have a second post-it note for tomorrow going so I can jot things down as I they come up.

Now, on the other side of this tag is the weekly routine ...

Journal workspace 4

I put this together rather hurriedly so I may tweak it further. I just used some label stickers to write out the chore routine for the days of the week. I'm still struggling with that weekly routine and finding time to keep up with my (newish) household!

From Coral:

Hi Dawn, I love this post on your domestic notebook. I love this idea and wanted to know what you use to adhere your clippings and so forth to the lined notebook paper. Does glue work nicely? I haven't tried any yet, I do scrapbook but it will be costly for me to use the double sided tape for photos unless I find some cheaper. Just wondering what you use. :) Also, do you use page protectors to enclose some pages like for recipes you clipped? I need to take a class on this. Haha!

Thanks, Coral! I use regular old tape for my journals. I don't think it's acid-free so I'm probably asking for trouble down the road, but I like how quick, easy and efficient it is. I use 1/2" Scotch brand tape (I like the thinner size). I order it in bulk online because for one thing, it's cheaper, and for another, lately I've only seen the 3/4" size at Staples.

As for page protectors, I do not use them, but that's an interesting idea! It wasn't an option before when I kept my journal in a spiral-bound notebook, but ... hmm. I do clip lots of recipes and some of them do end up (taped) in my journal. Any full page or multi-page recipes get filed in my recipe hanging files, but I kind of like the idea of page protector at the end of each month's journal pages holding recipes that correspond with the season. I will have to think on it a bit, Coral - thank you for the suggestion!

From Denise:

New question: I am wondering about your *weekly planning.* How you decide what to focus on; eg. you mention above 1/19-2/25 snowflakes & shortbread. I would think you decide what you want to study on (ie focus on) somewhat by what season we are in. Then, do you have planned activities to go with that theme? Do these correlate with a specific curriculum you use? (I am always interested, since I help homeschool grands.) I would like to do more of this, but am a little lost in what to do! Thanks for any light you can shed!

Hi Denise! First of all, I meant those dates to read 1/19-1/25 (not 2/25) as they refer to one week at a time. Snowflakes and shortbread indicate a potential theme to wrap our crafts/activities/tea/lessons/reading around and they are seasonally inspired. I have wooden snowflakes to paint for St. Agnes on Wednesday and a simple Scottish shortbread to make in honor of Burns' Night on Sunday. I have a (pen-and-paper) spreadsheet of the 52 weeks of the year and each one is assigned this kind of theme. (I'm working on filling them all in - some are more readily apparent than others!) They will provide a framework for Little Bear's eventual curriculum which will be very nature/seasons-inspired. There will be simple crafts and activities, "teatimes," nature walks and storytimes. This will be a culmination of things I did with the older boys as they grew. :)

Well my friends, I'd best wrap this post up now as it has gone on rather long! I hope it wasn't too boring ... I know I can get carried away when talking about certain subjects! ;)

Please let me know if any other journal or planner questions come up - I'll be happy to address them. In the meantime, look for the next few posts to cover housekeeping binders, rhythm & routine, and desk areas. I have drafts in queue and work on them every chance I get - which, admittedly is not as often as it once was, but I do try my best!

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


My 2015 Planner (Living the Seasons)

Planner 4

Happy Weekend, my friends!

In tonight's post I am finally going to show you my newly made weekly planner, and in a follow-up post I will show you the rest of my planning tools and how the new planner will (hopefully) fit into the overall planning repertoire. Such as it is.

(This post is about planning in case you weren't sure, lol.)

Planner 3

But to be honest, I'm a bit shy about showing you now, because it's really a very simple thing. Like, super simple. It is though, all hand-drawn because ... well, I'm just that persnickity. And so it took me a bit longer than usual to pull it all together. And if the hand-drawing part wasn't enough, I also have a toddler in the house ... and a few more boys plus a husband ... and a couple of cats ... and there was that little thing called Christmas that happened ... ;)

Anyhoo! It's a weekly planner - because I really look at my time in increments of *this week* and all that applies to that framework of time. How busy will we be? When are we in/when are we out? What special events are we noting/observing/celebrating perhaps? What will our Sunday dinner be? What learning themes are we working around? What's happening at Church this week? What household projects am I tackling?

And now for the breakdown ...

Planner 6

1. Planner Covera pretty piece of scrapbook paper seen above, plain and simple. (I've since attached a label as seen in the top photos.) I declined the plastic cover sheet offered by Staples when I had the binding done, just as I always do. "But it's free," the Staples associate said, eyebrows raised. Well, that plastic just doesn't sit right with me, so I guess I'll have to take my chances.

Planner 2

2. Planner Paper: Ok, bear with me now ... I used all Staples-brand, loose-leaf, college-ruled paper. (I told you this was nothing fancy!) I have been journaling on this particular paper for a long time and it just feels good when I write on it. (Paper-and-pen enthusiasts will know what I mean.) It's very smooth, the lines are light and I'm very comfortable with it, so when I was getting my planner started I thought, why not use my regular ol' loose-leaf? So what if there are holes along the edges? I can overlook that. (I'm pretty sure.) And it took the coil binding just fine.

Planner 1

3. Title Page: "Living the Seasons ~ at Home * in Nature * with Faith ~ a weekly planner for 2015" Now, I've never named my planner before, but as I've mentioned, I'm trying to planning to going to write a book this year and I'm hoping this planner will provide something of an outline for my writing.

(You see how simple this all is? Just regular pencil on everyday paper ... I was tempted to try using colored pens or pencils ... maybe washi tape ... and get a little more creative with it, but I held off. I hope I will add my own random flourishes through the seasons as inspiration strikes.)

4. Emergency and Personal Information - I didn't include a photo of this page for privacy reasons, but this is on the backside of the title page, and includes numbers I need to know and remember (for myself or someone else should they need it). Allergy information, and the like.

Planner 5

5. Months of the Year Overview: (Shown above.) Basically, this is an outline of the major events of the 12 months of the year. Things like birthdays, feast days, Sacraments, full moons, major sporting events (the ones we care about) and daylight savings time, etc.

Planner 18

6. Weeks of the Year Overview: This might seem redundant, but it helps me to see each week listed out this way. It's a two-page spread with one line for each week, Jan-Jun on the left-hand page and Jul-Dec on the right. With this overview I can see at a glance (and maybe underline or highlight in some way) the specific events we will focus on, and this will give shape to my weekly themes. (eg. 1/19-2/25 snowflakes and shortbread)

Planner 12

7. Monthly Appointment Calendars: Because I envision myself taking this planner out and about with me, I'll need these calendars when making appointments at the doctor, dentist, hairdresser, etc.

*By the way, I used an engineering ruler to make all the grids, columns and rows, etc. (My dad is a structural engineer and I've always preferred this style ruler.) It seems like a lot of work - but while it is time-consuming, it's not hard at all. It's actually quite rhythmic.

Planner 13

8. Looking Ahead to 2016: Notes for that year ... any big plans or events or hopes (academic activities, career goals, home/garden projects, travel plans, etc.)

Planner 14

9. Weekly Goals/Routine: An overview of how I wish to use each section in the weekly planning page: of note, theme, suppers, to-do, at home, in nature, with faith, blog, $ log, intentions

Planner 15

10. Around the Home ~ Monthly Projects: I have a monthly cleaning schedule for myself this year - I've divided the house by rooms/zones and assigned walls to weeks. That sounds strange, I know, but I will explain more in a future post. (January is assigned the Master Bedroom and I begin with one wall a week ... hoping to complete the circuit of the house by Christmas, 2015!) I have it typed out on my phone (written during nursing/naptimes!) and will transcribe the schedule here on this page.

Planner 20

11. The Months & Weeks of the Year: And here we are at last at the heart of the planner! Each month has a pretty vintage paper divider (and I might eventually add a tab), a sheet for a monthly letter from myself to ... well, myself, lol. About homey, domestic, garden and parish matters and such. And then there are two planning pages per week which I have shown below ...

*Note: I've already changed this part a bit - instead of that chatty letter, I am using this sheet for general notes for the month. For example, "Visit New England Aquarium" in March and "Attend backyard chickens seminar at local co-op" in April. The "domestic letter" is being moved to another spot ...

The February divider page:

Planner 21

The April divider page (back side) and the April, 2015 domestic letter page:

Planner 8

The weekly planning sheet for Week #14 (March 30 - April 5):

Planner 10

The planning sections I created are: of note (special days/events) * theme (tea/craft) * suppers * to-do * at home * in nature * with faith * blog * $ log * notes * intentions (prayer). (This is the sheet I used to staple to the front of my file folders.)

The week-at-a-glance agenda:

Planner 17

I modeled this planner set-up after a Payne planner I've used off and on through the years - and though I liked it, it always left me wanting something a little more personal. I have space all around for notes and quotes, scribbles and remembrances ... and the space at the bottom of each column is for daily chores and reminders (eg. clean bedrooms (M), clean bathrooms (T), etc.).

The weekly review:

Planner 22

(Sorry this picture isn't so great!) The final page in each week's section is a review page with a section for each of my four boys, where I can jot down notes about their week. Lessons/activities/things they said or did. The college boy's section is the small spot at the bottom since I'll probably have the least to say about him!

(Ok, true confession - I only finished drawing the pages up through May so far. But all the pages and sheets for the rest of the year are bound in there ... they just need a little pencil work and they'll be ready to go. I will get them done soon as I like to plan ahead as much as possible.)

***

Now, the last section of the planner is just an extra bunch of sheets for notes and then at the very back I have a piece of tagboard to make the planner sturdy:

Planner 23

(Fyi, I bought a package of tagboard for a couple of dollars at the Paper Source.)

Here's a look at all the divider pages - each month has such a pretty page with floral/seasonal images on front and then old-fashioned text on the back as seen here ...

Planner 7

 On New Year's Day, I brought my (mostly) done planner to Staples where a very nice associate bound it for me for all of $4. (I always choose coil over comb binding.) It wasn't the first time I had a planner bound here but I am always a little shy about doing so because well, some people just don't get it. Not that anyone's ever said anything to me, but I sometimes wonder what on earth they are thinking as they see all my scribbles and goals and designs. But what was kind of neat was this woman happened to be an avid letter writer (she thought I might be making a journal) who has pen pals all over the world. She said I had given her an idea to have her letters (all hand-written and many pages long) bound in this way, as keepsakes. I was very glad to have given her an idea and support a fellow (sister?) paper-crafter!

(I also left thinking ... could I write and bind my own book ... and then sell it online? Hmmm. Totally getting away from myself now ... and the subject at hand!)

Planner 11 

So there you have it, my friends - everything you ever wanted to know about my new weekly planner - and then some! (Though if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask.) I've only had it a few days, but so far I LOVE IT. The planner lies flat and the paper is smooth and the pages turn comfortably ... it looks and works like a regular spiral-bound notebook, only I hand selected the pages myself. Most of all, I'm hoping it helps me keep up with my busy household while truly savoring the seasons as they pass ... :)

 *❀*

I'll wrap up now - I've kept you so long! But I thank you as always for joining me and wish you all a pleasant evening and a happy Sunday tomorrow. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... and I'll see you here again very soon!


Asking the Daily Questions ...

Binders 1

Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope this post finds you well. :)

Recently I've been working on a personalized daily planner - something I'll print out and have spiral bound - and as I create draft after draft, and change up designs and colors, I keep returning to the same basic question. What do I need to think about each day? When I wake up each morning, what do I need to wrap my tired brain around?

I thought I'd share my list here and ask if you have other issues you address in a day and also, I'd love to know if you are using a daily planner of some sort. As opposed - or in addition - to a weekly or monthly planner.

(I think I might have asked this before, but I figured it can't hurt to ask again!)

What Do I Need to Address Each Day?

1. What is "of note" today? Is it a special day in some way? Something to honor/celebrate/observe?

ex. a feast day, a birthday, a solstice or equinox, etc.

2. What is the day's agenda? Where are we going and when do we need to be there?

ex. classes, appointments, a field trip, etc.

3. What is for supper? (And perhaps breakfast and lunch?)

ex. meatloaf/asparagus/rice

4. What do I need to do today? What must I remember, what actions should be taken?

ex.  make calls, send emails, pick up library books 

5. What are this day's weekly chores

ex. Monday - clean bedrooms, do laundry

6. What everyday tasks need doing (and checking off)?

ex. feed cats √ sweep kitchen √ dishes √ trash √ meds √√

7. What are the boys up to today?

ex. CJ's assignments, EB's goals, LB's notes ...

This would be for Monday through Friday. On the weekends I would be thinking about errands/maintenance (Sat.) and family/faith (Sunday))

***

(I am tempted to add a "notes" section but I really don't need it since I have my hodgepodge journal. I can easily find myself writing notes everywhere instead of keeping it all in one place.)

So those are my thoughts on the daily questions ... these are the things I truly need to address each and every day - as a homemaker and homeschooling mother of four. I have tried to incorporate them into my daily (clippings/notes) journal somehow, but I've never been successful. I'm fairly set on having the pages bound once I have them to my liking, though I've also played around with a binder-and-clipboard scenario.

I will certainly keep you all posted on my progress but in the meantime, I'd love to hear about your daily planning. Please drop me a note if you have time!

Oh, and about that picture at the top of the post? It's not actually meant to go with the topic at hand, lol. Rather, it's a bit of a tease for a future post. Yes, I've gone binder-crazy my friends! I will fill you all in very soon ...

❀


(Scattered) Thoughts on the To-Do List ...

Pow 2

*Note: This isn't really a full-fledged post - more a collection of thoughts. Just some things I've been mulling over the past few days ...

My friends, we all have a lot on our plates. And there is a great need to organize all those responsibilities on a to-do list (or lists).

I think we've perhaps talked about this concept once or twice here before? ;)

Every Thursday/Friday I work on what Bill calls our "POW" - an acronym for our "Plan of the Weekend" as opposed to the "POD" which is the "Plan of the Day" or the "POP" which is "The Plan of the Party" ... and so on. He's a clever one, my guy. :)

Anyhoo. I always make up this great big list of things we need to do each weekend. This list includes things we really NEED to get done as well as many tasks we really should do if time becomes available.

Now the lists, in theory, are wonderful. I feel SO empowered on Saturday morning when, coffee in hand, with half the kids still asleep, I look over that neat little (big) list ...

THIS will be the weekend we get it all done. Monday will come and we will all feel SO accomplished and organized and ... well, exhausted. But it will be a good tired, you know?

Unfortunately this is almost never (read: never) the case.

We tend to get a few of the list items done - and then a bunch of other things come up that were not actually on the list but command our attention in some way. What's left undone gets added to my weekly folder under "To Do This Week" - though some tasks hang around on that POW awaiting next week's review.

Bottom line - we start a weekend with a lengthy list of things to accomplish and we start a new week having gotten very little of it done.

So here I am today (Friday), with another POW in hand, and another weekend upon us and I'm left wondering ... why can't we get it all done? Why can't we get most of it done? Or at least half? I'd be happy with half.

Well, first - let me be honest here. My main problem is that there are just too many things on that list to begin with, and we have too many everyday responsibilities that leave little room for extra activities and jobs. Plus, we enjoy our kids and spending time with them on decidely un-list-like things. We're not the most spontaneous of people, but we like a good ice cream run or last minute farm trip as much as the next family.

:) 

But let's get back to the list.

My thought is this. I was looking at each item on that list and thinking - well, when would we do this chore/errand/task? And I felt a bit paralyzed. It's one thing to list things that need to get done - it's another thing entirely to commit a set time to them. That's moving beyond the abstract. And I think right there is my problem - moving from the idea to the action. Tasks must be assigned a slot in the schedule if they have any hope at all of getting done.

But then, there's the whole timing issue. I usually make that list, as I said above, between Thursday and Friday. By Saturday morning anyway, I have it all ready to go. I usually discuss it with Bill over coffee - our second or third cup, natch; conversation is never seriously attempted before that. Then we each choose a first thing to work on ... and then life takes over.  We roll with the punches and the list sits on the counter - patiently awaiting a perusal now and then.

So there's the first thing - deciding when things will get done. Commiting time in the day to focus on those tasks and really moving on them.

But the other important thing I think, is to assign a person to each task. Bill had the great suggestion that I add a letter next to a task to indicate who should (or could) be repsonsible for that task. He finds it easier to just look at the B's if you will and go from there. I've since added the boys' initials where appropriate. I think this small step has helped us a lot. The list feels more manageable when I see all those letters on it. There are a lot of D's to be sure, but plenty of others as well.

Ok, to sum up ...

A list of to-do's is one thing - and it's a great thing. Just getting those tasks down on paper is wonderful, psychologically and practically speaking.

But equally important is assigning each task a person and a time.

Example ...

POW item: The boys need haircuts. That would be under Bill's supervision and that would work best  ... when? Probably not at 8 a.m. when the boys are hardly awake (even though Bill and I are raring to go!) and probably not late in the day when I'd like people home to help with supper. (Are there errands that have to be done onto which the haircuts can be tagged?)

POW item: My van needs a cleaning (inside and out). That's Bill again, and sometime late morning or afternoon with the "help" of the kids who enjoy playing in the driveway would work. Then I'm freed up to run an errand or do something without kids underfoot.

(And all of this all applies to more than just the weekend to-do list, obviously - any to-do list needs similar follow-up. I was thinking of this just now as I vacuumed the staircase, something I had not done in a looong while so you can just imagine how dusty and dingy things had become! Chores like this are mundane but necessary - and plentiful! And if I don't assign them a day I won't get around to doing them. Guaranteed. It's so easy to just get swept away by the rhythm of the day and the many things that pop up ...

Like, for example, the Internet. ;)

See, if I write on my Wednesday calendar: Vacuum the staircase ... then it's much more likely it will get done. And you know, maybe it doesn't seem like the biggest deal in the world to have a dusty, dingy staircase, but I now have a climbing toddler in the house and he just loves to go up and down those stairs. (With his mum or dad right behind him of course!) Well, his dear little hands are all over those treads and you can be sure he's pausing to pick up any bits of "treasure" he can find. Dust bunnies are a big hit with the little guy, lol.

***

Ok, I'll wrap up now since this unintentional post really got away from me! And I apologize that it's so rough and rambly, but I just thought I'd get my words "down on paper" and then I figured, why not post them and see what you all think? Leave me a note if you have the time and inclination!

(And I have a better post in the works, with pictures and notes from our first weeks back to homeschool! Hopefully up later this weekend ...)

Well, I'm easing back into this blogging thing, my friends, so stay tuned! Hope you all have a great weekend - whatever gets done, whenever and by whomever!

See you here again soon ...


"Keeping it Real"

Real 4

So here's a new mini-series of posts with no set schedule - they'll just pop up now and again as the mood (and mess) strikes ...

:)

I thought I'd take random pictures of funny/messy/real moments in and around my home and share them at the blog. Because, despite my fondness for sunny/happy/pretty pictures of tea cups, songbirds and grinning babies (etc.), my life is much more than that. I am in fact beset by all the same "dailiness" as everyone else ... and some days are more "daily" than others!

My desk do-over pictures inspired me to try this ... because so many of you expressed surprise and thanks for sharing something so "revealing." And to be honest, I was surprised that so many of you were surprised! My friends, I promise you, my life is so, so far from perfect. That's not to say I don't LOVE my life and feel immensely blessed by all I have ... just that, in addition to all the good stuff, there are plenty of stresses and challenges and sadness and fears ...

And messy desk drawers, just like everyone else.

So today, as I corralled the baby in a room in hopes of getting a little folding done, I grabbed my camera and took a snap. Just so I could share with you all this very real part of my life ...

Real laundry 13

Our clean laundry (almost) never makes it out of the basket.

Currently we have four baskets full of clean laundry that needs to be folded and put away. Or just worn as needed. And who am I kidding with four? Because these baskets are clearly overflowing. That's more like six baskets' worth, easy.

I'd like to say this problem arose because we have (sorta) recently moved to a new house and/or because we (kinda) recently had a baby - we're coming up on a year on both fronts - and so we're just "off track." But honestly, it's always been this way, to some degree.

Why?

Well ...

1. We have too many clothes, plain and simple. Not that we're clotheshorses, mind you - we just never throw anything out. (How could I with four sons? We keep it all.) There are too many clothes in rotation - clothes that are out of size, out of season. Bureau drawers are packed with things that should really go into storage. But try finding a "spare" weekend somewhere to address this issue? Not likely.

2. I just can't seem to stick with a laundry schedule. On my neatly written-out weekly routine, I have Mondays and Tuesdays listed as laundry days ... but do you know what I almost never do on Mondays and Tuesdays? (If you guessed laundry, you would be right.) Instead, I end up washing clothes a bit at a time, here and there, through the week. And then, on the weekends, when time is a bit freer, I run some marathon cycles. Unfortunately, I never seem to catch up.

3. I pretty much do all the laundry myself and I'm only one person in a family of six. I really need to get these boys doing their fair share! But I'm kind of particular about the way laundry gets done. I like things separated correctly and I don't like the washer over-stuffed. And I like to launder the baby's clothes (and some of my own) myself ...

(There are probably other reasons that I'm not owning up to at the moment, but that's all I can think of right now.)

*❀*

My friends, do any of you have this issue? Does your family sometimes dress themselves straight out of the laundry bin? I certainly don't lose sleep over this, but I do wish I could get a handle on it. I hate when Bill's late leaving for work because he couldn't find any clean socks.

Well, that's all I have for the moment ... I do hope your week's wrapping up nicely. Thanks so much for stopping by and checking in ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I'll see you all here again very soon!


Weekly Bits of Domestic Bliss (Reprise!)

Vintage house clipart

Of Note: 

Victoria Day (19), Town Election Day (20), St. Rita of Cascia (22), Memorial Day Weekend (24-26)

Nature:

Everything is SO green! Temps near 70 this week with mostly sunny skies, a few showery spots. Very "Spring in New England." Such a pretty time of year - lots flowering, new things to identify. And the hummingbirds have returned! 

Housekeeping:

Extra laundry this week. Put away winter clothes. Sort through summer clothes.

Bring plants to graves on Sunday.

Mow back lawn, weed front garden. (boys)

Buy geraniums for planters.

Start planting ..

Hang (our new!) American flag.

 Dinner Menus:

M - homemade pizzas

T - honey garlic chicken over wild rice, roasted cauliflower

W - (turkey) tacos in shells

T - kielbasa & vegetable roast, couscous

F - grilled panini, steak fries and soup

S - leftovers

S - cookout!

Baby Days ...

We're nearing Little Bear's 1st birthday!

Time to move the crib into the nursery ...

The little fella is in need of a hair trim ... the hair over his ears is bugging him, though I am loathe to cut any of it!

O curls 1

Learning Themes:

Bees - identifying (from a safe distance!) what kinds of bees visit our yard. 

Memorial Day: what it means, family traditions

Excited About ~ Working On:

 Designing invitations for Little Bear's birthday party. 

Planting our own organic rhubarb!

Rhubarb plant 2

I bought this rhubarb for $10 at our village plant sale this past weekend. I am so excited to finally grow our own rhubarb!

Working on my planner-binder. It's a mess, plain and simple, so I'm rethinking the whole thing. Again.

Miscellaneous:

Catch up on emails.

Look into Wordpress as an alternative to Typepad.

Organize summer education plans.

Locate missing book boxes.

***

Well, Good Wednesday morning, my friends!

I thought it might be nice to revisit my weekly domestic journal ... it's been quite a while since I updated it! This was meant to go up on Monday but then Typepad had its troubles, so here it is today. I will aim to update this journal every Monday ...

Hope you all have a great day ... thanks so much for stopping by!

❀


Spring Cleaning Thoughts

Vintage house clipart

open the windows, let in fresh air

clean the floors, vacuum the rugs

wipe the woodwork, wash the windows

change the linens, turn the mattresses

sweep the doorstep and entryway

rake the yard, 

scrub and shine the sinks

plan and plant the garden

*❀*

Spring cleaning chores sound so nice on paper, don't they? In reality though, they're darn hard work, and take time we don't often have readily available. Every year I hope to get our spring cleaning done by Easter but that almost never happens. Still, a little a day goes a long way ...

Do you have any spring cleaning plans this year? How do you fit those extra chores into an already busy day/week/month?

Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends ... it's rainy here at the moment, but there's a promise of sun and 60 degrees later today! Maybe I'll get those windows open and let in some cleansing fresh air ... :)

See you here again very soon!


Kitchen Chat, Week Six: Food Storage

Bs&c graphic 2

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you are all feeling refreshed and ready for a new week. :)

Welcome to another Kitchen Chat! I hope you'll pull up a counter stool and join me for a hot cup of brew and something warm and buttery from the oven - how do blueberry scones sound this morning?

This week we're chatting about food storage ... where you keep food and how you keep it, and what you have on hand. Below I have my questions for you all, I hope you'll take a moment to leave your thoughts! I have some visuals to share as well ... with sincere thanks to Elizabeth, Mary and Tanya for sharing their own food storage photos!

*β˜•οΈ* 

But before I get to the pictures, first let me ask you my questions:

Name 10 things in your pantry right now.

10 things in your fridge?

How about 10 things in your freezer?

Please describe the area(s) where you keep food. Are you happy with your current food storage space(s)? What would you change if you could?

Do you preserve food in any way - canning or drying, perhaps?

Do you ever shop in bulk?

*β˜•οΈ*

 Noq, I'm going to work backwards in answering myself ...

Do I shop in bulk? Not really, no. But it's not for lack of interest - I just don't really have the time/energy to get organized on that front. I love the idea, though ...

I do not currently can or dry foods in any way (except for the occasional year when I make picalilli). I would love to do this someday, however. I'm forever collecting articles and even books on the topic of preserving food. :)

And I am quite happy with my food storage space at the moment (we have much more space than we did at the old house), though I would love to add a separate freezer - chest or upright, not sure? - downstairs. We have a set of cabinets in our kitchen which are really well sized for dry good storage. 

10 Things in My Freezer:

Freezer

chicken nuggets * french fries/alphatots * frozen waffles * kernel corn * ice cream & sorbet * frozen tortellini * fish sticks * frozen juice * frozen fruit (raspberries, in particilar) * meatballs

10 Things in My Fridge:

Fridge

yogurt * milk (1% for drinking, whole for tea and the baby) * half-and-half * butter * eggs * pizza dough * leftovers * hummus * chicken * pasta sauce

10 Things in My Pantry:

Pantry open 1

 Take your pick, lol!

 macaroni & cheese * pasta * sauces * baby food * cereal * cookies * crackers * baking needs (flour/sugar/spices/etc.) * canned soups  * tea

*β˜•οΈ*

Clearly, there's a lot more on those shelves than just those 10 items! But the ones I mentioned are real stalwarts of our family meals. And I must confess, I did clean those pantry cabinets before taking pictures ... I really had not done too much with them since we moved. I purged a lot of out-of-date foods and tried to organize the three main areas by food types. It could be much better organized certainly, but it's a start. :)

(The fridge and freezer are hopeless at the moment, in dire need of a pruning, scouring and sorting. But I wanted to show you what I'm working with, and well ... that's it!)

And now for some wonderful thoughts and photos from my dear friends, Elizabeth, Mary and Tanya ... thank you, ladies for taking the time to put your submissions together!

From Elizabeth:

Pantries 1

Pantries 2

 "As you can see I don't keep much in the pantry. We eat mostly fresh foods. I keep mostly ingredients on hand for baking and cooking from scratch. The bottom picture is my new refrigerator. Which I love. It has a bottom freezer and double top doors."

From Mary:

Pantries 3

Pantries 4

Pantries 5

Pantries 6

"For storing food, I use my pantry, and my refrigerators - one in the kitchen, the other in the laundry room.

The first picture is of my kitchen fridge. It's a french-door top fridge I found on sale at Home Depot ... and I love it! (It replaced a 20+ year old fridge!) You can't see the doors on either side but there is a special place to store milk, butter, etc. which is nice, as it gives me more room in the main part of the fridge where I like to use plastic bins to help organize things. In the second picture is the freezer. It's on the bottom and has multiple "draws" that slide back and forth to make searching for things easier. It's not very organized at this moment...more of work in progress! ;-)

The third and fourth pictures are of my pantry. It's packed! The fourth picture is of the deep side of the pantry that goes rather far back. It's even hard to take a picture! This is where, I will confess, things get lost! ;-) I try using some tiered shelving and wire baskets that pull in and out to help corral the teas, herbs, and spices, but everything else is sort of in an "every man for himself" state of affairs!  LOL!! ;-)"

From Tanya:

Pantries 7

"These show two areas of our kitchen storage that I'm still quite happy with over a year after we moved in. When we started unpacking, I tried to create some stations within my kitchen to make everyday tasks easier and more efficient. The picture on the left is my tea and coffee cupboard. It's situated right above the alcove where the coffee maker and electric kettle are.

On the right, the two photos are the top and bottom cupboards of my baking station. The top cupboard holds sugar/baking necessities/chocolate chips etc. The bottom cupboard holds our flours and oils. Gluten free flours on the top shelf and wheat flours on the bottom one. The drawer you can just see above the bottom shelf holds our mixing utensils, measuring cups and spoons.

I've really loved having these stations set up in our kitchen ~ I find baking and other tasks so much easier since I have everything I need within reach!"

*β˜•οΈ*

Well, I would be so happy to hear from you on the subject of food storage - if you have thoughts to share and the time to share them, please do so below. (And please feel free to answer one, two or all of the questions!) I think it's such fun to hear about how other people make these household areas work best for them ... to compare notes, challenges and strategies, etc.!

So I do hope to hear from you ...  but in any account, I will say goodbye for now and wish you all a good day ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... and I will see you here again very soon!


Kitchen Chat, Week Three: Clean Kitchens!

 πŸ€ Happy Monday, my friends - and a top o'the morning to you! πŸ€

Bs&c graphic 2

For this week's conversation, how about we talk about keeping the kitchen clean? It's not the most romantic or inspiring topic perhaps, but it's something we all have to do, right? As in ... all the time ... day after day ... meal after meal. ;) So let me pour you a nice cuppa tea (Irish Breakfast?) or a fresh mug of joe (Jo Jo's Java?) and plate you up a warm pumpkin scone - there's some sweet cream butter here if you need it - and let's chat!

β˜•οΈ

 Ok, my questions for you are as follows (though certainly, feel free to say what you'd like on the topic! I'm just trying to get the ball rolling ...):

What is your kitchen cleaning routine like? How often do you clean it - i.e. what gets cleaned daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally?

Do you have particular methods (a la FlyLady) or materials you use (Mrs. Meyer, Seventh Generation, homemade)?

What spot(s) challenge you most - stovetop, sink, oven, counters? (high chair, lol?)

***

Obviously kitchens need daily attention ... and if you, like me, are at home a lot, meaning, you're feeding your family at home a lot, then your kitchen is getting a lot of use. 

So in order to keep things hygenic (if not spotless), every day I/we try to ... 

run the dishwasher/empty the dishwasher

clean up/wipe the kitchen sink

keep counters as clear as possible

sweep along edges of floor (mostly because I now have a crawler!)

wipe any spills on counter/floor

neaten breakfast nook table & chairs (baby's things, newspapers, dirty dishes left behind)

clean Little Bear's high chair tray

So there are the daily chores then, but also, a deeper weekly cleaning is a good thing, too. I like to schedule my kitchen day around our trash day - cleaning the day before trash pickup. And periodic tasks like pulling the fridge out to clean behind, freshening the disposal, etc. are important as well. I don't always keep up with these as I should because they're not so immediately necessary, but I find if I actually schedule them into my calendar I have a better shot at getting them done.

I follow no particular method, though I do love reading about the cleaning routines described in Home Comforts. (I'm not even close to her standards of clean, but a girl can dream, lol.)

For materials, we tend to stick with Seventh Generation "Free & Clear" because of Earlybird's sensitivities, but I like the idea of homemade cleaners very much. I just never seem to get around to making any.

As for challenges - I'd say trying to keep the stovetop and refrigerator shelves clean drives me nuts. Also, the cabinet fronts - they get spilled on and smudged constantly, but I never seem to wipe them down as often as I should. 

And oh yes, that high chair ... it should really be sand-blasted daily!

β˜•οΈ

Ok, I think that's all I have time to write right now ... but I do look forward to hearing your take on the topic! If you've written about this topic at your own blog, either presently or previously, please feel free to leave me a link. (And if you'd like, you're welcome to grab the "Kitchen CHat" button displayed above, too!)

So I'll catch up with you again, my friends ...I'm off to get breakfast started. :)

See you here again very soon ...


Kitchen Chat, Week Two: Menu Planning

Bs&c graphic 2

Good Monday morning, my friends ... I hope this post finds you well!

Welcome to week two of Kitchen Chat! I have a fresh pot of coffee waiting - as well as a hot pot of tea - so please pick your poison and pull up a chair. Care for a warm slice of banana bread?

:)

This week's topic of discussion is menu planning, and that's just a huge area to explore, but here's what I want to know ...

What are your feelings on menu planning - is it something you do (or avoid), and if so, do you enjoy it? Or does it drive you crazy, and how so?

What works well for you? What confounds your menu planning?

Do you find any websites or books helpful? (Please name names.)

What's on your menu plan this week?

***

Menu planning

I do try to menu plan as much as possible - I love to be as organized as I can, especially in areas that directly affect my everyday life. A neatly arranged linen closet is wonderful, but at the end of the day it doesn't contribute to my well-being. Having my family's meals figured out and ready to go? Now that makes me (and them) happy. :)

I've talked about menu planning in the past (archives here and here) but I think menu planning is one of those things that we can hash out repeatedly. I'm always looking for new ideas - trying to do it better or make it simpler and shake things up now and again. Because goodness knows, my meal plans get tiresome!

So my overall feeling about menu planning is - it interests me (absorbs me, even) but it also drives me crazy because it's hard to keep on top of it. If I don't devote adequate time to menu planning, it all goes awry and then the kids are asking me what's for supper and I just have no idea. Or I'm spending way too much money on take out and/or ignoring good food in the fridge, which will soon evolve into science experiments.

I'd say time constraints confound my meal planning most of all (not taking or having the time to put thought and energy into it), whereas what I've found to work well is ...

1. Having a dinner plan in place before shopping (thereby shopping for items that will make dinner-making easier and more efficient). At least one week planned is a hope, but a whole month is a goal. (And having a list of my family's favorite/regular meals to work from is also helpful.)

2. Coordinating with our calendar as I write out the week's menus. I can see what nights somebody might be out or late coming home - what nights are better for more time-consuming meals vs. nights that demand something simple. And of course, any seasonal or holiday events that dictate a special meal.

3. Having a well-stocked pantry, fridge & freezer - for obvious reasons. This might be a topic for a whole separate post.

4. I think that's it.

***

Websites - I love the Taste and Tell blog as well as Skinnytaste.com - they both feature really fantastic seasonal and holiday recipes. I don't do Pinterest (yet), but I have "liked" a lot of food-related pages on Facebook, and get a lot of recipe ideas in my news feed. And of course, there are my magazines - by their very nature they are great for seasonal ideas.

 And finally, my menu plan this week:

Monday: turkey kielbasa with roasted potatoes/carrots/peppers/onions 

Tuesday: homemade pizzas, vegs & ranch dip

Wedesday: grilled panini (cheese/turkey or ham) and squash soup

Thursday: TBA

Friday: cheese ravioli, lemon-butter broccoli and parsnip pie

Saturday: chicken caesar kabobs, ice cream & raspberry sauce

Sunday: Irish Brunch - still working on menu!

***

So there is my take on menu planning, my friends ... I'd love to hear yours! I think there is much more I could say, so I will probably jump into the comments when and as I can.

Remember - in addition to leaving your thoughts here, you are welcome to use my Kitchen Chat button (generously dontated by the lovely Divina!) and link back here from your own blog. Perhaps you'd like to do a post of your own? Maybe you've written about menu planning in the past? Any way you want to share, I'm all ears!

In the meantime, have yourselves a good Monday, and thanks so much for stopping by! I'll see you here again very soon ...


Kitchen Chat, Week One: Seasonal Eating

Good Monday morning, my friends! Welcome to Kitchen Chat!

Baked apples

This will be a weekly discussion post, and our first topic will be "Seasonal Eating." I'll share my thoughts in a few moments, but first, I'd love to hear your take on this topic. How's about a cup of coffee - or perhaps tea? - and let's sit and chat a bit. If you have time, please leave your comments below and let's get the conversation rolling!

What does "seasonal eating" mean to you?

Which foods do you eat only in season, and where do you find them?

Are there foods you preserve in some way, when they're plentiful and cheap?

Are there special foods/dishes you serve your family through the year in celebration of certain holidays or events?

How are the changing seasons reflected in your kitchen - through food and/or decor?

*β˜•οΈ*

Now, seasonal eating, to me, means ... 

Thanks 23

1. Eating food in its natural season.

2. Celebrating liturgical seasons/annual events with special foods.

3. Setting a seasonal "stage" in my kitchen. 

***

I love feeding my family produce at its peak when it's available locally - apples in autumn, peaches in July, corn in late summer, etc. - and as much as logistically possible, I try to do that. If we want strawberries in March, well ... tough. Lol. Actually, frozen or otherwise preserved would do in a pinch, but nothing beats a June strawberry picked fresh at the farm. It's a summertime joy not to be missed ...

Foods we try to eat only in season: corn, tomatoes, strawberries/raspberries, melon, winter/summer squash, peaches/plums, cranberries.

That said - any of those items, except for the melon, can and should be enjoyed frozen or canned/dried year-round. But still - frozen kernels are a far cry from a fresh ear from the farm! Steamed or grilled and slathered with butter ... perhaps eaten outside? Mmmm - perfection! And canned tomatoes really have nothing on a sliced garden fresh beefsteak ...

I'm not going to deprive my children of corn or tomatoes through the year, but I do want them to get a sense for what grows when, and eating by the seasons is a great way to do that.

So how do we figure out what's in season when? Well, it's easy enough to look up that information online, but asking at your local farm/farmstand is a way to get the most personalized information. As for how to best cook produce at its peak - again, I'd say ask your farmer! There are also wonderful cookbooks devoted to seasonal foods ... one of my favorites is Jamie at Home. It's a British book so the seasons are perhaps slightly off, but it's just lovely all the same. Another book I love for seasonal eating and menu planning is The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. I've had it for years (as in, since high school!) and I've always found it very inspiring.

Now, if you live in an area with lots of local farms/stands, well, you're golden when it comes to eating seasonal foods. Or perhaps you grow your own - even better! If you live in a more urbanized area, there are farmer's markets and CSA's to join. For a few summers several years ago we belonged to a local CSA (community supported agriculture) and what a wonderful experience that was! We received such a thorough education in seasonal eating and learning to adapt to the whims of the growing season. In New England for instsance, that means lots and lots of greens to start, before finally - finally - seeing some color. Early rhubarb, onions and strawberries. But you know ...

"Limits are a tonic to the soul."

I think that quote is from Mittenstrings for God by Katrina Kenison (fyi - that's another post series I did a while back ... might be nice to revisit that) and I think it applies nicely to seasonal eating. Yes, we have to limit ourselves if we stick to eating only (or mostly) what's in season, but how wonderful it feels to eat those foods when they're meant to be eaten. We are truly nourishing our souls as well as our bodies.

*β˜•οΈ*

And then there's a second type of seasonal eating, the kind that has more to do with tying food into our own family experiences ... holidays, feast days, special events and the like. Celebrating a special day on the calendar with food is a simple yet meaningful way to create family memories.

For instance, blackberries at Michaelmas ...

Michaelmas jam 4

 Shortbread on St. Andrew's Day ...

Saint andrew 1

Fresh eggs on the vernal equinox ...

Fresh eggs 1

Green tomato relish (aka picallili) on Labor Day ...

Picalilli jars 

And ... wassail on the winter solstice, shepherd's pie on St. Brigid's Day, pancakes on Mardi Gras, soda bread on St. Patrick's Day, hot cross buns on Good Friday, autumn veg soup on the harvest moon, homemade donuts on Halloween, etc. 

Clearly there are many opportunities throughout the year to celebrate faith, family - life! - and the very seasons themselves with food of all kinds. It's easy enough to weave these things into our daily life - though it's also quite easy to let opportunities slip by. We're all busy and time does fly ... but I find brainstorming broad notes for a season and then planning more specifically for each week very helpful. It's also convenient to have a separate file (or binder) for keeping these particular special recipes at hand.

I love both kinds of seasonal eating! (I love seasons, period, as you can tell.) Eating seasonally in this way - whether we're drawing from nature or the liturgical calendar - creates a rhythm in our family's year and lovely memories our children. And that's the bottom line for me ... it's all for them, after all. :)

*β˜•οΈ*

Ok, finally - and I know I'm really rambling on here - I want to touch upon a third aspect of seasonal eating ... which is creating a sense of season in our kitchen, the very heart of our home. And this is very easy to do ...

Advent joy bowls

Displaying special dishes we use only at certain times of the year ...

Clementines

Setting a bowl full of seasonal produce on the table ...

Easter 8

Using table linens that represent the colors of the landscape ...

Easter candle

And candles that look (or perhaps smell) just right for the season. 

Other ideas ... seasonal items perched on the windowsill (plants, knicknacks, framed prints, cards), background music, pretty lights and garlands here and there ... making things that smell like the season, too. Warm gingerbread at Christmas, cinnamon and citrus in the dead of winter, fresh roses in the heat of summer ....

I guess it's all about feeding the senses, isn't it?

 *β˜•οΈ*

Before I go, here's a list of produce in season for March and April. It's for New England, but I think it's pretty general ... though obviously it won't apply to everyone.

March >> humble roots & keepers, a few early spring treats << April

potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnip, apples, pears, cabbages, onions, winter squash, maple syrup, leeks, fiddleheads, asparagus, chives, radishes, dandelions, rhubarb

What am I looking forward to most? Well, I would have to say rhubarb. Rhubarb is so fleeting and it comes at that time of year when we're just dying for spring - and we're so very nearly there! My first rhubarb dish of the  year (most likley a grunt) is always a sweet celebration of spring - in flavor and feel!

***

Ok, I'm done now, lol. Boy that was a long post - I hope it made sense! We must be on our third cup of coffee by now ...

Although I clearly have a lot to say on the subject, I would love to hear your take on seasonal eating (see my questions far, far above at the top of this post) ... but please don't feel you have to follow these questions or write as much as I do - even just a quick note would be welcome!

And I'm not entirely decided on next week's topic, so I'm still open to suggestion. Let me know what you'd like to discuss next!

And, as always, I'll see you here again very soon ...


Mondays in the Kitchen ...

Primroses on sill

Good Monday afternoon, my friends!

So I have a little idea I thought I'd throw out there and see what you all think. I'd like to start a new series of postings (on Mondays), to bridge the gap between Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife ... how about we talk about a new "kitchen" topic each week?

We'll officially begin next Monday, giving us four weeks to chat, and four topics to address. I thought I'd kick off this idea with a picture of my kitchen window view above. I was gazing out it this morning as I washed dishes and it struck me how much I enjoy my kitchen. I really loved my old kitchen so I was pleased to realize this new one now feels ... not so new anymore .... but really, very much like home. :)

So I'm open to suggestions - what kitchen topics are you keen to discuss? Meal plans? Pantries? Kitchen style? Lenten recipes? Kitchen memories? Kids in the kitchen? Those are just a few thoughts, but I'd love to hear your ideas if you have a moment to share them ...

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Thanks for taking the time to stop by, everyone ... see you here again very soon!


Wednesday Bits-n-Bobs

And here I was thinking it might be a slow news day, but then we had ourselves a little morning adventure: our first mouse in the new house!

Mouse 1

All I can think of is Ratatouille when I look at this picture, lol.

Archie and Ollie were skulking around in the dining room all morning, but I wasn't really paying much attention ... after tripping over a cat for the third or fourth time though, it started to sink in that something was up. They were really stuck in this one place, and they were focusing intently on something behind the china cupboard, so I mentioned to the boys that they must sense a mouse in the wall. But as it turned out, they more than sensed it - they had that little critter trapped against the wall!

So after an appropriate amount of screaming (by me) and scrambling about (by us all) we managed to get the cats out of the room and trap the tiny mouse in a tupperware container.

Mouse 3

He was awfully cute I must admit.

Now, as it happened, Bill was working from home today, but taking a call outside, he was completely oblivious to the commotion inside. Once I had the mouse in the container I trotted him right outside (took pictures, natch) and turned him over to my husband - who, as I understand, deposited the creature in the woods out front. (Of course, I'm sure he'll just find his way back in!)

You know, in the 20+ years we've had cats not one of them has ever caught a mouse. I'm not sure if that says more about my cats or my housekeeping, but I think this move "up country" will be very entertaining for Archie and Ollie. I'm sure this won't be the last mousie to find his way inside as Winter's chill seeps into town!

***

Well, I thought I might have one or two other things to mention to you today, but that's all I've got for now. Actually, that's all Little Bear's giving me time for right now ... as I finish this up he's getting rather impatient in the baby swing next to me! 

More to come tomorrow, my friends ... have yourselves a good night!

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