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I Made My Own Planner! (And Here's How)

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Hello my friends, and Happy August! Can you believe we're nearing the end of Summer already?! I know some of you are already back to school/homeschool, but we don't officially begin lessons again until the day after Labor Day. So I'm presently attempting to both relish these final days of Summer AND devote a few brain cells to the ed. planning for next year!

As usual I have several posts percolating in regards to my current state of mind, but first up, here's a look at my homemade planner!

Now, you all know how much I love new planners and how I struggle to resist them (there are sooo many beautiful options out there!) but I also enjoy making my own planner from time to time. Because sometimes I just can't find a planner that does everything I want it to do, and so I start getting itchy to create something very personal ... something that more closely matches my own particular needs and tastes ... even if the final results are *ahem* humble at best!

So please bear in mind, this planner I'm about to show you is VERY much homemade. It's not at all slick or professional - a prototype, really - but I am mostly satisfied with the results now that it's complete. And so now I'm here to share how I went about designing and assembling this planner!

It's a super-long post (as if I write any other kind) so best grab yourself a cup of tea and get comfortable! :)

 

PRINTING & BINDING THE PLANNER

Now, while this is not my first time creating my own planner, it is the first time I've used my seasonal planning sheets as the foundation. I was going to tweak the sheets a little before printing them but decided not to take that time - instead I'll just work with what I've got and see how it goes! So I began my new planner project by printing out fresh copies of all the seasonal planning sheets starting with August, 2017 ...

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(Note: all the planning sheets for 2017 can be found here in this post.)

Next I set about creating extra pages to go along with my weekly planning sheets, to address more of my responsibilities - namely, homeschooling our children and managing our household. I also created some sheets that complement my passion for seasonal planning ... and I did all of this using the Pages application on my Mac desktop. Now, I am FAR from tech-savvy, but once I got the hang of it I found it all really fun! (Even a bit addicting!)

Next I chose some very pretty seasonal papers to serve as monthly dividers. Here's a collage ...

Pretty papers

These papers are from a collection of scrapbooking paper called Children's Hour, and are made by Graphic 45. I just love a vintage look - images that harken back to simpler times and pleasures - but since these papers are sized 12 x 12, I needed to cut them down to fit my planner platform. (The above link has an affiliate tag just so's you know. ðŸ˜‰ That means if you follow a link to Amazon from my blog, I get a little kickback if you make a purchase. So thanks in advance if you do!)

I also chose a piece of scrapbooking paper with a design I truly loved for the front cover (covers are so important!).  And here's the whole kit and kaboodle just before binding ...

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And ... voila! My finished planner, hot off the presses! :)

Planner in car 

I always go to my local Staples when I need something bound - and as usual they did a great job! I chose a black spiral coil and opted for the additional see-through cover for a little extra protection. (I would LOVE to find a place that does metal coil binding instead of plastic ... or perhaps invest in my own binding machine down the road!)

Ok, now for the tour! 

 

TITLE PAGE

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Well, this is pretty self-explanatory! I have always liked the image of a tiny acorn being nurtured and encouraged to grow into a strong and solid oak. :) I found the clipart on Pinterest. 

Note: This September I begin my 18th year of homeschooling! This year I will have a 12th grader, an 8th grader (with special needs) and a 4yo preschooler! (My oldest graduated college last May!) The 12th grader takes all of his classes save for Math, outside the home (in homeschool group classes). The 8th grader is developmentally much younger than this grade would suggest so I tailor his lessons to fit his unique learning needs. For him and my youngest we are mostly Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers, with some Charlotte Mason sensibilities thrown in for good measure. ;) We have used Oak Meadow curriculum since 2001 - some years more so than others - and this year I am drawing from a couple of grades as I plan out the year for my younger two sons. (More on our actual lesson plans in a future post!)

 

DATED CALENDARS

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This next spread is for general reference but also, I have used highlighters to mark time off and on in our homeschooling year. We don't follow the school calendar - I like to take time at the holidays, particularly leading up to a special day so we can focus on the preparations and really absorb the festive atmosphere. So this means we take off the week before Thanksgiving, the week before (and after) Christmas, and the week leading up to Easter Sunday - aka Holy Week. :)

Note: You can find many kinds of dated and undated calendar forms online for free. These particular calendars were created by The Day Designer - I just liked the look of them!

 

THE YEAR AT A GLANCE

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The left side of this spread is for birthdays, holidays, feast days, and any special days of note. The right side is for my seasonal homeschooling/homekeeping themes. (I assign one per week plus there are always a couple of other seasonal events or concepts to be aware of each month). A later post will discuss my seasonal themes and plans in greater detail!

Note: Some of the sheets I show you will be filled out and some will still be blank. I am slowly working through them, but do plan to talk more in depth about certain spreads in a series of follow-up posts.

Printables availableYear at a Glance, Nature Study Themes

 

RHYTHM: WEEKLY & DAILY 

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Every year has its own schedule of homeschool classes, clubs and therapy appointments, but our rhythm - those recurring activities that are tied to a specific day - has pretty much stayed the same. This concept of "rhythm" is something I learned early on as a Waldorf-inspired homeschooler and it's one of my favorite aspects of this educational method. (And ties in nicely with my passion for seasonal homeschooling!)

In the above spread I created forms for working out this year's weekly and daily rhythms ... and below you can see how I'm filling them out!

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(Note: I sometimes get a little carried away with colored pencils. The soft hint of color makes me happy!)

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On the left-hand page I have worked out the basic rhythm of our week. The top row shows the main activity for each day - this is mostly geared towards my younger boys, though in some ways this affects Crackerjack (and even Bookworm if he's handy), too. They are both very good sports about participating and helping out when they can! And on the right-hand page I am just starting to work out the daily rhythms ...

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When planning something like a day or week (or season), I like to use both sides of my brain, so to speak. There are the practical tasks to consider - like make bed, make breakfast, take vitamins - but there are also those actions and feelings I hope will infuse our days/weeks with a sense of care and gentleness. So, I include things like ... sit by the open window and greet they day ... take time for a blessing before the day gets going ... light the "lanterns" as the sun goes down ... etc. Including these kinds of things in my planning not only makes me happy but I think genuinely create a happier day (week, season) for my whole family. :)

Note: Before I write things down I often "flesh out ideas" on post-its as I've done here. Once I have all the information straight in my mind (and on those notes!) I will then write directly in my planner.

Printables availableOur Weekly Rhythm (blank), Our Daily Rhythm

 

LESSON PLANNING: 2017-2018

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This is a two page spread for planning out the topics I'll cover with my younger boys within each subject throughout each month of the year. This is not the spot for nitty-gritty detailed planning, but rather, a general overview of themes and ideas. The left side of the page is for September through February and the right-hand side of the spread is for March through August.

I've made some progress filling these out, so here's a peek! (I hope to finish this coming weekend when I do the bulk of our ed. planning.)

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Our subjects are listed as:

Month/Nature (each month's seasonal themes: ex. crows/corn, apples/the orchard, welcome autumn, autumn seeds)

Reading (audiobook/special picture books)

Country (we're exploring world history/culture/geography by country rather than timeline this year)

Science (zoology, famous scientists, climate science)

Language (speech, writing activities, penmanship)

Crafts/Circle (tied in with seasonal homeschooling - handcrafts, projects, music/movement)

Habit/Value (a concept to work on like, diligence, compassion, courage, gratitude, etc. ... also a saint to learn about)

Printables available: Lesson Planning (as above), Lesson Planning (with blank headers)

 

STUDENT OVERVIEWS & FIELD TRIPS/FAMILY ACTIVITIES

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"This Year's Subjects & Goals" provides a spot for me to create an educational overview for each of my boys (those still being homeschooled). There is also a section for notes. So for Little Bear I'll list things like ... "nature exploration and language development," and for Earlybird there will be things like "improve math skills and penmanship" whereas for Crackerjack I'll list his class titles "Creative Writing" and "Spanish IV" ... etc. I'll add things we'll study/do as a family in the notes section - such as liturgical teas and faith formation, global awareness, environmental education, community service and life skills.

The page on the right, as its title suggests, is for listing ideas for field trips this year and any family activities - for example, "apple picking," "planetarium," trail hikes," "The New England Aquarium," "road trip to Vermont," "Florida trip," etc.

Printables available: Subjects & Goals (blank), Field Trips & Family Activities

 

CONTACTS/CHECK-INS & THE CHILDREN'S CHORES

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The above spread features a page for listing my annual reporting to the school system and related events. I write down when I send something in and to whom I spoke, etc. And this info. has truly come in handy before! Last year I got a mid-year call from the school department asking if Crackerjack was still being homeschooled and if so, why hadn't we mailed in his information. After I recovered from my initial shock (heart pounding, lol) I told them we had in fact been homeschooling CJ and all his info had been sent in back in August and - because I had this page to refer to! - I was able to pinpoint exactly when I mailed it and when they received it. (Plus, thanks to "return receipt" I was even able to say who signed for it!)

I also note on this page when we renew our HSLDA membership and local homeschool support group membership.

The form on the right is for assigning family chores. Every year during the first week of homeschooling (and right after "Labor Day") we re-negotiate the children's chores. Here's where I'll write down the results of that family meeting!

Printables available: Contacts & Check-Ins, The Children's Chores (blank)

 

HOMEKEEPING ROUTINE & WEEKEND OFFICE HOURS

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With this spread I move from homeschool planning to homekeeping responsibilities. So on the left I have a page for my weekly housekeeping routine and on the right I have my weekend "office hours," during which I get a little planning done (or a lot if things are going well!).

Now do I stick with all of this every week? Well, I wish I could say I did, but honestly, life gets in the way ... but I find having a routine to fall back on is helpful. Just knowing what things should be getting done each day is a start, especially when delegating!

Printables available: My Homekeeping Routine (as above), My Homekeeping Routine (blank), Weekend Office Hours (as above), Weekend Office Hours (blank)

 

MONTHLY CLEANING CALENDAR & SEASONSKEEPING

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Here on the left I have one more housekeeping form - a place to schedule my chores in such a way that reflects monthly (or occasional) tasks as well as weekly. As I mentioned above, I like to follow a weekly routine in my housekeeping but because not all room tasks need to be completed each week, I split the monthly chores up over a four-week rotation. (You can read more about my housekeeping calendar in a couple of posts from 2015. Here is post one and here is post two.) The fifth row is for noting the occasional tasks (assigned to certain months, for example - March/September: turn and vacuum mattresses). I think this might all make more sense once I get this form filled in - so I will certainly share once I do that

Edited to add ... it's taking me SO long to write this post, I have completed this page as well!

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Now I know there's a lot of information on this page, but I swear I'm not really a neat freak. You see ... the point is I'm not. I can easily let months (ahem, years) pass by while ignoring (forgetting) all kinds of household maintenance chores. Some aren't that big a deal but others really do impact the overall condition of our home and possessions. As someone with a lot of plates in the air, I need something like this cleaning calendar that takes an area of the house, breaks down what needs to be done and how often, and then finds a spot in my week for it to (hopefully) happen.

I realize this all seems a little confusing, so will do a separate post on how I use it! :)

On the right is the title page to a section of my planner called, "Seasonskeeping: Our Journey Through the Year." This page features a collage of family pictures reflecting seasonal adventures from the past year. I changed the design of this page after having the planner bound so I had to hand-write the title above the collage. Seasonskeeping is what I call my passion for brainstorming seasonal pleasures and ideas - the various ways I weave each season's goodness into our family's life. Because the collage is quite personal, I created a separate title page with a bit of clipart. (In the event someone wants to use my Seasonskeeping pages!)

Printables available: Monthly Cleaning Calendar, Seasonskeeping Title Page (alternative design)

 

SEASONAL BRAINSTORMING PAGES

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Above is an example of one season's spread (Early Autumn), but I have six seasons to share! (I "see" the year in this way - with six rather than four seasons.) On the left I plan to write my "love letter" to the season ... just all the feelings and ideas I get when contemplating a certain time of year. On the right I will create monthly dated lists (1-30/31) for noting events with a little space beneath for general events that don't fall on any particular date (for example, the first frost, full moons, etc.).

Printables available: Deep Winter Note Page & Events Page, Early Spring: Note Page & Events Page, Late Spring: Note Page & Events Page, High Summer: Note Page & Events page, Early Autumn: Note Page & Events Page, Late Autumn: Note Page & Events Page

 

MY THOUGHTS ON SEASONAL LIVING & MONTHLY DIVIDER PAGE

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My last Seasonskeeping form is very simply a place where I will jot down my reasons for "keeping the seasons" and why I feel these kinds of activities are vital to our home and homeschooling. That too, is a post for another time as I tend to get pretty wordy when talking about this concept!

Ok, the page on the right is the divider page for my first monthly planning section, and this would be August as you can see. (My planner runs from August 2017 through July, 2018.) I love setting the months apart from each other with such quaint and colorful papers, but adhesive tabs are helpful here, too. At this point I have yet to attach them, but will just as soon as I can locate the little packages I've kept on hand for these types of projects!

Edited to add: I found the tabs!

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These fantastic little monthly tabs were made by Avery and I was able to purchase them at Staples for years. The company seems to have stopped making them but there are other options out there. (Here are some in a primary palette.) You could even use blank tabs and just hand-write the months of the year.

Printable available: My Thoughts on Seasonal Living

 

MONTHLY TITLE PAGE

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Next comes the title page for the month - and all of these can be found in my original planning sheet post. (Note: I'm not sure if anyone will be wanting to make up this planner for themselves, but I will endeavor to get PDFs with edited 2018 dates just as soon as I can!)

 

MONTH AT A GLANCE CALENDAR

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The very next spread is this two-page month @ a glance calendar. This original form is rather plain because I wasn't entirely sure how I wanted to set this up - I only knew that I wanted a two-page spread! I'd already created one-page monthly calendars as part of my original seasonal series, but then came to realize I really need more room for monthly planning. So I came up with this basic spread and just went with it. 

But since the above photo was taken I've added lots of details and seasonal embellishment to my August calendar! So here's how it looks today ...

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I found a very pretty washi tape that complements the colors I've used throughout the planner. (In case I didn't mention it, each monthly section is printed in different seasonally-appropriate shades. It's one of my favorite aspects of this planner!) I will use this tape on the left page of each monthly spread, which will help me identify the big calendar spreads. I also used alphabet stickers for the month's title and added a pretty sunflower for a seasonal touch.

As you can see, I had to write in the dates myself because I didn't want to take the time to make up a different version of this spread for each month. I made each calendar block lightly lined with an ecru banner for writing in any events of note. I included six rows in this calendar because some months do need that much space depending on where the first of the month falls ... and I added an eighth column for notes.

I like to use any extra space in my calendar for seasonal inspiration - quotes and poems and such. I write these in cursive with a little colored pencil shading so they stand out and catch my eye. :)

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And that's the month at a glance! I have still to set up the rest of the months (adding tape and stickers and quotes). I must get back to the craft store for more decorative goodies!

Printable available: Month @ a Glance Calendar (blank): Left Side, Right Side

 

NATURE CALENDAR & MONTHLY OVERVIEW

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If you're familiar with my seasonal planning sheets, then you've seen these before! On the left is the original August calendar I created, which I've decided to use for daily nature notes. (See below.) The page on the right is the monthly overview.

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(I like how low-key this nature "journal" is ... there's only room for a few brief notes, and that seems easy enough to do every day. I think I'll enjoy looking back at weather patterns and the unfolding nature events of each season!)

Printables available: All planning sheets including the ones in this spread can be found here

 

THE WEEKLY SPREAD

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And here we have what will be the meat of the planner - the weekly planning sheets I've made up for the year!

The sheet above is for this current week's spread - before I really had written very much in it. I use this spread to write down my "big picture" for the week ahead, and so on the left side I have room for jotting down what we need to do, any home and garden tasks, our dinner menus, and how I'll weave the seasonal theme of the week into our week. And on the right-hand side of the spread I have an agenda for the week with space to plan lessons. (Note, when I make up the weekly sheets for 2018 I will include a version of this page that labels the right-hand column "Notes" instead of Student Goals. This should make it more useful to someone who doesn't homeschool!)

Here is the week as I filled it out over the weekend ...

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And here it is as of Wednesday (two days ago) ...

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As you can see, I've added a few things - including a monthly reminder sheet for my boys' goals. I used a sheet of my "August" notepad (designed by Susan Branch) for these notes and as it wasn't adhesive, I used a piece of washi tape to adhere it to the top of the page. (Here is a link to these pads at the Susan Branch website, but I believe they are sold for less at Barnes & Noble. Look in the bargain aisles near the front of the store.) On this "August" sheet I have written goals for my three younger boys along with some notes for our Celtic Tree month study. I just lift the sheet to see my pre-k post-its and other lesson plans underneath.

Here's a close up of my "Crafts & Comforts" corner ...

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In this box I list the activities I've planned for our seasonal theme - in this week's case, "Bats at Dusk." Most of these are geared toward the younger two boys but I have little stars next to those activities that the whole family can enjoy. Will we get around to all of these ideas? Not on your life, lol! But I love planning for these kinds of activities and tuck away the ones we don't get to for next year. :)

Here it is on last week's spread ...

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Printables available: All planning sheets including the ones in this spread can be found here.

 

MONTHLY REVIEW & EVENT PLANNING

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At the end of every month I have a review page - I use it for tracking monthly expenses and jotting down a summary of our homeschooling. On the right is a monthly event planning page - for August that is "Back to School" planning.

Every month has at least one event planning sheet, and sometimes more. These are events and ideas that need a little more planning than I can fit in just a weekly spread. They don't represent every holiday or feast day - there wouldn't be room! - but the ones that we tend to focus on each year. I make them up in colors that match the monthly palette, natch. :)

So here is a list of all my "extra" monthly event planning pages. (Note: I placed an * next to the ones I make double-sided in my planner.)

AUGUST:

Back to School*

 

SEPTEMBER:

Autumn Equinox

Michaelmas Day

 

OCTOBER:

All Hallow's Eve*

 

NOVEMBER:

Our Gratitude Project

Martinmas Day

Thanksgiving Planner (this is a multi-page planner, something I shared last year - it takes a bit to upload!)

 

DECEMBER:

The Winter Solstice

Preparing Our Hearts (& Homes) for Winter

Celebrating Advent & Christmas (another multi-page planner from last year - the dates are a little off!)

 

JANUARY:

Happy New Year!

Birthday Journal (my birthday happens to fall in January but if you'd like a birthday journal page in a different month's palette, just let me know - easy enough to do!)

 

FEBRUARY:

St. Valentine's Day

Honoring Lincoln & Washington

Lenten Planning*

 

MARCH

The Vernal Equinox

Holy Week

Easter Sunday*

 

APRIL:

Spring Awakens

Honoring Mother Earth

Spring Cleaning*

 

MAY:

Mother's Day

Ascension Day & Pentecost Sunday

Garden Plans*

 

JUNE:

Father's Day

Summer Plans & Goals

Midsummer's Eve

Midsummer's Day

 

JULY:

America the Beautiful

 

YEAR END REVIEW & FUTURE PLANNING

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My very last page is a "Year End Review" (actually two-sided) ... and though I meant to create month-at-a-glance calendars for August 2018 through January 2019 ... well, I plum forgot! So I placed these sticky notes here instead where I can jot down appointments and events as they come up. (For example, if I learn of a publication date for a favorite author's new release or anticipated movie, or if I make an annual exam appt.)

Printables available: Year End Review, Month @ a Glance Calendar (blank): Left Side, Right Side

 

 FINAL PRODUCT!

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All printed, all bound, all tabbed and ready to go! I am just loving my homemade planner so far! I truly enjoy working in it - the pages are smooth and pretty (to my taste, anyway!). The feel of the planner is sturdy but easy to flip around as needed. I am really so pleased with my latest "diy" attempt! 

Please feel free to print off any of the PDFs I've linked here and please let me know if you have any questions. As I mentioned, I will post updated planning sheets (corresponding with 2018 dates) very soon! (My goal is within the next week.) I will also compose a separate post with just the planner links - no need to read through all my babble if you're interested in just printing this planner! I'll pin that over on my sidebar for easy reference.

Also, I will follow up on several of these planning sheets with more of my thoughts and ideas. I would love to know if there are certain areas you'd like me to expand upon and ... if you decide to print and bind something from these sheets, please let me know! My next idea is to create a guide (of sorts) to go along with these sheets - in what form I'm not sure yet - but this would be something that shares how I use the sheets to infuse our family life with the joy of the seasons. (Scroll back to that Seasonskeeping title page collage - this is what I'm talking about!) 

Oh, and one more thing! I ALSO hope to post a little video with a tour of this planner and how I'm using it. Not that I didn't give you quite the peek in this post but I think if I can just chat a little about it and flip through the pages that might help me explain it a little better. Or leave you all a little more confused, lol - so we shall see!

But for now I will (finally!) let you all go. Thank you all for your support and kind encouragement ... I know many of you were waiting so patiently for this post, and I kept teasing you on Facebook and Instagram. (Speaking of which, do follow me on either or both if you have accounts ... I tend to post there almost daily!) I will get those follow up posts up just as soon as I can, the first being those PDFs with updated 2018 dates. I apologize that I don't have them ready for you just yet - I just need to proof them and save them as PDFs - but I wanted to get this post up the very MOMENT it was ready! And I hope you enjoyed!

I also hope you all enjoy this lovely, summery Friday ... I wish you and yours well and I will see you all here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Fridge & Freezer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The after ...

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

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

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

And here's the freezer ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Love this sweet teapot wallie!

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

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

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

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

I'll see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Pantry & Bakeware ...

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

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

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

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Art by Tasha Tudor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And voila!

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

How about a tour? :)

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

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Next shelf down is for rice and soups ...

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

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Ok, on to the middle cabinet ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Allrighty, last cabinet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok ... here we go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the potholder/kitchen cloths drawer now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, here's the after ...

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:)

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

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

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

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

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

And here we have our pots and pans ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll see you here again very soon!


My Kitchen Table, Countertops & Sink ...

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

Hello my friends and Happy Friday! 

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

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

Ok.

You can read more about the 52 Week challenge here.

You can sign up for the daily emails here.

You can get the monthly Decluttering Calendars here.

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

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

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

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

(And now you're thinking, Dawn, enough of the rambling - let's see the pics! So here they are ... but um, conveniently I forgot to take "before" pictures ... ðŸ˜³ )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, the rest of the counters ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Braided rug

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

From Taylor today at FB:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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. ðŸ˜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 50° - 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." â¤

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!

*☕️* 

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?

*☕️*

 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

*☕️*

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!"

*☕️*

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!