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Planning a New Year + a Peek at My Lesson Planner!

Seasonal homeschooling 2

Happy Tuesday, my friends! I hope your week's off to a great start!

These are heady days, aren't they? I just LOVE this time of year ... it's so full of promise and preparation. We're still enjoying the nice weather of late summer (warm, breezy, dry) but autumn is truly just around the corner so it's perfectly respectable to start planning ahead. (Great fun for those of us who love autumn and planning!) And while we're still in "vacation" mode here, it's definitely time to get our new year in order - plans, resources, learning space, official approval and all that. Part of that rhythm for me involves pulling together a lesson planner of some sort - a tool to help me iron out the year ahead. I'm very much an eclectic homeschooler, but I draw much inspiration from the Charlotte Mason and Waldorf styles of learning. Some years have leaned more one way than the other, but I am always better off with a PLAN of some sort in place.

So I thought today I'd give you a peek at the planner I've created - even though it's still under construction! This year I'm homeschooling a 17 year old, a 14 year old (with special needs) and a 3 year old who simply will not be left out of anything, lol. (Our 21 year old is a senior in college, so for the most part, he's out of my loop!)

Ok, here is the cover of my planner:


It just makes me so happy ...

I started with a plain, one-subject, spiral-bound notebook I really like and covered it with a vintage alphabet scrapbook paper. (You can see the print in closer detail in my blog banner above.) I adhered the paper to the front of the notebook with some yellow washi tape and added a fun sticker on top. "Capture the Joy" sounds about right for a homeschooling motto!

Inside the planner it's a rather humble affair ... I just used a pencil and ruler to create the pages I needed for planning. Inside the front pocket I keep a printout of the ed. plan I sent into the school system. After a title page I have a "Contact/Correspondence" log. Here is where I mark down when I send stuff into the superintendent and when I hear back. I also note our HSLDA renewal activity.

Next comes an academic year at a glance "attendance" calendar:


I shaded in the days we would be on vacation (blue) and actively homeschooling (yellow). Green shading indicates a weekend. This helped me determine how many hours per week we need to count towards the 990 total for the year. Also, I can see where it makes sense to take time off and when we can (hopefully)wrap up for the year.

Next comes the two-page seasonal homeschooling schedule:

Seasonal homeschooling

On the left side of the schedule I have the Monday date and seasonal theme; on the right hand side I have written down any events of note. This chart runs from 9/5/2016 - 8/28/2017. (I'll share these seasonal themes in my next post.)

The next several pages are devoted to organizing our weekly rhythm (when we're home and when we're out each day, where to fit in which subjects) as well as a breakdown of goals and ideas for each of my boys. Crackerjack's page includes space for college planning, while Earlybird's allows for ABA goals and Little Bear's is just all about how I'd like his preschool years to look. β€οΈ

Then comes a list of all the subject areas I want to include this year (for example - poem of the month, artist of the month, a monthly field trip, weekly nature study and art project, etc.).

Next I break down the months of the year with notes in all areas - another hand-drawn chart with lots of tiny writing!

Seasonal homeschooling 3

It's hard to see here, but the circled letter denotes the month. On the far left I've listed the seasonal themes that fall within that month. Then comes two blocks for things like audiobook, history topic, science topics, artist(s), music focus, geography region, field trip idea, habit to work on ... etc.! And then finally on the far right I've written down the events of note in that month. These are days that will figure into our homeschooling in some way.

After this two-page spread comes a list of back-to-school supplies and traditions. (I'm working off a rather large checklist I wrote a few years ago. You can see that list in a newsletter here if you're interested. The list is on the last two pages.)

Now comes the monthly sections! First up of course is September ...


Ok, so I get a little silly with my notebooks, I will happily admit. I love organization and tidy details, but I need to have a page for doodles and brainstorms! This is a portion of my favorite September poem and all around the edge of this page I've written out things I love about the month: apples, fresh pencils, goldenrod, grasshoppers, green tomatoes, alphabet soup, sweatshirts, spiderwebs, crisp mornings, cricket song, the harvest moon ... a kind of love letter to the month ahead. This might not be "standard" in a typical teacher's planner, but I love to include this kind of inspiration in mine!

After the title page I have a monthly planning page for September with notes on the left and a calendar on the right.


I use post-its here because I like how they allow me to organize ideas in a flexible and visual way. Each note represents a particular area of September planning: field trip, nature themes, nature study, science, geography, events of note, social studies, math, faith focus, music, crafts, good habit, literature, bird and badge of the month, and "teas" which are basically monthly sit-downs with special food and a seasonal celebration of some sort.

The calendar (as with pretty much everything else in this planner!) is hand-drawn and embellished with a little seasonal washi tape, sticker and doodle. I'll add some quotes and notes here, too.

And now for the nitty-gritty - the weekly lesson planning section!



I apologize if this is way too much detail, but that's just how I roll, lol! As longtime readers know well ... ;)

On the left side of the weekly spread is another post-it brainstorming page similar to the one in the monthly section. I've also listed the theme for the week (sunflowers this week) and any days of note. I have not yet decided if I will continue to use post-it notes here (which are fun and convenient but might bulk up my planner) or if I'll commit to a hand-drawn grid for planning. Meanwhile, on the right-hand page I have a chart where I can sketch out daily details for each of my three students. There are rows for Monday through Friday and then a large row for the weekend at the bottom. We don't typically do academic work on the weekends, but there is usually homework for my 17yo as well as seasonal, family activities to enjoy.

(Note: I'm still working on our week's rhythm - which days we do what subjects/activities. Our weeks are mostly shaped by Crackerjack's outside classes and Earlybird's therapy schedule. It's a little different this year so I'm re-thinking things a bit. Some subjects, like reading and math, are done daily - but we do need to find the best time of day for those lessons. Mornings would be ideal, mentally speaking, but with CJ going to classes some days and EB working with his therapist everyday, a lot of our activity takes place in the after-lunch hours. That said, EB's therapists are working more of his home education into his sessions, and I'm really excited for this support! Another reason to be really organized and detailed with my weekly lesson plans!)

By establishing a consistent framework (science on Tuesdays and Thursdays, social studies M-W-F, etc.), it is easier to plug activities into the chart. I'm still tweaking all of this - because as long as I've been doing this, it changes every year! - but will share more when I can. :)

Sometimes, for whatever reason, plans must change or be abandoned, and I've come to accept this is just the nature of homeschooling and life with kids. (Particularly one with autism!) Plans provide wonderful guidance, but they don't absolutely guarantee all the boxes will be checked off at the end of the week ...

But I never feel a minute of planning is wasted. Planning gives me a leg up on whatever our week brings our way. I've learned not to dwell in disappointment when things don't go "as planned." There is still beauty and value in creating plans that pan out in a way I didn't originally foresee. Sometimes I carry things over into the next week. Sometimes I save things for next year. Missed lessons are sometimes caught up with in a flurry. For the most part, I find it all shakes out in the end ...

If I've established an atmosphere that promotes learning, they will learn. If I've encouraged an attitude of curiosity they'll be curious. If I've shared my own joy and wonder at the world, then the world will be a source of joy and wonder for my children. If I can check boxes off in my planner I'll be thrilled, but there is room to see where my children might lead me, too.


OK, I'm going to sign off now because I'm getting a little rambly and clearly I could just go on and on here ... I will share my 52 seasonal themes in my next post. For those of you who remember I'm working on a book (and yes I am still working on it!) these themes are my book's outline. So this will be a little sneak peek, if you will. :)

Other upcoming posts:

A look at this year's file crate.

A tour of my brand new desk!

How I'm using my Day Designer ...

Early Autumn Planning Sheets!

So I hope you all enjoy your  week and what's left of this summer season ... thanks so much for stopping by!

I will see you here again very soon ...

Happy National Notebook Day!

A word of warning: you may only find this post interesting if you, like me, are passionate about paper! But feel free to read on wherever you stand on the topic ... :)

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So I only heard of this holiday the other day on Instagram - apparently it's new this year! But of course, notebook-nut that I am, I could not let it pass without a little peek at my favorite notebook these days! The photo above shows my journal from last year, with all my pages organized and tabbed by month, neatly stored in a large binder. I get so much joy looking back over past journals!

Now, notebooks can be used for all kinds of things - journals, planners, academic notes, shopping lists - there's so much  you can do with a notebook. Notebooks can be easily found (or made) but some of us paper enthusiasts have rather strong opinions about what makes a notebook work and what doesn't. I am a collector of notebooks, that's for sure. I almost never pass up a chance to browse a stationary aisle, whether I'm in a large store like Staples or Target or a smaller specialty store like PaperSource. I'm always looking for smooth paper and good coil binding, a sturdy back and a neat cover. I despise perforated pages ... reinforced pages ... dark ink ... scratchy paper ... and ACK, heaven forbid, a wide rule! ;)

Ok, enough with my rambling ... here is where I'm notebooking these days:

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So no, this is not a typical notebook - it is a section in a 3-ring binder (my home keeping binder in fact) filled with my favorite paper EVER. (Years ago, during the back-to-school sales, I found a batch of loose-leaf paper that looked and felt so amazing - I snatched up as many packs as I could! I have never again found its like.)

I call this my domestic journal, and it's a real hodge-podge of things ... notes, ideas, observations, reminders, clippings, post-it notes, the occasional sticker or swatch of washi tape. I write for a month, then review and index the pages before lifting them out and placing them in a large storage binder (such as the one shown above). Then I add more paper to my home keeping binder for the new month!

Notebook day 1 

I keep this binder open on my workspace ("command central," if you will) in the kitchen. It's the first section of this binder and I add to it every day. I use a page finder to mark my place and a binder clip to connect the daily journal with my weekly planning section ...

Notebook day 3

Notebook day 4

I've grappled with needing to see my week AND my day at the same time, and I find this arrangement works rather well. I can't see both sections at the same time of course, but I can go back and forth between my daily notes and my weekly planning pretty quickly. I use a pagemaker here too, and it's a perfect spot for post-it-note "task" checklists.

Notebook day 2

To the far right of my binder sits my clipboard with my Day Designer on top. The DD allows me to see exactly what I'm doing that day. (I don't write notes so much here as to-do's and time-sensitive information.) 

So there you have it - the notebook "system" I am using right now! It's not perfect, but it works well for me and I really enjoy attending to it throughout the day. I do hope you enjoyed this post and I'd love to hear about your note booking habits if you have a minute! In the meantime, I wish you all a pleasant evening and will hope to see you here again very soon!

Planner Party Guest Post Number 14: Mic!

{Happy Friday, my friends! I am so pleased to present another wonderful guest planner post ... please welcome Mic to the party!}


Dear Dawn,

 I have really enjoyed all the planner posts and wanted to share my own system. I'm actually using a grid notebook at the moment while I wait for 2016 and my hobonichi cousin planner to start. It's a Japanese brand and you can pick different covers and accessories to go with it.
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I had bought a different planner for this year, but it was too small and I stopped using it after a few months. My main gripe was it didn't have a section for a weekly plan. I like to be to see my week at a glance. At the start of the month, I draw the monthly calendar, where I write in holidays, feast days, family travel, birthdays.
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On the weekly plan, which I do on Sunday nights (sometimes Monday or even Tuesday, to be honest) I write in my children's after school activities, our meal plan, gym time, and any evening or special activities or holidays. I then make a photocopy on my printer, and stick it up in my kitchen so my husband and the girls' babysitter can see it.
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Throughout the week, I add to-do lists, washi tape, quotations, who I wrote letters to, and little doodles.
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I just want to close by saying I have been so inspired by everyone's posts! There really is no right or wrong way to plan!
Warm regards,
Oh, Mic! I can hardly begin to express how much I LOVE your planner! You are a gal after my own heart - there's just something so wonderfully satisfying and soothing about a handmade planner! Your artwork and penmanship is just LOVELY. And the that nubby, knitted cover? Swoon ...
I also find I need a weekly plan, for sure. I need to see where I am in the week and I really think about our family and homeschool time in increments of weeks. Right now I'm struggling with: do I actually need a separate daily planner or can I rely on my weekly planner to cover all my bases ... ?
Also, your idea to photocopy your weekly calendar and hang it up so that your family may refer to it ... genius. Absolutely genius!!
Thank you so much, Mic, for sharing your planner here at my blog - I am inspired by your design and am excited to get back to work on my own handmade planner. Friends, how about you leave a little note for Mic and let her know your thoughts. Let's keep this wonderful planner conversation rolling!
And remember, I'm always open to new guest posts ... you may send me your planner pics and thoughts at:
bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com
But for now, I wish you all a wonderful weekend ... I will be back here again very soon!

Planner Party Guest Post Number 13: Elizabeth Q!

{Happy Wednesday, my friends! Our planner chat continues ... please welcome Elizabeth to the party!}


Hi Dawn,

I have been enjoying the planner post so I thought I would send you mine.
Planner party eq 1
 This is my calendar where I keep my appointments and day to day things. It is from Blue Sky which I love, however it goes from June to June. I am planning to get a new one that starts in January so I can follow the calendar year.
I write important information on each day's blocks. I love to decorate my pages with stickers and washi tape.
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This is all the folders and note books that I use for menu planning. I am in treatment for an Eating Disorder so my meal plan is a bit more detailed. I have workbooks and a meal plan worksheet that I turn in each week that is checked by my treatment team. 
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 This is my To Do Basket that I keep on the counter in the wash room. The top shelf is things I need to take care of. The bottom shelf is where I store my folders. I work on a couple big projects at a time. I keep a folder for each project so this way I can keep track of what needs to be done next. 
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I attend a couple of meetings each month for the various boards I serve on. This little notebook is where I keep my notes for each meeting.
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This is my reading basket with my scissors. I need to sit down and do a little clipping . I have gotten off track with this. Life happened. LOL. I am going to start a home making journal this week to paste my clippings in.
That, Dawn, sums up the way I plan.
Elizabeth Q.
Wonderful post, Elizabeth! I love the look of that basket - you know we share a love of magazines and the way they pile up! My pile is steep as well, but I've just been keeping them out on the counter. I like the idea of a pretty basket for this ...
I also really like your two-tiered organizer ... I have all these papers and clippings and coupons and scraps of paper that I keep piling on my dining room table thinking, well, I will get to this over the weekend. The trick of course is finding all those things when the time comes I need them! I could do with a shelf system like this ... an inbox of sorts. And I'm thinking that bottom shelf I could use for my current project folder (ex. Thanksgiving) as they tend to get lost in my File Crate. Come to think of it, I might have something down in the basement that might suit this very purpose ... :)
And of course, I too love Blue Sky (as do many of my readers)! My planner is also adorned with a couple of stickers and maybe a dash of wash tape, now and then. Just some seasonal things to make me smile. It's the little things, after all!
And you are very organized with your menu planning, as always - especially now that your planning is so important to your health. I'm sorry to hear of your struggles, and please know I will be thinking of you and praying for your strength and recovery.
Well friends, I hope you leave a note for Elizabeth! I can't tell you how happy I am to have more guest posts to share ... please consider sending me your own post and pictures (bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com) as I can assure you we would all love to see (hear about) your planner(s)!
Enjoy the rest of your "hump day" my friends, and I will see you here again very soon!

Planner Party Host Post: Me!

{Woohoo, it's my turn! Better grab yourselves a cup of tea, my friends - or better yet, make that a mug - as I warned promised, this is a mighty long post!}


Good Morning!

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Well, I'm so glad you've all been enjoying the Planner Party! The enthusiasm has been infectious and encouraging! Big thanks to all who have participated in the Party so far - all the posts and pictures and questions and comments have been truly inspiring! I am happy to know I am not the only one who is a wee bit (or a whole lot) addicted to setting up planners and systems ... and that I am not the only one using more than one system! You've all given me courage to truly bare my planner soul today ... :)

So at the very top of the post is a picture of my "planning station." It takes up a significant portion of the kitchen jetty which is situated between the kitchen proper and the breakfast nook. It can get quite messy at times, but I try to keep the clutter under control as best I can. I like the idea (and look) of clear counters, but realistically speaking, this is the best place for me to work.

What I have here is my file crate, my planning materials, a pile of magazines to read through and clip for my journal, my laptop, and some writing utensils, tape and scissors.

It's not a streamlined or perfect situation by any stretch of the imagination, but rather, as always, a work in slow progress.

Ok, so let's break all "the planning materials" down.

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Above you see my master planning binder. This is one of those things I use, and have used for years, even though I'm constantly tweaking it. I can never get it quite right, but I need it in my life! I'm using one of those Martha Stewart 3-ring binders, and though a bit expensive, it's really well made. The cover used to be plain, but this summer, on a whim, when Little Bear was obsessed with butterflies, I added stickers .... and I hate them, lol. But they are stuck on there FAST. I keep meaning to have Bill (who has way more patience than I do) help me remove them and any gunk they leave behind.

(Now, mind you - this is ONE of my planners (in that, I use it for planning), but it's not actually a planner, per se. It's a bit of a mess really, but I do try to use it as a planner.)

The binder is pretty much never just sitting there closed like that, but open on the counter to my domestic journal. (So therefore, the butterflies shouldn't really bother me ... but they do.)

Here's what it looks like when you first open it ...

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There is a nice inside pocket in which I keep a few things, including a neat month-at-a-glance calendar. There is also the weekly file folder laying there - that's from my File Crate System - holding any materials/papers I need for this week. It's not the ideal place to keep the folder - I've tried other spots - but I need it handy and this seems to work best.

I suspect we're due for another File Crate System (FCS) post, but I do want to show you all really quickly:

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I have been using colored paper clips to separate the papers inside my folder by subject: recipes, crafts, to file/act on, Earlybird's printables (homeschool work), and personal stuff.

{Again, I think we need a full-on file crate post, but I just wanted to share that little tidbit in case it might make sense for you, too!}

Now, before we get into the meat of the binder, here is a look at that monthly calendar:

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I spotted this at my local grocery store, and I stood there in the stationary aisle for a good 10 minutes or more trying to talk myself into - or out of - purchasing it. It was relatively inexpensive (I think about $7) so I could hardly resist. And of course, in the end, I didn't.

It is called the 18-Month Simplicity Planner.

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Great, lightweight paper, large spread for each month with lined boxes. I like that it's a thin, light, booklet-style calendar - very easy to grab and take with me if I'm heading somewhere and need to consult our family calendar and/or want to work on the calendar itself.

Basically, I really loved the look/feel of this planner and decided I could not BE without it even if I couldn't figure out why I actually needed it. (As you'll see below I have other monthly calendars in play.)

So now here's a breakdown of the binder contents ... the latest configuration, anyway! I feel this post would become completely, ridiculously, overwhelmingly, long if I were to get into each tab and discuss what's what - and I can do that in a separate post if you wish - but for now let me just give you the headings ...

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Tabs across the top:

1. Domestic Journal

2. Seasonal Plans

3. The Holidays

4. Months at a Glance

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Tabs down the side:

1. Monthly calendars with seasonal dividers

2. Home & Family

3. Meal Planning

4. Correspondence & Contacts

5. Blogging, etc.

6. Budgetkeeping

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Here is what my planner looks like on any given day. As always, it is open to my current journal page. I use a page finder (cut from pretty scrapbooking paper with a post-it tab on top) and on that page finder I stick my daily chore checklist. I make one up for each week. I turn a lined post-it note sideways and write all my daily tasks down the side - the days of the week across the top - and check those things off each day. I started this to help me remember if I'd given Earlybird his meds and then added on to the checklist.

As you can see, my domestic journal page holds both notes and clippings. It's a "brain dump," much like Mary Ellen described in her post. I just keep it open on my counter so I can write things down quickly as they come up. And I add interesting or inspirational things I find in magazines or newsapers. Nature notes go here, seasonal thoughts and cute things the kids do or say ... pretty much anything goes, even if it will later get recorded somewhere else. It's just a place for me to get it out and then it's not niggling at me. 

What I try to do with this journal (and with all my planners, actually) is to sit down with it on a regular schedule so as to make the best use of the system. So right now I am keeping this journal in a monthly fashion ...

Today being November 1st, I pulled all of October's notepages out of the binder and moved them to my "Yearbook" binder (where the whole year's worth of journaling can be found). Ideally, I will sit down first (not later, because "later" never seems to happen) and comb back over my notes and index information I'll want to return to. The index is a simple sheet that lists the journal year and date alongside the info I might need again. Sometimes there are things in there I need to immediately move on - like a new account and password I created, or an appointment to schedule asap. 

I'd like to make this a weekly task actually, but right now monthly is the best I can do. This also keeps the journal from getting too thick and taking up a lot of space in my binder.

Now, something I've been experimenting with lately is inserting a weekly planning section right in the middle of my daily journal. Because I really have this thing about keeping things all in one place, and right in front of me at all times ...

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To differentiate from the domestic journal paper, I'm using a set of smaller-size loose-leaf (8x10). The yellow sheet on top is an overview of the week ... and I've already revamped it since posting that pic! I once tried stapling this weekly sheet (an earlier version) to the front of my weekly folder but I couldn't figure out how to keep it in my line of sight.

Behind that yellow sheet is a series of pages pertaining to further weekly planning. I am experimenting with this at the moment, so nothing is too set in stone and the pages themselves are just loose-leaf with notes - nothing really worth showing at this point. But I do have individual pages for:

This week's nature/seasonal theme.

This week's family faith at home.

This week's older boys' lesson plans.

This week's younger boys' crafts/activities.

This week's grocery list.

I've tried and tried to compose "worksheets" that allow planning for all of these things on one page ... but I can't get the design right and I find I need more space for my messy notes and ideas. So I'm not sure if it's a design issue or a space issue ... or, you know, a crazy-picky-planner-person issue ... but for now, this is where I'm doing my weekly planning.

Such as it is.

Next is my clipboard on which I keep our weekend plans: 

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We call this list our "P.O.W." (plan of the weekend) and at the end of each week, I prepare a new page. I look at next week and see what needs getting/making/setting up (special projects, events, recipes) and I look back at last week's POW to see what still needs doing. The little sticky note holds notes about the coming week. (Like, feasts and holidays, etc.) Our weekends are for catching up on all those tasks that can't get done during the week, but there is always plenty of carry-over each week.

I keep this on the kitchen counter all weekend so we can all refer to it. I add initials next to tasks so we can see who is responsible for what. Bill and I go over the POW every Saturday morning over coffee (and Sunday after Mass). I use it when working on my weekly to-do's and as I said, again when I'm preparing a new POW.

Now here's where I get a little silly.

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So remember that Stop N Shop aisle where I found the month-at-a-glance calendar? Yes, well, they also had this very pretty Mom's Manager engagement calendar ... and I gave this a really good look-over, put it back on the shelf ... and then kept coming back to it. It was $15 so not exactly something I had in my grocery budget, but still, I was sooo tempted ...

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The thing of it was (is), it's a great little planner! Nice layout, nice durable covers ... showing the weeks-at-a-glance, along with the months ...

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Each month has a nice inspiration page - ideas, recipes, etc. I liked the size of this planner - something easier to tote around than my Day Designer (see below). Even though I work at my "jetty" most of the day, I also like to take my planner upstairs with me when Little Bear is napping and when I'm heading to bed so I can work in my planner in the evening or early morning before the baby wakes. This planner is such a nice size and weight and it's so easy to tote around ... to pop in my purse if I'm heading the hairdresser's or a doctor's appointment, etc. Or even just waiting to pick up Crackerjack from class!

Overall, a very NICE planner ... one I wish I could just fall completely in love with and make work on every level and then I could just forget about all other planners. Life would be so simple!

But here's the other commercially made planner I'm using ... and I would not so easily grab the Day Designer to tote with me, because it's fairly bulky. Here's my DD, open to the daily spread (two days in the future) ...

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I really do like this planner, and I DO need a daily space to plan - there are things to keep track of that are very much pertinent to the day itself (not the week or the season ...). Things that would perhaps get lost in a weekly planner: a call to place, a book to return, a prescription to request, a tv show to record, a check to drop off ... 

(Side note: I'm always trying to figure out how to incorporate a daily planning page into my daily domestic journal because that would seem to make sense ... but so far, no dice.)

And the Day Designer (which I described in more detail here) is beautiful - nice paper, soft colors, a well-thought out design. It has quite the fan following and I admit, I've been caught up in the enthusiasm a bit... but I'm wondering if it might be too much "day" for me. I sometimes feel I'm not using enough of the page. 

So in case you can't tell, I struggle between using a week-at-a-glance planner with an insert or sticky note for daily to-do's/reminders ... OR a day-at-a-glance planner with an insert or sticky note for weekly to-do's/reminders. Hmmm ...

(Do you see now how much I overthink all of this?)

Then of course there is the very pretty homemade planner I made way back in January:

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I am ashamed to say, I only used it through April, and that was, I think, mostly because I had only drawn up the weekly pages through then. (I remember feeling so confident I would get them done before I caught up to them, but that didn't happen.) I would like to think if I'd had those pages done ahead I would have continued on with this homemade planner ...

Here is the October cover page (how I love this vintage paper!):

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And here's how I was using it as a weekly planner ...

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The first page had an overview of the week (much like the one written on the yellow sheets above), and then the next pages featured an agenda for the coming week:

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All hand-drawn on that favorite paper of mine, with (mechanical) pencil, and lots of notes and details about the week. Some quotes, some temperatures and weather notes, where we went ... and if the Patriots won. ;)

I will confess to you - I have all the materials to make this again for 2016 - and I might just do that! I have the vintage paper (a fresh set) and the monthly tabs, and I even found a stash of that awesome loose-leaf in Bookworm's bedroom closet. (Apparently I had sent him off to college last year with a supply and he brought home what he didn't use. So happy to have more of this paper!)

But ...

I also bought the scrapbook paper in the 8x8 size and I'm toying with the idea of making a smaller-size planner in the same design as above. The 8.5x11 is not too thick or heavy but it is a bit bendy, if you know what I mean. Maybe I'll add more support? Hmm.

Oh, wait! Let's got back to the File Crate for a moment, shall we?

Planner party me 5

So another way I plan is to use a file folder for each week of the year - it holds any information I need for that week. I keep them all in a simple, plastic crate. There are hanging folders for each season (I divide the year into six seasons rather than four) and each season includes eight or nine weekly folders. I use recycled (brown) folders and write the date and weekly theme on a strip of washi tape. In the front of the bin I hang our parish liturgical calendar. I don't use this calendar in any way other than as inspiration and a reminder of where my Church is in the year.

Then, in the back of the bin I keep my homemade lesson planner.

Planner party me 6

Try as I might, I can't seem to incorporate lesson plans into any other planner. They just need to be separate and so, after looking for a commercially-made lesson planner, I ended up making my own. As you can see, I covered a (plain, recycled) spiral-bound notebook with some alphabet scrapbook paper and to secure it, I used some of that same washi tape (mentioned above) around the edges of the notebook.

The metal clamp holds my place in the planner ...

Planner party me 7

 I can do a separate post all about this particular planner which has several pages in the beginning for general information and an annual overview, and then there is a page like the one shown above for each week. The weeks allow me to jot down a "plan" for each of my three younger boys for each day of the week, and then on the back of this page I write down resources used and any other notes about the activities and lessons that week.

Although ...

I do have a lesson planning page as well as a craft/activity planning page in that weekly section we discussed back up at the top (or near the top) of this post. I have not yet determined if it makes better sense to have a separate lesson planner as shown here or write plans on a sheet that gets kept in the overall weekly planner.

(Does anyone else find that you can spend too much time dithering over what to use to plan that your plans themselves suffer a bit?)


Well, I am pretty sure I could go on, but I think it is in the best of our collective interests to wrap up at this point! I hope some of what I said was helpful or interesting ... even if it just justified your own planner craziness or showed you just how unhinged I get when it comes to planners. I've been on a planner mission for so many years I have to accept the possibility it might be me that's the problem, and not the planners themselves. Perhaps I'm too picky or flighty, take your pick.

It's a pretty harmless addiction to have in the scheme of things I think. And as long as I'm keeping up with most of my family's needs (and my own) I feel I'm on the right path. Tweaking till I get it perfect is just in my nature ... whether "perfect" is attainable remains to be seen!

So friends, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Did any of this ring a bell with any of you? Do you have any questions or need clarification? I tried to be as clear as possible but as I've been working on this post for several days, I feel like it started to unravel a bit. Let me know what you think and let's continue our discussion! I have some more guest posts coming up and I'd love to have you join us if you'd like. If you have a planner post (with pics please) please email me at:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

I look forward to hearing from you even if you just want to say, hey. I know this was a lot to digest, so I apologize for going on so long, but I know - thanks to this series - many of you are planner junkies like myself. Anyways, I hope this was fun!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by ... see you here again very soon!

Planner Party Guest Post Number 10: Mary Ellen!

{Happy mid-week, my friends! Please welcome Mary Ellen to the Party!}


Dear Dawn,
I use the Catholic Mother’s Daily Planner and have done so for many years now (maybe ten?). This is where I write down all of the kids' activities, my own appointments, business trips, work deadlines, bits and pieces of my husband’s schedule and feast/holiday/family celebrations. I mostly use the month-at-a-glance section for scheduling and the daily pages for notes about the day, homeschool notes, a menu note or doodling. :)
Planner party mary ellen 2
Planner party mary ellen 3
My brain dump is not a planner at all. I use the Mead Cambridge Business Notebook which has a wide left margin suitable for lists and a pretty sturdy cover. I usually use one a year. In this goes all the lists I make, menus, groceries, errands, ideas for articles, party planning, field trip ideas, homeschool ideas/projects. The book ends up being a hot mess and really useable only to me because it only makes sense to me. It’s not pretty but it’s a good reflection of how my brain works, also not pretty. :)
Planner party mary ellen 1
Lastly, I have a pretty commonplace book, purchased for cheap at Marshalls where I keep quotes, thoughts and ideas that I find inspirational. Also some doodles.  For school work I use Seton planners and lesson plans with an eye towards making it work for my family. Flexible is my favorite word in homeschooling. :)
I hope you find this useful ...
Mary Ellen 
Mary Ellen, this was very useful - thank you! I have long admired The Catholic Mother's Planner - not sure why it's never made it into my repertoire! It is lovely to look at, especially that monthly page with all your cheerful family notes. I think the fact that you've used it for so many years is its best recommendation ... anything we return to, and use so thoroughly, is a winner for sure!
As for your "brain dump" - it sounds much like mine! I LOVE that you call it a "hot mess" ... that is PERFECT. And I know just what you mean when you say, it only makes sense to you. Same here ... it might amuse someone else (because sometimes I sound rather silly) but I have all kinds of information stored here, some whimsical and some important. And I know that exact notebook you are using; it is a very nice one. I have used small Mead notebooks in the past for my own "domestic journal" ... but nowadays I use loose-leaf paper filed in the front of my home keeping binder ... though I kind of miss the convenience of the notebook platform.
I don't have a separate commonplace book as you do - I throw it all in the same place - but I think it is nice that you store special quotes and (lovely!) doodles somewhere apart from the less formal brain-dump. Honestly, I think all this doodling and scribbling and information gathering is keeping our maternal brains fit and flexible, to capture your sentiment!
Thank you so much for participating, Mary Ellen! I enjoyed seeing and hearing about your planning systems, and I'm eager to hear what our readers have to say!
Friends, I truly feel that all this planning - while often fun and sometimes frustrating - is actually quite important to our role as mother. Not just for keeping our families on track (the appointments and commitments, and such), but for laying down the good and true tracks to begin with. I have a vision (as I'm sure you all do) of how I want our time together to go ... the days and weeks and seasons, etc. But it is only with planning that I can hope to bring it into focus for my loved ones. β€ 
Now, looking ahead to November I'd like to point you in the direction of Mary Ellen's latest post at Seton Magazine, in which she discusses November Feast Ideas for the Family.  A great place to start planning the new month ahead!
Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

Let's Get the (Planner) Party Started!

Planner post 2 (1)

Happy Friday & Hooray! Our Planner Party is underway!

(I've been looking forward to this all week!)

Now, here's the thing about planners - they come in all shapes and sizes. SO many shapes and sizes! A planner might be a paper product or it could be a tech device ... it might lie flat on your desk or hang on your fridge or perhaps it simply slips into your pocket. Homemade or store-bought, spiral-bound or 3-hole-punched ... or maybe just a stack of sheets on a clipboard? The variety - and possibilities - are endless! And for some of us (yours truly included) this can be somewhat of a problem ... 

What to use? Which is best? Will it work? Should I try something else?

But whatever our planner looks like, many of us are using something to manage our busy lives. The trick is finding something that fits our needs and works well, but also makes us happy.

*Life is short - your planner should make you happy!*

Another neat thing about planners is - even when they're driving us crazy - we sure do love talking about them! I know I'm not the only one, because my planning posts attract more traffic and get pinned more than any others. You all know I LOVE to talk about planners, and I LOVE to see other people's planners ...

In fact, if I could, I would invite every single one of you here to my house ... I'd bake up some pretty cookies and brew up a big pot of tea (or perhaps decant a large vat of wine), and then we could all chat and spread out in one big ol' planner show-and-tell ...


(I haven't caught up with the Periscope trend yet, but I'm giving it some thought!)


Happily, I had a great response to this planner party idea, so I have a lot of "planner thoughts" to share - and that's not counting my own! So here's what I'm thinking ... today I will share the lovely planner comments folks left here at the blog ... and then, because several of you sent me wonderfully detailed descriptions, including photos, of your planners, I am going to share each one of those submissions separately, in posts to follow over the next week or so. This way we can really pace ourselves and digest each planner post thoroughly ...

So our "party" will keep on keeping on ... I have about 10 days of planner posts ready to roll ... and yes, one of them will be mine! ;)

Oh, and also! At the very bottom of this post is the name of the Autumn Bliss giveaway WINNER! Every one who left a comment or sent an email had a chance to win, and this morning I drew a name from the bunch. So please read on and I hope you enjoy!

(p.s. You are welcome to join the party! You may add your own planner thoughts in the comments box below - and of course emails are always lovely! Drop me a note at bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com and I'll add you to my planner queue!)


From Sherrylynne:

Here is my embarrassing reply to the calendar/planner/etc implementation question.
1.) Moleskin notebook used for my daily morning prayerbook. I journal the date, saint of the day with some sort of quote or reflection from Butler Lives of the Saints, and a quote from scripture chapter. I work my way thru the Bible one chapter per day. Then I write a prayer.
2.) At night, I close each day with a Simply Charlotte Mason calendar at my bedside recording what I am grateful for each day. I do this before my night prayers.
3.) Each child has a lesson planner which becomes there permanent record of daily studies with weekly grades, biblio, extra-curricular activities (and hours) and their semester grades. I staple in the year-end standardized tests as well.
4.) I keep a blue sky weekly calendar in my "morning basket" to record my rough plan of action for studies we do daily together and then either scribble in the extra material I tossed in on a whim or cross off what we didn't get to forward to the next time.
5.) THEN...there is my Erin Condren planner which is more like my daily plan and record. I.E. The repairman came to fix the dryer and make notes what to do to the washer this week. Borrowed a book to a neighbor. Mail a sympathy card etc. Holds my weekly menu plan, Christmas shopping list, etc.
6.) I do keep a 3 ring Liturgical Year planner from the now defunct website Sanctos Simplicitus that hold all the great ideas I collect from this blog and others that I look at before the beginning of each month to plan cool things to do to mark the season, practice our Faith, celebrate important events and people in our lives.
7.) Lastly, I keep a family monthly calendar that is the appointment calendar for the family. I use one monthly file folder as a catch all for sales flyers, festival notices and ideas to consider that my husband and I review each Sunday in our "Family Executive Committee" meeting before we have a general family meeting to go over the coming week and get everyone on the same page before the new week starts. Phew!!!
But i LOVE it!

There is nothing embarrassing about that reply, Sherrylynne! It's wonderfully descriptive and there seems to be a planning spot for every part of your life. I love the idea of a "family meeting" each weekend - we try to do that, too!

From Leah:

"As for planning? I have not been satisfied with a planner in a long time. Possibly the first year I homeschooled and it was an off-the-beaten-path planner (I think it was the first one I ran across that was specific to homeschooling.) I used to love Franklin Covey, but that was when I was working full time and the set-up made sense to me. Before that, well, that was ancient history and I didn't even have the internet to get me sidetracked...the year started with a "19"!

Right now I am using free printouts until I can find something, but I only print them out a week at a time and they are undated. I need something that is flexible, but not too open-ended, lest I stop using it entirely. I need commitment, but nothing too strict (glad I have a laid-back husband!) I would love to see what others use. It's a shame planners don't come in quarters or seasons rather than by the year! I think I could commit to three months of the same format ;-)

Leah I was a Franklin Covey planner person, too! Back in the mid-90s - first job - and I loved it. I completely outgrew it when I had my first child, so I know what you mean. And it's interesting that you mentioned planners coming in quarters ... I have been experimenting with that a bit. Adding a small section of the year to my master binder but not the whole year at once. I can convince myself I need the whole year in a heartbeat though, so it hasn't stuck.

From Arlene ...

Dawn, I have been coveting an Erin Condren planner but I really cannot justify the price. (You know us organized paper lovers are all about planners!) Right now I am using a small planner I found at Ross for $3. I got some stickers from the $1 aisle at Target and dressed up October ... I think a planner party would be lots of fun!!

Arlene, I too have been eyeing the EC planners - they are so pretty and colorful! I hesitate to buy anything that expensive because I know myself - I know I will find fault with it and feel the need to try something else, which would be an awful waste of money.  

From Sarah:

Hi Dawn! I don't really use a planner. I have three months of Calendar pages tacked up neatly in my kitchen (the current month and the two upcoming). I write down all important activities and appointments for our family of seven. I decorate each page with themed stickers, just to pretty them up and make it festive. I also keep a small note book open on my counter with my lists: chores, shopping, etc. I'm not sure it's the best system, but it works for me right now.

That's the best thing though - it works for you! I love the simplicity of it ... I am awful at keeping my tools to a minimum and I think that's a big part of my planner problems!

From Gill:

I used Martha Greenes Yearbook for the Homemaker and an a4 file when I was homeschooling. Later I switched to a5 hard backed journals with blank pages for a household planner, keeping a weekly menu plan and each day's tasks, recipes, thoughts, prayers and crafts noted, with space for addresses and a reading book list at the back. These worked great for me and I often referred back to them. I covered each one with seasonal fabric and wrote the date and book number on the spine when full. Now I am using a midori lookalike that my daughter crafted for me. I love it; the sensory effect of the leather cover, the neatness of the design and the clip that holds a pencil right there inside it. But I don't like the temporary feel of the notebook inserts, and I don't see them being easy to store on the bookshelf with all my previous journals. Although I love the chocolate brown leather cover, I miss the cheery hit of colour that the seasonal covers gave. 
Soooo, I think I will go back to my hard backed notebooks, and retire the midori to another purpose.

Gill, my favorite planners are always the notebooks I convert into planners. I get such satisfaction from them! I love how they encompassed so many areas of your life - the tasks, recipes, prayers, crafts, and personal pursuits. I love having everything at my fingertips. 

From  Melissa:

I know it's not very romantic, but I use an app on my phone called Cozi. While it does have it's limitations, I love that I can assign events to certain members of the family. It also has a menu planning space. I can see my calendar while I plan my menu and I can also save my recipes so I can come back to them. I can make as many To Do lists as I want and assign them to members of the family. I can also make shopping lists that allow me to check things off as I shop. The things it can't do I usually us a sticky note to jot down on. Thanks!

Melissa, I think a lot of people are very efficiently making great use of their phones nowadays. My Bill is NOT a paper person at all and is always trying to get me to use my phone for more of my planning! I will admit to using my Notes app sometimes for shopping lists. I find it convenient to use when I have a sleeping baby in my arms, and when pushing a cart around the store! :)

From Mary:

Hi Dawn, I'm using an inkwell press planner and do like it... although with our large family I find myself relying more on our Google calendar calendar everyday!

Oh, Mary ... what have you done, lol? I had never heard of Inkwell planners - but oh, that is a very nice planner! Very pretty and creative ... I will have to take a closer look! :) 

From Tracy

Hi Dawn! I use a Brownline Month-at-a-Glance planner. I have used this planner for years and years. It has nice big boxes every day for me to record appointments. And the back has several blank pages, which I label (and decorate) for each month of the year. It is here that I record notes, phone call conversations etc. that I may need to refer back to from time to time. I also keep a separate notebook of "to do" lists and a separate menu planner. The Seasonal Beehive looks just lovely!

Another planner I'd never heard of! What I love most about your comment, Tracy, is that you have used this planner for years and years. That tells me it is truly working for you - and that's the best feeling! :)


Well, thank you so much for your input, ladies! I also want to thank the ladies who sent me emails with pictures - you will be seeing their posts over the next several days!

As for me, well, I am using a few different things and I will do my own "show and tell" soon. I must admit, I find shiny new planners (such as the Erin Condren planners Arlene mentioned) so very tempting. Truly, I have to avoid planner aisles when I'm feeling weak. But as much as I love new planners, I'm still stuck on the idea of making my own planner. I always come back to that ... and I think I always will! That said, I do have not one but TWO "commercial" planners in play at the moment, trying to see which is the better fit ... but as I said, I will get into my own planning situation in an upcoming post. :)

Well, for now, and before wrapping up, I would like to announce the winner of my Autumn Bliss giveaway WHICH includes a copy of the Winter Seasonal Beehive, generously donated by its creator, Cay Gibson ...

*drumroll please*





Congratulations, Leah! I will be in touch soon to organize mailing details ... I hope you will enjoy Cay's "Seasonal Beehive Winter Planner" and the Autumn Goodies I will send your way! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on planners!


To all who left a comment, sent an email, or just stopped by to read - I say thank you! And I wish you all a wonderful weekend ... I hope you are able to take some time to relax and refresh yourself ... and perhaps take a little time to PLAN for next week!

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!

Home Management Binder - Update!

 *Note: This post will undoubtedly be TMI for some folks, so if "binder talk" is not your cup of tea, feel free to check back tomorrow when I'll most likely be posting about something entirely different ... :)

HMN binders 1

Hello, everyone!

Well, it's been just over a month since my home management binder Q&A post, and I am finally ready to share an update. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on why you love your binder AND why you don't. I found it all very helpful as I attempted to re-work my own binder into something more ... well, workable.

One challenge I've needed to address is that I just have too many planning "tools" going at once, so I decided to try and make my HM binder as useful as possible. To that end, I set about rethinking its contents ... and I gathered some new, pretty papers. It's still early days yet, but so far I'm quite happy with it.

Let's take a look, shall we?

Front cover ...

HMN binders 2

To be honest, I'm not crazy about this paper, but I'm leaving it as is, for now. I'll probably change it up closer to fall, and choose something more seasonal.

Just inside ...

HMN binders 4

On the left, I taped down two index cards. On the yellow card I wrote down personal contact information (name, address, phone, etc.), and on the pink card I will list emergency numbers. (I say "will," because as you can see I haven't yet filled it in.)

First section: Daybook Pages ...

HMN binders 5

My favorite color is yellow, so I decided to make my daily section as sunny and cheerful as possible. I got the idea for using colored paper when I was at Staples not too long ago. They were having an incredible sale on packs of multicolored loose-leaf paper and I thought the pastel shades were so lovely. (I live in a house of all boys, I take my pastels where I can!) I also liked the slightly smaller size of the paper (8x10), so I bought a TON of it - enough that I'd have plenty of yellow paper for an entire year's worth of days.

But here's the thing ... I'm trying to keep the HMB from getting too bulky - so I only keep a week's worth of days in my binder at one time. That's 4 sheets per week ...

HMN binders 6

So what about the rest of the daybook - the sheets for the rest of the year? Well, I'll go into that a bit further down, but for now, let's move on to the next section ...

A Master To-Do List:

HMN binders 7

I'm using the blue sheets for a running "to-do" list - those things that come up but don't have a set timeframe. (For example: "Clean out potting shed." or "Find a new dentist.") I like keeping a list like this because if I write something down - while it might not get done - in theory, it should not be forgotten.

Next comes my Clippings Journal ...

HMN binders 8

First of all, how pretty is this cover page?

HMN binders 9

As I've blogged about before, I've been keeping "clipping journals" for years. In these journals, I save all kinds of things, but especially bits of magazines and newspapers. Things that catch my eye and inspire me or make me think. My journals tend to be very seasonal - a pressed autumn leaf, a note to Santa, a label from a jar of homemade jam. It's just something I've done since I was a kid, and I honestly can't imagine ever not doing it!

Up till now, I've been using plain spiral-bound notebooks for my journal, but I'm trying this idea out in an attempt to pare down my "tools." So in this section I have several sheets of loose-leaf paper (standard, lined white, 8.5 x 11). Through the week I add things to the pages and at the end of that week I retire these pages to a storage binder (more on that below). Then I add new sheets for the next week. 

HMN binder 10

These pages show some clippings from British magazines - my favorite journal fodder!

I do kind of miss my little notebooks, but I do find it easier to work in my journal, having it right here in my binder. Clippings get in here much faster this way, so we'll see ...

After the front section, come the rest of my tabs ...

HMN binder 12

... and since those are pretty much the same as I've blogged about before, I'll just give you a list. (But if you'd like more information on any of these tabs, just let me know) ...


Month @ a Glance Calendars

Seasonal Planning

Home Management

Menus & Marketing


Phone & Address Book

Home Education

Projects Index



Prayer Book


Now, about that Storage Binder I've been mentioning ...

 HMN binders 20

This is a very wide (3" I think?) binder. Inside here I keep pages from - and for - my Home Management Binder.

First, I have a Record of Days ...

HMN binders 21

Here is where I'm keeping all those soft yellow daily sheets. The ones I've already used are filed up front (a week at a time), as a "record of days." The ones that come after (separated by a tab) are for the rest of the year.

HMN binders 23

So each week I take four pages out, and that gives me eight sides - each side is assigned a day (Monday - Sunday). That extra side is devoted to a weekend planning page - I fit it in between Friday and Saturday. Bill calls this our "POW" (Plan of the Weekend ... which is much like our "POD," or, Plan of the Day). This list is always much more ambitious than is even faintly realistic ... but it's always good to have a plan. :)

Since the sheets are just plain lined paper, I've been writing in my own to-do's, dinner notes, appts., etc. It's very free-form, but I like it. If I get a phone call, I write the info down here ... if I spend money, I note it here ... if I have an allergic reaction, I describe it here ...

(You probably get the idea.)

At the end of the week I file the "spent" pages into this binder, and retrieve the next week's sheets so I can start all over again. It's really pretty simple, but surprisingly it's been working out well - I hope I'm not making it sound overcomplicated!


There are still some planning "tools" that don't fit in the HMB, and I can get into those things in a future post. But for now, I'll wrap things up because I've definitely kept your attention long enough! (At least I hope I kept your attention, lol!)

So I'll sign off for now, but I'd like to thank you for stopping by, and wish you all a very nice weekend. I will be scarce the next few days as my dad has his surgery tomorrow morning. I will definitely post an update when I can, and of course I would be grateful for your prayers ... β€

See you all again very soon!

New Notebook, Freshly Covered

New notebooks 2

Here's one of those notebooks I posted about yesterday - all "dolled up" in pretty paper and ribbon. To answer a question from Elizabeth, the size I use is 6 x 9 1/2 inches. I like this smaller size, even though I end up folding some of my clippings in half. And to answer a question from Michelle, I don't use the dividers in any specific way ...  I just work straight through the book, day by day. It's a rather crazy hodgepodge of things, but when I look back at these journals (and I've been keeping them for years) I truly get a feel for that time in my life. It's pretty self-explanatory, but I use the Mary Engelbreit page-a-day calendar on the front of every journal to mark the start-date. And finally, I add a coordinating ribbon as pagemarker.

An important part of my journaling sytem - and one I fall behind on rather regularly - is to sit down and read back over the journal, ideally once a week, but at least once a month. The hope is I won't just forget all those ideas and notes I found important/inspiring enough to "capture" in this way. I don't really have an index system for my journals, though several readers have asked about/recommended this, and it does certainly make sense. So I'm going to try indexing this next journal and see how that works. (You know I'll keep you all posted!)

And in completely unrelated news, look at what yummy thing arrived in my mail just now:

New notebooks 3

The Emma Bridgewater catalog ... ooh, so many nice things. Susan Branch, by the way, is over in England right now and posting a travel journal at her wonderful blog. She posted about a visit to the Emma Bridgewater factory the other day, and I enjoyed it very much. :)

Well my friends, I hope your day's going well. I seem to be falling behind all over the place this week so I'm a bit slow with posting at the moment. I thank you, though for stopping by and sharing in my day ... till next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you again very soon!


New Notebooks

New notebooks 1

Don't you just love them?

These are the notebooks I use for my clippings journals. I was SO happy to find them at Staples this weekend, on sale for only $1 each! My happiness was tempered however, by the fact that "clearance" usually means "disappearing from stock." :-/ I really love this particular notebook for journaling - smooth paper, no perforation - so as you can see, I stocked up!

Sometimes (oftentimes) it's the little things in life, isn't it?

Have a great Monday, my friends!


A Tea for Shakespeare's Birthday

KG boy and girl with garland

As I mentioned in my earlier post, today is England's National Day (aka St. George's Day), and it is also the birthday of one of the most famous Englishmen, William Shakespeare. As an American of English descent (on both sides!) as well as a self-confessed Anglophile, I feel this is a fantastic day for my family to celebrate! (It's also the feast day of a great Catholic saint - Crackerjack's favorite - so there's that as well. :))

So I pulled out my olde Norton Anthology of English Literature from my college years (which I've since given to Bookworm for "Brit Lit") and perused some of the Bard's sonnets. I even read a couple out loud in case anyone was listening. (I don't think they were, lol.)

 Now, I have a St. George's Dinner planned for tonight, but I thought I might incorporate some kind of dish to represent Shakespeare. So I googled a little but alas, all I could find was a "Shakespeare's Tea." Apparently it was mentioned in The Winter's Tale (act 4). I don't have the specific herbal ingredients on hand, but I thought I might add them to my garden plans this year. They are all readily available, easy-to-grow plants.

Here's the recipe, just in case you're curious:


    • 1 cup dried lavender flowers
    • 2 cups roughly cut dried peppermint
    • 1 cup dried summer savory
    • 1 cup dried sweet marjoram
    • 1 cup dried whole calendula flowers


  1. Here is a dried tea blend to keep you young and warm-blooded all winter!
  2. Collect your herbs mid-summer and rub off the stems when dried.
  3. Crumble the Peppermint leaves to match the size of the other greens.
  4. If your Calendulas are huge, break in half when dry.
  5. Use 1 tsp per cup.
  6. In a pot add 1 tsp per person and 1 for the pot!
  7. Steep 3 minutes.


How neat! 

And if you happen to have a copy of China Bayles' Book of Days (an absolute favorite of mine) for today's page there is a checklist of herbs and flowers to include in a Shakespearean-themed garden. They all show up in one way or another throughout his works.

(If you don't have that boo,k and you're intersested in the checklist, let me know in the comments below - I'd be glad to type it up and send it to you. :)

Now, I may not devote a whole garden to this particular theme, but a few planter-pots would be fun! Maybe a windowbox devoted to the herbal tea mentioned above? Ooh, I can just imagine the possibilities! This would make a great summer homeschooling project, methinks! I can see a whole notebook devoted to Shakespeare ... poems, narrations, research ... nicely embellished with pressed herbs and flowers related to his works. In fact, I just requested this lovely little book from our library, and I've added a project page behind the May tab in my Yearbook binder ...

But I'm getting carried away now (as I'm wont to do), so I'll wrap up what was meant to be a quick mid-morning post!

I hope you're all having a lovely Monday - rain or shine, busy or no. Thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you again very soon!

My Lenten Binder ~ A Place to Plan & Ponder


Good Friday morning, my friends!

So, as I've mentioned a few times now, I've put together a little Lenten binder for myself. I made this up as a special place in which to keep track of our activities through the season. Avery just so happens to make nifty little "half-size" binders in all kinds of colors, so I chose purple, which is the liturgical color for Lent.

Lent book 1

On the front cover I placed a pretty butterfly, a traditional symbol of Easter ... and inside the binder I have a couple of pockets, some dividers and filler paper.

Lent book 2

Inside the front cover I stuck an Easter card we received from our pastor, and in the pocket on the right, I tucked our parish Lent/Easter schedule.

Then I have some general notes up front:

A Spring Cleaning Checklist

Lenten Nature Notes

Goals (Personal, Family)

Craft & Activity Ideas

Meatless Meals Planning

Lent book 3

Then I have five divider tabs:

Our Lenten Journey ~ a page for each day from Ash Weds. through 3/31

Holy Week ~ a page a day for Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday

Easter Celebrations ~ Easter Vigil through Easter Night

Through Pentecost ~ Celebrating the Rest of the Easter Season

The Stations of the Cross


And that's that!

(If you'd like me to expand on any of my binder sections, just let me know.)

But now I must be off. Our day is underway, and I have a bunch of things to catch up on. Later today I hope to post an update on my planner/calendar/file folder situation ... but I'll have to see where they day goes. My to-do list is quite long this Friday ... and things always seem so 'do-able' before noon!

Either way though, I'll be back very soon ... enjoy this day, everyone!


Ash Wednesday Traditions

And so Lent begins ...

Ash wednesday 2

If you follow my blog, then you know that seasons and traditions are a big part of my family's life. We honor and celebrate seasons (both natural and liturgical) and we include traditions (big and small) in our everyday life. Today being Ash Wednesday, we welcomed the season of Lent.

We received ashes at very early Mass, and then at home we made some ashes of our own. We just burned one of last year's palms (from Palm Sunday) until we had ash. 

Ash wednesday 3

This sparked lots of good questions (a little impromptu science lesson in fact), and just for the record, I kept a very close eye on this and only I handled the matches. Also, I kept a cup of water within reach, and the windows were open to air out the room.

Next I cleared off the nature shelf and set up a simple Lent corner:

Ash wednesday 9

Here I have a jug filled with barren branches - but I added no water, lest they bloom too soon. I also set our Lent binder here, as well as a planter pot full of dirt (with a pinch of the palm ash), our rice bowl and a plain beeswax candle. The cross hanging on the wall is made of simple grapevine.

This is pretty much how this space will look all throughout Lent ... though the cross will start to "sprout" little bits of greenery (silk ivy leaves) as we move closer to Easter. On Palm Sunday we'll plant seed in the pot and I'll add water to the jug (with fresh branches if need be). During Holy Week we'll work on "dressing up" the candle for our Easter table.

And on Easter morning there will (hopefully) be blooms on the branches and new growth in the pot ... the candle will be gilded and the cross will look something like it does in this postBut as for the tradition of the "missing alleluia" well, this year it went well and truly missing on me! 

Lol, I can't find that pretty little plaque anywhere, so I had to make up something else on the spot. I grabbed a plain cross shaped box from my craft supplies and I photocopied a page from one of the boys' song books.

Ash wednesday 5

I cut out the "alleluia" and placed it inside the box ...

Ash wednesday 6

Secured it all with twine ...

Ash wednesday 7

And we "buried" it in the back of a file folder drawer.

Ash wednesday 8

We do this because we do not say (or sing) "alleluia" at Mass until Lent is over. When we "resurrect" this tiny package on Easter morning, we'll find it all sparkly and fine, inside and out.


I also packed away the Winter books this morning, and set up EB's corner with good seasonal reads:

Ash wednesday 10

On the sill, and in the basket ...

Ash wednesday 11

(I'll update my sidebar booklists asap!)

Here's a craft basket I put together last weekend, filled with materials for making various projects throughout Lent ...

Lenten crafts 1

... and here's the last section of our Lent binder: the "Stations of the Cross."

Lent binder 3

For this project I used 4x6 prints purchased from CHC several years ago, and I printed out station passages found at I adhered the images and words to folded ivory copy paper and fitted the pages inside sheet protectors. I really like how it came out, and my hope is that we'll take time each Friday afternoon to sit down and do the stations together.


And so Lent begins ...

A quiet and still season ... a time when we patiently await signs of new life. The journey can seem long, but these little traditions remind us where we're going, and keep us together on the path.

While we make fond family memories along the way!


Well, have a great day, my friends ... and thanks so much for stopping by. I'm going to sign off for now, but I will see you here again very soon...


Signs of Life

February crocus at home
Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday!

Yes, there are signs of life here again, inside and out ... we are slowly making our way back to 'normal' and thank the good Lord, Bill and Earlybird have remained healthy. (Thank you SO much for your prayers! May I be greedy and ask for your continuance?) The older boys are just about A-ok - though Bookworm is still eating far less than usual! I myself am still feeling shwiped (another one of those 'family vocab' words) and my stomach is tolerating a little bit of bland food, but considering how poorly I felt on Friday and even yesterday, I'll take it! (To give you a good picture just how aggressive this bug really was ... I lost seven pounds over the past three days. o.O)

Anyhoo! It's a cold and sunny Sunday here - lovely, really - and I wanted to share a few photos with you ... as you see above we spotted "signs of life" in our front yard ... crocus shoots under the big maple!

And early this morning I spotted a pair of male robins engaging in what I assume to be spring courtship behavior. They were fighting - over territory or a female I couldn't be sure - but they were big and red and just looked like Springtime itself sitting high up in our tree.

Fighting robins 3

I so wished I would hear them sing - nothing says Spring like robin song - but they were far too busy sparring to sing for me.

Here's a picture of my lunch, kindly made and arranged by Bill (who has picked up a LOT of slack these past few days while I was down for the count).

Mama's lunch

There's chicken noodle soup in the mug, and that's a half a grilled cheese sandwich. Bookworm got the other half. ;)

After lunch I found I had a little energy so instead of cleaning as I really NEED to do (using cleaners I bought specifically for anti-viral cleanup), I sat at my desk and did a little "pretty puttering."

Valentine flowers 1

Valentine flowers 2
Monthly binder

Martha binder stuff

(What you see directly above has to do with couponing ... and I can't wait to show you all about it. This was an idea I got from my friend, Kim. :))

I can show you the spine of the binder, though ...

Marketing binder 1

And before I go, how about a couple of cat shots, since I didn't put up a Friday Felines last week?

Cats watching bird at feeder 1

Focusing on a fluffy finch at the feeder.

Archie hunting birdies

Archie, aching for avian achievement.

Ollie in front window

Ollie, wondering where I went ...

Ollie in sunny basket

And Ollie again, basking in a basket.


Well I think that used more brain cells than I have to spare at the moment, so I'll wrap up, now, lol ...

Before I go, I can tell you all, I will definitely be watching Downton Abbey tonight - provided things stay status quo. That special I mentioned a while back - Secrets of the Manor House - is on at 8, so we'll record that while watching Once Upon a Time with the boys. (For Lost fans, the actress that played Claire - mother of Aaron - is guest starring tonight on OuaT. She's playing Beauty (as in, Beauty and the Beast).)

So, you may expect my "Morning After" Downton post to go up early as usual tomorrow.


Until then, my friends, have a good night and stay safe and well. I'll see you all again sometime soon ...

A Look at My New Daybook

Well, my "2012 Daybook" is finally done and ready to use ... so I thought you might like to take a peek. :)

Very simply, this is a homemade, spiral-bound planner - with a page devoted to each week of the year, as well as a page for each day. It does not contain a month @ a glance calendar, because that's something I like to have out in view at all times, so it needs to be separate. (More on that later.)

Here's how it looks from the side ...


(I had the plastic "coil" binding done at Staples - it cost me $4.77.)

The daybook itself is made up of scrapbooking paper (cover page, dividers) and regular copy paper (planning pages). I used "ivory" copy paper (rather than standard white) because, to me, it looked softer, and more "vintage." I also used a firm cardboard "back" piece to give the daybook some solidity. (For this, I re-used a bit of cardboard that came inside a package of binder pages.)

The cover page is a collage of scrapbooking papers, in shades I love - soft reds and yellows. And I chose these lovely crocheted roses for the front cover ...

... but!


Unfortunately, they are too bumpy! When I go to work in my planner, the flowers make the writing surface unlevel - which will drive me crazy! The whole reason I prefer a spiral-bound planner over a three-hole binder is so I can lay my pages flat.

So - as much as I adore these pretty flowers - I decided to peel them off and do something different for the cover.

And here's what I came up with:


Not as pretty, but it will do the trick. :)

Ok, so now let's look inside the daybook ...


On the left I have a spot where I'll write my personal contact information (name, address, phone, etc.). On the right-hand side is the cover page for the January-February (Deep Winter) section ...

A pretty blue gingham check with little calendars ...


Then we have the meat of the planner ... the planning pages!

Each week of the year has four pages (so there are 208 pages in all). 

The order is this:


1. My Week @ a Glance.

I used a ruler and black pen for most of my page designs. I also used some pretty vintage clipart for embellishment.


So this page has space for planning "Special Days," "Dinners," "Nature Notes," "Shopping & Errands," "Home & Garden Tasks," "Correspondence," and the week's "Budget."

After the weekly planning page, I have:


2. A Daily Worksheet.

A page for each day of the week:


The daily planning page includes space for an agenda (divided into a.m./noon/p.m.), chores, spending, learning/living notes for each of my children, things "to-do and remember," the night's supper and random notes.



After Sunday's daily page, there is the next week's planning page - and so on!


Each season has its own divider - a piece of colored scrapbook paper with tiny calendars designating the time of year. 

March-April (Early Spring) is a soft aqua:


May-June (Late Spring) is a pretty grass green:


July-August (High Summer) is a sunny yellow:


September-October (Autumn) is a warm, chestnut brown:


November-December (Holiday) is a cheerful red:


And at the back I have a page for the New Year:


And here's that back cardboard piece I mentioned above:


The planner sits out on my counter next to my homekeeping binder. I like to keep the binder open to the month at hand, and the planner open to the current day.


Eventually, once my new desk arrives, I will have this all set up in my "home office" corner.


So, there you have it - my Daybook at-a-(long, detailed)-glance. :)

And yes, for those keeping track (because goodness knows, I go back and forth on these matters!), this planner does take place of the "MomAgenda" I had been using. It also incorporates the planning sheet I had stapled to the front of my weekly file folders. So far I'm really enjoying it - I love the look and feel of it, and the design seems to make sense. Because I thought long and hard about what I need to plan for (think of, attend to) in a given week and on a daily basis, I have a spot for writing out the tasks and reminders I truly need. I'll keep you posted on how it's working for me as we move through the year!


Now, as I've mentioned, I've recently had trouble leaving comments here at my blog. Well, I finally heard back from Typepad and the solution was very simple - and the issue was kind of embarrassing! I had somehow marked my own comments as "spam," lol!

So I got a couple of my comments out of "spam jail" and posted them - I will work through the rest of them as time allows this week.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed this peek at my new daybook, and I hope you are all having a nice week. Very bright and chilly here today ... but a storm's moving in late tonight. I have my fingers crossed for snow - it always snows on January 12th! ;) - but it sounds like it will mostly be rain.

Oh well ... the Winter's still very young!

So have a great Wednesday, my friends ... I will see you again very soon!


Talking Shop*

*i.e. file folder and calendar questions. :)


Good Thursday morning, my friends!

I'd like to catch up on some more blog comments, so if "shop talk" is not your cup of tea - feel free to skip this rather lengthy, detail-oriented post. I'm very sorry I've fallen so far behind on addressing reader questions - this is one area of organization I obviously need to work on! ;)

This first one's from Michelle ...

Thank you for the filing posts! I am feeling much better about mine now, because you showed pictures of where you keep your papers. My countertop looks a lot like yours. I like the idea of keeping folders in the basket as well. Do the big paper clips hold the bills to be paid? Also, do you keep your daily calendar open on the countertop? That seems to be my big dilema... going back and forth from the papers in the calendar to the papers in the files. I do love the feeling of being organized!

Michelle, thank you so much for commenting! I love the feeling of being organized too, which is why I'm constantly tweaking my "systems" to make them work as well as they can. I know I can never be on top of it all, but feeling some sense of control really makes my days flow more smoothly. And then "mama" feels happier ... so then everyone feels happier! ;)

Now, to answer your questions ... 

Yes, one of the binder clips holds our bills to be paid and there's another one holding business cards (from various health professionals, our hairdresser, the vet, etc.). I LOVE binder clips - I use them constantly, and keep an assortment of sizes on hand at all times!

As for my calendar ~ I do keep it out on the countertop, with the file folder just beside or beneath it. I generally keep my calendar open to the week at hand - so I can quickly see the day's agenda (aka, where we have to go) and specific daily to-do's (i.e. clean out the freezer, bag up the recycling, mail check, etc.). 


And this topic leads me to a question asked some time ago by a reader, Briar (such a pretty name!), about how often I repeat information ...

My other issue is that my calendar and to-do lists are online. This *mostly* works for me, but I find that it makes dealing with the paper aspects of my life difficult, because they aren't in sync. Which leads me to a question: how often do you repeat information? What things get written in the your calendar versus what gets written on the planning sheet? If, say, you have a book group meeting, does that go in your calendar, or just the planning sheet, or both? Do you also write that down in the lesson planner? I love the idea of the FCS, so I'm really hoping I can figure out a way to make it work for me this year.

This is something I struggle with, Briar. I love putting pen (or as the case may be, pencil) to paper, so it's very easy for me to get carried away. Graphophilia aside, and in the interest of time and efficiency, I do try to limit myself and keep things as streamlined as possible. And yet, I often find myself writing some information more than once. 

For instance, as you mention above, when I write down our Book Group event, I first write it down in my month-at-a-glance calendar:

"Book Group, 12:45"

> This information is helpful when I'm scheduling appointments, get-togethers and other activities. <

> I'll do this ahead, once I know when Book Group will be. <

Later, as I prepare for a new week ahead, I first consult that month-at-a-glance calendar. In my week-at-a-glance calendar (another section in my MomAgenda) I write the event/time in the Friday column, and if there's something I need to remember for that day - something I need to bring or do on the ride over or back, I jot it down here, too.

"Book Group, 12:45-2:00 - atm/gas" 

> This information is helpful when I'm planning out my day. <

> I'll do this several days ahead. <

Next I prepare the weekly planning sheet (the one that attaches to the front of my file folder), and here I write (under "Of Note") the event, along with a little more information:

"Book Group - Bridge to Terabithia"

> This is helpful when going back and writing end-of-year reports. <

> I do this on the Thursday before. <

So I do repeat the information, but I use it in different ways in each instance. The month @ a glance helps me schedule ahead, the week @ a glance helps me manage my day, and the weekly (file folder) planning sheet helps me give shape and feel to our week. It also helps me reflect on our week when I go back at year's end - I write yearly academic reports for the school system.

Now, all that said ...

I think it would be much more efficient and convenient to combine the second two actions - the week @ a glance calendar and the weekly planning sheet - thereby keeping all "weekly focus" in one place. I have yet to make that happen, but I'm working on it! It would have to be something of my own design - something that would work within the framework of the weekly file folder.

Because ultimately it would be great to have a (portable) month @ a glance calendar and a weekly file folder with all the planning space I need for the week, in general, and the days of the week, specifically. Then I'd just be writing down information twice - once on the monthly calendar and once on the weekly file folder. But until I get that all straightened out (envisioned/created*) I will go with what's working well for me now.

(*I'm thinking the inside file folder cover would be a great place for that week @ a glance calendar ...)

Now, if I haven't bored you all yet, lol, I'd like to also quickly address a relevant question left by by Trish a while back, about why I choose paper planning over computerized ...

Hi Dawn ... I have a question for you. I notice you have a MacBook (I do too) and was curious why you don't use iCal for your planning purposes? I go back and forth between paper planners and iCal and can't seem to figure out which I like best! I love the physical act of writing (I was an art major in college long ago and understand the joy of writing on nice paper!) but I also enjoy the wonderful portability and ease of the MacBook/iPhone combination... especially at the grocery store and out running errands. Any thoughts?

Tirsh, while I find digital planning intriguing - especially in the case of grocery shopping as you mention above - I can't seem to give up my paper paraphernalia!

First, there's my aforementioned paper passion - but there's also my overall comfort level. I just find it easier to check in with my planner stuff as it is spread out on my counter - than it is to hop on my computer.

Then there's the whole trust issue - plainly put, I don't fully trust my computerized tools! Recently my MacBook crashed (due to a crimped wire inside the hard drive) and I could have lost all kinds of things. (Thankfully, I didn't!) Sure it's pretty easy to misplace a list or a folder, but in the end, I'm just more comfortable using my low-tech systems.

For example, I have this handy little shopping notebook - it's small enough to fit in my purse, but big enough for a good amount of notes. In it, I write out a weekly grocery shopping list which includes other errands like the pharmacy/library/etc. 

Now, I know I could keep this list on my iPhone, but I really just like using that notebook! I clip timely coupons to it - I jot things in it through the week as I think of them. I keep it in my hand - or propped up in the child seat of my carriage - as I walk around the store. All these actions just seem easier to me in notebook, rather than phone, form.

Now, I don't mean to disparage digital planning as a whole - I think it works fantastically for some people! (In fact, here's an article on digital planning at And it probably is more efficient overall - and it's certainly less environmentally taxing. I won't rule out that someday I might be converted - but for now my paper junkie nature still rules, lol!


 Ok, that's all I have time for right now - I do have more reader comments and questions "on file" and will be getting to them just as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a lovely day ~ stay safe and be well!

I'll be back again very soon ...


This Year's Holiday Planner


It's hard to believe how fast Fall has flown by - Halloween is just six days away! Have you squared away your costumes? Laid in your candy stores? Picked out your pumpkins?

Now according to the local mall, I'm waaaay behind schedule, but now that October is coming to a close, I'm ready to set my sights on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the busy, bright and beautiful holiday season ...

To that end, I recently assembled my holiday planner, and placed it in the front section of my homekeeping binder. I keep it here, in this "place of honor," since I'll be concentrating on holiday plans now through the end of the year.

In our home, we host Thanksgiving dinner and a Christmas afternoon gathering. These are the two "big" entertaining events for us. At this time of year I'm also planning for a few feast days, a meaningful/magical Advent, and a homey/happy New Year's celebration.

Lots of fun to be had! Lots of plans to be made!

And so, as family "cruise director," I really depend on my holiday planner ...


Behind the cover page, are all my planning pages. I used my greenroom legal pads (with soft green and blue accents) for these pages.

(A list of those planning pages is included below.)


I also added in a print-out of Martha Stewart's Thanksgiving and Christmas checklists.


And I used some pretty scrapbooking paper to make a November and December calendar.



(I doodle a lot - I'm silly like that.)

Next, I set up an open folder for the various holiday "clippings" I collect - recipes, catalog pages, craft ideas and the like. I just used a leftover bit of scrapbook paper and folded it in half, like a bill-fold.

A small metal clip holds it all together.


In this way, it's easy to flip through the assorted pages and see what's what.

I stuck the clippings in my counter basket, where it's right in-view and in-reach. I've been adding things regularly - in fact, just this morning I added a recipe for mini mince pies. :)


The planner itself rests on the countertop - alongside my weekly file folder and calendar. Behind the holiday planner is the rest of my homekeeping binder. After New Year's I'll retire the whole planner to the back of the binder. (And next year I'll review and start afresh.)


Here's a list of the planning pages, in order:

(Green = Thanksgiving ~ Blue = Christmas ~ Red = New Year's)

This year's Grateful Tree project

Notes for November feast days & birthdays

Thanksgiving Dinner: guests, menu, make-ahead and cooking times

Shopping list (items/itinerary)

Table notes - seating/decor

House cleaning & prep list

Random to-do's

Activities & family traditions

Special words

This year's Advent Calendar project

Advent Sundays

Notes for December feast days & birthdays

Christmas to-do's: general, weekly

Christmas Cards 2011

Holiday newsletter-blog notes

Christmas Gifts 2011

Shopping list (items/itinerary)

Decorating: inside, outside

Gifts to make and bake

* Cheerful Hearts *

Activities & family traditions

Christmas Eve/Day timetable

Christmas Buffet: guests, menu, make-ahead, cooking times


Welcoming 2012

New Year Family Goals

* Charitable Hearts *


It seems like a lot, doesn't it? Well, the holidays do take some work, after all ...

Of course it's easy to go overboard, but hopefully with a cushion of time and perspective, we're able to keep things in balance. Because it's such a special time of year, and I don't like to spend it rushing around, stressing out or feeling low. If starting this far ahead and making all these lists brings us a little more peace and contentment this Christmas, then I'm all for it!

Well, I hope this post posed some ideas that might be useful for you. I'm sure we all have different lists - not to mention expectations - for the holidays, but I hope you enjoyed this all the same. :)

I also hope you all have a great week, and that you enjoy these last days of October. Our foliage here is just past peak, but with a rainstorm in the forecast for Thursday (not to mention a bit of snow!) I'm sure the trees will be bare before week's end. Such is the passing of seasons ~ and Autumn certainly goes out in a fiery hurrah!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by today. I wish you all well, and I look forward to being here again with you soon ...


A Few Quick Q & A's ...

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your week's off to a great start!

First of all, I'd like to say thank you for all the "happy anniversary" wishes! It was a very nice day - then and now - and I'm glad you all enjoyed seeing a few of our wedding photos. As many of you remarked, we were (are) indeed blessed - and I try to remember and give thanks for that every day!

Now, currently we're in the midst of our "crazy" day here - "Mad Mondays" we like to call them, lol. It's two minutes to four, and my kitchen's a MESS! - but I wanted to take a moment to finish up this post, addressing a few recent questions.

Tammy asked about housekeeping lists ...

By any chance, did you post the seasonal housekeeping besides October anywhere? I'm looking for Spring, Summer, Winter ones too.

Tammy, please check out this archive in which you'll find my collection of monthly "Themes & Plans" posts. I include a housekeeping list for each month of the year (as well as garden, nature, faith and food lists).

Here are direct links to each monthly post:

November Housekeeping

December Housekeeping

January Housekeeping

February Housekeeping

March Housekeeping

April Housekeeping

May Housekeeping

June Housekeeping

July Housekeeping

August Housekeeping

September Housekeeping

October Housekeeping

You know, I wrote these lists over four years ago, but except for the movable dates (i.e. holidays and such) I find them pretty timeless. In fact, I refer to them every year as I plan a month or a season ahead! For easy reference, I printed out all the posts and filed them in my homekeeping binder, under my "Living" tab. :)


Teresa inquired about pens ...

Dawn, What is the brand of your favorite pen??

Teresa, I can be quite (ridiculously) obsessive about pencils and pens! (And don't get me started on paper, lol!) Currently my favorite pens are made by Uni-ball and they are called Jetstream pens. I like the blue ink best, but I always keep a few black and reds handy.


In the background are shown a few of my Crackerjack's favorite pens ... the Papermate "Flair" (medium tip). He seems to have inherited his mama's finickiness when it comes to writing instruments! (He uses his for drawing however, whereas I use mine primarily for writing.) Also, for labeling things (like file folders and binder tabs) I like a Sharpie Ultra Fine Point marker (not shown). 


And finally, Kristie asked about the notepad shown in this post ...

Where did you find the notepad with the date and list on the left? Looks like a very useful tool!

Kristie, I buy these notepads at Target - they have quite an array of office supplies! These pads are made by a company called "greenroom," and they come in a soft ecru with aqua or avocado accents. They are indeed a very useful stye of notepad! Perfect for to-do lists or project planning pages. I also love "greenroom" notebooks - I use a small one for my weekly shopping diary and a larger one for my weekly planning sheets. 

Here's a close-up ...


(This is a page from my holiday planner - post under way!) 


Well, that's all I have time for today, but I hope these bits and bobs of information were helpful to you! Thanks so much for stopping by ...

I'll see you all again very soon!


A notebook to go with all those folders ...


Well, it's that time of year again ... I just replaced all my file crate folders - and oh, how pretty they look, all bright, fresh and crisp in my crateThe FCS (File Crate System) has always worked well for me, there no doubt about that - I love the way my weekly folders "tame the paper tiger," to coin a phrase. Having a place to put things is certainly a big help - there's less clutter, and less slips through the cracks - but the real trick for me is finding a good place to plan. A comfortable and convenient spot to plan ahead and work in throughout the week at hand. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a bit fussy about that - hence the frequent posts regarding calendars and planners, both purchased and homemade. ;)

So this past weekend I found myself fiddling with my latest "vehicle" for weekly planning. Most recently I had a section devoted to this in my homekeeping binder - but it really just wasn't convenient. I found myself flipping back and forth between the month @ a glance and the weekly planning section. Also in the past I've made up weekly planning sheets and attached them to the front of the file folders. That seemed like such a great idea - but it was inconvenient not having the weekly plans all together in one place. I also didn't like having to fish out a particular folder if I needed to write something down for the future - say, an idea for a Memorial Day outing, or a book sale at the end of the summer.

So anyhoo, I'm trying something new (yet again!), and so far I like how it looks and feels. I'm still working on the inside pages, but the outside came out so pretty I had to show it to you all. :)

Basically, I just gussied up a plain, spiral-bound notebook (shown below at far left) with some paper, stickers and ribbon. 


I used decoupage glue for adhering the paper to the front cover:


I added a pretty, sheer red ribbon as a page-marker ...


And some stickers for the front label:


It fits quite nicely in the front of the crate. :)


So now I'm working on setting up the inside, corresponding the dates with the file folders (May 2011 - May 2012). There are plenty of pages so each week is assigned a 2-page spread. I also bought a brand new academic month @ a glance calendar - actually, it's an old style I used (happily) for years. It's thin, light, portable and practical. It, too, fits nicely in the front of the file crate as well as the folder bin I keep at the side of my desk - and I'll be "personalizing" that next. :)

I'll post more about how I'm using the weekly notebook in conjunction with my weekly folders just as soon as I can. But for now I wish you all a lovely ... and safe ... week. Especially as we head into the holiday weekend - and especially in light of the storms ravaging so much of our country. May God be with us all!