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A Peek into Our Sunny Schoolroom ... ❤

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

So last August I mentioned that we were finally ready to turn our sunroom into a formal learning room. But I guess "finally ready" wasn't quite accurate ... more like, "we're nearly ready" or "it's time to make a list" or perhaps, "when we can find some spare time let's get a few things set up!" Meanwhile life carried on, learning and play happened, while the room slowly came together - taking time out to host Thanksgiving for 20 and a Christmas Day Open House - then shutting down completely throughout the coldest weeks of the winter, because, as a three-season room, it doesn't have its own heat!

Well, warm and sunny days are here at last and the room has come together rather nicely! So how about a tour? :)

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This is looking in from the family room ... through what used to be the back door of the house before the previous owners built this south-facing sunroom. Archie is relishing the fresh breezes and constant critter activity!

And as you can see, there are patio doors leading out to the ... well, patio. And just beyond that are the birdfeeders and herb garden - both important parts of our homeschool! Inside we have a portable greenhouse (aka "classroom garden") and a small fridge. The fridge was a Christmas gift to Bill for his "man cave" downstairs but this is as far as it got! It's actually pretty handy having it on the main floor, especially when entertaining.

On top of the fridge I have one of our favorite seasonal books open to the April spread, along with some spring flowering branches ...

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And a lovely sign I got at Home Goods a couple of years ago. :)

I decided this would be a monthly verse corner ... not really a nature corner because that would mean tiny treasures and hands-on, investigative projects. This is more of a seasonal (top of fridge) shelf with an illustrated poem on display which I'll change up each month. The water-filled vases are set just up and back enough to be out of the way of little hands and paws - so far, anyway. Knock on wood! I'll change this corner up for May with the first dandelions and violets, flowering crab or apple branches and one or two other seasonal flourishes. Later on there will be driftwood, beach roses and a jar of seashells maybe ... then in the fall a small harvest sampling - apples and pumpkins and branches of burnished leaves. ETC. :)

(Clearly this corner is meant more for ME than the boys, but hey - even teachers need their visual inspiration, right?)

Right now the classroom garden has plenty of sprouting seeds!

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(Catnip for our kitties ...)

Just inside the doorway is a spot for Little Bear's jackets, backpack and shoes ...

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(Plus Mom's boots!)

On the floor we have a few different area rugs. Some are for comfort and some are for scraping shoes! And some are for learning and play ...

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The US map rug gets a lot of use since this year we're studying American history! (Crackerjack takes a local homeschool class but Earlybird and I are studying US geography - with a focus on state birds and flowers - at home. In fact, this coloring book and this picture book - along with a favorite geography book as well as several kinds of maps - have really kept EB curious and on track! (I can go into further detail sometime if anyone would like. This has been a really fun study.)

Ok, here's the back wall of the schoolroom - it faces south and lets in a good deal of light!

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I use the window ledges to display the books we are using that week (tying into seasonal themes and study topics). So this week we have ...

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Eggs!

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Easter, rabbits and (from last week) rain ...

The rooster postcard I've had for years - it's part of a lovely set purchased through Nova Natural. And speaking of roosters, next week Petook will take its place on this shelf. How I love that Easter story! And the bunny is a finger puppet - he appeared in one of the boys' Easter baskets last year. I tie storytelling and puppetry into our homeschooling whenever I can. Fyi, our educational approach has always been a mix of Charlotte Mason and Waldorf philosophies, primarily. As you probably know, if you've read my blog for any length of time! :)

And here are books about our current read-aloud:

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The Spiderwick Chronicles were beloved by my older boys (and me!) back in the day - and since Earlybird really enjoyed Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone last fall, I thought I'd try this series. We listen to audiobooks in the car - a great way for EB to experience all kinds of literature! - and I'm happy to say he's really absorbed by the Spiderwick series as well. We are on book four right now, The Ironwood Tree.

And beneath these windows stands the train table ...

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We've had this train table forevah and it has really held up quite well! I think we got it for Crackerjack when he was ... um, two? So that's about 15 years! Both Little Bear AND Earlybird play here every single day. EB (15) is developmentally delayed so he still plays with a lot of what one might consider "young" toys. Plus he has loved trains since he was tiny. It's nice (most of the time) that both our younger boys enjoy playing trains because often (though not always) they play with them well together. (Though we do go through phases where the standing rule is one kid at a time. Complete with timers.)

I use baskets to contain the tracks and trains beneath the table. Much like the cars and trucks collection described in my "Tale of Four Carts" post, these are only a fraction of the tracks and trains we own. The bulk is downstairs and we switch things up from time to time. (Legos are handled similarly - or were since nobody plays with Legos at the moment.)

Next comes this great easel ...

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This was a roadside find last fall! It's beautifully made - the other side has a dry erase white board, but we pretty much just use the chalkboard right now. I use it to write questions for EB to figure out (usually during his therapy hours). Beneath the chalkboard is a crate full of "extraneous" books ... not currently connected to any topic or theme, but reserved for the future or books we like to return to on a regular basis. (The bulk of our books are stored ... wait for it! ... in the basement.)

Never one to let good storage space go to waste ...

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I have the On-the-Go Water Wow activity booklets tucked in a little basket here ... and oh my GOODNESS does Little Bear just love these things! They keep him busy for hours ... or you know, at least 10 minutes. We have a whole bunch of them and they are well-used and still work great!

Now, just behind the chalkboard you can see our faith and nature shelves ...

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Top to bottom:

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Liturgical resources - these are the ones I like to have close by - many beloved storybooks organized by feast day (more or less) and my most-used Catholic idea books.

Next shelf:

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My favorite seasonal resources - including ones I've had for years and re-read often even though I pretty much know them by heart! These are quite crafty and "Waldorf" in flavor. :)

Bottom shelf:

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Here is the location of our new nature shelf!

It's just the right height for Little Bear to observe and manage. Admittedly, it's pretty sparse at the moment - we're just coming out of winter so we don't have many "fresh" treasures to display! But I do have some preserved items here as well as a flower press, binoculars, and two of my favorite children's nature guides: Round the Year by Enid Blyton (a gorgeous and generous gift from my dear friend, Kimberly) and Nature Hikes - an OLD but priceless nature walk resource.

In the cabinet at the bottom of this bookcase I keep most of my nature study resources ...

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And in a small basket perched on a small table I have all our field guides ...

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Now, tucked in on the other side of the bookcase is our homeschooling cart:

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This cart holds ...

Top bin: Earlybird's go-to educational resources, as well as my homemade lesson planning notebook

Middle bin: my favorite early learning teacher guides, and a fun little "basics" book for Little Bear

Bottom bin: favorite flash cards, educational games and a toddler workbook for when LB wants to "do school" like his brothers :)

I love how this cart looks out here - but what I really love though is how easy it is to move around! I can wheel this cart out to my "teacher desk" in the next room when I'm lesson planning!

Next comes the learning line and more books on display ...

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The clothespins hold pages EB has used for his studies during the week. Some are photocopies of books we're using and some are coloring pages he's worked on. He is a very visual learner  - doesn't really care to talk too much about things but likes to look back at stuff we've done. I sometimes use post-it notes on these pages to prompt further connections. For example, on a state bird & flower coloring page I might ask EB to look up that particular bird in our field guide, or find the flower in our yard. On a human body coloring page about breathing, I might ask EB to do a simple science experiment involving his own breathing. And so forth ...

The books displayed here, from right to left, celebrate the themes of ...

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Spring!

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Colors!

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The World around Us!

I do have a lot of wooden toys and educational items out here - these are treasured items that we've been collecting for many years! And can I just say how much I LOVE Toot & Puddle? Thankfully, so do the boys. :)

In the next corner of the room I'm in the midst of organizing a geography corner ...

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It's still in need of a little work - for one thing, that pretty table (a yard sale find!) needs a new coat of paint (something more boyish) and for another, Little Bear's chair is a bit cramped here! But the heating element is on the wall just to the left and I really don't want him sitting here until it's turned off for the spring-summer-fall. (Which should be any day now - thank goodness!)

The other items here are a globe (which is a bit wobbly), a wooden US puzzle (which is missing Missouri), a small planets board book EB and I made for LB last year, and tucked in the far corner against the wall are several large, child-friendly atlases. These are GREAT for spreading out on the floor!

I would very much like to add some book ledges on this wall so I can display picture books about the current state or country we're studying. We've been using the Discover America State by State book series as we move from region to region and they have been a HUGE hit with Earlybird! I might also like to add a small bulletin board here so we can tack up articles about, and prayer needs for, the people and cultures of this great wide world.

Ok, turning the corner now ...

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This wall is mostly all Little Bear's toys ... and mostly hand-me-downs from his older brothers!

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Our collection of nature puppets - oh, how they have been loved through the years! (And please note the bandaids on several of them. This was Little Bear's doing some time ago when just about everyone had a "boo-boo" of one kind or another.)

More stuffed animals here ...

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And here ...

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And the wooden barn that I'm pretty sure I love more than anyone ...

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The barn sits on a sweet red children's table that belonged to me when I was little - and my mum before me, and my great aunt before that! It was soft yellow when I had it, but my mother painted it this cheerful red after Little Bear was born. The basket beneath the table holds our wooden figures collection. I am so pleased Little Bear has taken a real interest in these. I bought most of these when Earlybird was young (and I was just getting into all things Waldorf-inspired) but EB didn't really take to them. (Imaginative play was and still is a challenge for him.) 

Then we have a couple of wooden stools and an unfinished cubby holding an assortment of toys ...

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Favorite wooden puzzles, an alphabet abacus and a farm-themed tin filled with a bunch of favorite board books. All years-old and well-used! (Are you sensing a theme here, lol?) Little Bear got the tool set for Christmas (does this boy ever love to "help" Daddy with his work!) and the red basket underneath holds play-doh stuff. The lower cubbies hold (l-r) Duplos, a wooden tea set (in the woodland box) and story stones (sea animals and wooden puzzles are stacked in bins just behind). The wooden bin on the right holds yet more wooden puzzles!

(We have always been big on puzzles around here! Bookworm used to like doing them upside down. I kid you not.)

And then we have the treehouses ...

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Also several years old but Little Bear enjoys both of these toys - hooray! Mostly it's the dinosaurs that live in the wooden tree fort (they were off somewhere else when the picture was taken) and the soft tree stump is usually stuffed full of wooden alphabet blocks. Go figure.

Finally, our work table ...

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And it is truly a worktable as you can see from the picture above! A bit of a mess, yes - but beloved, as it once sat in my grandparents' kitchen. It's hardly in the pristine shape in which they kept it, but I like to think they'd be pleased their great-grandsons have all spent a whole lot of time around it ... learning, crafting, playing, snacking. In the middle of the table I have a tray holding a basket of crayons and the day's paperwork.

And now for my favorite part of the whole room ...

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A view of the rest of our "schoolroom" ... which lies just outside these big windows! 

Well I guess I'd best wrap up now ... but I hope you enjoyed this not-very-brief tour of our schoolroom! I took all these pictures over the past week or so - waiting for sunny days so the light was good! - but tomorrow I am dismantling a few areas to make room for Easter dinner tables. Thankfully this room is still versatile enough that we can use it for entertaining when needed. :)

So thanks as always for stopping by ... and my best wishes to you and yours as the Easter holiday approaches ... and to those who celebrate, Happy Passover!

And of course, a Joyous Springtide to all! 

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


A Tale of Four Carts ... ❤

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Hello everyone, and Happy Hump Day! If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen one or more of my recent posts in which I gush over my brand new rolling "caddy" carts. Well, I'd like to share them here too, because I'm having such fun setting them up!

But a bit of backstory first ...

I have admired these rolling carts for years now, ever since longtime reader, and Moscow-friend, Mic shared hers for my "Autumn Cozy Nest" series. Mic's pretty cart, in that iconic robin's egg blue, lives in her family's study room and holds all kinds of happy desk and craft supplies. When I saw Mic's picture - with her neatly stored pens, notebooks and purse, plus a couple of my favorite books tucked in there too - well, my heart just went all a-flutter! And then later on my friend Jen shared how she was using her own lovely cart on Instagram - and once again I found myself coveting another's cart just a little! Well, since these pretty carts were made by IKEA, I made a mental note to get myself right over to our local IKEA, only ... I never seem to get over to IKEA! (It's actually not quite local, but a bit of a drive from here.) But those carts have never gone off my radar ...

So then recently I was shopping at Michaels Arts & Crafts for Easter stuff when I found these remarkably similar carts made by a company called Recollections and they not only looked well-made but came in a wide-range of soft colors - PLUS they were ON a really good SALE! So honestly, what could I do but buy one? Or ... um, four?

Well, I did start with just one ... I hemmed and hawed a bit over the color, finally deciding on the charcoal grey because I planned to park it in my family room and we have a lot of gray in that room. Back home I set Bill (and his helper) to work putting the cart together ...

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Bill said it was a cinch to assemble (how could it not be with that kind of help, right?) and seemed quite solidly made. In fact, he was so impressed with the cart - and my plans for it - he hardly twitched an eyelid when I returned to Michaels the very next weekend (before that sale ran out!) and came home with a few more!

(Ok, each cart was on sale for $23 and change so, not exactly a cheap investment, but I made sure I had specific intentions for each cart before I splurged. I don't mean to make it sound like it was nothing to drop $100 on home storage!)

Anyhoo, here's a little tour of our carts and their new homes ...

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In the family room: The GRAY cart quickly became Little Bear's because he just loved it so. It's already logged many miles! This cart holds (a portion of) our vast cars and trucks collection as well as LB's favorite vehicle-themed books. I used a few bins I already had here too, so LB can lift out a bin at a time (in theory) and keep things a little tidier than they might otherwise end up. He can also wheel his car collection to other rooms if he wishes.

The bottom bin holds "monster trucks" and the middle bin holds the interchangeable parts of a set of wooden, buildable trucks while the bin at the very top holds assorted matchbox-sized cars (and planes). We actually own far more than the vehicles seen here (we've been raising boys for the past 22 years so this should not come as a surprise!) but I whittled down the family room assortment to these few bins. We can switch trucks out every so often to keep things fresh!

And next ...

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In the learning room: The AQUAMARINE cart holds the younger boys' curricula and various educational resources including my lesson planning notebook, teacher guides, Earlybird's clipboard (which holds his daily seatwork), a current board game and a few favorite flash card sets. I've parked this cart near the worktable where EB works with his therapist every day. (You'll hear more about this cart in my "Learning Room Tour" post coming up soon!)

Now the white cart ...

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Ended up in the library! And it holds my 17 yo Crackerjack's academic materials - binders, textbooks, reading assignments, etc. - so they don't clutter up his (already cluttered) desktop. CJ was a little skeptical about his need for this cart (he keeps most of this in his backpack) so I may end up finding a different use for it ...

And finally ...

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In the kitchen nook: The ROSE-GOLD cart sits by my command central and holds various notebooks, post-its and notecards. I also parked my week-at-a-glance calendar here but have since moved it back to the countertop. I roll this cart out of the kitchen to my computer desk in the family room from time-to-time - if company's coming or on weekends when command central closes up shop. Of course I can't help but notice this cart's shade matches the coil-binding in all of my favorite notebooks! :)

Ok my friends, I guess that's a wrap! I hope you enjoyed seeing how I'm using my new rolling carts - as I mentioned above, I'm really quite happy with the way they are made and the way they look and the way they are organizing several areas of our family home! Toys, books, notebooks, and more books! I can always use help in corralling these types of things. Little Bear's play is more creative (and the mess is easier to manage), our lesson-times (and my lesson planning) are smoother and I'm able to quickly pick up my planning paraphernalia when needs be.

And four carts are a lot, I know - but I AM thinking of getting yet one more cart (should they go on sale again) in our kitchen proper ... we're getting rid of an old trash compactor and one of these carts would fit perfectly in it's place. I think it might be a good spot for storing produce that usually ends up (all over) our counter - apples, onions, potatoes, garlic, etc. But we shall see!

Well always, thanks so much for stopping by, everyone ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Weekend Office Hours: a printable aganda

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Hello and Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'm here to share another planning printable with you! This is just something I made up for myself because I'm always looking for ways to keep on track - plus, I just love making printables! This agenda is based on my own needs, so it's kind of personalized and therefore might not be of any interest or use to you - still, I'm sharing it here anyway! Just in case it might be a help to you as you consider your own weekly planning. If it's something you'd like to print out and try for yourself, feel free to click on the link below ...

  Weekend Office Hours Agenda

Ok, a little about this printable - it's basically a gussied-up checklist of weekly planning tasks. Nothing new or novel here - I've blogged about every aspect of this list I think - and many a time before! - but I had fun pulling these planning points together and making them look pretty. As you all know, I have a real soft spot for vintage clipart, tidy checklists and a papyrus font!

So these are the tasks I try to accomplish in hopes of getting a good start on the new week, putting the old week to pasture and just generally keeping up with the many spinning plates over my head. For me, it's most convenient to hold "office hours" over the weekend when Bill is home to help with the kids - however, a few of these tasks are in fact done PRE-weekend, because some information is good to know before I run Saturday errands. So, for example, I try to draw up a menu plan and fill out my "crafts and comforts" box (both are found on my weekly planning sheet) well before Saturday morning ... this way I can buy appropriate ingredients and materials. I don't like to shop mid-week if I don't have to.

And of course having our family "POW" (Plan o' the Weekend) sketched out before Friday night is ideal! Sometimes though I work up that menu plan and craft list and even the POW itself in the wee, promise-filled, coffee-fueled hours of Saturday morning. You know, those golden hours when it ALL seems so do-able? ;) 

And speaking of DOing ... I pretty much never do all the things on this agenda! But just having them listed out in front of me keeps my brain "in the loop" and helps me decide which tasks are must-dos and which can be put off till next week (or whenever). I think it also takes the edge off that nagging feeling of "am I forgetting something?" I can even use a highlighter at the end of the weekend to make note of the tasks that still need addressing. Like, if I didn't review my journal or organize receipts, comb through my texts or make library requests, then come Monday I'm aware of the areas in which I'm behind. I may fit them in as I can through the week, or decide to just catch up next weekend.

At the top of the task list I placed a planning block for Saturday and Sunday (nestled in between is that aforementioned clipart - found on Pinterest and, to the best of my knowledge, free for personal use). If I'm going to fit in weekend "planning time" then it's best to know what all else is going on, and when.

Ok, so that's my agenda in a nutshell!

Office Hours Layout

(The nifty "Layout" app on my phone allowed me make the above photo collage! Pictured clockwise from top left - lesson planner, April's "extra" planning sheets, April month-at-a-glance calendar, POW notebook, weekly file folders.)

Let me know if you have any questions or if the link doesn't work right for you. I'm always happy to follow-up with a more detailed post!

But for now I'll wrap up and be on my way - to the kitchen actually, because it's nearly 6 p.m. and high time to get supper started! I wish you all a pleasant evening and will see you here again very soon ...


My April Planner - with printable links! ❤

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Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Well, as usual I'm here with but a few hours to spare, sharing some "extras" for your April planning! These pages can certainly be used on their own, but I've color-coordinated them with my monthly planning sheets linked below. (You can find all the planning sheets for 2017 here in this post. I'm adding extra pages as I can - a little additional planning for all those seasonal comforts and joys ... and challenges!)

Ok, so here we go - but while we're at it, we're going to completely IGNORE the white stuff falling steadily - and rather annoyingly - outside my window. It's time to turn our thoughts to spring things ...

April Cover Page

April Month at a Glance (liturgical version here)

April Overview

4/3-4/9

4/10-4/16

4/17-4/23

4/24-4/30

April Home Learning Sheet

April Review

April Extras:

Natural Spring Cleaning

Spring Yard Work

April's Special Days

April's Seasonal Themes

Easter Prep A

Easter Prep B

Easter Sunday: Planning

Easter Sunday: Remembering

Blank April Planning Page

I'll be working on filling out these pages during my weekend office hours and in a future post will share my own notes and ideas on the above topics. But speaking of "office hours," that PDF should be coming next ...

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Sorry I couldn't have that ready to share in this post, but the good news is, it IS all done and ready to print so it should only be another couple of days. I'm trying to add some notes on each "agenda item" so the post is taking me a bit longer than I originally anticipated. (Doesn't everything though, lol?)

Spring might be off to a slow start around here, but I just love the shades of April...

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Sooner or later we'll see some of that color around here, I have faith. The trees are bursting with buds and the forsythia is ready to bloom and the daffodils are poking up through the ground - hopefully though they'll be wise enough to wait until this latest bout of snow melts under the spring sunshine. If and when that sunshine ever returns! (Looking like Sunday according to my weather app!)

Well my friends, I will let you go now, but as always I thank you for stopping by. Enjoy your weekend and I will see you here again very soon!


🌞 Books for Happy Mornings & Good Nights 🌝

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Hello and Happy Monday, my friends! Today I'd like to talk a little about favorite children's books - in particular, ones that celebrate a happy day and/or a good night!

We certainly enjoy books of all kinds and at any time of day, but Little Bear himself has what he calls his "sunny stories" and "bed stories." :) Before he settles for sleep, he insists on at least THREE bed stories ... and in the morning, before we head downstairs to get the day going, he requests time spent in the rocking chair by the window, talking about the day, "snugging" and looking at a couple of favorite books ...

So I decided to make up special baskets to go along with these special times of the day! I took advantage of a sale at Michaels, and picked up two similar-sized and shaped baskets - one in a light shade and one in dark. Then I picked up some wide ribbon for a bit of embellishment. 

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Sunrise colors for the day basket and a sparkly indigo for the evening bin. The baskets are not too big and have handles so it's easy enough to tote them from room to room. (Little Bear still sleeps in a toddler bed in our master bedroom but we're working on transitioning him to the nursery down the hall. Taking the books back and forth helps bridge the gap a little!)

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One of the things I love best about Little Bear's nursery (seen in depth here in this post) is the direction it faces - it catches the sunrise every morning and on warm evenings I love to sit in that same window and watch the birds in the spruce hedge along the property line - cardinals flitting in and out as dusk approaches, mourning doves cooing from the rooftop ...

Mornings are especially nice though - even Archie loves that window!

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 Ok, here are the books tucked in those baskets ...

Happy Morning Books:

The Baby's Good Morning Book

Hey! Wake Up!

Peek-a-Boo

Give Me Grace

All Creatures Great and Small

Little Owl's Day

Humphrey's Corner

Oh, What a Busy Day!

Good Morning Sun

Little Golden Books Classics: Three Best Loved Tales (Play with Me, So Big, The Boy with a Drum) 

Playtime

I Can Help

🌞

Good Night Books:

The Baby's Bedtime Book

Humphrey's Bedtime

Good Night, Fairies

Steam Train, Dream Train

How Many Kisses Good Night

Pajama Time!

Owl Babies

Sleepy Time

Little Owl's Night

🌝

I'd love to hear about your favorite books for bedtime and morning time! Please leave a comment below if you have the time. I need more books like I need rocks in my pockets, but I am always on the lookout for new favorites. :)

So this post was first in what I hope will be a series of posts talking about our favorite children's books for different activities and themes. I am currently going through a rather ginormous stash of storage boxes in the basement which hold mostly craft supplies and assorted children's books. These bins have not been unpacked in the four years we've lived here! And they're taking up a rather large portion of the mudroom ... and would-be home office ... and ahem even a corner of the laundry alcove!

I'm not going to set a posting schedule because goodness knows I won't stick to it, but as I go through these boxes and find old gems and organize them into a better storage system, I will share on occasion as I can. I'm thinking of upcoming themes like:

❤ books about nature

❤ counting +/or alphabet books

❤ funny books

❤ farm books

❤ books embracing faith

❤ books exploring world cultures

❤ books about handling fears

❤ poetry books

❤ books about enjoying different foods

Etc.!

I think this will be fun and I hope you do, too! If you have an idea for a theme, let me know. It's possible I might have a giveaway at some point during the series as well ... so stay tuned!

For now though I'll wrap up. My littlest man is itchy for some late afternoon reading ... this is our time for truck books and tea! And books about boats, trains, planes ... any old vehicles, really. We have QUITE the collection of those kinds of books as you can probably imagine!

So please take care and I will be back just as soon as I can. I am thisclose to finalizing that Office Hours Agenda pdf to share with you all - hopefully that will be my next post ...

Ok friends, I'm off! See you here again sometime soon ...


Command Center Cleanup ❤

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something else I did today ...

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

Before I go ...

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

And I love the fox on his shirt ...

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And I love the smile on his face!

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

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

See you here again very soon ...


My March Planner ... with printable links! ❤

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Hello and Happy Monday my friends!

Are you as shocked as I am by how quickly February went by? Honestly, it seems like we were just making butter for St. Brigid and now we're buying daffodils for St. David! Ah well, such is the nature of time ... it marches right along whether we've made the most of it or not!

So on that note, I'm here today to share my March printables with you! These are the seasonal planning sheets I keep in my homekeeping binder, and while some of them I've shared before, I've since added a few fun "extras" for the new month ahead. I hope you enjoy!

March Cover Page

March Month at a Glance Calendar (liturgical version here)

March Overview

Weekly Planning Sheets:

    2/27-3/5 

    3/6-3/12

    3/13-3/19

    3/20-3/26

    3/27-4/2

March Home Learning Worksheet

March Review

Spring Term Student GoalsSpring Term Notes

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day

Celebrating St. Joseph's Day

Celebrating The Vernal Equinox

Spring Cleaning: Week-by-WeekSpring Cleaning Notes

Our Lenten Journey AOur Lenten Journey B

Nature Notes: Early Spring ANature Notes: Early Spring B

Nature Notes: Week-by-Week ANature Notes: Week-by-Week B

Blank March Planning Page

That last link is for a general (lined) planning page in March's theme colors. This way you can add complimentary pages to your planner for planning your own special projects and events in the month ahead. Our you could use it for general notes/journal pages or possibly if you need more writing space for one of the above events/projects.

(Note: ALL the monthly printable planning sheets can be found in this post here. And here is my post with February's extras. I will try to be better about getting the "extras" to you well before the new month begins! And if you have a request or suggestion for a particular monthly planning page let me know. They are very easy for me to make up.)

I do hope you like these pages, but if you're having trouble fitting them into your planning "repertoire," let me know. I think it's easy enough to fill a binder with all these pretty pages - even fill those pages up with notes - but USING them in such a way they make a real difference in your life is a whole 'nother thing. ;) I speak from experience! :) I have really great intentions but it's the routines that get us where we need to be.

I use these sheets so as to fill my family's seasons with the comforts and joys we look forward to each year and I also have pages for planning certain projects and events. For example, April will have some Easter entertaining sheets and Bookworm's graduation party will be one of my June project pages. In May there will be a page for Little Bear's 4th birthday as well as a few sheets revolving around planting our garden.

Another quick note - I like using my planning pages in my homekeeping binder, but as we all know, 3-ring binders are not always the easiest platform for writing out notes. What I usually do is remove the page I'm working on and place it on a clipboard. After I've made my notes I return it to the binder for reference.

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by! I'd love to hear if you're using my pages and if so, how they are working for you! Are you storing them in a binder like I am or perhaps in file folders? On a clipboard or having them bound at the copy shop, perhaps? What are you doing with the pages once their week (or month) has gone by? (I keep mine in seasonal storage binders right now.) Let me know if I can clarify anything for you or if any of the links above are wonky. Also, would it help if I did another post showing how I'm using them myself? Let me know in the comments below!

Enjoy the rest of your Monday my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Cookbooks & Recipes ❤

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

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

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

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

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

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Now, my recipes on the other hand ...

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

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

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

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

Everyday food mags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

side dishes - vegetable, other

vegetables, general

breakfast

baked goods

fruits/herbs

soups/stews

appetizers

beverages

ice cream/sorbet

frostings/jams/sauces/candy

pickles & preserves

food gifts

holiday spreads (entire articles focusing on a particular holiday)

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

sentimental (family and/or handwritten recipes)

general food information/meal planning

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

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

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

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Naturally, I had help ... :)

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Oh, forgot to show you the binder pocket!

Cookbooks binder pocket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Weekly Planning Routine: Part One (of Two)

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

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

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

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

My February Planner ... with printable links! ❤

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Hello, my friends ... and Happy Tuesday!

With February now well underway, I thought you might like a peek at my planning pages for the month ahead. January has been retired to a storage binder so it's time to move February to the front of the line!

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Isn't the cover page pretty? :)

So first up in my homekeeping binder - before the actual "planner" section - comes my domestic journal. I've blogged about how and why I journal many times before so I won't bore you with details here, but I'd like to show you the first couple of pages in February ...

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Ok, I lied, here are a few (hopefully not boring) details ...

Along with handwritten notes, I add clippings from current magazines, newspapers, catalogs (etc.). I adore periodicals - I'm a bit of an information junkie, actually. I choose to save timely things to reflect what's going on right now, and I particularly like things that look visually appealing in my journal. So the journal pages shown above reflect February themes - the Superbowl, Valentines, winter driving, indoor plants and the late winter garden (hellebores, or Lenten Rose) ...

There is also a recipe for a chocolate bundt cake. And yes, it might seem odd to "bury" a recipe in a journal, but I have a method for keeping track of journal recipes and a system for what gets put in here as opposed to being filed away with other recipes. (More on that in my next #52Weeks progress report, "Cookbook and Recipes," to come later this week!)

I keep my binder open on my kitchen counter at all times (save parties, natch) so I can easily jot things down as they come to me. I add clippings as I can too - catching up during weekend office hours, when I review my journal from the past week. Sometimes I fall behind and keep a small pile of clippings "to journal" in my inbox, but preferably I add things on a daily basis as I come across them in the interest of keeping current.

Ok, now comes the planning section of my binder! First is the February title page ...

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Then immediately comes the month-at-a-glance calendar ...

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Confession: I have not yet fully embraced this homemade month-at-a-glance calendar. I like how it looks, but it's a bit cramped for me. I tend to need more space in a monthly calendar, because while I do write small, I write A LOT! So for now I'm keeping a second calendar in each monthly section (see the tabs sticking out along the edge of the binder?). This Day-Timer brand calendar features a two-page spread, with a large, lined grid. I've used this calendar for several years now and find it efficient and comfortable.

Just beyond the calendar in the picture above are my "Winter Term" planning and note pages which I moved forward from January. These are pretty basic in design, but give me a place where I can organize our home learning goals for the next few months.

Next we have a brainstorming page for February titled, "Romancing the Winter" ...

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Now, I realize some (many?) people find it hard to "embrace" winter - but I honestly love it. Not that I don't yearn for spring when winter lingers into March (which it's known to do in New England), but truly, there's so much to relish in each and every season. My journal (and planner) help remind me of that! So this is just a place where I can write down all the lovely ways to enjoy February ...

Some might find these sheets a bit "silly," but I do not hesitate to include things like this in my planners. I feel seasonal enjoyment lends such richness and comfort to my family's life and if I don't plan for it (imagine it, write it down, work it into our life), it can slip through our fingers too easily as one day blurs into the next. This is why I keep pages like this right beside more "practical" planning sheets. The fun things we did in this post are thanks to this kind of planning. :)

Ok, the next page is for planning "February Festivities: ...

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I included St. Brigid's Day, Candlemas, St. Valentine's Day and Shrove Tuesday on this sheet. These are all liturgical feasts/events but I might also have included National Weatherman's Day, Laura Ingall Wilder's Birthday, or Superbowl Sunday. It's all about selecting a few events I want to plan and prepare for each month - with crafts, activities, and/or special foods for my family.

And right after that comes "February Lenten Planning" ...

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... including an outline for "The 40 days of Lent."

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Lent doesn't actually begin until March 1st but since I want to do my planning ahead this month, these sheets will reside in February. I've just started gathering my thoughts for the season ahead and this is the place I go when I want to make a note or a list.

Next comes the February Overview page and then the weekly planning sections begin ...

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This shows a week to come and so it has not been filled out yet. I do most of my "filling in" the weekend before a new Monday. Each weekly planning section contains a seasonally-inspired overview on the left (in Feb. that includes 1/30-2/5, 2/6-2/12, 2/13-2/19, 2/20-2/26) and a home learning worksheet on the right. I'm trying out a couple of extra printables in this section as well (seen in more detail in this post).

(Note: You can find planning sheets for all the months of the year in this post here.)

The remaining sheets in my February planner include a Review Page and event planning pages for St. Valentine's Day and Presidents' Days. (I decided I needed more space for planning Valentines than just the small box in the "Festivities" page.) When I have an idea for observing these holidays I jot them down on their planning pages.

Here's the binder as it sits on my kitchen counter, open to this week's overview ...

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A binder clip allows me to flip between the day's journaling page and the current week's planning section. It's a system that seems to be working well for me - not that I'm not always tweaking! Forever tweaking ...

Ok, one last picture then... here is this week's file folder, which I keep tucked inside my binder (you can see it just under that binder clip above!). When I pulled the folder out last Thursday I found the page below inside ...

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I was so happy to find this sheet left in here from last year! It reminded me that the bluebirds pass through our area right around now! They enjoy our front burning bush hedge but I want to make up some of these treats to welcome them (lure them) to our yard. This works well with our "Valentines for the Birds" theme next week!

(Another reason to embrace February ... and I definitely would have forgotten about those bluebirds had I not seen this reminder, but now we'll keep an eye out!

Well my friends, I'm going to wrap up and let you go - but I do hope you've enjoyed this peek at my February planner. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to clarify (or expand on) anything. I'm always happy to talk planning!

For now though, I thank you for stopping by and I wish you all a pleasant evening ... still snowing steadily here and boy is it pretty out there. Before I go, here's a picture of the creek up the road ... I snapped this just a little while ago:

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


#52 Weeks: My Fridge & Freezer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The after ...

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

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

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

And here's the freezer ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Love this sweet teapot wallie!

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

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

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

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

I'll see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Pantry & Bakeware ...

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

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

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

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Art by Tasha Tudor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And voila!

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

How about a tour? :)

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

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Next shelf down is for rice and soups ...

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

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Ok, on to the middle cabinet ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Allrighty, last cabinet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Day Designer: A Closer Look ❤

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Hello my friends, and welcome ... I hope your weekend's going well! Some time ago I promised a closer look at how I use my Day Designer to best organize the hours of my day ... and today I am here to do just that!

Throughout this post I will share many close-up pictures of this past Tuesday's planning page. It's probably TMI to be honest, but I think it's neat to see what kinds of things other people write down in their planners, don't you? I will admit I really filled it up with this post in mind - my pages (days) are not always so busy! Plus, I embellished the page a little more than I do normally. (I'm not usually one for a lot of stickers or too many colors.) I tried to use my page to its fullest advantage so I could show all the different ways it can and does work for me. I will walk you through each section as we go along ...

Before we get too far though, I would first like to say that I absolutely LOVE my Day Designer. There are multiple versions of the DD, but the one I am using this year is a Flagship academic version (June 2016-May 2017) in the Blue Floral design

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And as many of you know, I'm a very picky person when it comes to planners ... "picky" in that, I bounce around between a lot of them! So the fact that I've used my DD consistently since I received it last spring is, frankly, quite amazing!

I first became acquainted with the Day Designer (a system created by Whitney English) when I found a Blue Sky version of the DD at Target in July, 2015. Now, the stationary aisle at Target is a heady and happy distraction for me ... I am a weak, weak woman when I am in that aisle and sometimes I actively avoid it! Honestly, it's like I get trapped in some kind of office supply vortex ... surrounded by so many possibilities ... and before long I've convinced myself I absolutely NEED this (or that) new (seemingly perfect) planning tool ...

Well, that's what happened on that bright summer's day when I found what I was sure could be the planner of my dreams. (Spoiler alert: it was close!) You can read all about that planner here in this giddy post, but to sum up - I used this Blue Sky version of the DD off and on for a while, really liking the daily format but - as is typical for me - having trouble staying fully committed. In other words, I would stray sometimes and use other planners for a bit - always returning to the Day Designer because it just felt so comfortable and comprehensive.

By next spring (2016) I started hearing about the brand new designs for the Flagship Day Designer (the original DD, only available online) and I was completely intrigued. The cover reveal was exciting and I immediately fell in love with a couple of the designs. (Palm was my second choice!) I investigated this similar but more complex (and more expensive) planner - reading reviews, surfing forums and printing out free printables - and then I really gave it some hard thought. If you're a regular reader then you know I spend a lot of time and energy on creating my own planner systems. These creations address a large chunk of my family time - the year itself, natural and liturgical seasons, the months and the weeks - but I find it so helpful to have something specifically designed for tracking one's DAY. Targeting the hours we can control that are right in front of us, while keeping our bigger vision in mind. You can see more of my seasonal planning system here, but I've yet to create anything as beautiful and efficient as the Day Designer ...

So ... I made the splurge! I ordered my new Day Designer during the annual pre-sale, received it in mid-April, and boy was I eager for that June 1st start! And I can honestly say that I am really looking forward to ordering a new one this spring. I do waffle a bit between returning to the Blue Sky version or continuing with the Flagship, but with either choice I'm confident I'll be very happy.

Ok, enough of the "background" ... now for the nitty-gritty!

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First of all, look at that gorgeous, golden coil-binding! So tight, secure, and smooth. And the front and back covers are quite sturdy. (That was one of the qualities that sold me on the Flagship over the Blue Sky DD which is a "softer," more pliable planner. Just as big but not as solid.) These covers provide a wonderful support when writing in my planner - in other words, I don't have to grab one of the kids' big hardcover picture books to use as a lap desk when writing things down, lol. Anyone else do that? Also, the paper is awesome - smooth and soft white, and thick enough that it doesn't easily tear from the coils. (I've never had it tear at all.)

Confession: I shared this picture mostly because I love the little hand reaching forward to touch the coils! :)

Now, here's last Tuesday's page at a glance ...

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Another confession: I only just recently started using pen! Usually I write in pencil because I absolutely need to erase. I'm a little crazy particular about my printing and if something needs adjusting I like to erase rather than scratch it out. But then I bought a package of these pens ...

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... and I just love them! They write very smoothly and are comfortable to hold and - oh my GOSH - they erase! Not like, kind-of erase - but really-and-truly, the-ink-is-gone kind of erasing. They don't bleed through the pages either, which is a very good thing. I bought a small package of blue, black and red and so far I like the blue best because it's pretty and it matches the floral design on my planner... BUT. Just now as I went to grab a link for the pen on Amazon I realized that Frixion makes a whole bunch of colors! Naturally, I ordered up a package of eight ... :)

Also, as I stated above, I don't really use stickers and washi and other embellishments. I have TONS on hand but haven't really gotten the hang of it. I have seen many cool planners decked out in all kinds of colors and designs ... and they are very pretty ... but for me, I need to keep things a little more straight-forward. I do like to add "extras" now and again. (Like, pumpkin stickers in the fall, a big ole turkey at Thanksgiving, or maybe a flag for the 4th of July.)

Here's an example of a Christmassy page I set up in December ...

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As you can see, I also like to use post-it notes in my planner and I'm working on using highlighters ... but I'll expand upon that in a bit!

For now, lets start at the top ... 

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Across the top of every daily page is a quote, and they are always interesting and often inspiring! If I really like a quote I draw a little design around it with stars. On this day, because it was Ben Franklin's birthday I used this "Be Bright" sticker. He was certainly a very bright man but I also like the idea of shining our lights for those around us who might need it. A good message all in all.

On the left side of the top of the page is a spot to note the "top three things" for the day ...

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I use these lines for holidays, birthdays, liturgical feast days, natural phenomena, or any events of note (like the arrival of a new book!). I also scribble a little weather note just for future reference. (Though most of my nature/weather notes go in my domestic journal described in this post.)

Below that section is the daily agenda, all along the remainder of the left-hand side of the page. The time increments start at 5 a.m. and end at 9 p.m ... which is pretty much the span of my waking (working) hours! In the space directly above the agenda I hand-write tiny boxes for tracking water intake and fruits/vegetables. Then, in the lines between 5 and 6 a.m. (when I'm mostly nursing my coffee and getting my engine started) I write in everyday tasks to check off. I like using my agenda for scheduling routine tasks because I can see at a glance where I have space (time) to fit them in. (For example my current decluttering missions.) And these are things I do every.single.day but it's good for me to keep track of them. Especially for reminding myself to take my vitamins and give Earlybird his meds. And when the cats are staring me down mid-morning a quick glance at this task list confirms I haven't given them breakfast.

Just below that section, but before the time-scheduled activities begin, I have a few more items to check off and these are usually pretty similar depending on the day. If I'm grabbing a shower in the morning (as opposed to before bed), getting the baths and activity card prepped for ABA and of course, feeding my family their breakfast. I keep these tasks written over to the right because I do sometimes have scheduled activities for 7-8 a.m. and would need to write them next to the number. (Case in point - an 8:30 dentist appointment the other day.)

(Note, sometimes - when I'm being really efficient - I jot down what's for breakfast and lunch as well. I like looking back at the day to assess how balanced our diet was ... but I'm not always so on top of things.)

Moving a bit further down I list the usual agenda items ...

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... such as when we need to take Crackerjack to class, when Earlybird has therapy ... what I'm doing with Little Bear while Earlybird has therapy. Tiny notes re ~ things CJ must remember for class and things for me to discuss with EB's therapist. And then, at noontime, I have a midday round of routine tasks to check off. This is our lunchtime and I'm usually able to catch up with chores while the kids eat and we take a little break from lessons and outings.

I also try to schedule myself a "cozy nest" time around 3:00 and sometimes this is for me and sometimes this is for me and the boys. Sometimes it's inside, and sometimes it's out in the yard. It depends on the day! It might seem silly to write such an event in a planner but this is my philosophy: if something is important to you, it belongs in your planner. Teatime and reading breaks and nature walks sometimes happen spontaneously, but they're more likely to happen if they're given a space alongside the other to-dos of the day.

On this Tuesday I used a sweet little sticker to record my "tea" of choice!

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Four in the afternoon is another checkpoint ..."tidy time" I call it! It's the reset button when I do a general clutter sweep - school things put away, my "stuff" cleaned up, toys picked up off the floor - hopefully getting the kids to help me too! I also start dinner prep, quickly wipe up baths and take a few minutes to review my planner. After supper and another reminder for Earlybird's bedtime med, I jot down what I hope to watch or read that evening. :) (Or, obviously, if we have evening plans, these get listed in their time slot ... but ... we hardly ever have evening plans, lol!)

But now, moving over to the other side of the planner, starting at the top again ...

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I use these four boxes mostly as they're intended. "Dinner" and "Dollars" are self-explanatory ... but I use "Don't Forget" for making note of our weekly seasonal theme, and under "Due" I list current blog drafts. Just below this section, the remainder of the right-hand side is for To-Dos. At the very top I write "IG" and "FB" and note what I'm planning to share on social media that day.

Moving down the To-Do column, I first list what housekeeping tasks I am working on that day - the daily #52Weeks mission and then whatever is on tap for that weekday. (Tuesdays are for bathrooms. Everyday is for laundries.)

And then from there it's just anything that needs doing (or should be done) on THIS day. Not sometime this week, but preferably TODAY. And it's a really nice long column so there is plenty of room for listing all the things. (Harkening back to my Franklin-Covey days I use a dot if a task is in progress, an arrow for moving a task forward and a check for completion. I add a circled initial next to a task if someone else is in charge of a particular job.)

Now, because I homeschool my children, educational activities take up a good portion of our day. Or they do when we're really on point! So I've been keen to designate some of the space on my daily planning page for tracking these activities. (I have a weekly lessons overview in my planning binder, but I like to formulate a few concrete goals for each day.) The bulk of my hands-on homeschooling is with the younger boys since my 17yo is mostly doing independent studies at this point. I expect him to do daily math lessons, keep up with his class assignments and homework, and to help with the family nature almanac. (Environmental Studies this year.)

Something I've recently tried is using a bit of cute washi tape to set apart a section for lessons ...

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Washi tape is such fun - I love finding neat ways to use it!

I've also used different colored post-it notes (1 3/8" by 1 7/8" size) for tracking lessons. (Each of my boys assigned a color.) I love the way this size post-it fits at the bottom of the page. Currently I'm using these notes for ideas/actions to carry throughout the week. The theme from my Earth Psalms book, monthly and seasonal themes/missions and a reminder to monitor Earlybird whose med dosage was increased recently. I move these notes along each day ...

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Now, not seen beneath these notes, at the very bottom of the page, there is a large rectangle labeled, "Notes" and a smaller box in the bottom right-hand corner for "Gratitude." After taking these pictures I used the notes box to record the subscriptions I renewed that afternoon and I jotted down another Ben Franklin quote in the gratitude section. (I have a separate journal for recording gratitude and intentions.)

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I added the pretty blue flower sticker because the corners of the notes kept lifting and ... because it was just so darn pretty!

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Before I go, I just wanted to show you that I am also trying something new with my planner ... using highlighters to indicate different types of activities:

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Blue for Earlybird's therapy, yellow for activities that take me/us out of the house and pink for activities that are for mama's health and well-being. :)

Ok, one more photo! Since Day Designer combines Saturday and Sunday on one page, this layout is a bit different from the pages I've shown you so far ...

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As you can see, I still use it in the same way - with task lists and agenda items grouped by time slot. I use the "To Do" section at the top for events of note, and instead use sticky notes for my weekend to-dos. The smaller note has a few blog goals (I try to catch up on drafts over the weekend) and the larger note has our family "pow." (POW = Plan of the Weekend, or basically a list of the tasks we hope to accomplish.) I like that at the bottom of this weekend page there is a divided box for the days of next week. I always have my head halfway in the coming week on Saturdays (and particularly Sundays) and it helps to see at-a-glance what is coming up ... especially if there are things I need to prepare or purchase while running weekend errands.

Now I must confess, as I was talking about my Blue Sky Day Designer I felt the urge to look through my old planner ... so I pulled it out of my closet and perused it for a bit. It really is a lovely planner! A couple of things caught my eye. First, I remembered that something I preferred in the Blue Sky version was its monthly calendars. They are set up just like the Flagship (a monthly spread across two pages, gold tab, large grid), only the Blue Sky calendar has LINES. And I love a calendar with lines for organizing the information and keeping one's handwriting neat. I also kind of like the daily page set up - maybe not better but it certainly makes sense. Again, the two versions are similar but the Blue Sky has three vertical columns (schedule, to-do and notes) rather than two (schedule and to-do). I remember I liked using the notes column for extra information and sometimes for homeschool planning.

I don't have the time or light to take pictures of the rest of my DD right now (monthly calendars, goal management, vision page, etc.), but I can share more at a later date if anyone would like to see those other sections. But for now, I think I'd better wrap up ... because, although I know we all love to talk planners, this post is running quite long! I'd love to hear from you if you are using a daily planner, whether a Day Designer or something else ... please drop a note if you have time!

So I thank you for stopping by and wish you all a wonderful weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok ... here we go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the potholder/kitchen cloths drawer now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, here's the after ...

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:)

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

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

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

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

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

And here we have our pots and pans ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll see you here again very soon!


My Planning Sheets & Planning Binder {A Tour!}

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Hello everyone and Happy Thursday! I hope you're all enjoying your week. :)

On New Year's Day I shared my 2017 printable planning sheets, with a promise to expand on how I'm storing and using them. So I'm here today to follow up and do just that! I'm keeping those seasonal planning sheets in the binder shown above, sandwiched in between my domestic journal and general household tabs ...

Now, I really went back and forth between having my planning sheets spiral-bound at the copy shop or storing them in a 3-ring binder. I decided to use a binder because I like combining multiple planning tools when I can and I appreciate the flexibility of a binder as well. Most importantly, I'm not going to be taking these sheets out of the house - they will be used at my desk or kitchen counter, so a binder just made more sense!

{Note: I'm still using my Day Designer for everyday, nitty-gritty planning ... and I'll share a post about that very soon!}

I really do love binders even if they can be a bit cumbersome. But if you work at a counter or desk (or as seen here, a kitchen table) they perform just swell. I chose a Martha Stewart binder because I just love how well made they are and how smoothly the rings work. I have yet to find a binder of similar quality ...

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I have several MS binders (black, red, aquamarine) but this is the first time I've bought this pretty dove gray. I liked how it sort of blends in with my kitchen. :) I added a soft brown label to the front that reads: "Hanigan Household Notebook."

Household notebook ... planning binder ... they're pretty much the same thing. I've called it different things through the years, tweaking it countless times to better suit my needs as a mom, a homemaker, a home teacher, and well ... plain old me! Since I'm adding a lot of "planning" to its contents this year, I've been referring to it as my planning binder ...

Ok, so now I'm going to walk you through the binder as I've set it up for this brand new year ...

(Hang on to your hats friends, maybe grab another cup of tea - this is a pretty big post!)

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Binder shown open - inner pocket holds this week's ABA cards. (Earlybird has daily home therapy and I write out activities for his therapist on index cards.) In the pictures below you can see I added my decluttering calendars and though not shown, I usually keep the current month's WGBH Guide here for handy reference.

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The title page is made from pretty scrapbook paper I've had for years (I love bright colors set against a dark background).

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A handy reference courtesy of The Day Designer: 2017 at a glance.

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To the back side of that calendar reference I (washi)-taped my own year at-a-glance, with each month's events listed out. At the top of the page is my word-of-the-year, followed by a favorite quote ...

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Now the first section of my binder is my domestic journal. I've blogged a lot about this journal in the past but basically this is a brain dump - a place where I write down all kinds of random things and add clippings of all sorts. I use plain loose-leaf paper for this journal and I only keep a month's worth of journaling here at a time. At the end of each month I review my notes and lift out the journal pages to store in a separate binder. Then I add fresh sheets for the new month ahead.

I keep this journal open on my kitchen counter through the day so I can easily jot down a note as it comes to me (a nature observation, a funny thing one of the boys said, a post idea) or add a clipping as I find it (a newspaper or magazine snippet, pretty wine label, movie stub). I've found by keeping it very informal AND extremely accessible I've been able to journal way more than I ever would have, had I made it a more formal affair. And journaling is really important to me. I've been doing it since I was very young ...

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Here is the pretty binder clip I use to easily flip between the current journal page and the current monthly planning section ...

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Now comes the January cover page, which is a piece of my favorite scrapbooking paper cut down to size ...

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And next comes the monthly calendar - though really I should say, calendars ... ahem. Let me explain. :)

In my planning sheet set you will find a month-at-a-glance calendar for each month of the year, but I still rely on my favorite two-page layout, large-grid calendars (made by DayTimer). They have tons of space and nicely-spaced lines for neat writing. I'm currently using both monthly calendars to see which one works better.

(Note: The DayTimer calendars you order online are ivory-hued rather than white. I buy mine at Staples and they are the traditional white ... not sure why they are different! But I must say they changed the accent colors to a brighter green and I'm not very fond of it!)

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Here is the January cover page I made. (There is one for each month with a similar graphic, a vintage floral calendar I found on Pinterest.)

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And now here we have my own month-at-a-glance calendar, and as you can see, I also have lined boxes, but they are much smaller than the DayTimer calendar. I happen to write pretty small so it seems to work all right ... still not sure I can manage with such a small calendar though! (Maybe next year I'll try to make a two-page style spread.)

On the far side is one of the extra planning pages I made for the month ("Looking Ahead: 2017"). I attached a photocopy of last year's New Year goals - the ones which never really transpired as I'd hoped. I decided to just ... try again! I've been working on a list that will address each goal in incremental steps. Because it's one thing to SAY you want to "eat better" and it's another thing entirely to actually EAT BETTER. This might be a topic for a future post ... making goals more achievable. :)

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Next flip ... on the left a page for birthday "blessings" ... just a little wish list and some notes on my gulp 48th birthday which happens this month (actually, today!). And on the right is a planning sheet for our winter term of homeschooling. I have four boxes here - general notes, and then a box for each of my boys.

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The backside of that sheet is a general "winter term" notes page, and then comes a January 2017 overview: To Do This Month, House & Garden, Themes & Ideas and Notes.

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And now we hit the weekly sections! Here is this week's planning sheet (each month's sheets correspond in color with the scrapbook paper divider).

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I added a homemade pagefinder here - just a piece of thick printed scrapbooking paper with a washi-tape covered sticky tab at the top. It makes it easier to find the current week when I need it.

(Sometimes I leave my binder open to the spot where I left off in my journal, and sometimes I have it open to the weekly planning section. Occasionally I have it open to the month at a glance!)

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And then we have some printables I found online thanks to Pinterest. They are made by Fab n' Free and are the prettiest planning sheets I've ever seen! I am using several of her printables in my planner - trying them out to see how they work for me. Above is her week at a glance sheet ... I am seeing how it works as an agenda. (As opposed to just the overview my own planning sheet provides.)

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I love the colors and the design ... just trying to decide how to use the checklist on the righthand side of the sheet. Housekeeping tasks? Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks? Top four homeschooling goals for the day? Hmmm ...

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Another really cool printable ... a social media/blogging agenda! I've never actually used a blog planner or anything like that, but I can see the advantage to such an idea! I usually have little sticky notes with post ideas ... and recently I started jotting down IG and FB ideas on my DayDesigner page ... but this is a very pretty and sensible way to think about your week ahead as a blogger/pinner/poster. :)

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Another printable I'm finding very handy is this 2-week cleaning schedule. I'm using it as a checklist for my progress with the "52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge." I'm recording each day's decluttering mission on this chart and checking off tasks as I go along. 

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Broken down in this way, it all seems very doable. :) I made this a two-sided sheet and will flip it (punching the opposite side of the sheet) once I get beyond these first two weeks ...

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A couple more printables I really like but am not using just yet - a weekly meal plan with shopping list ...

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And a larger grid, forward planning meal plan ...

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Finally, I have my home learning worksheet. This sheet appears at the end of the weekly section only because I printed the start of the NEXT week's sheets on the backside of this one. I may juggle things around a bit because I might like having our lesson plans a little closer to the weekly overview and agenda.

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And with a turn of the page, here is next week's planning sheets all ready to go! (See how the home learning worksheet lines up right next to the overview? I have yet to add all the extra printables here.) And after the last week in January comes the January review page and then we begin February with a new scrapbook divider ...

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At the very back of the binder are my household tabs:

1. Personal (Blogging, projects, writing, etc.)

2. Routines & Schedules

3. Household Information

4. Budgeting/Financial

5. Meal Planning

6. Home Education

7. Family & Friends

 8. Journal Index

These are Martha Stewart tabs - I loved the soft shades! I used a Sharpie to write on the tabs but they started to smudge so I placed a small piece of scotch tape over each tab until the ink set. (Note: once I lifted the tape I lifted most of the ink with it! I'm going to need to write over the original pen with something more permanent!)

Now to go through each of these tabs would make this very long post even longer, so I'll stop here. I will say that - as I have blogged about in the past - I have separate binders for each of the above subjects, because I don't want to make this binder too bulky. That said, I do like having some information right at my fingertips - routines we follow, class schedules, passwords, a contacts list and master grocery list, etc. These are the kinds of things I look at often and prefer having in my master binder rather than in the additional binders I store in the library. 

***

Well my friends, I hope you have enjoyed this lengthy and leisurely tour of my 2017 Planning Binder! I had fun photographing all these pages and talking about them here with you. (Obviously this is one of my favorite topics!) I know we're barely two weeks into the new year but so far things are going pretty well with this system - the binder is fun and manageable and the Day Designer is still my go-to for everyday, where-am-I-at kind of planning. As I promised above I will have a Day Designer tour coming up very soon!

In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend! Mine starts tomorrow ... Bill and the boys have given me a "birthday weekend" in which I can do whatever I'd like and they'll hold down the fort. Needless to say most of my plans revolve around things I'll be doing right here at home! Reading, writing, planning, puttering ... maybe a quick jaunt to the craft store for supplies. :) 

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


A Tale of Two Desks ...

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Last autumn I blogged about my "new" desk in the family room, and since that is where my computer is, that's where I do most of my working/planning/blogging.

waves hello from computer desk *

Consequently, it is also the spot where most of my "desk mess" accumulates! Planners, papers, receipts, pens, rulers, cups, washi tape, notepads, coupons, catalogs ... etc.! But as I've mentioned before, I also have a "writing desk" in the library (shown above). I call it a writing desk because I envision time spent crafting my book here and penning letters to faraway friends - a la Jane Austen - but mostly I dash off quick thank you notes and/or get sidetracked by the view ...

So I don't sit here to write nearly as often as I'd like, but I still like having this space should I need it ...

Well, this morning I decided to celebrate "National Clean Off Your Desk Day" by cleaning off my desk - but I chose the easier desk! I mostly had to remove a few Christmas decorations, a large stack of magazines, Crackerjack's homework and an overflowing basket of received Christmas cards (with envelopes) that need to be sorted and stored. I tweaked the decor a bit for the winter season and wiped down the desktop ... and then enjoyed how the morning sun lit it up!

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Now, if I was really brave I'd post a picture of how my other desk - the computer desk - looks on this national holiday ...

* deep breath *

Ok, hang on ...

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Now, this was taken at 5 p.m. - there's no sun streaming in any windows to speak of right now - but it's not quite as dark a corner as it appears in this photo. And maybe you can see it for the mess that it is - or maybe not - but suffice it to say, it's definitely not "cleared off." And it's not very organized at the moment.

(Confession: The basket you see in the lower lefthand corner was added to the desk at the very last minute - to hold a whole bunch of debris scattered around and behind the monitor. Now THAT was a crazy mess. And I really must remember to look back through that basket before I lose sight of some potentially pertinent information!)

But ... I don't have time to tackle this hot spot today, so it's just going to have to wait a bit! Clearly I'm not letting the disarray slow me down, lol ... I'm finishing this post in this very spot with kids and chaos all around me. But sometimes you just have to let go of the vision and work with reality, right? Well, most times, I'd say.

So there you have it - a tale of two desks! My pretty writing table ... and my built-in workhorse. I'm grateful to have both of these cozy, sometimes-clean and sometimes cluttered, corners in my life. :)

Enjoy the rest of your evening my friends ... see you here again very soon!


My Kitchen Table, Countertops & Sink ...

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

Hello my friends and Happy Friday! 

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

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

Ok.

You can read more about the 52 Week challenge here.

You can sign up for the daily emails here.

You can get the monthly Decluttering Calendars here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, the rest of the counters ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Braided rug

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

From Taylor today at FB:

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

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

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

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

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

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


My 2017 {Printable} Planner ... ❤

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Hello my friends and Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a great start! 

I hope to have my "New Year's Tea" up soon, but today - without a moment to spare! - I'm getting my planning sheets posted in case anyone is interested in using them. A bit of a caveat though - while I do have ALL the sheets finished, it's taking me a bit of time to upload them as PDF files here at the blog. So this post will have to be a work in progress! Today I will post all the January planning sheets and then, as I can - and as quickly as I can - I will upload the rest of the months. :)

(Design notes at the bottom of the post!)

January:

January Cover Page

January 2017 Month-at-a-Glance(liturgical version)

January Overview

1/2-1/8 2017

1/9-/15 2017

1/16-1/22 2017

1/23-1/29 2017

January Home Learning Worksheet

January Review

***

February:

February Cover Page

February 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

February Overview

1/30-2/5 2017

2/6-2/12 2017

2/13-2/19 2017

2/20-2/26 2017

February Home Learning Worksheet

February Review

***

March:

March Cover Page

March 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

March Overview

2/27-3/5 2017

3/6-3/12 2017

3/13-3/19 2017

3/20-3/26 2017

3/27-4/2 2017

March Home Learning Worksheet

March Review

***

April: 

April Cover Page

April 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

April Overview

4/3-4/9 2017

4/10-4/16 2017

4/17-4/23 2017

4/24-4/30 2017

April Home Learning Worksheet

April Review

***

May: 

May Cover Page

May 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

May Overview

5/1-5/7 2017

5/8-5/14 2017

5/15-5/21 2017

5/22-5/28 2017

May Home Learning Worksheet

May Review

***

June:

June Cover Page

June 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

June Overview

5/29-6/4 2017

6/5-6/11 2017

6/12-6/18 2017

6/19-6/25 2017

June Home Learning Worksheet

June Review

***

July:

July Cover Page

July 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

July Overview

6/26-7/2 2017

7/3-7/9 2017

7/10-7/16 2017

7/17-7/23 2017

7/24-7/30 2017

July Home Learning Worksheet

July Review

***

August:

August Cover Page

August 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

August Overview

7/31-8/6 2017

8/7-8/13 2017

8/14-8/20 2017

8/21-8/27 2017

August Home Learning Worksheet

August Review

***

September:

September Cover Page

September 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

September Overview

8/28-9/3 2017

9/4-9/10 2017

9/11-9/17 2017

9/18-9/24 2017

9/25-10/1 2017

September Home Learning Worksheet

September Review

***

October:

October Cover Page

October 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

October Overview

10/2-10/8 2017

10/9-10/15 2017

10/16-10/22 2017

10/23-10/29 2017

10/30-11/5 2017

October Home Learning Worksheet

October Review

***

November:

November Cover Page

November 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

November Overview

11/6-11/12 2017

11/13-11/19 2017

11/20-11/26 2017

11/27-12/3 2017

November Home Learning Worksheet

November Review

***

December:

December Cover Page

December 2017 Month-at-a-Glance; (liturgical version)

December Overview

12/4-12/10 2017

12/11-12/17 2017

12/18-12/24 2017

12/25-12/31 2017

December Home Learning Worksheet

December Review

***

A few notes about this year's planning sheets:

They're pretty much the same as last year's sheets (with corrected dates of course) but without any graphics. That vintage clipart was pretty, but it really bogged down the creative process - and printing time!

That said, I do have a Cover Page for each month with a bit of vintage calendar clipart found on Pinterest. (Which is, to the best of my knowledge, free for personal use.)

I've added soft lines to the planning sections! Woohoo - I LOVE writing on lined paper!

I increased the Meal Planning section - a friendly suggestion from a dear reader that made perfect sense!

I added a few new pages:

° a Monthly Overview page (To-Dos, House & Garden, Seasonal Ideas, Monthly Goals) ...

° a Monthly Review page (open, lined space) ...

° AND a one page Month-at-a-Glance Calendar, too! Now, in the version I'm sharing here, in order to keep it as user-friendly as possible, I took out my family birthdays (graduations, anniversaries, etc.) as well as notes related to my Catholic faith. (If there is interest, I could create an additional set of calendars that includes feast days. I used lavender for that particular text.)

Note: I'm adding a liturgical version of the monthly calendar but please understand, this is in no way a complete representation of the Catholic calendar! Just reflective of the events and feasts we note/observe/celebrate in our family - these are marked in purple text. (Natural phenomena are in green, holidays and other events are in blue.)

OH! And also, on three of the monthly calendars I had to double up on a block. For example, in April, a sixth row would have been needed for the last day of the month - Sunday, April 30th - so I just added the date to the block for the 23rd. I meant to divide that block in half with a diagonal line but couldn't figure out how to do it! Time ran out and I left it as is. I just used a ruler after printing to make the line myself! This issue crops up in July and December as well.

In my own Home Learning Worksheet, I have three separate boxes for my current students' goals. Three of my boys are homeschooling - one is a senior in college! For the sheet I shared, I kept it to one column since you all have various numbers of children! :) *Apologies - there is a second blank page attached to this PDF and I just realized it now! I will try to tweak the original and delete that extraneous sheet!)

Instead of the aforementioned clipart and "grace notes" I chose a seasonal quote to reflect each week's place in the year.

The colors are pretty subtle, but do change with each month. I coordinated them with my favorite scrapbooking paper which I use as dividers in my planner.

Now, in a separate post I will describe how I transform these sheets into an actual planner, and what my maintenance process looks like. But right now I'm trying to decide between keeping them in a three-ring binder or having them spiral-bound at the copy shop. I'm leaning toward the binder since I don't really plan to take this planner out of the house. But I'll get into those decisions and my planner "management" in a future post!

(Oh, and the spiral-bound notebook you see to the right in the photo above is a companion "agenda" to my weekly planning sheets. Something with time slots for appointments and such. That too is still very much a work in progress but will probably turn out something like the one I used last year. But with tweaks! Always with the tweaks ...)

Well, I hope everyone is enjoying their New Year's Day and I thank you all for stopping by. Please let me know if you have any questions about my planning sheets or if for some reason the links don't work for you. I'm really excited to share these sheets and hope they are helpful to some of you!

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


Planning Sheets for Advent & Christmas ~ from Me to You!

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Hello and Happy Friday, my friends! I am back with those planning sheets as promised, so before I get on with my post, here they are:

Celebrating Advent & Christmas Planning Sheets (a 14-page PDF document)

And here's a second set of Advent planning sheets for writing down daily reflections:

Advent Daily Journaling Pages (11/27-12/24)

And now, a little about why I made up these sheets and how I'm going to use them ... :)

Very simply, I love planning - paper planning in particular - and now that I've figured out how to create personalized planning sheets with a seasonal flair  ... well I must say, I'm a little addicted! I've created planning sheets for each week of the year and recently, a Thanksgiving Day planner, too. Needless to say, Advent deserves a few planning sheets of its own!

But the tricky thing about Advent is - it's such a special time of year and so highly anticipated - but too often our reality falls far short of our "vision." So we have all these meaningful intentions but then all of a sudden it's Christmas Eve and ... we're not at Midnight Mass or sipping cocoa by the fire (or in bed early!) as we'd hoped. Instead, once again, we're scrambling to run last-minute errands and finish all those Christmas to-dos. Feeling all edgy and exhausted and maybe even - dare I say it - a little bit scroogey.

So the first step in sticking with a vision is a plan. A plan is always a good place to start ... but a realistic plan is even better! And by realistic I mean - something that will reflect your family's real situation, not what everyone else seems to be doing. Praying over an Advent wreath each night might seem right for your family ... but maybe not. Perhaps a star-lit walk through the forest is more appealing? Or a car-ride to look at the neighborhood lights. Younger children rely on us to start (and keep) traditions but older kids may have their own ideas and expectations. So talk with your family about their own seasonal hopes! What does their Advent vision look like? What makes the holiday - and the days leading up to it - for each of them? How can you pare down the have-tos to make room for the hope-tos? Maybe get everyone on board with a little more family-time this month? Then - together - build space into the family schedule for the wants and the needs. (And I mean this literally - work with a calendar and mark out those times!) Divvy up some of those holiday tasks, too. If you're like me, you may feel like most of it needs to be done by you ... or it just won't get done right. Well, that's not doing anyone any favors, least of all us! (I admit - I'm a bit of a control freak, lol.)

Try to organize some in-home, family-only activities - an evening movie with popcorn, an hour of gift wrapping followed by hot cocoa, a baking afternoon with favorite music - those times need to be scheduled as much as any outside commitment! I say this from experience! Create rituals and visuals that help keep everyone in the Advent spirit and on the Christmas ball ...

As with all the year's seasons - but especially at Advent - there's just so much to enjoy, and so many little things that might get swept away with the rushing of time and to-dos. This is why I make up seasonal planning sheets. They are my gift to myself and my family - a way of slowing us down and keeping us aware of the smallest blessings. I'd guess my schedule is as busy as anyone's, but I am happiest when I am feeling a part of the season - not standing aside watching it pass by. And you all know what they say about a happy mama ... !

As for how I plan to use these sheets, - well, just as I do with my weekly planning sheets, I'll be filing them in my homekeeping binder. In the spirit of keeping things simple, I'm trying not to spread my thoughts and my stuff out too far. Keeping my "tools" to a minimum, so to say. Because my binder is open on my kitchen counter all the time, and because I'm already in there keeping my family's week in order - then this is where I'll be planning our Advent.

(Or at least, that's the general idea.)

Note: When I print out the documents, I choose two-sided and then three-hole punch the sheets to fit in my binder. You might print them the same way but use a slimmer binder devoted to holiday planning. (Decorating the cover with some pretty stickers or clippings from magazines perhaps.) Or you could print the pages one-sided and keep them on a handy clipboard. As for making them portable, the slimmer binder would be easy enough to pop in your bag or you could do as I do - I take a picture of the pages I need with my phone and then I have the information available to me when I'm out and about.

Now here are some planner visuals, just because ... :)

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The pretty December cover page in my binder - I love vintage scrapbook supplies! Purple flag marking the Advent planner's place in the binder ...

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Which is just behind this floral cover page, in front of the December calendar ...

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Here's my homekeeping binder on the left, parked next to my Day Designer ...

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And here it is as it looks today - November @ a glance calendar on the left, and this week's planning sheet on the right.

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And finally, here the binder is open to the Advent planning section itself. 

Well since I went on so long, in a follow up post - sometime next week - I will talk about each page of the Advent planner and how I plan to "tackle" all those boxes. Just some of my thoughts on each area of Advent planning. :)

But for now I'll wrap up because I've kept you quite long and I know you all have other things to do besides listen to me ramble! I myself am going to make another cup of tea and ... fold some laundry! Whoo ... I know, I'm living it up here today! Actually though, we spent the morning at a salt marsh with our homeschool Nature Club positively SOAKING in the glory of this beautiful November day. Even the car ride over and back was nice - nobody argued (I packed snacks) and we played the very last chapter of our current audiobook as we neared home. So the rest of the day stretches before me ... as does my task list! Because the house - which we left in a rush this morning - is in quite a state. Very glad I got in a little seasonal appreciation earlier today! So I'm off ...

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


Late Autumn Planning Sheets + Thanksgiving Printables!

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Hello my friends and Happy Thursday!

Today I'd like to share another set of my seasonal planning sheets with you - and this time we're heading into Late Autumn, as hard as that is to believe! The end of the year already? How the weeks have flown ...

So this is my last set of seasonal sheets since I began this series back in January, but this time around I'm very happy to share an extra set of sheets for Thanksgiving planning! My family hosts this annual holiday, and there's a lot that goes into planning such an event. Every year I make up a planner of some sort for myself but this year I decided to go beyond loose-leaf and make something more streamlined and printable. I had such fun putting this planner together, so naturally I wanted to share it with you all! (There are just four weeks till Thanksgiving, fyi!)

I am also working on a set of planning sheets for Advent and Christmas, and was really hoping to have them ready to share today, too - but alas - time got away from me! I will aim to post that set sometime next week ... :)

And not to get ahead of myself but, I will be tweaking ALL the seasonal sets from the past year to coordinate with next year's dates. (You can find them all in my Printables archive.) But more on all that in a moment! Here now are my Late Autumn planning sheets - eight weeks in all, running from Monday, November 7th through Sunday, January 1st (2017!).

Late Autumn Overview (Clean)

Late Autumn Overview (Dawn's)

Late Autumn Planning Sheets

Home Learning this Week (Late Autumn)

Thanksgiving Planner

Please let me know if you have any trouble opening these PDF files or if you notice any errors. (I looked them over and over but inevitably something escapes me!) Also, I'd love to hear if you're using these sheets and how you like them! :) As I mentioned above, I'm going to update all of last year's sheets so they can be used in 2017 and I'm changing things a bit to make them (hopefully) more efficient and easier to use. One thing you'll notice straight away (starting with this last seasonal set) is I'm using photos instead of clipart. I really loved the vintage clipart but going forward it will be easier to use my own "artwork," if you will - especially when it comes to copyright issues and such. Also, as you'll see in the Thanksgiving planning sheets, I've finally learned how to add lines to my boxes! Hooray for Bill who figured this out! I really love planners with lined spaces (I'm a stickler for neat handwriting - it just works better with my brain!) and so next year's set of planning sheets will also feature more soft lines for guiding lists and notes. 

Before I go, here is a picture of this week's sheet "in action."

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As I grow more and more fond of my printable planning sheets, I've been thinking about how to use them along with my current systems. I would like to discuss this further in a future post but for now, briefly ...

I keep the current week's sheet in my homekeeping binder - opposite the current month-at-a-glance (a neat printable found here). I have this binder open like this all day so I can refer to it as needed. To the right (not seen in this picture) is my Day Designer which organizes all the hourly nitty-gritty details of my day! 

So, there you have it - and I hope you enjoyed it! As I said, I really had a lot of fun creating these pages and I'm eager to get the Advent-Christmas planner pulled together as well. I will share that with you just as soon as I can, but for now, I wish you all well and thank you, sincerely, for stopping by ...

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