Papercrafting Feed

My Early Autumn Planning Sheets (Printables!)


Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! :)

Here in America we are celebrating Labor Day weekend, which means tomorrow is a holiday for most of us. It is also considered the unofficial "end of summer" since most children have returned to school by now. (We return to lessons Tuesday!) We're still summery though, weather-wise - after some rain and wind from Hurricane Hermine tomorrow, we are expecting a return to the 90s for the balance of the week! But this is how it goes at this time of year ...

The mornings and evenings ARE cooler and the light is different now, too. The signs of seasonal change are subtle, but -  if you pay attention - then over time instinctually you can tell when these little shifts are taking place. It feels good to be connected with the rhythm of the year. Like being privy to some vital (though often overlooked) information ...

But anyhoo - I am very happy to FINALLY present my next set of seasonal planning sheets to you ... once again with my sincere apologies to be so VERY last minute. sigh My computer crash definitely slowed me down this summer, but honestly, it just took me a while to get around to ironing out all the details! (Not just the plans themselves, but the colors and the clipart!) I have such fun, thinking about these kinds of things, though ... I have always maintained that if we don't plan for joy as carefully as we plan for work, then we might just miss out on a lot. Too much. There are way too many things I LOVE about autumn that I want to share with my children. And I now have a good idea just how fast the years fly ... my oldest "baby" is 21, while my newest is a very busy and delightful THREE. How did that happen?

I may not ever do everything in my plans but I am grateful for what we can do and glad I have made myself (and my family) aware of these kinds of things. These are the things that enrich the ordinary ... make the everyday special ... set one day apart from the next ... and remind us just how BLESSED we are to get to do it again, year after year ... as long as God allows.

Well, ok - time to get down to the nitty gritty! Here are the planning sheets for the next season ahead, which I call "Early Autumn" (September and October). I have my "themes and plans" overview first - one with my notes and one that is blank for you to fill up with your own ideas (though you're welcome to try mine!). Then there are the multi-week planning sheets - an overview that allows for space for you to plan a weekly theme, days of note, home & garden tasks, comforts & joys, meal plans and to-do's ... along with a little vintage clipart and a snippet of an idea from me. :) These go from this coming week (9/5-9/11) through the last week of Early Autumn (10/31-11/6).

And finally, there is a home learning planning sheet in complementary colors. You might use this differently if you don't homeschool - maybe just notes for each of your kids. Goodness knows our kids always have a lot going on! I myself have three boys I'm currently homeschooling so there is room for their lesson notes as well as a day-by-day overview. And if you need a different number of boxes, let me know - I can tweak my original and email you a new copy. :)

Early Autumn Overview (Dawn's)

Early Autumn Overview (clean)

Early Autumn Planning Sheets

Home Learning this Week (Early Autumn) 

I do hope these are of some use to you - I'd love to hear feedback if you have a minute! And please let me know if the links are wonky - I check on my end, but who knows what glitches might come to pass in cyberspace!

I will be back next - PROMISE - with the 52 seasonal themes. (I think that's the third time I've promised them!) And in another month or so - hopefully sooner than later! - I will be back with my last set of seasonal sheets, Late Autumn (November and December). It is my fond hope to publish these on the early side and include some holidays sheets in there too. But we shall see. So please stay tuned,  and thanks so much for stopping by! 

I will see you here again very soon ...

A Seasonal Paper Chain for Earlybird!


Hello and Happy September, my friends!

Now, before I get into the meat of my post - did you all remember to say Rabbit Rabbit this morning? :)

I'm happy to say I did! Well, sort of. Since Little Bear had us up at 2 a.m. (wanting out of his bed and into ours), I may have muttered a little incoherently before I remembered to say the magic words ... ;)

So today I'd like to share a bit about the project I put together yesterday. I'm a little embarrassed to share it actually, since it's really a rather basic craft - one I'm sure many of you have seen and/or done yourself - one I've shared here myself a time or two! - but it just looks so pretty and I know a lot of you love paper as I do, and I think it's sort of a new twist on an old favorite ... so here goes!

A bit of backstory ... Earlybird, as most of you know, is autistic, and one of his challenges is a real preoccupation with "things happening now and/or next." Like, holidays and special events and things he really looks forward to. He will ask to talk all about say, Easter, in the middle of July and act like the Big Bunny himself might be appearing any minute now. Then, on a whim, he'll forget all about Easter and suddenly we're hashing out the Thanksgiving menu or he's wondering why we aren't getting our Christmas tree this weekend ...

Yes, he is his mother's son - a lover of seasons and special days! And his capacity for joy is so wonderful! But I'm always looking for ways to help him get a bit of a handle on his passion - and understand the passage of time and order of yearly events and all that. I have a few things going on this year that I hope will help him, but here's the first thing:


A paper chain for counting down the days of fall and winter!

For this project, the first thing I did was buy paper for a chain lasting from September 1st  through January 1st. I chose "appropriate" paper for each month - an alphabet design in September (because, back-to-school), an orange print for October (because, pumpkins and Halloween), a beige wood-look for November (because, bare trees), red and white for December (because, Christmas!) and festive stars for the days leading up to New Year's. I also purchased a pack of pretty heart-shaped tags. (You'll see why in a minute.) 


I cut the paper into strips for each day of each month (this was 12x12 scrapbooking paper so I got 10 strips per sheet) and set aside a number of hearts.

Next I worked late into the night to assemble the chain ...

Paper chain 1

No, just kidding. The lighting is just dark here - it didn't really take all that long. :)

Once it was all linked up, I hung it up in the sunroom-soon-to-be-schoolroom ... 

Paper chain 4

Paper chain 5

And I added a heart tag wherever a special day would be coming up on the calendar ...


Paper chain 3


So here's the paper-chain plan:

Every morning we'll take down the next link in the chain and then, on the back, we'll write something we remember about yesterday. (Preferably something positive!) Then I'll roll the strip up tight, tape it closed and pop it in a large container. On New Year's Day we'll go back and read through our memories. :)

(So today we remembered that yesterday we took time to check our our neighborhood creek and found it quite empty and dry. Not necessarily positive, lol - but we've determined to begin a little science project by observing the creek weekly for changes. EB has a special fondness for this creek.)

For Earlybird, I'm hoping the paper chain will give him a fun and visual way to increase his awareness of where we are in the year. So when he wants to keep watch for trick-or-treaters I'll point out that we're not even in the orange links yet, and the tag for Halloween is still many links away! And so forth ...

(I have tags for the first day of autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving, EB's birthday, the winter solstice, Christmas, and New Year's Day.)

If this is successful, I will do the same thing for January through April, but that's getting ahead of myself! :)

The other things I'm doing with EB this year is ...

One - He will have his own month-at-a-glance calendar to manage (I love this style for its large, lined template). Every morning, when he sits down with his therapist at their work table, he will open his calendar, cross of the day before and see what today's date is and what is on the "agenda." I'm also adding notes and stickers to make it even more fun for him!

And, Two - I am making up a three-ring binder with tabs for all the holidays and events he likes to talk about and make lists for ... aside from the ones mentioned above, he also loves to plan out shopping days (to Whole Foods, usually), vacations (Disney, for example), family parties and playdates at my folks' house. We often use these lists for language work and he holds onto them and packs them up and takes them with him until they're practically falling apart. I thought I would have sheet-protectors in this binder where we can file all these things and when EB wants to talk about something we can use the binder for reference. Halloween candy we'll buy ... pages from a catalog with costumes ... recipes we cut out from magazines ... Thanksgiving menu and guest list ... a birthday wish list ... a letter to Santa ... etc. Honestly, he really does LOVE to think about and talk about these topics! I hope these activities nurture his interests, channel his energy and help him learn a little more about how the year turns ...


Well my friends, I hope your September started out on a good note! Thanks so much for stopping by and next time, I will have my yearly seasonal themes to share. 

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

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

Seasonal homeschooling 2

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

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

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

Ok, here is the cover of my planner:


It just makes me so happy ...

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

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

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


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

Next comes the two-page seasonal homeschooling schedule:

Seasonal homeschooling

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

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

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

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

Seasonal homeschooling 3

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Other upcoming posts:

A look at this year's file crate.

A tour of my brand new desk!

How I'm using my Day Designer ...

Early Autumn Planning Sheets!

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

I will see you here again very soon ...

Welcome, High Summer!

Vintage sunflowerGood Monday morning, my friends! I hope you are all having a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Today in my seasonal calendar we are leaving Spring behind and diving deep into Summer - and what a morning it is: sunny and warm, with the garden all aglow and a-buzz. How I love this glorious time of year! For the next nine weeks I hope to weave as much summer joy as I can into our family life ... little traditions, easy activities and simple observations. To that end, I have assigned each week a theme, and created a new set of planning sheets - which you are welcome to use if you wish!

Below are links to the PDFs of these sheets - please let me know if you have any trouble opening them.

High Summer Planning Sheets (7/4-9/3)

Home Learning this Week (High Summer)

(Note: all images were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge are free for personal use.)

I will do a follow up post later this week to show you how I'm using these sheets in my daily/weekly planning - and expand a bit on the themes - but for now, I hope you enjoy ... and I hope you are all enjoying a lovely start to your Summer!


p.s. If you'd like to see my previous seasonal planning sheets, you can visit my printables archive. So far there are sheets for Deep Winter, Early Spring, Late Spring and now, High Summer. :)

Happy National Notebook Day!

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

Notebook day 6

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

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

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

Notebookday 5 

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

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

Notebook day 1 

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

Notebook day 3

Notebook day 4

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

Notebook day 2

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

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

A Fresh Start: Late Spring Planning Sheets (Printables!)

Fresh start button small
Well, with not a second to spare, here at long last are my Late Spring Planning Sheets! I'm very sorry I took so long in getting these to you ... there are nine weeks in the season of "Late Spring" (May and June) and they begin on this very Monday!

Still, I hope you find them fun to read, and perhaps helpful. As with my Deep Winter sheets and Early Spring sheets, you're welcome to print them out for your own personal use. The PDFs below include my own Late Spring Overview as well as a clean copy for you to use ... the home learning planning sheet (in seasonal colors) ... and then planning sheets for each week of the Late Spring season (5/2-7/3).

("High Summer" will begin on Monday, July 4th ... and I will aim to make those available well before June's end!)

So! Without further ado, here are those PDFs ... followed by some notes on how I'm using them. 

Late Spring Overview (Dawn's)

Late Spring Overview (clean copy)

Home Learning this Week

Late Spring Planning Sheets (5/2-7/3)


Now, for a few notes ...

My "Late Spring Overview" probably looks pretty ambitious, but it certainly is not set in stone. These are simply ideas I have for each week - and I'm full of ideas! - but not all come to fruition. Still, I enjoy setting these weekly themes because they encourage me to weave some seasonal blessings into our family's everyday life. Sometimes themes get postponed or continued, and that's ok! Because life happens as it happens, not always according to my own "seasonal plan!" I also use this outline as a prompt for future posts and/or chapters in my (still-in-the-works-but-slow-going) book. :)

I use the "Home Learning This Week" sheet for organizing lessons and goals for my younger three boys. (My oldest is a junior in college!) On the lefthand side I jot down activities mostly geared towards Little Bear and Earlybird, according to each day's rhythm:

Monday - nature play/walk

Tuesday - draw/color/puppet play

Wednesday - model with dough, listen to stories/verse

Thursday - craft project/paint, listen to music

Friday - bake at home/ field trip

Weekend - family time/faith-based activity

On the righthand side of this sheet I list specific academic goals for each of my boys - Crackerjack (10th grade), Earlybird (special needs 6th grade) and, eventually, Little Bear (who will be three at the end of the month).

And as for the "Weekly Planning Sheets" themselves, well, I use them for creating an overview of domestic and seasonal plans (natural and liturgical) and I'm still working on where I want to store them. In the past I have stapled them to my file crate folders, but currently I'm keeping them in a section of my home keeping binder, along with a (hand-drawn) weekly agenda. I use a small binder clip to make it easy to flip back and forth between the weekly planning and my daily journal page. For detailing my day - the nitty-gritty, must-do, right-now kind of stuff - I use a "Day Designer" which features a separate page for each day. And as I JUST received my brand new DD last week ... I will do a tour of it soon and talk more about how I use all these tools together. :)

But I'll wrap up for now since the day is nearing lunchtime and I have hungry kids all around me! I hope you enjoyed seeing and hearing about my planning sheets ... and please let me know if you have any trouble opening these documents. As I've stated before, the images I've used were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge are free for personal use ...

So enjoy the rest of your Monday, my friends ... and see you here again sometime soon!

A Fresh Start: Early Spring Planning (Printables!)

Fresh start button smallMy friends, I am very sorry it has taken me so long to get these planning sheets posted! I've had them in "draft" mode for so long, and I thought I'd be able to just whip them up quickly during one good sit-down session - but that's not how it played out! So here we are on the very doorstep of Early Spring - four days left! - and I have only just finished them up. Once I post this, I will print out a fresh set for my binder. :)

So I hope the PDF links work for you, and please let me know if they don't. Here's a quick glance at the shades I chose for this season: buttery yellow, robin's egg blue and spring green. :)

A quick note on the format of the sheets ... I have provided "clean copies" so you may use them for yourself, but naturally my own sheets are personalized to match my own seasonal plans! If you look at "Dawn's Overview" you'll notice that in each weekly box I've listed several "ideas" as well as days of note. These are little writing assignments for myself - things I've blogged about before or hope to write more about this year - but I'm sharing them in case they might be of interest to you. 

Well, without further ado, here are the links - there's a planning sheet for each week of March and April as well as an Early Spring Overview and a color-coordinated sheet for "Home Learning this Week." I hope you enjoy them, and I'd love to hear what you think!

*Note: As I mentioned in my first planning printables post, the vintage images I used were found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge, are free for any personal use. So please keep it personal ... :)

Early Spring Overview (Dawn's)

Early Spring Overview (clean copy)

Home Learning this Week (Early Spring)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 10 (2/29-3/6)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 11 (3/7-3/13)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 12 (3/14-3/20)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 13 (3/21-3/27)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 14 (3/28-4/3)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 15 (4/4-4/10)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 16 (4/11-4/17)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 17 (4/18-4/25)

Early Spring Planning Sheet: Week 18 (4/26-5/1)


Also, here's a link to my first set of printable planning sheets: Deep Winter, 2016. I will be happy to share my Late Spring sheets (for May and June) once they're ready and hopefully that won't be quite as last minute! :)

Well my friends, that's all for now, but as always I thank you for stopping by and I hope you all enjoy the rest of your day. I appreciate that you spent a bit of it here!

See you again very soon ...

Our Lenten Countdown: Post-its with Purpose!

Purple post-its 6 (1)

With Ash Wednesday less than a week away, I've been trying to come up with a project that will help my family live the Lenten season in a meaningful (yet manageable) way. Something that will remind us each day what this season is about, and help us grow closer to Christ ...

Now, I know there are a lot of great plans out there for families to follow - in books and online - and many are truly wonderful resources. I love all the sharing that happens when special seasons and events arrive in our liturgical life! But usually I find it most beneficial to work around my own family's particular needs - to create a plan that takes into consideration our autistic son, our wonky schedule, (our struggles), and what lessons will be most relevant to us. In addition, it's very helpful for my younger boys to have a visual reference for how close we are to any holiday. Six weeks to Easter is a long time when you're young ... meanwhile it flies by for mum and dad!

All this to say - after a little pondering and poking through my craft bins I came up with an idea that really "clicked." I decided it would be nice to make use of the purple post-it notes I've been hoarding for a year or more now - and since I have PLENTY of them (no really, anyone need a spare pack?) it just seemed to make sense that I could use 40 notes for the 40 days of Lent. That would be perfect!

But where could I set up such a sizable project? Forty small post-its take up a surprisingly good deal of space ...

Well the answer - as I sat at the kitchen table, surrounded by the usual mayhem, with notes spread all around me - was staring me in the face. Right here where we are ALL the time - this is where our Lenten project should be! And just look at the lovely shape of our kitchen door ... those six panels forming a cross. Why, this would be perfect!


So here's the nitty gritty:

Purple post-its 3

Materials I used: the aforementioned purple post-it notes, white craft roll paper, spring-y stickers, and sparkly golden adhesive letters. Also ... tape, a ruler, a pencil and scissors ... as well as a teenage son to keep the younger boys busy while I worked. I found that last item absolutely essential. ;)

Purple post-its 5 (1)

First I made sure the 40 notes would fit where I was wanted them, and then I measured the cross shape on our kitchen door (77" long, 29" wide). Next I cut long strips of white paper to fit the space and taped them to the door. (You might also use white sentence strips here. Less measuring and cutting!)

So here was my base for all those pretty stickers!

Purple post-its 5

With the boys occupied elsewhere, I quickly covered the white cross with flowers, butterflies, and golden letters ...

Purple post-its 7

... then covered it all up with 40 purple post-its!

Purple post its 1

Starting at the bottom of the cross (the sooner we get beyond the toddler's reach the better) we'll pull a post-it each day and underneath the note will be written a simple Lenten suggestion for the children: something to give up, an extra task, a kind gesture or a special prayer to say. Perhaps a family activity that celebrates a liturgical event or faith tradition.

Purple post-its 2

Purple post-its 11

As the days go by and the post-its are removed the white cross will be revealed underneath ...  and it will be coming to life!

Purple post its 10

The last notes to go will be the ones at the very top and along the arms of the cross ... these will also reveal golden letters:

Purple post its 9

The lesson I hope my boys take from this project - aside from boy, does mom go crazy with the crafts at certain times of the year - is this: When we give a little something to Jesus each day - we're lifting that cross alongside Him. And as we lift - purple-note-by-purple-note - we will see that we're building a beautiful thing!   

(P.S. I have a list of the children's suggestions for each day - a work in progress, kept on my clipboard - and if anyone is interested, I'd be happy to share. Some ideas might be useful to you, while others may be too particular to my family's own situation, but I will work on setting up a page to share here just as soon as I can.)

So now when Earlybird asks for the umpteenth time of the day hour, "How many days are there until Easter, Mama?" I will point to the cross in the kitchen and say, "Well, how many post-its are left? That's how many days."

Purple post-its 15

And there it will be - there HE will be - right in the middle of it all. All the clutter and craziness of our everyday life. I'm so looking forward to living Lent as a family this year - with post-its and purpose!

Well, thanks so much for stopping by today, everyone! I hope you enjoyed this post and that you too are looking forward to Lent. I'm in the midst of organizing my reading basket - as well as our bookshelves - so I hope to do a Book Party/Nest post very soon ... I'd love to talk Lenten reading ... and I have not forgotten those planning sheets! Those are coming along, too. Very soon! :)

My friends, enjoy your Thursday evening, and I will see you here again sometime soon!

A Fresh Start: Printable Monthly Calendars

Monthly calendars for pdf 2

Hello, my friends and Happy Sunday ... I hope your weekend has been nice!

I've had a couple of folks ask if I might make the monthly calendars I created for my homemade planner available for others to use ... and today, that's just what I did! With Bill's help, natch! ;)

So I have two calendars for you to choose from ... one has (some, but not all) Catholic feast days and the other does not. I believe they should be printable by following these PDF links but please let me know if you have any trouble! Anyhoo - use them as you wish, maybe in your own planning notebook or binder or in your file folders? The vintage clipart was found on Pinterest and to the best of my knowledge is free to use for personal use - so please keep it personal! :)

Monthly calendars for pdf 3

By Sun and Candlelight 2016 Month-at-a-Glance Calendar (Catholic) PDF

By Sun and Candlelight 2016 Month-at-a-Glance Calendar (Secular) PDF

Also, I'm making good fair progress on the Early Spring planning sheets and should have those available to share (as printables) in another week or so. I am so excited to plan for the next season on the horizon ... not that we don't have a WHOLE lot of Deep Winter ahead of us, but a little forward thought turns those "possibilities" into "probabilities!"

Well, that's all for now - I have a game to finish watching with Bill (or not watching, as is my way - I  like to keep busy because I get too nervous to sit down and stare at the screen, lol). I may or may not get to see Downton tonight - supper will be late ... and last night was late ... and my need for sleep may catch up to me. But I will post a recap just as soon as I'm able! And in the meantime, I wish you all well and hope to see you here again very soon ...

(P.S. Please let me know what you think of the calendars if you have a chance - I'd love some feedback!)

How I Use the Weekly Planning Sheets ...

Sheets 14

Happy Thursday, my friends! How's your week going so far? I do hope it's being kind to you!

A few folks asked if I could show how I use my weekly planning sheets, and today I am here to do just that! To be honest, I'm still kind of figuring them out - tweaking things as I go along, trying to make them work better - so these sheets are still a work-in-progress! But I'll show you some examples below and then describe the way I'm utilizing each of the blocks ... as well as when in my week I actually work ON them. (That's half the battle sometimes, isn't it? Finding time to do the planning itself!)

Currently I am using these sheets in coordination with my file crate system and it's working out pretty well. I staple the two weekly sheets (one for household planning and the other for lesson planning) onto the front cover of the folder itself.

So here is one sheet stapled to the front of the folder ...

Sheets 2

... and the other sheet stapled to the inside of the cover.

Sheets 3 

The folder itself is clamped onto the front of a rather nifty contraption I bought at Target a couple of years ago. It's called a "clipfolio" and it's basically a "padfolio" with a clipboard attached to the front. As you can see above, the papers found inside this week's folder are held securely by the clamp on the front of my clip folio. I really like this set up! It's easy to tote around and it makes a sturdy base for writing in my planner.

And here is the inside of the clipfolio ... embellished with somebody else's scribblings!

Sheets 4

(I haven't decided how I want to use this pad and pocket yet. I'm thinking a master-to do list might work well here.)

Here's the clipfolio without the folder attached:

Sheets 1

It's made by greenroom and I'm not sure if Target still carries them but I found something similar at Amazon.

I keep the folio-with-folder on my kitchen counter - aka mission control - next to my domestic journal (which is always open to today's page) and beneath my planner, which is flipped to the side of the week we're working on ...

Sheets 12

Now, about how I use these sheets ... (you were probably wondering when I'd get around to that!)

Sheets 13

Above is the general planning sheet for next week (1/25-1/31). I started filling it out today because it's Thursday and that's when I start my "week ahead" planning. (This gives me time to organize my weekend "work" - errands, supplies, prep, further planning.) I wrote in the days and events of note and the seasonal theme for the week, and these helped me shape the rest of my plans. (If you click on the photo it should open up so you can read my scribbles a little easier.) I wrote in nightly suppershome & garden notes, blogging ideas as well as a few crafts and comforts. These are the kinds of things I love to dream up and plan out - but must accept that we may not get around to doing them - at least maybe not this year! They often tie into the weekly theme, or a favorite holiday or feast - so here I have ideas for celebrating Burns Night, exploring ice, and concocting home remedies and growing a medicinal garden.

As for the housekeeping notes, well ... they do tend to be a bit sentimental. Less "unload dishwasher" and more "embroider dish linens." So, am I romanticizing things here a little? You bet! But I love reading books about the old-fashioned "art" of housekeeping and this is my attempt to write something of the sort for myself.

Finally, in the lower left hand of every planning sheet there is a bit of vintage clipart with a simple seasonal suggestion ... and boy, do I have fun creating these snippets! I will confess, these sheets were (are?) going to be part of a bigger seasonal project, but for now, I'm just having fun with it. Trying them out to see if they actually make sense! But I thought it would be nice to make the sheets printable in case someone else might like to use them ... Deep Winter pages here ... Early Spring under construction!

Next, here is the home learning planning sheet - with note space for each of my three (still-at-home) boys and a weekly overview. This provides a framework for organizing lessons as well as all the seasonal ideas and activities.

Sheets 15

Now, about the week's rhythm - I find this to be a great planning tool if your schedule allows for it! Especially for my younger children, but it's lovely for me too. I consider the busy-ness of each day and then give it a name - Monday is for nature, Tuesday is for book baskets and drawing, Wednesday is for storytelling and handwork, Thursday is for painting or projects (music and poetry) and Friday is for baking/cleaning. (The weekend is for family fun and faith @ home.) This gives all my seasonal ideas a place to "live," if you will.

So since I know next week's theme, holidays and feasts ....

On Monday we'll devote some kind of nature activity to the concept of ice: a walk, a journal entry, an addition to the seasons shelf.

On Tuesday we'll pick up library holds (books about Scotland and ice harvesting) and do a coloring page or two (flag, map, loch ness monster).

On Wednesday, while the boys play with dough, I'll tell a couple of stories, and depending on my audience it might be about woodland animals finding a frozen puddle ... or perhaps about my Scotch-Irish grandmother's family.

On Thursday we'll listen to celtic music and read a famous poem by Robert Burns. We might also work on ice painting as we listen.

On Friday we'll bake Scottish shortbread and learn the Selkirk Grace. We may even watch Brave, an old Disney movie that's new for us!

And over the weekend we'll watch football, play farkle, attend Mass, and ... relax. :)

Now, it goes without saying - but I'll say it anyways - things do NOT always go according to plan! I try not to stress when the week flies by and we've barely done anything on this chart. I try not to fret if the "theme" I so carefully chose was never recognized in any real way. As long as the boys are working on their weekly goals - lessons, habits, family, faith - then we're good. If I've worked in some seasonal awareness and appreciation somewhere along the way - well, that's great!

Below is next week's folder, open ...

Sheets 6

Coloring pages for the boys (Scotland/Burns Night), and some photocopies from a wonderful book I own called, Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends by Pippa Middleton. She has a fantastic section about hosting a "Burns Night Supper" and I have a few of her ideas in my folder to consider for next week. My shortbread recipe is in here too, as well as a birthday card that needs to be mailed next week.

So there we have it - the planning sheets in excrutiating detail! I hope this was interesting to some and helpful, perhaps, if you're using the planning sheets (or the file crate system). I would love to hear what you think - questions, comments, how you are using the sheets if you're using them ...

As I said, I'm always tweaking ... and trying to find a balance between letting things go, and getting things done. As laid back as I try to be about letting things slide, I do try to include enough activity (or awareness) that would suggest there is a seasonal rhythm to our life. Something beyond the tasks and to-dos, but a greater rhythm that connects us with our world, our family, and Faith. That's what I'm doing all of this for ... as personal as I make it, and as much joy as I find in the planning, it all really comes down to my children - the attitude I'm modeling for them, the memories I hope they take with them ...

But now I will wrap up and "let it go" ... because I've really kept you here long enough! I thank you - as always, but especially when my posts go on and on - for stopping by. I wish you all a happy weekend and I will see you here again very soon!

A Fresh Start: Printable Planning Sheets

Fresh start button final

Happy Friday, my friends! I hope this week is treating you well.

I have some really fun posts coming up - there's a new "Planner Tour" in the works and of course "Masteriece Monday" as well as a "Birthday Tea" on Tuesday! - but for today I'd like to share some printable planning sheets with you all ...

Now originally, I was designing these sheets as part of a "spiral-bound, weekly planner-book kind of thing." I was also creating another set of pages for further description of seasonal projects and homey little "assignments" ... but this all became a bit overcomplicated (not to mention oversized!) so I decided the planning sheets would work well enough with my file crate folders. I've been looking for a way to make the FCS more useful and this just might be it! So I went on to transform a simple store-bought notebook into a more user-friendly weekly planner (details soon) and the seasonal project/assignment pages are (slowly) being churned out and set aside for that someday (soon I hope) book. :)

Anyhow, since I very recently figured out how to make a document a PDF and link it here at my blog - I thought it would be fun to share these sheets here in case they might be helpful to someone in some way ...

I have two page designs - one is for general planning and the other is for lesson planning. I am stapling them to the front cover of the folders, with general planning on the outside and lesson planning on the inside. You could also use Washi tape to attach them, or a decorative paper clip, perhaps ... but so far, stapling works for me!

I only have my first season (aka two months) done so far, but if there is interest, I will share the following seasons as I complete them. So here first is my Deep Winter Overview 2016 PDF which breaks down the season by weeks and themes, and will perhaps give you a better idea of what those project pages cover. This particular sheet I have attached inside my notebook planner, at the start of the Deep Winter section, secured with some pretty washi tape. 

(Edited to Add: Here is a clean copy of the Deep Winter Overview Planning Sheet.)

And here is a link to my lesson planning sheet:

Home Learning This Week (Dawn's)

Home Learning This Week (blank)

 (I've included my own personalized sheet just to give you a better idea of how I use it, as well as a clean copy for you to use if you wish.)

And, finally, here are the Weekly Planning Sheets for January and February. There are sections for planning "days of note," a weekly "theme," suppers, to-dos, crafts & comforts, home & garden tasks/projects, and thoughts & prayers. I also had fun choosing a bit of vintage clipart and adding a simple seasonal "suggestion" for the week.

Deep Winter Week One Planning Sheet (12/28-1/3) PDF

Deep Winter Week Two Planning Sheet (1/4-1/10) PDF

Deep Winter Week Three Planning Sheet (1/11-1/17) PDF

Deep Winter Week Four Planning Sheet (1/18-1/24) PDF

Deep Winter Week Five Planning Sheet (1/25-1/31) PDF

Deep Winter Week Six Planning Sheet (2/1-2/7) PDF

Deep Winter Week Seven Planning Sheet (2/8-2/14) PDF

Deep Winter Week Eight Planning Sheet (2/15-2/21) PDF

Deep Winter Week Nine Planning Sheet (2/22-2/28) PDF

Planning sheet on folder

I can do a follow-up post to show how I fill out those blocks. This sheet shown above was hot-off-the-presses and just set on top of a folder for a photo-op.

Now as I mentioned, I also have my notebook planner going on, and I use that more actively than I do these folders/sheets. I refer to my folders/sheets for ideas and direction, but I have daily checklists and a weekly agenda in my planner. I hope this will all make more sense once I give you the full planner tour - WHICH I am hoping to have up midweek! I have a busy weekend with family visits and such, but I will be working in my planner as I find time and taking pictures to share. My goal is to post the tour by Wednesday!

So for now, I will let you go, but I hope you enjoyed this post and seeing all my Deep Winter planning! I would love to hear your thoughts on them if you have time! I would also love to write more about how I'm using the sheets but nap time is nearing its end so I'd better wrap up. I will be back very soon, however, and for now I wish you all a wonderful weekend!


Thoughtful Thursday ~ Planning

Good plan today quote

Happy Thursday, my friends!

I thought I'd share this "thoughtful" quote with you all today ... I really appreciate this sentiment, because goodness knows, I can get a bit obsessed with plans - and what I imagine to be THE perfect plan, which is undoubtedly, out there, somewhere, maybe just beyond my grasp ...

So I wrote this quote on the first page of my 2016 planner, and I hope it reminds me to just get on with things - today, not tomorrow! - and not worry so much if the plan/planner isn't perfect. It's more important to just get started and do what we can, while we can!

Not that there's anything wrong with dreaming about that elusive "someday" plan/planner ... right?


But speaking of plans and planners -  my own homemade 2016 planner is finally just about done and I am so relieved! It took a good long while to draw out each weekly spread by hand ... 52 weeks, plus seasonal spreads and special planning sections ... and there was probably an easier way to do it, but I didn't take the time to think too much about it - I just did it! I used quiet sitting times (nap times, mostly) to work with my pencil and ruler and Sharpie accent pens ... and now I'm just going back through the individual weeks and adding in as much information as I can. I am really loving how it looks and in just a couple of days I will post a full tour! :)

Now, I also wanted to mention another project I've been working on, and about which I am quite excited! I began designing a set of planning sheets late last year with a different end-result in mind (something spiral-bound) but have since decided they would be great to use with my weekly file folders ...

Planning sheet corner

I have chosen colors to complement the seasons, and the grid is tailored for home, garden, crafts and lessons planning. In the corner of each page is a small bit of vintage clipart I found on Pinterest with a seasonal "suggestion" for the week. I am stapling these sheets to my file folders (home/garden up front and lesson planning inside) and this seems to be working well so far!

(So said in the SECOND week of the year, lol!) 

Anyhoo! What I also wanted to say is that I think I have figured out how to save these planning sheets as PDF links and I would like to share them here at my blog! So, if you are interested, you should be able to print out these sheets for your own personal use - whether you use file folders, or not.

So please give me a few more days and I should be able to put up a post with my Deep Winter (Jan-Feb) planning sheets! I will also describe how I'm using them along with my folders (so far).


Well, my friends ~ I'll be off for now, but I do thank you for stopping by and I hope you'll swing by again when you have time. I will be back to chat more very soon!

Thinking out loud: Thanksgiving plans

Thanksgiving folder 6

Good Wednesday morning, my friends! It's quite early here ... as in, really, really early. Our aptly pseudonym-ed third son, Earlybird, has been rising well before 6 a.m. lately so our days have been getting a real "efficiency" boost. I know most people don't see the appeal in getting out of bed while it's still dark and cold - and, quite frankly, it really isn't all that appealing in the moment because that bed is just so darn cozy - but by mid-morning, when I've gotten a nice head start on my daily tasks and I'm on my second third cup of coffee - well by golly, I am just HUMMING right along.

So here I am at 7 a.m. and I've gone over my agenda and I've made a few checks on my task list and I've read through my daily devotions - both spiritual and practical - and I thought, you know, I should really get a start on my Thanksgiving folder. We're only 15 days away from the big day, after all!

So what does a Thanksgiving folder do, you might wonder? Well, I make one up every year, and it's really not slick or snazzy or even a particular unique idea, but it works for me.

You know, of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite. For one thing, I love all it celebrates (gratitude, family, harvest, home) and for another, it often falls on my dear mother's birthday (11/26)! So it's a double celebration for our family, and some years we have close to (or more than) 20 people! Hosting a gathering of this size is a blessing and privilege, but it can be a little overwhelming - we want the day to be special and relaxing for everyone! - so my aim is always to start early and be organized! Then, come Thanksgiving, I'll be less consumed with the dinner details and more focused on the deeper meaning of the day. 

(Now, that might be the third cup of coffee talking, but I hope you know what I mean. Anyhoo, back to that folder!)

So inside this folder I place any recipes or crafts or other information I might like to use this year - these are mostly clippings from magazines or print-outs or photocopies. Sometimes there are a few paper-clipped recipe cards. Along the folder tab I place a strip of washi tape on which I have written something clever like, "Thanksgiving, 2015." I also add a pretty turkey sticker because it makes me smile. :)

To the front cover of the folder I staple a sheet (sometimes two) of loose-leaf paper. Here is where I start making my lists: guests • menu (dinner, apps/cocktails, dessert) • table arrangements • serving notes • decorating notes • cleaning • errands • grace

Thanksgiving folder 3

I even have a tiny calendar in the corner which represents the days left before the holiday and which ones are available for errands or house cleaning or cooking, etc. 

Thanksgiving folder 4

Now this folder is mainly for "hostess" notes - lists pertaining directly to the family gathering and dinner itself. But there are many other things I plan out ahead of Thanksgiving: crafts/activities with the kids (ex. a gratitude project, table decorations) • parish/community events (ex. a food or clothing drive) • weaving nature in (ex. autumn walks and material gathering) • atmosphere/decoration (ex. garlands and lights) • extras (ex. When will A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving air?) • our Thanksgiving cornucopia of books

Now, all these notes find their collective home in different places at different times. I go back and forth about where it makes the most sense to keep seasonal plans such as these. The main homekeeping binder? The Late Autumn (Nov-Dec) binder? My homemade planner, if I can find the room? In my file crate, perhaps?

Because when a holiday, feast or season is upon us, I like to have my planning pages close at hand - not in some storage spot in the next room. I need to refer to those notes to keep on top of our plans but most of all - whatever does or doesn't get done - all that seasonal inspiration is good for my soul! :)


Well, I could add more about my Thanksgiving prep and I probably will in another post, but as it is now mid-day and I still don't have this post up, I will wrap up  and press "publish." 

But before I go, here's the "help" I had while getting this post done ...

Thanksgiving folder 5

Good help really is hard to find - especially when it's this cute!


Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, my friends! I will see you here again sometime soon!

p.s. Oh, I forgot to mention! I have a new "post party" in mind ... with the days growing dark and cold, and the urge to settle in taking hold ... I'm thinking it might be a good time for tea? A weekly gathering to chat about holiday plans? Details to come!

Planner Party Guest Post Number 14: Mic!

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


Dear Dawn,

 I have really enjoyed all the planner posts and wanted to share my own system. I'm actually using a grid notebook at the moment while I wait for 2016 and my hobonichi cousin planner to start. It's a Japanese brand and you can pick different covers and accessories to go with it.
Planner party mic 4 
I had bought a different planner for this year, but it was too small and I stopped using it after a few months. My main gripe was it didn't have a section for a weekly plan. I like to be to see my week at a glance. At the start of the month, I draw the monthly calendar, where I write in holidays, feast days, family travel, birthdays.
Planner party mic 2
On the weekly plan, which I do on Sunday nights (sometimes Monday or even Tuesday, to be honest) I write in my children's after school activities, our meal plan, gym time, and any evening or special activities or holidays. I then make a photocopy on my printer, and stick it up in my kitchen so my husband and the girls' babysitter can see it.
Planner party mic 3
Throughout the week, I add to-do lists, washi tape, quotations, who I wrote letters to, and little doodles.
Planner party mic 1
I just want to close by saying I have been so inspired by everyone's posts! There really is no right or wrong way to plan!
Warm regards,
Oh, Mic! I can hardly begin to express how much I LOVE your planner! You are a gal after my own heart - there's just something so wonderfully satisfying and soothing about a handmade planner! Your artwork and penmanship is just LOVELY. And the that nubby, knitted cover? Swoon ...
I also find I need a weekly plan, for sure. I need to see where I am in the week and I really think about our family and homeschool time in increments of weeks. Right now I'm struggling with: do I actually need a separate daily planner or can I rely on my weekly planner to cover all my bases ... ?
Also, your idea to photocopy your weekly calendar and hang it up so that your family may refer to it ... genius. Absolutely genius!!
Thank you so much, Mic, for sharing your planner here at my blog - I am inspired by your design and am excited to get back to work on my own handmade planner. Friends, how about you leave a little note for Mic and let her know your thoughts. Let's keep this wonderful planner conversation rolling!
And remember, I'm always open to new guest posts ... you may send me your planner pics and thoughts at:
bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com
But for now, I wish you all a wonderful weekend ... I will be back here again very soon!

In November: a basket of blessings, a branch of light ...

Blessings branch 14

November's family focus ~ gratitude and remembrance. Today I will show you one of the projects we have underway ...

Blessings branch 5

 Like many families, we do an annual gratitude project in the month of November. It has taken many forms over the years, but I generally come back to colorful construction paper and autumnal shapes and themes. This year I decided a blessings branch would be a wonderful thing, and I'm also thinking it might be something we end up using all year long ... but I will get into that at a later date ... for now, here's what we're doing this month.

I began with, as you can see above and below, an array of oak leaves, cut from multi-colored construction paper.

Blessings basket 1

 In addition to (hopefully) fostering an "attitude of gratitude" in my family, this activity will also (hopefully) help my special needs son pace his excitement (and anxiety) and understand just how long it will be before the holiday is here ...

So after cutting out 26 leaf shapes, I placed them in a small basket.

Blessings basket 5

 I told Earlybird that when the basket is empty, Thanksgiving will be here. And I set the basket on the living room windowsill where I have all kinds of seasonal books and decor on display. It is just out of the toddler boy's reach. ;) 

Here's a look at our Thanksgiving window ... 

Blessings basket 7

Blessings basket 9

Blessings basket 11

Blessings branch 12

 You might notice there is a space there in the book display - that would be so Oliver (the cat) can get up in the window and look outside at the birds. This is one of his favorite lounging spots and he'd only be knocking over books if I didn't leave him a little space. ;)

Ok, so what about this branch then, you must be wondering?

Well, a couple of weekends ago I chose a good-sized branch from our log pile - one with no apparent bugs and only a small amount of lichen - and asked Bill to drill four evenly spaced holes ...

Blessings branch 4

A few minutes later (truly, it took him less then 10), I had this:

Blessings branch 3

Four tea-light holes!

Blessings branch 2

I filled those holes with some lovely beeswax tea lights, purchased at a farmer's market this summer. When lit, or warm from the sun, they smell heavenly ...

The branch is now sitting on our living room mantle which has been decorated for the month of November ...

Blessings basket 8

Blessings branch 15

Blessings branch 13

Now, here's where the blessings part comes in ...

Each day we'll take one leaf out of the basket and write down what each of us is grateful for on that day. Then we'll hang the leaf on a length of twine that is strung along the front of the mantel.

Blessings basket 10

(I keep the hole-punch handy for this purpose.)

On Sundays - there are four between November 1st and Thanksgiving Day - we will light one of our candles and look over the leaves from the week. We'll say a little prayer, remembering it is God we have to thank for all these good things! And before we know it will be Thanksgiving Day, and we'll have a whole row of pretty leaves to admire!


Our other November project is one that fosters remembrance, and I will have a post up about that sometime soon. I can give you a sneak peek, though ...

Remembrance 1

More to come soon!

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by ... I hope you are all having a good week! Tomorrow I will be back with another guest planner post ... hope to see you here then!

Planner Party Host Post: Me!

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


Good Morning!

Planner party me 2

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

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

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

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

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

Planner party me 1 (1)

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

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

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

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

Planner party me 3

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

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

Planner party me 29

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

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

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

Planner party me 4

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

It is called the 18-Month Simplicity Planner.

Planner party me 8

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

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

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

Planner party me 9 

Tabs across the top:

1. Domestic Journal

2. Seasonal Plans

3. The Holidays

4. Months at a Glance

Planner party me 10

Tabs down the side:

1. Monthly calendars with seasonal dividers

2. Home & Family

3. Meal Planning

4. Correspondence & Contacts

5. Blogging, etc.

6. Budgetkeeping

Planner party me 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planner party me 17

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

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

This week's nature/seasonal theme.

This week's family faith at home.

This week's older boys' lesson plans.

This week's younger boys' crafts/activities.

This week's grocery list.

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

Such as it is.

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

Planner party me 13

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

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

Now here's where I get a little silly.

Planner party me 14

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

Planner party me 23

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

Planner party me 16

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

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

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

Planner party me 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planner party me 19

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

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

Planner party me 20

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

Planner party me 21

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

Planner party me 22

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

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

But ...

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

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

Planner party me 5

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

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

Planner party me 6

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

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

Planner party me 7

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

Although ...

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

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


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

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

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

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

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

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

Planner Party Guest Post Number Seven: Tanya!

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


Hello Dawn! Thanks for hosting this planner party!  

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

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

  Planner party tanya 1

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

  Planner party tanya 2

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

Planner party tanya 3

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you here again very soon ...

Planner Party Guest Post Number One: Kelly!

Whew, that title's a mouthful, isn't it? Well, I couldn't think of a better way to say it ... this is a continuation of our Planner Party, but the words and pictures in this post (and the next eight to come) will be from one of my readers (in this case, Kelly), not me!
(Well, I'll talk a bit at the end and obviously I'm talking now, so I am here - just not for the "meat" of the post!)
So onward we go ... let's hear from Kelly!
Hello Dawn!
I am very excited to participate in your planning post! I have two main planners; one is for daily use and the other is for weekly use. Here are the details on what I am using:
Daily planner details
I began this planner in March of this year, I think after you published a bunch of planner posts. :) I had a vision and it evolved as the year progressed. In the beginning, I only created a month or two at a time so I could make tweaks as I went along. It’s October now and I feel the best about this planner than I have about any other I have used or created! I am currently brainstorming the layout and plan for my 2016 planner. I haven’t decided yet if I will create the whole thing at once (horrors in case I want to change anything!) or go 2-3 months at at a time. We shall see. It is a lot of work to create it from scratch but I am SO happy with it that it is worthwhile.
This is the book I am using: Moleskine Folio Professional Portfolio. The photo you see below is my 2016 planner just waiting to be created!
Planner party kelly 1
This is what a weekly spread looks like:
Planner party kelly 2
Planner party kelly 3
The top picture gives a good overview and the bottom picture allows you to see close up. There is a document on the right side of my weekly spread and that is my homeschool plan for the week. It is stapled over the previous or next week so that I still have access to the dates if needed, but is right there with my current week-at-a-glance. For each day of the week, I have the date, my husband’s work schedule, and any feast day or holiday. The next column shows any commitments I have out of the house so I know what I can and can’t plan to do at home that day; and next week I am adding a small “notes” column at the far right to write in prayer notes for that day and times to observe the moon or other tidbits like that. I think this will be a good column to add without taking away too much space for my to-dos.
This is what a monthly spread looks like:
Planner party kelly 4 (1)
On the left is a small calendar just for noting special holidays and feasts that we will observe in some way. I am not using it to its full capacity yet; more to think on. Below it are seasonal notes for the month; if I clip anything from a magazine or anything like that, I just file it in my FCS and make a note of it here. I plan to add seasonal cleaning tasks to this page. The right page is my list of to-do’s for the month. I add them as I think of them. I also have budget notes and anything else I want to keep track of for the month. I will use a highlighter for any really big projects that must get done this month. Anything left undone at the end of the month gets transferred to the next month or dropped. This has helped me get so much done!
In the remaining pages of the book, I have a section for a log of picture books I read to my kids, my own personal reading list and log, and a huge section just for notes. Anything I am brainstorming or working through, I write in here. I did all of my homeschool brainstorming/planning in this. I also have notes from a retreat, chore plan ideas, snack/cooking ideas, etc. It is truly a home for anything I am thinking about and needing to work through. Next year I will number all of the pages and add an index page at the front as my notes are rather random. :)
Weekly planner details:
This is simply a 3-ring binder decorated with a beautiful Victoria magazine cover! I have four sections in this book: HS (homeschooling); HH (household); Seasonal/nature; and Field trips. I spend two nights per week doing our homeschool plan for the next week (two nights so I don’t have to stay up so late either night). While the year’s plans are already made, this is the time to look at math and reading lessons and gather materials needed; gather liturgical/saint books to read; etc. I have a list of all of the areas I need to cover during my planning nights so I don’t miss anything. Once a week I do my household planning for the next week. I also have a list of areas I want to be sure to cover, for example, assigning days to do laundry and other cleaning (I am so weak in the cleaning area!); updating our budget and/or paying bills; planning our family time if it won’t happen naturally; planning meals for the week (I do meal planning two weeks at a time). The seasonal/nature section is where I keep notes about what I hope we’ll study according to the month. Field trips? Places we can go - it helps to have them all handy.
In addition to these, I have reference binders for several different things (homeschooling and others) but they are used only on occasion.
With my daily and weekly planners, I really do feel that I am accomplishing a lot and keeping track of important things. Thank you for letting me share! Sorry this is so long. :) If anything is clear as mud, please let me know!
Take care,
Kelly, what a fantastic post! Everything is perfectly clear and never-ever apologize for "long" posts/comments/emails, whatever. I'm the wordiest person I know - I LOVE long conversations! :)
Well, this is a lovely system you have - I like that you have a weekly AND a daily planner, because right now I'm trying to decide which is better for me and now I'm thinking - why not both?! :) Your Moleskin is designed beautifully - I've spent a good deal of time on Pinterest looking at Moleskin planners and bullet journals! Their efficiency and adaptability are perfect for planner-making! And I love how you have everything so well thought out, especially how you've scheduled "maintenance" times - which I think is a real KEY to success. I think so often we set up this or that system and then just assume it will go well ... but without taking time to sit down and actually manage the system - to plan and write things down and tweak and consider - the system won't really work for us. We need to take an active part in the planning - as much as I love planners, they aren't magical objects! We have to commit to our planners if we want them to be the best they can be!
Thank you so much, Kelly, for sharing your planner with us here ... you have me eager to really think through my 2016 planner. How I can make it fit my needs better! 
My friends, if you have a moment, please drop Kelly a note in the comments box below! Is anyone else using a Moleskin notebook for planning? I'd love to hear about it!
Enjoy your Saturday, my friends! I'll be back tomorrow with our next guest post!

Let's Get the (Planner) Party Started!

Planner post 2 (1)

Happy Friday & Hooray! Our Planner Party is underway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


From Sherrylynne:

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

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

From Leah:

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

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

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

From Arlene ...

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

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

From Sarah:

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

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

From Gill:

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

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

From  Melissa:

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

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

From Mary:

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

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

From Tracy

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

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


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

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

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

*drumroll please*





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


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

See you here again very soon ...

Halloween Ideas: A Paper Chain Countdown!

A bit of a long post ahead - I really had fun with this!

Halloween paper chain 5

Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday!

Here is an overview of the Halloween Countdown Paper Chain I made for Earlybird to help him keep track of how many days he must wait for the holiday, which, in his opinion, should be here right NOW, as in today, no more waiting! I also wanted to shape his awareness of this holiday which to my mind is often overblown and over-commercialized (not to mention, downright inappropriate) when presented by the mainstream. As we happen to be studying the ancient Celts and our own Celtic ancestry this year, it is a perfect opportunity to learn where this holiday originated and how/why they celebrated it.

Ok ... here's how I put it together!

Halloween paper chain

I used regular construction paper, in Halloween shades, and cut out as many strips as there were days left till Halloween. (Ideally I would have started on October 1st, but this idea just came to me the other day as EB got itchy about the holiday's arrival.) Using coordinating Sharpies, I wrote the number of days left on the outside of the strip and on the inside (hidden from view) I wrote a simple activity or an interesting fact about the holiday ...

Halloween paper chain 2

It only took a few hours to pull together, and I think the daily "Halloween moment" will temper EB's impatience a bit. To keep it as easy as possible (because we all know fitting "extra" stuff into an already busy day is a challenge), I tried to consult my calendar as I worked out the ideas. For example, some things would work better on weekends (when Dad could come-with or help out), and some things could be woven smoothly into our weekly rhythm (e.g. nature walk on Monday, painting on Thursday, baking on Friday, etc.). It was fun coming up with these ideas! 

Halloween paper chain 3

(I think I said that already, but honestly, this stuff gets me so excited!)

So here is what each slip says - I hope you find some nuggets of fun for your family!

26 ... "Halloween began a long time ago in the country of Ireland. Find it on our map!"

25 ... "What sound does a ghost make? Write out your answer for me!"

24 ... "Halloween is sometimes called All Hallow's Eve. What is it the eve of?" (Check calendar if he can't recall what happens on November 1st - All Saint's Day.)

23 ... "Spiders are a symbol of Halloween. Let's do a fun worksheet about spiders for our science notebook!" (I've prepared a simple worksheet with labels, facts and shapes.)

22 ... "What do you think Halloween smells like?" (We'll make a collage of Halloween smells using pictures from old magazines of things like ... candy corn, pumpkins, apple cider, woodsmoke, autumn leaves, tree bark, mushrooms, chocolates, etc. I'm not sure how he'll answer so I'll try to have a wide array of foods and nature smells.)

21 ... "Did you know that a long time ago, the first Jack o'Lanterns were not made from pumpkins but turnips?!" (We'll find a turnip at the farmstand and try to carve it at home - and/or cook it for supper!)

20 ... "Today we will bake some special Halloween cupcakes for Bookworm to take back to college." (Earlybird LOVES to bake with me, and with Bookworm home for the weekend, this will be a good opportunity to use all the colorful sprinkles and gels we have collected.)

19 ... "Today we will listen to some fun Halloween music while driving around town." (Wee Sing for Halloween - a longtime favorite with my kids!)

18 ...  "What are the important rules for trick or treating safety?" (We'll talk about expectations for the night and write down important rules for having fun and staying safe.)

17 ... "Today we will read a special book about Halloween." (I have a very old book from when I was a little girl, Let's Find Out about Halloween. It even has my "notes" for a Halloween party I was hosting, roundabouts 3rd grade!)

16 ... "Today we will listen to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." (I have requested the unabridged book on audio CD from the library but this might prove too intense for EB - in which case, I have the old Disney movie, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad ready to play instead.)

15 ... "Let's make a Halloween pizza for supper tonight!" (Following this recipe from Taste of Home ... and as a special treat, I'll have picked this up at the library: Martha's Halloween Ideas - EB's a HUGE Martha fan, as his is mum!)

14 ... "Today we will design and make costumes for you and Little Bear!" (As of now, EB wants to be a ghost, and he has declared LB should be a dragon ... I figure starting two weeks ahead gives us time to get them ready ...)

13 ... "Today we will go on a family "Halloween Woods Walk!" (Our homeschool habitat for the month of October is "deciduous woods," so we'll use this activity as a means of observing this particular environment. Why do the woods seem spooky sometimes? What do we hear? Scuttling leaves, animal noises, the wind in the trees ... We will also notice signs of death and decay in nature ... fallen leaves or a rotting log, for example.)

12 ... "Let's write a Halloween poem!" (I will have holiday-related words cut out for him to put together as a "poem" and glue on a sheet he can decorate.)

11 ... "Today we will do some fun Halloween word puzzles!" (I've ordered Halloween Mad Libs Junior from Amazon - it will be a good way to reinforce parts of speech!)

10 ... "Let's make Halloween Ornaments!" (We'll use Halloween cookie cutters to cut out holiday shapes from a salt-dough, bake and decorate - perhaps with melted crayons, details here. I will bring a branch inside so we can hang the ornaments as a fun foyer decoration.)

9 ... "Today we'll paint a Halloween sky picture!" (We'll set up on the patio, late in the afternoon ... using natural plant-based watercolor paints. We'll hang them to dry in a tree.)

8 ... "Let's have a special Halloween tea with Nana!" (We'll serve autumnal goodies like apples and cheese, iced squash muffins, pear cider and orange-spice tea. I'll have EB help me prepare the goodies and serve to his Nana.)

7 ... "Today we'll mail Halloween cards to our friends!" (I have a pack of sweet, vintage Halloween postcards - we'll work together to sign and address them, add stamps, stickers, and bring them to the post office.)

6 ... "How about a visit to a pumpkin patch today?" (After church we'll head to a local farm to sit in a "real sincere" pumpkin patch ... back at home we'll watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!")

5 ... "Today we'll rake leaves and make a crow craft!" (Halloween, in its roots, is an agricultural festival, important to people who lived by the land. We'll read a book called Scarecrow and make a cute crow craft using Little Bear's hands and feet!)

4 ... "Tonight's the Full Hunter's Moon! Let's take a walk after dark, observe the night sky and listen to the night sounds." (Back inside we'll read Whoo's There? A Bedtime Shadow Book ... and make "spooky" shadows on the wall!)

3 ... "This morning we'll search for spiderwebs on the lawn and make a spiderweb craft!" (We'll make these cute Paper Plate Spider Webs - I have black plates and sparkly yarn on hand - and maybe some spiderweb cookies, too!)

2 ... "Today we'll make some Halloween lanterns!" (We're going to use this simple craft idea, with jars I've saved and tissue paper I have on hand. The jars will be placed on our front steps to light the way for trick-or-treaters.)

1 ... "Today we'll put our garden to bed and there will be a bonfire at sunset!" (I love the idea of raking, composting, and tidying up the yard before winter ... Samhain (as it was called by the Celts) in fact means, "Summer's End." Crops were brought in for the winter and livestock driven between fires to ensure their protection. Our Halloween bonfire will take place on our patio, around our fire pit as the sun sets. We will add some of the herbs from our patch to the flames and enjoy that last smell of summer! A hearty supper will follow ...)

~* Happy Halloween! *~

Halloween is on a Saturday which is really convenient - Daddy is home with us all day. :) We will start our day with a walk through a local graveyard ... to pay our respects, and observe the quiet beauty of the place, how the earth is settling in for its own rest. We may make a headstone rubbing before we go - there are some beautiful, Revolution-era graves in this particular cemetery. Our day will also include carving pumpkins, roasting seeds, baking our Halloween cake, having a special supper with friends, dressing up, trick-or-treating/passing out candy, and watching some Halloween specials on tv ...

All good fun!

We hung the paper chain in the family room, out of Little Bear's reach - unless he climbs the hearth which, while unlikely, is not out of the realm of possibility! And each morning Earlybird will take a link off the chain and read what is up for the day ... :)

Halloween paper chain 4

 Note: I kept a list of my "paper chain agenda" in my planner so I can refresh my memory - don't want to be caught unawares! - and prep for any activities that day. (I can also change things up if I really need to.) I plan to look ahead before each weekend so I can pick up any materials we might need.

Now, I already have a "blessings" project in mind for November - a new twist on a beloved tradition - and I will post about that soon! In the meantime, I am almost ready to get my Masterpiece Monday up (really have to change up that name), as we watched Home Fires last night (LOVED it) and tonight we will watch Indian Summers ... so tomorrow I should be able to get that reaction post up. I am very curious to know what you all think!

Good night for now, my friends - what a sunset outside my windows! I love how the light is so low and golden at this time of year, setting the foliage ablaze ... chilly now, though it was a mild day ... and tomorrow looks to be a bit warmer!

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