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July 2011

Q & A: When Do I Plan?

Happy Friday, my friends!

It's a mild, muggy day ... storms are coming later, but right now it's pretty quiet out there. We've had a nice morning so far - making a fresh batch of hummingbird nectar, spying a new wren at the feeders, and scaring a big old tomcat off with the squirt gun. (Nobody messes with our squirrels, lol!) And lunch just wrapped up so I have a few minutes to sit down and put some polishing touches on this post ...


Here's a great planning question from Jo:

Hi Dawn,

Do you have a day of the month to plan for the next month? Can you get into how you do the seasonal planning a little bit?

Jo, I'm so glad you asked this question - and I will address it in just a moment - but you raise a really important issue when it comes to planning systems in general. We could have THE best set up - the most well-thought out, beautifully-appointed planning system evah - but if we don't take TIME to maintain it, it won't do us a bit of good! Making time in our schedule to consider our life and coordinate it with our planner (whatever type of planner we use) goes a long way in keeping us on track.

I've certainly struggled with this from time to time. I'll have a set "agenda" in mind and on paper, but then life gets busy and I get distracted and then next thing I know, I'm on autopilot - just putting out fires and getting through the day. All of a sudden a weekend's come and gone and it's Monday morning and I have scarce idea what the new week's all about: Did I arrange babysitting for my doctor's appointment? Did I purchase that sympathy card to mail? Did I record that new science show? Do I have the ingredients for that special birthday supper?

Thankfully though, with constant, concrete reminders to PLAN ahead, I'm usually at least aware of things if not quite on top of them ...

So it probably comes as no surprise that "seasonal planning" has always been a big priority of mine - for one thing, I take great pleasure in nature and I live in a place where the four seasons are quite distinct and (to my mind) equally enjoyable. On a deeper level, there is something so comforting about the returning seasons ~ and something so fulfilling in the regnerating beauty of God's creation. I can remember as a young girl spending my summers drawing up "booklets" filled with my fall ideas ... or creating "Christmas Planbooks" for myself and my friends.

Needless to say then, I've collected LOTS of ideas on the seasons through the years - things to look forward to, activities to take part in, events to celebrate, and changes to observe. I did a series of "themes and plans" posts a few years ago that summed up a lot of those ideas. (As an example, the August post can be found here.) At one point I had them all printed out and filed in bi-monthly binders - but the binders became excess bulk, and those lists have since been refiled in my master planning binder. 

So as described above - and Jo, I think this is where I finally get around to answering your question! - I make sure to schedule sufficient time to plan a season (two months combined) ahead. I spend a weekend every other month planning ahead for the next season - and this is most always the last weekend of the month. So, for instance, this weekend, being the last weeked in July, I hope to spend a little time planning ahead for the "Autumn" season (September-October). And at the end of September, I will spend a few hours planning ahead for the "Holiday" season (November-December).

And so forth:

~ At the end of November I plan ahead for Deep Winter: Jan/Feb.

~ At the end of January I plan ahead for Early Spring: Mar/Apr.

~ At the end of March I plan ahead for Late Spring: May/Jun.

~ At the end of May I plan ahead for High Summer: Jul/Aug.

I write "seasonal planning" on those weekends in my calendar so I know when it comes 'round to planning those weekends (or POWs as Bill likes to call them, lol) I'll be doing some forward thinking.

So when I sit down to plan a season, first I'll reference my "themes and plans" page and then look at my month @ a glance calendars. I'll also check in the file crate, do a little online research (full moons, feast days, etc.) and I may even look through my old journals from this time of year. Then I'll start jotting down what I can. I'll decide what things I want us to do and what themes I want to weave into our family life and home learning.

So that's planning ahead on a big scale ... there's also the more immediate planning, which is looking ahead to each coming week. I begin this on a Thursday - pulling a folder, preparing a planning sheet, starting a menu, etc. - and try to finalize as much as possible by the end of the day Friday. This gives me a chance to work in any preparation over the weekend - i.e. picking up library books, craft materials, cards to send, dinner ingredients, etc. I put the finishing touches on our weekly plan on Sunday afternoon, and hopefully, come Monday morning, I'll have things somewhat straight in my head. ;)

Annual planning is done twice a year - once in the summer when I create ed. plans for the new academic year, and again during the last week of the year (the week between Christmas and New Year's). 

Now this is going to be a very busy weekend - on top of everything else we have planned, I'm trying to finish those year-end reports. I hope to sneak in my "Autumn" planning, but if I don't, I will probably do it next weekend. I will try to "photoblog" as I do the planning so I can show you visually how I "seasonally plan." :)


Well, I hope this post answered your question, Jo - I did get awfully rambly, so please feel free to ask me to clarify or expand on something if you need. 

And I hope all of my readers have a great weekend whether it's busy or quiet, or whatever your plans. Stay cool and be safe! I'll see you again very soon.


Celebrating Peter and Beatrix!

My fellow Peter Rabbit fans, did you know that tomorrow, July 28th, is beloved author Beatrix Potter's birthday? May I take this opportunity to ask:

What is your favorite Beatrix Potter tale? Is it the same as your kids'?

Mine would be The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, natch. Crackerjack and Earybird both like The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or the Roly Poly Pudding best, while Bookworm (who had to think back aways, lol) is partial to The Tale of Pigling Bland.


So this would be a neat day to celebrate! Curl up somewhere comfy and read a few favorite children's books - or perhaps dig into a nice, old-fashioned mystery set in the English countryside? Maybe it's a day to find a quiet spot outside to sit and sketch or paint. Or if it's too hot or rainy, you could stay indoors and watch something like this (EB loves this series!) or peruse a website like this. I'd like to think a special way to honor Miss Potter's birthday would be to do something nice for the little birdies and wee beasties in your life ~ offer special treats, create a happy habitat, or make a donation to a local land trust or wildlife sanctuary if you can ...

And of course, whether indoors or out, an afternoon "Peter Rabbit Tea" would be fun!

A possible menu:

a fruity summer punch

assorted finger sandwiches

fresh vegetables served with a creamy herb dip

lovely little carrot cupcakes 

a pot of sweet children's tea


Peter did not seem to be enjoying 
himself; he kept hearing noises. 

Benjamin, on the contrary, was 
perfectly at home, and ate a lettuce 
leaf. He said that he was in the habit 
of coming to the garden with his 
father to get lettuces for their Sunday 

The lettuces certainly were very 

Peter did not eat anything; he said 
he should like to go home. Presently he dropped half the onions. 

From The Tale of Benjamin Bunny


Now, I know this was two posts in one day - in a week I swore I'd be ever-too-busy to blog, lol - but I just had to let you all know about this special day just in case you'd like to plan something fun for your family tomorrow. I know many of us (homeschoolers especially) have spent countless hours immersed in the wondrous world of Beatrix Potter.

She was a special lady - a brilliant artist and a gentle soul - and many a childhood was made all the more magical and memorable thanks to her dear little tales. 

So today I'm remembering Miss Potter, with true appreciation and much fondness ...

Hand-delicate ~ Dawn

Academic Calendars & Dry-Erase Boards

Happy Wednesday, my friends! It's bright and beautiful here this morning ~ I hope your day's off to a great start!

This morning I have question and a suggestion from Heather ...

My question: Do you know where can I find those 2 page-spread, month-at-a-glance calendars for Aug or Sept 2011 on? I have only seen them for Jan 2012 on. If you or anyone could help me on that I would be so grateful. I am slowly trying to get all the things I need for this system ... OK now my suggestion: For daily reminders, have you ever considered using one of those small dry erase boards that you can stick onto the front of your fridge? I think those are awesome. Hope that may help.

Heather, thank you so much for this wonderful comment! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond - most likely you've already found what you're looking for, but in case you haven't let me answer as best I can ...

So first, in regards to your question: I've seen lots of "academic" (summer start) calendars for sale at Staples - but are you looking for something spiral-bound (self-contained) or are you in need of loose-leaf pages (i.e. a refill)? I use "Day-Timer" 2 page-spread, month-at-a-glance calendar forms in my planning binder. At Amazon I found an academic version in desk size but I can only find a January start version in the folio (binder) size. The latter is what I use. (I currently have both the 2011 and 2012 calendars stored here.)

Does anyone have suggestions for Heather? Are there places (online or otherwise) where you find a good selection of calendar products? I usually shop at Staples (which I believe is a nationwide chain) or I order through Amazon. In fact, I got my most recent supply of calendar forms here

There are also sites found online, Heather, which allow you to print off month-at-a-glance calendar forms. The one that comes to mind is Donna Young but I'm sure there are others out there. There are probably even software programs - to purchase, or already installed in your computer - that allow you to do this on your own! I'm not too tech-savvy though, so I stick with what I know - so long as it's working for me! :)

Now, as for your suggestion ... I do actually have a small dry-erase board on my fridge, but I hardly ever use it! When EB was younger he was (more than) a little fixated on getting his hands on dry-erase markers, but due to the odor and dye, I can't let him use dry-erase markers - or any type of marker really. Having the markers out only presented a temptation so I kept them hidden in a drawer ... which really cut down on how much I used the board! (Plus he always seemed to find them, lol!)

Mostly when I use the board these days, I use it to post a "honey-do" list. ;) But I do like the idea of posting your daily chores on a dry-erase board ... The only real issue for me is I'd have to re-write my tasks each day.

For example, my Wednesday chores would post like this:

Clean Kitchen:


    wipe down appliances

    wash countertops/stovetop

    scrub and soak sink

    run baking soda down disposal

Go through cabinets/fridge/freezer

Start marketing list and menu for next week

Organize trash & recycling

This is what is noted on my Wednesday daily card. I have it posted at my workstation in something like this

Now, Earlybird still can't use those (any) markers, but he is much more understanding about them these days. So I do have a magnetic marker placed just above the board - I guess I've just never gotten into the habit of using it. But I can see where it would make a great place for posting daily reminders - for yourself and your family!

Do any other readers use a dry-erase board as part of their planning? There certainly are all kinds (sizes/shapes) of boards now - and multi-colored markers, etc. I'd love to know if you use a dry-erase board in your household - and how. Drop a note below if you'd like!


Well, thanks again to Heather for her thoughtful comments! For now, I must be off and get this day rolling ... just thought I'd sneak online and post another quick Q & A while I could. So have a great day, everyone ... I will see you again very soon!

Vase-flowers ~ Dawn

Q & A: What all's in those folders anyway?


A year's worth of file folders - ready to "report!"

From Lori I have this question:

I have a question, when you finish your year ... you said "I go through the old folders when I write up the year-end reports over the summer." What are you reviewing that you report? Do you put the kids school papers in the file folders? I'm confused on this. I guess I'm not sure on what all is left in the folders.... Thanks, Dawn. p.s. I am going to be doing the FCS this year ;)

Hi Lori, 

First of all, thank you so much for leaving your question! I'm so excited to hear you'll be using the FCS this year - please let me know how it goes for you! :)

Now as to your question, re ~ the year-end file folder review ...

I use these folders as a holding station - a means of reminding myself of things to come and, on the other end, of things that have passed. When I go through the folders at the end of June, I find all sorts of memorable things that remind me of our experiences throughout our academic year. Some things help me with the year-end reports, some things help me in planning our new year ... while other things are helpful in a more domestic-planning sense.

(And some things just make me smile and remember why we it is do what we do. :))

Above you see last year's folders all ready to be perused. Here's a random list of items I found in my folders - with an explanation of how I handled them in italics. I hope this will give you a better sense of how I use these items in my reporting/planning/reminiscing etc. ... and maybe give you some ideas of how you can use the FCS in your household. :)


    *A library request form for the audioversion of A Christmas CarolWe spent a few weeks in late November listening to this story in spurts in the car ... in advance of seeing the play in early December. I made a note on the reports and recycled the sheet.

    *A fact sheet on evergreens we were given by a tree farmer the day we chopped down our Christmas tree. This launched a whole unit study on evergreens, so I made note on the reports, and refiled it in the Nov-Dec hanging folder because I may like to revisit the unit at Christmastime.

    *My "2011 Easter" menu and preparation notes. I filed these into the folder for next year's Easter - they'll provide handy reference (and fond memories) as we plan a new Easter Sunday.

    *An invitation to a nativity play we didn't attend. I refiled it in the Nov-Dec hanging folder in hopes we can make it this year.

    *An email listing details from a holiday potluck we attended with our homeschool group. I made some notes on my report and recycled the paper.

    *Information on the "Perseids" (meteor showers that occur every year on Crackerjack's birthday eve). I made a note on my report that CJ watched for meteors and researched Persius (while reading the Percy Jackson series) and refiled the papers in this year's August 8-14, 2011 folder. We'll surely be watching again - and who knows how we might "spin" the event!

     *A Barnes & Noble Storytime flyer. I noted the book titles on EB's report and recycled the paper.

   *A library request form for a Liberty's Kids video. I noted on the reports that CJ did much personal reading and research into the American revolution and recycled the sheet.

    *An email on a water main break we experienced in our area last year detailing emergency information for affected households. I noted that we investigated water city systems when this happened then recycled the paper.

    *Emails from the grandparents (both sets) during their travels to various locales - Alaska, Spain, Hawaii, etc. I noted on the reports the geography work we did and culture/art we viewed thanks to those messages (and vacation photos).

    *A site map from a local sanctuary we happened upon one weekend. I made note on EB's reports of the habitat study and map work then recycled the map.

    *A whole bunch of activities for an egg unit I did with EB in April (we didn't do all the activities). I made notes on EB's report then refiled the stapled papers in the Mar-Apr hanging folder in case we want to revisit the theme next spring.


Now, I don't keep the "school" work in the folders because there's just too much of it. The older boys now keep their work in their subject notebooks (math, English, history, science, etc.). Earlybird's worksheet pages, craft projects, paintings and drawings and writing practice I put in a general "in basket." (After they've spent some time on the wall or the fridge, natch.) I look through those notebooks and the in-basket before finalizing the reports as well. 

Ok, I hope that's been helpful to you, Lori - or anyone who's trying out the FCS. I sometimes wish we could all just sit down with a big pot of tea and lay everything out and just CHAT! Lol. In lieu of that, I hope my posts, answering the questions you all have, do make some sense and do help a little. Please do not hesitate to ask for further clarification. Sometimes things make perfect sense in my head - but don't necessarily translate in "type," if you know what I mean. ;)


So I'll leave you all, for now, with that food for thought ... and speaking of food ... those beef/veggie kabobs we made last night? They made for wonderful pizza toppings and calzone fillings tonight!

Have a good one, my friends ... thanks so much for stopping by. I will see you all again very soon!


A Super Summer Supper!


I have to share a recipe with you all this morning ... it's one I found in the latest issue of Everyday Food (my favorite cooking mag) but I can't find a link online, so I'll type it up for you here:

Emeril's Beef and Vegetable Kebabs

1 lb. beef sirloin, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves

3 red or orange bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 zucchini or yellow squash, cut into 3/4-inch rounds

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

vegetable oil, for grill

coarse salt and ground pepper

In a medium bowl, combine beef, 1/4 cup olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and rosemary; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours (or up to overnight). Let beef sit at room temperature, 30 minutes.

Heat a grill or grill pan over high. In a medium bowl, combine bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and 2 tbsp. olive oil; toss to coat and season with salt and pepper.

Season beef with salt and pepper. Alternately thread beef, bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes onto eight 8-inch skewers. Clean and lightly oil hot grill. Grill kebabs, turning occasionally, until beef is medium rare and vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes.

Serves 8.

(*Notes: I used yellow peppers and omitted the cherry tomatoes since my family doesn't care for raw tomatoes - well, I do, but they kill me! We also didn't salt or pepper the beef and the flavor was still fantastic.)


My family absolutely raved over this meal! The marinade was delicious - flavorful but not too heavy. I served the kebabs with couscous - something new for us and a big hit with the boys, especially. Speaking of the boys, this recipe was featured in the "Cooking with Emeril" section of Everday Food. The recipes are meant to be made with children and are always very kid-friendly - in preparation, presentation and taste. I had Earlybird help me "harvest" the rosemary from our garden, mix up the marinade, and wash the vegetables. He also "supervised" my chopping. ;) And everyone enjoyed smelling the herbs and spices as I blended it all together! 

Bill did the grilling (in the rain, no less!) and the kebabs cooked up very quickly. As he grilled, I made up a pot of Near East "garlic and olive oil" couscous. It really complemented the flavors and textures of the kebabs, nicely.

Happily, this recipe made a ton so we have lots of leftovers for lunches. I realize beef sirloin is not an inexpensive cut of meat, but at my market it goes on special every once in a while. I waited for just this week to try this recipe out. :)

A keeper, that's for sure! 

Have a great Tuesday, my friends!


My File Crate's New Home :)


I hope you all had a nice weekend. It was very busy here, with our construction underway and the year-end reports due a.s.a.p. I got a good start on the reports - Bookworm's is all done and I have plenty of notes for the other two. By this weekend I hope to have all three reports done and the ed. plans for next year all set, too. I'll mail the whole package off to the school system in about a week's time - God willing!

Now, about that "construction," well, really we're just changing rooms - switching the dining room to the front room (which served as a living room) and changing the dining room (aka the learning room) into a sitting room. Bill is repainting the walls and re-doing the floors (lifting ages-old carpet and installing wood flooring). We've ordered some new furniture as well. :)

I'll keep you all up to date on the "remodel" but for now I'd like to show you the new home for my file crate. As most of you know, I like to keep the crate as accessible as possible; to my mind this is a big part of its success. In the design for the "new" sitting room, however, there isn't really a place for the crate to sit out in the open. I could keep it on the island, but it would sit too high, and it's really too bulky. I mulled over ideas for using a smaller (and more attractive) crate, but Bill came up with a great solution - a way of keeping the crate conveniently close and easy to access, but still out of the way. He reconfigured the under-island cabinet - the one that faces the sitting room, the one which sits under my "workspace" ...


... and fitted it with a handy roller basket for my crate!


This cabinet used to hold a whole bunch of hodgepodge - bread machine, electric tea kettle, ice cream maker, snow cone maker, cupcake carrier ... some holiday light strings, a garland of ivy, a few doilies in various sizes. In short, it was a real mess!

All those items have been moved to storage downstairs, and as you can see, it is now all cleared out. Bill had to remove a back shelf to make room before he installed the roller basket for the crate ...




The crate fits perfectly inside the roller basket! To make it quite secure, Bill sawed off the stubby plastic feet and secured the crate with ties.

The drawer you see above the file crate cubby is my old tea stash drawer - it was fun to keep my tea boxes here, but I've decided I just don't drink enough of it to warrant a whole drawer devoted to it, lol! We're going to make it a school supply drawer instead - a place for rulers, pencils, tape, stapler, pens, etc. (Post on that coming soon.)


Because, see, as we morph the dining (learning) room into a "sitting room" I'm losing my devoted school room space. These days the older boys do their work up at the island and Earlybird really kind of does his all over the place - at the computer, at the table, at the counter, on the couch, outside, etc. With the boys getting older, and the prospect of getting new kittens sometime soon, I thought it was a good time to simplify. Less "stuff" sitting out, more (hopefully) clever storage. And because of all the windows and great light, I really wanted to make better use of the room - we'll be in a sitting room far more than we will a dining room - or "school" room for that matter.

And since I stand here at this side of the counter to do "my work," (I'm standing here at this very moment!) I think it should work well to have the file crate stored in this way. True, it's not at waist level, and true, it's hidden behind a cabinet door, but I think with a little practice it will come to feel familar.


More on all of these "changes" coming soon. I am still working on answering reader questions (re ~ the file crate and otherwise), but to be perfectly honest, every spare minute this week wil be spent completing the ed. plans/school reports. I'll be back again just as soon as I can, though ... in the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful week. 

See you again very soon!


Prayers for Norway

Dear Friends ...

My heart is filled with sorrow for the people of Norway this morning, especially the families who lost loved ones in yesterday's shocking and tragic attacks. I have heard from Emma, a reader from Norway, that she and her loved ones are OK, and I am so glad to hear it.

To all our Norweigan friends ~ especially Gill, a dear longtime reader ~ I am thinking of you all this morning, and praying you are safe. Please drop me a note if you are able.

Our hearts are with you today Norway, and our prayers go out for your recovery and healing.

In peace & with love,

~ Dawn

Beating the Heat?


Clearly we're in the midst of the dog days of summer here! How hot is it where you live today? 

On super hot days like these, AC is a must in our house; EB, especially, is very sensitive to heat. But even on the hottest of days, first thing in the morning, I open all the windows in the house. I like to get fresh air circulating, particularly through the bedrooms. I try to leave things this way as long as possible before turning on the AC, but this morning (and I'm typing this at 7:04 a.m.) is so oppressive, there's just no good to come of open windows right now. The air feels heavy and hot and about as far from refreshing as it could get. So the AC is chugging along and we're keeping our fingers crossed there are no power problems today in the area. 

Nights like this it's best to cook outside if at all possible, so we have turkey burgers on our menu for tonight. A cool pasta salad and some corn on the cob will round out the meal ... as well as grilled pineapple and coconut popsicles for dessert!

Well, I hope you all have a lovely weekend, whatever your weather and wherever you are. Keep cool! Be safe! And have fun!

I'll be back again just as soon as I can. 


Q & A: Reusable Folders?

Before I delve into the subject at hand, I wanted to let you all know I'm thinking of creating a new blog that will be devoted entirely to the File Crate System. By Sun and Candlelight will still serve as my main blog, but any posts to do with the FCS will be found at the new site, and I'll see about setting it up in a way that's more "interactive." Eventually it may contain content like printable forms, queries and surveys, and photo and/or video tutorials. I have no idea if a TypePad platform supports all these things, so we shall see what I ultimately come up with. The new blog is under construction right now but as soon as I get it working - and presentable - I will share the link with you all. :)

For now, I'll address a folder question from Barb:

Thank you for your organization posts! My question is regarding when you're finished with the folders. What do you do with them? Put them in a box or something and store them? Couldn't you re-use the folders every year rather than purchasing new ones each year? If you pull the important stuff out of them at the end of the year to make a report, then why would you not just re-use the folders? Or is this not what goes on?

Thanks, Barb

Hi Barb!

I could certainly re-use the folders, but mine get pretty beaten up over time. And, truth be told, I have a soft spot for new office supplies, so I buy a fresh set of folders each year. (I do wait for a sale week and apply rewards points when I buy them.) At the end of the academic year I weed through the contents of each folder, write up my year-end report, then re-file some things and recycle the rest (folders included). 

Now, if I was going to re-use the folders, I would choose a sturdier style than what I currently use - something firmer, more plastic/less paper. Also, I would not write the week's date directly on the folder tab, but instead use a removable label or an erasable or laminated type tab. And since I staple planning sheets to the front of my folders, I'd have to discard those and remove the staples too.

All in all, it might not be the most economical or environmentally friendly option to replace my folders each year, but it's what works for me ... for now. :)

I hope that helps, Barbara! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a question, and please let me know if you need any further clarification ...

Vase-flowers  ~ Dawn

Q & A: Daily Stuff

First off, I SO appreciate all your comments about the file crate system! I feel so Daisies-mug encouraged, and I'm so glad this system is a help to some folks. I am also grateful to hear about your troubles and issues with the FCS - this helps me figure out how to make it work better! (And hopefully it helps me explain it all better!) I am making note of each question left for me in yesterday's post, but I still have a few more to get to from previous posts. I don't want to forget anyone, so let me backtrack a little and see what I can address while I have a few minutes online ...

From Leslie:

I love reading your planning posts, too. I haven't yet implemented your FCS but I keep thinking I might have to start... I did have a question, though: A year or two back, around the first of the year, I remember that you made a planner of sorts that had lists of all your daily chores for each day of the week. You had a few months' worth (or a years' worth?) printed and bound at your local office supply store. I was wondering how that worked out and if you're still using that in conjunction with your FCS or if it didn't turn out to be as useful as you'd hoped?

Leslie, in a word, it was not as useful as I'd hoped ... and I was really rooting for it to work, too! It was so pretty ~ *sigh* ~ but it was just so big and unwieldy. I did like having a page devoted to each individual day reminding me of routine chores as well as any activities or additional tasks for that day. As much as I love the FCS, I find I do still need a spot for daily planning - I need to see my chores and what needs to happen on THIS DAY. 

For example, just this morning I heard about a neat show airing on the Discovery Channel tonight. I wrote it down in my planner with a note to set up the DVR. I haven't yet set that up, but because it's written in my planner, I should remember to get it to it sometime today.

I also realized a bag of dough I have in the fridge *must* be used today, so I wrote down "make calzones" to remind myself - or I should say, to remind Bill, as he's the pizza (and calzone) guy in our house. ;)

So currently I'm using a commercial (i.e. not homemade) spiral-bound daily planner (shown below) ...


... in conjunction with colored "routine" cards that I post daily to remind myself of where I'm at and what needs to be done. (I post them at eye level, next to my workspace and change them up daily.) That said, I may try making a daily planner again, but in a much more manageable size.

(In case you haven't guessed, I really enjoy making calendars, lol! Even the ones that fail I enjoy making and using - and remembering! - because they indulge my creativity and teach me something new about how I "work.")

Failed attempts aside, there are a few things I always stick with: the weekly file folders (the file crate system), my personal "hodgepodge" notebook (the clippings journal) and a large, two-page spread, month @ a glance planning calendar. These, along with a daily system of some sort are the cornerstones of my overall home/personal/family planning.

Must be off now, but there's much more to come ... thanks for caring and sharing, my friends!

I will be back again very soon!


File Folder 101


Good Monday morning, my friends!

I hope you all had a nice weekend, and that your new week is off to a good start. It's going to be a HOT one here in New England - in and around the 90s all week! I'm sure we'll have the AC on later today, but right now I have all the windows open and the air just feels so soft, cool and fresh. Certainly not crisp - there's a stillness about it - but just right for a mid-July morning.

So, I've had several readers leave questions abut the file crate system (and related subjects) recently and I'm hoping to get to each one of them throughout the week. I'll start with Kristie's question below ...

The to do list you have, that is on the paper you put on the front of the file? Or do you have another to do list? Did you ever think of writing right on the file itself? How does the actual file fit into your day? That sounds like a weird question, but I guess what I mean is, like...does the file sit out on the counter or your desk and is it the first thing you look at in the morning? Do you check in with it during the day? Are you always dealing with the file itself? I tried to use this system, but did not actually pull the whole file out and I am wondering if that makes a difference for you.


Kristie, first of all, thank you for your thoughtful questions! I always look forward to reading your comments. :)

The to-do list is written out on a post-it note which is stuck to the front of the file folder; it pertains to that specific week's to-do's.

I certainly could (and probably should) just write directly on the weekly planning sheet, or even as you suggest, the folder itself. For some reason I like the post-it notes. That said, I am working on a template for a weekly planning sheet that will have a designated space for writing down a given week's to-do's. (I *may* try to put together a little file crate kit - plus user guide - if anyone's interested *and* if I can get this whole thing running smoothly. Just a few more wrinkles to iron out!)

Kristie, I also have a master to-do list, which is just a running list of things to do (and remember) that pop up - like something that needs to be looked into or something that needs to be done sooner rather than later. It's a place to write down a need before it escapes my consciousness - to be addressed/scheduled later. I look over that list when I write out each week's planning sheet.

(As for daily to-do's and reminders, I'm working on a separate post about all that. It's another area of planning and household upkeep I'm constantly fine-tuning.)

As for how the folder fits into my day ...


... well, here's how it works for me:

1. The collection of weekly file folders (a whole year's worth) is stored in my file crate which (currently) sits out in a corner of our dining room, directly beside where I work. (Note: We're in the midst of a major dining/living room re-do, so the file crate is getting a new home ... more on that very soon!)

2. When a folder is "active" it gets pulled from the crate and moved to my workspace. This happens on the Thursday before the coming week. So this Thursday I will pull the folder for next week (7/25 - 7/31). 

3. Presently, I have this week's folder (7/18-7/24) sitting out on my planner beside where I am working at this very moment. I keep it out (visible) during the day - for handy reference. I jot things down, check things off, grab things from inside the folder itself. 

4. Last week's folder is still sitting up in the file bin (it will move back into file crate storage on Thursday). This handy file bin hangs on the side of a bookcase to the right of my "command central." It holds the active folders (this week's, last week's and on Thurs I'll add next week's).

5. It is the first thing I look at - along with the month @ a glance calendar. I usually leave things out on my counter so I can dig right in in the morning. (Though I do pack up when I have to - the active folders go up to the bin, and the master binder gets stored in the front of the file crate. That's usually only when we're having company and/or I'm cleaning the kitchen island countertop.)

So I cross off yesterday's block, and glance over the weekly planning sheet. I also post the day's routine reminder card and open my daily planner to the current day's page. I write in specific reminders/tasks for today (i.e. marinate/grill chicken for sandwiches, pick up fabric swatch, call so-and-so before noon - those kinds of things).

6. On Thursday, I will go through this week's folder and see if anything can be moved. I'll set up a new folder for next week - attach its planning sheet - make initial notes by referencing my calendar. If I need things for a recipe or craft, I'll note those items on my Saturday errands list. If a book needs to be requested from the library, I'll do that now, too. 

7. On Sunday, I will retire this week's folder to the bin, put last week's folder back in the file crate, and set next week's folder out on top of the planner.

8. And so it will go till the end of the year, when I'll pull the whole lot of folders out and replace them with new ones. This, for me, takes place in May/June. I go through the old folders when I write up the year-end reports over the summer (which I just did this past weekend). The new folders get labeled by week date and filed into the crate in order by season.

9. When I go through the file folders - I recycle anything I don't need to keep (as well as the folders themselves). Things I keep include items I re-file as reminders for next year (ex. an annual pumpkin fair flyer, recipes and crafts for feast days, nature notes, etc.).

10. And then it all starts over again! :D

I've been using this file folder system for many years now - and though I'm always tweaking it a little - it has really worked so well for me. But I appreciate every comment and question about the FCS because it helps me see how it succeeds and where it fails. This has become a real pet project of mine - and I'm so glad other people (especially those who read here) find it interesting, because I do LOVE to chat about it! :)

So to conclude, Kristie, I do think keeping the file folder out during the day makes a big difference to me. The folder can work as part of your overall planning, as well as a paper tamer. And if it does become part of your planning system it makes sense to keep it out at your fingertips. (Or at least it does for me!)

Well, I hope that was helpful and not as confusing as it looks to me now that I've gone back and read it! Lol. I've used up my online time for now, so I'd best go and hope for the best! 

And of course, I thank you all for stopping by. Drop me a note if you have a question or comment about the FCS - or anything, really! I will get back to you just as soon as I can. 

Have a good day!


Well, this was quite unexpected ...

Just look what found its way home!


Yes, that's my "summer" purse - the one that was stolen Memorial Day weekend! And you'll never guess what? Everything is still inside - not one thing is missing!

It's all a bit jumbled (obviously, it's been rifled through) and a couple of things are crushed, but literally, not even one coupon is missing!


So here's what happened ...

Yesterday afternoon the phone rang and I didn't recognize the caller - now, usually when I don't recognize a number I let the call go to the machine, but for some reason I decided to pick up. The person on the other end of the line told me they were calling from a local discount store and that they had my pocketbook there - it had "turned up" in their store!

I was stunned. Stunned! Literally, it took me a moment to find my voice!

I asked them if it was ruined (for some reason I pictured it rain-soaked and tire-marked, lol) but the woman said, no, it seemed to be all right. She asked if I had a yellow wallet (to which I answered, yes) and said that she found my contact information on my checkbook. 

And there was me ... still stunned!

So I arranged to have Bill pick it up on his way home from work, and he did ... and now, as you see above, it is back in my possession again.

Crazy, right?

My thinking is that the woman who took my purse made a beeline for this store next and - realizing I had no cash in my bag - just walked it into the store, stuffed it somewhere, and then targeted someone else. 

And now, this many weeks later, some store clerk found my purse - relatively unharmed, and still totally intact - and now I have it back again!

I'd say it was an answer to a prayer, but I honestly didn't pray to get my pocketbook back. I figured it was long gone. I did however pray for peace of mind over this ... I was really shaken up by this experience. No, I wasn't mugged, or harmed in any way - my boys weren't even with me when it happened - and I didn't even see it happen, but still ... it really did unsettle me. It left me with an underlying anxiety that ruined my sleep and gave me palpitations for days. I felt guilt (and frustration!) over the endless hoops we had to jump through to protect our assets and secure our credit. The first time I went back to "my" supermarket I had a mild panic attack. I walked in just as easy as you please, and then my deli guy (the nicest man) asked how I was doing (having heard of the theft), and as soon as we finished talking I felt that adrenaline surge throughout my limbs and that restless feeling of just wanting/needing to leave; I finished my shopping quickly and got back home. The next couple of weekends were similar, but now everything feels normal again. I do feel peace and I do feel resolved (since the thief was ultimately identified and brought to justice) but I AM much more cautious with my belongings these days. This was a hard lesson learned ...

Don't be careless with your personal belongings and safety! Don't live in fear, but do be smart about things. No matter where you are - your comfort zone is not an impenetrable bubble. My little bubble got popped that weekend, that's for sure ...


Well anyways, there's my little story for today! I figured you'd all like to hear what hopefully will be the last chapter in my "pocketbook saga," lol. 

So for now, I wish you all a safe and smart Thursday ...

And I will see you all again very soon!


Wordy Wednesday


I am so sad to have to return this lovely library book today, but I've renewed it as many times as I could! It's one of those rare books that is as pleasant to read as it is just to look at ...

And while I'm certainly no seamstress, I got much more than just sewing advice from this book. I also got household advice, seasonal suggestions, old-fashioned recipes, and hints for making ends meet ... but most of all, I got a renewed sense of how important my "work" as a homemaker (and tender of dear hearts and souls) really is. And best of all, all of this domestic delight is wrapped up in a very charming package. I highly recommend Vintage Notions to anyone who relishes all that's entailed in caring for one's home and family, whether you're handy with a needle or not!

 The above quote is featured on the "September" chapter's title page, and I think it's just perfect - so I thought I'd share it with you all today.

So enjoy your day, my friends ... and enjoy your work, too, whatever (and whomever) it entails! I will see you all again very soon.


Bill's Birthday Butter & Whiskey Cake

My goodness, it's a scorcher here today! Over 90 degrees and muggy as all get out. We're really and truly knee high in Summer these days!

I'm here to share a recipe, but first I'd like to say thank you for all of Bill's birthday messages. I can assure you he had a wonderful day, and he appreciated each and every birthday wish very much! :D

Now, for the main point of my post ... the birthday cake recipe

My mum first made this cake over 30 years ago ... she used to make it for Christmas, but as I mentioned, it became Bill's signature birthday cake at some point during our courtship (which itself began over 20 years ago!). It's quite rich and moist ... and of course, as it's soaked with liquor, rather decadent! ;D

So, without further ado ...

Butter & Whiskey Cake

Beat well: 

    1 box yellow cake mix (Mum likes Duncan Hines "butter recipe")

    1 small package vanilla instant pudding

    1 oz. whiskey

    4 eggs

Slowly add:

    1 cup whole milk

    1/2 cup vegetable oil

Fold into mix:

    1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.) tossed with 2 teaspoons flour

(Note: Nuts are optional. We are a family of non-nutters - except for my mum and Bookworm who love them.)

Pour into a well-greased, large, tube pan, and bake at 325 degrees F. for 55-60 minutes.

Leave cake in pan while you prepare glaze.


    1/2 lb. unsalted butter

    3/4 cup sugar

    1/2 cup whiskey

Heat above ingredients over medium heat for a few minutes - stirring and keeping watch - till the mixture thickens and a syrup forms. 

Run a sharp knife around edges of pan and tube. Poke small holes (pricks) over top of cake. Pour glaze over cake and let it sink in and run down sides.

Cool cake for 2 hours, then refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove cake from pan, transfer to a plate and sprinkle with powedered sugar.

Serve and enjoy! It tastes best at room temperature (or as Bill says, once the humidity's gotten to it, lol).


If you make it, let me know how it turns out! And thanks so much for stopping by today ... I hope you're week's going well!


Happy Birthday, My Mr. Sun and Candle!


"To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with." ~ Mark Twain

I am so grateful to have my "somebody" to divide with ... Thank you for sharing in all this JOY with me, honey!



Today is Bill's actual birthday, but yesterday we had a feast in his honor. I made those slowcooked ribs again, and for dessert my mum made her delicious "Butter and Whiskey Cake." This has been Bill's favorite cake for years, ever since my mum made it for Christmas one year. It quickly became his bday cake of choice. ;) He especially likes it "the morning after," once it's had a night to "steep." I served it with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet - delicious! (If anyone wants the cake recipe, let me know, and I will ask my mum.)

Well, I hope you all have a great week! Thank you so much for the wonderful comments re ~ the file crate folders. I am working on a post addressing all those questions and hope to get it up as soon as I can.

Keep cool, be safe, and may you all have much JOY in your day!