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February 2014

What My Planner/Journal Looks Like Now ...

New journal 13 ** New journal 14

Good Sunday evening, my friends ... I hope you've all had a nice weekend!

Recently I've had a few requests to post about my current planner (slash-journal), and of course I'm happy to do so! But first, a little heads-up ...

This is a really, really long post about a very specific topic (my planner/journal), and it kind of got away from me ... like far, far away from me ... and now the day has grown late and I just don't have time to go back in and tighten it up! So please excuse the size of the post - if you (like me) enjoy looking at and hearing about other people's planners (journals, etc.) then this is the post for you!

(And if not, that's ok, too - I'll see you here another time!)

Now, I've actually had a draft in the works for a while now - but, you know how it is ... my planner wasn't exactly the way I wanted it ... I needed to tweak a few things, find the perfect paper, etc. ... so I kept putting the post off until I could get things "just right. But then I figured, it may not be perfect or polished - but I have been using it consistently, and it has been working pretty well for me ... and for goodness sakes, this blog is all about what's real and "right now" in my life, so I'm not going to put it off any longer!


So, care to join me for some planner show-and-tell?

Plannerjournal 3

First off, here's my little workstation - a spot where I can stash my binders, the file crate, a bills/correspondence basket, my shopping notebook, etc. I'm using two main binders right now - one that stays put (red), and one that I use through the day (aqua).

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Shop talk: These are Martha Stewart binders from Staples. She doesn't have a wide range of colors (I think just black and brown aside from the two colors I chose) but they're well-made and the rings are quiet and smooth. They can also be manipulated one-handed, a very convenient feature for me these days!

New journal 13

So the red "Homekeeping Journal" holds the following tabs: Blog/Endeavors, Household & Family, Faith & Parish, Meals & Food Planning, Education, Money Matters, Emergency, Correspondence. All information I need, but not necessarily every day.

New journal 14

The aqua "Planner/Journal" holds the following tabs: Monthly Calendars, Seasons, Weekly Planning, Daybook, Journal Index. This is the binder I work in daily and it's almost never to be found in that workstation shown above. I keep it open on the kitchen counter, or dining table or right here on this sunny window sill in the living room ... wherever is most convenient at the time. I refer to it - and use it - throughout the day, which is why I moved my journal pages here. (You might recall how important my journals are to me, so this was a big move. More on that in a minute ...)

New journal 10

Inside the binder, first: a pretty cover sheet, some vintage alphabet scrapbook paper:

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Next, the months-at-a-glance, with the current month up front:

New journal 9

These are good old Day-Timer refills - I buy a pack of 12 months for about $15. I have used these for years and no other calendar makes me as happy. Yes, I've tried others (as I've blogged about before) but I keep coming back to the Day-Timer brand because it just looks and feels right. One full month spread across two pages (8.5x11), lightly-lined and generously-sized blocks ... understated shades and a smooth writing surface. It truly does make a difference when your calendar works really well for you in both a practical and aesthetic sense ...

{Some of you will be rolling your eyes at my persnicketiness, while others will be nodding your head knowing just what I mean!}

Now, I'll come back to this section - because this is where I'm actively planning and journaling each day - but very briefly, the rest of my planner is laid out like this:

Seasonal: Brainstorming for each season: holidays, feast days, natural phenomena, little comforts and joys. All the things I weave into our family year.

Weekly Planning: Here's where I keep the planning sheets I use with my weekly file folders. I store them here and then remove one each week to staple to the front of the new week's folder.

Daybook: Journal pages filed for current season.

Journal Index: A dated list of items I'd like to return to - recipes, etc.

Also, because this binder is obviously not pocketbook-friendly, I do use a smaller "pocket" calendar when I am out and about  - at the dentist or hairdresser, etc. I "sync up" this little monthly calendar with just the basics - appts., classes, or events to attend.

New journal 7

Ok ... still with me?

Here is my current journal page, sandwiched between the February calendar:

New journal 1

On Friday I jotted down notes about the bluebirds we spotted, project plans I want to start, a future post idea, a potential book title ... and I also added a newspaper clipping about the Olympics and a couple of recipes.

As some of you might remember, I've journaled for YEARS and it has almost always been in a very particular (inexpensive) spiral-bound notebook, prettied up with scrapbook paper. I have tons of these notebooks in storage dating back years. Well, as I was analyzing my overall planning routine, I realized that my favorite planning components are the monthly calendar grid and my daily journal, so I decided to build my planner around them.

So now I keep a week's worth of journaling inside the current monthly calendar and at the end of the week I read back over them - add notes to an index - and then file them away. Situated in between the current journal pages, I have a page marker which is a two-sided reminder list of all my daily chores, Monday - Sunday:

New journal 2

New journal 3

There is a red tab at the top which helps me find my place quickly. This chores list is another neat item to have in front of me on a daily basis because even though I do the same things over and over, it's helpful to have a routine. A day when certain things are done so they actually get done. (And just for the record, the list is out of date because it still applies to our old house. I need to revise it.)

 So what is the journal for, exactlly?

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Well, a little bit of everything, really. I write the date in the margin, wherever I left off the day before (not necessarily a new page - this is like a stream of consciousness), and then anything and everything that comes to mind. I also add little clippings I find in the daily paper and assorted magazines I read. (I read a LOT.) It's a real hodgepodge of thoughts, ideas and memorabilia - and the less eloquent side of me might call it a "brain dump," lol. It's a way of being creative, and preserving the days of the year, and for me, it's a way of capturing our life as it passes.

Now, a question I get a lot is how do I find things that I put in there? Well, originally, the plan was to go through each seasonal journal before the next season arrived. So, right now I'd be combing back through last Winter's journal(s) to remind myself of things to look for or do. This worked relatively well when I had less children and those children were smaller. I seemed to have more time back then to do things like that, but nowadays I just don't have that kind of time. I do love looking back at my journals, but it's something I do on occasion, not as a regular part of my planning routine.

So instead, I use an index. Once a week I look back at the journaling I've done and "forward" any information I need to follow up on. (To-do items I scribbled down, reminders, gardening ideas, etc.) Any recipes or crafts I added to the journal I write down in my index (2.8 - Winter Apricot Tart, Linzer Cookies). 

Another question I get is how do you decide which recipes go in the journal and which get filed with your general recipe collection (or in a particular week's folder)?

Well, yes it's all kind of haphazard, I'll admit - as I said, it's not perfect! But I so love including seasonal things in my journals, and recipes and crafts are a big part of that. "Seasonal" is the key - if it's very seasonal in nature, (and especially if it's pretty to look at) it goes in the journal.

So for example, the two recipes I mentioned above are both very symbolic of this time of year. The apricot tart is made with dried winter fruit (I found it in the Boston Globe's food pages, underneath, "Seasonal Food") and the linzer cookies were part of a Valentine special in People magazine. Both of these recipes sound wonderful for this time of year so I added them to my journal. I also wrote down the information where to find these recipes in my index.

It's probably frustating to hear me describe this because I know it doesn't quite make sense, lol. It's not entirely logical! But hey, it works for me - I love making up these pages with all these bits and pieces of the day ... reflecting the season, my family's life and current news.

I find it very cathartic to journal, even when I'm not expressing deep, soulful thoughts and ideas. (And really, I'm usually not.) It's a creative impulse I have, and the journal really feeds that need in me - to capture my days and create my own reflection of the world around me.


Ok, I'm going to stop here because I really shouldn't keep you any longer. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment below, just keep in mind, I don't mean to offer this planner/journal as something that would be helpful or make sense for someone else. I realize this is intensely personal and unique to my own quirks and needs. But as I said at the top of my post, I know I love to see how other people use their planners whether they'd work for me or not - so I hope you enjoyed this post even if you're shaking your head wondering how on earth I get anything done, lol!

 Well, my friends, thank you so much for allowing me to share all of this with you, and thanks to all for stopping by. I'm sure you have things to get to - as do I - supper and baths and then maybe a little tv before bed. I will have the Downton chat post up early tomorrow but I'll call it right now - I'll be joining you on Tuesday as my bedtime is drawing near!

A pleasant Winter's evening to you all ... see you here again very soon!

❄ Linkies & Little Notes

Good Morning, everyone!

❄ There's a lovely post by Divina at beauty of picture books today ... and I'm quite honored to be mentioned! Her Friday focus - passing along our precious picture books once they've been outgrown, a topic I touched upon recently here at my blog. Stop by Divina's and take a look around - it's a beautiful spot! I very much enjoyed her post on February books as it features the works of Elsa Beskow - and we're big fans of Ms. Beskow around here! (Current favorite: The Story of the Snow Children)

Speaking of beautiful books, what is the most recent book you've purchased/borrowed from the library - for yourself or your children? To enjoy with the kids, I ordered Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella by Jan Brett last week. For one thing, we LOVE Jan Brett books and have been collecting them for years, and for another, her latest title is set in "a snowy Russian winter" ... which fits in nicely with our Olympics study this month. And last month I ordered A Fine Romance by Susan Branch, about her trip to England with her dear sweetheart, Joe. I'm only on the first chapter, just soaking in the goodness of her charming illustrations and witty prose.

Here's an article about making naturally-tinted Valentine's goodies. Earlybird can't have artificial dyes/flavors, but he gets a kick out of colored frosting like any other child! I'm glad for this reminder because this is the last weekend before Valentine's Day which means anything I want to have on hand - for crafts/gifts/goodies - I must procure and organize this weekend. Despite the vast amounts of seasonal planning I do routinely, I'm often caught unawares by little holidays like this.

Look at this gorgeous home office made out of a storage closet: An Amazing Closet-Turned-Office. I just love the colors as well as the overall set up and it just so happens I have a closet just like this downstairs beside the laundry. I wouldn't need something quite so fancy, but I do need a crafting spot ... a place for my glue, glitter, stickers, paper collection and whatnot. Hmmm ...

And finally, a quick weather report:

Russian winter

Cold, snow ... and that's about it!


Skies are brightening, Little Bear's waking ... time for another cup of coffee! Have a Happy Friday, my friends ...

I'll see you here again very soon!

Could it be?

The one bird we never saw at our old house was the Eastern Bluebird, and so this species has been on my "feeder wishlist" for some time. Well, earlier today, we had what I'm pretty sure was a huge FLOCK of Eastern Bluebirds in our front yard! This picture is tiny and blurry - but that's what you get when you're aiming your camera through a window, with a baby tucked under one arm!

Bluebirds 1


What do you think?


Picture-books in Winter

Picture books in winter 1

Summer fading, winter comes—
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.*

A Good Tuesday, my friends. And how are you all faring this fine February morning?

We're all on the mend here this week - thank goodness! - despite sporadic, lingering coughs. That was quite a virus we had! And it sounds like many of you have also seen your fair share of illness lately. Ugh. I'm feeling a bit tired of winter already. Howsabout you?

But what I really wanted to show you today were these absolutely beautiful picture books (shown above and below). They were a gift from a very generous, thoughtful mama friend ... Nina's children have outgrown these books, so she wanted to pass them along for another child to enjoy ... namely my Little Bear. What a lucky little boy!


And oh my goodness, what gems! Have you ever heard of Molly Brett? There are many of her titles here - The Jumble Bears, The Runaway Fairy, The Untidy Little Hedgehog, etc. Nina also sent along a few Tasha Tudor treasures, including First Graces and First Poems of Childhood.

Picture books in winter 2 

Winter is a wonderful season for curling up in a "nursery nook" (or on a couch, in a bed) with our children and just read the cold days away. Spring will pull us outside and onto other things, but spending our winter hours inside, indulging in good books, is a seasonal luxury we can all afford, even if it's just now and again.

Homeschoolers may have more home-hours to "play" with, but if your kids are in school, then snow days are perfect for this, as are Sundays ... or afternoons, or after-suppers, or anytime really! I think it's great for kids to see their parents not just collecting books (which is very easy to do) but making time to read as well. That's not as easy in our "busy-busy" lives, but important, I think, for the overall rhythm of the home ... and for developing a patience for quiet times and mind-stretching, soul-feeding literary pursuits.

I am grateful to Nina for sharing these books with my family ... Little Bear and I will spend many sweet hours getting to know these new "friends!" He's already a fan of books - though many of them go right in his mouth! Right now his favorite is Owl Babies - I swear I could recite that book in my sleep!


Well, have yourselves a happy and healthy Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

*From Picture-books in Winter by Robert Louis Stevenson

MM: Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 5

Da season 4

Good Monday morning, my friends!

Well, same deal as last week I'm afraid - I'll have to add my comments once I catch up (hopefully tonight). Bill was busy watching the Superbowl last night, while I was busy watching the inside of my eyelids, lol. By the way, any Sherlock fans here? I'd love to know what you think about that show, too ... I think it's brilliant, but I SO wish they would make more than three episodes per season! 

Anyhoo, please feel free to get our conversation rolling below and I will join you just as soon as I can ...



My comments are now below. What a great episode!

A Citrus Craft for Candlemas

Candlemas 9

Blessed Candlemas, my friends! A Happy Groundhog's Day, too!

 I hope you are all enjoying a nice Sunday. Pleasant weather here in my corner of the world ... almost spring-like, dare I say it - the birds are singing and the light is just a skosh brighter. Nearly 50 degrees right now - way above normal - but we'll take it!

Yet according to Mr. Groundhog, we're in for another 6 weeks of winter?

Here are a few pictures from my morning ... first off, what a sunrise! One of the perks of rising so early is witnessing those beautiful first moments of the day ... as the sky changes its color and mood. I was so taken with the scene over this frozen marsh on our way to Mass, I had to pull over and snap a picture with my phone. The sun like a candle-flame peeking through those low-lying clouds ...

Candlemas 2 

And when we got home from church (with a fresh supply of blessed candles), I set to work on a little craft I'd seen in a magazine recently ...

Candlemas 7

So much easier than you might think! You start with a fresh orange ...

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(And citrus is so lovely at this time of year ...)

Halve the orange and scoop out the flesh so you're left with just the white inner rind. Then take some candles (it's smart to use up old ones, but I had surplus tealights so I went with those) and melt them in a double boiler ...

Candlemas 3 

Once the wax was melted, I poured it into the orange shell, with a candle wick supsended in the middle. (I ordered these natural candle wicks through Amazon, but I'm sure they're available at local craft stores.) I just held the wick still for a couple of minutes until the wax had stabilized enough to grab the wick.

Candlemas 6

Then I pushed whole cloves into the rim of the orange, trimmed the wick, and waited for the wax to fully set.

Candlemas 12

 All done and smelling fantastic!

I think these would make really lovely Christmas gifts, don't you? Simple enough to do with the children (teacher's gifts perhaps?) - just add some pretty wrap, maybe a soft handkerchief and some ribbon. I'll be making a note about this in my seasonal planner! :)

Now, in honor of St. Brigid's Day (which was yesterday) I am planning to make shepherd(ess) pie for dinner ... just some scrambled hamburger topped with kernel corn and rich cheesey potatoes. Some crusty bread, too, and a mixed berry cobbler for dessert ...

That all sounds good of course, but I'll see what fits in! My day begins early so by necessity, it must end the same way ... and sometimes things that appear quite "do-able" at dawn, seem near impossible by dusk ... does that ever happen to you?

Well for now I'll sign off, with a wish that you enjoy a pleasant evening, and a hope to see you here again very soon ...

Blessings to you all!

It's ... Babyzilla!

Babyzilla 6

Now, don't get me wrong, our Little Bear is just about the sweetest baby you can imagine (so says his mother, ahem!), but you know how babies get to that certain age where they suddenly love to GRAB things - like, ALL THINGS, whether they be sentient or not - and those babies get a little - ooh, shall we say - miffed when said things get taken away from them? And when they settle down to play - with all those colorful blocks and neat stacking rings - the most fun they seem to have is when they're just crashing them all about?


Well we call this stage of development, the "Babyzilla" stage, lol. And that's right where our Little Bear is now - it's just too funny! So recently, when he was in one of those crash-about moods, I tried to capture some of his antics on camera, so I hope you don't mind me sharing a few ...

(or maybe 10)

Babyzilla 14

Babyzilla 13

Babyzilla 12

Babyzilla 11

Babyzilla 10

Babyzilla 7

Babyzilla 9

Babyzilla 8

Babyzilla 15

Babyzilla 16

(He even sometimes sounds like this ... only much, much cuter.)

Clearly we are all on the mend, and I am so very grateful for that! It's a lovely, MILD first day of February (did you remember to say Rabbit, Rabbit this morning?) and tomorrow promises temps a bit milder! A busy weekend, too (on paper, anyways) - today is St. Brigid's Day and tomorrow is Candlemas - aka Groundhog Day - and this weekend is our local bird count (though we're shamefully out of the loop these days) and oh yeah ... there's some little football game going on somewhere at some point as well. ;)

Well, I hope you're all feeling well and enjoying your day whatever might be up for you and yours. I hope you enjoyed our babyzilla pictures ... and whoops, I just realized LB is indeed wearing two different socks. Par for the course around here I'm afraid!

Happy February, everyone ... see you here again very soon!