Happy Habits & Routines Feed

Setting Up a Housekeeping Calendar ...

(Part Two)

Housekeeping calendar 4

Happy Tuesday Wednesday Thursday, my friends!

(It's taken me so long to finish this post, I have to keep changing my greeting, lol.)

Well, here at long last is the second part of my Housekeeping Calendar post! I'm still working on this rather large project, and it's taking me a while to get all my cards written out ...

Housekeeping calendar 1

I'm pretty much working on it whenever I get a chance, using the large post-it note grid to guide me as I write out each day's tasks. (Explained here.) I'd like to get the whole year's worth of cards filled out, but so far I'm taking it a week at a time. I find it helpful to look over the coming week's cards ahead of time, so I can see if there are any extra chores that might need special supplies or preparation.

But on to the calendar itself! As you can see in the top photo, I have filled a small bin with index cards (one for every day of the year), and 12 tabbed monthly dividers. Each one looks something like this (today's yesterday's card):

Housekeeping calendar 8

The upper corner has the date and day of the week and then I have listed my housekeeping tasks for the day - weekly, monthly, seasonal/annual. At a glance I can see what needs to be done according to the master cleaning schedule I worked out recently (which I explain in this post) ...

Wednesdays are my kitchen days, so I've listed the basic upkeep tasks here: sink, counters, fridge/freezer, appliances, wipe surfaces, floor

I also do laundries daily, M-F.

Also on Wednesdays, since I'm working in the kitchen, I find it a good time to start my meal plan and marketing list for next week.

Two monthly kitchen tasks that are assigned to this particular (1st) Wednesday of the month:

wipe cabinet and drawer fronts

empty fridge/pantry of old food

run disposal with ice/citrus peels

Now, I know without a doubt there will be days when I don't get much of my card done (case in point yesterday, lol), but as I've said before, that's OK. I can only ask myself to do the best I can and some days my best won't include anything other than feeding, dressing, listening to and loving up my kids. Nonetheless, the tasks are there for the doing if time and energy are available.

A few of you asked when in my day I am fitting in these extra tasks (on top of the daily must-do's that often barely get done) and the answer - right now anyway - is whenever and wherever I can. With an active toddler and a special-needs son as well as a busy high schooler needing rides here and there, it's tough to designate a set time for doing chores. I do like to do things early if I can, so I try to "get on with it" before the day really gets going - but later in the day works sometimes, too ...

For example, yesterday was a long day, and not much on my card got done. But then as I was preparing supper - waiting for water to boil and a timer to ring - I grabbed a damp cloth and started wiping the kitchen cabinets and drawer fronts. In less than 20 minutes I was done. It wasn't a deep cleaning, mind you, but the fingerprints and spills were gone. (I never realized we spilled so much coffee, lol!)

*Just for the record, I don't usually do chores during nap time. I try instead to rest - and blog! - while Little Bear sleeps. Case in point, this very moment! It's a good chance to recharge my batteries! :)

Before I wrap up, here are a couple of "cozy corners" from Tuesday's cleaning (bathroom zones) ... 

Cozy corners master bath

Above is the master bathroom ... and below is the foyer half-bath.

Cozy corner foyer bath

We have four baths in all here, which is a big change from our old house where there were two (but only one working!). There is also a boys' bathroom upstairs with a shower and tub, as well as a small bath with a shower in the basement. The two shown above get the most use - for some reason the boys use the foyer bath most of the time - and they also prefer our shower - so these are the two that need a real cleaning each week.

Several readers also remarked on how my calendar is similar to the index card system described by the "Slob Sisters" back in the 1970s. And YES! I LOVED that book and even tried their system a time or two through the years. When I decided to use index cards for this new housekeeping calendar I was tempted to read back through that book of theirs, but decided not to. I liked what I had planned and since I'm easily distracted I would be second-guessing and changing things up and would probably try to over-complicate my idea. I remember (I think) they had cards for each task and some cards were white (daily?) and some were blue (monthly?) and so forth. I do highly recommend their book - Sidetracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise - for some great ideas and a good laugh, too. They're very funny ladies!

Ok, I'd best wrap up now as I finally seem to have reached the end of this post and may actually press "publish" before the baby wakes up! Let me know if you have any questions about my housekeeping calendar ... it's going well so far, I think! I will do another post about my master lists and delegating tactics ... and I still have that cleaning supplies post to get to! I would love to talk homemade cleaners and using essential oils in our housekeeping ... Speaking of, are any of you planning to do Spring cleaning this year?

See you all again soon - or as soon as I'm able! And thanks, as always, for stopping by.

:)


Cozy (Clean) Corners ...

Family room 1

Hello, my friends ~ and Happy Sunday!

I thought it would be fun to share pictures of the corners I clean as I dig into my new housekeeping calendar. So for instance, I took these pictures last Thursday. On Thursdays, according to my weekly routine, I concentrate my housekeeping efforts in the family room and adjoining sunroom. Basic cleaning duties include de-cluttering/tidying, dusting/wiping surfaces, vacuuming rugs and sweeping floors. And because it was the fourth Thursday of the month, I had two extra chores on my card:

* clean out copy corner/check printer supplies (above)

* wash the baseboards and registers (below)

Baseboards

I cannot tell you how messy that above cabinet corner was before I got to it today! There were so many papers strewn about - laying on top of, and around, the printer - miscellaneous toys and whatnot in piles ... the bottom cabinets were open a bit because stuff was spilling out from inside. (I kid you not.) So I first decluttered and neatened the whole area, then I wiped it down (hand-vacuumed behind the printer) and got it all pared down and clean. And now it just makes me so happy. :)

The cabinets do still need re-organizing. They've basically held the same mishmosh of paraphernalia since we moved in - copy papers, and oddly enough, tech stuff like cords, keyboards, and other things I can't even name. What I'd like to keep here is stuff for the printer - paper, ink etc. - and maybe ... other supplies for homeschooling? Paper, pens, pencils, rulers, etc.? Maybe also, movies to play on the dvd player? I'll have to think on this a bit. The bottom cabinets are obviously quite accessible to toddler hands ... so maybe that will be a toy cabinet ...

The registers were a bit of a pain to clean, but boy did they need some attention. They were quite dusty and there were even some old spills ... I wiped them down with hot water and then dried them off as I went along. The heat was on at the time, so it was a bit tricky, lol! (Not to mention I had a "helper" crawling along beside me trying to alternately climb on my back or pull off my sweater.)

But you know, I really appreciated my housekeeping cards last week. They kept my immediate tasks in one place where I could quickly refer to them throughout the day. And what I'm finding is that, although I'm not getting everything done, I am able to get more done than I previously thought possible. Tasks don't actually take quite as long as I fear imagine they will!

***

Well my friends, thanks so much for joining me today ... I hope to have my next housekeeping post up early this week ... I will go through the cards and show how I'm using them as a calendar. And I will have some more cozy corners to share with you next week, too!

For now, Happy March! See you here again very soon ...


Setting Up a Housekeeping Calendar

(Part One)

Routine planning 1

Hello, my friends! Today I'd like to share with you a project I've been working on for the past few weeks: creating a new housekeeping calendar. I'm still ironing out a few details, but I am quite eager to share it with you all ... so here goes!

 As I've mentioned before, I still have yet to set up a new housekeeping routine - one that works for this house, which is decidedly different from our old house. Now mind you, I'm not a white-glove kind of gal, but I've been feeling badly about the lack of upkeep around here. Now that Little Bear is a toddler, I find myself spending time in the oddest places - huddled in random corners, behind draperies and under tables. Toddlers love sliding down a wall and just hanging out by the baseboards ... sharing a snack in a doorway ... or dropping small toys behind the bed. And what I've been noticing - while catching crumbs and rescuing toys - is that there is a lot of wear and tear happening to our "new" house. Smudges, stains, scratches, lurking dust bunnies and gritty bits caught in crevices. For example, the layer of dust along the register behind our bed ... ? Oh, my.

Now, I'm not asking for my house to be pristine - that would be fruitless and, frankly, boring - but I don't want to let things go on as they are. I need to find a way of doing a few things each day, as I can, that will keep our home's condition at a certain standard: hygienic, presentable and comfortable for my family. And by "hygienic," I mean clean enough for healthy living; wholesome. Also, on a practical level, I'd like to keep the overall value of our home intact as much as possible.

So, I figured during this long house-bound winter I could turn my attention to my surroundings and start making amends - on paper first, and then hopefully in practice. Because as with anything, I like to think before I do, and so first, I would need a plan ... 

And here's what I did. :)

Routines 1

I started with a list of things that need to be done daily. I just walked through my day and wrote down what we are already doing and what I would like to see done in addition. In composing this list, I referenced previous lists I've made, as well as information found in favorite household books and on Pinterest. I live by my own standards, but often I'll see something on someone else's list that I've overlooked.

Weekly planning notes

Once I had the day mapped out, I did the same thing for the week. I thought about our weekly rhythm - what days take us out and about, and what days allow more time spent at home. I gave each day a zone - bedrooms on Monday, bathrooms on Tuesday, etc. - and filled in each day's grid with its obvious to-do's. I then went in search of more information to add, as described above. 

Planning routines 1

Now, I've made cleaning lists before, but for some reason, just thinking about and writing down all those tasks doesn't actually get them done. Go figure, lol! But it's hard to keep the big picture in mind when you live your days hour-by-hour, just keeping up as best you can. Things like "dusting lampshades" and "vacuuming stair treads" kind of fade into the background when you have more pressing matters in queue, such as smelly diapers, dirty dishes and hungry kids ...

What I need, I decided, was a daily calendar with housekeeping tasks listed out for me beforehand - the must do's and the could do's - so I don't have to think about it in the heat of the (smelly/dirty/hungry) moment. A calendar that would be entirely devoted to housekeeping only - and yes, I can hear some of you saying, "Oh, Dawn - another calendar?" ;)

But yes, I think another calendar, one made just for housekeeping, makes sense for me. I might write "bedrooms" on my Monday planning page, but I can't list out all the steps. And for some reason, no matter how often I clean bedrooms, I still find it helpful to read each task separately: strip beds, tidy and wipe surfaces, vacuum, launder bedding, etc. That's not all going to fit in my planner!

Anyhoo! I decided to get EVERYTHING listed out and then schedule EVERYTHING according to how often it should be done ... keeping in mind, however, not EVERYTHING will ever get done ... but that's ok. It's a step up from what I'm doing now, which is clearly not enough. And my motto is, it's always good to get things down on paper. It's a good place to start ...

(Still with me, lol?)

To continue creating the master list, I walked through every room in the house and just wrote down things that need attention. I began with my Monday zone - Bedrooms & Upper Hallway - and simply looked the whole area over, writing down what would need cleaning (the when came later.) I started with one wall and moved along ...

Wall a week 1

... mentally assessing any and all cleaning tasks. Little things like "make the bed," and big things like "clean closet shelves." At this time, I also started a separate list of "projects and issues" to address in each room (for example, dress up hearth, replace master bedroom mattress, find bureau tray at flea market, etc.).

(Now, don't think for a minute I didn't move a whole lot of laundry out of camera range before taking this picture!)

Finishing up the in-house list, I consulted with Bill on areas with which I'm not as familiar - the garage, attic, basement, outdoor buildings, vehicles, grill and driveway/patio/deck etc. Though we do share chores around here, he has his zones and I have mine. ;)

Finally, I wrote out a list of housekeeping tasks that don't really have a physical space but are quite important in running a home - filing school reports, renewing subscriptions, updating addresses, arranging travel plans and filing taxes, etc.

Once I had all my tasks written out, I started to work on a schedule ...

Routine planning 2 

To start this next step, I covered a poster board with a grid of post-it notes, creating a month at-a-glance framework. Starting with the first Monday of the month, I wrote out the weekly tasks (clean bedrooms, upper hallway, laundries, trash & recycling) and then checked my master list of bedroom tasks for monthly chores. I kind of randomly assigned monthly (and seasonal/annual) bedroom chores to different Mondays of the month.

I just worked through my task list and as I wrote a task down on a post-it note I checked it off.

Routine planning

(Can you see now why this post has taken me so long, lol? The project itself took forever and is still ongoing!) 

By the way, I'm not a housekeeping expert, so I referenced various sources to determine how often these tasks should be done - Home Comfortsfor one, which is a great resource for housekeeping information. Also, considering I can't seem to get my daily chores done, never mind any extras, this could prove to be an exercise in frustration. And perhaps it may be ... but at least I have something to keep in mind and works towards. 

New routines 2

To further organize myself, I set up this grid for monthly tasks at a glance ...

Now as I organized tasks into time slots, I started thinking about how my daily housekeeping calendar might look and work. I considered a few different designs - binders, clipboards, etc. - but finally ended up choosing an index card system ...

New routines 1

But! Since this post has gone on quite long enough, I will stop here for now ...

:) 

In my next post I will show you how I've organized the index cards as a daily housekeeping calendar. (There might be some multi-colored cards involved, too.) I will also talk about how I'm planning to delegate some of these housekeeping tasks - because honestly, I'm only one (often busy, usually tired) woman! And in a future post I'd like to tackle the topic of housekeeping supplies, because I feel having the right equipment, stored in a convenient way, is half the battle.

Also, if you'd like, I will share my master list of housekeeping tasks. Not that I think it's necessarily something that would work for someone else, but like I said, I find it helpful to see other people's lists because it inspires me when making my own.

Ok, that's all for now, my friends! Thank you so much for joining me and as always, I hope you all have a wonderful day/evening ...

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


Every Day Has a Story ...

Candle on napkin

Happy Wednesday, my friends ... long time no see!

This post has been an open draft on my computer for some time now ... but things have been a bit topsy-turvy here with all the snow! We're in a short lull now (weekend storm ahead!) and I'm trying to get back on track. Thanks for your patience as I worked on this long-promised post!

So today I'd like to talk about something I mentioned in a previous post - about how I like to give my days "stories." It's really quite a simple concept - not very original or life-changing - but I think it's a great exercise in getting yourself one step closer to a "system" that works best for you. And that's something we've been talking about recently: how do we establish routines that help us manage the needs of our family and home? (While keeping our own health and happiness in mind?)

I have always "written stories" when planning out big projects like holidays, seasons and parties, but it works well for all kinds of things - mornings, bedtimes, Sundays, babymoons, and spring cleaning, etc. I like to start by envisioning a story for whatever it is I am planning - so here's what I do, in a nutshell:

I simply grab a piece of paper and a pencil and take a few - or several - quiet moments to think about what it is I am trying to plan. I imagine how it looks, what is happening, who's present and how I feel ... and create a vision that is, perhaps a bit idealized, maybe even unattainable, but will ultimately represent my true hopes and values.

I know that sounds a bit elaborate for something so commonplace, but I really do feel this "mental exercise" helps. And I don't know about you, but I can use all the help I can get when it comes to managing my responsibilities - namely, my family and home! 

But before diving into the days individually, I begin with "my day" in general ... so I imagine waking up and going through the motions of the day. I try to think about how I'd like things to be, ideally ...

  • My bedroom is neat and I'm up early enough that there is quiet around me.
  • I have a cup of fresh coffee thanks to my sweet husband ...
  • Phone in hand, I take time for a bit of contemplation: prayer, news, and email
  • I have clothing laid out and the bathroom is tidy and set up for quick washing and dressing.
  • I leave the bed freshly made and head downstairs ...
  • (Bill has helped with changing and dressing Little Bear. Earlybird is most likely up and he's been given juice and a snack.)
  • Coffee is hot and the kitchen is neat as a pin after a thorough once-over last night.
  • Breakfast is warm in the crockpot (or set out on kitchen table, ready to assemble).
  • I check my journal-binder and look over the day's agenda.

(And so on.)

As I read back over these rather comforting thoughts, I see where I can take action to make this more of a reality. (Underlined words indicate where action is needed ...) I can see that a lot of morning "joy" begins the night before, so I add tasks to my evening routine with that in mind ... set coffee maker to brew before bed, tidy bedroom and master bath before bed and set out washcloth and hair tie, and outfits for myself and the younger boys. Charge phone and have apps/subscriptions that allow for daily prayer, news updates and email. Etc.

(NOTE: This is not what happens, exactly ... not everyday, anyway ... this is an ideal situation!)

As for planning the days themselves, I begin with Sunday because this is the day I really want to get right. In fact, this was the day that kind of kicked off my daily stories, because I was so frustrated that our precious Sundays were starting off harried and ending up as a catchall of missed chores and last-minute errands!

So my ideal Sunday has a story like this ...

  • We (some of us) attend early Mass ...
  • We are not rushed, things have been organized the night before: donation envelopes, church clothes, Crackerjack's Mass signature card, my "nice" pocketbook :)
  • We arrive at Mass early so we can sit quietly and pray, read over the bulletin, relax/absorb, connect with our fellow parishioners ...
  • A light breakfast (bread/muffins/fruit) is ready when we get home, along with fresh coffee and Sunday punch. 
  • We have a quiet day, there are no outside commitments, and we don't shop or run errands.
  • Instead, we spend time on home-oriented projects, visiting perhaps, and there's a big family sit-down dinner in the early afternoon.
  • Over dinner, we talk about the week's homily and any church news, as well as the week ahead and family goals/schedules.
  • Time is spent outside whenever possible - in the garden or as a family, on a hike or bike ride. "Walking the boundaries" together to see how the property is faring. 
  • I spend time catching up on correspondence with family and friends.
  • I read back over my week's journal and index information.
  • I spend time with Crackerjack, updating his assignment board and discussing expectations.
  • I might spend time baking for the week if I didn't get to it on Saturday.
  • I look over the household budget - organize receipts/statements from previous week; talk with Bill about upcoming week's expenses.
  • I prepare homeschool materials for week ahead and the boys' daily task cards.
  • I place grocery order for the week.
  • The trash and recycling is organized for morning.

(etc.)

And remember, this is my STORY ... not always my TRUTH. At least not in its entirety. :)

And as you can see, the exercise kind of morphs into a more traditional list of things to do, but still, it's part of my vision to have time for these things. And it's safe to say, every vision includes the whole house being neat and clean ... whatever the day or occasion ... but it is also safe to say, that's a pretty high horse to climb! But a clean home, to my mind, is the canvas for much family joy and a balm to the spirit as well ... but that's a post for another day. :)

***

I've had these stories in my head for years, and I like to revisit them in quiet moments, especially when I'm tweaking my routines. (I can put myself back to sleep at night by walking through a story in my mind ...) But I'm now going to keep these stories printed out and stored in one of my binders (either my main planning binder or in the general housekeeping binder).

And from here I feel I can start making some helpful day-by-day task lists that will assist me in creating the kind of week I want my family to live. That I want to live. I know what I do as a wife and mother is important - I don't suffer any insecurity on that front - but when I connect my homekeeping "heart" to my everyday routine, it makes the whole process that much more meaningful and rewarding. I think so, anyway. Does that make any sense, lol?

:)

Oh my goodness, this is so long-winded I'm afraid I have surely bored some of you, but I hope there is some items of interest here for my like-minded homekeeping friends! Honestly I can (obviously) think and talk about this topic at great length ... in fact, I have often thought, I would actually read a novel(la) written entirely about a housewife's days spent caring for her family's home, through the seasons and the ups and downs of everyday life. There wouldn't have to be any drama or suspense ... it would still be exquisitely interesting to me! For example, we are listening to Little House in the Big Woods right now - a wonderful story for the children to hear for many reasons (and especially during our own long winter) - but my favorite parts are the detailed sections on Ma's chores and home keeping! And I often find myself appreciating how simple life was back then ... but then I remember how "easy" we have it nowadays. (I don't face down any bears when getting milk for my family!) And it keeps it all in perspective. :)

Ok, that's enough from me, I think! I'll be back again soon - hoping to have my routines post up next. (Or perhaps, the wall-a-week cleaning post.) But I'd love to hear from you if you have time ... about your own stories, and if you do anything similar when contemplating how you'll manage your week at home, with your family. Or maybe you do this with your work? Bill has been sharing with me how at the office, his team works together to come up with stories for how projects will go ... and then breaking them down into tasks that will make sense to everyone and move them closer to their goals. I loved hearing about their method and he loved hearing that I've been doing something like this (in my own humble way) for years!

Right. I'm off ... lest I continue, lol. Enjoy your Wednesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Working on New Routines ...

Good Wednesday morning, my friends!

Routines 1

While I'm working on a post about my new chalkboard wallies (discussed briefly at the end of  yesterday's post and teased at my Facebook page), I thought I'd share this with you briefly this morning ...

As I've mentioned, I'm re-working my housekeeping (and familykeeping) routines which have been in need of a tweaking since our move and Little Bear's arrival. (In other words almost two years now!) When I'm tackling a project of this size (in that, there's a lot to consider) I like to break it down into sensible steps.

So ...

1. Figure out what needs to be done daily to keep everyone clean, fed and happy. Write it all down - from waking up through lights out.

2. Go room-by-room and write down all cleaning tasks (the daily and extensive) as well as any issues/projects for each room (repairs, redecorating).

3. Take a good look at our weekly rhythm - what days are quiet? what days are busy? - and give each day a "story." How would I like to see each day play out? Write this down, too.

4. Divide all tasks according to frequency: daily/weekly/monthly/seasonal/annual. Create a master page for each division.

5. Figure out a way to keep these tasks visible and on track - I like to check things off as I go. Make it a printable of some kind.

🌞

 In the photo above you see my first step is underway; I'm thinking about my day - how it unfolds and what should be done. To the side of my list I'm jotting down thoughts - what would make these activities easier to accomplish? How could I make my day go more smoothly? (Ex. Use a pink sponge for the high chair so it's easier to keep separate from general sponges. Keep daily agenda and devotional in basket by bed for early mornings, etc.)

*I drew the sun just for fun!*

So that's where I'm at now! I'm hoping to have my whole day "tasked out" by the end of this day and perhaps start working on that room-by-room chore list tomorrow ...  

Now, I don't mean to imply I'm doing anything original or particularly inspiring - I'm sure you've all done things like this before - but I know so many of you (happily for me!) love to talk about housekeeping, I just wanted to share. :)

But I'll keep you all posted!

Have a wonderful Wednesday, my friends ...


January Journal Work

January journal 4

Happy Tuesday, my friends! Hope your week's going well ...

So yesterday, as the snow blew and blustered outside - and while the baby napped - I got around to a little domestic paperwork. It being February, I pulled last month's journal pages from my binder and filed them in my Yearbook binder behind the January tab.

I then sat down with a piece of paper and some sticky notes (and a cup of cocoa!) to do some indexing and I thought I'd share with you what I wrote down ... it might give you an idea of the kinds of things I "journal" about and also, some of my deep winter "thoughts and themes" might strike a cord with you! :)

The whole process took me about 30 minutes. I flipped through the journal pages and read over each notation/clipping. If it was something I would want to remember (or return to) I jotted it down on a loose-leaf "index page." (Which would later be added to my Jan-Feb binder.)  If it was something I needed to act on soon or record on another list, I jotted it down on a sticky note ...

So, first, here's a look at my January Journaling:

* spiced white hot chocolate (crockpot)

* first bird of the year (robin)

* blessed chalk handed out at Mass on Jan. 1st

* picked up liturgical wall calendar at Mass

* color of the year announced ("marsala" by Pantone, "guilford green" by Benjamin Moore)

* a scattered list of Jan-Feb themes to incorporate into the season ... (ex. winter citrus, birthday joy, hand-written letters, Burns Night dinner, seed catalogs, snow days, candles/warmth ...)

* book idea: "A Few Nice Things for New Year's Day" ~ a first family walk, first bird, first sunrise, happy jar, pic-a-day, thank you notes, Christmas card review, old-fashioned movies & popcorn, roast dinner ...)

* in the MSL D/J issue: leftover eggnog latte recipe, citrus-spice candle craft

* Jenney C.'s almond milk-gingerbread latte (FB)

* Twelfth Night - beer-braised beef & parsnip stew

* Little Christmas/Three Kings Day 

* Tasha Tudor Museum Newsletter (order back issues)

* craft: wintery jar-candle centerpiece (twine/yarn around ball jar rims, red candles, set in vintage metal cake pan, greenery/berries/pinecones around the jars)

* Downton Abbey "manners guru" interview

* lemon curd recipe for scones (Boston Globe Magazine)

* aggressive coyote noted in neighboring town

* little notes on Little Bear's words and actions

* spied a weasel on next road over

* Boston is the US 2024 Olympic bid!

* "Winter was a time of some leisure on the farm." (quote from Yankee Magazine article)

* book theme idea: "Winter Cheer"

* observed a large flock of robins by library in next town

* spotted a large hawk in tree by mailbox

* heard a woodpecker knocking in woods

* Patriots are going to the Superbowl!!!

* tag-team scribbles by Earlybird and Little Bear

* purple Ball jars idea - Lent, Advent Garden (solar lantern lids)

* Feast of St. Agnes ~ snowflake cake (white with apricot jam)

* National Hot Tea Month

* "Skills Every Child Needs" from Parents Magazine (social graces)

* football-shaped snack ideas (People Magazine)

* National Handwriting Day

* "A Blizzard of Historic Proportions"

* National Catholic Schools Week (1/25-1/31) ~ post idea: how do we weave our Faith into our homeschool/home life? 

* craft idea: paper chain with links for each day in holiday/seasonal papers

* Superbowl goodies (craft/recipe ideas)

* Downton Abbey TV Guide cover

  January journal 3

I filled four sticky-notes with items that need more immediate action:

* info. re ~ a dermatologist to give to Bill

* lesson ideas re ~ American Tall Tales (listening to these with EB) - logging, map of forests in US, tree types, where do legends originate (map), Niagara trip?

* Holy Week Cleaning outline

* Wall-a-Week Cleaning schedule

* summer project: cooking lessons with boys (per BW's request)

* for EB's portfolio - Popular Mechanics for Kids dvd, "Mom, did you know pollution is bad? It comes from cars and buildings ... and it's really bad."

* Ask Magazine, Feb. issue: Fire (Candlemas/February learning theme)

* passwords created recently to record in binder

* a friend's birthday to add to calendar

* weekly news quiz in Globe (for Crackerjack)

* meal rotation idea (4 meals x 7 days = 28 meals/month)

* craft binder - monthly bunting, a "mama" smock for seasons and storytelling

* pick up a beef pie from local farm (per BW's request)

* Great Zoo of China - a book to check out at library (for BW)

*

So now my main binder has just a couple of journal pages so far ... but I'm sure by the end of February it will be filled up once again!

January journal 2

Now, before I go I want to show you this particular clipping (above) that I added to my January journal ... it's from a Paper Source catalog and I just set up this very set of chalkboard squares (rectangles, really) on my kitchen wall! I can't wait to show you how I'm using them ... they look fantastic! I'll tell you more in my next post. :)

Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


More Q & A: Magazines!

Happy Weekend, my friends ...

Magazines 1

Several posts back there was some conversation about magazines and folks wondering what I read and if we might talk a bit about magazines in general ...

And of course, I'd love to! But let me start with some questions for you, all:

1. Firstly, what magazines do you read? What are your regulars - those not to be missed? And what magazines do you splurge on when you have a little extra pin money to spend on yourself? 

2. Do you subscribe or pick them up at the newsstand/supermarket?

3. How do you organize your magazines - where do you keep them, where do you read them and when finished, do you store or recycle them?

*❤*

I have loved magazines since I was a kid. There was Teen and Young Miss (and occasionally, ahem, Tiger Beat) and then the "creme de la creme" ... Seventeen. Oh, how I loved that one especially. Back in the 80s they still ran domestic features about holiday parties, craft projects and recipes. And the back-to-school issue was THE best of the year. It was my favorite thing to read ... and I wasn't 17 until 1988, mind you, but my mother allowed it because back then teen magazines were more innocent than they are nowadays. (Or so I suspect ...) I started reading my mother's magazines, too ... I was reading Better Homes & Gardens and (our favorite) Country Living in high school and dreaming of the day I'd run my own home.

Fast-forward a whole lot of years and I still adore magazines. I love the pictures, the articles, and even the ads - as long as they're not perfumed! I have many "favorites" that I read each month, and I keep them in a neat pile (in a certain order, of course) and read through them one at a time. I keep a magazine at my workspace and flip through as I can through the day - clipping items of interest as I go. (The things I clip I add to my domestic journal as we've discussed  - or save in a file for future use.) If there's an article I want to read fully, I set it aside for when I have more time.

Here is my list of current mags - I'd love to hear about yours! 

  • Victoria
  • Martha Stewart Living
  • Real Simple
  • British Country Living
  • (American) Country Living
  • Yankee
  • Everyday with Rachel Ray
  • The Food Network Magazine
  • Woman's Day
  • Family Circle
  • Better Homes & Gardens
  • Taste of Home
  • Parents
  • Family Fun
  • Mary Jane's Farm
  • LandLove and Landscape (on occasion)
  • Babybug :)

Magazines I miss: Everyday Food, The Baking Sheet, Country Home, Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion, Faith & Family, Living Crafts, MS Kids

I try to subscribe when I can because it's much more economical and convenient. A few of the British magazines I like (including the occasional Jamie) I can order though this website. They're excellent - reasonable and quick! Sometimes, if I have a gift card or if it's "Educator Appreciation Week," I might pop into Barnes & Noble and indulge in a few magazines I don't usually buy ... Green Parent (UK), Mollie Makes, Artful Blogging, Organic Gardening, Romantic Home, Where Women Work/Cook ...

I keep them in the library - it had been on an end table but they've since been moved to the edge of my writing desk now that Little Bear's reach has expanded. I have other things I add to the top of my pile - the local weekly paper, a few Sunday Globe inserts, People (shared with my mum) and Entertainment Weekly (shared with Bookworm) as well as Time (shared with Bill and the boys) and my parish bulletin. The Boston Parents Paper (a freebie I pick up at the market), my WGBH Program Guide (PBS shows), and any new catalogs go here too. I do also receive Vanity Fair and Town & Country, but I don't care much for them - I got them as freebies when I subscribed to something else.

Oh! And one magazine I never clip is Martha Stewart Living - I have every issue going back to her first publication!

 *** 

Well, I'm sure there is more I could say about magazines, but I'll leave it here for now. This was probably more than you ever needed to know about my magazine habit, lol! Anyhoo, if you'd like to join the conversation, please leave a comment below. :)

Speaking of conversation, there's some great stuff happening in the comments box from my last post. I just LOVE that so many of my dear readers are happy to jump in and share their own styles and suggestions. I wish I could make the sharing part easier, but I don't know that Typepad has a different format for comments. But please, check that thread out if you have a chance ... we're gearing up for a big post on household routines.

:)

Well, my friends - I must be off, as my (younger) boys will be rising soon. It's quite early here and still dark outside my windows ... the wind's been howling and I can see it's lightly snowing ... time for another cup of coffee in my sweet squirrel mug!

Squirrel mug 1

❤

See you here again very soon ...


More Q & A: homeschool planning?

Lesson planning 11

Continuing on with our Q&A series, a few ladies asked about my homeschool planning methods, so I thought I'd tackle that subject today. :)

From Leah:

How do/did you give your boys their assignments? Did they each have a planner or did you print out assignment sheets? Or, did they just do the "next thing" in the curriculum? How did you keep track of your side of it (read-alouds, projects, etc.) or is that part of that FCS cover sheet?

From Helena:

How/where do you plan out your homeschooling? I don't mean the outside classes you have scheduled, but the lessons you do at home.

From Tanya

Meant to ask you where you keep your home learning plans? Are they in your planner or do you have a specific place where you lay out what subjects you want to study and then specifically how you will study them? 

As you might expect, over the past 15 years of homeschooling, I've used all kinds of methods for managing home lessons - in planning them, assigning them, reviewing them, etc. I've used separate planners (both commercial and homemade) and I've worked the plans into my file folders, and/or my main planner. Each year was a bit different depending on what we were using for curriculum. What I can do here is tell you about what I do now ...

These days, Bookworm is at college and Crackerjack takes several outside-the-home classes (in small groups of homeschool peers). I don't have a hand in those assignments but I am in charge of overseeing his schedule and how he manages his workload. (We also decide together which classes mesh with our goals.) Math, Religion, and Geography/World Events are home-taught. (He is also enrolled in monthly Confirmation prep at our church.)

With Earlybird (who is developmentally delayed), I'm basically designing my own curriculum - using a few workbooks and a wide variety of educational materials. We rely on his interests and simple activities - immersing ourselves in (hopefully) memorable experiences that involve his head, hands and heart. It is child-led learning, but not too unschoolish, for lack of a better word - I need a real plan to work around, but I gave up scheduling assignments firmly a long time ago.

I usually do my lesson planning over the weekend, though I'm trying to work it into my Fridays instead. It would be much more efficient if I could. But whenever I do it, I begin in the dining room where I pretty much take over the whole table, lol. Holidays and Summer aside, it looks like this pretty much all year:

Lesson planning 12

I know not everyone can - or wants to - use their dining table in this way, but it works for me. I am a visual person so I like to have piles of books that are grouped by theme/lesson. It helps me focus and organize ideas. I keep even more books in nearby tote bags, including my own general "teacher" resources, as well as Crackerjack's books and notebooks ...

Lesson planning 3

This table displays periodicals and seasonal books ... this is done mostly for me. :)

Lesson planning 21

I start the planning "process" by first making a hot cup of tea ... moving the cat off my chair ... retrieving a pencil from the toddler ... neatening the table ... and pruning those book piles. Some books go back to the library bag (or storage downstairs), once I've made note of them in our portfolio. Actually, "portfolio" is probably too formal a word for what I'm keeping right now, but at the end of the year I hope it applies!

Next, I open up my planner and fill in our agenda for the week ahead:

What classes/activities/appts. do we have?

What things do we need to turn in or remember to bring?

Are there library holds in or books due?

What days are of note? Will we work them into our home learning?

(This week we have - Grandma Barbara's birthday, National Chocolate Cake Day, St. Thomas Aquinas, National Carnation Day, Days of the Blackbird, St. Brigid's Day, February begins, Parish Breakfast, The Superbowl)

What's the weather looking like this week?

Anything special happening at Church?

I then have Crackerjack sit with me (or he stands beside me, eager to get back to whatever he was doing) while we go over his work for the week. His classes were a bit overwhelming last semester, so he came up with an idea to make himself an assignment board. I thought it was a great idea and left it entirely up to him to create and maintain. He found an old white board downstairs and unearthed a dry erase marker (which we mostly hide because EB does bad things with them) and set this up ...

Lesson planning 7

I transfer CJ's assignments to my own grid ...

Lesson planning 20

(As you can see, I didn't retrieve that pencil from the toddler quickly enough!)

 The top side of this sheet is for Crackerjack and the back side (seen below) is for Earlybird. I'd been writing these notes rather randomly, but have decided to keep formal weekly lesson planning in a new section of my journal binder. (One of the reasons I love doing these Q&A posts is it gets me to assess what I'm not doing well!) This is just a trimmed down piece of legal pad paper - I like how the yellow paper stands out.

(I will post more about this new journal section later this week, but here it is pictured below.)

Lesson planning 8

Also, the index card seen on CJ's  planning page is another "system" I've used from time-to-time: daily task cards. I'm giving it another go to see if I can get us back on a steady track. (The holidays kind of derailed us ...) These cards, as their name implies, are for assigning daily lessons and other tasks ...

Lesson planning 6

 I have a little plastic basket that fits index cards perfectly and I have one per day per child. Right now, though, I'm just using this system with Crackerjack. Each day Crackerjack gets a card that details what he needs to remember to do - like, put out trash, finalize art project, complete math lesson, fill birdfeeders, pray for a specific intention, etc. We have this neat little photo holder from Disney World and it holds the card of the day perfectly - CJ keeps it next to his computer in the living room. 

Ok, back to the planning ...

I then look through my in-basket, book piles and journal pages for things to record:

Videos watched - lately it's been Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, Liberty's Kids, and Popular Mechanics for Kids.

Magazines read - Skywatch, Highlights, Trains, and The Baker's Catalog.

Books read/chapters listened to - currently we are reading Little House in the Big Woods and we are LOVING it. It's the perfect book to listen to at this time of year.

Any papers done, printed out, drawn/colored ...

Any things EB said or did that demonstrated a new skill or comprehension, independence, his sweet sense of humor, etc. I'm usually jotting those things down in my daily journal.

As I plan for Earlybird, I don't use a subject grid like I do for Crackerjack (though I'm trying to come up with a life skills goal sheet that would be a bit more formal). Rather, I brainstorm miscellaneous ideas for the week ahead ...

Lesson planning 22

Here's a closer look in case anyone is curious ... :) 

Lesson planning 18

Then each day I decide what might be a good fit for us (for him). I make sure my book requests are made at the library (it usually only takes a day or two to get them in) and I make note of any materials I need to pick up at the store. (Seems we'll be doing some baking this week!)

(Note, we've just learned a blizzard of "potentially historic" proportions is heading our way for Tuesday. So, first of all, YIKES - but second of all, this would be a perfect opportunity to look at the science of snowstorms and research record snows in New England ... so I've added these notes to my list.)

So it's not all that organized, and there's certainly no guarantee we'll get all of it (or even most of it) done ... but it's been working pretty well for us this year. I just need to remember to sit down periodically and revisit the overall goals I made for the year, and see which areas need attention. For instance, EB listens and comprehends literature quite well - if I have him "trapped" in the van, lol. At home, he's more "free-ranging" so I try to catch his attention when I can. He can be very resistant to seatwork so I struggle between making allowances for what are legitimate issues and pushing him a little ... do I make him get used to it or will it make him hate it even more?

That, however, is probably a post for another time: How do we work with our special needs children at home? How do we make learning enjoyable for children who struggle with rigidity and extreme sensory issues? And still make progress? Idea-sharing would be wonderful!

***

Well, ok then - I think I'd best wrap up or I'll never hit "post," lol. I am sure I left a lot unsaid - which seems crazy after this mammoth post, but I could have talked more about planning a year in advance (generally speaking), keeping track of progress (weekly/monthly) and other assessment/review methods ... mind you, just the way I've done it! Not as a "how to" guide by any stretch of the imagination. I may be a "veteran" homeschooler, but I'm still figuring things out as I go along!

Also, before I forget, I wanted to mention two other post ideas that were suggested to me by my friends Shirley Ann and Emma. I have these in queue as well ...

* How do we keep our Sundays special, for our families and ourselves?

* How do we find time and create space in our daily routine for quiet contemplation, personal prayer and spiritual goals?

*

Thank you you all so much for joining me today ... I'd love to hear about your lesson planning methods if you'd care to share. If you have a moment, please leave a comment below. :)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friends. If you're in the path of nasty weather - hold tight and stay safe! I'll see you here again very soon ...


More Q & A: Storing Seasonal Ideas

Binder love 1

Hello, friends and a Good Wednesday, to all!

I have a great journal question from Emma today:

Hello, Dawn ... If you find a craft idea or recipe for, say St. Patrick's day in mid-January, do you glue it in your daily clip book now and then file it away to use for March? Or, does it stay in your darling book and you read back to find it later? I truly love these posts! Sincerely, Emma

 Oh, Emma, one of my favorite things to discuss: finding and saving (with hopes of using) seasonal ideas! Thank you for your kinds words - I am so glad you are enjoying these posts. :)

Now, I must be perfectly honest and first say that, although I am quite diligent about the finding of information - information junkie, right here! - I'm not always so organized about the storage (and retrieval) part of the equation. My problem is that - as I've confessed previously - as much as I love adding stuff to my journal, I'm a bit loosey-goosey about the endgame procedure. I do read back over my journals quite often, but the indexing of information does not happen as consistently as it should.

So you've inspired me, Emma! I am going to get better at this, starting now. I'm thinking of our recent conversations when I say: my journals are beautiful to me, but they should be useful, too! :) I recently re-vamped my seasonal planning binders (shown above) and re-ordered their insides a bit ... added new tabs and weeded through the miscellaneous (messy) papers and whatnot. I will go into greater detail about all this in my (forthcoming) "Binder Breakdown" post ... but here's a glance at my "Deep Winter" planning binder:

Journal binder 3

The front cover features a January inspiration page ...

Journal binder 5

... while the backside shows February's page.

(These are the decorative monthly pages I made when creating my binder - but ended up leaving out, lest the planner become too bulky.)

Also Emma, you inspired me to bring my old journals out of storage - because I am going to go back through them, one season at a time, and find all that "saved" information! I have not looked at my old journals since we moved here (two years ago this summer); as of now, they are in storage boxes in the garage. So I went down there yesterday and picked out the ones that are timely for Winter and will start combing through them ...

Journal binder 2

Here are a few ... I can't wait to dig in and revisit all those Winters from years ago!

(Note: These small books are quite different from the large Yearbook system I use now! But for many years I used these basic little notebooks and was perfectly happy with them. I would choose a patterned paper for the cover and then I'd tape my Mary Engelbreit daily calendar page on top to denote the start date. Lastly, I'd add a pretty ribbon as a pagefinder. There was usually a couple of months' worth of journaling in each notebook, but I could never write past the mid-point because they'd get too bulky from all the clippings! And this is why I moved on to the loose-leaf system I use now.)

Oh, and speaking of pretty journals, I want to share a link with you all for Shirley Ann's lovely blog, Under an English Sky, where recently she shared a bit about her own domestic daybook.  Our journaling style is very similar, and what a pleasure it is to be on the same page - so to speak - with Shirley! Today's snow pictures are not to miss, either ... :)

But to get back to your question, Emma - in the scenario you described, what I would do (ideally) is add that St. Patrick Day craft or recipe to the journal and then make a note of the idea in my seasonal planner (Early Spring: March-April) index. If the idea was not suitable for my journal I would add it directly to the planning binder OR to the Food binder under "Seasonal." (I currently have hanging folders with recipes that need to be sorted this way!) I don't keep seasonal recipes in my seasonal planning binders, simply because there are too many of them!

So here are a few examples ... these are pages from last year's journal (now stored away in my 2014 Yearbook):

Journal binder 7

On this page there is a moisturizing soap craft that I thought would be nice for the wintertime - the sweet almond fragrance, the dry winter skin issue ... I'd add that to the Crafts/Activities tab. (With a note to dry marigold petals next summer!)

Journal binder 8

This shows a cute plastic cup snow-globe craft. I'd also note this in the Crafts/Activities tab.

Journal binder 10

 Above is shown a baked grapefruit donut recipe - which sounds perfect for citrus season! I'd note this in the Food tab.

And here's one last example, because I just added this one today:

Purple jars in journal

These gorgeous purple Ball jars ... oh, MY! My lovely friend Tanya linked them for me on my Facebook page because we share a love of Mason jars, and immediately we thought of how they might work nicely in Lenten (or Advent) crafts and activities ... Friends chimed in - Mary Ellen, Jennifer and Donna (who also linked solar-lantern lids which make the whole thing EVEN more intriguing!) - and we all oohed and aahed together ...

So that I would remember this - not just the jars, but the fun, friendly interchange too - I opened the image in a new tab, printed it out, cut it out, and added it to today's journal page. It's a fond memory and a potential activity at the same time!

So what I will do is this - I will make note of this product/potential ideas in my Early Spring binder (under the Lent tab) and the Late Autumn binder (under the Advent tab). I will also add "order ball jars" to my "to-do list" because they are already sold out at Amazon and I feel they might be difficult to find elsewhere!

*** 

Well!

As usual, I have gone on long enough, I think! But I hope this rambly post answered your question, Emma - please let me know if I can describe things more clearly. It really isn't a perfect "system" at all, but I do enjoy it and hope to make it work better for me with a little time and effort!

:)

Enjoy your evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon! 


More Q & A: journal vs. planner?

 Hello, my friends ~ how's your weekend going? It's a nice Saturday here - bright, sunny and cold. Look what I put up in our kitchen window this morning:

Carnations in window 1

A whole bunch of pretty white carnations - a January tradition in our house! Next week we'll add drops of food dye to the water and see how the petals change color ...

:)

Now, before I launch into the actual Q & A, I first want to say that I am doing these posts as a way of clarifying things I've mentioned previously but have perhaps not been clear (always a risk when one's as wordy as I am!) and to open up a discussion with other like-minded people. And obviously to answer specific questions! What I don't mean to imply - in any way at all - is that I'm some sort of all-knowing expert on journals and journaling or planners and planning!

*grimaces just thinking about that misperception*

Ok, hardly! Lol. It's just that I focus a lot of time and energy on this topic and I absolutely LOVE comparing notes, thinking out loud, and hearing how others do things ... I find your comments so interesting and insightful! And I'm thrilled when readers connect here and help each other out. Please always feel free to jump in and chat! And of course I always love more questions ...

So today's journal/planner question is from Amy and it concerns both journal and planner:

I have a new question. Maybe someday you will have time to answer it. And of course we would love a post about mothers, and time! I'd write it myself if I had the time, lol!

Q: How do you use this domestic journal separate from your weekly planner? Is it not redundant, in a way?

Journal vs planner 1

Amy, I really love this question because it's one I mull over myself sometimes. I'm always trying to reign myself in and simplify things ... because I tend to create more tools than I probably need. But the short answer is Yes, the journal and planner are a bit redundant ... in some ways. But they each serve a unique purpose and I could not do without one or the other!

Now for the long answer ...

The journal is free-form and fluid ... a continuous stream of thought. It's filled with wordy blurbs I wouldn't put in my planner (nature notes, family memories, lesson ideas) and clippings of all kinds. It's a bit messy to be sure - but for me, that kind of adds to the charm. :)

Journal page

With the journal I get to unload all the thoughts and ideas and observations that cross my brain throughout the day. They are usually seasonal or timely in some way. I add bits of magazines, newpapers, ticket stubs and other random memorablia. It lets me be creative and a bit "artsy" (if quite humbly so) and when I look back at it (even years later) it brings me SUCH joy. I get a real feel for the time in which it was written - the season, the year and where we were in those days as a family. Reading about the things that mattered then and the things the boys were doing is a gift. I never worry about my journal being "perfect" because its very imperfection makes it precious.

On the other hand, the planner is more formal, with more of a framework, and its pages are all assigned a date. With the planner, I get a grasp on what's happening when, where we're going, when we're home, what's important or special this week and what my family needs from me. If Crackerjack tells me he needs a stick of butter for Spanish class on Thursday (lol, true story), I write it in the planner - because on Thursday I'll be reviewing that agenda. I could write that in the journal because it's a neat remembrance, but it would have far less chance of being remembered when it's needed!

This new planner I made with a bit more flourish - space for doodles and quotes, for instance - but that's just because I'm hoping it might help me write that book I have in mind. And also, because when I think of the "perfect" planner, should one exist, each week's page would have a very seasonal and personal feel. The trick though is to keep it clean and not too cluttered. It's a tough balance. I've toyed with the idea of using colored pens as many people do ... but I can't break away from the pencil habit.

I keep both the journal and planner on my workspace at all times and my workspace is usually my kitchen counter. It's a comfort to me to have them both in the open in this way so I can work easily in one or the other - or both!

Amy, I feel like I talked in circles a bit, so if I can clarify further, please let me know. I am typing this up while Little Bear naps and he's making little snuffly noises so my "free" time is coming to an end. Thank you for asking your question and for your contribution to this ongoing conversation ... I look forward to chatting more!

My friends, enjoy your Saturday evening ... my boys are "making me" watch Toy Story 3, lol - because I've actually never seen it and "that just won't do." ;) Sounds good to me ... homemade pizzas are in the oven and I have a salad to toss, so I'll be off!

See you here again very soon!


Journal/Planner Q & A ...

Journal workspace 7

Hello, my friends ... I hope this post finds you well! A few people had questions about my domestic journal and homemade planner, so I'd like to answer what I can today. Journal junkies and Planner people - this post is for you! Everyone else ... well, I hope you enjoy, too!

(Even if it's not your cup of tea.)

:)

First, from Kristie:

Do you like having it in your binder rather than a separate notebook?

I do! It's quite convenient to transfer completed sections to a storage binder and work with a smaller amount of paper, one month at a time. My notebooks would get very bulky and unwieldly by the time they were half-full! Also, I really like this particular paper for writing so it's a joy to "scribble" on.

Do you write to-do lists and shopping lists in here or do they go in another spot?

I keep daily to-do lists here (more about them below) and while I might jot down a quick shopping note - I keep my shopping list separate from the journal. I'd like to talk about shopping lists in a future post because I'm forever moving mine around.

And are you using all those different binders you once blogged about as well?

I am, and I'm putting together a post about them for later this week. (Or let's face it, as soon as I can get them up! Me and my promised posts, lol.) 

Do you work on your journal in little bits through the day or spend one big block of time putting in clippings?

I'll get more into this in Amy's question next, but it's a little of both. Ideally I would just work in it throughout the day, but sometimes I have to play catch up with my clippings! I try to keep up with them though, since they are quite timely/seasonal.

Do you take your binder out with you at all?

No, I don't. I leave it at home on the kitchen counter at all times - unless we are having a party in which case it all gets folded up and put aside somewhere until life returns to normal. :)

Do you think I can come up with any more questions?!?

Well if you do, Kristie, you are welcome to ask them! I love doing Q & A. :)

***

From Amy:

How... How? Can you tell me how and when you have time to do this? I am not asking this in a snarky way, not at all. When do you find time to organize, write lists, cut and glue things...? I love it! I want to do it! I would if I could. When do you get these moments? I don't have time to scrapbook usually, I don't have time to blog anymore, I barely have time for a decade or two of the rosary... our families are similar: oldest in college, youngest in diapers, I have three more in between, two homeschooling and one of those with sensory processing, it's so similar to autism. I do once in a while find time to write a note on paper to a friend and pop it in the mail, but otherwise I don't do Facebook (all my friends are hidden so I only use it for messaging, and not often), I don't do instagram or twitter... I skim just a few blogs throughout the day for encouragement, they are all Catholic, and until this week I wasn't even commenting on any of them. I always have little hands trying to type when this machine is open. People want to draw in my planner - and sometimes I let them. Sorry if this sounds like a lot of complaining, I just really want to find a bit of quiet time for that lovely habit of record keeping, journaling, praying-on-paper etc., and you do it in such a lovely way that I am inspired and hopeful. :)

First of all, Amy - thank you. I am glad you feel inspired when you read here - that is always my hope when I write! And please don't apologize for "complaining" - it's a very realistic question! We have similiar families and time is precious and fleeting. (As is energy.) So as for the how and the when ... well, yes. It can be tricky. And there are days (weeks) when I get very little journaling done. Then I'm playing catch up over the weekend when Bill is home to help with the kids. Journaling might seem like an indulgence, and in a way it is (because I enjoy it so) but I really feel it helps me in so many ways - with the children and the house.

What I do first of all, is to make it casual and convenient. I keep my journal in a central location where I can stand (because who has time to sit?) and do a little entry now and then. Or cut a few things from a magazine or newspaper. The baby might be playing with potatoes at my feet or napping upstairs or sitting in the high chair by my side ...

Journal workspace 6

I have my laptop, current magazines, mail pile, tape dispenser and scissors here as well as my planner and favorite pencils. It's all right smack dab in the middle of the kitchen - I've staked a claim on the "jetty" counter as we call it. (It's not quite an island, more of a peninsula.) The idea of sitting down at a quiet desk in the living room, sounds lovely and very "Jane Austen," but not realistic for me. Because the moment I sit down, A. someone needs me and, B. I lose all focus, lol. That's not to say I don't sometimes relish spreading out at one end of the dining room table when Bill is minding the boys ... then I can immerse myself in my domestic journal and focus on what's been going on in my life and the "world" around me ...

My journaling style is quick and efficient. I grab the pencil and write the date when I first wake up, wherever I left off on the open page. I make a quck note about weather and how the day is significant and then I just go about my business. If something comes up I want to journal about I just get it in there as soon as I can and as neatly as I can but I don't fuss over it. Today I added the label from the bakery box where Bill bought my birthday cake last night, a snippet from our newspaper about "Pet of the Week" entries, a note re ~ a new binder theme, something neat EB said this morning as we listened to Little House in the Big Woods and a note re thank-you's to send out asap. None of this was done slowly or with the finest of penmanship. Just quick scribbles - but they've been "caught," as I like to say.

And somehow in this way, day after day, page after page gets filled up and pretty soon I have a month full of thoughts and remembrances. They're not always profound or super pretty but they are authentic and pleasing to me. :)

Hope that helps a bit! We can talk more about "finding time" in a future post if you'd like. I think it's something mothers really struggle with - some years more than others!

***

From Lisa R: 

Hi Dawn! Like everyone else I love how you share your life at home with us. It is so inspiring! Can you give a close-up picture and explanation of your daily task list that's in the middle of your binder? It's the little marker in the rings. How did you make that? Thanks!

Sure thing, Lisa - and thank you for your kind words! I actually just redesigned that task list-page marker because the old one still corresponded to the chore schedule at our old house. I will do a separate post about the chore schedules themselves (like, what chores are done on which days), but here is where I keep the reminders ...

Journal workspace 3

This is a giant (#12) "craft tag" purchased at my paper store - I liked the look of it! (My old page-finder was just a trimmed piece of thick scrapbook paper. Cardstock or tagboard would work well here, too.) I used a three-hole punch to fit the tage here in the middle of my binder and added some pretty twine as a marker. The washi tape just dressed it up a bit. Across the top is a "Tiny Type" sticker which reads: "Rhythm and harmony will find their way ...".

On one side I keep two (sometimes three) post-it notes. These are lined post-it notes made by 3M. The top one is a daily task checklist - by placing the note on its side, I have a column for each day of the week. On the left side I have listed those everyday actions I must remember to do - meds, cats, dishwasher, sweep, tidy, mail, review, etc. I add a check when that task is completed each day. I started using this to keep track of Earlybird's medications and supplements and found it very helpful in keeping things straight!

The post-it note underneath is for THIS day's to-do's. So I write the date in the corner and then jot down things that must be done today. (Not tomorrow or sometime this week.) Things like, "launder crib bedding," "mail a check to X," or "proofread CJ's paper." I often have a second post-it note for tomorrow going so I can jot things down as I they come up.

Now, on the other side of this tag is the weekly routine ...

Journal workspace 4

I put this together rather hurriedly so I may tweak it further. I just used some label stickers to write out the chore routine for the days of the week. I'm still struggling with that weekly routine and finding time to keep up with my (newish) household!

From Coral:

Hi Dawn, I love this post on your domestic notebook. I love this idea and wanted to know what you use to adhere your clippings and so forth to the lined notebook paper. Does glue work nicely? I haven't tried any yet, I do scrapbook but it will be costly for me to use the double sided tape for photos unless I find some cheaper. Just wondering what you use. :) Also, do you use page protectors to enclose some pages like for recipes you clipped? I need to take a class on this. Haha!

Thanks, Coral! I use regular old tape for my journals. I don't think it's acid-free so I'm probably asking for trouble down the road, but I like how quick, easy and efficient it is. I use 1/2" Scotch brand tape (I like the thinner size). I order it in bulk online because for one thing, it's cheaper, and for another, lately I've only seen the 3/4" size at Staples.

As for page protectors, I do not use them, but that's an interesting idea! It wasn't an option before when I kept my journal in a spiral-bound notebook, but ... hmm. I do clip lots of recipes and some of them do end up (taped) in my journal. Any full page or multi-page recipes get filed in my recipe hanging files, but I kind of like the idea of page protector at the end of each month's journal pages holding recipes that correspond with the season. I will have to think on it a bit, Coral - thank you for the suggestion!

From Denise:

New question: I am wondering about your *weekly planning.* How you decide what to focus on; eg. you mention above 1/19-2/25 snowflakes & shortbread. I would think you decide what you want to study on (ie focus on) somewhat by what season we are in. Then, do you have planned activities to go with that theme? Do these correlate with a specific curriculum you use? (I am always interested, since I help homeschool grands.) I would like to do more of this, but am a little lost in what to do! Thanks for any light you can shed!

Hi Denise! First of all, I meant those dates to read 1/19-1/25 (not 2/25) as they refer to one week at a time. Snowflakes and shortbread indicate a potential theme to wrap our crafts/activities/tea/lessons/reading around and they are seasonally inspired. I have wooden snowflakes to paint for St. Agnes on Wednesday and a simple Scottish shortbread to make in honor of Burns' Night on Sunday. I have a (pen-and-paper) spreadsheet of the 52 weeks of the year and each one is assigned this kind of theme. (I'm working on filling them all in - some are more readily apparent than others!) They will provide a framework for Little Bear's eventual curriculum which will be very nature/seasons-inspired. There will be simple crafts and activities, "teatimes," nature walks and storytimes. This will be a culmination of things I did with the older boys as they grew. :)

Well my friends, I'd best wrap this post up now as it has gone on rather long! I hope it wasn't too boring ... I know I can get carried away when talking about certain subjects! ;)

Please let me know if any other journal or planner questions come up - I'll be happy to address them. In the meantime, look for the next few posts to cover housekeeping binders, rhythm & routine, and desk areas. I have drafts in queue and work on them every chance I get - which, admittedly is not as often as it once was, but I do try my best!

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


My 2014 Domestic Journal

Well, I've called it a lot of things over the years - my clippings journal, my hodgepodge book, my commonplace book, my brain dump, lol - but whatever its name, the thing itself remains the same: a notebook in which I keep the bits and bobs of my everyday life. Any little thing that comes to mind or catches my eye. Thoughts, ideas, observations ... magazine and newspaper clippings, movie ticket stubs, a post-it note from a friend. It's almost like a very (very) low-tech Pinterest ... only without all the links and efficiency. :)

I've been keeping these journals for years and years, and usually they were kept in spiral-bound notebooks. Lately though, I've taken to using loose-leaf paper and transferring completed pages (after a month's time) to a large storage binder, which I've entitled, "Yearbook."

Domestic journal 9 

(I'm all about naming things these days, aren't I?)

So I keep the current month's pages in my everyday binder, which is kept open on my kitchen counter so I may write in it easily throughout the day. The plan is that at the end of the week I read back over my entries to see if there's anything to follow up on or file away ... and at the end of the month, I file the pages into the storage binder, behind a monthly tab. This is the plan anyway, it doesn't always work out that way! Case in point, I'm still going back over and indexing last year's journal ...

Some of you have seen this before, and some of you have something similar of your own (and some of you are bored silly by this very topic, lol!), but I share this in case it gives someone some journaling inspiration. I know a lot of folks' New Years begin with a goal to write more! Of course, journaling can be much lovelier than this, but this is what works for me. If I were to make it "lovelier" and use a very special book and write carefully and slowly and as prettily as I could, well, I'd just never do it. Plain and simple. Instead, I keep it super casual and fliud so there's no real pressure ... just an open page where I can throw down my thoughts everyday. And what comes of it is very satisfying to me and I like to think someday, someone in my family might get a kick out of reading about my very "domestic" days.

So for those who are curious and/or new readers, here's a peek at some of the pages from my 2014 Yearbook: 

Domestic journal 1

 A January page-spread has some magazine clippings I liked - things that said "winter" to me, as well as a craft project idea and a few notes about the weather, a family dinner, and current events.

Domestic journal 2

A February page spread has snippets about upcoming tv shows, winter vegetables, a page from my Downton calendar (a recipe for Apple Charlotte) and a post-it note with some (meaningful) scribbles (done on his own, when no one was looking).

Domestic journal 3

March pages inlcude yet more weather notes, a lovely quote, snippets from magazines about local events to attend someday, and a jaunty Calendar page (Mary Englebreit).

Domestic journal 5

These pages from the summer were taken from a magazine that caught my eye - love the decorating style here!

Domestic journal 6

Early September - learning notes and lesson ideas, autumn party tips, recipes, a couple of things Earlybird said, a blog post idea, a post-it note from a homeschool class.

Domestic journal 7

More seasonal recipes and notes from early May - rhubarb and herby things - a note about one of the children having a dry throat. (I erased names in these pictures for privacy, but the note was referring to Bookworm who was about to begin final exams!)

Domestic journal 11

And finally, above is my current journal page, shown here in my active planning binder, open on my kitchen counter as we "speak." There are magazing clippings (a bit of after-Christmas inspiration), notes about the weather (of course!), a bird sighting, lesson ideas re ~ American tall tales, and an organizing idea from a catalog. In the middle of the spread is a page-marker which lists my weekly cleaning schedule (what to clean Monday, and so forth) and a post-it-note where I check off routine daily tasks such as feed cats/give meds/get mail/tidy/review/pray (with a column for each day of the week). Behind the journal section are my month-at-a-glance calendars and some more tabs that have yet to be labeled.

And there you have it! 

This morning I've written notes about the bitter cold (16 degrees!), a new show on the Smithsonian Channel to check out (Million Dollar Princesses - hosted by "Cora Grantham" from Downton Abbey), a warning about local coyotes, and a cute thing Little Bear did this morning (grabbed Earlybird's jacket and ran after him calling, "La! La!" which is what he calls EB.).

So there's a little of this, a little of that ... and it's so good to get things out of my head and down on paper ... nice also, to go back later on and read "what was what" at that time in my life. :)

Now, before I go, I wanted to mention that Friday (Jan. 9th) is "National Clean Off Your Desk Day" which I think is a great idea at this time of year! I plan to take the next couple of days to work on my desk area in the living room and then I will post about it over the weekend. I hope you will join me!

Enjoy your Wednesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


My 2015 Planner (Living the Seasons)

Planner 4

Happy Weekend, my friends!

In tonight's post I am finally going to show you my newly made weekly planner, and in a follow-up post I will show you the rest of my planning tools and how the new planner will (hopefully) fit into the overall planning repertoire. Such as it is.

(This post is about planning in case you weren't sure, lol.)

Planner 3

But to be honest, I'm a bit shy about showing you now, because it's really a very simple thing. Like, super simple. It is though, all hand-drawn because ... well, I'm just that persnickity. And so it took me a bit longer than usual to pull it all together. And if the hand-drawing part wasn't enough, I also have a toddler in the house ... and a few more boys plus a husband ... and a couple of cats ... and there was that little thing called Christmas that happened ... ;)

Anyhoo! It's a weekly planner - because I really look at my time in increments of *this week* and all that applies to that framework of time. How busy will we be? When are we in/when are we out? What special events are we noting/observing/celebrating perhaps? What will our Sunday dinner be? What learning themes are we working around? What's happening at Church this week? What household projects am I tackling?

And now for the breakdown ...

Planner 6

1. Planner Covera pretty piece of scrapbook paper seen above, plain and simple. (I've since attached a label as seen in the top photos.) I declined the plastic cover sheet offered by Staples when I had the binding done, just as I always do. "But it's free," the Staples associate said, eyebrows raised. Well, that plastic just doesn't sit right with me, so I guess I'll have to take my chances.

Planner 2

2. Planner Paper: Ok, bear with me now ... I used all Staples-brand, loose-leaf, college-ruled paper. (I told you this was nothing fancy!) I have been journaling on this particular paper for a long time and it just feels good when I write on it. (Paper-and-pen enthusiasts will know what I mean.) It's very smooth, the lines are light and I'm very comfortable with it, so when I was getting my planner started I thought, why not use my regular ol' loose-leaf? So what if there are holes along the edges? I can overlook that. (I'm pretty sure.) And it took the coil binding just fine.

Planner 1

3. Title Page: "Living the Seasons ~ at Home * in Nature * with Faith ~ a weekly planner for 2015" Now, I've never named my planner before, but as I've mentioned, I'm trying to planning to going to write a book this year and I'm hoping this planner will provide something of an outline for my writing.

(You see how simple this all is? Just regular pencil on everyday paper ... I was tempted to try using colored pens or pencils ... maybe washi tape ... and get a little more creative with it, but I held off. I hope I will add my own random flourishes through the seasons as inspiration strikes.)

4. Emergency and Personal Information - I didn't include a photo of this page for privacy reasons, but this is on the backside of the title page, and includes numbers I need to know and remember (for myself or someone else should they need it). Allergy information, and the like.

Planner 5

5. Months of the Year Overview: (Shown above.) Basically, this is an outline of the major events of the 12 months of the year. Things like birthdays, feast days, Sacraments, full moons, major sporting events (the ones we care about) and daylight savings time, etc.

Planner 18

6. Weeks of the Year Overview: This might seem redundant, but it helps me to see each week listed out this way. It's a two-page spread with one line for each week, Jan-Jun on the left-hand page and Jul-Dec on the right. With this overview I can see at a glance (and maybe underline or highlight in some way) the specific events we will focus on, and this will give shape to my weekly themes. (eg. 1/19-2/25 snowflakes and shortbread)

Planner 12

7. Monthly Appointment Calendars: Because I envision myself taking this planner out and about with me, I'll need these calendars when making appointments at the doctor, dentist, hairdresser, etc.

*By the way, I used an engineering ruler to make all the grids, columns and rows, etc. (My dad is a structural engineer and I've always preferred this style ruler.) It seems like a lot of work - but while it is time-consuming, it's not hard at all. It's actually quite rhythmic.

Planner 13

8. Looking Ahead to 2016: Notes for that year ... any big plans or events or hopes (academic activities, career goals, home/garden projects, travel plans, etc.)

Planner 14

9. Weekly Goals/Routine: An overview of how I wish to use each section in the weekly planning page: of note, theme, suppers, to-do, at home, in nature, with faith, blog, $ log, intentions

Planner 15

10. Around the Home ~ Monthly Projects: I have a monthly cleaning schedule for myself this year - I've divided the house by rooms/zones and assigned walls to weeks. That sounds strange, I know, but I will explain more in a future post. (January is assigned the Master Bedroom and I begin with one wall a week ... hoping to complete the circuit of the house by Christmas, 2015!) I have it typed out on my phone (written during nursing/naptimes!) and will transcribe the schedule here on this page.

Planner 20

11. The Months & Weeks of the Year: And here we are at last at the heart of the planner! Each month has a pretty vintage paper divider (and I might eventually add a tab), a sheet for a monthly letter from myself to ... well, myself, lol. About homey, domestic, garden and parish matters and such. And then there are two planning pages per week which I have shown below ...

*Note: I've already changed this part a bit - instead of that chatty letter, I am using this sheet for general notes for the month. For example, "Visit New England Aquarium" in March and "Attend backyard chickens seminar at local co-op" in April. The "domestic letter" is being moved to another spot ...

The February divider page:

Planner 21

The April divider page (back side) and the April, 2015 domestic letter page:

Planner 8

The weekly planning sheet for Week #14 (March 30 - April 5):

Planner 10

The planning sections I created are: of note (special days/events) * theme (tea/craft) * suppers * to-do * at home * in nature * with faith * blog * $ log * notes * intentions (prayer). (This is the sheet I used to staple to the front of my file folders.)

The week-at-a-glance agenda:

Planner 17

I modeled this planner set-up after a Payne planner I've used off and on through the years - and though I liked it, it always left me wanting something a little more personal. I have space all around for notes and quotes, scribbles and remembrances ... and the space at the bottom of each column is for daily chores and reminders (eg. clean bedrooms (M), clean bathrooms (T), etc.).

The weekly review:

Planner 22

(Sorry this picture isn't so great!) The final page in each week's section is a review page with a section for each of my four boys, where I can jot down notes about their week. Lessons/activities/things they said or did. The college boy's section is the small spot at the bottom since I'll probably have the least to say about him!

(Ok, true confession - I only finished drawing the pages up through May so far. But all the pages and sheets for the rest of the year are bound in there ... they just need a little pencil work and they'll be ready to go. I will get them done soon as I like to plan ahead as much as possible.)

***

Now, the last section of the planner is just an extra bunch of sheets for notes and then at the very back I have a piece of tagboard to make the planner sturdy:

Planner 23

(Fyi, I bought a package of tagboard for a couple of dollars at the Paper Source.)

Here's a look at all the divider pages - each month has such a pretty page with floral/seasonal images on front and then old-fashioned text on the back as seen here ...

Planner 7

 On New Year's Day, I brought my (mostly) done planner to Staples where a very nice associate bound it for me for all of $4. (I always choose coil over comb binding.) It wasn't the first time I had a planner bound here but I am always a little shy about doing so because well, some people just don't get it. Not that anyone's ever said anything to me, but I sometimes wonder what on earth they are thinking as they see all my scribbles and goals and designs. But what was kind of neat was this woman happened to be an avid letter writer (she thought I might be making a journal) who has pen pals all over the world. She said I had given her an idea to have her letters (all hand-written and many pages long) bound in this way, as keepsakes. I was very glad to have given her an idea and support a fellow (sister?) paper-crafter!

(I also left thinking ... could I write and bind my own book ... and then sell it online? Hmmm. Totally getting away from myself now ... and the subject at hand!)

Planner 11 

So there you have it, my friends - everything you ever wanted to know about my new weekly planner - and then some! (Though if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask.) I've only had it a few days, but so far I LOVE IT. The planner lies flat and the paper is smooth and the pages turn comfortably ... it looks and works like a regular spiral-bound notebook, only I hand selected the pages myself. Most of all, I'm hoping it helps me keep up with my busy household while truly savoring the seasons as they pass ... :)

 *❤*

I'll wrap up now - I've kept you so long! But I thank you as always for joining me and wish you all a pleasant evening and a happy Sunday tomorrow. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... and I'll see you here again very soon!


A Little Love for November ❤

Image

Now I'll just say this upfront: I know November can be a hard month to love. The weather is often dreary (even downright lousy) and the sun is growing weaker day by day. The foliage has dimmed and mostly blown away - what's left behind lies all dull and damp on the driveway.

But I must confess I do love November - just as I love every month of the year! There truly is much to enjoy in spite of, or even because of, the weather ...

The landscape has faded but the shades are only more subtle - auburn, brown, pale gold and blue-gray. The sunlight is weak, but soft, as it slants down to earth at that late-in-the-year angle. This change in light sets our primitive clock back - to run at a slower pace and heed nature's rhythm - though we don't always pay it mind. Jack Frost has stolen our gardens away but even the earth needs a good rest - a long winter's nap if you will. It might be a good idea to take our cue from nature and in the lull between now and Christmas, encourage ourselves to slow down and take a breath - as we make quiet preparations for the season ahead.

 So on that rather lengthy note, lol - here are my notes re ~ November "tasks." I typed these out on my phone the other day as I sat with a sleeping Little Bear in my arms ... the wind was howling and leaves were whipping by the window and the heat had come on and there was such a feeling of comfort around us. I let myself love on November a little and brainstorm ways to embrace the season in my home and in my heart.

*❤*

(Please note: I formulated these notes with my own home and family in mind. I don't mean for them to sound like "must-do's" for everyone! But I always like reading other people's seasonal plans, so I thought I'd share.)

*

One of my favorite things to do at this time of year is to set up strings of white lights here and there around the house - woven into a leafy garland on the mantle, above the kitchen sink, or around the porch door, etc. When the afternoons grow short, instead of cursing the darkness, we celebrate the blessing of light.

*

Time to make a cozy nest! Change our bedding to flannel perhaps, and warmer colors. Add thick throw blankets to the end of the bed and a pair of slippers by its side. Dress up the night-side table with woven mats (instead of lace doilies), a few good reads, lip balm, a rich hand lotion and a candle or two (battery-lit for safety).

*

Wrap up new warm pajamas and slippers (if needed) for the boys on Martinmas. Decide on a lantern craft and plan for a short lantern walk, while horseshoe-shaped oat cookies bake in the kitchen.

*

Make sure everyone has proper outerwear for the winter season: hats, gloves, scarves, boots, jackets for warmth/weather. Check sizes and condition.

*

I can't wear perfume, but I do like a lightly scented body wash. I like to change my scent with the seasons and at this time of year that might mean ginger, apple, vanilla, mint and/or pine.

*

I'm also not big on nail polish but I do like my hands to look pretty at the holidays. I might splurge on a new nail polish - something deeply hued and perhaps a bit sparkly. 

*

 Before the holidays, I like to clean my wedding rings and other special jewelry. I do this at home with a little mild dishwashing liquid, warm water and a toothbrush. I shine up my Miraculous Medal with a bit of baking soda.

*

Set up a simple remembrance altar on All Souls' Day ... refresh tiny mums as they wither, light tealights during family meals.

*

 Visit the post office and purchase Christmas stamps. I am always excited to see the new designs!

*

Organize this year's Season's Greetings - choose outfits, do hair trims, take pictures, order cards. Set up a basket with cards, envelopes, stamps, favorite pens, seasonal note paper, etc. Do a few cards each night beginning after Thanksgiving.

*

Happily, holiday cards start arriving right after Thanksgiving, so I like to have an idea how we'll display them ahead of time. I always like to do something a little different. Pinterest is a great place for ideas!

*

Look through the pantry and make note of what supplies need re-stocking ahead of holiday baking. It's also a good opportunity to vacuum/wipe out those pantry shelves!

*

Write out this year's Advent plans - how do I envision this time of year? How will I share the beauty and peace of the season with my children? How will we resist the frenzy and keep things siimple? Decide on an Advent calendar platform - gather supplies.

*

On a clear dry day, bundle up and go for a walk - enslit the boys' help in looking for winter craft items: acorns, pinecones, branches of evergreen, etc.

*

Cozy up living spaces with inviting reading corners (book baskets, throw blankets). And clean up the hearth - order wood and stack in the side yard. Inventory woodstove implements.

*

Make a list of in-season foods - like root vegetables, cabbage, brussel sprouts, squash, cranberries, clementines, apples and pears. Work those items into my November menus. Brainstorm hearty/delicious cold weather meal ideas (baked apples, crockpot stews, meat pies, etc.)

*

Prepare for the church coat drive and food drives. Discuss as a family: charitable gifts (time/talent/treasure).

*

Hot drinks bring such comfort (both physical and psychological!) on cold, dark afternoons. Pick up ingredients to make up a fresh batch of cocoa. Stock favorite teas, cinnamon sticks, mulling spices and candy canes, etc. 

*

Talk with Bill about house and garden chores that need to be completed before winter. Fall cleanup and winter storm prep, etc. Work these tasks into our November weekends.

*

Make sure the birdfeeders are ready for the winter season ahead - stock up on seed and suet.

***

I was on quite a roll with my thoughts ... as you can see! And then my Little Bear woke up - all sleepy face and soft murmur - and I texted myself this list.

:)

It goes without saying, of course - all these things will NOT happen. Not in one given year. But I do like thinking them all out ... and writing them all down ... and of course, sharing them here. I think that's something I truly enjoy doing - helping others find joy in the most everyday blessings. It's what I try to do I think, and have always done, since I was little. I  rose-colored glasses because clearly I see that there is unhappiness and hardship and sadness in life. Sometimes too much and too often. But these little blessings are always there for us ... to take a bit of joy from and tuck into our hearts.

Ok I'm getting sappy now so I'll wrap up! I would love it if you might share with me what things you like to do in November - whether they be practical or sentimental - how do you find joy in a month that can sometimes be hard to love?

Aside from all that, I do wish you all a lovely Sunday ... and I hope your new week gets off to a great start! As always, thank you for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!


(Scattered) Thoughts on the To-Do List ...

Pow 2

*Note: This isn't really a full-fledged post - more a collection of thoughts. Just some things I've been mulling over the past few days ...

My friends, we all have a lot on our plates. And there is a great need to organize all those responsibilities on a to-do list (or lists).

I think we've perhaps talked about this concept once or twice here before? ;)

Every Thursday/Friday I work on what Bill calls our "POW" - an acronym for our "Plan of the Weekend" as opposed to the "POD" which is the "Plan of the Day" or the "POP" which is "The Plan of the Party" ... and so on. He's a clever one, my guy. :)

Anyhoo. I always make up this great big list of things we need to do each weekend. This list includes things we really NEED to get done as well as many tasks we really should do if time becomes available.

Now the lists, in theory, are wonderful. I feel SO empowered on Saturday morning when, coffee in hand, with half the kids still asleep, I look over that neat little (big) list ...

THIS will be the weekend we get it all done. Monday will come and we will all feel SO accomplished and organized and ... well, exhausted. But it will be a good tired, you know?

Unfortunately this is almost never (read: never) the case.

We tend to get a few of the list items done - and then a bunch of other things come up that were not actually on the list but command our attention in some way. What's left undone gets added to my weekly folder under "To Do This Week" - though some tasks hang around on that POW awaiting next week's review.

Bottom line - we start a weekend with a lengthy list of things to accomplish and we start a new week having gotten very little of it done.

So here I am today (Friday), with another POW in hand, and another weekend upon us and I'm left wondering ... why can't we get it all done? Why can't we get most of it done? Or at least half? I'd be happy with half.

Well, first - let me be honest here. My main problem is that there are just too many things on that list to begin with, and we have too many everyday responsibilities that leave little room for extra activities and jobs. Plus, we enjoy our kids and spending time with them on decidely un-list-like things. We're not the most spontaneous of people, but we like a good ice cream run or last minute farm trip as much as the next family.

:) 

But let's get back to the list.

My thought is this. I was looking at each item on that list and thinking - well, when would we do this chore/errand/task? And I felt a bit paralyzed. It's one thing to list things that need to get done - it's another thing entirely to commit a set time to them. That's moving beyond the abstract. And I think right there is my problem - moving from the idea to the action. Tasks must be assigned a slot in the schedule if they have any hope at all of getting done.

But then, there's the whole timing issue. I usually make that list, as I said above, between Thursday and Friday. By Saturday morning anyway, I have it all ready to go. I usually discuss it with Bill over coffee - our second or third cup, natch; conversation is never seriously attempted before that. Then we each choose a first thing to work on ... and then life takes over.  We roll with the punches and the list sits on the counter - patiently awaiting a perusal now and then.

So there's the first thing - deciding when things will get done. Commiting time in the day to focus on those tasks and really moving on them.

But the other important thing I think, is to assign a person to each task. Bill had the great suggestion that I add a letter next to a task to indicate who should (or could) be repsonsible for that task. He finds it easier to just look at the B's if you will and go from there. I've since added the boys' initials where appropriate. I think this small step has helped us a lot. The list feels more manageable when I see all those letters on it. There are a lot of D's to be sure, but plenty of others as well.

Ok, to sum up ...

A list of to-do's is one thing - and it's a great thing. Just getting those tasks down on paper is wonderful, psychologically and practically speaking.

But equally important is assigning each task a person and a time.

Example ...

POW item: The boys need haircuts. That would be under Bill's supervision and that would work best  ... when? Probably not at 8 a.m. when the boys are hardly awake (even though Bill and I are raring to go!) and probably not late in the day when I'd like people home to help with supper. (Are there errands that have to be done onto which the haircuts can be tagged?)

POW item: My van needs a cleaning (inside and out). That's Bill again, and sometime late morning or afternoon with the "help" of the kids who enjoy playing in the driveway would work. Then I'm freed up to run an errand or do something without kids underfoot.

(And all of this all applies to more than just the weekend to-do list, obviously - any to-do list needs similar follow-up. I was thinking of this just now as I vacuumed the staircase, something I had not done in a looong while so you can just imagine how dusty and dingy things had become! Chores like this are mundane but necessary - and plentiful! And if I don't assign them a day I won't get around to doing them. Guaranteed. It's so easy to just get swept away by the rhythm of the day and the many things that pop up ...

Like, for example, the Internet. ;)

See, if I write on my Wednesday calendar: Vacuum the staircase ... then it's much more likely it will get done. And you know, maybe it doesn't seem like the biggest deal in the world to have a dusty, dingy staircase, but I now have a climbing toddler in the house and he just loves to go up and down those stairs. (With his mum or dad right behind him of course!) Well, his dear little hands are all over those treads and you can be sure he's pausing to pick up any bits of "treasure" he can find. Dust bunnies are a big hit with the little guy, lol.

***

Ok, I'll wrap up now since this unintentional post really got away from me! And I apologize that it's so rough and rambly, but I just thought I'd get my words "down on paper" and then I figured, why not post them and see what you all think? Leave me a note if you have the time and inclination!

(And I have a better post in the works, with pictures and notes from our first weeks back to homeschool! Hopefully up later this weekend ...)

Well, I'm easing back into this blogging thing, my friends, so stay tuned! Hope you all have a great weekend - whatever gets done, whenever and by whomever!

See you here again soon ...


Kitchen Chat, Week 9: Kids in the Kitchen!

Bs&c graphic 2

Good Monday morning, my friends! And welcome to another Kitchen Chat!

I can hardly believe we're on our ninth week already ... has Downton been off the air that long, lol? I think we will do one more week of kitchen-focused chat, and then we'll switch our domestic "gears" a bit and step out of the kitchen ... and into the garden!

But for today, I'd like to discuss our kids in our kitchens ...

Sometimes we want them out of our way, and other times we want them to step up and help. I love to bake with my boys, and I appreciate help with the dishes, but the kitchen is mostly a "Mama" domain.

What's it like at your house, with your kids? If you have a moment, please answer some or all of these questions in a comment below ...

*☕️*

Do your kids help out in the kitchen? 

What do you enjoy doing/making with your kids in the kitchen?

How do you keep your "little kids" busy while you work in the kitchen?

Any favorite resources or recipes to share?

*☕️*

I woud say my kids like to help out in the kitchen ... sometimes. And some of them, more than others. They're all pretty good about helping if asked ... and emptying the dishes, bagging and taking out trash and recycling, and putting away groceries are chores all on them nowadays. My Earlybird does love to help cook, especially baked goodies. He loves to help out with that when he can ...

Little Bear, up until recently, would sit in his exersaucer while I got the dishwasher unloaded, or started supper or something along those lines. Now that he's much more active he doesn't have much patience for that contraption anymore! He loves to cruise/crawl around the kitchen - which is really cute, but not exactly conducive to getting any work done!

Right now, I time my kitchen work around naptimes and/or snack time (he'll sit in his high chair and "watch") ... also, I'm very fortunate to have a fantastic babysitter in Crackerjack. When I need help, he's always happy to play with his baby brother for a while.

A few books to recommend:

Family meals

Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen

Kids baking

Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking

Usborne children's cookbook

Usborne Farmyard Tales: Children's Cookbook

Grow it cook it

Grow it Cook It

I've also found excellent recipes to make with (and for) kids in several magazines - Kiwi, Family Fun and Parents, especially.

*☕️*

Well my friends, I look forward to hearing about your kids in your kitchens! I could probably say a whole lot more on the subject, but in the interest of keeping this post brief(ish) and getting it posted sooner rather than later, I will wrap things up and perhaps jump into the comments later as I can ...

So for now, and as always - thanks for stopping by! See you here again very soon ...


Kitchen Chat, Week Three: Clean Kitchens!

 ðŸ€ Happy Monday, my friends - and a top o'the morning to you! ðŸ€

Bs&c graphic 2

For this week's conversation, how about we talk about keeping the kitchen clean? It's not the most romantic or inspiring topic perhaps, but it's something we all have to do, right? As in ... all the time ... day after day ... meal after meal. ;) So let me pour you a nice cuppa tea (Irish Breakfast?) or a fresh mug of joe (Jo Jo's Java?) and plate you up a warm pumpkin scone - there's some sweet cream butter here if you need it - and let's chat!

☕️

 Ok, my questions for you are as follows (though certainly, feel free to say what you'd like on the topic! I'm just trying to get the ball rolling ...):

What is your kitchen cleaning routine like? How often do you clean it - i.e. what gets cleaned daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally?

Do you have particular methods (a la FlyLady) or materials you use (Mrs. Meyer, Seventh Generation, homemade)?

What spot(s) challenge you most - stovetop, sink, oven, counters? (high chair, lol?)

***

Obviously kitchens need daily attention ... and if you, like me, are at home a lot, meaning, you're feeding your family at home a lot, then your kitchen is getting a lot of use. 

So in order to keep things hygenic (if not spotless), every day I/we try to ... 

run the dishwasher/empty the dishwasher

clean up/wipe the kitchen sink

keep counters as clear as possible

sweep along edges of floor (mostly because I now have a crawler!)

wipe any spills on counter/floor

neaten breakfast nook table & chairs (baby's things, newspapers, dirty dishes left behind)

clean Little Bear's high chair tray

So there are the daily chores then, but also, a deeper weekly cleaning is a good thing, too. I like to schedule my kitchen day around our trash day - cleaning the day before trash pickup. And periodic tasks like pulling the fridge out to clean behind, freshening the disposal, etc. are important as well. I don't always keep up with these as I should because they're not so immediately necessary, but I find if I actually schedule them into my calendar I have a better shot at getting them done.

I follow no particular method, though I do love reading about the cleaning routines described in Home Comforts. (I'm not even close to her standards of clean, but a girl can dream, lol.)

For materials, we tend to stick with Seventh Generation "Free & Clear" because of Earlybird's sensitivities, but I like the idea of homemade cleaners very much. I just never seem to get around to making any.

As for challenges - I'd say trying to keep the stovetop and refrigerator shelves clean drives me nuts. Also, the cabinet fronts - they get spilled on and smudged constantly, but I never seem to wipe them down as often as I should. 

And oh yes, that high chair ... it should really be sand-blasted daily!

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Ok, I think that's all I have time to write right now ... but I do look forward to hearing your take on the topic! If you've written about this topic at your own blog, either presently or previously, please feel free to leave me a link. (And if you'd like, you're welcome to grab the "Kitchen CHat" button displayed above, too!)

So I'll catch up with you again, my friends ...I'm off to get breakfast started. :)

See you here again very soon ...


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).

Plannerjournal 4

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:

Plannerjournal 7

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?

New journal 15

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!


New Routines & Other Things

Owen in baby bjorn

Remembering how much I *love* the baby bjorn - he sleeps well/I get stuff done!

Thinking about new routines these days - finding ways to get things done with one hand or in tiny pockets of time when baby sleeps ... OR with baby in tow, such as shown above.

:)

So this week I'm trying to iron out the back-to-school/off-to-college shopping and packing lists as well as the educational plans for the upcoming academic year. How strange not to be planning out Bookworm's curriculum! (Though he does have all his classes chosen and I'll be eager to hear how he likes them ...)

And then I have a whole stack of file folders (52 to be exact) sitting on my desk ... just waiting to be dated and assembled ... and weekly planning sheets to print out and attach ... for next week a new year begins!

(Note: all those old folders will be looked through and used as I write up a "year-end report" for the school system. The old school system, that is - this year we'll be introducing ourselves to a brand new town. Hoping that all goes smoothly!)

(And side note, a few of you have asked if we moved so far we had to switch parishes and I'm happy to report that no, we did not have to switch to a new parish. We only moved about 20 minutes away from our old house, and as it happens, our new town does not have a Catholic church of its own ... it's actually part of the parish to which we already belong! So that was a very happy happenstance - Crackerjack, especially, was so pleased to know we could stay at our old church!)

So there's where I'm at right now ... but oh, there's also food shopping and dinner menus! I am SO off the wagon with the menu planning it's not even a bit funny. And have been for months, since the end of my pregnancy really. I'm trying very hard to get back into the groove - I was really good about it for a while there - but I'm so challenged by a lack of energy and time these days ...

I'm trying to take things slow, because that's the only way it's going to happen ... so as soon as I post this post I will be writing out a simple - very simple - dinner plan for next week. I'll let you know how it goes ... and maybe I'll have a "Menu Monday" to share next week!

 Final note - and this is just a little random thing, but I wanted to share - I ordered this adorable book this morning as a treat for myself and my Little Bear:

Ol' Mama Squirrel

Y'all know how I feel about squirrels!

:)

Well, I hope your week has been a good one, and I thank you all for stopping by ... as always, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll be back here again very soon!

*❤*