St. Patrick's Day at Our House ...❤

IMG_5061 (1)

Happy Friday, my friends! And blessings on this bright and bonny St. Patrick's Day! I have some pictures to share today - I've been busy with my boys and baking and books and blizzards and ... well, the usual. :) I know I've promised lots of planning-type posts and I do have some coming up - but how about a look at our past couple of days? This is one of our favorite feasts and it's always such fun to celebrate with the kids, especially when they're little. :)

First though, here's what my backyard looks like today - just three days shy of the Vernal Equinox! 

DSC04321

Yep, lots of snow out there! But if you look closely you can see the branches are filled with buds. I think last month's unseasonably warm weather pushed things a bit ahead of schedule ... before Winter stepped in and said: "Not so fast!"

I passed this sad little sight on my way in from getting the mail today ...

IMG_5205

Pretty much sums up the weather right now - a fit-to-bursting bud, thrown to the ground (by those gale force winds we had no doubt) and now encased in a patch of driveway ice. sigh

Anyhoo ...

DSC04405

The sun has been out and that has been glorious ... I love working in sunny windows when we can! Our seasonal homeschooling theme this week was "returning light" and "rainbows." (Tying in with Daylight Savings Time and St. Patty's Day.) We explored colors and light and the return of the sun. Here is Little Bear working on a simple rainbow craft yesterday ...

IMG_5166

His cotton balls, my rainbow strips which had to be taped - he has no patience for tape. For Little Bear crafting is pretty much all about the glue. He could spend all day (and all bottle) gluing whatever he can get his hands on. Sometimes I just let him "paint" with a little thinned out glue!

And happily, as we worked, Earlybird joined us ... another glue fan. :)

IMG_5119

This is how projects usually go around here. I come up with an idea (or ideas) and gather materials. I set things up and stand back - or maybe I get things going. And then curious kids start to ask questions, poke around and maybe pitch in. If I really want them to participate I make sure some part of the project has something to do with glue.

We'd been rather sluggish this week so we were all ready for something hands-on. The boys have had a wicked cold this week - me too - and we're still not 100% better. It was one of those weeks where plans kept getting cancelled and we spent a LOT of time together, at home, watching too much tv and not feeling our best. We're on the mend now though and it feels good to get back to some semblance of normal!

Reading some books ...

IMG_4978

Tending our "classroom" garden ...

IMG_4986

Do you see the teeny bit of green there in the front? :)

I've been doing a lot of organizing in the learning room ...

IMG_5163 (1)

... and I'll have a "tour" post coming up soon!

Now this morning I started up the crockpot, eager to try out a new recipe ...

DSC04491

This is the beginning of corned beef and cabbage ... before the beef - and before I took the cabbage out realizing that cooks near the end! But oh boy, is it smelling good in here!

Roundabouts mid-morning, while Earlybird worked with his therapist and Crackerjack banged out his math in the library, Little Bear and I set in on a really fun project involving all kinds of fruit!

DSC04509

I had Bill (who is still healthy, knock-on-wood) stop by the grocery store on his way home from work last night and buy gobs and gobs of fresh fruit. For one thing, we can all use the vitamin C, but for another, I thought it would be fun to try making a fruit rainbow for the feast day - something I saw on Pinterest, of course.

So while LB chopped up bits of fruit with his dip spreader (another favorite activity) I started assembling the rainbow ...

DSC04527

When the fruit was all arranged, I added a small "pot of gold" (foil-wrapped chocolate coins in a glass bowl) ...

DSC04529

And then for a final touch, whipped cream clouds!

IMG_5172

Cute, right? :)

There was a lot of leftover fruit so I let Little Bear have at it ...

DSC04554

We decided to make "leprechaun water" which is basically a lot rainbow-colored fruit steeping in a pitcher of water ...

IMG_5193

True confession - I realized as LB filled the pitcher (so industriously) that he was including the melon rinds which is a no-no. I had to fish them back out, then drain the water and try again! Lol.

Here's a little bit of St. Patty's decor on our kitchen door ...

DSC04589

And here is a festive tableau I set up just after lunchtime - showcasing my Gram's Irish china and a poem I wanted to read aloud to the boys.

IMG_5202

Do they use the china? No. But I do and I always make a point to talk about why this china is so special - to whom it belonged and how I grew up enjoying tea. I did however use some of this china to serve some freshly baked cookies!

DSC04593

These are called "Irish Lace Oatmeal Cookies" and oh my gosh, are they good! They're very easy to make and if you overcook them, you can just crumble them and serve them over ice cream. 

Now, lest you think we had a nice, quiet read-aloud with the above book and tea goodies ...

IMG_5229

Well, THIS is how we read that book of fun faerie poems!

IMG_5224

With the book perched in my lap and Little Bear hanging on my back! Which is about par for the course around here!

***

Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice week and that the weekend ahead is a restful one for you. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a moment to read. I'd love to hear about your St. Patrick's Day traditions if you have the time to share! But for now I will say goodbye and ask that you take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


A Quick Craft to Welcome Spring ... ❤

DSC04101

... because spring IS coming, without a doubt - nevermind the historic BLIZZARD bearing down on New England as I type up this post! Yes, we are in for a lot of snow tomorrow - over a foot, maybe a foot and a half - plus high winds and all the usual hazards that arrive along with a Nor'easter ...

However! I'm keeping a steady weather eye on next Monday, which is in fact the first day of Spring - with the vernal equinox arriving at 6:29 a.m.! Early spring can indeed be snowy in our region so it just is what it is - cold and blustery perhaps - but the birds are still singing a different song, and the bulb shoots are still breaking ground, and the days are growing longer and lighter ...

Well, big snow or no, I decided on this bright and sunny (albeit cold) morning to make up a wreath in order to welcome the new season, once it arrives and whatever the weather it brings with it. It was so super easy to do, and turned out so well, I just had to share!

I began with a grapevine wreath. I like to have these on hand as they make nice seasonal wreaths or centerpieces, and can be changed up quickly with ribbons, silk flowers and little holiday do-dads. Many families use a wreath like this for a Lenten crown of thorns project at this time of year - a tradition I love, but opted not to include since I have a curious little fellow at home who would make short - and undoubtedly dangerous - work of all those toothpicks. But maybe next year ...

So to this plain wreath I added a couple of simple embellishments ...

DSC04081

My materials: a spool of ecru lace ribbon (sturdy, not sheer), a bag of speckled plastic eggs in soft shades of green and white, and a sweet "moss" covered rabbit.

I found all these items at Michaels Arts & Crafts yesterday where they were having a fantastic 40% sale on Easter decor. (I also bought a really cool metal utility cart which I will tell you all about in a post later this week!)

The first thing I did was to wrap the ribbon around the wreath ...

DSC04106

... using a hot-glue gun to secure the two ends. Then I used the hot-glue gun to attach the eggs and bunny to the wreath ...

DSC04108

And that was it! I won't hang this until Monday morning, but here's a sneak preview ...

DSC04133

(Note: I had to reattach a couple of the eggs which did not have enough glue on them. I think it helps to press them into the grapevine for a minute or so to allow the glue to take hold.)

I have always wanted an "egg wreath" for the front door but the ones I've seen at the stores have either been quite expensive - or reasonable, but a tad garish. I really like the soft greens and beiges here because to me, these are the shades of earliest spring ... just before the world explodes in a riot of Easter pastels!

(I also have a forsythia wreath which we'll hang closer to Easter, probably on Palm Sunday.)

And I love featuring two special Easter symbols in my springtime wreath - because both rabbits and eggs represent new life and have ancient roots in their holiday connection! This is something the boys and I are investigating this year: how so many aspects of nature - including the four elements and various flora and fauna - are tied in with our faith traditions. And not just ours but other faith traditions as well!

DSC04155

(A page from one of my favorite holiday books - Lilies, Rabbits and Painted Eggs: The Story of Easter Symbols by Edna Barth. She has a whole series of books about holiday symbols and they are all wonderful!)

Nature has always played an important role in the shaping of humanity and its interpretation of the world around it. We obviously don't need to rely on nature as much as our ancestors once did (for example, if a crop fails, I just pay a bit more at the market - my family doesn't starve), but I think a healthy amount of knowledge and respect (along with a good dose of awe) should be part of every child's upbringing. :)

DSC04140

So come on, Spring - we're ready for you! Don't be shy ... let's send Winter packing and get on with the business of new life!


Well my friends, I thank you all for stopping by! I'll be back again soon with a new post - I have so many drafts percolating, I hardly know where to begin! - but for now I'll leave you with my wish that you all have a good week ... and my hope that wherever you are, your winter ends peacefully and promptly!

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


Command Center Cleanup ❤

DSC03921

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

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

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

DSC04026

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

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

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

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

DSC04007

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

Nest with Office Hours Agenda

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

DSC04033 (1)

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

DSC04041

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

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

Something else I did today ...

DSC04044

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

Before I go ...

DSC03963

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

And I love the fox on his shirt ...

O popcorn

And I love the smile on his face!

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

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

See you here again very soon ...


March Bits & Bobs ... ❤

IMG_4076

Hello and Happy Friday, my friends! I hope your week went well and that your new month is off to a great start! I thought I'd pop in quickly this afternoon to share a few pictures with you all - a few March "bits and bobs" if you will ... 

With all the lovely weather lately we've been able to spend a good bit of time outside - and we were thrilled to find some true signs of spring all around us!

DSC03505

Crocus shoots ...

DSC03510

Daffodils, too! This is the earliest I can remember finding bulbs breaking ground ...

These guys are out and about now as well:

DSC03591

Ever since the boys were little we've taken note of when the chipmunks come out of hibernation, for this is a sure sign that spring is firmly nudging winter out of its way! Usually it's sometime in late March - or even April if it's a long snowy winter - but we spied our first chipmunks at the end of February this year!

Red-winged blackbirds passing through the yard (moving from one pond to another) are another harbinger of spring and when the goldfinches start turning a brighter shade of yellow we know warmer weather is headed our way! Even more than a calendar - and you all know I love calendars! - I love using these kinds of events to feel the change not just in months but in seasons ...

Speaking of birds ...

DSC03491

Our little ladies are doing well! But they're not so little anymore! (They'll be a year at the end of May.) They're enjoying the not-so-cold temperatures lately and generally lay about 3-4 eggs a day (not per hen - per flock!). I'm eyeing some "egg-collecting" aprons for spring ... :)

More birds ...

DSC03477

A female cardinal and chickadee at our front feeder. The buds on the magnolia tree look promising, don't they?

The boys are loving these milder days, too ...

DSC03527

There's still a smattering of snow around the yard, but for the most part it's all gone. All the snow melt has left several vernal pools in our neighborhood however ... and I simply cannot WAIT for those first mild nights when we can hear that telltale sound ... peep peep peep!

(Working on a vernal pond walk for our Nature Club next month!)

More outdoor fun ...

DSC03578

My middle boys reminding Little Bear how to pedal!

We are expecting colder weather this weekend, but the long-range forecast shows a nice rebound back into the 40s. That might not sound too "Springy" to you, but around here what that means is NO SNOW! And at this point in the year I'm ready to be done with snow. It's just too lovely to see all the bits of greenery and tiny critters bravely poking up and around the yard, happily doing their spring thing.

"Spring things" aside, I snapped this picture on Thursday when the ol' March wind was blowing like CRAZY ...

IMG_4143

All I could think was, "In like a lion ..."

Backing up a few days though, on (Shrove) Tuesday evening, per family pre-Lent tradition, we made masks!

DSC03609

It's a very simple craft - paper plates cut in half, with eye holes and a popsicle stick for a handle. We do this just about every year. Sometimes I put out feathers and stickers and other craft materials but this year the dot-markers were the big hit with the younger boys!

Here's Little Bear modeling the mask I decorated ...

IMG_4124

I actually like how the dot marker masks came out best!

IMG_4130

That night we had pancakes for supper - complete with maple syrup, grilled apple-chicken sausages, home fries (aka Smiley fries) and paczki for dessert. That's pretty decadent, but that's the point on Shrove/Fat Tuesday!

The next morning we buried the alleluia, and I turned my attention to the March calendar. How I love these vintage papers and stickers!

IMG_4077

I thought these little elves (gnomes?) looked very much like leprechauns ...

DSC03401

I've ordered several sets of Victorian style stickers for decorating my calendars ... it's something very small but it sure makes me smile!

Now, here I am at my kitchen counter, attempting to get a handle on the weekend plans (p.o.w. notebook on left) and an overview of next week's agenda (small orange planner on right). I'm planning to do a "where I work" post next week - because as much as I love my desks, it's here that I usually keep and manage all my planning paraphernalia!

DSC03686

My pre-planning was a bit slow this week, so I'll be doing some last minute scurrying over the weekend. Office hours are a must! And I'll take pictures so I can finally get up that "planning routine, part two" post ...

I really can't complain about a crimp in my planning time, though ...

FullSizeRender-1

... because we've been doing lots of this. :)

Hanging out and taking things slow ... making funny faces for Mama's cell phone. As much as I love this boy's smile, I do enjoy all his funny faces, too! We were being couch potatoes here - all curled up with blankets, books, tea, matchbox cars and molasses cookies. I can't think of a better way to spend a quiet, homey afternoon ...

And so March is off! And Lent is underway ...

DSC03615

On Wednesday night, the first stone was chosen from our basket and this week our Lenten theme is "prayer." So we began our conversation over supper - about how we might work more prayer into our lives - and just what "more prayer" might look like, for each of us. It was a good talk - one we'll continue once Bookworm gets home for spring break tonight. Hooray!

Prayer can be so very different from one person to the next - and from one faith to another. It's important, I think, to be aware of that - and respectful of that. Some are steadfast prayer "warriors," others perhaps less so. Some prefer a prepared script while others rely more on private thoughts. Some need certain visuals or sacramentals, sacred spaces or even special music. For me it's usually a combination of these things - and different things on different days! As I told my boys, prayer for me is whatever opens my heart to God - His purpose for me - and cultivates a sense of serenity, acceptance and gratitude. Sometimes it's a collection of words I memorized as a child, sometimes it's a litany of petitions as I fall asleep at night ... and sometimes it's just the way I feel as I stand in my yard, turn my face to the sun and breathe in ... letting a deep appreciation for this wondrous world fill me. To me, these are all forms of prayer. I always encourage my children to pray, but I don't expect it to be just like I do. I hope that they'll find their own form of prayer ... and in this way it will be most meaningful. 

Well my friends, I will let you go as I've kept you here quite long enough! But as always I thank you for stopping by ... I hope you enjoy your weekend! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... 

I'll see you here again very soon!


My March Planner ... with printable links! ❤

IMG_4080

Hello and Happy Monday my friends!

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

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

March Cover Page

March Month at a Glance Calendar (liturgical version here)

March Overview

Weekly Planning Sheets:

    2/27-3/5 

    3/6-3/12

    3/13-3/19

    3/20-3/26

    3/27-4/2

March Home Learning Worksheet

March Review

Spring Term Student GoalsSpring Term Notes

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day

Celebrating St. Joseph's Day

Celebrating The Vernal Equinox

Spring Cleaning: Week-by-WeekSpring Cleaning Notes

Our Lenten Journey AOur Lenten Journey B

Nature Notes: Early Spring ANature Notes: Early Spring B

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

Blank March Planning Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Our Lenten Mantle (& Plans) ... ❤

DSC03192

Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! As hard as it is to believe, Lent begins this coming Wednesday! I thought I'd share a few of the things my family will be doing this year as we journey through this beautiful season ...

I considered repeating the elaborate post-it note countdown I created last year, but in the interest of time and energy, I decided to keep things a bit simpler. I'm hoping to set a mood, offer opportunities, and then step back and let Lent happen naturally ... beginning with a few things arranged on our library mantle.

DSC03173

To ready the space, I first took down all the Valentine decor and dusted the mantle itself - a little squirt of lavender spray lent a nice cleansing touch. :) Then I took down the boxwood wreath and placed in its stead our grapevine cross ...

DSC03213

We've had the grapevine cross for many years - I found it at either a Michaels Crafts or A.C. Moore store. It's hard to remember now! It's seen a bit of wear and tear, but I just love it. :)

The small wooden "Hope" sign I found at Michaels several weeks ago and thought it would be a nice theme for both Lent and spring. (I love merging nature and faith!) I simply tied the word onto the cross with some plain kitchen twine. I kind of like the symbolism of Hope tied closely to the cross ...

And throughout Lent, a little "life" will spring forth here each week - tiny sprigs of greenery I'll add in secret - and come Easter morning the cross will be covered in bright flowers!

Beneath the cross I placed a single white candle ...

DSC03195

I planted it in some potting soil and will leave it like this until Palm Sunday, at which point we will sprinkle the soil with grass seed - and fingers crossed it will bloom a week later! (I adapted this idea from one I found in All Year Round, one of my favorite resources for seasonal celebrations.) Finally, on Easter morning, the boys will find the candle lit and hopefully surrounded by pretty green grass.

A plain little butterfly box also sits on the mantle ...

DSC03194

On Ash Wednesday we will "bury the Alleluia" (an old custom) by placing that small slip of paper inside the butterfly. On Easter morning the butterfly box will be open and empty - the slip of paper will be gone! Instead there will be a golden "Alleluia" banner hung above the mantle and perched in the middle of the cross will be a bright and beautiful (silk) butterfly.

I also placed a glass jar for collecting alms here ...

DSC03197

(Monies saved by skipping certain purchases each week.)

On the left side of the mantle I placed the brass crucifix made by my maternal great-grandfather, along with a small crystal votive candle holder (a gift from my parents - straight from Ireland!) This candle will be lit on Fridays as we contemplate the Stations (described below). I added the simple wooden rabbit because I plan to explore with the boys the many aspects of Easter that are tied in with both nature and faith ...

DSC03212

On the far right side is our Marian statue (which belonged to my paternal grandparents) as well as a prayer card for the March devotion (St. Joseph) ...

DSC03199

The purple jar will be used as a vase in which we can display any little bits of blooming nature we find through the season - forsythia most likely or pussy willows, perhaps. I may also add small vases for tiny things that pop up like crocus, snowdrops, and dandelions, etc. (I like to use small cordial glasses for this.) These will be flowers for the Blessed Mother but also a growing sign of returning life.

(As part of our seasonal homeschooling I have a few nature-based activities planned for each week, and these too will be woven into our Lenten path.)

Also seen in these pictures are the read-alouds we'll be using throughout Lent: The Parables of Jesus and The Miracles of Jesus, both by beloved author, Tomie dePaola. My hope is to read a passage aloud to the boys in the library each afternoon. I'll have a coloring page for Little Bear to work on (and ask Crackerjack to help keep him busy/interested) and see if Earlybird might want to participate, too. Listening to read-alouds can be difficult for EB (due to sensory issues) so this might be quite a sacrifice for him! I might even schedule this activity for earlier in the day when EB's therapist is here for support.

Finally, I strung a wide length of burlap ribbon along the front of the mantle to which I attached the Stations of the Cross, using small wooden clothespins. (The ribbon and the clothespins can be found at Michaels, or any craft store most likely. The lovely Stations cards were purchased through Catholic Heritage Curricula.)

DSC03200

Once again, I had a lot of help as I set up this special space ...

DSC03184

(He asked me to take his picture in front of the mantle. He was very proud!)

I have one other activity planned for Lent - and that involves working Lenten themes into our journey. Each Wednesday at dinner I'll present this small basket of rocks ...

DSC03376

... and one of us will choose a rock for the coming week. As you can see above, each rock has a word written on it in purple: prayer, silence, gratitude, forgiveness, service, spiritWhichever word is chosen from the basket will be a theme we can all work into our week - privately and as a family. (I have some activities planned to help the younger boys with this project.) At the end of each week the rock will be placed upon our Lenten mantle.

***

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed hearing about our plans for Lent this year! Are there any Lenten traditions you follow with your family each year? Are you trying something new this year? Do you have a special book (or books) you are reading this season? Drop me a note if you have a moment - I'd love to hear from you!

In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful weekend and as always, I thank you for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again sometime soon!


A Late Winter's Tea ... (and a Winner!) ❤

DSC03327

Hello my friends, and Happy Friday! Goodness, is it ever a BEAUTIFUL day here in New England! The temperature, as I type up this post, has soared to a balmy 73 ° ... the sun is shining ... the birds are singing ... the snow is melting ... we even spied a chipmunk darting across the backyard! What a tease this weather is though, as I'm sure we still have plenty of winter ahead (March can be quite snowy in our parts!). Still, this is a lovely break - a fresh mental breeze to awaken one's winter-weary spirit. 

But in spite of this day's decidedly spring-like behavior, I'm here to share a cup of Late Winter's Tea with you all! And at the very end of our Tea I will tell you who won my Day Designer giveaway! You can of course, jump down to the end of the post to see who that might be ... ;)

So for today's tea I am using a very pretty cup and saucer set - a gift from my dear friend, Emma. I love the red toile pattern and shape of this set - especially the handy little nook for a snack! Today's snack is a couple of oatmeal-raisin cookies - but as you can see - and as I noticed after I took this picture! - someone had made off with one of the cookies! Ahem! ;) The tea is a new one for me - Newman's Own English Breakfast. Not my usual afternoon tea as this one is fully caffeinated and rather bold-flavored, but on this particular day I was in need of an energy boost!

So I prepared my cup and moved out to the library where I've been busy cleaning this week - haven't really done that since this was December's "Christmas room" - and I'll have a post with a tour in a bit because it's slowly becoming our Spring room. :) I just got our Lenten mantle organized and I'm now working on our homeschool shelves and my writing desk ... as well as our liturgical bookcase! Yes, this room was in dire need of a lift! (Not to mention a good dusting and sweeping!) I love the light here at this time of day though ... the sun sets just behind the woods outside the window shown above and below ... the light lingering later and later each day. I use this desk as a spot to sit and write ... rather than compute (my computer desk is out in the family room). It's a more feminine "mother's desk" and I love changing things up as the seasons turn ... :)

DSC03294

Also shown in the these photos is my brand new spring purse! I had some birthday money just burning a hole in my pocket, and spotted this pretty bag at TJ Maxx. Honestly, I was just running into the CVS next door but that robin's egg blue really reached out and grabbed me, right through the store-front window! What I really love about this bag (aside from the color and the affordable price) is the softness of the bag itself. Very flexible but with a sturdy bottom. And roomy! Plenty of space inside for all the things I like take along with me when I'm out and about ...

(A more detailed Spring purse post to come!)

DSC03321

It's not often I can spend a lot of time here puttering in notebooks and writing out letters, but I try to get here a few times a week. I have some things set up in this room to keep Little Bear busy (toys and puzzles, puppets and books) while I sit for a bit, and there's always the promise of "a story or two" once Mama is done. :) 

Speaking of books ...

DSC03315

I have a small table at the end of the desk which holds reading materials and an in-basket. A small bin holds notecards and seasonal cards. In the foreground are two sets of our favorite seasonal picture books - one set by Gerda Muller and the other by Eva-Maria Ott-Heidmann. These are wordless picture books with the loveliest illustrations celebrating the many nuances of the year. My boys have loved these books for years - we just pore over them and talk about what we see in the pictures, what might be going on. I try to keep them together and out of the general stash of board books- not just to keep them in good shape, but also so I can look through them myself from time to time!

Also in this picture you can see we have our window open ... that made tidying this room all the more enjoyable! The little baskets were Little Bear's doing - he was collecting (wooden) eggs to set aside for Easter. :) And an open window always invites the kitties out from wherever they're slumbering ...

DSC03241

Needless to say we got ourselves outside for a bit!

IMG_4024

Late winter is such a special time of year ... spring comes so slowly, and each little hallmark is a treasured gift. The brighter days, the softness of the air, the change in the birdsong ... the dripping and melting ... and resulting muddy puddles!

IMG_3992

The boys attempted to shovel away any lingering snow patches from the driveway ... while I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the sun, the freshness of the air. What a glorious day! (Note the double-trunked tree in the background - my favorite oak.)

Ok, now before I go and before I get to announcing my giveaway winner ... here's a look at a little project I'm having fun with right now:

Homemade planner 1

Homemade planner 2

Some of you might remember last year I made myself a homemade weekly planner. I loved that notebook so much - though I ended up not using it as I'd hoped to. Well, I determined to try again ... so I ordered myself the very same notebook!

DSC03144

These Fringe notebooks really do it for me. They're just beautiful - inside and out - and perfect for my needs. Love the binding, the paper, the covers! So I am tweaking how I organize the insides (learning from last year's mistakes!) and taking it very slowly. So far all I've done is this ...

IMG_3906

A dated reference calendar washi-taped into the front cover. :) I'm counting pages and sketching grids now, and will share more details very soon. (Would you all like a how-to post on diy planners?) This one, which is meant to organize our family's seasons, will run Spring through Winter, and since we are on the very doorstep of March I'd best get cracking!

More to come on this project, but for right now I'd like to finally announce just who won my extra Day Designer planner! And so after a random drawing I am happy to announce that the giveaway winner is ...

BETH!

Congratulations, Beth! I hope you enjoy the planner! I will be in touch this evening to arrange mailing details and then get this planner out to you ASAP!

And my sincere thanks to everyone for taking the time to leave me such wonderful comments. I loved reading each and every one of them and am grateful you took the time to share your thoughts with me! Your very kind words, thoughtful suggestions and interesting questions are all much appreciated. And you've all got me percolating with ideas and inspiration! So I printed out the comments thread and highlighted each topic area mentioned (color-coding them, naturally). I will keep these pages in my binder and work up a list of "posts to come." I will say you definitely like organizing and planning posts the best! There was also many mentions of homeschooling, seasonal celebrations, meal planning, homemaking and weaving our family faith into everyday living. Lots of tea and chat posts, too! 

DSC03340 (1)

So stay tuned for all kinds of posts to come ... but for right now, before I go, I'd like to answer one question that popped up a couple of times ...

"Why do you call your mother, "Mum" which sounds so very British?" :)

Well, I have to say I think it might be a New England thing as I have other local friends who call their moms "Mum," too, but I think for us it's just a family thing. My mother called her mother "Mum," and her mother (my grandmother) did the same. My maternal great-grandmother was Scottish - as in, came here from Scotland - so I'm thinking perhaps this is where it began.

So there's that! :)

My own boys call me Mama - although as they've grown older that has pretty much morphed into, "Mom." :)

So that's all for today, my friends ... but I do hope you've enjoyed my post and as always I thank you for stopping by! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Cookbooks & Recipes ❤

DSC02131

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

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

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

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

DSC02224

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

DSC02226 (1)

Now, my recipes on the other hand ...

DSC02087

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

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

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

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

Everyday food mags

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

DSC02106

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

DSC01507

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

DSC01522

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

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

DSC01580

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

DSC02111

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

DSC02113

DSC02124

DSC02127

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

DSC02089

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

DSC02090

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

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

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

side dishes - vegetable, other

vegetables, general

breakfast

baked goods

fruits/herbs

soups/stews

appetizers

beverages

ice cream/sorbet

frostings/jams/sauces/candy

pickles & preserves

food gifts

holiday spreads (entire articles focusing on a particular holiday)

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

sentimental (family and/or handwritten recipes)

general food information/meal planning

DSC03105

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

DSC03084

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

DSC03085

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

DSC03119

Naturally, I had help ... :)

DSC03113

Oh, forgot to show you the binder pocket!

Cookbooks binder pocket

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

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

DSC03118

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

DSC03127

DSC03123

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

DSC02297

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

DSC02246

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

DSC02291

DSC02228 (1)

DSC02229

DSC02230

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

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

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


Hey, Hey, Hey! It's a Giveaway! ❤

DSC03003

Hello my friends, and Happy Saturday! Hope your weekend's going well so far!  :)

So let's get right to it ... what you see above is what I'm offering as a giveaway! It's a Day Designer for Blue Sky daily planner and if you click on the link you will get a much closer look at the contents, but I've added some more pictures below as well. The planner runs from January 2017 through December 2017, so yes - it's already two months in, but - it is brand new and has not been used at all. I picked it up a while ago thinking I might switch back to this planner (which I used in 2015) when my current DD runs out in May - but have since decided to stick with the Flagship version ... which, fyi, can be ordered next month. I can hardly wait. (New covers to be revealed this coming Wednesday at their Instagram page!)

Anyhoooooo ...

I now have this extra planner to share! I'd love to pass it on to someone who is in need of a new planner or perhaps has been curious about Day Designer planners but hasn't yet made the leap. This is a wonderful planner and I love so much about it, but I hardly need two planners, now do I?

Ok, here's a closer look ...

DSC03028

DSC03029

DSC03030

DSC03031

DSC03032

DSC03017

The planner includes reference and goal setting pages, wonderful lined monthly calendars, and a separate page for each day of the week! (Saturday and Sunday share a page but there is still lots of room). The paper is smooth, the text is soft black and the design is prettily shaded with a light bluish-green. The front of the planner (a golden spotted design) is protected with a see-through plastic cover (as is the back) and the bright golden coil binding is super!

So obviously I love this planner but as I said above, I would be happy to see it being enjoyed by someone else! I blog a lot about the weekly planning I do, but I really like a daily planner for my nitty-gritty, where am I at kind of everyday planning. The Day Designer has filled that bill beautifully for me over the past couple of years!

Ok! If you'd like to be entered in the planner giveaway contest, please leave a comment below answering the following question(s) ...

What would you like to see more of at my blog? What kinds of posts do you most enjoy?

Or, if you don't really have an opinion on the above topic:

Ask me a random question! I'll try to do a Q&A roundup sometime soon ...

Now, I know blogging seems to have become a little passe, but I do still love this medium for sharing ideas, preserving memories, and expressing my joy in the changing seasons and my station in life as a homeschooling mom to four wonderful boys - plus two cats and six hens! I do share on social media (here, here and here), but I think I am most comfortable here at my blog which has always been fairly eclectic (a little of this, a little of that) and turns 11 years old next month!

So please leave a comment below, and I will enter you in my giveaway. I will pick a name randomly next Friday morning (February 24th) and announce it here at my "Winter Afternoon Tea" post. :) I will then mail the winner her planner immediately so she may have it in time for the turn to the March calendar!

Hope to hear from you soon, but as always, I appreciate you stopping by to check in! Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone ...

I will see you here again very soon!


A Sunny, Snowy Nature Club ... ❤

DSC02893

Hello and Happy Friday, friends! I have a quick post to share today, because oh my gosh, was it ever a beautiful day! Just perfect for our February Nature Club meeting. This month we met at a local farm to walk some wintry trails ... and were pleasantly surprised to find it was also the first day of their maple season! So before setting out on our walk, the kids got to visit the sugar shack and hear about how maple syrup is made ...

DSC02968

Now, if you're from New England you are probably familiar with the tale of how sap is turned into syrup, but honestly, it just never gets old! Earlybird especially was absolutely fascinated by the steam and the smell and the miracle that is maple sugaring. (Meanwhile I was furiously composing a maple syrup unit study in my head! Though come to think of it, I have plenty of prior experience with this topic ... I'll have to see which former lesson plan I can "tap" into!)

DSC02869

Maple sugaring is, for me, one of those happy, hopeful, early spring harbingers ... because the sap runs once daytime temps reach the 50s while the nights stay below freezing. We're just getting there as we round the month's bend - hitting 50 on Sunday! - and hopefully that will turn the tide a bit. Not that I'm complaining too much about our very "February" weather, mind you. The snow is awfully pretty (says she who doesn't have to shovel, ahem) but we have had A LOT of it lately. I mean, I'm romancing the heck out of Winter over here, but I'll admit, Spring will be a sight for sore eyes!

But back to Winter for a bit! I hope you enjoy a little glimpse of our day spent in the New England countryside ... :)

DSC02829

DSC02841

DSC02895

DSC02850

DSC02899

DSC02964

DSC02916 (1)

DSC02927

DSC02931

DSC02942

DSC02883

DSC02894

DSC02944

DSC02956

There is quite possibly nothing cuter than a little one with cheeks all rosy from time spent outside!

So, lessons to learn in February (aside from the history and science of maple sugaring!): learning patience, optimism and trust. Waiting for that which comes next, appreciating the good in the now ... all while knowing our faith will absolutely be rewarded. That's pretty much a New England winter in a nutshell!

(Fyi, Spring is precisely 31 days away!)

;)

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our day! As much as I love being home, it was so good to get out today, mingle with friends and soak up some of that glorious sunshine! I will be back soon with the second part of my planning routine post as well as a progress report for the "52 Weeks Organized Home Challenge"... but ... FIRST!

This weekend I will be posting a little giveaway ... I teased it over on my Facebook page earlier today if you want a sneak peek! I will wait to tell you more but will get that post up as soon as I can - hopefully tomorrow but possibly Sunday. I think you will be really excited about this giveaway - I know I am! 

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


Cozy, Comfy, Yummy ... ❤

Just popping in quickly to wish you all a very Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your day has been just lovely.  It's bright and sunny here, there is snow EVERYWHERE and it's pretty cold, I must say! Cardigans are my constant companions these days ... :)

Sharing a few photos from the last couple of days ... as a blizzard moved in, we battened and hunkered ... lit candles just in case ... and then the sun came out. Here's a toast to February comforts and joys ... 

DSC02743

DSC02768

DSC02549

IMG_3313

DSC02295

DSC02679

DSC02711

DSC02639

DSC02656 (1)

DSC02560 (1)

"Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour." ~ John Boswell

***

Keep warm, my friends - inside and out! I'll see you here again very soon ...


My Weekly Planning Routine: Part One (of Two)

DSC02455

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

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

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

 
So I will try my best to be concise in this post, but you know how I get when I'm talking about planning! What I decided to do was to take pictures as I go through my week-ahead planning routine. I didn't actually time myself, but I hope this gives you an idea of just what is involved when I plan out a coming week.
 
I first look at my current month-at-a-glance calendar and see what next week will bring ...
 
DSC02518
 
What activities and events are coming up? What is our seasonal theme for next week?
 
I then begin planning out the weekend ahead ...
 
DSC02351
 
Because a great week starts with a good (productive) weekend! Monday through Friday we're quite busy with work and the kids, so the weekends are where we "catch up" and hopefully, catch our breath. I use the small notebooks shown above to organize our Saturday and Sunday. Where are we going? How busy will we be? Where can we squeeze in tasks and to-dos? What ARE those tasks and to-dos? What errands need to be run and which purchases need to be made?
 
So the smaller notebook is for listing errands and groceries and the slightly larger one underneath is for weekend planning. We call this duo our "POW" (plan of the weekend) because ... well, we're silly like that. ;)
 
DSC02364
  
Next I add tiny post-it notes to the top of a notebook page (one page per weekend). (There are three notes here rather than two here because Bill has a long weekend.) I jot down the agenda for each day like so ...
 
DSC02370
 
Pretty simple stuff, but it works! 
 
And then beneath the notes I write down our weekend to-do list. I had only just started this list in the picture above, but what I also do is add little circled initials to indicate if a task is for Bill or myself (or one of the boys).
 
Now, to formulate this list I look at last week's POW page for any tasks that didn't get done or moved to the current week's to do list. I then look at the current week's to-do list on my planning sheet (shown below).
 
DSC02266 (1)
 
By mid-week I can usually identify a few tasks that are best moved to the weekend.
 
(This notebook gets left open on the kitchen counter all weekend so any and all can look and see what's what. We also have "pow" meetings on Friday evening and Saturday/Sunday morning - to give everyone a chance to add their own goals and set expectations.)
 
On the little errands pad I start writing down places I know I need to go and the things I need to pick up ...
 
DSC02371
 
On the lefthand side I write groceries (my last stop is always the supermarket) and on the righthand side I note other shopping errands. These would be things like a library pick up, a post office visit, or stops at local shops like the craft store or clothing store. These lists will reflect ordinary goods as well as particular items we need for projects and events.
 
Now, if I'm really firing on all cylinders, then I also plan out next week's menus so I can be as efficient as possible in my grocery shopping.
 
DSC02579
 
I do this on my weekly planning sheet. I list what is "of note" for that week - for example: holidays, a day when Bill is working at home (meaning I could schedule something he cooks), and any busy evenings which would require an easy, quick supper. Sometimes I can't decide what I want to serve each night but still jot down meal ideas on a sticky note and leave it here on this page.
 
DSC02447 (3)
 
I use my menu plan to jot down ingredients we need in my errands notebook - for example: ground beef, russet potatoes, fresh mint, heavy cream and dark chocolate.
 
Next I pull out the coming week's file folder ...
 
DSC02366
 
... and look over the papers I've filed (if any). I highlight pertinent information with a highlighter pen ...
 
DSC02392 (1)
 
In this week's folder I found:
 
A bluebird treat recipe.
 
A library record for the next audiobook to request.
 
An info. sheet for Crackerjack's service project with deadlines and due dates.
 
A recipe for National Mint Chocolate Day (Feb. 19th).
 
Letters from Earlybird's neurologist that need responses.
 
Using these highlighted notes I add to-dos and reminders to my POW notebooks and next week's planning sheet (shown below).
 
DSC02376
 
So for example ...
 
Ingredients for the bluebird treat and mint-chocolate mousse are written down in my errands notebook.
 
Project due dates/deadlines get noted in my calendar.
 
Action items go on their appropriate lists:
 
    "Request Snow Queen" goes on my POW list - I want to do that over the weekend.
    "Reschedule June appt." and "Call Dr. F to discuss R's med" both go on my to-do list for next week.
 
Note: planning sheets for each week of the year are all kept in my homekeeping binder, divided into monthly sections. I can flip to any week and jot down an idea or activity as it comes up.
 
Now I gather any books we'll be using in our homeschool next week ...
 
DSC02404
 
DSC02420
 
DSC02450
 
DSC02718
 
I store our books and other home learning resources in various ways - on display in the learning room, in tote bags and in themed baskets. Some things we keep out all year and other items get cycled in and out according to learning topics and season.
 
As I consider each book, I begin filling in next week's home learning worksheet.
 
And bring books that need photocopying to the printer station ...
 
DSC02436
 
I place photocopies for the week ahead on a clipboard ...
 
IMG_3374
 
The copies are a combination of work pages for the kids and things for me to read and hi-light and refer to throughout the week.
 
Photocopies on my clipboard this week:
 
"Snow Queen" coloring pages
A Valentine verse for circle time (cut and glued to an index card)
A "Winter Walk" nature study (from Golden Books: Nature Hikes)
This week's Earth Psalms activity page
"Making Friends with the Birds" (from Round the Year with Enid Blyton)
Unit 62 "What Shall We Eat and Drink?" (from Natural Science through the Seasons)
 
"State Birds and Flowers" coloring pages (midwest states)
 
Now, these are all steps I try to get done, ideally, before the weekend. This allows me to use the weekend hours most efficiently and really get a head start on the new week. Sometimes though, I get distracted or busy or - let's face it - lazy, and find myself scrambling early Saturday morning to make thoughtful lists.
 
As I said, I didn't time myself but if I had, I'd say all of these steps might have taken about an hour. In my next post I will describe the rest of my planning routine which I do over the weekend and into Monday morning.
 
Well friends, I hope I was not too rambly, but please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to clarify any points. Remember, this is what I TRY to do, but not every week is as cooperative as I'd like!
 
So as ever, I thank you all for stopping by and wish you all a pleasant evening ... morning, day, what have you! Hope to see you here again very soon!
 

My February Planner ... with printable links! ❤

DSC02257

Hello, my friends ... and Happy Tuesday!

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

DSC02256

Isn't the cover page pretty? :)

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

DSC02246

DSC02251

DSC02252

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

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

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

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

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

DSC02258

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

DSC02259

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

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

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

DSC02260

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

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

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

DSC02261

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

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

DSC02262

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

DSC02264

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

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

DSC02270 (1)

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

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

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

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

DSC02286

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

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

DSC02242

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

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

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

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

DSC02346

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


Welcome, February! ❤

IMG_3268

Good Thursday morning, my friends! I hope your February is off to a great start! We've been busy here with homeschooling and home projects and some of us are nursing a head cold, while a couple of others are just getting over feeling unwell. (I'm happy to say, I'm in the latter group!) Currently I am working on a post about the February section of my planning binder but computer time is a wee bit scarce right now ... so it might be another day or two. Still, I thought I'd pop in and share a few photos from our week so far. This is one of my favorite weeks in the year because it's just rich with "deep winter" goodness - St. Brigid's Day, Candlemas, Groundhog's Day ... not to mention, the Superbowl! (Go Pats!)

Anyhoo ... as I type up this post (late on Thursday, nearing teatime) the snow is flying! It's been sunny all morning (though chilly), but just now the skies got very dark and then suddenly the flakes were falling fast! We're all home now - including Bill (the one with the head cold) - so I don't mind one bit. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ... seems the groundhog was right after all!

Speaking of groundhogs ...

DSC01921

I made this for the boys today and they got such a kick out of it! (Not to mention they were thrilled for a cake out of the blue!) I saw a variation of this idea on Pinterest and had to add it to the week's "crafts and comforts." It's just an 8x8 vanilla snack cake (Trader Joe's) topped with homemade cocoa frosting - mounded in the middle to resemble a groundhog's den. Then I stuck a Teddy Graham in the middle (taking on the role of the groundhog here, popping up to look for his shadow) and sprinkled the "ground" with crushed chocolate cookies (dirt), green sugar (grass) and tiny white candies (snow). Cute to behold, but even more importantly ... really delicious with a cup of milk after lunch!

Also in the kitchen today ... I have several potatoes baking for tonight's shepherd(ess) pie. Don't potatoes in the oven just smell amazing? In a bit (meaning, once I finish this post) I will put the kettle on and get the younger boys to help me make a loaf of Irish soda bread to go with tonight's dinner. And do you know what we will have on that bread ... ?

DSC01745

DSC01774

DSC01784

Yes, our very own homemade butter!

DSC01787

We've been making butter on the feast of St. Brigid (patroness of Ireland, dairymaids, cattle and midwives) for many years, but this was Little Bear's first time with the project! And he was pretty impressed - if not much help with the actual shaking. He's only three, so I cut him some slack!

Also for St. Brigid's Day and Candlemas (yesterday and today, respectively) ... winter citrus candles!

DSC01740

I like to melt beeswax and make candles on Candlemas, but this year I kept it a bit simpler. As crafts go, this was pretty quick and easy! The trickiest bit is getting the orange flesh away from the orange shell neatly. So I just hollowed out an orange and split it in half ... pressed a small star-shaped cookie cutter in one end and stuck whole cloves all around the opening. Then I placed a beeswax tealight inside ... smelled SO amazing. Even after the orange peel started smoking. Oops!

(Of course, it goes without saying, I keep burning candles well out of reach of the children and I never leave them unattended. It's nice to light them while you say a verse or prayer - then quickly snuff them out.)

IMG_3255

I thought the star shape was reminiscent of Brigid's cloak as described in this story - one of our favorite February books! There are so many wonderful picture books to enjoy all through the year ...

DSC01932

I try to organize mine by seasonal flavor. I have huge baskets in our basement with books filed by season. Right now we have our "deep winter" books up in the schoolroom ... and I must admit - as much as I enjoy them, I'm itching to get to those "early spring" titles!

But there is joy and value in every season, and winter certainly has us in its grip ...

IMG_3269

Now that I have a "real" camera again (a birthday present from Bill and the boys) I am always hoping to get outside and snap photos. I particularly love the early morning ... although this (pre-sunrise) picture is dark, I like how it represents the harsh beauty of winter. I also just love rosehips, period. :)

Back out in the learning room (aka the sunroom), I have a nature corner set up and this is our verse for the month ...

DSC01936

Lovely words from Be Blest: A Celebration of Seasons, one of my favorite poetry books. 

Another family tradition at Brigid's Day/Candlemas (nevermind what the groundhog says!) is to organize and bless our spring seeds ...

DSC01736 (1)

I have all kinds of grand plans for the gardens this year! Last year it was all about building the coop and settling our hens, but this year I hope to expand our gardens - flowers, herbs and veggies. Maybe some fruit bushes. Clearly, there will be plenty of morning glories ... ;)

Another quick craft for February ...

DSC01671

I cut out hearts from pretty scrapbooking paper and made up a garland for the library mantle ...

DSC01803

I had the grapevine balls on hand (they came off a string of lights) and threaded them with the paper hearts on a length of twine, then hung the garland just beneath the lip of the mantle. Meanwhile, up above ...

DSC01807

A boxwood wreath - the last of our "Christmas greenery," which was supposed to come down today  - is sporting several Victorian valentines. (Barnes & Noble has the loveliest, old-fashioned notecards for each holiday ... reasonably priced, too!) And just below the wreath is a message for the month (craft store letters painted robin's egg blue ... need a second coat!) and some red beeswax tea lights. I'll be making salt-dough candleholders with the boys for these tealights later this month. The jar candles on either end were made last Candlemas.

Oh, and finally!

DSC01862

I saw an idea on Facebook - and I cannot remember its origin now! - but it was to use post-its as little love notes for your child(ren) ... one a day leading up to February 14th. I found these cute heart-shaped post-it notes on Amazon (actually, with Lent in mind but they work well here) and embellished a plain craft board wreath with a "Love" banner. (Glittery adhesive stickers against scrapbook paper cut into a banner shape.) Each day I will add a note, filling the whole wreath, with all the different ways we love. Maybe something to love about life, about the world around us ... or maybe something we love about each other. They're not personalized but something I hope each family member enjoys reading each day. Thinking about all the ways we are blessed by love in our life!

DSC01865

Well my friends, I'd best wrap up now ... this post has gone on MUCH longer than I intended ... teatime has arrived and the sun is shining once again! So as always, I thank you for your time and attention and I wish you a pleasant evening (or day as the case may be). I hope all is well with you where you are ... and I hope to be back again in just a few days to talk more about my February planner ... and plans! :)

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Fridge & Freezer!

DSC01395 (1)

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

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

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

DSC01153

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

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

DSC01027

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

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

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

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

DSC01042

The after ...

DSC01058

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

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

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

And here's the freezer ...

DSC01187

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC01352 (2)

Love this sweet teapot wallie!

DSC01356 (1)

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

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

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

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

I'll see you here again very soon!


#52 Weeks: My Pantry & Bakeware ...

DSC00306

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

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

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

Tasha tudor pantry

Art by Tasha Tudor

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

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

DSC00493

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

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

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

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

DSC00497

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

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

And voila!

DSC00520

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

How about a tour? :)

DSC00526

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

DSC00533

Next shelf down is for rice and soups ...

DSC00527

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

DSC00545

Ok, on to the middle cabinet ...

DSC00525

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

DSC00532

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

DSC00538

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

DSC00539

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

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

DSC00540

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

DSC00541

Allrighty, last cabinet!

DSC00524

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

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

DSC00549

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

DSC00550

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

DSC00551

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

DSC00555

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

DSC00570

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

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

DSC00463

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

DSC00470

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

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

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

DSC00476

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

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

DSC01050

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

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

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

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

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


My Day Designer: A Closer Look ❤

DSC00440

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

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

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

DSC00457

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC00405

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

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

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

DSC00477

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

DSC00413

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

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

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

DSC00579

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

For now, lets start at the top ... 

DSC00450

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

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

DSC00444

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

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

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

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

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

DSC00417

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

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

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

DSC00451 (2)

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

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

DSC00426

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

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

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

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

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

DSC00447 (1)

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

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

DSC00447

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

DSC01013

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

DSC00451

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

DSC00687

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

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

DSC00844

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

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

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

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

I will see you here again very soon!


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

IMG_2741 (1)

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

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

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

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

DSC00331

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

DSC00333

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

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

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

Ok ... here we go!

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

IMG_2739

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

IMG_2760

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

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

IMG_2733 (1)

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

IMG_2735 (1)

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

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

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

IMG_2729 (1)

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

Here is the potholder/kitchen cloths drawer now:

IMG_2731 (1)

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

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

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

IMG_2929

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

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

IMG_2882

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

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

Anyway, here's the after ...

IMG_2930

:)

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

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

DSC00329

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

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

DSC00201

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

And here we have our pots and pans ...

DSC00288

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

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

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

DSC00315

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

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

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

DSC00306

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC00327

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

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

I'll see you here again very soon!


My Planning Sheets & Planning Binder {A Tour!}

IMG_2815

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2781

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

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

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

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

IMG_2775

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

IMG_2779

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

IMG_2776 (1)

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

IMG_2783

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

IMG_2905

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

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

IMG_2784

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

IMG_2906

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

IMG_2785

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

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

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

IMG_2786

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

IMG_2798

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

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

IMG_2915

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

IMG_2916

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

IMG_2917

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

IMG_2791

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

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

IMG_2793

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

IMG_2852

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

IMG_2794

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

IMG_2919

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

IMG_2922

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

IMG_2923

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

IMG_2924

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

IMG_2926

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

IMG_2927

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

IMG_2958

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

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

2. Routines & Schedules

3. Household Information

4. Budgeting/Financial

5. Meal Planning

6. Home Education

7. Family & Friends

 8. Journal Index

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

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

***

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

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

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


A Tale of Two Desks ...

IMG_2836

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

waves hello from computer desk *

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

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

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

IMG_2832

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

* deep breath *

Ok, hang on ...

IMG_2858

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

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

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

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

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