Thursday, April 30, 2015

How to Be a Frugal Foodie Without Sacrificing Yummy Food

If you love food, you don't have to sacrifice yummy flavor to be frugal and save money. Just follow these simple hints.

frugal, budget, food

*Don't let leftovers linger.

To save time, definitely cook extra for leftovers.

EXCEPTION: Don't make leftovers of something that does not warm up well. Just make a single serving for each family member of meat that is not in a sauce that would keep it moist, for example.

But make sure that you eat leftovers only once, preferably the next day. Otherwise, your family will get bored and start complaining that they hate leftovers.

TIP: Write a reminder in your planner when you cook a large meal to "freeze leftovers" the next day.

*Recreate leftovers as frozen dinners (or lunches).

TIP: Freeze as individual servings.

I rarely freeze leftovers in one big ziploc bag. Instead, I make several individual servings. Grab one to throw in your lunchbox. Grab three for a quick dinner. Grab one or two as a side item to go with a grilled meat. The smaller servings defrost easily in a microwave or on the stove.

Leftovers are way tastier than most frozen meals, generally cheaper, and quick to heat up. By doing individual servings, each person can choose their favorite meal to heat up on leftovers night!

*Use fruits, veggies, and meats before the natural deadline.

FYI: Natural deadline = rotting food. Avoid that!

TIP: Write a note to eat the foods tomorrow in your planner.

TIP: Use as side dishes or snacks.

*Freeze fruits and veggies during the peak season, when they are cheapest and freshest.

TIP: Prepare them for cooking first.

Strawberries are cut into blender sized chunks. Jalapenos are pre-chopped for salsa or sliced for omelets. Some peppers are diced, while others are sliced.

*Mix and match leftovers with fresh foods.

I make a mean enchilada casserole. It's fine leftover, but adding a side of freshly cooked saffron rice makes my family forget that it is leftover.

*Use expensive condiments.

If I am serving an apple, my kids are not impressed. But slice an apple and drizzle a bit of honey and cinnamon? Dessert.

Some cheese that won't be good soon? Use some very aged balsamic vinegar. It doesn't take much to make any cheese pop with flavor.

You saw that instead of plain white rice, we often go for saffron rice.

Expensive condiments go on the side, but there is nothing like them for cheaply (because you don't use much) upgrading food.

Share with your budget-conscious, foodie friends!


Linked at:
Frugal Friday

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Obergefell v. Hodges: The First Half of the Gay Marriage Argument

This post is way off topic from my normal posts. I do that sometimes, on Tuesdays, but frankly am doing so on a Tuesday just by coincidence. The Supreme Court happened to hear arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges today. I read the arguments and listened to the transcripts, and I might have geeked out a bit.

For my regular readers, kindly ignore me while I let my nerdy inner lawyer shine through. We'll be back to regularly scheduled planner and productivity action tomorrow!

(As a lawyer, I need to say that this is mere opinion and should NOT be taken as legal advice.)

Without further ado, my take on the arguments, which can be heard and read here.

(Now, just to be clear, this is a blogger post and not a scholarly post. I'll try to be accurate and entertaining. You try to be open-minded and enjoy. Deal?)

Odds Before Oral Argument (according to me): 45/35/20

(45% chance of gay marriage being allowed outright; 35% chance of gay marriage not being a right, but states having to recognize other states' marriages; 20% chance of gay marriage not being recognized in any state other than those where it is currently legal.

These odds are created based on my knowledge of the justices and the law. I was top of my class in Constitutional Law and won a National Moot Court award in Constitutional Law, so this is my thing. On the other hand, I've been out of law school for years and have two kids, so grain of salt, people!)

*Mary L. Bonauto, the counsel for the plaintiff, is one of those amazingly smart, never flustered women that make the rest of us proud and filled with a sense of failure, all at once. The other lawyers were not memorable.

Odds (Revised): 50/30/20

Kick butt arguments make writing a ruling easy! Judges like easy.

*Chief Justice Roberts (expected to vote against same-sex marriage, but a potential swing vote) participated actively and asked intelligent questions.

Odds (Revised): 55/30/15

Roberts is listening to reason and wants to appear smart. He is smart. His ruling might go against his conservative nature.

*Justice Kennedy (the expected swing vote that will determine the outcome) made a point to compare the time period between Brown (finding separate schools based on race in violation of the 14th Amendment) and Loving (allowing interracial marriage) and between Lawrence (striking down anti-sodomy laws) and the present case.

Odds: unchanged.

Kennedy was going to say this anyway!

*Justice Ginsburg compared the institutional change to allow gay marriage to the end of the old subordinate relationship between husbands and wives.

Odds: unchanged

Justice Ginsburg is a smarty pants. She made exactly the same argument that I made weeks ago.

*Justice Alito is very excited by polygamous relationships and their implications. And he makes a decent joke about polygamous lawyers.

Odds: unchanged

Is anyone actually surprised at that? No.

*Chief Justice Roberts says, "...closing of debate can close minds...."

Odds: 50/35/15

That statement is a sign that he might accept the state recognition of other states' legal marriages argument.

*Justice Scalia said, "I'm concerned about the wisdom of the Court imposing through the Constitution...a requirement of action which is unpalatable to many of our citizens for religious reasons."

Odds: unchanged

Isn't that what the Supreme Court is supposed to do? If something was palatable, it would already be law! Somebody can't handle the flavor of something, or it would not be illegal.

*Justice Scalia cannot conceive of a situation in which gay marriage can be a right that does not cause a minister to HAVE to marry two men to each other.

Odds: unchanged

Really, Justice? No possible answer to that? Wow. However did you graduate law school? Also, the smart petitioners' attorney was quick to point out, and I agree, that the First Amendment clearly allows a clergyperson to not officiate a marriage that he or she does not want to officiate.

*While Justice Scalia is still pretending (one can hope) stupidity, Justice Kagan schools him on First Amendment rights.

Odds: unchanged

I enjoyed page 26 of the transcript. You, too, can watch Scalia get schooled.

*During a brief break, someone shouted "BURN IN HELL."

Odds: unchanged

This commentary is not noted on the official transcript, but clearly heard on the audio. It's the reason you should never just read a dry transcript!

*Justice Alito asks about siblings getting married.

Odds: unchanged

Alito is so much fun!

*On page 35 of the transcipt, Justice Scalia says something.

Odds: unchanged

It doesn't matter what he said. What does matter is what I wrote in the margins of the transcript: "wherein Scalia is an [word redacted for sensitive eyes, but it was an important body part in the Lawrence case]."

*Justice Kagan made fun of the poor attorney who was tasked with defending the state of Michigan's gay marriage ban on page 48 of the transcript.

Odds: unchanged

I kind of felt sorry for him! He seemed out of his league.

*The defense attorney argued that marriage is about keeping a couple bound to a child and not about a commitment between two adults.

Odds: 55/30/15

Seriously, there are some decent legal arguments for opposite sex only marriages. I don't think, from a legal perspective, that they are winning arguments, but they are reasonable.

This is not it. I wonder if Michigan is trying to lose the argument?

*Justice Breyer said some liberal stuff.

Odds: 55/25/20

No one was shocked. But someone in the middle might make him pay. I'm talking about you, Justice Kennedy.

*The defense attorney spent a lot of time arguing with liberal judges instead of addressing the concerns of the moderates.

Odds: 60/30/10

That is a bad strategy, and the opposite of the strategy of the plaintiff's attorney. It's a waste of time. The liberals and conservatives have already decided!

*The defense attorney missed a chance to argue that the bond between a child and a mother and a child and a father is different.

Odds: 60/30/10

The odds don't go down for him, as he has already lost his argument. But when discussing old court cases on pages 67 - 69, he should have pointed out that children need something different from people in different gender roles, and that the LGBTQ community is an excellent example of the importance of gender and gender identity.

*Justice Ginsburg reminded us that in 1982, the court ended Louisiana's Head and Master rule, where there was a dominant male and a subordinate female.

Odds: unchanged

As a native Louisianian, I am not proud of us. Also, this means my mom married my dad under that law. I'm trying to imagine her face if Daddy told her what to do! He'd be in trouble, state-sanctioned or not!

*There is a typo on p. 81 of the transcript. Justice Kagan says something that is attributed to someone else.

Odds: unchanged

I probably have typos in this post, as speed was a factor. Email me or message me privately, please. No one else needs to know!

FINAL ODDS: 60/30/10

I think, at least in terms of oral argument, that it was a clear win for the plaintiffs in favor of same sex marriage. But we shall see!


The Trick to Losing Weight

Last weekend, I tried to put on my jeans.


I could not button them up.

I know that I need to make weight loss a priority, but I keep having setbacks that make it seem impossible.

The setbacks are real.

I have a couple of medical conditions that, when they flare, make me retain water and make me a temporarily picky eater. They also chain me to the house and zap any energy that I have away. The good news is that, between flares, I am fine.

Well, mostly fine. I've been struggling with a couple of broken teeth. One required an extraction and a cap next to it. The other is a work in progress. For most people, it's an annoyance. But for me, my health issues flare up, so I've had a vicious infection and some other problems.

My husband is working long hours right now, so I am mostly single parenting right now. (So far, he has worked for 21 days straight, with 10 to 11 hour days.)

I have asthma and a bad hip, and when both act up - ouch.

I've gone to the gym some, but working out outdoors is virtually impossible since it has rained for WEEKS. (South Louisiana gets afternoon storms, but this has been constant and unusual.)

I run out of time and grab chicken tenders on the road. I get too hungry and get a candy bar when grocery shopping. I eat cookies because they are quick and convenient.

But the setbacks are no excuse.

There is a trick to losing weight and I should be ashamed of myself for not doing it:


* Plan grocery shopping

Buy more of the good foods (for me, chicken breasts, sunflower seeds, fruits, and veggies) and less of the bad foods (cookies, empty calories). 

Eat first, before shopping, so you don't get hungry during the trip.

*Plan meals.

Write down dinner plans, keeping in mind the rhythm of the day.

On days when I substitute teach, I make something quick, like a salad or something from my freezer. On at-home days, I might make a stew or chicken with roasted veggies.

For breakfast and lunch, have routine items that are quick to make and easy to carry with you. I prefer a bowl of grits, an egg, or a fruit for breakfast. I usually plan leftovers for lunch, but when I don't have any, I make a salad.

*Plan to snack.

Snacks go on the daily prep list.

I've started bringing a water bottle and a fruit everywhere that I go. I also keep sunflower seeds in my car.

You will snack. Plan for it, and you won't pull through the drive-through.

*Plan exercise.

Write it down in your planner.

Make a date with a friend.

Attend a regular class.

Have a back-up plan for rainy, hot, and cold days.

For someone who plans so well, I've really been struggling with this. It's time to make a plan.


Linked at:

Ramblings of a Bad Domestic Goddess

Monday, April 27, 2015

Planner Hack: Temporary Planner Pages

On a regular basis (like every single day), I get lazy. I'll do my planning, but not follow through. I'll write half of a word and believe, foolishly, that I will remember what I meant later. I use tags to move around reminders so that I don't have to rewrite routine tasks.

And, sometime, I rip out a planner page and move it somewhere else.

planner tips and tricks, planner hacks, tear out

No bothering with rings for me. Nope. Just rip out quickly and move to someplace else.

It works because the quick rip leaves tiny tears between the left edge of the paper and the hole punch holes. Those tears allow you to press the page securely into your planner.

It occurred to me that such a trick could be used for good instead of evil.

If you make a temporary list (say, a task list for a big meeting coming up or an errands list for a certain day), there is no need to go through the trouble of opening the planner to the dashboard to get blank paper, writing on the paper, undoing the rings, and moving the paper to the area where you need it (like project pages or in the weekly spread).

Instead, if you rip the paper out quickly, you can then press it gently into the rings anywhere in your planner.

For example, tomorrow I substitute teach. It will be a light teaching schedule with many breaks, but I won't have proper wi-fi access. I will need something to do during the breaks.

In addition to my usual daily docket page, I plan to make a temporary task list of things that need doing, but can be done at the school and without wi-fi (such as calling for a doctor's appointment, entering my receipts into my accounting app, and revising a document in Word). That list will be placed next to my daily docket in my weekly spread.

I want to keep the list, so I can continue it when I next substitute teach, but it will move to another week by then.

Of course, I COULD just open the rings and move the paper. But this technique has so many advantages over opening the rings:

* Tearing out the page forces me to complete the list BEFORE the little slits next to the hole punches wear out and allow the paper to fall out of my planner.

* The torn pages remind me that this list is temporary.

* Having torn pages makes it easy for me, psychologically, to toss the list once complete. (You know you have the same problems with hoarding planner pages!)

* I get to be lazy!

NOTE: I do NOT recommend this hack for permanent pages. Only use on temporary pages, as the effectiveness wears out and pages will fall out of your planner if you move them too often.

Be sure to comment below if you have other ideas for ways to use this hack. Of course, comments on my hoarder tendencies and how you share them are also encouraged.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cut Grocery Shopping Time in Half

Grocery shopping for a family of four takes me, on average, about two hours. Wandering through the store is a major portion of that time.

People kept telling me to use a map of the store. But I still had to look at the map and determine where each item was located. And the map included so much irrelevant stuff!

I did something simpler.

Step 1: Mark down aisle numbers as you shop.

I brought my grocery list to the store (simply jotted in my planner) and as I picked up an item, I wrote down the aisle number. 

Step 2: Make a simple table in Word or Excel of the aisles with your old, marked up grocery list.

TIP: Divide it into dry and cold food.

Step 3: Insert the items that you bought into the proper spot.

Oil is on Aisle 5, for example.

Now, when I make my grocery list, I can refer to this list.

Step 4: Set up your new grocery list (either in your planner or on a printout of this custom map) by aisle.

TIP: Write aisle number next to grocery on list, using spacing to leave room to add items.

2 - bread
2 - hot dog buns

? - raisins

11 - snacks

12 - chicken breasts

15 - eggs

Step 5: Each week, add any items that are not already on the list.

I buy some things only every now and then or monthly, but when I find them in the store, I make a note to add them to my running grocery list.

In the example above, I did that with raisins.

There is no reason to spend oodles of time shopping. A simple custom-made map of the store will be worth the time investment.

Today, grocery shopping took less than an hour!

Bonus points if you noticed that my first "COLD" food is "Hot Food." (I sometimes grab rotisserie chicken or something in the hot food area near produce.)

As an added bonus, this list makes a great reminder of what you might need at the store.


Linked at:

Home Matters Linky Party - Grab Button

Friday, April 24, 2015

Temporary Lists: A Place in a Planner

Sometimes a list is not appropriate for a Project or a Notes/ABC File page.

It might be too active and need space on the weekly spread. Or it might be too short.

Right now, I have three of those lists going on: 

*timesheet log (covers a 2-week period),

*gifts (covers only the next two months, and just notes which of my sisters is purchasing which gift for which family members; we will reimburse each other as they are purchased), and

*owed (things owed to me or from me to others; should be taken care of over the next few weeks).

planner, post-it, dashboard

These lists are written on post-it notes. Each moves to my weekly spread if and when I will be dealing with it.

For example, the day that my timesheet is actually due (noted on my weekly spread), the sticky note with the times will move to the weekly spread.

When I am going to see my relative who is selling donuts for a fundraiser, I'll move the "owed" list to that day to remember to pay her.

Therefore, I just need a resting point for these lists where they are easily accessible, but not with my more complex projects or my notes (because they are quite active).

These temporary lists, as seen above, are stored right behind my post-it sticky note dashboard. The plastic card is perfect for holding sticky notes. Entries about the lists (like "Timesheet Due Thursday" or "Mom's Birthday - buy gift" with the "buy gift" scratched out because my sister bought it) go on the weekly pages.

So far, this little hack is working perfectly.

I'm thinking about putting menu here, too, instead of in my critical, limited weekly space.

Let me know if you have any other ideas for temporary lists!


Linked at:

Weekend Wind-Down Party

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Save Money and Time: The Duplicate Secret

I've discovered a simple way to save time, money, and space in my home.

storage, budget, organize

Whenever I get samples or extras of something, I store it with the main item. Then, when I go to use something (say the sample toothpaste above that my dentist gave to me), I use the smaller product first.

TIP: Use the smaller amount of anything (toothpaste, soap, food) first!

It sounds silly, but it means that I don't have to store all those tiny soaps or shampoos forever, in case I use them later. I am using them - right now. I use them right away, then go back to my favorite brand of soap.

It saves money because I buy less of those things and can, at a glance, keep track of how much I have on hand and avoid overbuying. It saves time, both shopping time and time finding more toothpaste. Not having too many duplicates also saves space.

(Obviously, there are exceptions. I buy my toilet paper in bulk and on sale, so other than the roll by the toilet, I have a special place to store all of it.)


Linked at:
Frugal Friday

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Purpose of Planner Placement

Planner placement matters.

First, for a planner to work for you, it needs to be placed nearby and in an accessible location.

When I am working, the planner sits to the left of my computer. (I'm a lefty. If you are a righty, put it to the right.) It's easy to jot a note or scratch out a task that way.

planner, daily docket, work, computer

When I am in the living room watching television or in the bedroom reading, my planner is put right next to me on the side table. In the kitchen, it goes on the island (where it is accessible but away from potential spills).

Yes, I really do use my planner in those locations.

In the living room, I might note the day and time of a tv show premiere. In the bedroom, I might note that I ran out of my medication (which sits next to the bed). Or I might get an idea for a blog post and jot it down. In the kitchen, I add ingredients to my grocery shopping list as they get low.

Second, the placement of the parts of the planner page, including the daily docket, should be chosen carefully, making a planner easier to use.

daily docket, daily plan, weekly plan, planner

I know lots of people don't like the double hole punch, but I like to be able to move extra pages and daily dockets to either side of the planner.

TIP: Keep the daily docket on whichever side allows you to view tomorrow's weekly spread entry without turning a page.

In the picture above, the placement of each aspect of the planner layout matters.

To the left, a running list of upcoming gifts to purchase is covering the crossed out Monday space. There is no need to see that space since all the information has been transferred to the daily docket or is old.

After that, the layout allows me to see tomorrow and future days on the weekly spread. If something comes up, there is space to schedule it.

My ink pens are readily available (not even in holders while I am actively working).

Today's stuff is all on the right, as any Daily Docket from the beginning of the week is placed.

The parts of the Daily Docket are listed in the picture in green to give you inspiration.

If these tips are helpful, don't forget to use the search feature in the sidebar to find even more tips about topics that interest you.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How to Allow Chaos to Rule: A Giftie Comedy of Errors

Mistake #1: Not replacing a light bulb.

A week ago, our kitchen light bulb went out. It flickered for a long time first, but it's one of those long light bulbs that is difficult to change. Since my husband is working crazy overtime hours, I just switched it off and used sunlight from the windows to work at my desk.

This morning, I woke to a vicious rain storm, complete with full coverage clouds. My house was like a dungeon. It was clear to me that to get anything accomplished, I'd need to go to a coffee shop or the library.

Mistake #2: Taking a selfie.

off topic, humor, planner, planning

The rain and a PTO meeting meant a solid opportunity to wear my new blue shoes. They feel like ballet slippers, but have a short wedge heel. And they are water-resistant.

I took a selfie.

I never take a selfie. (In fact, since I have an old Android phone, I'm not sure the mirror shot is technically a selfie.)

I spent just long enough admiring myself in the mirror to forget to check my prep list for the day.

(The first anonymous person to comment that there is nothing to admire is going down! D.O.W.N. To the rest you, thanks. I do, indeed, look pretty cute for a woman in her 40s.)

Mistake #3: Not checking planner.

planner, errands, prep list

Without my prep checklist, I forgot the library books and CDs that are due today. The CDs carry hefty fines. The bag was sitting right there, in my launch pad. (Okay, okay...NEAR my launchpad. Happy?)

Mistake #4: Not following my own rules.

I have a Rule of Five for my handbags. I did not follow it, and forgot my wallet.

Mistake #5: Being too nice to the neighborhood cat.

I am very allergic to cats. But I am also kind to animals. So during bad weather, we allow the fat, black neighborhood cat to sit in our carport. We don't feed him (though he keeps trying to feed us mice and birds).

It was pouring and there was lightning, and the darn cat would not move away from my car. I can't touch her or go near her, so I sat on the horn for a long time.

Y'all, my neighbors are going to egg my house later. Oops.

Mistake #6: Driving in the rain.

I'm the girl who once took out my great aunt's air conditioner unit with my car. My very elderly great aunt (may she rest in peace) was sitting in her house in front of the unit when it happened.

Edited to clarify: My great aunt is resting in peace because her time finally ran out and not because of my driving. She even asked me to read at her funeral, so hard feelings!

Driving in the rain takes a skill set that I do not possess. Where are the headlights? The windshield wipers? The brakes? Can I make it through that water on the roadway?

Mistake #7: Losing my umbrellas.

I have literally no idea where I put them. They are not on my planner list of "Locations" like my coats and swim gear happen to be.

No problem. I stopped at the store and bought a new one.

Um, no wallet, remember? I remembered at the checkout.

Mistake #8: Thinking Baton Rouge traffic doesn't exist.

It does, FYI.

Mistake #9: Not making coffee to go.

After all, who makes coffee to go when one is working at a coffee shop?

Oh, right. One who leaves her house around 7:30 a.m. and manages not to arrive to the coffee shop until 10:30 a.m.

I know you like round numbers, but I only made 9 mistakes so far! You know what that means, don't you? Mistake #10 is coming soon.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


Linked at:

Home Matters Linky Party - Grab Button

Monday, April 20, 2015

Taking Care of You in Your Daily Plan

Crazy people write down baths. Obsessed, memory-challenged, unusual humans write the word "shower" in their planner. Normal people just KNOW to clean themselves on a regular basis.

Okay, sometimes I write down that my epilepsy kid needs a bath, since I have to put aside time in my night to monitor him in the tub. Totally doesn't count, right?

(As an important aside, if you have a memory problem, say for a true medical condition, write down "bath." You are smart for doing that.) 

daily planner, planner, daily docket

That said, if you are slacking on taking care of yourself, it is completely valid to write down self-care. 

I haven't given myself a pedicure in ages, and spring is upon us here in Louisiana, causing the shorts dilemma. (Basically, I argue with myself. "Shave!" "No, self, don't shave. Just wear pants." "But, self, it's hot. Shave." "But I don't wannnnnna.")

I need to eat better.

I need to exercise, including getting some baseline measures of how long I can plank and how many push-ups I can do (three, girly-kind, on an excellent day, probably not in a row).

Sometimes, the only way that I will fit something into my schedule is if I write it in my daily plan. So when I slack on self-care (...not baths, people!...have you noticed my OCD?), I write it down on my daily docket.

It's my coping mechanism. It works.


Linked at:

Creative K Kids

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Use Your Manners: Text Messaging

Text messaging is so convenient.

Running late? Send a text. Can't talk right now, but your husband needs the grocery list? Send a text. Have a babysitter and going to the movies? Have them send a text.

But as text messaging became THE WAY to communicate, people started doing what people do. They got rude.

Let's stamp out the rudeness with a few simple etiquette rules.

1. Use the vibrate feature.

Everyone in the room (or the movie theater) does NOT need to know that you are getting a text!

2. Excuse yourself.

Except in court or during funerals, I do glance at incoming text messages. However, I excuse myself first.

Depending on the situation, excusing myself might take different forms.

In the movies (and only if the kids are with a sitter), I step out of the movies. (If my kids are with me, I turn off the phone completely.)

When in a meeting or teaching, I wait until a break, then turn away or step out and check briefly.

Talking to a friend, I wait until my turn to speak, and then say, "excuse me a moment."

Notice the focus is always on those with me, and not being rude to them, even though the text might be important.

Of course, if a baby is being born or a family member is in surgery, I excuse myself in advance.

"My sister is having her baby today. We are so excited. Please excuse me if I am more attached to my phone than usual."

3. Don't group text.

Seriously, y'all.

I don't want to know what every single one of your friends is wearing to the party!

TIP: Use Facebook messages (which can be muted) for group discussion.

4. Text back an acknowledgement  - one time.

"Got it."



Here's the rule: Text > Reply > Thanks OR Text > Thanks.

There is no need to thank someone for a thanks!

That said, you do want to respond so they know you got the text.

5. Unless the person is expecting your text, don't text time sensitive information.

Yes, this means you will have to speak to someone on the phone.

THE HORROR! As I tell my kids, suck it up, buttercup.

6. If something is better done out loud, call instead of texting.

This is another suck it up situation.

7. Use a signature line.

Just like e-mail or an old-fashioned letter, there should be something to indicate who is sending the text. Sometimes, a phone doesn't pick up contact information.

I just use my initials.

technology, productivity

Even my old Android phone allows me to set up a signature line.

Help me spread my message of Text Messaging Manners to the world by sharing on social media!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Summer Schedules for School-Age Kids (and Homeschoolers)

I know a lot of homeschoolers read my blog, and I must confess: you astound me.

I could NEVER do what you do. (Okay, I could. But it is not my dream. I love my kids' school - and I am so thankful for that - because even with a Master of Education degree, I am terrified of those two months during the summer when I am in charge of my own children!)

But for you - and for my nonhomeschooling readers with kids home for the summer - I'm sharing how I set up a summer schedule that makes sense to my kids and to me.

summer, chores, schedule, planner printables

How to set up a summer schedule:

1. Click here for a link to the blank form that I used (in Word). It's in half hour increments.

2. Adjust times to reflect your kids normal waking hours.

3. Input somewhat set times.

In my house, meals and snacks are pretty routine.

4. Input your wishes.

I like to take a bath before breakfast. I like the kids to do chores early in the day. I limit electronic time, but I am flexible about when the kids use it. These things get scheduled around set times.

For homeschoolers, this is where you put in schoolwork.

5. Input the rest.

Fill in all the spaces.

Everything we do each day gets entered somewhere. Baths, chores, cleaning bedrooms, reading, errands, family clean-up. (See the pic below for ideas!)

For those not scheduled, just note that they are "free." (There is a reason for this. I promise.)

6. Color code the kids' column.

Green = free time

Yellow = free time after activity or chore is done
Red = not free

This visual is so necessary for the kids. They don't really care what is next (except for kids really care about when they next eat). They care about when they have to check with you and when they can just play. 

TIP: Stress to your little ones that yellow times are an opportunity to get things done quickly to have even more free time!

chores, schedules, electronics, homeschooling

7. Identify E-time and outside time.

If my kids do chores, they earn electronics' time (e-time). Also, I only want them outside when I can peek out the window. I went through the schedule and marked times when they can use electronics (if they have any in the bank) and times when they can and cannot go outside.

8. Color-code your schedule.

I use colors OFF the red light spectrum so the kids don't get confused.

Also, for my schedule, I only color-code non-free time.

Pink = self-care
Purple = homemaking

Orange = work (for my part-time job)

chores, schedules, electronics, homeschooling

9. Post the schedule.

Put it where the kids can read it. When they ask about dinner for the 3,264th time, point them to the schedule.

10. Stick to it.

It really is important to stick to the routine as much as possible.

Some of the advantages include encouraging reading (because twice a day, the only other option is sleep), encouraging outside play, showing the kids that everyone has responsibilities, and making the day more predictable for kids who thrive on routine.

Loyal Readers know that I am not a huge fan of scheduling, but in the case of summer, I would not proceed without one!


Linked at:
My Joy-Filled Life

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Overcoming the Overwhelm

What is most overwhelming in your life right now? What seems out of control?

I'm not exercising. I need to exercise or I not only gain weight, but I get moody. No one in my life has used the B word yet, but it's coming. I'm just moody enough to scare them away from saying it OUT LOUD.

Also, I cannot keep my island in my kitchen clear of mess. I don't have a laundry room. My island is where I fold laundry, chop veggies, and bring in groceries. It needs to be clean or I end up with all sorts of messes in other places. like piles of unfolded laundry and spoils of entire pots of food on my floor near the stove. If the island is clear and wiped down, I keep my entire kitchen clean, with no effort. Laundry gets done and put away. It's like magic. And right now, it's cluttered again.

Maybe it's your health. Maybe it's your kids being home for the summer. Maybe it's your marriage.

But something is overwhelming you right now. Something needs fixing.

Something needs a plan.

So open up your planner.

Oh, sure, your planner is for scheduling appointments and remembering to mail your taxes in by April 15th.

But it's also a place to deal with the overwhelming stuff.

Just make a simple plan to deal with it.

I'm scheduling a yoga workout for tomorrow. Also, I'm going to add cleaning the island off to my daily tasks (a system already in place that is working - an app called Daily Tasks by Microsoft - but doesn't include the island right now).

planner, Daily Tasks

Whatever is overwhelming for you right now, take a minute and write a plan. It doesn't need to be a vast, overwhelming plan. It can be a plan to do the first step. But get it written down and do it.

You will feel better.

And maybe you won't deserve to be called the B word, either.


Linked at:

Home Matters Linky Party - Grab Button

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What to Track in a Planner

Beyond simply writing down appointments and to dos, planners are a great tool for tracking stuff. Tracking basically means keeping a log of what happened, such as how much money you spent on e-bay this month.

But not everything is best tracked in a planner.

planner, log, goals, routines

Some things are better tracked electronically.

For example, my calorie intake and budget are better tracked in applications that can add and subtract for me.

Some things are better not tracked.

I drink plenty of water, so I don't need to track it. One of my friends fills a large container with water, and just drinks all of it everyday. She doesn't need to track it in her planner, either!

A planner has limited space, so don't waste it.

Still, plenty of stuff is worth tracking.


After all, I'm usually not at a computer at the gym. Also, I find writing it down (as opposed to simply inputting in an app) makes me aware that I haven't done yoga in a month!

planner, track, goals, logs, routines


During a medical crisis (like The Loki's current epilepsy mess), a log can help the doctor see exactly what the triggers or reactions to medication might be.

*Billable Hours

As a lawyer, I used billable hours software for a long time. If I still worked at a firm, I'd still use it. But there is something about writing the hours that earn you money on paper. Not only is it a superior record that you actually did the work (since going back and adding fake hours is impractical, so people trust paper more than simple entries in a computer), but it is a rush to see that I made money (these days, on legal research for my work-at-home job or on my blog).

*New Routines

While you learn a routine, write it down each time you do it.

I do this the first week of school. In the mornings, we have to dress, brush hair, brush teeth, wear belt, check folder, eat breakfast, grab schoolbag, etc. I list those things on a simple, home-printed piece of graph paper, and check off each step each day. After about three weeks, the kids and I know the routine and can stop doing that. But checking off and tracking the new routine really helps us learn it in the first place.

Weekly and monthly review tracking in your planner can serve the same purpose.


If you are struggling with mental health issues, even mild ones, or overeating, or too much alcohol consumption, a log of your feelings, indulgences, and triggers can sometimes help solve the problem.


Have you set a goal for yourself? A simple list to track it, at first, will help you reach the goal. (This is why some people do track water. And for them, that makes sense!)

Any other things that you track in your planner? Let me know in the comments.


Linked at:

Frugal Friday

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Feeding Schedule for School-Aged Kids

When grown-ups go on a diet, they often schedule their meals. Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Snack. (I know. I eat too late in the day. That's probably why I have so many curves. But, bonus for you, it keeps the grumpus away!)

Newborns and toddlers eat on pretty regular schedules, too. Every three hours, then every four, then six snacks a day...people told me breastfed babies set their own schedule, but my body said "no way" and set a schedule whether my baby and I liked it or not.

When my kids hit school age, it got so much easier. Breakfast, lunch and snack at school, something quick after school, and dinner.

Enter The Loki. That kid never follows the easy rules!

This time, it's his epilepsy meds. They make him "STARVING, MOM, STAAAAAARRRRRVVVVIIIINNNNGGG!" Drama much?

I've upped the protein and nuts in his diet. I've gotten lots of healthy snacks. But, really, he is begging for food anytime that he is awake.

I think I'm going to post a schedule.

Breakfast 7 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Lunch 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Snack 3 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Dinner 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Treat (my kids get two or three little Halloween or Easter candies a night) 8 p.m.

Seriously, it's a problem. I tell him he needs to wait for lunch, but he really is hungry. This morning, he had a honey bun (unusual, as we have some left from Easter, but I'm telling you anyway...keeping it real for other struggling parents), yogurt, milk to drink, and Rice Krispies and milk.

Still hungry. And in the morning, he throws up if I feed him protein (another side effect of the meds).

Maybe this way, I can just point to the schedule.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Two Rules for Combining Paper and Electronic Planning

The Giftie Etcetera Facebook Group was discussing combining paper and electronic planning.

Even for paper lovers (ME!), electronics are a real part of our lives.

Maybe work requires you to use a shared electronic calendar. Perhaps your teenager or spouse texts you when they add something to the calendar. (Or, if they are like my husband, claim you didn't tell them about the party UNLESS you have the Facebook message or e-mail to back up your words.)

paper, planner, technology

Personally, I keep planning about on-line stuff (my legal research projects for work and my blog planning, mostly) in OneNote, my daily tasks (household tasks, checking e-mail, and prep for the next day) in an app, medication reminders as alarms on my phone, and my budget in a separate app.

There are two rules that I always follow.

1. Do NOT duplicate.

I don't write stuff in two places - the e-world and paper. Everything either goes in my planner or in OneNote. I don't copy back and forth.

Where I need a reminder to use the electronics, I put a note in my planner, but that is it.

For example, I have a repeating task that says to do "Dailies" in my planner. But the daily tasks are listed in my electronic app, not my planner.

2. Write down the rules.


It's so easy to get confused. So as you make rules for yourself, write them down (in ONE place - either OneNote/Evernote or your planner).

One rule is that work stuff gets scheduled in my paper planner along with my personal stuff. I do that because it's all my life. If I have to attend a meeting at 3 p.m., I also need another adult to cover school carpool and to dress in a suit at 7 a.m. Just putting that in my work planning is not enough. By not duplicating it, I manage to not accidentally miss anything - work or personal.

But I used to work at an office that required all of us to put things on a shared calendar in Outlook. Back then, I had a rule. Everything went in my ring-bound planner. Once a day, as a task in my paper planner, I shared things relevant to my office on the Outlook calendar. They got to know that I would be at a meeting with the Governor's office on Tuesday at 2 p.m., but for my dentist appointment at 10 a.m., they got "Personal Medical Leave, 10 a.m."

Another rule? Blog ideas go in my OneNote. So if I think of something on the road, it becomes a task: "O Put blog idea: paper and e-planning in ON." The task is to put it where it belongs, not where it's most convenient at that second.

Whatever your rules are, write them all down so that you can learn them and keep things straight.

Remember to like Giftie Etcetera on Facebook!


Linked at:

Frugal Friday

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Giftie Etcetera: My First Blog Post Ever

If you love Giftie Etcetera, today's flashback is a special treat.

Click My First Post Ever to read my first blog post, back in 2007.

Remember, you can see any post I've ever written in my right sidebar.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

How to Archive Facebook

Facebook has a simple process set up to create a zipped file backing up your videos, photos, and text that you've uploaded over the years.

1. Go to settings (using the drop down menu by clicking on the "settings" arrow noted in the picture below).

Facebook, archive

2. Choose "Settings" > "General" > "Download a copy" (noted in the picture above).

3. Then just follow the directions, including waiting for an e-mail and clicking the link to archive.

Be aware that the archive downloads as a large zipped file, so don't unzip unless you have enough memory. It's not a perfect backup system, but if you are ever without Facebook, it's something.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Bravely Facing the Blank Planner Page

Whether you are facing a blank monthly spread, blank weekly spread, or a simple blank piece of paper, decisions have to be made about where information will go in your planner before you start writing.

blank paper, planner, franklin covey

Whatever you decide, the format that you create will affect your choices. What stands out? What do you do first? Where you do write new stuff that comes up?

For me, these decisions are made BEFORE I write a single thing on the page.

I make a template of where I want to place things on the page.

blank paper, planner, franklin covey

TIP: Make a Note called Templates and put a sketch of each recurring template in your ABC Files/Notes section of your planner.

Now, I don't always draw out the template. In this example (my grocery shopping list), I KNOW the template so well that I don't need to draw it. But I drew it anyway, to show you how it is set-up.

blank paper, planner, franklin covey

Where I place things matters. The checklist (top left corner) comes first because it gets done BEFORE I leave the house. (It includes things like checking if husband needs anything and bringing coupons with me.) Dry food is separate from cold food to make shopping easier in the actual store.

TIP: Use a map of the store (usually available on-line or from customer service) to set up your template.

I even do this for my usual monthly (Franklin Covey 365), weekly (Plan Ahead small planner), or Daily (Quo VadisTextagenda or Notor) planner pages.

Here's a second example with a blank page, just so that you can follow my thinking process.

blank paper, planner, franklin covey

On the left column, timed event gets written because those cannot be missed and English readers read from left to right and top to bottom.

Errands are separate from other tasks, since they an only be done while on the road.

Notes are least important, so they go on the bottom.

TIP: Have a place to write the day/date if you make your own daily or weekly plan.

blank paper, planner, franklin covey

TIP: Remember, most important stuff goes to the top left. Separate out things that don't belong together because they won't be done together. And reserve the bottom right for the least important or upcoming information.

If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to share on social media!


Linked at:
Little Red Brick House

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Conquering Clutter: Take It Outside

One roadblock to getting rid of clutter in my house is that my kitchen is very big, so lots of things get left in the corners of the kitchen.

*Ice chest from a recent road trip

*Easter baskets (long after Easter)

*Reusable grocery bags
*Goodwill donation bag

Maybe your stuff doesn't belong outside. Maybe it is cluttering up your house and belongs in the garage or upstairs. (Oh, stairs, how I loathe thee.)

Whatever needs to go elsewhere, take a minute, and move it to elsewhere. Don't let those things linger and crowd your home.

As an added bonus, once those items are put away, your house will look neater and it will be easier to keep it clean.


Linked at:
Home Matters Linky Party - Grab Button

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

7 Fun Ways to Use a Planner

I pulled out my smart phone at dinner to post a Facebook status about a funny quote from my six year old, but it was out of charge.

So I jotted the status in my planner to write down later.

fun, planner

I use my planner in fun ways all the time!

*Record Facebook statuses to post later.

*Play Tic Tac Toe or Hangman while waiting with the kids at the doctor's office.


*Write "honey do" lists for your spouse to take care of later.

(These are fun because they involve zero work for me.)

*Take a page of blank paper and make a paper airplane.

*Practice fancy handwriting.

*Make wish lists.

If you didn't read the quote in the picture, make sure that you do. It's pretty humorous.

Happy planning!


Linked at:

The Kim Six Fix

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Your Values, My Kids

In our home, we value kindness, intelligence, and compassion. We try to guide our children, first and foremost, in treating everyone with dignity and respect.

We also teach, though, that a person can lose your respect and that, should that happen, the person should not regain respect easily, but should have to make amends and take time and effort to earn that respect back.

Duggars, values, off topic, parenting

Now that my kids are six and nine, it is getting more and more difficult to deal with the values of those outside of our immediate family. After all, I want my kids to continue to act with kindness, intelligence, and compassion, but I don't want them to go so far as to believe whatever others tell them. After all, kindness doesn't always mean agreement or saying yes.

But I struggle with teaching that when they are now interacting with so many people while physically separate from mom and dad.

A teacher once made a comment about the president being a "murderer" to my first grader during pro-life week at my kid's Catholic school. (The school took appropriate and swift action, much to my pleasant surprise.) A relative regularly uses the n-word in front of my children. Once, someone who my child is supposed to respect commented that my child better not come home with someone of a different race or of the same gender. They said it in front of my child!

I spoke up each time, but my kids are getting old enough that they need to learn to speak up, too.

I'm teaching the kids to respond by balancing their kindness, intelligence, and compassion for the person that they are speaking to WITH kindness, intelligence, and compassion for those being talked about. In other words, a politician, a person of color, or a gay couple deserve the same respect that the person speaking deserves, even if the speaker is a teacher or grandma.

(Yes, I did just say that politicians deserve human dignity! I'm a softie like that!)

But is that too much to expect from a child? On one hand, I want my child strong enough to say, kindly but firmly, "that language is racist. I'm not going to listen to it." But what happens when the person doesn't respond to my kid with kindness? Can I expect my kid to keep standing up?

I think I have to.

After all, the biggest danger to my child is not television or their peers. Instead, I worry most about the people that they are supposed to respect, who teach them unhealthy values with good intent, but values that we do not hold. My kids can see bad people on T.V. and easily recognize them as bad. But "good" people can fool you.

I don't want a preacher telling my kids that Jesus is the only way to salvation. (Catholics believe that someone who has no religion, or is even an atheist, but follows his/her conscience, is saved.)

Instead, I want kids who say, "good people are good people, regardless of their religion."

I don't want a well-meaning relative to tell my kids that people who are transgender are "weird" or that LGBT folks are "bad."

I want kids who say, "stop judging people for their love for others." 

I don't want a great aunt to talk about "black people" deserving to get shot in the streets.
I want kids who say, "no one deserves to die." 

I don't want a friend to comment on how she does all the housework.

I want kids who say, "here, let me do the dishes" regardless of their gender.

It's the Duggar problem. I love 19 Kids and Counting, but I don't think it's healthy to not date (preferably for a long time) before getting engaged. We don't have their brand of Christianity, and because of that, I sometimes worry more about my kids watching these clearly nice people and learning the wrong lessons from them than I worry about my kids watching Futurama.

At least, with Futurama, my nine year can articulate, "this is NOT appropriate." And, much to my shame, my six year old can question, "we don't say 'kiss my shiny metal ***, do we, Mommy?" No son, we do not. Parenting fail.

With the Duggars, I find myself saying, over and over, "Mom and Dad don't believe that." But they seem so sweet and nice that it's easy to assume they are doing things right and, just maybe, Mom and Dad are doing things wrong. That scares me.

I want to raise kids who value character over race, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, or even religion. But the well meaning people make it a struggle for me.

Character, for us, is about how a person acts, and rarely about what a person believes. (I make an exception for actively hateful beliefs.)

Unless I lock my kids inside of the home, they will keep stumbling upon people with very different values than mine. What is a mom to do?


P.S. See Giftie at:

 All Kinds of Things

Monday, April 6, 2015

3 Easy Ways to Use Blank Paper in a Planner

***This post may contain affiliate links. These links help you find the items that I use in my planner and financially support this blog. See my "Disclaimer" link for additional details.***

KerrieLynn from SparkleFrogs asked me do a post for her Facebook group about planner inserts and how I use them. 

I'm sure most people are talking about how they use Franklin Covey or DIY Fish inserts, but I instantly thought that I wanted to talk about blank pieces of paper.

Of course, any paper can be cut and used in a planner, but for my 4 1/4 x 6 3/4 Franklin Covey compact binder, I choose some cheap 4 x 6 notepaper.

TIP: 4 x 6 index cards would work well, too!

blank Paper, Planner

I use my blank paper in so many ways. That's the wonderful thing about blank paper. It works for any purpose.


*Grocery Lists

blank paper, planner

*To Do Lists (Day or Project Specific)

*Codes or Indexes

blank paper, planner



*Meeting Notes


Blank paper, planner

It just makes sense to use cheap paper for these short-term purposes. By using unlined paper, I leave open so many possibilities for how I might use the paper.

TIP: Hole punch both edges of the paper, so it can fit on the left or right side of your planner as needed.

How do you use blank paper?