Saturday, November 30, 2013

Planning: It's In The Details

Tiny changes in how and what you write in your planner can make a planner work for you.

context codes, monthly, planner, ring bound planner, weekly, flashback,

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Christmas Spirit

John Henry (our resident Elf on the Shelf) cannot enter the house until we have the proper Christmas spirit. (I  accidentally typed House Elf three times. Clearly, I want a House Elf for Christmas.)

Christmas Spirit means a tree, stockings hung, nativity out, and everyone trying their best to be nice to each other. John Henry supplies all the naughty that we need, after all.

(I understand a lot of people disapprove of having an elf. Even more people disagree with a naughty elf. But anyone who knows us knows that we can't resist the naughty. If you want to punish us, feel free to send coal made out of chocolate. We will be appropriately shameful as we eat it. If it happens to be in the shape of a Hershey's kiss, we'll survive that, too. :))

Our Christmas spirit includes a little, crooked Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Whatever. We have spirit, y'all!

While unloading our Christmas decorations, I was reminded of a few things that I do each year to help stay organized for Christmas.

1. Don't hide anything Santa-related with your Christmas ornaments. 

Instead of in the attic with the decorations, our Elf on a Shelf and special wrapping paper hide in our closet, preferably under an old, scratchy blanket. Bonus points if you hide the Elf in a feminine hygiene box. (Also a great place to hide hubby's gift. He will never find it. ;) ) (Also an excellent hiding place? Wherever you keep the cleaning supplies. Nobody ever looks in the broom closet.)

Tip: Santa gifts come in paper with Santa's face on it so that Santa can use leftover wrapping paper and doesn't waste paper from year to year.

Now, Planner People, write the location of all of this stuff on the Locations page in the Notes/Files part of your planner.

2. Keep your original packaging together even when you unpack the ornaments.

I sit on the floor, unwrapping ornaments, putting the packaging back together, and handing out ornaments.

The kids and dad hang the ornaments.

I put the packaging back in the Christmas storage boxes.

3. Give your kids a new ornament every year. We label the boxes with the year and the child's name.

When they move out, give them all 18 ornaments to decorate their own first tree. It also helps them remember that they liked Elmo at age two and Darth Vader at age seven.

4. Use a cookie jar to keep gift wrap supplies (except paper and boxes) out all season while still looking neat and festive. I keep scissors, green and red sharpies, tape, and labels. The rest of the year, these supplies get stored with the ornaments (except scissors and tape, which go back in my junk drawer).

That way, I can wrap whenever I bring in a gift.

TIP: Don't use bows until you are leaving the house, except on the top presents. Labels will work just fine. Just keep some bows in the cookie jar. Otherwise, bows will get squished.

5. Have two of each stocking.

Weird, right? Not really. (Not any weirder than grown adults who enjoy a naughty elf more than the children do, anyway.) Santa stuffs our stockings throughout the season - the extras, not the ones on the mantle. Christmas Eve night, the magic happens when the full stocking is placed on the pile of toys and the empty one is hidden (with the aforementioned feminine hygiene box). As a bonus, Santa realistically knows if the stocking is stuffed.

6. Use a Santa sack for each child. In addition to giving Santa a realistic idea of how many toys have been made by the elves, garbage bags hold unwrapped or, even better, wrapped gifts very well. If a little isn't nestled, all snug in his bed, and creeps out at midnight, these suckers can just be dumped while Santa disappears quickly up the chimney!

7. Have a large gift wrapped for each child on tree day and put it under the tree to set the background.

(In our tree pic, those big gifts are hula hoops that I got for 5 cents each on clearance at Target after Easter. I've been hinting that they are wagon wheels. My littles are not amused.)

Planner Peeps, remember to check the gift off as wrapped and under tree in your planner.

8. Write down your traditions in your planner. The kids will remember from year to year! This way, so will you.

9. Put up the tree early. Seriously, it's going to be on your mind, on your task list, a burden, until it's done. Just do it!

10. Don't book every weekend between now and Christmas. It's tempting. There are parties. But you cannot sustain that much activity, work with Santa to get things done for the kids, and be sane.

Be sane this holiday year!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Blank Planner Entry

Today's weekly planner entry (where I usually keep my task list) was left purposefully blank for celebrating Thanksgiving.

(Bonus Tip - Note that I've started a new thing where I journal, in my highlighter color, one thing that I want to remember about each day as I cross out the previous day's entry. It's a simple way to make a record of my life.)

Still, I used a combination of my planner and some organizing tricks to make the day go smoothly, even though I had sixteen guests and made about a dozen different dishes. In the spirit of the holiday, I'm going to share my tricks for a smooth holiday celebration with you.

1. I had a dedicated location for my planner all day long.

I generally keep my planner in only a couple of places in the house anyway, but it was especially important in all the chaos that I have one place for it. I used it throughout the day, including to check off each dish as it was prepared.

2. I used my planner as an instant solution to problems that cropped up.

For example, I used it to create a running list of times when things needed to be done (like "take out the turkey at 10:30 a.m." or "baste the ham at 11:15 a.m."). I have two alarms near the stove, but with up to five or six dishes going at once, jotting the times in my planner meant I could set the alarm for just the next time something was due. It would ring, I would reset it for the next time on the list, and do the task. (Teachers can use this trick for timed lesson plans, parents can use this trick for homeschooling, and anyone can use this trick for any big project that is on a tight schedule during one day.)

I used the other alarm as a running countdown of when the guests would arrive.

3. I have a rule that people ask permission to use my planner.

Even my husband, who used my planner tonight to make Black Friday purchases off of our Christmas list, asked permission to use the planner first. That way, I knew exactly where it was, could make sure it was returned, and could ensure that he understood to only write on blank pages at the front of the planner.

Those three rules serve me well everyday, but especially on crazy days like today. Come on - you knew that a blank planner entry could only mean trouble, right?

My only other rule?

I cooked. The rest of the people who live with me and gorged themselves on the yummy food can clean. That's called fairness.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thank You, Planner People

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'd like to thank all of my Loyal Readers and the entire planner community for all the support and joy that you bring to my life.

In homes across America, people are baking pies to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. I am going beyond that, setting out seating and ingredients, waiting for the turkey to brine, defrosting the ham, cooking rice and sweet potatoes to rewarm in the morning, and prechopping as many vegetables as possible.

In my planner, I have a two page spread of today's pre-feast tasks (with a 27 next to it as today's date) and tomorrow's cooking schedule.

My husband is busily washing kitchen towels and table linens and setting up folding chairs.

My children are given a chore each time they enter the kitchen, so they are hiding in the room. (I'm pretty sure they both have really high IQs.)

My guests are all bringing a dish.

Today's lesson? Work together to get things done.

Enjoy your turkey.

(For my European friends, you should try pecan pie! Visit and I'll make you some.)


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Naughty List (With Bonus Video)

'Tis the season for lists. The most important list, of course, is the Naughty and Nice list. All the kids hope to be on the nice side and all the adults hope for just a little bit naughty, right?

I am not an advocate of writing lists just to write them. (Of course, if you really want to make the naughty list, you go right ahead.) Planner space is limited, so I put lists in there that are actually helpful or important. Now, lots of these lists are mentioned elsewhere on my blog, so feel free to go exploring, but here is a comprehensive list of lists that are in my planner (with detailed examples below each type).


P = in my project pages

M = on my main, monthly, or weekly pages

N = in my notes/file pages (because not relevant to ongoing projects)

*Next Action Lists

P - Home and School Volunteer Association 
P - room mom
P - Thanksgiving advance tasks

M - Household Hot List (for things I want to fix around my household)
M - Master Task List (for things not date specific)

M - child's homework
M - daily tasks
M - weekly tasks
M - monthly tasks

N - "if" I get a full time job

*Idea Lists
P - ideas for my Nanowrimo novel (like lists of character traits for each character or chapter ideas) 
P - ideas for my blog
P - gifts for friends and family
N - book ideas

*Notes Lists
P - list of things that did NOT work last year at an annual event that I plan
P - list of items other family members bought for our kids (so I don't duplicate)
P - wrapping paper list (blue/green for one kid, red/white for the other, reindeer for leaving the house, and Santa for Santa gifts)

P - sales tracking of listings
P - list of people invited to a party
N - continuing legal education
N - interview key points to make
N - daily meds
N - medical log

N - asthma log (was an active file, but under control so filed now)
N - important school notes (like the cost of school lunches and carpool information)
N - babysitter contacts

N - alumni association meeting notes
N - locations (where things are hidden in my house)
N - things borrowed log
N - car wreck
N - planner details (like paper size, ideas that I want to someday incorporate, or codes/abbreviations)

N - exercises
N - insurance details
N - You Tube
N - menu (all the foods that my family enjoys regularly)
N - sizes (air conditioning filters, windshield wipers, special light bulbs, ink, my favorite tank tops)
N - diet log
N - addresses (just those that are new and I might go again)


P - blog promotion checklist (In case you are wondering, I only promote relevant posts in Facebook groups. For example, planner posts go in planner groups only.)
P - household chores

N - first day of school (in notes until fall of each year)
N - weekly review
N - packing lists

N - birthday parties

*Budget Lists

P - the running total of allowance earned by my kid
M - monthly budget total
N - school dues payment log

*Shopping Lists

P - extended family Christmas gifts
P - children's individual Christmas gifts
P - children's shopping list (for their grandparents and teachers)
P - husband's gifts
M - weekly grocery/shopping list


P - Thanksgiving
M - weekly

P - Thanksgiving Day cooking
M - future planning

N - boy's routines (morning and night)

Bonus video: Touring The Lists In My Planner


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Great Planner/Wallet Debate

Plannerds often use their planners as wallets. It's one way to score a soft, leathery wallet with some extra functionality. I empathize. My wallet does not do everything that I want it to do. In fact, during Christmas shopping season, my purse often looks like this, with receipts just crammed in there next to my wallet.

Add that to the recent stretching of my much beloved current wallet, so that credit cards are loose and about to fall out, and I need to replace the old wallet with something more practical. I wanted something useful. I wanted a small planner.

But I know better. 

You see, I can't keep two planners. It's just not practical for me. Also, I needed a place to put receipts, coupons for things other than grocery shopping one (that go in my grocery shopping coupon Fold 'N Go), and cash. I knew, in the great debate between using a planner as a wallet or a wallet as a wallet, I wanted the wallet. But I wanted to cheat. I wanted that elusive extra something that planner/wallet combo people seem to have.

So I pulled out all the loose receipts...and put everything in a pile (with a sneak peek of the new wallet).

My new wallet has fabulous features. It's purple. (Come on, you know that is FAB. U. LOUS.)

It's got two main parts - one for money-related matters (also known as shopping) and one for all those pesky cards.

And...drum roll please....


I knew you would like that part!

The sections are labeled Cash, Receipts, and Coupons. Guess what the main things that stump me happen to be? Cash (my old wallet folded and I couldn't keep the case neat), receipts (until I get them home, I need a dedicated place for them), and coupons (like 15% off at Kohl's or a free appetizer at Outback).

You might not be able to find the same wallet (that I bought at the Bass Outlet), but have you considered labeling parts of your wallet like you do your files? It's not my idea, as I totally stole it from my new wallet, but I think it's going to work.

My wallet set-up is in two parts.

First, I set-up the money section.

My ID and primary credit card go in the see through slots at the top. Notice that my ID is upside down, so that I can show it to a cashier.

In the three divided pockets, I have cash (with change in the perfectly placed zipper pocket between cash and receipts), receipts (folded so I can see the store, date, and total on the outside, instead of folded with the printing on the inside), and coupons.

Second, I have the non-shopping stuff that I carry in the other part of the wallet

I have some tricks for knowing where things belong. The most often used stuff goes on the outside, while less used stuff gets tucked behind the most used stuff. For example, my medical cards are in the upper left quadrant, while my social security card is tucked behind them. My gift cards are in the upper right quadrant, with the punch cards (like buy 4, get one free) behind it. The library cards are the lower left quadrant, with my bar card (needed at court and the law library) behind it. And the spare credit cards are in the lower right quadrant, with rewards cards behind that.

One final trick is that the external zipper compartment is left empty, so that if I need to take off jewelry (like my wedding ring before going swimming), I can zip it securely in that pocket.

I love having all the essentials that I was looking for in a planner/wallet combo in my wallet instead.

The verdict? If a planner/wallet combo works for you, great. If not, list your actual problems and find a wallet that solves those issues.

Happy shopping!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pause And Reset

Life is crazy right now. I'm trying to finish Nanowrimo, spending time with friends and family, cooking for get the idea.

(If any of my family is reading right now, this is the time when you should stand up and cheer. I mean, two days into Thanksgiving break - and I haven't hurt a soul.)

It's time for a quick pause and reset. 

I can't stop. That turkey defrosting in the fridge isn't going to cook itself. I can't go into my room with a novel and a blankie. The kids complain if you don't feed them, you see. They are very effective whiners. (Also, as a juvenile attorney, it really looks bad, professionally, if your kids starve.) I can't eat chocolate frosting out of the can. (Well, maybe just one can of frosting. I'll share with the kids, so that is kind of like a diet plan, right?)

So, in the morning, over coffee...

I will rewrite my task list.

I will example my appointments and cancel and delegate wherever possible.

I will get the kids and the husband involved in tasks so I don't have to do everything.

I will reschedule anything not critical to early December.

I will find peace.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Super Secret Solution For Actually Cleaning The House

My Loyal Readers know that I have a solution in my planner for handling household chores. (Just click on the hyperlink to read it in another window. I'll wait.)

All done?

The chart that I use truly does help me get a great idea of what needs doing and how often. I use a 10-day rotation (which is a HUGE improvement over trying to get everything done every week) and check off the chores that get done so that my lazy glares at me, accusingly.

Despite all of my planning and self-deprecation, sometimes, chores don't get done that week that month all year.

But I have a solution that works every time.

Invite company over.

That's it.

We have several different people staying with us over the Thanksgiving break. 

My husband dusted and vacuumed the whole house and helped the kids go through, organize, and purge their toys. (Can I have an ALLELUIA?!?) 

My kids cleaned up their lunch dishes, scrubbed the microwave, and did the dishes. 

I cleaned the surfaces, swept, and mopped.

Check out today's chore chart.

No, no...lean in closer. Yes, those are check marks on almost every line.

Check out the kitchen. (You may never see it sparkle like this again. It's magical!)

Bonus points for my Loyal Readers who are smart enough to invite house guests that your spouse or roommate really care about and want to make comfortable.

Now, to keep this going through the holidays.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Over Scheduled Planners

Is over scheduled one word or two words? I don't know. And I don't have time to look it up because, well, I am crazy busy.

I bet this happens to a lot of you during the holidays. Let's preview my next week or so (appointments only as this list does NOT include tasks):

Today - Carpool, Date Night (Don't get all excited. We are going help Santa with Christmas. There will be no romance.) (On the other hand, someone will cook dinner and pretty much deliver it to my face, so PARTY!!!)
Sat - Friend in town (for 3 days), LSU Game

Sun - Mass, Karate Practice (repeats on Monday and Tuesday)
Mon - No school for the kids for a week (pray for me...and maybe for them :/ ), dentist for both kids
Tues - Minor outpatient surgery
Wed - Doctor's appointment, Mother-in-law arrives (for a 4 day visit)
Thurs - Thanksgiving (I am hosting. In related news, I am an idiot.)
Fri - LSU Game, Husband Has A Wild Hair Somewhere Very Inappropriate and Wants To Do Black Friday Shopping (a.k.a. he is about to be lessonated)

Sat - Out of Town Social Event, Nanowrite Novel Due

Yours look anything like that? Overwhelming? If so (or if it will look that way the week before Christmas), here are some tips to help you cope:

1. Do NOT neglect your planner. Take it everywhere and write everything down. If this means you need to carry a tote bag or change purses, go ahead and do that right now. (I said now. I'm cranky and didn't get coffee until about 10 a.m. and I said now, young lady!)

2. Work your dashboard. The truth is that I don't have time to write down "bought Skylanders" at the exact moment when I buy Skylanders. But I have this handy blank page, right at the front of my planner, where I can dump those thoughts until I sit down at night.

3. Use your Holiday project(s) to stay on track. For my Christmas plan, I track each gift that the elves are sending for my children: item, due date (the date they will receive the gift), ordered, received, wrapped, and put under the tree. I have another list for other people. I also have a Thanksgiving project plan.

4. Keep your receipts with you during the busy season, even if you don't during the rest of the year. I simply hole punch an envelope for this purpose. I've already had to return two gifts (as I found them half price somewhere else) and having the receipt handy is wonderful.

5. Schedule You Time. I know how HARD that is. Truly, I understand. You have no time for you. The holidays are not about you, right? They are about your friends, your kids, your Savior, or your yule log. All of those things, if they are your perspective, are valid. 

But you are a loved and worthy person. You do deserve to stay balanced and healthy. So, in the words of my friend Lynette, have someone "deliver food directly to my mouth." (Well, your mouth, actually. But mine would work! Or get a pedicure. Or just take a shower and a nap! Read a good book. Whatever relaxes you, do it!)


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

People Who Don't Plan And How To Live With Them

***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.***

There are things that you should discover before you marry someone. For example, on my wedding day back in 1996, I believed the following about my husband:

1. He was a friendly, outgoing guy.

2. He had a surgery as a young child to remove a vestigial tail that he was born with. (Yes, I believed it enough that I learned proper use of the word vestigial.)

3. He was organized.

The horrible, mind-boggling truth:

1. He was the president of chess club in middle school so that he didn't have to socialize at recess. His favorite activity in high school? Playing role-playing games. (I had to look that up just as much as I had to look up vestigial.) He was a complete introvert, who pretended to be outgoing later in life (from 11th grade onward) so he could meet girls.

2. THE TAIL THING WAS A LIE!!! Can you believe that?!? I know, right?!?

When we were first dating, I found a little indention on his lower back. He told me the story of the surgery where the tail was removed.

THAT LYING LIAR CLAIMS THAT HE THOUGHT I KNEW HE WAS JOKING ABOUT IT! (That was completely worthy of all caps, right?)

One day, after we were married, I was telling someone the story when he looked at ME, as if I was the CRAZY ONE, and told me that he thought I knew he was joking - and had thought that for years. Then he laughed and laughed.

I still have received neither the apology chocolates nor the apology jewels that I so rightly deserve.

3. He is NOT organized. He is ex-military, so he always made his bed and kept things pretty clean (fooling me), but he can't keep up with a schedule or to do list to save his life. He can't remember when he has meetings, parties (although, on consideration, he could be lying and just avoiding those), or things to do. He is the king of procrastination.

This is the part of the blog where I give you sage advice about:

*putting things on a family planner,

*having weekly meeting to remind the family what is on the agenda,

*emailing dates/times to the offender in advance for those moments when they claim "you never told me," 

*giving them a lovely, simple planner for Christmas, and

*teaching them how to plan.

Don't even bother with those last two! You will drive yourself crazy. And you will drive them crazy. Two crazy people do not make a nice relationship.

Nonplanners are hard-wired that way. You cannot expect them to change. 

Instead, change you. Change the way that you react.

1. Be willing to be the family secretary

I believe in fairness and equality in a marriage, so I assign them something I HATE to do. They clean the toilets or do the dusting or do whatever chore you hate, when asked (not later, because they don't plan, remember) in exchange for you taking over the family social calendar. If you can peacefully agree to this, in advance, it will save much heartache.

2. Let others know you are the planner in the family.

One of my friends, B, will call my house to make plans. If my husband (who is also a horrible phone communicator) answers, she waits patiently for him to hand me the phone. She used to ask, "is Kristy there?" but stopped, because he would answer with "yes" and silence.

3. Understand that they will NOT remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other important occasions and plan accordingly.

To be fair, my husband has an incredible memory for occasions. But for your husband or wife...

Yes, that means you should go ahead and put in your Filofax order for Christmas right now...and let the nonplanner know how much you are going to appreciate that new, buttery leather.

Good luck. I know how important your planner is, but remember that they may not understand. Be patient. They do have some other good qualities. Probably.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

5 Rules For Using Your First Planner

I went to Walmart and Target today. I rarely do trips to both, but I needed something only sold at Walmart, so I tortured myself twice this morning. As a compulsion compassionate act of self-love, I took the opportunity to browse the planner sections.

Both stores have stocked their 2014 planners!

Before the New Year, I plan to post a blog about setting up your new planners for the upcoming year. But I know I have some people reading here who are going to be picking our their first planner ever (or in many years) for 2014. For these Future Loyal Readers (a.k.a. Newbies), a brief overview of planners and the basics of using them might be useful. (Many of these basics also work for smart phone and Outlook planners, by the way.)

In addition to the stores mentioned above, you can get planners at stores like Office Depot or Staples, bookstores like Barnes and Noble, and on-line from sellers like Filofax, Daytimer, or Franklin Covey.

Basically, there are three sorts of planners - calendars (stay in one place but not very customizable), spiral or spine bound (travel with you but not very customizable), and ring bound (travel with you and very customizable). 

They are all basically used the same way. Obviously, my blog is very focused on customizing your planner, but for Newbies, it's more important that you know what to write in your planner and HOW to write it.

A ring bound planner is going to have a lot of sections.

This one (PlanAhead brand, a cheaper Franklin Covey knock-off) has monthly and weekly pages, along with sections for to do, work, personal, reference, and contacts.

Feel free to use or fill out the sections in whatever way works for you. But keep in mind that the most important parts of any planner are the weekly and/or monthly sections.

In fact, many spiral or spine bound planners only contain weekly or monthly sections. 
A calendar option often only includes monthly sections. 

Whatever planner you choose, make sure it's the right size for your life. If this is your very first planner, I highly recommend that you go see some planners in person. Pick them up. Open them. Put them up against your purse and see if they will fit in there, if that is one of your requirements. Decide if they have a place for a pen or if you will need to carry that separately. Will you actually go through that much trouble?

(Aside #1: They probably should fit in your purse or work bag, if you really plan to use them.)

(Aside #2: Do not try to fit them in your purse. Don't ask me how I know.)

Now, let's focus on how to use those monthly and weekly sections. Whatever you choose, at first, concentrate on using these parts of the planner well.

1. If you already remember something, there is probably no need to write it down.

I make coffee every morning. I make coffee if I have the flu, if someone dies, or if I oversleep. Coffee is nonnegotiable. No need to write that down.

2. When you write do an appointment, write the time span, the location, and what to bring.

3. When you write down a task, use an action word. Include any notes that are particularly important or will save you time.

4. Look at your planner every morning and every night. (Set an alarm, put it on top of your purse/man bag, or put it on top of your coffee cup.) (You know if you are reading MY blog and you are male, you have a man bag. Don't play.)

5. Write down anything that you need to remember, even if you THINK you MIGHT remember it. Not coffee, obviously, but yes, note that you need to wrap that gift!

That's it. Five rules. You can do this!

An example of planning done wrong, complete with the kind of mistakes that cause planner fail. Try to find the problems:

And now, done correctly:

See the difference?

Bonus Rule: Subscribe to Giftie Etcetera via e-mail, twitter, or GooglePlus. I'll help you get your act together!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Planning: More Than Just Writing It Down (Aka Talking Turkey)

So many of the paper planner crowd spend hours writing things down every week. I get their Facebook messages, e-mails, and blog comments, discussing and asking questions about the intricacies of planning. What to write down, where to write it, how to organize it...the list goes on and on. The non-planners among us probably think we are freaks. (I'm not denying the title, mind you. I'm just saying that they call us that. :) )

But for all our hours spent planning, many of us do not get to the important part - putting the plan into action. One of my goals with this blog is to change that trend. Plan it, then do it!

Since Thanksgiving (in America) is only a couple of weeks away, I'll show you how to DO what you planned using my Thanksgiving Project (explained here). If you do the stuff in italics, you'll be all set for Turkey Day.

Thanksgiving is not only about cooking. Basically, I'm throwing a party (with guest invites, extra utensils, drinks, ice), plus cooking a dinner. The first step in the plan is a shopping list using the menu.

Since I have a small freezer (don't worry, I'm asking Santa for a deep freeze!), I will buy stuff that does not need to be fresh, like a bag of flour, this week (when I have more time to shop) and the cold stuff next Sunday (when I have a sitter for the kids, but less time). That will also allow me to start defrosting the turkey in the fridge on the day that I bring it home.

I keep a blue plastic folder with family recipes. The reason for a plastic folder is because it always gets splashed with gravy. The folder goes over my stove with my recipe books. Other recipes are on-line in my favorites folder. 

Some of my favorite on-line recipes, like Alton Brown's Food Network turkey recipe, are printed out. I don't hesitate to write my own notes on the recipes.

This is probably my favorite note. The very first time I hosted Thanksgiving, I baked the ham without removing the paper it was wrapped in. That ham was a fail! So I put a reminder on the recipe. If you look closely, one of the first steps is "remove paper." Ha ha! Also, there is cherry juice on this recipe, along with bits of sixteen year old pineapple. The cherry juice gives it character.

I go through each recipe, checking to see which ingredients are already in the pantry, fridge, or freezer.

For the ingredients that do not need to be kept cold, like pineapples, I put the ingredients in reusable shopping bags, with the recipe or a sticky note listed the items (if it's an on-line recipe) attached with a binder clip. A binder clip is important because it won't fall off like a paper clip.

All of the Thanksgiving bags go on the floor of the pantry, in a special location, so that I am not hunting for anything on Thanksgiving morning (or the days leading up to Thanksgiving, if I am cooking something in advance).

I make a shopping list for any items that I don't have on hand, including the date when I will shop for each item.

Next, I plan when to cook each item. This schedule, written sixteen years ago when I hosted my first Thanksgiving, was in the blue recipe folder. It gives me a hint of when each item needs to be cooked.

A critical part of the Thanksgiving plan, in addition to the guest list and shopping list, is a list of tasks that can be done in advance (like defrosting the turkey or cooking the cranberry sauce). It is dated, of course. (See the little number in front of each entry on the left.) As I go through my recipes for each item that I plan to cook, I also think about what can be done in advance (chopping veggies, for example) and add that to this list.

I also consider cooking times and add that to the schedule on the right.

Finally, I consider which pot or pan I will cook in, so that I know if I need to buy or borrow something.

All that's left to do is to shop, cook, and clean the house.

I probably won't blog on Thanksgiving Day, but if I do, that is a sure sign that I am stressed. In case of that unlikely scenario, send wine.