Filofax: my inner organizer’s new love

Warning: total Filofax geekery commencing in 5, 4, 3, 2…

Planners are a fantastic tool. I have used them for years. I used to be into Franklin Covey planners, then the store in my city closed. I tried some planners from the office supply store. I printed my own and used 3-ring binders. I bought some online. Then one day on YouTube I found the holy grail of organizers–Filofax.

The more I looked into it the more convinced I have become that Filofax makes the highest quality organizers out there. Along with the quality, there is this delicious variety of colors and configurations. There’s a planner to fit literally every need. So, needless to say, I have two planners on their way to me. :)

Filofax personal Malden

Filofax personal Malden

This lovely purple Malden in in personal size and will be my daily planner. I swear Filofax had me in mind when they designed this. It’s on its way from England (via eBay) and when it arrives I will show you all around inside. (personal size pages are 3 3/4 in. by 6 3/4 in.)

Filofax pocket Chameleon

Filofax pocket Chameleon

This little red beauty has a special job to do and when it arrives from FilofaxUSA I will show you all about that too. (It was 60% off–a great deal!) I’m really excited about this planner and what it’s for. (pocket pages are 3 1/4 in. by 4 3/4 in.)

If you are as geeked about Filofax as I am, or if you just want to see more of them in action, there’s a blog for that: Philofaxy. Also I have a Pinterest board for all things Filofax.

Do you use a planner of some kind? What’s your favorite?

Getting organized the Pinterest way

Utilize every inch of space, even the back of a door.

 

Great ideas galore.

 

Pics to aid your attempts to get organized.

 

This just makes me smile. Who doesn’t need batteries??

Source: bhg.com via Anna-Marie on Pinterest

 

A lazy Susan in the fridge? Genius!

 

This Oklahoma mama is an organizing rock star.

 

These little bags are a terrific way to keep things tidy–and handy.

Source: bhg.com via Anna-Marie on Pinterest

 

Organizing solutions for your children’s stuff.

 

Solutions for almost anything.

 

A few more organizing ideas.

 

Have a favorite link? Share in the comments.

The kindness of strangers

Like much of the country, we have endured a blizzard the last 36 hours. It was an amazing display of snow and wind in all its wintry glory. But to me the real story is not those who got stuck in the snow (like me), but those who were helping their neighbors.

When I got stuck there were no less than 5 people who stopped to check on me. The first pickup of 20-something dudes in hunting camo worked for about a half hour to try to pull me out–for free. I made them take the little cash I had in my wallet. They apologized they couldn’t get me out and moved on to the next stranded motorist. (BTW, stuck vehicles littered the road everywhere, including a fire truck, ambulances, city buses and even a city snow plow. This was no ordinary snowfall!)

But they weren’t the only ones. There were guys like them all over town. Neighbors helping neighbors. Those stuck in their cars on the highways pooled resources and worked together to wait out the storm. Another man an his son also came by to try to pull me out but they couldn’t either. No problem. A nearby hotel had a nice warm room and plenty of hot water (for a fee!).

It was touching to see men out in subzero blizzard conditions out looking for people they don’t know to help them out–for free. They could have been warm at home with their families but they were searching for strangers to help. It may be cold outside but my heart has never been so warm.

Open house–us in a nutshell

I haven’t updated on our family in a while, and since we are starting a new school year soon (and since it’s open house time at The Homeschool Lounge) I thought I’d bring you up to speed on my brood.

I should start by saying in this open house post that we homeschool because we feel we are called to do it. That is not the case for everyone, but it is for us. And we plan to continue through high school. We do not have a room dedicated to school, so learning happens all over the house (and outside). All of life is school, so we are always learning something. We use the Biblical Principle Approach method and if you are so inclined you can see a link to my philosophy of education in the sidebar.

We school year-round pretty much. We use notebooks. We watch TV. We eat too much fast food and not enough veggies. Sometimes we sleep too late and sometimes we argue. We are not dresses-only. We have no problem with home educators who do things differently than we do.

We also love God with all our hearts. we love to read His word and do good deeds (in secret). We leave each other love notes in our mailboxes and love a good movie together. Music is important to us and you can almost always hear some around here. Prayer is a vital part of our everyday lives as well.

Now on to the kiddos:

Princess G is going into 6th grade. She has grown a lot internally and has been able to take on more responsibility. We are proud of her. Her interest is science, particularly the human body. She loves to work on the computer and visit with friends. She plays the piano too.

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Princess S is going into 3rd grade. She LOVES the performing arts. She’s a soft-spoken young lady who makes sure we are always entertained with her stories and songs. She plays piano and has won several awards.

Prince J is 5 and all boy. He loves cars and running super fast in his white lace ups. He recently learned to read, so he got his Golden Ticket on the literacy train. He will start kindergarten lessons. He’s going into his second year of piano lessons.

Prince M, at almost 17 months, is last but certainly not least. He’s learning new words to say every day and he’s a lover, not a fighter. Since he could hold one he’s loved books–hardback books–preferring them over most other toys. God only knows what’s in store for this terrific little guy.

Since I’ll be adding one more to our school day (more formally) I’m looking forward to the challenges and rewards another child brings to the mix. They hall have such unique perspectives and talents that getting them all together is never ever boring. We are also incorporating some ideas from Sue Patrick’s Workbox system. I think it’s going to bring a new vitality to our days that we’ve been lacking. I can go on about all the resources we will be using this year, but perhaps in another post, as this is a pretty big nutshell already.

If I should be so fortunate as to win something from the open house, my first choice would be a one year family subscription to Big Universe and my second choice would be cool shirts from the Homeschool boutique. The rest are great too and I’d love to win anything!

The family newspaper

I had come across this great idea from Lady Lydia and liked it so much I started doing it here and from the beginning it was a big hit. It’s so simple I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. It’s a family newspaper.

family-paperThe premise is simple:

  1. take a sheet of paper and fold in half.
  2. Fill the pages with all sorts of interesting things.
  3. Give it to your kids to read.

I made a little title that fit our family and set about filling it with jokes, extended family trivia, menus, weather, encouraging words and something exciting that was coming up for each of  the kids that we could all get excited about (or maybe an acknowledgement of some success).

They love to read it while they eat their breakfast. They feel grown up and they love to read about themselves and their family. It has opened up some great conversations too.

I don’t make one every day because I don’t have the time for that. I probably make one every week or so. It’s not fancy. I make one and copy it on the copier so there’s not a lot of color. It’s hand drawn with love and they never complain that it’s too homemade.

Why do it? It’s another way to connect with your kids. And my kids write for the paper too, so it strengthens their writing skills. And I can add “don’t forget” things, so they don’t get another nag session from me. They learn things about their extended family with my trivia and I feed their souls with poetry and their spirits with Scripture.

You’ll be surprised how much you cna fit into this little newspaper. If you make one, please take a picture and share the response in the comments below.

The most powerful creative tool

The most powerful tools you can have in your homeschool arsenal is–are you ready for this–a schedule. Many creative types see that word and run the other way. Before you write the idea off hear me out.

Why do I say a schedule is a tool? Because it gives you control of your time. Because it helps you. It helps you keep on task and lessens frustration. That’s one handy tool.

Why do I say it is powerful? Because it controls time. Well, your time anyway. It’s an amazing little tool with slots for all your tasks, big and small. A schedule seems to magically create time out of thin air, giving you time to create guilt free–time to think and explore and experiment.  And it can transform your day from chaos to calm and that is powerful.

Why do I say it is the most powerful? Because everything else rests on this. You don’t get enough rest without it. You don’t have all your supplies ready without it. You don’t have a clean workspace without it. You don’t have school without it.

A schedule is the single most important gift you can give your family. Maybe you call it a routine. Maybe yours is written or maybe it’s just in your head. However you do it, if you will commit to using a schedule you will see that your creative time is used more wisely, that you are more productive and less distracted when doing a creative project. Your materials and supplies will be ready. Your workspace will be ready. Your mind will be ready.

There are a thousand ways to do a schedule. Find one that worls for your family and try it out for 6 weeks and see if I’m not right. See if you aren’t more creative and less stressed.

Raising good cooks: part two

Becoming a good cook isn’t about being flashy or complicated. I think the best cooks are a ones with a few simple techniques that they do well. There are some things that will give any cook confidence.

Reading a recipe. Knowing how the recipe will flow helps you be a more confident cook. And also knowing if you have the ingredients/equipment on hand is good to know too.

Knife skills. Learn chopping, dicing, peeling, and the right knife to use.

Measuring. Liquid measuring cups are different than dry measuring cups. They should not be interchanged. Learning the abbreviations for measurements is important too. And how to accurately measure dry ingredients like flour. Math is important here, because you want to try your hand at doubling or tripling recipes or seeing if you have enough of an ingredient on hand.

Greasing and/or flouring pans. Not hard, but useful.

Methods for mixing. Whipping, folding, stirring, etc. are the most basic food preparatory skills.

Reading food labels. Eating healthier begins with knowledge of what you are buying.

Planning a menu. Food choices are fundamental to good cooking.

Culinary lexicon. It is necessary to know terms such as braise, simmer, saute and soft ball. Learning basic terms will make you a better cook because you will know what you need to do.

Equipment. Know what basic tools are and how to use them. These are basic tools like whisks and electric tools like blenders.

Food safety. This is a biggie. Know when food is unsafe, how to store food properly and first aid too (treating burns and cuts, for example).

Cleaning up. Sanitation, or how to properly clean cutting boards, counters, non-stick pans and knives. You may want to include stain treatment/removal.

Next: Part three–the top ten tools to have for a cook’s basic kitchen.

Raising good cooks: part one

When it comes to preparing your children (daughters and sons) for adulthood, kitchen skills can be a little overwhelming. All that goes into keeping a good kitchen is daunting, especially if you are a perfectionist or feel you lack skills in this area. Pick recipes from a favorite cookbook or family album and get to practicing.

photo courtesy *Susie*

Part one in this series is a list of recipes. A good cook does not need a hundred recipes. Ten simple recipes are all you need to master. This will give your child a wide variety of menus that will serve them well. Once you master each of these recipes you are able to improvise and create an almost endless menu. And they are all easy to double or triple for crowd pleasing meals too.

Pancakes. Making good pancakes takes skill, and making the batter from scratch is helpful. Adding a couple of Tbsp of oil transforms it into waffle mix. You can shake things up by adding fruit or other toppings and pancakes are a winner for breakfast or dinner.

Soup. Knowing how to make a basic soup is essential. Whatever soup your family loves most, learning a basic soup is important. Once you do, you can vary the ingredients to make an infinite variety for any season of the year. (And your college student will never have to settle for Ramen or canned soup!)

Basic spaghetti sauce. This is the basis for almost any variety of Italian dish. A good tomato based spaghetti sauce can feed an army of friends and family and it’s an inexpensive way to impress someone you love. Ladle it over pasta or veggies for a winner every time.

A casserole. Casseroles are another dish that you can change up a million ways. Once you understand the basics you can add any number of ingredients and always get it right.

Baked bird (for meat eaters). Another simple skill that will take you far in the kitchen. Start with a chicken. And when you are feeling ambitious, try your hand at making gravy with no lumps!

Cookies. Knowing how to bake cookies is essential. They are great gifts and snacks. They are easy to make and fun to serve.

Cake. There is really no substitute to homemade cake (except maybe angel food!). Basic cakes are not difficult and the results are tasty. And a college kid or newlywed can afford to make a cake a lot easier than buy one.

Chili. Another dinnertime staple. Vegetarian or meaty, leftovers are great too. Good chili will keep people coming around.

White sauce. This is a foundation for many things like casseroles, mac and cheese and some soups.

Bread. Again, this is a money saver. Making your own rolls and bread is all natural and you can’t beat the smell of fresh baked bread. There are tons of recipes out there to experiment with to find one that is easy and mistake-proof (most of the time). Cornbread, quick bread, yeast bread, pick something and work on it.

These ten basic recipes are things your kids can work on from upper elementary age so that by the time they leave your home they are armed with somple but tasty recipes that will save money and keep them–and their friends–happy for years. Of course, there may be things that your family loves that you wish to substitute.

Optional extras to learn: pie crust, eggs of all kinds.

Next time: 10 basic kitchen skills to master

Happiest closet ever

If you are like me you are always looking to improve your storage situation. With all the papers and books and other supplies your home can turn into a classroom in a hurry! What about thinking outside the box closet?…

craft closetThis is the cutest craft closet ever and it is filled with great ideas. Click on the picture to see the slide show at Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It’s worth the time to see how they thought of creative ways to use things like luggage tags and plate racks. [Read more...]

Luther on motherhood

Our natural reason looks at marriage and turns up its nose and says, “Alas! Must I rock the baby? wash its diapers? make its bed? smell its stench? stay at nights with it? take care of it when it cries? heal its rashes and sores? and on top of that care for my spouse, provide labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that? do this and do that? and endure this and endure that? Why should I make such a prisoner of myself?”What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful and despised duties in the spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels.
Its says, “O God, I confess I am not worthy to rock that little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of a child and its mother. How is it that I without any merit have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? Oh, how gladly will I do so. Though the duty should be even more insignificant and despised, neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor will distress me for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”