I have been using the same monthly calendar for the last seven years...since I first went back to a paper planner. It's just a table in a Word document that I switch out each year with new fonts, colors and lots and lots of dates.
I fill up each page as things get scheduled and then use it to fill in my weekly sheets at the start of each month.
I've tried two page monthly calendars and horizontal calendars, but this vertical one with a little extra space at the bottom that I often fill with extra notes, has worked the best.
Here's the PDF... Download 2017 Planner Calendar
I don't know how fresh of a start it is when your planner for 2017 isn't put together until a week into the year, but oh well. Tomorrow Sean goes back to school, which makes it kind of feel like a new year all over again. I still get a couple of weeks at home, but it will be all spring semester prepping all the time from now until I walk into my first classroom.
I did a bunch of planner crafting last week and took pictures of it all today, so I'll be sharing more this week and next.
I actually found these milk frothers last year and tucked them away in my Christmas wrapping storage box with an idea for a hostess gift.
And speaking of last year, I also found a recipe for hot chocolate mix around the same time, but could not find it again no matter how much I Googled and Pinterest-ed. Thank goodness I remembered the ingredients, so I winged it a bit.
Basically you grind up chocolate bars (I used Lindt dark, milk and white chocolate...two bars of each type) in the food processor, then you add a generous pinch of salt (I used fleur de sel), approximately 1/2 a cup of Trader Joe's sipping chocolate and about two teaspoons of vanilla.
I packaged up the mix in mini mason jars and forgot to share any instructions on how to make the hot chocolate. So I went ahead and assumed people know heat up some milk and stir in however much mix you want.
Actually a cup of hot chocolate sounds really good right now...
The holiday decorations have come down and been packed away, but the lights stay on the mantle for a few more weeks. And I decided to do a little New Year's decorating to help make sure it wasn't completely sad and empty.
The fresh start print is actually a card from Push Print Studio, which I have been obsessed with since this past summer. I put together a few fonts to make the 2017 and then just typed out a little card for the clip frame. And I got out the candle sticks so I can get even more winter night glowy-ness going.
Last year was a big one with decade changes (Nora & Mac) and graduation (Mac) and not getting hired (Nora) and starting some college classes (Mac) and getting hired (Mac and Nora). Life looks pretty different than it did a year ago and the vast majority of of the changes are all for the better. That's a pretty lucky thing to get to say at the end of a year.
This upcoming year includes one more decade change (Sean) and who knows what else. It feels really good not to have so many milestones and changes to worry about as much as I did at the beginning of last year. Just hope these feelings of hope and peace continue throughout the year.
Loved collecting up all the best bits & pieces of this past year...
Favorite House Project A small bocce court in our backyard
Favorite Mantle Decorations Even though school started extra early this year
Favorite Scrapbooking A mini book from my 40th birthday trip
Favorite Garden Moment Our first big tomato harvest for the summer
Favorite School Idea Designing cards for student group work
Favorite Hosting But Thanksgiving is always my favorite
Favorite Organizational Project The guest room closet was completely redone
Favorite Planner Project Getting all the cute supplies organized
Favorite Discovery Essential oil foot soaks have been one of the most relaxing things all year
Favorite Gift Wrapping I could make fabric and ribbon tassels all day every day
Favorite Recipe Creamy Tomato Soup
Favorite New Job Definitely one of the bests parts of this year
Favorite Gift Mac's graduation book might be one of the favorite gifts I will ever be able to give
Favorite Moment with Sean Standing in the quiet among the most amazing trees
Favorite Moment with Mac This had the most competition since there have been a lot of favorite moments with Mac this year, but seeing him ride around on a horse like it was no big deal was pretty much the coolest
This week will include reading the holiday magazines I didn't quite get to flip through yet, finishing my December Daily-ish book for the year, catching up on two months worth of television we saved on our DVR (today was Hamilton's America, which was awesome) and profuse amounts of vanilla iced tea and/or iced coffee.
Hope you get to relax a little this week too.
Sean always gives gifts to his amazing instructional aide and his co-teacher. I got Mac's college cheer coaches a little something...and his cheer team had a family they were collecting gifts for. The mom said she liked crafting, so I couldn't resist wrapping up a colorful pile of crafty presents for her.
Sean had a Secret Santa at work...and Mac had a Secret Santa at work...so Nora had lots of fun working to make sure they got cute stuff.
I really, really love wrapping gifts.
Have I ever told you the story of the great Christmas gift guessing fight?
Way back in the year 2000, we had our first Christmas in our new house. I bought a skinny 7.5 foot artificial tree from Target for $80, which is down in our living room now as I type this and really should be replaced soon. I also used to be super good at life and have most of my presents purchased and wrapped by Thanksgiving weekend, which meant Sean's gifts were sitting underneath our new tree at our new house.
Sean's brother had flown in from his sophomore year of college to spend that Thanksgiving weekend with us. Can I just pause there for a second to take in that Sean's brother was in college? Sean was all of 23 years old and I was the super mature 24 year old.
Okay back to the story.
When I wasn't around Sean pointed out the gifts under the tree to his brother and said, "That's my new Playstation and that's the scooter I wanted".
Okay, now Sean sounds 13 years old, not 23. But those were the exact presents he was getting.
His brother told me Sean's correct guesses later that weekend. Apparently Sean was a legendary (in his own mind) gift guesser and his family had worked for years to try to trick him.
I was ticked about Sean's guessing, but never said anything to him until...
We had a fight about something totally unrelated just a few days before Christmas...because remember how mature we were. At some point during the fight I yelled about him being a pompous ass and guessing exactly what he was getting for Christmas. The look on his face confirmed that although he had guessed correctly, he didn't know for sure and now I had ruined the "surprise". I started crying that I had ruined Christmas.
Again, with the maturity.
So, while still sniffling, I decided I just had to make sure he actually did get one surprise gift. I got out the Land's End catalog and called them to order a robe with his initials. I overshared the story of the fight with the person taking my order and they took pity on me, making sure it shipped to get there before Christmas.
And we lived happily ever after.
So at some point between the great gift guessing fight and today, Sean and I started the tradition of writing little notes and hints on tags to each other. This year I took it a step further and made tags to taunt him with...
"Hey, Sean you'll never guess"
"Sean doesn't know what this is"
Aaaannnnd yet again with the maturity.
But, speaking of maturity, since the great gift guessing fight sixteen years ago, Sean has never even tried to guess a gift again.
So we managed to get through pretty much all of 2016 without one decent photo of the three of us together. Instead of trying to get one at the last minute, I relied on a few favorite photos from the year...graduation, prom, my birthday trip and Montana.
The multi-colored stripe obsession made its way onto this year's cards too.
It's a little ridiculous how happy I am to mail all of these each year. I have to walk them into the post office and stand there sending each one through the mail slot, off on its way to family and friends.
In 2013, 2014, and 2015 I had all this merry making done in the first week of December and now we are close to the third. I have been behind on pretty much everything this year, but thankfully there is still some time left to do a few family holiday activities.
Every little detail of merry making continues to be one of my favorite traditions and I can't wait for Mac to start tearing into these packages.
(My brother recommended the brand and said even people who don't like eggnog like this stuff...and he was totally right)
So far Clarence's best trick has been bungee jumping with rubber bands.
I will never consider having elves around without children as something that is normal. No matter its peculiarity, though, it really is pretty fun.
This afternoon at the post office (miraculously with no line!) boxes went off on their way to Oregon, Iowa and Oklahoma. These were the gifts that headed towards "where the winds come sweeping down the plains" to my dad and his family.
I broke out the alphabet stamps again for a couple super simple versions of gift tags this year. Can't wait to get more wrapping done and make a pile under the tree of the gifts that are staying here in California.
This Sunday was filled with a level of peace that can only be achieved by knowing there is not school tomorrow. I am so super-duper lucky to have six of these types of Sundays before I go back for the spring semester.
I worry that I might sound like a teacher who thinks the reason for teaching is the vacation we get, but please know that is not the case. I am actually looking forward to working on the tasks I have on my end-of-semester to do list and had to stop myself from starting on them...figuring that Christmas cards and packages should at least get out the door.
But no matter how much I love work, knowing that I will not be scrambling to get it all done too late on a Sunday night is an awesome feeling.
These are the days where I want to be focused on wrapping paper, but instead I have to be grading papers. I finished up my last classes today, so I just have the last big batch of grading before all the holiday crafting can really get started.
After eighteen years I decided to spring for new Christmas stockings. I had originally purchased four embroidered stockings from Land's End in 1998...Sean, Nora, McIntosh and Meriwhether. Mine had an angel...which is the last thing I'd ever pick, but they only had four designs and I really liked the other three.
West Elm provided stockings 2016...along with a 20% discount and free embroidering and free shipping. Hard to beat that. And they were a cute striped wool felt with no angels anywhere (my apologies to people who like angels--you must be a much nicer person than I am). So now we have Sean, Nora, Mac (since he doesn't like McIntosh) and "dogs"...for Shamrock & Paddington.
The bonus is these stockings hold a lot more. The old ones would seriously hold maybe three little things, so anything bigger than a few inches would be piled on the fireplace. Now there is plenty of room for Santa to stuff my stocking full of craft supplies and chocolate.
Oh the Christmas crafting I want to do...and the work for school that I have to do.
No matter what though, I am definitely doing a fifth year of December Daily-ish documenting. My supplies are all ready and I am getting started this weekend.
I actually made a set of six of these simple cards that I didn't end up using, so I added some matching envelopes and thought I would share the set here.
If you would like it, please leave a "pick me" comment and I will email the random drawing winner on Friday.
Well Wishes...a homemade card shared on Wednesdays.
One of my happiest moments in this past year was on the first night of my little birthday vacation when Sean suggested we order a cheese plate at dinner and then was just as happy as I was devouring it.
I have a Pinterest board of cheese boards.
So last week, when we were shopping for Thanksgiving dinner supplies, I spent too long at the Murray's Cheese Shop counter at our local grocery store. The very, very best part of this is you can ask them to cut smaller pieces of each cheese so you can try each one for just two or three dollars. You know, that way you can try six.
After the turkey was in the oven early Thanksgiving morning, I started cutting and assembling a cheese plate...with a couple kinds of crackers, deli meat, almonds and an amazing fig & orange spread from the cheese counter.
The cheese plate sat waiting on the kitchen table until Sean, Mac and I needed a snack to tide us over until everyone arrived for dinner.
Now I think we need to share a cheese plate snack every Thanksgiving...or maybe just every single week or something.
This year's turkey day seemed to be a success. We packed up a couple of baskets and met my sister at their company office so she could get some work done during the turkey crafting and snacking fun.
This year we tried paint and forks to make turkeys...it was fun, but took forever to dry. Thankfully we had a turkey cheese ball snack (I improvised from this idea) and turkey trivia to answer while we waited.
Oh and turkey trivia meant prizes for everyone. Late the night before I couldn't resist getting out colored pencils for the prize bags tags.
Then our other craft was Uncle Seany's idea. He suggested the kids decorate bags for each person to take home Thanksgiving leftovers...yet another example of how seriously we take leftover packing. It'll be fun to surprise everyone with those carefully drawn out bags in a couple of days.
I was teasing with my nephew and nieces that our turkey day crafting tradition will certainly continue when they are super cool teenagers. They are nine, eight and seven, so I know there are barely a few turkey days ahead, so I am trying to soak up every fun moment of our own extra day of Thanksgiving traditions.
I wish I had more fun Thanksgiving-y projects to share with you to start the week, but there's nothing quite yet. I have ideas for decorating the dining room (here it is last year), but haven't tried them to see if they work. And we have our fourth annual turkey day tomorrow with our nephew and nieces, so I'm late organizing the supplies for the various Pinterest ideas I collected up for crafting and snacking.
But that's all I've got for now...nothing.
Thanksgiving leftovers are serious business in my family. We all carefully pack up food to enjoy throughout the holiday weekend.
I have had fun decorating leftover containers in the past, but last year I decided to focus on really organizing them so it would be easy to pass out to everyone as they headed home.
First, was the realization that I should pack leftovers ahead of time. We make everything, but the turkey, the day before Thanksgiving. So it finally occurred to me, if you cook it the day before, why then reheat it all the next day?
Instead, when each dish was done cooking, I filled smaller serving dishes for us to use during our Thanksgiving meal and then filled a take-home container of each item for each person. That way what would have been leftover anyway hasn't been cooked twice. The additional bonus to this plan is all my serving dish sizes are much smaller, making it easier to heat up everything in the oven together once the turkey comes out to rest. The next additional bonus is that one more step of work has been taken out of Thanksgiving day, packing up all the leftovers.
The thing I needed to keep in mind with the pre-portioning is that some people want this and not that or one item is their very favorite and they would love extra. So out came the washi-tape color coding. Each family member was assigned a tape design and all of their leftover portions could be easily identified in the fridge. I also had more empty labeled containers ready to fill with turkey and pieces of pies my sister bakes.
Thankfully, last year the plan worked perfectly, so it will be a new washi-tape organized tradition.
I am guessing you never realized how long someone could write about a Thanksgiving leftover plan, but like I said, my family doesn't mess around with this dinner. If it doesn't seem completely crazy to you, hopefully it will help your Thanksgiving efforts go a little more smoothly.
Today was the first happy day at my desk in a while, since my computer seemed to be falling apart over the last couple weeks.
So very slow, not downloading, freezing, not printing, not saving, not connecting to the external hard drive. It was a mess.
After several attempts at solving it all, miraculously, it's pretty much back to normal.
I never appreciated making some worksheets for school and a holiday party invitation so much.
Last week I got to meet one of my Sociological heroes, Peggy McIntosh. She wrote, "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege".
I took seven pages of notes while listening to her speak, but one of the most poignant was when she said, "If I really believe in inclusion and equity, I might have to give up my place".
I want to always work towards being the type of person that is willing to give up my place.
This morning was tough, but being in the classroom helped. And, as I drove home during the sunset, I saw the lights turning on at the Field of Valor set up in our community this week. I met Sean at home and we immediately went back out the door to the park. We walked through the 1,776 flags symbolizing the ultimate example of giving up your place.
Instead of wallowing in fear, I want to find more opportunities to try to help. And I really hope all of us can find ways to help support each other.
See you next week...
Way back on November 6, 2006, Sean and decided to stop the fertility treatments we were trying, to not try to adopt again, to dismantle the nursery we had and to give everything away.
That was the heartbreaking part.
But the hopeful part seemed like it was a pretty good plan. To be extra grateful we were Mac's parents. Sean wanted to start running and train for a marathon. He wanted to coach in the after school program at his junior high. And I wanted to finish my bachelor's degree and and finally be the teacher I had dreamed of being since I was twelve years old.
A year later Sean was running the Portland marathon and I was finishing the units I needed to transfer to the local state college.
Ten years later, Mac is working hard and enjoying college. Sean coaches three sports each school year and has been running over a hundred miles a month for years. And I am in my third year of teaching still pinching myself over the moments I get to spend with my students.
A few years ago I described our "infertility clause" like this, "Sean and I are big on counting our blessings so often when we are in a moment that we're really enjoying we'll point out to each other that this is what we get to have because of what we weren't able to have. Just trying to always keep the grass green on our side of the fence."
Ten years after we made our decision this could not be more true. We are a very lucky little family.
Sean made a framed magnet board that we have had in our little guest half bathroom for a couple of years now and I am usually really bad at keeping something cute on it.
As I decorated for fall last month, I decided I'd get some old pumpkin patch photos reprinted to hang on the board...and make some magnets to hang them with.
I printed some tiny versions of digital patterned papers and punched 3/4" circles to adhere to painted 1" wood circles with a magnet on the back.
It was one of those quick projects, among lots of school work, that reminded me that it's really, really fun to craft stuff up. Now I need to switch out the photos with Thanksgiving memories.
After two years of Halloween nights spent at high school football games, we will actually be home again this year. The front porch and mantle were decorated this weekend at pretty much the last minute.
Halloween has never been my favorite, but seeing all this makes me wish I had decorated at least a week in advance. Since all of this will only be up for about 72 hours total...then it's on to Thanksgiving since that is my total favorite.
Here's the trick or treat print in case you have any very last minute decorating to do.
Yet another project from this summer was a new television stand in our family room. We have had the couch for a couple years now and wanted to get something a little smaller than what we had, with more useful storage.
So off to Ikea we went and came home with this Besta stand. In an attempt to help this look a little more unique, one sheet of this wall paper was ordered and these drawer knobs were bought. I'm grateful that Sean was able to make another one of my crazy ideas work.
Now if we could just sit down a little more often to watch a show or two. We don't have many shows left that we watch regularly, but I am absolutely loving "This Is Us".
With Halloween a week away, I wanted to share the project I contributed last month to Eighteen25's Spooktacular September.
It wasn't terribly creative, but I made up Halloween versions of the dessert cups I have made before. This time I just filled some with candy corn and some with muddy buddies. Oh, but a pumpkin muffin with some caramel cream cheese frosting would be so good!
Ahhhh fall. The time of year where I look longingly at the social media posts sharing beautiful fall leaves and discussing crisp weather...while enduring another heat wave. Pretty sure I keep complaining about this every single year...2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010.
And today it was ninety-six degrees, so that's all I'll say about that.
Apparently I have completely forgotten to share anything in months, but I am still completely committed to using the Project Life app to crank out pages.
These twenty pages are actually from mid-May to early July. With Mac's high school graduation, there was lots of extra documenting beside the usual weekly stuff.
I continue to really love the details I am catching that I know would have never been made into something otherwise. For instance, I have a whole page of photos from driving him to high school for the last time...I know those will rip my heart out in a few years. Heck, they already do.
I started Thursday afternoon, when I got home from school, and have been working almost straight through this entire weekend. I pretty much just stopped to eat...and to go for a couple walks.
I have a lot of grading the next few weeks and will not have as much time on the weekends, so I buckled down now to get everything prepped.
I have almost thirty different class meetings planned...every activity, worksheet...lecture, notes and videos...ready to go. And I created at least half a dozen new lectures and activities.
My brain is mush...but happy teacher mush.
At the end of each year I have been gathering favorites around here and I think this might end up being the favorite gift I'll have wrapped all year, even though there's still a chunk of time left.
It's actually from all the way back in April that I never shared. My cousin's daughter's had her first birthday party and the toys I bought were too wonky to be wrapped with wrapping paper. So I broke out a paper gift bag and recycled this idea.
But I think my favorite part of my favorite wrapped gift is the tag that I dragged brush pens across to make some messy stripes...I'll have to recycle that idea too.
Mac is taking a ceramics class that offered extra credit to visit local museums, so today we went to The Broad.
Sean, Mac and I all gravitated towards different things as we wandered the galleries late this morning...and I went towards color, color and more color.
This is as good as recipes get. It's easy, can be made in advance, is perfect for parties and is just basically amazing. It's similar to this recipe I've shared before, but the couple of differences make it even better.
A good friend shared this and a spinach dip recipe ten years ago and they both have been made for so many parties around here. In fact, that seems to be just about the same thing I said when I shared the spinach dip recipe.
I also have made this caramel dip as a snack for events like mini cheer camp and have just omitted the toppings. It's a great way to get kids to eat apples.
Plus if you have pretzels or potato chips sitting around and love salty sweet combos as much as I do, dip those in too.
Caramel Cream Cheese Apple Dip
Using a hand-mixer, blend cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla together until smooth. Spread the mixture into the dish you will serve it in. Top the cream cheese with the caramel dip, spreading it to the edges of the cream cheese layer. Sprinkle Heath Bar all over the top. Can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.
It's not really an actual trick, but more of a tiny detail.
I don't always tear off a piece of washi tape very neatly, which then bugs me. My solution has been to use a tape dispenser. This one by Poppin is heavy enough to stay put and the center pops in and out very easily, which means switching tapes takes barely a second.
I have always had plants around our house...mostly philodendrons since they seem to be the only plants I can consistently keep alive.
In the last year though, there have been more and more plants...
Which also means there have been a few too many plant funerals...actually way too many. Hopefully one day I will be able to really figure out how to keep house plants happy.
I have three to do lists going at once. A general life one, one for school this week, and school in the future (about fifteen lectures, activities, or worksheets I want to create for upcoming class topics).
So, today I reached into my pen drawer, since I decided a to do list item needed to be written in orange, and was reminded that having too many pens in so many colors really does make me unreasonably happy.
Oh and a to do list idea I really love...the ta da list.
I have decided that meat + beer + crockpot is pretty much my favorite cooking trick. Or at least in my top ten. I use this same chicken to make quesadillas, but it is also awesome as a grilled cheese sandwich with buttery toasted bread.
Crockkpot Barbecue Beer Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
(makes 6 sandwiches)
Place chicken breasts in a crockpot with chopped onion. Pour in barbecue sauce and beer. Cook on low for six to eight hours.
*You can also use frozen chicken breasts. When I do, I cook on high for an hour and then switch to low for 6-8 hours.
Remove chicken breasts from the crockpot and shred them. Add the shredded chicken back into the sauce to keep warm.
Spread softened butter on slices of bread and sprinkle lightly with onion powder. Build the sandwich with a slice of cheese on both pieces of bread and a pile of shredded chicken in the middle. Grill sandwich on both sides until browned and toasty.