Journals, Calendars and Planners, Oh My!

It seems like a good time of the year to talk about how we keep track of all we have to do in our busy lives.  I am a paper/pencil gal at heart.  As a librarian, I love books, actual books.  I am fascinated with bindings, fonts and paper.  So, my love for journals is just an extension of my paper passion.  Mr. Man finds my journal collection odd.  I don’t know why he thinks collecting empty books is….wrong.

With all that being said, I am happy to use technology tools that help make life easier.  Mr. Man, my 17-year-old and I are all linked by the same Google calendar.  What a lifesaver.  The teen’s work schedule, Mr. Man’s evening meetings, little guy’s sports’ practices and my book club meetings are all in one place for all of us to see. We are all iPhone users but I like the look and layout of the Google tool.  The “Schedule” view is, dare I say, fun.

From my early days as a teacher, a plan book has always been essential, but its format has morphed. Years ago I carried a pocket calendar, a large professional plan book and had a family calendar (loved the bestselling Sandra Boynton Mom Calendar with stickers!) on my fridge.

Multiple calendars worked as well as you would imagine.  I never had the right calendar in front of me at the right time.  Also, I need more than a calendar.  I still need a life “plan book”.  I still crave those little squares and a month at a glance.  I need a place for long-range planning, list making and goal setting.  I also need something that is inspiring.

I’ve tried so many commercial planners.  I tried the Nourished Planner last year. It has a  meal planning/foodie focus.  I’ve tried the faith focused Catholic Planner, inspiring for sure. A dear friend turned me on to the Day Designer (beautiful and ideal for all my needs).  All of them worked well for their intended purpose, as long as I used them faithfully at the start of my day and reflected with them at the end.  In other words I needed to establish a habit.  In order to do that I personally needed something a little more….creative.

That’s when I discovered the Bullet Journal.  It bills itself as “The analog system for the digital age”. Ryder Carroll explains how he developed the system to cope with his own ADHD. It is a dynamic system that evolves as you determine your needs. Carroll hopes the system will “declutter your mind, cultivate your curiosity and help you to remain focused.”I definitely think he’s on to something.

You can see the basic premise and actually get started with 4 minute video here on the BuJo Website.  That’s what I did and I was sold.  If you would like to dive a little deeper check out Ryder Carroll’s Tedx Talk here (I did that too).

Next, I discovered the Bullet Journal (or BuJo) community.  Thousands of folks just like you and me (OK so much more creative than me) sharing their journaling/list-making/habit tracking/goal setting hearts out!  Google Bullet Journal Images and you will be blown away with the creative efforts of people putting their own spin on the basic premise.

You can keep it as simple or as creative as you like, but the components and the system are intentionally streamlined. I purchased a Moleskin dotted/grid journal. Over the Christmas holiday I sat down with a cup of tea, my favorite pens and pencils (I love pens and pencils too) and set up the basic components that I use. It was  quick and felt good to do.  Oh and I got these stencils for teen daughter as she uses the system as well.  Totally unnecessary but fun!

So, if you are searching for a new “system” or just curious, take a look.  It really can make a daily chore, a little more joyful.

Before I go though, I want to share a little bit about the other journals/calendars in my life. First, there is the Shutterfly calendar that my sister does for the family each year.  Here it is hanging next to my desk (with the adorable bag/laptop case that daughter got me for Christmas). She fills it with photos of the kids and the year’s adventures.  She does it for the grandmothers too, and makes each one unique to the receiver.  It is my favorite gift to open because I can’t wait to see what photos she included.  I’ve kept each and have a series of family scrapbooks, that I didn’t have to make.  What a treasure.

Another important calendar/planner I have is my Christmas planner.  I picked this up at a craft show a couple of years ago and love how it helps me keep Holiday plans straight.  It is just a composition book inside but decorated beautifully on the outside.  It has 4 categories:

  • Cards- I keep track of where I ordered my cards from and how many I ordered.
  • Gifts-In “Gifts” I make a list of each friend and family member and note what I purchased or made for them.    I budget for all parts of the holiday and this keeps me on track.
  • Recipes-In “Recipes” I like to note what special recipes I made for celebrations or baked goods I made to gift.
  • Traditions-In the traditions section I note who visited that year, which mass we attended, and what The Elf was up to.  It’s funny how you think you will remember that kind of thing at the time it’s happening, but for me, not so much.
This adorable photo of my babies was taken by my friend and photographer Kristin @ksphoto on FB . She’s journaled our family through the years through her beautiful photography.

The last are my “button journals”.  I always wanted to have a shelf full of personal journals (actually fill all those empty ones I’ve collected) but every time I started it seemed  I just couldn’t find my voice.  Then one day (after my second child was born) I read about a woman who journaled to her children.  So, I purchased a journal for each and started keeping a traditional diaries for them .  I say traditional because I write about the day, what’s going on in the world or something special I want them to remember or experience through my eyes.  Don’t be super impressed as I only do this once a month, sometimes once every couple of months.  It has accumulated into something of a snapshot journal that I look forward to sharing with my children when the time is right.  My daughter turns 18 soon and asked if she gets her “button journal” then.  I am not sure….I might have some catching up to do.

Do you journal?  How do you keep track of events?  What planner do you use?  I would love to hear about your journal journey.



PS-Just wanted you all to know that I am not affiliated with any of the specific products (I do use and like ’em) on the blog, but I am an affiliate link with Amazon.


The Baking Station

Before I get to the details of my baking station, I need to make this disclaimer.  I am the primary baker in the family, not the primary cook.  My husband (Mr. Man from this point forward) and I decided a long time ago  that we needed to divide and conquer when it came to running our household.  We are both full-time professionals working outside the home, and in order for our home to run in a way that makes us happy, we need to share the load.

It just so happens that Mr. Man enjoys cooking and is good at it.  Win, win! Meal planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning tasks are done by both of us, with him doing the majority of the meal preparation.

I will have a future post on meal planning and preparation as we have researched and tried a variety of “systems” and have found one that works great for us at this time.  Needless to say we thrive on a plan.  The thought of coming home and having to decide what’s for dinner, is a proposition to which neither of us is open.

Now back to me.  I mean baking.

When we renovated our kitchen years ago, we cut a window into our living room and set up a small breakfast bar.  This really opened up the space and is great for entertaining and just living.  I can see the TV from my baking station, which is actually nice, considering we don’t have cable and I watch very little TV. But, I do love to put a cooking/baking show on for inspiration. Currently I am into Baking with Anna Olson on Amazon Prime.

The baking station encompasses two functional spaces for me: the counter and above and the lower drawers/cabinet area.  The station is located next to the refrigerator so it requires minimal travel.  That is the purpose behind all the stations in my kitchen.  I know we all need to get our steps in so we can enjoy our baked goods, but that is counter intuitive to time efficiency.

I’ve set my photos to black and white for most of this post, because it is a little overwhelming from a learner perspective.

Let’s take a look at the top first.

Here you see the counter top vignette that includes the following:

    • measuring cup and bowls from Pioneer Woman (love the colors although you can’t see them here)
    • two tall containers which hold whisks (large, small and flat), spatulas (large, medium, small and skull & crossbones)  S & C is my son’s.  If you want your kids to cook, get them their own tools.  They will love it and feel very grown up. You can’t see my latest and GREATEST “container” well in the collage so here you go.

  • My sister got it for me from a wonderful west coast craftswoman who makes “Designer Objects from Vintage Books”.  I know, right? She can be found on Facebook @theupcycledbookshop. Love it!
  • Cake plate and nested mixing bowls include my favorite Pyrex yellow bowl.  Mr. Man insists it was handed down from his family.  I insist it was from mine.  Either way:  favorite family heirloom.  After I bake, I put the goodies on the cake plate and pull out my clear glass dome to keep them fresh.
  • Hanging on the wall above are two flour sifters.

To the left of the space I have my spice rack and flour canisters. The vintage canisters are from Ebay.

They seal nicely and open easily. I have a plastic bag in each which feels more sanitary to me but goes against my “avoid all plastics in the kitchen rule” so, hmm. I have flour, white sugar, brown sugar and powdered sugar in them. I picked up the spice rack shelf at variety store and love it.  It keeps everything I need at eye level.  It includes:


  • salt
  • cream of tartar
  • organic and homemade vanilla
  • vanilla beans
  • lavender
  • cinnamon (I love Pensey spices.  These were a gift…a great gift for a baker)
  • cardamom
  • ginger
  • nutmeg

So the top of the station contains most of what I need, but not all.

Now let’s take a look at the cabinets and drawers.

The three large drawers are brilliant and I love them.  When we remodeled, large drawers seemed to be all the rage for kitchens.  I was skeptical but am now a convert. Three of the photos above show the contents.  Other than the top drawer they mostly contain extra supplies or unique baking ingredients.

Starting at the top again.  The top drawer contains:

  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • biscuit and donut cutters
  • icing tips
  • small ingredient bowls
  • pastry blender

I’ve used a variety of utensil dividers.  One is black-coated metal.  Another is bamboo.  Others are just plastic bins.  One drawback to drawers is that they do get dirty from ingredients dropping in every time you open them.  Think flour shower.  So, it is critical that you have dividers that allow you to lift multiple items out at a time, in order to wipe out the drawers.

The second drawer contains:

  • extracts
  • extra spices
  • cooking spray
  • glass measuring cups
  • chocolate chips
  • cocoa

The third drawer contains some heavier items:

  • coconut oil
  • extra flour (keep bulk in freezer) and sugar
  • stand mixer attachments

The right cabinet has my favorite “luxury”: a pop-up stand mixer shelf.  It isn’t automatic, but pulling it up and locking it into place means I don’t have to lug that large appliance from below. Yay for me!  I own a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. It has been sent back for adjustments and repairs twice.  I use it often.  I would love a larger one with an apron on the bowl, but then it wouldn’t fit in that cabinet, so I will muddle through.

In the left cabinet are my baking pans, cake circles and cooling racks, stored vertically (life changing).

One item that I use often but is stored in the pantry is my pastry board. It is a Fantes 28X22 available here .  This one looks good too.It has a lip that keeps it stable on the counter and a backboard that keeps it neat.  We love it and use it for pastry and pasta. Mr. Man learned to make pierogies from his grandmother so when our new Cook’s Country cookbook had a recipe, we were inspired to pull out the board.  The result was a tender cheese and potato filled dumpling, perfect comfort food during this winter blizzard.

I hope this post helps you to consider how to best use your space.  Do you have a baking station?  Are you a completely clear counter person?  What are your favorite baking resources?  I would love to know.  We collect cookbooks so I will post more about how we use and organize them in the meal planning post.

I may wait a while to do my “Real Food” post as my baking goes against most of the real food rules.  But, we’ll talk and I’ll let you decide.