I Heart Beekman

I’m just going to say it: I adore the Beekman Boys. I remember seeing ads for their show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, when my husband and I first moved to upstate New York, back in 2008. It looked cute, and I had a vague sense of their story, but that was about it.

Fast forward almost seven years, and I started noticing their pictures that my friends had liked on Facebook. I ended up liking their Facebook page myself, and started to fall in love with them and their world.

If you’re not familiar with them, Josh and Brent are the Beekman Boys. They used to live and work in NYC, but on a weekend trip upstate, they stumbled into the town of Sharon Springs, and found a beautiful, old farmhouse. They bought the farm, and eventually started a business selling cheese and soap made from the milk of the herd of goats living there. Today, Beekman 1802 is a lifestyle brand, focused on seasonal products ranging from skin care and cookbooks, to furniture and clothing. Their goods are produced seasonally, and in collaboration with local artisans and farmers. Here are some of my Beekman favorites:

  • Books. Josh is an accomplished writer, and his book, The Bucolic Plague, tells the story of how they found the Beekman Farm, and eventually decided to make it their home and business. I’ve also read his personal memoir, I Am Not Myself These Days, about his time spent working in advertising by day, and as a drag queen by night.

  • Reality Show. Early in their time in Sharon Springs, Josh and Brent had a reality show, chronicling their adventures as they transitioned from city life to country life. The Fabulous Beekman Boys is great viewing for those of us who fantasize about farming, but will never actually do it ourselves. I binge-watched both seasons as soon as I got my hands on them.
My most recent Beekman Beauty Box
  • Beauty Box. In my post about my favorite subscription services, I mentioned that I would love to receive the Beekman 1802 Beauty Box as a gift. Fortunately, my sister was reading, and she gave me a subscription for my birthday. (Thanks, again, Sis!) The Beauty Box contains several Beekman 1802 soaps and skin care products, beautifully packaged, is delivered quarterly.

  • Harvest Festival. Rounding out my “Beekman birthday”, my husband gave me tickets for our family to attend the 2017 Harvest Fest Beekman Farm Tour this coming September. We’ll get to tour the farm, meet the goats, and attend the Sharon Springs Harvest Fest. I love fall events, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to contain my excitement on our way to this one!

Are you a Beekman fan, too?

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Early Spring Favorites

It’s finally, officially spring! As is almost always the case, though, it doesn’t really feel like spring here in upstate New York for a few more weeks. We still have some snow on the ground, most days I still wear a winter coat, and there aren’t any leaves to be seen.

Hot cross buns. I’m not at all religious, but one Lenten tradition I happily participate in every year is the consumption of hot cross buns. A local bakery makes absolutely divine (pun intended) hot cross buns, and I practically eat my weight in them most years. I’ve been missing out the first couple of weeks of Lent this year because of my no added sugar month, but I’ll be in line at the bakery on the morning of April 1st!

Starting seeds. For the past few years, I’ve been growing all of my veggies, herbs, and flowers from seed. It’s economical, and there’s a lot more choice than if I buy already-started plants from a nursery. I buy nearly all of my seeds from Botanical Interests, where they’re all non-GMO, and many heirloom and organic varieties are available. I recently placed my order for this year, and some of my favorites are Peppermint Stick zinnias, Chocolate Cherry tomatoes, and Freckles Romaine lettuce.

Shoes and cotton clothing. I’ve been wearing wool and fleece since November, and I haven’t stepped outside without my boots and Smartwool socks, during the same time period. I love cozy clothes, but enough is enough, already. Stores have been displaying capri pants, ballet flats, and sundresses for months, and every time I pass them, it feels like they’re mocking me. I’m so ready to do the annual winter-spring clothing swap!

Something other than root veggies at the farmers’ market. We’re lucky to have several fanastic, year-round farmers’ markets in our area, but I confess that I don’t visit them very often during the winter. Yes, they carry an abundance of fresh, local produce, but I can only eat so many apples, carrots, and turnips. Soon aspargus, peas, and radishes will be showing their colorful, er, faces at the farmers’ markets, and I can’t wait!

Noisy nature. My seasonal affective disorder starts to kick in when the last cricket stops chirping in the fall. Winter’s silence is such a depressing contrast to the pervasive sounds of spring and summer. I love the singing birds, the chattering chipmunks, and of course those chirping crickets, but my absolute favorite sound of nature is the call of the spring peepers. (Not familiar with it? Here’s a sample.) When their chorus starts up again, I know we’ve turned the corner.

What are some of your early spring favorites?

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Five Things I Love About Saratoga Springs

I live in the Capital Region of New York, meaning the area surrounding the state capital, Albany. This is pretty much the heart of upstate New York. (Check out this post for my thoughts on the definition of “upstate New York”.) While it isn’t technically true, I tell everyone that I live in Saratoga Springs. In reality, I live in a town that borders the city of Saratoga Springs, and is a part of the Saratoga school district. Plenty of people have heard of Saratoga Springs, but no one – even locally – has heard of our town.

Our town has no real downtown or business district, but it’s a lovely place to live. We were drawn to it for the larger, more private lots, and because one can get a good bit more house for the money here. I consider myself a resident of the town we live in, but Saratoga Springs is the community with which I identify. I fell in love with Saratoga many years ago, and when my husband and I decided to move out of the New York City area, we quickly zeroed in on it as our new home.

Five Things I Love About Saratoga Springs

I am incredibly happy living here, and there are many things I love about Saratoga Springs. Here are the top five:

  • Broadway. When my husband and I decided to leave New York City, we wanted to find a place with a decent-sized, walkable downtown. I’m not talking about a couple of nice blocks, but a generous commercial district, with lots of different kinds of business. Saratoga’s main street is called Broadway, and it has many restaurants, shops, salons and spas, boutiques, and other businesses. It’s well maintained, and has lovely, seasonal decorations throughout the year.
  • Restaurants. While I’m not fan of cooking, I’m a big fan of eating! When my husband and I left New York City – a city chock-full of amazing restaurants of all kinds – we were looking for a place that had a similar variety of great eateries, but on a smaller scale. From my fancy favorite, 15 Church Street, to the tiny, takeout-only Falafel Den, to Druthers Brewhouse and Restaurant and many others, Saratoga is full of great dining options.
  • Library. I didn’t really appreciate Saratoga’s public library until my daughter was a baby, and I was looking for places to take her. Like most libraries, they have a fantastic selection of books, DVDs, and music that patrons can borrow. But in addition to this, they have a great playroom for toddlers and young kids, amazing classes and programs for all ages, community spaces, a used bookstore, a coffee shop, and much more. It’s truly a community gem.
  • Farmers’ Market(s). Prior to moving to Saratoga, my main experience with farmers’ markets was the Union Square market in New York City. Saratoga’s doesn’t match its scale, but it’s a pretty fantastic market. In fact, stopping by the farmers’ market on a Wednesday afternoon or a Saturday morning is a pretty standard summer activity for us. And a few years ago, a second, Sunday market came to town, and it rivals the original in terms of size and quality.
  • Proximity. I’ve lived in New York, Boston, and Oakland, and I don’t miss living in a big city at all. However, I enjoy visiting big cities and taking my daughter to experience them. Saratoga is well-situated, in that one can drive to New York, Boston, and Montreal in four hours. We’ve visited all three cities multiple times, and will continue to do so throughout the years.

What do you love most about Saratoga Springs, or your own hometown?

What’s Up Wednesday: January, 2017

What We’re Eating This Week

As I described in this week’s meal plan post, it’s a busier week for my family than usual. Therefore, we’re keeping it pretty simple this week, and eating an easy favorite (spicy peanut noodles), a crock pot soup, chili, and pizza.

What I’m Reminiscing About

The other day, my husband asked our daughter if she remembered the first – and last – birthday party we had for her at our house. It was her second birthday, and since she was born just a few days before Halloween, it was a costume party. She wore her jockey costume, and we invited lots of family and friends, bought WAY too much food, and spent what felt like a lifetime cleaning both before and after the party. Afterward, my husband said, “Never again!” We’ve had her birthday parties at other locations – the local YMCA, a farm, and a nail salon – since then!

Trick-or-treating in the jockey costume
What I’m Loving

The relatively mild winter weather we’ve been having. Sure we’ve had a handful of very cold days and a couple of snow and ice storms, but for most of January and looking ahead to next month, our high temperatures have been in the 30’s and 40’s. For January and February in upstate New York, that’s pretty darn great!

What We’ve Been Up To

I’m working more than usual this winter, since it’s the busiest time of year in my office, and we’re down a full-time staff member. My daughter has gymnastics on Saturday mornings, and Brownies meetings every other week. It’s cookie season, so we’re getting everyone their fix!

 What I’m Dreading

Ugh – my first colonoscopy is scheduled for April. I have a family history of colon cancer on both sides, so I need to start getting screened fairly early. While the procedure itself sounds pretty gross, what I’m really, really, really dreading is the prep. Enough said, right?

What I’m Working On

My current projects include making activity plans for February break, lining up summer vacation plans and summer camps, and getting everything together for our taxes.

What I’m Excited About

Ordering seeds for my garden! I’ve been a little distracted by other things lately, but soon I’ll be going through the catalogs, and placing my order for seeds! I’m going to focus my veggie gardening efforts on tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, and winter squash this year. For flowers, I adore zinnias! I like to plant as many varieties as possible, and fill my kitchen window sill with vases of them all summer. Botanical Interests is my favorite source for veggie and flower seeds.

What I’m Watching/Reading

We don’t have cable or any streaming service, so we’re always WAY behind  on the new shows. My husband recently started us watching The Americans, and I’m loving it!! (We’re still in season one.)

I just finished reading I Am Not Myself These Days, and I’m currently reading The House of the Dead. (You can see all of the books I’m reading, have read, and plan to read in 2017 here.) I’m always slowly working through my huge pile of magazines – The New Yorker, O, Money, Real Simple, and Kiplinger Personal Finance.

What I’m Listening To

Podcasts, of course! The usual suspects – Scavenger Life, Sorta Awesome, Happier With Gretchen Rubin, etc. – plus lots of the Commonwealth Club. The Commonwealth Club interviews so many interesting people, and I added several books to my list after the last few episodes I listened to.

What I’m Wearing

Business casual (slacks and sweaters, mainly) for work, plus jeans, fleece, and cozy sweaters. And I wear my insulated Bogs boots pretty much every time I step outside my house.

What I’m Doing This Weekend

It’s going to be another quiet weekend here. I have a couple of errands to run, and my husband and I are going out to dinner on Saturday.

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month

Valentine’s Day fun, sunset after 5:00, and February break!

What’s up with you??

Beekman 1802

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I Heart Subscription Services

Where I grew up, there was no home delivery of the mail. Instead, we had to drive to the post office – just a couple of miles down the road, in my family’s case – and pick up our mail there. As a result, the mail has always been exciting to me, something special. Even today – when we don’t receive much more than catalogs, junk mail, and the very rare greeting card via snail mail – I’m still filled with anticipation as I walk up the driveway and open the mailbox. You just never know what could be in there!!

I think this is the driving force behind my love of subscription services. I’m not talking about magazines here – although I love those, too. I’m talking about the something-of-the-month clubs. These days, there’s every kind of “of-the-month” club: fruit, books, razors, lingerie, snacks, flowers, tea… pretty much anything you can think of. I’ve subscribed to a variety of them in the past and currently, and because I love receiving them so much, I also love giving them as gifts. As a bonus, you can order them online, and can send the recipient an email announcing your gift, almost immediately. (Are you hearing me, last-minute shoppers?? If it’s Christmas Eve, and you still need a present for Aunt Martha, consider sending her the gift of a subscription service.)

My Favorite Subscription Services

Birchbox. I’ve tried a bunch of makeup and skin care subscription services, and all have pluses and minuses. What I like about Birchbox is the low price – only $10 per month – and the fact that they send samples, rather than full-size products. This way, I can try a variety of different things, and I’m not stuck with a large amount of something I don’t like.

Stitch Fix. You may have read about my love-hate relationship with Stitch Fix, but overall, I’m a fan. Even though they don’t always “get” me, the styling fee is pretty low – $20 – and is applied to the purchase of any item you keep. Also, you can schedule Fixes monthly, bimonthly, or just order one whenever you feel like it.

Highlights Which Way USA. Just like her mom, my daughter loves word searches, mazes, and other games. She recently received a subscription to Highlights Magazine, and while on their website, I discovered their Which Way USA Book Club.  Every three weeks, she receives a set of books about two different states. The books are full of games and activities that teach geography and facts about the states. There’s also a map of each state included. We just received her first set, and she absolutely loves it.

Mighty Fix. I love to learn about new-to-me, green products, and the Mighty Fix from Mighty Nest is a fantastic way to do so. For $10 per month (shipping included), they send a green product for the home, whose value is at least $10. In addition, I can purchase any other products from them, and they will ship with my Mighty Fix for free! Also, you can designate the school of your choice to receive 15% of your Mighty Nest purchase as a donation. Talk about a win-win-win!

A Few Others I’d Like To Try (Hint, Hint, Dear…)

  • Beekman 1802 Beauty Box. Ever since I watched The Fabulous Beekman Boys and read The Bucolic Plague, I’ve been a huge fan of Josh and Brent, and their company, Beekman 1802. And since I’m a lover of soap and skin care products, I’d really like to try their quarterly Beauty Box.
  • Book of the Month Club. I buy very few books for myself these days, since we have a shortage of shelving in our house, and our local library is fantastic. Still, I would love to have a new book – chosen from five different options – sent to me every month.
  • Mask Maven. Regular facials are a bit too pricey for me to justify, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I need to take better care of my skin. Masks are a fun, relaxing, and inexpensive way to treat my skin. Mask Maven sends subscribers nine masks sourced from Korea and Taiwan, every month.

Which subscription services do you like best?

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Friday Favorites: Staying Warm

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I hate the cold. December through March, I just want to be inside, wearing layers, and drinking hot tea. One might reasonably wonder why, given this, I would choose to live in upstate New York. It’s something I ponder a bit every year, but I’ve lived without seasonal change in the past, and I greatly prefer living with the seasons, even winter. Over the years, I’ve developed some chilly temperature coping strategies that help me battle the cold, and stay warm throughout the winter. There are some of my favorites:

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The best boots I’ve ever worn
  • Bogs Winter Plaid boots. I bought my first pair of these boots last month, and I am in LOVE. They’re 100% water-proof, insulated, and guaranteed to keep my feet warm at temps as low as -40 degrees. I also love that they’re slip-on, rather than needing to be tied. They’re incredibly warm and cozy, and they’ll be great in the winter snow and slush.
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I never get cold with my down comforter
  • Down comforter. I bought my down comforter almost twenty years ago, and it’s still going strong. It’s so warm, I only use it during the coldest two or three months of the year. It’s machine washable, too, which is a huge plus to me. It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember exactly which one I bought, but I know I got it from The Company Store.
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Another layer for my legs
  • Smartwool socks. I’ve been wearing Smartwool socks for years, and I love how many different styles, patterns, and thicknesses they come in. Some are like down comforters for my feet, and others are a bit lighter. My favorites for winter’s deep freeze are these knees socks, which are basically an extra layer for my lower legs. (Bonus: Smartwool actually makes a wide variety of clothing, including girls’ leggings, which my daughter loves.)
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Toasty warm when the temperature drops
  • Flannel sheets. Before the down comforter comes out, I put my flannel sheets on my bed. They’re super soft, and they warm it up a bit, without the extreme warmth of the comforter. I have this LL Bean set.
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This keeps me warm at work.
  • Space heater. My office at work is in a small, old building.  It’s drafty and poorly insulated, and it’s freezing when I arrive in the morning in the winter. Thankfully, our department has several space heaters available for staff use, and I gladly put mine to use. It warms up quickly, and the heat level is adjustable. It’s also on wheels, which makes it easy to maneuver it around my small office, as needed.

How is winter where you live? What products help you manage the cold?

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans

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Friday Favorites: Saving Money Edition

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I’m a big fan of saving money. I pick up coins I find on the ground, I check store flyers for weekly specials, and I even return our empty soda cans to the grocery store. (I paid for that deposit, and I like to get it back!) There are countless ways to save money, and I try to use as many as possible, within the time constraints of my life. Here are some of my favorite, easy ways to save money:

Cardpool

I clued into the idea of buying discounted gift cards fairly recently, and I’m so glad I did. It’s like getting a discount on my purchase, right off the bat! I use Cardpool to purchase my discounted gift cards. Their website says you can get cards for up to 35% off the value, but I’ve generally saved in the range of 10-20%. Since I do a decent amount of shopping online, I always check Cardpool before I make a purchase, to see if I can snag a discounted gift card to use. (They sell both physical and electronic gift cards.) And I haven’t done this, but you can sell them your unwanted gift cards for cash, too.

Ebates

I’ve been using Ebates for over ten years!! If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a great tool for saving money when shopping online. Before I make a purchase, I check to see if the store is an Ebates partner. (I’ve encountered very few stores that aren’t partners. Amazon, Gap, Macy’s, Target, Ann Taylor, Gymboree, Best Buy, and many, many more are all there.) Then I simply click through the Ebates site to go to the store, and shop like I normally would. I earn 1%, 2%, 3%, 6%, and sometimes more in cash back on these purchases. In fact, since I started using Ebates in January, 2006, I’ve received $863.78 in cash back!! I haven’t tried it yet, but Ebates recently started offering cash back on in-store purchases at some stores, using credit cards that you link to their site.

Rewards Websites

In my view, sites like Swagbucks, InboxDollars, and MyPoints are fairly similar. They all award users points for engaging in a variety of relatively quick and easy tasks: answering daily poll questions, clicking through links in promotional emails, printing and using grocery coupons, taking surveys, watching videos, and more. Once you’ve accumulated enough points, you can cash them in for gifts cards. I don’t use any other them to their maximum potential, mainly because I don’t have the time. But I always click through the emails I receive from MyPoints, answer the Swagbucks daily poll question, and occasionally, if there’s a higher cash-back percentage for a given store than offered by Ebates, I click through the store’s shopping link on one of these sites. I know some people earn hundreds of dollars or more each year with these sites, but I tend to collect a few $10 Amazon gift cards from them each quarter.

Grocery Savings Apps

Inspired by the show, Extreme Couponing, I went through a phase of religiously clipping and using paper coupons when I went grocery shopping. I still clip and use the occasional paper coupon (and earn rewards points for doing so!) from MyPoints, but these days I mainly use three apps to get cash back on my grocery purchases: SavingStar, Ibotta, and Checkout51. All of them work with my favorite, regular stores – Price Chopper, Hannaford, Target, and CVS- and all of them use either my store loyalty card numbers to automatically credit me for my purchases, and/or simply require a quick submission of a photograph of my receipt. Over time, I’ve earned $262.52 in cash back from SavingStar, $38.50 from Checkout51, and $18.75 from Ibotta, all for items I regularly purchase. I’m talking milk, produce, and toilet paper, not just processed food! (If you want to try Ibotta for yourself, click here and use my referral code, rbkhnjf, when you sign up. You’ll receive a $10, just for signing up!)

Amazon Prime

While it may seem counter-intuitive that a service with a $99 annual fee actually saves me money, hear me out. Amazon sells pretty much everything known to man. My husband and I purchase a couple of things from them every month. Before we decided to spring for Prime, the item(s) we purchased didn’t always meet the ever-increasing minimum dollar amount for free shipping, and we would play Amazon’s game of adding something else to our cart to qualify. When the minimum amount for free shipping increased to $49, we decided it was time to sign up for Prime. Now, it’s much easier – and less costly! – for us to make smaller purchases from Amazon. Plus, we love that the free shipping takes only two days, and our daughter loves that she can listen to as many KidzBop songs as she wants for free through the Prime music benefit.

What are your favorite tools for saving money??

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My Organizing Favorites

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The more blogs I read and podcasts I listen to, the more excited I get about becoming more organized, in all aspects of my life. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a complete mess, but there’s definitely work to be done on many fronts. Fortunately, over the past few weeks, I’ve found some great tips, tools, and ideas that I’ve been able to implement, or at least give some serious thought to. Here are a few of my favorites – old and new – that are helping me take control in various areas of my life:

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My Day Designer Planner

Until fairly recently, the planner I carried with me was a tiny, monthly calendar that I got in the dollar bins at Target. (It’s a two-year calendar, so I actually got two years of planners for just $1!!) The daily squares are tiny, so I had trouble writing anything at all in them, let alone more than one thing on a given day. Then I read another blogger’s review of her Day Designer planner, and I knew I had found a great tool. I ordered the Midyear (because I bought it over the summer) Flagship Mini Edition, and I love it! Not only is it beautiful and high-quality, but it has so many of the things on my planner wish-list: daily pages, divided up by hour; space for a look at the week ahead; daily to-do lists, with top three daily priorities; a monthly overview; and even space for daily gratitude. It has helped me add more structure to my days, especially the ones when I’m not at my job.

Laura Vanderkam’s Time Tracker Documents

This summer, I heard the author, Laura Vanderkam, interviewed on at least two podcasts, and I really liked her message. She has written several books on time management, and I’m currently reading her most recent one, I Know How She Does It. The (greatly) simplified premise of this book is that we have a lot more time than most of think, and while we can’t always achieve perfect balance every day, we can come close to it on many days. She believes that the first step in managing our time more effectively is tracking how we’re currently spending it. To facilitate this process, she offers free tracking documents (in spreadsheet and PDF form), for tracking your time in 15- and/or 30-minute increments. I’ve found 30-minute increments to be more manageable, and today is my fifth tracking day. Stay tuned for an update on what I learn from this exercise…

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My FitBit Surge and the FitBit App

My husband surprised me with a FitBit Surge for our tenth anniversary last October. I started wearing it immediately, and it’s barely been off my wrist since then. (Seriously, I wear it in my sleep, which it measures.) However, I got pretty lazy over the summer, and stopped worrying about whether or not I was actually meeting the daily goals I set for myself in the app. Fast forward to my return to work this fall, when I realized that my work clothes, which had been hanging unworn in my closet for four months, had apparently shrunk. All of them. Clearly the ice cream and kettle corn I referenced here had taken their toll. As a result, I increased my daily and weekly activity goals, and started to track them religiously. I love all of the different metrics and screens available in the FitBit app, and I find myself checking in with it several times a day. (And eating a lot less ice cream.)

This Amazing Chore Chart

Getting my daughter to complete her daily tasks – especially on school day mornings – is an ongoing battle. I’ve tried both positive and negative reinforcement, and while she’s made some progress, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. I want the system to be easy, self-managed, and reward-driven. I’m not even remotely crafty, so I had basically settled on using a simple checklist on a clipboard, when I came across this idea. It meets all of my criteria, is pretty, and looks like something I could actually create myself. It’ll take a small investment of time and money, but I think I can handle it, and I think it’ll work well for my daughter.

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The Organizher School Memories Keeper

My mother kept very detailed baby books for me and my sister. She filled them with photographs and specific dates, milestones, and memories. I still get a kick out of looking through them. So when my daughter was born, I got myself a baby book, and started filling it out. But I was quickly swept up in the busyness of being a mom, and forgot to note the dates of pretty much all of my daughter’s milestones. Now that she’s in school and I’m better at managing my time and projects, I have a kind of second chance. I knew I had seen memory books that were organized by grade, so I hopped on Amazon and found the Mead Organizher School Memories Keeper. In addition to being organized by grade, it has a place to affix each year’s school picture, a large pocket for holding documents and other mementos from that school year, and spaces to fill in basic information about the year, like teacher’s name, friends, milestones, and current events. It’s a perfect way to capture all of this information.

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What are some of your favorite organizing tips, tools, and ideas?

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Friday Favorites

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Happy Friday!! In honor of the weekend’s arrival, I’m sharing some of my current favorite things today:

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Dunkin Donuts coffee deal. My husband and I are big fans of coffee, but we are not coffee snobs. I like a good latte or cappuccino on occasion, but at home, we brew and drink Dunkin Donuts Original Blend coffee. In our area, the regular price is $8.99 for a one-pound bag, so I typically buy it in bulk at BJ’s, to get it a bit cheaper. But this month, the Dunkin Donuts locations in our area are running a special: 2 bags for $9.99! We stocked up to get us through the winter.

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Nature’s Way Pest Control. For several months, we’ve had ample “evidence” that there was mouse activity in our house. We’d clean it up, put out traps, and remove the corpses a day or two later. Even our 16-year-old, arthritic cat killed a couple of the intruders. But the thing is, the evidence kept showing up. It was clear we were playing a losing game. So I contacted Nature’s Way Pest Control, and they sent Andy to help me out. Andy confirmed that we had a “significant infestation”, and that he’d found “multiple nesting sites” in our basement. (Gag!!) He put out bait inside and outside our house, signed us up for the “mouse program” (a monthly refilling of the bait containers), and will be back in about six weeks to seal the entry points all around our house’s foundation. I love Andy.

The Just Clean Something Challenge. I’m not a huge fan of cleaning my house, and I generally approach it fairly erratically. The only time I really get down to business and clean with purpose, is when I’m expecting company. So when Rebekah Hoffer of Simply Rebekah, announced the she would be leading her Just Clean Something Challenge this month, I signed on right away. Rebekah feels pretty much the same way about cleaning as I do, so she challenges her followers to simply clean one thing – above and beyond their normal, daily routine – every day. I love how this challenge breaks a seemingly huge project into manageable pieces. And the accountability in the Facebook group is very motivating.

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King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. As I mentioned here, one of my favorite things about fall is getting back to baking. It’s just too hot to turn on the oven during the summer, but now that the temperature has cooled down, I’m going back in! I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, and I finally bought it. It’s chock-full of information on different grain flours, their history and uses, and how to best incorporate them into recipes. First up will be the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe (made with whole wheat flour)…

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Saratoga Springs Public Library. I read a lot of books, but for various reasons – lack of storage, cost, etc. – I don’t purchase most of the books I read. Instead, I borrow most of them from our local library. I also borrow lots of children’s books and DVDs for my daughter. Over the summer, she participates in their summer reading program. Sometimes she reads to one of the therapy dogs. We’ve attended their annual gingerbread house-building event, nature shows, and musical performances hosted by this library. Although I haven’t taken advantage of them, our library offers all sorts of classes: computer, meditation, history, and hobbies. It’s truly a local treasure!

What are some of your favorite things today?

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My Fall Favorites

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Although we still have a couple of weeks left before the official start of fall, it’s definitely upon us. Here in upstate New York, there are many things to love about this season. These are some of my fall favorites:

Celebrations. We have a lot to celebrate in the fall. In addition to the Thanksgiving and Halloween holidays, my husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary (11 years!) in October, and our daughter will turn seven at the end of October, too.

Gorgeous colors. This is kind of a no-brainer. In a couple of weeks, the leaves will start turning brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Plus, there will be mums and pumpkins everywhere we look,which only adds to the colorful beauty.

Cider donuts. The proliferation of cider donuts is clearly one of the best things about fall, in my humble opinion. Seriously, is there anything better than picking up a grease-stained bag of warm, cinnamon sugar-crusted cider donuts on a crisp fall day??

Return of baking weather. I really enjoy baking, but I generally take a hiatus from it during the summer. It’s already pretty hot, and I can’t bear to fire up the oven on most days. But by early fall, temperatures are cool enough to start making cookies, muffins, and other baked goodies on a regular basis, again.

Decorations. I love all of the pumpkin, acorn, apple, and gourd goodies that proliferate come September! The Saturday when our family goes to the local nursery to pick out pumpkins of every color and shape, Indian corn, and mums for our front steps, is an annual highlight!

Apples. Crunchy, juicy, delicious, and healthy?? Sign me up! Of course I particularly enjoy them candied and in pies and crisps, but surely they retain some of their health benefits in these forms… right??

Smell of wood fires. We don’t use our wood-burning fireplace (mainly because it’s very energy inefficient), but I adore the smell of wood-burning fires. Starting in late September, the smell seems to be everywhere outside.

Cozy clothes. While I don’t like winter’s freezing temperatures, I’m a wool-sweater-and-long-pants kind of gal. Each year is a little different, but usually by mid-October, my wardrobe has been completely switched over, and the cozy clothes are back in rotation.

A brief respite. Our highest electric bills of the year always come over the summer, when the air conditioning is in use. In the winter, we have propane bills for heating our house. But in the fall – at least until we change the clocks and the darkness descends upon us – we get a couple of months of relatively low electric and propane bills.

A fresh start. The start of a new school year energizes me, and gets me excited about becoming organized and scheduled, again. I implement systems, fill storage bins, and test new organizational tools. What can I say: I love structure!

What are some of your favorite things about fall?