Friday, October 6, 2017

10-Minute Project: Clean Out the Glovebox

Pip and I recently cleaned out the car. While she was going through the many books that had accumulated in the back seat, I organized the glove box. I knew it was a horrible jumble of useful and unimportant items before I started, because the last time I had opened it looking for a straw, I ended up spilling half the contents onto the floor and then scrambling to cram it all back in at our next stop.

To avoid such an event in the future, I put back only what I thought was necessary this time. Here's what went back in:


There were so many other things in there, though, that I had added at one point or another, thinking that they may come in handy. They didn't make it back into the glove box, but they did find a new home in a plastic baby wipe container in the trunk with our jumper cables and other emergency supplies. Although I can't reach them from the driver's seat, they're with us if we need them.


Am I missing anything? What else do you keep in your vehicle in case of an emergency?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My Favorite Planner

Every October, I purchase my planner for the coming calendar year. This week, for the fifth or sixth year in a row, I ordered the Orange Circle Studio 17-Month Do It All Planner. I found it on Amazon years ago, and it fits all my parameters for a book that truly keeps me organized. There are additional features that I don't use, like stickers and pages to list birthdays and important dates, but here's what I appreciate about it.

- It contains monthly overviews.

I use these for quick glances at how the month falls and to lay out long-term goals that require multiple steps. Bonus: this is a 17 month planner, so it includes August 2017 through December 2018, and you can use it following the school year or the calendar year or use all 17 months, whichever suits you best.


- Weekly views are the bulk of the book. 

There are 6 separate rows you can use to organize the schedules of different people or different areas of your life. I reevaluate what those rows will represent every four to six months, as priorities and responsibilities change. These could be assigned to individuals in your household, budgeting, meal planning, chores, work, hobbies, travel details, goals; you name it! Right now, I use the big one for my general obligations, appointments, and household responsibilities including dinner plans; one for Pip's activities; one for Chris's schedule; one for volunteer responsibilities; one for our comics business; and one for the blog.

I much prefer breaking down the days by person or area to breaking them down by time. Planners that have every 30 minutes documented may be great for some, but they stress me out.


Because you may be wondering, I'll note right here that I keep our homeschool records in a completely different place. It has evolved somewhat for second grade, but you can see my method for first grade here.

- It's small enough to tuck into any bag I'm carrying.

And it's a good thing, too, because without it, I feel rather lost.


- It's affordable. 

I ordered my 2018 planner from Amazon for less than $11. There are different fun covers and the prices vary slightly, but I don't recall ever seeing any version of this planner listed for more than $18.

Do you use a paper planner, or do you keep up with appointments and obligations digitally? What is your favorite way to stay organized?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Make the Memories

Last year, Danu, a traditional Irish ensemble, played a concert at our local performing arts center. I entered a contest to win two tickets, and when I did, I asked my mom to come with me.

Mom loves learning about her ancestors: where they were from, what they were like, why they moved from place to place, and so on. We have Irish heritage, and I had many times heard Celtic music playing in our home. I was sure she would thoroughly enjoy the performance.

She did go with me, and the concert was incredible. I don't think I ever stopped smiling. I don't think either of us did.

When it was over, and we were talking about how wonderful the entire experience had been--how we had felt the music in our bones--Mom said something unexpected. She said, "This was a dream come true."

"Really?" I was taken aback. I knew she had had a good time. But a dream come true?

Mom answered that yes, it was. Although she appreciates the beauty of the world, she has little desire to travel far from her home. She had never expected to hear an authentic Irish band in person. And yet, here she had been, toe-tapping along with an incredible one, not 15 feet away, for nearly two hours.

In that moment, I was grateful that I had won the tickets, and that we had gone to the show. But I was also struck--hard--by the fact that I hadn't made plans to take my mom to the concert sooner. I hadn't planned to go otherwise. Which means I wouldn't have taken Mom to that show. And we wouldn't have heard that Irish folk music together without leaving our little city. And we would have missed this opportunity to fulfill one of her dreams, perhaps without even realizing it. All because I casually decided not to buy tickets which, in hindsight, weren't even very expensive.

I say all this to encourage you to take every opportunity you've got to make memories with the people you love.

You can learn more about the band that we both adored so much by visiting their website.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Baked September

Although today is the first day of autumn, and yesterday it was 100 degrees in our little patch of western Kentucky, our family has embraced the rhythm of fall for several weeks now. Spontaneous travel is done for at least a while, and Pip and I have found our way back to many school year activities. Chris is back in the studio full time, and we're starting to talk about Halloween and birthdays and the holidays beyond.

This dinner happened by accident. It was a concoction of reduced-price veggies and a manager's special kielbasa (read: items that better be used today). It turned out to be a balanced marriage of fresh summer flavors and comforting cool-weather foods. It was so easy. And inexpensive. And pretty. And all it left was a single dish plus a cutting board and knife to clean.


I layered the following ingredients in a 9x13 glass baking dish, covered with foil, and baked at 400 degrees for 50 minutes. 

2 large potatoes, cubed
3 small zucchinis, sliced
3 medium carrots, sliced
1 1/2 cups mushroom caps and stems
1 kielbasa, sliced
1/2 a purple onion, sliced in rings
drizzle of olive oil
generous sprinkle of Italian seasoning
light sprinkle of kosher salt

I called it "Baked September" because it felt like a bridge between summer and fall, much like our September seems to be. I offered a salad and some sliced tomatoes on the side, but no one took me up on it. We all just got second helpings of this instead.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Don't Toss Those Plastic Lids

Every day, I make efforts to throw away as little as possible. If something can be re-purposed or recycled, I'd much rather do that than send it to the landfill.

I have recently found a useful destination for plastic lids!


West Broadway Elementary School in Madisonville, Ky, collects plastic lids of all kinds. When they have enough of them, those lids are shipped to a company that turns them into fixtures of the students' choice for the school; I have visited recently and I've seen a bench and a trash can created from their efforts. 

You do not have to have a child in school there to contribute to their collection. They would appreciate your contribution. They take plastic lids from all kinds of bottles and jars, including but not limited to milk, juice, water, and peanut butter. Call the office at 270-825-6036 for details.

This leads me to think that other schools and organizations in other places do the same thing. No matter where you're located, please consider finding a place that will reuse those lids!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

5 Reasons I Adore Our Center for the Arts

The Fall 2017 Season at the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts--a beautiful performing arts venue in Madisonville, Kentucky--has been announced. There are eleven scheduled performances, and it's a great season lineup!

There's so much more to the Glema than one sees in the brochure, though. In addition to the amazing talents that are brought to our little city, here are five reasons I adore the Glema.


- They support community theater.
Twice a year, the Glema hosts community productions. In recent years, one has been a musical and one has not; there have been comedies, dramas, and dinner theater settings. And, not only do we get great theater, but we also get the fun of recognizing some of the performers.

- They host local high school productions.
I remember staging high school drama club productions in the gym, in the cafeteria, and in the lobby. We certainly made memories to last a lifetime, but the year we got into that auditorium... well, I can't speak for the audience, but for those of us on stage, it was magical. I've had the pleasure of attending the last few high school productions here, and I've been impressed by the dedication of the students and the quality of their performances.

Along those same lines, the Glema is also utilized by a variety of local organizations for band and choral concerts, dance recitals, graduations, presentations, conferences, workshops, and more.

- Education is a priority.
Periodically throughout the school year, daytime shows geared for young audiences are available for school groups to attend. In the past couple of years, these have included a variety of subjects from a bright and cheerful version of Alice in Wonderland to a heart-wrenching rendition of John Henry, and from a modern dance spectacle to Julius Caesar. These events are open to homeschooling families as well, and admission is less than a typical evening performance. I have shared how we utilize the fine arts center in our homeschool before; if you're interested, you can read that here.

Their Summer Arts Academy allows students ages kindergarten through high school--along with their peers--to learn more about many aspects of the stage, from auditions and rehearsals to choreography, costuming, and performance. Their time on campus--two weeks for middle and high school students and one week for elementary school students--culminates with a full stage production that is free and open to the public. The cost of the day camp is affordable, and tuition assistance is available.

- Ticket prices are affordable.
After living in bigger cities like Nashville and Atlanta, I was bowled over when I saw ticket prices for some of the shows at the Glema. Five dollars? Really?! Of course, admission to some performances is more (I think I've seen up to $40 myself), but there are many shows in the $5-$20 range, and discounts are frequently available for children, students, seniors, and groups. Side note: I know I've said it before, but I think tickets to a live performance make a great, clutter-free gift that comes with bonus memories to last a lifetime.

- It's not just for performing arts.
There's an expansive gallery in the front of the building that is open during their regular business hours. There is no permanent collection, but rather a rotating display. Sometimes the artists are local--including an annual student show sponsored by a local civic organization--and sometimes they're not. Admission is free.

Honestly, I could go on and on. I love this place. My family frequents the Glema, and if you're in the area, I encourage you to check out all that this beautiful facility and its wonderful people have to offer. If you're not sure where to start, visit their website--or, better yet, stop by the box office--to learn more about the Fall 2017 lineup!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Podcast: Classics for Kids


Last week, I was introduced to Classics for Kids, a service of Cincinnati Public Radio. A fellow homeschooling mom shared the link with me and said she was using it to teach her kiddos about composers this year. I said I would look it up, and I am sure glad that I did!

One composer is featured each month. There are four 6-minute episodes about that composer, each rich in information and set to samples of his music.

Additionally, the website has a printable worksheet about each composer; multiple ways to look up composers (alphabetically, by country, by period, or on a timeline); several online games such as note naming, rhythm matching, and music composition; lesson plans and resources for more information; and loads more.

This is an engaging--and free--resource if you want to introduce classical music into your home or homeschool. Pip really enjoys it, and I do too!