Monday, April 21, 2014

Are You A Blogger? The Blog Buddy Planner: A Must Have!

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Do you have scraps of paper all over your home with ideas? Are you unsure of what affiliate programs you are even a part of? If you are even making enough to make ends meet? Or to keep your personal life under control?

This planner not only helps you organize your blogging life, but your personal life as well!
The open design (spiral) helps the durability, while helping you focus on one week at a time.

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 With a laminate cover, you can even personalize it as much as you want! It even comes with an erasable Staedtler Alcohol Pen!

Here's a sample of the nitty-gritty details of each page:


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IT ALSO INCLUDES:
A FULL 24 Month Calendar! (January 2014-December 2015)
2 Page Spread Monthly Calendars (finally no tiny useless squares!) 
Guided To-Do Lists and Blank Notes pages 
Post Completion Checklists (track multiple posts completion at a glance) 
Reviews & Giveaway Tracker 
Guest Blogging Opportunity Tracker (track posts pitched, written, published, etc) 
Potential Advertiser Tracker (track contact and follow up dates easily) 
Current Advertiser Tracker (track rates and renewal dates) 
Blog Statistics (compare a year at a glance for all statistics you want to track) 
Monthly Expenses (keep track each and every receipt!)
Revenue & Expense overviews (compare a year at a glance for revenue & expenses) 
Quarterly Balance Sheet with Estimated Tax Payments (see your finances at a glance)
Zippered pocket in back for any receipts or loose papers

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Toss


As much as I am a "if it ain't broke don't fix it" type of girl, I have these random spurts of wanting to try new recipes and new combinations of foods. I am in love with spinach and artichoke dip! Applebee's half-off appetizers after 9? Yes please! I get the spinach-artichoke dip every time. I recently found a recipe that combined these very ingredients, but coupled it with pasta. I decided to give it a whirl and it is definitely a "make-again" recipe!

Give this recipe a try this week and let me know what you think!

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Toss
Ingredients:
1 (12oz.) bow-tie pasta
1 t. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg. cream cheese
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1 (14oz.) can artichokes, chopped and drained)
10 oz. spinach (if frozen: thawed and drained)
1/2 c. parmesan

Directions:
1. Cook pasta.
2. In pan over medium heat, melt butter and add garlic.
3. Cook about 30 seconds.
4. Add cream cheese and stir until melted.
5. Stir in milk.
6. Add sour cream, lemon, salt, and red pepper flakes.
7. Stir in artichoke, spinach, and cheese.
8. Add to pasta.
9. Toss and season to taste with salt and lemon juice.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

25 Essential Kitchen Utensils I Own


The kitchen gadget drawer.

You may cringe at the thought of this drawer. How many times has your drawer gotten stuck because a utensil got jammed in the corner? Have you ever broken a utensil because of it? This has happened countless times to me! I had doubles of many utensils, which was rather unnecessary. I also kept utensils that I never used. I have slowly purged of any utensils I have not used in a year's time. Why break my drawers with utensils I never use?

I decided to share with you what I let take residence in my kitchen gadget drawer. 

I recognize that some of the utensils listed, are not necessarily essentials. They are essentials to me. I could live without an ice cream scooper, a pizza cutter, apple slicer, etc. I just find that they have done wonders for me. For example, if I use a regular spoon for ice cream, I risk bending my spoon. If I am making apple pie, an apple slicer makes the task much more bearable. Don't take this list too seriously. It is not exhaustive nor do you need to own every single one of these utensils. Everyone is going to have different preferences! These are the utensils that I currently own and store in our kitchen utensil drawer:

25 Essential Kitchen Utensils:

  • Ladle
  • Tongs
  • Rubber spatula
  • Metal spatula
  • Whisk
  • Slotted spoon
  • Larger spoon
  • Grater
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Pizza cutter
  • Pie server
  • Rolling pin
  • Cheese cutter
  • Apple slicer
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Serrated knife
  • Paring knife
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Potato masher
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Funnel
  • Clothes pins

What kitchen utensils do you find essential that are not listed? Or the kitchen utensils that you find you can't live without?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Role of Technology in Our Lives


How much time do you spend on the internet? With technology? With your phone?
Seriously. Think about how many hours you spend emailing, plain checking your email, surfing the internet, looking up recipes, playing with your phone, etc.
Do you feel you can step away from your computer? Your phone? Or at times, do you feel they own you more than you own it?
When you are surfing the internet, here is something to think about: is it benefiting you only or others as well? Do we selfishly spend time surfing, only feeding into our selfish wants, not realizing we could be surfing to find different ways to encourage or help others?
I want to get a little more personal and share with you how technology can effect my faith as well. I don't want to waste my life - I don't want to waste it in a job, living complacent, and not on the internet. Being a blogger, I spend a LOT of time on the internet. I sometimes question myself: if Jesus were to come back right now, would I be proud of what He found me doing? Granted I think it will be a more "triumphant" entry, but each moment, our all-knowing God, knows what we are doing. Do I feel I am wasting precious hours just surfing the internet? At times I do. Facebook. Am I surfing people's lives on facebook because I care or just because I am nosy? Do I do something WITH the care I have for a person - do I tell them? Send them a message? Say a prayer for them?
Technology can also separate us from the very relationships we have been blessed with. For example, the dinner table. Pet peeve of mine? Answering texts or cell phones while at the table. What happened to uninterrupted family time? What about parenting - do you find yourself using the tv or ipad as electronic babysitters? Many families allow televisions in their kids' rooms. Not that I am completely against that, but how often is each family member in their own room, watching who knows what, while you TOGETHER could be watching a program and interacting during it? Family time is precious and priceless. How are you choosing to spend it?
My husband and I have chosen not to have a tv in our bedroom. We watch tv before we go to bed, but our bedroom is called a BEDROOM for a reason - to sleep in. We want to protect and live up to the names of the rooms in our home. We also do not have cable because we know we would be mindlessly surfing through channels, like we can do with the internet all too often.

If your kids have their own computer and own tv, where is the boundary line of what they can watch and surf on the internet? Do you set limits? Limits on the number of hours they can spend on a technological device? If you allow them to spend countless hours on the computer, do you encourage them to spend the same number of hours outside?
Technology is something I have always struggled with personally. I do not want to become addicted, yet how I communicate and what I do (blogging) requires me to be on the internet. I have to set boundaries for myself. I sometimes find myself attached and realize I need to just STEP AWAY! Take a break. Go for a walk. Do something NOT with technology. This even means turning off the radio or Pandora.
Listening to LIFE is a beautiful thing.
Does how you use technology hinder how YOU listen to life? To God? Is your life so cluttered with technology that you often don't HEAR God? Sometimes He speaks in those still, small whispers - are you ready, willing, and available to listen?
How are you spending your life? Each moment of the day? Do you have any regrets? Especially when it comes to technology? Don't fear change or fear of the unknown. Take a leap and say "no" to that next click. To that next lead. To that next website.
Take time to just BE.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Delicious Cinnamon Roll Cake


Sounds odd, doesn't it? A cinnamon roll CAKE? I have to admit, when I first saw this recipe, I was hesitant to make it because it sounded like it would be a dry and rather bland cake. I decided to give it a test run with our youth group kids. That cake was gone in a jiffy! It ended up being quite moist, so tasteful, and satisfies the sweet tooth! What I love too, is that it is simple and makes a 9x13, so there will be plenty for all! Feel free to cut the cake into small pieces too, as it is quite rich! Enjoy!

Cinnamon Roll Cake
Ingredients:
3 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 c. sugar
4 t. baking powder
1 1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. butter, melted

Topping:
1 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
2 T. flour
1 T. cinnamon

Glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
5 T. milk
1 t. vanilla

Directions:
1. Mix everything together except butter.
2. Stir in butter and pour into a 9x13 pan.
3. Mix all topping ingredients and drop evenly over batter; swirl with a knife.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 28-32 minutes.
5. Let cake cool.
6. Mix glaze ingredients and spread over cooled cake.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Organized Teacher's Desk


Whether you are a teacher or not, many have desks that need some organization. Is there a right and wrong way to organize your desk? I don't think so. I am not a teacher, but I have been asked a few times, how to organize a teacher's desk, so I want to share some of my basic thoughts.

If you are a teacher, you may be frustrated with how your desk looks. Whether you want it to be more organized, not misplace papers anymore, or just looking for some fresh ideas, here are some , ideas on how to organize your DESK.

1. Central location. Decide what your central locations are on your desk. What are the most accessible places on your desk? What would you put there? Consider putting paper trays stacked, in this place.
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2. Drawer Organizers. Need a paper clip? Looking for a rubberband? Purchasing drawer organizers may be the best way to solve your disorganization frustrations.
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3. A lazy susan? Consider purchasing a lazy susan to hold your most used items, such as scissors, pencils, markers, rulers, glue, etc.
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4. Place for notes. Teachers have notes coming out of their ears at times. Do you have a go-to place to put your notes, making sure to not miss a beat? Is it on your computer? On a message board? Find another "central location" where you can keep this pertinent information.

5. Day bins. Many teachers organize their paperwork for each day, using day bins. This way you can work ahead, knowing what you need and have already done, for the days ahead.
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6. Label, label, label. If you have a small organizer with drawers, label every one of them. If you have paper trays you are using, label each of them (grade, handout, copy, etc.)
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7. Finally, take a minute or two before you leave, to pick up. There is something about starting each day with a cleared desk. Imagine walking into your classroom each day, literally seeing a fresh start!

How do you organize YOUR desk? What tips and ideas do you have?

Monday, April 14, 2014

How I Organize Without a Filing Cabinet


Paper clutter is one of the biggest "stoppers" of being organized, isn't it? Having a catch-all place on the counter, in the office or bedroom for papers, is a common dilemma.

Often these piles of papers are so large that they start to topple over, causing even more frustration. Honestly, it's probably that pile screaming "please declutter me" as it can't even stand up straight anymore! Been there! 

I have become so frustrated with paper clutter in the past, that I now am the complete opposite. You will rarely find a pile of papers in our house, except maybe on the top of the fridge - that is my husband's "domain". Whatever he gathers there, is his business. Bonus is that we are tall and most can't see on top of the fridge. But when it starts to get a few papers tall, I tend to be the nagging wife and ask him to please clear it off. As much as I think it may annoy him, there have been a few times when I hear "oh, that's where that went!" It is a rather humorous time, actually. I thankfully am married to a man who has embraced my desire to organize life with less, so he is NOT a messy person! He may be more of a saver than me, but he doesn't cause me clutter stress, thankfully (I know many husbands do).

Getting rid of paper piles and organizing your papers is difficult when you do not have an appropriate or proper place to put them - hence the PILES! I used to have a 2-drawer filing cabinet that we used to store our office supplies and important papers. When we moved a year ago, I realized that all of my papers (after going through them at least 5 times) fit into a 1/4 of one drawer. It became pointless to store this big piece of "furniture" (nice way of saying it, right?).

Back in high school, I had received a small black, filing box. Why I needed that big of a system back then, I am not really sure, but I was a SAVER. Over the years, I have revamped and changed the tabs from high school, school subjects, drawings, etc. to more adult headings such as medical, insurance, cars, retirement, etc. AND...I can still fit everything I need into this filing system!

HOW?

1. I did create a home management binder that has helped me organize my daily papers, monthly bills, birthdays, and stamps/envelopes, and what not. That has prevented me from having to haul out my black filing system and now I just have to grab the binder and track our bills right from an easy binder.

2. I do not keep papers that I can find online. We pay the majority of our bills online, which has cut down on the bill tabs I have to keep track of every month. We only keep the current month's papers. Bank statements, I do not keep because I can print anything off from our online account.

3. I do not keep all of our receipts, unless it is a big purchase and has a warranty tied to it.

4. Anything that is labeled as a "keepsake" goes into our keepsake box. This includes special letters/cards, small collections, or any mementos we want to keep.

5. We do not keep papers that we "might" use someday. After almost 8 years of marriage, we have realized that the "might time" never comes. We keep what we want to keep, and recycle/throw away the rest.

6. So what DO I keep in this filing system? Tax information, health/home insurance, medical, resume, retirement, vehicle, and even a folder called RANDOM. Yes, even this girl has a folder called random. Lets be frank, there are just some papers that really fit no other category, except random!

The joy of having your own filing system is that you can make it what you want. If you need a whole filing cabinet, that is up to you! I am not saying that it is wrong to have one. I just know that many struggle with paper clutter and I wanted to share how we deal (or don't deal) with our paper clutter. Being able to say "no" and dealing with papers when they come in, is key. Going through your filing system every other month or every 6 months, will also help you keep tabs on what you have. If you haven't used it, will you ever?

If you are looking to downsize your filing system, take out the papers you think you may need. If after 6 months or a year you still do not touch them and they are not pertinent house/insurance documents, get rid of them. Again, if you can find the information online, do not keep the papers then, unless you frequent them often!

What do you use to organize your papers? What is working and what is NOT working?