Saturday, November 12, 2016

Do You Love Planners?

I do.  But I don't always love using them once they're set up.  I tend to enjoy the set up process more than the day to day use part.  I've found that to be true in several areas of my life.  I can plan a fabulous layout for my garden, researching what plants will do well together, when to plant each one, etc.  I can even get the seeds into the ground.  But go out and pull weeds on a regular basis?  Not so much.  Or filing-I absolutely LOVE the process of setting up a filing system.  I've lived in my current home for 4 years and I brought a stack of papers when we moved that needed to be filed.  Want to know where they are to this day?  Uh huh, still in the little basket they were in on my desk at the old house.

Knowing my tendencies better now, I try to exercise a bit of constraint when I see planners.  There's no point in buying one and filling in the first few pages of details if it doesn't get used.  However, I know I need a way to keep a running to do list and a calendar to mark activities that have to happen at a specific time.  Keeping track of kid's sports and other activities, church functions, my occasional outing with a friend, and my husband's music gigs means it has to be written down.  Sometimes that even fails-it doesn't do me any good to write it down if I don't look at it each morning!

I've seen some very beautiful planners and tried very hard to justify their price because they are so beautiful, but I can't.  There's a frugal trait within that usually wins.  However, I'm not quite willing to just use a spiral notebook either.  I like having the dates filled out for me.

What about keeping track of that schedule when I'm not at home?  Should I take that planner everywhere I go?  Maybe once upon a time, but we all know the digital age means there are oodles of  calendar apps.  OK, so how do I find balance between what I can see on a small phone screen and what I can see on paper?  What about knowing that if I have to pick up my phone every time I want to add to my to do list, see what's next on the list, or check something off means that I will get sidetracked by all the distractions that go with this digital age?  Where's the balance of using both types to benefit me?  It's in choosing the right paper planner and the right digital calendar.  What works for me might not work for you, but here's what we do.

We find the free Cozi app to be quite useful.  Tony and I both have it on our phones and I use it on my laptop often too.  Everything that has to happen on a certain day or date and at a certain time goes into Cozi.  Of course, it instantly syncs with all the devices we use it on, which means while Tony is away working and gets a call about another job, he knows right away if he's available.  We don't clutter it up with daily activities that we know will happen for precisely that reason-we both need to be able to see the scheduled activities quickly.

Each person is color coded so that we can also quickly tell who's involved in this activity.  Recurring activities are easy to program, as are reminders.  They can be set up to two weeks early, and as little as zero minutes before start time.  Notifications can be set up for any user with a smart phone or email address.  At this point in our life, that means Tony and me, so when an activity is just for one kid, we have to also mark which parent is responsible for getting that kid to his or her activity so that the app will send a notice to that parent.

The calendar portion has a place to record notes for the event (such as, 'don't forget to take_____' and the location, which will of course link to a map app to help you get where you're going.  The Cozi app also has a to do list, shopping list, and place to record meals.  We used to use the shopping tool more often, but now I simply use it as a way to keep track of things I want to get at various places some day in the future when I happen to be in an area that has a better selection for shopping than where we live.

Then there's the paper planner.  For the last two years I have used The Homemaker's Friend Daily Planner.  I was drawn to the cover AND the individual pages.  Many times a planner has a beautiful cover, but the daily pages are quite plain.  Since it needs to be open to be useful, that means the cover is rarely seen. Having pretty pages inside is a big selling point for me. Clearly, the set up works for me in this season of life, or I wouldn't have just purchased my 3rd one.  Because I like it so much, I recently became an affiliate with the Homemaker's Depot, which is where the planner and a few other useful books are sold.  If you use the link above to buy a planner or anything else at The Homemaker's Depot, I get a small commission, but your price doesn't change.

For the next couple of weeks you can save 20% on your total order and get free shipping on orders over $49.  Details-

20% off at Homemakers Depot (Expires 11.22.16)
Coupon Code: nov2016
 FREE SHIPPING on Orders over $49.00

2017 Planner (fall) w/menu

I like the tabbed dividers for monthly and weekly pages, plus the sections for tasks, projects and shopping lists.  Those are even perforated so that I can take just the small list with me to the store, not the whole planner.  Sue, the creator of this planner, had the brilliant idea to make the monthly pages with tabs that make it easy to get to a particular month, but don't stick out as far as the divider tabs.  The weekly section even has an indication on the upper right to cut off that corner so that you can quickly turn to the current week.

There is a Bible verse or inspiring quote on every page, and there is a theme to the verses that changes each year.  This year all of them utilize the word 'let', and there are some amazing verses with that word in them!  I like the size too.  At 8.5" by 5.5" it's big enough to be useful, but not so big as to be clunky.

The weekly pages are 2 pages per week, and the upper left of the layout is a two column to do list section.  Monday through Friday are equally sized, with Saturday and Sunday being about half that size.  Each day has a space for that day's menu, and a blank area to use however it best suits you.  I found it useful for recording income from egg and milk sales, or cash expenses that I had no other way to track.

Right now, Sue is giving away her menu planning worksheets that match the theme of the 2017 planner, and that's a $4.95 bonus for you!

I know the current trend is to use colorful pencils or pens, washi tape, and/or sticky notes to personalize events and activities, but our schedule changes enough that I need to be able to easily erase and rewrite.  I love the idea though, and maybe one day I'll utilize it.  For now, I use my coloring books as an outlet for that colorful and creative side.

Do you love planners and planning?  What's your preferred method, or are you still looking for one?  I'd love to hear from you!

PS-I'm creating a whole new blog, AZFarmGirl.  Look for it soon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Vanilla Chai Oatmeal

This morning I chose as my tea flavor of the day, Vanilla Bean Chai.  It's warm and robust with flavor, and no caffeine.  It's made by my new friend Michelle at Blooming with Joy Tea and contains  South African Rooibos, vanilla, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon pieces. (If you click over and decide to buy something, I get a little bit for referring you.)

As is my habit, I was getting ready to brew a second mug of tea from the once used leaves when I realized that this tea flavor would work wonderfully as the cooking water for the pear oatmeal I was planning to make for breakfast.  Let me tell ya, this was no ordinary oatmeal!

My oldest son, who pretty much loves anything I prepare, but doesn't really like oatmeal, pronounced it to be good.  In this scenario, that says a lot.  My youngest son loves oatmeal and almost always wants seconds, this time seconds was a bigger portion than firsts.  I enjoyed the deep flavor the tea imparted, and the texture contrast between the pears and the oatmeal.  If you want to try this at home, please do!

Vaniila Bean Chai Oatmeal

Makes 4-6 servings

1 cup already been brewed once Vanilla Bean Chai Tea
3 cups water
3 cups organic oats (not quick cook)
2 firm, ripe pears, any variety (I had Bartlett, so that's what I used)
Approximately 1/4 cup sweetener of your choice

  1. Bring tea and water to a boil.
  2. Stir in oats and reduce heat to medium (we like our oatmeal thick).
  3. Set timer for 3 minutes and dice pears into bite sized pieces.
  4. Turn off heat when timer goes off, but leave pot on burner (I have an electric stove, if you use gas, leave the heat on for 5 minutes).
  5. Stir in 1/4 cup organic evaporated cane juice and the pears.
  6. Scoop into serving bowls and top with a bit of butter.
That's it!  Enjoy!

PS, if you like the tea pot in the picture, you can get one at Blooming With Joy Tea.  It has a handy little infuser that fits right into the pot for brewing loose leaf teas.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Miraculous Mim, Part Two

She meowed all the way home-good thing it's not a far drive.  And you know how crazy sounding a cat's meow can get when they're upset, especially riding in a car.  She kept trying to poke her head out of the cardboard box, so I set the box on the living room floor and let her out.  I can't remember exactly what happened next, but she spent the majority of her time sleeping under my bed.

The vet's office staff had requested that we bring her back the next morning so the primary veterinarian could see her, so I took her back.  I even set my alarm and got there for the first appointment of the day.  Those who know me know what a sacrifice that is.  ;-)  Back in with the cumbersome box, because we can't find our small animal carrier.  More howls.  Me talking to her the entire trip, trying to keep her calm.

The vet was pleased with her appearance. After having read her report from the substitute vet, he was expecting far worse condition.  She was responsive to him, seeking attention, purring at his touch.  Basically she melted everyone's heart with her quick return to an aware, loving, attention seeking cat.  She still had a long way to go though.

They sent us home with a pet carrier that had been donated, and that made it a lot easier to drive her back and forth.  The time between bringing her home Tuesday morning and her return to the vet's office Friday morning is a jumble of memories that I'm having trouble putting in order, so I'm simply going to share what I recall, in no particular order.

We had to drag her out to give her the prescribed eye drops 4 times a day.  Sometimes she held still and one person could put them in, other times it took Tony and I and all four of our hands to hold her little head and get the drops in!  It also gave us a brief view of her facial wounds, but never enough to really see what was happening.  The pads of her paws had been burned when she was shocked, so she probably didn't want to walk any more than necessary

Her eyes were cloudy, the whiskers on the right side of her face were scorched and and curled, her nose was just not right.  I didn't take any pictures of her during this time, I guess because it was hard to get her to stay out from under the bed.

Her left paw, at the wrist, was limp and bent in.  The vet wasn't sure if it was permanent damage or simply still contracted from the electrical shock.  As I'd pet her and scratch her head I noticed bumps getting bigger on her scalp.  Do you see the outline of an M on her forehead?  The bumps seemed to follow it.

She reluctantly ate the expensive cat food, but not until about 24 hours after bringing her home.  I tried soaking her preferred dry food in homemade chicken broth, but she wouldn't eat it. After a couple of days of the expensive cat food, she didn't want any more of that either, so I had to find the aisle in my grocery store that sells baby food.  She liked the chicken and sweet potato, but nothing else.

The bigger problem I noticed was that she wasn't in need of the litter box-at all.  I told the vet's office staff this each day when they called to check on her.  They said as long as she wasn't throwing up, it wasn't time to be concerned yet.  It was Wednesday night, before she finally came out and used the litter box.  It took a while for me to recognize it, but she had a distinctive pattern to her walking as she accommodated the injured paw.

She must have walked toward the outer part of this pole?

Thursday night she started licking her paw.  When I got up early Friday morning, she had licked away all of the skin at the wrist.  I called the vet and he got us in right away.  Back into the cat carrier.  More yowls, more pressing her nose against the fabric trying to get out.  By the time we got there, she had peeled away a flap of skin from her nose!  

The vet looked at the paw and said she'd need to have it amputated.  Ugh!  No!  He saw the flap of skin on her nose and trimmed it off.  If only he could just trim the dead stuff away from her wrist...

So the dreaded question, how much do we spend to keep her alive?  Prior to this event happening, I would have said no more than $500.  Since we had spent almost that up to this point, I was very distraught over what to do.  The vet suggested I leave her there and let me go home to discuss it with Tony.  He'd give me an estimate of the costs and then we could call him to give our answer.

Tony said no.  We aren't spending thirteen hundred dollars on a cat!  I understood his perspective, but I couldn't bring myself to deny her the surgery that will keep infection out.  This would be a good time to inform you that the whole arm would have to come off, not at the wrist, but at the shoulder.  The vet said if he amputated just above the wrist, she'd walk on the stump and create callouses that would then slough off and leave her open to infection.  It had to come off at the shoulder and that meant more money.

I pleaded with my eyes, knowing that if God hadn't wanted her to live, she would have died from the shock or the fall.  Yeah, $1300 is a lot of money, but we don't think twice about spending it on a vacation.  I'd just cut back on spending elsewhere.  He still wasn't convinced.  I told him I couldn't call and tell the vet not to do anything, so he did it.  He sat the kids down and told them that bringing her home without the surgery meant she'd be dying soon.  Big tears, in FOUR sets of eyes.  I was writing notes to him while the kids asked questions that he answered.  I reminded him of all the ways she was showing us her will to live.  Yes, the 4 of us got our way (I should say 5, Mim's vote has to be counted!) and Tony called the vet and said he changed his mind, please do the surgery.

Four hours later (he had other things to do first, the surgery didn't take 4 hours) he called with the news that it had gone well and she had come out of sedation quite well, but he wanted to keep her overnight to ensure that everything else was working.  I picked her up late morning Saturday, with her fur shaved from the mid section of the left side of her body, all the way up under her chin, and a row of stitches across where her shoulder used to be.

See how long the incision was?

Cloudy eyes and curled whiskers.

Once home, we let the cat out of the bag (sorry, I had to say it once) and she hobbled down the hallway to my room and crawled under my bed-again.  Only now she was more willing to come out and eat, use the litter box, 'allow' us to pet her and then return to her hidey hole.  She was eating a lot of food!  Lots of repair happening within.

The bumps on the top of her head were definitely burn marks that worked their way out and killed all the skin, almost exactly along the M on her head and that eventually fell off.  The skin on her nose sloughed off again. Her curly whiskers grew out and straightened.  She's missing parts of her nose, but it doesn't seem to be affecting her.

I'm thrilled to report that her personality came through intact and she has regained her playfulness.  She still bats things around on the floor, even if it is with one paw, and she still waits to ambush an unsuspecting passer by.  She gets wiled eyed and frisky every morning, and then repeats again almost every night.  

She's no longer eating huge quantities of food, so I think everything has healed.  We thought she might never want to go outside again, but she tries to trick us into letting her out.  I've caught myself a few times mindlessly reaching for the door handle as she stretches up the door, indicating she wants out.  I do take her out with supervision.  She prefers to do her duty out in the dirt, rather than the litter box.  She likes watching what's going on outside, but I'm not ready to let her have free time outside just yet.

The other day, my youngest was watching her, and she got away because she's too fast for him-even with 3 legs!  We thought she had gone back across the fence, but about 15 minutes later, she showed herself again, and had not gone over the fence.  I don't know if she can remember what happened to her the last time she went across the fence, but I hope she knows enough to not do it ever again!  With one missing leg, I don't think she can outrun predators, or climb trees fast enough to get away.

So, $1700 later, we have the best 3 legged cat in town!  She's valuable to us in more than just financial means.  She brings us joy and she's content in our family.  She still has a distinctive sound as she walks down the hallway, but she can jump onto the bed or couch and back down again as though nothing every happened.  I'd say The End, but I think it's more aptly said, To Be Continued.

Hunkered down between the couch and end table, waiting for the best time to reach out with her remaining front leg and attack me!