Autumn Adventures: Thanksgiving in North Carolina

We spent Thanksgiving week in a little cabin in the mountains in North Carolina. No cell service, and not much in the way of internet, either. Just the five of us and some beautiful scenery. It was cold (colder than we expected) but we had a great time and really enjoyed taking daily drives to soak up the scenery.

We had an encounter with a lost hunting dog one day – that was quite an interesting time! She came running up to us as we got out of the car at an overlook. Bedraggled, hungry, and cold with three different radio transmitter collars on. As the girls snuggled her and gave her lots of loving, I called one of the numbers on the collar to let her owner know we had her. As we waited for him to come to pick her up, a few gents from the road crew happened by. They knew the owner and ended up hanging around talking to Rob until he came. Polly the puppy got lots of snuggles from Angelina up until her owner came. I think it was good he showed up, or else we’d have been taking her home with us!

We also enjoyed quilt-spotting as we drove around. Graham County, North Carolina has a quilt trail, which we discovered quite by accident! We kept seeing these quilt squares on barns and I finally looked online to see if there was meaning behind them. Turns out there is – they are designed to highlight the area’s history in agriculture and handcraft traditions. Once we realized they were not happenstance, we kept our eyes peeled for them as we drove around.

Thanksgiving Day, we cooked up the best dinner we could given the sparsely supplied cabin. Rob fried our turkey and mom and I made the side dishes. The food was delicious and thankfully, the weather was warm (the only warm day the whole week!) so we were able to eat our meal on the deck overlooking the river. It was sunny and beautiful – a nice day to enjoy family and nature together.

After lunch, we took a ride to the Cherohala Skyway, one of our favorite scenic drives in North Carolina. It got cloudy and a storm was rolling in as we drove, but we enjoyed the views, regardless. Rainy or sunny, warm or cold, that drive is simply stunning.

All in all it was a great, relaxing week, disconnected from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I managed to finish one book, read another book, and start a third! That’s what being disconnected is about! 🙂

Hope you enjoy this video of highlights from our week.

Review: A6+ Moterm Cover

I recently purchased an A6+ cover from Moterm to house my A6 Stalogy. Here’s a quick run-down of my thoughts about the cover. Hope you enjoy!

Autumn Adventures: Anna Ruby Falls

As we love to do in the fall, we spent a Saturday in the mountains. One of several we’ve done this year as we’ve tried to seize the day and embrace relaxation and adventure more in our lives. After the past year and a half, we’ve realized how important this is to the quality of living and happiness.

On this trip, we invited our oldest daughter to join us. We headed out mid-morning and just pointed the car north. Our meanderings took us to Anna Ruby Falls first and then on to Lake Burton.

Anna Ruby Falls was busy – which was to be expected in the height of “leaf-peeping” season. It was worth the crowds and the long wait to get into the park, however. It was just beautiful. It’s been a long time since we visited Anna Ruby Falls – I think the girls were around 6 and 9 when we went (so forever ago!). I’d forgotten about the hike up there and was pleasantly surprised to see it was a nice, paved walk that was relatively easy to handle. I even saw some people pushing babies in strollers (and puppy dogs in puppy strollers!)

I used the excuse to film a few times to stop and enjoy the view (and catch my breath). Mary Beth left us in the dust as she’s acclimated to the altitude and hilly walks living in the mountains as she does. Rob and I were content to meander and enjoy the fall sunshine and falling leaves. It was a perfect day for our adventure. Not too hot or too cold with a brilliant blue sky and bright sunshine.

After we enjoyed the falls, we headed out to meander some more and wound our way over to Lake Burton. I can’t remember ever going there (although Rob says we have) and it was spectacularly beautiful. The fall leaves, gorgeous sky, and sparkling lake were just a feast for the eyes. I’d like to find a cabin to rent there and stay some time, just to soak in the views some more.

Lake Burton, Georgia

Finally, we rounded out our day with a ride through Helen and a pit stop at a BBQ joint alongside the river as you leave Helen. If you’ve never been to Helen, it’s a kitschy little mountain town that has reinvented itself as an Alpine village/tourist attraction. Lots of shops and restaurants and on this day a TON of tourists up from Atlanta to take in the sights. We trudged through the traffic to roll on through town as quickly as we could. None of us are big on crowds and Mary Beth says she avoids Helen like the plague. Hah!

However, the dinner stop at Riverside Tavern was worth the slog through Helen’s traffic. It looks like a dive from the outside (and it is definitely a hole-in-the-wall kind of place) but it was most assuredly not. Inside, is a small dining area, a bar, and a door to an outside patio dining area. We ended up eating inside because the sun was going down and it was getting cool outside. The Georgia game was on, and Rob and Mary Beth were happy to watch the game while we pigged out on some delicious food. She had a BBQ sandwich and Rob and I split a rack of ribs. It was one of the most delicious racks of ribs I’ve had in a restaurant (Rob’s are the absolute best) and my mouth is watering now just remembering them. There was a plethora of food and we ended up taking about a half of the rack home (which we enjoyed for lunch later in the week).

Then it was off to home, with a surprise along the way. I’ll let you watch our video of the day below to see what that was.

Overall, it was a really nice day and we enjoyed spending time with Mary Beth and soaking up some fall sunshine and beautiful views.

So, you want a new planner

It’s new planner season in case you didn’t know.

This happens twice a year – once in May/June (for academic planners) and again in the fall (November/December) for annual calendars. We’re smack-dab in the middle of prime planner/calendar buying season right now. And if you are like me and love to try them all out, it’s kind of like Christmas came early!

I have a friend who told me not too long ago that she wanted me to help her with setting up a planner for 2022. I was so flattered at her request, and I can’t wait to geek out on helping her with this new endeavor. But as I reflected on what we might discuss and how I might help her, it got me to thinking of a few questions I wanted to start with when we talked. I thought I would share them with you in case you might be looking to start fresh in 2022 with a new planner setup.

So, let’s dive in, shall we?

First Question: For what do you want to use a planner?

Here are some options to consider:

  • Memory keeping
  • Schedules/time management
  • Projects
  • Task tracking
  • Team management/family management
  • Household management

Each use may require a different style planner. For example, if you are primarily using a planner to keep memories, journal, add photos, and memorabilia, you may find a blank notebook or unstructured day-per-page format the best to use. In the past five or so years, the scrapbooking movement has morphed into a creative planner movement. There are many options available for this type of creative memory keeping/”planning.” A bullet journal also lends itself to a creative outlet if you are looking for a blank slate to do whatever strikes your fancy.

If you are managing a schedule or keeping close track of your time, then a planner with a timeline will be important to you. Depending on how you manage your schedule, you may find that a weekly planner is plenty. Or you may decide that you want a daily planner so that you can keep detailed records for each day.

If you are managing projects, then you may need a combination of a calendar for deliverables and due dates as well as some type of project management pages to help you track key tasks, deliverables, and timelines. If you are managing a team, and that would include your family, you may need a blend of a project-based and schedule-based planner. You may need to coordinate multiple schedules, key activities, contacts, and more.

For project-based and team-based planning, you will probably find that you’re going to need a certain amount of flexibility, too. Something that will help you to keep all the project/team schedules and deliverables organized as well as something with some ability to adapt as projects and team dynamics evolve over time.

I’m sure you’re already trying to put the pegs into the holes at this point, identifying what kind of planner you think you need based on this quick assessment. But don’t.

Get clear about your purpose first – Why do you want a planner? What are you trying to accomplish by having one? Take some time to think about this, jot down some notes, and really mull it over. If you do this, it will help you to do a better job of moving to the next step –

Once you know what your purpose is, you can tackle the packaging.

This is misleading, because you may be thinking “Ok, you just told me not to put the “pegs in the holes” and now we’re talking about packaging. Isn’t that the same thing? Not really. There’s a little more to consider here.

Second Question: Think about where you may use your planner.

Will you be taking it with you on the go? If you are like me, you may want to have your planner with you everywhere you go. In which case, you’ll need something portable and compact. A larger planner can be bulky and cumbersome to tote around on a daily basis.

However, you may decide you don’t need your planner everywhere you go and that you’d rather opt for something that you would leave on your desk. This would enable you to have a potentially larger planner without the worry of weight and bulk to deal with.

As you are evaluating the purpose of your planner, consider how and where you will use it. 

There is a trade-off in size and weight to be considered when you are thinking about this. What is more important to you? The amount of space that you need to capture notes, ideas, and schedules, or the portability and accessibility?

I used to carry an A5/Half-letter daily planner. For years, that was my go-to.  I needed the space for meeting notes, project plans, and team schedules.  And when I wasn’t working full-time, I downsized to a smaller, more portable weekly view.  It was more important to have my planner with me (tossed in a diaper bag on many occasions) than it was to have copious amounts of space for note-taking. My life was different. My needs were different.

Nowadays, I opt for a smaller, A6 size planner. Most of my work-related planning is done online through my work calendar and a more petite planner suits my needs for personal tasks and calendaring. I like the portability this size offers and have not had a need for a larger size page for the most part. And when I do, I simply fold the paper and stick it in my smaller planner.

And finally, think about how much flexibility you need.

Do you find that you are happiest when everything is pre-configured for you, and you just have to fill in the blanks with your own dates and information? Or do you prefer to have a certain amount of control over the structure of your planner – with customizations for each section of the planner?  Backing up to the first question – how you are going to use your planner – will drive some of the answers to this third question as well. 

Now we are starting to put the pegs in the holes and pulling the pieces together – purpose, size, use, flexibility.

If you need the flexibility to add/remove sections, create custom inserts, move things around, etc. then you are most likely going to want something that will allow you to do so easily. A ring-bound or disc-bound system would work great for this purpose.  Think about Filofax, Franklin Covey, or one of the many disc-bound systems on the market.  There are many styles of inserts available, and you can customize a planner like this to your heart’s content. Each of these planners offers multiple sizes, also, so you can choose the size, style and setup that suits your needs.

If you are more interested in just being able to sit down and plot out a calendar and/or task list quickly without having to invest in a lot of inserts, then a bound planner may be more your style.

From there, you can consider whether you want a coil/spiral-bound planner or a book-bound planner.  There are a plethora of options on the market.  Some popular coil-bound planners include Erin Condren and Plum Paper.  (Among many, many others) Plum Paper offers the ability to customize your inserts and include additional sections.  So, you have some flexibility with the setup and still retain a coil-bound system. (They also offer unbound inserts you can put in a ring- or disc-bound planner)

The Japanese planner market has exploded in popularity in the past few years.  Hobonichi, Jibun Techo, and Mark’s System are just a few of the popular brands. These offer high-quality, ultra-thin papers with a minimalist vibe featuring well-thought-out designs.  Most are book-bound and come in a variety of sizes as well. From A5 down to the petite A6 size for maximum portability. 

Book-bound planners offer a compact setup and lightweight portability. However, you do give up some flexibility in terms of your setup and the ability to add things as needs arise. There are ways around this (tip-in’s anyone?) but you’re essentially able to make it work if you need to.

So where does this lead you?

What ideas are now percolating in your brain? Have you come up with a clearer picture of what you might want in a planner?

I hope this has helped you to crystalize a few things as you consider a new planner.

And remember, when all else fails, what is most important is to get all the things out of your head and accounted for somewhere.  Whether that is Google Calendar, your phone’s calendar, a fancy planner or just a plain notebook.  Aplain notebook makes a great, customized “planner” if you want to have the ultimate control over how you plan. Investigate the Bullet Journal method if this interests you.

I’m a big proponent of getting things out of my head and into some format that I can record and track it.  I think it has helped me to be a more efficient and effective employee, wife, mother, and member of the communities I am involved in. 

I hope you’ll share in the comments below any thoughts that this might have sparked for you. 

If you have any questions about planners, I’d be happy to share any information I can with you. It’s a passion of mine, a hobby I enjoy, and a guilty pleasure I indulge in.  You can find out more about my planner obsession over on my YouTube channel if you are interested!

November Planner Setup

Well, you’ll probably not be surprised to see I’m back in Old Faithful this month!

Take a look at my setup to see what is the same and what has changed.

2022 Planner Plans

Thinking about what I want to do in my 2022 planners. Here’s a quick peek at what I’m considering.

Autumn Adventures

Another weekend adventure with my honey – this time to the North Georgia Mountains. We went to the Hiawassee Fall Festival at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, rode up to the top of Bell Mountain outside of Hiawassee and had a great day touring around North Georgia.

 

Product Review: Croc Cover | A6 Planner, Hobonichi

Felix, my fuzzy assistant, and I talk about the newest A6 cover I received for my Hobonichi planner.

(be sure you stick around for the outtakes)

Nothing Lasts Forever

I remember when this photo was taken.

It was around 1999 or 2000. Easter time. (and we’re not gonna talk about that hair, ok, y’all? Mercy.)

We had been trying for what seemed like forever to have a baby. At this point, I think it had been six or seven years. Lots of tests, lots of hormones, among other things.

I had finally given up and decided that we were just going to be that aunt and uncle. The ones without kids who would swoop in, grab the nieces and nephews and spoil them rotten, returning them to their parents full of sugar and great memories.

We’d even been talking about moving to the mountains – because with no kids we didn’t have to worry about school districts and proximity to extracurricular activities.

I remember this Lois thinking that she was forever going to be childless. That God had told her very loudly “NO” on the question of having children.

That it was a permanent situation.

I found this picture yesterday while I was cleaning my office. The photo brought back a flood of memories and emotions, putting me right back in that place where I was twenty years ago. Smiling for the camera and thinking, “Well, we may as well get used to pictures of just the two of us because that’s how it’s going to be from now on.”

And it struck me — as I was spring cleaning on our COVID-19 lockdown — how similar some of the emotions and feelings I’m having right now were to the ones I was feeling back then. That feeling of the situation being permanent. Of lasting forever. That God had other plans for me. Plans I wasn’t signed up for or on board with.

This past week has been a weird one, hasn’t it?

As we all wrestle with this “new normal” we are living. And while we put all our plans aside and adjust to a much slower pace of life; staying at home and putting spring breaks, holidays, travel, parties, weddings, etc. on hold. A new normal none of us signed up for. One we are also wondering when it will end.

How long will this last?

Without having a definite date to look forward to in terms of our “social distancing” it begins to feel permanent, doesn’t it?

If I could go back and talk to the Lois of 1999, I think I would tell her that she had no idea what God had in store for her. Of His blessings and faithfulness that were to come. That riding out the particular season she was in, and embracing the now was so important. Rather than looking at what she didn’t have, she should be embracing what she did have. Little did she know, the world would look so very different in a few years — 9/11 would come, along with a new little baby girl that was such a blessed surprise.

I think the same is true for us now.

While this feels permanent, like we have put our lives on hold and they may not resume for anytime soon, it’s not. The thing I keep reminding myself is this — life may not be the same post-COVID-19 but there is no reason to feel as if right now, this moment is not valuable and should be embraced and savored.

And just like the 1999 Lois, I need to remember that this too shall pass. Hopefully, in a few months we will all be back to our normal frenetic life – celebrating summertime with barbecues and beach trips, shopping and hanging out with friends. And I want to embrace what is in my right now – time at home with my family – a family that has recently been so busy that we are often just passing by one another as we race from one commitment to another. I want to enjoy reading a book and cleaning closets, planting flowers and listening to the birds, baking breads and cakes with my youngest, scheming our next adventure with my oldest, watching movies as a family and making scrumptious dinners with my love.

Rather than dwelling on all the things I can’t do, I want to celebrate the things I can do. Things that I might have forgotten or pushed aside recently.

And I want to remember this, most importantly, that God has a plan. And while we may not know how long our quarantine will last, or what our world will look like on the other side of it, He does. And my worry and angst about what tomorrow holds does nothing but stop me from embracing today. It does not fix tomorrow’s problems. It does not (really) prepare me for tomorrow’s events. It just robs me of today’s joy.

And this is hard, y’all. Really hard. Especially for me – because I’m a planner (and a worrier) and I like to know what comes next. As I sit here with a calendar full of things that have been crossed out it is hard not to think “now what?” and feel that worry. What about income? What about our food stores? What about… What about… What about…

I’m trying to stop myself right there.

When the worry comes.

I’m trying to train my brain to say “What will be will be. And God is in control. He already knows and you don’t need to know right now.”

It’s hard. But I am learning.

And as I learn, I’m finding peace.

Really.

I don’t have to have the plan. I don’t need all the answers.

I just need to trust. I need to focus on today. I need to embrace what is in front of me.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

So, I am hoping that 2020 Lois will do a little better than 1999 Lois did. She’s still a work in progress (aren’t we all) but I’d like to think she is a little ahead of the 20 years ago Lois.

I hope you, too, are able to find some peace in these uncertain times. To rest in the knowledge that nothing lasts forever. And someday soon we’ll find our quarantine lifted and our lives full and busy once again. But hopefully, when that happens, we will remember these slower days – and remember trusting in our Heavenly Father for our every need. And the tomorrow me and tomorrow you will be that much richer and wiser because of it.

More Corona virus Comfort Food

I don’t know about you but with all the things going on with the pandemic, I’m looking for any way I can to find a little peace and comfort each day. The other night Little Bit wanted to bake and she decided to make a mug cake. And once the rest of us smelled and tasted it, we all requested mug cakes.

Mug cakes are great – they’re just the right size, cook up quickly with little mess and satisfy a craving without leaving a huge cake behind to tempt (or taunt) you the next day.

We thoroughly enjoyed her mug cakes and so I thought I would share with you what she made. Her recipe was improvised from this mug cake recipe. I’ve noted her adapted version below.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

It was a perfect pick me up on a night where we were all feeling the strain of the situation we’re currently living in.

How are you coping with COVID-19?

Other than drowning our sorrows in chocolate, we’re trying to find ways to get outside and enjoy the spring weather. There’s nothing like sunshine and daffodils to improve your mood. Or swinging in the yard, reading a book, and listening to the birds sing.

I hope you are well. I hope you are finding peaceful moments and hope in this uncertain time we’re in. And I hope you have some mug cake. It really hits the spot.

Take care,

Lois

Chocolate Mug Cake

Ingredients
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (we used dark cocoa powder)
1/4 tsp baking powder
dash salt
3 Tbsp milk (we used 2%)
1 Tbsp oil (we used canola)
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp chocolate chips
1 heaping tsp Nutella (hazelnut spread)

Instructions
1. Spray the bottom of a microwave-safe mug with cooking spray.
2. Add dry ingredients and stir together. (flour, salt, sugar, cocoa powder & baking powder)
3. Add liquid ingredients (milk, canola oil and vanilla).
4. Stir until smooth and make sure you get all dry ingredients incorporated well.
5. Cook in your microwave for 70-90 seconds* until cake is just set, but still barely shiny on top.
Allow to rest in microwave for one minute before you devour. And be careful! The mug will be hot!

*Because microwaves are different – some will cook faster than others. Start with 70 seconds, wait one minute while it cools, look to see if it is set. Add additional 15-25 seconds if needed.
We cooked our cakes for 1 min 30 seconds

You will want to be sure you stop cooking the cake before it is completely done because you want the cake to be soft on the inside and the residual heat will continue to cook even as you let it cool for a minute before you eat it.