Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you find some helpful hints for organizing your time and space. My passions are to help you make home a refuge instead of a crisis center, and to help you function in peace rather than chaos - at home or at work. I have switched my main blog to 1-2-3 ... Get Organized on WordPress, so please visit me there.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Organize an Emergency Kit for Your Car

Summertime means doing more outdoors and being on the go. To prevent spoiling a good time, consider putting together an emergency kit for your car.

For safety, include a first aid kit, flares, and a flashlight.

For unexpected accidents, include a change of clothes for your small children, extra diapers if applicable, wipes, paper towels, a bottle of water, and a couple of extra t-shirts for you, your spouse, or your older children.

For unexpected fun, include sunscreen, a blanket, frisbees or similar toys, bottled water, and some granola bars or similar snack.

What do you include in your emergency kit?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

College Survival Kits

For high school graduation gifts this year I've been giving "College Survival Kits." I start with a large shower caddy I got at Target's dollar spot (although it was $2.50) www.target.com.

I stand my Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student (www.1-2-3GetOrganized.com/collegemgt.html) in the back section of the caddy and surround it with scissors, a can opener, one setting of silverware, a mug, a screwdriver set, index cards, a glue stick, super glue, a glass with measuring cup markings on it, some candy, a granola bar, some instant oatmeal, a chip clip, a squirt gun :-), a first aid kit, a sewing kit, a pop-up mesh laundry basket, and a stain stick. I'm sure I'm forgetting something!

My graduation gifts this year have been for girls, but you could use a small trashcan or other storage container for guys. For either gender you could add coffee or restaurant gift cards if you wish.

Then I place the container in a gift basket bag and tie it up with colorful ribbons. I print up a personalized card on my computer, "Becca's College Survival Kit," for example, sign the back, punch a hole in a corner and slide a ribbon through it and tie it onto the package.

If you know the graduate well, you can personalize the goodies. One of our foster daughters is graduating this year. I know she doesn't like oatmeal, so I substituted a canned latte drink instead the granola bar and oatmeal. And she loves gummy candy, so that's what I chose for her.

Another idea is to give a gift certificate of a cookie care package each month. It's fun to think outside the box when giving gifts!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Couple of Radio Interviews

There are a couple of radio interviews I've done recently that are available to you. One is at Web Talk Radio hosted by Nan Russell. The title of the show is Need a Life Preserver? It aired on Monday May 26. My interview is in the middle of the program and deals with organizing at the office.

The second interview is tomorrow morning, Thursday, May 29 with David Lush with WNIX News Talk Radio in Greenville, Mississippi, bringing "good news" to the Mississippi Delta. To hear a live stream, go to NewsTalk1330WNIX.com at 7 am eastern, 8 am central, 9 am mountain, 10 am pacific.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thinking Through Your Closets

Hope you had a wonderful and restful holiday weekend! We had some friends visit - the parents of our son-in-law. The weather was wonderful and we visited a nearby mansion and grounds, our local riverfront, a fabulous Italian restaurant, and our town's Memorial Day Parade.

Today I helped a client rethink her office and several closets. The thought of attacking these areas were overwhelming her and were robbing her of peace of mind.

My client determined her vision for her office: photography, scrapbooking, and the computer/desk area. We removed everything from her office closet that didn't contribute to her vision for her office - clothing, linens, ironing gear among other things.

We grouped cameras and related cords and recordings together. We grouped office supplies together. Several shelves were designated for scrapbooking supplies. And a shelf for computer programs and instructions.

My client is going to buy some clear plastic shoe boxes at the dollar store to store scrapbooking supplies, camera cords, earphones, memory sticks, and other groups of small items. And she is going to bring a five-foot table from her basement into the room for scrapbooking.

We determined a purpose for each of the other closets we decluttered. That made it easy to determine what belonged and didn't belong in each closet. We organized like items together and removed unwanted items to be donated, tossed or put in another location. My client planned to make a trip to Good Will and the consignment shop this afternoon to get those unwanted items out of her house.

In four hours we decluttered four closets - what peace of mind!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Helping Your Kids Prepare for a Move

Yesterday I helped a couple of our teenage foster daughters prepare for a move into a new home. In our organization, Shelter Care, our girls live with a permanent set of house parents for most of the month. Each house of girls (three houses) comes to stay with us for about a week every month for "relief." This gives their houseparents some time off during the month.

Shelter Care recently purchased a house to replace a current one which could only house two girls. This one will allow us to provide a home for three girls.

So I helped our girls go through their bedrooms. We got rid of stuff they no longer needed or wanted. We organized items into categories: winter clothes, memories, sewing/crafts, school supplies, books, hygiene/cosmetic products, etc.

This allowed them to see what they have, how much they have in each category, and what kind of storage they will need when they move. We put things in clear storage containers or labeled boxes so they know exactly what is in each when they unpack.
Then we hauled a couple of loads over to the new house and put their boxes in their new rooms.

I think it's going to be nice for them to start over, organize their stuff, and create a system to maintain their organization. I have a feeling I might be involved in that aspect, too!

If you are moving, taking some time with your child to go through the same process is really rather freeing. It's a time to enjoy memories and special possessions, realize growth as certain items are no longer meaningful, and anticipate a new beginning and adventure!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Foil - A Griller's Friend

Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of grilling season, but we grill whenever we have a chance! In the summertime, I love trying to figure out menus that are cooked entirely on the grill, in the microwave, or not cooked at all.

Foil can be used in many ways to make this possible. Baked potatoes can be baked on the grill - adding oil, herbs or your choice of seasonings before you wrap each one in foil. They take 45-60 minutes - turn several times. Sweet potatoes don't take as long, but are just as easy!

Corn on the cob can be wrapped in foil and grilled as well. You don't even need to remove the silks, as they come off easily after cooking. You may want to add an ice cube or some butter before you wrap it up. Grill 15-30 minutes, turning frequently.

An easy way to grill vegetables is inside a foil envelope. Place grillable veggies on an open piece of foil - squashes, asparagus, peppers, mushrooms, and onions (in small pieces). Toss with Italian dressing or another marinade. Fold the foil to make a loose envelope. Grill approximately 20 minutes, turning frequently.

When all the grilling is done, use the foil to clean off the grill, according to Woman's Day, June 1 issue (www.womansday.com)! Crunch it into a ball and rub it across the grate - how easy is that?

For more grilling recipes and ideas, see the summer months in our Hassle Free Dinners CD - 52 weeks of dinner menus, instructions, and grocery lists (www.1-2-3GetOrganized.com).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Score: Squirrels 1, Bev 0

When I looked outside at my herbs today, they were all dug up, compliments of the squirrels! I was so disappointed!

My husband suggested that if we waited to plant from seeds again we'd have herbs by August! I agreed and admitted defeat. So we went out this evening and bought herb plants. We did go ahead and water the herb seeds, however, hoping that some might come up. Parsley is the only area that wasn't destroyed, so we may have massive quantities of parsley this year!

My next door neighbor commiserated with me and suggested chili pepper. So once we watered, I sprinkled my garlic oil repellant and chili powder on the top of the soil in the planters. I wonder if it will effect the taste of the herbs? I will continue to try some herbs from seed - I really do want to succeed at this!

I'm experimenting with some new varieties - at least to me. Dwarf curry, lime basil, and stevia an herb that is sweeter than sugar. I'm going to try mixing it with my mint leaves when I make mint tea (with no tea) this summer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More Reviews by Multitasking Mama

Multitasking Mama has reviewed Three Steps to Planning Dinner and Hassle Free Dinners, part of our 1-2-3...Get Organized series on her terrific blog! Click on her link on the right.

Dinner in 10 - Herbed Tilapia

Herbed tilapia has become one of my favorite dishes since last summer. One night I just picked a handful of various herbs - cilantro, parsley, chives, and basil. I cut them up with scissors, sprinkled some olive oil in a nonstick pan and threw in the herbs for a minute or so on medium high heat.

Placed the tilapia filets on top of the herbs and cooked until I could see white around the edges - they are very thin and cook very quickly. Turned them over for another few minutes. Seasoned to taste. If you're not a big fish fan (I'm not) tilapia is ideal - it doesn't taste real fishy. If you don't have fresh herbs, used dried ones to your taste.

In the meantime, microwave some broccoli, steam some frozen corn, and cut up some watermelon. A quick, fresh meal!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Feed the Squirrels? - Hah!

The other day one of our teenage foster daughters suggested we feed the squirrels in our back yard. Feed the squirrels? Hah! I think she was a little surprised at my reaction.

I think I have done my part. When we lived in Maryland, we had a dwarf plum tree which grew the best plums in the world. The first year that the tree really produced, we had so many plums we were giving them away!

Until the squirrels discovered how good they were. They would climb up the tree, pick a plum, take a few bites, and throw it down on the ground. The last year we were there, they ate all the plums on the tree - we didn't even get one! You see, plums don't ripen well when picked early - we tried. The squirrels would pick them just before they were ripe and discard them.

My husband thought it was nice that we were providing food for God's creatures. I would stand guard by the door and run out and shoo them away. Feed the squirrels? Hah!

When we moved here to Ohio, we planted raspberries and blueberries. Last year we watched with eager anticipation as a few berries of each kind started budding and growing. One day we went out to check on our berries and they were all gone! And the squirrels were getting fatter. Feed the squirrels? Hah! Visions of pea shooters were dancing in my head!

In late winter this year, we noticed that we had our own personal lawn aerating system, compliments of the squirrels, as they dug up their buried treasure. We still have bald spots in our yard as a result of their thoughtfulness. Feed the squirrels? Hah! We've done our part!

Remember the herb garden I planted from seed in planters? It's been a little chilly this spring, so it has taken a while for the little sprigs to show their heads. One day I went to check on them, and someone had been digging in my planters!!! Now visions of air guns were dancing in my head!!!

However, I have a found a much more humane way to deal with my squirrel issues. Repels-All Animal Repellent by Shot Gun (I find the brand name somewhat comorting!). Lest you worry, it does no harm to animals or to plants - the main ingredient is garlic oil. Yes, my garden is fragrant, but it is in tact! So far.

It is supposed to repel armadillos, beavers, birds, cats, crows, chipmunks, deer, groundhogs, mice, pocupines, rabbits, raccoons, rats, skunks, and shrews. Hmmm ... I just noticed squirrels are not on the list. We'll see.

It rains a lot here in Ohio, so I've reapplied it. I sprinkled it in my herb garden, around the berry bushes, and I'm keeping watch. We have lots of berries on our bushes this year - a dream of mine for years - to be able to walk outside and pick berries for our fruit salad! If I have to, I'll go buy nets to cover the bushes!

Feed the squirrels? Hah! I've done my part!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Another Multitasking Mama Review

Multitasking Mama's review of our Three Steps to Organizing Your Office is posted on her blog. Check it out and enter her contest by clicking her link in my links list on the right! She has an amazing site!

Scheduling Appointments

I have a dermatologist appointment today. This is the second dermatologist I've had since moving to Ohio over three years ago. The first one made me wait over an hour, and I happened to be suffering from hip issues at the time, so sitting was pretty painful. He was antagonistic when I mentioned the long wait and saw me for five minutes. The waiting room was standing room only, and it was obvious that the office overbooked for the convenience of the doctor.

He is obviously no longer my dermatologist. My current dermatologist is head of the department of dermatology at a local hospital, but my wait is usually no longer than 15 minutes. It is possible to run a busy practice efficiently! Can you tell that waiting is not one of my gifts? :-)

When I call to get information when looking for a new doctor, one of the questions I ask is whether the doctor generally runs on time and how long a usual wait is. I was sold when my current physician's receptionist said the wait was usually no longer than 15 minutes, and she would try to see me the same day if I had a sudden concern. I understand there are emergencies and the like, but long waits don't necessarily need to be the norm.

When I schedule appointments, I try to schedule them so I don't have to disrupt my schedule. Whether it's an organizing appointment, a doctor's appointment, or a meeting, I try to work around things that are important to me. For example, I try to go to an acquatics class each morning at 8, which means I'm showered and dressed by 9:15. So I try to schedule accordingly. It doesn't always work, but I try.

When I call for appointments, I ask when the shortest wait will be. Many times it is the earliest morning appointment or the first one after lunch. If your doctor makes rounds in the morning, the first appointment after lunch may be the best. One ob/gyn doc I went to in the past was notoriously late. I got into the habit of calling to see if they were running on time. It really scored points with me when a dentist I had in Maryland would call and say they had an emergency and they were running behind.

I also try to schedule appointments when I know I'm going to be out anyway. I'd rather schedule several things for one day rather than interrupt several days with appointments. Of course, if your appointments involve your children, you'll have to take into consideration their naptimes and mealtime needs.

If you are working in an office, schedule appointments with a starting and ending time. And schedule appointments back-to-back with just a few minutes preparation time in between. By scheduling appointments together, you will hopefully be able to schedule uninterrupted, productive time on other days rather than have a week that is plagued by short, choppy unproductive time.

Don't let your appointments run late. Set an alarm or ask your receptionist or secretary to interrupt you when the appointment is to be over. If you respect your own time and that of those with whom you meet, they will know they need to get their business with you completed in the allotted time. And you will not be tempted to stretch out the appointment unnecessarily. For more tips on time management at the office check out our Three Steps to Time Management at the Office (http://www.1-2-3getorganized.com/).

And always bring something with you to do when you are waiting. I find that if I bring a pleasure book along, I'm in a much better mood if I have to wait - it's like having luxurious time to myself!

What tips do you have for scheduling appointments and making them efficient?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Save Time Birthday Shopping

This is the time of year when there are a lot of events to celebrate! Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduation and weddings. May is especially busy for me, as my mom, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew all have birthdays this month, too.

So rather than making numerous trips to buy cards and gifts, I try to combine several of those tasks in one trip. Yesterday I was quite proud of myself because I planned ahead, and was able to combine some items to be mailed, saving on postage. And, of course, the more trips we combine, the more efficient we are with our gas money and our time, which is valuable, too.

Whenever I buy wedding cards, birthday cards, baby cards, and graduation cards, I usually buy several so I have some on hand. Mother's Day and Father's Day, of course, are a little different as is picking out special cards for special people. But if you can think ahead, you can still shop for several special cards at the same time.

When I find gifts I like that might serve several people or several occasions, I stock up. How wonderful it is to go into my gift drawer and find something perfect for an occasion coming up, rather than make a special trip!

Please share your tips with us!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Final Review of Organizers

My final review of organizers is about Cozi, a computer-based program that is available as a software download or on the web. Cozi coordinates family and work schedules, with a different color for each family member or other important persons or groups.

It syncs with Outlook, and is accessible from any computer with internet access or any mobile phone. You can even call an 800 number and have something on your calendar or lists texted to your phone or read to you over the phone – recipes, directions, whatever!

You can send messages and reminders to family members, work associates, or the carpool from Cozi Messages – to individuals or a group.

Cozi Lists allows you to make to-do lists, grocery lists, birthday lists, and anything else you need to remember. You can transfer ingredients from a recipe to your grocery list, too.

Document special moments with pictures and short descriptions in your Cozi Family Journal. No scissors or glue needed! And Cozi automatically generates a screen-saver collage from your pictures. When you find a combination you like, you can send the collage to family or friends with just a click!

On Cozi’s home page a video walks you through the features of this unique organizing program. There’s a blog to give you additional ideas and suggestions. And Cozi is free!! Check it out at www.Cozi.com.

Do you have an organizing system you love? Please share it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Storage for Your Garage

Now that you've organized items in your garage into categories (sports equipment, tools, gardening, car care supplies, etc.) and gotten rid of items you no longer need, take a look at your storage.

By assessing what needs to be stored in each of the above categories, you gain a sense of what storage is necessary. For example, if you have a large quantity of small items - screws, nails, etc. - you might want to get a storage cabinet with small clear drawers for easy access and visibility. I have also seen jar lids nailed to the under side of a shelf with the jars attached once the lid is secure. When the item in a jar is needed, unscrew the jar and take what you need!

If you have numerous sports balls, you may want to get a large wire basket to hold them all.

If you have considerable gardening supplies, you may want to install a fold-down table to use for potting. Buckets can do double duty, holding gardening tools and, when empty, available to carry peat or manure to enrich your plants.

Whatever your needs, you have some options. You can have someone come in and provide new storage units for your garage. A second option is to purchase a few pieces to tweak your existing storage. Or you can consider repurposing pieces you no longer need in other places.

For example, we no longer needed a tall white bookcase in our house, but it works perfectly to store paint supplies and other items. We have a 18" x 18" x 30" wooden crate that now houses tools on long poles, keeping them in one location without falling down. A table no longer useful in the house serves as a work surface

Also, make use of your wall space. It's a great place to attach wire baskets, shelves, hooks, and pegs. A curtain rod (mounted as usual) is a wonderful place to store twine, tape, and wire. Use vertical space, as well. Store bicycles and other items from ceiling hooks to maximize usable space.

If your garage is the usual means of entering your home, you may want to consider turning the area beside the door to your home into a mud area. Put pegs on the wall for coats, umbrellas, and bookbags. Have a place to sit (a wooden storage chest works wonderfully!) to remove shoes or boots. Designate an area to line up those shoes and boots. And run a rug from that area into the house.

What have you done to make your garage work efficiently for you?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another Review by Multitasking Mama

Multitasking Mama has posted another review of one of our 1-2-3 ... Get Organized books - this time it's Three Steps to Clever Cleaning. Check it out at:

Don't forget to wander around her site for great deals and ideas!

It's that Time Again - Swapping Out Your Seasonal Tools

Just as we swap out our seasonal clothes, it makes life easier if we swap out our seasonal tools, equipment, and supplies.

Those things that were more accessible for winter can now be stored in the back of your garage - snow shovels/blowers, snow melt, scrapers, etc. And move those things forward that you will use over the spring, summer and fall - the lawn mower, grill, potting soil and gardening supplies, car care supplies.

While you're swapping things around, take the time to evaluate what you have and what you need. Get rid of those broken gardening tools, and make a list of what you need. Items you no longer need can be given away if they are in good working order. If you have hazardous waste (paints, batteries, gasoline, antifreeze, etc.), your local hardware store and/or mechanic will dispose of many of these items.

Organize into categories: car supplies, gardening supplies, sports equipment, grilling equipment, tools, etc. When each category has a particular space, it's easier to find what you want. And it's more likely that items will be replaced in the proper area. Label shelves or areas for more clarity.

Now that you've seen what you have, it's time to think about storage. We'll address that tomorrow.

Do you have garage tips you'd like to share? Please do!!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Reduce Your Stress by Organizing

If I'm feeling stressed, it's usually due to a couple of reasons: I feel disorganized or my surroundings are disorganized.

It's amazingly freeing to take just a few minutes to get your mind, schedule, and priorities organized. List everything that is flying through your mind - your to do list, places you need to go, people you need to contact, etc. Just putting it on paper relieves the stress of having to remember everything.

Next, prioritize and assign a day to each task. Once you parcel everything out, it won't seem so overwhelming. If it is, maybe you need to evaluate if everything on your list is really that important to you or whether you have overcommitted yourself. Remove those things that are least important and urgent. Delegate or get some help on other items. Practice saying, "NO!"

If you have tasks you want to do each day, make a daily routine you'd like to follow in order to accomplish those high-priority items.

If your surroundings are disorganized and cluttery, it's hard to have a peaceful mind. Take a few minutes and clean off a surface - a coffee table, a counter, a desk. If your clutter is sizable, attack it in short bursts if you can't face a long siege. You can do anything for 15 minutes! I usually start in a corner of a room and work around it.

When your mind is clear of clutter and your surroundings are neat and orderly, you have given yourself the gift of reducing some of the stress in your life. And you are free to be creative and productive!

How do you reduce the clutter in your life?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Shadow Boarding the Tools in Your Garage

Now that the weather is nicer, you may be spending more time outside and using the tools in your garage more often. One way to make sure your tools get put back in the correct spots is to do what the professionals do - shadow board your tools.

Shadow boarding consists of tracing the outline of your tools with a marker or paint onto the pegboard or wall where they hang. This is especially helpful if you have other people using your tools. Even a child can see where to replace a tool once it is used.

If you loan out your tools to neighbors, family, etc., you may even want to keep a list of who has borrowed which tool and when. Then if one turns up missing, you'll have a record of where it might be rather than having to remember who may have borrowed it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Peace-of-Mind Vacation Check List - What to Do Before You Leave

In order to insure that your time away on vacation is relaxing and refreshing, make sure to take care of a few things before you leave.

- Make arrangement for your mail and packages. One option is to stop your mail through the post office (you can do it online at www.usps.com). If you do this, you may want to ask a neighbor to watch for packages, as well. We have a weekly paper that is delivered whether we want it or not - it's a sure sign that we're not home if it's sitting on our front porch for days.

Another option is to get a neighbor or friend to pick up your mail and watch for packages. Sometimes we hire a neighbor kid to pick up the mail and walk around the house to look for packages. UPS sometimes delivers to our front porch and sometimes to our back porch!

- Put your lights on timers. We have some that are programmable to go on at different times each night. It makes it look like you are home and there is activity in different parts of the house. We actually leave them on all the time, so if we're out for the evening, it doesn't look like it.

- Stop your newspapers. Most newspapers give you the option to donate your unused days to schools, etc. It's still helpful to have someone watch, though, as we've had newspapers delivered even when we've requested a stop.

- Make arrangements for your pets - a kennel, someone to come over and feed and play with your cat, feed your fish or birds, etc. There are all sorts of pet-sitting services these days, too.

- Make arrangement for your plants - either have someone water them or use a long-term watering system.

- Make arrangments for your lawn. A shaggy yard with yellow newspapers sitting around is an invitation to thieves.

- Pay your bills that will be due while you are gone and soon after you arrive home. You don't want to have to face bills as soon as you come home!

- Remove perishable items from your fridge and pantry. You may want to make a list of items you'll need when you return while it's fresh on your mind, so you don't have to think about it when you come home. Both milk and bread are freezable - just remember to buy milk with the screw-on lids and empty a little so it doesn't explode all over your freezer!

- Adjust your thermostats to save energy while you're away. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to reflect your absence.

- Give a neighbor your cell phone number or contact number - just in case they notice water pouring out of your house, or some other such emergency!

- Look back at your house as you leave. We almost left our front door open once. And you certainly don't want to be wondering if you left your garage door open!

- While you're away, you may want to pick up a souvenir or gift for anyone watching your house, pets, or plants.

With all these details taken care of, you'll have peace of mind while you're away and can enjoy being refreshed and rejuvenated!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Best Teriyaki Sauce in the World

It's time to make a big batch of teriyaki sauce - I usually make a bunch at the beginning of grilling season. It keeps forever, well maybe not that long, but I never keep it around long enough to find out. I make it for teriyaki chicken (marinate for 2-6 hours - in a pinch none at all!), london broil (marinate for three days) and for fajitas (just add onions and peppers to chicken or beef while cooking).

Today I'm making it in order to celebrate a milestone in the life of one of our foster daughters - she has been off drugs for a year. So we're celebrating! She got to choose her celebration dinner, which is teriyaki chicken, fried rice, strawberries, watermelon, a veggie platter and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. We'll have balloons and a card signed by all of us, too.

Here's the recipe. A quadrupled amount is in parentheses.

Teriyaki Marinade

3/4 c. oil (3.c.)
1 T. garlic powder (1/4 c.)
1/4 c. soy sauce (1 c.)
1 1/2 t.ground ginger (1/8 c.)
1/4 c. honey (1 c.)
2 T. chopped dried onion or to taste (1/2 c.)
2 T. vinegar (1/2 c.)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Check Out MultiTasking Mama's Giveaway

MultiTasking Mama is offering a giveaway of some of my books. She will be reviewing a different book each day, and you can enter each day for the giveaway at http://multitaskingmama.wordpress.com/. Her reviews start tomorrow, Monday, May 5th, so drop by her blog. You'll want to visit often - she has lots of great stuff, including loads of bargains and coupons.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Organizing Your Fun Time

We received a houseful of four teenage girls yesterday who will stay until next Thursday. They are part of our Shelter Care residential program (my other job) and usually reside with a permanent set of house parents. But once a month they come to our house for a week, as do two other houses of girls.

I try to offer some fun things for us to do together, so I do research. I look at a couple of websites that list activities to do in our area, the website for our park system, current movies, and a craft store that offers classes.

Then I make a list of things we would be willing to take them to, considering both location and price. I also make another list on the same page of things to do around home - crafts, cooking, games, etc.

A third area includes possible exercise options: swimming, working out, walking in the neighborhood or at a track or at a park, frisbee golf, tennis, raquetball, basketball, hikes, etc.

And finally I give an option to go out for coke/coffee with either Bob or me (or both at different times).

I put all this on a list and let each girl vote for her top two or three favorites in each area. For each top choice I give it a numerical value of 5, the second place choice gets a 4, and third place gets a 3. I add up all the votes so we can see what the majority wants to do.

Then I try to schedule in as many activities as our schedule allows and as the weather permits, trying to provide variety. We usually throw in a house project that every one pitches in to do for an hour (washing walls or windows or cars, yard work, etc.). I also try to plan some down time for people to just chill if they want to do so.

Since we have a specific time when we have each house of girls, it lends itself to such a system. But you could institute something similar just to do something different than the normal routine. I know for myself, if I have a routine schedule, I can easily get in my rut, and don't always think about seeing what's out there to shake up my life a little.

This is also a great system to put into place for summer vacation. Tweak it to fit your family's needs and schedules - it makes life interesting and fun!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Looking for Some Creative Mother's Day, Graduation, and Wedding Gifts?

Mother's Day, Graduation, and Wedding season is upon us! We have created several interesting packages for each of these occasions so you can do all your gift buying in one location. There is something for every price range.

For Mother's Day, we're featuring three books written by Ann Champeau on writing your life story and writing a family cookbook. There are also beautiful notecards which I love and use all the time. Their envelopes are velum, so you can see the designs through them! And we have a package including my Planning Dinner Workbook plus Hassle Free Dinners for moms who want to streamline dinner yet serve great meals.

For Graduation, we're featuring combinations of my Time Management for the College Student, Planning Dinner, and an audio interview featuring Maria Pascucci from Campus Calm University and myself on the topics of procrastinating, time management, and other pertinent subjects.

For Wedding gifts, we offering packages of several of my books to help newlyweds set up an organized household. The same books will work for college graduates, too!

So, why buy a boring gift? Buy something unusual and useful and life-changing! www.1-2-3GetOrganized.com.