NEW Erin Condren MONTHLY Planner Review!

monthly-plannerreview

I am SO excited to share the newest Erin Condren products with you all! I’m going to show you some of their latest accessories and then flip through the LONG-awaited, much anticipated MONTHLY PLANNERS!

ACCESSORIES

The product line from my favorite planner company has been expanding over the last few years, and there are some really cool new things out there now. The newest and probably biggest departure from their stationery and home decor line-up are these flair pins:photo-oct-14-10-31-45-amThe signature asterisk flair pins are $6 each, and the Stay Gold flair pin is $8. Perfect for a jacket or bag! I think I’m going to pin one on my daughter’s backpack as a reminder that I’m always with her. She started Kindergarten this fall and is still getting used to the long day, so I love the idea of having a visual reminder of home for her.

The other (long-awaited!) new product is the nail wrap line! I have seen SO many people asking for nail wraps and there are now FIVE patterns you can pick ($10 each) to match your nails to your notebook!photo-oct-14-10-43-45-amI’ve never been great at putting these on, so I’m going to try them out and will reveal them in another post 😉

I also had one of the new Luxe Gold Metallic Quote Clutches ($20) in my surprise box! The teal faux leather is very, very flexible and soft, and the gold accents are so beautiful in person. The pouch is really roomy and perfect for toting around planner accessories. photo-oct-14-10-43-02-amAnother picture, in comparison to the Deluxe Monthly Planners (original and larger size planners pictured):photo-oct-14-10-43-27-amThere’s one more accessory to share, but I’m going to show it to you as I walk you through the Monthly Planner. You’ll see why.

MONTHLY PLANNER

This planner is the answer to everyone asking for a more simple, sleek monthly planner. Even with the roll-out of the neutral color layout this past summer, folks were still asking for a planner with less decorative touches and more function. Enter the Monthly Planner.photo-oct-14-10-32-15-amThis planner is 7×9 and bound like the Erin Condren Journals with a smooth, permanent, customizable cover. You can choose from this understated canvas print with a monogram, or their collection of colorful covers.

The first spread is the 2017 year-at-a-glance. These mini month calendars are the same size as the Life Planner, so you can use the same stickers you use (*cough*Krissyanne Designs Transparent Mini Circle Stickers*cough*). I also love the wide open space at the bottom for notes.photo-oct-14-10-32-31-amThe next page is split into a holiday list and a spot for monthly notes:
photo-oct-14-10-32-40-amI love the space here for deadlines, special projects, goals or other monthly notes people like to keep:photo-oct-14-10-32-47-amThe next page is the January Monthly layout:photo-oct-14-10-32-58-amThe monthly layout features a notes sidebar along with a mini next-month calendar at the top left:photo-oct-14-10-33-10-amAs you turn the page, you jump right into the next month:photo-oct-14-10-33-21-amNo notes pages between each month means you can just get right to business. If you like continuous months, this planner is for you.

After December 2017, you can turn directly to a notes section that contains 92 notes pages:
photo-oct-14-10-33-39-amThe calendar pages are not perforated, but the notes pages are:photo-oct-14-10-33-54-amOnce you run through the notes pages, there is a 2018 year at-a-glance spread for future planning:photo-oct-14-10-34-09-amRemember that last accessory? The new Large Clear Sticky Corner Storage Pockets ($7 for a pack of 2) are a super-sturdy add-on for your planner. They’re 6″x6″ which is a GREAT height for those taller pieces you want to keep handyphoto-oct-14-10-34-37-amWhat do you think of this new planner? I can’t wait to see how people use this one!

DELUXE MONTHLY PLANNER
This is the one I’VE been waiting for!!!!!!!!!!! photo-oct-14-10-35-06-amFor the first time EVER, there are TWO size options for an Erin Condren planner. The planner on the left is the larger 8.5″x11″ option, which is the same size as the Teacher Planner and larger notebook. The planner on the left is 7″x9″ and the same size as the current LifePlanner. At the Go Wild 2016 planner conference in New Orleans, Erin Condren hinted in her keynote speech that there may soon be another size option for the LifePlanner, and this addition is definitely adding to the anticipation!

I’m going to walk you through the smaller one, which is the exact same layout as the larger one. As always, there is a removable cover with an inside whiteboard:photo-oct-14-10-35-20-amAlthough you could use a dry erase marker, I recommend either a wet erase marker (EC sells some here), or a Sharpie permanent marker (wipe off with rubbing alcohol). Always love this cover page to write your name and contact info:photo-oct-14-10-35-28-amTurn the page to their signature quotes:photo-oct-14-10-35-36-amThe next page is the year at-a-glance: photo-oct-14-10-35-41-amNext up is a 12-section open planning space. This would be great for monthly goals, tracking health or body measurements, keeping running lists, cleaning zones for your house – anything you want to divide up

photo-oct-14-10-35-48-amOnce you turn the page, you see the first notes page before January 2017:photo-oct-14-10-35-52-amTurn the page once more, and the monthly layouts begin. This layout is identical to the LifePlanner monthly layouts, so if you’re using the traditional 7″x9″ size, all of your stickers will fit perfectly!photo-oct-14-10-35-57-amI love that there are several notes pages between each month! When you turn the page from the monthly layout, you see this:photo-oct-14-10-36-02-amThe page on the left is a new format for EC. It has five sections with a check circle in the corner of each one:photo-oct-14-10-36-18-amThis would be great for big priority monthly tasks of any kind! The next page is the productivity page that we’ve seen in the option list for notebook layouts:photo-oct-14-10-36-23-amBut wait, THERE’S MORE! 😉 If you turn the page again, you get a dot grid notes page followed by another beautiful quote:
photo-oct-14-10-36-29-amAfter this one, you turn to the next monthly layout.photo-oct-14-10-36-42-amThree pages to take notes or make lists between each month, in my opinion, is a HUGE help when managing monthly tasks or tracking monthly progress. If you hate it, you could easily tear out the productivity/dot grid page and be left with just one notes page and a quote, but it won’t free up that much coil space and from my observations, people are always looking for MORE writing space.

Have you noticed yet that there aren’t any tabs? photo-oct-14-10-37-02-amThis would be my only complaint. I love having tabs to easily flip from month to month. BUT, I quickly hacked a solution using one of my Mini Snap-In Bookmarks (pack of 3 for $4 – a steal!). See it peeking out?photo-oct-14-10-37-33-amI am also keeping a magnetic page marker handy for the same reason:

photo-oct-14-10-37-56-amOnce you get through the months, you reach the 2018 year at-a-glance:photo-oct-14-10-38-33-amThe notes pages follow. The planner comes with 40 notes pages (20 sheets front and back), and for another $5, you can add another 40 pages. (Other upgrades include a rose gold, gold, or black coil for $10):photo-oct-14-10-38-49-amEach Deluxe Monthly Planner comes with two sheets of flag stickers, and a pocket:photo-oct-14-10-39-09-am photo-oct-14-10-39-21-amalong with another pocket on the back, and another whiteboard:photo-oct-14-10-39-26-amNow, onto the size comparison! The layouts are identical, but you can see the size difference here:
photo-oct-14-10-41-24-amI pulled a sticker from the back to place it in the monthly layout of the larger size. It’s so roomy!photo-oct-14-10-40-21-amIn terms of thickness, the Deluxe Monthly Planner is comparable to a notebook (notebook on top, planner on bottom):photo-oct-14-10-42-51-amAnd it’s definitely thinner than my LifePlanner:photo-oct-14-10-42-21-amPHEW! That might have been my longest post. I’ll be using the smaller Deluxe Monthly Planner to manage my budget and finances, the larger Deluxe Monthly Planner for work, and I’m still undecided on the Monthly Planner…but I’ll keep you all posted!

If you’re a first-time customer of Erin Condren and would like to save $10 off of your order, you can use this link to create your account! It will save me $10, too.

I also filmed a review for YouTube that you can find here!photo-oct-14-10-46-13-amThanks so much for reading!

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I picked my New Year’s Resolution!

Today - New Year's Resolution

I did it! It’s February 15, and I finally picked my New Year’s Resolution (yes, only one). I’ve never felt better about a resolution.

You may recall my recent post about feeling overwhelmed by making resolutions. Even after sitting down to make very small, simple goals, I tucked them away and didn’t really look at them as much as I should have. I have a better solution. And it’s been working. And it’s SO simple, anyone can do it. It spans any category of resolutions you could think of. Are you someone who is easily overwhelmed? This might be for you.

THE RESOLUTION
Just focus on making today a good day. Define “good” however you want. Health and fitness? Patience? Food? Finances? Organization? Don’t worry about the end goal. Don’t worry about having a good week. Don’t worry about a million lists. Don’t worry about how you’ll possibly find the motivation for the next 365 days. Just worry about today. Can you make small good choices today that are in line with your big goals? Anyone can.

Isn’t this Change 101? How often do we hear to take things one day at a time? There’s SO much value in that advice. In my opinion, it’s totally under-rated. We can all do something for one day. We can all make today a good day.

I did my second round of Whole30 in January and let me tell you, it was challenging. The second week in, I decided to just focus on making great choices for one day. I just had to do that 30 days in a row. By the third week, I wasn’t counting days anymore because it wasn’t as overwhelming to me as it had once been.

Waking up and reflecting on what I can do to make today a good day has been enough for me. The devil is truly in the details – what you do every single day is what determines whether or not you reach your goals. It’s just that simple.

So, friends who are feeling like your goals are so far out of reach, don’t worry about the week or the month or the year for right now. Just wake up and make today a good day. Can you do that? I think we all can.

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Undone and Getting it Together

Mountain

If you are struggling, first, please join me in taking a nice, slow, deep breath. Ahhhhh. Much better.

You can barely look anywhere this time of year without seeing someone talking about their resolutions, goals and newfound motivation for the New Year. It’s the perfect time to channel the excitement that comes with a fresh start and leaving the past behind. But…what if you just aren’t on the train yet? What if all you see is one big undone list? What if you see a huge mountain and just don’t have that same motivation? Or worse, what if the pressure of picking the perfect “word of the year” or carefully crafting goals for every area of your life and making them look beautiful on paper overwhelms you so much that you just avoid it altogether? So much pressure everywhere you look. That’s the double-edged sword of social media, friends. It can be a great motivator and source of inspiration – and it can tear you right down, too. If you let it.

“When you’re in a pit, all you see is the pit,” my church Pastor shouted a few months ago. Ever have those blast of air in the face moments where something makes so much sense you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it sooner? How are we supposed to get motivated when we feel so overwhelmed and exhausted by everything? Not to mention, how many of us write out beautiful lists and then leave them in the back of a notebook or up on a board and then never REALLY look at them and embrace them again?

I don’t have all the answers, but since I’m feeling this way, I will share how I’m handling it.

Prepare
Carve out 30 minutes. Grab a pen and paper of your choice. Vow not to over-complicate.

Groundwork
Think about the things that are most important to you. These may also be the things that make you feel the worst when you don’t make them a priority. Write those things at the top of the list.

Goals
Many of us probably learned how to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realsitic, Time-bound) in school. For those of you who didn’t, the short version is that you should be setting realistic goals that you can measure and achieve and know when you’ve achieved them. While I think this is a totally valuable method, for someone who is totally overwhelmed with this process OR for someone who has done this and still struggled with achieving them year after year, this doesn’t always get your head in the right place to actually achieve your goals.

Pick really small, daily or almost-daily actions you can take that are in line with your goals. Overwhelming goal: Climb the mountain. Better goal: Take a few steps up the mountain. Write down your few steps up the mountain for every huge mountain you feel like you need to climb. Keep them small and reasonable. The only way people change their lives is by changing their daily habits. Forget the mountain. The mountain is the prize. The STEPS are the goal.

Put things in perspective
Practice contentment and gratitude. Constantly seeking out ways to make your life better without thinking of all the ways your life is great will never, ever get you closer to your goals. You have to learn to be content with what you have before achieving goals will fulfill you. Make the small daily things your focus. The rest will follow. Take a deep breath. Give yourself a break. Be grateful for the opportunity to take the small steps every day.

There’s no way to climb the mountain without taking the small steps up the mountain.

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Polaroid ZIP Printer Review – PLUS 3 ways to use it!

Polaroid ZIP
Hello everyone! I’m so excited to share this with you because it has quickly become one of my FAVORITE planning accessories, the Polaroid ZIP instant photo printer!EC ZIP Don’t mind my little guy helping out 😉

Erin Condren recently teamed up with Polaroid to sell the Polaroid ZIP printer and ZINK paper. The EC bundle that I purchased comes with a Carry-All Clutch, sticker for your Polaroid ZIP printer, a pack of 10 sheets of ZINK photo paper (which has a sticky backing!) and the instant printer itself. Altogether a $167 value, but the bundle price is $149. The printer alone is $130 (same price on Amazon).

The photos are heat-printed on the special paper, so there are NO ink refills required. WIN! The photos print out on a 2×3″ adhesive sheet and are immediately dry to the touch.EC ZIPThat’s only half of why I love it. The other reason is that you can use the Polaroid ZIP app (which is free) to customize the size and amount of pictures you print on one sheet. If you print two to a sheet, they are the exact size of the Erin Condren Vertical day boxes. If you print four to a sheet, they are the exact size of half-boxes. There are more options, but those are the ones I use most.

This is what the app interface looks like:
EC ZIPYou can rotate your pictures and you can also resize them. The bar across the top lets you choose between layouts. This is the 4 to a sheet layout. When you’re done, you print the picture directly from your phone via bluetooth (no cords required) and it looks like this:
EC ZIPI just use scissors to snip mine apart, peel and stick!

Here are the 3 ways I’m using mine

In my weekly spread of my plannerEC ZIP

EC ZIPUsing pictures from events or just general pictures of things that are important to me make my planner so much more personal and it makes me happy to see them every day. You aren’t limited to pictures of people – you can include any images you like! It is SO convenient that this prints out on sticker paper. You just cut, peel, and stick.

On my monthly notes page of my plannerUntitled design (11)I decided to dedicate one page per month to memories. More collected than my weekly spread, this will be a place I can see all of the highlights of our month in one place. Blending planning with scrapbooking (commonly called “scrap-planning”) is a huge trend in the planner community right now and I think it’s a great, easy way to keep everything simple and in one place.

In my home notebook EC ZIPI use an Erin Condren Notebook to keep track of all of my ideas, resources, and paint colors for every space in and around my house. I also added an Erin Condren Stylish Storage Pocket using a CoilClip (I show how I added it on this post) to keep paint chips and other papers. I grabbed pictures from Pinterest, printed them, and wrote notes about the design elements I like. Pinterest alone isn’t enough for me, so this has helped me really visualize everything in one place.

Overall I TOTALLY recommend this awesome accessory if you want a convenient way to add pictures to your planners or notebooks. Also great on gift tags, in cards or other gift projects!

If you’ve never ordered from Erin Condren before, you can use my link to save $10 off of your first order by creating an account with my referral link. 

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Preview of NEW Erin Condren Wrap Book

Erin CondrenWrap Book & More
I’ve been a loyal Erin Condren customer for nearly 5 years now, and this year has brought by far the most new product offerings I’ve seen from them! I LOVE that they are branching out more and putting their spin on the newest trends in the planner, stationery and paper crafting communities. I’m SO excited to share some of these products with you!

One of their latest products is the Wrap Book – a full bound book of cards, gift tags, gift labels and wrapping paper. I am so lucky to be able to preview this amazing book for you all! These will be available for purchase at the end of this month. They also included some of their other new products which are available for purchase now, the jot your thought journal trio, stylish storage pockets, coloring book and sketch pad, and party pops markers!

I did a brief review on my YouTube channel, and the full review with plenty of pictures is below!

Let’s start with the Wrap Book! 
The book itself is bound similar to the way their sticker books are bound. Each page is perforated for easy removal (though I think I’ll keep most of them right in the book for convenience). For all of us planners, 😉 a Holiday Gift Checklist is right in front. I’m debating tearing this out and putting it in my Life Planner or Notebook. I love that they give you a prompt for common family and friends to remember at gift-giving times!
Photo Oct 19, 5 27 13 PMThe other side begins the card section. The cards are a nice, thick cardstock with beautiful foil-pressed accents.
Photo Oct 19, 5 21 08 PMYou just tear them out along the perforated edge and fold them over!
Photo Oct 19, 5 21 40 PMThere are six cards total in this section. The back of the first two are shown here on the left, and the next two (which fold the other way) are on the right:
Photo Oct 19, 5 22 02 PM

Photo Oct 19, 5 22 08 PM

Aren’t they beautiful?! The last set:

Photo Oct 19, 5 22 28 PM

Next up is the tag page! These are all punch-out cardstock tags – also with that beautiful foil detail! – with holes for easy stringing. The holes are on the smaller side, just perfect for twine or yarn thread. So easy to punch out and wrap around a candle, bottle of wine, gift basket…

Photo Oct 19, 5 22 37 PMUp close:

Photo Oct 19, 5 23 13 PMNext up…STICKERS! While these are perfect in lieu of regular tape (how cute would those round snowflake stickers be to attach one of those cards to a gift??), I’m SO using these in my planner. The boxes fit perfectly and I just love them.
Photo Oct 19, 5 23 33 PMThis next page is full of more tags! They are the same thick cardstock texture of the other tags, but these are in cool winter colors, and perfect for friends or family you want to wish a Happy Hanukkah! 
Photo Oct 19, 5 23 41 PM
I took one of my Erin Condren Party Pops Markers and tested them out on these tags – they were perfect! Even the detail on the back is adorable.
Photo Oct 19, 5 23 56 PMAnother page of stickers follows those tags! This time in the same cooler colors of the second tag page. Again, probably meant for gifts….but….they’ll be so pretty in the planner, too!
Photo Oct 19, 5 24 08 PMAfter this page is a more traditional gift label sheet! I love these for gifts. During a periscope broadcast of this book, a planner friend, @PrettyPlanners, suggested using the blank ones in the planner (I know these are meant to be for gifts, but you guys all know how much I love repurposing things and getting creative with their use!) and I LOVED that idea. I also love that they incorporated some of their signature designs into these labels:
Photo Oct 19, 5 24 20 PMThe next page is another more traditional gift label sheet, but in a double-sided flag shape! I can’t wait to put the “Made with Love” sticker on a home-made gift this year.
Photo Oct 19, 5 24 29 PMAfter the gift labels, the wrapping paper section ends the book! There are three reversible wrapping papers, all in a matte finish with foil accents. The paper is nice and sturdy. The hardest choice will be which side to use They are also perforated for easy removal.
Photo Oct 19, 5 24 36 PMPhoto Oct 19, 5 24 46 PM

How can you decide between these two? I might cut it in half so I can use both.

 

 
Photo Oct 19, 5 25 01 PM    Photo Oct 19, 5 26 23 PM
Photo Oct 19, 5 26 45 PM    Photo Oct 19, 5 26 49 PM
They’re pretty enough to frame!

The older I get, the more I try to give quality gifts that are wrapped well and this Wrap Book couldn’t have better timing. I am also huge on convenience, and I’ll be grabbing several of these so that I can keep them at home and in the car. Nothing worse than being on the road and realizing you need to bring a gift for someone and having no cute way to wrap it. How easy is this for on-the-go gifting? Anything that helps me feel prepared even if I forget something is a winner in my book. These will be $22 and will be on the Erin Condren website at the end of this month! If you are a new customer, you can use my referral link to sign up for an account, which will email you a $10 off code to use on your order! I can’t WAIT to see how people use their Wrap Books!

As if that wasn’t wonderful enough, I was also so lucky to have the chance to review these other awesome products too!

Jot Your Thought Journal Trio
I will admit that I ordered these the day they were released with no idea how I would use them. I just had to have them because they were so beautiful and such a convenient size!
Photo Oct 20, 9 42 39 AM

The journals come in this trio for $18 (a STEAL if you’re familiar with this type of notebook). They’re 5.75″ x 8.75″ and perfect for throwing in your purse or even in the pocket of your planner. They’re stitched along the spine and each journal has a different page style (blank, lined and graph). There are 80 pages each (40 two-sided pages).
Photo Oct 20, 9 43 10 AMObviously I had to try them out right away. The Erin Condren Party Pops Markers are perfect. They shadow just a bit on the other side of the paper but do not bleed. I’d say the weight of the paper, to me, feels slightly thicker than the planner pages but not as thick as their notepads (if you’re familiar).
Photo Oct 20, 9 53 42 AMI tried to test all of the different markers on the page, and you can see that my lovely assistants wanted to test them out, too. They want you to know that they approve of the markers and journals, too.
Photo Oct 20, 9 47 53 AMI think for now, I’ll keep one in my purse, one will be for room layouts (the graph paper journal will be perfect for that!) and perhaps one in my car. You can never have enough places to take notes when they come into your mind!

The Party Pops Markers are available here for $10 and are great in the Life Planner, Notebook and journals!

Coloring Book & Sketch Pad
A new trend you might have seen around is adult coloring books! I have heard great feedback on these from friends who have them and I was so excited to see them in my package. I’ve heard coloring relieves stress and I have to say, when I tested them out it brought me right back to my childhood and gave my mind a great break from the everyday craziness. The whole pad is $12 and the markers are a great complement!
Photo Oct 20, 11 03 02 AM

Stylish Storage Pockets
Last but surely not least, these pockets! They are $10 for a set of three which comes with a set of 4″ coil clips to snap right into your Life Planner or Notebook!
Photo Oct 20, 11 03 57 AMThey each have foil accents (gold, rose gold and platinum) and they are absolutely gorgeous in person!
Photo Oct 20, 11 04 18 AMI will admit that after I ordered a keep it simple notebook for a notebook I use to keep ideas for my new house all in one place, I wish I had ordered the deluxe version for the pocket. I didn’t waste any time using one of these in my notebooks! Bonus: the butterfly design matched perfectly!
Photo Oct 20, 11 06 06 AMThe coil clips are a breeze to use. You just snap off the side, snap them into your coil…
Photo Oct 20, 11 08 32 AMPeel the backing off of the sticky part…
Photo Oct 20, 11 08 44 AMline your pocket up, and press onto the coil clip!
Photo Oct 20, 11 09 04 AMThey are totally secure in the notebook and you can move them around from front to back (or middle!) depending on where it best suits your needs!
Photo Oct 20, 11 10 29 AMI couldn’t be happier with the final outcome.
Photo Oct 20, 11 10 10 AM

Want a chance to win a new Wrap Book and journal trio? Head over to my instagram post to learn how!
The giveaway will run until Thursday, October 22 at 9pm EST!

I just love things that make my life easier, more organized, and more beautiful. Thank you to Erin Condren for sending these products my way – I hope I was able to share a closer look for those of you who are considering ordering them!

Again, if you’re a first time customer and would like to save $10 off of your first order, you can create an account with my referral link and you’ll get a discount code emailed to you.

Disclaimer:
This was not a sponsored post.

I was given free products from Erin Condren in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions are genuinely my own.

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JenPlans Pro Interview Series: Professional Chef

I am so excited to kick off my Pro Interview Series! I have always been curious about what other people’s lives are like and what they’ve learned from their career path that can help others, whether it’s the culinary world, personal finance, health and fitness, mental health, business, crafting, music, home design, or anything else.

A while back, I asked my Instagram followers what they’d ask a professional chef if they had the chance, and I brought all of those questions (and more!) to the wonderful woman behind the blog, Cooking In Pearls, Lindsay Callaway.
Cooking In Pearls

Lindsay is a classically trained chef working for a corporate catering company by day and blogging by night. Between working, decorating a new house, enjoying newlywed life, Lindsay keeps busy creating new recipes and mastering old ones! Her favorite food is pizza and she considers candy a food group. Lindsay loves spending time with her family and her perfect night is spent at home with her husband and a glass of wine.

Get comfortable, grab a cup of coffee (or glass of wine!) and join us for her interview below!

What equipment/cooking tools do you think everyone should have in their kitchen and why?
Tongs, spoonula, cast iron/dutch oven, foil. Random tools but I couldn’t cook without them! Tongs are so versatile and I use them almost every time I cook. A silicone spoonula is my version of a wooden spoon. I rarely use wooden spoons because I feel like so many aromas get absorbed by the wood and I never feel like they get “clean” enough. Spoonulas are great on non-stick surfaces because they don’t scratch but they also don’t melt so you can use them for anything like stirring hot sauces and soups. I love a pan or pot that can go from stovetop to oven. Searing on the stovetop and finishing in the oven is what pro’s do, and you can do it too! Foil is amazing when it comes to clean up-anything that sticks to it just gets thrown away. I use it every chance I can!

What are your favorite kitchen gadgets and what kind of cooking pan is your go-to?
A wine opener. I couldn’t live without one! Also, a regular nonstick sauté pan is my favorite for everyday cooking. Cleanup is a breeze and cooking over-easy eggs couldn’t be easier. In addition to that, there’s nothing quite like the crust of a steak seared in a cast iron skillet. I split my time evenly between the two pans.

What foods should be in everyones fridge and pantry?
There are several things I always have on hand and those are: chicken broth, garlic, onions, pasta/rice, fresh herbs. These ingredients always come in handy for those last minute meals. The thing I love most is not knowing where I’m going to take any dish…these ingredients can be used in any cuisine type and for any day part. Of course I also always have cheese, eggs, greens, and meat…my husband wouldn’t think it’s a meal without some meat.

What skills should every home chef have?
Basic knife skills! The first thing I learned in culinary school was how to hold a knife and the proper way to use one. This simple skill will give home cooks more confidence and lower the chances of an injury!

How would you suggest improving knife skills?
At most culinary stores like a Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table there’s a knife specialist you can ask! There are also some great demos on YouTube…but I’ll post one on my blog in the near future. It’s not hard but once you can hold a knife, the rest is easy peasy!

How do you meal plan?
I find it very difficult to meal plan because I get a craving for something and have to satisfy it then and there…it’s hard to plan for cravings! I like to grocery shop on Sunday and prep anything I can so that the week starts off on an organized note. I often freeze my meat for the week and pull it the night before to thaw, that way it won’t go bad if I don’t use it within the first couple days of the week. I’d love to shop every day if I could but busy weeks don’t always allot time for that. Also, writing my weekly menu out on a chalkboard or piece of paper somehow feels more official for me which helps me stick to my planned meals but of course the last minute frozen pizza or take-out happens.

Do you ever get in a same-dinner rut? What do you do to break out?
Absolutely, it’s so easy to fall in a rut! I look through food magazines or peruse Pinterest for what looks good and I’ll put a spin on it. I also keep a running note on my phone for what sounds good so when I’m in a serious rut I look through that growing list for inspiration!

What advice would you give someone who wants to learn to cook but doesnt have any experience?
You don’t need any experience! So many great cooks don’t have any formal training but learned by observing family members cook. Grab a fun food magazine or start reading blogs. There’s great stuff out there! One thing to note is what kind of cook you are. There’s the “baker type” that want exact measurements and weights, and likes to follow a recipe to a T. I consider that group the “methodical” cook. The other side (my side) is a bit more relaxed going by a pinch here, an eyeball of a “cup” there. If you don’t have an ingredient don’t panic, just sub it out. There’s no right or wrong way but knowing what you prefer can help by finding like-minded cooks to learn from.

What would you make for a small dinner party with a few friends?
Something super easy! There’s nothing worse than slaving away in the kitchen while your guests are in another room catching up. I like to have a few snacks around, like a cheese platter, a bowl of nuts, and maybe a dip or an easy room-temperature appetizer that you can make ahead of time. The entree would depend on the season but for summer, I would say veggie and meat kabobs with some rice pilaf, and a salad. You can cook the pilaf before your guests come and hold it warm, skewer the kebobs in advance and cook them off after your guests arrive, and a salad because you can layer it in the morning and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. I would also have it outside, in a cozy setting near the grill so you don’t have to miss a thing!

Whats your favorite restaurant and menu item?
There’s a ramen spot in San Diego just down the street from the airport called Underbelly that I absolutely can’t stop thinking about. I discovered it while traveling for work several years ago and every time I travel to San Diego I have to stop there immediately after landing and go once again on my way to the airport. It’s just so good and the atmosphere is cool but I think it’s nostalgic eating out of a huge bowl with chopsticks and drinking the broth from the side of the bowl, especially since I don’t make ramen like that at home!

Whats your favorite thing to cook?
I honestly cook pretty healthy for the most part and to me, I cook quick boring stuff throughout the week! I love to cook with bright colors and vary the textures, like turkey lettuce wraps with toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced bell peppers. There’s nothing better than having a quiet weekend spent at home cooking up something delicious like hearty slow braised short ribs with risotto. Clearly, I don’t have a favorite but love any time spent in the kitchen!

What is your go-to quick and easy meal?
I think I make Mexican food at least once a week. I love tacos and fajitas and for a quick weeknight meals, these are certainly my go-to. I love roasting a whole chicken on a Sunday and shredding the meat for a quick versatile protein throughout the week. Taking the chicken and adding taco seasoning, a little chicken broth (or beer) and warming it through makes delicious tacos! I also love grilling throughout the week because it takes less than 15 minutes with almost no cleanup. BBQ chicken, burgers, flank steak, port tenderloin, the possibilities are endless!

Do you ever eat any instant food or frozen pre-cooked meals?
Of course! Frozen pizza is plentiful in my home and there’s nothing wrong with a frozen dinner. I used to look forward to nights my parents left us with a babysitter because we always got to have a TV dinner (if you don’t know what those are, shame on you!). I’ve got a sweet spot for hot pockets, toaster strudels, and bagel bites. I have no shame.

Whats your best tip for knowing when meat is done?
Thermometers aren’t always accurate depending on whether it’s calibrated or not. (What does calibrated mean? Check out my blog post on calibration to learn more!)  I like the palm method. A quick press is a good indicator. If you lightly make your hand into a fist and touch your thumb to the tip of your pinky and feel your palm near the thumb…that’s what a fully cooked piece of meat should feel like. It’s firm and bounces back when you press it. Now take your thumb to your ring finger and press your palm again, a little softer, not as tight. That’s about what medium-well feels like. Thumb to the tip of your middle finger would be about medium, and finally, your pointer finger and thumb would be about medium rare. Leave your hand limp and feel that same area, that’s what rare feels like.

Can you share any tips for grilling vegetables?
I like to get a nice char on the outside and cook it quickly so the inside is still tender with a bit of a bite. I always drizzle my veggies with a little bit of oil whether that be olive oil or coconut oil. Toss to combine and season simply with salt and pepper. This helps keep the veggies from drying out and also prevents sticking. I always cook my veggies separately than meat because they cook at different times. This is true for kebobs too, skewer meat separately from the veggies!

What kind of cooking would you recommend for someone who lives in a college dorm room with limited access to equipment?
A slow cooker. These things are amazing in so many ways! Truly a game changer. You can literally put anything in it and walk away…for hours! All you need is a cutting board, a knife, and an outlet. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and appetizers can all be made in this amazing appliance.

What knife would you recommend for a child who wants to learn to cut (supervised, of course)?
A butter spreader with a flat edge, it can cut soft items without any sharp edges. Always be around to watch little ones but it’s a great way to start them early! Have them tear lettuce, wash produce, or help stir batters. Any time they are helping you cook will get them to at least try it, since they helped make it!

If you could only keep one spice on hand (besides salt and pepper), what would it be?
Besides salt and pepper, I’d say red pepper flakes. They add just a touch of heat that I love, and adds a depth of flavor without adding sodium or fat.

What is your favorite seasoning?
Hmm…salt is a no brainer but I’m also torn between herbs de Provence and Montreal steak seasoning. I use each on just about everything. I also love cumin…a spice that seems to be very hit or miss with people’s palates.

Can you recommend an affordable knife set?
It honestly doesn’t matter what brand the knives are, it’s all about how it feels in your hand. Hold it and feel the weight, is it a comfortable grip? Is the weight manageable without feeling like it’s weighing your arm down? As long as the knives are sharp, any will do. I suggest taking them to get sharpened at least twice a year and regularly correct the blade with a honing/sharpening steel.

Big thanks to Lindsay for allowing us to peek into her life as a chef! To follow Lindsay’s cooking adventures, be sure to visit her blog, Cooking In Pearls, and follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter!

 

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My Krissyanne Designs Sticker Binder!

Krissyanne Designs Sticker Binder

My first purchase of planner stickers ever (from a shop that hand-made them) was from Krissyanne Designs about a year and a half ago. I had been admiring her stickers for a while, and the stickers themselves and her customer service had me hooked right away!

From the very beginning, it was clear that she was intentional about making her stickers as user-friendly as possible. She was one of the first sellers to cut her sheets in such a way that they fit in the back pocket of the Erin Condren Life Planner. Last Spring, she announced her plans to release a binder full of her stickers that were pre-punched for easy organization, storage and use. I love that she not only creates a wonderful product, but wants them to be as user-friendly as possible. Her first round of Sticker Binders sold out almost immediately! No surprise. They are BEAUTIFUL, functional and the highest quality.

I was SO EXCITED when one of these beautiful binders arrived in my mailbox a few months ago! I have used it every single day since then, and it has cut my planning time in half. Being able to flip right to what I need, peel it up and stick it in my planner has eliminated searching, flipping through piles, and taking sheets in and out of boxes and files folders.

Let me give you a tour!

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The Binders come in two sizes: Travel Size and Full Size. I got the Travel Size! (The Full Binder is a full-sized 1′ Binder, while the Travel Binder is a 1/2″ smaller binder.) It is a high-quality binder with reinforced corners and a personalized cover of your choice. It is sturdy and BEAUTIFUL!

Here it is in comparison to my Erin Condren Life Planner:

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and from the top:

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My binder came with 22 sheets of stickers that were punched and already in the rings, like this:

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Included with a binder purchase are two binder-exclusive sampler sheets (which I love and as you can tell, have already used):

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I LOVE – cannot describe how much – being able to just flip to a page, write, peel, and stick.

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Speaking of writing on stickers, Krissyanne Designs stickers are semi-gloss, and I recommend using a permanent marker so it doesn’t smear. I tested it out here (Pilot permanent on top, Pilot G2-07 Gel smeared below):

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My favorite is the Pilot Ultra Fine Point Permanent marker. Sharpie permanent markers, Bic permanent markers (or really, any other permanent marker) will work fine as well! Team Blue, of course 😉

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When I first posted about my binder, everyone asked how I was going to incorporate the dozens of other Krissyanne Designs sticker sheets I already had. I decided to hack apart an old Erin Condren Life Planner folder and tape the two sides into each side of the binder.
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I was easily able to add all of my other sheets to the back and front pockets! It didn’t add too much bulk, either.

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There aren’t enough heart eyes emojis:

IMG_6598Binders are sold as an inclusion with a minimum purchase of sticker kits. Once you purchase a minimum amount ($100 worth of sticker kits for the Travel size and $200 worth of sticker kits for the Full size), you add a binder to your cart and the binder price drops to $0.00. It is SUCH a great deal. Essentially, you are buying stickers at a discount (in comparison to if you were to purchase each individual sheet from her site) AND you get a personalized binder with two sampler sheets included. Kits range in price from $20 to $100.

SPEAKING OF KITS… I’m SO happy to share that there is now a JenPlans sticker kit! It includes 20 sheets of what I personally consider essentials for functional planning. These are the stickers I use most frequently and recommend most often. If you purchase the JenPlans kit, it is enough of a minimum purchase for a binder which will also give you two additional samplers 🙂 This was created as an easy way for me to recommend stickers to those who ask.

If you have additional questions about the Sticker Binders, check out the FAQ in the pinned post of the Krissyanne Designs Facebook group. Kristin will also be doing a live Periscope broadcast to answer any questions sometime (TBD) on Thursday evening, October 1, which will stay up for 24 hours. Be sure to follow Kristin’s channel here if you want an alert when she goes live!

The next round of binder sales will open at 9pm CST on Friday, October 2nd,  directly from her website. The last round sold out quickly, so if you’re planning to purchase, be sure to set your alarm and write it in your planner! 🙂 I am so excited to order more kits for my binder! Can’t wait to see what everyone else orders!

This was NOT a sponsored post. I was not asked to publicly review this product.
All opinions are genuinely and enthusiastically my own.

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Should

Should

 

I walked into our play room today (the disaster pictured above) for my 45,834th attempt to clean and organize. In the six months we’ve lived in this house, I haven’t completely decided how I want to arrange this space. So I’ve avoided it. So I’ve taken my time. While all three of my kids were in school today, I tackled the play room. I planned to write a blog post on the messy before and put-together after, but as I was wading through the maze of toys and stepping on Legos, I felt like it was more important to share the real.

I tend to spend quite a bit of time reflecting on what I should be doing, what I should have done, what I should do in the future. I think it’s healthy to find a happy place between regret and apathy. I found myself struggling with a lot of regret. A lot of SHOULD.

I should have never let it get this messy.
I should have donated these toys long ago.
I should have finished the KonMari book.
I should have my kids helping right now.
I should have a chore chart.
I should be working out right now.
I should make them clean this room every night.
I should go to Ikea right now and get different organizers.
I should be doing (insert list of everything else I have to do) right now.
I should have had this room done months ago.

The reality is that we are going to make ourselves miserable if we only live in the SHOULD. Let’s cut ourselves some slack. It’s not that we shouldn’t care, it’s not that we should let everything to to the wayside…it’s just we should all take a step back, and take a collective breath, and forgive ourselves for not doing everything we feel we should all of the time.

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You know what’s hard? Not quitting.

I’ve become pretty good at starting new endeavors. Especially health and fitness. I do a lot of research, I pre-plan, I follow others who have gone before me, and by the time I start, I feel motivated and confident.

Even after seeing great results and feeling better, after a while, it’s still so easy to slip back into old habits. It happens so slowly. It’s so sneaky. One treat here. Skip one gym day there. I tell myself that small changes here and there won’t make a difference. Before I know it, I’m kind of closer to where I started than where I ended up. Lesson learned: small changes make ALL the difference. For better or for worse.

Some days I’m 100% motivated, and other days I feel like I’m pulled in so many directions that any free time should be spent doing nothing but eating donuts and browsing Pinterest. The truth is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that I value long-term more. It’s hard to not quit. It’s so easy to slip out of the good habits.

My method now? I can’t think about motivation anymore. I’ve really wasted a lot of time lately hyper-analyzing whether I’m motivated, why I’m motivated or unmotivated…I need to redirect my focus on action. This is how I approach everything else anyway – laundry, cleaning…It’s not a matter of being motivated, I just choose to do it. Just lace up and go to the gym. Set myself up to make good choices. Make those good choices every time.  Maintenance is always more of a struggle for me than the beginning. Anyone else feel this way?

2015 Atlanta EC Meet-Up

Atlanta EC Meetup 2015

Most of you know that I use (and love!) an Erin Condren Life Planner to keep my life organized. I’ve been using an ECLP since 2011 and highly recommend it to anyone who might still be searching for a paper planner. In the last few years, I’ve found a few ways to connect with others who use the same planner and have made some great friends in this community of planning and organization. A few weeks ago, 30-40 planning friends from across the country met up at the Atlanta Scrapbook Expo and had a great time! I want to share some of that experience here on the blog and express gratitude to some very generous folks who made the meet-up so wonderful!

For those of you wondering why people who use a paper planner would seek out a scrapbook expo, many elements of scrapbook cross over into the planning world. We use our planners not only as a way to keep track of appointments, but also as a way to manage lists, record milestones, track exercise and meal planning and a million other parts of our lives. We use stickers, stamps and washi tape much like scrapbookers – some use them to decorate and some use them to highlight parts of our schedule or tasks. It becomes a creative outlet for us and motivates us to stay organized.

The meetup started as a way to gather and talk planners, share ideas and spend time together. A handful of people came into town early and we may or may not have spent all day in IKEA, Container Store and other shopping venues. 😉 Who doesn’t love spending all day with other organized people looking at organization eye candy?

The next day was the big meet-up. I would say that we had 30-50 people in and out of the meeting room one of us had so kindly arranged, and the most exciting part of the official meet-up was a raffle that another friend had worked hard to arrange!

A whopping 23 companies/shops/individuals donated at least 25 items EACH to “swag bags” that were raffled off to attendees. Many of them have very high-volume orders and still took the time and effort to make sure the attendees were able to have a chance to score some of their awesome products. Please take some time to check each of them out because so few people do things like this these days and we were so very appreciative! I always love giving my business to shops who go above and beyond. I’ve linked their shops for easy browsing! 🙂 I will try to contain my excitement and use of exclamation points (!!!!!!!).

  1. Erin Condren Design
    The largest company to donate, Erin Condren Design, gave these Designer Sticker Books (Classic Collection)! I LOVE my sticker book and have found that it’s not only a great variety, but a great value if you want to purchase one! A few pics from the inside are below! (If you’re a first-time customer, you can use this link to save $10 off of your first purchase!)
    ErinCondren
  2. OliBLOCK
    OliBLOCK was SUPER generous and donated a BUNCH of clips to the swag bags! Everyone got a slightly different combination, and I LOVED mine! OliClips are magnetic paperclips that are very strong and really, really thin, so they don’t bulk up your planner! I’ve had a small set that I’ve used for a long time, and I was ecstatic to get some bigger ones to try too!
    OliBlock
  3. CraftyCato
    Brianna from CraftyCato was so sweet to give everyone washi samples!
    CraftyCato
  4. Discbound Marketplace
    If you’re unfamiliar with disc-binding, many people choose to punch their planner pages to fit small discs (in place of a coil or rings) because it’s a fast and extremely convenient way to add and remove pages from your notebooks or planner. Adding notes, budgeting pages, contacts, etc, is a breeze when you disc-bind. Discbound Marketplace donated these notebooks (with the discs, hardcover and pens!) for everyone to try!
    DiscboundMarketplace
  5. Hello Ashleyann Prints
    Hello Ashleyann Prints was so generous to donate three full sticker sheets to everyone, but unfortunately the shipment got held up by the post office and didn’t make it to the meet-up. I was lucky enough to still get my hands on a set and love them! Those donuts!!!
    HelloAshleyAnn
  6. #junkfromjodi
    Jodi has a well-deserved reputation in the planner community by being the sweetest person ever. She frequently blesses people with her #junkfromjodi (FAR from junk – all treasured items!) in the mail. She had goodies for every bag at the expo! Such a kind soul.
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  7. Lillie Henry
    LillieHenry is one of my FAVORITE shops and I absolutely adore these travel stickers she donated to each of the bags! She is also such a kind, hardworking woman. I have many of her stickers and always LOVE adding to my collection!
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  8. Lily Daniel Designs
    Lily Daniel Designs donated this sweet sampler set to each bag!
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  9. Lisa V Creations
    Not only did Lisa from LisaV Creations donate this sticker set to everyone, she also volunteered to make the labels listing all of the sponsors of the swag bags! Check out her reward system for customers! I’m lucky to call her a friend, and when we moved earlier this year, I became her neighbor, too!
    LisaVCreations
  10. Maklow Planner Goodies
    Maklow Planner Goodies made a HUGE donation to the swag bags! Every recipient got this WHOLE SET! Wine, anyone? These stickers are all ADORABLE!
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  11. MilaPrintShop
    These sweet samplers are so perfect to tuck in the pocket of your planner. MilaPrintShop donated these to each bag! Love the little planners!
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  12. Olive Planning
    OlivePlanning donated several different sets to the meet-up and I got these half-boxes – PERFECT for my ECLP!
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  13. One Orange Snowflake
    Taylor is a busy student and mom in addition to being a shop owner, and she STILL took the time to donate TWO sampler sheets to each bag at the Expo. Her shop is one of the most popular on Etsy in the planner community and it was so generous of her to donate.
    OneOrangeSnowflake
  14. Pink & Main
    Pink & Main was the only shop that was also exhibiting AT the Scrapbook Expo! It was so cool to see their selection (not just for planning – mostly for scrapbooking, card-making and other paper crafting!) They not only donated a stamp set to each bag, but they also gave everyone a discount at the booth!
    Pink&Main
  15. Planned Chaos
    Planned Chaos is one of the most sought-after planner subscription boxes in the planner community. She always delivers goodies from the shops everyone loves and adds so many other special things for subscribers to try out, too. Here’s one of her sticker sheets that was part of her monthly kit! She also sells many of her stickers separately in her shop (including this one!), 4BoyChaos, which you can find here!
    PlannedChaos
  16. Planner Pandemonium
    The largest donation of the swag bags came from Vicki at Planner Pandemonium! She donated an ENTIRE monthly kit to each swag bag! Seven sticker sheets (in coordinating colors to the ECLP August color scheme), sticky notes, a felt paperclip AND a discount code! Amazing.
    PlannerPandemonium
  17. PowellsPaperCrafts
    If you’re a paperclip person, you MUST check out Powells Paper Crafts! The picture doesn’t even do this sweet little thing justice, because her little puddle is shimmery and precious and there’s an itty bitty rhinestone on her, too.
    PowellsPaperCrafts
  18. Sizemore Designs
    Austin has been in the planner community for some time now, and he has his own stationery shop! He offered a discount code to all who attended the Expo!
    SizemoreDesigns
  19. Stick-e Beans
    These are functional clip-ins, but they’re also SO funny and cute! You just snap them in and use double-sided tape if you want to add anything to your planner! They fit the EC coil, and I’m guessing they also fit a Plum Paper Planner as well!
    StickEBeans
  20. Stickers, Washi & More
    One of my favorite people, another longtime admin of our We Love EC Facebook group and owner of StickersWashi&More donated these sweet samplers to everyone! I love her shop because everything is so unique and sweet. She has a signature style I can spot a mile away, and I love using her stickers! The “coffee time” sticker has always been my favorite!
    StickersWashiandMore
  21. Sweet Peach Planner
    Sweet Peach Planner donated this summery lemon sticker set! Such a sweet set and included one of my favorites – full box flags.
    SweetPeachPlanner
  22. TheECPlannerKitLady
    I’ve already used most of this donation because I couldn’t resist the watermelons or that ant washi! Good thing I took a pic before I started using it! TheECplannerkitlady donated such a fun set!
    TheECPlannerKitLady
  23. TwoKraftyChicks
    TwoKraftyChicks donated this sweet set to the swag bags! The smiley taco!!
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We also had a professional photographer there who volunteered to take pictures – if you are local in the Atlanta area, please check her out! Her name is Anna McGlamry and this is the link to her business page! She did a wonderful job capturing us all in our natural habitat!

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

ATL Traveling Llama

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

I got to draw the winners!!!!! 😀

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Here are all the winners:

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

And everyone who was there at the peak time!

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Photo Credit: Anna McGlamry Photography

Again, HUGE thank-you to the sponsors for their generous donations, and especially to those who helped organize everything behind the scenes so that it could be extra special for everyone who was able to attend. The very best part was getting to spend time with friends who share a love of planning! I hope we can all meet up again sometime soon!

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