4 Ways Your Planner Can Help you Accomplish Your Summer Bucket List

Summer usually means time away from school, and vacations from work—but that time goes by so quickly! It’s easy to wind up at the end of your break with things left undone. You wonder where the time went. When this happens it’s easy to rationalize by saying that you were relaxing, but if that were true, wouldn’t you feel more refreshed?

Instead, you feel a little cheated—like the time gods sneaked down and stole hours, even days from you while your back was turned. So what can you do about it? How can you make your summer break more refreshing and productive?

1. Make a List

The secret to a successful summer is effective planning. Your planner is the ideal place to write your summer bucket list. Write exactly what you’d like to do with your break and refer to that list each time you plan. If relaxing is something you want to do, planning will give structure to your day so you can make time to relax in a meaningful way. You’ll find the time to truly refresh your body and mind.

2. Organize Your Vacation

Your planner is the ideal place to plan vacations. List the places you want to visit, the experiences you hope to have, and the cost of travel. Manage airline tickets, travel dates, arrival times, hotel reservations, gas mileage, and food expenses. Track the reservations and accommodations you’ve made, and take note of what you like about each place in case you decide to take the trip again.

An organized vacation is far more restful that an on-the- fly trip. You’ll return from your visit with a sense of accomplishment—knowing you saw what you had hoped to see, done what you had hoped to do and visited with the people you had hoped to meet.

3. Tackle Summer Activities

Stay on top of summer projects by listing your goals and tracking each step from start to completion. Keep up with family summer activities, baseball and soccer games so you won’t miss any of those big events.

4. Broaden Your Mind

Keep a summer reading list in your planner and make sure you always have a book from that list with you. You can read it in the shade in the back yard, at the beach, and while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store.

People so often squander time it’s hard to grasp how precious it is. But your planner will ensure you make the most of the time you have this summer and throughout the year.

Happy Planning!

3 Must-Reads to Add to Your Summer Reading List

If you’re lucky, or maybe just well prepared, the summer months give you time to relax with a good book. As you plan out a reading list, consider these insightful and life-changing entries:

1. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Korey Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, and James Wood

66209_lrgcaseWhether you’re taking on new responsibilities at work or considering building a backyard deck, it takes the right skillset to coordinate and manage projects. Yet, chances are, you aren’t formally trained in managing projects. If this is the case, then you’re an unofficial project manager. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager offers practical, real-world insights for effective project management and guides you through the essential steps of the people and project management process: Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor/Control, Close. Unofficial project managers in any arena will benefit from the accessible, engaging real-life anecdotes, memorable “Project Management Proverbs,” and quick reviews at the end of each chapter.

2. The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey

34926_lrgcaseWhat is trust actually worth? This interesting book challenges the way you understand “trust, ” demonstrating that it is a hard-edged, economic driver rather than a soft, social virtue. Author Stephen M. R. Covey explains that trust is a skill that can be learned and measured, and when applied to business makes organizations more profitable, people more endorsable, and relationships more energizing. Establish trust on every level, and change your life.

 

3. The Ultimate Competitive Advantage by Shawn D. Moon and Susan Dathe-Douglass

66208_lrgcaseYour competitors can copy every move your company makes. New facilities, improved processes, product innovations, and marketplace initiatives are all important, but these alone rarely provide sustained competitive advantage – because other businesses can just follow suit or offer “me-too” products and services that piggyback off your progress. But there’s one asset that is very difficult to match: your people. This book shows how everyone in your organization can function as a genuine leader, show initiative, and operate from a strategic perspective, helping your company rise to the top of your industry.

With the right reading material, you can keep your life focused on your personal and professional goals as you enjoy your summer.

Tips to Balance Work and Kids During the Summer

By Monica Friel 

Summer is here! If you have school-aged children, you know the havoc that can wreak on working from home or getting projects done around the house. Here are some suggestions to help you navigate between working and enjoying quality time with your kids at home.

Get work done early in the morning. Make a plan in the morning for the work that needs to get done and regularly stick to the block of time that you set aside. Work efficiently and let your kids know when your working hours will be.

Keep kids busy with age-appropriate chores. If they have a place they want to go, give them a list to complete before departure. A little perk to get the house straightened up while they’re motivated. They may not do it like you, but it’s a great way to teach them.

Share the load. Talk with other parents and see if you can coordinate a regular babysitting co-op. This way, kids will have friends to play with and the parents will share the babysitting load.

Stick to a routine. Your kids will get used to the routine if you make sure there’s something fun in it for them at some point in the day. If they can be patient and quiet while you’re on the phone with a client, you can take them to the pool in the afternoon.

Forward your calls. Smart phones, tablets and laptops make taking the kids on an adventure without “leaving” the office possible. If you have to talk with clients, allow your child to bring a friend so they can have fun even if you can’t always engage.

Of course it all depends on what age your kids are and how independent they can be. Work is important, and so is making fun summer memories for your children.

Monica Friel

3 Books to Take Your Planning to the Next Level

Whether you’re heading out to a vacation destination or simply enjoying life without chauffeuring kids to school, the right book makes summer even better. Take some time to get back to the basics of why planning is so important and what big picture concepts can enhance your personal planning sessions. Here are our picks to read:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Summer’s relaxed pace makes it an optimal time for reflection and introspection. Stephen R. Covey’s classic is a great choice, with detailed insights in how to move from dependence on others through independence to interdependence, where the sum of working with others is so much greater than the parts. Whether you’re re-examining your paradigms or discovering Covey’s life-changing wisdom for the first time, this book can change your life.

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Great Quotes from Great Leaders

If you don’t have time for lengthy reading, inspire your summer days with quotes from the great leaders of our time. With more than 400 quotes from 32 world leaders, this book captures the integrity, strength of character, and passion of these extraordinary men and women.

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What It Takes To Be Number One

If you love sports and value organization, then this book is for you. Vince Lombardi, Jr. expands on the wisdom in his father’s famous speech, with sections on Commitment, Discipline, Excellence, Mental Toughness, Habit, Faith, Passion, Results, and Truth. With vintage photographs and audio content of the original speech, this is a must-read.

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Time to Start Planning for Summer!

As the weeks count down to the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, it’s time to start planning for your fun getaways. Whether you’re crossing the globe to exotic places or crossing town to visit Grandma, preparing your vacation in advance will help things go much more smoothly.

If you’re planning a family visit, then it’s never too early to open up dialogue. You’ll want to coordinate work schedules, travel arrangements, and accommodations for your stay, especially if your family is spread out over large geographical distances. As you talk with your family, write the details in your planner for reference.

Whether you’re visiting extended family or simply spending time with your own, it pays to prepare in advance. You can often save on airfare and get a better hotel room selection when you book your tickets and accommodations well in advance. As you compare these rates, make notes in your planner. Print off hotel reviews and make note of their star ratings, then stick the printout in a pocket in your binder.

If you’re planning a vacation with outdoor activities, make a list of the things you’ll need to bring with you, such as camping gear, climbing equipment, flotation safety devices, etc. Locate the items on your list, as many of them are likely in storage. Check to make sure they’re clean and in good repair. If something is broken or missing, you’ll have time to order it online, giving you more options on price and a wider selection.

Your vacation time isn’t limitless. Wherever you go, there will undoubtedly be more attractions, events, and sights than you can cram into a few short days. After choosing your destination, conduct a social poll of family and friends, both in person and on social media. You can learn which destinations are must-sees and which are tourist traps, which helps alleviate the pressure to visit everything on a long itinerary. After all, a crammed vacation misses the point of an escape from a crammed life.

Start planning your vacation today, and you can avoid many of the bumps and rough patches that make getting away such hard work.

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Wanna Get Organized? 4 Must-Do Steps

By Carmen Coker

You’ve vowed to finally transform your “clutter mountain” into a “clutter molehill.” Now that your mind is set, how do you successfully negotiate the ins and outs of getting organized?

(1) Have specific goals.

Don’t say: I want to get organized.

Do say: I want to organize my estate.

Speaking in generalities leads to doing in generalities – or no results. Take the time to make specific organizing goals so that you get the fabulous organizing results you deserve.

(2) Calendar it to make it real.

Don’t say: I’ll get to organizing the garage when I have time.

Do say: I need to schedule a day to organize my garage.

If you treat organizing like a regular appointment, you are more likely to take it seriously and follow through on your get-organized goals.

(3) Focus on one thing.

Don’t say: This week, I’m going to overhaul my kitchen, organize my files, get ready for taxes, clean out my closet, update my address book, re-do my schedule…

Do say: This week, I’m going to organize my tax paperwork.

If you try to take on too many organizing projects, you will surely fail. Focus on one task, and one task only, until it is complete. And let that success, as little or big as it may be, propel you onward.

(4) Have a positive attitude.

Don’t say: Organizing my closet? Yikes! I don’t know if I can…

Do say: Organizing my closet? I’m ready! I’ll save so much time getting dressed each morning…

Your thoughts channel real power to help you achieve your organizing milestones – so think positively not only about the process but also the end result, and put those brain waves to good use!

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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August 2014 To-Do Checklist

Have you been enjoying your summer?

There is still time to celebrate summer and enjoy the nice weather. Take some time this month to have a sweet treat 1310022 ToDoList_Classic5outdoors (S’mores are always a treat!), get together with neighbors and friends, and finish any summer or outdoor projects. The new school year is just around the corner, and you’ll want to be sure to enjoy every last bit of summer.

August Checklist Classic Size

August Checklist Compact Size

August Checklist Pocket Size

Beachy Keen!

By Naomi Cook

Ah…summertime is officially upon us…the warmer weather, the longer days and… the prep for a day at the beach! Do you struggle keeping your beach bag organized? You don’t need to sheepishly hold up your hand. It’s not that hard for it to become a bottomless pit! Most beach bags like mine have some pockets on the outside, but only a few on the inside, leaving most of your belongings in a jumbled state. Read along for some tips on how to organize your beach bag so that you’ll be able to quickly find that money when the ice cream man walks by!

Let’s start by thinking of all of the things you might keep in your beach bag.

You’ll have:

•Your towel.
•Your beach tag.
•Your sunscreen.
•Your drinks and snacks.
•Your book or magazines.
•Your keys and some money.
•Your electronics like your phone or e-reader.
•Your change of clothes for the end of the day.

Now you have a couple of options to organize those items. Go the inexpensive route or invest in some organizers that will help you for years in the future.

For an inexpensive way of organizing, get a variety of sizes of Ziploc bags from small to large. You may have them in your kitchen already. Another option is to use Ziploc containers. Start by putting your beach tag directly onto your beach bag. Fill up smaller bags/containers with your keys, money and phone. Fill up larger size bags/containers with your book or e-reader. Use a Ziploc Big Bag to hold your change of clothes for the end of the day. It can be used to hold your wet bathing suit and towel after you change.

Or you can spend a little more money and buy organizational products that will last you for years. Instead of Ziploc bags, there are waterproof pouches that house your phone, your money and your e-reader. Next, look to travel packing cubes to hold your bigger items like your books and change of clothes. These are designed to help you stay organized while packing your suitcase, so why not your beach bag too!

For magazines, I’ll usually wrap them up in my towel when I go to the beach. By the time the day is over, they may be in rough shape because of the combination of sunscreen, water, and sand, so you can just toss them!

Finally for snacks, consider a soft sided cooler that you can carry like a bag. Think about putting your sunscreen in a Ziploc bag in the cooler so that it will keep you protected and offer some cooling relief at the same time!

Enjoy your day at the beach and have an ice cream sandwich for me!

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July 2014 To-Do Checklist

Now that your summer is in full swing, it is time to remember the few things you wanted to get done before the warmth is over. 1310022 ToDoList_Classic5

Make sure you plan out a time to finish updating your yard, cleaning out your garage, or taking that vacation you have wanted. It is also important to remember to schedule some down time for yourself. Summer is the perfect time to relax before the busy holiday season starts, so take some time for yourself and for your family and friends.

July Checklist Classic Size

July Checklist Compact Size

July Checklist Pocket Size

 

 

 

Tips to Balance Work and Kids During the Summer

By Monica Friel 

Summer will soon be upon us. If you have school-aged children, you know the havoc that can wreak on working from home or getting projects done around the house. Here are some suggestions to help you navigate between working and enjoying quality time with your kids at home.

 
Get work done early in the morning. Make a plan in the morning for the work that needs to get done and regularly stick to the block of time that you set aside. Work efficiently and let your kids know when your working hours will be.

 
Keep kids busy with age-appropriate chores. If they have a place they want to go, give them a list to complete before departure. A little perk to get the house straightened up while they’re motivated. They may not do it like you, but it’s a great way to teach them.
Share the load. Talk with other parents and see if you can coordinate a regular babysitting co-op. This way, kids will have friends to play with and the parents will share the babysitting load.

 
Stick to a routine. Your kids will get used to the routine if you make sure there’s something fun in it for them at some point in the day. If they can be patient and quiet while you’re on the phone with a client, you can take them to the pool in the afternoon.

 
Forward your calls. Smart phones, tablets and laptops make taking the kids on an adventure without “leaving” the office possible. If you have to talk with clients, allow your child to bring a friend so they can have fun even if you can’t always engage.

 
Of course it all depends on what age your kids are and how independent they can be. Work is important, and so is making fun summer memories for your children.

Monica Friel

June 2014 To-Do Checklist

Summer is finally here! Are you already enjoying the warmer weather and sunshine? If not, begin by planning fun outdoor activities, family1310022 ToDoList_Classic5vacations, exercise goals, and home repairs. Summer is also a great time to clean out your garage or backyard too. Get your cleaning and organization done in June so you can enjoy the rest of summer stress free.

June Checklist Classic Size

June Checklist Compact Size

June Checklist Pocket Size

Five Traveling Tips

With summer almost here, you may have a trip planned for yourself or for your family. Though some of us do well throwing things together at the last minute, most us need time to prepare for everything we want to do while away. To have a successful trip, start planning now to have 61928_lrgcaseeverything in order; you will be less stressed and more relaxed.

Here are a few tips that may help you start thinking about what you should plan ahead for.

1. Mode Of Transportation – If you’re taking an airplane to your destination, booking early can save you lots of money and can lead to a better selection of departure times (holiday traveling?).
If you’re driving, schedule an appointment for a tune-up before you go. Not only will this help you save gas mileage, but it will also give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your car is running smoothly; a breakdown can seriously ruin your trip.

2. Process Your Paperwork – Your trip will have lots of paperwork associated with it. Printed tickets, passports, insurance information, ID documents, itineraries, destination activity packets – keeping track of these will be important for a successful vacation. Use your planner to list out every document you may need, that way when you are packing you know which papers to grab for.

3. Budget In Advance – Sometimes it seems that vacations force a difficult choice: break your kids hearts by not going on the roller coaster, or break the bank by riding. Get everyone together before the trip starts and research local activities where you’re going. You can balance free activities with expensive activities, and eliminate the worry of a post-vacation budget hangover.

4. Plan What To Leave Behind – Sometimes, the key to enjoying a vacation is knowing what not to take with you. In an increasingly connected world, make sure to take care of your work projects before you go, so you won’t feel pressure to check your work email on the beach.
While some vacations are pet-friendly, for others, you might need to arrange for your pet to stay at home. Making arrangements for a neighbor to pet-sit or dropping your pet off at a pet hotel or vet’s office lets you enjoy your vacation without worrying about Spot.45329_lrgcase

5. Pack Effectively – Depending on your destination, pack a smaller amount than you think you’ll need. If the worst happens and you’re missing something, you can always purchase it there, and most likely spend less than you would on overweight baggage fees.

Most importantly, remember that planning ahead gives you the freedom to enjoy your trip and relax.

 

 

 

4 Super Summer Organizing Tips

By Joshua Zerkel

Summer… ahhh. When summertime comes, there’s a palpable change in the air – a feeling of fun, relaxation, and freedom from worry. Or at least, that’s how it can seem! Of course, the details of life and work don’t just go away with the change of the seasons. Especially if you’ll be traveling this summer, things can get pretty complicated.  That said, there’s plenty you can do to prepare yourself for maximum summertime fun! Here’s a few ideas:

Forget about your bills. Are you spending time sitting down to pay your paper bills? This is probably one of the last things you’d want to spend your time on during the summer when you’re trying to relax. If you haven’t already, pull out each of your monthly bills, and set them up for automatic payment (wherever it makes sense to do so). What I typically recommend to my clients is to choose one of your credit cards to charge all your bills to via auto-payment, and then you only have to worry about paying one bill instead of several. I think this is a lot better than having your bills deducted from your checking account – if there’s an error, your credit card company can go to bat for you. Of course, this system works best if you pay your credit card off in full each month.

Plan ahead for maximum discounts. If you plan ahead, you can save a ton on summer travel. Use fare finders like Kayak (www.kayak.com) to help streamline your searches, and you’ll be able to compare deals from many airlines, hotels, and rental cars at once. Although they can be somewhat annoying, e-newsletters from your favorite hotels and airlines do sometimes feature sales and other bargains, so if you are planning on traveling using one of those vendors, you may want to sign up for their newsletters and then unsubscribe when you are done booking your travel – otherwise they can just end up as clutter in your inbox. If you’re not a big planner but still want to find great deals on last-minute travel, try Lastminute.com (www.lastminute.com). To maximize your time actually spent at your destination rather than your time getting there, look for direct flights, and try to travel with only a carry-on.

Dining on a dime. Once you’re at your destination, use a site like Restaurant.com (www.restaurant.com) for significant savings on dining out. With this site, you select the coupons you want from a list of restaurants, and buy just those. For instance, you can buy a $25 off certificate for around $10 – but if you use a discount code found on sites like CurrentCodes.com (www.currentcodes.com), you can get a discount off your discount – essentially bringing the price of a $25 off coupon to just a few dollars. Using these coupons, I’ve dined at some amazing restaurants with my friends and family, for a fraction of the cost of the people sitting a table away from me. What’s also great is that most of the restaurants on the site are small, independent venues, so you get to support local merchants while saving money on a fantastic meal!

Double your pleasure… by getting duplicates of the things you regularly need to travel with. For instance, instead of packing and then unpacking a toiletries kit, purchase duplicate items of all the lotions and potions you need, and keep a fully stocked kit in your bathroom. When you’re ready to travel, you won’t have to scramble to re-create the kit for every trip. Same is true for your electronics. If you have to unplug your laptop, cell phone and mp3 chargers every time you travel, it’s a huge timesaver to just get a second set of these gizmos, and keep them in a pouch or bag that can easily be grabbed and slipped into your luggage. I like the travel charger organizers from Kanagraoom Storage (www.kangaroomstorage.com).

Of course, there are many other ways to get organized to save time and stress during the summer. What are some of your ideas for having a simply organized summer?

Joshua Zerkel

Hello Muddah Hello Fadduh!

By Naomi Cook

Perhaps you’ve heard of this song before.  If not you definitely should!  It’s one of those fun summertime songs that actually won a 1964 Grammy Award for comedy.  The gist of the song is a kid writing a letter home to his parents about his time at overnight camp.

This reminds me of the years that I spent at my overnight camp.  The bunk beds, the bug juice and time spent in the infirmary after bee stings and mosquito bites!  Plus the gong which my camp used to announce wake up time, lights out time and meal time.  I also remember my mom sewing my name in my clothes or writing on the tags with a laundry pen.

Maybe it’s time for your own child to head off for his or her first year.  Just like getting a student ready for college in the fall, there are lots of things for you to prepare for your camper.  Come to think of it, just like a college dorm room, camp quarters are really small and you have to be creative when it comes to storage.

Here are some space-saving suggestions to try:

  • Trunk – A good space to store extra sheets and towels, as well as heavier sweatshirts and jackets for cooler evenings.   It can also house snacks and a stash of cash for the canteen or snack stand, for when the dining hall food stinks!
  • On the Bunk Frame – A clip-on fan for those hot nights and a clip-on light for digging into a great book late at night after lights out!
  • Care Package Boxes – Check the height of the rise underneath the lower bunk bed when you drop your camper off.  Aim to send care packages in boxes that will fit underneath.  Those boxes can then be used to store projects that there is no room for elsewhere in the bunk.   If there is a visitor’s day midway through the summer, you can bring them those items back home with you and the boxes can be filled once again.
  • Bathroom Caddy – Just like you would for college, stash bath essentials like shampoo and conditioner and soap in a caddy to keep them contained…and don’t forget the flip flops for the shower floor!
  • Bunk Wall – Pack some rolls of  removable poster tape for your campers to hang up posters, post cards and pictures.  Without pictures in frames, more space is made for clothes and other essentials.
  • Clear Plastic Shoe Boxes – These are good for storing supplies like stationary, postcards, stamps and pens used to write all of those letters home!
  • Finally, if room allows on the main bunk door, use an over the door shoe holder for the campers to stash smaller items like flashlights, sunglasses, bug spray, sunscreen, water bottles and anything else for on the go!

Get your campers as organized as they can be so that they can spend the summer enjoying themselves and their camp experience and share that with you just like the kid in the song!  Happy Summer everyone!

Summer Vacation Planning

Make your vacation less stressful by preparing ahead of time. Be sure the house is picked up and the kitchen and bathrooms are clean before you leave, so you won’t come home to a list of chores. Ask friend to check your mail, get someone to take care of your pets, and even hire yard work to be done while you’re away. All of these things will help you relax more while you’re away from home and breathe easier when you get back.

Summer Vacation Planning

Make your vacation less stressful by preparing ahead of time. Be sure the house is picked up and the kitchen and bathrooms are clean before you leave, so you won’t come home to a list of chores. Ask friend to check your mail, get someone to take care of your pets, and even hire yard work to be done while you’re away. All of these things will help you relax more while you’re away from home and breathe easier when you get back.

How to Manage Work with Kids Home During the Summer

By Monica Friel

Do you work at home and feel like you can’t get anything done with kids home from school during the summer? Unless your kids are in camp or summer school full time, they are around much more during the summer months, so intrusions and distractions abound. There are many different scenarios with little ones of different ages, but here are some tips to help you get work done without the guilt of closing the office door on the kids all day long.

Plan “special” time. It doesn’t have to be a full day, but an hour or so around lunch or two hours at the pool can actually help you be more productive in the long run. Your kids will have something to look forward to and feel that you are giving them attention.

Special activities with “conditions.” We all have to get work done before we can go somewhere fun — so should the kids. They are also more likely to be motivated to do chores when there is a fun reward at the end. Make a list of all the tasks you expect them to do before the outing (age appropriate of course). The kids may not do it as well as you, but at least something is getting done, it’s keeping them occupied and you’re able to get some work done at the same time!

Work in an out of the way space. Having an office on the main floor near an entryway is a recipe for disaster when kids are coming and going. If it’s possible to move to an out of the way place like a basement (which is cooler in the summer too) it will be quieter and there will be far less interruptions.

Play “bring your kids to work.” If you have an old computer around that the kids can use for playing games, you can set it up right in the office next to where you’re working. If they are able to play quietly, they can spend some time “working” with you in the office.

Change your working hours. With the kids home during the summer, count on the fact that there are going to be plenty of distractions. Plan some uninterrupted work time either early in the morning or late at night to ensure that you will have time available to be there for the kids during the day as well as quiet time to make sure work gets done and deadlines are met.

Get organized. Working with a professional organizer from Chaos To Order will not only minimize the paper piles, but setting up a good efficient system in your home office will allow you to be much more productive, thus allowing more time with the kids.

Kid swap. Make plans with a friend nearby to swap the kids. You take their kids for a day and they take yours another day. This can be fun for the kids as well as a way to squeeze in some quality work time.

Remember, the work will always be there, but kids grow up very quickly. Prioritize and make an effort to have fun with yours this summer.

Thanks Monica for more great tips! 

Monica Friel

 

Plan Ahead—Make Summertime Simple

Organize as you may, summertime is loaded with spontaneity. Kids don’t normally plan the way you do. The phone rings and poof! Your day just changed. Somebody’s mother will be by to take Suzie to the pool in 15 minutes. Of course, there are times when you need to breathe your own air for a few seconds, so you send the kids outside to run through the sprinklers. And what about those days when you hear the mountains begging you to grab a few hotdogs, and head to the nearest campsite for a picnic? It happens.

Spontaneous recreation—time to play off the stress of the day—that’s the beauty of summertime. But even spontaneity works better with a little planning. Sure, planned spontaneity sounds like an oxymoron, but bear with me. These simple suggestions will make those unplanned moments run a little more smoothly. Unplanned activities don’t have to be unexpected.

Messenger BagCreate a To-Go Bag

Organize a bag that you keep in the garage, mudroom, or coat closet that’s easy to grab on your way out.  Make sure you include sunscreen, water bottles, hats, Chap Stick, etc.

Plan For Water Play

Keep a basket filled with all the kid’s swimsuits, sunblock, towels, and a lock for the locker at the pool. Next time they have a last-minute swim party you can simply grab everything they need at once.

Duffel BagPrepare For Outdoor Recreation

Keep a basket, bin or duffel bag in the garage loaded with roasting sticks, insect repellent, sunblock, and hats so you can simply slip the basket in the back of the car or van and you’re ready for the outdoors. Of course, if you plan to hike or fish, you’ll need to have the appropriate gear close at hand as well.

Stay Up-To-Date

At the beginning of each season, go through the items in your baskets and bags to be sure they still fit. Toss or donate items you no longer need and items you didn’t use last year to help make packing easier. Keep in mind all the activities you may enjoy at the last minute from swimming at the beach to camping in the desert, and make quick to-go boxes for each activity.

Having something near the door at the ready is a great way to reduce stress when the spontaneity bug hits. What are some ways you prepare for the unplanned events in your summer?

 

Organizing a Staycation

By Naomi Cook

With today’s gas prices and flight costs rising, taking a simple summer vacation has gotten to be a lot more expensive.  Add in paying for meals and entertainment and say goodbye to even more of your hard earned money.  Oy vey…what a headache!  Why not forgo all that stress, save some money, and instead have a Staycation in your very own home!

Merriam – Webster defines a Staycation as “a vacation spent at home or nearby”.  Turn your home and backyard into an outdoor oasis that everyone in the family will enjoy. Think about how a hotel is set up and organize your home as such, for the whole summer or even just a week!

Start in the kitchen:  Set up an island or part of a countertop for a breakfast buffet/snack bar like you would find in a hotel chain.  Set out those single serve cereal boxes, some fruit and granola bars; maybe even whip up a large amount of pancake batter.  Buy an inexpensive waffle maker and you can have fresh waffles every morning!  Since you are saving money by staying at home, splurge a little here.  Find melamine dishes and bowls and acrylic cups, and stash your everyday dishes and cups up on a higher shelf.  Tie them together with a bright tablecloth and you have a fresh new look.  When you decide to eat al fresco, just take those items outside! 

Head into the great outdoors:  After a nice breakfast head outside for the next phase of the day.  If you are in the mood to relax then set yourself up on your patio or lawn.  Put on some music, bring out your favorite books and/or magazines, and even work on a hobby that you’ve been neglecting.  Keep a cooler filled with your favorite beverages and you’ll be set!  If you are in the mood to get out of the house, then use those at home days to figure out where to go.  If you don’t have a pool at your home or community, consider a membership to a local pool.  Or maybe you’d rather go shopping; an outlet center is a great way to spend a day and most offer coupons for additional savings.  Another idea is to become a tourist in your own city.  So often, our lives get so busy that we can’t appreciate the historical areas and landmarks that our own city has to offer.

End in the bedroom: Use as a sanctuary to rest and recharge after a busy day outdoors.  Put crisp linens and a light comforter on the bed in soothing beach colored neutrals.  Try to keep it as a technology free area, which shouldn’t be too hard, because most TV shows are on reruns!  Keep a book on your night table and read that instead. 

However you decide to spend your Staycation, take the time to savor every minute of the day.  Push aside obligations and expectations and put the focus on you.  You deserve it! 

 

Leaving For Vacation? What About The House?

Summer break is a great time for families. It’s a time when schedules open up, albeit with effort. The kids have fewer obligations and you can finally get out and do something together. But what about the house? Here are some suggestions to ensure your property is safe while you’re gone.

Get Help From Your Neighbors

Talk with your friends before you leave on vacation and ask them to keep an eye on your house. They can collect your mail and your newspaper so it doesn’t look like you’ve abandoned your property. Let them know if you’re going to have a house sitter or if you’ve asked someone to check on your pets, so they don’t call the police when they see your niece walk into your home.

House Sitters?

If you’re going to be gone a long time, a house sitter might be a good idea. If you have relatives who are looking for a place to stay for a short time, your home might be the ideal solution. But be sure whomever you invite into your home is trustworthy. You wouldn’t be the first person to regret your decision if you come home to a damaged house. You’ll improve your odds of returning to a beautiful home if you leave a list for the house sitter to help remind them of your expectations.

Pet Care

If you leave your pets at home, be sure you get a good sitter. Finding someone who will feed your dog is one thing. Finding someone who will feed him, clean up after him, and give him a good run is even better. Remember that your pets notice when the routine changes, and it can be disturbing for them. Try to keep things as routine as possible. You might even consider sending your pet to a pet hotel or pet boarding house. These can be costly, but they’re a great way to give your pets some extra attention while you’re away. Do your research and make sure your boarding house will do what they claim to do. Regardless of whom you ask to care for your pet, it helps to keep all your pet’s health records in one place so they can easily refer to it in an emergency.

Yard Care

It shouldn’t be hard to find a kid in your neighborhood who would like to earn a few extra dollars keeping your yard looking nice while you’re away. Tell them when you’d like the lawn mowed, when you water your grass and garden. If you have a sprinkler system, show them how to use it. And to be sure they do a fantastic job, pay them in advance and offer a bonus if you are impressed when you arrive back home.

Vacations are necessary. It helps to break away from your routine now and then and just breathe. It will be a lot easier to relax if you know things are okay at home. These suggestions should help you breathe easier when you’re away.

What are some things you do before you leave for vacation?

 

Prep For Outdoor Entertaining

Summer is around the corner and the warm weather is beckoning us outdoors for barbeques, parties, family and neighborhood gatherings. But these fun outdoor escapes can quickly become stressful if you aren’t adequately prepared.

How often have you found yourself dashing into the house to grab something while the food was cooking on the grill? That’s the perfect recipe for rubber hamburgers. Yuck!

Let’s talk about grilling for a second. If you want a perfect steak, you need room temperature meat, a hot grill, a timer, a meat thermometer, and some practice. But one of the best ways to ensure that you have the perfect steak is to be prepared before you begin. Create a grilling station by gathering any spices, sauces, and tools before you start heating your grill.

Create a Grilling Station

The first thing you’ll want to do is find a wire tote for your favorite grilling spices. This doesn’t have to be big as long as it holds the seasonings you plan to use for the meal. I’ve also seen people use larger plastic tubs filled with spices designated only for outdoor cooking. (A dash of barbeque rub on your grilled corn on the cob is delicious—but if you have to run into the house to find it, your corn will be dried out before you get back.)

I also use a wire basket or plastic tote for all my grilling tools and keep it beside me while I cook, so I never have to leave the food cooking while I find my spatula or long-handled tongs. Wire baskets are great because sauce, seasonings, and dust fall through the cracks and don’t collect to soil my grilling tools. But plastic totes from your local hardware store are nice too, because you can secure them against the elements or the neighbor’s cat. When I’m not working at the grill, I can hang the wire basket on a wall in the garage or keep the plastic bin on a garage shelf. I like to cook with gas, but I also love charcoal. Which method I use really depends on the dish. I have two gas grills so I keep three tanks of propane. That way I won’t run out in the middle of a party. I also suggest you find a clean garbage can with a tight-fitting lid to keep your bags of charcoal dry and ready whenever you need them.

Transporting your food

It’s a good idea to thaw and rest your meat in a large dish, like a cake pan, so any drippings remain contained and don’t contaminate your counter top. Cut your vegetables and raw meat on separate cutting boards to avoid contaminating your food. Once your food is ready, carefully carry the meat to your pre-heated grill. Designate an area on one side of the grill for raw meat and the other side for cooked food and vegetables. Don’t let them cross. Make sure you have a fresh platter on your clean side to place the food once it’s cooked.

Clean up

Plan your cleanup before you begin cooking. Make sure you have a roll of paper towels on hand to wipe up any spills or to clean out your Dutch ovens. Grills and cast iron are easier to clean when they’re still warm. I also like to keep baby wipes or disinfecting wipes for my hands so I don’t have to deal with sticky fingers or worry about spreading germs while I’m cooking.

Serving the food

When I cook in a Dutch oven, I serve either directly from the oven or from the lid, depending on the dish. Both of these are hot, and they’ll leave marks on your picnic table. I have a square board that I place beneath my ovens to reduce damage, and I make sure I serve younger children myself so they don’t get burned. Grills stay hot for quite a while after they’re turned off, so you’ll have to establish boundaries so your kids avoid them while they cool down.

Meat is best if it has time to rest after it’s been cooked for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. This will allow the moisture to settle back into the meat and give you a much better tasting meal. I also like to place a pat of real butter on each cut and let it melt while the meat rests.

Cool spring and summer evenings can cool your food almost too quickly. It doesn’t hurt to heat a separate Dutch oven just for your meat to keep it the perfect temperature while people are preparing their plates. Cast iron holds heat for quite a while, especially if it has hot food inside.

Involve Your Kids

Outdoor cooking doesn’t have to be left to the adults. If you involve the kids, they’ll be more likely to taste their creations and develop a greater appreciation for good food. They’ll also learn important lessons about cooking and fire safety. Give them an apron and find age-appropriate activities that they can do to help. Before you know it they’ll be as addicted to the grill as you are.

Hopefully these suggestions have sparked a few organizing ideas of your own—and even worked up your appetite for some barbeque. What are some ways you prepare for an outdoor gathering?

 

Make Summer Great

summerLet’s face it – we’re creatures of habit. From the time the alarm goes off in the morning until the end of the workday, much of our time is already planned out in a daily grind, with few opportunities for spontaneity. No wonder kids look forward to summer – it frees them from the tired routines of school and homework. So while you might not be able to take three months off from your job, you can still break up your routine with some excitement.

Of course, routines are stubborn creatures, demanding and unbending. You’ll have to satisfy them before you can get on with the fun stuff. That’s why trying to have fun during the summer seems so stressful – while there’s no shortage of fun things to do, there’s a definite shortage of space to prepare for them.

The first step toward having more summer fun: involve others in your planning. Get together with your family or friends and see how they can shoulder some of the planning load. They may come up with ideas for great barbecue dishes to bring to a potluck, or they might provide the muscle to clear out the yard for the new inflatable pool. Either way, having their support will make sure that you, the party planner, also get to have fun.

Next, give your plans enough time to work. While the idea of driving to the nearest amusement park on the spur of the moment might be appealing, you’ll inevitably wish you’d remembered something once you get there. So for your next event, plan it out at least a week ahead of time, so you’re not wasting precious vacation hours running to different stores.

Finally, be selective on your summer fun. Fun events, after all, have to fit in the schedule like everything else. Taking it to an extreme will just burn everyone out. Leave some unscheduled time for relaxation, and the contrast will make the fun that much better.

What do you do to make summer great?