Get Your Christmas in Gear with a Planner

Ho, ho, happy holidays! Friday is already December 1st, which means it’s go time, girls.

As we put up our festive flair, bake delicious treats, and make our lists and check them twice, I thought it I’d share a few fantastic planners to help keep us organized. At least we’ll try, right?!

I live by, swear by lists – especially this time of year. Having things written down somehow takes the pressure off. I can relax knowing two things: 1) I can only do one thing at at time, and 2) I have a list to guide me along.

I also try to stick to being realistic about what I can and can’t do. Some things on my “to-do” list are more of a “wish to-to” list. So if they don’t get done, my world won’t crash down. #perspective

Here are three planners that I’d recommend this season. >>

{ONE} From Yellow Bliss Road

I found this on the blog Yellow Bliss Road, and I just ordered it. I love how it includes so much more than a checklist.

Kristin @ YBR describes it as “a 28-Page Christmas Planner to keep you organized for the holidays! There are calendars, a weekly agenda, budget and gift trackers, and so much more! There is even an editable Christmas Card AND editable gift tags! All available in the YBR Designs Shop.”

Did you see the part about a budget tracker?! And it all has such a pretty design. She forgot to mention that part. The planner and gift tags cost me $8.99 to download, which was a small price to pay for my sanity.

PS. I downloaded the smaller, A5 size so I could slip it in the front pocket of my Day Designer. Which, btw, they have super fun designs for their 2018 planners. Check them out!

{TWO} From Cottage Market

Aren’t these super cute? I think my kids would like them, too. I plan to print them for their own personal gift lists.

I also like that this has an order tracker (to keep up with all of those online purchases). And it includes a a planner for handmade items, so you can plan out everything you want to make for gifts. Love it!

Oh, and did I mention this one is free? It is! Thank you, Cottage Market for this darling bundle.

{THREE} From Any Bookstore!

This idea is more of a DIY. It’s called a bullet journal. So you’re free to craft your own lists as you go.

Bullet journals are ideal for people who like to doodle, journal and keep lots of little to-do lists going. If you’re still not sure what a bullet journal is, this graphic might shed some light. >

Also, this article is helpful (and funny…and has some language…but funny). You can use this approach to not only plan your holiday, but also document the season to reminisce later.

Here are some great ideas for a holiday-themed bullet journal (and they’re all from this article if you want more details!)

Christmas bullet journal idea

{record family gift ideas and purchases}

Christmas bullet journal idea

{keep track of gifts received for prompt thank yous!}

Christmas bullet journal idea

{have a list of last-minute gift ideas ready to shop}

Christmas bullet journal idea

{include your Christmas card roster}

Christmas bullet journal idea

{spend some time making personal goals}

Christmas bullet journal idea

{keep track of your favorite holiday recipes}

Christmas bullet journal idea

{remember the things you’re grateful for}

Christmas bullet journal doodle ideas

{…and doodle ’til your heart’s content!! You can find more design ideas here.}

I’m off to do some planning…and doodling. Let me know what tips and tricks you use to stay organized through the holidays!




Winners & Planners Unite

I’m excited to announce that Melissa Liston is the big winner of the 2016 planner! And the Jar of Joy is going Lynn Buss! She’ll receive 100 days worth of joyful notes. In addition to these lucky ladies, I’m sending huge virtual hugs to everyone who entered and helped me celebrate the blog turning one.

In addition to splurging on some spice cake with cream cheese frosting, my parents surprised me with a cute t-shirt that features the Neat Nook logo.

I was so surprised by this sweet gesture. I might have teared up a bit. In hindsight, I probably should have showered before I had this picture taken.

Wasn’t this the sweetest gift? Yes, I teared up a bit.

It was such a fun week, and I hope you all enjoyed the giveaway. With all of this planner talk recently, and the fact that 2016 is only one monthly tab away, has me thinking about what works and doesn’t work about organizing a planner.

I’m sure we all use one, but it doesn’t always get our undivided attention. I know I’ve had plenty of hectic weeks where I abandoned my book, and I undoubtedly paid for it later – like the time I spaced Avery’s orthodontist consult and couldn’t get scheduled back in for two months. That was one of those weeks sans planner.

As a recovering perfectionist, I realize life happens and it’s messy. I also realize that I don’t have to memorize my entire life schedule. I have this pretty little book sitting next to me waiting patiently to be my assistant. So let’s put it to work!

A few tips for organizing our planners.

{ONE} Pick one that fits your life.

Let’s say you have multiple kids with multiple activities, and you’re also starting a home-based business. A calendar that just offers a monthly view won’t cut it. You need a sizable planner with space for everyone and everything in your life. Consider options with full pages for each day, such as The Simplified Planner. If you don’t like carrying a book and writing things down, use a mobile app like Planner Plus that syncs right to your calendar.

{TWO} Color your world.

Meaning, use color codes for each type of activity on your list. My niece, Sarah, introduced me to this tip. She has a set of colored pens that she carries along with her. What I like about this is it gives you a quick visual cue for each day. For example, work/business items are blue, kids’ stuff is green, house needs are orange, and personal things are purple. In addition to breaking up a long, overwhelming list into manageable chunks, color-coding gives you a snapshot of where you spend most of your time. In an instant, you can see what’s a priority in your life at the moment. If you start to feel unhappy or pulled too far in one direction, try to shift some of the colors around. Or maybe it’s time to create a new category for a hobby – and color that baby bright yellow!

{THREE} Legend has it.


In addition to color-coding, you can write symbols next to each item so you know what’s going down. The Day Designer uses the suggested legend shown above, which is helpful. I don’t use all of these marks, but I do star important things and label whether it’s a task or event – mostly for showering purposes.

{FOUR} Multi-devices can totally work.

For example, if you mostly use the calendar on your phone for tracking errands and daily to-dos, that’s great. You can use an offline, paper planner for all of your big-picture planning and goal setting. Don’t feel pressure to fill out both planners, though. Assign each planner a job and make them both work for you!

{FIVE} Include long-term planning.

It’s easy to get caught in the trap of making daily “to-do” lists that help you get things done around the house, but they don’t necessarily make you feel accomplished. I’ve felt this way many times. When I look at a page full of crossed-off items and feel drained versus energized or proud, I know something is off.

This is a clue that I need to look back at the long-term vision I have for myself. Are the things I’m doing and crossing off my list each day moving me in the right direction? If the answer is “no,” it’s time to reevaluate where I’m spending my time. Laundry still needs to get done, but maybe things like weeding the garden could wait until I’ve spent time meditating or reaching out to a fellow blogger.

The Day Designer, shown above, is an incredible planner for establishing your purpose and mission. If you want to live a purposeful life, long-term planning is a must.

{SIX} Get in a routine.

Just like creating any good habit, we need to show up every day and practice. It can be hard, I know. With your planner, though, the good news is that if you spend a little extra time up front, the daily check-in goes much smoother and faster. I try to sit with my planner on Sunday nights, like a little meeting with just the two of us, and I fill out the pages for the week ahead.

I start by looking at my monthly view to catch the big stuff: birthdays, anniversaries, ortho checkups. I transfer those details to the week’s list, and then fill in what I know needs to get done each day. If the week marks the beginning of the month (like next week), I’ll also check in with my annual plan to be sure I’m on the right path toward my goals and making happy, productive decisions with my time.

It all sounds simple enough. I know. If any of us fall out of routine, forget an appointment, skip a week with the planner, there’s no need to freak or feel bad. You’re not alone. It’s easy to get back on track.

And as Glennon Melton says, “We can do hard things!”

Have a productive week, sweet friends.



Time for a new planner (already?!)

Now that we’re into October I’m realizing my planner is about to expire! I’m already receiving dates for school events and family activities that spill into 2016. Crazy, right? I know there are school calendars that begin in August, but I’m a big fan of the classic January start date. So, I’m in the market for my next planner and contemplating all options – well, the prettiest and most helpful options, that is.

I’ve really loved my Day Designer this year. It was my first dive into these “strategic planners for a well designed life” by Whitney English. I started strong by going through the vision and mission exercises, but fell off the map when it came to the monthly exercises. If I go this route again, I need to figure out how to schedule time for those.

Here are options I’m considering. I’d love your feedback on which planner you love best!!


day designer

I could stick with a Day Designer and go “black spotty” this year. There’s also an exclusive pink stripe pattern from Belle & Blush that has my eye.


The Simplified Planner is supposed to be super helpful. I love this "happy stripe". It would be a change from last year, but I'm considering.

The Simplified Planner is supposed to be super helpful. I love this “happy stripe“. It would be a change from last year, but I’m considering. This fellow blogger did a nice comparison between Day Design and Simplified Planner. Good research for me!


Katie Daisy planner

This is an adorable planner by one of my favorite designers, Katie Daisy. It’s a 17-month planner, which would solve my school-planning dilemma. If I get this now, it would last until Dec 2016, but what do I do until it starts back up in Aug?!


Another personal fan favorite is Rifle Paper Co. This planner is also a 17-monther. Its compact size, but has more room than the one above for daily and weekly planning.

Another personal favorite is Rifle Paper Co. This “birch floral” planner is also a 17-monther. It’s compact, but has more room than the one above for daily and weekly planning. It doesn’t have any of the extras like monthly challenges, but I had trouble finding time to do that kind of thing anyway. Hmm.


This option gets me back to the traditional 12-month planner. Its not as pretty as the others, but its filled with inspirational qoutes. You know I love that kind of thing. Am I judging these books too much by their cover?

This funky option from Sugar and Type gets me back to the traditional 12-month planner. It’s not as beautiful as the others, but it’s filled with inspirational quotes. You know I love that kind of thing. Am I judging these books too much by their cover?

I’m still leaning toward the Day Designer, because of the extra bells and whistles regarding the personal planning. Let me know what you think. If there’s an overwhelming favorite, I’ll buy and extra one and have a special giveaway! It would be my first, so be patient and kind as I work through the details. But yes, a GIVEAWAY!!

Here’s to a creative and organized day, my friends.



Friday Wrap and Year Beginnings!

New Year's Cheer

A New Year’s Cheers!

In case you haven’t been properly wished upon, yet, Happy New Year!!!

Our family spent the evening with a group of friends playing all kinds of crazy games – and tricks. It was the kind of fun that literally landed me on the floor laughing. It had nothing to do with the Moscow Mules, either. It was all about the awesome people, which we’re super thankful to have come to know.IMG_5099Then yesterday we kicked off the year with an amazing meal. My SIL served up a proper, southern New Year’s feast of Hoppin’ John (black eyed peas for good luck), collard greens (for wealth and abundance) and cornbread (for good fortune). I made sure to have seconds – for the luck and all. Wink.


I was so busy eating, I didn’t grab a photo! This is basically what it entailed – a bowl full of delicious rice, black eyed peas and other veggies and seasonings.

This meal, and the past few days to be honest, has left me feeling incredibly blessed. Good food, good friends, good family moments…the best gifts of the season. I hope you’re feeling equally as thankful and are excited to keep the good things going.

Speaking of good things, here are five I’ve truly loved and/or obsessed about this past week that I had to share – outside of my SIL’s incredible food. I wish I could share that, too.

{ONE} Horse Race

horse race

We played with a cool, handmade version of this game.

This was THE best party game of new year’s eve. If you ever have a chance to play horse race, do it. And don’t fall for it when someone tells you it’s a game where you run with stick horses around the kitchen. Just trust me – and the floor I fell on.

{TWO} Melting Moments Cookies

Melting Moments

Seriously so good.

I made a few batches of these for our neighbors over the holidays, and I have since made several more batches (who’s counting?) for our own family to devour. These are seriously sinful. And like the name says, they melt in your mouth.

I tried making a gluten-free version for my parents using GF flour. They didn’t turn out so great. I might have botched things when I melted the butter vs. used room temp. I’m not the best baker in town, so I honestly don’t know if that made the difference? Maybe someone has a better GF version? For now, here’s the real deal from Give Recipe (that even I could bake):


  • 1 and ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup powdered sugar + 1 cup to sprinkle on top
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (not melted!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Combine flour, cornstarch and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Add vanilla extract.
  4. Gradually add the flour mixture until everything is blended.
  5. Chill the dough for half an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350F.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Make mini balls from the dough, and place on the baking sheet leaving about 1-inch space.
  9. Bake for 13 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before sifting powdered sugar over the top.
  11. Eat them. All. Then lick your fingers.

{THREE} Vision Boardssample vision boardEarlier this week I wrote about vision boards. They’re a pretty powerful way to map out your goals if you haven’t tried your hand at making one, yet. I finished mine (for now) and feel pretty good about how things are mapping out this year. I hope you’re able to take some time to do the same for yourself. Once you have an idea of what you want, it makes it so much easier to break things down into mini steps that you can put in your calendar (or gorgeous planner), which so eloquently brings us to number four…

{FOUR} Day Planners!

Day Designer

I’m so in love with this Day Designer. Belle & Blush sells these beautiful planners. They have tons of other amazing things, too. (Thank you notes, anyone?!) They’re definitely worth checking out. Tell ’em The Neat Nook sent ya!

This time of year reminds me of the first day of school. Stocking up on fresh notebooks and new calendars. I plan to kick it old school this year and use a day planner. I think the act of putting pen to paper makes things feel more official – like a contract. I’m going to see if it makes a difference getting things accomplished this year. Wish me luck!

There are so many great planners to choose from. I landed on a Day Designer by Whitney English. When I read, “It was created with creative professionals, busy mamas, and girls-on-the-go in mind,” I was like, um, that pretty much sums up my life. So I looked no further. I’ll be sure to share some of my favorite tips and tricks with the planner as I go!

{FIVE} Solmate Socks

Solmate Socks

These are from Handmade Market right here in Fayetteville. Darling store!

This was the dark horse of all the gifts in my stocking this year. I didn’t realize how much I could love a pair of socks until these precious things came into my life. They are super cozy, yet not too thick to fit inside your favorite boots. I live in them as much as I can – and probably need to get more for this winter we’re about to have. Snowy weather + cozy socks = happiness. Yes?

So, 2015…I feel good vibes about this one.

I’m looking forward to growing friendships, enjoying lots of family time, venturing into new projects and embracing my imperfections through it all. Thanks for being on this journey with me. Let’s make this year memorable!!

Love and creative wishes,