Saturday, February 23, 2019

Making a Home Management Binder

20190223_192754As much as we all love our digital reminders and lists, there’s still something to be said for a good old paper binder to manage our home information and lists all in one handy place.  I like to use a binder with pockets.  It makes it easy to three-hole punch pages and add them in as needed, remove pages that have become obsolete or that need to be replaced with new ones, and the pockets allow you to insert things that just need to be handy in the near future.  I’ve never found all of my planner needs met in one place, so I tend to pick and choose FREE printable pages from various internet sources and piece together something customized just for me. 

Fortunately, many sites offer undated pages and calendars so you can download them to your computer and print them over and over again just when you need them.  I keep a folder on my computer full of free printables that I really like so I can access them whenever I want.  That way, I don’t have to keep track of where they all came from when I need them again.

To get you started, I’m going to link a couple of sites that contain some of my favorite mix-and-match, undated pages.

This site has the cover, password, and contact pages I like best.  And it also has homeschool planning pages if you need those.  I use a digital planner for my homeschool stuff, so all I’m interested in here is stuff for home management.

This site has pages to track doctor’s visits, pantry and freezer inventories, to-do lists, gift list pages (loved those this Christmas), bank account information, books to read, movies to watch, and so many others.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page to select individual pages that meet your needs.

20190223_192910In my binder, I like to tuck things like my symphony subscription tickets, monthly bill calendars, invoices and estimates for work currently being done at my house, etc., in the binder’s pockets for quick access until they need to be filed away.  I also bought some trading card pages at Walmart to store business cards for services I use at my home.

20190223_192934In the front of the binder, I keep some laminated pages for things that needed to be updated often.  I can use a dry erase marker to write on them and wipe them off as needed so I’m not constantly burning through new pages for the sheets I use the most.  These include a daily agenda, a daily cleaning schedule that I created for my this specific home, an errand and shopping list, and a list of leftovers with dates so I don’t forget about using them up.

I can’t tell you how handy this binder has been.  All the key pieces of information I need are in one handy place, and I keep it updated and stored in my desk drawer so it’s always at hand.

Try making your own and see if it helps you manage your home this year!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

REVIEW: IXL by IXL Learning

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When we learned that IXL Learning offers practice in core subjects as well as Spanish language with the annual subscription we’d receive for IXL, we were really excited to try it out!


IXL is an online program offering comprehensive practice in the core subjects of math, language arts, social studies, and science, with additional practice in Spanish language.  For native Spanish speakers, they also offer the entire program in a Spanish version.

Product Screenshot

All core subjects are offered for grades 2-8, with math and language arts offered for grades PK, 1, and 9-12.  Spanish is available for all grade levels.  When you subscribe, you have access to over 7.500 unique topics and all grade levels, plus there is tracking information to chart your child’s progress.

The program can be used on your computer or with apps for your mobile devices.

Both monthly and annual subscriptions are available, and there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee if you decided to try it out.  You can choose the package that’s just right for your needs by choosing a just math or language arts or Spanish, or a combo of math and language arts, all core subjects, or any of the above with Spanish added.  The annual subscription I received that includes all core subjects plus Spanish costs just $199/year!


We recently finished with our science and math programs for this year, so the timing was perfect to give IXL a try so we could continue practicing daily in these important subjects.

Right away, I was impressed with the extensive topics available for each subject!  There are just so many concepts available to practice.  I immediately thought this could really be a great tool for filling in learning gaps we might have encountered this year.

Fifth Grade Science Topics

We started off by using the diagnostic testing that’s available at IXL.  This can be done at any time.  There’s no ending to the testing, so it’s just something your child can do periodically to find out where they might need further study.  The more questions the child answers, the “smarter” the program gets at identifying learning deficits.  It then lets the child know that there are recommendations available for which topics they should practice more.  This is a great tool for parents who might not know where to start with the program.  Since you have access to all grade levels with your subscription, the diagnostic tool will help you identify where the child should begin with each subject, and it will indicate when they should advance to the next level, as well.  After they’ve done a fair amount of content in the diagnostic so that useful information is generated, you can even download a detailed analysis of where they stand in math and language arts.  I was really happy to see how well Holden did in language arts, especially, because we completed a really thorough grammar program this year, and I can see that it served him well. 

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Even though we tried out the diagnostic tool, we were mainly focused on starting at the beginning of the 5th grade level of Spanish and science and just working our way through the topics in order.  Even though some of it was easy for him, there were a number of topics we simply hadn’t discussed, particularly in science, since we concentrated our studies solely on anatomy and physiology this school year.  I assigned Holden to work on one topic each for science and Spanish 4 days per week with his other school work.

To my surprise, he never complained about the extra work!  The questions are adaptive, so if he got several wrong, it would ask a lot more questions.  If he got a bunch correct in a row, it would move him into more challenging questions.  When he’s gotten through the different challenges with enough correct questions, then he’d mastered the topic and could move on.  Holden has ADHD and a pretty short attention span, but he has always liked computer-based learning.  I was so pleased to see that he was really motivated to “master” each topic, no matter how long he spent trying to get it right!  Sometimes, I would try to get him to stop for the night, and he’d insist he had to keep going until he could reach mastery of the topic that had him stumped!  I never imagined he’d take it to the way he did!  That was a pleasant surprise.

Another motivation was the constant stream of award certificates that would come to my email inbox.  He got awards for his progress and for milestones such as how many questions he’d answered in a subject, on the site overall, or time spent mastering a subject. 

Certificate Certificate Center

I would also get a weekly summary of the time he spent and the number of skills he mastered.  At any time, I can log in as the parent and see a comprehensive breakdown of how well he’s doing and what he has accomplished.  I loved being able to check in on his progress, even if I hadn’t been sitting with him while he did the work.

Progress Report Usage Report

Although the site does NOT claim to be a complete curriculum because it does not offer lessons before the practice sessions, it kid of DOES have some lesson material after the fact.  The difference is that the material is only shared with the student in the explanation of why they answered a question wrong.  But if you spend some time reading through that explanation, you get enough information to be able to answer future questions in that topic correctly.  So in a backhanded way, it does have lesson material in there.  In the future, it would be my hope that they would put the “explanations” that are really like mini-lessons up in front of the practice questions, and then it really would provide instruction as well as practice.  I think for our own use in the future, I may log in as the parent, answer a question wrong, and try to copy and paste the explanation so I can print it out for my son to look at as he answers the questions, thereby providing him with some lesson materials to view beforehand.  But even without that, you could use the diagnostic tool to identify areas of weakness and look up instruction for that material elsewhere, teach or reteach the material, and then have them practice the recommended topics again.

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However you choose to use it, IXL is essential to providing ongoing practice in your educational topics, as well as in identifying learning gaps before they get out of control.  For that reason, I can understand why so many students across the country use IXL, whether they are in public school, private, or homeschooling!

We did try out the program both on the computer as well as with the app on my Android tablet.  Holden enjoyed using it both ways, but he said he really liked the sound effects of the app the best.  Using it on the tablet also made it more portable, so if I was cooking dinner or was elsewhere in the house, it was easy for him to bring it to me to ask for help with understanding a question.

IXL on Tablet

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with this program.  I actually reviewed it many years ago when he was a kindergartener and my daughter was in 4th grade.  The site has expand by leaps and bounds since then, and there’s so much more content in many more subject areas.  Holden has enjoyed it even more this time around, so much so that I fully intend to continue using the program as part of our regular daily school work.  I’ve already added the topics into our digital schedule for the rest of the school year so they will appear on his assignment list!  And I absolutely love that I don’t have to force him to do it.  He’s been asking to do it first!

With the 30-day money-back guarantee, there’s nothing to lose in giving this a try.  That gives you plenty of time to figure out how to make the best use of the program for your kids.  I highly recommend it!

Check out what other Crew members have to say about IXL by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

WOW Weekend 2019

This weekend, I got to attend my first-ever Christian women’s retreat.  It was an overnight, 2-day conference in Grapevine, TX called WOW Weekend (Women of Worthiness).  This year’s theme was “Be-YOU-tiful: Being God’s Beautiful Woman, Starting from Within.”

First off, as I looked around the very large conference room, it struck me how encouraging it is to meet so many kind women all in one place, all of like precious faith.  That’s a beautiful thing!

On Friday night, we had an opening prayer, a welcome dinner, some singing of hymns, and our first speaker.  She talked about what good works look like, how we can inspire other to do good works, and who and how we can serve others.  Then they gave away some beautiful door prizes!  We were also introduced to the donated items that were included in the silent auction, so we walked around and looked at what was available before we retired to our room for the night.

WOW - In Hotel Room

I met up with two lovely ladies from our church in Crowley, TX to share a room.  It was such an enjoyable evening talking with them and getting to know them both better.  Before we even realized so much time had passed, it was midnight before anyone looked at their watch!  We all scrambled to get our showers and head off to bed!  We had to be up at 7 AM to get ready to pack up, check out of our room, and be ready for the morning presentation by 8 AM.  I managed to get ready for bed and turn in around 1 AM.

This is where things went haywire for me!  Sleep eluded me in the room.  My Fitbit tells the story best.  I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Hotel Sleep

At 3 AM, I gave up trying.  I got dressed and fixed my hair for the new day and tiptoed around to pack up all of my stuff and slip out of the room.  I decided to see if I could fare any better in my van.  Again, I’ll let my Fitbit tell that part of the story…and just add that the temperature had dramatically dropped to 34 degrees!  Woops!  Unexpected complication…

Van Sleep

Obviously, I didn’t fare much better there.  I ran the engine for a while and warmed it up inside and managed to nod in and out for a brief time.  Most of this was not actually sleep.  In fact, I actually woke up from about a half hour catnap at 7 AM.  Perfect timing!  I hung around in the van until about 7:45.  Then I went back inside to use the restroom and ran to our room to make a quick cup of hot tea.  Clearly, I was going to need the caffeine to get myself going this morning!  LOL.  And I got to relay my crazy night to my roommates so we could laugh about it.  What a night!

I walked into the morning presentation just as we were about to begin.  We had a morning prayer, some hymn singing, and another speaker, who talked about ways a single person can guide a young Christian and inspire them in lifelong ways, the importance of regular communication with God to strengthen that relationship, how to pray for your enemies and how that provides relief from your own burdens, what forgiveness of others should look like, and how to nurture and guard your own heart and mind in Christ.  Then we gathered for a buffet brunch.  Yum!  I was so hungry this morning, and knowing this was going to keep me going until tonight’s dinner, I made sure I was stuffed.  I ran into a couple of other ladies from our church and enjoyed chatting with them and catching up.  We also met some lovely people at our table both days. 

WOW - In Conference

Afterwards, we had more singing, and another speaker.  She gave my favorite presentation of the weekend, and it really touched me.  She talked about our roles as Christian wives, mothers, friends, neighbors, and the many opportunities we have to impact those around us.  She also discussed what the fruits of the Spirit look like in us as we truly love others as Christ did.

We had a short bathroom break, more singing, and another speaker.  She talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly events that we can look back on in our timeline of life and how they can affect us.  And she talked about how they should affect us…how we can turn all the negatives into positive learning experiences that shape us into better, stronger Christians.  Because after all, God can work all things for the good of those that love Him.  So true! 

They announced the winners of the silent auction, made some funny jokes that made us all laugh, gave away some more door prizes, and ended with more singing and a closing prayer.  It was a very fulfilling day, and I was so glad I went!

On our way out, we stopped by the photo op backdrop to get a group picture.

WOW - On the Way Out 2

I headed home at about 1:45.  I was shocked how fast the return trip went on a Saturday afternoon as compared with all of the traffic snaffoos of the Friday evening commute going up there.  It seemed like I was home in a flash.  The brightness outside was killing my eyes, though…I was SO tired!  I was hungry for lunch, but I was more tired than hungry, so I literally went straight to my bed and declared that it was nap time for me!  My dogs happily greeted me in my return and curled up around me in my bed.  I was out like a light pretty much as soon as my head hit the pillow!  Fitbit tells it best.

Home Sleep

Sweet slumber!  Hubby got me up at 5:15 so I could get ready to leave for our quarterly neighborhood dinner and meeting with our school board member and city councilman.  Always informative!  My whole family got to go this time, so it was a good opportunity to reconnect after my short trip.

Now my day is drawing to a close, and my bed is again calling to me.  I had such a lovely weekend trip, and I appreciate that the ladies at church encouraged me to go!  I look forward to doing it again next year.  And hey, I’ll have a funny story to tell! Winking smile

Saturday, February 9, 2019

It’s National Pizza Day!!!

Today is National Pizza Day, and that means deals on pizza all over the country.  I’m going to mention those in my area of northern TX, but be sure to check your local chains for more pizza specials!

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Chuck E. Cheese:  Upgrade any large pizza to an Extra Large for free when you ask for the “National Pizza Day” offer (code 4860).

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Cici’s:  Get 3 medium 1-topping pizzas for takeout only for $12.

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Papa John’s:  Get a medium 1-topping carryout pizza for $6 with code CARRYOUT6.

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Pizza Hut:  Get any large pizza with up to 5 toppings for $10.99 with code THANKYOU at checkout.

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Pizza Patron:  Get any large pizza for $6.99.

Enjoy your pizza!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Organizing Continues!

Well, I’ve been super sick with a nasty head cold for the last couple of weeks.  I finally started turning the corner this week and feeling better, so I really stepped up my game in terms of putting things in order with my organizational projects.

The folks at Dollar Tree probably thought I had some kind of basket obsession this week.  One day, an employee said “back again?!?”  LOL.  I guess I made one too many stops there this week asking for particular baskets that I needed.  I sure bought a lot of them!  It would have been more productive if I’d just trusted I would need a bunch and bought them all in one trip, but instead, I just bought what I needed for the day to complete another cabinet/drawer/area. 

This week, I ordered glass spice jars from Amazon…twice!  I started out with two sets of 24, and then I ended up ordering one more set of 24 before the week was over.  They are so nice!  They have stainless steel lids, plastic snap-on shaker inserts, a collapsible silicone funnel for transferring spices to the jars, and 3 sets of labels to choose from…round chalkboard labels for the lids, decorative chalkboard labels for the sides of the jars, or clear pre-printed labels with the spice names already on them.  I have wide spice drawers located right beneath my glass cooktop, and I’d already bought rubber inlays last year that keep the jars all in neat little columns so they don’t roll around, so I knew I’d be labeling the sides of the jars since they lay down.  I tried the pre-printed ones, but the print was small, and with black print on a clear background, it was too hard to read them when the jars were full.  So I went with the decorate chalkboard labels instead.  They are beautiful!  The set also came with a small white chalk marker to write with on the labels, and it turned out so nice!  I alphabetized the jars starting at the front of the drawer moving up each column from left to right.  I can find any spice in just a moment now, and they stay put since they are all one uniform size.  That really put a smile on my face!  I’ve wanted to organize my spices in uniform jars for as long as I can remember.  I was thankful I could finally afford the initial investment to get the setup I really wanted all along.  It worked out to about $1 per jar, but I’ll never have to buy them again.  Being able to see through the jars lets me know at a glance which ones are running low, too, which is really convenient.  I absolutely love it!  This was the most satisfying project of all, because I spend a LOT of time in the kitchen cooking for 5 people.  We generally eat at home every night.  At most, we probably go out once a month for dinner, so this truly makes my life easier for cooking at home.


I also picked up some wire pot lid racks at Dollar Tree to add to the one larger one I already had from Walmart.  I got a whole new set of copper pans for Christmas, and each one had its own glass lid, so I was in dire need of a way to keep those lids organized.  This made a huge difference!  Then I stacked my skillets, my saucepans, and my cookpots all together in size order.  This also made a huge difference to the ease of cooking and putting things away this week.

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I also organized some more of my kitchen drawers this week.  I got smaller baskets and arranged my measuring cups/spoons, cooking tools, straws, etc.  I also have a drawer for cough and throat drops, and two for k-cups.  Everything is now sorted and tidy in the drawers.  That made a big difference when needing to find something or put something away, too. 

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I also went through and organized all of my plastics.  That cabinet was the biggest mess of all, and I was able to tame the craziness and organize similar things together as well as keep lids with their appropriate containers.  No more water bottles falling over in the back of the cabinet and making everything around them go down like dominoes!  My kitchen has truly been transformed this week, and life is much more pleasant as a result.

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This evening, I organized my glassware…baking dishes and serving dishes.  I was always afraid of things clinking together in there and chipping or breaking as I slid in and out the things I needed.  Now I have all the baking dishes together, all the serving dishes together, all the glass storage together, etc.  I can easily slide out the basket I need, get or put away the necessary item, and slide the basket right back into place.  Much, much better!


I did some other smaller projects, as well, like my kids’ sock drawers, underclothes, etc.  I sure hope everyone appreciates that I’ve tidied their spaces, but it probably benefits me the most since I still put their clothes away for them.

So what have you been working on in January?