Celebrating a Year of Professional Mom-ing

I missed a MAJOR milestone recently, thanks to the holiday hustle. 

I've been a Stay at Home Mom for a YEAR now!  

Pretty sure this means it's time to sit down with my boss (ME) for my annual review. Fingers crossed for a Big Fat Raise! Or at least a pedicure and an hour alone at Target, right? 

For a little context, I've always dreamed of being able to work from home. I love being in my house while accomplishing work. Before I had Iris, I ran my own wedding planning biz for five years in addition to working full-time as a career counselor at the local university of which I am an alum. For a while, I hoped to make weddings my full-time gig so I could realize my dream of working from home since my role at the university didn't offer work-from-home flexibility.  

But I ended up giving up the wedding business when I was pregnant with Iris because I knew I wouldn't be able to juggle working and mom-ing and weddings, especially given the night and weekend work that weddings require. With Josh's career in banking, I wanted our work schedules to match so we could spend evenings and weekends together. 

So the dream of working from home was alive and well long before we started a family. I definitely wanted to be able to stay home once I had kids, though I confess that I am not someone who has longed for children all my life. Finding Mr. Right was my priority, but I never really yearned for kids. In fact, I didn't grow up spending much time with little ones, which gave me a nice, healthy fear of them. 

Since I didn't always know that starting a family was something I wanted, I didn't put much thought into what it would be like to stay at home with children. I knew it was a goal though because my mom stayed home with me and my brother and we liked that arrangement a lot. 

After Josh and I had Iris I went back to work for six months, always with the hope that I could stay home with her and not miss out on watching her grow up. She stayed home with a carefully constructed rotation of three caregivers, including my mother in law who commuted every other week to watch Iris. 

Often during lunch time runs to Target (usually for pumping-related items that I'd left at home, too far away to go back for), I saw moms pushing their babies and toddlers around the store and found myself longing to be a "Target Mom." My dream came into focus: Iris nestled in a cute shopping cart cover and me with a Starbucks cup in my hand while we perused the Dollar Spot section. My red bulls-eye heaven. 

At that time, we had a mortgage on our house AND on the condo we lived in that Josh bought before we were married. It had been on the market for nearly two years with no sign of an offer, so financially speaking, being able to stay at home seemed an impossible glimmer waaaay off in the distance. Because of that, I didn't let myself get too romantically involved with the idea, not wanting to pine for something that wasn't likely to happen.  

...And then, God cleared the path so quickly that it made my head spin. The condo sold AND the tripod of childcare that we had carefully constructed for Iris fell apart all at once.  

Suddenly, the dream of staying home, which we had discussed time and time again over the months, became a reality. 

Just like that, I was able to give my two-week notice. I would start staying home right around Christmas when the current semester ended. I wouldn't be back for the spring semester to see all the plans that I had to put into place for it come to fruition. 

While I was incredibly grateful to realize my dream of staying home with Iris, I felt guilty for not being around at my job during a busy semester. That's just how I'm wired, wishing I could do all the things all the time and feeling bad when I cause anyone to be inconvenienced. But I reasoned that as busy as the university was every semester, there was never a "good" time to exit. Even my boss agreed that staying home would be the best move for Iris, though he clearly had his doubts about my personal fulfillment being home all the time. As director of the career center, he knew my MBTI type and that it is one that thrives on working with others.  

I confess that I had my doubts too. Some very common worries plagued my thoughts: 

How would I like no longer having my own income?

Would I get an allowance? Was that weird? 

What if I wanted to go back to work later on? Would my skills be irrelevant? 

Would I feel isolated and lonely? 

Would I make mom friends? Would I even like them? What about my current friends? Would we lose touch? 

Was my disposition cut out for being home all the time? 

Seriously, about that money stuff though... ?

But none of that even mattered, because THIS became my reality... 

Yeeeah, no. SAHM life isn't one long play date or pool party. Here's my honest look at what this year has been like for me and Iris. 

This was us on Day One. 

Just look at Iris's face. She may be sporting her proud warrior expression, but that teeny tiny fist gives her away. She's white-knuckling it, questioning the hands she's been left in and quite possibly plotting how to properly haze me.  

And there's my face, complete deer in the headlights with all my vulnerability on display, obviously praying she'll go easy on me and already sweating it that I didn't wake up two hours before Iris did to exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, run a load of laundry, and take a shower.  

I did NOT want to spend Day One of my New Job in my pajamas. But lo, if SAHM life issued work ID cards, my new badge would show me in the $3 tee I bought at Walmart a million years ago with an ink stain on the sleeve. 

By 8am I was already falling short of my expectations as a SAHM. 

But at least Iris and I matched. That's something.  

How far I've come in a year. 

Whether you've stayed home, dreamed of staying home, hate the idea of staying home, or just wonder what it's like to stay home, here's what I know a year later. 

It's helpful to like being at home a LOT.
I love being at my house. Some of my best and most productive working days were the rare occasions when my boss let me work from home because I had no social distractions, no meetings, no interruptions AND could tackle my work while simultaneously running my dishwasher and washing a load of towels. 

I LOVE the whirring sound of the dishwasher and washing machine. Though the work is repetitive because the dishes and laundry will never permanently be completed, the sound of these machines doing their thing has always filled me with a sense of progress and comfort. 

Another thing I love about being home is this:  I've pinpointed that my natural rhythm each day is to wake up with lots of energy that needs to immediately be channeled into work and projects or I lose momentum fast. 

During the years that I worked outside of the home, the daily process of getting ready for and driving to work (about 2 hours from shower to office door) was long enough that I would find my biorhythms had tanked by the time I hit the parking lot. 

But at home, I roll out of bed and get straight to my work while my energy levels are still soaring, and that makes for a more productive day. Rarely do I sit down most of the day in order to maintain my forward momentum... because once I sit down at night for our family Bible study, it is extremely unlikely that I'll get back up again. At that point my personal on switch gets flipped to off for the day. Josh usually scrapes my sleeping form off the couch around midnight to move to the bed, often still in the clothes I wore that day. :) 

Being comfortable with mess is also helpful. 
Mom truth: It's actually a somewhat helpless feeling for me to be at home, seeing all the housework accumulate. 

Can I get chores done? Yes, absolutely. I run the dishwasher and do loads of laundry and vacuum while Iris follows me around or plays independently within sight, but some tasks require my full concentration or are better done without a toddler underfoot (say mopping the kitchen floor, dusting the furniture because I don't want Iris to get hand prints on the fresh work or have product residue on her hands), and these tasks have to be deferred to nap time or after Iris goes to bed (when I am physically, mentally, and emotionally spent). 

Mom, how come our floors don't look like this? 

Transition times are especially challenging, for example, when Iris goes from meal time to play time without understanding that Mom needs a window to wash the dishes and sweep the floor to keep any mess from piling up. Thankfully, Iris is getting to an age where she can help with housework and enjoys the atta girl's that come from being a helper so we can now make those tasks part of our fun rather than me having to postpone work until the end of the day when I'm too tired to do another thing.

Nap time is Sacred Time. 
You may be scratching your head wondering why I don't just do the housework while Iris naps. :) I had Grand Ideas about nap time too when I first started staying home. 

Nap time offers a 60-90 minute opportunity to do a couple of things, and each day I choose whichever of these is most important: 

-Shower (rarely does this win out)
-Exercise (also sort of rare)
-EAT (9/10 times this is my choice because I don't get to eat much food during Iris's meal times. Whatever I have on my plate, she naturally wants so I usually need to eat something more once she's tucked in to sleep, especially now that I am expecting Baby #2)
-Chores (usually one or two things get knocked out here if I am super focused)
-Prep dinner (like toss something in the crock pot)
-Text or message back friends and family who I've not been able to reply to in several hours/days/weeks/months. 
-Actually return a phone call that will not be peppered with the words, "Don't lick that!"
-Spend a little time on the internet or social media (I've been wanting to look up some new chicken recipes! Been meaning to research baby monitors that have the option for multiple cameras. Need to reply to messages and comments on IG)
-Nap........ tempting but I shouldn't... maybe for just 10 minutes? NOPE. Do not do it. 
-Just stare at the wall. Seriously. The mental and emotional energy required to Mom all day long necessitates some glassy-eyed gazing while converting oxygen into carbon dioxide. 

Dressing for the job isn't glamorous if you like clothes. 
The change in wardrobe has been one of the tougher obstacles for me to overcome because of how much I love clothing, fashion and style. I've navigated this change by continuing to write about style and share the latest finds at my favorite stores, which provides me with a fun and creative outlet for my passion for style and offers a pleasant change of pace from my daily rotation of... let's call it lounge wear, shall we? I admit that I do not resemble anyone with a shred of style in my mismatched tank tops and leggings with unwashed hair to boot. 

Over the summer I made an effort to put on cuter outfits, and I look forward to doing that again soon, but these days of expecting Baby #2, there's a lot of stretchy pants in rotation. Plus, so many days I end up with food on me between Iris's hands and doing lots of dishes so I save my nicer clothes for the rare days that I've got Something To Do. 

It is nice to not really NEED a lot of clothes, but when you love clothes, that can be a bit of a downer. Especially when you love great dresses but only have occasion to wear one for church. Ditto for blazers. These days I probably look pretty "extra" for all social occasions and errands simply because I am desperate for an opportunity to wear some of the favorite pieces in my closet.  

When it comes to adding new pieces to my wardrobe, I tend to shop resale and at the stores that give me free clothes or discounts for style blogging, which was my goal in launching my blog. I'm not ashamed to say that style and clothing rank in my top 5 values, and I knew that to continue enjoying them as a SAHM, I would have to be resourceful. The way that retail seems to run these days, I refuse to buy anything at full price because I know there will be a sale soon. I was stunned to hear myself tell my mom not to buy Iris two cute pairs of Osh Kosh overalls at full price because they would be 50% off a few weeks later. And they were. And we got both pairs for the price of one. And I felt mega proud. :) 

Personal services like hair coloring have been modified now that I stay home too. I've stretched my highlights from every 8 weeks to every 3 months, adding in lowlights to reduce obvious grow out (great timing for that shadow root trend to become a thing! Thank you!), and my haircuts happen just a few times a year to save money.  

The days are slippery. 
I straddle the fun and slightly wacky dichotomy of being a messy creative type with a big desire for structure and progress. The craving for structure stems from my being relaxed and flexible to a fault. Often I find the day has been frittered away without much progress, play, or significance unless I manage my time wisely. 

Structure proves again and again to be my friend. In fact, I use my day planner more at home than I probably did at work. The to do's are different and there are far fewer meetings on my dance card, but I live day in and day out juggling tasks, especially since I do freelance writing and blogging. Plus with Baby #2, there will be diapers and bottles to track and doctor's appointments to remember. (For more on the planner that I love for working moms and SAHMs alike, click HERE

The days are long. 
I've definitely had my share of days when I watch the clock for Josh to come home and relieve me for a little while. These are days when Iris ends up getting to watch a little more TV so I can hide in the kitchen and have a snack while I wonder how I can possibly summon the energy to fix something for dinner. Then I check my Hungry Howie's app to see if I've earned any free pizzas yet that Josh could just pick up on his way home.  

The days are short. 
Some days are such a whirlwind and blur that I can't believe it is already 4:30pm and I haven't even thought about dinner or moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer and oh yeah, I may have forgotten to give Iris a nap?? These are often days that we played hard or had errands to run outside of the house. 

Both working people and SAHMs experience this. Some weeks feel like they drag on forever (I've had quite a few where I could swear Thursday was Friday), and some speed right past you. 

The bond I have with Iris has grown exponentially. 
Even on days that are challenging, Iris is a joy to love and a joy to be around. Her sweet disposition and recent trend toward showing affection means that my emotional bank account is brimming with hugs and kisses and snuggles and even "I love you"s. 

Spending all day with Iris has made me the translator of her developing language. When she tells her Dada how her day went, I decipher her babble and help recover lost items called by her unique words because I speak fluent Iris. Moms who work can probably do this too. Nonetheless, I know that I am much more attuned to Iris and her needs and mannerisms than I was when my energy was divided between working and moming. (Don't feel guilty working mamas. You are teaching your child the value of meaningful work by being plugged into your career and passion.) 

Every day is not a walk in the playground. 
When I first shared that I was going to be staying home full-time, a couple of friends reached out and invited me to contact them any time that I needed to unload. "You'll have days when you NEED to vent," one Wise Mama said. Of course, at the time, while I could fathom that she was right, I had no clear idea what those days might look like. 

Now I know. Now I've lived the days when I feel tired, run down, sick, cranky, resentful of Josh for being able to take a hot shower. I've experienced the days of feeling like all I did was yell and snap at Iris. Days when I've been "touched out," something I scoffed at when I first heard the term until the day I lost my cool and yelled at Iris to Please. Stop. Tugging. On. Mommy's. Shirt. For. The. Love. 

That money thing IS tricky. 
Every couple is different in how they approach money, and Josh is wonderfully practical and savvy about finances by his trade. But there is still a learning curve for giving up your own income. Some couples agree to consult each other on purchases over a certain dollar amount. Some do a set budget every month for discretionary spending, with no questions asked. We do the latter and it works well so far, but it is definitely an adjustment to experience a reduction in discretionary dollars. My new mantra is "every dollar counts." Because they all do, whether in spending or in saving.  There's a lot of telling myself that I don't need xyz. (My weaknesses are obviously clothes and fast food. When we venture out of the house for errands, I always want to hit up Chick-fil-A and I really can't afford to throw around my money on high-end fast food these days. When I do, it's a nice treat!)  

Gift-giving can be awkward with one income. Is Josh technically funding his own birthday, Christmas and Father's Day presents?? I've sidestepped this issue so far by taking on freelance writing work so that I receive a little income of my own that I can use any way that I want, namely for gift-giving that I can proudly say I paid for myself. This doesn't bother Josh the way it does me though.   

Socializing isn't that easy. 
Mom life is so busy that coordinating play dates and keeping up with friends (especially non-parent friends) is a lot like playing a game of Go Fish. "I've got Tuesday open at 3:30pm." "Ohhh, no, I have a seminar then. What else ya got?" "How about Friday at--wait, no, Iris naps then... after that we have a doctor's appointment... How about two weeks from tomorrow?" "No good. I'm in the Dominican then. I'll just text you when I get back and we can coordinate something." Womp, womp.

Again, this is the same struggle as many working moms. Coordinating play time with other moms and their kids means factoring in multiple people's schedules and nap times and meal times and school pick up times. It's no surprise that I haven't been out with friends much since I had Iris. And that I feel guilty when I ask if someone wants to come to my house for the convenience of being able to let Iris nap or play or so I can unload the dishwasher while we visit. That's mom life.

Meeting new mom friends isn't easy either and I admit that I haven't really connected with anyone in person this past year. I've seen the funny videos about how it's a lot like dating and I can see that is definitely the case.

Even if you can't get out and about, keeping up with friends, even if it is via social media is definitely helpful and necessary. I'm really thankful to have made friends with other moms who also blog and who are active on Instagram. But face to face coffee dates are essential too so I will try to keep those happening more in 2018. At least until Baby #2 comes along.

Another dose of truth here... I have cried to Josh several times this past year about how isolating it can be to stay home. I LOVE staying home with Iris, but the extrovert in me misses just those little social interactions that occur on the daily when you work outside of the home. Bumping into people in the hall, sitting down in the cafeteria to eat your bagged lunches together, even just pleasantries of saying hi and bye to coworkers each day. I wouldn't trade being a SAHM to go back to work, but a little pleasant chit chat, a story or a joke goes a long way toward filling the people-person's tank.

Also, if you like receiving recognition or praise for your hard work, it can be difficult to come by as a SAHM because who is there to tell you that you're doing a great job? I take Iris's affection and healthy development as the encouragement I need, but valuing praise and appreciation for my efforts has been an area where I have found myself missing out. This is a hard job and a little bit of encouragement goes a long way toward feeling appreciated.

This time with Iris is a gift. 
I couldn't stay at home with Iris without the sacrifices that Josh makes. Or the sacrifices that I make. Other SAHMs sent lots of encouragement when I shared that I was going to stay home. Even in the same breath that they told me I would want to pull out my hair, they all said how worthwhile it was to have the up close and personal experience of watching their children grow and develop. 

Every day Iris learns something new and I find myself bubbling over with animation and pride when I get to tell Josh or my mom what cute, clever or funny thing she did today. I used to feel like the expression "babies don't keep" was a bit trite, but I can see how quickly Iris has changed from a baby to when I began staying home with her at 9.5 months to now at 21 months. These days are all important and all the things: joyful, exhausting, messy, hilarious, heart-breaking, and packed with connections that mean more to me than all the new clothes and Chick-fil-A in the world. :) 

Now that I've got a year of SAHMurai life under my belt, I'm throwing myself for a loop de loop by bringing another baby into the mix. So the focus of these next few months will be savoring the time with Iris as an only child and trying to shush those natural worries about loving a second child as much as I love her, feeling guilty that my attention will again be divided, and wondering when I will ever have a moment to myself with two kids under my care. 

I'd love to hear your experiences staying home with your children or finding ways to connect with them while juggling work outside of the home. And I am always up for hearing about mom hacks that have made your life more efficient or joyful. 

Stylishly Yours (heavy on the ISH since I am in sweats), ;) 

Homemade Pretzel Rolls... For Kids from 1 to 92

Happy almost Christmas! 

If you're here, chances are good that you're looking for an impressive yet simple roll to please the hungry mouths that will soon be staring at you around your dining table. Woo hoo! Hello, Family!

I found this recipe on Pinterest one year and it's now the thing I'm asked to bring to gatherings. 

Homemade Pretzel Rolls, lovingly referred to as HPR going forth, are prepared by me for one or more of the Big Four meals: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's or Easter. 

HPR's are really delicious served as rolls or used for making sandwiches. Think turkey and melted swiss (or cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving) or leftover Christmas or Easter ham with a smear of mustard. They can be a nice vehicle for BEC (bacon, egg & cheese) too. 

I also conducted a little recipe experimentation this time around which I'll reveal below... 

Sold yet? 

Here's what you'll need to make 12-18 rolls: 

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon yeast (I use this)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 3/4-5 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • Water for boiling (and a pot to boil water in!)
  • Baking sheets lined with parchment paper
  • A little bit of patience and some stretchy pants (for meal time, that is)
  • TIME. These are not difficult (and I am not that skilled in the kitchen) however, the dough needs to rise two separate times, allowing you to work on other things, but just be sure to get a start on making these about 2 or 2.5 hours before the meal is scheduled to be served if you want them to come out with the rest of the food. 

1) In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of warm water with the sugar and yeast. I let it hang out for about 10 minutes until it gets really frothy.

2) In a large bowl mix the salt and flour. Add the melted butter, egg yolk, and the yeast mixture, which by now is very bubbly, and mix until combined. You can add a little more flour if you need to, just a little at a time, until the result is dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl and place it in a warm area away from any air vents. The dough will need about an hour to rise. Pretty much let it double in size.

3) When the dough has risen, divide it into 12 pieces. You can roll them into balls or make traditional pretzel shapes by rolling the dough into ropes and knotting them. Whether they look blobbish or anatomical doesn't matter. They are loved for their great taste and not their shape! 

Whatever you end up with, place them on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Cover them up (I used saran wrap loosely draped over the dough or try a clean kitchen towel) and let them rise for 30 more minutes. Part of the experience of HPR is the anticipation of them! 

Plus wow, 30 whole minutes! You can use this time to chit chat with your cousin or sneak off to wrap a last minute gift or hide from everyone in the kitchen or pour yourself a glass of your choosing and flip through the January copy of Real Simple that you've been itching to crack open since it hit your mailbox last week. You've got options, love. 


4) Go ahead and preheat your oven to 425 and if you simply can't help yourself, wash the dishes you dirtied up so you will have less work to do later. OR delegate this task to an eager-to-help family member. Much better idea. 

5) After the dough has risen, bring about 6-8 cups of water to a boil. When the water begins to boil, add the baking soda just a LITTLE at a time. It's going to make a nice cirrus-like cloud and it will leave some spatter on your cook top, but it wipes right up.  ...Later of course, because a clean HOT surface is not worth the loss of fingerprints as I've learned. After you've added all of the baking soda, let the water come to a full boil again.


6) Working with one roll at a time, carefully place each roll into the bubbling cauldron. I use a slotted spoon to both gently drop in and scoop out the rolls. Boil for 30 seconds each side. Repeat with remaining dough balls.

7) Whisk together the reserved egg white and 2 tablespoons of water. Brush the egg white over the boiled dough and then sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 12-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets. 


LOOK at them! They are a thing of beauty, the perfect amount of bronzed. 


Go ahead and eat one while it's warm! You've earned it!! You'll find it to beautifully browned like it just got back from a week in the Caribbean. And the inside is warm, soft, and slightly flaky. Keep an oven mitt nearby for shooing your family members away if you hope to have any left for the meal. 


So I mentioned that I did a little recipe experiment with this batch. I decided to tinker with just one roll to give a sweet personality since I have a major sweet tooth! I sprinkled one HPR with cinnamon sugar and otherwise followed the same directions. Here's what happened. 


The finished result was a little blackened from the sugar burning and the cinnamon darkening but really it wasn't as bad as it might look. It was still incredibly edible! Next time I would use just cinnamon and sprinkle on sugar after baking to avoid the burn. Also, there's a good bit of salt in the dough of these pretzels and that wasn't unpleasant if you love sweet mixed with savory, but in the future, I would probably make a separate batch of just cinnamon sugar pretzels and would reduce the salt content by about half or 3/4s. I'd leave just a hint of salt so they still feel pretzely. 

Using powdered sugar and a scant amount of milk, I made icing to pour over my cinnamon sugar pretzel. Nothing scientific here, I simply kept adding sugar or milk until I got the right consistency. That will surely frustrate anyone who likes exact measurements, so here's a link to an  icing recipe

Mine was SO delicious that I really wanted to share it with Josh but he was out doing yard work since Iris was napping and I just couldn't make myself save him a bite! But it's ok, right? I mean he did waltz by and snitch a fresh hot roll off the pan.


That's it, loves! 

IF you have any leftover tomorrow, add a slice of ham or bacon, a little cheese or mustard and you'll have the most satisfying breakfast! 

I hope you love these home pretzel rolls! I hope you experiment with adding your own twist to the recipe. I hope you get a ton of atta girls for them. Do not be surprised if you're asked to bring Pretzel Rolls to the next family gathering. 

You're going to be very popular. 

Don't say I didn't warn you. ;)  

Merry Christmas to you and your family. I hope the time together is blessed and filled with much love. 

Stylishly yours,

The Planner That Helped Me (Finally) Get my Act Together


Hi, m'dear! I'm raving about my favorite planner EVER. I have included an affiliate link to the planner I love, meaning I receive a very small commission when someone orders their planner using my specific link (just enough for a Chickfila combo--yay!). If you don't mind using my link, then you'll find it HERE and throughout the post by clicking any picture. Thanks for your support and belief in the products that I love and love bringing to you!  


By nature, I'm a messy person. Most of the time, I can function fairly well in chaos, can roll with plenty of punches, and can nearly always tap my photographic memory to recover a "lost" item. 

But the more I learn on this #Momlife journey, the more I recognize that I need systems and strong organization skills/tools to keep straight all the important things. Especially my thoughts, which swirl around in a non-linear fashion and frequently escape my brain, never to be recalled again. 

Does that sound at all familiar?  If so, then I am honored to be in the company of a kindred sister. 

Whether you stay at home with your children, work from home, work outside of the home, or are attending school full time, you've got so much that you are responsible for, in your home and outside of it. A planner is an essential tool to help you lasso and organize all those thoughts that are firing in your busy brain.

In short, I went through a Bachelorette's season's worth of planners, all having some redeeming qualities yet all leaving me longing for something more. After more than a half dozen tries, I decided not to settle or throw away my money on inferior matches anymore and got serious about my search for the planner that would work for me.

To see which planners weren't the one for me and why, check out my lonely hearts section at the bottom of the post. (Yep, I'm kissing and telling! #namingnames)   

I have also become more discriminating with my money as I've gotten older.  I'm a little tougher to impress than I used to be. Maybe it's too many years of making due with wrong fits, from actual boyfriends to jobs to day planners to shoes that pinch that have empowered me to say enough is ENOUGH. 

For me, a planner isn't about simplifying my life; it's about keeping up with all my sheep, my spinning plates, my juggling balls, a place where all my hats can exist together. Yes? YES!  

Allow me to introduce

The Day Designer by Whitney English 

Everything about this planner is both luxurious AND practical. From the beautifully designed cover, with corner protectors to the weight of the paper, to the packaging it arrives in, to the helpful values and goal-setting pages in the front, it is all so so lovely. 

Those first pages in the planner feel like sitting down with your own personal Yoda. Easy to read and navigate pages help you reflect on where you are to learn where you want to go in life and how to then plan each day according to you purpose. 

My favorite page was the My Reality Check sheet, which helped me to have an honest conversation with myself about which life segments have my time and my money. Think Career, Social, Family, Chores, TV & Distractions (HELLO, speaking to me), Spiritual, Physical, Volunteering and so on. I was able to map out where I give my attention and my dollars and then reflect on that amount to set goals for each segment in the coming year. (Less time vegging out on social media, more time engaging with my spouse) 

Next up was jotting down my core (values + passions + strengths), which the sheet made very easy to do. I actually did all of the sheets in a window of an hour before Iris woke up one morning, but you could take each sheet by itself in small 10-15 minute windows if you find that easier for you)

I noticed some clear trends in my core were the need to be creative and to write, in addition to loving on my family, spending time focusing on my spiritual walk, and pursuing a healthy lifestyle. These aren't your shoulds; these are things that matter to you, and without these things in my life, I don't feel like me. 

After that, there were easy sheets for plotting out goals in your life segments, broken out by 3, 6, 9, and 12 months with a beautiful and easy breakout page to help you dissect these goals into daily habits and progress. By this point I was feeling so encouraged that I can reach my goals for 2018. As I said, it was like Yoda took me by the hand and in a few words told me the answers were inside of me, and I was drafting the plan for my life, designing it based on my values, which no one else can do quite like you. 

The planner also includes pages for mapping out your ideal month and ideal week. This was a great exercise in figuring out what it takes for me to feel like my day has been a success, which also showed me what I realistically have time for (like exercise 3-4 days a week, not 5; and how I need to carve out 20 minutes each night for an actual grooming routine of washing my face, brushing my teeth and slathering on night cream, something I long for but forget to budget time for).   

After that, the planner and I were off and running! 

One of the coolest things about the way my journey with Day Designer unfolded was that we "talked" for three weeks before I gave Day Designer my number. What I mean by that is that I printed off 21 copies of their free daily planning page to test drive before I ever gave them a dollar. Try before you buy is my favorite method of product trial.    

Those 21 days when I critically put Day Designer through the paces were markedly more productive than life before the planning page. I looked forward to plotting out the next day's To-Do's and took advantage of the sections, which I'll outline for you:

Top 3 Must Do Tasks for the Day- This section alone maximizes every day's productivity by providing me with a bottom line. Do these 3 tasks to consider the day a success. End of story.   

Due- pressing deadlines. Put them here. 

Dollars- I jotted down my daily spend including Starbucks trips, stops for gas, emergency Target runs during lunch. 

Dinner- Thank you, Day Designer, for reminding me to consider dinner BEFORE time to eat, when I will invariably default to frozen pizza. This section makes me take a little more pride in my dinnertime repertoire. 

Don't Forget- Such a perfect little square for that ONE thing you really need to not forget about! For me, during the 3-week trial, I was a nursing working mom, pumping three times a day while away from home. Most days my Don't Forget was THE MILK from my office fridge or THE PUMP if I planned to work on my freezer stash overnight. This magic square is also perfect for nudges about dry cleaning, eggs at the grocery store, or to place an order for flowers for someone special, pay your final installment on your vacation plans, get your measurements to the bridal shop, visit your professor during office hours, etc. 


At the bottom of the page is a section for notes and my personal favorite, daily gratitude. I actually use the notes section or the lower half of the gratitude box to log outfits I wear or plan to wear. You could also track your workouts here. 

The day's time log covers from 5am until 9pm, giving far more coverage than traditional planners. Because Day Designer knows that you are doing things far more hours than 8am-6pm. 

Plot out your morning run, carve out daily devotional time. Track baby's nap schedule or log the number of poops and pees (for non-moms, this is a Thing for newborns to be sure all plumbing is working properly). 

Size Wise
Day Designer planners come in Flagship and Mini sizes. I've only used the Flagship size, which is about an inch shorter than an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. The wire binding makes it every so slightly wider than 8.5 inches. I love this size. It is substantial but still fits into a tote bag. If you like something smaller, then the mini is the same format but a bit more compact and a few dollars cheaper. 

The covers are hardboard and beautiful, capped with metal corners to keep from getting bent. You have 10 beautiful covers to choose from, and I've now owned three of them (one was a prize from an Instagram giveaway!). Here's the style I had for 2017, Blue Tile: 

For 2018 I went with Bloom Where You're Planted because it features ALL of my favorite colors: red, coral, blue, teal, aqua. I gave so much thought to this decision and really didn't need to. This cover spoke to me from the moment I saw it, I just like to be thoughtful about commitments of all kinds, especially something I will use every day for 365 days. :) I also added the wall calendar to my cart this year and it is truly beautiful. I actually plan to use it on my desk versus the wall. 

A note about shipping: 
Day Designer ships by Priority only and arrives in 2-3 days. This makes the shipping charge $14.50. Keep your eyes peeled for FREE SHIPPING promos or buddy up with a friend who is ordering as well because right now there is free shipping for orders over $100. You and your friend can both enjoy free shipping that way!  

But wait, there's more
Here are some of the extra perks of linking arm in arm with Day Designer. These are the nice touches that are not required but are SO nice. Like a man who pumps gas for you or always saves you the last brownie.   

Package Appeal
Your Day Designer will arrive in the most beautiful box. Maybe the extra thoughtful packaging doesn't do much for you, but I appreciate the loving attention to detail because you know that if they take the time to think about the box, they have put a LOT of time and thought into designing this planner. 

Details in small things = Details in ALL things. 

Even the spine of the planner is labeled in this mint-lined storage box. Some people keep their past years planners (not a bad idea if you're ever asked to provide an alibi?? Just saying. We've all seen Dateline.) and this sleek, streamlined box is a tidy way to store your planners by year.  

Day Designer also gives you the opportunity to be refunded the full cost of your planner when you post a photo of your planner on Instagram and use #daydesigner AND tag them @daydesigner. On the first day of every month they pick a winner to receive their order refunded. Pretty cool! Make sure your account is public at that time to qualify.

Big Plans
Day Designer includes some serious Life Planning/Mapping pages in the front of the planner that will get you thinking about living more intentionally. There's even a page called My Reality Check that has you consider where your time goes, where you waste it, and where you want to be instead. This isn't a section to approach flippantly. Pour yourself a strong cup of coffee or tea, nibble on some steel cut oatmeal with walnuts (brain food), and start that often dreaded look inward so that you won't dread where you are in life this time next year or even six months from now.

Day Designer even offers a catalogue of free printables, free webinars and challenges designed to improve your productivity and good habits. You'll find worksheets to track fitness, meals, shop for groceries, wrangle your entertaining plans into one place, keep up with your summer bucket list and books you hope to read, plus chore charts, bill pay sheet, and one of my favorite tools, a packing checklist that helped me so much when we left for Tampa last week. 

My household favorite is the chore sheet, which helps me plan to do certain tasks each day (ie vacuum on Saturday mornings, wash sheets on Sunday afternoon, etc) plus I plug in a few deeper cleaning monthly tasks. The sheet has boxes to check off each day/week as you complete them. 

So let's recap the initial pages:

Reality check. Where do you spend your time and money?

What things matter most to you? 

What's Your Goal? Everybody's Got a Goal.
Day Designer also coaches you through goal setting for the coming year and breaks it down by quarter as well as actionable steps so you can achieve success rather than merely daydream.

Hold on to your ideals.
If you don't know what the dream is, how can you build it? Day Designer gives a space to map your ideal month and week (and even day) so you can visualize how small changes can affect your success in reaching your goals.


Give yourself the gift of an amazing planner that will serve as your planner, journal, compass, and accountability partner in 2018. I'm glad to answer any personal questions about using the planner. Just message below this blog post and I'll reply! 

I wish you the BEST 2018 and can't wait to share my intentional living walk with you via the blog and Instagram. 

Stylishly Yours,

Lonely Hearts Club

Not a match: Franklin Covey $100+ initially; $65 annually after that

In my mid-twenties, I took Dr. Stephen Covey's class The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, which was offered through the company I worked for at the time. The course included a Franklin Covey planning system, personally dubbed by yours truly as the fully-loaded Escalade of planners. Just the binder cover for the Covey planner ranges from $50-180, and the annual classic planning package is comprised of two 6-month installments of $35 each. Plus the weekly compass do-hickeys. 


 The class and the system were significant in terms of acquiring valuable life skills and practices to pave the way to a more productive and successful life by learning the art of working with others and prioritizing tasks by four major categories. I don't diminish the value of the course in any way and am so thankful that I got to take the class, which was pricy and sponsored by my workplace. Otherwise, this professional gal just starting out would not have been able to afford such a fancy planner or class. 

Over time, I retained the skills from the Covey training, but I drifted away from the planning system for a few reasons. 

1- I didn't like not being able to carry the entire year's dates in one volume. See, I had to keep 6 months or less in the binder due to sheer size issues, so I had to decide when and where to make the lines of delineation. Plus I had to store those future page inserts somewhere. It wasn't convenient.  

2- The Covey planner also demanded a lot of time applying the class principles, and I basically spent a huge chunk of time planning my week. Every week deserves planning to maximize productivity, but this was getting to be too much. 

Not a Match: Lilly Pulitzer $24-40
Next up, I decided to embrace my desire for color and beauty by checking into visually interesting planners like Lilly Pulitzer, citing that a fantastic cover would certainly inspire me to productivity and regular planner use. The Lilly planners come in a variety of sizes and designs, all with Ms. Pulitzer's vibrant and stunning patterns.

My journey with the Lilly planner coincided with my working in a university as a career counselor.

I confess that I simply felt too OLD to carry the same planner as the sorority sisters, who were 10-15 years my junior, that sat across my desk on the daily, their eyes welling up over identity crises regarding their major, their career choice, and even their load of extracurricular commitments. I definitely know what it is like to struggle with those questions, so I could relate to them, but in terms of the Lilly planner, I personally felt like it was designed for a younger woman in a different stage of her life (though I know multiple adult women who carry one and do it gracefully). 

Lilly IS widely targeted toward college-age young women.  Maybe it was the fact that Lilly's planner came with cute stickers that reminded me of a younger time in my life? I don't know. I didn't over-analyze that one, I just knew that there were some things I didn't love about the system, namely that I prefer to see my days of the week lined up vertically rather than horizontally. 

Not a Match: At-A-Glance $18
Next up, in an effort to make life simpler and less chaotic, I picked a no-frills At-A-Glance appointment book. Nothing fancy. Basically, I could list my appointments from morning to night but there was no space for notes or To Dos. It was like accepting a date with a perfectly nice person who you don't click with on any significant level. Conversation isn't painful, just relatively pleasant and one-dimensional. It didn't take long before I realized that I needed a little bit more from a day planner than a lunch companion.

Better...  but yet another Not a Match: Erin Condren $55-60
After searching high and low on office sites and Instagram and Etsy, I uncovered more of the top names in planners. I kept seeing the Erin Condren Life Planner come up and though the price point was high for me personally at $60, I liked the array of beautiful cover choices and options for format. So I ordered it plus a pack of colored pens. 


I was pretty disappointed when the Erin Condren planner arrived. The writing space was very, very small. The cover looked like it was laminated using the same machine my kindergarten teacher employed back in the early 80s. It didn't look worth the price, even though I had picked it up on sale. 

The pens were nice. So I kept them and packed up the planner for a refund. 

Getting closer... but still not The One: Emily Ley Simplified Planner $58
The next Bachelor was Emily Ley's Simplified Planner. 

She, like Erin Condren, offers gorgeous covers. Emily Ley planners also boast a format that is intentionally about more white space on the page for visual rest and a sense of calming serenity. Emily's planner even has a square for jotting down meals every day which I definitely found charming given how much I think about meals.  

Emily Ley's Simplified Planner was truly a contender, one of the final two that I would ultimately choose to give my last rose to, Bachelorette style. 

I found her planner to be overly simple for my goals. I wanted a place where I could keep track of a LOT in one handy spot.