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Review: Artful Agenda

I love planners! And pens! And stationery! And pretty much all office supplies! But a combination of my body not cooperating and having 3 teens who all have calendars to manage means I really need a digital planner. So for years I have used the calendar, reminders, and notes app on my iphone to manage everything. (See my post on using color to organize your family to learn more about how I color-code our calendars.)

These all work, but left me missing the old planner that I could personalize. Stickers, a pretty cover, my own handwriting…I miss all these things. Enter Artful Agenda.

After looking and researching for years, I finally found an app that says it combines the benefits of a digital calendar with many of the things I missed in a physical planner. Here are the highlights:

Cost: $35 per year (as of 8/25/19) after a 2-week free trial. The site lists the normal price at $50/year, which is what I would expect once development is complete.

Format: App for your phone/tablet and web-based access. Seems to work best on Chrome.

Pros:

  • Syncs calendar to iCal, Google Calendar, and Outlook
  • A number of covers and handwriting options
  • Digital stickers (not yet available in apps)
  • Month, week, and day views
  • Priority and other tasks in each day
  • Tracking for water and meals in day view
  • Extra customizable list in day view (I call mine “To Buy” because we seem to need to stop at some store almost daily)
  • List tab (not yet available in apps) to help you keep all your lists/notes organized
  • Weekly and monthly goals section
  • Priority tasks and meals show in week view

Cons:

  • Lists and tasks do not sync with Reminders or other to-do apps
  • Lists and stickers not available on the apps yet (the “Coming Soon” section promises this is in the future)
  • Many of the cover choices are floral and all are feminine
  • You cannot set tasks as reoccurring
  • No alerts/alarms
  • No way to increase the font size in the calendar
  • Only Priority tasks show in the week view, other tasks only show in day view
  • Goals cannot have a date assigned other than than month or week where you type it and do not show in daily view

My Thoughts:

This site/app does offer a lot of the same experiences as a traditional paper planner. It gives you the ability to select a cover and handwriting, which I like. It seems to sync seamlessly with my calendar app from Apple, which means I did not have to enter things twice. However, the fact that the lists/notes and reminders/tasks do not sync with my existing Notes and Reminders apps is a major negative. When paired with the lack of notification from Artful Agenda, it means I still have to use my Reminders app in addition to the Artful Agenda. Also, until the lists and stickers sections are fully functional in the app, using the web-based version is really the only solution to get all the features. I do find that I use the task sections regularly for daily things I used to write in a notebook on my desk. This means the tasks are accessible to me even when I am not at my desk. That has helped improve my productivity.

Final Recommendation:

If you miss the feel and function of a paper planner or want to go digital, Artful Agenda is worth considering. Because this is a newer app/program still in development, some things do not yet work the way I would like, but I am hopeful that this will happen as things progress. If you are just looking for a calendar, there is no reason the to buy Artful Agenda. But if you are willing to pay for the paper “feel” in a digital app, I recommend trying Artful Agenda. Go to https://www.artfulagenda.com to start your free trial and reference code RH14913.

 

Homemade Non-Slip Hangers

DSCN4326My wonderful husband went to a national store on his own and scored me 4 new shirts for $8 each. They are super stylish, nautically striped with a boat neck. I love them and him for getting them for me for no reason at all (not a birthday or anniversary or anything!). But when I started hanging them up, nothing would stay on the hangers. These didn’t come with the clever little hanging straps that somehow always manage to be showing when I wear a top with them. After fidgeting with the shirts and hangers for several minutes I remembered something I saw somewhere about using hot glue to add texture to the hangers to hold wide necked shirts. I really wish I could remember where I saw it to give the truly clever person props, but alas I have no idea. Even if it was on Pinterest, the odds are it wouldn’t take me to the original link anyway, so thank you mystery person.

Here is what you do. Get your cheap plastic hangers out and heat up that glue gun. Starting about the middle of the side of the hanger (mine had handy open hook areas) paint a curvy line with your glue gun. Add a slightly thicker dot of glue at the end. Let them cool. Viola! Non-slip hangers for all those fashionable wide-necked shirts and slippery fabrics.

TIP  – If you did this on plastic hangers, should you get rid of the shirts, you can easily peel the glue off the hanger and return it to its original state.

Saturday Project: Fabric Tool Caddy for Chairs

Chair_FullFor those of us who home school or who do any crafting, you know finding a spot for your or the kids items that are regularly used can be a challenge. Wouldn’t it be great if your pens and scissors, or the kids pencils, crayons, and rulers, were all handy right on your chair? Today’s project gives you just that! The folks at Creating Keepsakes have put together this video tutorial for making your own fabric tool caddy for  chairs. Think of all the fun fabric patterns you could use to keep yourself and the kids organized!

Borax and Sugar to Kill Ants

thRecently I posted about using vinegar and chalk to deter ants, but what happens with more aggressive ants who don’t seem to take the hint? A good way to rid your house of ants is to use borax and sugar. In a bowl mix 1 part borax to 3 parts sugar and dissolve fully in water. Soak cotton balls with the solution. Place the borax and sugar soaked cotton ball in the lid of a two-liter or 20 oz. soda in the area where you have seen the ants. Allow the ants to come to the cotton ball and feed. Resist the urge to kill them there. You want the ants to take the solution back to their home. Over 1-2 days you should notice that the ants stop coming. If they re-appear, simply repeat putting the cotton ball out. After 1-2 treatments the ants should be gone.

Extra solution can be stored in a peanut butter jar or other recycled container. Mark it well so people know it is not for eating. Because you are using borax, be sure to store the solution and place the cotton balls away from where kids can get into them.

Saturday Project: Pallet-Backed Bookshelf

DSC_0060I love using bookshelves for organization. For books, toys, china…you name it, I like to organize it on a bookshelf.  Our very first Saturday Project was adding fabric backing to a bookshelf! Imagine my delight when I found the tutorial from Lisa at Over the Big Moon for making a pallet-backed bookshelf. I can’t wait to do this to a black bookcase in the kids playroom!

Back to School

BACKPACK3Back to school time, whether at a traditional school coming off a long summer break or a home-schooler returning from a vacation, can be a time of strife and chaos as everyone tries to get back into the “normal” routine.  As with most times of change, a combination of organization and flexibility are key. Here are some of my favorite back-to-school tips:

  • Homeschool – Here is a collection of home school tips and organizational ideas that have worked well for my family. Some of these are home-school specific, but many can be used by families no matter how you decide to educate your kids.
  • School Supply Stock-Up – A list of school supplies to stock up on whenever they are on sale
  • Back-to-School Schedule – Tips for getting your kids back onto a school (and not a vacation) clock
  • Back-to-School Trial Run – Making a day to “practice” going to school
  • Morning Cards – A simple system for taking the chaos out of busy mornings
  • Packing Lunches – Tips for setting up an easy-to-use, kid friendly lunch packing station
  • Lunch Notes – Cute notes to put into your kids lunches
  • Must-Have School Items – A list of must haves
  • Color-Coded Family – How to organized your family through color – even in their school supplies!
  • Family Calendar –  A must-have for busy families
  • Monday Morning Organization – Start your week off right with these tips for Mondays

Even though we don’t actually go back to school at this time of year anymore it is still one of my favorite times. My husband is a teacher so he does go back at this time of year, and it is always a time of transition from summer to a fall schedule. This is my “New Years”! We set goals for the next 12 months, stock up on school supplies (the only kind of shopping I actually like), and in general use this as a time to re-set the family.

Buying A Car

car_salesmanWe just purchased a new-to-us car. While the process never seems to be simple, there are a few tips and tricks that can make the process easier.

  1. Get organized before you go. Before you even head to a dealership gather all your financial paperwork. You will need recent pay stubs or award letters, a bank statement showing where these are deposited, the correct name, address, birthdate, and social security number of anyone that will be on any financing. You can even apply for financing (if you must) and walk into a dealership with a check from your bank or finance company before you ever look at a car.
  2. Research! Research! Research! It is best to head to a dealership know what car your want and what options are must-haves and what you can live without. Whether you are buying a new or used car, putting together a list of what you want and don’t want can be very helpful. You should also research values and reliability of any car you are considering and your trade-in. Dealerships use NADA for used car values and pricing. Know what your car is worth and what the car you are buying should be priced at. Check out reliability and other reviews at sites like Edmunds. If you aren’t sure what kind of car you want prior to visiting a dealership (i.e. you need to see what good used cars they have), don’t sign on the dotted line until you have taken a day to pray, think, and research.
  3. Test real-life driving situations. In our family, my husband does all the dealership stuff and I do the organization and research. But whenever we are close to buying a car, he brings it by the house and we pile all the kids, car seats, and things we regularly use or keep in the car (i.e. our beach chairs) into the prospective car. Then we drive around town to places we regularly visit. This allows us to see if the kids really are comfortable in the back seat and if it is realistic for daily life. We also test out favorite suitcase and cooler in the trunk/cargo area to make sure those items that we travel with the most will fit.
  4. Consider gas and insurance costs when purchasing a car. Be sure you contact your auto insurance company to find out what your rate would be for the car you are considering. Understand the gas mileage on the new car and calculate the increased gas expense or savings from the new car.

Doing your homework and having information gathered before you visit a dealership will greatly improve the process.

TIP: Average cars will last 10 years or 120,000 without significant maintenance costs. Instead of buying a new car, when your car is paid off continue making “payments” into a savings account. Then, when you do need (not want!) to replace your car, take the cash you have saved to pay for a good, reliable 1-2 year old used car. Cars 1-2 years old are the best deal as they are generally still in good shape and have a lot of life left, but the depreciation that happens the second you drive off the lot has already happened.