New Year’s Resolutions

December 31
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I’m going to be honest with you, for many years I hated the idea of New Year’s resolutions.  The idea that you would suddenly decide the same day as everyone else to change yourself did not make sense to me, I guess it felt a little too trendy.  However, as I have grown older, and hopefully slightly wiser, I have begun to see the positive aspects of these resolutions and their timing.   The holiday season is a busy, crazy, time in the lives of many of us. Between travel, family visits, children out of school, and the holidays themselves, we often completely lose track of our habits.  For many, January 1st acts like a reset; a chance to start over fresh after the craziness.   After reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, I started to understand how this reset is the perfect time to start new habits and resolutions are just that, habits.  Some resolutions, like “Drink more water” are simple habits that need to be created.  Other resolutions, like “Lose weight” are goal based but will be met by keeping the correct habits such as eating fewer carbs and going to the gym three times a week. Once I was able to understand how this reset works and how I can use it to start new habits I was on board.  Of course you could use the start of any month or any change in your life to act as your reset but due to the new year we will use that.

This year my resolutions are both habit and goal based.

Drinking water

1. Drink more water.

This is a simple habit that I have had before and I just need to restart it.  For me, tracking my water intake in my planner is a great visual way to ensure it happens.  I mark each glass I drink and then I can see how I’ve done for the day and week. The jury is still out about how much water you really need, but I know that I personally feel my best when I drink around fifty ounces of water daily. TIP: Start out your morning by chugging a glass of room temperature water. (I drink it straight from the tap.) This is a great start to your day and total water count. Also, remember most of our glasses are twelve ounces so you only need to drink a little over four to get to fifty ounces. I also bring a pint glass to work and drink  a full glass at lunch and in the afternoon.  I enjoy this method much better than water bottles and I end up drinking much more.

Amber Downs

2. Further my personal blog

This is a habit based goal.  To succeed in this I will need to set up a series of daily, weekly, and monthly requirements and train myself to do them automatically, as a habit.  When these tasks become habit I will be working towards my goal and available to focus on new habits that will also work towards my goal.

goodreads 2015

3. Read 50 books

Last year I participated in the Goodreads challenge where I gave myself a goal and then Goodreads tracked how many books I had read and if I was ahead or behind schedule.  Last year my goal was 35 books and I ended up reading 56 books.  This year I am giving myself a goal of 50 books.   At this time Goodreads has not published their challenge but I will update with that information when it becomes available.  Are you  a Goodreads user?  Add me as a friend here so you can track my progress, reviews, and share books with me!


4. Better my health

Losing weight and getting into shape is a common resolution in our society.  Although I am comfortable with my body, I do feel that I need to get back into the habit of eating well and staying active.  I don’t need to lose weight and I have no desire to be a top athlete, but I do need to more my body more and pay a little more attention to what I put into it.  For this reason I picked up a UP2 by Jawbone Activity + Sleep Tracker for my husband and myself on Amazon. This wearable tracks your steps, food, sleep and other wellness options. One of my favorite features is the idle alert which allows the device to vibrate when you haven’t moved for a set amart of time. I have mine set to 30 minutes. This is a great reminder for those of us who work at a desk.  As with my other resolutions, this is something that will be achieved by habit.  I must make eating well a habit so that I don’t even have to think about grabbing the healthy choice, it will just be habit; muscle memory.  Exercise is the same way; I must get myself back into the groove of doing something physical a few times a week.


5. Have better  mornings

I love mornings and I love how productive I am if I use them properly.  Days where I get things done at home before work are often the best.  These days lead to a smooth workday with healthy meals and a clean home to return to.  The more I get done before work, the more time I have in the evenings for myself.  I am also planning to do some of my light exercise in the mornings.


6. Create less trash

We are all aware of how disposable everything in our society has become.  This year I want to make the effort to reduce my trash output.  Later this week I will be posting about the 10ish simple new habits I will create to help succeed in this goal.


Overall I feel that these are all things that I am more than capable of doing.  Many are things I have been successful in before and have just fallen out of practice.  For the larger goal-oriented resolutions  I will use my goal planner sheet to map out what I need to do to be successful.  This is a great tool to break down large goals into small doable chunks.


Do you make resolutions?  What are they this year?  How do you plan to keep them?  Share below!

Holiday wrap-up

December 30
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As we wind down the holiday season I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about the holidays around my home.  This was our second Christmas as a married couple and the third in our home.


This year we put lights on the house for the first time.  Last year before christmas I looked at our home survey from when we purchased the house and checked the measurements to see how many feet of lights I would need.  I didn’t want to go to the store and not buy enough.  I went to Walmart early on December 26th and purchased 5 boxes of soft white LED C9 lights at 50% off.  We chose these lights because I love the large classic size and the new energy efficient aspects of LED.  We chose soft white instead of the bright white because I wanted the lights to match with some of the non-LED items we had.  I also purchased these super cute lighted garland for the pillars in front of our home.  These items were boxed up and saved for this year.  We put them up on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and it went pretty well.  My husband is in charge of our vacation light timers so he set the timers on the tree and house lights. (This is a must if you are going to decorate your home with lights!)

We later went to target and grabbed this super cute star for center of the roof.  it was only $14.99! (When taking these photos I realized two of my bulbs might need replaced.)

Overall we were very happy with our outdoor lights and look forward to expanding our display but keeping it simple and tasteful.  It had always been a childhood dream of mine to decorate the exterior of my home with white lights and it was pretty darn awesome to see it finally happen.

On December 26th this year I again went to Walmart and picked up a few more boxes of lights and lighted garland so that we can try a few new things next year.



One of our family christmas traditions is attending Christmas eve service together and then sharing a meal at my home.  One of the challenges of this is that I need to have a meal that we can eat soon after arriving home.  This leaves us with a shorter list of options but I think we did well with a simple baked ziti.  I made it in the morning and then threw it in the oven when we got home.  I used a thin pan to help it cook faster. Of course we ate this way before we were able to take a photo so you are getting a photo of my tree instead.




DIY BB-8 from a sock

December 3

DIY BB-8 (4)

So, in case you live under a rock, the new Star Wars movie comes out December 18th. If you’ve seen the previews, you’ve seen the super cute new droid, BB-8.  He captured our hearts when we first saw him roll across the screen and Disney has already made of a ton of money, including some from my husband, merchandising this cutie.

Anyways, we fell in love with BB and wanted to create our own soft version.  I’ve seen and made cute snowmen out of socks and I figured that I could make a BB using the same idea.  Below are the steps we used.  Enjoy!



1 clean sock.
Orange felt
Gray felt
Small piece of cardboard
1 button
1 brad or small button
Clear/white elastics
Glue (I used e6000)

Optional and not photographed:

So the first thing you are going to want to do is cut your cardboard into a circle.  This is going to be your template for the orange circles as well as your head.  Play around and see what you think will work. Mine is about two inches in diameter. After you have made your cardboard circle trace it 4 times onto your orange felt.


Next go ahead and cut the middles out of your circles and cut four nubs in the for corners like how BBs are. With your gray felt make some little pieces to fit inside your orange circles.  You can see mine below but feel free to design your own.


Look at BB and think about what else you’d like.  For this one I made a few extra pieces for the head, but do what you want.  My favorite part about this project is that we are making an artistic representation of BB.  It does not need to be exact at all.  Please note the BB-8 in the photos is my husbands droid/toy/thing.  Yes, it’s super cool.


Once you have your pieces cut its time to create your BB.  Take your sock and fill it with some poly fil.  Don’t have a bag laying around?  Borrow some from an old stuffed animal or something.  It’s recycling! Put enough in so that when you put the cardboard circle in you get a nice half sphere.  Play with it, and one you get it how you want it put an elastic around the bottom.


Now that the head is on go ahead and fill the body with the poly fil.  Like the head, you’re going to want to play with it so that it makes a nice circle.  For the next step you will have the option of adding a small bag of rice to the bottom.  This is a useful way to weigh down BB so that he sits nicely.


After you have added your rice close the sock with another elastic tightly.  Once you are sure you like the shape cut the bottom of the sock off.


Now its time to set our felt.  I placed mine on the sock where I wanted them and then glued them on using e6000.  You could also use hot glue, fabric glue or god tacky glue.

Next glue on your button for his main “eye” and the brad or smaller button for the secondary “eye.”  If you don’t have a black brad or small button you could paint a brass brad or use felt.


Ta da!  Here is my BB with his buddy.

If you make your own BB please link it in the comments or use #amberdownsbb8 on instagram so I can see it.


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Holiday Gift Guide Printable

December 2
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Happy Planner Holiday Gift GuidePrintable. Presents for kids, family and more.


It seems like every year the list of gifts to purchase gets longer.  Although I feel extremely grateful to have these wonderful people in my life, I often get caught up in making sure that I got everyone and that I actually got them what I had told myself I wanted to get them.  I have totally purchased a acceptable gift for a loved one and then realized that the I had already planned on getting this other perfect gift.  Anyways, to keep track of my gifting I put together this super simple gift guide to go inside my Happy Planner.  I am loving the option to add sheets to my planner.  I use my Happy Planner for home and blog information and I love being able to add customizable pages.  I also have the note paper which I use for random projects including thanksgiving and other event planning.

Anyways, back to the task at hand.  Here is my gifting printable.  I am extra excited to keep this sheet in my planner so that next year I can refer to it to see what I got my loved ones so I don’t repeat gifts. As always, you can print this on any paper however I recommend something a little heavier than copy paper.  A light card stock is perfect.

Click the link below to download the PDF file.  Print onto 8.5 x11in paper and cut along the light gray lines.  clip the gray holes with a hole punch and use scissors to cut from the hole to the end of the page.  Insert into your planner wherever you wish.

Happy Planner Gift Guide


Need a punch?  I have this one and love it!
The new Happy Planners are out!  Grab one here!.
Looking for sticker paper?  I buy this one from  Amazon.
I cut my stickers with a Silhouette Cameo electric cutting machine.
On a budget?  Try the Gyro-cut to cut your stickers.
Looking for more?  Check out my archive of free printables.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission.  This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy!



Planner Review- Freedom Planner

December 1
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Freedom Planner Review (1)



Today I am doing a review on a planner that I recently acquired for reviewing purposes.  This is a new planner by The Freedom Planner company.  The main purpose of the freedom planner is goal setting and achievement.  The first page of the planner goes over its purpose to assist in this area.  Here is an excerpt from the 1st page:





The new few pages of the planner review how to use the goal setting portions of the book.  After setting overall goals you move through the pages breaking these down into manageable tasks.  One of the aspects of the planner that I love is that the goal planning section is divided into two parts, personal and professional.  As a full time working professional I have several goals in which I am striving to reach in my career as well as personal goals to better myself as a human.  Dividing this into two separate sections is a great way to help us remember that our lives do have more than one part and we should strive for the best in both.IMG_1676




Each month in this planner opens with a 2 page goal planning spread.  This area has a small monthly calendar as well as a place to rewrite your goals.  I would suggest waiting until the beginning of each month to fill these goals in as you may find that you refine them throughout the year.  The next page has an area to prioritize your personal and professional goals so you know what you need to work on first for the month.  This is awesome way to break tasks down again into manageable portions.


Each week has a two page spread.  On the left is a column for “Tasks and Actions.”  This is where you will write down the action items for your goal for that week.  You then have a column for each day dated from 7:00am until 9:00pm.  7:00am – 6:30pm have half our increments of time, and 7:00pm-9:00pm are just hours.  Saturday and Sunday share a column so they don’t really have a time spot.


At the end of each month you have another two page spread for reflecting on the month.  (FYI This might be my favorite part!) Here you can looks at your accomplishments and challenges and an area to discuss how you are doing on meeting the goals for the year.   The next page give prompts about how time was spent and what you can do to improve next month.  Lastly, there is a area to write down your personal growth as well as things that have made you happy over the last month.

These reflecting pages are a great way to rethink your goals regularly and keep them fresh.  It’s ok to revise goals as long as you are still working for the same general idea.  Often times, in the beginning of a new project or goal we are unaware of exactly what it will take to be successful.  Be forgiving with yourself when necessary.

If you think this planner might be right for you check them out on Amazon.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway. I’m giving away your choice of the “Stay Happy” planner or “Recipe” Planner. Giveaway ends December 5th at 11:59pm. Enter below! giveaway Happy Planner Giveaway