Happy Planner home hack

September 30
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So we’ve purchased our new home and are beginning to get settled in and are at the point where we are starting to actually start the projects we have talked about. One of the first projects we want to tackle this fall is landscaping. Because we live in Florida this is actually a great time to get some plants into the ground.  When I brought up to my husband that I wanted to start looking at plants he suggested I make a map of the property so that we’d know what we want and where. I figured this was a good idea so I went ahead and started sketching out the property. As I was almost done I realized that I had a real sketch of the property with measurements in the survey we got with the home! I quick;y went to my email and pulled up the PDF file.  I then converted it to JPEG with pdf2jpg.net and cropped out the extra stuff and printed it out on cardstock.  After that all I had to do was add a few stickers and washi, hilighted where I had planters, and punch the page with my Happy Planner Punch and add it to my planner.  Now I have he measurements of the home and where I want to plant with me at all times. I am sure this will end up coming in handy for more than just this gardening project and only took me minutes to make.



TIP: Remove the address and any other important information from the survey before printing. I opened the JPEG file in Paintbrush on my Mac to erase this data. Feel free to keep or erase as much as you’d like. (I erased the utility easement line as that wasn’t needed for this project.



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.


Like this insert?  If you use it tag me in a photo on Instagram! @_amberdowns.

Note: this post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase an item via a link on this page I will receive a small commission from the store.  This does not change the cost to you, in fact, I search for the best prices to share with you.  Any income earned via these links is used to support upkeep on this page. My printables are free.

How to freeze fruit to use in infused water

September 28
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Have you tried infused water? Over the summer I became OBSESSED with it. It all started when my husband put some strawberries in some water he prepared for me and I fell in love with the beverage immediately. As someone who drinks large quantities of water I loved how this made my go to drink just a little more fun but still super healthy.  I know there are many of health claims about infused water, but to be honest, I drink it for the taste.


Of course once I started making these delicious drinks I realized that cutting an entire piece of fruit for just one drink was a little bit of overkill so I started looking into ways to freeze my favorite infused water fruits to add to my drinks as needed.


We already froze strawberries regularly for our smoothies so that was already a given but I was curious as to what else would (or would not) work so I started cutting things up and freezing them.


These items all froze great:


I sliced lemon,  lime, oranges, and a cucumber and spread them out on a cookie sheet to freeze.  By freezing this way they have a better chance of not sticking together when in the freezer. If you were to just toss them in a bag without flash freezing on a cookie sheet first they would freeze into one big glob. Not what we are looking for.

img_4712Freeze the tray for a few hours. The longer you leave it it, the more dried out the fruit will get, so keep it short. Then just toss them in a zip top back and stick them in the freezer and you’re good to go.


When it comes time to make your water simple take out the items you want and toss them in.  Keep in mine that because these fruits are frozen they will take a little water to flavor the water.  Id suggest making the water a few hours ahead or overnight for the fullest flavor.  Be  sure to serve over ice for a nice crisp taste.


Thirsty yet? 😉

My favorite way to enjoy infused water is out of this pitcher,  or in a mason jar with a lid from The Mason Bar Company.

What is your favorite infused water combo?  Share it with me!

How I BuJo in my HP

September 24
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How I bullet journal in my planner. I just bullet journal (bujo) techniques in my planner to keep organized.

As you my know, I am a planner fan. I love writing things down and I love having a plan for my days. Using my planner really does help me get the most out of every single day which is super important for a person like myself.

Anyways, as you may have noticed if you follow me here or on Instagram, but I did not jump on the Bullet Journal bandwagon.  Do I like Bullet Journals? Yes, but they just are not for me.  However, when I started researching the trend I did find a few aspects of the BuJo world that mirrored techniques I use in my Happy Planner.


The first thing I noticed was the notation used by BuJo users. I was taught the notation system used by Franklin Covey, but I like the BuJo one too. I’ve been using this for a little while now and enjoy it.


The second aspect that seems to mirror my system is the indexed pages. One thing I love about my Happy Planner is that I have the option to add and remove pages. I can add anything into my planner with a punch or purchase special paper made for the planner.  I always have a few sheets of paper in the front of my planner for projects. I then have a place to write down everything related to what it is i’m working on. Although my pages are not indexed, they are in the front of my planner and very accessible.

Are you a Bullet Journal user?  Do use any of the BuJo techniques yourself?
Need a planner?  Try this Get one here!

Note: this post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase an item via a link on this page I will receive a small commission from the store.  This does not change the cost to you, in fact, I search for the best prices to share with you.  Any income earned via these links is used to support upkeep on this page. My printables are always free.

Painted craft pumpkins

September 22
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Painting craft pumpkins. How to paint foam pumpkins from MIchael's and other craft stores to look beautiful and realistic.

As a resident of Florida I always get jealous when I start to hear about friend up north placing pumpkins on their doorsteps in late September and early October. I’d love to start decorating with pumpkins, but it is just so hot here that they would fall apart in a few days and never last until Halloween or Thanksgiving.

I have for years seen the fake pumpkins available at craft stores however they just felt so fake. Last year I had the idea to buy these pumpkins (on sale of course) and paint them to look more realistic. I painted them up and loved the result. I am sharing them again this fall in case anyone is interested in this type of decoration. I just used cheap acrylic paints.

Read how I did it here.

Why I don’t have a bullet journal

September 19


Why I don't have a bullet journal.  Bullet Journals are great but they're not for me. Read about my planning preferences. AmberDowns.net


Alas, bullet journaling, the latest of the planner crazes sweeping the planner world.  If you’re not familiar with Bullet Journals (BuJos for short) they are a DIY planner and list book generally stored in a small bound notebook.

The idea behind a BuJo is that you are using this notebook as a type of guide and master list for your life. Generally Bullet Journalers have daily pages but they also use pages for other types of information such as a master list of birthdays, clothing sizes, food intake, weight, and more.

At the front of the book is an index that reminds the owner of what is in the book and where those pages are.

BuJos users also use a special type of notation in their daily section of their books.  This notation helps the user know what everything means as well as what is going on with that information.  This is probably my favorite aspect of the BuJo world as its super useful and a great planning tool.

Of course all this is grand and all, but I don’t BuJo.

Why? It doesn’t work for me.

I LOVE the creativity, the openness, and the usefulness of the BuJo but I need to printed and dated calendar to really make my planners work.  I need to have monthly pages as well as daily(work) and weekly (personal and blog) spreads. Yes, BuJo users write in their own, but I need them printed, its just what works for me.  Of course, what is best for you could be totally different than what works for me.  Go ahead, try a bullet journal out, a Moleskine might be the best book to start with, but do your own research.


Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link on this page I will receive a small commission from the store.  This does not change the cost to you, in fact, I search for the best prices to share with you.  Any income earned via these links is used to support upkeep on this page.

Fall crafting round-up

September 15
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Its that time of year again, time for the weather to get crisp, the leave to turn, and the DIYers to get out their glue guns. Today I am sharing a few home decor crafts I found on Pinterest and fell in love with.  I am going to try to do a few of these in the next few weeks.






Fall Flannel Coasters by  View from the Fridge


Scrap Wood Pumpkin by Simply Beautiful by Angela


Pumpkin Spice Soap by Happiness is Homemade

Dollar Store Candles by Passionate Penny Pincher


Candy Corn Decorations by Danielle Yarian


Are you going to make any of these crafts? If you do tag me in a photo on Instagram!

Simple pantry organization with the Konmori method

September 11
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If you’ve been following along here at Downston then you know we’ve recently moved into a new home.  The move was a rushed one and we scheduled ourselves to hold a party the following week to push us to unpack quickly.  Well we did unpack quickly but that also means a few areas were totally a mess. The pantry was one of these areas.  In our last home we did not have a traditional full length pantry so we had used some cabinet space for food storage along with a hall linen closet. This worked pretty well and we used the linen closet mostly as overstock and home to canned goods and spare boxes of whatever.  We were happy to find a new home that does have a nice pantry in the kitchen, but the downside of that is that this kitchen does not have a lot of cabinet space.  (Go figure, right?)  Anyways, yesterday I went to town converting our messy cabinet using Konmori.  I know the idea sounds crazy, konmori in the kitchen? But for this it works.  One of my major goals was to use what I have. If you’ve read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up then  you know one major aspect of the system is using what you have.  We just bought a house, I really don’t want to go buy anything else that I don’t have to. So I made part of this a challenge to work with what I have. Yes, the final product isn’t a beautiful pinterest-worthy pantry, but it works for us. My goal is for this space to be useful and easy to use. It is the worst when you know you have something in the pantry and are unable to actually find it. Or you assume you have something in there but haven’t seen it in awhile and then are short an ingredient for dinner.




The first thing I did was to take just about everything out of the pantry. I then divided the items into categories on the counter so I knew what I was working with.  After that I named shelves based on category so that like items were grouped together.

My categories are:

Cereal/chips/large items
Cans & dried goods
Bulk baking supplies
The floor is for canned and bottled drinks as well as potatoes.

As you can see there are two photo storage boxes in the pantry. One is for smaller bagged items like powered sugar and the other is for little snacks like granola bars. This makes the storage of smaller pantry items much more accessible  and easy to find.


Another Konmori concept I was able to latch on to was the removal of some branded items.  Obviously I am not going to repackage everything in my pantry but I did place rice and beans into clear jars for storage. I buy these items in bulk and the bags are often messy and unsightly. The jars are neat and tidy and allow you to know what you are grabbing.  The jars used are just extras I found around the house.  If you really wanted to you could buy a package of jars that all match, but I was trying to not spend anything on this project, remember?


The baking supplies on the bottom shelf had already been placed in canisters. I collect vintage Tupperware canisters which makes this pretty easy. With these I label them when I clean and refill the canister so that I know the age of the product.

Also, if you look closely I have a few small kitchen appliances on the back of the top shelf. Because the shelf is so high I would not store food items in the back of it as they would be hard to reach. Due to the size and lightweight nature of these appliances they are the perfect use of this space. These are appliances we use here and there so we won’t need them all the time. The appliances we use on a regular basis such as the rice cooker is stored in the laundry room just adjacent to the kitchen.

Overall this system is working great for me. It is simple and no-fuss which is great. As long as I take my time putting away

What I read- August

September 8
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August was another busy month for me but I was able to squeeze in a few audio books during my commute and home time.  Here is what I read and my thoughts about these books.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
My husband grew up in Columbia, Maryland and attended Wilde Lake High School so when this book came out I knew I wanted to check it out.  The story takes place over several decades and surrounds Luisa ‘Lu’ Brant and the the past and what she thought was true.  The story was interesting and I enjoyed listening to the audiobook while driving and working.

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin
Although insightful this book was a tearjerker.  The book studies and reviews the lives of adults with children living on $2.00 per a person per a day or less.  These are these extreme poor, the destitute; families who cannot keep or find employment or have become unemployable for whatever reason.  Although depressing I found this title very insightful and a great reminder about how others live as well as the current state of our welfare system in the US.

The Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson
I picked this up on a whim when  I had some free time and it was a great piece of motivation.  The author, Carrie Wilkerson is a great role model and mentor and a reminder that if we set ours minds to something, and take action, we can set ourselves up for success. Put yourself out there, not every idea or attempt is great, but hopefully one will stick.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
I grabbed this title on audiobook to listen to during our recent flights to and from Michigan to visit my family.  FYI: This isn’t a great book to read while in the air.  This book is the story of a man and a boy who, miraculously survive a plane crash and the story that leads to that crash.  Told from the viewpoints of those on the flight as well as those involved in the investigation, the story is a great mystery that is not solved until the very end. (PS you’ll never expect it!)

Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
If you’ve ever read Colleen Hoover before then you have an idea of what Hopeless is like. This book, like other title by Hoover is an emotional roller coaster filled with ups, downs, and twists.  This book is about a young couple who fall head over heals in love and then learn about their past and how their lives are intertwined.  This is a great book to snuggle up with and binge on on a rainy day.

Finder’s Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy no 2.) by Stephen King
Finder’s Keepers is the second title in the Bill Hodges trilogy and follows the life of a retired cop, Bill Hodges and introduces us to new characters who were also affected by the Mercedes Killer which we learned about in the first book. Although this series feels quite  different from King’s other works it is till enjoyable, especially for readers of mysteries and crime fiction.


Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link on this page I will receive a small commission from the store.  This does not change the cost to you, in fact, I search for the best prices to share with you.  Any income earned via these links is used to support upkeep on this page.

August Favorites

September 5
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August was a pretty hectic month here, but I did try a few new things and have been impressed.


Amazon Prime NOW

Now that we are residents of a major metropolitan we are able to reap new benefits of our Amazon Prime account. One of these is Prime NOW.  This is a courier service similar to the popular meal delivery ones that delivers items, including fresh foods to your home within a few hours.  Read about my experience with it here. Also available is the Prime Same-Day service which ships select items to arrive at your home before 9pm if you order by noon.  Great for when you realize you need toilet paper tonight but don’t want to stop at the store on the way home from work.  This service requires an order of $35 or more, but its worth it to save a trip;;



Lucky’s Market

Lucky’s Market is a new grocery chain created in 2003 by two chefs in Boulder, Colorado. The idea was for one stop shop for organic and GMO-free items that also carried general merchandise all at prices people can afford.  The store has morphed into a sort of Whole Foods for the rest of us. Our Orlando store isn’t huge, but has a great selection of produce, meats, bulk items, and craft beer.  Also, they have a Sip and Stroll program where you can purchase a pint of craft beer ($2) or a glass of wine ($3) to enjoy while you shop. They even have super cute glass holders for the carts. Its awesome! Anyways, this is going to definitely  be my new go to stop for a majority of our weekly shopping.


Infused water pitcher

As a housewarming gift my good friend Sara gave us this infused water pitcher. I had always made my waters in a water bottle or glass but had recently been thinking about how I can make up a large batch.  Anyways she read my mind and got me thins and I love it. I it makes infused water and tea and had a freezable core which is perfect for entertaining outdoors in florida. Get one for yourself here.

Thats all I have for August. We’ve been super busy with the house so I haven’t tried many new things. However, look forward to new posts, DIYs and more in the near future.  😉

Six tips for saving money at Michaels

September 2
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If you’re anything like me, then you love craft stores. I am there all the time for planner supplies, personal craft supplies, work supplies, and sometimes just to get some inspiration.  However, if you’ve ever been in Michael’s then you know you can easily drop a pretty penny there. I am going to share with you here some of my tips for saving cash at Michael’s.

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1 Download the app:
The first thing you need to do to start saving at Michaels is to download their app.  The app is free and available for Andriod and iOS devices. With the app you have access to store locations, coupons, and sales flyers at the tip of your fingers.

2. Check the ad:
Michaels have items on sale all the time.  These sales very from 25%-60% off and BOGO Free and BOGO 1/2 off of items.  You may sporadically see B2Get1 Free and other sales throughout the store.  Most (But not all) coupons are for regular priced items.  If you plan to use a coupon you need to check if an item is on sale before you attempt to use the coupon.

2. Check your coupons:
Generally if you have the app all available coupons will show up there.  Of course you could have special coupon from an event, email, or other source. Michaels regularly puts out a 40% off one regular priced item coupon.  This can be found in the app, ad, or on a receipt from a prior purchase.  This coupon can be used over and over again, but is limited to once per day.  Because there is a Michael’s near my workplace, if I need more than one item I just go back the next day or have my husband go with me and buy it.  Be sure to check the wording on the coupon.  Some coupons only apply to one item, some coupons only apply to regular-priced items.  The wording matters.  Many items are regularly excluded from coupons.  These items (currently) include Silhouette, Circuit, Polaroid, and other brands as well as everyday value products and others.  Check out the entire policy here.  Keep in mind these are just the general exclusions, check the fine print on your coupon to see what exclusions apply.

3. Subscribe to emails:
New email subscribers receive a 20% off their entire purchase coupon.  This AWESOME coupon includes sale items. I suggest waiting until the items are want are on sale and then subscribing to the email list to get a coupon to use on top of the sale price.  Example:  Project Life albums are on sale 40% off.  You purchase on that is regularly priced $21.99.  With the sale is it $13.19 and then when you use the 20% off coupon it will come to $10.55.  That is half off.  Awesome!

NEW: Michaels has just started a new rewards program called Michaels Rewards.  This program is free to sign up for and members get exclusive coupons, early access to sales, and more.  Click HERE to register or visit your local store. 

4. Pay with gift cards:
Still want to save?  Pay with a discounted gift card.  Whenever I make a major purchase I check Raise for discounted gift cards to the store I am interested in.  Right now they have discounted cards up to 21% off.  Click here to get $5 off your first gift card.

5. Use competitor coupons:
Michaels, along with other craft stores, accept competitors coupons.  This means if you have a coupon to Jo-Anns for 60% off a regular priced coupon you can use it at Michaels.  Big Deal, I know.  They currently accept coupons from AC Moore, JoAnn Fabric and Crafts, Ben Franklin, and Hobby Lobby.

6. Be aware of sale cycles:
Just like at the grocery store, product lines and categories that go on sale do so on a regular basis.  As I already mentioned, I know that Project Life items regularly go 40% off every few weeks.  This means that instead of wasting my 40% off on one item coupon on an album, I’ll wait for it to be on sale and then use an email coupon or another coupon that includes sale items. Of course some items, like adhesives, never go on sale, so using that 40% off one item coupon on that would be a smart idea.

Have another tip? Share it below!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link on this page I will receive a small commission from the store.  This does not change the cost to you, in fact, I search for the best prices to share with you.  Any income earned via these links is used to support upkeep on this page.