Recollections 2017 zip planner review

December 30
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Have you seen the new planner stuff Michaels has released this December? THERE IS SO MUCH AWESOME STUFF.  Seriously, so much. The company has released tons of planners, inserts, and stickers under its private label, Recollections.  Some of the hottest new items are the dated zip up planners.  Most of the December released items are undated, which is great for a crafty person w ho wants to add all the dates, but just doesn’t work for me. I am too afraid of making a mistake and somehow missing a meeting because I dated my planner wrong and thought the 5th was a Tuesday instead of a Monday.


Anyways, there are 10 versions of these cute little planners. I got the simple floral one as a gift for a family member but wanted to share it here first with my readers. (SHH)


What I found most interesting when I first opened this planner was that it was not a traditional Personal or A5 size. These new planners inserts are the height of an A5 planner but the width of the personal size planner. This makes buying inserts interesting.  What is good is the ring size matches up with A5 items so you can use the same punch. Michaels does sell a set of additional inserts for this planner size. They are super cute and are for goal tracking, fitness, television, and other fun activities. They also sell cute dividers and folders for this planner.  I have not currently seen any dated yearly insert packs for this page size, but all of the zip planners come with 2017 inserts so they don’t really need more now.  Also, if you have any other personal size inserts they will fit in this planner. They are not as tall, but will fit the rings as well.


FYI:  A5  pages are 5.8″ x 8.3″ and personal size pages are 3.54″ x 7.5.” The inserts that come with this planner are 7.25″ x 3.54″.



My personal size Kate Spade planner with the zip planner inserts. They fit the rings but not the binder.


So although these are a unique size, they are super versatile and the binder can hold several different types of inserts.


The Kate Spade and Recollections planners size by side. (Yes, I totally have lipstick on my planner)



Anyways, on to the money shots…



Is this title page not beautiful?


If you look closely you will see that there is a disclaimer on the bottom saying the company is not liable for any inaccuracies. Have you ever seen that on a planner? I don’t know that I have but it makes sense. A little CYA.


One of the things I love about this planner is that every month has a goals page and a reflection page. This really helps to keep on track and ensure we fulfill our goals. As far as paper quality goes I would say that these are fine. They are not the thickest pages ever, but plenty good enough.


Of course next comes the monthly calendar. I wish Saturdays and Sundays had their own spots, but I totally understand why they don’t on this planner.



Each week has a nice and simple weekly view. There is room for goals as well as extra notes. The week starts with Monday and Saturday and Sunday have their own spots.



Remember the reflection pages i mentioned? Yes, the reflection pages in the Recollections planner. This is what they look like. A great way to jump start each new month. Oh, and every month has its own cute divider but I am not going to show you all of them. Gotta have some secrets. 🙂

This planner can be purchased at Michaels both in store and online. They retail for $29.99 but can easily be purchased for less with a sale or coupon. We currently do not know if this is a one time product or if they will return to the shelves after they are sold out.

Anyways. I hoe you enjoyed this quick little review. If you have any questions feel free to ask them here or, for a faster answer, ask me on Facebook.


review of the 2017 recollections zip planners at michaels. This is a great weekly planner similar to a5 or personal size.

review of the 2017 recollections zip planners at michaels. This is a great weekly planner similar to a5 or personal size.


2017 reading goals

December 30
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For the last two years I have participated in the Goodreads reading challenge. In this challenge you give yourself a goal of how many books you’d like to read over the year and then you add them to the site when you’ve read them. I love that it keeps track of how you are doing and lets you know if you are ahead or behind in your reading.

For 2016 I challenged myself to read 50 books. FYI: I count YA and adult books, not kids books. I do not count picture books or small children’s books. I actually met my goal by the beginning of December and as of writing this (December 30th) I have read 58 books!

When I select my books i try to read across a variety of genres as well as both fiction and non-fiction. This year I want to make a better focus of adding in classics as well. I have been saying this for some time, but haven’t really acted on it. This year I am going to be writing down the titles in my planner and making a chart to count how many of each I read; fiction, non-fiction, and classics.


This sheet was made from a simple sheet of Mambi classic size planner graph paper.  You can use whatever paper fits in your planner, or use an extra notes page. Also, several months ago I made a reading log insert for the Happy Planner so that could be used as well.


My reading goals for 2017 will be to red 60 books, 12 of which are classics and at least 12 non-fiction titles as well.  I plan to continue to focus on adult fiction titles as they are popular with my patrons at the library and give me titles to refer them too. I also want to continue to explore books that may not be fun but will help with gaining a better understanding of the world around us and our community. Although I have, and will continue, to enjoy fiction, I think its important to also read for information and social education, now more than ever.


I hope this post has inspired you to set a reading goal for 2017. A goal can be anything, even five or ten books, we all start somewhere! If you do set a goal let me know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to my emails and follow on Instagram to get updates on what I am reading.


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. Enjoy!- Amber D.

My 2017 planner setup

December 28
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For 2017 I am starting a new planner from Me and My Big Ideas. I will again be using their Happy Planner in what is now called the Classic size. (Happy Planners also come in Big and Mini as well.)   Mine is called “This is Your Year.

I have been using Happy Planners for a year and a half now and I love how simple yet functional they are. I love that these planners use the ARC page system so pages can be added, removed, and made with ease. I own a punch which allows me to add whatever I’d like to my planner which makes holding lists, saving, invitations, and other important notes super easy.

One of the first things I do when starting a new planner is to go through my old planner month by month and add any reoccurring events to the new planner. Birthdays and Anniversaries don’t change  so you know when they will be.  I add items on sticky notes so that I can add it how I want when we get to that month, but the basic information is there so it is not forgotten.

My planner uses a vertical setup and each day has three boxes. I use the top box for my to dos, so this list is added to daily and as the week progresses. Some days will have many tasks, while others will only have a few, it really depends on what else I have going on.  What I love about this as opposed to an ongoing list, is that I can say “Hey, I need to do ___” and then look at my week and see where I will have the time to accomplish this task and put it on that day.  I find a major problem for those just starting out with planners is that they over schedule to dos which just leads up being upset over not accomplishing goals.

The second box is for scheduling. Here I mark my husband’s schedule for the week, any changes or unusual aspects of my own schedule, and our dinners for the week.  I incorporate meal planning into m weekly planning so that I know what I am doing when I go to the grocery store and we actually have something thawed and ready to go each day.  We don’t get home from work until 6pm and want to eat by 7pm so having a plan really helps make this happen successfully.

The third box in my planner is used for fun extras such as a short list, motivational stickers, or event information.  If we have a party or other social gathering I’d jot the details down here so that we know what is happening and when.  This area is also great for fitness tracking, food tracking, or information regarding school for yourself or children.  In the past I have used this section for planning out my blog postings however I now use Horizontal Happy Planner pages for that.  (more on that later)


When starting a new planner I like to add some of my favorite inserts so I am prepared and ready to go.

I add:
A few daily sheets
Lined paper for misc notes
Contacts sheet
Goal planning sheet

I also fill out the front page and make sure to add a phone number and email address in case the planner is lost.


Pages you may also consider:

Emergency contact information
Medical conditions/ medications
Clothing sizes for family members

Keep in mind that if your planner is lost, all information will be available to the finder. With this in mind, you may want to add a few items about your children and their school/teachers, however adding this information in a more secretive way that would not be obvious to a predator. Consider adding the teacher’s phone numbers or info as contacts without mention of the grade/school they teach at. Make these choices as your own discretion.


So this is the main planner I will be using for 2017 at home. Next week I will be sharing a little bit about my work planner and  I use it to organize my day, schedule employees, and keep on task at work.


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. Enjoy!- Amber D.




Hot Cocoa Station

December 19
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Over the last couple of years it has become a trend to have a cute little coffee station in your home. A little more than just the pot and a sugar bowl. I created one of these cute little stations in our new home and then  when the holidays hit this year I noticed everyone was converting these to hot cocoa stations.  Well, you guessed it, I joined the band wagon.  Living in Florida we don’t consume tons of cocoa, but we were holding a party so I figured it would be a fun addition and a great alcoholic choice for our guests. Because we have a Keurig I decided the easiest thing to do would be to get the cocoa K-cups that way guests to make cups as they please.  They are more expensive, buy we’re paying for convince here. We also set the station up with a jar of mini marshmallows and candy canes for stirring. As you can see from the photo I keep my coffee K-cups in a drawer under the brewer so  I added a vintage strainer for the cocoa k-cups as a way to highlight them.  . On my coffee/cocoa cart I keep a stack of all-season mugs and a tray of additional mugs below.  If you were expecting a large group you could also purchase disposable cups.


I did not do another other decorating of this space as I plan to keep it up after Christmas and therefore want it to be just a seasonal station but a cute print or framed art would look great about this area or even a little banner.



My cart is a vintage Cosco cart which is in dire need of refinishing. The mustache mugs (similar) were a gift from my sister a few years ago. Because this is also a coffee station I have sugar and my homemade coffee creamer available as well.  The mugs on the tray are part of a dish ware set by Oneida which is no longer available. A similar set is available at Kohls.


Do you have a coffee or cocoa station in your home? How do you set it up for the holidays?


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. Enjoy!- Amber D.

Holiday Home Tour

December 10
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One of the things I love about the blogging world is the way we get to peek into the lives and homes of others. I love how during the holidays bloggers open up their homes online and share how they have decorated or prepared for the holidays. I know it sounds simple, but this little glimpse into the lives of others always feels special to me and a great way to feel closer to the blogger.

Today I want to share my home with you via some photos of our holiday decor.  I had planned on sharing more of our new home after we moved in, but I really hadn’t felt that it was anywhere near done until this past weekend when we finished decorating and held our holiday party. It really does not feel like our home which really does fill my heart with joy.  <3

How about we get on to the photos?


I’ll start with the front porch. I don’t do the big beautiful front decor that some do. Lets be honest, I am lazy and cheap, but I do like to add seasonal flowers and a wreath. As you can see my door is in need of a new coat of paint, but that is a project for 2017.  The wreath is from Wal-Mart of all places!


Our home has a fun little foyer that I am still getting the hang of decorating. When you open the front door you are greeted by a large mirror. I currently have a love-hate relationship with the room and the mirror; I feel like it might be weird and dated and yet I also feel like it is a cool aspect of our home that is fun. So I leave it there. When we viewed the home the prior owner had a cute glass table which my husband loved, but I haven’t gotten around to looking for one of those, and this one was $10 at a thrift store. I plan to refinish it, but haven’t yet, that is why we have two place mats as a little tablecloth on it.  Sneaky, I know.  The marque is the Heidi Swapp Lightbox (which we LOVE) with the holiday wreath pack.  We keep this light box on the table and decorate it with images or text based on the time of year. It ads a great personal touch. I also filled our decorative bird cage with extra tree ornaments as a way to add some color and pop. I think it worked. Of course we also added a fall candle to add some welcoming scents to the entryway.


Our living room is done in tan and red so it already has a “Christmas-y” feel to it. I love how warm and cozy these colors are, especially in the winter.  After the recent addition of the rug this room was really coming together…(yes, the rug really tied the room together 😉 .)  Last week, right before our party the coffee table, that I had been planning on replacing, broke when we tried to move it with too much weight on it. It was perfect timing really, as it opened up the room for the party and got me moving on getting it replaced. So the room is a little more open that usual, but it works for now.

When we purchased the home I immediately pegged that front corner as our tree location. I love trees that are visible from the street; it reminds me of driving around and seeing the lights on homes as a child and seeing the tree inside and how happy the family must be.  This led me to always wanting my tree in the front of our home.  We do our tree as a traditional family tree. We do not pick a color scheme each year and generally only add the few ornaments we have purchased or been gifted. Many of our ornaments hold special meaning to us we enjoy putting them up together each year. Maybe next year I will share a few of them. 😉


When we purchased the home, one of the selling points was this beautiful stone fireplace in the living room. I know it doesn’t make a ton of sense in Florida, but it really makes the house a home. As you can see the fireplace does not have a mantle so we used 3m command strips and hooks to hang the stockings.  Worked perfectly.  I also decorated the fireplace with a cute little banner from the Target dollar spot, a lantern from Kohls and some crackers a friend brought for our party. (More on that later)

Because of the design and color of the room this is just about all we do for this room.  We put out a few little holiday knick·knacks on the tables and call it a day. This year we did not decorate the top of the TV cabinet as it was already in holiday colors.   I usually put out something on the coffee table, but like I mentioned, we don’t have one right now so that solves that problem.


Because of the party I did a little more decorating than usual in our dining room. The dining room is a very central part of our home and I knew our guests would be spending quite a lot of time in this room. Because of this I wanted to a few little things and of course not go out and spend a lot of money.

Our old home had white pillars out front and I had this lighted garland that I wrapped around them. We did not use this in the outdoor decorating of the new home so I doubled it up, added a ribbon, and draped it onto the curtain rod for the patio.  Perfect, and all I had to do was purchase the ribbon.


I generally add something to the buffet mantle and this year this is where i added some new items. I picked up the candles at Michael’s as a fall clearance item knowing that gold is a year round color and that I could use them for whatever I wanted. I purchased the “Cheer” sign from Jo-Ann Fabrics and the table runner is from the Target Dollar Spot. (I think it was a fall item as well.) I purchased the poinsettias seen around the home at Lowe’s on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Pro tip: The $.99 flowers sell out fast on Black Friday but the sale lasts for several more days. Check back in a few days and your store may have another batch in. I purchased these on Monday after Thanksgiving.  These are great to add color to the home or for gifts.

The bar table is actually an outdoor table that we brought in to use for the party. I added an old tablecloth and it worked great.  We decided to leave the table up until after the holidays as I am sure having a beverage station and extra table will be helpful throughout the holiday season.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek into my holiday home.  My hope is that this brings you a little insight into my life as well as some holiday cheer and inspiration.

-Amber D.


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. Enjoy!- Amber D.

What I read: November 2016

December 1
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November was a busy reading month for me. With a couple holidays in the month and lots of driving  I had time to complete several books. I also met my Goodreads goal for the year this month.

15181417_10105835031971002_995180526767701722_nIn 2016 I challenged myself to read 50 books. I am happy to say that by the end of the month I was at 53.  🙂

Anyways I was able to read three non-fiction this month which is about on par. I like to alternate fiction and non-fiction to kinda keep things fun and informative.  I am working on a non-fiction now so that will help even things out.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
This was a fun young adult book that takes place during the holiday season in New York City. If you enjoy light teen romances and John Green style characters then you will enjoy this book. I am a huge John Levithan fan so I knew this would be a fun way to kickstart the holiday season. I also have The Twelve Days of Lily and Dash to read next month. (yay!)

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty (The Husband’s Secret) has been pretty popular as of late.  I had never read her, but figured i’d give her a try with her newest novel.  I enjoyed the sense of mystery in this novel as well as how real the characters felt.  I am looking forward to reading some of her other titles to see if the are also this good.  Bonus: The author is Australian and this title takes place in Sydney which was a fun almost cultural experience.

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I know, I know, I know. I am the LAST person to finally finish this book. I started it all the way back in September! I love how this book took the lives of two people during World War II and shares how their lives intertwine.  It is a long book, but if you have the time I strongly recommend you read it, if anything just for the social aspect of knowing the story. I know some people said it was the best book they have ever read, and while I cannot go that far, I do feel that it is a solid read and a modern classic.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

This book came to me as a recommendation from a colleague and I am glad I gave it a read.  Although it was not my favorite this month it was a great bit of insight into a sport I knew nothing about.  Wether you enjoy crew or not this book will be informative as well as insightful into the collegiate system, the 1930’s and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Buffering by Hannah Hart

Have you ever watched My Drunk Kitchen on YouTube? If so you are probably familiar With Hannah. Buffering is her autobiography about her life so far. Hannah grew up in poverty with a mother who struggled with mental illness. The book explains how she recovered from her childhood, made it into college, understood her sexuality, and created My Drunk Kitchen. I love how open and honest Hannah is about her struggles with family and mental illness and how life isn’t always fun.

Paris for one by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One is a short story about a girl who plans an trip to Paris for her and her boyfriend and surprise, he doesn’t go.  (I’m sure you didn’t see that coming.) Anyways, she decides to live life on the edge an enjoy the trip herself and ends up meeting a  great French man in the city. Looking for something you can start and finish on a flight? This is the perfect length.  Many copies of this title include other short stories however I did not read those this time around.

#Girlboss by Sophia Amrouso

As someone who considers herself a girl boss it was surprising that it took me this long to read this book.  I guess it is because i never shopped her store, NastyGal so i wasn’t a fan or anything. One thing I will say about this book is that is is more of a memoir then tips on being a great power female.  However, sofia has a great rags to riches story that is quite inspiring, so read it for that. I enjoyed learning about her time selling on eBay as I was doing a bit of selling back in the lat 00s as well.  Anyways, read it if you enjoy her company or want to hear about its origins.

Well, that is is for November. Look for a best of 2016/gift ideas post coming up in the near future.  Have a great week! -Amber Downs

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!