Evolution of a DIY Planner {video}

Creative Business

This one’s for all my planner fans out there, you know who you are!

DIY Planner Evolution

Back in September I shared my Fabric Fauxdori Cover video and promised that I would go more into what’s inside it at a future date. Of course, then October and the Halloween madness struck, and now it’s November and I haven’t fulfilled that promise yet! Allow me to fix that.

(Direct link for the feed readers: DIY Planner Evolution + Clean and Simple Plan with Me November)

The decision to decorate your planner is apparently fraught with peril. As much as I love stickers, I have a lot to keep track of, so I dress my planner up in small ways like with the washi on the page edges. Another benefit of that washi? It reinforces the edges of the paper, making the planner a bit sturdier (at least in my experience). And I’m still absolutely loving my faux-dori planner cover and how easy it is to work with and add things to–I don’t miss ring binders at all!

For anyone still on the hunt for their 2016 planner, the Creative Days Monthly/Weekly Planner is available now in my Etsy shop.

If you want to try your hand at creating your own planner, you can do it in just about any program (Word, Publisher) but I really do prefer InDesign (Scribus is a good open-source alternative). It helps to start by figuring out what you want in a planner–sometimes that means trying out a lot of them or just doodling your own in a spare notebook to find out what sort of information you really need to keep track of. As I said in the video, my biggies are

  • daily to-do lists
  • blog posts
  • menu planning

with fixed appointments only an occasional thing in my life. So all the planners out there that are 50% or more time slots? Not for me. I noticed, back on my hunt for a 2012 planner that started me down the DIY road, that the planners with menu sections were either geared towards moms or had an overly simplified week on a page layout (or other froufrou decorations that didn’t suit me). Of course, had the planner community been then what it is now (or had I known of it), maybe those not-quite-right planners could have benefited from some serious sticker action!

Whatever format you choose to use, I really think everyone can benefit from some sort of time management system. Whether it’s a bullet journal, ongoing to-do lists, even chore charts–whatever takes the guesswork out of the day is going to help you get more done. And it’s not just about making more money and being more productive at work or in your business, it’s about making time for the fun stuff, too. If you check off those boxes for the things you need to do, then you can do the things you want to do with less (or better yet, absolutely no) guilt!

Do you plan? If so, what sort of system do you use? If not, why not?

DIY Planner: Fabric Fauxdori Cover {video}

In The Studio


As I said in my Helmar post, I’m in full-on planner mode these days, and in addition to reformatting my Creative Days planner for 2016, I’m changing binding styles, too!

Inspired by the Midori Traveler’s Notebook as shown in Kiala Givehand’s video on the topic, I’ve joined the many Faux-dori’s out there by making my own cord-bound planner cover!  And since the first one went so well, figuring it out as I went, I decided to make another and video it so anyone who wanted to make a similar fabric planner cover could follow along!

(Direct link for the feed readers: Fabric Fauxdori Planner Cover)

Some of the Fauxdori makers have their own shorthand (like JenDori and FoxyDori), so maybe this is a ScrappyDori? Hey, a girl can try.

I’ve been using my pink cover and my new 2016 planner prototype for a little over a week, now, and I have to say I’m really happy with the changes I’ve made so far! I want to give it another week or so before I decide on the final changes for the 2016 Creative Days planner and put those out at the beginning of October.

What I Used:

  • 16″x9″ Fusible Fleece (1 piece*)
  • 17″x10″ (ish) Fabric (2 pieces*)
  • 1/4″ eyelets (6)
  • Silkies Necklace Cords (2)
  • Foldover Elastic (~12″)
  • 2″ Charm

*To fit an A5 or US Letter folded in half-sized planner or notebook.

Along with the usual sewing bits: scissors, sewing machine, iron, etc.

You know, I’m more inclined to iron for craft projects than I ever feel compelled to on laundry days!

And even though the video is almost an hour, it’s only that long because I wanted to take you guys through the different decisions I made and how I got here–it took less than an hour of actual working time to make this planner cover and it’s mostly straight seams (I rounded the corners, but that’s a personal preference thing).


Midori Traveler’s Notebook
Kiala Givehand’s Book-in-a-Day Traveler’s Notebook Tutorial

JenDori aka ChickSparrow Journals
FoxyDori Etsy Shop (currently on hiatus)

Stretch Magic Silkies Necklace Cords (affiliate link)
Jewelry Fundamentals Thick Elastic Cord (affiliate link)
2.5mm Crimp Tubes (affiliate link)
Fold Over Elastic (affiliate link)
Blue Moon Beads Shortcuts Connectors

If you give this project a go, I’d love to see how yours turns out!

It’s 2015… Now What?

Everyday Adventures

The last few months of 2014 were one bit of bad news after another. For us, for our friends and loved ones, for our country in some cases. While I know that “bad things” happen all the time to all sorts of people, it seemed my little local community’s number came up in the bad-luck lottery more times that usual, lately.

Which is why I’m so happy that 2015 is finally here.

Sure, the changing from one calendar year to another is, technically, an arbitrary designation. It’s not like it’s tied to the equinox or certain planetary alignments, it’s just a page turn. But we need markers in our lives–birthdays, anniversaries, school starts and stops, or even a calendar’s page turn to serve as handy reminders of the passage of time. And, of course, these reminders also sometimes spur us into action. That still small voice reminding us that there’s no time like the present to catch up on one project or start a new one.

Picking a word for the upcoming year is a fun thing to do. Two years ago my word was Growth, last year’s was Respect. This year my word is Forward. Especially in light of recent events (not meaning to be vague, just choosing not to dwell on the specifics), it’s important for me, in 2015, to keep looking forward, to keep moving ahead with plans and dreams, and to not spend more time than absolutely necessary worrying about the past. It’s not ignoring history (thus dooming me to repeat it, right?), it’s moving on from it!

Along with the word of the year, I like to set goals instead of resolutions. The difference is semantic, but words have power and I prefer the associations I have with goals over the alternatives. Last year one of my main goals was to buy the Dollhouse. We all know how that ended up (difficult process, ultimate victory). Another goal of mine was to be on the guest list for 6 conventions in 2014 and while I don’t talk about What to Feed Your Raiding Party business much over here, I managed to achieve that goal, too, even though we ultimately had to cancel one appearance this fall. There were others, but those were the biggies, the ones I really worked on.

I haven’t decided on all my goals for 2015, yet, but I have a few that are already pretty important:

Take a vacation for our second anniversary.

Does this really count as a goal? Absolutely! All those conventions we went to last year? They ate up all our vacation time for 2014. It was something we knew would happen, going into it, but it doesn’t change the fact that every weekend away in 2014 was a working weekend. We had fun, but I want more for us this year. Which, yes, means doing fewer conventions (more on that in a bit), but it’s sort of like paying yourself first: you plan that downtime in and work around it rather than trying to find it later.

Publish 2.5 books.

This, in part, plays into the fewer conventions. I’ve been travelling with the original Raiding Party cookbook for 2.5 years. There comes a time when you need to have something new to show people, but writing the next book while actively touring with the first one just hasn’t happened. So I’ve “grounded” myself from conventions until the next cookbook is ready. In addition to the next cookbook, I have a supplement to the first one that I’ve been picking at for over a year–that’s the .5 book in my goal–and I need to get that out of the way once and for all; both because people are asking for it and to get it out of the way of the next book. The final book is also food-related, but not part of the Raiding Party series: it’s a book on Low-FODMAP living that combines what I post about here on the subject with the rest of my experiences and the answers to the questions I get emailed.

Not that those are my only book projects for 2015, they’re just the main goals. I have a creativity workshop I’m working on, and I just published a printable planner in my Etsy shop–the same planner I designed to be just right in 2014 and road-tested all year is now updated and expanded and ready for the world!

You can find my planner in my Etsy shop: Helper Monkey Designs

You can find my planner in my Etsy shop: Helper Monkey Designs

I’ll be going over some of my organizational strategies in the next few weeks if you’re curious about how I developed the different parts of the planner.

And now the big one…

I’m a big believer in putting things out to the Universe, and while I’ve mentioned it to some friends in private, here goes for the big world-wide reveal: I want to open a store this year.

Not an online shop, not my Etsy store, no. I mean an honest-to-goodness, brick-and-mortar, mailing address-having, lock-and-key, clients-walking-in arts and craft supply store.

(Okay, that was a little fun-scary to type out.)

I’ve always wanted to work for myself, to be more in charge of my own destiny. Up until a few months ago, though, that plan always looked like working from home as a writer and artist. And that’s still part of the picture more or less, but in November I was reading our community newspaper and something just jumped out at me: they are building/fostering a Creative District as part of the downtown shopping area and, yet, there’s no craft stores in the city. There’s a small craft section at the local WalMart, the usual small drawing supply section in Office Depot, and teacher supplies at a downtown store catering to childhood development and creative play. But for everything else, Thomasville residents have to go out of town or order online.

Fast on the heels of the realization of the gap, came the certainty that I could be the person to fill that gap. I’ve got the business know-how thanks to 18 years keeping books for a small corporation. I’ve got the craft chops, not to mention the wonderful people and companies I’ve been fortunate to have relationships with thanks to being part of various Design Teams over the last few years. The business plan I’m developing includes provisions for classes–hearkening back to my days as a Wilton-Method cake decorating instructor and my time spent writing tutorials for eHow.com!

Basically, this is what I’ve been building towards without even knowing it.

So the hunt is on for the perfect location, the building of the business plan that will convince a bank that it’s as good an idea as everyone else thinks it is (that’s the biggest hurdle, I think), and the personal preparations for the total upheaval this would mean for my life (and Todd’s, for that matter–thankfully he’s 100% supportive of this idea; I don’t think I’d even try without it!). It’s not something that’s going to all happen tomorrow, but it’s something I’m working towards and, for now, with a few steps forward each day, I’ll get there.

I have a lot more goals. Things like updating a room in the Dollhouse, creating a video series for the cookbook, reading 75 books (and keeping track of them), painting 10 10×10″ canvases, becoming more active in my local community, create some art licensing collections, do more freelance work, etc. They’re all valid. Even little goals are important. But I signal out those three because they are the benchmarks that I’ll eventually judge 2015 by, judge myself, that is. They represent big leaps forward.

Feel free to question me about these goals: today, 6 months from now, 9 months from now. That’s the whole point of publicly stating them: public accountability.

Are you making goals for this year? I’d love to hear them, and I’d love even more to see you achieve them!