Getting Organized in the New Year: DIY Planner

For years, I’ve been looking for a way to keep my to-do lists and schedules organized.  My index card book works to an extent, but seems best suited to organized individual projects and blog post planning.  But for everything else, I need a planner, and nothing store-bought fits my needs.  Trust me, I’ve tried them all. So a few months ago, I decided to go ahead and make my own, suited exactly to my life.


  • Notebook (see note below)
  • Black markers/pens (I use Pigma Micron pens)
  • Straight-edge
  • Optional: Washi tape (Just for fun and color, I use Washi tape to highlight events and travel.)

A note about notebooks: I chose to use one with a grid, just to make it easier to keep my spacing and boxes even.  I am quite picky about my notebooks, too — I like ones that are bound like books (no spiral), stay open on their own and have minimal bleed-through.  Lately my favorite is the Leuchtturm1917 Squared: I have one for my daily writing, one for my recipes and one that serves as a planner.  I love that these notebooks have a table of contents, numbered pages, a pocket in the back and a bookmark ribbon.


I begin each month with four overview pages: blog post brainstorming, dinners we ate, monthly to-do list and an overview of important dates, publish dates for blog posts and other events like book club meetings.


Then each week takes up a two-page spread. Monday through Wednesday are on the left, Thursday through Sunday on the right. I liked Kyla Roma’s idea of leaving space for weekly notes, and so chose to only fill about 3/4 of the page with daily boxes.  The space below is for grocery lists, phone numbers, notes  on craft projects, books or stories to look into and things that need to be done during the week but not on a particular day.


Each daily to-do is split into two section.  On the left are single lines of things to make, cook, write, edit and publish each day.  I find that if I tell myself to write a post one day, edit another and publish on a third, it is easier to keep on track with my blog schedule.  Otherwise, I’m bound to look at the calendar and realize I wanted to publish a certain post that day, but it is 10pm and I have no idea what I want to say.  I also have space for errands I need to run (“go”), people I need to call or email (“contact”) and workouts to do (“move”). I’m not likely to forget a planned workout or errand, but it sure is nice to cross it off the list! I use the area on the right for everything else — blog designs and HLS planning and general to-dos.

Keep an eye out for more posts on Getting Organized in the New Year, coming soon!  How are you getting organized in 2013?

For more DIY planner inspiration, check out… Kyla Roma’s Moleskine Notebook Transformation Ahhh Design’s Circa*Organizing Two Peas in a Bucket’s DIY Planner Tool Kit *This post contains affiliate links.*

Pear Salsa and Fall Fruit Sangria

Fall Fruit Sangria

My favorite place to spend an afternoon is a U-Pick farm, gathering fruit and vegetables and enjoying the upstate New York views. I have a spreadsheet in my head of which farms have what and when and how much they charge.

For strawberries, I split my time between the tidy organization of Brookside Berry Farm and the wide selection at Silver Queen Farm. Grisamore Farms has the most beautiful cherries (except for this year when everyone’s crop got wiped out) and the juiciest blueberries, though I’ll occasionally spread the love and go to Farmer’s Choice Blueberries. Grisamore and Littletree Orchards are where I get bushels of apples, and I get pears and even more apples at Indian Creek Farm.

Indian Creek is closest to me, and I love that they offer U-Pick-nearly-anything: peaches, pears, apples, raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, even flowers.  For $3, I can have two vases of beautiful zinnias in the house every week.  If I’m already at Indian Creek for Orchard Ambrosia (the best apple and pear cider) or vegetables, which happens about once every 10 days, I may pick a quart of raspberries. If not, I head back up to Silver Queen to snag both golden and red raspberries for fairly cheap.

Between the Savvy Garden, Ithaca Farmers’ Market and U-Pick farms, we are never at a loss for fresh produce spring through autumn.  I do my best to make the most of it with a mix of recipes to eat right now and some to save to later.  This week, we’re sipping some fall fruit sangria.  This winter, we’ll have five pints of pear salsa to add a little fall flavor back into our meals.

Fall Fruit Sangria 2

Fall Fruit Sangria

Prep Time: 5 minutes

5 minutes

Yield: 12

Fall Fruit Sangria

This sangria is best when made in advance. Cover and refrigerate this sangria for at least 3 hours so that the flavors meld completely.


  • 2 small apples
  • 2 Bartlett pears
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 750 mL bottle dry white wine
  • 1 750 mL bottle hard cider (I used Bellwether Cider)


  1. Mix all ingredients in a large pitcher or punch bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Pear Salsa
Pear Salsa

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 5 pints

Pear Salsa

Without the traditional tomatoes and cilantro, this salsa is best suited for serving with chicken or pork.


  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds Bartlett pears
  • 3 bell peppers


  1. Prepare for canning. Wash the jars and flat lids with hot, soapy water. Put the jars in the canning pot and fill the pot with hot water. Heat over medium-high heat to keep the jars hot. Place the lids in a heat-proof bowl.
  2. Whisk the vinegar, honey, salt, mustard, allspice and black pepper in a large stockpot. Core and dice the pears, tossing the pieces into the vinegar as you chop so that they don't brown.
  3. Core and dice the bell peppers and add them to the vinegar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Move some of the boiling water from the canning pot into the heat-proof bowl containing the lids. Line the hot jars up on a folded towel, then pour the water out of the heat-proof bowl and off the lids.
  5. Fill the jars with pears and peppers up to 1/2” below the rim, then top with the liquid from the pot. Slide a chopstick around the inside edges of each jar to get rid of any air bubbles, then adjust the amount of liquid so that there is still 1/2" headspace below the rim.
  6. Use a clean towel to wipe any salsa off the rims, then top each jar with a lid and a tightened ring. Place the jars back in the canning pot and make sure they are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil and process for 20 minutes. Place the jars on a folded towel and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check the seals of the lids after 1 hour. If a seal has not formed, refrigerate the jar immediately.