Organization · Uncategorized

My Fuel

As a full time mother, teacher, and wife I struggle with finding time for writing on the side. Writing has been a passion of mine for a while, but over the past year I have had countless opportunities to use my writing as a ministry. The idea alone that God has gifted me with the ability to use my writing to reach others fuels me to make it a priority. I try to write daily, however, many days writing is an after thought. It happens when chores, grading, cooking, bathing, and playing are completed. When my daughter starts to slow down, I turn on the coffee pot and prepare for my writing time. As much as I would like to nap as well, I find myself turning to coffee for the pick-me-up I need to make sure the writing gets accomplished.

Putting pen to paper can be quite the task after a long day. Some days the creative energy just flows, and other days it’s in need of some fuel. So naturally, I turn to coffee. For me, coffee fuels about 85% of all my writing. Rarely do I sit down to draft a blog post, work on my manuscript, or journal without the accompaniment of a warm cup of coffee. Most writing sessions begin with a good brew. Even as I write now I’m watching my daughter play while sipping on a medium-roast pour-over with two creams and six thousand packs of sugar.

Each of us has something we turn to when the creativity is just not there. Or the ideas aren’t flowing like a mad river.

What fuels you?



england · Organization

How to Pack For an International Flight

I met my husband in 2007 and I have traveled every summer (and one Christmas) since to his hometown in England. As we embark on journey #9 to England I decided to share with you some things I’ve learned about packing for a two week journey overseas.

First off, I wish I had taken advice from seasoned travelers before my first couple of trips to England. It feels pretty helpless showing up in the airport to drop off your luggage and getting the red tag labeled, “OVERWEIGHT” strapped to the handle. Not only is there an added fee for any luggage over the limit (which for most airlines is 50 lbs.) but if it exceeds the limit too much they may force you to lighten the load before putting it on the plane. This is never a good experience. I’ve come a long way since my college days feeling the need to pack my entire dorm in my suitcase and so I thought I would share some things I’ve learned through the years about what to pack and what is unnecessary when it comes to international travel.


1. An Adapter: Almost every international trip will require an adapter for that region if you plan to take anything electronic or any chargers for electronic devices. For the first few years I traveled to England I would buy these in the airport and they can tend to run quite high in price, but a few years later I was able to plan ahead and purchase a USA to UK adapter on in a pack of 3 for $5.00. It is a wise and worry-free step in the process of packing to research the adapters and purchase them in advance.

2. A carry-on bag filled with books, pens, and paper: As one enters a new country you will undoubtedly be expected to fill out a customs or claims card. In my experience many airlines provide these cards during the flight to help ease the process once you have landed at the destination, but they do not provide pens for filling out these cards. Have a carry-on bag packed full of things to keep you busy during the flight and always be sure to include a pen or two. Additionally many of these cards will ask for the address of the location where you will be staying so somewhere in your carry-on or a in a note on your phone have that address handy.

3. Clothes: It goes without saying that 80% or more of what you pack for your trip should be clothing. When it comes to what clothing to pack think about layers. As a preppy college student I always tried to pack my entire wardrobe for a two week trip to England which filled my luggage to the seams and oftentimes is what put me over the weight limit when it came to the airport scales. Realistically you should just pack minimally allowing room in the suitcase to bring back souvenirs from the trip.

I am about to take a two week trip and here is a list of the clothing I am packing. (Please note that it is much colder in the summer in England than in Ohio):

-5 pairs of shoes: athletics, 2 pairs of flip flops, dress shoes, sandals

-3 pairs of shorts

-2 pairs of jeans

-1 dress

-3 tank tops

-5 shirts or printed tops

-3 hooded sweatshirts (because it rains frequently in England)

*Another tip I’ve learned for those of you concerned about the weight of your luggage is to wear your bulkiest pieces to the airport so that they are not added to the weight of the suitcase. I tend to wear my athletic shoes because airports require lots of walking, but also because they are the heaviest of my shoes. I’ll also pack a sweatshirt or two in my carry-on because I’ve never been on a flight where I haven’t gotten cold at some point. Most airlines offer blankets, but most do not cover both legs and arms.


4. Beauty Products: It’s so easy to go overboard on products for a trip. I’ve learned to minimize packing in this area as well. Purchasing the $1 travel-size shampoos, conditioners, and lotions have become essential to my packing. Apart from shower materials you should limit the makeup and hair products that you hull around. I always spend quite some time thinking through what I need. Anything else is just going to be added weight and space. I do always pack my hair straightener and one bag of cosmetics.

That’s about it for the what-to-pack list. Now for those items that you better just leave at home:

1. Cds, Dvds, and other media beyond tablets: These items oftentimes are embedded with a regional code that players in another country will not be able to read. So if you pack your child’s favorite Dvd thinking that you can show it in a hotel room you will be disappointed. If you or a member of the family can’t go without a certain album or movie it is best to download it onto iTunes or Google Play and watch it on your tablet or iPad.

2. Breakables or spill-ables: If you’ve ever watched them load suitcases onto a plane the reason behind packing anything breakable or spill-able goes without explanation. Although your suitcase may house some of your most valuable possessions it is likely not going to be treated as such by the airline crew who has over 250 suitcases to load on one flight. Make sure anything liquid has a lid that is securely fastened. One year I made the tragic mistake of not checking the lid on my hair spray and opened up a suitcase full of sopping wet clothes. Not fun.

3. Food: The compartment where luggage is stored during a flight is not equipped with air conditioning which will cause many foods to spoil or melt. If you are planning to take snacks be sure to store them in your carry-on and check the guidelines for food and liquid to see what is acceptable with your airline.

4. Bulky items: Really anything that is not completely necessary for your trip should be left at home. Do not pack anything that is going to be bulky and take up more than its fair share in weight and space. In the past we’ve shipped large gifts or items that we would use on the trip ahead of time, but for the most part that hasn’t really been an issue.

My best advice is travel light and think twice before placing any item in your suitcase. There are not many things in life that I would consider myself an expert in, but international travel (especially with children) is definitely one thing I’m beginning to master. If you have any specific questions about international travel that were not addressed in this post please feel free to ask me in the comment box. I hope that I could lend some quality advice that I learned the hard way through trial and error.


My Life Planner

I haven’t done an organization post in quite some time. The reason behind my lack of posting in this category is honestly my own lack of organization. During the springtime I did a lot of flying by the seat of my pants and every time I fall into that rut I tend to lose sight of many of my personal goals. So…with the ushering in of summer vacation I am ready to get back on track with those organization goals I set for myself back during the bleak winter time.

Where do I start?

I have jumped back into meal planning and regular grocery shopping as evidenced by my restocked pantry shelves and the mounds of dishes in need of a good rinsing . For about two weeks I’ve gotten back into the habit of planning my meals in advance which increases my chances of a home cooked meal by about 80%. When I just “wing” it and am disorganized about it I am far more likely to go to a restaurant/drive thru which starts a vicious cycle of unhealthy decisions.

I also ordered an planner on Etsy which is like the King of all organizers. I went through the Plum Paper Designs Etsy shop and custom-built a planner for every need of my family and personal organization.


This particular planner can get pricy depending on how you want to use it. For me, I purchased an add-on to help keep my blog and household organized. I ended up paying close to $40.00, but they have basic planners that start cheaper at around $16.00.

From the moment I received my customized planner I knew I had fallen in love. The size was perfect for fitting into nearly everyone of my totes/purses. The paper was thick and durable. The colors were bright and exciting. I was enticed with the scheme and design I created and I couldn’t wait to begin planning my life, fitness, reading, and blogging in this little Book of Lauren.


Here is a look at the monthly view of the planner. This is where I record upcoming events, birthdays, bills, and deadlines.


I could also customize the start and end date for the planner. Mine begins in June and ends next May. I love the colorful tabs as well. (If you haven’t guessed colors are good motivation for me!)


Lastly, here is a look at the weekly layout I chose for my planner. Plum Paper Designs has several weekly layout views to choose from. I found this particular template fit my needs best. As a writer it is imperative to have plenty of space to record ideas and plans. On the left hand side I have space for notes and on the right side there is space beside each date to plan the blog post for that day and jot down some basic ideas like photos to use or resources to reference. I have been most successful in my blogging when I plan posts a week or so in advance and spend several days cultivating each post. I don’t like being disorganized because that oftentimes leads to feeling rushed and producing a less than satisfactory product. This has helped me get ideas on paper and plan accordingly when documenting photographs and ideas.

I’ve enjoyed the entire process from selecting the theme, layouts, add-ons and using the pages I created to help keep myself on top of everything. My sister even checked out my planner and asked for one as part of her graduation gift as well so we are eagerly awaiting its arrival any day now. She preferred the Student Planner for herself and the cost was much lower than mine because she did not go with all the bells and whistles that I did. That’s what is so cool about customized planners, you get exactly what you need for your lifestyle.

I would highly recommend the purchase of a planner from Plum Paper Designs, and I don’t even get anything from that recommendation! I just love it that much 🙂


Another Busy Weekend

Today is the first official day of Spring. Hallelujah!

Luckily we’ve experienced some lovely spring weather in Ohio for a little over a week now. The only thing that I’m not crazy about when it comes to the changing of seasons is the seasonal allergies I experience along with the beautiful weather. It makes it a little harder to enjoy time outside, but I’ve been working on some remedies to help me out.

For me, I have the biggest issue with my sinuses. I experience sinus pressure, watery eyes and headaches. Since I have recently begun to use Essential Oils I found an attack method that works better than Vicks at clearing my sinuses. I have been taking my normal facial moisturizer and adding 1-2 drops of lavender Essential Oils and applying the mixture to my face and feet. I specifically massage it into the sinus and forehead area. I can instantly feel the difference! Over the past week or so I’ve been repeating this process a couple of times a day. It works wonders with clearing up the unpleasant stuffiness and pressure. (I’ve read that you can do the same thing with Melaluca oil, but I don’t currently have that oil so lavender works just fine.)

Beyond the beautiful sunshine and weather in spring I love building a wardrobe full of bright and vibrant colors. This is especially fun when it comes to dressing a toddler. I love shopping and fashion, but not spending too much on clothes so I love looking for Spring sales and it looks like many of my favorite stores are doing big sales this weekend…so guess who is going shopping 🙂

This is a somewhat busy weekend for us as we have a family birthday celebration and my husband has two basketball shows tomorrow. As always my family is nothing if not busy. The struggle with this busy schedule will be fitting time in to do some overdue home cleaning.

This fall my husband and I began a Saturday morning routine that has been successful apart from during basketball season when he has early practice and/or games. We each have a list of tasks we work on and generally all of these things can be conquered before noon leaving us the rest of the day to get out and do something we enjoy.

My jobs: I stay home and get caught up on laundry, pay bills, clean the house and vacuum.

My husband’s jobs: I’m not sure if my husband really enjoys grocery shopping, but it beats cleaning in his mind so every week his job is to take the grocery list I’ve made up and purchase the weekly or biweekly groceries. He also does all the dishes. Early in our marriage we made the decision that he would always do the dishes and I would always do and fold the laundry. It works for us.

How do you divide and conquer tasks in your home? What plans do you have for the weekend?


Staying On Top of It All

Once again this teacher is cut off from society and stranded at home yet again. Our district was set to begin state tests this week, but due to weather and now a gas leak in our high school it is Wednesday and we have not yet commenced the testing. I am making the most out of all of these days at home. I’m using this time to get organized, clean the house, and make progress toward health and fitness goals. So today I want to focus on some of the ideas I’ve come across for organizing my life and goals.

1. Goal Setting

As the year was beginning I set some goals for myself. I created an organizer for my goals to help get the ball rolling and into action. I made a pyramid with the goal for the year at the top. Then, I broke the goal down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals within that pyramid. My two goals to focus on in 2015 are: Completing a 5k competitively and doing some professional writing (i.e. a novel). I got this idea from Jillian Michaels. I found some articles on goal setting according to this famous fit and healthy icon and used some of those ideas in creating my own goal plans for 2015. Here is a link to the template I found most helpful:

2. Daily Organization:

Also at the beginning of the new year I sought out a planner that would help me keep on top of my goals and would be an encompassing life planner. After some searching online I purchased a pad from I am super pleased with this product because it allows me space to plan out my day according to health, home, and fitness goals. When I set daily goals for myself it helps my long term goal seem more attainable and keeps me organized. I recommend taking a look around Thyme-is-Honey’s page and shop. There are a lot of organizational ideas that I find inspiring. (I follow this blog)


3. Blog Ideas:

When I created this blog not only was I looking for a creative outlet for myself, but I aimed at sharing real life experiences as a busy mom with the world in hopes of mutually encouraging others out there either just like me or who have been where I am now. I’m definitely in the infant stages of blogging. I’m learning a few new tricks and ideas every day. As I began setting up my blog originally I wasn’t quite sure what I would have to bring to the table that other people would want to read. I spent a lot of time scoping out the competition and looking at the posts of others in the blogging community. Instead of narrowing my ideas to one topic I decided I would try to cover all the facets of my life on this blog. After a successful first week as a blogger with over 350 views and more subscribers than I anticipated I decided to also get organized with my blogging. I set up a schedule of blog post topics. I plan to write on a rotation basis so as not to get bored of one particular category of writing. My goal is to create a post a day and to become an active member in the blogging community by commenting and subscribing to at least two new blogs a day. Here is a look at the plan of attack I’ve created for moving forward with this blog.


I am not claiming to be a mom on top of it all by any means, however, I do have to admit that I am currently the most organized that I ever have been. I’ve been taking a few minutes everyday to focus on myself and my goals and that has made a world of difference. What are you doing to keep organized and reach your goals?

Menu · Organization

No More Fast Food!

One of our hardest obstacles since we began our journey of marriage is to remain disciplined in our spending habits. It’s sad to actually admit to this, but one of our weaknesses is to give in to the cheap, quick fast food meal when we are on the go. My husband is a high school basketball coach and so especially in the winter we spend several nights a week in a crunch to scavenge for food in the time between school and games. Needless to say that it is during basketball season that I become besties with my 4 quart- Crock Pot. However, it is still a struggle for us to maintain a healthy habit of eating at home every night. Not to mention that in my short five mile commute to work I pass four fast food restaurants. I am not claiming to have conquered this weakness, but I have learned a few tricks to skip the fatty, oily, drive-thrus so I thought I may share some of those tips. Feel free to comment and share some of your own tips for being a working mother on a budget and pressed for time when it comes to cooking healthy meals for your family.

1. Plan ahead: Looking back at the early stages of our marriage it is obvious that it was so much easier to choose a drive-thru option when I wasn’t well organized and had not planned meals ahead of time. Back then, if I was going to cook that also meant I was going to have to go to the grocery store. When pressed for time that was usually not an option and so a meal on the go was the only justifiable choice. I have luckily since caught on to some pretty easy meal planning habits. I keep a journal of the meals I plan to make and I tend to plan in two week increments so that one trip to the grocery store can replenish the necessities for at least the next two weeks and I can save the time it used to take me daily to run to the store for one or two small items.


2. Create themed cooking nights: One fun and easy way to make meal planning go quicker is to create themes in your meal planning. An example might be our family’s “Meatless Mondays”. I have a set of recipes that I keep in my recipe box that are good Monday recipes as they lack meat. I’ve also heard about and experienced other theme nights like: Pasta night, Soup nights, Taco night, and Chinese night. Using themes on a weekly or rotating basis can make meal planning and organizing easier and makes you less likely to throw up your arms in surrender to the golden arches.

3. Crock-pot: It has been my routine over the past two years to become quite acquainted with my Crock-pot. I try to make 1-2 meals a week in the Crock-pot. When planning I always look at our family schedule to see which days will be busiest and choose to make those nights Crock-pot meal nights. Many Crock-pot recipes can be made in advance and frozen so that when the day of chaos arrives all you have to do is thaw the pre-frozen meal and put it in the pot. I am blessed to have a baby-sitter who comes to my house so we have an understanding that a couple of times a week she may need to plug in my Crock-pot and occasionally stir the contents. This works out well. It is virtually a stress-free dinner on my end. I do the prep ahead of time and I strategically plan the meal to be done at exactly the time I know we will be available to eat that night. There is no waiting for water to boil or the oven to pre-heat. Plus, so many of the Crock-pot recipes out there are healthy and delicious. It’s like a 2 for 1. I get the satisfaction of serving my family a home-cooked meal and it is generally pretty healthy and packed with vegetables and protein.

Many of my favorite Crockpot recipes come from this book. I purchased it 2 years ago on Amazon.


4. Don’t be afraid of left overs: This option is a little easier if you have a smaller family, but one thing I usually do is I double the serving amount of most dinners so that there will be leftovers galore. My husband and I both pack our lunches at school (we are too afraid of the cafeteria food) and so I like to be sure that just about every night I will be making enough to supply our lunches for the next day. Additionally, I tend to pick one meal a week (usually a soup or a pasta because it isn’t as expensive) and I double that recipe. This way we not only have enough for lunches the next day, but that there may be extra left overs for another dinner. This idea is optimal on days where one of us is working later than the other like parent teacher conference nights…or double header basketball games 😦 It has taken me a long time and I’m still not totally sold on the idea of serving leftovers as a dinner meal, but it beats the alternative of hopping in the car to waste some money on clogged arteries and soda.

5. Know what’s for dinner: Lastly, one way I’ve stayed on top of meal planning is checking every night before I go to bed what the meal will be the following day. I don’t do this because I’m obsessed with eating (although that isn’t too much of a stretch), but that way I can plan ahead in my mind how I will accomplish meal prep and know whether or not something needs to thaw overnight. I’ve all too often been the victim of good intentions and planned my meals in advance, but once the week gets started I don’t stay on top of it. I succumb to my busy schedule and rush home after work to prepare a meal that I can’t recall until I check my journal. This is dangerous because so often I would come home to a menu that required a pre-thawed chicken or prep that I didn’t have time to complete. That’s when I ended up defeated… when I failed to know what’s for dinner. And defeat always landed me in a long drive-thru line. Every night after completing the clean-up of that meal I try to verbalize with my husband what to expect tomorrow. It’s a good reminder.

I’m still in the market for a good app for my iphone to help keep meal planning organized and streamlined. I’ve tried several apps, but nothing that I’m totally impressed with so until the day I find an app to save my sanity these are a few ways that I try to stay on top of healthy meal prep and avoid the toxicity of regular fast food habits. I am resolving to completely cut out fast food from the diet of myself and my family. I’m setting realistic goals, but my ultimate goal is to cut it out completely. But phase 1 is 6 months no fast-food. I’ll keep you updated on how we’re doing. Please feel free to share tips that work for your family!


Why Blog?

The most common advice that I’ve read out there for newbie bloggers is to focus on something that makes you unique. They say to find something about yourself that you can share with others to mutually benefit you as the author and the readers as well. I struggle with picking out one thing about myself to truly focus on in this blog. I have too many interests to limit myself to just one particular aspect to highlight. In truth, I am questioning the value in blogging at all, but the aspiring author in me is yearning to give it a try. So in this struggle to label my individuality I came to the conclusion that I am so multifaceted that picking ONE thing about myself would be to limit my inspiration in this blog.

So who am I?

I am a wife. I’m an All-American girl who fell in love with an English-native who left behind his British roots to grow some new one’s with me in small town America. We have worked together to build a home that values the similarities and differences in cultures we both were raised in and we share a love and passion for travel for those very same reasons.

I am a mother. I am a young mother of a two year-old girl who has given my life a whole new definition. I have learned more from my daughter and watching her grow and thrive than I could ever hope to have taught her in a lifetime.

I am a Christian. I strive everyday to reflect Christ to those around me…most importantly my family.

I am a teacher. I brave the long halls and attitudes of high school for a second time in my life, but this time as the teacher. I have been a high school teacher in a rural community for four years now. I teach English and World History for 9th grade students. I feel that one of my callings in life is to be a witness for Christ in the public school system (which at times can be a bit of a challenge)

I am a new home owner. With home ownership comes a seemingly endless list of projects to make my family’s home as lovely and inviting as those of us who reside within it.

From this list I have concluded what makes me unique is the balancing act that is my life. We all struggle with keeping it together and staying on top of everything. We all wear so many hats in this life. These are my many hats that I work to balance on my head everyday. Each day I aim to be a better wife, mother, Christian, teacher, and home owner. This blog is my documentation of this balancing act. My hope is that in documenting my steps it will help encourage me in this journey where the struggle is REAL…and in turn may also serve as inspiration for others out there. I welcome comments and suggestions for posts. My goal is to create a community with other women like myself out there who are striving to be their very best everyday and conquer the world in the name of Jesus and family.

And that’s why I blog.