It’s finally here. The eve of the much anticipated launch date of Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: a planner to celebrate the seasons has arrived. I’m equal parts nervous and relieved. It’s been a long journey and there’s still a long road ahead as I continue to work on Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac (the book/curriculum/online content). The planner has been my Everest. My elephant. My one-bite-at-a-time beast. The accompanying Almanac is no different. And I’m only a few bites into that giant meal.
Since the Almanac itself is still under construction I thought I’d give you some tips and insight into how I imagined the planner might be used without it’s mate. The planner was designed to work as a stand alone product or as an accompaniment to the future Almanac. The same will be true of the Almanac itself once it is released. Use them together or use one without the other. In this series of posts I hope to show you the various ways you could implement these two tools in your home. My hope is that I’ve built a lot of flexibility into the products so that you can adapt them to suit your needs. So, let’s dive into the sections of the planner and how to use it as a stand alone product. First up in the series, “What’s included in the planner?”
The Purchasing Options
There are a couple of purchasing options for the planner so let’s look at those first.
You can purchase the complete planner (200+ pages), individual seasons (50+ pages in each season), or a mini holiday planner that includes planning pages for Lent, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I’ve set it up this way mainly because of cost considerations. When I originally set out to create this planner I wanted to design something visually appealing that included all of the things we cherish in our family without breaking the bank. As the planner grew and grew it became a bit of a beast to produce. I ultimately decided to offer it to you as a digital download so that I could continue to explore affordable publishing options over the course of the next year. But, even printing at home or at a big box store like Office Depot is simply too costly for some to do all at once. So I decided to offer it up in seasons for those who might like to spend a little along. It’s also hard to know if a planner really fits your lifestyle until you’ve tried it out. So, downloading and printing a little bit at a time let’s you “try it on” to see if it fits. Of course, the complete planner gives you a more detailed picture of how I meant for it to be used so we’ll focus on that offering in this post. There are minor differences in the content of the complete planner and the individual seasons. For instance, the complete planner gives you all 52 weekly themes at once in a “Themes at a Glance” page so that you can plan ahead. The seasonal offerings only included the themes for the weeks in that particular season with no option to look ahead. The complete planner also offers an extra page of notes at the beginning of each season and the holiday planner is included for free.
Each month begins with a monthly cover page and an overview page.
A Visual Feast
The cover page is a visual representation of that month’s offerings. For instance, a quick glance at the page for February 2018 let’s me know that Candlemas, Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday/Lent, frost, President’s Day, and Groundhog day are all a part of the coming month. Obviously it isn’t a complete representation of February but it offers me a visual feast to imagine the month ahead. A monthly cover might feature images of weather, animals of the season, major holidays, or seasonal foods. There’s also a list of flora and fauna applicable to that month. It is not a regional list so you might see some animals or plants that will never apply to your geographic area no matter the season (i.e. – narwhals in ohio? Never going to happen). The idea behind the flora and fauna list is more of a “what’s happening somewhere in my country right now” mentality. When do salmon spawn in Alaska? When do sandhill cranes migrate? You get the idea. And I’ve left a spot for you to add your own important things for the month and plenty of white space to doodle.
The overview page has space for rough planning for the month. Jot down ideas here and lay them out on the following pages in greater detail. This page is a place to put all the things. The following pages are for the narrowing down. Jot, jot, jot away.
Included on this page:
- shopping list
- monthly goals
- monthly crafts
- meal ideas
- important dates
- book basket
Monthly and Weekly Calendars
The monthly overview spread is followed by a two-page monthly calendar complete with a Saint-of-the-Month (for further study of Christian virtues and shortcomings) as well as notes and beloved white space for your seasonal quotes or doodles.
The weekly spreads give you a Monday-Sunday, two-page spread to fine tune the details of your week. Again, plenty of white space for mini post-it reminders or journaling as well as a notes section, Sunday bible readings, and the theme for that week.
Ah, the weekly theme. Let me stop here and give you my biggest tip for using this planner. The weekly theme is not your boss! It is simply there to do with what you will. Or don’t. Please, do not let it taunt you from the bottom corner of your planner. It bears repeating in my southern drawl to really drive home the point: “That theme ain’t the boss of you!” If you can’t come up with a “Winter Birds” themed activity or lesson or recipe it’s no big deal. They are a prompting, simply there to keep you mindful of seasonally related themes you could implement if you wanted to. And, if you don’t like the theme for that week, insert your own. My plan is to eventually create stickers that match the theme banner and the saint flags so that you can cover them up and write in your own. I plan to make up a page of stickers at some point that will allow you to further customize your planner so you can change the saints to birds or different saints or a different focus altogether. The point is, the theme is there as a friendly built-in tool to help you, not to shame you into doing more than you can or should. Whew! What a relief.
The small section at the bottom of each daily column can be used to list that day’s meals or scripture readings, or important to-dos.
Meals and Nature Notes
At the end of each month there’s a spread for monthly meals and monthly nature notes. The boxes on these pages have intentionally been left small. The monthly meals page is meant to get a visual representation of your month as it applies to the rest of your life. For instance, we have two boys in hockey right now. During hockey season I know we will be away from home during dinner time twice a week and away at breakfast and lunch 1-2 times per week. I can turn to this page and note slow cooker meals for the nights we’re away and/or forego cooking altogether and mark it as a drive-thru night. This helps me with my general grocery budget for the month. It’s not a space for detailed menu planning. It’s more of a “how much food do I need to budget for this month” space. You might be wondering what the “meal ideas” space is for at the beginning of the month on the “overview” page? This is a space to make notes of menu ideas you come across on pinterest or in magazines or otherwise. Jot them down in the “meal ideas” column but use the “monthly meals” page at the back of the month to apply them to a day that’s practical as it relates to your grocery planning and shopping. If I come across a new meal on Pinterest I’d like to try I’m not going to put it on a hockey night. You get the idea.
The nature notes are small as well for simply recording things like temperature, first frosts, or garden notes. Simple little recordings are all that’s needed here. And again, that glorious white space built in for your seasonal stickers or notes.
In the Beginning
At the beginning of the complete planner and each individual planner is a 2018 reference calendar page followed by a Year-at-a-glance page for long-term planning (Here’s where I need to note a slight difference in layout between the complete planner and individual seasons. The photo above is representative of the layout in the seasonal planners. The complete planner actually has an additional page that looks similar to the year-at-a-glance page but it lists all 52 themes for the year in a December-November fashion. This additional page changes the order of the pages and adds an additional blank page for notes.) I went back and forth about the order of the months on this page and ultimately decided to keep them Jan-Dec to limit confusion. That way, no matter which season you start in, you can still see the traditional calendar year at a glance.
The spread shown above is not included in the individual seasonal planners. It is a feature of the complete planner meant to separate the months into their seasons. It includes a page for notes, journaling, and doodling that might apply to the season to come. In the seasonal planners the image you see on the left is your planner cover and the note page is not included.
Within each season in the complete planner (and at the beginning of each individual seasonal planner) is a space for lesson planning. This is not a space for detailed lessons and assignments but rather a space to get an idea of places to study in a particular season (like Germany or Jerusalem in December), virtues to focus on (like loving your neighbor in February), crafts to complete (like beeswax candles at Candlemas), etc. Remember, the planner is all about what’s happening around us in a particular season. This is a space to make general notes of those tasks or lessons. When the almanac is complete it will include lessons and ideas to go along with these spaces that you can use if you don’t want to come up with your own.
To help you plan for the season of Lent the cover page includes reminders for things like seasonal foods and crafts. There’s a Lenten reading plan and spaces for Prayers, Fasting, and Almsgiving to jot down notes and goals for the season. The planning page includes spaces for shopping lists, baking, crafting, special events/activities, and notes. There’s an additional page with spaces for planning meatless meals, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
The Thanksgiving pages include lists of seasonal food, happenings, and crafts on the cover page, a gratitude page with a Thanksgiving reading plan and a Thanksgiving day timeline to plan out your day, a meal planning page for everything from drinks to desserts, and a planning page for activities, holiday cleaning, and shopping.
The Christmas planner has all the same types of pages as Lent and Thanksgiving with added space for listing holiday movies to watch, spaces for each week of advent, and a gift log to track who you’ve bought for, tracking numbers, and whether you’ve wrapped it or not.
Next up in the series we’ll chat about why the planner begins with December and ends in November. You can find the link to all of the posts in this series listed below as they become available.
Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: An Introduction
Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Pages (You are here)
Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Seasons
Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: Printing
Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Future (coming soon)