Thursday, January 29, 2015

Honest Erin Condren Planner Review and How to Personalize SIMPLY!

Last year, I did an in-depth review of the Martha Stewart Planner. This year, I'm SUPER excited to do one for the Erin Condren Life Planner! I had been wanting this planner for 2 years and finally got it for 2015. It arrived at my doorstep in its gorgeous packaging. Along with the planner, you receive little freebies like postcards, stickers, tags and quotes.

There are so many pretty covers to choose from but I decided to get the Platinum Foil cover in Turquoise. The pens I use in this planner are Foray Stylemark from Office Depot. Highly recommend! 

Here's a look inside:

I have personalized the planner in a few ways. Will discuss them in this post!

I missed the pockets in my Martha Stewart Planner for holding business cards and my son's vaccination card. The Erin Condren Planner didn't have it, so I stuck in these pockets that I found from The Container Store. I also made sure to add my contact information in case I misplace the planner.

During this past year, Erin Condren's team came up with an amazing new product - the EC coil clips. If you order the planner MAKE SURE you order the add on item of clips. My only regret is just getting one pack instead of two because they only stick to one thing and are not repositionable. There's so much you can do with them! Here, I have added an old envelope I had and I use it for receipts I want to keep track of. Much better than scrunched up receipts lying around in the purse.

After the envelope, I have used another EC clip to snap in my 2015 goals list.

At the back of the goals sheet, I stuck a post it of an important reminder I keep tending to forget:
My baby is growing up and almost ready for school! Need a constant reminder :) 

I then made a dashboard for sticky notes and paper clips. I used transparent Project Life papers for the backing and used EC coil clips. There's a detailed how-to of the dashboards here.

The planner has a handy overview of the 2014 and 2015 year at a glance at the beginning: 
I find this helpful for planning vacations 

Now, on to the actual planner pages! There are inspirational quotes scattered across the planner. That's one thing that sets the Erin Condren Planner apart from most others. 
My cover was printed incorrectly when it was sent to me - I had asked for 2015 to be written underneath my name. To be completely honest, this is a recurring theme with this company: mistakes in planners and sometimes delays in delivery. However, the quality of the products are outstanding and customer service always sends store credit or an offer to replace where the mistake happened, so all is not lost. I was given $20 store credit to buy a new cover, so I took the opportunity to buy a few add ons along with a cheaper planner cover. The above is a Snap-in To Do List. It is laminated, so you can use dry erase markers to write on it. However, I find that to be messy so I just use post it notes on it and it has been working great!

A look at Month at a Glance:
On these two pages, I write down main tasks I have to do that day, or jot down any special occasion. Washi tape is used for events that last more than one day. To take a look at how I use the letter post its for brain dumping, you can check out my older post here.

Here's a closer look at the key that I use to color coordinate:
This was super simple to make. I stuck a sheet of decorated notepad paper with double-sided tape on to a spare paint chip sample from Lowe's. I then used an EC coil clip to snap it in and I can move it from month to month.

Next, we have Week at a Glance:
The days are divided by Morning, Day and Night. I wish we were able to personalize the categories on our own. I would have preferred Home, Work and To Do, or something along those lines. I know there are some planner enthusiasts who actually go one by one and change the categories using stickers or stamps, but I couldn't see myself doing that. Hopefully the website will have an option for this in the future! 

At the bottom of each day, there are some extra lines for you to use as you wish. Some people menu plan here, buy I chose to use the space as a section for highlights of my day. It's great to look back and read all the positive moments I've had. Really brings a smile :)

During busier weeks, my planner looks more like this. In this particular week, I had family staying over for 5 days, so I planned out all the meals in these two pages. I added post its and used paper clips to add in extra double sided notes. I also stuck in my grocery list for this week on the planner pages. 

On top you can see there's a Today sign sticking out. This is a Project Life card that I snapped in using an EC coil clip. I use post its to change the tasks and can move the card around from week to week. Having the Today sign peep over the top also helps to bookmark which week I am on so I can easily turn to the page.

An example of a not so busy week:

You can easily make your planner pretty by using washi or paper tape. I only use them for events that are longer than a day long, but be creative and use them how they suit you the best! I got these specific ones from a store called Paper Source.

At the end of the planner, there are many lined and blank pages that are empty, so it's up to you to decide how to use them. I have only used a few of the sheets so far:
I usually just meal plan in my mind rather than writing it down. However, when I have guests coming over I make sure to meal plan at least a week in advance. I plan to use this section for either that, or if I'm stuck for ideas and need to quickly check my go-to meals. I use repositionable stickers provided at no extra cost at the back of the planner, so I can easily move them back and forth from this Snap-In Meal Planner. The snap in was another purchase I made with the $20 store credit given for the mistake on the cover. 

At the back of the snap in, there's a section for writing your grocery list. Again, this is meant for using with a dry erase marker, but it would be messy. Instead, I used post it notes from the Dollar Spot at Target to write a list of items that are staple in my house. These are items I use on a regular basis. I plan to make grocery lists based on these two sheets of paper so that I can skim through and don't miss out on something important. It happens sometimes when you're doing groceries with a toddler!

On the next page, I made a section for new meals to learn in 2015. I hope to fill up this entire page with new meal ideas. Please comment below if there's an awesome dish you can provide a recipe for!

On the next page, I made a Wish List for 2015. These are some of the bigger items. 
Next to it I kept a quote provided by Erin Condren reminding me that if I don't get the things that I wish, it doesn't's the people who do. Just helps to keep things in perspective!

Then there are calendars provided for 2016 and 2017. Could be useful for vacations, wedding planning or planning your semesters at university.

These are the stickers provided for free towards the end of the planner. They are repositionable. If you pay extra you can get customized stickers in this section as well.

There's a pocket that helps to keep little pieces of paper together. I kept the freebies provided by Erin Condren in here.

Here's another item provided with the planner: A Perpetual Calendar and Contacts Booklet. It's useful for moving from year to year in different planners. 

Finally, there's a zippered pocket at the end of the planner. Inside, there are personalized tag stickers for gifts which is a nice touch.
Another thing provided was a matching band to go around the planner to keep it shut. Wish I had known about this earlier so that I didn't buy extras! You can also use the band to bookmark which page you are on in the planner. I also bought this pen holder, but it was not needed because you can just stick a clip on pen inside the coils of the planner. I added a large binder clip at the back of the cover in case there are some bigger pieced of paper like brochures that I want to keep in my planner.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I am definitely pleased with this planner. Yes, it is rather pricey, but if it is a thing that you use day in and day out for 365 of the year, I find it worth it, for at least a year in your life. I personally use a new planner every year just to see what's out there in the market, so trying the EC planner this year was a nice breath of fresh air. 

Another thing to note is that Erin Condren is a small company with not too many employees, and their sales just escalated very rapidly in recent years. They sell high quality products, but unfortunately making mistakes in orders is not unusual in this company. Just be mentally prepared for that and don't look glum because you always get great store credit if there are mistakes from which you can buy even more quality products! Suits me!

In conclusion, because of the price I would not buy this product year after year. But I am SO glad I bought it this time. It makes me happy to look at it every day :)

If you're interested in buying this planner or any other product from the Erin Condren line for the first time, you can use my referral link for $10 off your entire purchase. Also, just a note that this is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own and the company has no idea I'm writing this post :)

How do you personalize your planner? I would LOVE to read your comments! If you're on Instagram tag me @simplyincontrol to show me your awesome planners!

I hope this post was helpful to you! Don't forget to Like this Page on Facebook and Follow me on Pinterest for more updates! 

Linked to A Bowl Full of Lemons

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Importance of Toddler Activity Packs

When leaving the house, I think it's really essential to have activity packs for toddlers. Whether it's for car rides, events where they have to be quiet, airplane rides or anything else that takes time, packing a few toys and other activities can really help them stay occupied and help you to stay in control of the situation! I always see parents of toddlers at functions or lectures constantly telling their children to keep quiet when they get fidgety and start whining, but not having anything for them to do. Toddlers aren't adults, they have a lot more energy inside them than us! Having activities that you only take out when you are outside the house will keep them interested and busy.

I rotate the toys in my toddler's activity pack, but here is an example of some of the things I take:

This activity pack includes 3D glasses with stickers, a notebook, crayons, 2 mini books, a mini Etch a Sketch, a few toys, a teether and a lollipop for emergency situations. I make sure to only give him one toy or book at a time or else he'll get bored of everything all too soon!

I am able to pack all of that in a zippered binder pocket. Something else to do is download videos on your smartphone for your toddler and have apps installed that are suitable for their age. That alone keeps them busy for a long time! If we need to be quiet at the place we are going to, another option is keeping a magnetic drawing board. If we don't have to be quiet, I make sure to keep interactive toys. There is an abundance of these out in the market. Here are a couple of my favorite that I make sure to take with me when we go out. I rotate these when we go out:

Snacks are also a MUST have item which I keep every time we go out. It helps keep them busy for a while and less cranky!

I would love to hear what you do to keep your children busy when you go out! It can be a challenge at times :)
I hope this post was helpful to you! Don't forget to Like this Page on Facebook andFollow me on Pinterest for more updates! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Make your own Burrito Station using Dessert Bowls!

It's nice to sometimes change up your serving style and try something new. For a lunch meal, instead of making burritos myself for my guests, I made a burrito station. By simply adding some glassware items at the table, you can add an air of elegance to a fun meal! I ended up using two different kinds of dessert bowls and the height difference added some depth. The brand names are Circleware and Libbey Just Desserts [NOT just for desserts :)!].

Apart from the ingredients included in the picture, you can also include shredded cheese. I personally skip that and drizzle some Ranch in the end. Delicious!

I hope this post was helpful to you! Don't forget to Like this Page on Facebook and Follow me on Pinterest for more updates! 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Erin Condren Planner DIY Dashboard!

Last year, I did an in-depth review of the Martha Stewart discbound planner, and I plan to do the same at the end of January for the planner I purchased this year: The Erin Condren Life Planner. However, I got a bit excited after customizing it and thought I'd show you a sneak peak of one section: the dashboard! 

In the first few pages, you land on these two pages: 

Cute, but could be more functional! Since it's the beginning of the planner, I decided to make it the background of my dashboards.

I used some transparent Project Life cardstock paper that I got 50% off at Michael's after using the coupon and some sticky notes of my choice. Just make sure not to add too many sticky notes or it will become too bulky. 

If you ever plan to purchase an Erin Condren planner, the add on coil clips are a MUST for personalizing your planner! My only regret is getting one pack instead of two. You  can pull out the coil clips and move them to different parts of your planner or use different inserts at different times. There are so many options and I can't wait to show them to you in the end of January! 

To attach the sticky notes to the cardstock, I used scrapbooking adhesive tape which is double sided. It was for $2.99 at Michael's. 

If you're interested in buying the Erin Condren Life Planner for yourself, feel free to use my referral link which gives you $10 off your purchase!  

I hope this post was helpful to you! Don't forget to Like this Page on Facebook and Follow me on Pinterest for more updates! 

How do you personalize your planner? I'd love to hear about it!

Linked to A Bowl Full of Lemons

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