The Art of the To-Do List

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

One of my very first posts in my first year of blogging was on to-do lists. I still adore the to-do list; while it’s definitely not a new idea to stay on top of life and stay organized, there’s something to be said about making (and keeping) a to-do list on a daily or weekly basis. Keeping lists, at least for me, is crucial since I work from home.

Now, I definitely feel like there are different methods to keeping lists. In today’s post, I want to share some methods I’ve discovered with you, and you can modify them for your needs as you see fit. I’m going to also rank them from simple to more elaborate.

Good ol’ Notepads

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? The notepad is a good way to keep daily lists running, especially since you normally toss a sheet of notepaper (and by notepaper, in this case, I mean tear-off pads and sticky notes) once it’s done.

Plus, there are some cute notepads out there.

Like this one.

So, in short, notepads are good for:
  • Short-term, day-by-day tasks
  • Grocery/shopping lists
  • Quick reminders and notes (stick them to your mirror or nightstand)

A Dedicated To-Do List Notebook

I consider this a step up from the traditional notepad in that you wouldn’t tear out these pages. Instead, you would keep track of your lists in a dedicated space.

When I was in middle school, we were actually required to keep one of these for homework. I actually wound up keeping this method through my college years, just because it was awesome having a list specifically for these tasks. For college, what I would do is go to the library, outline what I would do, and then highlight each task as I got it done. It kept me productive during my dedicated study sessions.

This one I bought for my last year of college was from May Designs.

I guess the 2013 me never got around to Labs 5B and 7B that day, ha!

The to-do list notebook is good for:
  • Student things (homework, tasks, meetings, etc.)
  • Keeping track of what you did during a given week

Within Your Agenda or Planner

Like to keep everything condensed in one spot? The planner method is for you.

I currently keep to-do lists in my Erin Condren planner. I use the vertical layout and dedicate one box to to-do lists. And it’s been a wonderful thing to see what I’ve needed to do not only during a given day, but within the context of a week.

Also, you can use this method in weekly and hourly layouts, too. It’s all up to you.

So, use the planner method for:
  • Keeping both calendar events and to-do list items in the same place
  • Keeping track of items throughout a week
  • Making lists of things to get done during your week without assigning them to a specific day (Erin Condren planners have a sidebar that’s great for this, but other planners have space for this, too…shop around and see what you like.)

Bullet Journal!

Do you like to get creative? Say hello to your new little friend: the Bullet Journal.

The Bullet Journal, a system created by Ryder Carroll, pretty much turns your calendar and to-do list items into a huge listing system, and it’s a phenomenal tool for tons of people. A quick search on Pinterest for bullet journaling has some of the most beautiful artwork and layouts I’ve ever seen.

I’ve dabbled in this system before, and while it’s not the best system for me to use as my only planner (since it’s tricky to plan ahead with it), I will say that it’s amazing for keeping lists and tracking habits, as well as itemizing collections and things you want to do. Plus, I recommend using the bullet journal system if you’re a writer (for more info, check out my post here).

Bullet journaling would be a great fit for you for:
  • Simplifying your planning and list systems into one notebook
  • Keeping track of habits and things you want to see and do (especially on a monthly basis)
  • If you love being creative with your listing, planning, and tracking (especially if you love the idea of a blank canvas to do it all in)

How do you keep to-do lists? Let’s talk about it! :)

Friday Five | 8/25/17

Friday, August 25, 2017

It’s Friday! (More like Fri-Yay, am I right? ;] )

Let’s talk about five specific things!

The Solar Eclipse!

Look how gray and dusky the sky is! And the street lamp!

It seemed like everyone was watching and waiting with bated breath for the eclipse on Monday…and I was one of them.

We weren’t in the exact path of totality, but it did get dark. Our street lamp turned on, and the crickets went crazy for a little while. It was as though it was 6 PM instead of 1 PM. I consider myself a space nerd, and I love stuff like this. It was really, really fun to watch the eclipse with my mom, and I’m glad I got to experience at least a small part of it.

The whole “writing 500 words” thing

It’s been going pretty well! I’ve been going back and forth between using Fighter’s Block and good old Scrivener to accomplish this. Have I been doing this all week? Well…I did miss Monday and Tuesday, but I DID make up for it and write 1300 words on Wednesday.

Library Days

Speaking of writing, I spent a couple days this week at the library doing some writing and NaNoWriMo planning.

Oh, what’s that? Did I mention NaNoWriMo?

I guess now’s a good time to announce that I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month this year! The past couple of Novembers, I spent the 30 days writing 30 short stories, essentially writing two anthologies with a grand total of 60 short stories now in my portfolio. Now, I feel like I’m finally ready to take the plunge and actually do NaNoWriMo for real. 50,000 words? Bring it.

(And, yes, I know that you’re supposed to wait until October to prep, but my novel needs a ton of character, world, and plot development before I move forward.)

Lemon Tea & Honey

I have been sick this week. The jankiest of colds has been going around, and I caught one. Yippee.

Luckily, herbal lemon and ginger tea and honey has helped. A lot. I drink that in addition to coffee if my throat’s bothering me.

“Look What You Made Me Do”

I can’t finish off a Friday Five without talking about Taylor Swift’s newest single that came out less than twelve hours ago.

Of course, I love her music. However, I’m curious to see what this turn to electro-pop-punk means for the rest of her album. But, I tell ya…she can write music. The lyrics are pretty awesome. And I'm excited for the video to be out Sunday!

What have you been loving this week?

Wonderland Reads: Series Review - "Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" + "Necromancing the Stone"

Monday, August 21, 2017

Every year, I set up a reading challenge on Goodreads. It’s a fun way to keep track of what books I’ve read during the years I’ve set these goals, and it’s also a great way to look back on what books I loved (and maybe find similar titles in the future).

This year, I’ve set a goal to read 15 books. And one of those 15 books I’ve had the absolute pleasure and delight of reading is Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride.

Here is a synopsis for the curious:

Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he's doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak. 
Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else. 
With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

Y’all, I. LOVED. This. Book.

The writing style reminded me of another old favorite series of mine, Off to Be the Wizard. It was a riot with great characters and a storyline that kept me gripped from page one. I devoured this book in 24 hours.

I wish I could say the same of its sequel, Necromancing the Stone.

I hate to DNF (did not finish) any book, but after a week and a half of just reading a few pages on and off, I decided to call this one quits halfway through. 

The humor just wasn’t there for me in the sequel…the main character was whinier, and the story took some very, very strange directions that I wasn’t a fan of. The bright side? The gnomes (who had names like “Chuck the Norriser) who would provide comic relief. I guess I was expecting it to be just like the Off to Be the Wizard series I loved (which, I actually liked the second and third books just as much as the first). 

So, at the end of the day, I’d recommend “Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.” It’s definitely one of my new favorite books of all time. Maybe I’ll give the sequel another shot someday, but for now, I think I’ll venture elsewhere.

Final Ratings:
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer - five pandas out of five
Necromancing the Stone - three gnomes out of five

What books have you read lately?

images and synopsis credit: Goodreads

Friday Five | 8/18/17

Friday, August 18, 2017

Hey, y'all! This Friday Five has some pretty epic stuff in it, not gonna lie.

Well, why wait when I can tell you all about it?

I published a short story!

"The Pirate College" launched Tuesday. It’s a story I had an absolute blast writing, and I am thrilled that it’s finally out! (If you want to buy a copy for Kindle or paperback, click here. If you want to find out more about my self-publishing and how I got started, click here.)

Bic Gelocity Pens

These have been my office supply of choice as of late. I love the bright colors and how fast they dry. (You can pick them up on Amazon here.)

Barista Parlor Coffee

Now, if y’all have been reading my blog for awhile, you know how much I love Barista Parlor. But it had been a good while since I enjoyed a cup of one of their specialty coffees, and, y’all, it was good. (The one I tried last night had cherry pie notes. Cherry pie!)

Fighter’s Block

These days, I’ve been trying to write at least 500 words a day to stay conditioned creative writing-wise, and also just because I love it. It’s been a fun habit to build.

But the thing that’s really helped me build that habit has been this web app. As you type, you play as a little character trying to fight off a monster. The more you type, the faster you win. The less you type, the monster has a chance of winning. Video games and writing? That’s a serious win-win for me.

If you’d like to try it, check it out here.

These Verses

"Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” - 1 Corinthians 15:58

“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10

What have you been loving this week?

Just a quick disclaimer before I go: I am not being paid to advertise specific items. I just want to share what I love with you guys. :)

Will College Change Me?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I'm three years out of college. I actually started this blog in my last year of school, and it definitely feels like this blog has grown up with me. As such, I really haven't written anything student-wise or really anything relating to college life, just because it's not something I'm a part of now.

One of my younger cousins actually started college this week. I remember holding her the day after she was born, and she's like a little sister to me. Since she's going to college in my home state, she's actually spent a lot of time with us as of late, and it's been good getting to see her during her transition into college life.

All this said, this has gotten me thinking about a question I remember having back when I was starting college, and I'm sure a lot of my collegiate readers have thought this as well...will college change me?

Short answer? Yes.

Long answer? It depends on what you mean by change.

If I'm completely honest, I don't really like unknowns. And when I was about to start college, I was terrified of them. So, when I was told that I was probably going to change in college, I didn't know what to think.

Now, I can say that in hindsight, I did change. And change is good.

This change mainly came from faith. I made friends in college who were of like-minded faith. I grew closer to God in that I was the one calling the shots as to whether or not I would make the effort to go to church if I had the time to do so.

I also changed in that I got to pursue talents that I had, as well as opportunities I didn't know I would have. I got to be editor-in-chief of the school newspaper at the end of my college career, as well as dabble in the news department at a radio station.

Then, I changed in that I appreciated where I came from. I appreciated my hometown, as well as my home church, so much more than before I started college. And now that I'm out of school, that appreciation is definitely still there.

I say all this to say that as a college student, you should not be afraid of change. If anything, you should embrace it. Embrace every opportunity, every good and bad moment, and every peak and valley. You are there for a reason. Trust and walk with God through it all, because He loves you. Lean on family and friends.

This change will turn out good in the end. :)

How to Pack the Perfect Weekend Bag

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I. love. weekend. trips.

I just went on one recently. And I have a feeling I'll be going on many more. But the reason why I love weekend trips so much is that they are a fantastic way to get a vacation in without interrupting your routine in real life so much.

Packing for these kinds of trips can be very tricky, though. However, I think I finally have a system down, and I want to share it with you guys.

Step 1: Make a list with specifics.

Whether it’s on your phone, an iPad, or even some kind of bullet journal or planner, making a list will definitely help you keep your items straight. You can wing it, sure, but you’re more likely to leave necessities that you didn’t remember while throwing things in your bag.

Also, since a weekend is pretty short as far as trips go, you may actually do well to pack by outfit. I normally don’t like doing this (I like options!), but if your space is limited, you may want to, say, plan on packing three shirts, a dress (you never know if you’ll be going to a nice dinner, and it’s good to have one on hand for Sundays if you’re attending church during your trip), and a couple pairs of shorts or jeans. That’s what I did for my weekend in Montgomery.

Step 2: Double-check your weather. 

This is a must! It’s not fun to pack for a sunny weekend when it winds up raining the whole time. That being said, be prepared for inclement weather just in case; pack shoes with some tread and an umbrella at the very least. Keep it minimal, since it’s just a weekend trip, but it’s better safe than sorry.

Also, it helps to bring layers. That way, if it does wind up being warmer where you are, you won’t have to worry. And if it’s colder, you’re prepared. It’s a win-win.

Step 3: Never underestimate the power of a great bag. 

I love my Ace Hotel duffel bag I got for Christmas. It’s huge and perfect for weekend trips because it has tons of space while still having the ability to fit in car trunks easily. But if you prefer a hard-sided case, a carry-on size would be a great fit.

Step 4: Also, never underestimate the power of packing cubes.

My mom and I have been using packing cubes for awhile now. Even for short weekend trips, packing cubes are a great way to keep your bag clutter-free and organized by clothing type. For a weekend, I categorize my clothing into two cubes, and then pack a laundry bag. This pack from Amazon comes with a set of cubes and a laundry bag, and it’s my favorite.

Step 5: Roll. Those. Clothes. 

Packing cubes or not, rolling your clothes is a great way to utilize all the space you have, especially if your bag is on the smaller side.

Of course, I wouldn’t roll things like dresses that wrinkle easily, but I’d at least roll shirts and even jeans to save space.

Step 6: Travel sized items!

Let’s be honest…you really won’t need a whole tube of toothpaste or that entire bottle of shower gel for two days. Don’t get me wrong, you can still pack toothpaste and shower gel, just don’t pack enough to last a month when you only need it for a fraction of a week.

That being said...

Step 7: When in doubt about toiletries, pack them.

For example: are you wondering if there will be a hair dryer where you are staying? If so, go ahead and pack it. The reason why is that you may be the only one who brings it, and it’s better to be the one who shares the hair dryer with everyone else than to be the one who’s constantly asking for it.

Also, if you are sharing a hotel room with a few people, it’s a lot better to pack extra soap, just because amenities will be limited to the tiny travel sizes provided at the hotels. I packed extra goodies and soaps when I went to Hawaii, and though that was a longer trip than a weekend, I’m so happy I did.

Worst comes to worse, you can just pick up any extras at nearby drugstores.

What do you like to pack for weekend trips?

Quick disclaimer before I go. I am not being paid for any specific products linked or mentioned. I just wanted to share what I love with you guys. :)

Friday Five | 8/11/17

Friday, August 11, 2017

I’m kind of playing catch-up this week (since I didn’t feel like I had enough to constitute a Friday Five last week), but I have quite a bit to share with you guys!

The Little Mermaid

The girls and I went and saw a production of “The Little Mermaid” on stage at TPAC last week. It was so, so cute! I am a little biased towards the movie (I did grow up on Disney, after all), but it was still a lot of fun.

Jamba Juice Acai Bowls

I briefly mentioned these when I talked about Pure Barre, but after that workout…peanut butter, yogurt, and strawberries in an acai bowl never tasted so good. (I ordered a Chunky Strawberry bowl, for the curious.)


I got my hair cut this week! Nothing too crazy, but it was definitely time to take at least an inch and a half off for the rest of this summer.

Orange Julius

Post-haircut, I picked up some Dairy Queen and Orange Julius for my mom and I on the way home. Nothing truly beats an orange creamsicle-flavored beverage (or at least something frozen and orange). If I can’t get a Frozen Orange at the Varsity, this works (as well as the Orange Dream Machine from Jamba Juice).

What all have you been doing or loving this week? 

I Tried Pure Barre.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

It’s been a good while since I’ve worked out.

I used to do Zumba a ton in college, but ever since they quit offering it (and I graduated a few years ago), I’ve been kinda off the workout bandwagon. 

So when my friend Kinsey invited me to a Pure Barre class with her this week, I was intrigued. I decided to go for it.

Would I recommend it? Well, yes…but it depends on your experience. I would definitely try to go to a “foundations” or some kind of beginner class first. While it was good to get thrown into the midst of it, so to speak, I would have liked to learn some of the techniques they use beforehand. That way, you know what kind of intensity is ahead.

And, y’all, it’s intense.

This is a full-body workout with trace elements of yoga and other exercise programs. Plus, weights, exercise balls, stretching tubes, and mats are involved (for some of the yoga bits). And it is very fast-paced, too…kind of like Zumba, where you follow the teacher without stopping, but with more intensity and no dancing. 

Plus, when it’s your first class, they work with you to make sure you at least know basic terminology before you get started. As such, it’s important to get there early. (Also, as there is a lot of floor exercising, I’d recommend leggings. Plus, they ask you to wear socks during the class, so make sure you have those.)

Afterwards, Kinsey and I went out for Jamba Juice. Because, why not?

If you want to try Barre for yourself, I’d recommend signing up for the free trial using their app. Then, that way, you have a full week to try the class out. Plus, I recommend going with a friend, too. (That's a good idea for any fitness class, just so it doesn't feel as intimidating.)

Will I be going back? Maybe someday. As I'm typing this, I'm pretty sore, so I may wait on going until later. But am I glad I tried it? Yes. :)

Have you ever tried Pure Barre or similar? What did you think of it?

What I'm Looking Forward To This Fall

Monday, August 7, 2017

I’m aware that it’s August, and not even close to Fall yet…especially since August is quite possibly one of the hottest months of the year in my home state of Tennessee.

But I’ve been thinking about Fall a lot. Not just because my birthday is almost 2 months away, but because I just love what Fall brings.

What does it bring?

1.Beanies. And sweaters, and scarves, and bundling up in general.

Ever since college, I’ve loved “Fall” clothes. Extra accessories - especially functional ones - can really pull an outfit together. Plus, given the cooler weather coming later (which will probably be closer to late October/November), it’ll help having those layers.

In the meantime, I’ll just rock utility jackets when it gets to the sixties.

2.Family gatherings.

I’ve always loved family gatherings, but now that I’m older, I truly appreciate them so much more. I mostly appreciate two things: getting to actually see family members I don’t see so often, and the little traditions we have (like various recipes and singing on the phone as a family to members for their birthdays).

3.Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Y’all know me well enough by now to know that seasonal drinks are my jam. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are absolutely no exception.


I was actually just thinking about this the other day, but I love boots. Boots are the very best in the Fall, not only for the style aspect, but also for layering. And, when it gets to be winter, a little tread on your boots goes a long way.


This kind of ties in with family gatherings, but I love Fall holidays, too. Halloween and Thanksgiving are the very best. Also, with holidays come festivals. My hometown puts on a wonderful Pumpkinfest that’s a ton of fun. Not to mention that there's a Trunk or Treat we do every year at my church. :)

My girls and I were the Queen of Hearts, Alice, and the Cheshire Cat last year to pass out candy for the kids. :)

What are you looking forward to this Fall?