Monthly Archives: May 2017

7 posts

Plan with Me: Erin Condren vs. …

From as long as I can remember I have looked forward to getting a NEW Planner in June, and filling it up with plans, class schedules, due dates, reminders, check lists and all sorts of nerdy things. I kind of felt alone in my love of planning until I ran across some “Plan with Me” videos on Youtube and found that there are whole online communities dedicated to PLANNING!

These are MY kind of people…

It didn’t take me long to find the Erin Condren Life Planner and fall literally in love with the versatility of this planner.  After a solid year of using my Life Planner, I have a big decision to make.

Do I order the new one? 
Do I keep using this one for the remaining months of 2018?
Do I ditch EC all together and try something new?

What’s a girl to do?

Things I LOVE about EC Life Planners

  • Customer Service
    • The Customer Service is amazing, if you have a question or an issue you can contact them on ANY social Media platform or by calling and they will respond. 
  • The General Line of Products
    • EC has so many adorable products, all customizable and I’m obsessed! 

  • The Layout of the Planner
    • I love how you can decide on Hourly, Vertical or Horizontal to fit your needs. 
  • The Personalization
    • I LOVE seeing my initials on my planner, it’s just so adorable! 
  • Coupons and Discounts
    • EC has a great referral program, where the person who uses your link gets 10.00 and YOU get 10.00 off too.
Things I don’t LOVE about EC Life Planners
  • The Price. 
    • At over 50.00 per planner, it’s so hard for my to justify the purchase every year. There are great referral programs, but it’s hard to justify for me right now. 
If I don’t order an EC Life Planner, which will I purchase? 

One of my favorite planners was this Pocket Planner from Orange Circle Studios.

Things I like about this Planner
  • Small size, perfect for the diaper bag, purse or backpack
  • Economical – At less than 15.00 you can have an adorable planner without breaking a budget
  • Bright Colors and Quotes – Similar to the Erin Condren, it is filled with bright colors and quotes. 
  • The Layout – This planner has a full month view to jot down big plans or appointments, and also has weekly spreads
  • Extra’s – In the back you will find notes pages and pre-made lists such as “books to read” “movies to see” “vacations to take” 
Another Planner I love and have used in the past is the Lily Pulitzer Planner
This planner also has lots of fun prints, quotes and even includes Stickers it’s a great choice for the student or mom who loves to have a paper planner.  
The Final Planner I’ve been looking into and thinking about purchasing for 2018 is The Happy Planner
I’ve seen this planner all over Youtube and Instagram lately and seems to be very close to by beloved Erin Condren Life Planner. It seems to have plenty of space for me to write my daily to do lists, blog ideas, meal plans and other mom life items. 
What about you? Do you still use a paper planner to keep it all together? 
What planner would you purchase? 

*This post contains affiliate links*

Running Tips from Jeff Galloway – Motivation


There is a point where every runner needs a little motivation to head out the door. Here is a proven strategy to get moving on the tough days.The method has also been helpful in dealing with other challenges.

Mentally Rehearse: The following is a mental exercise that you can do throughout the day to prepare for this situation, as you are sitting around at the end of the day, driving, or commuting home. Don’t focus on the workout. Instead, break down the experience into a series of small steps which are easy to do. As you rehearse the sequence of these, over and over, you become more likely to follow the same pattern when you need to do so. Prepare by putting on comfortable shoes and clothes, and having your exercise equipment handy. You’re not thinking about exerting yourself – just getting out of work clothes and into clothes that are comfortable but could be used for your workout.

1. Coffee? As you are dressing, brew some coffee, tea, or have a diet drink, etc. Caffeine (if you have no problems with it) will wake up the central nervous system, making exercise feel better.

 2. Eat a snack. Low blood sugar is the most common reason for low motivation in the afternoon. An easy-to-digest snack will raise the level so that you feel good and will reduce the negative messages received from the stress-monitoring part of the brain (the left brain).

 3. Weather? Just walk out the front door to see what the weather is like.

 4. If you are using exercise equipment in a health club, check the availability and walk around the equipment until the user has finished his or her workout.

 5. If outside, walk to the end of the block to get your bearings. Once you have walked 100 steps you are almost certain to continue. If using a treadmill, commit to walking 100 steps, then commit to running 100 steps.

 Have a reward afterward, such as a snack, a beverage, or a massage – you earned it!

 There is a principle of lazy physics here:

A body on the couch wants to stay on the couch. But once a body is in motion it wants to stay in motion.

See ya at the finish line! 

*I am a blogger for Jeff Galloway, as such I receive great tips and resources to share with my readers. Enjoy!

What to Do and How to Pack for your Visit to Shark Valley!

One of my Bucket List items for 2017 was to explore my city. I moved to Miami in January of 2006, and had never actually been to the Everglades. Of course, I’d driven through it on our commutes between Miami and Fort Myers when we lived there for a year, but i’d never actually explored the Everglades. So, we planned a trip! 
Over the last year, my husband has been biking to work and so he’s become quite handy with fixing bikes. So, we didn’t need to rent any when we arrived, but there are bikes available to rent if you don’t have a bike or a vehicle large enough to transport one. 
Shark Valley is located just about as far west on calle ocho (8th Street) as you can go,  not too far beyond the famous “The Pit” Barbecue . At 25.00 per car for entrance into the park, i’d encourage you to make a family or friends trip out of it. 
Here’s what you’d need for your day at Shark Valley.
  • Cash 
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat / Sunglasses
  • Bike (optional)
  • Water 
  • Snacks 
  • Camera 
What to do at Shark Valley

  • Ride the Tram 
    • There is a 2 hour guided tour of the park, where you will learn information about the alligators, everglades and wildlife seen on your journey. It’s a good option for guests who would prefer to enjoy the Everglades without biking through it. 
  • Learn from a Park Ranger
    • We attended the Ranger Talk while enjoying our lunch and learned about Birds of Prey. This is a neat experience for children, as the Ranger will pass around Bird Skulls, and Feet for people to hold. 
  • Guided Bird Walk 
  • Guided walk with a Park Ranger 
  • Explore the Welcome Center
  • Stamp your National Parks Passport! 
  • With so much to do, you might consider purchasing an annual pass for the parks! 
Here’s a look at our first trip out to Shark Valley, I hope you enjoy and give us a thumbs up and subscribe for more fun videos! 
Know of an interesting park or location we should explore?
 Let us know! 

Bike to Work Month: Gear up!

Welcome to Part 2 of my BIKE TO WORK series!

No matter what you do, it is important to have the right gear. However, a trip to the bike shop can be intimidating. Luckily, there are some very basic things that every cyclist needs to get started.

The Essentials

Get a Bicycle

For real. You need it. I started out by borrowing my brother’s bike. It was an old salvage job that sat out in the weather for a while. It was really hard to ride and always had some kind of problem. However, with a $0 investment fee, it was perfect for starting out.

But eventually you will need to put your money where you mouth is (or the seat of your pants are…) and buy yourself some real gear. Since the bicycle is going to be your most expensive investment, it’s important to make an informed decision. There are several factors that you should consider, like:

  • Is this for commuting, exercise, pleasure or some combination?
  • How much bike maintenance are you comfortable doing? 
  • How portable does your bicycle need to be?
  • Brand
Here’s how I answered these questions:

What’s it for?

I decided I needed to buy a bike that was primarily for commuting. Sure, I’ll use it to ride for pleasure, but I do not use it as an exercise bike per se. That cuts out those touring and mountain style bikes. I wanted something stable and simple.

Also, I wanted fenders. Without them, I’d be wearing the road on my legs. Dirt, mud, water–everything would be liable to splash up on me. I needed fenders on my bike. Either they needed to come with it or be installed after the fact.


I wanted something I could easily maintain. Here’s a general rule of thumb: The more moving parts, the tougher it will be to maintain. I chose a single-speed bike with a single brake lever. There’s only one gear to worry about and no derailleur. This means the gears, the chain, the tires, the tube,… everything is easier to take care of right off the bat. 
That’s not to say everything worked out perfectly with no hitch. I found ways to make things complicated. But, could you imagine if I had bought a bike with more parts?


I wanted something super portable. It had to be lightweight so I could carry it up stairs if needed (done that). I wanted to be able to load it in the SUV if my wife came to pick me up (done that). So I settled on a folding bike.
Yes, folding. I can fold the handlebars down to the front wheel, fold the front wheel back to the rear wheel and slide the seat all the way down. After that, I can take the bike into my office or slide it in into the back of my SUV. Pretty cool!


Like the car you choose to deliver you safely across town, the bicycle brand you pick is pretty important. I found that Dahon is one of the leading manufacturers of folding bikes. So I chose the Dahon Boardwalk for my ride. It looks a little funny, but I enjoy the aesthetics and it suits my needs.
Remember that guy who is the dad of the Penn-State cyclist? He approved of the purchase.

A Helmet

No, persons over the age of 16 technically are not required to wear a helmet. But they should. I have had several close calls over the year (too many to count) and I have been hit once by a car (she said she didn’t even look my way). So here are my safety rules. I only have two.
  1. Always wear your helmet.
  2. Always assume they didn’t even look your way.

A Bag

I recently purchased a pannier bag. They are basically saddlebags that go on your bicycle’s carrying rack. I haven’t developed an opinion yet, but I can tell you that I arrived at work with less sweat on my back.
However, when I started I bought a simple Adidas backpack. It was waterproof, had discrete compartments for stuff, and was highly reflective. It served me very well until some low hanging branches ripped it to shreds.
You’ll want a bag that can hold your work clothes, lunch and technology. I like my Adidas bag because it has two straps that snap across the front for extra security. It also has a separate compartment originally designated for shoes that I use for my riding clothes.
That’s really all you need to get started. There’s other gear you might consider as you continue.

Other Gear (Technology, mostly)

Fitness Watch

I like to track my rides in Garmin. I have a Garmin Vivoactive watch that works great for running, walking and cycling. It also has functions for swimming and golfing, but I do not do those sports enough to really have a good opinion on its performance in those areas.
It’s good to know how long it takes you to commute back and forth. You can also analyze the map to see if there might be a more efficient route. Remember, cycling to work is a commute and efficiency is critical. You can also how your fitness level improves.

Speaking of maps, is a really good application that plugs into Garmin devices (Strava too, I think). When you finish a ride, creates a map and displays your ride in a video. It’s really cool and fun, especially when you know you went fast.
Here’s a video from our trip to Shark Valley.

IFTTT – Location

I use IFTTT on my phone to share my location with my wife. IFTTT sends a notification to a GroupMe channel whenever I:
  • Leave work
  • Arrive at work
  • Arrive at home
Yes, it will trigger whenever I pass by work or home in a car. But judging by the time and day, Erin can know if I safely made it or not. She can also check on me if it gets late and I haven’t made it home yet.

About Water and Exertion

I didn’t say anything about water. Since I only ride five miles to work and it usually takes less than half an hour I do not hydrate on the road. However, I usually drink a glass before going out and as soon as I arrive at work I fill a water bottle and get to drinking. I also have protein powder at work in case I need a snack for recovery.
I also (as mentioned) do not push myself when riding to work. I keep a comfortable pace so I do not sweat so profusely as I would if I were pushing my body to the limits. This is also for safety reasons.
  1. I go slower so I can observe and react.
  2. I go slower so I can have another gear to kick myself into should I need to get out of the way fast.

*This post does contain affiliate links, it costs nothing extra to you but does give a small percentage to help keep going. We thank you for your support!* 

The Secret to Keeping Cool at Disney

Summer heat is upon us down here in South Florida, so I decided to make some “Elsa Spray” for my husband to keep in his backpack. He bikes to and from work every day, so this spray was the perfect thing for him to have. I saw this idea originally on this blog, but added a few drops of lavender EO’s to give it a little more of a soothing property.

It is also a great item to slip into your backpack for a trip to the theme parks. Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Disney World are all located in Sunny Florida and with limited inside rides and waiting cues, this spray could be your little secret to staying nice and cool. 

The Recipe: 
  • 2 OZ water
  • 3 drops Peppermint Essential Oils
  • 2 Drops Lavender Essential Oils 
The Benefits: 
  • Cooling Effect 
  • Often used to improve respiratory function
  • Can help relieve tension 
  • Soothing to the skin
  • Relaxing aromatic properties
  • Eases Muscle tension 
Where do I get my Essential Oils? 
I purchase my EO’s from my mom, who is a wellness advocate for DoTerra. With several years of personal experience with essential oils, she is a great resource. Would you consider supporting her small business?

Kitty Slusser, Doterra

*be sure to do your research on peppermint EO’s before using on babies and toddlers. 

Bike to Work Month: Why I started

Since the month of May is Bike to Work Month, and since I bike to work every single day, Erin asked me to write a few blog posts about my experience. I plan to write on several topics, including:

  • Gear
  • Safety
  • Health
  • The environment 
  • Finances

But I’ll start this off by telling you how I started. So here goes!

Why I Started

So I started commuting to work via bicycle almost exactly a year ago. No, it wasn’t directly in response to B2WM, I actually had several motivations for biking to work. All listed above. Thoughts of committing to this mode of transportation were already fermenting in my mind for several months. Erin and I had even talked about it on several occasions.
Since I know my wife so well, I knew she thought I was nuts. 
Why would I do such a thing? It’s hot in Florida (We were in Southwest Florida for most of these discussions. News flash: it’s as hot there as it is in Southeast Florida.) Also, we didn’t have a reliable bicycle. And we lived pretty far from my job. And it was dangerous. And…
Lesson Learned: If you listen to all the reasons why you shouldn’t do something, you’ll never do anything. 

I Got A New Job

I snagged a sweet gig at Florida International University on the faculty as librarian. It is a completely different lifestyle from that of a public librarian. That change of occupation was just the occasion I needed to push me to make a change in my transportation. In other words: New job, new me. 
I made the decision to buy a bike and ride to work. It made an immediate impact in my routine. We were blessed to be able to stay with my parents while we looked for a home. They live about 3 miles from the university. However, this one decision affects:
  1. Where we choose to live
  2. When I get up in the morning
  3. When I have to leave the house
  4. When I need to leave work to come home (before rush hour)
  5. What I wear to work
  6. What I eat for lunch (I can’t really go out without a ride)

Developing A New Ethos

As a result of this decision, I now have a new element to my work ethos. That is, my decisions at work are directly affected by my decision to bike to work. This should not be surprising or radical. My work ethos used to be driven (pun, get it?) by my decision to commute by automobile to work. People who take public transportation are affected similarly by their commute as well. 
It was frustrating to drive to work. As always, some days were worse than others. But a typical day included some shouting and trouble with others on the road. Likewise, cycling to work can be frustrating too. More situations can involve life-or-death decisions. I have yelled at idiots on occasion. But there’s something about getting to your destination using your own muscle power that helps with stress management. 
It’s also a conversation starter at work. When people hear that you bike to work they have tons of questions about your experiences. At this point, I can’t imagine what colleagues would ask about my Kia… 

So it starts

So I began biking to work. I had a free month parking pass, so I biked about 70% of the time and drove the rest of the time. This helped me ease into the routine. 
I borrowed my brother’s old mountain bike while I decided which bicycle to purchase. It was a rusty, rough ride, but it got me from A to B and back again, so I made the best of it. I didn’t know much about bike maintenance then, I probably could have fixed it up a bit…
May is a tough time to start biking to work in South Florida. It’s hot already. Then comes June and summer. Heat. Humidity. Afternoon thunderstorms. If you can bike to work in summer, you can do it all year long. 
So I did. 

A Few Tips

Beginner Tip #1: Take it easy

So you’re interested in cycling to work, eh? Slow down! Don’t buy anything yet. Don’t sell the car. Don’t dive in prematurely. I did a lot of research before starting. I read a lot. I carefully planned my steps. 

Beginner Tip #2: Talk it out

I have a friend who is a competitive cyclist (he cycled at Penn State). So I talked to his dad about my plans. (Remember, the boy trains while the father finances and observes.) He gave me a lot of useful, valuable advice mingled with tons of encouragement. Find someone knowledgeable who will both advise you and encourage you. They will help a lot. Especially when you see them 3 months later and they ask if you’re still cycling to work. 

Beginner Tip #3: Try it first 

Try your best to invest as little as possible at first. Use an old bike or borrow one for the first month. Wear an old backpack. The only thing I recommend buying outright is a new helmet. Then you can reward yourself with a new bike after sticking to it for a month. By the time the new gear novelty wears, cycling will become part of the routine. Remember also that used equipment will likely perform worse than new stuff. So if you can do it with borrowed stuff, things will only get easier with new toys. 

Beginner Tip #4: Take extra care

Assume the drivers don’t see you. Assume the pedestrians don’t see you. In fact, assume they didn’t even think to look your way. (That is a paraphrase from that time I found myself on the hood of someone’s car.) Remember that you are very vulnerable on that bicycle and behave accordingly. 

Beginner Tip #5: Read more stuff

I’ll write a few more articles for StorybookErin this month explaining different aspects of biking to work. There are many benefits to enjoy along with a few pitfalls to manage. Read up and ask me questions on Twitter: @cjmnz8

Cleaning Checklist: After the Common Cold

As a mom of three, I am always on guard against the runny nose. When you have toddlers sharing touching and sharing everything, and a mobile teething baby crawling around putting EVERYTHING in their mouth, you need to work quickly and efficiently! 

At the first sign of a cold, I begin this routine and each night once the children are in bed I will wipe the surfaces and toys again.
  • Open Windows, let the Sunshine in!
  • Remove and Launder All Bedding
    • Sheets
    • Blankets
    • Stuffed Animals and Comfort Items
  • Disinfect Bed
    • Wipe or Spray with a Disinfectant Agent
  • Dust the Room
  • Clean the Floors
  • Clean as per usual
    • Pay Special Attention to:
      • Disinfect light switches
      • Door knobs
  • Open the Windows, Let the Sunshine in!
  • Disinfect All Surfaces
  • Disinfect Door Knobs and Handles
  • Change Air Filters
  • Disinfect All Toys
  • Clean the floors

For additional support, I like to diffuse some DoTerra essential oils in the air.
Some of my favorite blends include:

  • (2 drops) Lavender, (2 drops) Orange (2 drops) Lemon
  • (5 Drops) Wild Orange
  • (3 Drops) Lavender (3 Drops) Purify  

If you are looking for an EXCELLENT cold fighting soup, check out my friend Meg’s blog for a recipe.
I used her recipe as a base and added some carrots and calabaza squash for some additional flavor and vitamin C and A.

Remember to stay hydrated, and rest!