Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer, Finally

Today is the first day of our summer break. I was actually thrilled to do my Trader Joe's shopping late this morning - no crowd! That is a summertime perk for me.

Looking back, I am so relieved to put that school year behind me. I just didn't have that special connection with my class this year that I enjoy most years, and it was really hard every day. I am hopeful that next year's class will be a better fit for me. On top of that, we went an entire school year without a settled contract. I'll spare you the details of that, but suffice it to say that morale was/is low. Such a drag.

Looking ahead, I've got seventy days of slower mornings (no 5 AM alarm!) and fun adventures with Michaela. So, how will we spend our time this summer? Here's the plan:

Swim lessons - last summer, Michaela and I started Mommy & Me lessons, but by the fall she had progressed to semi-private lessons in the "big pool". Grammy and Papa have been taking her to swim lessons all school year, and I almost decided to end them until I saw her in the pool last weekend. She just wasn't putting it all together, and I decided then that she needed to continue. Also, since I haven't been going with her, I didn't know what she's supposed to work on. Now that I'll be there, I will know what we can work on when we go swimming this summer.

VBS - unfortunately our church is not doing a traditional VBS this year, but I was able to register Michaela for VBS at another church in town. It's a church that Michael used to play at frequently on Sundays, and I did visit a time or two back then. Some churches don't include preschoolers in their VBS programs, but this one does. I have fond memories of VBS when I was a kid, and I hope Michaela will have a great time. In the future I will volunteer, but this year I'm going to enjoy having those three hours to myself.

School Skills Class - Michaela has aged out of the leveled classes at Gymboree, but they offer this class for 3-5 year olds. I'm only going to enroll her for one month because of our other plans, and it's just a once a week class. I hope it will be a good transition to preschool because Michaela will start that in September. I like that it's a drop-off class so that I can have some time to myself.

Camping - we are taking a two-week RV trip with my parents. We'll travel all the way to the Columbia River Gorge, then west to the Oregon Coast. We did this when I was a kid, and I'm excited to see beautiful Oregon once again.

San Francisco - we will spend several days in SF with our good friends Teresa, Toby, and Wren. Michaela is looking forward to the kids' museums and fun playgrounds, and Mommy is looking forward to time with friends, good food, and great wine.

Other summertime plans seem to be annual desires/needs like exercising, eating healthy, cooking, getting organized, Bible study, more regular church attendance, and more time with family and friends. Those things really should be part of life all the time, but I just don't seem to be able to do it all when I'm working.

When I was young(er) summer always used to seem so full of promise. Exciting things happened during summer - new friendships and experiences enriched my life. In fact, it was twenty years ago this summer that I fell in love with Michael. I don't have those same kinds of expectations of summer anymore, but it sure is sweet to have fewer responsibilities - if only temporarily.

Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world. ~Ada Louise Huxtable

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stitch Fix #2

I'm here to tell you about my second Stitch Fix box. It was waiting for me when I got home today - a day early. Gotta love that!

Just to recap, Stitch Fix is a personal styling service. For a $20 per month subscription/styling fee, I receive a box of five clothing items and/or accessories to try. To get started, I completed a detailed survey about my style preferences and sizing information. I can keep one or more items, and if I do my $20 styling fee goes toward that purchase. If I love the whole box and decide to purchase it, then I receive a 25% discount. If I hate it all, I'm out my $20.

Whatever I don't want, I simply put into the postage paid envelope they provide, and ship it back to Stitch Fix. So long as I do that within three days, I will not be charged for the items I didn't keep. Before I ship anything back, I log in to my Stitch Fix account and give them some feedback as to what I'm keeping and/or sending back and why.

Here's this month's fix:

I really like how the contents of the box are packaged, and I love the styling cards that go with each piece. I only keep the cards that go with the pieces I keep, but I like looking at each one for styling ideas.

The shirt on the top really got my attention. I loved the fuchsia color and the neckline. However, I wasn't so crazy about what it looked like on me.

41 Hawthorn Breyson Split-Neck Tab-Sleeve Knit Top - $48

The fabric was a heavy knit jersey, and I didn't think it was flattering on me. It's the kind of fabric that hugs every curve. No thanks. This one will be returned.

Under Skies Topanga Crochet Detail Flutter Sleeve Blouse - $48

I really like this one! The off-white color makes it wearable with so many things, and the crochet detail and lace at the sleeves and the hem make it special.

^^ This one is a keeper. ^^

Next up is one that I had seen on another blog recently, and I was ambivalent about it. Ultimately I decided that it's just too busy, and that it draws attention to my middle - a part of me that I'm not at peace with. Ha! Into the envelope it goes.

41Hawthorn Franklin Striped Side Gathered Short Sleeve Shirt - $54

And then there was a dress. I love dresses, but I don't wear them often. This one I cannot see wearing. The fabric was too heavy for this time of year, and the waistline didn't hit me in the right place. I have a long torso, and I didn't like the way it hit me.

Pomelo Kathy Striped Fit & Flare Dress = $68

I don't think it's awful, but I can't say I liked it enough to keep it.

The last item in my box was a pair of pants. They were too small to even bother trying them on. To be fair to Stitch Fix, in my style profile I indicated that I usually wear a 6 or an 8. These were not sized like that. Instead they were sized as an M - medium. I guess if I were pulling pants for someone who wears a 6 or 8 pant size, I would probably pull an M, too. They were just the world's smallest M!

Margaret M Emer High Waisted Cropped Trouser - $98

Beautiful blue color, right? But, even if they had fit I wouldn't have kept them at that price point. I walked into the Goodwill on Saturday morning looking for some jeans for our upcoming camping trip, and I found two practically new pairs of CAbi ($108 retail) and Banana Republic ($90 retail) jeans for $7.98 each. Sure I had to wash them three times to get rid of the Goodwill smell (what the heck is that from?!), but I am so pleased with that purchase. I can't say I'd shopped for myself at the Goodwill before, but I don't usually pay more than $40 for a pair of pants or jeans at LOFT. And I'm even happier when they are marked down less than that!

Once again I ended up keeping just one item from this fix, and I'm fine with that. The kinds of things Stitch Fix has sent me so far are not the kinds of clothes I will be bumming around in over the summer. I'm utilizing Stitch Fix to enhance my work wardrobe more than anything, and the pieces they send me are along those lines. I've set up my next fix for August since I'll be traveling quite a bit next month. With the three-day turnaround required by Stitch Fix, I don't want to take a chance that I won't be able to get things back in time.

See you in August, Stitch Fix!

{If you'd like to try Stitch Fix, here's the link to my referral code: Joannah's Stitch Fix Referral Code. When you sign up for your first fix, I will receive a $25 credit for my next Stitch Fix - something you will get as well if your friends and family sign up in the future.}

Sunday, May 25, 2014

First Stitch Fix

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted about Stitch Fix on Facebook, and I was intrigued. Stitch Fix is a monthly personal styling service. For a $20 styling fee, I receive five items of clothing and accessories. I can purchase one or more of the items and apply that styling fee toward my purchase, send them all back and lose my $20, or purchase all five items for a 25% discount off the list prices.

As someone who shops almost entirely in one place (LOFT), and doesn't have much time to shop, Stitch Fix seems like a really good way to try some new things, and expand my style via someone else's fashion resources and expertise.

After I signed up, I filled out a lengthy survey about my style preferences and sizing, and then I waited for my first "fix" to arrive. It arrived a couple of days sooner than I expected it to, ending my anticipation in the best way.

Inside the cute box, everything was presented very nicely:

My stylist included a personal note to me:

There were styling suggestions for the pieces she sent me:

And then the goodies themselves - wrapped up:

And unwrapped:

This fix included a necklace, two tops, one skirt, and a pair of jeans.

I loved the first top! It was a dusky purple, silk, and it had some crochet details on it. However, it was just a bit too small for me. So I didn't keep it:

Pomelo Shelli Crochet Detailed Tank $68

The second top was sleeveless and off-white. I suppose it would have made a good basic wardrobe piece, but I just didn't love it:

41Hawthorne Natasha Front Pocket Sleeveless Blouse $58

Finally, I tried on a cute black and white skirt:

Mystree Triste Chevron Striped Swing Skirt $58
This I could see wearing and I decided to keep it. However, in retrospect, I should have kept the necklace instead. It was kind of a modern two-toned piece, and the same price as the skirt. I'm sorry that I didn't take a picture of it! The thing is, I usually don't spend that kind of money on accessories. But skirts last a few years at best, and a necklace like that would have been with me for decades to come. Lesson learned.

The only piece of clothing that I did not model was a pair of jeans. Actually, I didn't even bother to try them on because they were distressed. I guess that's the politically correct way of saying, "Here's your new pair of $88 jeans with holes in them!" I am not going to wear jeans with holes in them. I guess I'm just too old for that kind of fashion.

In order to avoid being charged for all the items, I simply had to put them in their return, postage-paid envelope and mail that back to Stitch Fix within three days. So easy! I just gave the package to the office manager at school, and she gave it to the letter carrier when he delivered the mail.

The only other thing for me to do, besides enjoy my new skirt, was to go back into my Stitch Fix account and let my stylist know what I thought about each piece. I pretty much told her what I told you, and I also let her know the pieces were a little higher priced than I typically spend. I can see paying $58 for a dress, but not so much for a top. Know what I mean?

Anyway, overall it was a good experience, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Stitch Fix sends me in June.

If you'd like to try Stitch Fix, just click here. When you do, I'll receive a $25 credit toward my next Stitch Fix purchase (as does everyone who refers a new customer). :)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

In the Garden

After Easter we had the worst, and terribly unusual, weather in the form of fierce Santa Ana winds and intense heat. That kind of weather isn't too unusual for fall and winter, but it is for spring. The first week like that brought down a mature tree in my sister's backyard - narrowly missing their roof. My trees are still standing, but my poor little vegetable garden suffered terribly. I lost all my bush beans, my radish and beet sprouts, and my strawberry plants were singed.

Today I trimmed back the strawberries because I could see that they have some new growth on them already, but I pulled up the beans. Michaela and I went over to the plant nursery and purchased some more veggies to replace those we lost. I'll put them in the ground before this long weekend is over.

As hard as those two heat waves were on my vegetable garden, my more established flower garden is no worse the wear. In fact, while I was out in the yard today, I was so happy to see how beautiful everything is right now. My roses and hydrangeas are putting on quite a show, and some of the wildflower seeds I sowed are now blooming. The only thing I'm really waiting on is for my Crape Myrtle to blossom.

While we were at the nursery, I picked up a few perennials to fill an empty space in the front yard flower bed. Although the plants are still small, they are already blooming. Two of the plants are French lavender. I love the smell of lavender, and they are right outside my bedroom window.

Come join me in my garden:

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Our Easter morning started off with a little surprise when we stepped out the door on our way to church. Some bunny had left Easter eggs for Michaela on the front porch and in our front planter. One of them had been consumed by some wild creature in the night, but the others were intact and easy to find. At first we thought that Michaela's uncle had left them for us, but it turned out our next-door neighbor and his elderly mom had decorated them with us in mind, and he left them for us sometime last night. It was a really nice gesture. Michaela keeps saying, "That was a lovely surprise."

Church was wonderful. Our senior pastor is still recovering from a terrible accident, so most of the service was worship. It centered around a drama, and included worship music spanning the centuries. There was something for everyone - Gregorian chants, traditional hymns, gospel, and contemporary worship music from the last four decades. The point was that Jesus is the same, and the message of the cross is still the same even as the music styles change. I took Michaela into the service with me, and she did really well. We did sneak out during the message as she was getting restless, and we'd already been in there for about and hour and a half. I'm really proud of her for being such a good girl.

Once we got home, I hid the eggs we'd colored the other day. Michaela found all but one of them. She is not interested in actually eating any of them, though. We do not do the Easter Bunny or lavish Easter baskets around here. I didn't grow up that way, and I'd like to keep the focus on Jesus. But we did have fun coloring eggs and searching for them in the garden.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Growing Our Own Food

I so much enjoyed the container garden we started about a month ago that I was inspired to find a way to do even more gardening. I had seen kits for raised garden beds over the last few years, but they were always so expensive. I really didn't want to invest two or three hundred dollars to buy a kit, and I didn't have the know-how to make my own from scratch either.

Nevertheless, I kept thinking about it and how much fun it would be for Michaela and me. Then, a couple weeks ago, I found a very reasonably priced kit on Amazon. I almost always read a few reviews before I make a purchase there, and I was encouraged to read that other people found the kit very easy to assemble. A couple of reviewers even said that their twelve and thirteen year-old sons had assembled the kits for them. Hey, if a kid can do it, so can I!

So I bought one, and a few days later it was on my porch. I love shopping online!

I already knew where the sunniest spot in my backyard was, so I tacked down some weed resistant cloth, and set about assembling my kit. The only thing I had a hard time with was screwing in the end caps. My dad says he'll take care of that for me in the near future. They're just decorative anyway.

I purchased 21 cubic feet of organic soil to fill the boxes, but by the time I got home my gardener was here and he had about that much in his truck. It was leftover from another job and he just gave it to me. That was so nice of him. The only drawback is that I have to return most of the other soil. Oh, well...

I shoveled soil into the taller of the two boxes until it was full and called it a day.

The next day I finished filling the shorter box with the rest of the soil my gardener gave me, and I was happy to have the other soil on hand because I needed another three cubic feet to finish the job.

Michaela and I had picked up some beautiful fruit and veggie plants at the local nursery to add to this part of our garden. We chose sweet basil, kale, another heirloom tomato (that I don't think is going to make it...), bush beans, multi-colored carrots, strawberries, and lettuces. We also sowed radish and multi-colored beet seeds. So much in such a relatively small space!

In just about five days, the lettuces have doubled in size. We tore off a leaf today and shared it right there in the yard. It was delicious!

Michaela is very diligent about checking on her berries. We check on them every chance we get. Yesterday, she was able to pick her first strawberry from our strawberry pot:

Then she picked a couple more. All of them probably could have used another day on the vine just to sweeten up, but she thought they were sweet enough. We were able to pick two or three more today, and there are lots more on the way! Our blueberry bushes are loaded with berries, but they have a way to go before they are ripe enough to eat.

I am so glad that I decided to do this with her this year. It has given me a project to focus on, and she is very interested in the things we are growing. Because we live in a climate with such mild winters, this really is something we can enjoy doing year-round. I'm already thinking about our cool season crops, and (because our kit is expandable) about adding another box onto the two we already have in the next year.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rediscovering My Garden

I used to love gardening. Then I started my masters program and an adoption from China, and I gave up my time in the garden. That didn't really mean that my yard went to pot, however. I've always had a gardening service and enough perennials to keep things looking okay. I just hadn't done much out there in the past eight years. Eight years!

The last gardening project I was involved with was when Michael and I planted three or four heirloom tomato plants in containers a few weeks before his diagnosis. I really don't remember the outcome of that effort as things got a little crazy after that.

The past three summers I just couldn't figure out how to do anything with such a little one. I was just happy to have the lawn mowed, and the weeds under control - all done by my gardener. However, last summer I realized that two of my trees had matured to the point where they were competing for space, and one of them needed to go. That finally happened a few weeks ago. With that I had to think about with what to replace the tree (a hydrangea), and that decision motivated me to consider what to do with some other bare spaces in the planters.

One of the prettiest summers I can recall in my garden way back when was when I sprinkled a lot of wildflower seeds in the planters. The results were just amazing. So that's what I've done again in hopes of having lots of color, and flowers that Michaela can pick. She helped me distribute the seeds, and she helps me water the ground every other day.

But our biggest effort was inspired by a friend who gave us a bare-root thornless raspberry bush. In going to the home improvement center to purchase a container and some soil for that, we also came home with a strawberry pot and strawberry plants. After planting them, I ordered an heirloom tomato plant, pole beans, and carrots. Today we prepared three more containers for planting, and put our new veggies in the soil. I'm thinking about purchasing two blueberry bushes next weekend, too. Michaela loves berries, and when she visits my sister's house she really loves to eat them right out of the garden.

It has been quite a while since I've been in a position to take the time to care for anything other than myself and Michaela. But I think that we are now ready to do this type of gardening together, and that we'll enjoy all its benefits in the warm months ahead.