Thursday, August 21, 2014

Slow Summer Days

I mentioned in my last post how we have had some really slow days now that summer is winding down. Some days are so slow that I almost want to go back to work. Ha!

I shared this with my teaching partner when we met up for lunch a couple of days ago, and she is experiencing the very same thing. We both said that we'd been so busy at the beginning of the summer, but now not so much; and, uh, maybe it's time to go back to work.

For someone who would love to be a stay-at-home mom, how in the world can I feel this way?

I think it's because when you just have a few weeks at home, it's hard to establish a schedule that fills the days with purpose and the opportunity to connect with others. If I were a stay-at-home mom, we'd have some mornings where we went to a Bible study or church-based women's group, other mornings where we attended classes for Michaela, and other mornings where we went to the gym. But Bible studies and the women's group at church are things that take place during the school year, so participating in them when I have time off is not possible. So my default desire is, "Hey, it must be time to go back to work..."

And once I'm back at work, I'll be counting down the days until my next vacation.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Slipping Away

Summer 2014 is nearly a wrap. Faced with ten weeks of vacation in June, it seems like FOREVER. (And it is. I know most people have just two or three weeks of vacation time each year.) However, ten weeks goes by very quickly. Why can't ten weeks of the school year go by as quickly?

The first few weeks were really busy, but the month of August has been less busy. We've had days where we just hang out at home. I always feel a little guilty on days where I don't do much, but I think that they are a needed counterbalance to those days during the school year where I have to do so much more. The to do list I started with in June is only halfway completed. But I am pleased with the things that I was able to check off.

Here are some glimpses into our summer days:

Michaela still prefers a blanket even on hot summer days.


After I got home from getting a pedicure one day, I painted Michaela's toes for the first time. She was delighted!

We found the perfect cat for us. ;) Michaela calls her Mimi.

We spent a few days with our friends in San Francisco.

We've had some good times over at Grammy and Papa's house.

Michaela also attended her first Vacation Bible School this summer. It was a wonderful experience for her, and I enjoyed having a few hours on my own that week. I grew up going to VBS each summer, and Michaela will, too.

Looking forward, I report back to work at the end of next week, and Michaela will start attending preschool (part-time) the following week! We've been talking about it all summer long, and I think she is comfortable with the idea. Michaela is very outgoing and social, so I expect her to enjoy all the things school has to offer - especially new friends!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Stitch Fix #3


With summer vacation winding down, I can't help but thinking just a little bit about fall styles and my work wardrobe. So I was excited to see if this month's fix would be good for school.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Stitch Fix, it's a personal styling service. After you fill out a detailed profile on their website, a stylist will choose five pieces for you for a $20 styling fee. If you purchase one or more of the pieces they send you, your styling fee will go toward that purchase. If you like all five pieces and decide to keep them, you will get a 25% discount off the total purchase price. You can schedule your fixes for once a month, 2-3 times per month, or much less frequently.

Here's what I saw when I opened the box:


Included were one pair of pants, one blouse, two maxi-dresses, and a pair of earrings. I tried on the pants first, but they were too small (this has happened before!). They were marked as a 29 which would have fit me if I was shopping at Ann Taylor Loft, but this particular brand ran smaller. The fabric was a soft stretch denim:

Just Black - Nolan Ankle Skinny Jean $58

Even if they had fit like a glove, I probably wouldn't have kept them because I already have two pairs of white denim pants (that do fit!) in my closet.

The second thing I tried on was the blouse:



Collective Concepts - Clarita Floral Print Flutter Sleeve Blouse $44
I absolutely love the vibrant colors in this! I think they are beautiful for fall. The styling card showed this paired with dark denim jeans or a khaki colored pencil skirt. This one's a keeper for sure!

Next up was one of the maxi dresses:



Under Skies - Clare Woven Maxi Dress $78
First of all, though it was a medium, this dress was huge on me! In the first picture, I am actually reaching behind to hold some of the excess fabric and define the waste. I did think the print was pretty, though.

Loveappella - Carlita Jersey Maxi Dress $78
I really like this dress. I thought the color was gorgeous and the style was flattering. It would have been perfect for a date night if I was still a married lady, but I'm not. I just couldn't foresee anytime in the near future where I'd have a reason to wear this. So I reluctantly returned this. Sad face.

Lastly, my fix included a pair of earrings:

Bay to Baubles - Elaine Gem Stone Statement Studs $32
I really think these are pretty, but I chose not to keep them because I don't like the way stud earrings feel on my ears.

Because my sweet coworker had scheduled a Stitch Fix recently using my referral code, I had a $25 credit on my account. Thank you, Wendy! Therefore, when I checked out I only owed $20 and change for that lovely blouse. Yea!!!

I made sure to give detailed feedback on each piece during my checkout process so that my stylist could use that information for my next fix in September. I also increased the frequency of my Stitch Fixes to 2-3 times per month just for a short while in order to see more items in a shorter period of time. I asked that my stylist focus on blouses and knee-length skirts in the next fix so that I'll have more things for my fall work wardrobe. September and October are really hot months here in southern California, so I don't want sweaters just yet.

If you would like to try Stitch Fix, please use my referral code. When you sign up for your first fix, I'll receive another $25 credit, and you will receive referral links to share on your Facebook page or your blog with your friends and family, too. Makes shopping with Stitch Fix even more fun!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Road Trip!

This year's big summer adventure was a two-week road trip up to the Columbia River Gorge and down the Oregon Coast - something I'd done with my family when I was a child. This time we traveled with my parents in a rented 31' RV, which was pretty nice. We had a few mechanical issues my poor dad had to deal with along the way, but overall it was a nice setup.

If we had to do it over again, we would have done it entirely differently, though. Experienced RVers usually tow another vehicle behind them in order to go out and site see once they reach their destination and get the RV hooked up, but we didn't do that. So once we got somewhere, we were stuck there until our next travel day. In retrospect, we should have taken my mom's minivan, and stayed in hotels along the way. We could have seen more that way, and it would have cost about the same. Live and learn...

Nevertheless, we did see some beautiful country. The Pacific Northwest is breathtaking.

After spending our first night parked outside of my great-aunt's home in Walnut Creek, we traveled north on Interstate 5. California is so big that it takes a long time to get out of the state. I did enjoy seeing the farmland in the northern part of the Central Valley, but it was so hot there. On our third travel day, we passed by the Mount Shasta recreation area. California is having a severe drought, and it was sad to see the lake so low. We had house boated on that lake years before, and it looked much different then.



Our first campground in Oregon was just outside of Medford. We spent park of the Fourth of July weekend there. I let my blogger/Facebook friend, April, know I'd be in her neck of the woods, and she drove out for a visit. It was the first time we'd ever met face-to-face. She is just as wonderful in person as she is online. I wish we'd had more time to visit!



Our next destination was the Columbia River Gorge, but to get there we had to go through central Oregon. We traveled on a two-lane road through heavy forest for a good part of the morning, and then we stopped for lunch with my mother's cousin and her husband in Bend. That afternoon we enjoyed seeing the Cascade Mountains to the west of the highway, and we tried to guess which mountains we were actually seeing. I didn't realize that the Cascades include Lassen Peak and Mt. Shasta which are in California - so we actually started seeing the Cascades a few days before. They are beautiful.


Late that afternoon we reached the Columbia River Gorge. Lots of people were still out on the river boating, windsurfing, and water skiing. It looked like lots of fun. We crossed over the river to stay two nights in a lovely campground in Washington state. We were not close enough to see the river there, but we were surrounded by a beautiful forest.



Once we got to the coast, we experienced some changes. The weather was much cooler, the campgrounds more crowded, and there were mosquitos due to swampy areas in the campgrounds. We spent two nights in the state campground at Fort Stevens. My dad's cousin and his wife, and their two sweet grandchildren, came down from Washington state to visit with us on our only full day there. Michaela was so happy to have other kids to play with! We tried to go to the beach, but it was terribly windy. A short walk/bike ride away was a really beautiful freshwater lake with a sandy beach.






It was hard for Michaela to say goodbye to Evan and Lily! She kept talking about them and expecting them to show up at our next campgrounds. Bless her heart!

From Fort Stevens we traveled to Honeyman State Park where my mother was pretty sure we'd stayed back in the day. We weren't happy with the section of the campground we were staying in, and our RV had a "sanitation issue" that needed to be dealt with. So we cancelled our second night, and traveled south to the Coos Bay area where stayed in a beautiful campground on a marina.



Not only was the campground at Winchester Bay in a lovely location, they had great amenities, and shops and restaurants were within walking distance. There was a mile-long path around the campground for walking or bike riding. The sunsets were breathtaking. Our RV was repaired onsite, too. So that was super convenient.

Our last two nights of camping were spent at Klamath River RV park on the banks of the aforementioned river. We all remembered staying there before. It is a very beautiful and peaceful spot. One evening the whole campground, or so it seemed, got very excited when a mother bear and her two cubs were spotted jogging along the other side of the river.

That RV park was just minutes away from the Trees of Mystery. The only thing I remembered about it from when I was a kid was the giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Michaela liked running along the path. They have a new sky tram that takes you up to a viewing deck, but the day we were there was cloudy and drizzly. So there wasn't much to see.



After that, it was time to head home. We spent two more days on the road, but we were just ready to be done. My mom and dad worked so hard before, during, and after the trip that they need a vacation from the vacation. As much as I wanted to like RVing, I just don't think it's the most enjoyable way for me to travel. I much prefer staying in an area, and having a home base from which to explore the points of interest. Like I said before, once we arrived at our campground(s), we were stuck until the next scheduled travel day.

The Pacific Northwest is absolutely beautiful, and I hope to see it again someday - differently!

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). :)