Saturday, January 24, 2015

Child/Lifestyle Photography 2015

I think I came across this idea on Facebook a few weeks ago. The goal is to take photographs weekly so that you have 52 photographs depicting your child or family life by year's end. I thought it was a great idea to get me using my camera on a regular basis, and thereby knowing how to use it better (maybe...).

Week 1 Prompt: 

Take an image of your child or family on the road that leads to your home. You could photograph your partner walking on the road pushing the pram or their child on their scooter or bike.  For an  effective composition, you could try using the lines of the road to lead your viewer to your subject. 


The street outside our home is not a safe place for a photo shoot, so I improvised by using the sidewalk instead. Michaela was practicing riding her new balance bike.



Week 2 Prompt:

What activities do you do together as a family when you are at home? Playing the wii, or a family board game, or do you all sit together to discuss the day? Choose one that the whole family is involved in, and photograph either the whole scene, or an element of it that will remind you of this time together later on. 


Well, this one was kind of difficult for me to envision because there's no way for me to capture both of us doing something. But, Michaela had received a camera for Christmas, and we both enjoy taking pictures outdoors. So that's the direction I went in...


I still need to take photos for weeks three and four. I was hoping to do that this weekend, but Michaela is sick. Hopefully, she'll be feeling better tomorrow and I can get caught up!

All prompts from Audrey Ann Photography.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Koa



For at least half of Michaela's short life, she's been asking for a cat. I really don't know why. The only cat in the family is my sister's cat, and that cat is rather shy. It usually hides when Michaela is around. Nevertheless, Michaela adores it. 

I, on the other hand, really didn't want a cat. We have a dog. And while the dog spends little time here these days (she's at my parents' house most of the time), I wasn't interested in having anything else to take care of. I think most mothers of young children feel that way.

Occasionally, Michaela and I would go over to the SPCA animal village nearby and visit the kitties in the cattery there. After we got our kitty fix, we'd come home sans cat.

Back in late November or early December we went into a local pet store one day while they were hosting a cat rescue group. There was a handsome cat there and he caught my eye. He was a Tonkinese, and he was being fostered because his owner had passed away. He was super mellow and didn't seem to mind Michaela at all. I was intrigued by him and decided to turn in an application to "adopt" him. As it turned out, we were rejected. I sure hope he got/gets a good home...

After that, I realized that most rescue groups were probably going to reject us if I got serious about "adopting" a cat. After all, I work full time so we're gone a lot. That's why our dog is at my parents' house. She needs more care and attention than I'm able to give her. Nevertheless, cats are more solitary and can be okay at home during the day - more so than dogs anyway.

Instead of visiting another rescue organization, we went to the city animal shelter just to look. Famous last words...

Most of the cats there were nonplussed to see us. However, this one black and white, or tuxedo, cat greeted us enthusiastically. He really wanted our attention and affection. So we asked to see him. He had so much personality, and he didn't seem to mind Michaela's energy at all.

But, I didn't turn in an application for him that day. I just wasn't sure that I really wanted a cat at that point.

Twenty-four hours later, I couldn't stop thinking about him, though. So we stopped by the shelter on the way home from church and turned in our application. I didn't tell Michaela what we were doing in case we were rejected again. I didn't want her to be disappointed. But on Christmas Eve day I got a phone call that we'd been approved, and that we could pick him up a day or two after Christmas.

From the time we brought him home, he has made himself very much at home here. He puts up with all of Michaela's antics. She hugs him, lifts up his lips to look at his teeth, yells at him, chases him, pets him the wrong direction, and so on. I am doing my best to teach her how to love him the right way, but he takes it so well. He has not shown any aggression toward her, and he doesn't avoid her either. They love to play ball together!


What we know about Koa's past was that he was picked up in Garden Grove the week of Thanksgiving. He's about two years old. He's currently, um, intact, but we'll have that taken care of in the next couple of weeks. He had a cold at the time we brought him home and so the shelter vet couldn't operate on him then.

The shelter staff had been calling him "Phoenix", but I didn't care for that name. I looked at a list of Hawaiian names (because we love Hawaii, and Daddy was born there), and tried to find one that suits his temperament. Koa means bold or brave in Hawaiian, and that seems to suit him perfectly. He is friendly and confident. I love how he greets visitors at the door instead of running and hiding under the bed. My dad came up to the house the other day when I wasn't home to deal with a plumbing issue, and I was delighted that he likes the cat. He said that Koa reminds him of the first cat he and my mom had when they were married, Squad Car. He was another tuxedo cat with a bold personality.

I've had a lot of cats over the years, but it's been 15 years since I've had one here. Koa is the perfect fit for us, and we're so happy to have him!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Stitch Fix #8






My latest Stitch Fix arrived the second week of December. And although it wasn't my favorite fix, I did get one item that I'm really pleased with. Can you tell which one it is?

I will have to say that the colors in this fix were very appealing to me. I like jewel tones, and I think they are flattering on me.

First up was the Angela Quilted Detail blouse in fuchsia by Market and Spruce:





What I liked about this blouse was the color and the details on the front and shoulders. However, I wasn't crazy about the way the fabric felt on my skin, and I thought it was overpriced at $68.

The next item didn't even make it out of the box:



That's the Anne Chevron Pendant Necklace by Pixley. I think chevron is on its way out, and I thought the finish on the necklace looked cheap. I would rather spend $34 on something else.

There was another item in this fix by Market and Spruce:




That's the Elissa French Terry Striped Moto Jacket. There were several things I didn't care for about this one, but mostly I just don't like Moto jackets. If I'm going to spend $74 on an item, I'd better love it.

Then there was the Hazel Metallic Striped Knit Top by Peppercorn:





I did not think this was very feminine or flattering on me. They wanted $48 for it.

Lastly, there was an accessory I probably wouldn't have chosen for myself:




The pictures don't do it justice! It's the Karen Colorblock Striped Knit Infinity Scarf by Shiraleah. I loved the colors and the pattern, but I was worried that I'd have few chances to wear it because it had been so hot up to that point. If I was going to spend $48 (!) on it, I'd have to have the chance to wear it.

So what did I keep? Did I keep the pretty fuchsia blouse, the Moto jacket, the striped knit top, or the scarf?

I wish I had another picture of me wearing it to answer the question, as I have worn it since - and it was a nice cold day, too! I actually kept the scarf. I can see this being something I have in my wardrobe for many years to come. Since I'd already plunked down my $20 styling fee, I just owed another $28 to make it mine.

And then...

And then I cancelled my subscription to Stitch Fix.

Why?

Cost was the biggest factor. As someone who loves a good deal, there are no deals to be had when shopping with SF. You pay for the service and the convenience of having someone make choices for you. And there are benefits to doing so. As I mentioned in my last post about SF, I was in a rut when it came to clothing. I only shopped at LOFT, and if I found something I liked there I bought it in several different colors. Uh huh...

In the months I used Stitch Fix, I was introduced to a few brands I wasn't familiar with before - Kut from the Kloth, Daniel Rainn, and Collective Concepts come to mind now. Since being introduced to those brands, I've seen them at Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx for at least half the cost of purchasing them through SF. So I gained an education and branched out a little bit. That's a good thing!

I also learned about shopping secondhand online from a blogger or two that had used both Stitch Fix and sites like Twice and ThredUp. I tried ThredUp when I needed to buy Michaela some bicycle-type shorts to wear under her dresses and skirts at school. I couldn't find them at our usual places (Gymboree and Crazy 8), but ThredUp had them gently used for next to nothing. I was very happy with that purchase. I even had a coupon, so I think I only paid for shipping. Ridiculous!

And recently, I tried ThredUp for myself - because they sent me another sweet coupon for $20 off my order. Here's what I got:



New with tags Michael Stars dolman sleeved top. This will look nice with leggings or jeans. With my discount coupon, it was $8.78. Sweet!



These are LOFT camisoles new with tags. I already have several of these because I wear them under so many things. A couple of mine need to be retired, and so I was happy to get these for $3.83 and $2.36 after my discount was applied.

Lastly, I snagged these Cole-Haan wedges:




These are perfect for wearing at school! If I had purchased them even at Nordstrom Rack they would have cost me close to $100, but I got them for $49 on ThredUp. They do not have any wear on the soles, so I think they are new/never worn. I had seen them at Nordstrom Rack a couple months ago, and was tempted to purchase them, but I thought they were too expensive at the time.

Shopping at ThredUp takes more time, but the savings are undeniable. I prefer to purchase thing that are new with tags, and from brands that I am familiar with so that the sizing will be right.

You can sell things to ThredUp as well. I will admit that the reviews from sellers aren't as glowing as the reviews from buyers. Nevertheless, I sent them a bag of some of Michaela's gently used clothing, and I have a bag of shoes and two dresses ready to send off. If I didn't do that, I would have donated them to charity. So this will be an experiment for me. If they accept my things, I will have the option of having them cut me a check, or giving me "store credit" with them. I would probably use the credit for future purchases for myself or Michaela.

If you'd like to try ThredUp, let me know in the comments. They sent me a couple of coupons with my most recent order that are intended for me to share with friends or family.

Merry Christmas!

Although I did get most things on my Christmas to-do list done, a Christmas card (and baking) did not get checked off. Here's a belated Christmas greeting from us to you:



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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Stitch Fix #6 & #7

My sixth Stitch Fix (say that three times fast!) came in mid-October. I don't remember all that I had requested/suggested, but I do remember that I wanted something with an animal print on it. Below is what I wore to school that day. I show you this so you can get a sense of what I choose for myself. It's very typical for me to wear denim pants with a pretty top. This one is a linen blend with a pale blue horizontal strip. I believe I wore a long necklace with it, and a pair of high-heeled sandals. My feet were probably killing me by the time I got home. That's why I usually wear flats to school!


The box!


A message from my stylist, Ashlyn:


The fix:



This is the Aniston Floral Print "kimono". The background is a navy blue, and I really liked how it looked on me. I've worn it a couple of times since I received it, and I think it's a nice transitional piece for fall and spring.



This is the Alexzandria Floral Print Knit Top. Although the cut is rather boxy, I loved the print. I have worn this several times since I received it, and I've gotten compliments each time.


These are the Diana Skinny Jeans by Kut from the Kloth. I have never tried on a pair of skinnies that I actually liked, but these are amazing! Lots of stretch = very comfortable. I just wore them again yesterday. In Stitch #7 I received another pair in black, and although I really didn't need another pair of black pants I had to keep them.


Yes, I requested animal print, but I was really hoping for a blouse I'd pinned. Anyway, I like this skirt and I kept it. The thing is, it fits like a glove and if I gain a few pounds, it will not fit. I haven't worn it yet because I need a blouse to go with it.


This is the Catelyn Zip Moto Jacket. I had asked for a lightweight cardigan, and this is what was chosen. Okay... Style-wise it's kinda cute, but it was a wool blend and very itchy. I didn't think I'd have enough opportunity to wear it as I reflected on how many 80*+ days we had last January. I sent it back.

Out of five items, I kept four making this my most successful Fix. I was really pleased at the time.

My next Fix came in mid-November on the day we returned from our trip to the mountains. I didn't have time to photograph all that was in that box as I was so busy unpacking and getting ready to return to work the next day. I already mentioned that I kept the black skinnies. But I sent back a black blazer and a "split back tank". The black blazer reminded me of something I would have worn when I worked in a bank or an office. It was just too business-y for my life in the classroom. The tank had a beautiful print, but I didn't think that I would ever be comfortable with something that had a split back - just too revealing for this middle-aged mom.

Here's what I did keep:


Another kimono! I probably wouldn't have kept it, but it was super affordable at $34. I have worn it a couple of times already, and I like it.


It took me a while to decide on this one. It's the Laguna Abstract Floral Flutter Sleeve Blouse by Creative Commune. I think it looks a little big on me even though it's a medium, but I kept it and I've worn it with the black skinnies.

Honestly, I don't know how much longer I will continue using Stitch Fix. I feel like their prices are too high - I see the brands they sell at Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx for much less. I love a good deal, and that's not something you get with Stitch Fix. What you do get is convenience and the chance to try things you might not try on your own.

I think I have improved my style somewhat since using Stitch Fix. I no longer do one-stop shopping at LOFT. I check out a lot of blogs where the bloggers review their Fixes, and I see how others put things together. If I like something, I attempt to emulate it with the things I have in my closet.

My next fix is scheduled for next week, and I promise to review it before January!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lately...

It's been two months since I last touched this space. Two very busy months.

At the beginning of October I was home with Michaela for three days because she had pneumonia. At first it just seemed to be a case of the sniffles (thank you, preschool), but when her fever spiked over 104* I took her in to see the pediatrician. Thankfully, it was quickly remedied with a round of liquid antibiotics and a couple weeks of Singulair.

Unfortunately, she is just getting through round two of pneumonia this week, and this time Michaela refused to take the liquid antibiotic. She preferred to go in for an injection three days in a row. Ouch! Hurts my pocketbook, too. Three additional office visits will surely cost me much more than the $13 the prescription cost me. It was a learning experience for me. I've learned that you can't reason with a three year old, and that losing my temper with her doesn't get us anywhere either. Sometimes it's hard to find the balance between maintaining a reasonable amount of parental control in the relationship, and allowing her to be three. It's times like that (actually, it's all the time) that I wish Michael were here to step in and help me handle things. His temperament was much different than mine, and it took a lot to get him upset.

Back to October...

We made our annual trip to the pumpkin patch at Irvine Park in mid-October. We met my cousin Stephanie and her little girl out there one afternoon, and the girls had a lot of fun running around. They especially enjoyed the maze!



Since the time change comes so late in the year now, we enjoyed walking in the neighborhood in the evenings to see the fall/Halloween outdoor decor our neighbors had up. Some things were more "child friendly" than others, of course. Michaela began to tell me that, "It's only pretend, Mama." I'm so glad she told me that, because some of those skeletons were pretty creepy.

While we didn't trick-or-treat, we did have a couple of occasions that we dressed up for prior to Halloween. My teachers' association hosted a party one weekend, and we dressed up like Indian princesses for that. The next day we attended the birthday party of Michaela's cousins, and she went as an Autumn Fairy.



November 4th was a very good day for me, professionally speaking. After campaigning for two school board candidates endorsed by my association, it was very satisfying when they were elected to my school district's governing board that day. My school district has been under the leadership of a board majority that was not cooperative with the teachers (and parents) for too long. It has been seven years since our last pay increase, and I think that board majority would have denied us another seven years had they had the opportunity to do so. There are other issues beyond our contract that need to be addressed, but now we'll have a new board with a new perspective to lead us. I am hopeful we will move forward in a positive way and that moral (and paycheck$) will improve.

The weekend after the election my parents took us up to Big Bear for a long weekend. It was the weekend of my wedding anniversary, and I was very grateful to get away. My mom found a really nice cabin to rent just down the hill from Snow Summit, and although there was no snow it was a lovely weekend. It was cool enough to have a fire in the fireplace every evening, but the days were warm. We visited the local zoo there, and the highlight was seeing their wolf pack. The wolves let everyone know that it was lunch time, and Michaela joined in the howling. Another outing we all enjoyed was a trip to the Alpine Slide. Michaela and I rode down twice. She's still talking about it. We are going to have to go back to Big Bear.



This past week was Thanksgiving Break. I had lots of plans, but we were slowed down by my cold and Michaela's pneumonia. Nevertheless, we did manage to get a Christmas tree, decorate it, and decorate the house for the holidays. We spent Thanksgiving with Michael's family in Santa Monica. His youngest brother has a penthouse apartment with an incredible view of the beach north of Santa Monica. I think we could see all the way to Malibu from there. It was the first Thanksgiving I've spent with that side of the family since 2009 - Michael's last holiday season with us. I'm really glad we were able to be there with them.



So, there you have it. That's what I've spent the last two months doing (when I wasn't working, of course).

My next post will be about my last two Stitch Fixes!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Stitch Fix #5


So back in August I had decided to bump up the frequency of my fixes to about twice a month. I really didn't do any back-to-school shopping - I wanted Stitch Fix to do it for me! But maybe I should have done a little shopping as this was not my favorite fix. I am still waiting for that fix where I just have to have all five items, but sadly this was not it.

Stitch Fix has a lot of features built into it so that you give your stylist feedback in addition to your style profile. After each fix, I complete a survey about each piece and what I liked (or didn't like) about it. There's also a place to write a note to your stylist to communicate about what you'd like to see in your upcoming fix. I always use that feature, and this time I asked for a dress I'd seen on another blogger's Stitch Fix review, a light-weight cardigan in a color other than black, more blouses, and a statement necklace.

Here's the dress I really liked:


Picture from TheBoxQueen dot com

Here is the note I received from my stylist - well, I should say from this month's stylist as that seems to change each time:



Okay, so that lovely dress was no longer in stock - no problem. However, the dress she substituted for it was very different:



This is the Elizabella Paisley Print Sleeveless Wrap Dress by Ark n Co ($34). The print was really pretty.



However, I really didn't care for the length of the dress. It hit me just below my mid-thigh about four inches above the knee. Being that I wear dresses (most often) to school or church, this would not be appropriate at that length. It was also a little small for me. It took me no time at all to decide I would be sending it back.

Next I tried the Collective Concepts Esten Button-Up Sleeveless Blouse in navy ($54) with the Pixley Leighton Metal Bauble Necklace ($34):





I liked the necklace, but I didn't love it. I liked the blouse, but it's nothing special. In the end, I sent the necklace back and kept the blouse. I could see the blouse being a nice basic piece in my wardrobe. I wore it with a pair of khaki colored cropped pants and a different necklace the other day, and I liked the way I felt in it. I would never have chosen it on my own. That's a good thing. I want to end up with some things that I would not have tried otherwise.

Then I tried on the 41Hawthorn Carson Front-Twist Sleeveless Blouse ($58):




I may be smiling in that picture, but it wasn't because I liked this piece. I have something very similar in a deep vibrant pink that I really love, but this mustard color was not a hit with me. I tend to choose cooler colors because I think they compliment my fair skin and dark hair more than earthy tones do. This had to be sent back.

Lastly, I tried on the Market and Spruce Alan Cowl Neck Asymmetrical Cardigan ($58):



It was lightweight, but it was either made from a wool-blend or an acrylic. It made me itch, and I would have only been able to wear it on the coolest of days here in southern California. I did think it was flattering and a unique design. Just not enough to love about it, so I sent it back.

Now I've adjusted my fixes back to once a month, and I've suggested in my note that perhaps it would be beneficial to have the same stylist more than once. At this point, I'm not exactly sure what I'd like to see in next month's box, but I'll be pinning things I like on my Pinterest board. The stylists do seem to use that to help them with their choices, and it's an easy thing to do.

If you'd like to try Stitch Fix, please use my referral link to get started. When you schedule your first fix, I'll receive a $25 credit toward my next fix - as will you when you refer a friend!