Friday, July 31, 2015

Summer Decorating Project

That week just flew by for us! On Monday I was having lunch with a colleague, and then all of a sudden it was Friday night. How did that happen?

I guess the big thing this week was that my friend Joyce and I started brainstorming how to makeover the patio room. This will be yet another transformation out there. There have been so many over the years. When we talked about doing a project together several months ago, I was thinking I'd like to focus on my bedroom. But last week the sofa in the patio room was damaged beyond repair in an incident with the cat, and that made it necessary to concentrate on the patio room first.

After removing the sofa, here's what the room looks like:

As you can see, the kid and the cat currently have the run of the place. I'm not planning on kicking them out, but I do want the room to serve two purposes. First, I want another sofa in the room for a little sitting area. I've decided on the Ektorp love seat from IKEA. I am already planning to replace my living room sofa with the Ektorp sofa. The Ektorp pieces are great because they are slipcovered, and the covers can be washed (and bleached) in the washing machine at home. That's a huge plus for a home with kids and pets. I also think they look nice and fit my style:

So that's my huge design idea for the room. Joyce is really driving the creative end of the project, and she's donating a cute table and chairs so that the room can also be used for dining. Her table and chairs are so nice, and they will give us an alternative to eating in the kitchen. We usually do eat in the kitchen, but it does get hot in there if the oven has been on.

Joyce has the cutest house and a real knack for decorating. She's also very, very thrifty. In fact, we spent some time at the Goodwill earlier this week, and I scored brand new pillows for the sofa and a brand new lamp for about $24 total! You just can't beat that. Then we went over to Hobby Lobby and picked out some fabric to recover two of the chair seats. She reminded me to pull up a Hobby Lobby coupon for 40% off, and we walked out of there with a yard and a half of fabric for under ten bucks.

We are full of motivation and ideas, but shorter on time and funds for everything we want to do. I'm thinking we will finish this up over the next couple of months. I'll be sure to post the after pics!

To see how things are coming together, you can visit my Pinterest board for this project. Some pins there are for inspiration, and some are items I've purchased or hope to purchase.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Family Field Trip

As a teacher, I know the value of learning outside the classroom. And I oftentimes encourage my students to ask their parents to take them to points of interest that are connected to our curriculum. I call these kinds of day trips "family field trips", and at the end of last week we took one with my sister.

Long Beach does have a great aquarium, but I decided we'd visit the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium just a little further up the coast in San Pedro. The Cabrillo Aquarium is free to the public, but they recommend a $5 donation per visitor.

We were a little surprised that they have a late opening at noon, so lunch beforehand was necessary. Ports O' Call Village is just five minutes away from the aquarium, so we pulled in there for some nutrition. Auntie helped us find the right place to eat on Yelp, and some friendly diners helped us decide on what to order. We chose the jumbo shrimp fajitas platter that was served with garlic bread (instead of tortillas). Also tempting was the full tilapia - that's what we're going to try next time, but the fajitas were delicious.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summer Shopping

Since I became a mother, there are certain things for Michaela that I make a point of shopping for during my summer vacation.

First, since September and October (and usually November) can have really hot weather here in Southern California, I shop for a new set of summer-type clothes for her. Her shorts are still in good condition usually, but her tops and tanks can be stained and faded from summer activities and washings. Thankfully, some of my favorite places to shop for her will have big sales and clearances on their summer clothing, and I'll be able to update her wardrobe with some cute things for preschool.

Here are some such Gymboree pieces (via Zulily) that I was able pick up deeply discounted in late June:

I probably could have found those items in store had we gone out shopping together, but the convenience of shopping online is hard to beat. I will say that I cross-checked the prices between Zulily and Gymboree for the same items, and Zulily had them for less.

Of course she'll be in need of new sandals and enclosed shoes (a must for school!) when school begins, too. Once again, I have frequent luck on Zulily, but I also like for discounted shoes. Here's what we have stashed in the closet for early fall:

I love a good deal on shoes. I try to find deals between $20 and $25. Michaela has very long and narrow feet, and I've found the brands most likely to fit her well are Stride Rite and Pediped. Sometimes that means I have to spend a little bit more, but I can usually hold out until they are featured on Zulily or find them discounted on

So, as you can probably tell, I am a discount shopper. I do like certain brands, but I will not pay full price. I couldn't care less about designer kids clothes. I like to get Michaela's tops for as close to $5 or less as possible, pants or jeans for around $10, and dresses for about $15. She just outgrows things too quickly to spend more than that. Most of her pieces get six months (or less) wear before she outgrows them, stains them, or the seasons change.

Some of my favorite places to shop for her clothes are Crazy8 and Gymboree - which are part of the same corporation. I like their designs because I think they honor the innocence and whimsy of childhood, and for the quality of their items. In particular, Gymboree has excellent quality and a good resell value.

I'll share more about resell value and shopping for gently used (and new!) clothing for kids in an upcoming post.

(This is not a sponsored or affiliate post.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

That Darn Cat!

Our cat has the funkiest (and I mean that in the best way) personality of any cat I've ever had. He is hilarious. This was after dinner this evening while I was cleaning up the kitchen. Maybe the crockpot was still a little warm, but he found it to his liking and settled in for a while.

He had a little operation last week, and unfortunately had a minor complication a few days later. We took him to the ER late one night and, although his issue was minor, when the vet offered to have Koa stay overnight, I agreed. We picked him up the next morning, and the vet tech who brought him out to us said he was the "coolest cat in the hospital" and he didn't want him to go home. Yep, that's Koa!

The last cat I had was kind of a neurotic mess, so it's refreshing to live with a cat that's so cool. I have learned that there is a plus to picking an adult feline over a kitten, and that is that their temperament is easier to see in the short time you have with them at the shelter. All kittens are super cute, but what are they going to be like when they are a cat? Only time will tell.

When he's not hanging out in the crockpot, he's following us around, initiating affection, begging for food, or napping on my bed.

Michaela calls him "Smudgy Face". He puts up with a lot from her with much patience, but also watches over her in an almost dog-like way.

I'm kinda crazy about that darn cat. He's my kitty boy and my buddy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer Snap Shots

Summer is almost halfway through for us. I am finally into it, and really enjoying our time off.

Here are some photos of what we've been up to:

Lots of fun! I wish life could always be this relaxed.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July Stitch Fix Review

So this was my third Stitch Fix since I resumed my subscription with them in May. As I've mentioned, we're going on an Alaskan cruise next month and I was hopeful that my stylist, Ashlyn, would be able to help me find a few things with that in mind.

Here's what Ashlyn had to say about her selections:

I was kind of bummed that there were no white skinny jeans for me, but I do have a pair of white straight leg jeans that will work just fine. So let's take a look at the black skinnies she did send me...

That's the Liverpool Sienna Pull-on Legging. Stitch Fix calls it the Mira Skinny Jean, but the jeans are labeled with the former description. I wish you could feel the fabric on these! It's a nice weight - heavy enough for a cool day. There's a lot of give in the fabric, so they are easy to move in. The waistline has no button or zipper. They simply pull on. Check out the tag:

Kind of like maternity jeans, but way better! I know these are going to be very forgiving if when I gain some weight on that cruise. Ha! I wouldn't mind having these pants in other colors. I think I'd wear them a lot.

I did try them on, but I decide not to take any pictures of myself modeling them. We'd had a crazy day running around town, cleaning house, and it was raining. I was kind of a mess by the time the mail was delivered. 

The next clothing item was Fun2Fun Walden V-Neck Blouse:

In case you can't tell, the blouse is fuchsia. Like I said above, it was a rainy day and the natural light in my room was poor. I'm not sure if this is going to make the cruise wardrobe, but I will wear it a lot for work. It's a pretty (but basic) piece that can be worn with jeans, or dressed up with a skirt.

I haven't had much luck with maxi dresses up to this point, but I think the Loveappella Carlita Maxi Dress is a good one for me:

I really like the top of the dress, and the colors are some of my favorites to wear. Not sure I will take it on the cruise, but I might... Nevertheless, it's something that I will wear for family dinners, moms' night out, and maybe even church.

The next couple of items are accessories. This is the Julissa Woven Clutch by Street Level:

I think it is a really cute clutch, but it's pretty small. I usually carry a hobo-style bag for all the stuff I schlep around. However, this will be nice for those times when I don't need so much stuff. The card that goes with the clutch says it's "A must have, night out essential" All-righty then! I guess I need to get out more often...

Lastly, is the Kiana Gem Shield Necklace from Bay to Baubles:

The picture doesn't do it justice. It's really much prettier in person, and the true color is pink. I am always late to the party with trends, and so this is my very first statement necklace. I had recently come to the realization that I need to purchase fewer long necklaces, and more necklaces that highlight my collarbone area. 

This was my eleventh Stitch Fix, and like my ninth Stitch Fix it was practically perfect - so I kept everything. I probably would have sent back a couple of items (the clutch and the necklace), but when factoring in the 25% discount for keeping all five items it just didn't make sense to send anything back.

I've changed the settings on the frequency of my fixes to every other month for the time being, and pushed it back a month. So my next Stitch Fix will arrive in early October.

Note: Stitch Fix is a personal styling service. For a $20 styling fee, you will receive five pieces from which you can choose to keep something, everything, or nothing. Your styling fee goes toward your purchase total. To make your Stitch Fix more successful, you need to complete your style profile on the Stitch Fix website, and give your stylist detailed feedback about the things she chooses for you. The links above are my referral code. Should you choose to sign up for Stitch Fix using that code, I will receive a $25 credit toward my account.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Last night we celebrated my dad's 77th birthday. Shamefully, I didn't take any pictures. I don't think any of us did. (Note to self, start taking more pictures!) It was one of the best family gatherings we've had in a long time. Very relaxed and joyful.

My dad is an amazing septuagenarian. He's very active - like uses his gym membership, and tries to walk 10,000 steps a day active. I got him a FitBit for his birthday last year! He reads stacks of books (usually about history, or the Bible). His favorite hobby is building model airplanes and flying them out in the IE every Wednesday morning at the crack o' dawn.

In addition, he and my mom provide care for Michaela when I'm working, and he's my go-to handyman for various needs around the house.

When you start a conversation with my dad, and inquire how he is, he'll usually reply, "I'm excellent." He's got a great attitude, and a good sense of humor.

Basically, he's a great guy and a wonderful dad and granddad. We are blessed.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Father's Day

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Get to the Point(s+)

One of my goals for this summer was to lose a few pounds. In my end-of-the-school-year-induced stress, I had turned to carbs, carbs, and more carbs for comfort. They do work, but there's always a price to pay - added poundage. Ha!

In addition to not enjoying tight pants, I was also motivated by the fact that we're going on a cruise next month, and we all know that one of the things about cruising is the food. I can't tell you how many Youtube videos I watched and CruiseCritic forum posts I've read about the food on our upcoming cruise ship! I'm kind of obsessed. I want to be able to enjoy the food on the ship, and not come back needing to go up a pant size.

I started dragging Michaela to the gym with me. Thankfully they have an awesome kids playroom and she likes going. I also started watching what I ate. But the pounds just weren't budging. I was super frustrated, and the weeks were passing, and my cruise was looming up in front of me, and I knew I needed to do something else!

So it's time to get to the point - Weight Watchers Points+ that is. (And no, this is not a paid review. I've got nothing to do with WW, other than a whole lot of love for their program right now.) I had used WW in the past when I was trying to lose my postpartum weight, and it was effective for me. I'm using their online program, which is super easy to navigate. Since I started just four days ago, I have dropped nearly three pounds. After two weeks (or maybe more!) of doing things my way and having no weight loss, I am thrilled to see that I can do this! I don't expect to keep losing at that rate, but since I've only got six pounds left until I reach my goal, I am pretty sure I can lose them before our cruise begins late next month. Yea! Thank you Weight Watchers!

When I'm at the gym, all I do is the elliptical machine. I get on the one right in front of the television that has HGTV on it, put some music on my iPhone, and kill forty minutes. That earns me three extra points I can use for more food, or not. It's up to me.

I prefer to do strength training at home. I've been using some Youtube videos to guide me while I tone up my arms. Michaela likes to do this with me. She uses her Elsa microphone and her flashlight instead of hand weights. It's pretty darn cute!

I was also doing a 30-day plank challenge until I realized that the pressure it puts on my toes had lifted one of my big toenails to the point where I'm going to lose it eventually. Gross! Interestingly enough, it doesn't hurt. Now I will have to come up with something else for strengthening my core. Something that doesn't involve those dreaded crunches. Any suggestions?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Fixed Up Again

No, I have not been set up on a date. That's a topic for another post...

I'm talking about Stitch Fix!

I gave up Stitch Fix for a while late last fall. However, I decided to resume the service after booking an Alaskan cruise a few months ago. More about the cruise later (it's not until August)! Stitch Fix has a feature whereby you can send a note to your stylist prior to your fix with any requests or pertinent information. I made sure Ashlyn knew where I was going, and that I hoped she could help me put some appropriate things together.

I will tell you now that she did a fantastic job and I kept all five pieces in this fix! That was a first, I believe. In doing so, I received a 25% discount off my entire purchase. That made the overall cost very reasonable.

Here's what I received:

This is the Mo-Ka Simon Lightweight Jacket. My pictures don't show the color accurately in my opinion. In person, the blue is much darker. Anyway, everything I've read about traveling in Alaska says layers are essential, and to expect some precipitation. While I do plan to take a warmer jacket, this will work if it's not too cold. I wore this on several mornings at the end of the school year when it was cool and foggy, and it was perfect for that type of weather.

This is the Ivy Mini Tulip Print Blouse by Pixley. Not only will this work for the trip, it's perfect for school. I wore it two or three times before school got out.

And this combination is the Sam Hi-Lo Short Sleeve Tee by Market & Spruce with the Octavia Henry Birds on Branch Infinity Scarf. I love how this coordinates well with the jacket. This is the second infinity scarf Ashlyn has sent me, and I have loved both of them.

Not pictured is a pair of Catherine Boyfriend Jeans by Kut From The Kloth. This is the third pair of jeans she's sent me from that label, and they are my favorite pairs of jeans. Whenever I'm at Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, or TJ Maxx, I'm always on the lookout for more pairs because they fit me so well.

A few weeks later I received another box from Stitch Fix. This time around I only kept two pieces. I'm not sure that they will make the cruise wardrobe, but I know I will get use out of them for other occasions.

First, there was the Lurai Crew Neck Blouse by Market & Spruce:

These bright colors look great with the boyfriend jeans, or a dark skirt. It's definitely a piece I will incorporate into my work wardrobe.

And this is the Cher Dress by Donna Morgan:

I really like these colors for summer, and the fit is very flattering. It's something I'd wear to church in the warm months, or a summer wedding. It will/would travel well, too. It's a polyester knit, and it probably won't wrinkle much.

In addition to the dress and the blouse, there was a gorgeous maxi dress that wasn't flattering on me (sad face), a pair of black skinny jeans that were too small, and an asymmetrical zip-up cardigan that I didn't care for at all.

I have one more fix scheduled before my cruise. I've asked Ashlyn to find me a new pair of black jeans, a red handbag, and a statement necklace that would compliment a black dress. I can't wait to see what she sends me in the next week or so.

Have you been on an Alaskan cruise before? If so, what clothing items were essential for you?

Note: Stitch Fix is a personal styling service. For a $20 styling fee, you will receive five pieces from which you can choose to keep something, everything, or nothing. To make your Stitch Fix more successful, you need to complete your style profile and give your stylist detailed feedback about the things she chooses for you. The link above is my referral code. Should you choose to sign up for Stitch Fix using that code, I will receive a $25 credit toward my account.

Blog Makeover!

One of the things I was looking forward to doing more of this summer is blogging more frequently, and I knew that I'd want a fresh look for this space. As you can see, today the new header and elements were installed. I am just delighted and practically giddy with excitement.

This look, as well as my previous design, was done by Faith at A Design of Faith. She is wonderful to work with. I only had the most general ideas to get her started - florals and birds. I think I emailed her some links to blogs that appealed to me, too. She nailed my style on her first attempt. The header reminds me of the blog I had when I was married, which I really liked.

I highly recommend working with Faith!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Somewhere Down the Road

Photo Credit:

So much pain and no good reason why
You've cried until the tears run dry
And nothing here can make you understand
The one thing that you held so dear
Is slipping from your hands
And you say

Today I attended a memorial service for the fourteen-year old grandson of some very dear friends of my parents and mine. He lost  his life in a car accident just days after graduating from eighth grade. An unlicensed drunk driver is to blame. You can imagine the anguish his family has been enduring. 

Why, why, why
Does it go this way
Why, why, why
And all I can say