A Few of My Favorite Things…Again Sunday, Jul 20 2014 

Back in 2011 I wrote a post about My Favorite Things. Over the years, it has actually been one of my most read posts–go figure. At any rate, I have stumbled across some new favorite things, so I thought I would share them in a list again. I know that I always like a personal review or suggestion from a real person about something I am about to spend money on. In no certain order, here are a few of the greatest things I have stumbled upon in the past year or so.

 

1. Organix Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum

I am letting my hair grow out so that I can donate it. The longer it gets, the more unruly it becomes. The older I get, the wavier/curlier it gets and also drier. I have always had oily hair and had to shampoo daily. However, because of age and a non-humid climate, I can now shampoo every other day. I often have fly-aways and frizz, even on the second day and especially in the winter. I have never, ever had this problem before. I have tried argan oil, curly hair defrizzers, special shampoos, and styling creams. I read about this Coconut Milk on Jen Hatmaker's blog where she was raving about it. Since it was only a few dollars I thought it was worth the risk. Yes, indeed! I'm not crazy about the smell–it smells too beachy and suntan oil scented, but it dissipates quickly. However, it leaves my hair feeling so soft and silky with less frizz and it doesn't feel or look oily. I can't stop touching my own hair because it feels so good.

After writing off Victoria's Secret due to their inappropriate marketing to young girls, I had to find a new place to buy my lingerie. I found these panties at Target of all places. They aren't meant to be sexy. They are just utilitarian, every day “drawers”, but they are incredibly comfortable, silky, and…no panty lines! They are also much more affordable than VS.

3. Wet and Wild Tinted Moisturizer

Just as age and moving north have changed my hair, my skin has undergone similar changes. My face used to be oily and prone to breakouts. Although I have occasional t-zone oiliness, I also have flaky, dry patches. In winter it seems like my whole face it peeling off and it can be itchy and even painful at times, especially during the past winter of extreme cold. I slather on face cream (lotion isn't enough) in the morning and night, but my face was still so dry all winter. I normally use mineral makeup powder, but that didn't cut it on my dry skin. Since my skin has cleared up now, I decided to see if I could get by with just a tinted moisturizer. It has just enough color to smooth my skin tone and good moisture for my dry skin, but it wasn't heavy like foundation. Since I was initially just trying it out AND I'm a cheapskate, I didn't want to spend much money. I hate the name Wet and Wild, but I do love their tinted moisturizer (and nail polish). It was just the think I needed and only cost $2-3.

4. ELF Eye Shadow

$2 eye shadow–for real! Bought it because it was cheap and I liked the colors. Became a loyal fan because it was the first eye shadow I have EVER used in my entire life that lasted all day without ending up in the crease. I have used eyelid preps, crease prevention, expensive eye shadows, etc. and nothing worked until this shadow. I was so impressed that I actually wrote ELF to tell them how great this eye shadow is.

5. Fennel

I came upon this recipe, fennel salad with pear and parmesan, in a book I read last year, The Homemade Life. I had never in my life purchased fennel, eaten fennel (except the seeds), and certainly had not cooked with fennel. I decided to experiment. It was a little intimidating since I didn't know how to choose or cut fennel. I made the recipe above and was enchanted. It was such a refreshing salad and full of subtle, yet complex flavors. I am now a fan of fennel and not scared of it anymore.

 

6. Camille Roskelly fabric

A quilting friend of mine shared Camille Roskelly's blog with me and there I saw and fell in love with her fabrics. Since I am planning on redoing our bedroom in aqua and red, I am particularly enamored with this fabrics.

 

7. Litle Bee

Frrom Wikipedia: “The Other Hand, also known as Little Bee, is a 2008 novel by British author Chris Cleave. It is a dual narrative story about a Nigerian asylum-seeker and a British magazine editor, who meet during the oil conflict in the Niger Delta, and are re-united in England several years later. Cleave, inspired as a university student by his temporary employment in an asylum detention centre, wrote the book in an attempt to humanise the plight of asylum-seekers in Britain. The novel examines the treatment of refugees by the asylum system, as well as issues of British colonialism, globalization, political violence and personal accountability.”

From me: Powerful, thought-provoking, cry-inducing, and impactful. This was a page turner, beautifully written, and gave me a lot of to think about.

 

8. A Place at the Table

I have a very soft spot for Southern literature and this book hit just that spot. Well-crafted characters who were very flawed and yet likeable meet in NYC across generations, stereotypes, and life experiences. I felt like I knew all of these people in real life and I was quickly drawn into the story of these diverse people and how their lives all just so happened to intersect. This was a fun read, but very challenging too.

 

9. Where is the Mango Princess

I just finished this book a couple of weeks ago. It was required reading for my counseling class. Studentss are required to read a novel or memoir about someone with a communication disorder. In this case, Cathy Crimmins, writes about her 40-something husband who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he was hit in the head by a boat. The book is funny, heart-breaking, shocking, and inspiring. It paints a very authentic picture of the erratic recovery of someone with a TBI and the reality of the family having to adjust to significant changes in ability and personality.

 

10. The Good Wife

Last year we watched all episodes of How I Met Your Mother in rapid succession since we were late to jump on the HIMYM train. This year, The Good Wife has been our HIMYM. Robert and I have enjoyed watching episode after episode together. However, we were so busy getting caught up that we missed the most recent season, so we are eagerly waiting for it to come out on Netflix. Part legal drama, part soap opera, it is an engaging show that has drawn us in to the complicated family life and love triangles of the good wife and her not-so-good husband.

 

11. Naked and Afraid

Robert and I stumbled across this show on The Discovery Channel and really enjoy watching it together too. The premise is that a man and woman who have never met are dropped naked into some remote and dangerous location with one object that they each have chosen (e.g., fire starter, knife) and a camera. They have to survive for 21 days…naked and afraid. Aside from the obvious awkwardness of meeting someone for the first time butt-naked and the multitude of “bad naked” (a la Seinfeld) moments that chopping down brush and climbing rocks provide, the survival part is very real. Mosquito bites, leeches in various orifices, cut/bruised feet, and sunburn from lack of clothing make the survival even more difficult. However, the pair still have to build shelter, find water and food, protect themselvess from various aggressive or poisonous animals and insects, while working together and maintaining their sanity in very unrelenting environments. I wouldn't do it in a million years, but I am fascinated by the people who do.

 

12. The Way Way Back

We happened upon this movie in Madison last summer. Neither one of us had heard of it, but there was nothing else on that we wanted to see. I can't believe that we didn't know anything about this movie and its all-star cast. What a gem! This was a tender, sweet, and powerful coming of age story–the kind that doesn't come along very often. Quirky and fun characters, a dysfunctional family, an awkward teenage romance, and an unlikely mentor make for a delightful sleeper movie.

 

13. Enough Said

Another movie I had never heard of, but happened to see on a flight this past winter. It was James Gandolfini's last movie. He and Julia Louis-Dreyfus engage in a sweet middle-aged romance which is complicated by teen daughters and a common connection that they don't know that they share. Watching this romance develop is quite charming.

 

14. My bike

The is the summer of the bike! I have discovered biking as a way to get places I need to go this summer and am quite captivated by the fact that I am getting exercise (and a bit of a tan!) while running errands. It's quite fun to watch the mileage computer on my bike and my MapMyRide app go up and up.

 

15.Nozbe

The Nozbe app has revolutionized my work life and allowed me to sleep better because I know that everything is in my app and not running through my mind. Nozbe is an app based on the GTD principles outlined in the book, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. I just have the free app and it is enough to cover my work needs. It is like a “to do” like on steroids, plus it automatically syncs to all of my devices including my PC, my iPad, and my phone. One thing I especially like is that, unlike other online listing services I have used, when you check something off it shows that it has been completed and doesn't just disappear. I need that reinforcement for a feeling of accomplishment.

 

16. Road ID app

I have a Road ID bracelet that I wear when doing outdoor activities. They have a free app too that makes the lock screen on my phone contain my name, any medical conditions and allergies, date of birth, and contact information for my family. That way if I'm in an accident of some sort, all someone has to do is look at my phone for crucial medical and contact information. I can also leave “ecrumbs” which will send a text to anyone I want that tells them when I left and they can track me while I'm gone. Then a text is sent when I arrive. This is great when going out for a run or bike ride alone. Highly recommend!

 

17. Dollar Shave Club

Buying razor blades kills me because they are so darn expensive!! Enter, Dollar Shave Club. Even though it is marketed toward men, there is no difference between male and female razors…except these don't come in pink. I get “The 4X” and am on the every other month plan. Robert uses “The Humble Twin.” They send 4 razor blades to me every other month and the $6 is just taken from my debit card. Great razors, I don't feel guilty about changing blades more often, and the price can't be beat. If you decide to give them a try, please go through this link and I'll get a little bonus :-)

 

18. Spotify

Robert had turned me onto the Spotify app on my PC and iPad a couple of years ago. I love it because I can choose every song I listen to, make playlists, and listen to entire albums. It can be a lot more personalized than Pandora. Just last month I decided to upgrade from the free version to the $9.99/month premium account. Since I can download 3000 songs to listen to offline for this price, as well as listen to anything streaming online, I can't foresee any reason to every buy albums again. The music is very diverse. I haven't yet been unable to find anything I'm looking for from Broadway musicals, worship, indie acoustic, pop, jazz, etc.

19. Messenger bag

I figured out that a messenger bag fit my needs best for lugging stuff to and from work, as opposed to a briefcase or backpack. Robert ordered me this one off of Etsy. It's comfortable, the perfect size, had 3 pockets inside and two on the outside, has been durable so far, plus it's adorable!

20. Speed Queen Washer

Our washing machine died several months ago and I did extense online research trying to find the best buy. I had heard a lot of negative things from friends with front loaders, so I decided to go with a top loader. Then I had to research agitator or not. As I started reading review on Best Buy, Amazon, etc. I started seeing that the reviews were very erratic and largely negative regardless of the brand…until I saw reviews for Speed Queen. They were consistently rated 4-5 stars on each and every website. You can only buy a Speed Queen at a local mom and pop store. They do not sell in big box stores like Lowe's or Best Buy. They are American made and actually made in Ripon, WI about 75 miles away from us. They have no electronic components, which are one of the first things to go wrong on the current machines…and they tend to last 15-20 years versus 5-7 for LG, Maytag, Kenmore, etc. There are only 3 models of washers, there aren't many bells and whistles to pick from, and they are decidedly unsexy as far as washing machines go. However, our machine is very large capacity (even with the agitator), washes quickly, and does an excellent job. Our experience buying from a small local appliance store was also fabulous. I am now sold on Speed Queen and local applicance stores.

 

And thus concludes the 2014 edition of “My Favorite Things.” Maybe I'll get around to doing another one in three more years…

 

P.S., I wrote this while on a Lortab I had taken for back pain subsequent to gardening, so apologies in advance for any typos or other errors.

 

Thrift Store Thursday: Thriftless Version Thursday, Jul 10 2014 

While I have been wearing thrifted clothes several times a week, as per the usual, I am out of the habit of taking photos. Plus–I hate taking photos of myself anyway. It feels icky, but I do it just for these blog posts. At any rate, I am more on a kick of taking things to the thrift store than showcasing what I have bought there. I am reading a lot of blogs on minimalism and am busy cleaning out and scaling back. I'm not going to be uber-drastic like some people are, with just 10 items of clothing and one plate for each member of the family. However, I want to keep only what I use, what is beautiful, and what brings me joy. That led to me purging 3 of my 5 loaf pans, 2 of my 3 springform pans, a bunch of travel coffee cups and water bottles, some clothes, and some books. I got rid of all of my Wilton cake pans in a variety of shapes too. As a family, we have decided that cake is our least favorite dessert. We all much prefer cheesecake, pie, or other desserts so there was no need for me to hang onto all of that stuff. My bakeware cabinet feels empty–just 2 pizza pans, a few baking sheets, one springform, and 2 loaf pans. It is fabulous!!!

I used to collect stuff for Goodwill and make a big trip a few times a year. Now I am purposefully cleaning out a drawer, a cabinet, a closet, or a shelf each day. I immediately bag the items, put them in my car, and go to Goodwill at least once a week. A few of the nicer things go to a consignment shop. That way things are gone, making more space, and keeping things clean.

 
There are two areas that are tricky for me to minimize–books and fabric. I cleaned out a fair number of books last fall, but this week I perused our bookshelves again to find things I could purge. I decided that any book that I read, but wouldn't recommend or re-read would go. We also had more than one copy of a few books. The results looked something like this:
 
 
I am hoping that by the time we move next year that looking at houses that have “storage” will not be an issue. The only thing I ever want to store is Christmas decor…and I'm rethinking how I can pare that down too. The more I get rid of, the more free I feel. Laundry room and bathroom are next on the agenda. Wish me luck!
 
 

 

 

DTR: Defining the Relationship…with food (Part 1) Monday, Jun 30 2014 

A term that has been floating around in dating circles for the past several years or so is “DTR,” which stands for “defining the relationship.” Basically this means that when two people are dating that at some point fairly early in the relationship they must define what that relationship is and where they think it is going. It is a time to profess one's mutual “like” for the other and declare an intent to date each other exclusively. I know that I am middle-aged, but back in the day we didn't resort to such formality. If a guy kept asking me out, I assumed he liked me. If I kept saying “yes,” he assumed I liked him and BOOM–we were dating. No ceremony, no serious conversation. It just happened organically, as like, love, and other types of relationship are wont to do.

 

 

And speaking of organically, I've been thinking about my relationship with food in light of this article I read (Why We Need to Stop Talking About What Women are Eating) and my annual doctor's appointment. First of all, women do talk a lot about what they are eating. Sometimes it is related to shopping and cooking, trying new recipes, and things of that ilk. However, other times it is related to dieting and body image. At my doctor's appointment, she was praising me to keeping my weight consistent, just a couple of ounces different from last year. I commented that I was suprised because I had gained quite a few pounds over the never-ending winter of hibernation this year. Normally I like to snowshoe and cross country ski in the winter and we certainly had plenty of snow. However, we also broke records for the most consecutive days below zero and the winchill was often in the negative double digits. It was just too darn cold and, quite frankly, too dangerous to spend much time outside this winter. So I stayed indoors and ate carbs. Apparently I had lost weight before winter and gained it back to be at my same weight from last year.

My doctor mentioned that my BMI was great at 21.9 (“normal” weight BMI for my height is 18.5-24.9), but I told her that I wanted to lose about 5-8 pounds. I really appreciated her response. She essentially said, “You are at a really healthy weight right now, but you know what weight feels best on you and feels most like you.” I told her that I knew my weight was considered to be good, but that some of my clothes felt a little snug around the waist and I had a few additional “wobbly bits” (as Bridget Jones would say). Because I am tall and at a healthy weight, if I say I want to lose a few pounds to some people they would roll their eyes and scoff. However, she validated that I don't feel like my best self at my current weight. No, I am certainly not overweight, but I do have a smaller bone structure and am built just like my grandmother–tall and slender. I feel best and most comfortable when I am near the lower end of the “acceptable” weight range for my age and height.

When I graduated high school and started college I was 5'9″ and weighed about 115-120. I have no idea exactly how much I weighed because I never weighed myself and honestly never, ever thought about my weight. I know that sounds weird or unbelievable because all teen girls are supposed to be obsessed with weight and body image and dieting, but I really never was. If anything, I was too thin in high school. I look back and photos and think how I look rather anorexic. I wasn't. I had no eating disorder other than being an exceptionally picky eater who lived on junk food, meat, and carbs. Until college, the only vegetables I liked were carrots, potatoes, and corn. In high school for lunch every day I ate a Milky Way candy bar, hot fries (the kind out of a vending machine) or sometimes school pizza that I had to put a napkin on to soak up the grease before eating. I'd come home from school and down almost a whole bag of Doritos by myself. I generally ate whatever was fixed for supper, but rarely the vegetables…although I did learn to like salad at this point in time. (Yay! A green vegetable–except it was usually iceberg lettuce). I never, ever ate breakfast. This is how I looked at the time. It's a little blurry after I cropped the other people out. (Pardon the fact that I have a number attached to me like a farm animal at an auction. This was during my confused feminist time–aka “I want to be a female scientist and compete in pageants”)

 

 

I honestly have no idea why I didn't obsess/think about weight and body issues except that it just didn't cross my mind. I can't remember my friends talking about it either, so maybe that was the key. I just was just surrounded by people who had other more important things to talk about…like boys. I have one memory about having a fleeting negative thought about weight when I was dating my first boyfriend when I was 16. It was a summer romance and I was wearing shorts when we were in the car going somewhere. I remember looking down my legs and thinking that my thighs looked big because they were in their normal, non-flexed, and therefore wider-than-usual state of rest on the car seat. After a moment of shock and horror, I just reasoned that my thighs weren't huge, but it was just an angle and positioning thing kind of like how your chest falls into your armpits when lying down.

If I obsessed about anything in regard to my appearance as a teenager, then it was my face; in particular, my skin. I didn't have cystic acne or anything that severe, but I had very oily skin and frequent breakouts. I begged my parents to take me to a dermatologist and was on some pretty heavy-duty topical medicines and antibiotics for awhile. That cleared up my breakouts, but then caused my skin to flake and peel. I also tended to have terrible posture because I was a bit conflicted about my maturing body and didn't quite know how to carry myself.

So all of that to say, for some reason I never had issues with weight or even thought about it much…until I went to college and originally gained the “freshman 15″ and then over the following summer I added another ten. And like that, I weighed 145, up from my original 115-120ish. Still a “healthy” weight according to all of the charts, but on my frame suddenly I had back fat, belly bulge, and none of my clothes fit. I went to Weight Watchers, they confirmed that I could stand to lose some weight and still be in the healthy range, and I proceeded to lose 20 pounds over several months. During that time, I learned to eat healthier–although that term is relative, since I was still not eating well, but better than I had been. Mostly meats, fruits, and grains, less junk, but still not many vegetables. That was my first plummet in self-esteem due to weight, my first “diet,” and my first time to think so much and so often about what foods I was putting in my body.

G

And…in writing this, I have come to the conclusion that I have too much to say on this for one blog post so it will be a 2-3 part posting with more to come.

 

Thrift Store Thursday and Other Miscellany Thursday, Jun 26 2014 

I've been neglecting Thrift Store Thursday because I've been in a summer state of mind. Not necessarily playing in the sun, gardening, book reading, lazy sort of summery experiences, but more of a “getting used to a different schedule, new class prep, moving to a new office, lots of projects at home” kind of mind. Oh yeah! And a whirlwind trip to Missouri, a broken washing machine, and various car ailments thrown into the mix.

 

At any rate, I'm still wearing thrifted clothes, but not taking the time to document it as well. I'll try to do better. Most of my clothes are much more casual in the summer because I only work two days a week. Let's see what's on my current camera roll.

 

Oh yes. I wore this to church a few Sundays back. I think I bought the white linen pants retail, but I'm sure they were on sale. I never pay full price…ever. The light pink linen shirt (J. Jill) was a thrift store purchase as was the pearl necklace. I also got the Anne Klein shoes at a thrift store. And yes, I am having hair issues. So ready to whack it all off, but trying to wait to the end of summer and let it grow another inch or so before I donate it. It is driving me crazy!

 
And now for a bit more casual attire suitable for a little cold spell with highs in the 60s. Except for my shoes (Target!) the entire outfit was thrifted: cardigan (I love polka dots and grey is one of my favorite colors), white shirt, and Vera Wang jeans.

 

I've also been trying out new recipes as per my summer bucket list. Last week I made chicken schwarma, naan, and cilantro lime rice all from scratch. It was delicious and smelled amazing with all of the curry, cumin, and other spices. I was especially a sucker for the naan, but I am a confirmed breadaholic.

 

 

 

 

Thrift Store Thursday (Friday edition): Subscription Boxes Friday, Jun 6 2014 

Two fairly “big name” bloggers who I follow have recently raved about subscription boxes for clothing. One has written about Stitch Fix and the other has written about a subscription service for athletic clothing. I can't find her original post to write the exact company/link, but it's something similar to Ellie. When I first read their posts I thought it was a really cool idea. The basic premise of these and other similar companies (for snack foods, beauty supplies, random eclectic stuff, etc.) is as follows:
With Stitch Fix you complete a personal style survey and pay a $20 styling fee. You then receive a box in the mail with 5 pieces of clothing that your personal stylist selects based on your size and preferences. If you decide to purchase all 5 items in the box, then you get 25% off of the total purchase. If you don't want all of the items then you purchase what you want ($65 on average) and send the rest back within three days in a prepaid envelope.
Sounds great, right?
You get some really cool clothes, the excitement of Christmas with the surprise aspect (what will I get?), and you get exposed to some different styles that you might not have ever even tried on. You have the option to automatically schedule your boxes so they come at regular intervals (i.e., once a month) or you can just order a box on occasion. Subscriptions are encouraged…natch.
But…here's what I see as the issue. CONSUMERISM. For fun and hobby. For things we don't need and may not even want. We just get caught up in the excitement of it all. Or we get too lazy to send the stuff back.
The clothing and accessories that they send are random. You could get three dresses, a purse, and a pair of jeans shipped to you when you really need a new pair of tights and an a nice blouse for work. However, they are counting on you to “impulse” buy (“Oh, I don't need a turquoise trench coat, but it is soooo cute!”) and rationalize the purchases or neglect to ship the goods back. On top of that, even if they did send you wardrobe essentials that you actually could use or “need,” is this really the most efficient way to shop in terms of time and money? The survey, the stylist, the mailing to you, the trying on, the feedback, the mailing back. Wouldn't just going to the store or looking online for “tights” and “career blouse” be a better use of time, energy, and money.
I am in this process of making thoughtful and tough decisions about stuff and my relationship to stuff, hence my whole thrift store series. I do not presume to “have arrived.” We have always bought houses well within our means and for a lot less than the bank said we could afford. After being enticed by new cars twice early in our marriage, we learned that it is much more financially savvy to buy used cars and then we drive them until they are unfixable and we can only donate them for scrap metal and parts. However, I still wrestle with the occasional impulse buy, whether it is a $2 bottle of nail polish, a cute top on sale, or a random knick-knack at a gift shop. This is where I am trying to stop and consider. Just last week there was a pair of adorable, navy blue, lace ankle pants at Target in my size and on clearance for $13. I had them in my cart, put them back, thought about them again, and then walked away. I decided I would go back the next day for them, then got busy and forgot. Since that time I have thought about them and realized that I already have a pair of navy capris anyway and I DON'T NEED NEW PANTS. I want them because they were summery and fun, but I would have been buying them just to consume them. To have them.
In my journey to consume less, here's a few things I am doing to try to the quell the “I wants” and avoid buying things that I don't need:
  • I am working on not even looking. I wouldn't have wanted those lace pants if I had never seen them. I would have never seen them if I didn't stop and browse through the clearance rack just for kicks. I had gone to Target for cat litter, bleach, and toilet paper. Eyes on the prize–go and get what I came for and then leave. No looking just to see what's on sale.
  • I like a good bargain. I don't use coupons because I have learned that the time and effort aren't worth it for me. I mostly buy meats and veggies. The canned things that I buy are generic for the most part or I buy things for which there are rarely coupons. I shop at a grocery store, not a Walmart because I disagree with almost all things Walmart and will only go there if in another town and it's the only thing available. I also like supporting locally owned stores. I do look for in-store bargains and will stock up on meat on sale, but I also don't spend time going from store to find what is on sale.
  • Anytime I order anything online I look for a coupon code. I had to order something tonight (ironic, no?) and found a 30% coupon. It's always worth a check. Same for retail chains. I can always find a Joann Fabric, Michaels, Kohls, New York & Company, etc. coupon to use online or in the store.
  • Speaking of coupons…If you don't have gmail, then why not? It is the greatest email ever! First of all, now there are automatic tabs that filter legitimate email, social network related email, and promotions. Most retail email will be sent to the promotions tab automatically and you don't even have to look at it. However, I go a step further and have set up folders with labels. I like to travel and am always looking for deals, plus I quilt, do home improvement projects, etc. I get emails all of the time from airlines, hotels, fabric stores, clothing stores, restaurants, etc. If I saw them and clicked through then I would probably convince myself that we should absolutely fly to Lincoln, Nebraska for the weekend because…$59 round trip! Or wow, I really need this dress because it's so adorable and it's on sale. However, since these things go to my folders, I don't see them UNLESS I NEED THEM. When I do need a new set of pajamas I go into my email and find a Kohl's promotional. When I need to book a hotel room, I remember that I am a member of X, Y, and Z reward programs and that I can book a hotel room for 20% off. These things can't tempt me if I'm no looking at them though. See how most of my folders have 99+ emails? That's because I don't look at them.

 

Finally, for me, the less consumerism bit is a spiritual discipline. Not buying what I want but don't need requires exercising those fruits of the Spirit that we don't like to talk about. Love, joy, kindness, goodness, and peace are fine and good, but self-control and patience–ouch! Those aren't fun at all, but are every bit as important. We are supposed to be good stewards of ourselves, our possessions, and our earth. That's where shopping at thrift stores and donating/consigning makes sense. It is essentially a way to recycle. However, even when thrifting I must be careful to only buy what I need. That's the tough part! And for everything I buy, something else from my house/closet must leave.

Alas, no subscription boxes for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Bucket List Friday, May 30 2014 

 

I love making lists and I love doing new things to challenge myself and push myself out of my comfort zone. I already have an “In the Grand Scheme of Life” Bucket List on Pinterest. However, I decided to make a smaller bucket list for the summer. These aren't grand desires of the heart, but just some little things I would like to accomplish over the summer. I'm only working part-time, so I have a bit more time to focus on outside projects. Without further ado, here's my summer bucket list in no particular order:

  1. Finally attend a meeting of Aspiring Authors of Stevens Point Area. Next one is this upcoming Monday.
  2. Bike to work > 50% of the time.
  3. Bike the entire Green Circle Trail (26+ miles) in one fell swoop.
  4. Complete some type of fiber art that I deem worthy of submitting to a juried art show. (It doesn't have to get accepted. It just has to be something I am proud enough of to submit without feeling like a loser or a poser).
  5. Make and bake homemade bread regularly (The definition of “regularly” is to be determined).
  6. Make a pie crust from scratch, then fill it and bake it with fresh picked berries.
  7. Try a new recipe each week.
  8. Finish Robert's quilt.
  9. Explore a new state park.
  10. Go sailing with the WTF ladies. (Ummm…it stands for “Wisconsin Teaching Fellows”)

And then there's a few boring tasks I want to scratch off of my “to do” list as well. These include:

 

  • Finish cleaning/organizing the basement
  • Clean and organize the garage
  • Finish the laundry room renovation
  • Get back in the regular groove of exercise at least 3-4 times a week.

I know I tend to be overly ambitious and I may not accomplish half the things on my list. I'm okay with that and I know this about myself. But, “when there is no vision…”

 

 

 

Thrift Store Thursday: I’m Back! Thursday, May 29 2014 

Yes, I know. I have missed a few weeks of “Thrift Store Thursday.” Something about the end of the semester, exam writing, and the endless, abysmal pit of grading. However, I am pleased to report that I survived, students survived, grades were submitted, and we are on the other side. Joy, sunshine, no alarm clock, and…dare I say…summer!!

I'm excited to share two guests today–my lovely colleagues, Jennie and Christie! These photos are a few weeks old, but I am FINALLY getting them posted. Watch out! If I know that you are wearing thrift shop clothes, I just may take a photo of you and post you on my blog. (Don't worry. I do ask permission first.)

Here's Jennie at our annual awards reception. She is expecting her first little one in August and she picked up this awesome maternity dress at a resale shop. Doesn't that blue look spectacular with her red hair? Love it! I wish I had been a thrifter back in my preggo days. It would have likely saved me some unfortunate fashion decisions, like maternity stirrup pants. Yes, really. In my defense, it was the early 1990s.

 

And next, is Christie at another university event. We were all commenting on her beautiful necklace whenn she informed us that she got it at my favorite store, Nice as New. When I asked if I could take her picture for this blog, she added that she also got her cardigan there too. Another really pretty color–aubergine! (Doesn't that sound so much more fancy than purple…or eggplant?). You can't see the necklace very well, but it is muted purples and related colors. Quite gorgeous. And yes, I work with a couple of gingers, but I can attest to the fact that they do indeed have quite wonderful souls.

 

And finally, moi in an awkward pose, but LOOK! Summer clothes! Summer finally came. It did, it did! I just changed my closet over yesterday. The boots, wool pants, sweaters, and corduroy has been packed away and replaced with short sleeves, sandals, capris, and summery dresses. Cardigans get a year-round workout here in the frozen tundra, since the early mornings and evenings are still cool.

Anyway, I can't remember where I got this peasanty top. I think it was at a thrift store that I don't often frequent and has since gone out of business. It has been replaced by a new shop that I haven't yet explored. I LOVE my white sandals. They are from Nice as New and are Anne Klein sandals. They are so comfortable! The capris, that wrinkle so easily, are regular retail.

 

 

And with that, Thrift Store Thursday is back…with new-to-you summer finds.

 

 

 

Grieving Well Tuesday, May 27 2014 

 

In the past few years several friends, colleagues, and former youth from youth ministry have lost someone close to them due to a sudden and shocking death. Grief always accompanies death, but to me it seems all the more overwhelming and crippling when it is unexpected. There were no last words at the death bed and no final and poignant good-bye. Death instead came and stole the life of a healthy person on a regular Monday morning or Wednesday afternoon–a day filled with the mundane and unspecial. Maybe the last words uttered to the loved one were more along the lines of “Don’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning” or “Should we order pizza tonight?”

 

So, I here I sit pondering these things, having learned of sudden death of two different friends in the past month. However, the death that started these musings happened a couple of years ago. I’ve been thinking of grieving well and what that might mean, especially as a believer in Jesus Christ. Two and a half years ago, a strong Christian family I know lost a son and brother who was a teenager. On Facebook I saw countless people post various scriptures and write religious platitudes like “He is with Jesus now” and “Heaven needed him more than we did.” I have said those same things before, but as Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” I was equal parts relieved, taken aback, and pleased, when the sister of the young man who died posted something on Facebook to the effect of, “We are hurting badly. The ache and despair is overwhelming and it isn’t going away anytime soon. We don’t need your churchy messages right now. We need your prayers and your love.” I have never dealt with the sudden death of a close family member, but this is always how I imagined I would feel in a similar situation. She put words to my thoughts and she was in the trenches of grief.

 

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe the Bible and I regularly find scripture to be of great comfort, encouragment, inspiration, and challenge. Regarding death, I firmly believe that the Word of God teaches that for believers “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).” I believe in eternal life and a literal heaven (although not literal streets of gold and pearly gates). I believe that those left behind in the throes of grief will experience the sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) and peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) that only God can give in His supernatural way. However, I would imagine that in my grief, I wouldn’t necessarily want or need you to tell me that. I KNOW that it my head and my soul, but I doubt that my HEART would really be processing it.

 

Instead, I would imagine that I would want you to cry with me and listen to me talk about my broken heart. I would think that I wouldn’t need you to say anything–just pass me tissues, rub my back, pat my arm, or give me a hug. I would suspect that at some point I would want to hear your memories of my loved one who died–funny stories of things said, done, and experience together. Most likely some of those stories would be new to me and provide yet another glimpse into my loved one. I also would imagine that at some point, even though I know and believe the things in the above paragraph to be true, that I would need to have it out with God. I think I would need to give Him a piece of my mind, to tell Him that it’s not fair, that I think He’s mean, that I don’t understand. The reason that I think this, is because I have had to have a wrestling match with God, not about sudden death, but other devastating experiences in my life. And here’s what you need to know…just because I am mad at God and displacing my anger and grief inappropriately to God, doesn’t mean that I love Him any less, or am thinking of discarding my faith, or have lost all hope. It just would likely mean that I needed a place to direct anger, grief, confusion, and sorrow and I would know and trust that God is big enough to take it …and to know the true nature of my heart underneath all of the bravado. We have precedence throughout scripture–Job argued with God, David cried out in anguish, Jacob quite literally wrestled with Him. Even Jesus, the Son of God Himself, cried out in despair, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

 

However, I sense a trend that we expect modern-day Christians to praise the Lord in the midst of their grief, while smiling and nodding, “Yes, he’s in a better place.” When people respond to grief in this way we compliment them on handling their loss well or being strong. I think that we when do that, we deny permission or acceptance for them to grieve well. We take away their sackcloth and ashes and rob them of the experience of crying out in agony, knowing that we will be there to bear their burdens alongside them, to cry with them, and to pray for them when they simply can’t find the words, or the strength, or the energy to pray themselves. Mourning and grief should not be diminished or a cause for embarrassment or bring about concern about quality of someone’s walk with the Lord. Some people are naturally strong and not very emotional, while others need to fall on the floor and sob. Grief is personal and intimate. We need to be willing to get in the trenches with those who grieve, regardless of how they do it.

 

I teach a graduate course in counseling. I never had a course in counseling in college, nor any formal training in it. However, as all teachers know, when you teach something you must first learn it better than any student in your class will. I have over 20 years of practical experience counseling clients with communication disorders and their families, and now 7 years of teaching it. I have learned a lot from applying some academic principles to my real-life counseling situations. One of the things I learned from a video I show in class is merely this…to be present in someone’s pain.

When I tell a mother that her son has autism and will likely never speak or tell a middle-aged gentleman that he can no longer safely eat food orally, there is pain and grief that occurs. I can’t take it away. No platitude I utter will make the situation better. But I can sit…with them…in all that uncomfortable pain. And I can listen and validate. Maybe that’s how we can help others authentically grieve and do it well.

A few apropos quotes from noted Christian apologist C.S. Lewis’ book, A Grief Observed, that he wrote after the death of his wife, Joy Davidman:

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”
“I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate if they do, and if they don’t.”

“What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”

“Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?”

 

 

The Bittersweet, Good Friday Paradox Friday, Apr 18 2014 

Paradox: : something that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible (Merriam-Webster)
 
As crappy as this never-ending winter has been, this past week it brought about quite a visual sermon. All of our snow had finally melted last week and then this past Monday we were graced with several inches of fresh snow. All it did was preach Easter to me. First off, those green leaves were there underneath the original snow when it melted. How awesome that when everything is looking frozen and dead that deep underneath where we can't see, life is happening. Fresh, green life! Seeing those green leaves persevere and poke through the snow is such a visual reminder that life conquers death.
As a lover of words and literary conventions, I am so grateful that God speaks in paradoxes throughout the bible and continues to show us paradox in small glimpses of daily life. I think it is no small wonder than the verdant green of spring follows the white, frozen winter. The whole life from death cycle prevalent not only in the biggie, Easter, but also through the cycle of life. Rotting dead things create the best environment for new things to grow. That's why compost works. The there's the paradox of servant-leader or losing one's life to gain it or being washed in the blood to be white as snow.
One of my favorite songs by Nichole Nordeman is called Every Season. Here are a couple of pertinent verses from that song:

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring


 

Today I am grateful for that terrible, horrible, dark, lonely, depressing, and oppressive Friday 2000 years ago that was really, really good. And I'm grateful for a God who works in paradox.

Whose death gives me life.

Who made a bad Friday into good.

 

Thrift Store Thursday: Green Lake Edition Thursday, Apr 17 2014 

I'm out of town and have had an unusually exhausting week, so I am anticipating this being fairly short. However, I am long-winded and once I get started… Well, we'll just see what happens.

There has been just a few thrifted items this week. After a brief warming spell, the never-ending winter decided to revisit Wisconsin. I have learned not to pack away my winter clothes too quickly, so I was prepared. Out came the boots, tights, and corduroy once again! The Banana Republic sweater is from Goodwill, my trusty leather Ebay boots, and the skirt, although not purchased at a thrift store, might as well have been. I scored that green corduroy skirt off a Kohl's clearance rack for $2.90! My whole entire outfit, including leather Bandolino boots was about $30.

 

And here's my conference attire for the day. Usually I don't wear jeans to a conference, but this one is smal, I wasn't presenting today, and I dressed it up with jacket and the jeans were dark wash so I thought it would work. I didn't feel too casual or under-dressed (but I am wearing a skirt tomorrow when I present). Anyway, my Worthington jacket is from Goodwill and I am wearing the same workhorse boots as above. The jeans and top were bought at retail stores, but of course, for a good price. Pardon the selfie, but I'm in a hotel room by myself. At least I had the decency not to take the photo in the bathroom mirror.

 

My jeans are indeed skinny jeans…and fortunately they still fit even though I am still carrying my extra 8 pounds of winter weight. (The worst winter ever, plus really short days, makes one hibernate and crave carbs. No worries!). And on the topic of skinny jeans, I think it is important to consider if our clothes match our age. I would like to look classically stylish, maybe with a few trendy elements. I draw the line at neon, leggings as pants, mid-thigh skirts/dresses, short shorts, and the verdict is still out on maxi skirts. However, I want to look generally my age and I don't want to look like someone who dresses too young. That's always just sad and pitiful. So when I wondered if I could and should wear skinny jeans, I went to my friend, Google. Just simply Google something like “Skinny jeans over 40.” I did that and got a lot of hits. Now some are just random people's opinions so you have to separate the wheat from the chaff, but I tend to look particularly for fashion experts, like…Stacy London here. Have I mentioned how Stacy and Clinton changed my life? So, if Stacy says I can wear skinny jeans if I just pair them with other more sophiticated elements, then I will do so with confidence. Of course we do have to be realistic about body shape and size with certain styles. I tend to be tall and fairly thin, so I can usually make it work. However, I also have big calves so it took trying on a lot of jeans to find some that fit and didn't cut off my circulation. Someone shorter and/or heavier might find skinny jeans that fit, but if they are apple shaped (as opposed to pear), it might not be the most flattering choice. Conversely, because I have a long torso, I can never, ever wear anything with an empire waist. Guaranteed that the “waist” will cut me right across the boobs. I don't even try on dresses and shirts with empire waists, no matter how adorable I think they are, because I have learned that it is pointless and just makes me feel bad and insecure about my body. Who needs that? No one, that's who!

Well, before I sign off tonight, one more thrifty thing deserves mention. Purses!!! I am not a purse-monger, but I do like a colorful bag. I don't consider a purse part of my outfit, I never coordinate purses with my clothes, and I largely consider a purse to be a utilitarian necessity to hold my stuff. However, I still want it to be cute and it HAS to be functional for my needs. Currently all of my purses are handbags and I wanted something with a shoulder strap, plus I wanted some springy color. I would never ever buy a namebrand, expensive purse like Coach or Dooney & Bourke because I just can't wrap my brain around spending that much money (a car payment!) on a bag to carry my stuff. (No judgment though because I have other things that I will spend money on that you probably wouldn't). I am also brutal to purses and put them through the ringer. Anyway, I picked up this one last week for $13, brand spanking new, at a consignment shop. And here's the gratutious bathroom selfie since it was the only place in my room with enough light to show the color. Love my new purse and everything fits in it so nicely.


But since a new purse came in, an old one must go. Remember, thrifting isn't about acquiring stuff. It's about reusing, recycling, saving money, and keeping a balance.

 

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