Currently | December 2019



We had a lovely Thanksgiving last week.  We went to my parents' house and Derek's mom came with us.  We ate a lot of food and too much pie, played the A Christmas Story game (you know, like the movie?), and laughed and enjoyed each other's company. And now we have apparently charged full-speed ahead in the countdown for Christmas.  I'm still trying to get my bearings.  No matter how hard I try to plan ahead, Christmas always manages to catch me a little by surprise each year.

Speaking of surprises, I'm working on a freebie for all of you who are regular readers of my blog (hopefully will be up tomorrow), so I'm going to keep this "currently" short and sweet.


Wrapping...nothing.  All the presents arrived in the mail this week, so now I just need to buckle down and get them wrapped!  I actually don't enjoy wrapping presents very much.  I wish I did, but there are just so many to wrap, it gets overwhelming.  I'm going to be recruiting Derek to help me tonight while we watch a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Lighting...Christmas candles.  Weirdly, my favorite ones this year are not from Yankee Candle, as per the norm, but instead I'm really enjoying some that I found at TJ Maxx.  They have some great scents, and the candles are cheaper than Yankee, so that's a plus!  Anything pine scented is my favorite this time of year.

Baking...also nothing, but I am hoping to start on ginger cookies this week.  I've learned over the years to keep my Christmas baking to a minimum.  I'm always tempted to try a bunch of new recipes, but when I do that I tend to just get overwhelmed.  I may bring one new recipe into the rotation though, if things ever slow down enough.  I'm thinking some sort of candy recipe.

Sending...a present to my lifelong penpal, Felicia.  Keep an eye out, friend!  I'm also waiting for photos to arrive in the mail so I can start sending Christmas cards in earnest.  I decided this year to just use the boxes of Christmas cards I have collected over the years with a photo tucked inside, instead of our usual photo Christmas card.  It's actually been less complicated and stressful this way, not to mention less expensive since I'm using cards I already have!

Enjoying...quiet days at home, especially if it's snowing like it is today.  So far the first week of December has been chaotic and a little stressful, but today we have the whole day stretched out ahead of us.  We might read some Christmas picture books or bake something or do a Christmas craft.  It feels like the world is my oyster when I have a quiet day at home to work with.


(Wyatt took these photos for me a couple weeks ago - not too shabby, right?  He's getting better at using the big camera!)

Linking up here!




The Wednesday Five | Vol. 7


A Quote

"I make myself rich by making my wants few." - Henry David Thoreau

"He is richest who is content with the least." - Socrates

"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Hebrews 13:5

I was thinking about the Thoreau quote, and then found the Socrates quote by accident, so you get two for one, plus a Bible verse.  I don't know why, but contentment was on my mind this morning, perhaps because it is Thanksgiving week.  I think contentment and thankfulness go hand in hand - it's hard to have one without the other.  The Bible exhorts us over and over to be content, and the secret for the believer to contentment is that we have everything we truly need in Christ.  When we focus our hearts on what He has done to save us, how can we not be thankful?  Just some things I was mulling over this morning.

A Book

It's hard to come up with a book recommendation this morning, because I'm still working through the same old ones.  I'm going to throw out Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens as a suggestion.  My goal is to finish it before the end of my social media break.  Dickens can be really dense reading, but also, no one can turn a sentence quite like him!  I read A Christmas Carol last December, and loved it so much that I've been wanting to tackle one of his other books ever since.  They are just so long though.  Have you read any Dickens?

A Bit Of Nature




You also get two pictures, one because it snowed and it's gorgeous, and another one because the sunrise this morning was so striking.  I feel blessed to live somewhere now where I can see the sunrise!

A Recommendation

Yesterday, I spent most of the day finishing my Christmas shopping online, and I got 80% of the kids' presents from Rainbow Resource.  It's actually a homeschooling curriculum website, but they recently sent us their toy catalog.  I had the kids circle all the things they liked in it, and I was so impressed with their choices!  The toys Rainbow Resource carries are geared more toward imaginative play and creativity, and they carry good quality items (I didn't find many...or maybe not any...cheap plastic items).  Anyway, you should check out their toy section on the website.  I got so many ideas for the kids it was hard to choose!

A Moment Of Happiness

Last night I asked Derek if he would string up some Christmas lights in our room.  He was tired after a long day of work, but he was sweet enough to do one more thing for me anyway.  I put out some Christmas pillows on our couch and bed, and after he was finished we enjoyed our festive room, sparkling lights, and eggnog while we laughed through an episode of The Middle.  Our nightly routine is pretty simple, and may not seem exciting.  But I think it's a special thing to cuddle next to my husband and laugh a little together before we go to sleep.

What I Really Thought Of Stitchfix



I have always liked shopping for clothes.  I like trying out different styles in a dressing room, and I like finding a good deal.  

However, since having kids I find myself enjoying clothes shopping much less than I used to.  It's just not as fun to try on new jeans while reminding my kids to "sit right outside the dressing room door", and "please don't pick on your sister", and "it's your brother's turn to play a game on my phone now."  So I find myself ordering a lot more things online.

When Stitchfix came on the scene a couple years ago, it felt like every blogger was trying it.  I thought it looked interesting, but I still ended up shopping for myself most of the time.  Last year for my birthday though, my sweet friend Ashley gave me a gift card to try Stitchfix!  I put it off for quite a while because I was still not feeling like my figure had equalized after having Georgie, but finally this fall I created an account.

What Stitchfix Is

In case you've been living under a rock (or just don't follow any fashion bloggers), the way Stitchfix works is that you pay a $20 "styling fee", they send you a box of clothes that they think you will like, and then you choose what you want to keep and send the rest back.  If you keep something, that $20 styling fee applies toward your purchase. 

Worth noting here is that if you choose to keep nothing, you lose the $20 styling fee, and the fee is also charged per box they send you.  I did not realize the fee was charged per box at first and was confused when my gift card balance dropped by $20.  I contacted customer service though, and they refunded me the $20 because of the confusion, which was really great of them.

After each box you give them feedback so they can try to send you items you will like better the next time.

My Experience

I requested three boxes from Stitchfix before I spent all of my gift card money.  The pictures in this post are with items from my first box (I ran out of time to take photos of the second and third boxes).  I thought the first box was pretty close to my usual style.  The red top was really "me", the sweater and shirt were super soft, and the earrings were gorgeous!



(Items: red shirt and jeans.  Shoes are mine.)

The only thing that I didn't like were the jeans.  Every pair of jeans they sent me, in all three boxes, were too loose in the waist, so I probably should have sized down.

I ended up not keeping anything from that first box, even though I liked the items they sent me.  It was mostly fit and price issues.  Some of them fit fine, but didn't "wow" me enough to spend the moneyon them.  The sweaters and shirts ranged from around $40-50, the pants were probably around $50, and the earrings were $30.  (I should have kept the packing slips they sent me so I could have given you exact prices - I'm sorry about that.)

The second box they sent was filled with half hits, half misses.  I received a shirt (around $40), a dress (around $55), jeans ($50), a pair of green ponte pants ($45), and a short-sleeve sweater ($40).  I liked the green pants and the sweater, but once again - they didn't "wow" me enough to pay that much.  Thankfully I had requested an "extra" with this box, a pretty bralette with thin straps that would work well under a lot of my own sweaters, so I ended up keeping that.

The last box was by far the best!  I received a cute pair of leopard print duck boots ($70), a yellow sweater ($40), a black shirt with pretty details ($40), another pair of jeans ($50), and a black quilted moto jacket ($80).  I loved every item in this box, except the jeans because of fit issues again.  The detail on the black shirt was cute, the boots were fun, and I loved the jacket.  But as I sat there trying to decide what to do, I realized I would never pay that much for these particular items in a store.  I would wait for a sale, or see if I could find a similar item elsewhere for cheaper.  In the end I decided to send everything back.  Thankfully I had ordered another "extra" bralette with the last box, so I purchased that and didn't lose my last $20 on the styling fee.




(I might have enjoyed playing "fashion blogger" for a day, ha!  Derek took these photos for me, so I guess he got to play "fashion photographer" too.  Items: cardigan and earrings.  Dress and boots are mine.)

Are You Noticing A Theme?

Overall, I was impressed with the fact that most of the pieces they sent me did actually fit my style pretty well!  I really liked almost everything they sent me.  I was very skeptical that they were going to be able to pinpoint my style with only a few questions on their site, but they did a pretty good job!  How can I get a job as a stylist?  I think that would be super fun.




(Item: gray shirt.  Pants and shoes are mine.)

When I filled out the questionnaire, for most items (except jeans and outerwear), when asked the price I was willing to spend, I selected "the cheaper the better".  I had heard Stitchfix items were a little pricier than what you might find at Target or JC Penny, and I found that to be true.  Even with selecting "the cheaper the better", I still found that most of the items were more than I would usually spend.  I shop clearance quite alot, and I shop at less expensive stores, so I'm used to lower prices for items like the ones they sent me.  I probably won't request another box unless I decide I want another bralette, just because my style description should probably include the phrase "won't spend more than $30 on a top, because she knows she can get a cute sweater for $15 at Walmart".

However, there is the convenience aspect to consider as well.  For people who don't like to shop for themselves, or for whom shopping is very difficult, or people who don't like to spend a lot of time browsing online, I think paying a little more than normal for the service would probably be worth it.

And it's worth it to try it if you're curious too!  I had so much fun filling out my style profile, and when they sent me a box it was exciting to open it.  It felt like a present since I didn't know what would be in the box!  I'm so glad my friend gave me a gift card, because I probably never would have tried it on my own, and it was a fun experience!  

My advice if you try Stitchfix would be to always include an extra that you know you could purchase with the $20 fee if you end up not wanting to purchase any of the other items they send.  I recommend trying the Free People barrettes, obviously.  I have two of them now, and I really like them!

Have you ever tried Stitchfix? What did you think of it?



Holiday Preparations & Foibles



We got the Christmas stuff up this weekend.  A few years ago we decided the weekend before Thanksgiving was going to be our day to decorate, and I have to say, I like it.  I don't feel that Thanksgiving gets eclipsed by the Christmas decorations - if anything, it just adds to the air of thanks for me.  It's hard for me not to feel thankful in the early morning glow of the Christmas tree.






I'm sitting in the kids' playroom right now with just such a glowing tree in the corner, and a camp mug of coffee in my hand (well, on the shelf - can't hold coffee while I'm typing).  The rowdy refrain of "Jingle Bells" is already coming from the kids' room, so I imagine I'm going to be interrupted any minute, but I am hoping to get this post done and published before my self-imposed computer limit kicks me off.

Speaking of which, how is the social media/digital break going?  It has actually been much easier than I thought it would be so far.  Maybe it's because we are just dipping into the craziness of holiday preparations, and my mind has been too occupied with that to dwell much on Instagram.  I have actually not found myself picking up my phone before realizing I deleted my social media apps, which has been a surprise.  Maybe I'm adjusting quicker since this isn't my first break from social media.  There have, however, been several times when I thought about sharing something with you all on Instagram, and then remembered that I can't. But I've been trying to redirect some of that pent-up social energy into more personal interactions, which has been lovely.  I finally started a craft I had planned with the kids, I got a date on the calendar to visit my grandpa, I've written a few notes to people, and we had a game night at my sister's house (which is already completely decked out for Christmas too).





Back to the subject of tree decorating.  Am I the only one who finds the entire decorating process stressful?  I know it's supposed to be this time of joy and family appreciation, but for the last several years I have found myself running around, pre-cleaning surfaces in preparation for decorations, shouting to remind the kids to pick up their toys (again), trying to get cute decorating pictures, and just generally being a mess.  I escaped mid-decorating this year with Gwen to go do some Christmas shopping.  It was just getting too stressful.  I also decided to take the pressure of getting pictures of the kids decorating the tree off my plate.  It's about having a fun time, not getting a cute picture, right?  Except my efforts to calm down about taking pictures were voided by requests from each of the kids to take a picture of them so I could put it in their photo book.  So the camera did appear, but in a much more relaxed way.


(It snowed last week, and the afternoons were just so peaceful and pretty.)

Speaking of trees, I had an epiphany this weekend.  You know those Christmas trees that are made of that shiny, irridescent, tinsel-like material?  I always thought those were really ugly.  Why would anyone buy a tree like that?  Well, I have learned why.  We made a trip to our local Christmas wonderland store this weekend to look for some colorful outdoor lights, and I pointed out a tree to Derek that I thought was particularly pretty - decorated in icy blue and bronze, and just glittering all over the place.  Then it occurred to me that this was one of those trees!  Those tinsel-trees that I always thought were so ugly.  It turns out that when you add in some twinkling white lights and sparkly ornaments, the whole tree just looks like a glittering masterpiece.  Now I kind of want a tinsel-tree.





Thanksgiving is this week, and we are taking sort-of break from school.  I don't want to take a full-break, because I want more days to be added into our required totals, but I've decided this is history catch-up week.  Until Thursday, we are just going to sit around, read books from our history curriculum, and drink hot chocolate.  We might throw some Christmas books into the mix, and maybe a craft.  That's my plan.  I love homeschooling.




Also on the schedule - make the perfect chocolate pie for Thanksgiving.  This year we are bringing Derek's mom with us to my parent's house, and I think it will be extra-special to enjoy members of both sides of the family at the same time. I am tasked with bringing pink fluff salad, a relish plate, and a pie. I'm thinking of making a Hershey pie.  If you've never had it, think melt-in-your mouth, creamy chocolate that is about a thousand calories per slice (I exaggerate, but not by that much).  But if you have a favorite chocolate pie recipe, send it my way!

In light of all this holiday prep, I am also hoping to get some Christmas cards written this week.  If you are a blog buddy of mine and are interested in swapping Christmas cards with me, will you fill out your address on this form?  My Christmas card philosophy is "more the merrier", for giving and receiving, and I do have some extra time to work on them now that I'm hardly on my phone!  Turns out Instagram was the major time-sucking culprit.




The Wednesday Five | Vol. 6



A Quote

"The woods are so human that to know them one must live with them.  An occasional saunter through them, keeping to the well-trodden paths, will never admit us to their intimacy,  If we wish to be friends, we must seek them out and win them by frequent, reverent visits at all hours, by morning, by noon, and by night; and at all seasons, in spring, in summer, in autumn, in winter...They have their own effective way of keeping aliens at a distance and shutting their hearts to mere casual sightseers.  It is no use to seek the woods from any motive except sheer love of them; they will find us out at once and hide all their sweet, old-world secrets from us.  But if they know we come to them because we love them, they will be very kind to us and give us such treasures of beauty and delight as are not bought or sold in any marketplace."
- Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Blue Castle

A little anthropomorphizing of the woods for you this morning, ha!  I always like L. M Montgomery's fanciful descriptions in her books though, and this one was sweet and a little true, I thought.

A Book

So, I started reading Little Women, which I've never actually read.  You are all welcome to be shocked now.

A Bit Of Nature


If you wake up early enough, and keep an eye out, there is a five minute window when the light coming up over the mountains is just gorgeous.

A Recommendation

So, I thought I'd give you a couple recommendations that were given to me this week.  One is this pumpkin chili recipe.  I had friends over for a book chat this week, and the conversation turned to different chili recipes.  Pumpkin chili sounds interesting, so I think I'm going to have to try it one of these days!

The other recommendation was Wick Wish Candle Co - this company makes "literary and fandom" candles.  One of the girls brought over a couple of hers on our book chat night, so we could smell them, and they were so cool!  And weirdly they did smell like the books they were representing.  I want one now (maybe for Christmas).  The ones I smelled were "Jane Austen", "Anne Shirley", and "Little Women" and they were so good.

A Moment Of Happiness

This one is going to double as one more recommendation - if you have the room, you should consider a big dog.  Maybe a bloodhound mutt, like our Harvey.


(Harvey, crashing the pictures I was trying to take for the Stitchfix post that I keep forgetting to share!)

As I was doing my devotions this morning, our big 'ole dog came over to me and stuck his nose on top my lap, and while it can be a little annoying at times, I love how sweetly he gets his message across.  I scratched his ears and let him outside, and now he is back in, snoring behind me as I type this.  The sound makes me smile.

I love having a big dog, because whenever the kids are outside I know he is keeping an eye on them and will alert me if any strangers or questionable wildlife come too close.  And when Derek has to be gone for work trips, I honestly don't know what I'd do without Harvey - he sleeps at the foot of the stairs and makes me feel safe.  I'm really grateful for him.  He started out a little like the puppy in Marley And Me, but just like in that movie, he is a better and better dog with each year.

(If you want to join me for your own "Wednesday Five", feel free!)

Tools For A Social Media Break




I knew from the start that I wanted to completely break my phone habit with this year's social media break.  I don't like how my hand is often reaching for my hone before I even realize it, and I figured getting rid of Facebook and Instagram for a while would be the first step.

There are some complications though, with taking a break from social media.  How am I going to still share photos with my family (which is a big value of Facebook to me)?  How am I going to be able to get my blog posts to people who only read through Instagram?  How am I going to have the motivation to resist signing back in to check just "one more thing"?  And would getting rid of those two apps be enough, or would I just find other ways to waste time on my phone?

I don't want my bad habits to be diverted to other digital activities during this break.  I want to spend time doing things in the real world, and develop some "analog" skills that have been languishing for too long.

As I was mulling all that over, I found a few resources that have been or hopefully will be very helpful in making the most of my attempt to break my phone habit over the next couple months, and I wanted to share them with you here!

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport - I listened to this book in two days over the weekend, and picking this book up now was so timely for me.  Newport is talking about the very thing I've been struggling with, getting a handle on your "digital life" and making sure that the ways in which you use technology are actually serving you, instead of making you a slave to technology.  This book gave me so many things to think about, and strategies for making sure that I break my phone habit long-term, not just until my break is over in January.

Freedom.to - This is a tool I read about in Digital Minimalism, and I went straight home and signed up.  Freedom.to allows you to block distracting websites (specified by you) for certain blocks of time or on regular schedules (also specified by you).  I've set mine up to block time-suck websites for the hours of 9-5, Monday through Friday.  Like I said, I didn't want my bad phone habits to just get diverted to other digital time wasters, so this tool should help alot!  They are running a special right now too - you can try it monthly for $7, or get a whole year for $20!

Later.com - I mentioned in my first post about taking a social media break that I am still going to use a scheduler, to let people know that I've posted here on my blog.  This is the scheduler!  You can set it up to share to multiple social media websites (without being signed in), but the one that is most useful at this time for me is posting to my blog Instagram, because this is the only website I'm aware of that let's you schedule posts to Instagram.  I know there is a decent portion of readers (though not as many as you might think) who keep up with blogs through Instagram, and I didn't want those of you who keep up with me that way to totally miss out while I have the app removed from my phone.

Chatbooks - Another hesitation I had with giving up Instagram specifically is that I have a recurring series that automatically prints my pictures to these cute little photo books through Chatbooks.  My kids LOVE these books and are constantly carrying them around.  I was a little sad to miss a couple months of capturing our memories this way, until I remembered that you can add photos to a Chatbook manually through the app.  Did you know that?  It will take a little more intention from me to remember to add photos to the book when I don't have an instant audience or the boost of "likes", but that's also the whole point of my social media break - to be more intentional with how I'm spending my time.  I'm thinking about printing out books of the best photos from the month and sending them to our family members who really enjoy photos of the kids.  Yes, this will cost me more money, but I have to think it will mean a little more too.  (There is also just good ol' texting for sending photos, which I plan on putting to use!)



I'll write another post soon about things I'm hoping to spend time on instead of my phone, but I wanted to share these tools this morning for a few of you who I know were also considering some sort of digital break!

Do you have any other resources I should know about that are helpful for breaking bad phone habits?

Also, real quick, did you know that I actually had a newsletter for this blog?  I haven't sent a newsletter out in years, but I figured now might be a good time to dust it off.  If you need a way beside social media for keeping up with this blog, you can sign up for updates below!



See You Later, Social Media


  (Photos from our October fishing day.)

It's been growing for a while.  This uneasy relationship that has been developing between me and social media.

It all started with a blog post I read about social media addiction last year.  It opened my eyes to something that had already been eating at me.

I don't like the way I sometimes feel compelled to look at one social media platform or another.

I don't like having the weight of my phone so often in my back pocket.

I don't like how I feel...well, yucky after spending more time than I meant to browsing on Facebook or Instagram.

I don't like that feeling that I've missed out on something more important after my eyes have been glued to my phone.



For a while I wanted to be able to just cut back on my usage, set some phone time limits to help me stay off, develop better habits.  But when I take a break or set a limit for one social media platform, I find a lot of my energy is only diverted to a different one, and there I am, still wasting so much time.  Too much of my days wasted.

I'm taking a break.  A break from all social media platforms except here on my blog.  That is how it all started out anyway, right?  All these social media platforms I initially set up to help this blog are actually stealing from it in many ways now.  I am excited for the weeks ahead, to be able to put all my creative and writing energy into this space, the one that I always come back to.

So yeah.  I'm just taking an Instagram and Facebook break, and deleting 75% of the apps on my phone.  I'm not sure exactly how long I'll be off, but I imagine it will be until January so I can enjoy the Christmas season without the social media burden.  If you see updates on my blog Instagram and Facebook page, it will be automated posts that I'll be setting up through a scheduler.  I may pop on once or twice to say "Happy Thanksgiving" and "Merry Christmas", but otherwise, if you want to keep up with me, I'll be here on the blog.



I have lots of plans for what I'm hoping to accomplish with my extra time over the next one or two months.  Maybe I'll share that in another blog post next week!  But my main goal is to get rid of social media for a while, let the impulse to check it fade, so I can evaluate what, if anything, social media is actually adding to my life.  With a clear head.

I want to really look at my kids this Christmas season.  I want to take pictures of them merely because I think they are adorable, not in order to have something to share on my Instagram feed.  I want to bake, and sing, and paint, and fill photo albums, and figure out if I really can be a crafty mom, or if I'm as hopeless in that area as I always thought I was.  I want to memorize verses, and do an Advent study, and have enough blank space in my day to meditate more on what I've read.  I want to stop insta-sharing, and let things ruminate a little bit, and grow into something better so I can share the thought here, fully formed.

I want to focus more attention on my actual life instead of focusing on just making it look pretty on social media.

I love that quote from Annie Dillard that I came across earlier this year.  She said, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

I want to spend mine on something better than Instagram.



---

Have you ever taken a social media break?  How did it go, and how long did it last?

This isn't my first break, I took a break from Facebook years ago, and again last December, but I'm looking forward to a more thorough break this time!  It's the first time I've said goodbye to Instagram since I joined.
© Through Clouded Glass. Design by MangoBlogs.