Showing posts with label Old-Fashioned Blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Old-Fashioned Blogging. Show all posts

Just Chatting



I pour a little half and half in the bottom of a pink marble mug, and top it off with sub-par coffee because we are out of the good stuff.  The kids are eating breakfast and watching an episode of Little Bear.  There are some TV shows that wind kids up, and some that are calming to children, and thankfully Little Bear is of the calming variety in our household.

I go around the corner and settle into the homeschool room.  I set up this room so we'd have a quiet(ish) corner of the house to do work in, but I've also found it serves quite well in the morning when I am trying to sneak in some personal Bible study time.  I am working through Hebrews (again), and close my eyes to run through the first three chapters in my head.  I was hoping to have chapter four memorized by now, but I always am too optimistic on these things, no matter how hard I try to be realistic.

And now quiet time is over, the kids are starting to get bored with Little Bear, and I am still sitting down to attempt to write this chatty post.



On Being "So Busy" And Feeling Like Myself

Elizabeth wrote a similar post about hobbies recently, and she mentioned that although she would never want to poo-poo those who are single when they say they "are so busy" (because doesn't every stage feel so busy?), the difference when you have kids is that you're busy, and any time you start something there is always the possibility of being interrupted.  I fully concur with that.  There are so many things I don't try to do, or posts I don't start to write, because I know I'm going to get interrupted.  But this is me breaking the pattern and spilling out some words anyway, even though I will likely be interrupted in the next five minutes.  Something is better than nothing, right?

March is the first month this year where I've actually felt like myself again!  I don't know what it was about January and February, but I just felt somewhat lost both months, like I was running to catch up to my life.  I realized I probably had to let some things go, and cut some things out of my life that were discouraging me.  I quit Bible study because it was just too much right now, put myself on a social media diet because I was escaping to it too often, and planned a few spontaneous field trip days for me and the kids because I used to do that all the time and I miss it.  

(I didn't know what photo to put in this section, so here is me in January, before my non-burgundy roots started to grow out. Maybe I should get my hair re-done one of these days...a hair appointment has never hindered me from feeling like myself, just saying.)

On Not Hating Spring Anymore

Though I do actually enjoy the winter, seeing some signs of Spring has helped bring me out of the duldrums as well.  I took the kids to a park twice this week, and we could have been in short sleeves, it was so nice.  The grass is greening up in town, and I am keeping my eyes peeled for flowering trees to start budding so I can whip out my camera and get some spring-time pictures of the kids (the only thing I regret about living in the mountains is that we don't have flowering trees).






The kids like to bring me "flowers" from outside, even though it's really just handfuls of dead grass (don't try to tell them that though).  But I was pleased to see the other day that in the midst of the grass and dirt clods that were left on my counter, there was a small, green, fern-like plant as well.  So spring is coming, even in the mountains.  

I used to hate spring, hate it, because up here it's mostly just mud season.  Snow is melting, but nothing is growing yet, and your shoes are constantly muddy.  But somewhere in the last couple years I realized maybe my loathing of spring was based on a limited, immature view of it.  When I was young, I hated hiking too, but now I enjoy the exercise.  When I was young, I hated going on mountain drives because it seemed boring, but now I love to explore new roads in the car and find all the gorgeous views.  When I was young, I hated spring because it was muddy and dull...and it's still rather muddy and dull, but when you look closer, you can see the signs of life returning after a long winter, and there is something more refreshing about it now.  Everything starts new again.  There is a redemption to it that I never saw when I was young.

Of course, it also helps that I can now drive to places where there are flowering trees (I love flowering trees).

On Medieval Guilds, Juggling, And Music

We are on the countdown until the end of the school year, and I have been tracking the days on our calendar and the lessons left in our curriculum book daily to make sure they are lining up.  I am not one who thinks you must finish the book before the end of the year, but I also don't want to reach our last day and realize we only have a few more lessons left.  The Type-A side of me would not be able to rest.  We are mostly on track though, and I am thinking of tripling up on our math lessons for a couple weeks so we can finish math early and take the last month of school to just focus on "fun stuff" - history and science.  I think it might be a nice way to wind down the year.

Speaking of winding down the school year, and also speaking of history, our co-op is doing our big spring event next week, a medieval "guild".  Each family is supposed to pick a trade, make some goods, and dress up in medieval garb to come barter at the marketplace.  I cannot tell you how much mental anguish I have gone through trying to figure out what to make.  I had signed us up to be weavers, but then realized how ridiculous it was to think that I could "weave" (knit) enough...something...to trade at the guild, all by myself.  Because of course my little non-knitting kids would not be a help.  I was thinking about shifting to some other simple cloth-related craft, but couldn't come up with a tight enough idea.  So after much frustration I switched us to being the jugglers.  Juggling is kind of a trade, right?  Court jesters and all that?  Okay, no, none of us can actually juggle, but we can make some pretty neat little juggling balls, and it's a lot simpler than weaving something.

And speaking of co-op, we also did a field trip the other day to an "inside the orchestra" event, and it immediately made me regret not taking up the violin in my younger days.  It also made me want to break out my flute again.  It's really tricky to learn how to make the flute actually make noise, and I already have that part down from years ago, so I'm halfway to playing it, right?  In reality I am not a very musically talented person, but I so wish I was.  Enthusiasm counts for something, I think.



On Book Clubs And Reading Too Many Books At Once

Despite never thinking I could keep up with a book club, I have found myself in two book clubs over the last year.  I get excited about book clubs because it's so nice to read a book and have someone to talk to about it.  I love reading a book at the same time as friends or family so we can discuss it later.  But I will also admit that I get a smidge stressed about book clubs or buddy reads, because I am such an ADD reader.  I can't stick with just one book!

Recently I decided enough is enough and I would just read one book at a time, and read that book clear through before picking up another one.  That idea lasted for all of one book before I was back to reading a chapter here and there from five books again.  The problem is that I am a mood reader, and my moods change so often.  I also have a terrible time deciding what I am in the mood for and feel like I have to try five books before I can decide...and then I inevitably never decide and just continue piece-mealing five books at once.

(Who am I kidding, it's more like 10-15 books at once.)

I am going to try the one book thing again, maybe with my most recent bookclub book, Far From The Madding Crowd.  Have you read that one?  PSA: It's free on Kindle.

Chime in, do you play musical instruments, enjoy or hate spring, read too many books at once, or have experience with medieval guilds?  

Tips and tricks appreciated.

Tea On A Tuesday Vol. 1



I'm a coffee person.  I always brew a pot when we have company, but frequently I'm the only one drinking it.  I don't really understand why so many people don't drink coffee, but if you came over I might brew a pot to help shed the chill from outside, or I might just put the kettle on and offer you a cup of tea instead.

I'd pull out my little specialty tins from David's Tea that my dear friend Felicia sent me for a late Christmas present, and I'd probably mentioned that I first met her through letters we started exchanging as 12 year olds.  How we still have never met, but we still manage a letter every six months and cross our fingers that one of these days we'll meet for real.  How she's a longtime, dear friend of mine even though I've never seen her face in person.

Not many people have had pen-pals these days, so you might think it's cool or you might not quite get it, but I'd probably mention how I wish snail mail wasn't such a thing of the past, and how I wish I was better at it myself.  All these words that we pound out and send off into the space of the internet are so...intangible.  There is something about a letter that you can hold in your hand, how you can see what kind of pen and stationary the person chose, see what their handwriting looks like, hear the words that people won't put out there for any person to see but that feel safe to write in a letter.  There is something special about that.



I'd pause and listen to your thoughts on the subject, and who knows where the conversation would take us, but I'm sure it would come back to a couple other things I've been thinking about lately.  

I might tell you how I've put myself on a 15 minute a day "Instagram diet".  I'm serious about it, and I had my husband put a passcode that I don't know to enforce my 15 minute limit.  

You might care less about all this because you aren't on Instagram, or you might look at me askew and say "wow" because you don't see why I'd take such measures.  And I'd explain that I realized how often I was escaping a boring day with mindless scrolling, and how I could see it was distracting me from my kids.  Distracting me from consistency in my Bible study, from things that are eternal, and from the legacy I want to leave (it's never too early to start thinking about your legacy).  And well, something just had to be done.  If I died tomorrow, I wouldn't want my kids to remember my face glued to my iPhone.  

Then I'd probably ask you if you print up pictures of your kids, and it would seem like a change of subject, but it's really not.  Because with all of this talk about tangible things, I'd probably mention how I want my kids to have pictures they can hold in their hands.  I'd talk about how I can never seem to get my act together with creating photo books, and I take an excessive amount of pictures so it's always felt like an insurmountable task to sort through them and print them all up.  You'd probably commiserate with me, because its probably a huge project for you too.  Then I'd tell you how I decided to print up my one favorite photo of each kid from each month.  Just one.  And how I'd like to accompany each photo with a short letter with my favorite memory of them from the month.  I'd tell you how I grabbed a basic composition book and wrote the rough-drafts of my five little letters already.  

Because printing some pictures is better than printing none.  And it's harder to blink and miss a childhood when you are keeping an eye out for a memory to record.



Then maybe I'd get away from all this heavy talk, and I'd ask you what you thought about the Bachelor, or whether you've been able to get outside with all this snow.  I'd ask what you've been up to lately, if you've read anything good.  

And we'd sit, and enjoy our tea, and visit face to face instead of through a screen.  And it would be lovely.

I wish I could have you all over for tea on a Tuesday.

---

Shoutout to Amanda for making me want to write a "visiting over a hot beverage" post again with her coffee date posts.  And feel free to steal the term "Tea On A Tuesday" if you like it, and write your own.  I lifted the phrase from a long-ago blogger that is no longer writing.  I don't think she'd mind if we bring it back.

The Problem With Instagram



In case you live in a part of the country that lost power yesterday (not unlikely - we had a bomb cyclone here and many people lost power), let me fill you in - Instagram went down for about 8 hours yesterday.

I do actually go days without posting to Instagram, but I was in the middle of uploading a photo when Instagram went down.  Lots of people on the internet freaked out and didn't know what to do with themselves (I know this because I visited Twitter to confirm that it was actually down).  Some took the opportunity to perhaps ponder how dependent we have become on social media.  What if Instagram went down forever?  Lots of insta-celebrities would be nobodies once again, and many modern bloggers would lose their main source of income.  But for someone like me, who has enjoyed writing for so long and has spent the last couple years trying to bring old school blogging back, when I contemplated Instagram being lost forever, I was most saddened by the thought of all those lost words, lost stories - not lost Instagram stories, but lost stories from my life.

And that has made me rethink how much writing effort I am putting in on Instagram.

Yesterday reminded me that Instagram is not bulletproof, and it's not my website.  It could go belly-up tomorrow, and all that insta-effort that countless people have put in will have been for nothing.  And maybe that can be said of any online effort, even blogs, but blogs seem somehow more sturdy.   The time spent here seems more sturdy somehow, more real, more thoughtful, than anything I've done on Instagram.  The form of media does shape the content.  And I do wonder if the "instant" in Instagram means I'm spending too much time on a platform that in the end doesn't encourage depth in the first place.

And despite the best efforts of some of the accounts I follow, it really doesn't encourage depth.  I follow some who write long, well thought-out posts on Instagram, but if I'm honest I don't often take time to read them through on that platform.  I really appreciate a good quote, but I'd like to hear the quote with some more expansive personal thoughts even more.  And I can enjoy pictures just as well on a blog as on an app.

All that to say, I want my blog to get the best of my writing, and I want blogland to get the best of my browsing time.  I'll still pop on Instagram some, but I'd like to be on there less.  There is alot of noise on Instagram.  I'd like to take my effort back to an online space that encourages slow reading, that encourages more thoughtful posts, and more thoughtful reading. A platform that despite all the "blogging is dead" alarmism, still feels pretty sturdy to me.

 (The gorgeous, winter wonderland aftermath of our bomb cyclone!)

Did Instagram go down for you yesterday?  

(Also, I fully recognize there are many other problems with Instagram, and many good things too, so if you have other thoughts, please share!)


Dear Candy Hearts | Little Letters Vol.1



Dear Candy Hearts, I love you.  I love you too much, especially with tea.  This has become a really unhealthy relationship.  I'm thinking of breaking it off on Valentine's Day.

Dear Galentine's Day, Are you actually a thing?  Like, do people actually get together with their girlfriends on Galentine's Day?  How do I get in on that?

Dear Husband, Why is it so hard to buy you presents?

Dear Snow, It's time for your mid-year performance review, and I have to say, your results are above average.  You've beautified the landscape, and you haven't melted off right away.  Keep up the good work.



Dear Red Rising Series, Why are you so hard to put down?  You are vulgar.  You are violent.  You killed off alot of the characters I liked.  You are everything I don't like in books.  If you were a human, we would not be friends.  So why can't I stop reading??

Dear Birds, Just sit.  Sit still.  Just for a minute, so my bird-crazy boy can get a picture of one of you. Please and thank you.




Dear Homeschooling,  You are so much more fun than I thought you would be when we first met.  And I thought you would be pretty fun.  Those days when I cried because I thought we weren't getting along, they were just a phase.  I didn't mean what I said.  If it happens again, just disregard.  In my saner moments (like now) I think there is something special here, and I know you can handle my crazy.  This relationship is worth fighting for.

Dear Churches Everywhere,  At the risk of being shouted down for dipping my toes into the broiling controversy of church music - my friend, it shouldn't be that hard to get the music volume level right.  It's not that complicated - I need to be able to hear the words and I need to feel like I can sing along.  If I can't hear the words or sing along, I fail to see the point of getting to you in time for the music.  If the music is too quiet, I hear myself sing too much, and realize I'd be one of those people that are laughed off the stage on American Idol, which is not fun for me or anyone around me.  If the music is too loud, I can't understand a word those people up front are saying, and I can't hear myself sing, and I can't hear anyone else sing, and I start to wonder what the point of all this noise is anyway, and I fear my eardrums may bleed when I leave.  Let's just try to avoid both these things, please.

Dear People Everywhere, Think of something more interesting to say about my five kids than "you have your hands full".  If I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase, I'd never have to scrounge for coffee money again.  Preferably, pick something that is not rude, and bonus points if it's encouraging (because as you've noted EVERY DAY OF MY MOM-LIFE, yes, this is quite a job).  Comments on the cuteness of my offspring are always welcome.

P.S. People Everywhere, if you want to GIVE me a dollar each time you utter the aforementioned phrase, then please continue.  This mom needs her coffee.


(Moi on our nature hike the other day, powered by coffee.)

Stuff I Like | January 2019



I'm going to try something new here on the blog and share different things I'm liking or loving each month.  I always enjoy reading these kinds of posts myself, and I'm hoping to put together my own once a month as part of my blog goals this year.  We'll see how it goes!

The Book With No Pictures - My kids are finally old enough to find this book completely hilarious, and what makes them happy makes me happy.  Also check out the book I'm Just No Good At Rhyming.  Derek and I have laughed our way through the title poem, but the kids were cracking up at "The Sweetest Lullaby Ever" and "Hey Kids! Get Your Parents To Read This Poem!"  You have to have a goofy side to your personality to make any of these work!

Wild Thing podcast - You all know I live in the mountains, and supposedly people have sighted Bigfoot in our area.  I think there was even an episode of Finding Bigfoot filmed here.  There is a local Bigfoot club.  I know people who believe Bigfoot is a real thing.  I'm not convinced it's not a real thing.  After visiting Washington last year and seeing how much wilderness is out there, I can see how something might be able to hide in those woods.  Anyway, if you have even a little part of you that is interested in learning more about Bigfoot, Wild Thing is a fun podcast to check out!  It's an investigative podcast about...you guessed it...Bigfoot.

You probably could skip episode 2 since it's all about evolutionary theories (which I don't agree with), and watch out for one inappropriate part in episode 8 that you'll have to skip past - but also, my town is mentioned in that episode, ha!  Told you, Bigfoot is big here (no pun intended, but it's funny right?).

These two articles - Weirdly, in the last month two completely unrelated friends have brought up the same question: "What happens to people who never get an opportunity to hear the gospel?"  I've been frustrated with myself for not being as concise and clear as I wish I could be during these recent discussions, because the Bible is clear on what happens to people who never hear about Jesus.  It's a hard question and perhaps a hard answer, but "there is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-13). It is only through Christ that we are saved. These two articles solidly answer this question biblically, and say everything I was trying to say to my friends, only better.  Definitely worth a read if you've ever ran into (or wondered about) this question.  What Happens To Those Who Have Never Heard About Jesus?  Can A Person Be Saved Through General Revelation?  

Also a quick note: I think if someone in a remote tribe (for example) is truly seeking after God, that is a work He has begun in their heart, and He will get the Gospel to them.  It's important to remember that God is infinitely more compassionate and just than we are, and everything He does is good and right. You have to start with that understanding or this question can never be answered satisfactorily.

Little Letters Linkup - I've been thinking alot about old-fashioned blogging this month, not just what happened to old fashioned blogging, but whether and how it can make a comeback.  As far as I can tell, there are precious few old-school linkups still going, which is a pity - I used to find so many other blogs to read through a good linkup.  They used to be very social things, where you wouldn't just drop your link and run, but you'd take time to look around and make connections with other bloggers.  Well, recently I came across this "Little Letters" linkup.  Guys, I think we should participate!  Sharing mini-letters to random things in your life - old-fashioned blogging used to be all about this sort of post, and I want to support it.  So keep an eye out for my little letters post in the next few days, and write one too if you want!

The Big Words Of The Bible Cards - Still loving these cards, which you can read more about here.

Snow - We had several snow days in January, and I am loving the snow so much!  It's supposed to snow again today, and I couldn't be happier.  It's pretty, and it's moisture.  If we don't get snow, then there is a much higher likelihood of wildfires in the summer.  So bring on the white stuff!




Did you find any new stuff you like in January?

How I Handle Things

(The colors out there are just gorgeous right now!  Seriously, the in-real-life colors look just like this.)

Something about October makes me want to write.

Last year I started a 31 Days Of Writing project, even though I had a baby due at the beginning of November.  I wrote about Memory Keeping (you can read all those posts here), and I definitely didn't get to all the posts I had planned because I was in pain and huge and Georgie arrived before the end of the month!

This year we are moving before the end of the month, but I'm still going to try another October writing project, because the trees and the cool air and the candles and the hot drinks make my inner self scream "Pull out that laptop and write!".



I saw this little image floating around Instagram the other day, and I thought, why not?  Let's do this (except I'm writing here instead of on Instagram)!  It'll give me an easy way to scratch the writing itch.



I've missed the first few days (you're not missing much - my answers to how I handle those first two are "Um...I don't?"), but I think there are some good subjects coming up.  I reserve the right to skip any days that are too busy or for which I have nothing to say.

However, PLEASE let me know if there are any subjects on this list that you are especially curious to hear my thoughts on!  
It'll help me know what to prioritize when I get writing time.

First up - tomorrow you get to read my take on Halloween, which would probably be a highly requested one anyway, because if you've been around a while you might have noticed we don't celebrate it. (For you super-long-time blog readers, I've mellowed out about this subject in more recent years, don't worry).  Check back in tomorrow if you want, and please do tell me what else on the list sounds most interesting!

Moving And Other Realizations



Do you ever have one of those weeks, where you feel like you were busy all week, but someone asks you what you did, and you can't think of anything?  That's kind of how moving is.  You feel like everything is crazy and you are constantly doing something, but when you think about it you realize all you've really done is sign paperwork and occasionally leave the house for an inspection.

A Quick Moving Update And Reminiscing 

Speaking of inspections, everything went well, and things are moving forward nicely.  We are closing on our current house on the 18th, and we close on our new house on the 25th!  This week moving started to feel real to me, and the bittersweet nature of leaving our first home is starting to twist my stomach.  Our leaves are starting to change, and the weather is starting to cool down.  It's beautiful here right now.  This would normally be the time that I would utilize our wood stove to warm up the living room, but we're supposed to keep it clean for the new owners.

I think that is one of the things I'll miss most about this house.  That wood stove.  When we were first married, we lit a roaring fire in it and decorated for Christmas.  My sister came over to help and took a picture of me and Derek, still newlyweds, in front of the fire.  When the power goes out, we heat the house with it.  One wintery day when we had a couple feet of snow outside, the lights flickered out, and I even cooked on it and made us grilled cheese sandwiches and caramel fudge on top of that stove.

I'll miss it.  I'll miss warm winter days, snuggled in the wood-warmed living room with my babies.

Birthdays And Photo Sessions

We celebrated Clarice's birthday last weekend, and it hit me that this is the last normal family birthday we'll have here.  We are having Georgie's big one year old party here before we move, but that feels different since we'll have all our friends and family present for an official party.  Clarice's birthday was the last time we'll decorate with simple streamers the night before, and light candles and sing happy birthday on an actual birthday in this house.  We'll celebrate Georgie's actual birthday in a new home.

Clarice's birthday was nice though.  We went to church, then the zoo, where she requested to see the "eweh-phants".  We came home and gave her birthday presents, and she exclaimed "I WUV it!" and "I a'ways wanted dis!" over every one.  Three years ago, she was the baby who kept me waiting after my due date, and I cried because I wanted to meet her so badly.  She hasn't made me cry with sadness again yet (except at the thought of her growing up).  She is such a delightful girl.

(Clarice and me, at the zoo!)

I'm trying to get Georgie's one year old photos done before the madness of moving really starts, so I took some pictures of her today, and on Wednesday we'll get her cake pictures, family pictures, and Christmas card pictures done in one fell swoop.  I get excessively stressed over taking our own family photos, which is why I decided to split them up this year.  However, I'm convinced Georgie's little session today took twice as long as it would have if Daddy had been around.  Daddy is where it's at these days, and he's the one who reliably gets Georgie to smile.  I did some pretty ridiculous things to try to coax a grin out of her today, and nothing.  Thankfully siblings were around to help me, and the blubbering lip trick still worked.

 (This is about how Georgie felt about our photo session today.)

But What About Packing?

I haven't started packing yet, partly because I don't want to live amidst a bunch of boxes for our entire last month here, partly because we can move over most things in the drawers they are already stored in (there are really only a couple closets and a cabinet that needs packing - I think), and partly because I am having a terrible time just keeping up on regular old things like schoolwork.  We are ahead in reading and math, and about a week behind in everything else.  And why?  As I established at the beginning of this post, all we've really been busy with is paperwork.

I guess in September I've learned that paperwork can take up a ridiculous amount of time and energy, fall makes me want to curl up on the couch with a blanket and never move or let strangers into my house again, three is one of the cutest ages, my baby prefers me to hold her but prefers Daddy to make her smile, and selling a house makes you feel like you spent all week working yourself exhausted over a few signatures (because that's exactly what you did).

Oy vey.

(On a hike with dear friends last week, one of the few substantive things I can say we've done lately!)

What I'm Drinking: Pumpkin Spice Tazo Chai, steeped in coffee, with cream and Stevia.  Mmmm!

Has fall finally fallen in your neck of the woods?  What fall goodness are you drinking? Should I be concerned that I haven't packed anything yet?  Why are we moving again?

(I'll be glad we did all this about two seconds after we're moved in, just wait.)

Currently (June 2018)





Currently, I am...

Wearing:  I simple green t-shirt, and my favorite pair of shorts from H&M that I bought two months ago and am already wearing out.  Clearly I should have purchased a back up pair.  They were only $10!

Making: Body butter. A friend of mine posted on Facebook a couple months ago about this homemade body butter that she makes for herself and her girls.  Well, I happen to be a little obsessed with body butters, but I can't seem to find one that I really like since Bath and Body Works reformulated theirs, oh, 5+ years ago.  So I thought, "hey, why not?"  I finally got around to trying it this afternoon.  I added some essential oils to make it smell good, but I'm thinking that might be a wasted effort.  This particular recipe contains cocoa butter, and oh my goodness, the smell is strong.  It's cooling right now, and my whole fridge smells like chocolate.  I'm not mad about it.

Drinking: Peach-Pear La Croix.  I long ago learned that I don't love pop so much for the sugar as for the carbonation, so a flavored sparkling water will do!  The latest flavors I picked up were Coconut, Passionfruit, and this Peach-Pear.  I think Peach-Pear might be one of my favorites.

Eating: Nachos for lunch.  Not the healthy kind (is there a healthy kind?).



Cooking: I'm cooking out of the Fix It And Forget It Lazy And Slow Cookbook.  When I flipped through it at the library, I had to have it.  Basically the cookbook is broken up into weeks for an entire year, and each week gives you the menu, the shopping list, and directions on how to make the meals each day with the minimal amount of effort, using your slow cooker.  It's basically a ready-made year-long meal plan.  I've never been good at meal planning, so I'm all about someone doing the work for me!  I've made two recipes from it so far.  one was stuffed peppers, and it was great.  The other is Chicken Vegetable Soup.  I think the name of that recipe is generous, because there are literally only two vegetables in it - chopped up celery and corn.  We ended up having a change in dinner plans for the day I made it, so I haven't had any yet.  Derek had some for lunch and said it was more flavorful than you might expect for a vegetable soup recipe that only has chicken, celery, and corn in it.  I'm skeptical.  We're going to have the leftovers for dinner tonight.  I'll report back on Instagram or Facebook.

Reading:  Right now I am finishing up Voracious by Cara Nicoletti.  I am loving this book!  Each chapter is a little mini-memoir about her experiences with different books, and the food in those books.  Then she includes a recipe inspired by each book.  I'm not a food-memoir type of person typically, but this book is right up my alley!  I definitely recommend it.

(Remember how I was reading it before vacation when I hurt my knee?  I'm finishing it up now!)

Listening To:  Right this very minute I'm listening to the audiobook of Renegades by Marissa Myer.  You might know her as the girl who wrote the Lunar Chronicles.  I have to confess, I only made it through the first two books in that series, and I haven't felt compelled to pick up the rest - mainly because there are some weird experiments on humans (or human-like creatures?) that are ethically horrible, and I was a little weirded out by it.  Renegades, however, is funny and interesting so far - basically it's a superheroes story similar to X-Men, and some of banter between the villains and heroes is cracking me up!  I don't know if it's meant to be funny, but I am amused and loving it.

Also listening to Georgie fussing from her crib, so I'll be back.

Wanting: More time to read!  I just visited our local library sale, and I have too many books now.  I wish I could whole up for a week and knock a few off my list!  I'll try to show you guys what I found soon.  I got everything for probably an average of $1 a piece.  Not too shabby!

Buying:  This probably deserves it's own post, and you guys are going to laugh at me...but I bought a grain mill.  You know, so I can grind my own flour.  Ugh, I feel like a weirdo just typing that.  Basically, I like carbs.  I like bread, muffins, cookies, and cereal.  Since I like my carbs so much, I thought I might as well make them as healthy as possible.  Enter the grain mill.

I promise, I'm not turning into a crazy health food nut that won't eat white bread (we've already established that I love carbs).  But this is a fun kitchen project that is bringing back my love for baking, and I'm excited to give it a try!

And no, there's no hand-crank.  It's of the push-a-button-and-the-flour-is-ready-in-4-minutes variety.

Watching: The Bachelorette.  I just can't help myself.  If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that one of the contestants is from my (tiny) home town!  We actually saw the film crew while they were here.  And thankfully the guy is representing us pretty well so far, so I know who I'm rooting for!

Thinking: I've wasted a lot of years being discontent with where I live, and I feel really dumb about it now.  It's beautiful here!  How many people get to live in the mountains?  No, there's not a Starbucks around the corner, but there is a cute little down-home ice cream shop that sells coffee.  No, there's not a Target I can go wander around when I need to get out of the house, but there is fresh air and wildlife and hiking trails, and all those things are free.  Yeah, a lot of people left, but a lot of people came.  For the first time in my adult life I feel entirely content with my my house and town, and it's a lovely feeling.

(The only thing I'm bummed about is that our church is so far away, but it's not even a big deal to drive!  And we're making friends there too.  I've just started focusing on what I have instead of what I'm missing, and it's making all the difference.  Contentment is a wonderful thing.)




Loving:  This lovely summer weather!  I don't know why, but summer seemed to come all in a flurry this year, and the novelty has not yet worn off.  I'm sitting outside to type this!  It's so pretty!

Praying: For rain.  I love the warm weather and all, but I don't love wildfires, and that's where we might be headed if we don't get some rainy days.

(Also trying out this linkup here!)




On (Almost) Ten Years Of Blogging



“What is Callie’s favorite productive hobby?”

I sat there sipping my blueberry limonata while everyone scribbled away in the notebooks Derek passed out.  My 30th birthday party, and my sweet husband came up with a contest for whoever could get the most questions about me right.  He knows my love of games - in my opinion they make any and every party better!

A few minutes later and he read off the answers, and when he got to the question I just mentioned, almost every single person in that room got the answer right.  Writing.  Blogging.

I expected to be surprised at some of the answers that the majority got wrong, but here I was surprised at the question that the majority got right.

—-

Yesterday I decided it was high time I purged my blog feed.  I wanted a clean, simple lineup of blogs I actually care to read, not blogs I followed because of a giveaway, or big bloggers who never knew my name.  I opened up the browser window and navigated to my “following” list.  As I scrolled down the page, I found out I actually wasn’t following too many big, impersonal blogs (just a few that were clogging up my feed).  But I was still following blog after blog written by people who have long abandoned writing on the internet.  I remembered each one.  I remembered what they looked like, how many kids they had, how many more or less years they were married than me.

Blog after blog written by people who no longer thought it was worth putting themselves out there for the world to see.

I couldn’t take it anymore.  I closed the window before I totally finished.  

—-

Somehow I’ve been pounding out my thoughts on this blog for nearly ten years.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I tentatively typed my first post, wondering if there was anyone out there who would read it.  Back then, none of my real life people knew I had a blog.  I didn’t tell anyone, not for years and years. There was a tiny part of me that was irrationally embarrassed. I didn’t tell anyone until I started making money at it. 

I don’t think I was the only one who kept their personal blog a secret.  It’s vulnerable to put yourself out there in the first place, even more so to have real-life people who may be reading, who may or may not “get” why you are writing.  

Then the professionals came on the scene, and we casual bloggers started to feel like maybe these kinds of posts weren’t really worth sharing.  Maybe this blogging thing was only worth doing if you were trying to make money at it.

—-

I’ve been thinking about the blogging community a lot lately, as I slowly approach the ten-year anniversary of this blog.  I added a blogroll back to my sidebar.  Somewhere along the way blogrolls in the sidebar became uncool, unprofessional, and if you wanted to “make something” of your blog you wouldn’t be caught with one anymore.  As my ten year anniversary approaches, I’m rejecting that.  It’s back.  It’s a short list, full of bloggers who proudly still write the kind of posts that I like to read.  Posts about their real life, things they saw and did, feelings that it takes a certain measure of bravery to launch into public.  

Blogging has changed so much, and we’ve lost alot.  It’s got me thinking that maybe all those times when we bloggers didn’t want to admit that we had a blog finally caught up to us somewhere along the way.  Maybe we did this to ourselves by not being willing to stake a claim, and say that no, these kinds of posts are worth writing.  To say that being willing to organize our thoughts and record them for posterity in a way that is interesting and relatable to other people is worth doing, not something to hide, even if you never make a dime from it.

In the end, after ten years and countless blogs lost, I am starting to think that when it’s all said and done, maybe these are the posts that are really worth writing in the end.  And maybe all us bloggers from the old school should have realized that before so many quit, thinking it wasn’t worth the effort.

So I’m here, and a lot of blogs have bitten the dust, but I have no plans to stop writing on this little blog that no longer makes any money.  I’ll write about my faith and thoughts and feelings and successes and regrets.  In the end, those things make up a life.

I’ll write it all out for my children, and maybe their children after them, and I won’t feel a bit sheepish that this is all I'm doing anymore.  I won’t feel a bit of embarrassment that almost everyone in my life seems to know that I write on here without any other incentive than I just want to.  Because years down the road, I just don’t think I’ll regret the times I wrote here for nothing more than the love of it. 

Let's Catch Up - Vintage Books, Etc.

 


Time for a good, old-fashioned life update post!

The last couple months have been so busy, mainly because of one thing: vacation.  First I spent a couple weeks getting ready for vacation, which took a lot more effort than normal because I injured my knee.  Then we were gone on vacation.  Then we were home and recovering from vacation.  Now we are finally settling back into a routine at home, so I have some time to sit down and write!

Vacation And Last Day Of School

Speaking of vacation, I will eventually get around to writing a post and sharing some of my favorite photos.  It was such a nice getaway, and so needed!  My philosophy of vacationing is that we get away so we are happy to come back home again, and our fun-filled week left me with just that feeling of being full and happy to be home.  It was so nice to go visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law in North Carolina, and they are fantastic hosts who really made the whole thing relaxing.  We left feeling refreshed, and we are bringing that vacation feeling back home with us into the summer.  

I think I officially love vacationing in the middle or end of May.  We get back right in time for warm, beautiful weather in the mountains. It's been so warm and lovely the last week, and I've spent a lot of time lounging and reading on the porch in the sun.  May vacations kick off the summer with that vacation vibe to set the tone, and now I'm in the right frame of mind to make this summer relaxing and adventurous for our family!  I sat down last week with my bullet journal, the library calendar, a cookbook, and a kids' activity book and laid out a summer plan.  I'm hoping to fill this summer with good memories and good food!

We also finished up our last day of recorded school for the year last week (I say "recorded school" because we'll probably continue some casual schooling through the summer).   I'm kind of shocked about how easy it was to cross off 172 days, in retrospect.  That's a lot!  But it didn't feel overwhelming at all, even with having a baby.  I'm working on a post with all the lessons I learned in our first "real" year of homeschooling, so stay tuned.

Of course, when I told Wyatt that it was our last week of school, he got rather sullen and said, "But Mom, I don't want to stop school in the summer."

I was baffled.  "Why?"

Wyatt: "Because I like it."

"Why do you like it?" (I was expecting an answer having to do with seeing our Bible study friends on Wednesday or something.)

Wyatt:  "I just like it.  I like doing school."

I tell you, after a year with some frustrating moments standing out in my memory, it's encouraging to know that from his perspective, he is just remembering the joyful parts of learning that we've had.  I guess I'm not failing him after all.

Nancy Drew And My 30th Birthday Party

My 30th birthday is this month.  Starting way back when I was 25, I informed Derek that I would like a birthday party for my 30th, and this past weekend he delivered!  

We started off the day with some family time first and we went shopping at our local antique mall.  I've mentioned before that one of my favorite series to read as a girl was Nancy Drew (for me and every other girl I know).  Well, I found out recently that though the Nancy Drew books were originally written in the 1930's, they were re-written after 1959 to make Nancy and her pals more "modern".  In my reading about this, I learned that this was done in part to correct some racist language in some of the books, but there is some anecdotal evidence to indicate that the rewrites weren't completely for the better.

So obviously now I feel like I HAVE to read a pre-1959 book.  Are the new books noticeably different?  How exactly did they make Nancy "modern"?  DO I EVEN KNOW NANCY DREW AT ALL?

Well, I am happy to report that I found a Nancy Drew printed in 1948 at the antique mall!  I'll try to read it soon and report back with my findings.











(I also found one of these "Best In Children's Books" volumes.  This is a vintage book series with excerpts from children's literature, short stories, and some early writings from authors like Richard Scarry and Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I'm sort of casually collecting them.)

After the antique mall we made a quick stop at our Sunday School class picnic.  We switched churches last year (it's still a little fresh to write much about it), but we are feeling so happy and settled at our new church now.  We found one of the rare churches that still does Sunday School, and it's a model that really works for our family since we have to commute a bit to get to the church.  It's nice to get to know the people while we are there on Sundays, instead of feeling a bit excluded with a small group model that we can't participate in on a regular basis.

But anyway, back to the topic at hand - my 30th birthday party!  



Derek sent out these pretty invitations to my close family and friends, and we all met to have dinner together at Olive Garden.  It was lovely to have all the people who are dear to me gathered together as I prepare to enter a new decade.  Derek also played Ben Rector's "I Like You" (which is currently "our song"), and he gave a really sweet, short speech and said a bunch of nice things about me.  I tell you, I could have cried, but I was too happy.  My heart was full.


 (Me before dinner.)


(We tried to get a quick family shot after my party - this is as good as it got!  Not pregnant, that's just a food baby - ha! )

Other Worthy Of Mentions

Guys, I went to our annual library sale last week, and I got SO MANY BOOKS.  It's a little out of control, honestly, but I see those bags of good books waiting for me and I get so excited!  I also made a second trip on Sunday for their final bag-of-books-for-$6-just-to-get-rid-of-everything sale, and grabbed a bunch more books, which came out to dimes a piece.  My goal for the next year-ish is going to be to read two of those library sale books a month.  Maybe I'll write a post soon sharing all my finds, and you can help me pick what to read first.

Speaking of books, I feel like my reading is way too subject to my momentary whims.  I am definitely a mood reader, and for that reason I either fly through a book that interests me within two days, or I start a book and abandon it before I reach the halfway mark because something else catches my fancy.  This is why I usually have 10 books going at any given time - I have bookish ADD.  

THIS IS A PROBLEM.  

I feel like these bad reading habits really affect how much I enjoy any given book.  And when I start and stop a book several times before finishing, it also makes it difficult to give a good, thorough review (you may have noticed some of my reviews are dashed off a lot more haphazardly than others on Goodreads - this is why).  I'm trying really hard to be more disciplined about finishing the books I start, or giving a book a fair chance (at least 100 pages) before I decide I'm not enjoying it and pick up something else.  Am I the only one who has this problem?

Maybe I should start a support group.

What are you all doing to welcome in summer this week?  (I know, summer doesn't officially start until middle June, but in my book, if it's warm and green, it's summer!)


How To Start A Casual Blog



A few people have asked me in recent months how to start a blog. 

As a result of the professional blogging spike in the past five years, you can find a ton of posts about how should start a blog if you want to be a professional about it. However, I don't know that everyone who has considered starting a blog necessarily wants to make blogging their profession. 

Some people just want to have a place to write about whatever they feel like writing. Some people want to document a specific journey or adventure on which they are embarking. Some people just want to give it a go and see if it sticks. 

Unfortunately, there's not that many posts out there anymore telling you how to start blogging casually. So I thought I would just write my own so that the next time someone asks me about starting a blog, I have a post ready to go with the bare minimum of what they need to know and do to get started.

1. Set up your blog page. 

Before you can start to write you need to have a place to write, so you need to choose a blogging platform. There are two approaches to this:

A.  Start as if your blog will earn you money one day. 

Many bloggers who have monetized their blogs will advise you to start right off the bat with WordPress.org and hire someone to build an amazing website for you. If you you want to start a blog with the intent of earning money with it, and you are fully committed to that and have a plan, listen to those people. I have many blog friends who recommend the resources on Just A Girl And Her Blog for a professional approach to starting a blog.

However, I am not going to tell you to do that.

B. Just start. 

Personally, I don't think there's any sense in investing a ton of money until you really figure out if blogging is for you. You may absolutely love blogging, or you may write for a couple months and decide it's not your thing. Especially if you are more interested in personal reasons for blogging (documenting your life, connecting with other people, having your own platform to just write), I would recommend that you start on Blogger.com.  I've been on Blogger since the beginning, and I am still happy with it. The interface is very intuitive (you can just start!), they have a great designing dashboard that is easy to use (you can make it look how you want it to look), and it's FREE! You can sign up with Blogger and set up a basic blog in about ten minutes, so go do that. I'll wait.

 A Note About Designing

If you want to fiddle around with the design template on Blogger you probably will figure out how to make it look the way you want it to look you all by yourself. You may also consider creating or commissioning a graphic designer for a header image, because that is the first impression of your blog page (nice, but not strictly necessary). You can also search on Etsy for blog templates; some sellers will even install it for you. This is the template designer I used when I wanted to update my template to be mobile-responsive (i.e. so my blog would adjust to screen on your phone), and I'd recommend her - she was very helpful!

2. Start writing.

The next thing you need to do to get going with your blog is just to write. 

The professional blogging community will also tell you to create several posts before you launch your site so that you have content already waiting for your potential readers. I don't think this is a bad idea at all.  When you have posts already published and ready to promote, it makes it look like you've been writing for more than a day.  This is nice, but I'd like to emphasize that it is in no way necessary.  It's more important to just start, so if pre-creating content is going to slow you down, I say just skip it.

Just go ahead and write whatever you want to for your first post and publish it. In the long run, what makes most bloggers successful is just writing, and being consistent about it. 

The more you write, the more you think of to write, and the more creative you force yourself to be, the more creativity comes to you. So just get started. Try to make a goal of writing x-amount of times per week.  If you stick to it for a while, you're going to come up with some good content, and it's going to get easier and easier to come up with good content.


3. Start reading blogs.

You may want to do this before you actually start creating your blog, but after you start writing I think it's especially helpful to read other blogs. There are two reasons for this.

A. To spark your own ideas. 

First, reading other blogs will often spark ideas for posts for your own blog. Seeing how other bloggers write will also give you a better idea of how to format posts on your blog, and the kind of feeling you want your blog and writing to have.

B. To become a reciprocal blogger.  

The second reason I recommend reading other blogs is not only to get ideas, but also to start creating your network. Blogging is way way more fun if you have people actually reading your blog and interacting with it, and a good way to encourage that is to become a reciprocal blogger - meaning you leave comments on other blogs, and return comments when you receive them on your blog. 

This used to be the norm in the blogging world, but unfortunately blogging has gotten a lot more self-focused over the last five years, with an emphasis on pageviews rather than relationships.  If you want to have a casual blog and make it fun, focus on building relationships. The good news is that I sense a shift back to building a sense of community among bloggers, and I hope this continues. 

If you are just starting out with a casual blog, I recommend commenting frequently and widely on blogs that look similar to yours, and I almost guarantee a few of those bloggers will end up coming back and reading your blog too.

4. Get your posts out there. 

By this I mean to go ahead and share your posts on social media.  In the blogging world today, commenting, while important for casual bloggers, is not as effective as it used to be in getting people to visit your blog.  You need a way to let people know that you have some new content.  There are several ways to do this:

A. Instagram.  

I highly recommend joining Instagram, even for a casual blog these days.  Not only will this help you get your blog out there to people who might be interested in reading what you have to say, the (sort of sad) truth is you will most likely get more responses to your content on Instagram than on your actual blog.  I've found it's almost easier to find blog friends this way, because it's so quick and easy to comment back!

B. Facebook. 

There are a few ways to use Facebook - you can create a page for your blog so you can share new content, or you can just share new content right on your personal Facebook if you don't mind everyone in your friend list potentially reading your blog. You may also consider joining a Facebook group for bloggers.  I don't use my blogging Facebook groups that much because they are typically geared more toward the business side of blogging, but sometimes they can be fun.  The Peony Project is a one for women bloggers. 

C. Linkups.  

A lot of people have great luck finding blog readers through participating in linkups.  A linkup is a collection of blog links surrounding a specific theme, and it is hosted on someone else's blog.  You would typically write a post that would fit with the theme of the linkup, and then go to the host blog and add your link.  If you are going to participate in a linkup to find blog friends/readers, do not just drop your link and run.  You have to comment on other people's posts too.  I don't do that many linkups, personally, but if you are interested I'd check A Joy Filled Life and/or Girl On The Move for their link party lists.


Frequently Asked Questions

What should I write about? 

There are typically two kinds of blogs out there: niche blogs, and lifestyle blogs.  Niche blogs are focused on one particular topic, such as cooking blogs, fashion blogs, homeschooling blogs, etc.  If you want to create a niche blog, I think it's important to really be focused and only write things that relate in some way to your topic.  My blog is not a niche blog.  I would classify it as a lifestyle or personal blog.  I just write about whatever in the world I feel like writing. You can make a blog work either way, you don't necessarily have to have a niche.  It's also totally okay to change your focus, especially when you are just blogging casually (which is what this post is all about) - you can try niche writing for a while, and if it doesn't work, change it up.

How do I get people to send me items to review? 

A lot of blogs, as they grow, can become a weird hybrid of a casual personal blog, and a money-making blog.  My blog might be a good example of this - I mostly write what I please, but I also accept products to review and sponsored posts occasionally - either for fun or to help my family.  Because of these occasional sponsored posts, I frequently have friends asking me how they can get free products or compensation through blogging.  

In order to get items to review or be offered compensation for writing a post, you have to build something of a readership first.  Companies want to make sure their investment of money or a product is going to yield some sort of return, so you just aren't going to get these kinds of offers until you start getting a certain amount of monthly pageviews.  Gaining pageviews does take a lot of work, and if this is going to be your focus from the start I would say you are probably not wanting to be a casual blogger - you are hoping to make money with your blog, so I'd check out more of the resources for professional blogging at the link near the top of this post.

How did you start getting sponsored content or products to review?

If you don't necessarily want to start with the goal of making money, but are just kind of curious on how that works, here's my story.  

I wrote on my blog consistently for several years, made blog friends, and generally just had fun with it.  I gained some like-minded followers.  Pinterest came out, and I had a moderate amount of success with some of my party-related posts, which afforded me even more regular pageviews.  Once my pageviews reached a certain level, I had companies occasionally contact me to see if I'd like to receive a product to review - of course I said yes (when it was something I would be interested in)!  Then I went through a brief phase when I decided to try to gain more sponsored post opportunities through sponsored content networks, and I had some success with that because I had a certain amount of pageviews and an audience that those companies were looking for.  

Product reviews and sponsored posts can be a lot of fun, but they only come once in a while, and I don't think they should be your only reason for blogging.  Most people aren't that interested in a blog that only puts out sponsored content and product reviews.  After trying to earn more money with my blog for a year or two there, I decided I was becoming exhausted with the whole thing and had more fun with blogging when I focused more on friendships with other bloggers, so I shifted back to a more casual/personal approach.  I still do occasional sponsored content, but I'm more particular and don't accept those posts as often anymore.

But what about your book reviews?

Okay, if you are wanting to know how to get books to review, that's a whole other ball game!  I love reviewing books on my blog, and I think it fits in nicely with a more casual approach to blogging.  Let me know if you are interested in more on that, and maybe I'll put together another post on how I receive free books in exchange for reviews!

Blog buddies, what do you think?  Would you add anything to this post for people who may be interested in starting to blog casually?


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