Good Read // Good Watch.

I have to start with the Good Watch today because this movie was fantastic.  The husband and I are huge Beach Boys fans, both of us growing up with an older parent, where 60s music was part of the background.  I knew the words to many Beach Boys songs by the time I was six just for the fact that we listed to the oldies station all the time.  I always knew bits and pieces of their story but never understood how it all worked out together.  Love & Mercy is a biopic of Brian Wilson, the defacto leader of the Beach Boys.  It toggles back and forth between the 1960s when his mental breakdown began and the 1980s after he's been in treatment.  The best part, though, is that you see actual instrumental production of God Only Knows and Good Vibrations, which I find fascinating.  Highly, highly recommend.


The Art of Racing in the Rain pulled at my heart because the dog, Enzo, is the one telling the story.  Everything that's happening is told from his perspective and it is heartbreaking at times knowing that he knows things and can't tell anyone.  Beautifully written, this novel is the ultimate story of man and dog and their relationship from beginning to end, and once you start reading you are completely unable to put it down.  For all the times I've wished that Casey the poodle could tell me things, I just loved this book.

What I Do All Day.

Yesterday I totally misinterpreted a tweet about what stay-at-home wives (those without any children) do all day long, and it totally inspired this post.  My misinterpretation led me to think about what I do all day long; there is always fodder online about what stay-at-home moms do all. day. long. when the kids are gone ("Don't you get bored?"), so I thought I might come up with a list of things that I do while my kids are both at school.

1. I eat breakfast.  I tend to stay up later at night, way past everyone else, and therefore am a raging grumpy person when it comes time to get up.  Getting out of bed is hard, and I wait until the last possible minute.  So in the 7:30 - 8:50am stretch of making sure both kids are up, dressed appropriately, fed, lunches packed, bags packed, not missing the bus, going to the bathroom before we leave the house, driving one to school and doing the drop-off routine, eating my own breakfast doesn't always happen.  If I can't come right home from dropping Greta off at preschool, I will cram something down quick, but if I can come home, the first thing I do is eat.

2. I run errands.  It is amazing how long it can take to go grocery shopping, hit up Walmart, stop at the bank, and then play choose your own adventure with any of the following: The Fresh Market, Marshalls, Home Goods, Michael's, Gap, Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, the library, doctor appointment, pet store, etc. depending on who needs what for which current occasion.  And while my children are excellent errand runners, if I need to do a lot of these or the weather conditions are not favorable (hello, rain), I will go and do this by myself so I am not standing in puddles waiting for the very poky Greta to get in the car and buckle up twelve times over.

3. I do chores.  Yes, chores.  They are not fun, they are not cool, they are not hip, but someone has to do them and that someone is me.  And the more people you have in your home, the more of a mess it gets to be.  The laundry alone never seems to end.  The worst part about it: as soon as it's finished, it starts all over again.  The moment I finish vacuuming the floor (once the vacuum cleaner is put away, of course), someone spills Rice Krispies.  It's like reverse karma.  Plus, cleaning in an empty house eliminates someone needing to use the bathroom right after you put the cleaner in the toilet.  Bonus: Cleaning in an empty house means it's much easier to adios broken or abandoned toys with no one realizing they're gone.

4. I try and do some work.  Work?  What work?  Oh, right, I run a small business and an artisan group.  If I can peel myself away from the tasks at hand that make the house run and make sure everyone has what they need when they need it, I might try and find some time to sew, pack orders, answer emails, and do 1,000 other administrative things.  This all tends to get dumped to the bottom of the list and I'll work on it after everyone's in bed (see #1).

5. I might meet up with a friend.  This is a very, very rare occurrence as Greta's preschool schedule doesn't allow for much time alone, but when it happens it is really nice to be able and sit and talk with other adults or have a meal without having to a. share it or b. go to the bathroom three times, two of which are probably just for fun.

6. I sit and relax for a half hour.  Scandalous, right?  That I might be home alone in a quiet house and not do anything for anyone?  This is the common thread online and in life- the stay at home mom is sitting with her coffee reading a magazine.  How lazy is she?  But you know what?  Hell, yea!  Mom has earned that coffee and couch time with all the other crap she's been doing so cut her some slack.  The truth is, sometimes I just need to sit down and give myself a little bit of time to decompress, just like everyone else.  Some days there is more of that and some days there is less.  It all balances, but I need a little bit of me time just like everyone else, and once the family is home there's little chance of it happening.

Just because I am "home" doesn't mean I'm home in the same way it does for someone who leaves for a job and who then returns home to relax.  My working environment just happens to be in my house and I am most often always doing something.  And truly, right now, the amount of time I have by myself passes by so quickly in the day, I am lucky to get one or two of those things accomplished before I have to go pick Greta up from school.  I'm really looking forward to next year when they are both on the same schedule, in school all day, so I can just roll myself back to bed to take a nap once they leave.  But I digress.....

Where Have All the Tweeters Gone?

Where have all the tweeters gone?  It's been something I've noticed for awhile now- Twitter has become a link dump and run, a land of scheduled tweets and automated updates.  When I first got online, Twitter was the first social media platform I signed up for.  I liked how you could quick message people, find help and suggestions, and simply drop a random thought and see what happened.  Nowadays there is so little actual interaction on Twitter.  It may be that when we all started, Twitter was the only platform to connect, so we were all there.  It may be that since that time, we've all gotten busy and we don't put the effort into our social media as much.  It may be that we were able to be online a lot at one point, and since then our lives have changed so now we're not.  Plus the ease of platforms like HootSuite, which allow you to preschedule tweets, and linking accounts like on Instagram and Pinterest, make it possible for you to keep tweets in your feed without you actually opening your Twitter feed to see what's up.

I miss having a quick chat with an online friend, so I've been trying to make the effort to pop in and say hi!  Just a short little friendly conversation like that is perfect to brighten up your day or give you a nice quick break from work.  Tweeters, have you seen the same?

Links on Friday.

It's going to snow this weekend!  Okay, not really.  Last week we were set to get the hugest snowstorm ever ever in Connecticut, and now we're forecast to get about an inch.  I was looking forward to not being able to go anywhere and snuggling under blankets, drinking tea and wasting time on the Internet.  If you're going to have some time to waste, here's a few things I suggest for your viewing pleasure:

21 Things You Never Knew You Could Donate

I bought a Simplified Planner this year but has anyone used the Get to Work Book?

Since it's so flippity-flipping cold here (24, feels like 16), how about some hot drinks from around the world.

I would love to switch from mass gift-giving to giving experiences.  There are a ton of suggestions here.  Now how to make the switch?

Hilarious video of non-design people being asked to work for free.

These potatoes.

Williams-Sonoma has chicken coops. !!!

This craft room.

In case you missed it:

Friday Finds: Winter Edition

Internet Friends are the Best Friends

10 Things I Grew Up With That My Kids Will Never Know

What's everyone's plans for the weekend?  Anyone in the area where they are going to be snowed in?

Avocado-Egg Breakfast Bowl.

As you know, I've been working my way through the barre3 Challenge this month, and one of the major components to it is eating whole foods and ditching as much packaged stuff as possible.  So many people cringe at the idea of having to cook something, especially for breakfast, rather than just being able to grab something convenient and go, and I for one am often guilty of grabbing some kind of bar in lieu of a real breakfast.  So what have I been eating?

Besides my favorite go-to breakfast right now - a banana spread with cashew butter and sprinkled with unsweetened coconut flakes - I eat eggs.  I love being able to get fresh farm eggs, and where we live there are several places we can stop to pick them up in the summer season.  In the winter when it's harder I will go for pasture-raised eggs in the grocery store.  While more expensive, both these and the fresh eggs having a richer flavor than regularly farmed eggs.

Scrambled eggs have to be one of the quickest ways to prepare eggs, making them a perfect hot breakfast when you need something quick.  I whip them with a fork and a little half-and-half to make them extra creamy, plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Then I roughly mash up a half of a ripe avocado and put the eggs on top.  The warm eggs soften the avocado, melding the two together but no so much as to make the avocado mushy.  Add a little cilantro for a nice herb flavor, or a slice of tomato for an extra veggie.  If you have a heat-retaining container handy (like these Foogo ones I have for the kids) you can pop the whole meal in there and eat it when you get to where you're going.

Ready in 5-10 minutes depending on your level of kitchen prowess, this makes for a perfect early-morning meal.  Not only is it tasty, it's super filling.  What have you been cooking up for breakfast lately?

Good Read // Good Watch.

While I was not blogging over the past however many months, I was reading, and I have been fortunate to come across some really great books.  I do a lot of searches on Pinterest for book reviews, book club reads, best new books, etc. and that rarely fails to disappoint in providing at least one good book I feel like I need to grab.  One of these books was Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

Fates and Furies was billed one of the best September releases, and rightly so.  It's the story of Lotto and Mathilde, who marry young and find a home and success in New York City.  That's seriously about all I can tell you without giving the whole plot away and ruining the book for you.  This is a very well-written story with twists and turns you just don't see coming, making it one of those books that you just can't put down, but it's not a thriller that shocks you to the core.  It's just a perfectly spun tale of a marriage and how in marriage, things aren't always as they seem.  I have heard that for some, it's hard to slog though the beginning.  If you feel that way, keep going: it took me three tries to start The Hunger Games and we all know how that book turned out.

Fun fact: the story starts out in Weeki Wachee, Florida, home of the live mermaid show.  Yes, this is a real place, and yes, this is a real thing, and yes, we just took our kids there over the summer (it's relatively close to my in-laws' house).  This tickled me since it's such an obscure thing and not only do I know about it, I've been there!  Understandably, if you haven't, I can see where in reading the book you'd be like what??  Just click that link up there and take a look and you'll be set.

If you have some down time, or an afternoon or two you want to spend burning through some pages, this is definitely one to pick up, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

What good reads have you found lately?  Anyone else ever been to the mermaid show?


via Google

Sir Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes.  Need I say more???  McKellen plays Holmes at the end of his life, trying desperately to remember the details of his last case.  Brilliantly played, with flashbacks woven through the narrative to slowly reveal bits and pieces of the forgotten case.  Must. Watch.

Have you checked this one out yet?  Who's your favorite Sherlock?

Office Takeover: The Furniture.

Last week I presented you with my not-so-top-secret plan to oust my husband from his office, taking it over for myself and redecorating it in all its slightly larger than what I have now glory.  And really, what is an office takeover without some gorgeous new furniture to make it even nicer?  Even though he currently has no intention of moving out, let's take a stroll down Dream Office Lane:

Let's start with the Anderson Desk from Crate & Barrel.  C&B must have known that I have been crushing on home office furniture because they sent me an email full of home office upgrades.  Look at the sleek lines and the lovely glass top.  Storage be damned!  The Harvey Chair is pretty amazing, too.

Now, on the other hand, the Morris Desk may be a little bit more functional, with all those lovely drawers, and it's a little closer to the furniture we are already rocking.  We love that beach cottage feel, and I think this would compliment the room nicely.

Naturally I wandered over to Ikea, because, hello.  Can we talk about the RIGGAD lamp??  Not only is it super cool looking- it wirelessly charges your phone.  For real.  Genius upon genius.
Ikea also has several new laptop desks- higher than the average desk for those who wish to stand and type.  This NORRASEN laptop desk would be amazing for almost all the tasks I do standing up- cutting, packing, folding, etc.

And I'd love to cover the floor with the Alvarez Garden Rug from C&B, which is just busy enough that it might not look horrible once it is inevitably covered in threads and fuzz.  I've also always wanted an orange rug, but color scares me, so this could be a nice toe-dip into the color pool.

And then.  Then there is this 1930s French Postal Desk from Restoration Hardware that makes me swoon so hard.  It's a wide desk, with a seat, with shelves and storage.  Pretty, pretty please?

Which is your favorite piece?  Do you go dream furniture shopping?  Which room in your home would you do over?

The Whole Self.

Has there ever been an occasion where you find yourself handed an insight into your personality that you may not have realized that you were putting out there?  A quality less than becoming of the image you have of yourself?

In the past few weeks I've had a few passing comments directed at me, not in malice or meant to be hurtful, that have given me pause as to how I present myself to others, each being the opposite of how I would view myself.  And it has made me wonder how others see me- those who haven't said something to me- and would I like what they had to say?

I have seen this quote floating around and I love the sentiment of it- it's something I want to apply to myself- because above all I want to be seen as a happy, caring, hard-working, respectful person.  It's interesting how just a few little words delivered in an offhanded way can make you think about your whole self.

Friday Finds, Pinterest-Style.

It's the end of yet another week- they really are flying by, aren't they?  I've got a two-day market this weekend that I'm not quite prepared for (so hard to get back into the swing of things!) so I'll be spending the day getting my act together today, but first, some lovely eye-candy from the Pinterest-webs.

On New Year's Eve, we took the kids to hibachi for the first time with some friends of ours.  They loved it, but I specifically loved the noodles we ordered and want to eat them all the time now.  These look like a similar version, so I'm anxious to try them out.

This is supposed to be a newborn nursery rocker but I want one in every room of my house.  Stylish, modern, and it rocks.  Pottery Barn forever.

We love Snorg Tees in our house, and so when I saw this pop up, I now love them even more.  Any word on when the Netflix mini-movies are coming out??

Now that I have started consistently exercising, I'm now in love with athletic wear.  I want to be the type of person that would wear these leggings to barre class instead of my basic black or grey.

I love these stacking rings, and the fact that you can have these Lisa Leonard ones imprinted with names or inspirational words is really a great, personalized gift idea.

All the farmhouse tables all the time.  And those lamps!  Let's just move in, shall we?  (side note: I would love all my crafty/blogger friends to live near me.  Impossible, I know, but how about a nice retreat with a giant table like this?  Yes??)

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend- our weather is looking rainy and cold so I hope you fare better.  Anyone else have fun plans?

Piles, and Tips to Get Rid of Them.

I wrote these lines a few months ago and never finished:

"Lately I feel like I am unable to escape the piles in my home.  The piles of laundry, the piles of papers that come home from school, the piles of mail, the piles of craft show stuff.  New clothes coming in, clothes that don't fit going out.  All the piles dumped all over the house needing weeding out and rehoming.  It is an inescapable cycle in my day, and I feel like I am always, always behind.

I don't know at what point I lost the time to take care of it all as it happens, or maybe it's just multiplied on itself slowly without me really noticing it, or maybe there is just suddenly more.  Either way, I feel the need to purge all the things from the house (and maybe wish there was a magic closet that could hold it all)."

That is real life, and it's been an unending cycle around here since I wrote that in frustration: clean it up, bring things in (or out), pile them up, repeat.

Last week I wrote about Marie Kondo's tidying book and the impact that's had on the way I think about things in my home.  (p.s. I just found out there's a follow-up book and I have it in my possession and once I actually read it I will tell you all about it.)  Her notion of keeping only those things that spark joy in you is so freeing and it's really been helping me rid my house of things we really don't need.  BUT, she also talks about the idea that your home has enough space to hold all your belongings and if you are overflowing, you have too much stuff, not too little space.

This is huge.  When we moved in, we added built-in bookcases in the living room, a whole wall of cabinets in the dining room, and additional bookcases in the smaller bedrooms.  We have closets in almost every room, and yet, there are still piles in the hallways, either of things that have no place or things that are going out and need to be dealt with (wait until the dump is open, photograph for ebay, wait for local pickup from Craigslist).  While I've been working on getting things out, the subgoal has been for the things we keep to have a home.

It seems that this is on a lot of people's minds lately- I've had several conversations with friends who want to get rid of the excess stuff in their house (and I keep recommending that book) so here's a few tips to help you get started:

1. Fill a box.  I'm offering this one up from Hello Neverland.  Kenzie is offering up a series of challenges for 2016 (you should go and check it out, I'm super interested in the topics she's picked) and the first one was to fill a box, any box, with stuff to toss or donate. (full post here)  Simple.  I was able to do that in one afternoon as we took on the overflow of books we've collected.

The box is hiding, but it was full of books.  The two white bags went to Goodwill with blankets and things we discovered in the back of Gus's closet, and the black one is trash.  Not bad for a few hours.

2. Need ideas of what to toss?  Take a look at this list from Popsugar.  There are 116 things you can get rid of.  Some are easy, like hair elastics that are no longer stretchy.  Some are hard, like old prom dresses (I still have three).  Pick 5, pick 10 and go throw them out.  You'll feel lighter if you do.  BONUS: Find one thing you have kept for "just in case" that you've had for more than a year.  Find something you picked up that you intended to make something out of.  Get rid of both of them.

3. Aim to tackle an area that is overflowing.  There is most likely at least one space in your home that has too much stuff simply because it's your catch-all and it's bursting but you keep trying to shove stuff into it.  Or is that just me?  We have one cabinet that holds all of the "stuff we don't know what to do with" and it drives me crazy because that's the one that I'll open and something will fall on my face.  I tackled that one first and got rid of a huge portion of the stuff in there.  Not only does nothing fall out now, there is room for the things that actually need to live there, plus some room to spare.

4. Make a plan to get rid of your items and follow through as quickly as possible.  Garbage and recycling are obviously the easiest.  If you have bags of clothes, take them to a donation receptacle or center as soon as you can.  Putting them on ebay?  Take photos as list them that day.  Do whatever you can to rid yourself of the piles or else they will just become part of the landscape.

5. As you're moving things out, clean the area that they were in.  We had a pile of books on a shelf in our mudroom, and when I cleared out most of them, I realized how gross the shelf was so I cleaned it before putting things back.  Just that tiny little action made me feel better about the space.  (Plus, less things, less stuff to dust!)

6. Put things coming into your home away right away to avoid them becoming the start of a new pile.  And if your stuff has its own space, it will be easy to do this.

Are you in tidying mode, too?  What do you find are the hardest things to get rid of?  Did you look at the list of 116 things?  What are you going to throw out?

Office Takeover.

Way back in May 2014, oh so long ago, I redid my home studio, painting the room a brighter color and rearranging the furniture and adding bookcases to make the room easier to work with and more user-friendly.  Because I do most of my work from home, having an organized space where I had access to everything was a must, and it's been a great spot to work in.

It's not often that neat.

Anyway, like I said, it's a great place to work; in the summer I can watch the kids playing in the yard from my window even.  But...being upstairs can be a hindrance.  I spend most of my day on the main floor of our house.  That's where the kitchen is and most of my day revolves around that space.  I also sit at the counter or dining room table to do computer work since I don't have a formal desk.  I don't know why it is, but it's an effort to bring the computer up there when I need to pack orders, and when the kids are home, if I am upstairs then I attract their attention and they come visit, whereas if we are not on the same floor, they play happily with each other (for the most part) instead of hanging on me.  Because of that I find myself avoiding going up there to work when they are home.  And in the evenings when I used to be able to get up there to work by 8pm because the kids would be asleep, now Gus especially is taking longer and longer to drift off so it's now almost 9:00 by the time I feel "safe" to go up there, and by then I'm just tired.

However, in our house we have another room that would make for a great studio space.  It's currently my husband's office.

When we moved into our house, this was the first room we renovated, knowing that he was going to be working from home for the biggest portion of his job.  However, he recently took a promotion that puts him in the home office five days a week now instead, and while this room gets some use, it's no longer serving its intended purpose.  And so I am coveting it with all my heart.

My current space upstairs is about 120 square feet, while this room is about 192.  It's not a ton more space, but bigger is bigger, am I right?  There are more windows to contend with and a set of French doors, but I find myself arranging my own furniture in there in my mind more often than not.  Because this space is on the main floor, I could easily wander in there throughout the day and work without disturbing anyone, and at night I wouldn't need to wait for anyone to sleep to get some things accomplished.

I am not-so-quietly plotting a complete takeover, having dropped hints that it would be the perfect workspace for me, but it is falling on deaf ears.  Or rather, concerned ears.  Apparently there is a problem with how tidy I keep my office space. 



He may have a point.

While I am in the middle of working I may not keep the neatest space, and when I get home from a show I may very well dump things in the middle of the floor and they stay there until the next one.  Who doesn't??  I still think the bigger room should be mine.

My other idea is that the couch should go and we should get two smaller desks, one for me, one for him, so that I at least have a place to put the business side of business away from the making part of it.  We'll see if I can wear him down.

Cilantro-Lime Chicken (Slow Cooker).

To know me is to know how much I love my slow cooker.  I use it often and for lots of different purposes.  There is something so magical about prepping your dinner in the morning and having it cooked when you are ready to eat with no in-between effort.  In fact, I asked for (and received!) a new one for Christmas- a little larger size than what I already had with a timer, meaning I can now make my midnight oatmeal at 10 pm instead and not have to worry about someone turning it off when they get up for fear of it burning.  Magic, I tell you.

It is this love that sends me to Pinterest to find new combinations to throw in the pot.  We are fans of Mexican fare, so when I came across a recipe for cilanto-lime chicken, I had to try it out.

Billed as a "crock pot dump", meaning you literally dump all the raw ingredients in the pot and go, it's a pretty simple recipe.  The original recipe can be found here, along with nine other dump recipes.  It was really tasty and I would totally make it again, but I would tweak some things the next time I make it.

We are fans of corn, but a whole 16-ounce bag was a lot of corn, so I would either use half the bag or just make more for leftovers and use a second can of beans.  I also wished it had a little more liquid on it - it wasn't dry but everything was just at the point of being done.  Because of that I'm tweaking it a little bit, below:

Cilantro-Lime Chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 ounces of frozen corn
one 15-ounce can of black beans, including liquid
half a red onion, chopped
four garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
juice from 2 limes
1 bunch cilantro, chopped, reserve some for topping

Throw it all in the pot and cook on low for 8 hours.  Shred the chicken and serve on tortillas (though we just ate it on plates).  Optional toppings- shredded cheese, tomato, avocado/guacamole, sour cream, cilantro.

This could make for a fun pot-luck meal where everyone builds their own with the toppings provided, or just put out some guacamole and chips and go from there!

What's your favorite slow-cooker meal?

How to Start?

Does anyone else feel like time has just been flying by lately?  It was seriously just Halloween and now we're just a few days away from the middle of January.  I'm not sure where the days are going but it's hard trying to catch up with everything.  My word of the year is start and so far, 11 days into the new year, I have been having a very hard time doing just that.  I'm sure I can blame the fact that it's cold and once I'm comfy in one spot in the house, it's hard to move to another.  I'm sure I can blame the kids and that once I try to work on something they interrupt me.  I'm sure I can blame the Internet and all its fabulous distractions.

But the truth is, I just can't make myself move.  I have some things that need taking care of pre-holidays and I just can't get them done.  I'm finding it hard to get the wheels turning and making that push to actually start something.  The drive to do is lacking right now and when I get like that I know that it can be pretty useless to try.  With sewing and my business, if I'm not in a motivated mood, things just don't turn out right.

So I need advice: what do you do to get yourself moving when you don't have the desire to do it?  Do you push through, or do you do something else instead?  Do you seek inspiration, create a challenge for yourself, give yourself a reward?  How do you start?

Friday's Favorite Finds.

Happy Friday!  I blogged for the entire week!!  I am really happy to be back in this space, and looking back at old posts there were some things that I really loved posting and want to get back to.  I love ending the week with some Pinterest picks or some favorite finds- a little something fun to send us off into the weekend.  While my own Etsy shop has been taking a backseat to life lately, I still manage to get on there and find some amazing things.  Here's just a few:

Holy cuteness!  My kids are both too big for this now (I never thought I would actually say that) but this baby swing from GreenWoodLT is the bee's knees.

Curious Bloom's felt leaf wreath (say that five times fast) would look amazing in my sewing room.  The colors are absolutely perfect.

This is Natasha.  Quite possibly the world's most content looking dog.  Made by Two Sad Donkeys, I think she could find a nice place in my home.

I really love my plain, thin gold wedding band, but if I ever had to upgrade, I could totally see getting something like this etched band from Minicyn.

Call me boss lady and give me a nice big mug to put my tea in.  Two thumbs up.  I am digging this design by How Joyful.

And finally, with my goal of sending more mail this year, this letter organizer from Less and More is not only swoon-worthy but it would keep all my mail in order.

So if anyone is looking to send me a gift for any reason, keep these in mind.  I'm only half kidding- anyone would be incredibly lucky to be on the receiving end of one of these.  Which one is your favorite?  Speaking of weekends, anyone have grand plans for their two days off?  We'll be kicking it at home like we usually do, but we enjoy that free time and not having to run out anywhere.  Have a great weekend!

barre3 Challenge.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have noticed that I have posted several things about the barre3 Challenge this week, and if you follow me on Instagram you probably have no idea what this is so I wanted to talk a little about what I'm doing and why this is important to me, and how I want to support others.

Back in March I posted about the very long, very cold winter we had, and how I somehow found some extra pounds in my mid-section that were not there previously.  And truth be told, I didn't do anything about it.  Over the summer I did a lot of reading (and I have lots of good books to tell you about!) and one was a memoir and it was talking about barre class and how it pretty much kicks your ass, so I decided to look into it and see what I could find out.  Long story short, the mom of one of Greta's preschool friends was opening a new studio right nearby within the coming months, and she was offering free classes to try it out.  So I went.  And it kicked my ass.  I could not walk down the stairs properly for three days afterwards my thighs were so sore.  And yet, I wanted to go back.  If one hour could make my muscles work that hard, what would happen if I did it more?

Now, I am not an exerciser.  I'm not a runner, a mover, a shaker, I don't particularly enjoy it and don't actively seek out movement activities.  But this class, which is pretty low-impact and doesn't require anything fancy of you but to be there and work hard, flipped something in my brain that makes me want to go and make my muscles stronger and make me feel better overall.  It's like I finally found my thing, and it's an addictive sort of thing.

The studio opened in November and is a franchise of barre3, a national company based out of Portland.  Ever six months or so, barre3 offers up a challenge to members as a way to get them back on track.  For January, this means going to four one-hour studio classes in a week, as well as trying one new barre3 recipe and doing one 10-minute online workout.  Participants are encouraged to eat pretty clean, sticking to as many whole foods as possible, and keep away from alcohol and coffee.  It's a detox motivator for the new year.

I decided to sign up because I want to be rid of the flab.  I don't feel happy with the way I look and the only way that's going to change is if I do something about it.  I have access to the studio and I want to make going a habit.  I eat pretty well but can always do better, and while I don't drink alcohol at all or coffee very often, I do drink a lot of tea, so I'm trying to drink it without added sugar.  I'm also trying to drink more water and just be more conscious about what I am eating and when I'm eating it.

I'm sharing it on Instagram not to try and push it on anyone else or to make anyone feel badly about themselves, but as a push to myself that I can do it.  It's a little reminder to me to keep going, and there is a whole community posting and hashtagging so I can see that I'm not alone in it.  It would be nice to get some positive comments from people who see what I'm doing because frankly, trying to shed some flab is not fun and even with the best intentions we need a little positive feedback and motivation.

And so from that I decided that if I see someone posting about making a change for the betterment of their health, or starting an exercise program that's going to be tough, that I am going to like that photo and leave a comment because how awesome are you for making a change.  I want to support other people that I know who are trying to do something positive for themselves- it takes very little to be supportive of someone, especially when you are online.

Anyone else starting a new exercise program this month?  Anyone looking for a good program to kickstart them?  Anyone else just really want a donut?

Hey, Bloggers.

I started this post in July and never finished it because I couldn't really articulate my feelings on the subject.  So I put the idea in draft to sit until I was ready to finish and totally forgot about it until yesterday when I read Marilyn's post over at Ink & Coffee (Here's a Blog Tip: Stop Telling Me What to Do).  I felt like I had written something about this before but couldn't remember if I did or not.  And when I went back, there it was, in draft in July.  So here goes:

When I started out online, all the people I were meeting were also new online, and many were stuck in their lives: home with young kids, bored at work, had just moved and weren't yet working, etc.  And then we all got busy, and we moved on to new life things.  It's the same story- things have changed, I don't have the time, I need to spend more time with my family, etc.  Some of the bloggers stopped blogging, some blog less frequently, some continue to plug away but the content is totally changed from where it started.

With the introduction of Pinterest, it seems like everyone felt like they had to get in on the game- make your posts Pinterest-worthy, make them pinnable, clickable, pretty.  The more clicks and page views you get, the more money companies will throw at you to blog about their products!  Money and free products!  And suddenly everyone was trying to monetize their blog, throwing authentic content out the door for somewhat authentic but somewhat filtered content.  It totally works if you have a great partner whose products match perfectly with yours, but if you are blogging about toilet paper, you are going to lose me- unless it's a story about how you walked around with toilet paper stuck to your shoe all day, in which case you have both my attention and my sympathy.

With this came the "rules for a clickable, readable post" - tutorials, DIYs, things that start with a number (5 Ways to Make Yourself Happy!).  Again, there is a place for this- there are some huge blogs with a staff of writers who may actually be experts on a subject who have a place posting these types of things (hello, Martha), but for the average blog, these types of posts can lose their shine if that's all that's ever posted.  And for the average reader, it can get really frustrating when someone whose posts you love to read takes a sudden turn down a new path you weren't ready for.

So bloggers, I know you are out there.  I want your real content.  I want to hear your voice and what you think and what's happening in your day.  I want to see photos you take and places you go and I want to hear about what you are interested in.  And in return I promise to read your posts and leave you comments.  I have started to do this already, because I appreciate what you're writing and sharing, and I realize that if I want you to keep it up, I need to engage you. Happily, I see that with the start of the new year it seems that there is a push back to authentic writing and I hope to see this trend continue.

Do you know of a real, authentic blog that's a great read?  Share the link in the comments!

Good Reads: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I put the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo on hold at the library, say, 6-8 months ago, to the point that I totally forgot I put it on hold and when I got the email that it was ready to pick up I was actually shocked.  Then there was all this pressure to read the book in three weeks before I had to get it back because there was a hold on it.  I didn't know how I was going to find the time!  I mentioned this to the librarian checking me out and she said it was a quick read.  And it was- because it's magic.

The book itself is not that long and there are lots of little stories she tells about herself and her clients in between imparting you with her tidying wisdom.  Some of it is silly and some of it will make you wonder how she kept accumulating so much stuff.  But as you read you will take away the big lesson: If you don't love love love it, get rid of it.

If you've heard anything about this book, you will know that Kondo says that if you hold something in your hand and it does not bring you joy, it is time to get rid of it- even if you just bought it, it was a gift, it's still in good shape.  You needent feel guilty for decluttering your space and your mind from stuff that doesn't make you truly happy.  You thank it for its service to you- for keeping you warm, for helping you find what you don't like, for making you happy when you were 10- and then you let it go.

I happened to get this book at a point where I was really feeling like the stuff is taking over our house.  Our closets are packed, the kids' rooms are a mess, and we are lacking cabinet space.  We just have too much and we are running out of places to put it.  Since reading this we have slowly been putting her principles to good use and getting rid of the stuff we do not love.  There are three garbage bags full of MY clothes (just mine, how insane?!?!?) sitting in the mudroom right now, ready to be taken to the Salvation Army box up at the dump later today.  I honestly opened the closet and pulled out everything that made me feel iffy.  I tried a few things on, found a few things that I forgot were there, and emptied 50 hangers.  I have space in my closet.  It feels so unbelievably good.

While it's going to take awhile, we'll be going through other cabinets and spaces in the same manner, applying the "why do we still have this?" principle and hopefully freeing up space in our house for the things we really and truly love.

If you have any kind of clutter or just feel like the material stuff is taking over your home, I would highly recommend reading this book.  It is quick, it is kitchy, it will make you roll your eyes, and you will come away with the best tidying system ever.

2016 Goals: Start.

Sometimes the hardest thing for me to do is to get moving on ideas that I have or things that need to get done- this blog, housework, new products.  Sometimes it's a matter of situation- it's too noisy in the house for me to sit down and write something coherently, or someone needs to be picked up from school right then, etc.- so getting to work on something often falls by the wayside.  Sometimes there are too many things and too many ideas that need to be started on all at once, and choosing one thing proves to be overwhelming, so nothing gets done.

Over the past few months I have seen my lists grow and grow.  I keep hearing myself say, "Oh yea, I need to do that."  Or, "Whoops, forgot to get to that."  I find myself apologizing in correspondence for the delay in getting back.  I miss self-imposed deadlines, or see someone accomplishing the same thing I've been trying to do myself.

It's time to break that cycle.

Last year I chose intention as my word of the year, my first ever.  I wanted to make sure that I was doing things that were purposeful and with direction.  For 2016, I want to make sure that I am not bogged down by indecision and distraction.  There is a lot I would like to accomplish this year and I need to get out of my own way.  For 2016 my word is:

Start on something, anything.  Answer that email, start cutting fabric for a project, sit down and work on something whether I feel like it or not.  Put the laundry going, for crying out loud.  Because I know that once I start, I find more energy to continue.  I feel happiness at having accomplished something, for getting to cross something off the list.  Since my biggest obstacle lately seems to be starting, that is just what I want to make myself do.  Starting is the hardest part.

And I have goals for the year that definitely need to be started on!  In no particular order, they are:

1. Send more snail mail.  I recently discovered that I have a large amount of stationery and note cards and other writing things, and I would really like to use some of it to send notes to people that I may or may not see often.  A card or a note can be a bright spot in someone's day, and I'd really like to be proactive with birthday cards this year instead of seeing it on Facebook too late to do anything than post a message.

2. Realign my Etsy shop: ready to mail.  One of the biggest problems with my Etsy shop (other than keeping it stocked) is that it seems like the times I am the busiest in real life are the times someone places an order for something I don't already have made.  I then stress out and have to find time to cram the order in and it doesn't make me the happiest, most productive person.  In the coming year I would like to work on my shop, with at least 90% of my listings being things that I have ready to send out.  If nothing else it might help keep me sane.

3. Add quilts to my product line.  This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time.  Quilting is a more complicated process and certainly more time-intensive, but I'd like to add some of these to my shop as a more diverse sewing project.

4. Complete a new branding scheme.  Last year, my deal friend Cyn from RiverDog Prints did some logo work for me and then it got into the busy season and I lapsed on finishing any kind of design including new business cards and promo materials.  This year it's going to happen.  Mainly because I have no business cards left.

5. Stop random buying.  For the first few years in our house we didn't spend money on anything we didn't need.  We had a new baby, a new dog, and a new house that required a complete overhaul- extras just didn't happen.  As we've moved into each new phase, I've noticed that my spending gets loose from time to time, and I'm "justifying" purchases.  We've also been trying to clear out all the unnecessary junk that we've been holding on to for no good reason, and I don't want to add to that.

 6. Have a date night more than once a year.  My dear husband and I don't tend to go out much just the two of us.  Any free time we have is devoted to projects we're currently working on, and if we do go out, our kids are well-behaved enough that we just all go out together.  The one exception of the year is our anniversary, where we go out to dinner alone.  I'd like for us to do this a little more often this year as it's always nice to have a little quiet time and it seems like something grown-ups should do.

I pledge to check in on myself in three months to see how these are coming, and I hope you'll pop in and check in on me too.  If you see me on social media, kick me in the pants and tell me to get started on something.  I will appreciate your brash, bold command.