Making It Monday (Scrapbook and Fashion Week Edition)--Jan 23 2017

Again, nothing in the quilting or embroidery world going on here. Still working on my class assignment. But this weekend was also my husband's birthday as well as the first year anniversary of his father's passing, so one of his brothers flew in from out of town and there were a couple of family gatherings, as well as my husband and I on our own celebrating his birthday. So I didn't get either classwork or creative stuff done over the weekend, but lots of good family memories were made.

Speaking of memories, what I can report on is that I have successfully completed my first page of a Project Life scrapbook using their new app. I believe I already blogged awhile back about how Sandi of Quilt Cabana Patterns and I have sort of a "soft challenge" going to complete some scrapbook pages--basically, we're encouraging each other forward. Since I'd never used PL before, I did a quick test page using some photos one of my D.Min. friends had shared with us from our January intensive. It took me all of about 15 minutes to create this page--can't beat that! I put a big black box over the names--the actual page looks much friendlier than this. Now that I know it works well, I'll finish the other pages I want to do in this particular album--at least, all the pages until graduation, which will have to wait until May 2018. I can complete this album quickly because, frankly, I don't have that many pictures: just enough for one page per intensive. At the same time, I'm working on the album from our 25th anniversary, but that's going to take a lot longer--hundreds of photos to sort through. I'm also thinking this would be a great way to do a quilt documentation album, which I've really slacked off on. Maybe once I'm done writing my thesis next fall...

Palette from Alphonse

Palette from Alphonse

The other thing I played around with had to do with my closet. It was actually very creative! I'm doing Imogene Lamport's 12 month "Ignite Your Style Genius" program, which involves activities every month on different themes to help you develop your personal style and get smarter about shopping. I know, I know. Like I have time for this. But it's something entertaining for me to do in the evenings when I'm feeling a bit fried and y'all know how I'm trying to seriously update my wardrobe. It's a lot of fun and it's already been really helpful! It's got me looking at some of my clothes differently. January has been about color--right up my alley as a quilter, right? So I've been having fun playing with different color schemes. I did one activity last week around finding an image and pulling the color scheme from it--I used an Alphonse Mucha print (he's one of my faves).  I uploaded it to Adobe Color CC and pulled a palette from it, then went to my closet. 

I didn't have much of a problem pulling together outfits with this palette--there's a reason I like that particular Mucha print. (And yes, that's Scrapabonzitude on our bed--thanks to Charlotte!)

Two of the three outfits are composed mostly of clothes I've owned for awhile but hadn't thought to put together before. The camel pants on the left are new due to a sale at Chadwicks of Boston.  But I'm still feeling my way into finding good outfits for them as they're not a color pant I've ever owned before. Seriously comfortable, though, so I'm highly motivated! I'd already worn them as part of another outfit so I'm getting there--my new rule of thumb is that if an item of clothing doesn't work with at least three different outfits, it won't take up space in my closet anymore. Makes getting dressed in the morning a whole lot easier that way!

So those are my creative endeavors of the week, along with still working on finding a planner system that really works for me but doesn't take more time to keep it up than it does getting the stuff done that's written in it! 

Announcing the Winners of the 2017 Quilty Resolutions Giveaway

Woot! Thank you all for leaving your wonderful--and often very thought-provoking--comments on the 2017 Quilty Resolutions Challenge and giveaway. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading everything you've said!

I'm pleased to announce the winners: Ozzypip! aka Philipa from Australia; Darrell; and Mary K, whose third time worked with bells on! I've emailed each of you so be sure to check your email and respond with your mailing addresses (if you haven't already--I'm writing this ahead of time as I'll be away on Saturday). 

I didn't keep a spreadsheet with entries this time around, so you're on your own recognizance. Remember what you've promised yourself to do and if you don't trust your memory, bookmark the page with your comment on it and check back in every few months to see how you're doing.

And so, until next time, go get your balanced quilty on!

Fight the Funk Friday (and some more about planners)--Jan 20, 2017

I'm trying out a couple of new twists to what I've been doing--or, rather, things that I think will work better towards reminding me to do what I've been doing.

First, I'm back to using my lightbox this week. It's been a mild winter and more sunny than usual, so I haven't used it more than once or twice all season, but I don't get out in the sun much even if it's there. Since I realized my motivation for life was starting to flag a bit, I thought it was time to get back into the habit. It is helping.

Apple Watch Series 2 Nike edition

Apple Watch Series 2 Nike edition

Second, I've discovered that the Apple Watch "stand" notifier wrist buzz is far easier to ignore/miss than my FitBit Charge HR wrist buzz had been. The Charge would vibrate for about a second two or three times in a row. The Apple Watch gives me two little taps. If it doesn't register in my consciousness, it's gone. Trust me, I had everything on the watch set as high and loud as it could be set. I just need something that will almost reach out and cuff me upside the head to get my attention when I'm really focused on work. So I've started using either the straight-up timer app on the Watch--which has a much stronger vibration than the stand notification does-- or a web-based Pomodoro timer instead, which makes my computer sing to me. (For more about the Pomodoro technique, click here.) I've been moving more during the day since I made that switch.

Third, I've also started playing around with bullet journaling this week. I'll speak to how that's helping to fight the funk in a minute.

Why am I thinking about switching it up so soon after starting with the Passion Planner? I've now taped so many extra pages and inserts into my Passion Planner to allow me to do everything I want to do with it that I'm close to breaking the binding, and I've only got January and part of February set up. No way will this thing survive a whole year of this. And it still doesn't have room for me to do everything I want to do. Don't get me wrong--I still love the concept of the Passion Planner, but I want a slightly different layout that matches the way I think better. Last week, I ended up buying the Weight Watchers journal tracker so I'd have more room to plan out my eating and such. I do my final tracking digitally using their app, but I like to plan out an entire week of meals ahead of time when I'm doing my grocery list on weekends, and it helps me to write it in every day's schedule ahead of time so I'm not making decisions in the moment but only following my own plan. Unfortunately, my compact Passion Planner wasn't quite big enough to do that. Yes, I could get the full-sized planner but the whole point to switching from my DragonTree planner to the Passion Planner was to have something I could carry in my handbag. However, I don't like having two notebooks I have to keep track of all the time.

The first time I looked into bullet journaling in the fall I got extremely turned-off by how complex everyone seemed to say it "should" be. Some people's keys/legends are--well, I won't be judgmental here, but I'll say "they wouldn't work for me" and leave it at that. I also felt like it wouldn't match the "neat-and-orderly" side of me--you know, that side that has to have all my labels on boxes match or I get twitchy. Having something as free-form as a bullet journal made me worry I'd get equally twitchy.

Earlier this week, though, I stumbled across some videos on YouTube that suddenly made it seem like it would be the perfect system for me. (She has several, I'm only embedding the first one here.)

Basically, I think I'm getting ready to get over myself about the twitchiness. I'm a brave girl: I can handle having everything just appear in my journal in whatever random order it occurs to me and using an index--or dividing each journal up ahead of time in ways that would make me feel more neat-and-orderly. I think.

At the moment, I'm still keeping the Passion Planner going at the same time as the bullet journal. This helps me really compare which one is better for me. There's still a lot of beauty for me in having pre-printed calendar items while still having space for me to go free-style. So I'm also pondering the hybrid possibility of what Sarcasm & Sweet Tea describes on her blog. (Hence looking at Daytimers and such again.) 

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Since I had an unused blank book already in the house, I'm currently using that as my trial bullet journal. Pretty, but it's smaller than what I'd want to use for realsies (smaller than the Passion Planner), and being hard-cover it doesn't lay flat so it's hard to write in. But it's good enough to give me a feel for how well bullet journaling and I will get along.

What does that have to do with Fighting the Funk? Part of what I want a planner to do is help me stay focused on personal goals, most of which have to do with health and wellness. I want to be able to do quick "micro-journal" entries, as it were, about why I did or didn't achieve a daily goal or how I felt about what I did get done, etc. I'm also writing my daily "why"--why I have the goals I do--and a daily "proud moment" to remind myself not to beat up on myself. This is all critical stuff for fighting my particular aroma of funk so I want a planner system that will allow me space for that as well as tracking tasks and schedules.

What's critical for fighting your funk?

Thinking about It Thursday--January 19, 2017

This week, I'm thinking...

(Bullet Journal from www.bulletjournal.com)

(Bullet Journal from www.bulletjournal.com)

  • that there's way too much pressure to have a pretty planner.
  • that I need to stop looking at them on Instagram and Pinterest.
  • that I am about to burst the binder on my planner with everything I'm adding into it to make it work for me.
  • that maybe I should explore bullet journaling.
  • that bullet journals seem excitingly free-form but a bit scarily too-free-form.
  • how much our personality determines what kind of planner really works best for us.

 

  • that I may go back and look at Daytimers again as well.
    • that I haven't used a Daytimer in probably 20 years, since I got my first Palm Pilot.
      • how old that makes me feel to even say the words "Palm Pilot."
        • how some of you reading this may not even know what those words mean.
  • that I really only have a couple of more weeks to figure out what I want to do more long-term about planners because pretty soon I get super-busy again
    • and a good planner will make a huge difference to how stressed that makes me.
    • and wine.
  • how helpful it was to talk with a Weight Watchers "coach" this week
    • and how proud of myself I am that I sought help
    • because I tend to be cussedly independent
    • and that can sometimes make things worse.
  • that I'm still waiting for a phone call from my hopefully-new-trainer.
  • that my PT appointment this week hurt but helped.
  • that I can't wait for my massage therapy appointment next week.
  • how it takes a village to raise a Sandy.

 

Making It Monday

I'm trying a new weekly "theme" out for this blog. Not sure I'm loving the title but we'll see if it grows on me. In my efforts to blog more frequently, and in my hopes that needing to blog about something will make me get something done, I'm going to try to post every Monday about something creative I'm working on--quilting, embroidery, or whatever. 

My school peeps

My school peeps

I was supposed to be driving to Boston today (Sunday) for my last set of on-campus classes for my D.Min. program. However, (1) our class doesn't actually start until around noon on Monday, (2) I realized that I blipped and never told the coordinator I'd be coming in on Sunday and therefore would need a room in the retreat center for an extra night, and (3) Massachusetts got a boatload of snow this weekend and they're not as on top of the whole snow plowing thing as we are in Western NY. All of those factors combined made me decide to leave stinkin' early (stinkin' early!) Monday morning and drive straight through, giving me a whole unexpected day today. 

Yes, I'm still getting a little laundry done so I can finish packing. And yes, I had a little more school work I could get done. Other than that, though, I'm treating my "found time" like I try to treat "found money"--since I didn't expect to have it, I'm doing something fun with it.

The other half of the story: In looking for stickers I could use in my new Passion Planner, I belatedly realized I could use all my old digital scrapbooking files and make my own stickers. Doh. I've been spending a little too much time having fun with that over the last couple of weeks. However, that led me to exploring some new digital scrapbooking sites and I discovered that Becky Higgins of Project Life now has an iPad (and iPhone) app, allowing you to create Project Life digital scrapbook pages on your iPad. I tweeted Sandi of Quilt Cabana Patterns (@quiltcabana) because I recalled she used to talk about doing Project Life. She affirmed that she'd been doing them but hadn't ever finished her third album. Long story short, we've now challenged each other to make progress on Project Life albums. We'll check in at the end of every month on our blogs with our progress. Care to join us? We could do a linky! 

Since I'll soon be out of town (by the time you're reading this since I'm scheduling it to post Monday), I spent some time today choosing which PL album I'd tackle first and uploading the necessary photos to iCloud so I could have it with me in Boston if I get random downtime and need mental recovery time.

Since we'll be taking our 30th anniversary river cruise this coming May, I decided that finally putting my photos from our 25th anniversary river cruise into an album would be good anticipatory preparation! I took about an hour today to sort through the photos and delete blurry ones, multiples of the same thing, and those that were just plain uninteresting. I won't be using everything that remains in the PL album but I figured I'd just send everything to iCloud and sort further as I go, depending on how I decide to organize my pages. 

Notes to self for 30th anniversary cruise (aka, "What I learned from wading through the 25th anniversary album"):

  1. Fewer pictures of painted ceilings, please. They all start looking the same after picture number 23. 
 

2. Fewer pictures of random statues and fountains. See #1. (Recognize that one, @katisquilting?) 

 

3. More pictures of my husband and I together. We appear together twice in the 25th anniversary set. Let's see if we can beat that record on our 30th, eh? 

Fight the Funk Friday

Not much to say today except:

1. I'm sad because yesterday was my last session with my fun, motivational trainer. I'm working on getting signed up with a new one but I'm out of town all next week for my last session of on-campus classes for the doctoral program so the gym director suggested I call him when I get back. Past experience has taught me that it'll take a couple of weeks to get reconnected with someone. However, when I do, if I like her I'm strongly considering working with my trainer twice a week rather than once a week through the rest of the winter when my motivation is always at very low ebb. All that remains to be seen, of course, as I have to get connected with someone first.

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2. I'm happy because I stopped waffling and decided to go ahead and buy myself a new FitBit. I'm back to the One. I love love love my Apple Watch for everything else...but FitBit and Apple are competitors in the wearables department so FitBit has certain parameters set up that make it impossible to use the step count on my watch for challenges. I'm using a 3rd party app, Sync Solver, to supposedly sync steps from the Apple Health app to FitBit. It's a bit hit and miss--I have to remember to use the Sync Solver app for the sync (it doesn't do it automatically), and when it syncs, it's not 100% and I can't figure out any sort of pattern to it. Even when it does sync, however, FitBit won't allow steps from 3rd party apps to be counted towards challenges. The putzes. Not enough people I know can do challenges through the Apple Health app, either (or, rather, the third-party apps you have to use to do them with your Apple steps). I realized in my few weeks of going without those challenges how motivational they are to me--my step count has definitely dropped now that I don't have that accountability. So I ponied up for a new One so I can be back in that game. 

3. I'm a bit on the fence emotionally because my daughter and I are strongly considering signing up for a beginning running club hosted by a sports store in the area. It trains you for a 5k. I've never actually liked running but doing it in a group may be more fun. And if both my daughter and I stick with it, it could be a nice bonding thing. They aim towards a 5k in the city at the end of April. We're going to the informational session at the end of this month--that's when I'll decide if I'll bite or not. 

4. I'm surprised and perhaps a bit naive about the fact that I haven't really been using my lightbox this winter. Part of that's because we've had more sunshine than usual. However, I'm not getting outside in that sunshine much because it's been dang cold and windy, so I'm sort of waiting for the SAD shoe to drop and for me to suddenly get cranky and completely de-motivated. I probably should be using that box preemptively. I just keep forgetting.

5. I'm a little nervous about the fact that I signed up for personal coaching through Weight Watchers. I have my first call tomorrow and I'm not sure what to expect, nor whether I'll find this useful. However, I wanted to give it a try. You see, I have a pattern in which I get to a certain weight and then start monkeying around back and forth within a couple of pounds for-freaking-ever and eventually (every time in the past) end up just bagging the whole thing. I'm at that weight now. It's tended to take on the appearance of a boogieman in my mind since I've had this happen a few different times now. I had a slight gain this week and all my mental alarm bells went off, so I sat in my car in the parking lot after my meeting and signed up for a coaching session to make sure I successfully get myself over this particular hump. Don't worry--I know this gain is pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things and it's not the first gain I've had on this journey. Don't feel you need to reassure me or give me advice on that point--my head is in a good place. It has more to do with the particular threshold I'm sitting at and years of past history. I'm not beating up on myself in any way. I'm just making use of all the tools at my disposal to make sure I'm successful. If I don't have a good vibe with the coach or feel like she'll actually be able to offer anything different than I'm already getting, I won't pursue it further. But if she does, well, hey--why not?

That's all for this week! I may not get blog posts out next week as we're in lock-down when we're in class. So, if not, I'll see you the week after....

Thinking About it Thursday: Apps, Planners, and Blog Posts, O My! (More New Year Organization)

I think it's time to return to my Thinking About it Thursday posts. This one is more wordy than they usually are but I've got some 'splainin' to do.

I saw this book referenced on someone's blog and thought, "Color me intrigued." I now have one in my reflective little hands: The 52 Lists Project by Moorea Seal. I'm an inveterate list-maker so the idea of using lists to reflect in a meaningful way seemed like it would be right up my alley. I received it on Tuesday, and did the first week's list and can already highly recommend the book. It's a beautifully designed book, the list topics are really interesting--many are pretty unexpected--and each one has a suggested action item at the end that can make even random-seeming lists make sense in your life. It's obviously designed to start in January and go the full year, but if you got it at a different time of year, you'd just start in that section of the book. The weeks aren't dated but they're organized seasonally.

Since I got this the first week of January, I started with the first list, which had to do with goals and dreams. I've done a lot of work on goals over the last few weeks (years, really), so I thought I'd already know what would come out of my pen when I sat down to write. But as I let myself go "stream of consciousness," I discovered I had a lot of other less-obvious goals, dreams, wants, or whatever you'd want to call them, that hadn't been formalized into my mind-maps in my planner. I don't believe in overloading myself with goals, but many of them were simple things, such as the fact that my husband and I have gotten into a bit of a rut with our date nights and always go out to dinner or a movie (or if we're really time-efficient, dinner and a movie). So now I've added into my planner reminders to find area events and check museum hours and such. Little things that are so easy to do but tend to get lost when we're busy!

One of the things that showed up on my list as a goal (I won't call it a resolution) for 2017 is to be a bit more regular in my blogging and podcast than I was able to be last year.

1. I now have a goal of blogging at least once a week, preferably twice, even if I don't have anything of value to say. I also have a goal of posting a podcast episode once a month--and if I don't have much to say, it'll just be a short one!

Looking forward to that? LOL. I'll try to keep it interesting. There will likely be less quilty stuff and more general life stuff than I like to do, but it is what it is. However, I'm hoping the accountability of seeing "write blog post" or "post podcast episode" on my task list will keep me to another of my goals:

2. Embroidery or sewing every week, even if it's only 10 minutes. (That's 10 minutes a week, not 10 minutes a day. I know my limits at the moment.)

I'm more likely to be able to do consistent, short bouts of embroidery as there are some rather obvious moments in my daily schedule that could be more productive than they've been in the past. It's more a matter of making sure I have everything at-hand where I'm most likely to use it, so it's an easy pick-up-put-down kind of thing. I will finish that dang Halloween BOM by next Halloween, dang it.

3. Change up my personal-life task-tracking system to be more readily accessible.

I've been using LifeTopix for years and really like it on a lot of levels, but the developers have focused on making LifeTopix deeper, not broader. In other words, it's an extremely feature-rich program but it hasn't increased in user-friendliness nor in expanding it's platform (it's only on Mac/iPad/iPhone). Since getting an Apple Watch for Christmas, plus looking at how I really work during the day, I decided to test out a bunch of other task-management apps and am now using a combination of Todoist and Google Calendar to replace LifeTopix. I haven't deleted LifeTopix yet as I may ultimate decide Todoist doesn't quite hack it, but so far, so good. Todoist is available on ALL platforms--so I can sit at my computer and throw a bunch of tasks on there as they occur to me, I can be on my phone or iPad, or do fast checks and updates on my watch. It's also a lot faster to enter tasks in with appropriate schedules and priority than it was on LifeTopix, so setting up my reading schedule once I get my syllabi should be a lot faster. There were some workarounds I had to find out in order to get Todoist/Google to be as close a replica to LifeTopix as possible but so far, so good. (If you'd be interested, I could do a post that reviews the apps I tried, pros and cons, and why I ultimately chose the one I did. Let me know.)

4. Using a paper planner. (No, I haven't missed the irony that this comes immediately after talking about apps!)

Studies have shown that writing something by hand really does cement it better in our memories and, somehow, makes things feel more significant an important. As digitally-oriented as I am, I really wanted the more physical experience of working with a paper planner. I'm now using a Passion Planner. Again (you know me) I did a ton of research and downloaded a bunch of sample pages from several options but really liked that the Passion Planner had a lot of ways you could customize it to your own needs. Sure, customization means printing things hard copy, cutting them apart, and taping them into your planner, but that's just a good excuse to use some cute Washi tape, right? My planner and my digital apps work in consort with each other. I sit with my planner last thing at night and first thing in the morning to review my goals for the day. No work stuff is in here--just personal goals. Task items then get added to Todoist but I also have pages in here for reflections, notes to myself, inspirational quotations, habit checker lists, and so forth. Right now I'm finding it super-useful. We'll see how things go when I get back into the full mayhem of school in session.

There are a lot of other little things I'm working on but those are the biggies. On my Fight the Funk Friday post I'll share some things I've added to my healthy-living tools. Or, more appropriately, added back in again. And by then, maybe I'll have done some embroidery to share!

A Little New Year Organization

I passed these up the first time they came on sale but when they came on sale again the week after Christmas I decided--despite really not wanting to spend any more money at that point--they'd solve a lot of other little annoying difficulties I was having, so I bit: the ArtBin cubes for their Super Satchel series. (Still on sale if you're interested!)

I'd had a couple of the ArtBin Super Satchel bins for awhile, but this fall realized they'd work better for embroidery storage than what I'd tried before. (I talk about this in episode 202 In Which I Organize Thread.) Once I had a few more bins--also bought on sale or with coupons from Joanns--I realized I didn't really have a good place to keep them all in a way that would be easy-access when I only wanted one bin at a time. Enter the storage cubes. I put them on a wish list but held out on ordering them until last week, and then got them put together this morning.

They work great. You can adjust the little sliders for the cubes to whatever size you need--as you can see, I've got three different sizes at the moment. The sliders mean that you can pull one bin out at a time--which is much better than stacking them on a shelf as I'd been trying to do before, meaning I'd have to pull three off to get at the fourth one down. Love this solution! And you can see that I even still have room to grow! Empty slots, and the middle-sized bin on the lower shelf is actually empty. Note that ArtBin has several different types of bins--it's specifically the Super Satchel series that fits in these cubes. I have another ArtBin that's too pudgy so it has to live somewhere else.

The cubes are not that hard to put together although the instructions could use some improvement. Still, if you've done this kind of furniture before it's a pretty familiar process. They also come with wooden dowels to put between the two cabinets so you can stack them two-high and it's pretty secure. (They don't recommend doing more than two as it would have a tippy-factor.)

I haven't gotten anything done over my vacation in the way of quilting or embroidery, but I'm spending much of the rest of today getting myself set up to have an embroidery project ready to go for TV time at night and maybe even finishing a sewing project or two. My last day off must have some creative work involved!

OT: My First StitchFix Box!

Don't forget about my 2017 Quilty Resolutions Giveaway!

Did I write about subscribing to StitchFix in a blog post or did I only talk about it on Twitter? Sorry--holiday amnesia, don't recall a thing. In a nutshell recap: As part of my efforts to update my wardrobe and actually have it be a wardrobe rather than a collection of random outfits that don't play nice together...I decided to try out StitchFix. This is a monthly subscription service that I'd read about on a lot of style blogs and decided I'd give it a few months' worth of a trial to see how it went. I got my first box yesterday and I just have to say, they hit it out of the park!

When you subscribe, you fill out an online form about your size, style, the type of clothes you're looking for (casual, work, party, etc.), and a few other things. They also encourage you to set up a Pinterest board where you've collected pictures of clothing/outfits you like. I did that, and it was really educational for me too as I realized I kept pinning variations on basically the same outfit over and over! Apparently I do have what is referred to as a "style formula." A stylist then chooses five items and ships them to you. You have up to three days to make up your mind what (if anything) you want to keep and what (if anything) you want to send back. They give you a return envelope and you just stick it in the mailbox or take it to the post office--easy peasy returns.

There's a monthly fee for the styling service, but that fee is then taking out of the cost of any of the items you choose to buy. The price for each item is listed on the invoice, but if you buy all five items in the box, you get a significant discount. This came into play for me on this box, as I'll describe below.

Since I work from home and I'm not traveling much for work until later this spring, I had them emphasize casual clothes for the time being. I had also made a note on my subscription form that it's very cold in these parts at this time of year. They did an excellent job paying attention! The five items I was sent work together in various ways and are great for layering. I was hosting Second Christmas (my side of the family) on the afternoon I got my box, and I immediately wore two of the items combined with one I already owned for the gathering. Woot!

(Apologies--I'm not great at styling clothing shots, so some of these might look a little weird. But you'll get the idea.)

The first item I tried on were the jeans, not really expecting much. After all, don't we have to try on umpteen pairs of jeans in the store before finding a pair that fits and is comfortable? Holy cow, these fit beautifully! Super comfortable, very flattering. The denim is really soft--I kept running my hands over my legs all evening because I couldn't get over how different they felt from my other jeans. My daughter told me I looked like a "modern Mom" in them, which I decided to take as a compliment. I wore them for my family gathering and got several compliments, especially once people found out they were mail order and fit me perfectly right out of the box!

To be clear, the price tag on these was about twice as much (and then some) as I've ever spent on a pair of jeans in my life. I'd never have bothered even trying these on in a store. But by the time I'd chosen which clothes I wanted and did the math, the discounts brought the item cost down to something much closer to my usual price-point for jeans. And these are such NICE jeans, I think I've learned a little bit of that "you get what you pay for" thing. These were definitely and immediately a keeper.

 

The next item I put on (with the jeans) was also immediately a keeper. I absolutely love this blouse. My husband also commented how much he liked it on me, which is saying something because the design has a paisley in it and he's always had an inexplicable hatred of paisley. The fabric is very lightweight which makes it perfect for layering now but will have a long seasonal life span. It also makes it great for wearing for entertaining when I'm spending most of the afternoon in the kitchen. I have a navy cardigan I threw on over it and had my Second Christmas outfit in the bag. 

 

Item number three (to be worn this weekend, and probably almost always) is this extremely soft cardigan. 

It's a little oversized on me (as I'm losing weight I'm between sizes at the moment so it's hard for me to accurately tell Stitchfix what to do), but I don't mind that for a cardigan like this, as I'd be layering it over long-sleeved shirts to ward off the chill in my home office. I hate feeling like I can't move my arms because I've got layers on--I don't think I'd have that problem with this cardigan. And the fiber blend (various synthetics) is super, super soft. Made for curling up on an armchair in front of the fire and reading, actually, which might be on the agenda for this weekend. 

I debated this one only briefly, but as I'd recently gotten rid of a big, comfy, gray cardigan that had developed some sort of itchy around the neck, it seemed destiny to be able to replace it so easily.

 
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Item number four--another amazingly soft thing that you just want to curl up in. If I could turn this infinity scarf into a full-size quilt I would.

As you can tell, this scarf will easily go with all of the above, as well as several other things I've already got in my closet. My only quibble with it is that I'd like it to be a little longer. When I do the double-loop thing, it all sits up fairly close to my chin and I'd like a little more room there. But I've looked up different ways to use an infinity scarf so I think I'll find plenty of uses for it. And did I mention how soft it is? 

I have to say, I didn't think I had much navy blue in my wardrobe. It's not a color I gravitate towards. But when I took a few minutes to compare all four of these items to what I already owned, I found several new outfits I could make just incorporating these four pieces. Apparently my wardrobe is slowly becoming an actual wardrobe!

The final item is the only one I wasn't wowed by.

 
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If it hadn't been for the discount, this one would've definitely gotten sent back. However, it turned out to be far cheaper to buy all five than it would've been to send only one or two back. Interesting math. That being said, I will get a lot of wear out of this sweater--just not likely in public much.

It's also super-super-soft. It's like curling up in the infinity scarf above, actually. Cozy on cozy. So I can see myself wearing it while I'm working at home, or running to the grocery store where I don't particularly care how I look. However, it's not a flattering design or shape on me. The color block makes me look, well, blocky, plus it just hangs straight; no shape whatsoever. It's a little hard to tell the color unless you're standing in certain light but it's a deep purple on top. I do have a fair amount of purple in my closet so I'd be able to mix it up with scarves and blouses underneath. I'll try styling it in a couple of different ways to see if I can make it look better than it does just wearing it straight up. 

 

For those of us who are style-challenged, they include a nifty little page with ideas for styling the items using other pieces. I got a couple of ideas from here for things I want to try using similar items in my wardrobe (or, at least, the same type of items--i.e., I have a dress that might work with the gray cardigan even though the dress is entirely different from what they pictured here). 

So--month one, thumbs up! If you're interested in trying out StitchFix, you could consider using my referral link here. I believe I'd get a little bit of a discount or something. Otherwise, just search for StitchFix on Pinterest or other social networking sites and check them out. I'm scheduled for my next delivery at the end of January so I'll keep you posted!

2017 Quilty Resolutions Challenge and Giveaway

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Happy New Year! 

I know I'm a little late this year but that's because I've actually been spending a lot of time thinking about this!

As those of you who have been around awhile know, I have been in the habit of running a Quilty Resolutions Challenge (with related giveaway) every year. Each year I challenge my listeners/readers to come up with a few quilty-or-fiber-arts related resolutions around a particular theme, and then I draw names at random from the submissions for a giveaway prize. 

The tricky part is the theme. Every year, it's basically come out of whatever my personal challenge is that year. So this year I've been trying to figure out how to relate my biggest focuses in my life to a quilty resolution challenge. And here it is. The theme is...

Balance

  • How can your quilty life bring more balance to your life?
  • Do you need to address some imbalance in your quilty life?

This year's quilty resolution challenge is focused on a single concept, but there are two ways you can approach it.

On the one hand, many of us say that quilting, or embroidery, or weaving/spinning, or crochet (or, I suppose, even knitting, pshaw), or whatever, can bring us a sense of balance when our life gets busy or stressful. But we keep putting off the quilting/embroidery/fiber work until we get everything else done...which means it rarely has the opportunity to bring us balance.

On the other hand, perhaps we're getting chased by the Productivity Monster and it's our quilty/fiber life that's causing us a sense of unbalance. Quilting becomes an obligation--yet another more baby quilt to make for one more co-worker's sister's niece's college roommate, sigh. Or it becomes keeping up with the Janes-es who seem to be turning out completed projects every day and making us feel like complete slackers. Or it becomes beating ourselves up when we've been practicing FMQ for months and still can barely do a decent swirl and feeling like we may as well just throw in the towel because we'll always stink at this...

Our creative life should bring us a sense of balance. It should offer us the opportunity to grab a little zen, or work through our stresses, sadness, and even joy. It shouldn't become one more stressful task on our already overburdened to-do list nor should it be allowed to languish until that rare occasion we have a few moments free.

And yes, I'm preaching to myself here. But as I always say--I know I'm unique, but I'm not THAT unique. If I'm dealing with these questions, chances are a few of you are too. 

So for 2017, my Quilty Resolution Challenge to you is to look at your creative/fiber life through the lens of balance, and make one single resolution that will allow you--in whatever way you need to--find more balance through or within your quilt/fiber life.

Leave a comment below naming your one single resolution about balance! (Then make sure you enter using the Rafflecopter widget.)

I'll draw three names at random. Each winner will receive a set of four fat quarters--I'll choose which one y'all get! (Again, make sure you enter using the Rafflecopter widget--that's how I'll be drawing names.)

Challenge ends on January 15th, 2017. 

Looking forward to reading your ONE resolution! And may we all find more balance in 2017!

Fight the Funk Friday--In Recovery

This will be a short post because I'm really, seriously, very-much-determined to get as much rest as possible today. Read: I'm allowing myself to be a slug.

Sometimes Fighting the Funk is mostly cutting yourself serious slack and allowing your body time for recovery.

No, I've not been sick. I survived an 8 1/2 hour drive through blinding snow last night and (thank God) lived to tell about it. There were honestly a few times yesterday when I wasn't entirely sure what the end of the story would be.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday in Valley Forge, PA, for staff meetings and our Christmas lunch, plus I had brought my computer down to the computer center for them to do some updates and such that they can't do remotely. December's not usually that bad weather-wise for us--our big snow tends to hit in January. I've gone down every year in December and in 15 years only had to cancel due to snow once.

Driving down was fine, but Thursday was an entirely different matter. I wasn't able to leave the office until just before 3p which, under normal conditions would get me home by about 9p. In dry conditions, it's a 6 hour drive door to door. However, I knew the forecast for my home area--"lake effect snow," which is highly unpredictable and very difficult to actually forecast. The way the forecasts were reading, I'd either have smooth sailing or I'd be in trouble.

It turned out to be the latter. Let's suffice it to say I finally walked in my front door around 11:15p, totally fried. I'd had such a death grip on the steering wheel all the way home that my neck, back, arms, and hands were aching. 

Fortunately, I had a previously-scheduled massage therapy appointment this morning so that helped a whole lot. And now I'm reading magazines and doing embroidery and watching Murder She Wrote (my other "comfort TV") until it's time to start getting ready for my husband's office holiday party tonight. Cocktail dress and heels in my future. Need to rest up for that!

The end result...

 

 

Fight the Funk Friday--Back on Track!

My first "Fight the Funk" report is to say that, as you're reading this, I'm on a quilt shop hop with some of my quilty friends! I have some vacation days to burn up before the end of the year so I'm taking the rest of the Fridays in December off. This week I'm doing the "Mom Memorial Shop Hop" with some friends. This is a trip my Mom and I did several Decembers (I often end up taking Fridays off to burn up vacay). We would to Amish country and go to a few different fabric stores and then have a fabulous Amish lunch. Now, when I have a Friday off in December, I try to do this trip with some friends in memory of my mom, hence referring to it as the "Memorial Shop Hop." Unfortunately, the Amish restaurant Mom and I always went to is now closed, so we have a less-fabulous lunch, but I still spend a day with my friends and have fun! Definitely a great way to fight the winter funkiness.

I'm happy to report that my neck has been behaving itself this week. My PT was quite pleased by my progress at this week's appointment. Unfortunately, he's now given me the Epley maneuvers as homework. For those of you not "in the know," these maneuvers are basically designed to cause head spins. They're not fun--but they do eventually work to make the head spins go away. That being said, he worked me up to these. I've been in PT for about 5 or 6 weeks now and we didn't even go near doing these until this week--until I've made enough improvement that the Epley maneuvers don't make me want to wommit. I spin, but I don't seem to get nauseous--a HUGE improvement over past times I've tried these. So, yay.

I also beasted my session with my physical trainer this week (and last week, for that matter). What's an even better sign? I wasn't nearly as sore two days later as I expected to be. My body's starting to get used to this physical stuff! Yippee! My about-to-leave-trainer is going to work with the gym director to connect me with a new trainer who will be a good match based on what she knows I like to do, so hopefully I won't have any disruption in training when she leaves. I mostly want to get on a new trainer's roster before that January rush!

It's starting to get harder to do my hourly walks in the backyard because we've had some really cold winds this week, so my daily step count has slacked somewhat. The ambient temperature hasn't been too bad for December, but the wind makes it pretty biting. I've gotten bundled up a few times to make the trek but that adds time to the walks (it takes awhile to get all those layers on!) so it doesn't happen as often. I have had a couple of days, though, where I noticed in the evening that I was within a couple grand of my step goal for the day so I just paced the house while listening to a podcast through headphones. Antisocial (my husband was watching TV in the other room both times) but productive.

Not great weather for walking outside, but perfect weather for some healthy comfort food! My slow cooker and Instant Pot are getting real workouts these days--often both for the same meal.

Here's a recommendation for you: The Skinnytaste blog has fantastic, easy, healthy recipes. For those doing Weight Watchers she has the Smartpoints listed for each recipe. I bought both of her bookbooks: The Skinnytaste Cookbook and Skinnytaste: Fast and Slow. I've used a lot of recipes out of both of them and haven't had a clunker yet. The picture is her Slow-Cooker Bolognese Sauce from the Fast and Slow cookbook. I'm in serious love. DH doesn't like meat sauce so this is all mine. Woot! The recipe made enough that I've got some in the freezer along with my leftovers in the fridge this week. I had it on pasta the first night as my daughter had left some leftover spaghetti, but I've had it on cauliflower rice (thank you, food processor) and on spaghetti squash (thank you, IP) for lunch a couple of times since. Pasta is still best, but some days we have to make adjustments where we can! The cauliflower rice and spaghetti squash do the purpose, since it's all about the Bolognese anyway. 

Meanwhile, I used my Instant Pot to do a batch of brown rice the other day and then froze what I wasn't eating for dinner in ice cube trays like these (I don't have this brand but these are pretty much the same thing). I got the idea from one of my Craftsy classes last year but this is the first time I've done it. It's a 2" ice cube tray which is the equivalent of a half-cup serving. The rice freezes really well, and then you transfer the frozen cubes into a ziploc freezer bag. You just pull out as many cubes as you need for a particular meal. Since I'm the only one who eats brown rice, this is another great way to have fast, healthy meals on tap for lunch or dinner. (The brown rice was for Mexican Chicken Burrito Bowls, another Skinnytaste slowcooker dinner that I loved!)

It's good to be fully mobile again, I've been loving having meals ready and waiting for me when I get home from the gym at night, and in general, life has been good this week. I like weeks like that.

(Links to Amazon products are affiliate links and help support this podcast and blog. Thank you!)

 

Fight the Funk Friday--A Bit of a Setback

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So I had a little bit of a set-back this week. 

When I went to the gym on Monday, I did a full arm strength-training set and about 30 mins of cardio. It wasn't much compared to what I've done before, and only one move was new but somewhere, something I did must've been too much for my neck (see previous post about vertigo and PT).

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday feeling like the back of my head was in a vise. Serious pain. Fortunately it didn't set off a major vertigo attack like it could have, just some mild head spins here and there. But my PT had shown me an app with a diagram of all the nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that I've been having problems with and boy, if you'd colored all of that a really bright, angry, pulsing red, you'd have a visual depiction of what I was feeling. I ended up having to take Tuesday off from work because even after it had largely settled down by late morning, just sitting at the computer made it all start spasming again. I spent lots of cozy time with my neck heating pad and popping Excedrin. 

I already had an appointment with my PT set up for Wednesday morning so we talked through what had happened and my neck was clearly still super-reactive, so at his advice I was fairly careful of what I was doing the rest of the week to avoid having a relapse. That being said, in response to needing to avoid upper body stuff, my personal trainer had me do leg stuff--serious leg stuff!--Thursday. I'm going to hurt tomorrow. It's always worse the second day. Epsom salts in my future, I think. 

I used my Tai Chi Temple app on Tuesday. I didn't want to do anything that strained my neck so no gym, but the Tai Chi/Qi Gong moves helped me feel like I wasn't being a slug and gave me a nice stretch. That felt great. I highly recommend this app. You have to work your way through the training but you're still getting the benefits even in the training portion. So yay.

Sad trombone, though: I found out Thursday my much-loved personal trainer is going back to school in January (for physical therapy, so I have to applaud that), which necessitates her moving out of town. I knew when I signed up with a 23-year-old trainer it was likely going to be somewhat short term...I'd just hoped for a longer short-term. A few more appointments with her and then I'll just keep my fingers crossed that I enjoy my next trainer as much!

Oh, and hey--here's another benefit to focusing on being more active and such: my resting heart rate has dropped about 15 BPM since last spring! Woot! I'm now "very good" for women my age. It's nice to compare positively for anything these days! 

Fight the Funk Friday--Cautionary Tale

Let me be your Cautionary Tale. 

Between physical therapy, massage therapy, and working with my trainer, I've learned a lot about my body over the last several weeks.

To whit: My left side is whacked.

My vertigo is particular to my left side. In addressing the vertigo with the physical therapist, I've learned that the muscles and tendons on the left side of my neck are basically cement which is likely causing the vertigo. In addressing the cement-like muscles and tendons on my neck with my massage therapist, I've learned I've got scar tissue built up in my neck and shoulder muscles on the left. In asking my PT about that scar tissue, I've learned that it's probably due to repetitive motion injury from being on the computer for so many years. And in my session with my trainer yesterday at the gym, she had me doing a variety of exercises using one leg at a time or focusing on one side at a time, and I sailed through the right side on most of them and then was stumbling all over myself on the left side (slightly exaggerated, but you get the picture)--indicating my left side is fairly underdeveloped. Which is probably due to me overcompensating for the left-sided vertigo for years. Or the vertigo is because my left side is underdeveloped. Chicken. Egg.

Domino effect. One thing goes, and a whole bunch of stuff tumbles with it. Especially when you become a Woman of a Certain Age.

So let me be your cautionary tale--especially those of you who haven't yet hit middle age. What you do now matters. Don't wait until problems crop up (like laying in bed with your eyes closed taking Dramamine because the room won't stop spinning and it's making you want to wommit, as my sisters and I used to say). If I'd been more careful about moving throughout my day and stretching and giving myself regular breaks when I was in my 30s, I wouldn't be having to spend all this time and money on physical therapy and massage therapy now. 

Well, okay, I'd probably still be paying for massage therapy. But it would be a heck of a lot more relaxing when I did it. Let's just say currently the emphasis is on "therapy" and I'm never in any danger of falling asleep during it. Owie.

Although imitation is a form of flattery--don't flatter me. Be different. Move. Right now. Walk away from your computer or mobile device. Stretch, walk, do some yoga or Tai Chi.

TTYL. I'm taking the doggies out in the backyard for some steps and to play fetch.  

Fight the Funk Friday

There's an app for that.

Yes, that commercial may be years old by now, but I still find myself saying that frequently. Back in the day, whenever I wanted to learn how to do something new, I'd buy a "Dummies" book. Now I look for an app. 

In addition to working with a personal trainer at the Y, I'm trying to build more activity options for myself that are portable--at home, sitting in my office, or in hotel rooms. I don't want to be entirely gym-focused. I'm also taking very seriously the research that has been summed up with the saying, "Sitting is the new smoking." Having one good workout a day (a run, a treadmill session, a gym session)--although good--is not enough to counterbalance the effects of a desk jockey lifestyle. We're supposed to move a lot more during the day. There's also not enough evidence yet to show that standing desks really make a difference either. I looked into that one too. And I don't have room in my office for a treadmill desk. So there you go.

Interested in learning more about why sitting ain't so hot? Check out this really informative episode of The Living Experiment, "Sitting." This is a new podcast series I'm trying out and so far, I've liked it.

As I mentioned once in a podcast episode last spring, I have my FitBit Charge HR alarms set to go off every hour that I'm at my desk, and at least half the time (I'm rarely 100%) I get up and take the dogs outside when my wrist vibrates. I've calculated how many steps I get in a single circuit around my backyard--and how many laps I would have to do to get 10k steps if I didn't do anything else--so I can set mini-goals for each session. The dogs love it, it gets more steps for me, and it also clears my head. I often put a work-question in my head to mull over while walking and by the time I'm back at my desk, I've got the solution and move on. I've been so much more productive! When the weather is truly inclement I've paced out various routes in my house so I can still do the five minute thing, but I love having the fresh air of the outdoors. We'll see what happens once snow starts falling.

But I also want to stretch and do some strength training. So here are some recommendations if you want to do the same. I don't use all of them every day, of course--I do have to get SOME work done. But I rotate through whatever I feel like or need in any given day.

Stretchclock is my fave! I've mentioned this one before--it's still top on my list. It's a website that you can set up to go off on a schedule of your choice--when it gets to the end of its countdown, it shows you a video of a stretch to do for one minute. There's a free version, but if you subscribe (which I've done) you get more options and you can set up favorites. I use the downloadable desktop gadget on Windows. Love it. I feel so much better at the end of the workday when I've been stretching throughout it.

FitBreak is a Weight-Watchers app--but you don't need to be subscribed to Weight Watchers to use it. If you are on WW, though, it syncs with your WW app and gives you the FitPoints automatically. These are one-minute exercises done social-networking style--people upload videos and you can scroll through to choose which ones you want to do. They're a mix of large muscle, small muscle, and stretching exercises. There's a short video to demonstrate the exercise and then a counter so you can see when a minute is up. You can filter your search and mark favorites, but I wish there was a way to set up a playlist--office moves, outdoor moves, etc. I use this often, especially when I don't think I'm going to make it to the gym later. (Available in iOS and Android.) 

Hot5 is another Weight-Watchers related app but, again, like FitBreak, you don't need to be subscribed. (If you are on WW, you get access to the premium account without paying more.) I haven't used this much yet--I mostly think of this as a for-travel app. It's a bunch of short workouts that you can combine together into longer ones, depending on how much time you have. (Available in iOS and Android.)

7 Minute Chi is a short series of exercises based on Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Since Tai Chi is suggested as a way to help retrain the vertigo-brain for balance (depending on what causes your vertigo, of course), I thought this would be a good app for me to have. There's one 7 Minute Chi exercise that comes with the free app--a basic relaxation one that I've found excellent for stretching out those office-induced tight muscles--but you can purchase an "awake" version and a "sleep" version for $1.99 each within the app. I've used the "awake" one a couple of times shortly after I get out of bed and it definitely helps me get stretched out and moving for the day. Very easy to follow--nice interface. (Available in iOS--not sure about Android.)  

Virtual Trainer Apps--there are several of these. QuickStart Fitness ($3.99 on iTunes; didn't check Android) will be great when I'm traveling. I've played with it but haven't used it for realsies yet. You tell it what equipment you have (or just bodyweight), how long you want to exercise and how hard you want it to be. It then sets up an exercise program for you, but you can swap out exercises easily. It shows you a brief video of each exercise and counts down the time allotted for that exercise. I really like this one, although it bugs me that there's no audio for it. You have to be watching your device to know when the countdown is over. (That's a common failure of a lot of these workout apps.) The other Virtual Trainer apps are based on specific equipment, so since I have resistance bands, I downloaded the one for resistance bands and have used it a few times. Again, no sound with the countdown, but otherwise a really good app.

That's it for this post. I may talk about other apps I use later but I'm mostly going to be helping myself stay accountable by trying to post the Fight the Funk every week, even if nothing else goes on my blog!

A sad bit of news...

For those of you who have been following along with Charlotte's Scrapitude mystery quilts these last couple of years, I wanted to let you know that Charlotte's husband, Ray, passed away suddenly on Thursday, November 3. Please keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

For those of you who had asked me over the last few weeks about whether she was doing a mystery quilt again this year, she was working on one. Her website hadn't been updated yet but she has a little information posted in her Facebook group with some initial cutting instructions. You'll need to scroll down on the wall in the group to find it. I haven't been to guild in a few months so I can't clarify anything for you--sorry.

Return of Fight the Funk Friday

Yes, Virginia, there is still a Sandyquiltz.

It's not so much that it's been a busy fall. I'm still in school, of course, but I've had a lot less travel this semester and the class is set up in such a way that it's been easier to work around my other responsibilities. That being said, I've not been online much at all--even social networking--and I've been working on quilting or embroidery not at all. Other than going on a fall retreat in mid-September with some of my quilty buddies, during which I did spend the whole weekend embroidering, I've not touched anything since. 

I decided this summer that this year (program year, August to August) is the Year of Physical Health. It's all part of my focus on balance. I did a number on myself last year and wasn't in a particularly good place by last May. So I'm slowly peeling away the layers, focusing on one additional thing at a time, so that by next summer I'm in a very, very different place. If I'm not physically healthy, no amount of other kinds of self-care are going to be particularly useful. So this blog post will simply be a brief update as to what's been up with me other than school and work.

1. In mid-August, I went back to Weight Watchers. I've decided their new points system (that ticked me off when it was introduced last January) is really smart and works really, really well. I've lost weight nearly every week even when on vacation and traveling for work, and haven't felt like I've been deprived or anything. I'm just being more conscious about what I do and getting lots of activity in. So yay for that. I'm already down a size! Woo!

Battle Ropes--Tough Chick style!

Battle Ropes--Tough Chick style!

2. In mid-September, I started working with a personal trainer again. I'd done it before with a different trainer who I'd worked with on and off over a period of years, but then I took a long break, preferring to do my own thing at the gym. I found, however, that boredom was setting in and I wasn't feeling like I was making effective choices. I'm now with a new trainer--"new" being the operative word as the shine of school hasn't worn off her yet--and she's been great. She's 23, full of energy, and reminds me of all my nieces and daughter, so we have fun together. We're doing "functional strength training" which focuses more on large muscle groups and the kinds of movements that mimic day-to-day life. I'm having a great time. I never know what she's going to have me do and there's times I feel like a downright Tough Chick by the time I'm done. Battle Ropes are da bomb. 

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3. This week, I had my first appointment with a physical therapist about my vertigo. I'd planned on doing this back when I was going to PT for my knee a couple of years ago but we didn't get to it. A few weeks ago, I got fed up with the constrictions having vertigo was putting on me so I made myself an appointment. Sure enough, the PT was able to pinpoint what we're pretty sure is going on, so now I have a set of exercises to do three times a day. It's a mix of retraining my eyes to communicate better with my inner ear and loosening some neck muscles while strengthening others. If anyone's curious, email me and I'll see if I can explain it better. After only a couple of days of exercises, though, I'm already noticing a difference! I'll be starting to have more frequent appointments with my massage therapist to address the neck as well. I'm on a full court press to get Un-Dizzied! This, however, is why I've not done any embroidery. My neck has not been right in awhile so I've decided that when I'm actively in school doing so much reading, I shouldn't exacerbate matters with doing embroidery at the same time. And I'm making friends with a cuddly wrap-around heating pad on my neck and shoulders while watching TV at night.

 
Love the Habiter brand--extremely comfy and stay in place, but show over the edges of my flats. Dang.

Love the Habiter brand--extremely comfy and stay in place, but show over the edges of my flats. Dang.

4. Y'all already know about my style efforts. Boy, is that paying off. What's far more important to me than the comments I've gotten is feeling confident when I'm in front of people that I'm conveying the me I want to convey--professional but comfortable/approachable at the same time. And it only takes me about five minutes to figure out what to wear now, as opposed to the agonizing four- or five-outfit rummages I used to have in my closet. Now I'm working on figuring out the right-sized sock liners that will allow me to keep wearing my flats as our weather gets colder--I love my flats and don't want to give them up yet! I ordered four different brands/styles to see what would work in different pairs of shoes--still testing. Having a sock liner show over the edge of my flat is like having your slip show. Yuck.

Smart Instant Pot--woo!

Smart Instant Pot--woo!

5. I just added an Instant Pot, an electric pressure cooker, to my kitchen appliance collection. I use my slow cooker a lot at this time of year, but the Instant Pot has been all the rage on the Weight Watchers social networking platform so after doing some research, I used a gift card I'd been given and bought the Smart Instant Pot: It has an app for my cell phone so I can check on progress without being right in the kitchen. This girl can't resist throwing a little technology into the mix. I just got the Instant Pot and a couple of cookbooks earlier this week so I'll keep you posted. My first foray into rice went well, anyway!

6. I also took advantage of the Craftsy sale and bought "Make the Most of Your Pressure Cooker" and "Make the Most of Your Food Processor." I have a high quality food processor that in recent months has become a very nice Parmesan grater. I've used it in the past for making dough, too, but I really should be using it more than that. I thought watching the class may give me enough tips to start using it more than I do, and maybe speed up the cooking process even more. Last year we ate a lot of sandwiches when I was deep in the midst of studying so I'm hoping to do better this year.

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7. I succumbed to a Facebook ad and bought the DragonTree Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner. My trusty app (LifeTopix) is great for tracking personal tasks and schedules and the like (I use Outlook for work), but I'd ended up with four other types of journals--one (electronic) for meal planning, one (electronic) for life goal planning, one (print) for habit-tracking, and one (print) gratitude journal. And none of them had a full month view (and even full weeks were hard to come by). I like being able to see the overview at a glance and then zero in. So although I'm still using LifeTopix as my portable task list, I'm now using the Dreambook for meal planning and other personal goals. The beginning walks you through a process to develop concrete projects and goals around whatever areas you need, and then has full month and weekly planners. You can break down projects into tasks and track the tasks in the week (which then get put into my LifeTopix). It starts each day with an intention and ends each day with a gratitude, so I can do everything in one place. I use it for meal planning, making notes about people I want to touch base with or personal care-type things I need to set up, and so forth. I've avoided paper planners for years because I don't like the visual clutter--I hate having to cross something out and rewrite it somewhere else. But I'm pushing myself in an entirely different direction with this one--I'm using colored pens, little happy face stickers for days I stick to my food plan, star stickers for days I get intentional exercise, I'm doodling and writing random notes in the middle of the day--it's fun. And plenty of stuff gets crossed out and rewritten, and it doesn't bother me! I've also released myself from tyranny of journaling where I wrote lots and eventually just got bored of listening to myself. Now everything is just sentence fragments, words, brain dumps, and random thoughts. It's been working really well for me. There are lots of this kind of journal out there: I may do a different one next year, but so far, I really like this one! It felt a bit pricey when I first made the purchase but it's very good quality and I'm using it multiple times a day, so price-per-use is excellent.

So that's all the news from Western NY. Really--not much going on over here except Sandy is finally starting to take care of herself. As always, the main reason I'm telling y'all this is in case someone out there is feeling as cruddy as I did last spring. Maybe I can be an inspiration. Or maybe you'll just want to get a really comfy pair of socks for flats. Whatever works for you.

(Next week--some new exercise-related apps I'm trying out...)

(By the way, those two links to Craftsy classes are affiliate links and they're new ones so they should work. I think. Still haven't taken the time to look it over yet as I was gone a lot of October. But thanks for supporting this blog!)

IMPORTANT: Craftsy website and my affiliate links

Dear readers,

You may have noticed that Craftsy updated its website this weekend. Since I am a Craftsy affiliate, what this means for this blog is this:

1. Any of my Craftsy links that have been clicked on in 2016 will automatically be redirected and will retain that redirection for three months.

2. Any of my Craftsy links that have not been clicked on in 2016 will no longer work after October 1st.

Which means that I'm supposed to go into my blog and update ALL of my links to the new website within three months of October 1st. 

Y'all know my schedule. Y'all have experienced that I'm not able to be a particularly regular blogger at the moment, let alone have the time to go in and update a bazillion links (and I probably do have something approximating a bazillion Craftsy links). 

If you'd like to do me a favor and at least buy me three months, go click as many of my Craftsy links as you can, LOL. Otherwise, I'll have to just accept the change and get to it when I get to it. Hopefully my faithful readers will be patient with the fact that a lot of links will no longer work for awhile and, frankly, may never work again as I don't see myself having the hours to spend to go through and update every last one of them. Sorry about that!

Meanwhile, do go check out the new Craftsy website if you haven't already!