Look, Ma: No Boot!

Just got my stitches and most of the rest of the bandages off today. And I am thrilled, elated, and in all other ways so pleased to report that I'm already walking more easily than I ever was after the last surgery. Woo hoo!

I've now been able to expand my shoe wardrobe by a couple more pairs. Still can't wear all of my shoes because most of them will still rub uncomfortably against the surgery incision. That won't fully heal for another few weeks. 

I've been released from all restrictions--I just have to "let Toe be my guide," as it were. I'm already working on retraining my body not to walk with a limp. It's partially still due to residual toe stiffness and pain, but a lot of it is now a year's worth of muscle memory. 

You shouldn't be getting too many more foot-related posts at this point. I think we're well on the way to a recovery!

Food Friday: Terra’s Kitchen (1st Box)

As I mentioned in passing in a previous post, I’m trying out Terra’s Kitchen meal delivery service to see if it helps us eat healthier more regularly. I do great at meal planning and grocery shopping. Where I have difficulty is getting things prepped in advance as my weekend runs away from me, which means I often end up not being able to make the meals I planned as the week starts rolling. Which then, in turn, means I can end up tossing a lot of food that’s gone bad before I can get to it. When I started doing some research and some math (comparing the cost of TK versus what I spend on groceries), I decided it would be worth a try.

Terra’s Kitchen seemed the best option of all the options out there to get healthy meal options that my husband (a relatively picky eater) would still enjoy. I chose to have my box delivered on Fridays because I do my grocery shopping on Saturday—that way I could do my meal-planning around my TK delivery and get groceries for whatever was missing.

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I got my first delivery yesterday, and was really impressed right off the bat that FedEx got through despite the weather! The box got to my house around 10a, so I was able to try it out immediately for lunch (stay tuned).

One of the differences between TK and other meal subscription services is the box. Most come in regular boxes with chemical ice packs inside that you have to then recycle, in addition to all the boxes and bags and such that the meal parts come in.

TK, instead, uses a little mini-refrigerator case. Although the meal components still come in plastic containers, those are recyclable. The ce packs in TK get sent back with the refrigerator case—the case and packs all get reused as much as possible. 

The box is an impressive feat of design! These are latches on the front. You break the white wrap-around tabs and then pull up the latch to open the box top. 


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Here’s the refrigerator box inside. The box flaps fold back and attach to a little magnet on the sides of the box so they stay out of your way while you’re unloading the case. Genius! 

 


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The top of the refrigerator box lifts off to reveal the drawers with the food inside. Everything is pre-sorted and, in many cases, pre-chopped. When it comes time to make dinner, it’s mostly a matter of opening a container and adding it into the pot or pan. 

Don’t get me wrong—I love cooking...when I have time to cook. But the idea of being able to have a home-cooked, hot dinner on a weeknight and only having to take about 15-20 minutes to get it ready? Golden.


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The recipe cards are on a good card stock and three-hole punched so you can put them in a binder. That means the recipes are mine forever, even if I stop doing TK. The instructions (on the back of what’s shown here) are clear, the layout is great and easy to follow, and it includes a list of the other ingredients you’ll need in addition to what was sent. These other ingredients are pretty much limited to water, olive oil, salt, and pepper. 


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The ingredient packages are all coded with numbers that let you know which recipe they’re for. his made it really easy to check to make sure I’d gotten all the ingredients, plus I stored them in my fridge and pantry grouped by recipe so it’s an easy grab when it comes time to make them. 

The pre-minced garlic and ginger are handy ut a little smelly in my fridge. 

It’s clear all their recipes are prepackaged at the warehouse as I had two recipes that had repeat ingredients but got two different packages, each with the same ingredient in the amount for that recipe. Again, that’s great for convenience when I go to make it, but I did wince at the extra plastic containers involved. The containers are all recyclable, so there is that.


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This first time out, I got a discount on the box, so I decided to go ahead and add a couple of things. They have several other categories from which you can add on: lunches, desserts, snacks, beverages, and then extra proteins or sides. I went the lunch route, and bought soup (they come in sets of two bottles of one flavor), and a salad.  

TK carries the Zupa Organic Superfood Soup, and I got the Carrot Coconut Lime. I also got the Apple Walnut Chicken Salad, and ate that for lunch today. In addition to the apples, walnuts, and chicken, the salad also had shredded carrots and blue cheese. The dressing was a light balsamic vinaigrette. It was quite tasty, and the serving size was perfect. I do salads with chicken breasts all the time but I tend to just dump the other stuff in without measuring—goat cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, whatever crunchy thing I put over the top. That can lead to trouble in WW Points World. This way, everything is pre-measured for me, leaving a lot less up to my whim at the moment. I probably won’t order the lunch stuff regularly because I can definitely do it more cheaply, but it’s nice knowing it’s there if I know I’m going to have a super-busy week. For any of you who routinely eat lunches out at work or whatever, though, I’d say TK’s prices would be quite comparable, and it’s a lot healthier.


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And here's our first official Terra's Kitchen meal! I wanted to use the tilapia right away--I don't like having fish sitting in my fridge for too long. My plating leaves a little to be desired--no restaurant-worthy aestethics here, but it was tasty.

When I make this recipe again--and it was good enough that I will--I'll cut the salt back a little bit in the orzo. Other than that, I absolutely loved it. My husband really liked the fish but he's not a fan of pasta so the orzo didn't do much for him. He also doesn't like whole cooked tomatoes, but I love them. He ate some of the orzo and all the asparagus (the one part he did like of the side), and then I have to admit to finishing off his orzo and tomatoes. Yums. I had to tell him that I hadn't realized until I got the shipment that one of our other meals this week has a very similar orzo-tomato based side, so I'll probably be getting a little extra to eat that night too. I guess I was in an orzo mood the day I made my selections.

I had two quibbles with this first TK cooking experience. First, although they expect you to have olive oil in your pantry, they don't require you to have butter in your fridge. They sent me two little pats, each wrapped in a little foil package. I couldn't figure out any possible reason that they would have for not saying, "We expect you to own butter." Butter is probably more omnipresent than olive oil is, and it wasn't a special organic butter or anything. Odd. The second quibble was with the recipe itself: it tells you to cut the lemon in half and THEN zest and juice it. I didn't read ahead or I'd have zested it first, then cut it in half for the rest of the process. Not sure why they decided to do it that way because it's definitely not SOP. Other than those two little things, I can see why this would be a handy way to do things for very busy people or people just starting out. The portions of herbs and pice you needed are included, so no more buying a whole bottle of spices or a big bunch of herbs for the few sprinkles you use for that one particular recipe. (When it comes to summer, I have an herb garden, but I don't have a good window to move it inside during the rest of the year.)

I tried one of the Zupa soups for lunch to day. A big "nope" on that one. A bit too spicy and strangely sour. I won't bother with those again.

I'll post pics of my other two TK meals later this week on Instagram. So far, I like it, but my jury is still out on whether a meal subscription service is right for us. 

(Later edit: I wrote most of this on Friday, which is why it's entitled Food Friday. I didn't get it finished until Saturday so now it's misnamed, but I'm not going to sweat that!)

Fickle, Frugal, or Factious? Switching Horses on Book Clubs

As I've been putting together my 2018 (first quarter) bullet journal, listing out my monthly/bimonthly expenses in subscription boxes gave me the opportunity to evaluate. I love getting subscription boxes, but were there any I wasn't enjoying as much? Should I do a little more research in some categories?

I've decided that I liked my PageHabit subscription better in theory than in practice. I've gotten three boxes and would've rated all the books I got three stars (out of five) or lower. I wasn't raving about any of them. The author's notes were interesting or not interesting depending on the author and, frankly, some authors have atrocious handwriting and their notes were extraordinarily difficult to read. I also didn't dig the little gifties that come in the box. They weren't at all related to the books and just felt like someone threw them in because they felt they needed to. I began to feel like I was paying for things I wasn't actually getting much out of.

I'd also gone through my Kindle to find all the fiction books I've bought over the last few months that I hadn't gotten to read yet, and I've got quite a list. I debated cancelling a book subscription altogether.

On the other hand, I still like being exposed to authors and books I might not normally have read, and I have really enjoyed having a physical book again. It gives me a different feeling to sit in an armchair with tea and an actual book in my hand than it does to have my Kindle. (Don't get me wrong--the vast majority of my books are still Kindle as I like that a lot better for reading in bed and traveling.)

So I did a little more research.

I've now cancelled my PageHabit subscription and have swapped it out for the less expensive and solely-book-focused Book of the Month club

Book of the Month Club sends you an email with five options, and you choose which one you want sent each month. If you don't want any of them, you can skip a month. You can add on another book for only $9.99, and for the add-ons you can either choose from the options for that month or selections from previous months. I like the flexibility on this one, and I love that I'm not paying for useless gifties. I don't need any more bookmarks, thank you very much!

They give you a decent amount of information on each of the five options every month: a brief essay about why the curator chose that book, a synopsis of the book, and a few paragraphs from the first chapter so you can get a sense of the writing style. They also save the books you've gotten to your "bookshelf," and you can do ratings and reviews. I don't see where I can see anyone else's ratings and reviews, but this would be a helpful way to keep track of what I've already gotten if I stick with the book club for awhile and have already sent books on to other homes after I've read them. I do GoodReads but it will be nice if I'm looking for what selections to make for future boxes.

My January box pick is As Bright As Heaven, as it falls into my current-favorite historical fiction category, and it's an exclusive early release for BOM Club subscribers. (It's not available until February everywhere else.) I chose Little Fires Everywhere from a previous month as my add-on--since it's my first month, I get one month free so all I'm paying this month is the $9.99 add-on cost. I've seen Little Fires Everywhere highly reviewed, so I bit. I should get them in a week or so, I'd think. Just enough time to finish the PageHabit book I'm still reading.

BOM can keep its prices low because there are no little gifties included in the box. It's just books. I'm good with that. I don't really need any more tschoske. 

So--I'll keep you posted on how I feel about this one after a couple of months! Do any of you have a book subscription club? Which one? Do you like it? Why or why not? What's your favorite part of having a book subscription?

Have you read either of these books? No spoilers, please!

 

Sundry and Such

Just a quick post because I WILL be doing a podcast and/or blog post about some...get ready for it...sewing! Woot! But I need a little more time to put that together than I have this afternoon so I'm just providing a bit of a mean teaser for now and writing this quick blog about something completely unrelated.

So, my husband's office party is tonight.

I've now gone through the process of buying three different possible outfits--each seemingly more expensive than the last--to find something that would (A) be appropriate for not-quite-black-tie-but-more-than-normal-fancy, (B) look my age rather than 20 years older or younger, and (C) work with flats because I still can't do heels. One of the first three outfits got ditched because it visually added a few pounds--not something I need at the moment; the other two got ditched because it looked a bit too senior for me, so to speak. I tried a few on in dressing rooms that looked a bit too junior. Sometimes it's difficult to figure out how to dress in your 50s. 

So, what outfit was finally the winner? Black velvet Juliet pants from Chicos (no longer on their site--glad I bought them when I did!) with a royal blue top from Dress Barn for about a third of the cost of what I was paying for outfits one, two, and three. I'll be doing some returns tomorrow. Go figure--the winning top from Dress Barn does have cold shoulders, which I've never liked on me, but in this case it actually works. And the black velvet pants are insanely comfy and I'll be able to wear them to a couple more holiday gatherings with different tops, or just going out to dinner with my husband after the holidays. I'm in love with them, and I never thought of myself as a velvet pant kind of girl. 

But here's the real kicker. I was trying to figure out what "fancy dress" purse I could use that would link to my shoes, since I wanted to wear the ones I'd gotten from Stitch Fix back in November and needed a way to pull the silver from the shoes into the outfit--I've got silver, sparkly jewelry so that does most of the "blending" heavy lifting, but a lighter, sparkly bag would work better than black. I only have one dress bag (bought for last year's office Christmas party), so I was contemplating making yet another run out to the mall to see if I could find something that worked better.

Suddenly I remembered. Somewhere in my basement I had a bag of vintage and antique purses my mother had given me years before she passed away--they were from her mother and grandmother, if I recall. I did a little digging around and found the bag of bags--woo!

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They're all in remarkably good shape except the oldest looking mesh bag with the rose on the front. The hinge clasp is broken. Plus, it's way too antique for me to feel comfortable carrying it anywhere--I'd be afraid of losing it. 

For tonight's gig I'm thinking either the navy blue crochet/beaded pouch or the silver mesh clasp purse on the top. Either works well with the outfit. Meanwhile, I'm liberating these bags from the basement and will be keeping them up in my closet. I don't do fancy dress that often but what fun it is to have great bags to use when I do!

So--just a fun little find for the day. Now I need to finish reformatting my computer (don't ask) and touch up my manicure at the same time. Party on!

 

Starved for Fiction Reading

I've been so immersed in school-and-work-related reading lately that, now that I'm nearing the tail-end of my thesis process, I suddenly had a trigger-reaction about wanting fiction books. I've been reading fiction at night right along--a few pages every night before going to sleep. But it's been a l-o-n-g time since I've had a rainy weekend morning in an armchair with something fun to read. Rainy weekend mornings have been spent either at my computer or reading...well...other stuff. 

So, in a moment of late-night weakness recently, I did some research on book subscription services and chose PageHabit. I'd done Wordy Traveler for a couple of boxes and, although I enjoyed the first book, I only finished about half of it. The second book was equally big and daunting, and equally nonfiction. Don't get me wrong, I love good nonfiction and do often choose to read it recreationally. But at the moment, I'm a bit nonfictioned-out. I decided to cancel that subscription for the time being--I may go back to it at some point in the future because it is intriguing--and find something a little more fun and lighthearted.

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PageHabit offers the opportunity to select your preferred genre from among several options. I've chosen historical fiction because I enjoy being immersed in different periods and getting a sense for them, even if its a fictionalized sense. It's sort of a nice bridge between my enjoyment of nonfiction books and wanting recreational reading. (I'd mentioned on Instagram that I thought I'd selected two genres--that's not right. It's just one. You can add a book from a second genre to your shipment at an additional fee. I've done that for my next one with the optimistic hope that I'll have more time to read next month. Ahem.) 

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This month's book is Wiley Cash's The Last Ballad. As I read the book description, I thought, "This is exactly in my wheelhouse!" Although it's fictional, it's based on a real event and real people. From Amazon: "The New York Times bestselling author of the celebrated A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy returns with this eagerly awaited new novel, set in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events. The chronicle of an ordinary woman’s struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill, The Last Ballad is a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice." Okay--so it's still not all that far away from the nonfiction I read for work (women in the face of oppression and injustice), but still.

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The cool feature about PageHabit, though, is the author's annotations. The book comes with a letter of introduction from the author, explaining his inspiration and a little bit about his own connection to the story. 

Throughout the book there are sticky notes with the author's annotations, as well. Right off the bat, within the first few pages, I've read annotations about recurring themes or motifs to watch for through the rest of the book. As a former English Lit, major, that seriously jazzes me. I'm forcing myself not to flip ahead to read all the annotations first! Some of the annotations are nice little personal connections, too, like a charming note about a song included in the story, and the author pointing out he sings that same song to his own young daughters at night.

I've never heard of Wiley Cash before, which is exactly why I'm trying a book subscription service. Like most people, once I find an author I like I tend to read everything by that author (topic withstanding). Then, once I'm done, I feel at a bit of a loss until I can find the next author. My hope is that, by doing a book subscription, I'll be introduced to all sorts of cool new writers and my horizons will be expanded. I'm an avid user of GoodReads, of course, which does help--but it still tends to depend on what I actually search for, which again leaves it up to my somewhat "getting-in-a-rut" style of reading. 

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There's also a short story commissioned for PageHabit. It doesn't give a whole lot of information about this one--no annotations, no explanation as to why this story was chosen. I’ve read this already and wasn’t really jazzed by it, but no biggie. The nice thing about short stories is that there's not a huge time requirement.

As with most of these book subscription clubs, the book comes along with a few related gifts. As opposed to Wordy Traveler, in which the gifts were related (mostly) to a particular area of the world, in PageHabit--at least with this first shipment--these were just general bookish and holiday themed gifts. 

The box included a bookmark with a quotation from Albert Einstein. (See the picture of the book above. The bookmark is on top of it.) Since I'm a Kindle girl usually, I've long ago lost most of my bookmarks so it's handy to have one now that I'm reading the occasional physical book.

It also included a little Halloween-themed keychain that lights up and makes noise. Cute, although it'll get donated now. (I took a video but I can only post videos from YouTube on this blog post and it doesn't seem worth the effort.)

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Finally, this box included a fun pillowcase that I could see myself using on quilt retreats. It seems like it's made of a nice cotton. It's in the wash now so we'll see how soft it is once it comes out. 

For every shipment, PageHabit donates to a children's literacy project. Each month they partner with a different organization engaged in helping children read and/or having improved access to books. 

So--for my first shipment so far, I'm enjoying it. If you're interested in PageHabit, here's the usual referral link!

 

Life Update and Wardrobe Wednesday (It's Stitch Fix Day!)

Life update first.

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I'm writing. 

The only update here is that I've got four out of five chapters done rough-draft-style. I'm taking a few leftover vacation days here and there to help me in the process. I have to have all five chapters to my advisor by November 1. Ahem. I'm burning daylight, here. October was mostly travel, complicated by a case of bronchitis that knocked me down for several days, so I've not been as productive as I'd have liked. Oh well, it'll get done!

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My podiatrist did follow-up x-rays at my appointment earlier this month and wasn't altogether pleased with the progress, so I'm doubling-up on my at-home physical therapy (bending my toe as much as possible). He also gave me a cortisone shot to help with the swelling and stiffness, so I should be more comfortable doing the PT and my workouts. I've gotten permission to start doing my walk/run routine again and ended up buying yet another new pair of sneakers: Hoka One One (pronounced "oh-nay"--some Polynesian term about being fast or something like that). This one finally seems to work well.

Look at that sole. Yikes. They look orthopedic, but the website proclaims that marathon runners love them, so I prefer to think of myself as in the company of amazing athletes than the one of people-with-bad-feet. The toe box is a little wider, it's pretty stiff, and although it's not technically a rocker-sole, it does help roll you forward so the injured toe doesn't have to bend. They're highly recommended for runners with foot issues like mine. I have to say, they do seem to make a huge difference. I can now do my walk/runs with just a little discomfort compared to the distinct pain I had before in my other (also very good) sneakers. I still can't do much without a lot of bruising and swelling but my doctor has assured me I can't do more damage--it's just a matter of what I can handle and getting my foot back into shape. It feels so good to just be doing something again! 

I also had my massage therapist work on my toe a bit at my last appointment and it's amazing what a difference that made. I think she must have broken up a lot of scar tissue or something. So I'm trying to mimic some of what she did as best I can at home. Hopefully within a few more months I'll be back to full movement (and no pain!) again.

Wardrobe Wednesday

I missed posting my August Stitch Fix. If I recall, that one was five-for-five but I don't remember now what all was it in it. Sorry! My September and October Stitch Fixes were both five-for-five--woo! I'm now sticking with stylist Kathryn. She's fantastic. It helps that she spells her name the same way one of my sisters' middle name is spelled; it's an unusual spelling so it it feels like a little bit of home. 

September's Stitch Fix

...is in this collage: I didn't have time when I got it to model anything. It's all already gotten worn quite a bit.

The cardigan and jacket both had to be exchanged. The cardigan had a little pull in one shoulder so I did a "damaged" exchange. The jacket fit just exactly perfectly...if I didn't want to wear anything bulkier than a tshirt underneath it. I exchanged it for the next size up so I have a little more breathing room for long-sleeve shirts and such. Let me tell you, that jacket is a serious win! I love it SO MUCH. It looks great on, and it's a wonderful stretchy material so it never pulls across the back or in the elbows, even though it is fairly fitted. Even my husband commented (unsolicited) on how nice it looks on me. I've worn it pretty much every day since I got it. I had asked for another structured tote that was a little more professional to use during my work events, and I love the bag they sent. It has a zipper closure which makes it perfect for travel, and it holds its shape well. I'm not sure I'm in love with the very long tassels but those are easily enough removed. The black pants are just a replacement for a pair I'd received in a box last winter and somehow managed to lose. I still think they'll show up in my daughter's laundry at some point. In any case, it's nice to have them again. I was so happy that Kathryn was able to find me another pair. (Yes, they're $78, although since I bought the whole box I get discounts, plus they're seriously worth it. They fit beautifully, they're extremely comfortable, and they don't get baggy at all, even wearing them three or four times between washes, like I did when I was on vacation.)

Stitch Fix's exchange process worked beautifully, by the way. Couldn't have been easier. I just clicked the right buttons in the check-out process, sent the two I was exchanging back in the envelope provided, and received the replacements within a few days. Easy Schmeasy.

October's Stitch Fix:

Another five-for-five! This time I'd mentioned that the holidays were coming up and I'd like something that would be appropriate for family holiday 'dos. I also asked for a smaller shoulder-bag of some sort, as most of my bags are now tote-sized. They do so well at purses and totes for me, I kinda want to keep them coming! Other than that, I left it pretty open.

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I think we're hosting my husband's family, or at least part of it, at our house for Thanksgiving. I usually wear nicer jeans or leggings, but I like to wear a more festive top. However, I'll also be in the kitchen so I don't want anything too fussy or hot. I think this blouse will be perfect--although I'd have to watch those bell sleeves in the gravy. I think they're high enough up my arm, though, they shouldn't be much trouble. It's an embossed velvet, and has a built in cotton cami. It's loose and cool, and I think it'll be great for the day. I haven't decided what necklace I'll wear with it, but I like the concept.

Kathryn said in her style note that she decided to "push me" a little out of my comfort zone with this one and hoped that it worked. Work, it does!

(The jeans are from a prior Stitch Fix--one of my most-often worn jeans nowadays.)


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This is a two-fer: I'm modeling both a sweater and some skinny jeans. 

The sweater is fan-freaking-tastic. It's cotton and loose but not dumpy. Kathryn noted the slightly artsy take on the angled hem. (I'd said in my style notes that I tend to be more classic/casual but love stuff with an artsy/boho flair). In my request for this box, I'd mentioned that I like the look of blouses layered under sweaters but hate the constricted feel of the sleeves when I do that, so thought maybe a looser sweater might work. I think this one could layer easily, although I'll probably mostly wear it on its own.

The pants are getting exchanged. They're black skinny jeans, with the emphasis on SKINNY. They've got some give to them so I can get them on, and even walk around fairly well. Sitting, however, is a bit of an issue. Although I could hang onto them as aspirational, I'd prefer to exchange them for the next size up and actually be able to wear them comfortably the next few months until I re-lose the few pounds I re-gained during the foot debacle. Even too tight, though, the pants were remarkably comfortable. I can't wait to get the pair I can actually wear. I think these may well become go-tos. 

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I took this second picture of the sweater so you could see the nifty sleeve detail. (And it's soft! No scratchy or stiffness in that elbow at all!)


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Finally, this last picture includes a scarf and handbag. I had let Kathryn know that I'm a fan of scarves so she can pretty much never go wrong tossing one in the box. This one is fairly large, and I'm not always a huge fan of geometric prints, preferring abstract, organic, or floral. However, in this case, and for fall/winter, geometric works fine, as does bulky. I'll be thrilled to have this once the temperature starts dropping. And this is one seriously soft scarf. 

Who knew I really wanted a yellow shoulder bag? I didn't, until I opened this up and fell in love. It's a great hobo-style bag, with all sorts of pockets. It'll be my daily bag now.  In fact, I already switched out of my other bag and into this one and will be taking it with me when I head over to my MILs for dinner tonight. The mustard yellow is perfect for fall, and it'll go great with my olive jacket from the last Fix. 

I didn't realize I had a thing for purses and totes until very recently. And now, with Kathryn doing so well at getting me ones I love and can really use, it's hard for me not to want one in every box! I have clear memories from childhood of my mom "changing purses" every Sunday and thinking how silly that was. Now I'd say "I'm turning into my mother," except that train left the station years ago. The purse thing just confirms it. 

In my requests for my next Fix at the end of November, I told Kathryn that my husband's office party is in December. It's a dressy affair, but there's a wide interpretation of what that means for women, so I'm thinking I'll do some sort of pants outfit this year as I doubt I'd be able to be in heels yet. I gave Kathryn some parameters and let her know that if she wanted to try to do the whole party outfit, clothes to accessories to clutch purse, she could go for it! It'll be fun to see if she comes up with something. She's been dead-on-point every time these last few boxes, so I have high hopes!

If you want to check out Stitch Fix for yourself, here's my referral code!

Tea Tuesday: The Wordy Traveler review

I'm calling this "Tea Tuesday" as it references tea. But it's a very different Tea Tuesday than previous ones and only barely mentions tea, so it's not getting the pretty header.

I've suddenly become the subscription box queen. 

Well, maybe not "queen." Maybe a second-alternate of a lady in waiting, based on the number of subscription boxes I see the "big name" bloggers talking about. However, I've started doing a small number of different types of subscription boxes to see if they can expand my horizons, as it were. Well, Barkbox is just for the dogs. No horizon-expanding there. But the other ones I do for me are giving me the opportunity to try things I normally wouldn't try, so that's fun.

This one is about books. 

In an effort to expose myself to different authors or genres than I tend to lean towards, I started looking into book subscriptions. However, I know I've got limited time and, frankly, I don't read actual print books all that often anymore, so I didn't want to subscribe to anything that would overload me with stuff I'd never get to. After a little bit of exploring, I happened upon The Wordy Traveler club. It sounded like it was right up my alley and definitely a manageable subscription!

  The box is beautiful!

The box is beautiful!

The Wordy Traveler is a book subscription in which you receive one to three books every quarter (depending on which level you choose) focused on a particular area of the world. You will then also receive a bag of tea and a few little accoutrements related to that theme.

(See? I mentioned tea. That makes this a legit Tea Tuesday post.)

And here's what really got me: They donate a portion of the subscription fee to organizations supporting women and girls. I'm in.

I got my first box within a few days of subscribing. I took all my "reveal" pics at night in our dining room which has fairly subtle lighting so I apologize for them being a little off, but you should get the idea!

I subscribed to the "Backpacking" edition, which is only one book every quarter, rather than the "Full Suitcase," which is three books. I also thought this would be a good way to test it out for a few boxes before committing to the full-on subscription. 


This first box's theme is Russia. It came with a nice little card giving some background to the theme. 

There was also a very attractive bookmark (nice, since I don't have many bookmarks hanging around these days as they're not particularly necessary for a Kindle), a small "art print" of a Russian landmark, and a postcard thanking you for supporting women and girls through your subscription.

I'm not entirely sure what I'll do with the art print. Maybe I could start a gallery in my office/sewing room to show where I've "traveled" through my reading?


The tea included this quarter is Keemun Grand, described as a "malty black Chinese tea." I'm not sure why they chose this particular tea: There was no explanation as to how they felt it fit this quarter's theme. There are Russian teas out there, but maybe they couldn't find a cost-effective wholesale distributor or something. I haven't tried the tea yet, but I'll definitely get to it. That may be a future "Tea Tuesday" post!


One of the two gifts included was this very pretty little Russian-style painted wooden egg. I've put it in a stoneware bowl on the bookshelves in my living room, where I have a collection of wooden Robin's eggs (near a couple of pudgy bird figurines which you had to know I would own). It adds a nice touch.


The second gift is an antique-y looking necklace with a Russian doll depicted in the pendant.


I didn't think I'd ever wear this and was debating if my oldest great-niece was quite old enough for this necklace yet. But then I got dressed yesterday morning and realized it would actually look kind of cute with my outfit of a bright pink tshirt and a denim skort. I threw on a couple of hammered-gold hoop earrings and it actually all worked. Go figure.

Still, it'll probably end up being gifted to a great-niece eventually. But it's fun to wear it until then.


Finally...leaving the main piece for last...the book.

Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich is a prize-winning literary "documentary," of sorts. Alexievich interviewed hundreds of Russians about life in Russia after the fall of Communism to nearly present day. In interviews spanning 1991-2012, it chronicles the hope or disillusionment, and harsh economic and political realities, as experienced in daily life by regular people. 

I'm about 50 pages in already and am finding it utterly fascinating. I remember seeing on the news many of the events referenced in the book, but only know about them from the perspective of how we experienced them in the United States, as well as how we assumed those in Russia probably experienced them. Most of the interviews in the book, however, are showing me a very different reality than what I had imagined. It's extremely well done. 

However, it's also a kazillion pages long and in very, very small print.  Reading this book is an undertaking. The first 50 pages have gone pretty fast but I'm a little concerned about my staying power when I get 200 pages in. Still--I love really well-done nonfiction books and this definitely is a really well-done nonfiction book! It's done in a different style from anything I've read before so, at the moment, color me intrigued. I'll let you know how it goes.

So that's this first quarter reviewed. I'm not 100% sold on this whole book subscription concept yet as I'm definitely paying more per quarter than I would if I just bought the book and tea outright. On the other hand, this book wasn't even on my radar, nor had I ever heard of the tea, and I'm learning a lot from the book; so if my horizons get expanded and my brain is stretched (cute wooden eggs and necklaces notwithstanding), and I'm helping women and girls to boot...that's worth the cost of the subscription to me!

The Golden Days Phase 2

I hadn't intended to run out and get a new puppy quite so fast. However, the breeder where we had gotten Sammy (best advertisement for a breeder, ever!) had three boys left from her current litter, and no other breeders in the area had any litters even close to being ready for adoption. I have sabbatical in July and August so that's my best time for puppy training (well, and writing my thesis, but mostly puppy training).

Consequently, we now have some new Golden love in our home.

Meet Ogden. Aka Auggie. Aka "No, Auggie! Auggie, no! Auggie, get down! Auggie, leave Spencer alone! No, Auggie, that's not your food! Auggie, stop chewing that!"

Ah yes, the joys of puppydom.

On the other hand...

PUPPY BREATH!!!!!

He's an absolute sweetheart, when he isn't chomping on us with his little needle teeth and digging into us with his little dagger toenails. So far, Auggie doesn't seem to be as food-oriented as Sam was, but that may come with time. I honestly don't remember too many specifics about Sam's puppy days. 

Auggie is a titch over 8 weeks old. I've enrolled us in some puppy playtime/basic obedience classes starting in mid-July, and my niece enrolled in the same class with her new puppy (mixed breed, about 12 weeks now). We're hoping they'll be buddies. 

I've managed to only call him Sammy about eight times--revealingly enough, mostly when I'm telling him to leave his sister alone. Apparently I used to have to tell Sammy that a lot too. It's a knee-jerk reaction. 

Yesterday we started working on the "Come" command. He's about halfway to learning it. Or, he has actually learned it, but Puppy Brain kicks in when he's about halfway to me and suddenly he's off chasing leaves or chewing on grass. We'll get there.

This is more for my sake than yours, but here's Sammy as a puppy next to Auggie as a puppy. Left = Sam, Right = Auggie. Auggie's nose isn't any bigger than Sam's--it's just the angle of the camera. Auggie's face is just a little thinner than Sam's was. Auggie is definitely a darker gold, too. They darken as they get older--it'll be interesting to see what color he ends up compared to Sam. As long as he's my canal walking buddy, I don't care what color he is!

It is a bit odd to still be grieving Sam and crying at odd moments while, at the same time, I'm falling in love with Auggie. I told Auggie that he should be thankful to Sam since it was due to Sam's greatness that I was ready to get Auggie. I've told Auggie some stories about Sam and my Chuck-It games and walking on the canal. He seems to understand his job description: Have fun, play a lot, and be my buddy. He's ready.

The Golden Days

Most of you are likely with me on social media so you probably already know what's been going on with me these days.

It's been the worst of times and the best of times...

My buddy Sammy, aka Samwise, aka the Doofus, succumbed to his cancer on Saturday, June 10. He'd had a bad day earlier in the week but then had a very good Friday (we played fetch for a bit Friday afternoon), and seemed fine Saturday morning. By around noon on Saturday, though, it was clear that something had happened internally and by 2:00, we knew it was time. I rode in the very back of my SUV with him, laying with him in my arms and his head on my shoulder, while my husband drove. It was the longest, hardest 20-minute drive I've been through, but I'm glad I had that last opportunity to hold him and talk to him. I'm also glad that it was a Saturday and neither my husband nor I were traveling so that we could both be there for Sammy and for each other.

I still miss him. I still cry at the oddest moments. He'll always be my Sammy.

I do appreciate all my #Twilter friends who have sent their condolences, and their own feelings of missing Sammy on Instagram. He was an extremely photogenic dog, and a bit of a ham, so there were lots of pictures of him. I've posted here just a few of my favorites. I have hundreds, and they all make me smile.

I'll always miss you, Sammy. 

I'll follow this post with the other half of the update...

 

Wardrobe Wednesday--StitchFix

It was a fun way to spend part of my comp day on Monday (after a weekend speaking at an area women's conference) to get my May StitchFix! I've moved up my delivery date to the first of the month so I know how to budget the rest of the month. That being said, I'll probably skip June since I feel like I'm very well set for my June work trip. I like that about StitchFix--you can control when you get stuff. 

This month, I'd renewed my request for that poncho I'd like to have for the flight on my vacation, plus the several flights I'll be taking in June and next fall. I also asked for a "cute" raincoat that would be easily stuffable into a backpack on vacation to have available just-in-case, another pair of pants like the gray ones they sent me last time, but in a different color, and possibly a kimono for dressing up a tshirt and jeans. Plus, for the last couple of Fixes, I've reminded my stylist how much I loved the Kut from the Kloth jeans I got in January but have now grown out of (shrunk out of? Anyway, they don't fit anymore).

My stylist sent me something in every category, so definite points for paying attention! That being said, I will be sending back a couple of things this time around. But the wins are BIG wins!

First of all, note the rain covering the StitchFix box in the first picture. It happened to be pouring when my box came, and I was just about to leave the house to run a couple of errands when the USPS guy showed up. Priorities: I decided to check out what was in the box before doing my errands. Sure enough, right on top...a raincoat!

LOVE IT! It's not lined, so it'll only be good for warmer weather, but I'm okay with that as I have warmer jackets for the rest of the year. It's going to be very easily stuffable, so fantastic for hauling around with me on vacay. I also like that it has a drawstring, although the way I've got it drawn here and my stance makes me look a little pudgy. Dang. However, that drawstring means I've got a lot of wear in this even as I continue to lose weight. It's got a hood and a stand-up collar so I won't get rain dripping down inside. I put this puppy on immediately and ran my errands in it--it was great! The pattern is showing up here a little different than it is up close--it's not solid gray lines but, rather, thin lines bunched together. I like how it looks more solid from a distance, though. Verdict: KEEP. (The jeans are Chico's Girlfriend ankle jeans--Chicos are becoming my new favorite jean! I only buy them on sale, but they're really, really, comfortable. I have two pairs now.)

By the way, yes, I got a tripod holder for my iPhone and a bluetooth shutter do-jobber so I can actually show you what these clothes look like on a person rather than just laying on the floor. And yes, Sammy inevitably photo-bombs me. Doofus.

The kimono wasn't quite so much of a win.

I tried styling it with a V-neck sleeveless top (from a consignment store) to show the cold-shoulder effect. I just don't like the cold-shoulder style on me, especially when it comes to something like this. Part of why I'd want it is to have something to cover my shoulders in chilly restaurants. All in all, I just didn't like the drape or colors of this kimono so, although kudos to my stylist for listening, this particular one doesn't work for me. (I'd never mentioned to my stylist my aversion to the cold-shoulder style so that's on me.) Verdict: RETURN.

The pants are a definite win, though. These are the same style (Liverpool brand) as the gray ones she sent me last time, and equally as comfortable. I've worn the gray ones a lot and they don't sag or bag even after several wears between laundering, which is perfect for taking on vacation. One of those two pairs of pants will likely be my travel-day pants--they'll be great for the plane. Verdict: KEEP. And yes, I forgot to put my shoes back on before taking this picture and yes, Sammy just had to be in it with me again. 

And the poncho search continues. 

The color on this is a little too dark for me, although I know that means it would hold up to travel well. I could have dealt with the color, though, if it weren't for the sleeves. Yes, those black sleeves are attached to the poncho. Oddly, however, there's a slight gap underneath between where the sleeve is sewn into the arm and where the sides of the poncho are buttoned together, so you still get air coming in under there. It's strangely designed.

The buttons down the side (which you can just barely see in this photo--right above my wrist on my hip) are a nice detail but they just make the whole thing look kind of bulky. I don't find this flattering, and the sleeves would drive me insane. Verdict: RETURN. (I have since ordered a couple of ponchos from Chicos online, as I have a store near me for easy return if I don't like one or either of them.)

Finally...drum roll please...

Kut from the Kloth Boyfriend Jeans!

On the left, cuffed like most people wear this style of jean. On the right, uncuffed, which is probably the way I'll always wear them. If I did cuff them, I'd keep them ankle length. Get too far up my calf and I start looking a bit stubby. 

I debated these for a little bit because I don't normally think of myself as a "distressed jean" kind of girl. But these are "subtly distressed" (just crying quietly in a corner to themselves) and I love the wash and the fit, so why not? My daughter had stopped by to mooch lunch and gave them the thumbs up. Verdict: KEEP. (The shirt is from Clothes Mentor consignment, don't know what brand. I was stylin' some boho chic that day.) 

That makes this box a 60% win, as I'm keeping three out of five items. So, yay! Several times over the last couple of weeks, my husband and I have been somewhere together and I've suddenly noticed, "Hey, this is a StitchFix outfit!" I get a lot of wear out of what I get from them. I do, however, have to work on my modeling skills...

Interested in StitchFix? Here's my referral link--thank you! They also have a plus-size subscription service and a men's subscription service, and they include jewelry, shoes, and bags in the women's. (I think they also include ties, belts, and shoes in men's.) Remember, you don't have to do it every month, and you indicate your price-level when you do your style profile. 

Wardrobe Wednesday: Stitch Fix

You may recall, in the last StitchFix post I did, that I'd mentioned moving up my delivery date. I'd rather receive my StitchFix early in the month rather than late in the month, as then I can do all my planning and budgeting for the rest of the month around what I do or don't keep out of that box. So, this week I got my April Fix, even though I just got the March Fix a couple of weeks ago.

Again, looking ahead to my vacation (as well as the fact I do a lot of airplane travel for work), I had some specific requests this time. I asked for a poncho of some sort that I could wear in airports that would second as a blanket on the plane. I've used shawls and pashminas for that for years, but it's hard to keep a pashmina wrapped over your shoulders while you're hauling luggage without getting all tangled up in straps. I thought a poncho might work better. I also asked for some neutral colored ponte knit pants or similar--they're great for travel. I requested a good tote with lots of pockets and a zip closure for my travels--I actually already have a couple but I'm always in search of the "best one ever." I also threw in there that funky jewelry was always fun.

So, how did my StitchFix stylist do?

BAM! She hit it out of the park again! Woo woo woo woo!

(No pics of me this time as I'm still dealing with that really bad chest cold and I'm not at my most picturesque at the moment.)

Yes, I got a totebag! Woot!

Okay, it's not quite "the best travel totebag ever" but hey, it's cute and very functional so I'll take it! I love the style. It's a canvas exterior, and with the olive color it will definitely take a beating and just keep looking better. I'm not really into the camouflage/army style that's still big these days but this has enough of it for me to look current but still be far more to my taste. It's more "outdoorsy" than "military." 

The straps are sturdy--just look at those metal grommets!--and the shorter ones are wide enough they'll be comfortable over my shoulder. I doubt I'd use the longer strap with this one, but I'll keep it with me in case I wanted to do a cross-body thing. It's a little too narrow to be comfortable on my shoulder if the bag is heavy. (Somewhere I have a pattern to make a padded thingie to wrap around skinny straps--I should dig that out and actually make it some day.)

I've learned to generally try to avoid dark interiors on bags because they make it harder to find things, but I plan on using a lot of zippered pouches to keep my stuff organized on the plane so that shouldn't be too big a deal. I don't tend to dump a ton of stuff in my bags anyway--I like to travel light so I carry as little as I can possibly get away with. 

It has decent pockets--the standard zipper interior pocket on one side with two open pockets on the other. If I had more pockets, I'd use them--but sometimes too many pockets makes you dig a lot because you can't remember which pocket holds what. Again, I'll be using zippered pouches so the pockets will be for quick-access stuff.

What I'm most pleased about is that the whole top zips--fantastic! Too many totebags have flimsy little magnetic closures that pop open the first time you hit turbulence and suddenly your bag is spilling out all over the floor. Ask me how I know. 

All around, very pleased with this bag. My stylist definitely listened to me!

 

Remember that I'd asked for ponte knit pants? Another bingo!

These are actually more leggings than pants--at this point in my weight loss journey I'd only be wearing these with longer tops, but since 90% of the tops in my closet qualify, that's not an issue. I do think I'll be able to wear them even when I go down another size at some point--the fabric and style will adjust with me for some time to come, which is really helpful. 

These pants are incredibly comfortable, though. The wide waistband doesn't dig and they move and stretch everywhere I go. These may well be my travel-day pants. They'd be so comfortable on the airplane but I'd still look put-together, not like I rolled out of bed to get on the plane. The fabric is really sturdy so they don't feel like they'd get baggy, but I'll only know that after wearing them for a prolonged period of time.

True confessions, though: I did put these on immediately out of the box and wore them the next couple of hours, tags and all! I'd been in "sick day" sweat pants before that, and I have to say these pants were as comfortable to wear! Still, I changed back into my sweats because I'd rather keep these in good shape if I do actually go out in public sometime later this week. I've asked that my stylist send me more like this (not necessarily exactly, but same idea) in other colors in my May Fix, the last one I'll get before vacation. I asked for olive, navy, or black, as those are three colors of non-dress-pants I don't own yet. And yes, I could actually wear these for work, given the right top and shoes. Very versatile!

 

Unfortunately, my stylist couldn't find a poncho this time (so I've got her still looking for that for May), but she delivered on the jewelry! This is my first jewelry from StitchFix and I love it!

The necklace hangs just slightly lower than my collar bones. I should've put a coin next to it for scale, but each of the floral pieces is about the size of a quarter, maybe a half dollar or so. It's not huge, but it's noticeable. I love it! I have so many things this necklace will go with. It's got just a little bit of subtle sparkle to it, which is perfect. I have to admit, my necklaces tend to be much larger. (I go for "statement pieces," as they're called.) So it's nice having something a little smaller but still funky. This would be great with a tshirt and denim jacket or with a nice dress; again, what's my key word for my wardrobe? "Versatile!"

 

I also got two more tops, and they're both great.

This first one has sleeves that are slightly longer than 3/4 length, and it hangs just about mid-hip. It's not a high-lo top but the back does cover me enough that I'm comfortable wearing this top with the gray leggings shown earlier. When I first pulled this one out of the box I read the color as a gray-blue but it really is a soft gray. It's the colors in the print that make it read more blue from a distance.

And look--birds!!! I also like that the print has a vaguely Swedish embroidery feel to it, somehow. It's that boho chic vibe that I dig, man. 

The fabric drapes wonderfully and it feels like it should still be cool enough to wear all summer, except on the hottest days. This will be great for vacation. I have a gray pencil skirt I bought at a consignment shop a few weeks ago ($10! Can't beat that!) that I think this would work with if I wanted to dress it up, as well as jeans, the leggings above, my white jeans or white dress pants, or my coral jeans. All sorts of wardrobe combos!

 

Finally, I can never have enough white/ivory sleeveless tops! And this one has some great detail. (Top picture is front, bottom picture is back.)

It's just a little bit high-lo and hangs long enough that I'd be comfortable wearing it over the gray leggings above. The front has a nice keyhole detail, and the back has a split towards the bottom that gives it nice movement. Overall, it just hangs and flows beautifully. And I love the lace! It's more boho than girlie, which is perfect for me. 

This will also do well for work because the keyhole isn't too low and the shoulders are wide enough to hide bra straps. Plus, I can wear it alone or as part of my usual "uniform" with cardigans as it'll go with several that I own. 

All-in-all, this Fix was a definite win. Yippee!!! 

I want to say thank you to someone who subscribed to StitchFix using my referral link as you helped make this box even more affordable for me. If anyone else is interested in checking StitchFix out, here's my link. Thank you so much!

Shoe Saturday: Trunk Club

Tee hee. I need to find entertainment in small ways these days, and apparently alliteration is my jam at the moment.

I've mentioned Trunk Club in a previous post. I've decided to use Trunk Club primarily when I'm looking for a particular category of item, such as this month, when I really need to address the shoe issue.

As you may recall, I've got that two-week 30th anniversary vacation coming up the second half of May. My husband loves to spend most of our vacation on the hoof. I'm serious--it's not unusual for us to be on our feet for 8-10 hours a day, packing on the miles. 

I don't want to wear gym sneakers all day every day. I do have a good pair of walking/hiking shoes, but they look like hiking shoes. Good for trails but not exactly the thing for wandering about European cities. It may seem silly but I want to feel like I look at least something approaching "good" when we're on this vacation: nice outfits, nice shoes. However, I still have to be able to walk comfortably all day every day. That being said, I'm not putting style ahead of comfort. I would like to believe I could have both! So I put my Trunk Club stylist Amber on the case. The shoes I got in my first Trunk Club are still my favorite dress shoes (worn 2 or 3 times now and no complaints), so I know she does shoes well! I gave her a long list of criteria: no heels; max heel support; can go with X colors of bottoms; price range, etc. 

The box preview she sent me the first time had four pairs of "urban sneakers," much like my Sperrys. I love my Sperrys and wouldn't mind having another pair similar in a different color, but I also wanted some other options. I removed one of the options she sent and sent her a message asking about espadrilles or other flats. She replaced the one option I'd removed with two others that fit my request. So, yesterday, I got five pairs of shoes to try on in the comfort of my own home!

Ironic, isn't it, that the day I got a shipment of spring/summer walking shoes, I woke up to this outside?

 

You can use the forward/back controls on the gallery to see the shoes. I've captioned the bottom of each image with the brand and a brief comment. (If you're reading this by email, it'll probably drop all the photos directly into the email. If you're on a blog reader, you may have to go to the website to see the gallery.) 

I'm definitely keeping the blue Toms. They're great for casual wear, will go with a lot of stuff in my closet, and I've heard Toms are really comfortable. I'd asked for Toms specifically because I wanted to try them, so I'm happy. I'm still a little on the fence about the open-toed Toms. I absolutely love the way they look. Great summer shoe. They're also really comfortable in all ways with one caution: they have the potential of rubbing painfully across my toes if I'm wearing them all day. I'm wearing them around the house as much as possible during my 5-day "try-on" before I have to return whatever I'm not keeping, to see if that toe opening softens up at all. If any of you have these shoes by Toms, I'd appreciate hearing your experience!

If you're not familiar with Toms shoes, for every shoe you buy they donate a pair to a child in need. Love that!

I'm heading to a local mall with a lot of really good shoe stores this afternoon to try on some other pairs I've seen online. I'm not agin' buying more than two new pairs for this spring/summer. Remember all those Crocs flats I bought last summer? They didn't stand the test of time. Fortunately, I got all of them on sale because I'm now donating every pair, sadly. I did get a lot of wear out of them through the fall but found they were difficult to wear all day on my feet for work--depending on the shoe, they'd get too hot, too smelly (yuck), give me blisters, or start making odd "bodily noises" when I walked. I bought a bunch of socks that go with flats but they didn't help much. I'm keeping one pair of Crocs sandals I had because they're still really comfortable and I only wear them casually, so they're okay. Meanwhile, I'm back in the market for good spring/summer work shoes.

 

Wardrobe Wednesday

I've got two StitchFixes to report on--mine and my husband's, as they came within a few days of each other. Most of this will be mine, though, since I know the vast majority of my readers are women.

After the disappointment of the last StitchFix, I was trying to keep expectations low this time around. If I had one item I liked, I'd consider that a win. Well, this time, FIVE! Woot! I've asked if I could stick with the stylist who did this one now (Cori). She's done others that had items I liked. I didn't keep the card from the last box since I sent everything back, so it's possible she also did that one and it was just a one-off. In either case, once someone gets you right, it's worth staying with that same person because she can continue to get to know your likes and dislikes through all your feedback. 

I'd sent a list of the kinds of things I'd like to see in my next box, and she delivered in a major way--woo!

As my husband was out of town, I texted him pics of me wearing each of my items, so I'm going to use (with some fear and trembling) those photos here. Be nice. (!) I was having a bad hair day, the pics were all taken in my bathroom mirror so not the most attractive of backgrounds, and I don't really know how to model, despite my wealth of experience now!

shoes.png

First up, the shoes. I was so excited to see a shoe bag in the box--this is the first time I've gotten shoes from StitchFix! These are a pair of the very soft, very flexible ballet flats that are majorly "on trend" right now. They're pretty much like wearing slippers--which means they'll be great for wearing for date nights and family events, but not for a lot of walking. I wore these all day in my home office and they were quite comfortable. I love the light blush color, too. I may wear them out this Friday night, depending on the weather, when we're getting together for my sister-in-law's birthday. 

 

I'd asked for floral print sleeveless tops I could dress up or dress down. I wear a lot of this kind of thing for work under cardigans, but they've got enough shoulder coverage that if I start overheating (ahem--women of a certain age) I can ditch the cardigan and still look mostly professional. 

Including this one, I now have three sleeveless off-white/cream tops, each with a floral print, but every one is distinctly different and/or a slightly different color scheme. I'm happy!

 

Utility jackets are all the thing for spring right now, although I've mostly been seeing them in olive. I'd asked for one because all of my spring jackets are either (1) really, really old and showing their age or (2) too big now, and look it. I have one fuschia trench coat, but nothing that was more appropriate for casual wear, so I asked for a utility jacket. 

I was so pleased to see she'd included one! And even better, it's not olive green! I could've made olive work but it's not my favorite. This one is much more "me," and I absolutely love the stripe detail. I'd unrolled the sleeves in this pic but you can see the snap on the elbow--you can roll the sleeves up and the fabric tab snap to hold them is the same stripe as the hood. It's absolutely adorbs! (And using that phrase isn't really "me," but hey, it works.) 

There's a drawstring waist which means it fits me now but will also fit me later, and it's got great pockets. The fabric has a little stretch to it so it's super-comfortable. Love, love, love. Even though it's barely spring temps out there right now, I'm going to wear it anyway!

 

I've never been much of a dress person--I have usually done separates as I like to have options of mixing and matching. However, I've begun to buy into the idea that sometimes a dress is just a whole lot easier--throw on one garment, shoes, a necklace, and you're done. No having to figure out "an outfit." So I asked for dresses, and pinned a bunch of wrap and fit-and-flare styles to my Pinterest board since those work best for my body shape. Once again, Cori delivered!

This looks better on me than this angle might suggest--sorry about that. It fits absolutely perfectly, and the fabric is wonderfully comfortable and stretchy, but not clingy. It'll pack beautifully for my trip, too. I love that the v-neck isn't too low, which can often be an issue, and I also love that it's long sleeved but doesn't look heavy. Perfect for cold conference rooms. This is a great dress for work or for dinners out, but I can also throw a denim jacket and flats on and go sight-seeing or to spring festivals. Very versatile. The color is also pretty transitional--it's light enough for spring but the sage green will also make it work into early fall, especially if I wear cardigans and tights. Bingo. 

 

Ignore that I look really unhappy in this photo--I was concentrating on how to hold the dang phone for the picture.

Two dresses--woo woo! I love this dress, and it was a favorite for my husband, too. It's a ponte knit so, again, it'll travel well and it's got nice structure but is really, really comfortable. The "fit-and-flare" style looks more youthful without looking girlie. (As my daughter said to me once, "You look youthful in that...but in a good way!")

Again, another transitional piece: Because of the cap sleeves, I can wear it in warmer weather but because of the color, I can throw a cardigan or jacket over the top and wear it in the fall. It's modern, and modest enough for work while still fun to wear for vacation with a great necklace and shoes. This one has a little bit more of a formal feel to it than the other one so I don't see myself "dressing it down" to wear casually, but it'll get a lot of wear otherwise.  

So, yay! I've now updated my wishlist for my next StitchFix--there are still a couple of things I'd love to have for vacation (and future travel). I've also changed my delivery date to much earlier in the month--for a few reasons--so I will be getting my next box in just a couple of weeks. Stay posted.

About the shoe reference above: I'm now working with Amber of Trunk Club on shoes. She did such a fantastic job with the sandals I got last time that I just asked her to find me great walking shoes for my vacation. I sent her a laundry list of requirements, so we'll see what happens! Stay tuned (and I'll include more background as to why I'm still in need of shoes despite a bunch of twitter posts since last summer about shoes I've bought, LOL). 

Now for my husband's StitchFix. I actually had a longer post about this drafted but it never got finished or posted, so now you're getting the abbreviated version. In a nutshell: I really didn't think he was going to want any of the items in the box but he ended up keeping them all. They all looked great on him but he can be very limited-in-his-thoughts about what he wears. He's really trying to break out of his own style rut and, frankly, me working on my wardrobe has made him start looking at his a little differently too, tee hee. Here's a gallery of the clothes he's now adding to his closet. One note: The burgundy corduroys are the biggest "envelope-pusher," not at all like anything he'd normally pick out for himself (nor I for him as neither of us is big on corduroy). But they looked fantastic on him, so he decided he'd bring them on vacation where no one knows him to know he normally doesn't wear stuff like that, and see how it goes. 

The StitchFix and TrunkClub links in this post are my referral links, so thank you if you use them! 

Tea Tuesday (an OT post)

So, perhaps I've taken the whole alliterative title thing a little too far...

I'm pleased to say that over the weekend I finally turned a corner on the cold thing. Not quite ready to say it's completely gone as the cough lingers on a bit, but it no longer directly affects my day-to-day so it's good. I'm back to my 5k training, which feels great, and I'll be able to pick things back up with my strength trainer at our appointment later this week. I knocked out a paper this weekend and am all caught up on my school reading. It's a nice recovery after the mayhem of the earlier part of this month!

Meanwhile, I have a recommendation for you. I was drinking gallons of tea over the couple of weeks I was sick. My husband, daughter, and I are all big tea drinkers, although my husband only has a limited number of flavors he likes (Earl Grey, Moroccan Mint, and the occasional green tea--though he mostly drinks plain hot water which we jokingly refer to as "white tea"). My daughter and I are the more adventuresome types. When she was still living at home we had difficulty getting all our varieties to fit on the tea shelf. 

I was recently contacted by Andy Hayes, founder of Plum Deluxe teas in Portland, Oregon. He noted how often I referred to tea on my blog and asked if he could send me some samples. As I coughed my way through my email, I thought, "Sure, why not?" He asked me what kind of tea I was interested in and I let him know some of my basic likes and dislikes, and just a few days later I got Happy Mail including three samples of some of their more popular teas.

Let's start with the general overview: Plum Deluxe teas are fair trade and organic. I've been in search of a good fair trade coffee and have yet to find one I like. I'm pleased to say that the same is not true for these teas: These are fantastic! They're also blended by hand when they're ordered, so they're not shipped from some big production house and sitting in bags on shelves for years until they make it to you. They have a great blog covering all sorts of topics, and a newsletter that's got interesting tidbits, life balance encouragement, recipes, and ideas for entertaining. Additionally, Plum Deluxe has a philanthropy fund that it uses to support worthy causes. They list several of the things they've supported in the past on their website. As you can guess, that was a major plus for me before I'd even tasted the teas!

So...let's get on to the teas, shall we?

The three samples he sent were the Oregon Breakfast Black Tea, Refreshing "After Dinner" Mint Tea, and Easy to Be Herbal Tea. 

  Oregon Breakfast Black Tea--photo from  plumdeluxe.com . 

Oregon Breakfast Black Tea--photo from plumdeluxe.com

Let's start with the Oregon Breakfast Black Tea. In Andy's email, he said this was the most popular of their teas among coffee drinkers. Whether it's because I'm a coffee drinker or not, I could probably just say "yum!" and end my review there. But you know me better than that.

My daughter happened to be crashing at our house overnight the day I got these samples. She was standing with me at the kitchen counter when I opened each bag, so we were each taking deep inhales from the bags. (That's not illegal. Really.) When we sniffed this one, we looked at each other, eyes wide. "Holy cow," I said, or something along those lines (!). "This is amazing!" It's deep and rich but not at all bitter, which a lot of "teas for coffee drinkers" can be. 

It's a black tea with other additions, such as a hint of orange and hazelnut. You can smell the hazelnut more strongly than you can taste it, which is exactly what I like. I don't like an overpowering hazelnut flavor--I like it to float underneath whatever it's flavoring, and with this tea, that's exactly what happens. And the orange doesn't taste like orange--it's more of a bright note to balance out the black tea and the nuttier hazelnut. All in all, a fantastic blend.

I'm not inclined to give up coffee, but I do find myself finishing my coffee faster in the morning so I can still get in a cup or two of the Oregon Breakfast tea before noon (my cut-off time for caffeine lest I not sleep at night). 

 
  After Dinner Mint Tea--photo from  plumdeluxe.com . 

After Dinner Mint Tea--photo from plumdeluxe.com

Plum Deluxe's Refreshing "After Dinner" Mint tea is a blend of peppermint and spearmint, with a few other herbs added in to give it some complexity.

I'm a mint tea connoisseur at this point. Mint is my go-to flavor, and I have at least three different versions in my tea cupboard. In this case, I liked the complexity of the "After Dinner" Mint tea but I could've used a little stronger mint flavor. Now, mind you, I'm pretty picky about my mint tea. I've had mint teas that tasted like I was drinking liquified toothpaste and almost felt like they were burning the tastebuds right off my tongue; I've had others that felt like hot water with a mint leaf barely dipped in and then thrown away. This one was a little on the quiet side of middle; many folks would probably like it, but for me it could have used a more obvious mint kick to it. I've taken to doubling the suggested amount of tea for one cup and steeping it longer than recommended to boost the mint flavor closer to what I like. That being said, I don't mind that this one was a little less of a big deal for me because I so thoroughly enjoyed the other two. 

 
  Tea Subscription option--photo from  plumdeluxe.com . 

Tea Subscription option--photo from plumdeluxe.com

The third sample, and my other favorite of the three, is Easy to Be Herbal Tea. This one is fascinating. It's also not a super-strong flavor but it's got a lot going on. I think if any of the individual flavors were any stronger, it would be less enjoyable. In the few days since I've gotten these samples, I've fallen into the habit of having the Oregon Breakfast tea when I'm done with my coffee in the morning and then switching to the Easy to Be herbal tea in the afternoon. Easy to Be has a mix of blueberries, raspberry leaves, cranberries, and lots of other good stuff, but it doesn't come out as "fruity." There's a hint of fruit aftertaste to it, but it's not overpowering. I have some other fruit teas, unsweetened, that still taste a little like I'm drinking hot Kool-Aid. There's a time and a place but, generally, I like things a little more subtle (other than my mint, of course). And, again, that smell! I have my sample bags sitting out on my counter and it isn't unusual for me to pull one of them open, take a deep whiff, and close it up again. 

I can see making iced tea out of this one in the summer. Tasty. Unfortunately, you can't just buy this one--it's only available to the subscription members

After I'd had two or three cups of each of the samples, I went on the website and bought a few more. I'll be getting the House Blend Black Tea ("Creamy Vanilla English Breakfast") and Portland Rose City Chai, plus a "Blender's Choice," which means they get to send me whatever they want. It'll be a fun adventure! There are a ton of other very tasty options on their site I'll have to work my way through. They have a subscription club which I may do at some point, but at the moment I'm being very cognizant of my already-overflowing tea cupboard. I need to throw a few more tea parties!

So, thank you, Andy, for the free samples. I enjoyed the experience and look forward to enjoying more of your teas in the future!

(I'm not being compensated for this post, beyond the three free samples I got to begin with. And the words are all mine. I just love tea and am happy to spread the word about a great fair trade product!)

 

 

 

Off-Topic Tuesday--Word of the Year

I decided a few weeks ago that my former word of the year, "Balance," has run its course for the time being. It's actually been my WOTY for a couple of years because I really, really had to work on it. But I'm in a pretty good place now. I was thinking one afternoon about how that word no longer called to me the way it had and whether or not that meant it was time for a change, when another word popped into mind and just wouldn't go away. After a couple of days letting it mull in the back of my brain, I've decided that--despite it being a couple of months into 2017 and therefore an odd time to be setting a Word of the Year--I'm now going to use a new word.

Fun.

I've generally always managed to keep fun in my life but I've realized lately that, as part of finding balance, I've also been naturally leaning towards having more fun. Sometimes "fun" is something big, like signing up for the Color Run and DirtyGirl Mud Run (see Friday's post) or participating on a whim in a fashion show (see Saturday's post). But most times it's the little things that entertain me. 

For example, when I joined the Instant Pot community on Facebook (for those of us who are fans of our electric pressure cooker) I noticed that there was a trend of IP users to get custom made vinyl decals for their IPs. Yeah, it's a thing. IP owners are a bit overly emotionally-invested in their IPs, perhaps.

Anyway, after seeing a bunch of different decals pictured, I finally followed the links one afternoon and my IP has now been duly decorated.

Work at it--you'll figure it out. Or, at least, if you're a Tolkien fan, you will. (That's a hint.)

(Want one of your own? It's from EllieCanary on Etsy. She's got a ton of options.)

 

Along the same lines, my bullet journal is in a Leuchtthurm 1917 notebook, which has several lovely colors. I plan on working my way through most of the colors over my bujo lifespan but (for those who know me, they'd say "of course") I had to start with the fuschia one. I love it. Still n' all, when I saw decals on the bullet journal Facebook group I'm in--those FB groups can get you into trouble!--I ended up ordering a custom-made one with one of my currently-favorite protest phrases.

One could, I suppose, dilute the message by saying, "she persisted in getting her tasks done," but that's not how I mean it.

'Nuff said.

Kimberly at Sublime Reflection has a ton of resources and all around good stuff on her website. She also has vinyl decals with various sayings along with the ability to have something custom made. I sent her my wording, my choice of fonts from her options, as well as how I wanted it laid out (which words smaller and bigger, directionality, etc) and it's absolutely perfect. It was easy to apply and I just love the graphic boldness of it. It makes me smile every time I see it.

I already plan on having a different word or saying every time I start with a new bujo notebook. In fact, the next one might just be my word of the year--great way to remember, it, right?

The other thing that's making me giggle these days is Mickey on my Apple Watch. When you tap him, he tells you what time it is. And sometimes giggles. Or calls you "pal." I grin every time. It never gets old. 

What little things make you chuckle every time? How are you having fun every day? 

Me? A Fashion Model? Pshaw.

Well, it happened!

A few weeks ago I was shopping in Christopher & Banks--one of my favorite places for the basics/layering pieces in my wardrobe--and as I was checking out, the clerk asked me if I'd be interested in volunteering to be a model in their fashion show. They throw out an open invitation to any customers to join in the fun. I was sort of surprised to hear myself immediately saying, "Sure! That sounds like a hoot!" A bit out of my comfort zone--but it really did sound like fun so, why not? (Of course, I had no voice when I woke up this morning--this cold is a "symptom of the day" type and always keeps me guessing what's going to happen next--so I was a bit squeaky when I was meeting all the other models, but they forgave me. Since I tend not to talk much in those situations anyway, it worked out okay.)

You get to choose what outfit you want to model ahead of time; they hold onto it in the store for you to change into the morning of the show. Models get 40% off anything you buy the day of the fashion show, including sale items. Wow! I knew I wanted a pair of light dress pants in my wardrobe, and I'm a sucker for a cardigan, so that's the outfit I chose to model, knowing ahead of time there's no doubt I'd be buying it. I already owned the shell I wore under the cardigan but they still provided one from the store so I wouldn't have to remember to bring it from home. I also found a necklace that worked with the outfit--it was on clearance so I decided that would come with me too. The shoes I wore are the pair I just got from the Trunk Club shipment last week. I could hear some approving comments about the shoes as I walked by the (very small) audience--they're definitely a winner.

Before the show began, I was changing into my outfit in the back room with the other models and they told me I actually got to model two outfits. So I quickly ran back out into the store and put together a second outfit: colored jeans that are amazingly comfortable, a tunic blouse, a white peplum jacket, and a great scarf. I loved it, plus all the other models (and my husband) thought it was a winner too, so I ended up getting both outfits.  Lots of great pieces for my May vacation to mix and match (with other stuff I already own too), as well as some work stuff I have at the end of May. More wins!

That's really why they do this, of course: we models were all shopping off each other. I and another woman both modeled the same white jacket and we had a Great Swap going on in the back room over which size fit who better as there were limited sizes available in the store. We both ended up happy. Several women went back to find pieces that one of the other models had worn and bought those as well. Other than the few friends/family members that had come, there was a small handful of customers in the store so we did get a little bit of an audience. But mostly, I just had a great time with the other models and bagged some great clothes at a significant discount.  

All in all--it was an absolute hoot! I'd have to say I'll probably do it again if I have the opportunity!

Wardrobe Wednesday (for lack of a better title)

  An impressively-sized box!

An impressively-sized box!

So I decided to give Trunk Club a try. I still feel like I need a little help breaking out of my style rut. I do, indeed, have a "uniform." 90% of my workwear (and casual wear, for that matter) is a sleeveless tank of some sort, a cardigan, and either jeans or dress pants. That's all well and good and it's suited me fine for years, but I'm ready to break out in new directions.

A dress? Well, that remains to be seen. Let's not talk crazy talk, here.

I'm still doing StitchFix, despite sending everything back the last time. I'm hoping my feedback will lead to better in the future (after all, I had two good deliveries before that). Trunk Club is very different; the only similarity is that someone "styles" you and sends you stuff to choose from. However, from there, the two vary widely.

Trunk Club, owned by Nordstrom, is not a subscription service. You only get boxes when you ask for them. Additionally, you have more interaction with the stylist. You can message her through the app any time you want. You can make specific requests or, as I did this first time out, you can give her general categories of what you're looking for to build your wardrobe. She then sends you an email (or a message in the app) with pictures of several of the items she plans to send, and you can say "yay" or "nay". if you say "nay," she'll swap out with other items. Once you approve the box, it gets shipped. You then get a box of 12-15 items. (StitchFix only ever sends five). You have 5 days to dither over what you want to keep or return. Once you are ready for returns, you can schedule a free UPS pick-up at your house. Easy.

Another difference from StitchFix: With StitchFix, there's a discount if you buy all five items in the box. With Trunk Club, you pay for each item--no discounts. They're Nordstrom prices--if they're on sale at Nordstrom when delivered, you get the sale price. There's a $25 styling fee which is then credited to anything you might choose to buy. 

I really just wanted to test this out. In the future, it's possible I'll be doing a whole lot more work travel and if that's the case, it might be really convenient not to have to go to a mall to find new work clothes. However, until then, especially as I'm still changing sizes, I'd be extremely selective of what I decide to pay Nordstrom prices for. I'd have to be sure I'd get a lot of wear out of something. Still, it's always fun to see what someone else would pick out for you.

This first time out, they recommend that you not say "nay" to anything the stylist suggests, because it's a matter of trying to learn about each other through trial and error. (My words, not theirs). When I got the message with the images of what she was going to include, I was pretty dang sure I wouldn't like most of it but one thing I've learned is that you never know until you actually try something on. I've had several instances where I didn't like something out of the box/on the rack but when I saw it on, I fell in love with it. So I was game. Also, I only saw about half of what ultimately got put in the box. I did get a message after the box had already shipped that showed everything that was included, so I knew what I was getting; I just hadn't seen it to approve it all. That took away some of the fun surprise element in StitchFix, but it did give me the opportunity to think through some things ahead of time--like, "how many outfits could I make with that one, if it fits, given my current wardrobe?"

  (Packaging isn't as pretty as StitchFix, although quantity is substantial!)

(Packaging isn't as pretty as StitchFix, although quantity is substantial!)

The criteria that the stylist and I discussed were: I need light colored bottoms (dress pants, casual pants, maybe even a skirt although I backed away from that) because my wardrobe is currently exclusively dark pants; I'd like some brighter tops/blouses and tops with prints; I needed "nude" (or light) dress and casual shoes.

Here's what I got:

 
IMG_2123.jpg

I have a bit of "boho chic" to me, and if I hadn't just recently added a bunch of navy to my wardrobe (in an attempt to break out of the "black as my main neutral" rut), I might have been more inclined to like this one. 

First, this wouldn't be a versatile piece for me--for work or casual. It's exclusively casual. The bell sleeves are "on trend" right now and I'm not agin' 'em, but the top part of the sleeve was a little snug. The shoulders didn't sit right on me and I really couldn't figure out if the tie was supposed to go in the front or the back--it was ambiguously placed. I decided with one glance at the mirror...nope. Returned.

 

The "Cold Shoulder" look is also very on trend right now, and I think I am agin' this one. Every time I see it in blogs, I've thought, "Nope. Not for me." Still, to be fair to my stylist, I tried it on. Nope. Not for me. Plus, blush (also on trend) is REALLY not a good color on me. Granted, I'm down with a cold this week so I'm not looking my sparkling best, but this really made me look like death warmed over. Returned.

 

When I first saw this, I thought, "Why are they sending me a fall/winter top now?" Well, possibly they're trying to clear inventory--but when I put this on, I realized it could be spring/summer because the fabric is actually pretty lightweight. 

It's very soft and comfy, but it's not a good version of purple for me and it's a boxy construction so I'd be more inclined to wear it around the house or at quilt retreats than out in "public" (quilt retreats not being "public" in my mind). At Nordstrom prices? I don't think so. Returned.

 

Oh, I so wanted to love this! When the stylist and I were messaging and she asked me about blazers, I said "unconstructed." I mostly wear cardigans, but the few blazer-type things I've really loved over the years weren't standard suit-style jackets. They have a softer vibe, unexpected shapes, etc. This one had possibilities! It looks like a suit jacket from the front but has this wonderful waterfall pleat back. Very funky. Unfortunately, it didn't quite sit right on me from the front. This may be TMI but I think I'm not big enough "up there" to hold it up the way it was designed to be held up. I put it on twice because I really wanted it to work. But no, it's just not to be. Returned.

 

I'd said "no skinny jeans." I got skinny jeans. On the flip side, I had asked for light colored jeans and/or dress pants, so she was partially listening. And it's possible these aren't technically in the category of "skinny jeans" because they're ankle length and meant to have the ankle rolled up a little--which, to be clear, is also not a style I wear, but I was game to try.

Despite these being most of what I'd not wanted, I tried them on. They fit really well, but, well, that skinny thing. And these were *really* expensive jeans. So, no. Returned.

 

I have no problem with print pants on other women. I sometimes admire them, in fact, when they're in the right outfit. But it would have to be just the exactly right print for me to wear them myself, and I can't even tell you what that print would be. I'd just have to be able to "feel it" when I saw it.

So, in the spirit of "I'm trying to be game," I tried these on, even though I wasn't "feeling" them. They were a bit snug, although they'd be fine by summer, but I just can't do it. Not this print, not these colors. Returned. 

 

So, by now you're probably wondering...was there ANYTHING she liked in that delivery? Yes, actually--two things I saved for last.

You may need to put sunglasses on for this first one. When I saw their picture in the message after the box shipped, I thought, "You've got to be kidding me." 

When I saw them in the box, I thought, "No freaking way."

And then I put them on. And fell completely in love.

They fit beautifully. They're crop pants that hit in just the right part of my leg; they're also a beautiful fabric with a fantastic drape to them so they balance out my shape really well. They'd be great for summer work events. And (wait for it) I have a couple of sleeveless tops and cardigans that would style with them very easily. So it would be a way to make my standard "uniform" more fun and unique. Yes, they're bright--although not quite as "glow in the dark bright" as the photo makes them seem. But they work on me!

Unfortunately, by the time I have my summer events that I'd be wearing these for I expect to be down another size. I waffled for a day, thinking, "I could have them tailored then," but I know myself. By the time I'm down another size and looking for clothes to wear on that particular work trip, I'll want to be able to find something new to celebrate my continued weight loss. So after 24 hours of debating, I'm returning these. I did tell my stylist to remember the designer and style, though, because they work really, really well!

IMG_2120 (1).jpg

Finally, the one keeper. Remember how I'd told her I needed nude/light colored dress shoes?

She'd included this pair. When I first looked at them in the message, I thought, "Huh. Well, maybe." I'm not usually a fan of pointy toes and really not sure about the ankle laces. I had a pair of ankle lace shoes the last time they were in style (a long time ago) and always hated the way they felt. I'd never have picked these out in a shoe store but since they were delivered into my hands, I was willing to give them a shot.

And they're fantastic. Extremely comfortable to wear. I'm thrilled that block heels are currently "on trend" right now because they're the best way to do heels! And I emphasized with the stylist that I don't do high heels and she listened! These are a great height for me--just high enough to look a little fancy but very easily walkable and comfortable.

Here's the best thing about a home-delivery style service. I wore these shoes around the house for a whole day, just making sure no weird little rub spots developed. You can't do that in a shoe store. I already have plans to wear them on Saturday for a special event I'm participating in...but more on that in a later blog post.

Wearing them around the house reminded me, though, that I do need to get more used to walking in heels. Even as comfortable as these are, I still have to change my stride just a little bit to keep from pitching myself forward. (Hazards of working from a home office is my main office wear is slippers.)

So, I'm considering my first experience with Trunk Club a decent success for these reasons:

  • I tried on styles just to see if I'd like them on or not, and learned something about what I like and don't like in the process. That saves me time and money in the long run, so it's all good.
  • I found a couple of things I'd not normally have tried on in a store but discovered I loved! Even though I only kept one of them, that's also good learning.
  • I got a great pair of shoes out of them. And with the $25 styling fee taken off the price of the shoes, they're the price I would normally have paid for a good pair of shoes. Although, in this process, I'm also learning that perhaps I should be willing to pay more for a really good pair of shoes, because I have a history of inexpensive shoes that end up not being worth it in the long run. 

I'm going to wait until after I get my next StitchFix in a couple of weeks to decide if I want to order another Trunk Club right now. I have my 30th anniversary vacation coming up in May and want to be well dressed!

(If you're interested in Trunk Club, here's my referral link if you'd like to use it! They also have Trunk Club for Men--in fact, that was their original Trunk Club.) 

Making It Monday

So all I've made these days is my March layout for my bullet journal. 

I'm finishing my current bullet journal with the last couple of days of February. I commented to my husband that if nothing else, doing a bullet journal actually made me completely fill up a blank book for the first time in my life. I have a multitude of journals that were begun for various purposes over the years (journal-journals, prayer journals, travel journals, etc.) but after a couple of months I'd stop using it, but never wanted to repurpose it for anything else. So, lots of pretty blank-books that are 2/3rds blank now. 

This one, however, got nailed pretty darn fast. I only started it in mid-January and I managed to squeeze out the last couple of days of February by doubling some stuff up. 

You may recall this photo from an earlier blog post that compares the size of the book I'd been using to my new Leuchtthurm 1917 A5 notebook. It's got significantly more pages as well as more real estate on each page so it'll last me somewhat longer...I hope.

I've been working over the last week or so to figure out what trackers and layouts I most wanted in my new bujo. I've been poking away at setting them up over the last few lunch breaks--as in most of life, it takes longer the first time because I'm figuring out what goes where and how to do each layout as I go; my expectation is that it'll go faster in the future because I'll just be editing what I already have rather than starting from scratch. We'll see how much of this I keep up in March; that's how I'll determine which ones I'll do again for April. I decided to stick with monthly trackers for most things rather than a yearly one because I didn't want to have to migrate yearly trackers to new bujos every time I start a new notebook. 

So, here's a collage of most of my March layout.

You can see I did a little decorating but I'm not putting a lot of time into that. I'm keeping my expectations low. Where I ended up with blank space I just quickly wrote in a related quote and used my colored highlighters to make it slightly more interesting. Slightly. 

I have space at the beginning of my bujo for my index, future log, general mindmap and monthly projects/goals. Then I have my March-specific stuff: Monthly calendar spread first, then a bunch of trackers (shown: habit tracker, cleaning/organizational tracker, workout/mileage/weight tracker, gratitude log; I also have spending planners and trackers, and a few others that are more journal-y). I also have a general "brain dump" page for everything that occurs to me that I've forgotten to put anywhere else. I tried to keep everything in one place so that every night I can just flip through pages and quickly fill stuff in. If I can't track everything in 10 mins or less, it won't happen. I'll also add post-it-note tabs so I can easily find the most relevant stuff rather than having to always go back to the index.

The image in the second row, left, is my current weekly layout. It's morphed over the last few weeks; since I have more room in this notebook I've added a couple of little things I didn't used to do such as keeping track of which recreational books I'm reading in any given week--I thought that might be interesting to look back on in the future. I'll do my dailies after that page. I haven't decided if I want to do a one or two page daily yet as I've moved some of the stuff I used to do in my dailies to a monthly tracker. I still have a couple of days before I have to do my March 1 daily to figure that out. I also may decide the monthly tracker doesn't work as well for some things and end up moving those back into dailies again as I move forward. 

That big blank page on the lower right? That's for my "creative life" in March. Yep. Blank. I do plan on getting back into embroidery and/or doing a little sewing, but I haven't figured out yet how I want to set up that page. You may also notice I misspelled "creative" when I wrote the header. "Oh, what a giveaway," as a Monty Python sketch once said. It's been so long since I've done it I can't even spell it right anymore. 

So--with March, and with my new book, I'm really to really see how this bullet journal thing works for me, LOL. So far, so good!

Do you bullet journal? Share your layouts (or post them on Instagram and make sure I'm following you). I'm always up for new ideas! I follow lots of bujoers on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook and it is fun to see what people do--even if I'll never take nearly as much time with mine as a lot of them clearly do!