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! 

OT: March StitchFix

I was so excited about this month's StitchFix, I was basically haunting my USPS tracking number until it showed up on my doorstep. 

And then it came! Oh, it came! 

As I opened the box and pulled each item out, I got more and more excited. All of them seemed to hold such possibilities--I loved every one as I laid it out on my bed.

And then I tried everything on. And my heart broke just a little bit.

This is one of those off months where everything looked great to start, but it didn't quite hold true to its promise once it was on my body. On someone else, some of them would have looked great, but they just didn't work well on me. I've learned to become much more picky about what I invite into my closet, especially right now since I know it'll only last one season as I plan on being a different size by the time I reach my goal weight. So a couple of these may have made the cut before, but I didn't want to spend money on them now.

First up--these pants were the only item that I didn't immediately fall in love with out of the box. I like the concept of these pants as they can be either casual or work wear for me (which is something I've requested from "my stylist"). 

However, ankle pants are very tricky for me--they have to hit in just the right place to keep from putting 15 pounds on my legs, and these didn't quite do that. They're also not a color that would work with a whole lot in my wardrobe going into ankle-pant season. Finally, they were too tight anyway. Pants sizes are all over the place so although they were the right size for me on paper, they weren't shaped right for my body. Had the color and the length been excellent, I might have considered keeping them in my wardrobe for 10 pounds from now--but as it is, they were an immediate "nope."

I thought the navy top was kind of cool when I pulled it out of the wrapping. You can sort of see from this picture that it's "business in the front, party in the back," so to speak--plain navy button-down front with a striped and pleated back, hi-lo style. That could've been very fun, and I have a "navy capsule wardrobe" working so I could've very easily worked it in with other things I already own.

However, when I put it on, it just sort of hung on me and wasn't particularly interesting from the front. I decided I didn't want people to only be interested as I was walking away. It was on the fence until I made decisions about everything else--but ultimately it wasn't enticing enough for me to buy it just on its own.

Now we get into the ones I was dancing around about as I unwrapped them from the tissue enclosure.

First: this great t-shirt that I thought I could wear casually with shorts on the patio or dress it up with dress pants for summer events. Again--incredibly soft fabric. That seems to be a reliably common theme with my StitchFix clothes! I loved the interesting stripe design with the gray panels on the lower side--it looked like it would be slimming.

Not so much. When I had it on, somehow that narrower stripe at the bottom just created a bulls-eye target on my not-so-slim middle section--it draws your eyes right to the belly. It was even worse when I put a cardigan over it--it actually made me look a bit pregnant. I think someone who was straight-up-and-down could probably wear this easily and, again, it's supremely comfortable. For me, though, it was a miss.

I was equally excited about this hunter green top. I like tops that have the look of two pieces, especially when the lower piece is loose and flowy compared to the upper piece. I have several of that type of top pinned on my StitchFix Pinterest board so they're clearly paying attention. This would also have been a fantastic seasonal transition piece--still dark enough for winter but having a touch of spring, plus long-sleeved but a thinner material. I cried a little tear inside when I put it on. The break between the two materials at the hip hit me at my widest part, so it visually added inches. Also, the collar placket on one side kept flopping over and just making the whole thing look way too casual so I wouldn't have been able to dress it up as easily. Six months ago I may have kept it because I generally felt like, "if it fits, buy it." Now I'm learning to be a lot more choosy, so this one went in the "nope" pile.

Finally, the one that really made me sad. I've been looking for more layering options, especially blouses I could wear on their own as well as under cardigans or pullover sweaters. I've also been looking for more print pieces as my wardrobe leans heavily towards solids. I'd noted both of these things to StitchFix so I was again glad to see they'd listened and included this wonderful print blouse. It has just a touch of Boho to it, which I love. It is loose and flowy but could be tucked in should I get to the point where I actually start tucking in blouses. I loved the length of the sleeves and the type of collar, and that it was long enough to hang just a little over my hips but not so long it couldn't easily be tucked in. I loved this blouse out of the box. 

And then--do you see where this is heading already?--I put it on. At first, I was really excited. It fit perfectly and looked wonderful on. But then I noticed something--I pulled and tugged and pulled again, but nope. I was right. It was poorly constructed and the front of the blouse hung cock-eyed. I even looked at the card that comes in the box to see if it was supposed to be asymmetrical (and just wasn't obvious about it) but no--it was just sewn crooked. I kept futzing with it to see if I could get it to hang straight or, conversely, to decide if I could just live with it. Finally, I reminded myself: "Don't buy something you don't love." That was the fifth "nope."

So everything's going back. As you know, that's not typical of my short-but-so-far-good history with StitchFix. I'm looking at this as a one-off and I gave detailed information when I reported on my returns. I especially commented on the poor construction of the blouse and said I had a concern about quality. Mind you--all the pieces from previous StitchFix shipments are holding up great! In fact, I'm wearing the jeans from month 1 and one of the tops from month 2 even as I write this blog post, and no complaints about either of them. So, although this month made me sad, I'm still looking forward to next month!

If you're interested in checking out StitchFix, here's my referral link. Or, if you'd rather, just go to www.stitchfix.com. Remember, they have StitchFix for men too (my husband's next shipment will be sometime next month), and they just announced that they now have StitchFix in plus sizes. Despite this one post, I definitely still recommend StitchFix! 

OT Tuesday--Color Analysis

Here's another off-topic post for you, although it does very loosely relate to quilting and embroidery as it's all about color. Operative term being "loosely."

Even though I'm good at working with color in quiltmaking, and with my hand-dyeing past I have spent years studying color, color relationships, color schemes, and the like, when it comes to wearing color or putting color on my face in the form of cosmetics...well, somehow that's a completely different thing.

I kinda-sorta know what colors worked for me. And I didn't. All at the same time. It felt like now was the perfect opportunity--as I'm working my way through a few different wardrobes this year--to create a far more strategic closet only including things that look great on me and I feel great wearing. I've mentioned doing Imogen Lamport's Ignite Your Style Genius workshop--that's where I started really thinking about colors and contrast when it comes to my outfits. I know I'm a "high value contrast" person as I have dark hair and eyes but relatively fair skin. Generally that means I'll look and feel best in high contrast outfits. I'd already sussed that one out myself. In Imogen's system, I'm also a "low color contrast" person since my hair and eyes are both brown (as opposed to a redhead with green eyes, for example, who would be a "high color contrast" person.) Technically, that suggests I'd do well in monochromatic outfits, but that's not really my jam. I prefer more color going on than that. But beyond that, I really had problems figuring out what colors and color schemes really worked best on me.

And now I know why. As it turns out, I'm a human bridge! Or, perhaps, I'm deeply complex. A mystery wrapped in an enigma.... Whichever image makes me seem more fascinating, that's the one I'll roll with.

I did a little research but really didn't want to rely on online color analyses working from photos or Skype. Too much margin for error with computer monitors. I wanted to do something in person, so I went to Kerry Jones of IndigoTones. She had rave reviews and she travels all over doing color analysis for people and groups so I thought it was worth a shot, and boy am I glad I did it. It was an extremely educational hour for me!

Not only did we determine my best colors, but we also talked about my style (I'm a "natural" with a splash of "creative" going by the five categories she used) and how I could work to integrate my new color knowledge into my current wardrobe--which has a whole lot of my not-so-best colors in it at the moment. She also had me bring my makeup with me, which could fit in one small bag as I'm terrible at choosing eye shadows and blushes that actually look good on me--and lipstick is a complete loss (don't like to wear it much anyway)--so I've been throwing out a lot of what I'd collected over the years. Once we determined my color "season," she put some different makeup on me and it was a pretty amazing difference. I actually looked awake! 

So--the results are:

I'm a Bright Spring!

Why could I never entirely decide whether I was "cool" or "warm?" Because I'm actually neutral--which means I'm a little of both, but on the flip side, some colors of either tone also look really bad on me. Boy, did that answer a lot of questions!

Additionally, whenever I tried to do my own analysis with online processes, I would tag myself as one of the winters but never felt like it was exactly right. Bright spring (aka "clear spring") shares some elements with "clear winter," hence my confusion there too. IOW, there are some clear winter colors I could get away with wearing and they'd look okay, but not as good as the bright spring/clear spring colors.

I've always loved bright colors but my career has moved me away from them--my felt need to dress fairly conservatively--and because I have dark hair and eyes in my formative years I'd often been steered towards the darker colors. I remember being told once as a teenager I should "always wear brown" because I have brown hair and brown eyes. All I could think was, "how incredibly boring!" (As a point of interest: ever since then, I've rarely worn brown. Don't tell me I "should always" do anything. That's the fastest way to make me never do it.)

Bright Spring color swatch from  Indigotones.com

Bright Spring color swatch from Indigotones.com

But guess what? It's time to let my Bright Spring come out and play! I'm far enough along in my career now that I have a much better sense of what I can get away with and where versus where I have to tone it down--plus, well, I gotta be me. My three color words to remember are "Bright" (the highest priority), "Light," and "Warm." Where I was most interested in the nuances was in the neutrals--black actually washes me out a bit, where as the warmer grays make me look brighter. Interesting. Not ditching my host of black cardis quite yet but will probably mostly weed them out over the next year.

After my analysis was done, I immediately stopped in a consignment shop with my color fan and picked up a gorgeous mint green blouse, a coral and purple sleeveless top, and a soft gray casual tunic top that will be great with leggings; plus, because it made me giggle, I picked up a shocking-coral colored funky necklace*. For us bright springs those funky necklaces are all da bomb. I have a penchant for funky jewelry anyway (note the "creative" in my style words above), so that's an easy one. Plus, that's one of the tips for working with my current wardrobe--take a less-than-great-colored top, throw a "bright spring" scarf or necklace with it and it'll make it look a whole lot better on me.

Something in me is very excited to let my Fuschia out.

*Consignment stores are my new best friend. I've scouted out a handful of excellent ones in the area with quality clothes aimed at me as a target audience rather than at teenagers. Gotta love getting a great pair of gray suede booties for $18. And bonus: They're already broken in and incredibly comfortable! My favorite "chain" consignment store is Clothes Mentor. Check to see if there's one near you.

Planner Progress

Today's post is about planners; I thought you might like an update (for those of you who are actually curious about this--the rest can close this post and move on).

I'm back to the bullet journal again. I lasted about a day and a half in the Passion Planner. Really, I do love the way that Passion Planner is set up and the way it feels in my hands and everything...it's just not right for what I need right now. It felt too cramped for everything I was trying to get into it. Most of what I really loved about it, though, was the process of it. The Passion Planner includes weekly and monthly reflection questions that I might poach into my bullet journaling system--or, perhaps more accurately, "be inspired by." 

In any case, here's where things stand with my current bullet journal. I'm still testing spreads out and trying different techniques (I refuse to call them "hacks" even though everyone else does, since how can you "hack" something that's basically an individualized, free-flowing, "open-source technology" anyway? Sheesh). 

I like having a monthly, weekly, and a daily spread. A lot of bujoers (look at me, using the lingo and everything) do only weeklies, or only dailies, and monthlies are hit and miss depending on the bujoer. I like all three, though I use them for slightly different things. My monthly is just a one-glance overview with dates, calendar events, travel, etc. When I move into a larger bujo I'll also include monthly goals in the spread (those currently live on a separate page in my cramped current book). I do also do a monthly mindmap/goal brainstorming page that gets translated into the weeklies/dailies accordingly. My weekly includes scheduled events again, but it's also primarily for meal and workout planning. I've messed around with trying to include weekly "MITs" (Most Important Tasks) but honestly, for tasks, I mostly go to my dailies. I've also tried keeping a "look ahead" kind of spot for things that occur to me during the current week that I need to remember for the following week but, again, my current book is so tight on space that's been a tricky one.

Here's the weekly spread I've been using with a few tweaks here and there the last few weeks. (It's intentionally pixellated to maintain at least some semblance of privacy!)

Note--I didn't make it to that cardio kickboxing class on Monday as that was the day I was in bed with a stomach flu. The meal planning was also ignored. I got to the Greek Chicken (From SkinnyTaste Fast and Slow cookbook) on Wednesday night instead--very good, even with a still-somewhat-unhappy-digestive system.

In any case--the weekly gets translated into the series of dailies, a two-page spread for each day.

As you can see, my bullet journal is a combo of schedule, tasks, and journaling. I keep moments of gratitude, things I'm proud of myself for doing health-wise and my "why" for doing those things (and I credit these two daily entries for a large part of why I've been so much more successful in my health goals this time around, but that's a different post), and then some random notes as needed. 

That's worked pretty well for me, although for a lot of days the tasks and schedule parts are fairly blank because I still keep all my work-related and school-related things digital. My bujo is strictly for personal goals and home-related tasks. Additionally, rewriting my meal plan every day did help me keep it in my head, but I don't always take the time to do it. (I track what I've actually eaten in the WW app.)

So this week I'm experimenting with a different type of spread I'd seen on Pinterest and found intriguing: It's called the Dutch Door. There's a few variations on this but I liked the horizontal one best. In this, you cut away the tops of some of the pages to create one larger spread with a series of smaller spreads underneath. It takes a little planning, and it depends on your notebook how easy those in-between pages are to cut out, but I managed to make it work pretty well. 

My weekly spread is now along the top, with a "dashboard" of sorts on the first left page where I keep everything related to the whole week. Then each day has one of the smaller pages in the middle. I liked someone's idea of folding a strip of washi tape across the top of the smaller pages to help delineate the separation better--plus it keeps those smaller pages a little stiffer and easier to turn without grabbing the whole week at once. It's nice to be able to see the week all the time without having to re-write schedule and meal stuff every day. I have high hopes for this spread.

You'll also see I'm playing around with color/decoration again. I don't know. I struggle with visual clutter, but I think once I start writing in the boxes it will be helpful to keep the headings visually separate from my writing. We'll see. 

I'm not sure how many more weeks I'll get in this notebook--I suspect only one full week. I'm looking forward to moving into the new notebook because it has significantly more real estate, plannerly-speaking. And you can see I've already installed my nifty pen holder! 

 

OT: January StitchFix

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So, perhaps I really ought to be calling this the February StitchFix as that's what it really is: each month's box comes towards the end of the month before. But that'll eventually get too confusing, so I'll just consider myself as having gotten two Januarys and we'll move on from there. 

Once again, I ended up keeping all five items they sent. There were a couple I was debating but--again--with the full-box discount and a couple of credits (thank you, kind reader!), it ended up being cheaper to keep all of them than it would have been to send two back. I suspect I see a theme developing. However, "debating" means I liked both of the questionable items at some level and could see how I could integrate them into the rest of my wardrobe--they just weren't my favorites. So I'm going to challenge myself to wear them both a few times over the next couple of weeks to allow them time to work their ways into my wardrobe-heart. 

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Yes, that's a bag you see on the bottom of that box. Yay! They clearly are looking at my Pinterest board because I've probably pinned about 40 versions of this same bag.  

The one they sent is reversible, which makes it a little extra fun.  It also comes with the little zippered pouch that has pockets inside, because the bag itself has no pockets (understandable given the reversibility). I like the idea of the little pouch because it would actually fit in a few other bags I own so I could feasibly just start moving that bag to change purses. Kind of handy. I've also found that the pouch acts as a purse organizer--in other words, it's a lot faster for me to find my chapstick and reading glasses than when I'm digging through a pile in the bottom of my purse. Nice, unexpected benefit!

 
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I like the lighter side out a little better; I think that's because of the little bit of contrast with the handles and tassel. But practically speaking, that would get beat up looking pretty quickly. It's not real leather, though, so it may be easy to wipe off. 

The only knock on this bag is there's no closure; it's just an open bag. So security-wise, not so hot. I've used it the last couple of days just bopping around town, but it's not coming on airplanes or on vacations with me. 

 
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This was one of the two I was debating. One thing I've learned about myself by looking at all my pins and my reactions to things in StitchFix boxes is that I prefer organic, curvy prints to geometrics. This print is not one I'd ever have picked off a rack to try on. However, it's wonderfully comfortable, a great seasonal-transition piece, and can dress up or dress down. So it's an excellent addition to my wardrobe from all those perspectives. And I don't hate it. I have a lot of this burgundy in my wardrobe, as well, so I've already found one dressier outfit I can make with it; wearing it with jeans is easy. I know I'll find others. 

 
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Can't go wrong with basic black. This is another wonderfully soft, lightweight short-sleeve sweater that will be great for work, no worries. It's just a hair on the sheer side so I need to be a little careful what I wear foundationally, shall we say. You can't tell easily in this picture but it's a hi-lo sweater (cut lower in back than in the front), so I think it could look a little more interesting with dress pants than your usual black top. 

 

 
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So you may be surprised to find out this was the second item I was seriously debating--or maybe not, since you don't have the benefit of seeing the rest of my closet. But I have a couple other duster-length cardigans that I wear frequently. In a lot of ways, this one should be right in my wheelhouse. It looks darker here than it is in real life;  it's sort of a dark gray-blue (or gray-teal: it really is a bit of an odd color). It fits me really well, and I like the style of it, but the color feels like it'll be a tricky one to work with, and the hood automatically makes it a titch more casual and less flexible between work and play.

I'll definitely be able to wear it and I imagine the color will grow on me as I do. It's wonderfully comfortable!

 
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And last...when I pulled this one out of the box, my first reaction was "ugh." It looked completely shapeless and unappealing all folded up. But when I tried it on...it immediately became my favorite. My husband and daughter (who had come to mooch a few meals off us on a broke weekend) immediately said, "that's great!" I wore it running errands today and got a couple of compliments on it too. Definitely a keeper.

So--StitchFix #2 gets a 7 out of 10 for me. StitchFix #1 was a 9 out of 10, I think--although I suspect when I first got it I would've said 7 or 8 out of 10 due to a couple of pieces I wasn't sure about, but I've worn the heck out of them so they went up in my rating system after the fact. The same is quite likely to happen with this box too!

Interested in StitchFix? Here's my referral link: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/10141355, or just go to www.stitchfix.com.  

And now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming....

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OT: My First StitchFix Box!

Don't forget about my 2017 Quilty Resolutions Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

A sad bit of news...

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

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

Return of Fight the Funk Friday

Yes, Virginia, there is still a Sandyquiltz.

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

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

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

Battle Ropes--Tough Chick style!

Battle Ropes--Tough Chick style!

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

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

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

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

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

Smart Instant Pot--woo!

Smart Instant Pot--woo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closet Matters (Update on Style Project)

I won't only be talking about clothes and closets from here on out...no worries! (I've actually been doing some embroidery lately!)

Just thought I'd do an update on a couple of other changes that my whole "trying to get a fashion sense" has generated. 'Cause if I was finding certain stoppers in my closet, my guess is some of you may be finding the same.

It really is a snowball thing. Once you start examining one thing, you realize you have to take care of this other thing, and oh yeah, this other thing. When assessing why I wasn't wearing/using certain items in my closet, I came to the conclusion that in many cases it had nothing to do with the item itself--it had to do with how easy it was for me to access or use it.

As I was sorting through everything, I realized that my closet storage methods for several categories just wasn't working for me. When it's hard to see things, or when stuff falls on your head when you pull something off a shelf, you're far less likely to actually use what's there. My so-called "purse shelf" was ridiculous. I'd kept stuffing my ethnic bags, special-use-bags, and seasonal bags onto one shelf until it was virtually impossible to access any of it. Pull one, you'd get five on your head. Once I'd sorted and culled to get down to what I wanted to use, I decided I needed a different storage solution. Do some googling. Head to Amazon. Buy the purse hanger.

I don't have too many purses so one hanger should be fine. I had to knot my cross-body bag handles a bit so they wouldn't drag on the floor, but overall this new hanger is working swimmingly. I still have a clear plastic, lidded tote on the shelf with my less-used specialty bags, but now I don't have to worry about putting my eye out when I decide I want to change purses.

And scarves. Yikes. First off--true confessions--I have like 40 of the things. That's after the cull. And I could easily buy more. I've got a thing for scarves and wraps and pashminas and such. They're so dang pretty. So scarf-storage is a big deal in my closet. I thought I'd found the perfect solution a few years ago when I bought a few similar to this wooden one.

Well let me tell you, boy, these things have driven me nuts. First of all, thicker/bigger wraps barely fit through the holes. Secondly, when I pull one through, I often get caught up with the opposite end of a second trying to sneak through the same hole and then getting all twisted up. Thirdly, sometimes threads can snag on the wood. Fourthly (?), you can't fold the scarf to make it shorter and still fit it through the whole, so all of my scarves were dragging all over the floor. My late cat used to use my scarves as a cat bed. It got so I was less frequently trying to use scarves because they were such a pain to get on and off the hangers.

Enter google, enter Amazon, enter a new scarf hanger

I think I'm loving it. I only bought one to start to see how it would go, and the test went well: I just ordered the second one. 

First, each hanger holds more scarves than the former ones did so I can get away with two hangers rather than the four I used to have. Second, I can more easily slide them on and off; thirdly, nothing snags; fourthly, I can fold longer scarves in half so nothing's dragging on the floor anymore. These two hangers mean my 40 scarves take up half the space they used to in my closet, too. Bonus!

The other big issue I needed to deal with was pants. I've been using skirt hangers for my pants for most of my adult life. I started it back when we first got married and I had a closet the size of a change purse. I had tiered hangers for everything! I don't think I quite knew at the time that there were tiered hangers for pants that didn't involve clips and then I stopped thinking about it. I've always folded my pants in half at the knees and clipped them on. Well yes, you guessed it, whenever I pulled my dress pants out of the closet I'd have to iron them to get those stupid little clip creases out. It got so I avoided wearing certain pairs of pants that weren't as wrinkle resistant just because I didn't want to go to the bother of ironing them every time.

So, in order to actually wear the pants I have in my closet, I found a different pants hanger solution.

These are working beautifully. Yes, my pants take up more space in my closet now but I've got a bigger closet these days and it's not a problem. You know what else? I've actually hung my jeans up now too! I used to scoff at the idea of hanging jeans. Jeans weren't hanger-worthy. But once again I got tired of trying to pull one pair of jeans out of the middle of the folded stack on my shelf and having everything else come a-tumblin' down. Now I can easily see which pair of jeans I want and just get those in my hands without having a wrestling match with the rest of them. 

Finally, I also like to hang my sweaters up so I can see what I've got more easily. You guessed it--bumps on the arms. Those bumps are fairly easy to get rid of just by dampening them down but once again, having to take that extra step often meant I wouldn't bother wearing the sweater (or I'd be walking around looking like I had growths on my shoulders). 

I did a lot of research on this one, though, because I've never owned a padded hanger. The ones I bought (in the picture) are canvas covered, not the frou-frou-satin kind, because I didn't want stuff sliding all over the place. The canvas holds the sweaters in place really well.

Yep, I've spent some bucks on hangers in the last couple of weeks. But I look at that as an investment in having a closet that makes it a whole lot easier to use what's in it.

So, as you look at your own closet--what do you see? Is it easy to use? Can you see and access everything? Are there clothes you don't wear often just because you have to fight to get to them? Because you may end up with a concussion trying to get things out of a stack or a stuff shelf? What are your stoppers? Maybe it's as simple as using a different hanger!

(By the way, nothing here is sponsored by anyone and I don't get any benefit from using the links. Just hoping I can help y'all out!)

Some embroidery, then a general health and well-being report

After all, we need to be healthy enough to quilt, right? (Not much time for the quilting at the moment, but doing well on the being healthy!)

First--a  couple of quick embroidery-related updates.

In cleaning my sewing area today (it had gotten stacked during my travels), I took my new lightbox out of its packaging and realized the one I bought is bigger than the one I'd borrowed from BFF/BQF Kate. Apparently she had the 8x12" or whatever it was; I have the 11x17". You don't think about how big that is until you see it laying on your cutting table. I'm going to have to figure out a safe place to store this thing and I'm also thinking "padded lightbox holder" might be something I have to add to my "things to make when I find time" list. Still, it's nice to have the bigger one as I can envision myself doing some larger embroidery projects.

I did also get a little embroidery done last night, and hope to get more done today. I'm very much behind on this embroidery BOM (I got August's block in the mail yesterday and I'm still working on May's!) but I'm not worried. They go fast so if I can just get myself back in the habit of regular embroidery in the evenings, I should be able to catch up before the end.

 

Okay, now for health and wellness. My goals this week were:

1. Get my calendar organized around current assignments. Done as much as possible. Still waiting on that syllabus.

2. Set myself up a good habit of consistent journal-writing around my thesis topic. Pretty good--I've done some journaling most days. Still need to work out a better study schedule.

3. Prep my groceries to make it easier to eat healthy this week. That really is helpful. I've been eating a lot more fruit and vegetables because they're so much easier to grab-n-go. 

4. Get back into the habits of my gratitude journal and habit journal. I finally started getting back into this midweek. I also started playing around with a vision board app to keep my goals in front of me. I'm not sure how helpful it'll be or how much I'll use it long term but it's provided some entertainment for now, anyway.

5. Get back into habits of moving. 

I've begun using WW's FitBreak app (see below for more about Weight Watchers), although my personal jury is still out on it. It gives you short little one-minute exercises you can do throughout the day, ranging from stretches to office-chair-calisthenics to weight-lifting (using household objects). For the most part, I like the way it's done. However, it has no notification system to reach out and grab me saying, "Hey--time for a FitBreak!" That seems a big miss. I've tried to link it to other reminders but still, I have a goal for a certain number of FitBreaks during the day and I keep missing it because, frankly, I forget about it for hours at a time. (By the way, you don't need to be a member of WW to use the app and it's available on several platforms.)

Meanwhile, I've also been in the pool doing aqua aerobics and aqua yoga again. Ahhh. Plus I've been getting back into my "moving 5 minutes every hour"--I'm probably at about 60% with that but 60% is better-n-nuttin! Unfortunately, taking time for the FitBreaks and pool exercise means my steps are lower, so I'm dropping down the FitBit friends leaderboard. Don't have time for everything!

6. Make a decision about re-joining Weight Watchers and going to meetings. 

I have, indeed, rejoined Weight Watchers. That means I'm back to tracking and planning meals. Now that I've had the new points system explained to me, I'm feeling friendlier towards it than I did when I first ran into it last winter. It does make logical sense--and that's all I require of a system: It needs to appeal to my logic. 

7. Get some personal and household appointment-type-reminders into LifeTopix. Much better at this. I finally dealt with some houseplant issues (!) and got the dogs set up with the groomer--both things I've been wanting to do for weeks but until I got it written down in LifeTopix it didn't happen.

I've also been working on paying attention to time in the evening and getting off electronics around 9p so I can get to bed between 10 and 10:30 so I can be up and perky earlier in the morning than is my habit. I'm back to reading magazines or doing embroidery in the evenings. Much more renewing than hours of mindless iPad games...

Goals for next week:

  • Continue to build up the "favorite meals" and "recipes" database in my WW app so it's as easily as possible to track and plan.
  • Get more regular with walking/FitBreaks through the day.
  • Be more consistent on bedtimes.
  • Do embroidery most evenings.

By the way--it's birthday week. I'll be turning 51 on the 26th. My daughter and MIL cooked up a girls-night-out party for me on Wednesday and we're doing one of those painting-and-wine things. Should be a hoot. Next weekend my husband and I are heading to Buffalo for the weekend as a small getaway and a chance to see my son for a bit. That's my favorite kind of birthday--just hanging out with family and friends. Yay!

OT: The rest of my life and goals for the week

(Apropos of nothing, but it made me giggle.)

(Apropos of nothing, but it made me giggle.)

And so, now that I'm back into the swing of juggling work and school and such, I was thinking about the fact that I'd rarely have quilty or embroidery stuff to write about and whether I should just put the blog and podcast on hiatus for awhile until I can be interesting again. 

But I'd miss y'all.

So here's what I think I'll do instead. Since we ALL have lots of stuff to juggle, even if our deets are different, and since we probably therefore all have issues around stress and anxiety and keeping ourselves healthy in the midst of chaos, maybe it'll be just as important for me to hold myself accountable to all of you--and hopefully inspire you to do the same--around staying balanced. That means I'm going to set myself a goal of blogging on every weekend about my mental and physical health goals for the week ahead--and if I can sneak some fabric and funky threads in there as well, all the better.

I'm home for a few weeks running. Yay. So my goals for this week are:

1. Get my calendar organized around current assignments. I can only do so much of this as we've gotten our fall reading list but not our fall syllabus so I can't get too organized for that until I know what's due when. I do have follow ups due from my August intensive, though, so I can at least wrangle all that into submission. LifeTopix is my favorite tool for this. 

2. Set myself up a good habit of consistent journal-writing around my thesis topic. I'm in a "synthesis mode" at the moment, in which I've done a lot of the reading I need to do but I need to allow my brain space to play with it all, making connections, and such. So although I still have plenty of reading ahead of me, I think it's just as important--if not more so, at this point--to slow down the reading for a bit and start the brewing.

3. Prep my groceries to make it easier to eat healthy this week. Okay, so I'm cheating on listing this as I already got it done this afternoon. If I don't slice-n-dice all those fresh fruits and veggies, they tend to sit in my fridge untouched until I have to toss them out. Everything is now ready for immediate use. I'll report in next weekend on how well I did actually eating it all.

4. Get back into the habits of my gratitude journal and habit journal. I was doing really well on these until I had my work and school trips so close together. Back at it. They do help me stay focused...and stay focused on the positive. 

5. Get back into habits of moving. I had a "gimme" week last week with all the walking involved in getting back and forth between housing and class in Boston. This week I'm back to having to make an effort. But it's an effort well worth it. Planning some aqua yoga this afternoon to work the rest of the kinks out left over from my long drive home Friday, and back to real exercise tomorrow.

6. Make a decision about re-joining Weight Watchers and going to meetings. MyFitnessPal ain't hacking it for me--nothing wrong with the app, but everything to do with weekly accountability of showing up at a meeting in person. I know I'm happier in general when I feel like I'm taking steps towards making myself healthier, so rather than thinking of the negatives around the whole issue of weight loss I'm working on framing it more positively in my head. And rather than my habitual all-or-nothing approach, I'm reminding myself to take it one day at a time.

7. Get some personal and household appointment-type-reminders into LifeTopix. I've slacked on setting up my reminders for things like "make groomer appointment for dogs" and "renew prescriptions" and such. I'm much happier and more relaxed when I'm not trying to remember things. (David Allen's Getting Things Done is a great resource for helping you learn more about how your brain works when it comes to unfinished tasks!)

That seems like a long list but it's all quite doable as most of those things are integrally related to one another anyway. 

What do you need to take care of so that you can feel a little less stress this week?

P.S. Never fear--I do still intend to talk about quilty and embroidery-y stuff when it comes up, which I still plan on having happen on a regular basis. Meanwhile, all this other stuff clears my schedule and head for actually having the fiber stuff happen. So it's all connected!

Why you may have not been able to access my podcast lately...

One of my listeners had to reset all her podcast feeds and asked me if there was a problem with mine because she suddenly couldn't access it. I looked into it and, sure 'nuff, I had apparently missed some emails in all my travels and my account had expired. Oops. I've now re-upped and all my episodes are now available again. Sorry about that! I am in the process of uploading a new episode this afternoon...

Not quite OT: Longyi from Myanmar (Burma)

It's not quilt-related; it's arguably embroidery-related; it's definitely fabric-related. I thought y'all might enjoy seeing the collection of longyi that I've amassed over the last 18 years, including two trips to Burma (Myanmar) and one to Thailand. Some of these I bought, many were gifts. At some point, I may need to cull the herd a bit and either gift some along to others or have other types of clothes made out of them because, as I said to my husband, I now own more longyi than I've ever owned skirts of any kind at any time in my life!

Longyi (pronounced "loan-gi" or, sometimes, "loan-gee" as in "Gee, I have a lot of longyi!") is the traditional sheet of cloth worn by men and women in Burma. It's a long sheet of fabric that's wrapped and folded around the waist--the wrap and fold method differs for men and women. Sometimes it's sewn into a cylinder that you step into, then wrap and knot. I've posted a couple of YouTube videos at the end of this post that demonstrate the method.

Tailors in Myanmar generally have a couple of ways they'll turn the longyi into something a timid Westerner like myself, who doesn't trust herself to wrap it in such a way it'll actually stay up at all, is more likely to wear. You can have them made into skirts with zippers, of course, but it's easier to have something done with slide clips or just cut to the chase, have straps put on, and wear it as a wrap-around skirt, my favorite option as it's far more one-size-fits-all. Most of mine have been done as wrap-arounds, though some still have clips. I'm about to take those to a tailor to have them changed to wrap-arounds and altered slightly in other ways.

Here's my collection. The photos don't really do them justice as several of them are beautiful cross-wovens. (Cross-wovens show different colors depending on how they hit the light.) I've included captions that show the ethnic group the design represents and other info here and there. This is an auto-rotation photo gallery, though it does have forward and back controls on either side of the images. If you're reading this through a blog-reader, the gallery may not appear. You might have to go to my website to view it. 

And believe it or not, I don't think that's all of them. I know I've got a Karen top and skirt hanging in different closet, and several Karen tops scattered through a couple of closets. Maybe some day I'll get those posted as well. But for now, this will suffice!

Back...and not-so-much "better than ever"

It's been two months and sixteen days since my last post. Ahem.

I've returned to the Land of the Living Quilter. Or, rather, perhaps I shouldn't be quite so optimistic yet. I've returned to the Land of the Want-to-Be-Living-Quilter and the rest remains to be seen. The key points here are:

  • I'm officially done with school for the semester. My next class isn't until August, although I still have plenty of school-related work to keep me busy. (You should see the stack of books I want to get through before August, ahem.) Still, no weekly assignments or papers to be turned in for awhile, so things can get more relaxed and predictable.
  • I'm done with most of my travel until our summer events in July. I have a mid-length vacation planned with my husband in May (a few extra days around Memorial Day weekend), and a speaking engagement in June, but that one is within an easy drive and won't take a whole weekend. And although I still have some evening conference calls, it's not nearly the volume we had earlier in the year. So I feel like I'll be able to have a life outside of work and school for awhile!

But it wasn't all "work and no play makes Jane a dull girl." Although I haven't had the time or energy since my retreat in February to do much in the way of quilting (none) or embroidery (two evenings, about 20 mins each, as I recall), I did succumb to "quilting/embroidery preparation," so to speak.

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As I was driving home from a set of meetings in Exton, PA, I saw a quilt shop in a plaza on my right. There may have been a squealing of tires. Welcome to The Quilt Block, Inc. (Their Facebook page is a little more active until they finish getting their website put together.). This was a wonderful store! I was the only customer there at the time so I had a nice long chat with one of the owners, Cynthia (with thanks to a reader who was able to identify her for me so I could update this post accordingly). She mentioned, by the way, that since she'd opened in 2006, 10 other quilt shops in the area had closed. I was surprised to hear that since there's a very fine national quilt show in the area--I would think that would equal a solid fan base locally. I guess not in this case, although it may also be that property values are so high in the areas surrounding Philadelphia that the overhead shuts them down before they can even really get started. In any case, if you live in the area or are vacationing around Philadelphia/Valley Forge, make sure you check out The Quilt Block and keep them in business!

Here's the goods. I'm not buying fabric very often at this stage except to finish projects, but if there's embroidery threads available, well...

And yes, you're seeing right, that's an Annie Unrein pattern. I love her stuff, even if I do whine every step of the way in making it. To be clear, her patterns and instructions are actually extremely well done. We just all know how I feel about this kind of sewing. But I keep going back to the well.

The green box is a bit of over-packaging for embroidery needles. The owner spoke highly of Tulip brand and I'd never tried them, so this is an assortment collection.

The two buttons were irresistible. The one with the red circle and slash has the word "mending" behind it. The other one says, "No you couldn't make that." At least, they gave me a giggle at the end of a long day. 

And yes, that picture was taken on a hotel room bed. I've seen a lot of those lately.

Cynthia, one of the owners

Cynthia, one of the owners

What's not shown here is that...and I really can't believe I did this...I signed up for the store's embroidery/quilt block of the month. Apparently I was having a really weak moment. I posted about this on my Facebook page so I won't say more here.

Except to say that I know I'll have completely forgotten about this by the time I get the first block in the mail in a couple of weeks. Will it be like Christmas, or will it be like "What the heck did I just do to myself?" Only the Shadow knows...

 
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One of the brief times I was home between travel, I saw on Mary Corbet's blog an announcement that my favorite Etsy shop for hand-dyed embroidery threads, ColourComplements, was having a sale. So I bit. Lovely. Lorraine does a beautiful job. 

 

 

And, in celebration of being done with school, I suddenly paid attention to my quilty email again and saw that Craftsy was having a sale. Mind you, while I do still own several Craftsy classes I haven't gotten to yet, I didn't have any left in the areas that I felt the need for new ideas. (Rationalization is a good thing.)

On the quilting front, most of what I need to do to finish up UFOs is machine quilting, so I decided to pick up a couple of classes that I'd been looking at. I now own Jaquie Gering's Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot. It's been on my wish list for a l-o-n-g time and I've heard Frances of Off-Kilter Quilt and others speak highly of it. I also picked up a newer class, Quilting with Rulers on a Home Machine with Amy Johnson. Color me intrigued. I don't own any longarm rulers but if she convinces me it's the thing, I'd be happy to pick some up. 

And now you're going to laugh. And laugh. And laugh. Remember that Annie Unrein pattern I referenced above, and what I said about whining my way through projects like that? Well, she has a new class on Craftsy. Again, did I say I've had a few weak moments? This one, though, makes a certain amount of logical sense. Her new class is The Ultimate Travel Bag. We can all agree I do a lot of traveling, right? And I'm always on the lookout for that perfect carry-on, weekender, totebag...whatever. I haven't found it yet, but I live in hope. However, I need to finish the second bag from the Annie Unrein class I started last year before tackling this one. Still, there's no reason I can't start digging through my stash to see what fabrics I can use, right?

What I Want to Do Now

I'm going to talk more about this in my next podcast episode--and yes, there will be a next podcast episode soon!--so for the purposes of this blog I'm just going to get a few things down in writing for my own clarity.

In the realm of personal health

Being back in school has not been good for my health, sadly. So I've got a few goals now that I've got several weeks on end where the word "routine" can actually come back into my vocabulary.

  • Start paying close attention to what and when I'm eating
  • Get back into an exercise routine.
    • Includes, but not exclusively, canal walks with the Doofus as he's put on a couple of pounds this winter himself.

 

In the realm of life organization

  • Clean my office/sewing room. Things have gotten a bit stacked and muddled these last couple of months.
  • Clean my daughter's room--she left behind a bit of a heap when she moved, and I need access to her bookshelves for my academic overflow, as it were. So she's coming over this afternoon and we're doing a Clean Sweep. (Tanesha of CraftyGardenMom was recently talking about that show and I was also a HUGE fan and, like her, am very disappointed that it's not on Netflix or Amazon Prime!)
  • Get my dogs to the groomer. Yikes.
  • Finally finish several blog posts (Craftsy class reviews) that I started over the last couple of months but never actually got posted. (Is this "life organization" or is this "quilting/sewing? Hmmm.)

In the realm of embroidery

  • I just want to start doing it again, regardless of which project it is. Technically speaking, I have a few projects in the works but they're all just me playing around--no deadlines involved. So my crazy quilt blocks tend to take priority, but I also have my crewel embroidery project and one purchased embroidery pattern I'm poking away at when I'm in the mood.

In the realm of quilting/sewing

This is where I have the most specific goals, although I'm not pressuring myself on them.

That's it! My daughter just showed up and she's making me vegetarian avocado/tomato burritos (her own concoction, no recipe) for lunch. And then...the Clean Sweep is on.

(Transparency: Using Craftsy links in this post help support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

Vacation Days 4-6 Accomplishments

If you're looking for the 2016 Quilty Resolutions Challenge and Giveaway, click here!

What with another holiday thrown in there, I didn't have time to post a daily update. Sorry!

What else I've gotten done:

  • More reading (although not nearly enough at this point, but taking a break is important too so I'm not beating myself up about it)
  • One pre-class assignment that we're supposed to have done before we arrive on campus late next week
  • Smelling wonderful downstairs as I'm typing this: A slow cooker meal for dinner tonight from the Craftsy class I'm working on (hopefully posting a review in another couple of days)
  • These containers are now mounted. I bought them last May. Ahem.

Two pics: What they look like "at ease," and what they look like in action.

I got them from the Container Store. Adorable office supplies--gotta love it.

(The plaque above them reads: "Ask not what your mother can do for you.... But ask only what you can do for your mother." That's hung behind my desk since the kids were in middle school. I don't think the message quite sank in....)

  • And, of course, some more embroidery. Woo! 
  • And probably most significantly: The Jacob's Ladder is done! Woo! Major happy dance! It's now at a LQS awaiting longarming. I've tweeted another pic but won't post it here on Facebook for another few weeks. Of course, I'll still have binding to do when it comes back home to roost, but I don't mind doing binding so much.

I also had an unexpected shop hop today. I called BFF/BQF Kate to see if she wanted to meet up with me at the LQS where I was dropping off JL and she said yes. Actually, she squealed with delight. I understood that to mean yes. We had lunch afterwards and then decided we were really obligated to visit a second quilt shop that was right in the same area. I always start out saying, "I don't really need anything." Ahem. 

Both shops had some Christmas sales, which was enticing. What jumped into my bag to come home with me (how can you resist those puppy dog eyes?):

  • Deb Tucker's Rapid Fire Lemoyne Star (not on sale, unfortunately). I loved using her petite Hunter Star ruler that I'd won in a giveaway by AJ of The Quilting Pot a couple of years ago, and have been looking at this Lemoyne Star ruler ever since. Having just completed a big scrap project (the JL) that I mostly enjoyed from the perspective of having used up a lot of stash on it, I thought it might be fun to start making some Lemoyne Star blocks from stash fabric as well. Good retreat project, anyway, if I ever get back on a retreat! (Tentative plans for one in February--stay tuned.)
  • I got a few patterns--more zipper pouches (they are great for travel!), plus some Christmas-related embroidery patterns that were pretty cute (and on huge sale). 
  • The button thread is for Daisy's armchair buddy tutorial. I hadn't been looking for any but it was only a buck, so I figured it was worth making life easier on myself when I got to that step in her process.
  • And whee! A 120" tape measure! I'd heard rumor this rare beast existed. After spending a couple of days crawling around on the floor shuffling my 60" tape measure from side to side to measure the JL for borders and final measurements, I was thrilled to see something that would actually cut the mustard for those occasional times I do make big quilts.
  • In the upper right is a nifty little block kit that looked like it was part of a block of the month but they were being sold separately. There were only three or four months available, and I only liked this one block of those that were displayed, so I just got the one. It's got die-cut applique pieces and the background fabric. I took one look at it and thought, "Oooh, I could embellish the heck out of that with embroidery and beads!" I've definitely drunk that Koolaid. It's a fall design--a basket with leaves and such. I'd best start it now to have hopes of finishing it time for decorating in September.
  • Then, of course, some pretty Weeks Dye Works embroidery threads because they're candy. And some funky colored zippers to use for pouches because those colors are harder to find, and I think I've got a collection of fat quarters they'd work beautifully with. If they don't coordinate as well as I thought they would, as I joked with BFF/BQF Kate, I guess I'll just have to buy fabric to match the zippers. As you do sometimes.

Not that I needed any of this stuff. But I guess I was so relieved and, darn it, proud of myself for successfully completing that dang JL it felt like a reward. 

Tonight is an embroidery night. Tomorrow, my last day of vacation, we're hosting my side of the family's Christmas celebration so I won't get much of anything done, I suspect, although I may be able to knock out a little more embroidery while waiting for things to come out of the oven and such. I also doubt I'll get a report post up tomorrow night, although maybe Monday. We'll see.

As usual, though, as I get to the end of a vacation, I look back and think, "Sheesh! Where did all that time go? I still have post-it notes left uncompleted!" Still, it feels good to have gotten as much done as I did, and I did take some time out to relax and hang out with the fam. So it's all good.

Vacation Day 3 Accomplishments

  • Read about a third of assigned reading from this book for January class
  • Went through class syllabus with a fine-toothed comb; realized I had to order four more books based on class assignments and final paper description. 
  • Dropped another bundle on Amazon.
  • Made mental note to clean off bookshelves before end of vacation to have enough room to get through this next semester.
  • Sighed a big sigh. Moved on.
 
  • Got myself set up in Weight Watchers again as they've changed their system so I needed to do a new "assessment," plus downloaded their new FitBreak app to try to help myself get in more stretching and exercise during the day. My jury's out on the FitBreak app--some nice features, others that seem like a silly thing to have missed including. Still--anything I can do to help myself be healthier moving forward is worth trying. I've gotten really stiff from all this time at a computer and reading.
  • Looked up group class schedule at Y to see if I could work yoga back into my schedule when I'm back from my January class. 
  • Looked up "how to modify yoga poses for vertigo." (Yoga classes haven't always ended well for me in the past. Oi.)
  • Finally got center of the JL quilt pieced. No pics here as it'll end up on Facebook (will likely post it on Twitter, though). Heading to another LQS in a little bit to see if I have better luck finding border fabrics. 
  • Suggested to DH that he come with me on my LQS jaunt as the shop is about 10 mins away from a restaurant we enjoy but don't got to often since it's a 40 minute drive, so I've also got a dinner date tonight--woo! 

Tomorrow is a return to holiday merry-making as my son and a friend are coming for a New Year's Eve game-a-thon. We have a little cleaning to do, though not much, plus I need to go grocery shopping. Fortunately, he asked if I could make the Southwest Chicken Chili, so making dinner will be a snap! That means I should have time for some sort of sewing fun: I'll either do embroidery or, if I have more time than I think, I might tackle Daisy's armchair buddy tutorial. So, stay tuned!

Vacation Day 1 & Day 2 Accomplishments

I never really think of vacations as starting until Monday because hey, I would've had the weekend off anyway. And even though my vacation started last Wednesday, Christmas prep, Christmas, and Christmas Recovery took up several of those days. So yesterday was, in my brain, the REAL start of vacation--the first day I'd have been working but am not, and the first day I don't have other things I need to be prepping for. Woot! 

In the past, I've occasionally documented what I've gotten done each day of vacation as it actually helps me to feel good about occasionally sitting down and just wasting time with iPad games. However, the reality about this particular week of vacation--especially this year--is that it's just as renewing for me to clear the decks of cleaning or organizational things I've been wanting to get done and set myself up as best as possible for the start of another busy stretch of work and school. So although I'm not running around killing myself to get all sorts of things done (I am relaxing here and there), I am tracking those tasks that would really feel good to accomplish and tackling one or two a day. 

So--to start, I did my usual Post-It Note task list. Those of you who have been readers/listeners for awhile know that this is my favorite way to keep track of what I need to do in my sewing room. Sometimes I re-order them based on priority, but at the moment, they're just slapped up there and I periodically check them to see which one I'm (1) in the mood to do or (2) can knock out quickly while waiting to do something else.

I'd already gotten three done before taking this pic so this is a shorter post-it list than I started with, plus I did a few things that never even made it to a post-it. 

Monday was a bang-up day:

  • I got this read for class. (You can read my review on GoodReads--not one of my faves but makes some good points.)
 
  • I got my sewing room/office vacuumed, desperately needed after the Fidget Quilt Fabric Fall-out last week and the fact that this one (and his less-sheddy furry compatriot) hang out in my office. You can see he's already managed to spread some of his chew-toy detritus on the carpet again.
 
  • I finally got this hung up. This was a finish from probably two or three years ago--no, I didn't do the stamping/hand-dyeing; I bought them from a vendor. My contribution was design, execution, and hand-stitching. The stopper was finding an appropriate stick for the hanging. Of course I get the bee in my bonnet to take care of it this afternoon when it's about 30 degrees and sleet/snow outside, rather than last week when it was in the 60s. Go figure.
  • I got all the #BDSI winnings in the mail (thanks for sending me your addresses fast, winners!) plus winnings from a previous giveaway that you winners have been oh-so-patient about me getting out!

 

 

And I also drove across town to go to the bead store as I needed a different size bead in a color I already have, plus two other colors; and also planned to stop at the LQS in the same plaza to get border fabrics for the Jacob's Ladder. Sadly, the bead store was closed and I couldn't find anything that spoke to me at the LQS, so that was to no avail. I did, however, find two of the three beads I needed at a nearby Michaels, and meet my daughter at the mall on that side of town so we could exchange shoes I'd gotten for her and her brother and guessed wrong on sizes in both counts (hazards of having adult kids!). And then my husband met us and we went out to dinner, then all three drove home in our separate cars during a winter storm advisory. 40 mph all the way home. So glad to get home!

Tuesday--Less Stellar:

Today I've spent most of my day on classwork, but I did also have a hair appointment in there. After writing this post, I'm sitting down at my sewing machine, finally, to work some on that Jacob's Ladder. It's just so not my favorite kind of sewing...hard to get myself motivated other than to remind myself, "I'll be so glad to get this done!" However, I have started the new season of Serial so I'm looking forward to listening to more of that. Off I go...

A little end of summer pretty

I just picked the last bouquet of hydrangeas for the season.

Hydrangeas have become my favorite flower. They're gorgeous in every step of their life cycle.

These won't be staying in my house--they're for the mother of the groom (my MIL). I'm glad to be able to share the last bounty of beauty with her on this momentous occasion--her baby boy is getting married tomorrow!