Free Printables

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I have slowly gathered inspiration for my boys’ room over the past couple of weeks. Since we no longer rent, I want to create a fun room for my sons. This has proven difficult as my oldest, who is still a toddler, changes his mind about what interests him very frequently. My youngest won’t really care about his room for a while yet because a) he still sleeps in our room and b) he is only three months old.

The basics of the room will remain pretty much the same: bright green cubby shelves, brown and green bins, dark wood dressers, and a jungle quilt for my oldest’s bed. However, I really don’t know what to do for art and decorations for the room. My toddler’s interests include: Curious George, dinosaurs, and the little wooden tool set he got for Christmas. My baby also has a few fox things I would like to incorporate into the room. For now, I decided to just hang some black frames with some free printables once the room is done. I found a few good printables online, but I also decided to try my hand at creating my own. Check them out below and feel free to use them (just right click on the image and select “save image as”).

 

monkey-printable

rawr-printable

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We Bought A House And Had A Baby!

I have seriously procrastinated on writing this post. Our home buying journey started in August of 2016. At that point, we had a small down payment saved up. My hubby and I were not too serious about buying a house as baby #2 was due in early November. (I haven’t posted about his arrival yet, either.) We found a house we really liked and even had an offer accepted on it in September. However, a few pricey repairs came up in the inspection which caused us to withdraw our offer. We decided to wait until after the baby was born to start looking again.

15000206_10210921069568004_6800210323327572351_oBaby #2 arrived via scheduled cesarean during the first week of November. I wanted to try for a vaginal delivery after having a cesarean the first time (read about that here), but I just didn’t really show any signs of going into labor. This had some benefits, such as being able to have my out of state in-laws come stay with my toddler while I had to stay at the hospital. My husband once again wrote an awesome birth announcement: Baby Boy #2 “was brought, screaming, into this world at 10:01 AM precisely, exactly as he dictated. Viceroy Supreme Marshall, Ruler of Many Lands, Executor of the Grand Manifesto of World Domination, will be formally bestowed with title, land, and mandate by Supreme Emperor Brother, once Stuart arises from his nap. Viceroy Supreme Marshall bids all well wishers to kneel before him on the morrow.”

About a week after baby #2’s entrance into the world (and while he was still on paternity leave), hubby started looking at houses on his own. He took photos and videos for me to look at to decide which houses were worth actually visiting. The house we settled on is definitely a fixer-upper. It needs renovations in pretty much every spot of the house, but it comes with a solid foundation and a decent location within walking distance of an elementary school, middle school, and high school.

We hesitated about telling people about this house after the first one fell through. My postpartum check up ended up being on the same day as our closing day. Six weeks later, we finally finished the house enough to move in. My husband started with gutting the bedrooms, updating the wiring in the bedrooms, building out and insulating the exterior walls, and hanging drywall. He also insulated the attic. Several friends helped us through the process, but we have still been camping out in the living room for the first week while hubby and some friends have sanded, primed, and painted the bedrooms. We hope to finish them tomorrow and finally move out of the living room. Our next major project involves completely renovating the bathroom.

 

 

2016 Reading Challenge: Nov and Dec

I forgot to post in December about the 2016 Reading Challenge. I had a bit of a conflict in November and didn’t end up reading a book for that month’s category either. The categories for November and December were “a book you’ve already read at least once” and “a book published this year” respectively. For November, I signed up for a reading challenge with my local used book store called the Books Are Better November 5k READ. For that challenge, I had to read 16 books in November (the idea is 16 books averaging 300 pages each adds up to about 5k pages). After the challenge started, I realized the rules said I couldn’t count books I’ve already read before. So, I didn’t end up reading a book for this challenge in November. I did end up completing the 5k READ challenge, though.

fantasticFor December, I ended up reading J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay. I get sick in movie theaters, so I couldn’t see the film when it came out in November. Luckily, my local library had the screenplay available for me to read during my trip to visit my in-laws last week. For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of the movie, here is the synopsis on Amazon:

“When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…”

I enjoyed this book much more than the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play I read earlier in the year. Since Fantastic Beasts was actually written by Rowling, it felt like it fit in the Harry Potter universe better than the Cursed Child (which just felt like fan fiction to me). Since I got to see several clips and theatrical trailers for Fantastic Beasts, it was also easier for me to picture what was going on in the book.

I enjoyed learning more about magic in the United States from this book. Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the North American school for magic, was mentioned. I also got a peek inside the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), which is the governing body of magical society in the US. From the screenplay, I learned MACUSA’s main goal during the 1920s was to prevent no-maj (muggle) detection of magic. The Second Salem Society in New York tries to expose witches and wizards and wants to persecute them.

This book was a quick, fun read. I look forward to when the movie comes out so I can see the magical creatures described in the book. In the mean time, I appreciate having the screenplay available for a peek into this new era of the wizarding world.

Other books published in 2016 my friends read include:

  • The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
  • Swan Knight’s Sword (Moth and Cobweb book 3) by John C. Wright

My friends and I plan on doing Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2017 Reading Challenge. We will probably do a combination of the fun and growth lists.

Check out my other reading challenge posts for the year: January, February, March, April, May and June, July, August, September, and October.

Winter 2017 Capsule Wardrobe

This is probably the most difficult capsule wardrobe I’ve put together so far, probably because I’m in the awkward stage where most pants with buttons and zippers are uncomfortable to wear and I don’t have a baby belly to hold up my maternity pants anymore. I refuse to give into the trend of wearing leggings as pants outside the house. 1) I think I’m too curvy and too short to pull of this trend, 2) I have a spandex allergy which makes finding leggings nearly impossible, and 3) I have a muffin top from two pregnancies which  no one wants to see, except for for Hubby (who will always think I’m beautiful). As the weather has cooled off significantly in the Midwest, this severely limits my options. I hope my body will change/heal more from my c-section as the season goes on so I can go back to my sort of uniform of jeans, a top, and a cardigan.

Here is what I have included in my capsule wardrobe so far, with items in bold carrying over from previous capsule wardrobes:

  1. Striped scarf
  2. Red and blue floral scarf
  3. Cobalt blue silk scarf
  4. Grey cowl scarf
  5. Grey cable hat
  6. Trench coat
  7. Blue winter coat (this is actually the same coat I had last year)
  8. Navy skirt
  9. White skirt with paisley-ish pattern
  10. Dark wash straight leg jean
  11. Dark wash jean
  12. Navy leggings
  13. Navy cardigan
  14. Grey cardigan
  15. Dark grey sweater
  16. Teal 3/4 sleeve sweater
  17. Blue and green plaid shirt
  18. Dark blue button down shirt
  19. Navy and white long-sleeved shirt
  20. Teal long-sleeved shirt
  21. Navy t-shirt (organic cotton)
  22. Navy t-shirt
  23. Grey t-shirt
  24. Navy short-sleeved top with striped detail
  25. Teal top
  26. Navy tiered tank
  27. Navy belt
  28. Brown boots
  29. Dark blue flats
  30. Black wedges
  31. Grey sneakers

I plan on adding either another pair of pants or another shirt. I may also add in a skirt I have from a previous capsule wardrobe. When I switched over to my maternity clothes, I significantly pared down my wardrobe because some of my clothes didn’t quite fit right or had started pilling. I wanted to start with a good base when I started fitting into non-maternity clothes again.

I will probably swap out my coats for a lighter jacket and a pair of shorts and exchange my sweaters for a sleeveless top toward the end of the season. We can get some warm weather here in March, and I tend to be flexible with my capsule at the beginning and end of the season when the weather changes. This also gives me a chance to try out my wardrobe to make sure everything works well together.

I didn’t include jewelry in this capsule wardrobe, even though I plan on wearing jewelry. It’s very difficult to include this category in the colder months because I need to dedicate so many items to warmth and layering. However, I was able to include my coats this winter, which I couldn’t do last year. I see this as progress in paring down my wardrobe. More than 70% of this capsule wardrobe carried over from previous ones.

Why I Rarely Comment on Facebook

My Facebook activity has decreased during the past couple of years, especially my commenting on other people’s posts. I have a few good reasons for this:

  1. Fewer notifications. I usually don’t like getting several notifications a day on the same post. There are some exceptions to this: fun pun competitions with my friends, answering questions about life updates (how my boys are doing, our house hunt, etc.), and answering questions about logistics (where to meet, when to meet, etc.).
  2. Avoiding conversation. Sometimes, an introvert just doesn’t want to have a conversation on a Facebook post.
  3. Avoiding confrontation. This one goes along with #2. Facebook has become a politically charged place. People post things to state their opinions or start a conversation and the comments becomes a heated debate. I can easily get caught up in a Facebook debate, which makes me edgy and irritable for days. I have found it is better for my own emotional health to stay out of Facebook debates.

I could go on about the negative aspects of Facebook, but I don’t want to get myself tied up in knots about it. I have thought about deleting my account or taking a break. My husband shut down his Facebook account for a while. He found the experience left him feeling a bit isolated. So, I will end by talking about the benefits of Facebook and why I keep it around.

My family is spread out all over the United States. I have been able to reconnect with some of my far-flung cousins and enjoy seeing what they post about their children, trips, events, etc. Some of my friends have moved back home since college or moved away. So, I’ve been able to keep in contact with them via Facebook. I plan on keeping Facebook.

Favorite Books for Babies and Toddlers

Since we welcomed baby #2 almost one month ago, I wanted to write a quick post about my family’s top 10 favorite books/series for babies and toddlers. As a bookworm, I want to encourage my sons to read. I started reading to my older son when he was just a few months old. My younger son has already heard quite a few stories in his first month of life. Our favorite books, in no particular order, include:

  1. Dinosaur Roar by Paul and Henrietta Stickland. This is the first book my older son showed any interest in because the brightly colored dinosaurs on the white background are easy for infants to see. The book uses dinosaurs to teach opposites. We had to get a second copy because our first one was loved to pieces.
  2. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. This is another book we have read to pieces because my son requests it so much. It helped my son learn to identify farm animals and the sounds they make.
  3. How do Dinosaurs? series by Jane Yolen. We have several books from this series and have loved most of them. My husband and I have read How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? to put son almost every night for the past two years. He finally got tired of it recently, but he still requests other books in the series. The only book we haven’t liked in the series is How do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? These books contrast bad behavior with good behavior.
  4. Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss. My son originally showed interest in this book because of the cats on every page spread. Recently, he has shown interest in learning the different instruments. This book also teaches counting from 1-10.
  5. Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles. I’m not entirely sure why my toddler likes this book so much. The wording flows nicely. I think the story tries to teach children to enjoy who they are.
  6. The Bear books by Karma Wilson. Bear Snores On is probably the most well-known book in this series. We first learned of the series when we picked up Bear Stays Up For Christmas at my favorite used bookstore (yay Pete & Freddy’s Pages Aplenty). These wonderful books have beautiful illustrations and teach about friendship.
  7. Doggies by Sandra Boyton. This book can get a bit repetitive, but my son loves the different dog noises. It also teaches counting 1-10. Sandra Boyton has written and illustrated other good books. This one just happens to be our current favorite.
  8. Spot series by Eric Hill. Any parent of a ticket has learned to appreciate a good flap book. My son loves these books. They are expensive online, but we have found some at yard sales and such.
  9. Llama llama series by Anna Dewdney. These books are a lot of fun to read. We currently have Llama Llama Misses Mama and Llama Llama Time to Share.
  10. Penguin by Polly Dunbar. This is another book I picked up at our local bookstore. I like the colorful illustrations on the white background. This book teaches kids things don’t airways go they’re way.

Review: Wear No Evil

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Hubby recently picked up a copy of Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan to sell for the book business. Unfortunately, the price wasn’t right for us to make money off of our copy. The book looked interesting, so I ended up reading it this week.

wear-no-evilHere is the synopsis on Amazon: ‘Have you ever wondered, “How can I inherently do good while looking good?” Wear No Evil has the answer, and is the timely handbook for navigating both fashion and ethics. It is the style guide with sustainability built in that we’ve all been waiting for. As a consumer, you regain your power with every purchase to support the causes and conditions you already advocate in other areas of your life (such as local or organic food), while upholding your sense of self through the stylish pieces you use to create your wardrobe.

‘Featuring the Integrity Index (a simplified way of identifying the ethics behind any piece of fashion) and an easy to use rating system, you’ll learn to shop anywhere while building your personal style and supporting your values- all without sacrifice. Fashion is the last frontier in the shift towards conscious living. Wear No Evil provides a roadmap founded in research and experience, coupled with real life style and everyday inspiration.

‘Part 1 presents the hard-hitting facts on why the fashion industry and our shopping habits need a reboot.

‘Part 2 moves you into a closet-cleansing exercise to assess your current wardrobe for eco-friendliness and how to shop green.

‘Part 3 showcases eco-fashion makeovers and a directory of natural beauty recommendations for face, body, hair, nails, and makeup.

‘Style and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. They can live in harmony. It’s time to restart the conversation around fashion—how it is produced, consumed, and discarded—to fit with the world we live in today. Pretty simple, right? It will be, once you’ve read this book.

‘Wear No Evil gives new meaning—and the best answers—to an age-old question: “What should I wear today?”’

Eagan kept part 1 short because most people who pick up her book already know about the problems with the fast fashion industry. Her integrity index gives factors by which to judge whether a clothing purchase is ethical. These factors include: natural/low-impact dyes, natural fibers, organic, fair trade, recycled/upcycled, secondhand, local (country you’re in), social (linked to a cause), zero waste, convertible, vegan, low water footprint, transparent, cradle to cradle (ability to have a second life cycle as clothing), slow fashion, and style. Since finding a piece of clothing which matches all 16 factors would be nearly impossible, Eagan also came up with the diamond diagram.

The diamond diagram is shaped like a baseball diamond where style always takes the home plate position. Style always takes the first position because if a person doesn’t like the style of the garment, that person is not going to wear it very often. The rest of the diamond is filled in with what the shopper considers the most important factors. Eagan also encourages her readers to have a reserve factor. These 3-4 factors can be arranged in any order on the diamond. In order for a purchase to be considered ethical, it must meet the style factor and one other. My diamond diagram includes: style, natural fibers, secondhand, organic, and fair trade or local.

I really enjoyed this book because Eagan included eco-friendly brands in various price ranges. She put together sample outfits for various occasions (dates, job interviews, weddings, cocktail parties, etc.) and included the brands for these outfits. Eagan included brands for pretty much every category from pants to shirts to jewelry to makeup to skin care products. The book also includes a chapter for men, who usually get left out of books targeted for ethical fashion.

Eagan does focuses entirely on fashion. She does not have a capsule wardrobe, nor does she write about them in her book. Although, she does include a short section about doing an initial closet decluttering. This is one area where I find her system lacking. I think one of the best ways to be eco-friendly is to own fewer clothes. Some of the wardrobe basics Eagan suggests also don’t apply to my stay at home mom lifestyle.

While I purchase the majority of my clothes secondhand, some ethical brands I have purchased/want to purchase from include:

  • Ten Thousand Villages: fair trade, usually natural or recycled materials, supports artisans in developing countries (purchased jewelry, coin purse would repurchase from this brand)
  • Changnoi: fair trade from Thailand, uses handwoven materials from local tribes, hand sewn & embroidered products (purchased crossbody bag via Amazon would repurchase)
  • Econscious: sustainable fabrics, certified organic cotton (purchased basic tee via Amazon want to order more)
  • Fair Indigo: fair trade, some USA made products, some recycled products, some organic cotton products, some vegan products (purchased OkaB shoes via Amazon, want to purchase 100% cotton jeans and cardigan)
  • thehungersite: fair trade, portion of purchase goes toward providing food in third world countries (purchased a top, jewelry would repurchase)

2016 Reading Challenge: October

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Confession: I didn’t actually read a book for this month’s category. One of my friends chose “a book you have previously abandoned.” Since I had expected to welcome baby #2 by now, I did not really feel up to picking up a book I had abandoned. I usually give up on a book for good reasons. I did almost give up on finishing Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo at the beginning of October. I picked it up out of curiosity at a book sale because I have seen things about it pop up on the internet.

Here is Amazon’s description: “It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry — and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.”

I think I lost interest in it because some things just hit a little too close to home for me. My parents separated, divorced, and remarried during my elementary school years. In the book, Flora’s parents are also divorced in the book. It just reminded me too much of a time in my life I don’t like to dwell on, but I managed to push through and finish the book.

Books my friends chose include:

  • The Orphean Passages by Walter Wangerin
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

A Year of Capsule Wardrobes

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I just realized I have dressed with a capsule wardrobe for more than a year now. I started this journey last fall after researching capsule wardrobes. I originally intended to use capsule wardrobes to further discover my style and minimize my closet. While I did accomplish this goal to some degree, I feel like I still have more to do in these areas. The limited availability of maternity clothes contributed to this immensely. I also think my body will change yet again after I have this baby.

Here are some things I did learn:

  • I don’t really like the way infinity scarves look on me. I think they make my face look rounder and my torso shorter.
  • I prefer cardigans to sweaters.
  • I really like the way grey pants look on me. In desperation, I bought a pair of grey maternity pants at the thrift store and discovered I really like them.
  • I don’t like black clothes. They don’t really work for my skin tone and coloring.
  • It’s hard to find a good pair of navy or grey shoes. Most shoes come in black or brown, which makes finding shoes to match the clothes in my capsules difficult.
  • I like fall/winter clothes much more than summer clothes. I like the darker colors, scarves, and cardigans. (I have a hard time resisting the urge to buy scarves and cardigans at garage sales and thrift stores.)

Goals for the next year:

  • Pare down my wardrobe to the point where I can include jewelry in my fall and winter capsule wardrobes.
  • Support more ethical and sustainable brands.
  • Make more mindful purchases for my capsules. (I usually buy something close to what I want at the thrift store because of the cheap price. Then, I end up donating it a couple of months later. This prevents me from investing in the higher quality items I actually want.)

2016 Reading Challenge: September

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Last week was banned books week, so I chose banned books for this month’s category. I also got to choose the book for September’s meeting for the large book club I’m in. Everyone reads the same book for that club. I chose Fahrenheit 451 for everyone to read. Since three out of the four other people participating in the Reading Challenge are in the same book club, most of us read the same book.

451Here is the book synopsis on Amazon: “Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

“Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

“When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.”

I read this book for the second time for this category. In some ways, the book reflects the time it was written: almost everyone smokes cigarettes, women stay home while men work, the popularity of the beetle, etc. However, I think Bradbury’s warning about technology replacing meaningful relationships remains relevant to today’s culture. Bradbury also purposefully made most of his shallow and lacking in dimension. They are meant to represent ideas and things rather than real people. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.