Saturday, November 3, 2018

Ramblings of Early November

Hi Friends!

I have no real point to this post other than to just write and share what I've been up to the last month. As of this writing, the color outside is spectacular! The leaves are falling very quickly though, so I am sure it will just be a few more days before we need to rake daily!

Fernzilla still lives!

As much as I want to say I have been out enjoying fall to it's fullest I can't.  Other than one week where I felt good both physically and mentally, fall has pretty much been rotten in both regards. But I want to share what I've done on the good days and celebrate the things that were accomplished!

My birthday was mid-October, and fortunately that was a good week for me, so Chad and I spent a lovely fall day at the Virginia Wine and Garlic Festival.

We also made it to a few Farmer's Markets. Although I've not been doing as much cooking lately, I did manage to make a few yummy things this fall. I made a apple pie and used some market veggies to make curry.

I also made Runzas while my brother was here. For my non-Nebraska readers, Runzas are a staple of a Nebraskan's diet.....seasoned beef, onions and cabbage stuffed in a soft dough. They are a pain to make so I rarely make them, but they are my brother's favorite food.

Speaking of my brother, he spent 5 days here the end of October to replace our floors in the family room. Just a reminder of how the room looked when we bought the house......

Pretty dated, right? We started by painting over the white paneling. Over the summer we painted out the bar in navy blue and painted the crown molding and window and door trim. Then, a few weeks ago, we tore up the nasty carpet and laid vinyl plank floors. We chose vinyl since it's a lower level and moisture could be an issue.

I think it turned out nice! We still need to refinish the stairs and do a bit of touch up on the trim and paint the door, but I am happy with the progress! We are leaving the rock fireplace untouched.  I had considered painting over it, but it really doesn't look bad and Chad really wanted to keep it as is. It adds warmth to the room that may otherwise seem too stark because of the white paint.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram you may remember this post from my trip to Nebraska in June.......

My good friend had thrown out her vintage Blanc de Chine lamps....which her father had brought home from WWII! I, of course, was horrified when she told me and quickly rescued them from the dumpster!  Fortunately, they landed on a pile of trash so they did not break when she pitched them in! They needed rewired, which is why she had thrown them out, but I figured even if I spent the money to have them rewired, it would be worth it.  When my brother was here, I got the parts and he was able to rewire it for me for free! I picked up some simple shades at Ollies, and for less than $25 each, I had beautiful working vintage lamps!

Since I wanted them for my bedroom I ended up getting some new bedding as well.  We had never changed to a king comforter when we upgraded to a king sized bed several years ago, so I finally bought a new down comforter and linen duvet cover. I like how the room is pulled together with the creams and whites. My grandmother's doilies are framed above the bed for art. I think I will try to spray paint the clock white and I still would like to get a rug to break up all the wood.

So that's a wrap.  We didn't get to have Phoebe come for fall activities, but hopefully she can come out for the Christmas Parade the first week in December. We leave for Phoenix in just a couple weeks, so we are excited to rest, relax and soak up sunshine and family time.

Happy November, friends!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Simple Fall Wardrobe

It's fall!  Although it hasn't felt like it here in Virginia, I have been slowly planning and shopping for my fall wardrobe. I am excited about the thoughtful things I have added this year and wanted to share my simple fall closet with you. First off, a very real peak into my half of the closet. I moved my summer things to the back and brought the cool weather pieces forward.

My closet

For the last several years I have been working on decreasing the size of my wardrobe.  When we lived in Nebraska I had a walk-in closet filled to the top, a dresser, and totes under the bed for off season clothes. Now I share a small closet with Chad and have my dresser which holds both on and off season clothes.

In the last twelve months since my fibromyalgia diagnosis I have needed to replace a good portion of my wardrobe because of weight gain. Most of my too-small clothes have been sold or donated so our closet isn't packed full with things that no longer fit. What I am left with is an edited closet of things I like and feel the best in. As I have been replacing things, I have focused on buying secondhand and from companies with sustainable and ethical practices.

Buying secondhand gives me many more options for making my clothing allowance stretch. I can buy higher quality without the huge out-of-pocket expense, brands I wouldn't normally buy, or whose business practices I disagree with. My friend, Karin, at Truncation wrote an excellent blog post about shopping secondhand.  There is more than one way to be ethical and sustainable in your clothing purchases, and thrifting is an excellent option for those who can't buy exclusively from ethical companies or small makers. This season, over 70% of new things added to my wardrobe have been bought secondhand.

I also have invested in some high quality pieces from companies with high ethical standards. While I would love to revamp my entire wardrobe with items from these stores, the cost is prohibitive. This fall, I chose three new pieces, one of which is leather that will not be affected by my ever changing weight fluctuations. The other two are loose/flowy, so it will allow my size to change in either direction and still fit.

My style is simple because I don't work outside the home.  I have a few nicer things I wear if Chad and I go on a date or have an event at the University, but the majority of my clothes are meant for my life working from home, running errands out in the community, and my occasional travel. I want to buy what's practical for my lifestyle while honoring my conviction to buy from sustainable retailers whenever possible.

So here is what I added and will be wearing this fall. These pieces, added to the few things I bought over the summer and last winter, makes a wardrobe perfect for my lifestyle.


My big purchase this year was Abera Crossbody Tote from ABLE. Yes, my changing weight has nothing to do with this purchase, but I have been lusting after the similar Mamuye tote since 2015 and I had a good coupon so........... This tote has a crossbody strap which will make it great for traveling. I already own this bag which I bought in 2016 and it has aged beautifully and I will continue to carry it. My new bag will be great for our upcoming trip to Phoenix and other times I need to carry more than a wallet. For those who knew me 15 years ago, I know, it is hard to believe I only own two bags........

ABLE provides economic opportunities to women in Ethiopia, Mexico, and Peru and is making it their mission to end generational poverty in these areas.  In areas where prostitution is prevalent, ABLE provides women with a way to earn a living and empowers them to end the cycle of poverty. I am proud to own two of these bags and to know I am supporting such a business! For those of you who haven't ever shopped with Able before, here is a $20 coupon

My next purchase was a silk top from Amour Vert in a pretty fall gold. Since it stays warm for so long in Virginia and we will be celebrating Thanksgiving in Phoenix, I decided to go with a short sleeved top for my "statement piece." It looks pretty layered underneath a cardigan as well for chillier days. It will be able to be dressed up or down throughout the season. This top was made in the USA and the silk was produced at a family owned, sustainable factory.

I usually buy a new sweatshirt every year or two and spend most of late fall and winter in it. This year I chose a cute slouchy one from Pact. I will wear it to yoga, for walking Mocha, and for quick trips to the grocery store, or rainy Sundays binging on Netflix. I spent less on this sweatshirt than if had I bought Nike or Under Armour as I did in the past, and Pact's cotton is certified organic and is produced with fair trade practices.

I had wanted to buy the Everlane Street Shoe, but when I decided on the ABLE bag as my big purchase, I decided to just wear my sneakers from a few years ago. That is until I found the a hardly worn pair of Street Shoes used on Poshmark for two-thirds less!  Finding an ethically produced item secondhand is exciting!

I bought three secondhand wool cardigans on eBay and Poshmark to replace my Target cardigans I've had since 2012. I also found the J Crew merino wool and linen sweater below on Poshmark. For less than the price of one new sweater I added these four high quality, almost new sweaters! That is thrifting at its best!

While I try to stay away from fast fashion as much as possible, I still occasionally shop there. Target's A New Day line has awesome t-shirts. I have tried tees from sustainable fashion retailers, organic cotton retailers, and many fast fashion stores. Target's beat the other hands down. They drape beautifully, wash and wear well and do not stretch out.....and you can get 2 for $14.  I am comfortable with these because I know how great they will wear and amount of use I will get out of them. I bought the rust and the gold color. I also own them in black and burgundy from last year. I'm still on the hunt for an ethical equivalent, so please share if you know one!

You noticed I didn't buy any pants.....Well, I did buy two vintage pairs of men's Levis on eBay, but I haven't decided if I can pull off the style so they may be resold. Over the summer I kept an eye on eBay and got a great deal on two almost new pairs of jeans.  I also bought two button down shirts at local thrift stores for $2 each. Those, with the few things I bought last fall/winter makes me mostly set for the colder months. The only thing I would like to add eventually is a pair of minimalistic rain boots, like these from Alice + Whittles. I have duck boots, but some rainy days you want to be dressier than duck boots!

This was a pretty hefty amount of clothes compared to what I usually try to buy in a season, but most of my colder weather clothes were either too small or very worn. Even my shoes were seeing wear as I only own a handful, so they are in constant rotation.  I took a big stack of too small clothing into the consignment store, so my out-of-pocket money will be less once they sell.  I also used coupons and sales to buy the new things I added, so nothing was bought at full price. I am happy and feel like this was a well thought out and well rounded investment.

I keep track of all my clothes, shoes, and bags on a spreadsheet, including those that no longer fit that I'm keeping...... (a handful of favorites and a few with sentimental value).  I make note when something needs replaced because it's worn out, new things I buy, where I get them, and what each item costs. This helps me get a better picture of what I need, how much I've spent and who I'm giving my dollars to.

So there you have it!  I encourage you to shop secondhand if you are wanting to dip your toes into sustainable fashion. It really is the most sustainable form of shopping! If you have the money to shop from ethical retailers, ABLE, Amour Vert, Everlane, and Pact are a great place to start.

I am planning a blog post on sustainable cleaning where I will give my all natural cleaning tips, cleaning tools, and how I care for my clothes. See you soon!

While this is not a sponsored post, the coupon links above will benefit me as well as you, should you choose to shop with the companies I suggest. Rest assured, I only suggest products I love and use regularly. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Late Summer - 2018

Hi friends!

We are headed straight into fall here in Virginia, but other than a few trees changing color it still feels like summer with the heat and humidity.  I thought I would share a quick update on what has been going on over the summer and what lies ahead for fall.

My summer has consisted of a lot of painting. Chad's parents came in early July and we kicked it off with painting the bar.  I decided on navy to work with the vintage tile and think it turned out pretty nice! 

My mother-in-law also painted Remington's bathroom, which is off of our family room. Besides painting, Chad and his Dad worked on several other electrical house projects. We had a fun week and visited some wineries and breweries as well. 

They also brought us Chad's great grandparent's kitchen table. As most of you know I love antiques so I was thrilled to add it to our home.  It goes nicely with my Mom's tiger oak buffet in our eat-in kitchen.

After they returned home I continued painting for the next month. I painted the doors, trim, and crown molding in the family room. We are redoing the floors next month, so I'm leaving the baseboards until then. It is amazing what that finishing touch does to the brightness of the room.

Let me remind you of what it looked like before we moved in.......

I'm so excited to get the floors done and get a rug, and this space will then be finished for the most part.

Since Nakoma and Phoebe moved back to Tennessee we decided to rent the apartment downstairs to a couple who attend the university where Chad works. Before they moved in we painted the walls and trim in preparation for them.

We have loved having them as our neighbors.  They are both from Romania, so it's fun to get to know them and learn about their culture.

Remington started 11th grade in August. It is so hard to believe he has less than 2 years here at home.  He is leaning towards joining the National Guard once he finishes high school. He would also like to be a firefighter; so either way, a public servant, which we think is an excellent choice. As parents of a Marine, (and a Marine and Army man for son-in-laws) the military is something we are familiar with. In the mean time, he is trying to make it through Algebra 2, Chemistry, Economics, American History, and Edgar Allan Poe in English without losing his mind, in addition to working 20 hours a week. Poor kid...I don't envy him!

Phoebe came out to visit in late August for 5 days.  We had not seen her since she had moved and she had grown up so much over the summer. Her vocabulary is excellent and she is fully potty trained. We had a fun week baking cookies, going to the park and out for ice cream, playing with sidewalk chalk and going to the children's museum. When she went home I was thoroughly exhausted and it took me a week to recover!

My health has been so-so throughout the summer.  While I haven't had any huge flare-ups with fibromyalgia, I generally feel bad more days than I feel good. Some of it is likely added weight gain and lack of exercise, but it's hard to eat healthy and move when I don't feel good to begin with. I am hoping the cooler fall weather will entice me to get out more and walk with Mocha which should help both the weight and the pain.

I have been working on my organizing my fall wardrobe, which I may share on here, if you are interested.  I have had to replace almost everything I own the past 12 months with the weight gain I've experienced, but I am trying to be as minimalist and not consumerist about it as possible and be practical about what I need.  About half of it has been sourced through thrift stores, both locally and online, with the other half coming partly from ethical stores like Amour Vert and partly from conventional stores like Target, Old Navy, and TJ Maxx.  While I would like everything to come from a store with ethical practices, it isn't possible with my budget. Regardless, I am pleased with the progress I have made and the things I have added this fall especially.

Most of my outdoor plants have not done well this year.  I did not anticipate how shady our yard is, not to mention it has been an extremely wet year...about to get wetter with Hurricane Florence possibly dumping another 10 inches or more on us next week! My one exception has been this fern.....

It started the year frost bitten because I bought it too early in the year. I wasn't sure it would perk back up...but boy did it ever! I decided I am just going to buy ferns for the deck next year. This one only cost $7.50!

I am so looking forward to fall this year! My fall bucket list includes: 

🎃Going to a pumpkin patch with Phoebe

🍁Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway my birthday weekend to see the fall colors

🍎Going to an apple orchard with Chad

💻Taking an Enneagram test and going to a two day training conference on it

🐾Walks and hikes with Mocha


🍎Making Vegan Apple much better than regular

👷New family room floors and a visit from my brother and sister-in-law who will be laying them

🎊Family time in Phoenix for Thanksgiving

Stay tuned for my update next week on my minimalist fall wardrobe and fall touches I've added to our home.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Mindful Living - Less Plastic

Plastic Free July is wrapping up so I thought I would share some of my favorite ways to reduce the plastic consumption in my home and life. 

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.😞 The best way to prevent this is by avoiding single use plastic like grocery bags, water or soda bottles, and to-go or single serving food containers. I will be upfront and say it is a work in progress for me and I still use far too much plastic! While I have many plastic free and reusable options, I still get a chai frappe in a plastic cup and occasionally forget my reusable bags. It's a learning process, but rather than get down about what I don't do I am going to celebrate and share what I DO.

1) The easiest first step is to use reusable grocery bags.  Keep them in the front seat of your car or hanging by your front door so you don't forget them. You can probably buy basic ones at the grocery store checkout for a dollar or two.  Or, if you want a cute one, you can buy from this Etsy store where I bought one of mine.

2) Once you get in the habit of carrying these with you, grab some reusable produce bags. These are nice because they are see-though and if you buy produce from the grocery store most likely they need to be able to see the code to ring it up. I keep my produce bags in with my grocery bags.

3) Many of us use reusable to-go coffee mugs.  Most coffee shops and gas stations don't have any problems refilling such cups and many even offer discounts for bringing your own cup. When I recently traveled to Nebraska, I used my to-go mug to buy coffee on my trip.

4) I carry this cutlery pouch in my purse. It rolls up and stays in the bottom of my purse and is great for those restaurants that use plastic cutlery. After using, I simply wash and dry them in the restaurant restroom and return them to the roll.

5) I also have these Stainless Steel StrawsI keep a couple in my purse and some in my silverware drawer for when I make smoothies at home.

6) I don't use these as much since I don't pack a kid's lunch anymore, but when my kids were little and I packed a lunch I would use sandwich wraps such as these rather than a plastic baggie.

7) I still use these reusable snack bags when I am going to be in the car for awhile and know I will need some almonds, pretzels, or chips. They are also good to use in lunch bags.

8) I bought some Bee's Wrap Sandwich Wrap for using in place of plastic wrap for left-overs in my fridge. I still buy plastic wrap for some things, but the Bee's Wrap has replaced a good portion of what I would use before.

9) I love my to-go water bottle. I hate spending over a dollar on a water bottle when I'm out and about! Keep your water bottle handy so you can remember to fill it and take it whenever you get in your car.  This bottle is great because it has a straw so it is spill-proof and has easy access for workouts.  It also comes with a lid so you don't need to use it with a straw if you prefer.  ICONIQ Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle with Pop Up Straw Cap.

10) For my readers who are women, have you looked to switching to waste free periods? I have used a Diva Cup and cloth pads for years. It's a learning curve, but saves quite a bit of money and waste every month!

11) Finally, Pyrex 18 Piece Simply Store Food Storage Set is a great way to store your leftovers without using plastic. I have had mine for years!

Obviously, these are all an investment, but I have added to my plastic free collection for the past 6 years to acquire what I have listed above.  Take it slowly, add one plastic-free piece per month or per quarter.

The next thing I want to buy is a 16 oz reusable cold cup with a straw for when I buy a frappe. Many coffee shops are becoming environmentally aware so I am hoping my coffee shop will make my frappe in this Stainless Steel Tumbler.

Have you switched to anything reusable? What are your favorite plastic free tips?

Have a great week, friends!

*Some links above are affiliate links and I make a small commission if you buy what I suggested. When possible, I have included links to small businesses and encourage you to shop small first....even if I don't make a commission from those shops. I only suggest things I use and love and appreciate you shopping with companies that support this blog.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Recipe - Campanelle Fresca

Today I have a perfect recipe that can be served year-round with minimal prep and maximum flavor. I used Herb Campanelle pasta that I bought at the Farmer's market, but I have also used bow-tie, rotini, or penne. Take a few minutes the evening or morning before to assemble the sauce so the flavors can meld together, producing a more flavorful sauce. This meal comes together in less than 30 minutes and only takes one pot!

Campanelle Fresca

12 ounces campanelle pasta, bow-tie, penne', or rotini
1 cup tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped 
1 small red onion, chopped
4 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
Feta Cheese

Fresca Sauce:
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1/8 cup white wine
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
5-6 cloves garlic passed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon sugar or honey, (may omit if a sweet white wine is used)
1 teaspoon salt

The evening or morning before you plan to make this pasta, assemble the sauce ingredients in a mason jar or some other glass container with lid. Give it a good stir and then place on the counter or windowsill to allow the flavors to come together.

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  While the pasta is cooking, remove the seeds and chop the tomatoes and peel and chop the onion. In the same pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until shimmery and add onion. Cook 3-4 minutes until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes and cook 2 minutes more. Stir often to avoid burning. If needed, add a small amount of the fresca sauce to tomatoes and onions and then add spinach.  Cook about 1 minute more until the spinach is bright green and wilted. Add noodles and remaining sauce tossing to coat the noodles thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. Place in a serving bowl and top with feta cheese.

This recipe is also fabulous with grilled chicken and also tastes good cold the next day. I used large cherry tomatoes in this recipe, but any tomato will work, although roma tomatoes would be the most authentic. Also, I have made this and only let the sauce marinate for a couple hours and it tastes fine, but the garlic is a little strong that way. I think this recipe would also be great with grilled or roasted vegetables on the top.

Hope you enjoy!!

Monday, June 25, 2018

May/June Update

Hi friends!

It's almost July and I'm just now getting around to updating.  Better late than never I guess......

May was a pretty low month for me, so it was nice when June rolled around with some exciting plans and a fun trip. It didn't help that the last 2 weeks of May literally had one sunny day, I was still struggling to get my spending under control, and our schedule was shook up by Nakoma and Phoebe moving back to Tennessee. For someone who thrives in sunshine and routine, it was tough.

But sunshine has returned!  I took a refreshing trip! Nakoma and Phoebe seem to be getting settled!  Nakoma started her new job at Amazon in Chattanooga and it seems like an awesome opportunity for her.  I miss them, especially Phoebe, but I'm excited to have my freedom back.

So on to the recap:

As I said, May was a spendy month.....but some of my spending was totally worth it! The biggest purchase was this sofa I found on Facebook Marketplace.  It's from Pottery Barn and was only a few years old. Score! And it looks great with our rug.....and dog.

I still need to get some pillows and an end table, but the room is coming together nicely.

The week before Nakoma and Phoebe left we took a trip to the Virginia Safari Park. It was such a nice day and Phoebe had a blast. 

I loved the aviary with parakeets! Phoebe liked seeing the giraffes and monkeys. The Safari park also has a drive-thru area where you can feed the large animals like elk and buffalo!

I finally bought a few frames and finished framing my grandmother's art. While I would like to get them professionally framed, at $150 a pop it isn't something that will be done anytime soon.  So I went to Michael's and bought some basic frames and got them hung on my wall. I love I am able to display her art again. I inherited 4 new painting when my Dad passed away in 2014, but had nowhere to display the paintings at my last home. The little girl and the woman are paintings of my Mom and the man is my grandfather.

Phoebe's birthday was June 9th, so before they left we celebrated her special day with her favorite meal of spaghetti and had cupcakes for dessert. 

I sure miss this little girl!

The Farmer's Market has been in full swing! Here are a couple of my favorite things from the last few markets.  I really enjoyed the asparagus and strawberries last month and am loving peaches, raspberries, blueberries, and tomatoes now!

Remington finished 10th grade the beginning of June. His summer is in full swing working with a landscaper, in addition to his regular job at the local burger joint. Here he is all cleaned up for his school's banquet.

I took an 11 day solo road trip to Nebraska this month to visit friends and family. I hadn't taken a solo road trip for 10 years so I was thankful my anxiety didn't get the better of me. I'm working on a blog post about my trip that will be coming soon.

Chad and I have also talked about taking a three day weekend and going to DC or somewhere close this summer.  Otherwise since we are footloose and fancy free from childcare we'll probably hike, hit some breweries, concerts, and local restaurants as well as yoga several times a week. 

Looking forward to July, we have some house projects in the works and Chad's parents are coming out to help with some of them. We plan to do a ton of painting and some electrical work and we have hired a guy to replace some doors and windows. This fall we also plan to redo the family room floors.

Now that I am back and refreshed from my trip, I have been working on the budget, changing a few things up and planning for the future. We are looking for additional avenues of income, possibly renting out our guest room through Airbnb, in addition to renting out our basement apartment. Since our emergency fund is fully funded we will start sending the majority of our extra income to house projects, but will continue to save a smaller amount. Eventually we would like to have six months of expenses saved, but we are comfortable with a little over three months saved now.  With the last few months of spending and traveling our emergency savings and house savings have been at a standstill, so I want to see it start growing again. I also want to try to get better at meal planning and lower the grocery bill. Our grocery budget seems high for a family of three, especially when our teenager hardly eats here.

As I said above, I am working on a blog post about my trip to Nebraska. I also want to get back to budgeting posts as well as updates on our house projects! So stay tuned....

How is your summer going, friends?