Friday, February 10, 2017

stitch fix : february fix!

(Note : This post contains affiliate links.)
This week I got my very first Fix of 2017!
Stitch Fix is an online personal styling service that I have been using for almost three years now.  I can honestly say it has transformed my style - by helping me figure out what my style truly is - and also saved me considerable money on fashion by eliminating the need/desire to spend time shopping at a million different stores, or buying a bunch of cheap pieces that I only sort of like and don't hold up very well.

Let's just say I have donated a LOT of clothing to Goodwill over the past few years...and it wasn't anything I got from Stitch Fix!

This time around I had a brand new stylist, Blake Lindsey, and she did an amazing job! 

Here is what I got...

#1 Quincie Keyhole Ribbed Back Knit Top (by Ink Love & Peace)
#2 Kiley Ankle Zip Legging (by Rune)
I think my stylists at Stitch Fix have caught on to the fact that I love heather gray.  Probably I could wear plain old heather gray every single day.  This tee is more of a tunic which works great with the leggings.  I like that it is a hi-low cut, and that the top is more fitted, leaving the rest to hang in a flattering (not boxy) way.  The keyhole detail in the back is an added bonus!   I know I will wear this versatile top a lot - so it was a definite keep!

The leggings are a keep as well!  I usually just buy super cheapo black yoga leggings at Target...but they inevitably get little holes in them after only a few wears.  Ugh!  I wanted a pair that would hold up better, with thicker material, and some sort of fun detail.   I actually was hoping for a pair with some leather detail on them, but the ankle zipper on these is really fun, too!  

#3 Carenza Faux Wrap Jersey Dress (by Gilli)
This faux wrap dress (it doesn't really "un-wrap" but simply looks like a wrap) is so lovely! This fit perfectly on absolutely every body part -- arms, bust, butt and the just-below-the-knee length is modest and flattering for us short gals with ample hips and thighs. I wanted to keep this, but the pattern didn't excite me.  It sort of reminded me of something nautical, with the navy and white.  I just don't do nautical.  So - return!

#4 Kramer V-Neck Pullover (by Mak)

Pale blush pink is absolutely one of my favorite colors to wear.  Pretty and flattering to pretty much any skin tone.  So the color of this piece was perfect, but the style fell flat for me.  It was just a simple, soft, v-neck sweater.  Very comfortable, but very blah for me.  I loved it with my ripped jeans and nude stacked heels...but everything else I tried it on with was just meh.  Plus, it was sort of awkward in the fit.  So it was a return.

#5 Clarnella Cold Shoulder Top (by JELLA C)

You know I love the cold-shoulder trend -- so I was excited to be sent another!  I had requested a dark floral top, and I found this one to be exactly what I was looking for.  I think the dark florals are moody yet so feminine.  This one has the ruffle and is longer and flowy, making it super romantic.  I really wasn't in need of another dressy top at all...but I couldn't resist keeping this one!

So there it is - my first Fix of the year!  I couldn't be more please with three pieces I know I will love wearing.

Have you tried Stitch Fix yet?  It has saved me so much time and effort by not having to scour boutiques during my limited free time, or battle crowds at the mall, or try on a million things at Target for maybe one that I like.

I have fewer items in my wardrobe now, but more that I truly love wearing!  For me that is a win!

Stitch Fix arrives when you want it to, with items hand-picked for you based on your style profile and requests to your stylist.  If you are interested, you can get started by clicking the link below or any of the links in this post!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

dad turns seventy // our time in mn

On Christmas Day we started our drive to Minnesota, my home state, to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday.We decided to just pack up and leave a day early so that we could break up the twelve hour drive and stop at a hotel with the kids.

Cormac : I like hotels, Mom.  Not because of the pool.  Because of the cool furniture and beds!

We all enjoyed our night swimming in a ridiculously warm pool, with apparently "cool" furniture and beds and then arrived the next afternoon at my parents' farm.

This is the same farm where I grew up from age eight to eighteen - amidst woods, "pet" sheep, misbehaving cows, and farm cats.  It is always nice to be able to go back to that space and regain a sense of myself that gets lost sometimes in my far-away adult world : the kid, the dreamer, the romanticist.

The farm is beautiful and private, and I think my parents appreciate the property now more than ever. The grandkids can visit and roam and we can can all remember what it was like to be so free.

A few years ago my dad built a playhouse out of the wood from our huge red barn that had blown over in a fierce storm.  The barn has actually been reincarnated in all our homes - as a fireplace mantle, a coffee table, beams in the kitchen, and art.  But the playhouse always is a central focus for the grandkids when they visit the farm.  Grandpa heating water on the wood stove for hot chocolate, making snow cones flavored with Kool-Aid, the play kitchen, the loft, the pulley, all their measurements and handprints on the wall...things they will remember as they get older.
the playhouse
For his birthday celebration Dad didn't want a big party, but just all of us together at the farm.  My brothers both still live close-by, but my sister and her family traveled from Montana, and we, of course, drove from Kentucky.  We all see each other maybe once or twice a year, if we are this was special time.

Our little fam stayed at a hotel in town, but drove out each morning after breakfast to spend the rest of the day and evening at the farm.  Our kids basically got to stay up until 10pm every night during the trip, running around like crazy with their cousins and stealing sweets (or, in Finola's case, "flat cheese") pretty much all day long.  It should have been a complete nightmare, with the kids being somewhat sleep-deprived and sugar-loaded,  but somehow it worked out okay and we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

We celebrated Dad by all going to a little restaurant nestled by a frozen lake.  Oh, yes -- there was plenty of snow on our visit!  A treat for us "southerners!"  

The dinner out was loud and warm and tasty, ending with us singing Happy Birthday while Grandpa was served an ice cream sundae.  He shared it with all the kids, and then we headed back to the farm for another dessert and present opening.  Dad received books and a whole lot of beer - two of his favorite things!

We treasured our time there, arriving home New Years Eve with tired kids and the same Christmas mess we had left.  Totally worth it.

Here are some of photos I got from our trip...
The kids brought their backpacks which they had packed with toys and art supplies -- travel lifesaver!
Finola shares my love of cheese, clearly.
My sister Heidi helping Cormac write one of his "books." 

obviously we all love to rock our hats!
Grandma getting some snuggles with Finola.  Sometimes you just have to grab her face and kiss it!
A frozen lake is a thing of beauty - at least if you're a Minnesotan.
kid table!
we never take our kids to restaurants if we can help it.  I am surprised at how well this went!
the birthday guy enjoyed some lobster tails.
A happy man -- with seven of his eight grandchildren (Finola refused photos at that time.) 
Dad with his kids!
Mom and Dad
Finola appeared suddenly as soon as ice cream appeared.
In fact, all the kids wanted a taste.
Grandpa shared willingly - even though he has always had quite a sweet tooth.
I love this pic I snapped for my Instagram story!
my kids weren't huge fans of the snow or cold.  they mostly had to be towed on a sled or carried.
everyone went on a family walk around the woods for some fresh air!

this is my happy place - right here.
sledding on the cornfields

Finola helped the guys make breakfast our last day there.

cracking eggs (her newest skill) with Grandpa

We made our way home the day before NYE, stopping halfway at one of those hotels with an indoor water park.  The hotel was pretty bad...but the kids loved the wave pool and slides -- so I'll count it as a win!

Here is the video of us singing Happy Birthday to my dad.  It was a treasured week of family time.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 // in words

Before I post a recap of 2016 in photographs - which will show the joyful, fun, exciting, peaceful moments from our year - I wanted to share the deeper thoughts on my heart as I reflect on this most recent trip around the sun.

I can look back on periods of my life (such as my twenties) and say that I was a fairly static character. I was pretty selfish, busy, self-absorbed.  I worked a lot, studied and read voraciously, spent a lot of time by myself, socialized only when it was convenient and did not interfere with my introverted tendencies.   

I ignored a lot of really big issues in my life, issues in my psyche that needed love and attention. I ignored them and told myself I'd be fine.  Or settled for being "not fine." 

My thirties have brought me to a whole new level of self-awareness...and awareness of those around me.  Having children forced me to deal with issues from my adolescence that I had buried unconsciously - probably under the guise of survival.  There is nothing like seeing your own negative tendencies in your children to snap you into a realization that you need to fix some things about yourself in order to be the best parent you can be for them.

So in 2016 I made some pretty significant adjustments to my life, though at the time I had no idea how profoundly they would affect me.  In the spring I signed up for the women's elective Bible study at my church, which happened to be Pricilla Shirer's Armor of God. In 2015 I really struggled with my depression/anxiety, and at the start of 2016 I was still searching for a good and healthy way to cope.  

I knew God was using this aspect of my life, my mental health, to bring me back to Him.  However, as many people do, I had dug in my heels for many years, calling myself "Christian" and praying to God (and probably complaining more than necessary) but not really nurturing or building my relationship with Him.

Raising tiny, sweet babies had appeased my soul and pushed aside any inner struggles for a while. But as they got older - dealing with noisy toddlers day in and day out - I was struggling for mental peace and searching desperately for answers in how to survive it all.

The Armor of God study, going to church those Wednesday nights in the early spring and never missing, even when I didn't feel like going -- that was a turning point for me.  If you ever think one small choice - like attending a Bible study at your church - can't make a significant difference in your life, boy, let me tell you : it can.

I'll admit, I felt uncomfortable sitting with my small group those nights, some of them very outspoken Christian women who are at a level in their faith that I am nowhere near.  I struggled to verbalize my relationship with Jesus and honestly just felt unworthy sharing my faith -- my inner struggles and past mistakes being used by Satan to silence me.  I was shy and very quiet, as I can be when I feel completely out of my element.  But I kept telling myself - this is good, Greta.  This is where you need to be.  You should be the quiet one, the learner, the listener - you have to be.  

Spring of 2016 changed me.  During that study, I started dedicating my early mornings to time to God...reading Armor of God, the Bible, and talking to Jesus, actively. Getting up, brewing my coffee, and being with Him became a habit that, if missed, threw off my whole day.  Those thirty or more minutes with Him became crucial.  They still are.

Not that it solved all my problems, making this switch from blogging or checking social media first thing to being in the Bible and prayer.  It did prepare me and help me in dealing with other issues, though.

Another big change in 2016 was that I finally found (or perhaps, God led me to) a counselor that I click with.  I am a huge proponent of therapy and attending to your mental health.

Even if you don't feel like you need "therapy" I will say that, as a mama, things can be overwhelming (ya'll know what I am saying) and sometimes it is essential to have a non-judgmental third-party to vent to.  A "drain," if you will.  I needed this - need this - maybe you do, too.

Anyway, I have tried over the years to connect with many different mental health counselors, and never found one that I felt "got" me.  In 2016, though, I did.  Hurray!  For a while I was going once a week, but recently I've been going about once a month.  I have learned more about myself and how to cope with certain situations (or radically accept them) over the past year than in my entire lifetime.  I have let go of more ugly thoughts in 2016 than I can say -- and for that I feel lighter.

So the past year I started making time for God every single morning, opened myself up to relationships, ended unhealthy relationships, found an amazing female therapist to help me vent and get through issues, and survived another year of motherhood!  

There is always room for growth.  I still feel overwhelmed a lot.  I still need to drink way more water and eat many more vegetables.  I still sometimes regress and get caught up in the social media comparison game and have to check myself.  I still don't know whether or not we should have another baby, or call our family complete.

Maybe 2017 will provide some answers?  Maybe not.  I am excited to see.

How do you feel?  What has changed in the past year for you?  What is still the same?

Whether you are focused on meeting goals, making changes, or simply survival - be hopeful, pray fervently, and never give up.

Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

camping with lil ones.

Growing up, our camping "coming of age" occurred when we turned three-years-old.  

Three was when my dad was allowed to (supposedly) rip us out of our mother's arms and take us on overnight canoe trips.

It was at that tender age was when my three siblings and I were allowed to go with my Dad, his twin brother, and my cousins on overnight canoe camping trips in the BWCA in northern Minnesota.  Some of my earliest memories are of black bears wandering into our campsites while we cooked freshly caught fish for breakfast, and my Dad calming chasing them off while banging pots and pans together.  We grew up hiking, canoeing, cross-country skiing, camping in the frigid Northern Minnesota winters when each night you thought perhaps you would lose your toes to frost bite, and driving all over the country (and Mexico, and Canada) to hike peaks and canyons and experience God's creation.

Now that I have my own kids, it makes sense that I would make this a rule in our family as well. Except it is not Hubby taking them solo...I am a part of the experience.  The meal planning, the packing, the driving, the hiking, and the sleeping on the cold, hard ground in the middle of the woods.  I need to be a part of all of it.  The camping gene was successfully passed from Dad to me.  Actually, all four of his kids got it!

I always knew I had to marry someone who was as adventurous as Dad (or at least as much as I am.)

Truth be told, Paul did not do a lot of camping growing up; however, over the years he has shown me he is definitely willing to brave the elements and challenge himself in the outdoors.  He went with my Dad to summit the very same peak in Banff National Park that I had summited a mere two weeks after we'd met.  He also hiked the Grand Canyon from rim-to-rim with a friend, signed up to hike Mt. Rainier (until appendicitis befell him) and has over the years impressed me by gleefully acquiring every essential piece of camping and mountain climbing gear a "finance guy" might ever need.
Paul in the Canadian Rockies.
Grand Canyon selfie!
So, I fell in love with Paul...and then he became a "rugged outdoorsman."  It all worked out.

In our marriage we have done many camping trips together, sometimes just the two of us, and others where we've convinced other couples to go, too!  We are always eager for others to get hooked on camping, although I'm not sure anyone we have brought actually has.  It is a hobby that you sort of have to commit to (i.e. buy proper gear for.)

Once we had kids we knew we wanted to "start 'em young" - but we got a very slow start.  We took Cormac with my family to the Boundary Waters when he was barely one-year-old.  Pretty challenging, I'll be honest - even with lots of help.  When Finola turned two tried camping again, but we basically could drive right up to our campsite and, while private and peaceful by a lake, it was by no means "primitive camping."

The "three-year-old rule" is a good one - for real camping.  You can take them to campgrounds and cabins before then, to be sure.  But if you are hiking in, or canoeing in, miles from civilization...go with the "three year old rule." (Probably even older if you have zero experience with this type of camping.)

Recently we took our three-year-old and five-year-old to a state park and hiked into the woods, several miles from our vehicle, in 40 degree weather (colder at night.)  We carried full packs, one containing a 40+ pound child at almost all times.  We also had to carry their sleeping bags in our hands, and much of the time their tiny backpacks filled with the "essentials" (toys.)

It was beautiful, with the bright blue November sky, crisp fall air, and surrounded by trees still arrayed with red, orange, and golden leaves.  But beauty is sometimes lost on tiny children, and, as on all camping trips, there were hiccups along the way.  It was cold.  Our kids cannot walk more than a quarter mile without getting whiny and begging to be carried.  We had never been to this park and really had no clue where the campsites were.  The map was shoddy.  We got a late start.  We had to cook dinner in the dark.

As parents you just have to roll with it and try to make it a good time for the kids.

Or, as my father explained to me on that first canoe trip with baby Cormac, "It is no longer about you when the kids are with - you get enjoyment from watching them experience it."

My Dad, especially when camping, has the patience of a saint.

Me?  Not quite as much.  Hubby does, though, and I definitely loved being with the family outdoors, despite any and all snafus.  We had a lovely two mile hike at a state park we had never been to.  We eventually make-shifted a campsite off the trail just as the daylight was fading, getting our tent set up just in time.  We devoured our Mountain House meals (so good, even several years expired!) with wild abandon in the darkness, snuggling around the camp stove, an enormous full moon rising above us and making it so bright there in the woods that we didn't even need our headlamps.

After dinner the kids were excited to get in the tent and burrow into their sleeping bags!  The chilly air and the exertion from hiking (er, being carried) had them exhausted and asleep within minutes. Actually, at precisely 8pm, Paul was also asleep -- he and Finola snoring contentedly and Cormac, silent as a mouse.  I alone lay awake, occasionally taking a glug from my plastic mini-bottle of red wine, listening to a far-off group of hunters and their pack of dogs, who were barking and howling for literally hours before I was able to drift off into a fragmented sleep.

It was worth it.

The next morning we all got up to a fire that Hubby had crackling.   I enjoyed two cups of instant coffee, Cormac had some hot chocolate.  We nibbled on cold Pop-tarts, warm instant oatmeal, summer sausage  -- all traditional camping foods from my childhood.  (The Mountain House meals are a luxury Paul and I adopted over the years.)

Despite it being freezing cold, literally, we fed the fire for a while, and then, very slowly, packed up and hiked out.

Then we drove directly to Cracker Barrel and enjoyed a hearty brunch, filling our bellies and feeling quite content with the way the tiny adventure went.

Beautiful, crisp fall weather.

just walk toward the light, colbie.
I was way too excited!  Let's go, guys!
Hiking with babes means lots of breaks.  Several times we just sat down in the leaves and ate cheese.  
This hunk of cheese might have been Finola's favorite thing.

Tent selfie!
Finola totally inherited my facial expressions.
early morning coffee and campfire.

Colbie is an excellent camp dog.  
This kid loves his hot chocolate, just as I did as a kid.  Finola won't touch the stuff.
Mini bottle of wine, summer sausage and coffee.  Breakfast of champions?
Paul got up early and found rocks to make this fire pit.  

Right before hiking out.  We survived and are still smiling!

Any other brave souls take their little ones camping?