Friday, November 24, 2017

Things I Like - November

My monthly round-up of 5 things I'm liking, with a few affiliate links sprinkled in.  Thanks for helping support the blog! =)  See more here!

Are you a Black Friday shopper?  We are, I'll definitely be at Target today, no matter their sales I always go today.  Matt and Luke will likely visit Lowes.  We REFUSE to go to any stores on Thanksgiving but internet shopping...yep...we did a bunch of that yesterday.  I know, the point of this weekend isn't the shopping (and we have another Thanksgiving celebration still coming) but I still really like it.  And giving thanks and time with family and all the things.  This is one of the best weekends of the year!!

1) Circle Round Podcast


I had heard a lot about audiobooks for kids but never knew where to start or if Luke would like them so I never pursued them.  Then we came across this podcast and I promptly subscribed...and then let 7-8 stories build up before we ever got around to listening to them.  I still wasn't sure what Luke would think.  Turns out, he LOVES them.  He calls them his "stories" and asks for them almost daily.  They are around 12-15 minutes and each is a folk story, most of which I've never heard.   We've listened while doing puzzles or cleaning up his room after quiet time or when coloring.  He has a few favorites (#2 "The dragon story" and #3 "The salt one") that we've listened to many times.  I'm more confident he could handle audiobooks now, if only I could figure out which ones...

2) Dutch Oven

I never had one of these until recently and always just used a saucepan when a recipe would mention using one.  Then I spotted one in the Aldi ad a couple weeks ago and it was blue and $30 and blue...really the color is what sold me.  (I am MUCH more inclined towards anything blue.)  It sat on the counter almost 2 weeks because I wasn't sure if I really needed one but then I bit the bullet and used it...and then again...and again.  Turns out, I have many uses for one and it sure beats some of our double hand me down pots.  I haven't needed to put it in the oven yet but I like that I could.  And it's blue.  Of course, once I got one I started seeing them every year and I'm pretty happy with my $30 one.

3) Heated Mattress Pad

This is SUCH a HUGE favorite for me November-March.  We've had one since the early years of marriage and used to sleep with it on low all night because we'd turn the heat in the house super cold.  That doesn't work so well with a kid who doesn't stay under blankets so we turn the mattress pad off at night (since the house is warmer) but I do use it to warm up the bed which is SO NICE.  I turn it on when we're putting Luke to bed so by the time we make it there a few hours later it's nice and toasty and it makes me so happy, every single night.  It's amazing how much I look forward to going to bed when it's cold when I know a super warm bed is waiting for me.  (This is the updated version of the one we have.  It's so worth it.)

4) The Office

We recently finished our 9 season rewatch of The Office and I, have to admit, got a little choked up during the final episode.  We had watched most of the show when it original aired and I did a 1-8 season rewatch right before the 9th (and final) season started airing but other than watching the Christmas episodes every December, I hadn't watched much of it since it went off the air.  And there are plenty of rocky moments (pretty much all of season 8) but it is still so so enjoyable.  I think Matt laughed more on the rewatch than he did when we first watched it.  It's like Friends where almost everyone has heard of it, most people have seen at least some of it, it holds up well, even years later.  It was very satisfying to watch again.

(This might be my first repeated like, in over 5 years of doing these posts.  But it's been over 4 years so I think it's ok.)

5) Cable-Knit Bootie Slippers

I already had two pairs of slippers but I never liked how either looked with skinny jeans or leggings (which is pretty much what I wear all winter with riding boots) so I'd end up wearing my boots around the house all the time and I wasn't a big fan of that either (both dirt wise and wearing out my boots wise).  Enter these and problems are solved!!  They makes me feel more put together than my old slippers (which I still wear with yoga pants around the house) and Luke has complimented me on them multiple times.  Super comfy, super warm (SO IMPORTANT to me in the winter).  I may wear them out by the end of winter with almost daily use but I am ok with that.  My feet are rather happy right now!

What have YOU been liking lately?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

{7} Things Saving Me Right Now

We are on the eve of a super busy time of the year.  Or a time of the year we can make really busy and stressful for ourselves.  Every year I am trying to simplify our holiday season or at least doing what I can to get things done in November so December can be mostly for wrapping presents (which I seriously love), baking (eating) cookies, time with family, and watching Christmas movies.  BUT, there is still a whole lot of group family time and things to do and shopping that needs done SO...7 things that are saving me right now.

1) Space heaters
Our old (80+ year old) house doesn't have the best insulation and, yes, we should have had more blown in 10 years ago but that never happened and so we make due with some strategically placed space heaters.  Namely: in the bathroom to make the "turning off the scalding hot water and being soaking wet and freezing cold" process much less painful.  (It also helps the mirrors not get fogged over.  Colder showers would probably also help with that but not the being cold part...).  Another in the basement for the first 5-10 minutes of my workout.  And one upstairs that we do run part of the night, largely due to the 4 year old who seems to kick off his blankets every single night.

2) Tea (hot and cold)
I've finished the last of my sweet tea from warmer fall days and now have moved to hot tea every quiet time while I read for a bit before blog work.  It might have a little caffeine but also just having something warm to drink is so cozy.

3) Reading, lots of reading
I'm always going to be reading a lot.  It's just a fact.  (Maybe not if we get those long waited for twins though...)  I read during quiet time.  I read while supervising bathtime.  I read once Luke is in bed.  I read before I go to sleep.  And sometimes, when I'm lucky, when Luke is playing nicely in another room too.  It's definitely needed recharge time for me.

4) Quiet time
It's rarely very quiet but it is so so needed.  Luke's even asked me if he could have longer quiet time!  So he doesn't dislike it nearly as much as the claims to.  I think it's great for both our moods in the afternoon and evenings.

5) Amazon Prime
I mean, who doesn't love this, ever?  It's not that needed right now because we still have plenty of time before the gift-giving begins but it's still realllllllly nice to order something and know it'll be here in 2 days.  So so handy.  AND, our credit card is giving us 5% back on all Amazon purchases this quarter so...that'll be some nice free orders next year.

6) Fleece lined leggings under jeans 
If I am wearing my tall boots, almost 99% chance I am wearing fleece lined leggings under them.  With knee-high socks.  My calves are SO WARM this time of year and I LOVE it.  Leggings under my pants are how I tolerate this cold weather.

7) Having a DVR
Seriously, I don't know how anyone watches tv without one.  Other than the Superbowl, we've watched very few commercials the last decade.  I can watch my shows on my schedule!  We have every single episode of Daniel Tiger and Curious George saved on there!  I highly recommend them, especially if you have a techy husband who can build and maintain one for you...  It's seriously one of the best purchases we've made in the last 10 years.  (And continue to make...we've certainly upgraded computer components since he made the first one!)

What's saving YOU right now?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Quick Lit - November

It's once again the time of the month where I share everything I've been reading.  I have 19 books listed below...I've been doing a lot of reading.  Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and, as always, I'm very active on Goodreads and you can find me here!  Friend me there if you like what I read!

First, a few book posts from the past month:

And now everything else I read!

Sunset Lullaby by Robin Jones Gunn
Another book in the long, long, sets of series.  This one following Christy and Todd through more parenting, more life.  I appreciated reading about their parenting struggles, how some times kids are really difficult, how that season of life can be tough.  I will read absolutely everything she writes about these characters but this one also felt really final, a lot of lose ends tied up.  But reading about these people really does feel like connecting with old friends.  4.5 Stars

Daring to Hope: Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors
I really really enjoyed her first book, Kisses From Katie (review here), about how this young woman moved to Uganda and ended up adopting 13 young girls.  Most of us can't imagine making that kind of HUGE life change.  This one continues her story, as she lives her life with her daughters, going through tough times, and looking for God's goodness in it all.  It was incredibly moving and inspiring. 5 Stars

Friendships Don't Just Happen by Shasta Nelson 
This book was a bit of a drag to get through.  I just could not concentrate on it.  I fully appreciate her message - you have to work at friendships and that people will come in and out of your life in different seasons.  You need people who are going through similar life stages but then also people who have known you forever.  I did finish but it was a bit of a slog.  3 Stars

Unqualified by Anna Faris
I have listened to Anna's podcast on and off over the last 18 months, depending on who her guest was, so I marked this to read over 6 months ago. Then Anna and her husband, Chris Pratt, announced their separation 2 months before the book release which made this interesting on a different level. You can tell some changes were made since that decision but there is still a whole lot about their relationship. She goes into some details about things that I don't really need to know but for the most part it was an enjoyable read, behind the scenes a little of some of their better known roles and also a look inside a high profile relationship in Hollywood.  3.75 Stars
In Your Dreams, Don't You Wish, Close Your Eyes, Without a Doubt, With This Ring by Robin Jones Gunn
I've been working on rereading all her younger series this year, these being #2-6 of the Sierra Jensen series, one of Christy's friends.  These are all really quick reads and rather different from the Christy books, but I think Sierra tends to be a more fleshed out character than Christy, the latter whose life seemed to mostly revolve around Todd.  I know, this makes sense to few people, but I've invested a lot of my life into reading about these characters over the last 2 decades!  3.5-4 Stars

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
I first read this author this summer when I read her latest, Windfall (review here).  I really enjoyed that one and was inclined to pick up some more of hers.  This was the story of two teens who accidentally, due to a typo, connect over e-mail.  The e-mail often, many times a day, and become quite close.  Then the guy surprises the girl by showing up in her hometown and, surprise!, he's actually a movie star and is filming his next movie there.  It was a little bit far fetched but still charming and sweet, which is basically what I want in YA.  3.75 Stars 

Dear Mister Rogers, Does it Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood? by Fred Rogers
This was a quick read but had some good parenting advice.  These are a collection of letters that were written to Mr. Rogers, it seems largely in the 80s and 90s.  My son is very much in the "ask all the questions" phase and reading how patiently and honest Mr. Rogers responded to all the kids made me more closely consider how I should be answering all my son's questions.  I'd recommend to other parents to very questioning kids! 4 Stars

Waterfalls by Robin Jones Gunn
Continuing my long reread of her Glenbrook series.  This one about Meridith who has always had a thing for movie stars, and then finds herself accidently in the company of one, who also happens to be an old neighbor of her sister.  It's dated (written in the late 90s) but I still really enjoy it, maybe, mostly, because I've read it so many times already.  3.75 Stars

Woodlands by Robin Jones Gunn
The 7th book in the Glenbrook Series, this one about Leah who daughter #6 and has always felt a bit like the unneeded one, the one that was supposed to be a boy.  She's lived in Glenbrook her whole life and dreams of adventure when it starts to come her way a little bit.  And she decides that maybe her life has enough of it and where she really wants to be is right where she is, mostly.  I've read this one much less than the earlier books in the series, I think it came out just later enough that I was busy with high school and wasn't reading as much as in my junior high days.  So not knowing the story super well made it an enjoyable read, being a little surprised at the turns the story took.  Cozy and enjoyable.  3.5 Stars

The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton 
This is one I should have given up on.  But I didn't.  Marion Palm has been embezzling from her daughters' fancy New York private school, where she has been working.  Then she disappears.  It's told from her point of view, as she hides, and also from her husband's, as he tries (kinda) to find her, and also her two daughters.  I was just expecting something different, something more.  It was fine but not for me.  2 Stars

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
Another YA pick.  I know this is a fairly big author in that genre but the first of hers I've read.   Louna is the daughter of a wedding planner.  Her Dad is long gone and turns out she lost another loved on in a very traumatizing incident.  That makes it hard for her to let another guy in, she just doesn't want to go through, or diminish, what she had before.  It was fine.  Not my favorite YA but I enjoyed reading it.  3.5 Stars

From a Certain Point of View by Ben Acker (and more)
This is the reallllly dorky book I was reading when I did my Day in the Life post a few weeks ago.  I know, it's a Star Wars novel.  I KNOW.  It's 40 stories about side characters in A New Hope (the original, original Star Wars movie...although if you didn't already know that you probably already stopped reading this paragraph).  It's stories that intersect with what was on the screen but never shown.  Like the creature in the trash.  Or a Mouse droid.  I liked some, liked others less.  It probably didn't help that most of my Star Wars knowledge comes from playing the Lego video game and/or reading picture books to our son.  But still, made me want to rewatch the movie.  So that's something.  3.5 Stars

 The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The eagerly anticipated follow-up to her The War That Saved my Life.  That one was about 2 kids who are evacuated from London during the Blitz and sent to live with a single woman in the countryside, who most definitely did not want them.  But she doesn't want them less than their own mother.  The girl has a club foot and has had very limited exposure to people but she blossoms in this new setting.  This story picks up where the first left off, how they are all coping in the countryside, how the war touched everyone.  It was excellent and so well done. 4 Stars

What did YOU read this month?  I love hearing, especially if you read any of the same books!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

{7} Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

First off, the obvious, don't-ever-want-to-live-without-them favorites are running water and appliances like the fridge, stove/oven, and microwave.  In thinking about this post I've spent a lot of time considering what I could easiest live without, of those big ones.

First to go would be the dishwasher.  I end up washing dishes by hand almost daily anyways between baking and cooking pots so washing all the dishes by hand wouldn't be horrible.

Then the microwave.  We use it near daily but we could get around it.

Then the stove.  Mainly because we have a propane camping stove we could use in a pinch (but not in the house, for gas fumes reasons).

Then the oven.  I bake a lot but I could function without it for awhile.

But when it comes down to the final two - running water/sink or the fridge...I really don't know which one I need in my life more.  We have coolers and there's a gas station nearby that sells ice but it's also about my least favorite part of real camping - refreshing the cooler, digging through ice to get what you need and then having to make another spot in the ice to put it back.  When we were without power for 3 days a few years ago, trying to keep the fridge going was a HUGE pain.

But then, running water.  So many reasons it's hard/near impossible to live without that.  So maybe water gets the slight edge but I still don't want to be living without my fridge anytime soon!!

Besides all those big items, these are my other favorite kitchen items.  The ones I could definitely live without but also get pulled out very, very regularly.  The kind I think are really worth having, to make kitchen work a little easier, a little better. 

1) Silicone baking mats

I super rarely lined my cookie sheets before Matt got me these and now I use them almost every single time.  They only fit my completely flat (no edge) baking sheets but that's what I use most of the time anyways.  The clean easily, keep cookies (or other baked goods) from sticking, and keeps the cookie sheets pretty clean.  I'm a big fan.

2) Pineapple corer/slicer

I used to dread cutting up fresh pineapples.  Now I still do a little but not NEARLY as much.  You just cut off the top, screw this nifty tool down and pull out a perfect, core-less, spiral.  It's super fast and so much less messy than my previous method.

3) Kitchen Scale

This is another item I didn't see a need for until I got one.  Now I prefer recipes with weights over mass measurements because it's much more accurate and uses less dishes! (Fewer measuring cups to clean!)  It has come in handy SO MANY times since I got mine.  And, bonus, I've used it to weigh larger-than-standard envelopes to mail instead of just guessing how many extra stamps it's needed.  (First mentioned way back here!)

4) Nordicware popcorn bowl

We eat a decent amount of popcorn around here, specially on movie night but also on random weekday nights when we (Matt) want a fairly healthy snack.  This isn't going to give you super buttery greasy popcorn (unless you add a lot of melted butter afterwards) but does give you nice, healthy, popcorn super easily.  And then we usually add our favorite popcorn salt.  Delicious.  (First mentioned back here!)

5) Deni Ice Cream machine

If you've been following awhile you know I'm a fan of this thing.  It was a random, unregistered for, wedding present that sat mostly unused for many years.  Then 2½ years ago I started my Ice Cream of the Week project in the summer and now it's gotten SO MUCH use.  So much.  When it dies someday I'll probably buy a nicer replacement since I know I use it all the time but this has made a lot of ice cream for us and worked pretty well.  I'm so glad we got it as a wedding present.

6) Oster immersion blender
This was a complete Black Friday impulse buy for under $20 but it has come in handy so many times.  I use it every time I make strawberry applesauce, on soups, ice cream components, refried beans, drink components.  I use it a lot more than I ever thought when I bought it (I was a little less about simplifying back then.)

7) Silicone muffin liners

I have some IKEA ones that I really really like but haven't seen in store or online since I bought them.  I also have Wilton ones that I took (with permission) from my sister's garage sale pile and, while I don't like them as much as my thinner IKEA ones, they work well too.  I eat a muffin almost daily for my morning snack and these save me from a whole lot of paper waste.  (First mentioned here and then again here.)

What are some of your favorite "I could live without but having it makes life a little easier" kitchen tools?  And which major appliance could you most easily give up?

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission.  Thanks for helping support this blog!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Weaning Myself Off Social Media

I am constantly trying to use my time better, work harder, not more, etc.  I, a stay-at-home-mom who barely works, feels like I have too many things I want to get done to have time to waste.  Things like sleeping 7½-8 hours a night, spending quality time with my husband and son, reading a lot of books, exercising, and keeping our house clean and organized.  I excel at puttering around the house and sometimes that's useful (nightly clutter pick-ups) but also, can be wasted time.  So can mindless internet browsing, too long Netflix binges, and social media.

Now, I love a good Netflix binge here and there but also really value sleep and other things in my life more...  Although we probably still use our Netflix at least 5 days a week (thank you, The Office rewatch we are currently working on, even though we own all the DVDs, it's still so much easier to use Netflix.).

I also really do enjoy social media.  I like seeing more pictures of my sisters' kids.  Seeing my cousins' kids, friends' kids.  And not JUST kids.  Instagram is filled with pretty pictures than can be inspiring or funny or relateable.  Facebook is a good way to keep tabs on what far away friends and family are doing, or even the ones nearby I don't see often enough.

But I don't want watching other peoples' lives to consume my own.  Like most anything else, it's best in moderation.  So over the last few years I've been slowly weaning myself off social media.  I still check Facebook and Instagram regularly...but not every day.  And not multiple times a day.  I aim to keep my time there to under 10 minutes a day (which still seems a bit excessive when you do the math out to how much time that is a year...seriously, that's more than a whole day a year.)

I also don't use Snapchat and barely use Twitter.  And I'm sure there are dozens more that the kids are using now that I've never heard of.  So when I say social media I pretty much mean Facebook and Instagram.

1) Check Once a Day
I really, really try to stick to this, checking one at quiet time and the other in the evenings once Luke is in bed.  I've been rearranging my blogging/reading schedule as split between those times so it's been changing which I do when but most days, I'm in each once a day.  (And, believe me, you won't die if you go 24 hours between checks.  If something really urgent happens I'm sure you'll get a text.)

2) Delete the Apps
I haven't had the Facebook app on my phone for months (years?) and delete my phone browser cookies regularly so that I have to go through a two-step login process to get back in.  Which is just annoying enough to deter me from checking it.  I stay logged in on my computer but when I do have that on I'm usually trying to get a blog post done, editing pictures, or working on a photobook and am not too distracted to click over.

I do use Instagram through the app but, here's the thing, I delete the app on the weekends.  Check it Friday afternoon, delete the app, and I'm not back in until sometime Monday.  It takes about 2 minutes to reinstall which is enough time to check myself and not download it over the weekend.

It's AMAZING how much less tempting it is when neither is an easy click away on my phone.

3) Reduce Your Followings
I don't accept every friend request and I keep my Instagram (and Twitter) followings pretty low.  I can get through stories and my feed in about 10 minutes.  I regularly skim Instagram for anyone I should unfollow.  Having less to check means less time spent!

4) Mute IG Stories
I don't mind the occasional story from people I know (or even people I don't know but follow) but some people like the stories WAY. TOO. MUCH.  I don't need a play-by-play on your life, thank you very much.  When in the app, if you hold down on someone's story icon you'll get the option to mute their story.  Which I have no problem doing.  Or skip stories that do not interest me.  I do like the feature but I think a lot of people could often be choosier about what they share there.

5) Take Social Media Breaks.  (Plenty of them.)
I've given up Facebook for Lent for the last many years; it's refreshing.  I don't check social media on the weekends (see above...deleting the apps really helps).  I don't check it at the lake (usually being tight on data helps).  I rarely check on vacation (sometimes I jump in to post something relating to a blog post going up).  Being able to ignore it all for chunks of time makes me feel like I have control over it.

(Also, my constant rant to please stay off your phones, social media especially, when you are around other people, particularly people you don't live with.  You should be social with the people actually in front of you before the people behind the screen.   I shouldn't see you checking Facebook at Grandpa's 90th birthday party.  Or Instagram around the table at Thanksgiving.  Or anything at a wedding.  All of which I've witnessed.  END rant (until the next time, it's one of my favorite rants.))

I'm certainly not against social media.  I've been on Facebook for well over 1/3 of my life.  I do enjoy the time I spend on them, but I also enjoy it more than it's just a small treat in my day instead of consuming my life.  I want my living my own life to consume my life.

How do YOU manage your social media time?   

Related: {7} Ways to Spend Less Time On Your Phone