Sunday, May 29, 2016

Seven Things I Never Told You

I have been blogging for several years now and but to be honest, I don’t feel like my blog is doing what I want it to, and honestly, I’ve changed what that is a couple times.  When I first started blogging, I had visions on monetizing in my head.  I was hearing stories about bloggers who did that for a full time job!

“Oh how fun!” I thought, “Write blog posts, get free clothes, and pepper affiliate links throughout posts and watch the dollars role in.  Good by cruddy job, hello blogging.”  (Okay, I may not have thought exactly that, but I think it was there in the back of my mind.)

But, it turns out monetizing a blog is not for everyone.  I have no problem including an affiliate here or there or giving a shot out to something I love, but it feels fakey-fakey for me, to be throwing affiliate links into every single post.  And most of my clothes come from thrift shops and the Kohl’s sale section.  Plus I live about half the time in scrubs so that doesn’t provide much in the way of monetary compensation.  I hate feeling like I’m encouraging people to buy things they don’t need.  And finally, it dawned on me- (first of all) I don’t want to be that type of blogger, and (second of all) that I didn’t have to be!

So, I want my blog to feel less like a Target and more like my living room.  I want you to feel like you can sit down, pull your feet up on the couch, drink some coffee, and discuss books or baking or sewing or traveling or something deep and abstract with me.  But, since I was initially all about the bling and had visions of dollar signs in my head and since I’m pretty introverted, I didn’t really tell you much about me at the start.  So we’re going to start over fresh okay?  Some of this information may have come up in blog posts offhandedly before, but I’m going to lay it all out as a getting to know me type thing, okay?  Okay!

  1. I'm 33 years old and married to Jim.  We’ve been married for nearly nine years now and I can honestly say I love him more now than I probably did in those first couple years.
  2. We have no kids.  I have no desire to have kids.  I do not hate kids.  I have friends with kids.  But neither one of us wants any kids of our own. 
  3. I have to cats that you probably have seen occasionally in pictures here on the blog.  Gargoyle is a ten year old diluted calico, and Honey Badger is a 4 year old long haired tabby.  They’re spoiled and I do talk to them in baby voices and act like they answer me back.
  4. I work full time, second shift, as a Health Unit Coordinator at the hospital here in town.  It sounds like a glamorous title, but really I’m the secretary for the med-surg unit.  This means if you come to visit a patient, I’m the one at the desk with the nurses that will tell you what room your mom is in.  Or if you call to talk to her nurse, I’ll probably be the one answering the phone once switchboard transfers you back.  I also do the order entry, supply order, running, and calling when I need lab to come draw some blood right away or if a lunch tray needs to be ordered.  Plus other duties as assigned.
  5. I was home schooled for all of high school and part of junior high.  This does not mean that I participated in the National Spelling Bee, or that I didn’t have any books and just had some hippie dippy education where life was my teacher.  I had books, I wrote reports, I took tests.  I also went on to college and did just fine.  I have the student loan bills to prove it. ;)   I did not go to prom or play extracurricular sports, but since I’ve always been an introvert, I didn’t really mind. 
  6. I’m from Wisconsin and love it here (most of the time).  I love Lake Superior and road trips and traveling and getting below the surface of things and finding out what makes people tick.  Even people I don’t especially like, I find myself wondering why they act the way they do. 
  7.  I dream about having a tiny house, and am in a constant quest to downsize my possessions.  I’m also in a never ending quest to visit every used bookstore I see and shop any fabric sales I come across, so obviously there’s some give and take.
And that’s about it for now.  I hope that helps you know a little more about me, and gets things into a more relaxed, laid back place.  So tell me about you, any fun facts?  Or interesting anecdotes you want to share?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Recap of My $20 Challenge

Last month, one of my goals was to spend only $20 for the whole month on things that were extras.  Things like clothes, books, eating out, and snacks, were all considered extras.  I was at $18 on April 15 and I managed to make it until April 20 before I failed.  I crossed the $20 threshold with the purchase of a Mississippi Mud from Cabin Coffee.  And you know what, it was totally worth it!  My husband and I had been appliance shopping in the nearby big town and he offered to take me to Cabin Coffee because he knows it's my favorite.  Mississippi Muds are these iced frappe drinks made with hazelnut and dark chocolate and sprinkled with espresso powder.  They’re like a kiss from the coffee fairy and the absolute perfect ratio of chocolate, coffee, whipped cream, and ice.  Then, I went to Hobby Lobby and got some greeting cards.  And from there, it kind of spiraled.  I went shopping with my friend Lori at the end of April and had to get Mother’s Days’ gifts for both the moms, I found a pair of jeans at Goodwill and a shirt that I thought would come in super handy.  (I’ve worn the jeans once and the shirt not at all.)  And then there was coffee to drink and meals to eat while we were out of town for the day.

All in all, what did I learn from my spending slow down?
  1. What counted against my total relative term.  You'd think a splurge would be obvious to spot.  But my husband questioned purchases I thought of as routine that he thought were going against my totals.  Like my once every six weeks massage.  I really do feel great after having one, but is it a necessary thing?  Probably not. And then there's grocery shopping.  Are dried portabellas a necessity or a splurge?  What about yummy juice smoothies bought with the groceries?  So, I realized I'm spending more than $20 on things that I pick up with the groceries or that I really don't think about that much.
  2. I don't really need much. I spent the month not buying any new books, no internet purchases, no new fabric, hardly any clothes, and you know what?  No one asked me why I wasn’t wearing anything new.  No one asked if I was deprived.  No one asked if something was wrong.  Because no one noticed!  In fact, after a while, I really didn’t even notice.  It’s not like I was running out of stuff at home.  I still had plenty of clothes to wear, plenty of books to read, plenty of fabric to sew.  The only time I really even felt deprived was when someone would order food at work and ask if I wanted to order.  But to be honest, I brown bag my lunch about 95% of the time, so it was more just a reminder that I couldn't order even if I wanted to.
  3. Spending money on experiences is more fun than spending it on things.  I already knew this was true, but tracking my spending more closely made me fully realize this.  Going out to eat with friends was much more enjoyable than buying another thing I really didn’t need that was just going to take up more room in my house.
  4. I have a knee jerk reaction to buy when I see a sale sign.  For example, if I see a cute shirt on sale, I think I should buy it, when really, if I think about it, I don’t even need a shirt because I already have three others that are the same color or style and serve the same purpose this shirt would serve.  I need to be more conscious about what I’m lugging home and whether it’s something I really need or even want, or am I just buying it because it’s a good deal. 

So, while I didn’t live up to my goal of $20, I was much more conscious of how much I spent and where my money was going.  It also made me realize that I do occasionally spend money frivolously and I need to be more aware of what I'm spending on.  I would definitely recommend tracking your expenses for a month or limiting yourself to a certain dollar amount to anyone who is trying to gauge their spending and how they use their money.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Review of "The Bee-Friendly Garden"

I think we're all aware that honeybees are in danger.  Colony Collapse Disorder is a real thing.  (Check out "Vanishing of the Bee" on Netflix if you want to learn more.)  And, if the honeybees die off, we're going to have a problem, since they pollinate a great deal of our food, not to mention produce honey.  But, it seems like an overwhleming problem.  And one that is too great for us to do anything about.

But that's just not true.  One of the easiest things you can do is provide safe food for honey bees.  And what do honeybees like to eat?  Nectar and pollen.  And what makes nectar and pollen?  Pretty much all flowering plants.  However, not all nectar and pollen is the same.  Some types of plants have more protein, fat, or amino acids than others.

So, if you want to help out honeybees, as well as many other members of the bee family, you just need to grow plants that they like.  While these vary region to region, here in my area of Wisconsin, some that bees find very appealing are coneflowers, black-eyed susans, sunflowers, poppies, basil, and lilacs.  Many of these plants are easy to grow.  I have domestic black-eyed susans and I swear I couldn't kill these things if I tried.

gardening book

If you want to learn more about bees and what types of flowers, shrubs, and trees bees like, and how to make an ideal habitat for them, "The Bee-Friendly Garden" by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn is a great resource.  This book is packed with information about different species, what types of plants they find appealing, and why, and several chapters on how to plant a bee friendly garden and provide ideal spots for bees to nest.

There's also tons of pictures.  It will provide you with photos to help identify which species of bees are frequenting your flowers as well as lots of pictures of flowers bees like and examples of bee-friendly gardens.  If you're interested in gardening, or providing food for bees, this book is a great how to guide.  I know I'll be keeping it with my gardening books for future reference.

I received a copy of The Bee Friendly Garden in exchange for an honest review from Blogging For Books.  All thoughts are my own

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

May Goals

This year is flying by.  It seems like it was New Year's just a month or two ago!  I've been busy but not with anything that really seems worthy to blog about.  Maybe I'll give you all an update of randomness in a week or so.  In the meantime, here's a much belated recap of April and my goals for May.

April Goals

  • Read 4 books.  Nailed it.  I actually got five done.
  • Daily devotions and prayer time.  I did great on the devotions and spent time praying most days.
  • Exercise five times a week for at least 30 minutes a time.  I walked for at least forty-five minutes outside.  Walking outside is so nice.  There's birds to listen to, flowers to see, occasional animals to watch.  Not to mention all that sunshine!  I love it!
  • Limit spending on unessentials to $20.  Well, I did pretty good, but didn't make it the whole month.  There will be a post in a day or two detailing how it all went.
  • Declutter house.  I made it through the kitchen, and my closet, but am continuing to work on it.
  • Write daily.  Not even close. :(
Goal Link Up

 May Goals

  • Spend half an hour writing three times a week.
  • Walk 10,000 steps three times a week.
  • Continue to exercise at least 30 minutes a day five times a week.
  • Memorize ten Bible verses.
  • Finish my prayer cards that I started a few months ago.
  • Increase veggie intake and decrease grains.  Try to eat grain free three times a week.
  • Read four books.
  • Daily devotions and prayer time.
  • Spend five hours a week on blog stuff.
I have a feeling that a lot of these are going to be refined and/or retried in June.  And, if you're interested, you can go to My So Called Chaos, and check out what everyone is working on in May.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Weekly Top Ten- Websites Edition

I'm linking up with The Broke and Bookish to share my Top Five favorite websites that aren't book related. I could have easily shared five more but I didn't want to overload you all.  Maybe I'll share five more another day.  So hold on to your hats, here we go...

  1. Yes and Yes If you haven't checked out Sarah's amazing blog, do it now.  She blogs travel tips (both US and international), maintaining friendships, pursuing your dreams, make up tips, recipes, book reviews, you name it, this girl does it and does it well, all while maintaining an authentic voice and a sense of fun.
  2. Simplicity Relished  Daisy blogs about simplicity.  But this isn't just a blog about throwing out things.  She talks about building a capsule wardrobe, traveling, goal setting, and living mindfully.  She does all this without sounding like some minimalist snob and providing beautiful photos.
  3. Campfire Chic Cam is probably one of the driving forces who made me realize that I don't have to wait until I can afford a big cross country trip to go on an adventure.  She's all about finding time after work or on the weekends to have fun.  She's outdoorsy and crafty and will totally motivate you to get out and then journal your adventure.  Plus, she provides lots of links to interesting things she finds around the web.
  4. Blissful Basil This is a great blog even if you're not vegetarian.  Ashley cooks up delicious plant based foods and if you're adventurous and willing to try new things, this is a great place to start.  I'm currently addicted to her coconut pistachio blueberry bark.  It's great right out of the freezer with a cup of coffee.
  5. The Frelancer's Fashion Blog This is one of the first blogs I started to follow it's.  Ulrika is a few years older than me, lives in Finland, and is a burlesque dancer, but this is not a blog about burlesque, although it does show up occasionally.  Mainly, I get a picture at her life in Finland, her fabulous vintage clothes style- she wears a lot of her mother's clothes and wears a lot of vintage reproductions.  She lives most of the time in a gorgeous farmhouse in the country.  She has an adorable toddler, and I've been reading since before he was even born.  She also shares pictures of her beautiful plants, vegan food she makes, and her gorgeous decorating style.  It's serious eye candy.  You should check it out.  

    So there you have it.  Have any recommendations for non book related websites I should be visiting?  Let me hear about them in the comments below!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

May Reading List

April was a pretty good reading month, although I didn't get through all the books on my list.  I'm hoping to keep that momentum going for May.  Here's what I've picked out:
  • We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch is a kind of history of the Rwandan genocide.  This genocide always puzzles me because the Hutu and Tutsi's seemed to have gotten along, they intermarried, they lived and worked together, and then bam, in three months time, 800,000 Tutsi's are murdered, just like that.  
  • Walden and "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau is one of those books I should have probably read ages ago, but never got to, so I'm choosing it for this month, as my classic pick.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is first in a trilogy.  I didn't realize that when I got it at a thrift store a while ago, but it sounded kind of quirky.  It even kind of reminded me of Lev Grossman's The Magicians.  (Although I felt kind of let down by that book, so we'll see if this one leaves me feeling more warm and fuzzy.)
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott has been on my book hunting list for over a year and I was so happy when I found it on Bookmooch a few months ago. I love her writing style and how honest she is and I wish we could be best friends for life, in a totally none creepy way.  My friend who used to be a massage therapist at the chiropractor's office I worked at kind of reminds me of Anne Lamott.  Or maybe Anne reminds me of her and that's why I like her so much.  Anyhow, this is a pep talk kind of book for writers or want to be writers and I'm really looking forward to jumping right in.
So what are you reading this month?  Or have you read any of my picks?  What'd you think?

Monday, May 2, 2016

April Book Recap

Read in April
April 2015 Book Recap
April has flown by, and I was actually able to make a small dent in my to read list.  Maybe not even a dent, maybe like a nick?  But anyways, thanks to my $20 challenge, I was able to resist adding anything new, and actually read some of the books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while.  Here's the recap:

The Joyful Christian by C.S. Lewis is a collection of excerpts from several of Lewis' books on a variety of topics.  I don't think it's any secret that I love C.S. Lewis at this point so of course I found this book enjoyable.

A Praying Life by Paul Miller is far and away the most helpful book I've read on prayer.  It made me realize that I was way overthinking prayer.  There are no rules, no requirements, no definite way you have to do it.  There is not a specific formula to get God to hear you and and there is no magic code that you need to know.  It's made my mornings so much more enjoyable to go for a walk and just pray and listen to the birds and watch the clouds and enjoy being outside.  I've felt closer to God in the last month than in anytime I can remember.  Which is amazing and also scary.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel was okay.  But I didn't really enjoy it.  To be honest, I was glad once I was finished with it.  I like fantasy fiction and I like regular fiction, but this book straddled the line too much for my taste.  I know it's considered magical realism, and that's kind of the whole point of the genre, but it just didn't appeal to me.  I also felt like there wasn't enough development of any of the characters to make me really care what happened to them and I thought Pedro, Tita's one true love, was pretty much unworthy of her, and couldn't understand what she saw in him.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson is a book I had won in a blog giveaway from Just Bee and actually had put it on my reading list last October but never got to.  It's considered a young adult read appropriate for grade school or maybe middle school and it would make an awesome read out loud book.  I remember my mom reading out loud to me and my brother when we were kids, even once we were old enough to read on our owns, and I loved it.  Having someone read you a story is one of those pleasures that should not just be relegated to childhood.  Anyways, the story is good, with some funny parts and while I was out of the target demographic, I did enjoy it, and will keep an eye out for the next ones in the series.

The Secret Place by Tana French is book five in the Dublin Murder Squad series.  Every book seems to revolve around a story that in the end, leaves one of the protagonist detectives utterly destroyed- whether mentally, career wise, or just family wise.  So, I was totally expecting Stephen to come out of this one burned to a crisp.  Stephen Moran plays a minor role in Faithful Place and it was nice to see him take the wheel this time.  He's older, and wiser to Frank Mackey's tricks so I enjoyed seeing them reunited on a more level playing field.  This book went farther into uncharted territory of what is possible, places that French had kind of hinted at, but never really explored.  I enjoyed it and in the ranking of Murder Squad books, I'd put this one in at a solid second, behind The Likeness

So, that's what I tackled for April.  What about you, did you read anything good or interesting that I should be checking out?  If so, let me know!