Everyday Life

What’s Saving My Life, Winter 2019

We’re halfway through Winter! (Spring, please come early). Bloggers around the web are gathering to ask the question “What’s saving your life right now?” What we really mean is what are the little things making winter bearable and even enjoyable? I’m joining in the fun to share what small things are making this season a good one, even to this Summer Lover. To join the fun, click over to Modern Mrs. Darcy.

The winter woods outside my window.

In my previous What’s Saving My life posts (here and here), the items on my lists were various odds and ends I’d discovered, like my Blendtec or Grapefruit face wash. This time, many of the items on my list have been recommended to me by friends, so I guess I should say above all these things, friendship is saving my life this winter. But let’s get down to the nitty gritty, as Nacho Libre would say.

Things Saving My Life – Winter 2019

Vitamin D – Why have I waited so long to take Vitamin D? I feel so much brighter than I usually do in January, in body and in spirits. And my whole family got terrible colds to start January off and I didn’t. Hmm. It’s only $15 for a year’s supply, so it sure seems like it’s worth a shot! (Shout out to Sara for telling me to get this!)

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Elizabeth Goudge + D.E. Stevenson + Elizabeth Cadell + Rumer Godden – I’ve fallen so deeply into novels written in the mid-20th century this winter. There is a strength of character and theme in the books from this time period that I can’t get enough of. I’ve never read Elizabeth Goudge and Rumer Godden before last November, and I could say “Where have you been all my life?” but I’m too thrilled to find new-to-me writers so profound, beautiful, and readable. I’ve tried several times to pull myself out of my antique reading habits by picking up new releases, but it’s been futile. New releases feel hyperactive compared to the calm security I find in these four authors. I’m firmly entrenched in the mid-20th century for now (with the exception of two upcoming bookclub picks! Maybe they’ll save me from the spiral back in time…).

Kindle Unlimited – Amazon is running a deal for three months of Kindle Unlimited for $0.99. I love it so much. It’s partly to blame for my vintage book vortex, as they have a bunch of D.E. Stevenson books. It’s been a very cozy winter in my reading world, thanks to Kindle Unlimited. They have new releases as well, and the deal is still available if you go here. I’ve set myself a reminder to cancel it after 3 months because I can’t justify spending $10 a month when I have access to such great libraries (and I’m in and out of them multiple times a week), but if you aren’t a big library user and you are a big reader, Kindle Unlimited could be your new best friend.

The Whole30 Cookbook, The Whole30, and Food Freedom ForeverYou’ve heard me talk about The Whole30 before. I love it because it truly sets me back on a good path of eating healthfully and mindfully. After

December, who doesn’t need that? (I’m blaming you, four thousand cookies, chocolates, and cakes everywhere I go). This is our 4th Whole30, and while I love it, I can’t keep Whole30-ing all the time. I’m so glad I read Melissa Hartwig Urban’s book Food Freedom Forever. It explains how to make good decisions going forward without guilt about “what’s worth it” for you based on the information you gather in reset diets like The Whole30. Also, I can’t say enough good things about the recipes included in The Whole30 and The Whole30 Cookbook. Whole30 recipes you find online are hit or miss, but these recipes are winners. [Sidenote – Food Freedom Forever is currently free in Kindle Unlimited membership.]

Hoopla – I cancelled Netflix just in time to avoid the Marie Kondo craze. Not really, I had my own tidying frenzy  in 2016. The only regret I have about life without Netflix is how my treadmill life has suffered. It’s difficult to enjoy treadmill workouts without something to watch. Enter, Hoopla! It’s a digital media service through the local library that offers many, many movies, TV shows, audio books, and music albums. There is a limit on how many things you can check out per month (but if you have more than one library card in your family…well, you can check out a good bit. Currently re-watching Season 1 of The Great British Baking Show on the treadmill because it’s the pleasantest thing on TV ever. Also, you can’t raid the pantry while you’re on the treadmill, so it’s the only safe time to watch it. And yes, Hoopla does have a Roku app and can be connected through Chromecast, as well.

Sunday Riley – Talking about skincare can get a little tricky these days, but I hope we can all agree that no one skincare line is right for everyone. Without wanting to rile anyone’s feathers (see what I did there), I have to say that I’m very glad my sister told me about Sunday Riley. I have tried lots of things for my adult acne prone skin, but always the products are too drying, or just don’t work, or are too expensive. This kit has been absolute perfection for me. I love how it uses lots of natural ingredients (though it is not organic or all natural). I should also say that my sister who told me about this is saving my life/face. It’s great to have someone who has similar skin trying out things! Thanks, Emily!

The Lazy Genius – This was my favorite podcast in 2018. I love how Kendra helps me think clearly about the everyday things I deal with that can build up into mental overwhelm. I also love her philosophy of having one “guru” on topics – one voice you consult about various things. For example, your mom might be your cooking guru, your co-worker your travel guru, etc. The Lazy Genius is my “simplify the everyday things” guru.

Stitchfix – I dislike clothes shopping 99% of the time, so Stitchfix is a lifeline. I’ve gotten a box a year over the last three years and every time I’ve kept all the items in it. Possibly it’s because I’m desperate not to have to go shopping and not very opinionated about clothes, but I think the stylists are pretty good at their jobs! I guess you could say Stitchfix is my style guru.

Homemade lotion and lip balm – All store bought body butters and balms pale in comparison to these two very easy recipes. I buy the ingredients from Amazon (mostly the cheaper NOW brand) and use cocoa butter in place of coconut oil because coconut oil irritates my skin (weird, I know). One batch of each of these will last me about four to six months. Trust me, making a batch is way easier than taking my crew (or even just myself) to the store, so not only is it better than what’s in stores, it keeps me out of stores. Win, win. (Notes – the lotion says it’s for varicose veins but really, it’s simply a good basic moisturizing recipe whether you have vein issues or not, and for the lip balm, I leave out the honeysuckle).

Fancy? No. Awesome? Yes.

The Lark Ascending – I listen to this song three or four times a week. It’s a song that seems to tell a story. It puts me in mind of all the pioneers and brave people that have gone before me. The song is always paired in my mind with the painting below since Sarah Clarkson so wisely put them together in an Instagram post. It lifts my spirits and also braces me up to do the good work in front of me while looking for the beauty around me. [P.S. The whole album by Tasmin Little is exquisite.]

The Song of the Lark, Jules Breton

Those are the things lifting my spirits this winter!

For a list of summer favorite things, go here!

Everyday Life

To Fight and Win Against Internet Exhaustion

Hello, from my first blog post of 2019!…on January 28th….but hey, at least it’s still January! So sorry it’s taken so long. I’ve had bit of a mental dilemma when it comes to blogging and the whole internet experience lately. As I reflected on 2018 and planned for 2019, I realized something. I suffer from Internet Exhaustion. Okay, okay, that’s not a real condition. What I really means is I let the internet exhaust me in 2018. I’m a golden child of the information age, and it’s wearing me down. It’s as if having to know all there is to know is part of my core being. That’s why it’s just so tiresome to see article title after article titled “The 12 Books You Can’t Miss This Year” or “The one thing you should be doing to make mornings a breeze” or “These 49 Amazon Products Are LIFE!” Like, really, 49 of them? It’s tiresome because many of us feel like once we’ve seen that headline, we HAVE to know. We have to click on it. We HAVE to know what one thing we’ve been doing wrong when we clean the shower. We have to know the one thing NOT to say to our bosses and ALL the other “one things” because we are responsible, capable adults, and if we don’t know, we might not be capable of being responsible, capable adults….it’s madness. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

I’ve read a bunch of articles about how we’re addicted to these types of, well, articles, because getting new information gives human brains a hit of dopamine. And, apparently, many of us have major FOMO when it comes to information. Combine the Fear of Missing Out with our addiction to the dopamine our brains produce when we learn something new, and we can

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Nom, nom, nom!

let ourselves become internet consuming monsters. Yes, last year I was an information Cookie Monster, cramming all those unhealthy calories in like a cookie addict (especially the delicious looking cookies titled “Six Things You Didn’t Know About Queen Elizabeth’s Nightly Routine”…guiiilty…). And it’s trickled into this year as well. So I have to do something about it!

Maybe you’re feeling like me and you didn’t even realize it. Maybe you and I both never want to know what versions of Avocado Toast we have to make before we’ve really lived. I mean, it’s okay. We’re good. We don’t actually NEEEED to know about the three-step process to eliminating blanket odor. OH no, I didn’t even know that was a thing but maybe all my blankets have it!

See how easy it is? I just made that up. But it didn’t sound too far fetched, did it? We’ve all read articles just that loony before and actually given our thought-space to them. So, right, we’re fine without knowing how to make the sixteen best tomato sauces and how to avoid blanket odor. (Seriously, do not go sniff all your throw blankets right now). We’re good.

But are we? Because that’s what we have to decide. Will I believe I’m fine without knowing all there is to know, or staying current on, well, everything? If I can truly stay healthy and sane and also use the internet, I have to ignore the articles I know are luring me in as a FOMO suffering, info-loving person in the Information Age. It’s like I’m a shopper going in to a store for laundry detergent, but I end up spending an hour weeding through clearance items so I don’t miss a possibly amazing bargain. The internet can be the same — I only meant to spend one minute online checking the weather, but 15 minutes later I’ve learned the best way to organize a home media center and I still don’t know what the weather is going to be like today! I can make a choice every time I go into a store to only go in and get what I need and come right back out…so I should start practicing that way of “shopping” every time I open up a browser, right? Intentional internet usage: that’s the answer! If I went into Target looking for a set of measuring cups and came out with a set of measuring cups and three pages of cute seasonal stickers from the Dollar Spot and a gorgeous green water pitcher that’s going to look great on my open shelf cabinet, I would see that as a failure and be really disappointed in myself. (I’m not judging your Target shopping habits here, by the way, just my own…). I’ve got to change my mindset to be an intentional internet user just as I am an intentional shopper (most of the time). I don’t have time to browse the aisles in TJ Maxx so why in the world do I think I have time to get lost in the aisles of information on the internet?

So intentional internet usage is the plan going forward! And that leads me to this blog I write here. Knowing so much of the content on the internet is draining us more than giving life to us, I don’t always know what the write Tinners Path, Englandhere anymore. The pressure to generate titles like “Fourteen Books You Must Read to Your Kids This Winter” is just yuck. I don’t want to be another voice telling you what you can’t miss. Not to mention that I feel like I really can’t come up with those titles because all I’ve read lately is older books. How does “The Twenty Best Books You Missed From 1951” sound to you? Catchy? I thought not. But anyway, the point is I think I’d like to continue putting up book reviews and sharing other good stuff, but it’s never my intention to be another shouting voice wearing you down and making you feel like there’s one more thing you have to know or do. I hope this spot on the internet is a light, open space, for maybe finding a good read or pointing us to a path of thoughtful and intentional living. With that goal in mind, I think I can keep putting out content out into this amazing and often overwhelming world.  

I hope you don’t deal with Internet Exhaustion at all! But if you do, join me in 2019 to fight in? Let’s be intentional internet users, intelligent but not weary and worn down with information and click bait. I find so much encouragement and good mentorship on the blogs I choose to follow, and I have no intention of throwing the baby out with the bath water, but I aim to finish 2019 in a saner state of mind than I began it with when it comes to the choices I make on what to feed my mind. As always, thanks for choosing this spot on the internet to stop and stay a while! I’m looking forward to sharing more books and life with you. 

With love and good wishes for the coming year,

Mia/Alana 



Everyday Life

Two Months From Christmas

Well folks, it’s October 25th, so the obvious question for all of us is: ready for Christmas? Got your shopping started? Began prepping the teacher gifts (you know how long that vanilla extract takes!)? Shopped for matching outfits for your kids’ Christmas photos? Deep cleaned your house so that the moment your fall pumpkins rot, you can whip out all the greenery and twinkle lights?

Good grief, October 25th, and it’s time to get pumped and do this thing or go home. It’s time to prepare for holiday magic, but I’m already preparing for holiday exhaustion.

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Photo from Gimmesomeoven.com

Doesn’t the fact that we have to start preparing for Christmas in mid-October or set ourselves up for definite and absolute failure tell us something? Things have gotten out of hand. Twelve secret santas, four hundred teacher gifts, thirty-two holiday parties….I may be exaggerating, but only slightly. It’s all a bit much. And the crazy thing is, the things that are potentially my favorite parts of the holidays – Christmas gifts, Christmas home decor, holiday gatherings — are also the parts that stress me out the most. They’re both the detractors from holiday joy and the givers of holiday joy.

Or are they? Do I really expect them to bring me joy? Christmas epiphany: if I don’t already have joy from deeper, more imporant things, I won’t get it from the outer trappings of our cultural Christmas traditions. I’m the one who brings the soul joy I receive from a heart of worship and love for God and others to all of that extra, surface stuff.

So as we gear up for Christmas 2018, maybe what we shouldn’t be doing is soaking vanilla sticks in vodka for our vintage jar gifts (that was so 2016 anyway)…maybe we should be soaking our hearts in worship? Maybe it’s worship that will make my heart both tender and strong for all the love and joy I and you and all the rest of us are expecting to pour out when late December dances into our everyday lives and reminds us that hope has always been here and it’s here to stay. Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving always comes first. After all, worship starts in gratitude and humble awe. That’s why today, I’m choosing not to skip Thanksgiving in my holiday preparations. It’s easy to brush over it in favor of all the tasks Christmas brings to a person, and especially a parent, in this current holiday frenzied age. Yes, it’s October 25th, two months ’til Christmas, but it’s also four weeks ’til Thanksgiving. The real Thanksgiving can start today.

Preaching it to myself and sharing it with you, in hopes that our hearts and not just our homes are ready for Christmas 2018.

Everyday Life, Parenting

My One Answer for How to Homeschool with Littles

Taking a break from writing about books and book culture in our homes to answer this frequently asked question:

How do you homeschool with little ones always around?

Wait, I should be the one asking this question, right? I’m the new homeschool mom with little kids!  This is our 5th year homeschooling and my brain is finally catching on: “Ohhh. I should know this now…” Up until this point, my answer has been so unhelpful. A shrug and a “some days are better than others!” is all I’ve mustered because (1) I hate to sound like I’ve got it all figured out and (2) I don’t have it all figured out! But I do know this: We want to instill in our children a love of learning, the ability to learn for themselves, and the strength of character that comes through hard work and good relationships. Our ideal for our homeschooling days may be full of warmth and beauty, but the chaos that comes with babies, toddlers, and/or preschoolers wages war on our ideal. How can this ever work?

This is about what our homeschool life looks like every day. There are crumbs on the floor, a babbling baby at the table, and a conglomeration of papers, pencils, and crayons scattered everywhere. We are all together the whole time, from youngest to oldest, either at the kitchen table or at desks in our schoolroom, like a crazy one-room schoolhouse in 1858. How in this madness do we (a) learn together and (b) still like each other?? How do you homeschool with littles in the mix? I’ve thought and thought about how to answer this question, and I keep coming back to one over-arching practice in our family. I wish it were a quick fix, a busy bag solution or a magic scheduling technique, but it’s nothing very pinnable like that. It’s totally uncool because the word “longsuffering” comes to mind. But let’s leave out “longsuffering” and use the word commitment.” My one answer to homeschooling with Littles is an everyday commitment to practicing togetherness.

So fun and snappy, I know. And what does it even mean? Well, after Day One of my homeschooling career, I realized my ideal of one child doing schoolwork with me while one child played quietly with toys and another napped was never going to happen. That just doesn’t fly in the world of kids under age 5 who have to be touching me/each other all day every day or spontaneously combust. Right away, I could see there would be no separating small children from our schooling. But if these tiny people expected to be included in the homeschooling fun (and they did), they would have to also expect to BEHAVE. No interrupting, no whining, no singing songs that sound strangely similar to Benny and the Jets out of tune incessantly under their breath. I guess the idea became if they wanted to be treated like students, they would have to behave like students. It’s crazy to expect this from a two or three-year-old, right? Maybe, but after weeks of consistent (and sometimes frustrated) training, an amazing thing happened – they behaved. They could sit and listen to our read aloud, they could color and be quiet during history, and a lot of times they could even answer many of the same questions about the lesson that their older sibling(s) could. I was floored.

I’m not really sure in those early days if I had an epiphany about setting schooltime behavior standards or if it just sort of happened out of necessity, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’re plunging into homeschooling with little ones in your home, or you’re already wading through it, maybe practicing togetherness—welcoming the younger children into the experience along with setting standards of behavior—could change your days as much as it changed mine. Separating them from our homeschool life certainly didn’t work for me! To make our home the peaceful and loving place I envision it to, I have to keep practicing this togetherness of welcoming the small ones into our school environment.

Crazily enough, now I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think having someone like my four-year-old involved actually enriches the experience. For one thing, she is hilarious, and laughing is good for our souls. But more importantly, our family culture being built on shared narratives and histories gives us a lot to talk about and imagine further as we learn it all together. But that never would have happened if we hadn’t set some expectations at the beginning!

So that’s my answer, my one big homeschooling with Littles discovery – if you expect great behavior from them and teach them how to do that…well, some day, it might just happen. =) I realize so much of it has to do with what personalities I’m dealing with and my own upbringing (I was the oldest in a homeschool family). But because it’s worked so great for me, I figured I would give sharing it a shot, and finally give a straight answer to that frequently asked question!

And now for some more fun and snappy side notes I’ve learned to stick with along the way ~

  1. Keep hands busy – drawing, playing with play-doh, building with blocks, or other quiet thing will stretch an attention span beyond your wildest imagination. In fact, some studies show that busy hands make brains learn more easily! My oldest now likes to stay focused while she’s listening to lessons by taking notes, but up until this year, she was sketching or molding dough along with the others.
  2. Take it outside – literally, take all of it outside any chance you get. Little people are happier out of doors. Fact.
  3. Snacks are golden learning opportunities – while many homeschool families do their ‘morning time’ or cultural studies first thing, I find that a 10:00 gather round the table with a snack works best for us. We have a snack, read some poetry or listen to a composer/hymn or study a piece of artwork, do some literature or geography, read a Bible passage, and the whole time the little people are (relatively) happy because they have their little hands busy and bellies full.
  4. When you have a breastfeeding baby, find a favorite educational show. I know, I know, TV is a crutch, but some babies don’t eat well when there’s a lot of action around them. A 20-minute Wild Kratts or Wishbone gives just the right window for giving the baby a good feeding in the mid-morning, hopefully followed by a nap, and that  100% makes the rest of the morning go better.
  5. Share some responsibility – There are some things we just can’t do all together. During these times, we trade responsibility. One child is responsible for keeping the baby happy, while the other student is taught by the parent, and then we trade off. This works best if I set an expectation for how long and why I need one of the kid’s help, so that they can understand the important role they’re playing in our family and so that they don’t get frustrated with being asked to help when they feel like they should be having a break.

Family dynamics are unique and ever changing, but I’m pulling for you as you figure out what works best for your amazing family in your homeschooling journey. And if you have any epiphanies about what works for you, please share!

Everyday Life, Parenting

Thoughts on Leaving the House in the Morning: A Meme Story

Made my first meme today. It’s brought to you by the moment when I leave the house in the morning. Pretty much every time I leave home, I look around at the utter chaos and disorder, and say to tell myself:

If I arrive somewhere looking like I just barely made it out alive? It’s because I did. It’s like a bank heist gone wrong, a calculated plan poorly executed that doesn’t have as much to do with not tripping sophisticated alarm systems but more with getting the dishes done and beds made before exiting the building. (Although, a one-year-old??? Talk about a sophisticated alarm system. Do NOT take that Tupperware lid away from her).  This is especially true when we’re going to be gone for most of the day and we’re packing picnics, leaving dishes strewn across the counter and drawers and cabinets open everywhere, forgetting to put away hairbrushes, toothbrushes, pretty much everything. Why not just stop to clean it up? We’d be a good hour late, maybe two, and I’d be hoarse from all the “come back and put away!”-ing.  Better to call it a morning and pick up the pieces of dismissed outfits and twelve water bottle lids when we get home. The silver lining? A wrecked house to clean up is a good excuse for making an afternoon cup pot of coffee.

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So, yes, we need some better leaving the house practices. It’s definitely a delegation issue at this point in my parenting. But for now, may the coffee be strong, the afternoon productive, and the evening full of something similar to if not necessarily Chick-fil-A.



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