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 



Quick Lit, Reading, Reviews

Quick Lit -November 2018 – A New, Vintage, and Classic Hodgepodge

Hey friends! It’s a rainy and cold week here which I hate until I remember to call it “reading weather” instead of fall weather and then it’s ten times more bearable. What have you been reading lately? Here are some books I’ve enjoyed in the past couple of months, in no particular order. My list is a hodgepodge of recent releases, vintage novels, and an old classic.  Please jump on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy to see what other book bloggers have enjoyed this month, too! Happy reading!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter – So, so good. If you liked Morton’s other books, you’ll like this one. It is fairly long, but even so I would have taken more about the characters. Warning that there is an element of ghosts in it, but it’s very mild and not scary at all, just completely whimsical and not at all spiritual, in my opinion. I’d rank this one up in Morton’s top three best books, behind The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper.

How to Walk Away – Reads like a Hallmark movie but with better writing and not so neatly wrapped up at the end, thank goodness! I was surprised at how much I related to the main character – you really do feel like you’re in her head, which is not a bad thing in this case. Not prize winning literature, but a nice, light read, if somewhat predictable.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – I liked the first half, liked the characters, but felt a little weirded out by the end. Still, it was a cheerful read that happened to also be a bit thought provoking. I especially recommend if you like quirky characters.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Speaking of quirky characters…Eleanor is quirky. I was talking to a friend about this book and told her I thought the first three chapters were my least favorite opening chapters of any book I’ve ever started and finished. But I made it through, and I’m glad I did. By the end, I loved everyone in it.  Think A Man From Ove and you’ll be thinking along the right lines for this book, but with a much bigger twist at the end and a younger main character.

Around the World with Auntie Mame – Hilarious if you like books published in the 1950s (which I looove).

The Fledgling – I will read anything by Elizabeth Cadell and I have never been disappointed. This one was actually a bit of a mystery combined with a sort of Little Princess type story. It was lovely.

The Penderwicks – I am waaay behind on this modern classic, but I’m glad I finally read it! My oldest daughter liked it, as well, but the seven-and-under crowd thought it was “dreadful.” I think it’s great for girls ten and up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some boys like it, too.

The Princess and the Goblin – We all looooved this book! It was a read-aloud for school that we looked forward to every day.  Now I want to read all of George MacDonald’s fantasy books.  Five stars from us all.

 

 

Children's Books

Our Favorite Slightly Spooky Books

It’s the week of Halloween, and if you’re like us, you like the dressing up part of the day and the candy part of the day, but not so much the spooky part of the day. I could use a yard sign that says “No Zombies Permitted” right about now. However, if you’re up for just a little dose of spookiness combined with a large dose of silliness in your picture books this week, Mercer Mayer has got you covered. Mayer’s books are the absolute top of the list for us when it comes to fun and funny books with slightly scary subjects. Just go right past the Little Critter books and you’ll find a goldmine.

Bat Girl Pumpkin Courtesy of Ella Harvell

Four-year-old Violet especially loves The Wizard Comes to Town at our house, and all of us are huge fans of the books There’s An Alligator Under My Bed and There’s A Nightmare in My Closet. The reason we like these so much is because Mayer pairs these traditionally scary creatures with spunky human characters in his books who smash the scariness of the creatures by the end of the book with their wit and no-nonsense manner.  Another crowd favorite is You’re The Scaredy-CatIn fact, Mayer has written and illustrated so many fantastic books that are slightly spooky but one-hundred-percent light-hearted and silly, the Mercer Mayer shelf at the library or bookstore is going to be all you need to fuel your reading this week. But if you have a minute, also check out Ben Hatke’s Nobody Likes a Goblin and Julia’s House for Lost Creatures.

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Here’s wishing you happy reading and a fun and silly, not-too-spooky week!

 

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.



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