October 31, 2014

halloween, ya'll!

Happy Halloween, ya'll! I'm popping in today to show you some pictures of my wacky, adorable kids in their costumes. These boys are all the entertainment one could ever need, you know? I promise you, never a dull moment around these parts.

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I also wanted to fill you in on my week. This first week with Eric out of town has flown by. I knew it was going to be a challenge to keep things going without him around- let me just take a moment to give that man props. Seriously, without my husband, Hello Hive wouldn't be possible at all! He doesn't get much exposure in terms of pictures and whatnot around here, but really? He's all in this blog in so many ways.

At least once a week, he takes the kids away for a while so I can devote undivided attention to writing, photo editing, and networking. Those few hours are precious and productive. Otherwise, he'll wrestle around with them on the living room floor for a while and let me prepare for upcoming posts. That man is gold, I'm telling you. He knows how I love this, and he encourages me to keep going.

After photographing the wedding on Saturday, I woke up sore from head to toe Sunday morning. I was scheduled to serve the early service at church that morning, and I rounded the kids up and headed out the door despite the funk, leaving Eric behind to pack his things for the trip. When we returned, he took us out for lunch and then brought me back home to crash. He took the boys to his parents' house while I napped for several hours, returning just in time to pack up and head out for his three hour drive.

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Monday morning, Seth woke up coughing and had a 101 degree fever. I've rarely seen him so sick- he just laid on the couch all day and even took a three hour nap that afternoon. Obviously, I kept him out of school, and we also had to miss his class field trip to the pumpkin patch. I was pretty sad about that, but he accepted my offer to make it up to him by taking a trip to the Walmart toy aisle and we scored a carving pumpkin while we were there.

I was able to work on wedding picture edits while Seth napped Monday afternoon, but the rest of the week has been nothing but an endless cycle of Monopoly Junior (the consolation prize Seth picked), clingy-teething-baby syndrome and trying to keep my head above water (or, really, just the laundry pile). I don't know when I'll ever finish those wedding pictures! I strongly suspect there will have to be some midnight oil involved.

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I'll try to be back on a regular schedule for next week. I'm so ready to turn my 1,000 ideas into reality and hungry for the time to do it all. I've had some great opportunities come knocking on my door recently and I want to just embrace them all and run with it! I have to discipline my mind to just s l o w d o w n and take life one thing at a time. Sometimes, that means saying "no"- even to things you really want. "No" doesn't always mean "not ever", you know. Sometimes, I just want to savor the last bite of mashed potatoes before digging into the pumpkin pie. Right? Or is that just me?

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Tonight, we're headed over to my favorite girlfriend's house for a Halloween party. She throws the best shindigs- I can't wait! I'm all curious about what you all are doing for Halloween now. Tell me all about it!

What are you going to be for Halloween?

October 24, 2014

a relaxed mind is a creative mind.

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Alright, ya'll, wish me luck! After this weekend, I'll be able to add "wedding photographer" to my resume.

I haven't been very social this week- all the anxiety over everything has short-circuited my brain. I don't feel my body's response to stress physically as much as mentally, and all the signs are present up there in noggin- even if you can't see them!

I'm taking some time off, you guys. I didn't think I'd have to do it, but halfway through this week I accepted the reality. Let this be encouragement to you if you're feeling like you can't do it all. You don't have to. Omit what you can and enjoy the benefits of a creative mind that's been freed to catch the inspirations that are waiting to be planted and take root!

I'm playing the slow blogging card now. I have some things I'd love to share next week, and I will if I can. If I don't get around to it, I won't sweat it. I know you won't hold it against me! Rather than pumping out mindless content over here, I want to spend my free time next week paying you all a visit, getting to know some of you better and connecting at the heart with people, maybe even making some new friends.

Some things I can't wait to share:

  1. Photos from this weekend's wedding
  2. My boys' Halloween costumes
  3. Practical kitchen magic
  4. Inspirations for redecorating/updating my home decor
  5. Holiday planning
  6. Tutorials to help you pimp your blog design
  7. A new link-up party... just maybe?
Ugh, see? Too many ideas. So little time. Baby steps, my friends!

In the meantime, why don't you come catch up with me on Instagram? I'll likely still be posting there (nearly) everyday.

Happy week before Halloween, my friends! See you on the flip side.

October 20, 2014

un-lazy.

The next few weeks are going to be busy, busy, busy. Truthfully, I thrive on busy and a little bit of stress! I always do my best work under pressure. At the same time, life has been floating along at such an even keel for so long that I'm a tiny bit unsure of myself right now! Do you ever feel that way?

(I love this amazing free printable quote from #Girlboss via the Crafted Life... sums it up!)

This coming Saturday, I get to check off one of my bucket list items! A dear friend of mine- a sweet girl I've known since she was barely toddling (and I was a teenager then, so now I feel so old telling you this-) is tying the knot, and she's asked me to be her wedding photographer. I'm humbled/thrilled/nervous/all of the feelings about it.

When I agreed, I thought I'd be more of a second shooter- a backup photographer and there wouldn't be much pressure on me other than to just be there and capture what I saw happening. After meeting with her last week and chatting about the wedding plans, I've realized there's a lot more expected of me than I initially realized. I'm totally okay with that, I promise. But I'm antsy because I want to give this sweet friend the best pictures ever!

The ceremony is planned for sunset/dusk and it's a tricky lighting situation. I'm totally confident with natural light photography but flash photography is not my strong point! Still, I'm out at dusk every night now, practicing with my flash and learning the best camera settings for the scenario. I'm down to just a few days left to prepare, and I want to be on my game.

That's not all that's going on, either! In just a few months, my daddy will be retiring from the work he's been doing for more than thirty years and ramping up his consulting business to a full-time enterprise. He's closed down his (ugly, old) website and moved it to a new host and is hoping I can build him a brand new one. Shucks, Dad, you've got so much faith in my abilities! Of course, I agreed to try.

AND THEN, last week, Eric's boss told him he's needed on an out-of-town project. He leaves one week from today and will be gone for a month or more. I don't have any help with the kids, ya'll- no nanny, no babysitter, no daycare. It's just little old me and these two pipsqueaks- oh, and the week of Halloween coming soon around the bend.

#facepalm

So, friends, forgive me. Forgive me if my regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule becomes sporadic. Forgive me if I read your blog post but don't get the chance to comment until 10 days later. Forgive me if my emails go unanswered far too long. I'm just over here trying to be superhuman. That's all.

I told you I thrive on challenges, and it's true. If I don't face obstacles every now and then, I start to wilt in the normalcy! So, here's to a season of growing and learning. I can't wait to share some of the progress on my side projects in the weeks to come!

Are you working on any creative side projects right now?

October 17, 2014

new york, new york

"I wish we could take a family vacation to New York City." I voiced the words, knowing Eric would think it was a foolish idea.

"That would be cool," he says, blowing my assumptions out of the water. He's a play it safe, stick close to home kind of guy. I never thought he'd go along with this crazy idea. Who vacations in New York City? Not people like us.

"You know what?" He continues, "I think it would be neat to live there for a while, too."

newyork

Love these NYC-inspired style finds (top to bottom, left to right): Fall For Split-Back Woven Sweater | Zero Gravity "Stargazer" iPhone case | Henri Bendel "West 57th E/W New York Skyline" Tote | Kurt Geiger London "Lourdes" Ballet Flat |  H&M Shaping Skinny Jeans | CC Skye Pave Double Header Spike Bracelet

I've never told him that's one of my 100 Wishes. I truly thought he'd think my little dream too audacious, too "out there", too wild! We're Alabama people, through and through. Both of us were born and raised in Birmingham, neither of us have lived anywhere else. We have all our family here, we have roots, we have obligations.

I visited the Big Apple once, as a teenager. My parents were hesitant to let me go, but they allowed me the experience because I was with a school group and it was tradition for the class graduating out of my junior high to go each spring. The tour of New York was tacked on the end of a week in Washington, D.C., and I moved through the nation's capitol full of anxious energy waiting for the treat at the end.

I was enamored with New York City as soon as my feet fell on her pavement. The buildings, the noise, the movement and energy, the sound of people's chatter in a language accented differently from my own. I felt right at home!

So here we are, my husband and I, sitting in this car stopped at a traffic light in Birmingham, Alabama, and our dreams are meeting each other in a place nearly 1,000 miles from the city we call home. My humble, homebody hubby is telling me he thinks he'd enjoy the adventure of changing cities for a while, as well. My heart feels so happy, knowing this man is holding my heart carefully, and he's pushing me closer to becoming the person I want to be.

It's been 21 years since I was in New York. God knows if I will ever get to see her again- goodness knows, we so rarely travel. I want to be a globetrotter, I want to see lots of places- the will is there, but not yet a way! But just knowing I can share this small thing with my husband, this thing we can wish together- it makes me feel like I'm headed in the right direction.

I imagine in a few years, when the boys are older and we've had the chance to stash away some money for airfare and expenses, we'll pack up and take a romp to the Big Apple as a family. There are so many other places I want them to see, too: hopefully we can check each one off the list, one by one. Birmingham may always be home, but the wanderlust in my heart wants to show me the world outside these city limits.

Have you ever dreamed of living in a city far from your hometown?

October 15, 2014

classic chili and cornbread

The weather has continued to remain frustratingly warm, despite the date on the calendar. It's maddening, believe me. I've been so ready for the "real" fall to arrive! After a long and rainy weekend, we've finally experienced a downturn in the temps. It's not scarf weather yet. But we Southern folk are finally headed in the right direction.

I want to share with you one of my favorite seasonal recipes. I don't know how you feel about this, but I just don't think it's normal to have chili on the other side of the year. No chili dogs, no chili fries. No chili. After about April every year, I tuck this one away and don't think about it again until the leaves start falling. Guess what? Leaves are falling!

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

My daddy taught me to love chili. I have to be honest, though, I don't have much of a tolerance for heat, so I keep the spice toned down! You won't fry your tongue on this recipe, but you will warm your belly. And if you add corn (as I do most of the time), it adds an interesting sweet tone to contrast the savory spice.

Classic Chili and Cornbread:

Ingredients:

(Chili)

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup chopped onion (tip: I pre-chop and freeze my onions in freezer bags to use as needed for recipes like this one)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1 Tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 Tsp pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp oregano
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can Ro-Tel
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 1 large can tomato sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes

(Cornbread)

  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2-4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 4 Tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (plus extra to coat your pan)

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

Directions:

Put 1 Tbsp. olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet or stock pot. I have this awesome non-stick Caphalon chili pot that I use for all my soup recipes. Now add your onions and minced garlic: fry them up until they're nicely caramelized (slightly browned, not scorched!). Remove them from the pan into a bowl and set them aside until later.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil and then brown your ground beef in the same pan. You don't have to wash it out!

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

Measure out all your spices while your beef is browning. That's just my advice, and you can take it or leave it. I like to add them all at the same time! After the beef is cooked, add your caramelized onions and garlic, a little bit of water (about 1/4 cup, give or take- this is soup, not science!), and your powdered spices. Let that simmer while you open up your cans.

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

A note about the canned ingredients: I change these up all the time. Sometimes I used canned vegetables. Sometimes, I use dried beans and cook them according to the package directions before starting my chili.  Sometimes I use red kidney beans. Sometimes I cook up some rice and throw that in, other times I put in some black beans. There are no rules! I'm a free spirit with my chili.

Bring it all to a boil, then turn your heat to "low". Now cover that baby up and let 'er simmer! For a long time- the longer the better.

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

DSC_013Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

After the chili is simmering, I start on a pan of cornbread. Let me tell you, I've been using the recipe on the back of the Aunt Jemima bag for as long as I can remember. If they ever change up their packaging, I'll be in trouble. Except, not anymore because now it will be recorded here for future reference! But, whatever.

Let me keep this really simple. Baking is easy. Usually it goes like this:

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

Mix all your dry ingredients in a big bowl.

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

Then add all your wet ingredients. Stir it all up really good.

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

Now, here's the secret to perfect cornbread. Ready for this? Coat the bottom of your pan with oil. Be generous but don't over do it. I use a pie dish but you can use a cast iron skillet, muffin tin, or even a square baking dish. I'm not one for rules, remember? You put the pan in the oven while it's preheating- for this recipe, you preheat the oven to 425 degrees. (Maybe I could have told you that before you started... forgive me.) After the oven is heated up, pull the pan out and add your mixed up cornbread goo. Yes, that's a technical term. This way, the mix forms a nice crust on it and won't stick to the pan when it's done!

(behind the scenes) | Hello Hive

Now wait. For muffins, wait 15-18 minutes. For a pie dish like mine, it'll take a little longer- 20-23 minutes.

While we're waiting, how about a glimpse at what's going on behind the scenes? You know, I've got this rule about being honest. So, here it is:

(behind the scenes) | Hello Hive

A sink full of dishes. Happens every time!

(behind the scenes) | Hello Hive

...and the sleeping baby. Hawk didn't actually live up to my expectations on this particular morning. I had hoped he'd sleep after I left Seth at preschool, like he usually does. He only slept for about ten minutes, though, so my plans to shoot these pictures in the best light (between 8:30-9:30am) were diverted! We played and played, until he got fussy but refused to nurse or eat or, well, anything except fuss. So, I plopped him down in the high chair and gave him some Goldfish... then off to sleepyland he went. And there I am, searching for a pair of jeans... in the full laundry basket sitting in my dining room. Don't ask why I haven't put these clothes away yet.

At Seth's school, the parents have to park and get out of their car to come meet the teachers at the entrance to the school for pickup time. Drop off is easier- an older student comes to the car and makes sure he gets to his classroom, so I don't ever actually have to get out of the car. Do you see where I'm going with this? Yes, I've been wearing my pajama pants all morning- a look that is decidedly NOT part of my capsule wardrobe. Neither is that Batman tee I'm wearing, but all of the other moms arrive in an assortment of band or football team tees, scrubs, track suits and yoga pants, and I'm not one to try and outshine everyone. So there's your honesty for today.

Classic Chili and Cornbread | Hello Hive

Now it's time to go pick up Seth- but lookie here! It's also time to pull the cornbread out of the oven. I think the chili is as good as done, as well. So, hooray! The timing is good, because now our lunch is served.

I like my chili with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of shredded cheese:

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What do you like to put in your chili?

October 13, 2014

eat, make, do | v. 05

I don't know about you guys, but as for me and my house, we loooooove a good old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich. Who doesn't? Actually, a grilled cheese is all Seth ever wants for lunch these days. As soon as we arrive home from the preschool pickup line, I get out the frying pan and start toasting his sandwich.

Sometimes he wants a slice of ham on it, and for some reason I always have to sneak the butter into the pan because he thinks he won't like it with butter (even though, little does he know that he's been eating grilled cheese made with butter for, like, ever).

My little deception aside, the grilled cheese routine is getting a little old. I'd sure like to switch it up a bit. Maybe we should try it with kale and eggs?

And how about those faux marble planters?! I might seriously do this because I've got some little succulents on my windowsill that would love a new home. It's a super-duper easy DIY- perfect for little old craft-challenged me. And if you think I'm kidding.... well, I'm not. But I'm trying, so give me a little credit, will you?

eat make do | v. 5

EAT | Crispy Kale Grilled Cheese with Fried Eggs by How Sweet It Is
MAKE | Marble Planters by Fall for DIY
DO | How to Create a Media Kit for Your Blog by Holly Marie Designs

Finally, I'm taking notes on the post about creating a media kit for my blog- and lots of other resources, as well. Folks, this little blog it nearing it's six month "half-iversary", and I'm looking at ways to start monetizing my content. Goodness knows, a mama's gotta do what a mama's gotta do!

I'm doing all you see here for free because I love it. But really now? I've got a family to feed, as well. Eric's been pulling all the financial weight for us for more than a year now, since my unemployment checks dried up. We've been afloat, but just barely. Any small crisis could sink us easily!

I've got a choice here. I can take this something I love and do something with it, or I can quit this and go find ordinary work. I can press into the creative visions I've always carried around with me, or I can put them down and follow a safe road. I'm not ready to give up yet.

I've been busting my booty growing a little following and developing my voice over the last few months. And I've been doing a ton of brainstorming about ways to make my content better. I know you all love to come over here and listen to me ramble on about my ordinary little life (sweet as it is!), but I know I can't keep you entertained just talking about myself all the time.

I really, really, really want your visits to Hello Hive to be rewarding, encouraging, and valuable. And YES. I want you to be addicted so you'll keep coming back for more.

I've beat myself up long enough thinking there's no way I can keep churning out good content, week after week and month after month until.... God knows when. But look at me! It's happening, and you are coming, and I'm just amazed. Now, let's make it better.

In the coming weeks, you'll be seeing a few different kinds of posts from me. I'd like to give you some recipes, maybe (eek!) a DIY or two, even some tips about life and child-raising and blogging and homemaking that I've picked up along the way.

You may see some sponsored content from time to time in the months to come. I promise it will not be an all-the-time occurrence, and you can be sure I will stick to my integrity and only stand behind products I genuinely care about.

OH! And how about this?

!! I sure would like to give some of you some ad space on my empty little sidebar over there --> !!


I know a bunch of lifestyle bloggers charge for ad space, but I'll be honest and tell you that I have a little theory that it's not really worth it. But I'm willing to try a little experiment and see how it goes- I want to help you all out any way I can!

Let's give it a go for a few months and see how it works out- if I really am able to get some of you a nice little boost in your traffic, then maybe I will start offering paid sponsorship packages in the months to come.

Here's what I propose. I'm offering free ads for the next three months. I'll put up your blog button with no strings attached (though I do reserve the right to refuse if I don't think your content is a good fit for my readers, and I will post no more than 10 ads to start).

For three months, I will promote your blog with trackable links and monitor the traffic I'm sending your way. I'd like to get the first ads up soon, and I will keep them up at least until the middle of January. What do you say? Email me if you're interested!

(Here are some stats for you- call this a preliminary media kit if I may:

First post published: June 6, 2014
Posts 3-5 times per week
Topics covered: Lifestyle, Motherhood, Faith, Fashion, Recipes, DIY, Home
Followers via:

  • Bloglovin' - 1,100+
  • Twitter - 1,300+
  • Instagram - 1,300+
  • Pinterest - 1,000+)

So, Who wants to be my guinea pigs?

October 10, 2014

gratitude | v. 7

Gratitude | v. 7

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16:34)

  • Reading favorites from my own childhood to my sons. Currently: Stuart Little. Next up: James and the Giant Peach.
  • The giant, talking Optimus Prime mask we found at the thrift store for $1.99. 
  • Women that are willing to stand with me and pray when I feel scared about the vision God is giving me.
  • Learning how to drink my coffee without sugar.
  • Time spent with Hawk while Seth is in school.
  • The DVR is this mama's friend. Recording this fall: Gotham, Forever, and the Mysteries of Laura. Plus, I'm inspired by HGTV's Fixer Upper and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to make me laugh.
  • Less time reading the books on my agenda and more time in the Word of God.
  • All of you- every single person that will click on my blog today. I haven't met most of you, but I love you and I'm praying for you to be encouraged today.
  • Hashing out ideas for the future of this blog.
  • Our chalkboard wall.

What are you watching on TV this Fall?

October 8, 2014

fall/winter 2014 capsule wardrobe + thoughts

For my birthday, Eric sent me off to buy some new clothes. I bet a lot of you would love that. "Hey, honey- go get yourself some new clothes. Buy whatever you want!" Sounds nice in theory, huh? Right, but I have this little thing about, well, really abhorring dressing rooms and such.

Plus, you know, I'm on this capsule wardrobe kick and I want to keep my closet simple. I've worked hard to clean out my closet but I'm not sure I trust myself to be disciplined as I start to fill it back up again! I was pretty confident I had enough to get me through the next few months until I realized some of my favorite shirts were losing stitches at the hems and developing holes in the knit.

That's a pitfall of one shopping on a tight, tight budget I guess. I mean, I gawked when Caroline posted that her fall wardrobe budget was $1000. That's (seriously, now!) pretty close to my family's whole budget for the whole year for all four of us. As much as I'd love to really invest in good-quality clothes, that kind of spending is just not our reality.

That aside, the truth is that I had not spent more than $300 on new clothes since Hawk was born. I've been through a rotation of thrifted blue jeans, yoga pants and ratty old t-shirts as I've gradually shed that baby weight. Really, I was not about to drop $70 on a pair of size 16 jeans that I only hoped to wear for a few months! And yes, gradually, I've lost the weight and now I'm close to my original weight (though still about 25-30 pounds shy of where I'd ultimately like to be).

So, maybe I did need to go clothes shopping. I had "plenty" but did my clothes make me feel good? Did they make me feel pretty? Confident? Absolutely not. So shopping I went.

I have about 40 pieces altogether now, give or take. The actual count depends on what you count- I've seen some debate on whether a capsule should include items such as layering tanks, leggings and jackets. Let's try not to get too ticky about it, now, and just take a look at the end result:

capsule-tops

These are actual photographs of the actual items from my closet. I'm not going to lie, it was a painstaking process to catalog each piece this way! But putting this together has helped me visualize my actual style (as opposed to the styles I enjoy seeing on other people but would not feel comfortable in myself).

My favorite tops have a forgiving waistline- too tapered, and it clings to that pesky tummy. I like fabrics that flow- not too stiff! I gravitate to graphic patterns and feminine details. I don't like too much ornament because I'm always afraid it won't stand up to wear.

capsule-layers

For fall and winter here in the Southeast U.S., it's crucial to keep the layers lighter. I do love the look of a chunky knit sweater, but the reality is that it might be cold enough for it outside but as soon as you reach your destination the heat inside will likely roast you if you're overdressed! Also, our region has famously fickle weather- there have been years that I've worn short sleeves and flip flops on Christmas day.

capsule-bottoms

(For what it's worth, these bottoms are the only images that aren't my own, but I'm including these Fatface jeans and Apt. 9 leggings from Kohl's because they are similar to the bottoms I actually own.)

I have two pairs of black leggings and one pair of purple leggings that I like to pair with my shorter dresses and a pair of ballet flats when the weather is cooler. We've only had one day cool enough for this getup so far for Fall 2014, so I'm still patiently waiting to debut the leggings look.

My jeans get far more wear. 100% of my jeans were thrifted- I have three pairs that are blue and one black. I bought the black jeans because they're pretty trendy right now, but I'll be honest and tell you I don't know how much wear they'll get. Anything other than blue is way out of my comfort zone- I feel like it draws attention to me, and especially the shape of my body.

I have the hardest time with bottoms because I have a size 14 belly and size 10 hips. It's impossible to dress! If the pants fit at the waist, they sag in the backside. After a while, the waist of my jeans stretches out and I have to tug them back up. If the pants fit my tiny butt, they cut into my waist and make me so uncomfortable I'd rather be naked.

capsule-dresses

I've always had an apple-shaped figure, carrying my weight in the belly. But after two pregnancies, I'm not sure how I'll ever get my proportions right again! I carried both my sons far out in the front and now have a deep and uncomfortable diastasis recti (abdominal muscle separation). For this reason, until I lose more weight and successfully repair my core muscles with exercise (or whatever means necessary), I shy away from styles that will draw attention to my waistline.

Hence, my collection of dresses. I love an empire waist and prefer the polyester-rayon blend fabrics that won't cling to my body. They just hang right and conceal my problem areas perfectly! The more a dress drapes and flows, the happier I am in it. So, while I love the appeal of straight, classic silhouettes and simplistic modern lines- the dresses I choose for myself have a more bohemian aesthetic.

capsule-shoes

Oh, Lordy, I bought a pair of heels. I don't know what I was thinking. Except, maybe, sometimes heels are called for and I'll probably need them a time or two (though curse them, I will). Nothing too trendy here- a classic color and line to serve a functional purpose. On the other hand, I got those great cheetah print flats. There's always that (...thank you, Walmart).

The splurge here was my Keds. I love those babies! I'll be wearing them every day, thankyouverymuch. It looks like this style has been discontinued, though, so (sadface).... here's one that's similar, but I couldn't find the same color. In retrospect, now, maybe if I'd waited a week I could have scored a clearance price. But that's neither here nor there, is it?

I'm hardcore lusting for a pair of booties to wear this fall, but my budget was spent and I already had these great boots I bought about three years ago but have rarely worn. In the event I break down and get some, these boots will have to get the proverbial boot. Isn't that the way it goes? But for now, these will suffice.

A word about brands: I have some great name-brand pieces. My favorites are from Gap, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, and DKNY. But I can't lie! Every single piece of clothing I own came from:

  1. A thrift store
  2. J.C. Penny
  3. Target
  4. Walmart
  5. Ross.
Fancy, we are not. Middle class? Only barely. So I only buy new what I can't find at my favorite thrifty haunts, and fast fashion it will usually be. Many of my clothes are recycled from previous seasons. So many of these clothes will probably wear out in the months to come, and then they will need to be replaced! 

So one of the things I've learned about this process is that a capsule wardrobe is still an organic thing. The contents of my wardrobe will still change in the months to come and the number of items therein will ebb and flow naturally! The key is to exercise restraint, know what works for me and what does not, and accept that it's impossible (and totally unnecessary) to follow every trend- even the ones I love (i.e., black jeans).

In the near future, I plan to show you some of my favorite combinations from my closet. I look forward to that! Meanwhile...

Tell me: what is your favorite item from your wardrobe?

October 6, 2014

10 things that happened this weekend (and no pictures to prove it)


Halfway through Friday morning, I felt it coming on: the tell-tale signs that burnout was right around the corner. Then and there, I decided I'd be taking a media-free weekend. I needed to take some time off to reboot!

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I took pictures this weekend, of the iPhone variety, and I thought I would share them with you today. But then I thought, "What do I have to prove?" Sometimes, it's good just to keep some pictures for myself. I don't feel the need to share every single thing I do or every single picture I take. But I did think I'd tell you today about ten things that happened this weekend (in no particular order):

  1. I went to a mini blogger meetup- erm, lunch date- with Jamie and Kristie. Eric was at work, so my boys tagged along. "Your kids are so well-behaved," says Jamie. Yeah, lady- you know how to make friends, don't you!? (wink wink) Sweetest people, ever- you must go over and say hello to them for me.
  2. Eric took us all out to dinner at the greatest little hole-in-the-wall Mexican place. I munched on a shrimp chimichanga while Seth had a corndog. Authentic.
  3. An after-dark galavant at our favorite park. I rocked my new leather bomber jacket and still had chill bumps. Yay, fall!
  4. We had to turn on the heat for the first time this season. Mmmmm, the smell of a gas furnace in the morning- there's nothing like it.
  5. Hawk wore his very first pair of Converse All-Stars like the rock star he is. I promise, the cuteness is lethal.
  6. (Almost) finished reading Let's All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs. Get thee to the bookstore and get your copy today. (...Reading the last chapters this morning while Seth is in preschool)
  7. Procured materials from Hobby Lobby and proceed to indulge in a jewelry-creating frenzy, making three new necklaces and a pair of earrings. 
  8. Celebrated the loss of another five pounds by finishing off the last of my birthday cake.
  9. Declared Sunday an official pajamas-only day and stayed home with all my boys: we munched pancakes and watched church services online. Glorious day of rest, Amen!
  10. Built a campfire and roasted marshmallows for s'mores.

 DO YOU EVER TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA SABBATH? What did you do this weekend?

October 3, 2014

education + work history | resume of a restless creative.


I just finished reading #GIRLBOSS this week. I have to say- this is the book I wish I'd read when I was 20 years old! Here I am, 14 years later, and I feel like I've been kicked in the butt majorly.

So many things about Sophia Amoruso's story truly resonate with me. She and I are about 180 degrees apart in many ways, but I've really come to enjoy stories about hard work and determination. I've been soaking up so much literature about creativity and business- this book in all it's grit and honesty and coarse language is one of the best I've come across so far!

I thought I'd like to give you a glimpse at my resume today, and it's going to be a hard post to write + a long one to read. It's taken me a long time to get to a point where I can tell parts of my history without being overwhelmed with the regrets. I'll be honest- it's been about nine years since last time I was in counseling, and sometimes I think I need to go back. I'm amazed how much this blogging thing has taken over that role in my life: I spill my guts and you all come alongside me and let me know I'm not alone. That's a way better (cheaper) prescription for me than the couch time and antidepressants I had back then!

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I've dabbled in so many things, I'm certain my family wrote me off as "flighty" a long time ago. I've worn that label with some shame in recent years. You know, I turned 34 this week, and with the upward tick of years spent on this earth comes a burdened feeling, like I haven't accomplished enough with the time I've been given.

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My first major in college was Fashion Merchandising. Let's be really honest, though- how many 18 year olds really have a clue where they want to go in life? I think I'd have loved that if I'd stuck with it, but the nagging feeling I wasn't creative enough and the admonitions from my family that I wasn't being practical got to me. Before my first semester of freshman year even wrapped up, I'd already changed my major to Education. The world always needs good teachers, you know.

It wasn't long before I sensed the Education department would suck the life out of me. I hated it, and that's putting it mildly! I loved my history classes, though: looked forward to them, even. So, by the time I was a sophomore, I'd changed my major again: this time, to History. My family applauded me. There's so many opportunities for you, they told me! Even law school!

I didn't know where I was going: I just knew I wanted to wear nice clothes and have my own office one day. In the back of my mind, I heard, You can do it- you're smart, you can learn to be strong enough. I even imagined moving to New York City. I thought, maybe I could do something with magazines. I loved magazines- the images, the type, layouts and designs, fashion, interiors, and glamour that was so far removed from any reality I'd ever known.

I confessed to my granny one day that I was considering another change to Journalism. It was still early in my college days: I was working on core curriculum, so major changes weren't a big deal yet. I trusted my granny's advice: she was a sharp lady. This time, she said, "You know, it's hard to make it in journalism. That's a pretty competitive field. It's especially hard for women." I heard, I love you, sweetie: you're cute, but you'll never succeed at something like that. Let's be realistic.

My parents were having a hard time paying for my school, and they never complained to me about it but I could sense the mood between them when tuition payments came due. I decided to leave my prestigious liberal arts school and come home, enrolled in the local University part time, took a full time job and found an apartment with my best friend. Oh goodness, independence felt good. It also got me in a lot of trouble eventually, but that's another long story for my memoirs.

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. (Mark Twain)

I hate to admit I let my creative dreams die so easily. When I tell parts of my story, I'm always afraid I might be judged for not being stronger when I was younger. I can't tell you how many bad decisions I made in my youth: I almost feel like my memoir could be titled Consequences. Because I've had a lot of them!

I made one final attempt to follow my heart by deciding to drop my History degree and start over at another college with a major in Interior Design. I was like a fish out of water in design school. I loved the work and I was great at it. I looked around me, though, and all I could see was the difference between me and the people around me. They were well dressed. They were, obviously, "rich".

I looked like a street person. I was anti-fashion at its finest: baggy jeans, chains, heavy black makeup and a scowl. A little cloud of cigarette smoke followed me everywhere I went. I felt poor, and when tuition came due and I had to charge the balance to my credit card- I knew for sure I was in over my head.

I wound up involved with some pretty grungy people during this era. I got myself in so much trouble that my mom and dad had a hard time even talking to me. I'm fortunate that I never wound up in jail, but I was living with a guy who was abusing me and using my credit cards to satisfy his cravings for video games and lewd music (CDs, merchandise, concerts and festivals- we did it all), eyeball deep in debt, friends with thieves and drug dealers, and I felt like I had no escape.

But my story doesn't end there. Let's insert an ellipsis here-

...

Whew, that's like a sigh of relief. Everything in the middle of that ellipsis is my "rock bottom" and the way that God reached down to me in the pit to draw me out of the consequences of all my bad decisions.

I'm amazed, looking back, how far removed my worldview and my life are now from what I imagined it would ever be back then. It's chilling how close I came to something much more sinister than the gifts I have now!

I did finish college- I got the degree in History, after all. Look, I can be practical after all! But I still didn't know where I was going, and my work experience is a litany of dead-end retail jobs. To my credit, I never jumped jobs frequently- I am dedicated and loyal even to a fault. I worked at Blockbuster five years, back when video (then DVD) rentals were a brick-and-mortar business. I was an assistant manager for four years, and the last year of that, I doubled up- taking a night job at Starbucks.

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From then on, I almost always had two jobs at a time. I was paying off all that ridiculous debt! I was promoted to shift supervisor at Starbucks pretty quickly, and I decided to make that my main job, leaving Blockbuster on faith that a part-time job would come along quickly. It did: a week later, I started working three days a week at this local organic grocery and bohemian boutique that smelled strongly of peppermint, Nag Champa, goldenseal and cumin. A lot of people say they can't stand the smell inside that store, but I love it. It smells like home to me.

I was being groomed for management at Starbucks, so I eventually left the grocery store and gave myself full-time to the cafe. I put myself into my work 110%, soaking up all I could about store operations and preparing for my promotion. Meanwhile, Eric and I had hooked up and were quickly engaged. It looked like I had things figured out! A Starbucks store manager (at the time) could make $45-65,000. And I loved the work enough to stick with it forever.

My plans and God's plans didn't line up here. Starbucks didn't pan out for me, and that's another long winded story for my memoir. I was sad to leave, but I had to resign and took a full-time job working for Lowe's Home Improvement in the Installed Sales department. I didn't love Installed Sales like I loved being a barista, but I thrived on the problem solving and customer service. I was a whiz at the computer system from the start, even though it seemed to mystify everyone else. I eventually became the go-to person for operational troubleshooting among all the sales associates and even some of the senior management. But, if you ever want a job that will suck your soul- go work for a big box retailer! I knew I didn't want to move up into salaried management there. It was another dead end.

Lowe's was a dead end I stayed on for five years before it was said and done. When Eric and I got married and moved into our house, I went back to Starbucks part time- so I was working two jobs again. I kept that up until I was six months pregnant with Seth, and my (last) last day at the cafe was the week of my thirtieth birthday- four years ago this week.

...the $h**#! jobs made the good ones more meaningful. Most people don't land their dream job right out of the gate, which means we all have to start somewhere. You'll appreciate your amazing career so much more when you look back at your not-so-amazing jobs in the past, and hopefully realize that you learned something from all of them. (Sophia Amoruso in #GIRLBOSS) 

I left Lowe's for an opportunity to be an office administrator at a new construction company. I was recruited for the job by an old co-worker. The company was growing, it seemed- but it wasn't long after I started there that I noticed a lot of problems in the company structure and sensed that the books weren't being managed well. Sure enough, one year later the company folded and I was let go.

In the meantime, I'd fallen in love with blogging and the online creative community. I'd been praying for a way to stay home with Seth. I'd started to learn photography and got really good at it. I loved writing and connecting with other bloggers. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this creative outlet and the way it's helped me learn so much about myself over the last few years.

I don't regret the start-stop-start-stop-start again nature of my blogging career so far because it was important to me to get it right- like the writer who keeps ripping the page out of typewriter and crumpling it up to the trash bin until the draft feels like it's headed in the right direction, I've been going through a process of figuring out who I want to be and learning how to express my creative side in a way I was never been taught to do.

In some ways, I think I've been walking the road to self-discovery now I should have taken when I was 18, before enrolling in college because "that's just what you DO after high school." For those on the tail end of the millennial generation, this may appear self-evident. For the first of us, it was not! In 1998, college was still the logical next step, even if you didn't know what you wanted to do. Most of us had no idea how drastically the internet would change the world in the next few years!

Sometimes, especially after reading a bestselling book by a successful entrepreneur who's a few years younger than me, I feel like I missed all the good opportunities. Then I realize perhaps I'm just beginning. Julia Child was 37 when she started culinary school, after all! There's so much I am capable of doing- I am a pretty good writer. I love photography. I'd like to learn graphic design. I've picked up a good bit of coding and web design knowledge- I want to know more. I can imagine myself designing jewelry or handbags. Maybe I could go back to Interior Design school.

I know now that I have what's called a multipotentialite personality. It's almost like the world is my buffet but I am a deer in headlights at all the possibilities. I can do whatever I want! But what do I want? It can be paralyzing.

For the time being, I know I have a responsibility to my family. I'm so thankful Eric and I have worked together as a team to manage our resources strategically so I can spend a few years focusing on the children. But there's danger in thinking that this season will last forever. Inevitably, I'll have to move on. Likewise, chances are I won't be a blogger forever, either. At least, I don't think so- there's no precedent for this! What comes next?

Whatever the answer is, I'm thrilled to have you all along for the ride. I definitely believe that God can use anything- even my mistakes- to help people, and that makes me thankful even for the hard times. If you got through my story, I have to give you props! Thank you for hanging in there. I hope telling my story is encouraging to someone out there!

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

October 1, 2014

8 lovely birthday cakes

Welcome, October! It's a new month, and I woke up one year older this morning. Hello, 34! Please be good to me...

I'm not going to wax philosophical about growing older today, my friends. Instead, I'll satisfy my wicked sweet tooth to celebrate one more birthday. Perhaps with one of these beautiful cakes?

CAKES

  1. Funfetti Cake by My Name is Yeh
  2. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake by Simply Delicious
  3. Naked Cookies and Cream Birthday Cake by Louise's Spis
  4. Pavlova with Marscapone, Pomegranate and Lemon Thyme by Sugar et al
  5. Exposed Orange and Chocolate Layer Cake by Made From Scratch
  6. Oregano Honey Cake with Blackberry Buttercream by Adventures in Cooking
  7. Salted Honey and Fig Cheesecake by A House in the Hills
  8. Oat and Pecan Cake with Vanilla Ginger Frosting by this Rawsome Vegan Life

Which cake would you choose? Do you have any birthday traditions?

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