Daily Life

A New Kind of Autumn

It's fall but doesn't feel like fall. Not every day. Not yet.

Coming from the midwest I expect crisp, cool air, bright colors, crispy leaves, and the smell of woodsmoke in the air when I step out the door at night. As mornings get darker and days get shorter, I find my brain trying to reconcile what I'm experiencing with what I'm expecting.

It's not easy. Maybe I need to change my expectations.

What I'm finding in North Dallas is very different. We've had a few crisp days where I've pulled out the skinny jeans, boots, and hoodies. More and more days feel like summer or spring than fall, and I'm still trying to figure out where wearing shorts in autumn - in November - is supposed to fit in.

Last week, my Alma Mater's Alumni page on Facebook posted a series of photographs that capture fall in my hometown perfectly. Large trees covered in fiery red and orange, set with a backdrop of brick buildings and brick streets. 

It's idyllic in a way that feels like home - because it is home. It's the home that i return to for the holidays and to visit family.

Now, I'm having to adapt to a new kind of autumn. One where kids are in school and the days are growing shorter while the weather is still hot. This autumn we're getting record highs in Dallas. The kind of weather I couldn't imagine experiencing in Ohio or Kentucky. Sunday was in the 90s. Today - Wednesday? It's the 40s, raining, and feels ever so fall-like. 

It feels absurd. 

It feels lovely.

Today we saw colors on more trees than not and the next week the highs will top out in the 70s - a cooler-than-expected, yet much welcome stretch of weather. I cannot wait.

This is autumn in the land where the sky stretches for miles and is the richest blue of any sky I've ever experienced. It's ups and downs. Late colors and cool temperatures. Days where mornings call for hoodies and afternoons, tees. It's the light coming at a subtle angle, instead of harshly overhead as we walk to the park in the afternoon, and mornings crisp  It's pumpkins on display while the days alternate between hot and cool; summer and fall.

Autumn in North Texas is exactly what I make of it, as I take it all in. Storefronts smelling of pumpkin spice and holiday songs on as I shop. Hot coffee in the morning while I write and watch the sunrise, baby sleeping cosily in bed. 

Yes, friends, I do believe that in early November, it finally is starting to feel like fall.

Delightful

The question seemed simple: what delights you?

It came up in a voxer conversation I was having with my writing group, and it made me pause and think, because I find joy in so many things, but delight? 

I wish I could say it varies and I wish I could say I find delight in everything. However, that wouldn't be true - and also wouldn't be fair. 

So what do I find delightful?

Well, the quiet reverence of an art museum. There is something magical about how people stop and simmer down when in a museum housing precious artifacts. Works of art house parts of our souls, and I think when we step into a museum we recognize this - the pieces of the souls of those still with us and those long gone. It's magical.

I also find delight in libraries and bookstores - so many choices and so little time. There is also a different kind of quiet reverence in a library or even a bookstore - the kind of quiet that lets you read or be with your thoughts. Quiet that awakens characters and brings the past to life. Quiet that brings inspiration for new heroines, princes, princesses, and tales of wonder. 

And nothing compares for me to the delight I find in a well-brewed fresh cup of coffee on a crisp autumn day. Bonus points if I'm in a soft hoodie and leggings on a patio in the morning light while enjoying it. 

It would seem I find delight in quiet, and yet.

Delight is something that springs to life within me whenever my son giggles or squeals or stops in wonder. I love watching his joy and amazement when his dad gets home at the end of the day. 

"It DADA!" he squeals as he runs to greet Allen at the door.

His joy overflows when we do some of his favorite things, too, like when we swim, or paint, or go to the zoo. 

I especially take delight when he takes a bubble bath and hands me bubbles, eyes big.

I see his delight in things small and big, new and old. My son does find delight in almost everything, though quiet reverence isn't quite his thing.

When I am asking what delights myself, I remind myself that delight CAN be found everywhere - if we only know what to look for.

Making a New City Feel Like Home

Most of us know that moving is hard, whether it's cross-town or cross-state. I don't know how many of us really know how difficult it can be to move cross-country. I moved cross-state once, then out of state (sort of. I could see my previous state simply by walking a few blocks), and then last summer, we moved cross-country.

On Monday, I wrote about how I felt homesick after we moved.  While I alluded to ways I tried to feel less homesick, I didn't talk about what I did to make Dallas feel more like home. Today, that's exactly what I want to share - how I made my new city feel a bit more like home, and how I started to feel less homesick as a result.

  • I made my space my own. Decorating your home in whatever manner you enjoy is a great way to start making a new place - even in the same city - feel like home. We haven't painted, but we have hung pictures, bought some fun new furniture, and put out mementos of our old home. Decorating made our new house feel like home, not just a place we're visiting.
  • I looked for things I like to do. More specifically: I looked for coffee shops. When I was working, getting to explore organically was a bit of a challenge, so I googled. For coffee. I love trying new-to-me coffee shops and looking for a place to get weekend morning coffee led me to find two favorites: Summer Moon and Nerdvana, which are close to home with two very different atmospheres. Now, when I want to hang at a coffee shop with Oscar, I can choose one based on what we're planning to do that morning. While I did this for coffee, it also works for food, bookstores, art museums (also something I've done) - really the sky is the limit!
  • I joined Meetup .  Now, I joined Meetup after I became a stay-at-home-mom to find playgroups, but it can be used for countless groups. Some groups meet for coffee and gaming, others for Bible Study, and others for fitness. It's a great way to get to know people in a new area in a low-risk setting. Meetup led me to an amazing playgroup with a great mix of moms similar to me. We meet weekly at various locations around our area, which has the added benefit (for me) of helping me learn my way around our tollways and nearby suburbs, which means I am less reliant on my GPS. Always a plus (for me).
  • I took walks in my new neighborhood. Since I live in a suburb, I'm not going for walks to get food or ice cream, but to get out for fresh air. What started as a way to find my way around has become a daily activity. It helps keep us active, especially since we can walk to the playground (and do pretty much daily). Since we're out so often, we've made several new friends!
  • We spent (and spend) weekends exploring. There are so many little towns throughout Dallas that it's easy to choose a new-to-us area, see how walkable it is, and go. Exploring has led us to some great finds; like pit barbecue in Historic Plano, amazing food in Denton, an adorable independent bookstore in Deep Ellum, and pie in McKinney. We've also taken the train into downtown to spend an afternoon at Klyde Warren Park, which Oscar found fascinating!
  • We've worked hard at keeping in touch with friends back east. I can't tell you how many days of the week I'm messaging my best friends from Cincinnati. If I miss them, or I miss home, I send a message, an email, or a funny photo. On days where I feel lonely, or miss scrapbooking with a bestie, or cyclebar with another, I'm grateful that technology means they're a snap, a chat or an Instagram post away.
  • I accepted that it is okay to be homesick. Most days since the start of January I feel like this is my home now, but that doesn't mean there aren't days I miss Ohio, our old friends, old house, and old neighborhood. It's okay to be homesick and miss what was and grieve over what could have been. Even on good days I find myself wishing I could show something off to E, or go to spin with J, and that's okay. It's also okay to love where I live now and to work hard to continue to make it into home.

While this isn't completely comprehensive, it does encompass a lot of what I've done to make Dallas feel more like home and less like a foreign land. It's not easy to make a new city feel like home, and being homesick is very real, but little things can make it so much easier to feel at home, and to find a niche of your own. 

Organization, Efficiency, and Motherhood

Ever since Oscar was born, I've become extra efficient and even more organized than I was before. I had time management down pat - or so I thought. Now? I feel like my time management skills have been thrown into overdrive. 

How so? Well, everything kind of has to be planned, in a way. Going out involves ensuring we have a packed diaper bag. Getting ready for work includes packing my pump bag, lunch, and Oscar's bottles. There's a lot to get done, and not a lot of time to do it in (especially if I want to get in play time with my cheery buddy before bed!). 

There's a few things I do to make sure my days and nights run efficiently. Most of them are common sense and work for any working person. Some of it's assisted by my bullet journal, and I have a whole post in the works about how the journal has been helping me be better and keep track of pretty much my whole life in a way my day planner didn't.

  1. Outfits for work get planned out for the week. This just makes it easier for me in the morning. I just grab one of my pre-set outfits and throw it on. For some of those sleepless nights, this gives me a little more time to sleep. Or more play and cuddle time with Oscar before we have to get ready to go.
  2. I shower at bedtime. With a pixie cut, it does mean some rewetting and combing of the hair in the morning, but it saves me 15 minutes every morning. Which is time I'd rather spend cuddling the baby, talking with Allen, and eating breakfast. 
  3. We tag-team mornings. Since we're nursing, I feed Oscar while Allen gets ready for the day. Once he is ready, Allen takes over and gets Oscar dressed and downstairs while I get dressed, do my hair and makeup and brush my teeth. We trade off daycare drop off and pick up each day.
  4. I keep up with meal planning, and cook at least once per week using our crockpot. Planned meals keep me from having to think about what is for dinner tonight, or tomorrow. 
  5. I also plan lunches. My lunch is basically the same every day: sandwich, fruit, yogurt. If it's not a sandwich, it's leftovers and fruit. Snacks are trail mix, fruits, or granola bars. Breakfast? Cereal and almond milk, Van's brand frozen power waffles (protein!) and almond butter or peanut butter, or homemade cinnamon bread. 
  6. Speaking of lunches, they get packed up the night before so all I have to do in the morning is put it into my lunchbox with a couple ice packs. Easy peasy. And I can pack lunch while dinner cooks - making use of that 15 minute cook time!
  7. I have mastered the fifteen minute tidy, but I don't stress the small stuff. My goal is to keep the house tidy. I do a deep clean every week or two. I've KonMari'd my clothes and I don't stress if everything doesn't get done every day. As long as lunches are packed, Oscar has milk bottles, and everyone is happy, life is good.

How about you - what do you do to stay organized?

How I'm Conquering Fear

The world, in general, is a pretty easy to get along in space. But it's also a little scary.

I'm afraid of the unknown. Of not fitting in (sometimes I stand out more than I fit in). Of being left out. I'm excited to be a mom. I don't dislike pregnancy (in fact, I kind of like it). But I'm afraid of that whole "getting the baby out" part that is coming in about four months. 

Sometimes, I'm afraid of writing the wrong thing here. Of being judged for my words. Or that I'll lose friends over what I might write here, depending on subject matter and opinion. 

But I still put myself out there. I still try. I try to fit in. I write. I press 'publish.' And I seek out knowledge.

It all sounds very much like anxiety. But it's not. It's the little fears that get you day to day. The things that make you second guess. That's what it is for me, at least. 

And right now? I am working hard on conquering my fear. The little things that hold me back. My podcast of choice lately has been Tiffany Han's Raise Your Hand. Say Yes. And I've heard so many speakers, authors, and creatives on this podcast all talking about getting out there. Doing the work. Overcoming the fear.

So I'm raising my hand. I'm saying yes. I'm working on 100 days of Blogging, though that is shaping up very differently than I originally anticipated. Every other day posts, for example, instead of daily, with the days between being planning, researching, or behind the blog posts.

I'm working on fitting in while standing out. I'm letting criticisms roll away, while getting at the heart of what the intent is behind the critique - is it intended to help with improvement or cut me down? If it's the former I take it at face value. The latter? Set it aside. 

As for the fear of labor and birth? For that I'm working on acquiring knowledge. I have at least four months before the baby comes, so that's four months of time I have to learn all I can about labor and delivery. Including an eight week childbirth class that starts this week. I chose Hypnobabies, and I am excited for us to attend our first session and really start getting into the meat of this whole "having a baby" thing. 

For me, fear is the unknown. Taking a leap and not knowing what's next. Pressing publish and not knowing if a post will flop. Not having enough knowledge. So I can learn and I can try. I can write and publish, or write and delete. I can learn from my errors. I can step out, stand up, say yes. 

I am working on conquering that fear of the unknown. And man, can I just say? It's a powerful, wonderful process. I can't wait to see where I go from here. 

Just the Little Things

This week, I'm all about appreciating the small things. It's been a busy week that felt like it was too long and too short all at once. I'm so happy it's the weekend!

This week I needed to take time out to appreciate the little things. Just things that I might normally take for granted.

What sort of things? 

My comfy purple shoes. They're comfy and add a splash of color to plenty of my outfits. They always earn me compliments, and they make me happy.

Blood orange Italian soda. There is a coffee shop in my hometown that sells Italian sodas and they're amazing. I especially like getting soda with vanilla. Since I can't go to that coffee shop, getting Italian soda in a bottle at the grocery store is the next best thing.

The fall blend coffee at Starbucks. It's got a depth of flavor that is perfect for autumn. Really, any day of the week, but it's delicious and puts some pep in my step every day.

Ice cream with chocolate sauce in my Jadeite bowl. It's so pretty, for one, and the ice cream is delicious!

Those are just a few of the things I'm appreciating lately, as I go through my day-to-day. This weekend I'm looking forward to sleeping in, keeping house, and catching up on Project Life!

Divide and Conquer: Housework

I am a stubborn person. About most things. I'm not that stubborn about housework. I figure it will get done however it needs to get done. 

Which is to say: I don't care how the dishwasher gets loaded. Just that it does. And that it gets run and emptied accordingly. 

I say all of this to start because how we do housework in my household has changed just a bit since I started working four ten-hour shifts. I get home from work each night after normal dinner time, and that gives me limited time in the evenings to get stuff done. And my mornings? Well, there is only so much I can get done before it's time to leave.

The shift in my schedule and housework was spurred by a statement I made one night while we cleaned up from dinner: it just feels like everything is half done. And at the time, it did in a way. We were still adjusting to my work schedule, I was trying to fit in far more than I should have been on my days off, and there was a lot of partially completed tasks. Most of that came from my decision to take on a lot, and I realized I took on too much.

So, we redivided how we did the housework, cooking, and cat care, all to make our days, weekends, and days off a bit easier, and to bring some cohesiveness to the household that I was sorely missing. 

To start that process, we both sat down and wrote out what we do every morning and evening to keep the house running. We put down everything we do, from the little stuff like feeding the cats and packing lunches, to the big stuff like cleaning bathrooms, cooking, groceries, and vacuuming.

And then we looked at what needed some additional attention and decided how we were going to divvy it all up to get done. What we determined was a new cooking schedule: since I get home after eight on the days I work, Allen cooks those evenings. On my off days, if I'm not visiting family, I cook. Whoever cooks handles the surface cleaning (counters, stove, sweeping the kitchen) after dinner. Whoever doesn't cleans up the dishes. 

That's just part of it. We've split up the laundry duties in half - Allen does what he can while I work during the weekend, and I finish it up during one of my weekdays off. And there's other cleaning we've redistributed, mostly things like floors and various rooms. That's where we've ended up with almost a fifty/fifty distribution - housekeeping. 

What we do before work has basically stayed the same, but the evenings have changed up just enough that we're still adjusting. But it wasn't until we sat down and looked at all that we each do to keep the house running that it all made sense. Changing up who does what chores is where things are now just that much easier - the house runs a bit smoother, and nothing feels half-done anymore. 

The redivision of housework to get it all conquered is totally worth it to both of us - even on days when we both feel extra lazy. It's not quite fifty/fifty, but it works for us, and that's what matters. 

Currently

Okay, so life lately has just been a bit on the busy side. We've had a lot of snow for March. Like, oh, a lot. Last night I think we got four inches, maybe five, and places south of where we are got upwards of a foot. 

Welcome to the midwest, right? 

So I thought I would maybe share a little bit of what my "lately" has looked like. List form. Because, hey, why not?

Watching: Scandal. And 19 Kids and Counting. Because I just sort of really enjoy watching the Duggar family and their adventures. And who doesn't like catching up with Olivia Pope and Fitz?

Listening to: The latest from Walk the Moon. And Elise Gets Crafty, a great podcast about blogging, crafting, inspiration and motivation from Elise Blaha Cripe, one of my favorite crafty bloggers. It's great to listen to while I'm working out or headed to or from work, and definitely adds to my motivation to get stuff done each week!

Reading: I'm actually rereading Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar right now. I've been feeling a little extra domestic lately and just enjoy this take on the new domestic movement and feminism.

Wearing: Bearpaws. They're my favorite cozy suede and shearling boots and they are so. SO comfortable. And warm. Our heat went out last week. For a whole week. Which I'll write more about soon. But my feet were never cold, because I basically never took my Bearpaws off.

Eating: Brownies. Lots and lots of brownies. Okay, and salads made with spinach, mandarin orange segments, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar - super refreshing, light, and delicious! I've also been loving How Sweet Eats' General Tso's Chicken because it is amazing. Like a straight-up duplicate of the sweet and spicy chicken that so many of us love. 

Drinking: All of the tea. Hey, it's winter, it's cold, and I like some hot tea before bed every night. It's not the most exciting drink in the world, but it's delicious.

So, that's my list of my currentlys. I'll be back soonish with an update, and the tale of how we survived without a furnace for a week. Because the house wasn't warm. it wasn't frigid, but it definitely wasn't warm. 

The Daily: Everyday Makeup

The title of this blog post may be a little misleading. But I'm starting a new semi-regular feature on my blog about things I do that make my day-to-day life better. Or more fun. Or just what I do day-to-day that's become such a routine I don't really think about it.

Which brings me to the first post in this series: my makeup routine. I'm going to start off by saying that until I got my new job, I didn't wear makeup daily. Maybe a couple of times a week. Or month. I'm not going to say which. But I couldn't figure out how to make a daily makeup routine stick; I love makeup a lot, but felt like applying a face full of makeup every day? Took up a lot of time.

In reality, though, what was taking a lot of time was learning how to apply a lot of what I have in my makeup bag. I also needed to figure out just how much makeup I was comfortable wearing on a day-to-day basis. I don't think it's necessary to wear makeup daily, but I like it, so I committed to spending the month of December trying to wear it daily. I mean, I have adult acne and it's a pain. In. The. Butt. So foundation and concealar? Are often some of my best friends.

Now, I have a pretty good makeup routine down. It's pretty basic, but I can jazz it up when I feel it's warranted. Or I can KISS it: keep it simple, self! I mean, the routine is SO routine, that since December 1st, I've only gone one single day without makeup. And that was New Year's Day. Which I spent in sweatpants and I don't think I actually did my hair that morning, either, so it was a day for laziness. 

But what, exactly, does my makeup routine involve? Or rather, what are my everyday makeup products? Well, I have just a few, but those few go a long way for me. 

Basically, I like to keep it simple, which is why I have just a few items pictured above. My daily look involves foundation and finishing powder, eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, and tinted brow gel. And it all goes a long way toward making me feel put-together, even on days when I want to stay in the confines of my very warm bed (hey, it's been in the minus temperatures here overnight!). There are two liners above, which I'll explain as I get into my list below!

Starting from the top:

  • L'Oreal Lineur Intense liquid eyeliner in carbon black. I love it because it makes such a clear, clean line, and it's easy to use, to boot. Eyeliner is one of many ways I fake being awake on days I am tired to the bone, and it really does enhance my eyes in a way that leaves me feeling fresh-faced and ready to start the day.
  • Benefit Gimme Brow tinted brow gel. Okay, guys? This stuff is just so AWESOME. It has some fibers in it that cling to your brows to add oomph, and the tint enhances the color and evens everything out. This gel takes my brows from wimpy and a bit sparse to on-my-face amazing and I love it. It's also exceptionally easy to use and build up, which means I spend a little less time worrying about mistakes on my face. A bonus!
  • Buxom Lash Waterproof mascara in blackest black. Lately this has been my go-to, though I'm still loving my They're Real mascara, too! The Buxom lash mascara adds length to my lashes and opens up my eyes in a way that not many mascaras I've tried have been able to. It's easy to use and the funky wavy-shaped brush ensures every. Single. Lash. Gets coated in mascara. The best part? This mascara doesn't flake or rub off, and lasts right up until I take it all off with my eye makeup remover before bed.
  • Maybelline Lash Tattoo 24-hour eyeshadow in Inked in Pink. Okay, so have you noticed that basically everyone is rocking some form of pink shadow this year? Yeah. On the days I rock eyeshadow, I do this pink with the black liner and it makes me look so awake! The pink enhances my brown eyes really well, and it's subtle enough to be there without being overwhelmingly PINK. The shimmer adds a little touch of brightness to my eyes, which I love, and the fact that this is a 24-hour creme shadow? EPIC. It totally stays put until I'm ready for it to come off. 
  • Kajal Extreme Eyeliner in Rose Gold. So, sometimes, I just don't feel like wearing eyeshadow, but I still want the effects of an eye-opening pink on my lids. Enter this eyeliner, which I got in my Birchbox in December. It's shimmery and adds a hint of pink to my eyes, without overwhelming them. The liner itself is easy to use, and for being the first every non-brown or non-black liner I've owned? I love it.
  • Bare Minerals Foundation and Mineral Veil. Even if I put nothing else on my face for the day, I will not leave without putting on my foundation and topping it off with the mineral veil. This stuff is just spectacular and I love it. It leaves my skin looking like my skin, only better. I can build it up to add as much coverage as I want or need (good-bye visible breakouts!), and it's lightweight and easy to apply. I swear, without this foundation? I would probably be a little lost. With it, I just really like how my skin looks throughout the day.

So there you have it: my day-to-day makeup musts. This list is totally how I ended up at the gym Friday night with a face full of makeup on while on an elliptical. And really? I went from work to the gym, so my makeup wasn't even on my mind. It's also how I've managed to go over a month with daily makeup application and loving every minute of it. Now I'm just looking for more eyeshadows to boost my collection, and trying out layering my mascaras to see just how much va-va-voom I can get going for my lashes. 

I never really thought makeup could be this fun, but now I do. And I love it. A lot.