It was my birthday.

It’s been a busy two weeks since my last update. SO busy. Again. Tons of really fun things, but it’s starting to feel a bit overwhelming. I’ve barely been home, I’ve had almost no time to sew, and worst of all – almost no time to read! I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining, but this isn’t a lifestyle I can sustain long term. I love doing fun things, but I HATE feeling so out of control and behind on literally everything else. But, the last two weeks have been full of great memories, so I want to share!

Earlier this month I was running all those random and annoying errands I talked about in my last post. One of which was the boys getting flu shots. They did great!

I also hosted my second coffee morning! I’m still working out the kinks to see if I can make this a very dependable and regular event, but every week is so different I think I’m going to have to continue taking it month by month. Unfortunately, the coffee morning coincided with some awful rains that left most of the town dealing with flooded basements – us included. So not as many people were able to come, but it was still really great to connect with those that could! Greg worked at home that day to shop vac the back room in our basement that doesn’t slope to the drain over and over again. That’s also how I spent my Thursday that week.

Thursdays are proving to be the one day of the week I never seem to have a ton of stuff going on and I SHOULD be using that time to actually get to work, but both of the last two Thursdays were spent doing more self care type activities instead. Special candles, longer reading sessions, long naps, etc. I really need a solid chunk of time like that to recharge if I want to make it through a weekend.

Birthday presents started rolling in! My friend Dianne sent me these awesome hot sauces that she taste tested and picked out for me in NYC. I’m excited to try them out! I don’t have any photos, but I also got a happy lamp and face roller from my sister-in-law and her fiance that they gave me at Caden’s party.

Grandma gave the boys these big blanket sweaters and now they wear them ALL THE TIME. It’s hilarious. But also – it’s gotten really cold!! They will really come in handy this winter.

I had so many restaurant plans in the days before and after my birthday that I had to make sure the one day we were eating at home it was something I really liked, so I made my all time favorite jalapeno popper pizza on pretzel crust! It’s a tiny bit more work to make the crust, but SO worth it. Plus they have to be smaller sized, so we can all pick which toppings we want with no compromising.

One of my treats to myself this month was signing up for a weekly Halloween coffee subscription from my favorite roasters, Brandywine Coffee. Each week for five weeks I get a small bag of unique Halloween flavored coffees. So far “Halloween” tastes very savory. I’m hoping the closer we get to the actual date they make the blends a little sweeter!

Another present in the mail from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I don’t think I’ve ever read Little¬†Women! I’m excited to read it before the new movie comes out. I think it’ll be a good November read. And a gift card to go toward a rug I really wanted, and maybe already bought (keep reading lol).

That Saturday night we went to my parents’ for my first official birthday celebration! I just realized now that it’s larger I wasn’t even looking at the camera – oops! I made myself a butterscotch cake I’ve been wanting to try out for weeks. It was pretty good! Maybe a bit too sweet, though. I’d maybe do it with chocolate frosting if I did it again.

My parents made me a delicious dinner of foods that I like! And they gave me a great collection of coffee themed birthday gifts. I love the rainbow mug! And a larger pour over for my coffee mornings since my current one can only make a single cup. And local coffees! I’ve only tried the Nunatak Marsh Mud so far, but it’s really chocolatey and delicious!

I spent last Sunday finishing up some dolls. I decided to take a break from fall and Halloween and focused on birthday dolls and things that I enjoy – like tacos! This taco doll is still available, by the way. ūüôā She turned out so cute!

On Sunday afternoon we did the one thing that I like doing most on or around my birthday – picking out pumpkins! This year we decided to check out a new place everyone was talking about where the pumpkins were only $1. And they were so big too! The kids were much more interested in trying to find all the kittens, while I mostly picked out the pumpkins.

And then on Sunday night (it was a busy day!) the boys went to Grandma’s for a sleepover and Greg and I went on our first date in awhile. I picked Bartaco in Middleton, the place I went with my mom and the boys once this summer. They have my favorite tacos. They’re super tiny, but SO delicious. Greg loved them too. Afterward we walked around Hilldale Mall for a little bit and I splurged on a box of fancy chocolates. Greg was a little wide eyed at my financial life choices, but then he got an equally expensive Moscow Mule at the movie theater, so we were even. We finished the night watching the new Downton Abbey movie. I really liked it!

And finally, Monday was my birthday! I am officially 35. I feel like 35 is the year you officially become an adult, and I’m not so sure I like it. It could definitely be argued I “became an adult” the day I had my first child. But I’ve still felt relatively young, until now! I’m in the next age bracket on every survey I’ll take in the next 9 years! Anyway, there was no school on Monday because it was conference day, so Cindy kept the boys at her house a little longer so I could have the morning to myself. I wish I had spent it actually relaxing, but I was rushing around trying to catch up on tasks. Right after they got back we headed to school for conferences. They’re both doing great!

We met my mom at Ponderosa for lunch afterward. Then we went to Horicon to the place where we usually get pumpkins every year and they were no longer in existence! Quite the disappointment. So we stopped at the meat market while we were in town and then headed back home for a little bit of game/reading/rest time.

When Greg got home I opened my presents. They gave me a Cricut! I’ve been obsessed with the idea of making my own signs since I took that first class in August. I really wanted a Cricut so I could do projects on my own at home. I’m really excited to try it out, but also very intimidated. A week later, the box is still right where I unwrapped it. TOO BUSY. I was hoping to spend some time with it this weekend, but I’ve barely been home. I will, though! Soon.

My brother and sister-in-law sent me this bracelet. I already have it in gold and loved it so much I wanted it in silver too since I wear silver a lot more often (and strongly hate mixing metals). It says “She believed she could, so she did.” I’m trying to wear one of them every day to keep me motivated with taking better care of myself and never giving up, even on the hard days.

One other thing I bought for myself was this awesome rainbow “bookshelf” wall hanging. Awkward photo because it’s so high up on my wall above my desk. I LOVE it. I’ve been eyeing up this etsy shop’s instagram page for months, just waiting for a rainbow one to pop up. It was perfect timing for my birthday! I’m in love with it.

Caden had Lego League, but Greg, Shepard, our neighbor friend Leverett and I ended the night at the dog park. The weather was gorgeous, but unfortunately, Annie got attacked AGAIN. This was a full blown attack where the dog looked and sounded like he was legit trying to kill her. The other owner had to tackle his dog off of her. It was really scary. I have enough PTSD after the whole ear biting fiasco and this trip did not help ease my anxiety. We loved the dog park so much, and now I feel like we can’t trust it. Or we at least can’t trust it at night when a lot more unknown dogs are visiting.

Overall, it was a pretty low key, but really nice birthday. As good as it could be with the boys home most of the day. I’m more of a fan of weekday birthdays where I can do whatever I dang well please during the day and just enjoy my family for a few hours at night (lol). I was a little bit resentful that after two years of weekend day birthdays, I had to have yet another one with my kids home (and one of them super angry at me half the day because he didn’t feel like he had enough game time). But…it worked out pretty well.

By Tuesday I really needed to run errands, but Shepard was also home with me because he randomly threw up in his sleep Monday night. He did have some questionable yogurt before bed, so we’re guessing it was just that because he didn’t have a migraine. He was perfectly fine on Tuesday, but couldn’t go to school, so he ran errands with me. He’s a pretty great shopping companion on his own, but NEVER stops talking. We had a little down time at home in the afternoon before picking up Caden and bringing him to the doctor for his well child visit. He was much worse at the doctor this time, mostly because he was mad we were FORCING him to go out to eat again. I’m pretty sure all other children in the world would LOVE going out to eat multiple times a week, but not Caden! It’s pure torture, apparently. After the doctor we headed back to Sun Prairie to eat at HuHot and celebrate my birthday with Greg’s parents. I haven’t been there in ages, despite it being one of my favorite restaurants. It was SO good! And the boys absolutely loved the experience. At least until Shepard decided he NEEDED to know how to perfect his chopstick technique and it wasn’t going his way so he started crying and throwing his body around the booth while slamming his fists on the table. If you’re ever under any illusion from my instagram posts that life is just always hunky dory around here, believe me – IT’S NOT. Caden spent days acting like I was the worst person in the world simply for having a birthday and making us busier than normal so he couldn’t have as much game time as usual. I’m such a bad mom.

More lovely gifts! They gave me some new Pioneer Woman dishes and bowls, earrings, a Qdoba gift card, and some money to go toward my rug.

The birthday fun continued for one more day with a special joint birthday lunch out with my friend Nora! We went to Nitty Gritty and Beans and Cream for a coffee dessert. She made me a beautiful unicorn embroidery to hang in my sewing room. It was such a nice time together!

In between all the outings this week, I was also working hardcore in my sewing room to get things reorganized and cleared out to make room for my Cricut and more painting supplies, plus cleaning out under and around furniture to make more room for my new rug. I spent Thursday taking care of all kinds of random things, like switching out the boys’ school pictures. They both look so much older this year! It was a pretty exhausting day, but I felt very accomplished by the end of it! I had to remove some of the more decorative items that I don’t love as much as I used to and cleared off a whole shelf for my Cricut and changed another shelf as storage for all my paints.

I FINALLY sat down and started sewing on Friday morning. I decided to only make two large witch dolls this time around. Then my new rainbow rug arrived in the afternoon! I am obviously really bad at mental measuring because it is A LOT bigger than I was expecting. My last rug was 5×7 and always felt too small under the table of roughly the same dimensions. But this rug was only available in 4×6 or 8×11, so obviously I had to go with the bigger one! The real challenge is that I REALLY wanted to keep the matching runner in the room. I didn’t realize the chevron stripes were going to be wider on the bigger rug – I prefer the smaller ones and rainbow rugs really only belong in this one room of the house, so I had to make it work! It was a much bigger challenge than I was anticipating, but I think it looks pretty good in the end! Maybe a little silly, but they’re bright and beautiful and will really make the room warmer this winter. The pets love the carpeting!

On Friday night the boys got shipped off to Grandma’s again because we had tickets to see Rory Scovel’s comedy special in Madison! We both listen to the podcast Penpals, and we saw the other half of the duo, Daniel van Kirk, earlier this year, so we HAD to go see Rory when he was in town. Plus, he’s more of an actual celebrity and I thought it would just be cool to see him! We had dinner at a super cute, but very loud restaurant, Lucille. Greg loved his more unique pizza, my pepperoni was just okay. Then we rushed through the 30 degree raging winds down State Street (I don’t think we’ve EVER had good weather on a State Street date!) to Comedy on State. It was definitely a new experience for us – we had to lock up our phones in little cases, so no photos were taken. We were also required to buy a minimum of two drinks per person, which I was apprehensive about ahead of time because I really don’t drink and don’t like the idea of being forced to – but their cocktail menu was AMAZING. I had a salted caramel martini that was delightful, followed by a non alcoholic Bailey’s Mint Kiss coffee. And the show was great! So funny. We both really enjoyed it.

I spent almost all day Saturday doing a whirlwind shopping trip around Madison with Cindy. It was really fun! We both picked up some unique new treasures and gifts. Then I had a date with my computer to watch The Popcast’s live stream of their Dallas live show. It was such a fun experience! Maybe even more fun than being at a show in person because I got to be wildly entertained by the chat taking place at the same time among all the other Patreon supporters. They’ve only had two live shows this year, but are promising many more next year. Hopefully another will be within driving distance for me – I really enjoyed the one I went to in Chicago last year. But I’m really liking this new live stream thing too. Their $7/month Patreon is SO worth it.

And we’ve made it to today! I worked all morning and then Shepard and I were signed up to serve at his school’s community soup social. I was a little nervous about it, but he really wanted to do it and this is our last year at DCS, so we gave it a go. And it was really fun! I was at the drink station, filling up all the juices as they were taken. He was in charge of refilling all the cracker bowls around the tables. He and his friend Ava were having a grand time together!

I took a nap when we got back and then worked a few more hours until I finally finished up these witches! I LOVE this huge doll pattern. But, they’re also pretty expensive, so haven’t sold yet! I think this might be the last I make for Halloween. It’s another really busy week and doesn’t seem worth it to try and squeeze any more in when I know I won’t have any real time to sew until Thursday again – and that’s my self care day!

Sunday Intentions

Okay, briefly! I just said – busy week ahead. A LITTLE bit less busy. I definitely need to go run errands tomorrow. You could argue that I could save them for Tuesday when I’m going to be in Madison anyway for my doctor’s appointment, but I don’t like to give myself too many things to do in a day because I get angry and resentful and way too tired. So I’ll plan to do speed errands tomorrow morning and then MAYBE have time to check out my Cricut in the evening. Tuesday, I have my annual exam. I’m actually much more dreading the doctor’s lecturing on my internal health instead of all the womanly stuff. I know she’s not going to be happy with me. But Wednesday some of my friends are throwing me a belated birthday lunch, so at least I have that to look forward to! But the boys also have an early release from school, so it’ll be hard to get much done that afternoon. Then things slow down a little bit until Science Night at school Friday. And we get to hang out with my brother and his family this weekend! I know I should sew at some point this week. And I’d really love some more substantial reading time…

I think that’s it! I’m sick of arguing this point and wasn’t going to even bring it up, but….it was a good birthday run. I sometimes get teased by people for making too big of a deal out of it. I honestly don’t feel like I do and I already pointed out that it’s NOT all sunshine and rainbows around here. I just want to create situations in my life, especially around my birthday, where happy memories can be made in the midst of all the harder stuff. Plus, I feel like it makes sense that my family would want to celebrate with me? And my in-laws? And my husband? Yeah, I could try to somehow cram all of that into a single day, but it would be miserable. I need space between events. I need down time or I lose my mind. So year after year, despite what anyone else might think, I’m going to keep doing this. Making the most of the days before and after to take care of myself and my happiness and do the things and connect with the people that will bring me joy. It is WORTH IT. You can do it too.

What I Read September 2019

Whew, I am really dragging my feet on finishing up my September blog posts! I don’t always feel that inspired to write about the tv shows and movies (so redundant most of the time), but I love writing about books! I finally have a chunk of time and no excuses, so it’s time to get this done!

I read 13 books in September. In August, my goal was to read 15 books which was supposed to make me prioritize reading at every opportunity, but really just sent me trying to find the shortest and fastest way to accomplish that goal. Number goals for something so important to me – not a good idea! Well, except for my Goodreads yearly challenge of 100 books which I’m definitely always going to meet, so it doesn’t stress me out. Anyway, in September I just wanted to pick the books that called to me and enjoy them. So it’s kind of surprising I still finished so many, but two were on audio (!), one was a cookbook, one was a super short graphic novel, and one was a re-read. All of which were pretty speedy. Most of the books were pretty middle of the road this month, but a few stood out as being more than worth your time.

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy (audiobook)
Rating: 4.5 stars

I spent so much time deliberating on what my 100th book of the year should be and then I spontaneously picked up this audiobook and listened to it in a day, beating out the fiction book I so carefully picked out for the occasion. It was so worth it, though! I really, really loved this book. As someone who almost never listens to audiobooks because I have such a hard time paying attention (why are podcasts so much easier?!), I had no problems staying intensely focused on this book. It helps that it’s less than 3 hours long! I’ve had the physical copy of this book on my shelf for YEARS and probably never would have gotten around to actually reading it, so I’m really glad I chose to get it on audio (one of the very few interesting “available now” options from the library). Brian Tracy laid this book out so simply and straight to the point, making it both personable, relatable, and interesting. My only problem with the book is that it’s very much geared toward people with typical white collar office jobs – and it’s not marketed that way. I had to spend a lot of time trying to translate everything he said into how it could apply to me in my personal life and my work from home running an entire business by myself life. It’s also always a sore point to me when someone says the answer to some of your problems is to delegate, delegate, delegate. They never takes into consideration that other people could be delegating to you, and what do you do then?? Delegation just isn’t an option either when you run everything on your own. At any rate, I found all the principles in this book invaluable. I was actually quite pleased to know that so many of the ideas are actually instinctual to me, I just don’t often follow them. I’m excited to put what I’ve learned into practice and see how much it will change my life!

God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie Debartolo
Rating: 3 stars

I had such high expectations for this book. It was featured at Book Bonanza with some raving endorsements from Colleen Hoover, so it’s the only book I outright bought when I was there. And…I didn’t really like it. It’s hard to read a book that you know from page one it will not have a happy ending. Where is the joy in that? I also thought the main character’s instant connection and silly obsessions with each other was kind of sickening. I mean, it was just so ooey gooey and unrealistic to me. I can’t stand most of the weird quirks people have. The writing is great and I obviously enjoyed it enough to see it through. But it was not what I was hoping for.

To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
Rating: 5* stars

This is the first middle grade book I’ve read in my adult life (granted, there haven’t been many) that I absolutely adored. You all know I’m a total sucker for epistolary novels – books made up entirely of letters and emails. That, and a handful of great reviews, are the reason I picked this up at a recent Barnes and Noble sale (gotta love those special editions). It’s the story of two 12 year old girls who find out that their gay dads are long distance dating each other and they come up with a plan to break them up. The more they write, however, the more curious they become about the other and reluctantly start forming a friendship. Their letters to each other reminded me so much of my own longest standing friendship, that is almost entirely conducted through emails at this point in our lives. The whole thing just made me so happy. I was emotionally invested in ways that surprised me. I was crying near the end. It was just such a beautiful book about friendship and family. I suggested it to Caden as soon as I was done and he actually really loved it too. It’s not the typical book he’d pick up on his own, so I was impressed he couldn’t seem to put it down. Highly, highly recommend!

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke
Rating: 3.5 stars

In this book a girl who got kicked out of her senior year of high school (for attempting suicide) decides to take classes at the local community college to get her diploma. In order to have a place to live, and to give herself a true fresh start, she applies and gets in a local reality tv show competition where she lives in a house with a group of people and the last one in the house at the end wins a small scholarship and a car. This book was somewhat unique because the entire thing is told through Jane’s journal entries. But she still plays out conversations that she has with everyone, so it doesn’t feel exactly like a journal. But you also feel distanced from everything that is actually happening, and that bothered me a bit. I was definitely intrigued enough to want to read as often as possible, but at the same time – it wasn’t really the most exciting of books. I wish I could have felt a deeper connection to all the other characters. I did enjoy it, it just won’t be very memorable in the long run. (Case in point, writing this a few weeks after reading it, I had NO recollection what it was about until I re-read my summary (which I write immediately after I finish books and save up for this end of the month post, in case you were wondering!))

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Rating: 4 stars

This is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale – which really meant nothing to me because I’ve never even heard of that tale before. Twelve daughters are seemingly cursed as one by one they die under mysterious circumstances. The eight remaining sisters decide to put aside their mourning clothes after years of wearing black and being forced to stay inside their castle in order to go to magical balls every night, dancing through shoes and shoes. The story is told from sixth daughter, Annaleigh’s view. Overall, I thought this was a really interesting and well written book. There were a few minor things that bothered me – for example, we never learned half of the sisters’ ages, including Annaleigh’s. It seemed like details worth mentioning. I’m also not accustomed to reading fairy tales and was confused as to what sort of time period this took place in and wondered why there were ghosts, magic, gods, etc. It felt like an odd mix of fantasy elements that didn’t exactly go together. Things did get a little crazy and hard to follow at the end, but I really liked Annaleigh and the friendship bond between the sisters, which is what compelled me to stay up late every night trying to fit in one more chapter. It was a good book!

Antoni in the Kitchen by Antoni Porowski
Rating: 4 stars

I’m a little obsessed with Queer Eye right now and jumped at the chance to buy Antoni’s new cookbook. And overall, I liked it! I enjoyed learning a little bit more about Antoni’s life, as he’s notoriously known as the most private of the group. I did find it a little amusing that there just might be more photos of Antoni walking or shopping or just standing and staring at things than there are of the food. Though most of the recipes do have a photo as well, which I always appreciate. For MY tastes, this isn’t the type of cookbook I’d generally keep around. A lot of Polish flavors, a lot of pastas, a lot of seafood. I only bookmarked a couple of main dishes I could actually see myself making at some point. But the appetizers and sides really appealed to me. This is definitely a HEALTHY cookbook. And to be honest, I don’t often refer to those types of cookbooks when I’m searching for dinner ideas. But all of Antoni’s recipes were simple, intriguing, and looked tasty enough that I’d be willing to give them a shot. I still don’t see myself using the cookbook all the time, but I’m excited to experiment with many of the vegetable ideas – I’m sure anything than our typical throw bags of raw carrots and peppers on the table every night would be an improvement!

Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Rating: 3 stars

It took me forever to finish this book. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book – it just was not what I was expecting or hoping for. One of the things that kept distracting me probably more than it should have was wondering why certain words were spelled differently and why the formatting was always switching up. It didn’t MAKE SENSE to me, and it kept catching me off guard and upset the flow of the story. This YA “love story” is very, very much about what it means to be Korean-American with parents who only want you to associate with other Koreans. It made me sad to see what a limited relationship the kids could have with the parents who barely spoke any English. Why did the parents not teach Korean to their children? I guess what I’m saying with this review is that there were so many things that kept distracting me that I never really felt invested in the actual story. It was okay. But I regret buying it ahead of time with the expectation it was going to be amazing. I’m just a sucker for unique books (blue edging) and pretty covers.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (re-read)
Rating: 4.5 stars

I first read this book in 2013 and also gave it a 4.5 star rating. It’s been so long that I really didn’t remember the story at all. I found a special edition of it at Half Priced Books earlier this year and picked it up with the intention of re-reading it before I planned on re-reading Carry On before the release of Wayward Son this month. And I’m really glad I did! What struck me most about this re-read is how similar in personality Cath and I are. With the exception of writing fanfiction, we’re almost identical, especially with how I was as a freshman in college. It was a bit unnerving! I liked watching her grow over her first year and enjoyed all the supporting characters. Levi is just so loveable! Except for that one scene – you know what I’m talking about. That one part of the story is basically the reason this book is knocked half a star down. It felt inauthentic to his character and was never really explained or justified, which bothered me. I do kind of wish there was LESS fanfiction in this book because it had the opposite effect I was hoping for and now I’m less excited about re-reading Carry¬†On because I already feel like I got my fill of Simon and Baz in Fangirl. But overall, a really great book. Rainbow Rowell is so fantastic at writing characters!

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
Rating: 4 stars

This book was really getting a lot of buzz recently in my facebook book club as a wonderful book to read in fall. Because I’ve recently fallen in love with similar books, I bought the duel volume and gave it a shot. I will definitely admit that reading a book written in 1907 was initially really hard for me. Contemporary books are my wheelhouse. But once I got into the rhythm of things, I really enjoyed this short book revolving around the love of books, adventure, and finding joy in your life no matter what age you are. It did take me three days to read a 152 page book, which felt a little ridiculous. But it was sweet and amusing and can definitely see myself picking it up for a re-read in falls to come.

Big Sexy Love by Kirsty Greenwood
Rating: 4 stars

Need a laugh out loud feel good break from the more serious books you’ve been reading? This is your remedy. While I didn’t ADORE it, this was still very funny, sweet, and a little sad. And contrary to what the title makes you believe, it’s really not about romantic love. The main character’s naivety was a little over the top and ridiculous at times, but it made for some crazy storyline. I enjoyed this book a lot.

The¬†Worrier’s¬†Guide¬†to¬†Life by Gemma Correll
Rating: 3 stars

This was one of a handful of graphic novels recommended on a book list of being great for adults. I ended up requesting all of them from the library and then once again lost interest in actually looking at the graphic novels. But I had a brief break between books and picked up this one – the shortest of the pile. It was a FAST read. Maybe 20 minutes? It was amusing. I think the illustrations would have been funnier seen on their own instead of in a compilation. It wasn’t an actual story, but individual full page drawings of different things people worry about. I wasn’t exactly in the greatest headspace when I read this, so I found it to be a little bit more depressing that it was intended to be. But I laughed as well.

Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness (audiobook)
Rating: 5 stars

I’m going to insist that you listen to this particular book on audio. I can’t imagine possibly getting such an authentic experience without listening to Jonathan read his own words. What a life story! It’s another example of how you can see a certain side of someone, but honestly have NO CLUE what they’ve been through in their life. I loved getting this deeper look into Jonathan’s past and all the pain and trauma he has overcome to be the person he is today. I also just had to laugh so many times – he has SUCH personality. The book itself was about six hours on audio and I listened to it over the course of three days. I was interested and captive throughout the whole thing. I highly recommend reading his story. The only downside is that he writes very little about Queer Eye. But I can understand the decision since it’s still something he’s currently involved with. I would love to get a more in depth behind the scenes look of their group dynamic at some point, though!

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Rating: 5 stars

Historical fiction is NOT my genre. I was hesitant to get this as my most recent BOTM pick, but it sounded the most intriguing and I’ll usually choose the book that sounds the most romantic out of the limited five choices each month (because those are the books I’m most likely to want to keep around and re-read at some point). And shockingly, this was filled with fun and laughter and sassy comebacks and steamy encounters. It was NOT the prim and proper, dry tale of stuffy relationships that I think of when historical fiction comes to mind. I loved that so much of this book focused on the character interactions instead of the plot (women’s suffrage in the late 19th century England). I love character interaction. Anyway, I plowed through this in two days and would definitely recommend it.

October 2019 Goals

My October as started off with an extreme case of the crazies. This week got the best of me by Monday night and it’s only gotten more chaotic. Today began with realizing our basement freezer was unplugged and the hundreds of dollars worth of meat I had down there (including my entire Butcher Box order I was so excited about!) was past the point of being safe to save. The basement was also flooded because we’ve had an insane amount of rain the last few days with more to come tonight. Fortunately, Greg is pretty flexible, and ended up working from home so he could go downstairs every hour and fill up the shop vac again and again. Fun times!

October is my favorite month of the year. It’s my birthday month (if you haven’t already figured that out from my last few posts lol), so that’s always special. But I love the crisp cool weather, the colorful leaves, the abundance of all things apple and pumpkin. I’m feeling a little bit stressed about how jam packed our calendar looks, however, when we’re only on the second day of the month. So many appointments and school things and Halloween activities. The doctor and vet appointments will most definitely not be fun, but the rest should be exciting! It just feels a little overwhelming after an already super chaotic September. When will life slow down again?! I’m guessing not until January.

Anyway, I really struggled to come up with my goals for the month. Normally I have so many ideas it’s hard to narrow them down. This month I’m tired. I want to keep my life simple. So this is what I’ve come up with.

1¬†–¬†Curate¬†and¬†read¬†from¬†a¬†seasonal¬†book¬†stack

I started dabbling with seasonal reading a year or so ago. Actually, I’ve always loved to primarily read mushy feel good Christmas books in December, but I’ve discovered the joys of moving beyond that. Typically I read the most thrillers and mysteries in October and the most romances in February. This month I’d like to go a bit more on the spooky/gothic/fantasy side. I already have a small pile I’ve been working on for awhile now, but I’d like to get it fully set so it’s super easy to choose my next book. Of course as soon as I try to prioritize certain books I rebel against myself and want nothing to do with them. So we’ll see what happens! But I would at least like to read SOME seasonal books this month!

2¬†–¬†Continue¬†exercise¬†as¬†#1¬†priority¬†every¬†day

Last week when I started this mission it was really easy and I was so proud of myself. This week has been MUCH harder. Constant rain and very busy mornings. It wasn’t my top priority of the morning, but I still did what I set out to do each day (so far). I know it’ll be so much easier better if I can be consistent with using the morning to take long walks or do yoga or another online exercise video. Life won’t always allow it, but I’m going to keep trying.

3¬†–¬†Go¬†to¬†the¬†theater!

Movie theater, that is. I’m not fancy lol. I have been DESPERATELY wanting to see a movie in the theater these last few months. But nothing good has been out! This goal is basically already checked off because Greg bought tickets this morning to see Downton Abbey on Sunday. But I’d like to go to a daytime movie by myself sometime too. It’s one of my favorite things to do.

4¬†–¬†Establish¬†a¬†daily¬†writing¬†routine

I took an online writing class Monday night which has gotten me thinking about what I want or need to do to improve this part of my life. I’m going to a writing conference next month and I’d like to have something more to say than “I like to write about my life on weekends” when the question will inevitably come up again and again. I don’t have any grand plans yet, I just want writing to be part of my everyday life, no matter what. Hopefully that means more blog posts – on more varied and interesting topics. Or at the very least, journal entries for myself. I think I could use more of that type of cathartic release. It seems like writing every day would become more routine if it happened at the same time every day. But I hesitate to assign that time frame. Ideally, it would be in the morning. But my wake up times are sometimes really varied. And when I wake up at 4am (way too often), it usually seems like WORKING is my best option because I know I’m going to be too tired to do it by afternoon. Plus, I’ve got exercise in the morning too. And parenting duties. And errands. And sewing. So…for now, I will not assign myself a time of day to do it, I just want to make it happen. Every single day.

And that’s it! Happy October, everyone!

September 2019 Reflections

Well, folks, September is going out with a bang. Today has been one of the most chaotic and frazzling days I’ve had in a long time. I’ll spare you all the whiny details, but I will tell you I had to renew my driver’s license and took THE WORST photo of all time. Which super sucks after I spent so long trying to fix my hair and makeup and wear a great shirt (which I’m pretty sure isn’t even in the photo at all). It shouldn’t matter, but it really bums me out I’m going to have to look at that every single time I have to open my wallet for like the next ten years. Maybe it’ll be my constant motivation to lose some weight.

Anyway. Goals-wise, I think September was a pretty successful month! I’m going to keep this really brief because I signed up to take an online writing class that starts in twenty minutes. But because I feel like I’ve succeeded at absolutely nothing today, I’m determined to actually get one of my end of the month posts written!

1¬†–¬†Meal¬†Plan¬†Every¬†Week

I did this! It actually felt like a really easy month for dinners. Maybe because I was just focusing on finding creative ways to use what I already had stocked away in the freezer, instead of being bogged down by pinterest and cookbooks and searching for the next new thing. I mean, I LOVE finding new recipes. But life was way too busy this month to add that to my plate. And you know what? It worked out great! Though maybe my family would disagree after eating tacos like six days in a row after Caden’s birthday!

2¬†–¬†Watch¬†Less,¬†Listen¬†More

I listened to two audiobooks this month. Which is a lot for me! I wish I had done more, but it really needs to be something I WANT or I’m not going to enjoy it. And despite my best efforts, I work SO much better when I’m binging a great tv show. But there are certainly aspects of the dollmaking process that are a better fit for ears only and I’d like to continue trying to listen more than I watch.

3¬†–¬†Read¬†Atomic¬†Habits

I was hoping to finish this book by the end of the month, but I’m not even close. I really struggle with reading self help books quickly because they seem to be filled with such vital information and if I add too much to my brain at once I’ll short-circuit! So I’ve been making very slow progress on it, but I love it! It’s already given me so much to think about and start putting into practice. I fully intend on finishing it up, hopefully in October.

4¬†–¬†No¬†Working¬†on¬†Weeknights

I’m pretty certain I only worked at night one time in the month of September, but it was a night Greg and the boys were gone. I did technically edit photos and list some dolls last Thursday after we got back from my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner (and Greg called me out on it), BUT I really wanted them listed before I left for Cranberry Fest at 5am on Friday. It was a desperate situation.

5¬†–¬†Take¬†Care¬†of¬†Me

It’s definitely a work in progress. There were many days this month where I really felt like I was always doing the best things for myself – mainly: READING. I read a lot in September. Even on the craziest days, I somehow found time to slow down and do something I love. I do wish I had connected with people more. I saw some of my friends. We had a lot of larger family time for all the birthday festivities. But I’ve had almost no time alone with Greg and really no one on one time with my kids either. I started this whole new exercise regime last week, which has in turn helped me make some better eating choices (today I definitely fell off THAT wagon – ugh, the stress!). It’s a start.

Overall, September was a really good month! I’m always cautiously hopeful that things will go well once birthday season starts, but prepared for the worst. Other than a somewhat cold-ridden emotional Caden off and on, there really wasn’t anything BAD that happened. Which is honestly a miracle. I’d say that fall is off to a very good start!

Sunday Intentions 09.29.2019

It has been such a gloomy day. I’ve been trying really hard to stop my “I hate weekends” attitude, but this weekend is proving once again that if we’re not staying super busy, our weekends at home kind of suck. I just wanted two days to totally chill and try to recuperate from the last few weeks. Plus my body is practically dead after all that wet hilly grass I walked on for hours Friday. My ankle does not like uneven ground. But, as always, everyone is moody and restless with a healthy mix of wanting to be lazy but feeling obligated to be productive. It’s just annoying. I’ve really done nothing today except read, so I’m trying to break out of my funk by focusing on the week ahead.

My highest priority at the start of this week is to MAKE APPOINTMENTS. I loathe making appointments. I loathe GOING to appointments. And somehow all this stuff came up at once. For starters, I need to actually go to the DMV tomorrow morning to renew my driver’s license. I kept putting it off because I was so busy, but now I’ve run out of time. I also need to make a well child appointment for Caden, something I also hate because the receptionists always make me feel like I’m asking too much to request an after school appointment and if they can also add Shepard and I to the appointment for flu shots (this is ALWAYS such an inconvenience to them!). I need to schedule Jack for his bi-annual blood panel and blood pressure reading, which is really just a way for the vet’s office to take a whole lot of my money to tell me he’s still getting older and in kidney failure. And finally, I need to figure out how to make an oil change appointment for my car because I’m well past the limit and Greg keeps brushing it off and has become increasingly resentful of it being his job to always do the car stuff, so I need to grow up and figure it out myself. I also need to make an appointment to get his recalled airbags replaced because they’ve sent us so many notices over the last year (the airbags potentially have metal particles inside of them) that he has received a court order to get them replaced NOW. The possibility of metal particles bursting out and killing everyone in the event of a crash apparently is much more distressing to me, so I better also figure that out myself. I’m hoping I can at least schedule all of these tomorrow and then my life will feel a lot less strained once things are on the calendar! The fact that all of this stuff also needs to be done right around my birthday is just plain pissing me off. I hate losing control and freedom around the days that are most important to me. But life always gets in the way. And just to throw some more appointment annoyances into the mix, I also need to take Annie to the groomer on Tuesday and I have my own annual doctor’s appointment (which fills me with dread) in two weeks. UGH.

Anyway, sorry about the vent. I just like to be HAPPY around this time of the year and not have a million unexpected things to take care of that will bring me zero joy! Also, totally random out of town errands that will probably happen one per day and take away all chance of routine and you know – WORKING TIME. At any rate, I’m going to try and add some fun in and have another coffee morning with any friends who want to come over on Wednesday morning. Hopefully it will be as successful as last time! There are no more solid plans on the books for the rest of the week (unless those appointments get booked!), but I’m sure it’ll fill in. Pre-birthday festivities, perhaps.

My other priority for the week is to get some dolls made. I think I might take a brief break from Halloween/fall and do a few random things. Maybe birthday themed? (I’m often accused of making too big of a deal of my birthday, but I’d like to point out that nobody else is going to make it a big deal for me, so I might as well do everything in my power to make it the best time of the year FOR ME and if you don’t like that, then keep it to yourself! Or better yet, start making a bigger deal out of YOUR birthday because YOU CAN.) I really wanted to make some apple dressed dolls too and haven’t had a chance yet. We’ll see where inspiration takes me tonight or tomorrow when I start digging through my fabric.

My meal plans this week are pretty simple and based on what we have in the freezer again. Last week I decided to give the subscription service Butcher Box a shot and I now have like 15 pounds of selected meats in the freezers that I need to get creative with. I also have a few other things I need to use up.

Monday – Garlic Lover’s Roast Beef

Tuesday – Grilled Cheese with Tomato Dill Soup (as a dip)/Canned Soup for Caden (who won’t eat grilled cheese)

Wednesday – Pico de Gallo Chicken and Rice Tacos (meal kits that were on clearance at Target)

Thursday – Leftovers

Friday – Jalapeno Popper Pretzel Pizza (my favorite)

Saturday Reflections 09.28.2019

It has been a monumental week for me – I accomplished six days in a row of exercise goals! ūüėÄ In all seriousness, though, that’s kind of a big deal for me. I am an absolute control freak and want to have a perfect handle on everything, and I usually do (within my control of to do lists and tasks and general family and household upkeep) – until it comes to taking care of myself physically. I suck at eating well and I hate exercise. It’s certainly gotten a lot harder since I broke my ankle, but that was a good 19 months ago now, so I can’t keep using it as an excuse, even though it does still give me pain every single day. Too bad! Get over it! TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

It’s started to really hit home that I’m about to turn 35 and I should not be as broken and unhealthy as I am at this age if I want to live for decades more. Right around this time last year is when I also came to these conclusions and spent about three months really focusing on my health (mostly because my doctor was counting on me to after we found out my liver is NOT in great condition). And then a lot of crappy stuff happened at the beginning of this year and the months went by and I totally stopped caring again. I have excuses galore, but I don’t want to focus on that anymore. I want to just take one day at a time, decision by decision, doing what will be GOOD FOR ME. It’s so easy to make the choices that will be right for me mentally. WHY is it so hard to take care of myself physically as well?

I don’t have any grand plans or programs the way I did last fall to get back in shape and lose weight. But I’ve decided to make one simple change that I’m hoping will be a catalyst to more and more positive choices. That change: write down one exercise goal every single day and DO IT BEFORE ALL ELSE. Well, technically, this week I woke up around 4am every day and I didn’t get to that goal until after the boys went to school at 7:30. But, as soon as they’re out the door, I WILL do my task before anything else because it is my highest priority of the entire day. And doing it first thing is key because that’s the one and only thing that will inspire me to follow suit and ALSO make better eating choices throughout the day. So far, while the weather is still amazing, I’m trying to focus on mostly going on long walks. But this week I alternated each day with a yoga video and I liked the variety. I’ll probably keep the plan simple like that for now.

Anyway! Back to the week’s recap. Caden’s birthday was Monday, but I already wrote all about that. I believe I started some dolls on Tuesday. I saved my errand running for Wednesday, though I didn’t actually need much – it was kind of more of a fun run. I have been VERY unmotivated this week to be super productive. Last week kind of did me in.

On Thursday I got my act together and finished up seven more Halloween dolls. They’re not selling as well as they usually do, so I’m wondering if I should just move on to something else. Maybe it would be fun to make a batch of birthday dolls. I don’t particularly like Halloween, so it’s hard for me to get really excited about making witches and spooky dolls. No excitement means no motivation.

Thursday was also my mother-in-law Cindy’s birthday. We all ate dinner together at Tipsy Cow in Sun Prairie and then came back to our house for present opening.

Friday was the day I look forward to all year – Cranberry Fest day! My parents picked me up at 5 and we headed up to Warrens for the festival. Unfortunately, it rained the entire day. BUT it wasn’t so hard that we had to change into our backup clothes at any point. It was just a tad uncomfortable and annoying. We spent about five hours there and then moved on to all the stores we like to visit each year in Tomah, Onalaska, and the Dells. We finished up the night at a deli for a late dinner. It was a really fun day!

My favorite finds of the day were all these black and white tin signs. I already have a whole black and white gallery wall going on in my kitchen, so I was excited to find a few more things to add (I’m pretty sure this will use up all remaining space, to my great dismay!).

This is my very eclectic mix of random things I actually bought AT Cranberry Fest. Nothing crafty at all. But I’m quite excited to try out all the different garlic varieties and see if I can taste a difference! I’ve been eyeing up that pink trimmed green leather business card case for years and finally decided to get it. I’m always wishing I had business cards on me, but never actually find a way to get them into my purse. No excuses now! I also bought Shepard some soap (he think bar soap is an amazing new concept), the boys some fancy treats, and a calzone dog treat for Annie.

I also found some great additions to my large stock of delightful smelling candles. I’ve been a little obsessed with candles lately. I LOVE smell and how such a tiny change in your atmosphere can alter your mood and uplift your spirits. Unfortunately, I’m married to someone who is super sensitive and revolted by most smells, so I’m pretty limited to when I can light them and what they can smell like. You better believe I’m lighting about ten candles at once when I’m home alone during the day, though! They make me so happy. I also found some cute new cat bowls to match my rainbow sewing room at TJMaxx. It ended up being a pretty great day for shopping finds, even if I didn’t get most of them at actual Cranberry Fest!

And that was my week! I keep hoping that life might start settling down and being a little less chaotic, but I’ve realized in the next couple weeks I need to make and go to like ten different appointments for different family members, pets, and cars, so I’m already stressed out and feeling drained. It was also pointed out to me that Christmas is less than three months away. But I’m going to continue to fight for my down time and soak up every possible minute of the beautiful fall weather while walking with Annie, reading good books in my favorite chair, and breathing in the lovely scents of my apple and pumpkin scented candles!

Caden’s 11th Birthday and All the Things

This past week was PACKED with fun activities and celebrations! I was a little apprehensive about so many things happening in so little time, but it ended up going really well! It helped that I didn’t actually end up having a ton of prep work to do (plus Greg did most of the housework), so I had a pretty healthy mix of down time and party time. And NOTHING stressful or dramatic happened. I think that’s a first!

I don’t remember much of what happened earlier last week, except that I ran a lot of errands and made six new dolls. I still wish I were producing these dolls at a faster pace, but I need to just accept life is too busy for this couple week span of September to get to everything I want to. And it’s okay.

On Thursday I had a pretzel dinner with my mom and the boys again, just like we did last month before our sign painting class.

Then we painted! I designed both mine and my mom’s sign ahead of time. Brushed off my rusty Illustrator skills and it was so much fun! I wish I had picked a slightly different color scheme for mine, making it a little easier to read. But I’m mostly happy with it. I think I’m going to take the class again in October. If anyone wants to join me, it’s right after my birthday and is SO MUCH FUN. ūüôā

On Friday afternoon I took Annie to the dog park for the first time since her attack. We were the only ones there and didn’t stay that long, but she loved having the chance to run around for a little bit. I think she’s just dying to have some playtime and the longer I wait the more insane she’ll probably act around other dogs, so I should just bite the bullet and take her at a busier time one of these days. It’s just been so nice out this week we’ve been going on long walks instead.

Right after school I took the boys to Beaver Dam to meet up with all of Greg’s family to have dinner together and celebrate my brother-in-law Alex’s birthday a week early. He’s never been in Wisconsin anywhere near his birthday, so it was the first time we could celebrate with him in person. That was probably the only issue we had the whole weekend – Caden kept bursting into tears and shouting that he just wanted to be alone. CLASSIC introvert behavior. He’s also had a really bad cold the last week or so and he’s been very short tempered and emotional. Once we got to the restaurant, though, everything was fine.

We told the waiter that we were celebrating all three birthdays, so they got to wear sombreros and eat sopapillas. It got a little rowdy!

Typical silly boy.

Saturday morning was a little crazy because I had a lot of errands to run. I got up super early and picked up the bagels I had ordered for Caden’s party. Then I did a quick rush around the farmers market because I hadn’t been there in so long. A storm was brewing, though, so it wasn’t very relaxing or enjoyable as I was rushing to get back to my car before the rain started. Then I had to pick up a few groceries before heading even further west to pick up the cake for the retirement party. I went back home and crashed for a few hours while Greg took care of all the house cleaning for the birthday party. I finally rallied some energy and got the kitchen mostly set up and then got dressed up for the retirement party.

We had a small, but very nice retirement party for my mother-in-law Cindy in a private room at Buck and Honey’s in Sun Prairie. The food was excellent, the atmosphere was jovial, and the restaurant itself was fancy enough to feel special, without being over the top.

Caden was being a little whiny again. It’s hard to have a lot of things going on your birthday weekend that don’t have anything to do with you. Even I get that way around MY birthday and Mother’s Day, so I get it. He was allowed to get a sundae in place of cake and then proceeded to completely ignore the whole table of people singing to him.

The original Noe family. We did get a photo with everyone, but it’s probably going to be a Christmas card picture, so I don’t want to spoil it.

We decided to treat the boys like toddlers who are incapable of understanding restaurant/party etiquette and let them just play games and watch videos after they were done eating. It was really nice for Greg and I to finally just be part of the adult group without constantly having reminders that we’re mom and dad to kids who like to be verrrry difficult around other people. Throwback to the last time everyone was together in July and Caden had his biggest most epic meltdown/tantrum of all time. I didn’t want a repeat performance.

On Sunday morning we had Caden’s birthday party bright and early! I decided to give myself a break with so much going on and ordered/bought most of the food so I didn’t have to worry about making much ahead of time. I did cook all the bacon on Friday and made a batch of granola. And I cooked the sausage Sunday morning. I got two dozen bagels from Gotham Bagels in downtown Madison. And I ordered three kringles from Racine Kringle to be his “cake.” It’s one of his favorite foods and I almost never buy them, so he was really happy with that surprise. I also picked up some yogurt, set up a coffee station, made a harvest punch, and Cindy brought berries to go with the yogurt and my mom made a beautiful berry filled fruit pizza. It was A LOT of amazing food. So tasty.

Annie was being so needy during the party. She usually only makes me hold her hand during car rides, but apparently she needed some support in the house that day. She also had an abundance of energy since it was raining all weekend and she didn’t get any exercise – plus cooped up in her kennel quite a bit while we were gone.

It was a nice and relaxed party! Before it started I was looking at timehop photos from his third birthday when I took really nice pictures of him with every single person who attended the party. I was determined to do that again, and then only got as far as one photo with the aunts. Oops. It’s very hard to get kids to cooperate once they’re past age 2 or 3!

I took a nap after everyone left and then made some chocolate chip cookie dough cups for his school treat.

We weren’t sure what to do on Sunday night – I wanted to go out as a special treat, but restaurants aren’t treats to Caden. He hates them. And we’d already gone out three nights in a row. But he finally agreed and we went to Bel Air Cantina – what has quickly become “our” family place in the last year. It’s the only restaurant we go to just the four of us!

The boys are WAY more excited about eating the unlimited chips and unique salsas than the actual meal food, but Greg and I like it. Caden was given Mexican s’mores for a birthday dessert.

And finally Monday was Caden’s official 11th birthday!

It was also the first day of fall, so I broke into my bag of Brandywine Small Wonder fall blend coffee. I do have to give a little PSA – this brand of coffee is AMAZING. It is what’s broken me from only drinking flavored coffees and opened up a whole new world of what coffee can actually taste like. Every single blend I’ve had is so delicious. My only problem is that when I only drink one cup a day, I have so much to use up and they release new blends every single week that sound so good! I need to have more coffee mornings. Speaking of, I wanted to have one this week, but I’m just too exhausted from everything that’s been going on. NEXT WEEK.

It was also Annie’s 4.5 birthday. I forgot to get her anything, but she definitely helped Caden open his gifts – she loves opening presents. Originally we thought we’d have a pretty rushed evening because it was Lego League night, but we decided to let him skip it just this once. We’ve been so busy and he’s had this awful cold that he deserved a chance to just chill out and have a good night at home.

It was a VERY low key night – all Caden ever wants from life. I made tacos for dinner and brownies for dessert. He loved all his new gifts and spent the whole night playing some new video games. He was very happy.

And that was our week! We survived! It went WELL. And now I’m in recovery mode. I’ve been working a lot yesterday and today, but also went on some long walks and did a yoga video for the first time in ages. Life really isn’t going to settle down for a few more weeks. Cindy’s birthday is Thursday and Friday I’m off to Cranberry Fest. I have some appointments and things I need to get done next week. And then it’s MY birthday. ūüôā And then things will slow down a little, at least until November when I head to North Carolina. Today, though…I’m just exhausted. But we made it.

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 09.15.2019

It’s been another really chaotic and busy week, trying to get back into the swing of things. I’ve been feeling pretty frazzled, trying to get everything figured out and organized for a bunch of parties and celebrations that are happening this upcoming weekend and next week. SO much to think about, I’m having a hard time actually focusing on anything.

I spent last Sunday night and Monday morning making this reading doll that I’m donating to my facebook book club as a prize for an upcoming readathon. I LOVE those readathons, but of course it coincides with THE WEEKEND OF INSANITY, so I’m not going to be doing much reading. But I was happy to make the doll for them! I really like how she turned out.

Annie got her stitches taken out on Tuesday morning. Apparently it was so crusted over they couldn’t even be sure they got every stitch out because it started bleeding so much again.

On Wednesday morning I had a very successful coffee gathering with a group of my friends! We drank lots of coffee and I made Shepard’s favorite sweet and salty chocolate croissants and some peanut butter banana bread. It was a ton of fun and awesome connecting with people after months of basically no contact. I’d like to try and do something like this maybe every two weeks. Hopefully my friends are up for that!

I was pretty drained after that and had a really lazy afternoon. It was our at home date night, but I had zero energy to make dinner, so Greg eventually asked if he should go get food. I finally got to try a curry from the new Thai restaurant and I thought it was pretty good!

I forced myself to just take a break from everything on Thursday. I realize that very little of my time seems accounted for this week, but mentally – it was a lot and I was a mess. Plus my back is still hurting from my weird dog cuddling twisting incident. It was rainy and dreary all week, and I decided I owed myself a day off to just chill. I spent a lot of time reading and resting and taking Annie on a couple of walks. And in the afternoon I ran her over to the groomer where she shaved out the giant mats that had formed under her ears from days of wearing tight gauze around her bloody head.

Greg and the boys were gone on Thursday night, so I broke my no working rule (though that IS the exception) and forced myself to make a lot of headway on a batch of witches. I finished them up on Friday and sold them all this weekend.

I had a long coffee date with another friend on Friday morning, which was great! Then I got my hair cut. My bi-annual cut. And then spent more of the day just trying to get my September organized so it can stop taking up so much space in my head!

Saturday was my big day! I left early in the morning and went to the Urban Farmgirl Main Street Market in Rockford, Illinois. There were 185 vendors there, and every single booth was amazing. You can’t say that about any other craft fair or market, anywhere! So many incredible things to check out. I didn’t end up buying very much, mostly because it was a lot of big things and I just couldn’t deal with trying to figure out the logistics of getting something larger all the way out to the car by myself. But there were oodles of incredible vintage treasures, handmade creations, super cute clothes, and fun household goods. I walked through every booth twice and had carne asada tacos and salted caramel cookie dough for lunch. It was a lot of fun!

Since I was already out for the day, I then went to FIVE TJMaxx and adjacent stores in the Rockford and Janesville areas. I picked up a lot of little gifts for random people on random occasions. ūüôā I also stopped at this amazing vintage store I really like in Beloit. And finished up at Kohls in Madison, just because I had to return a lot of things. It was an exhausting day, but I treated it as a super mini vacation and had a really great time.

Sunday Intentions

Another busy week ahead. A lot of prepping and then the fun happens. Monday will be errands, Tuesday and Wednesday will be cleaning the house and hopefully whipping up a small batch of Halloween dolls. On Thursday night I’m doing another sign painting class. Friday will be food prep and then a mini birthday celebration for my brother-in-law. Saturday morning I’m going to be running all over the Madison area picking up things for various parties. And then Saturday evening we’re having a retirement party for my mother-in-law. And Sunday morning is Caden’s birthday party. And Monday is Caden’s birthday. Birthday season is officially upon us and life is going to be insane for a few weeks.

I THINK I have all the details figured out for next weekend. I’m going totally against everything I believe in, and having about the easiest for me birthday breakfast party I could arrange where the only things I’ll actually have to “make” will be a bunch of bacon that I can cook a few days ahead of time, and sausage links that I can just cook up easily that morning. Everything else I’m buying already made. But it’s going to be good. No skimping for my almost 11 year old! I’ll have to make his school treat then after his party. And because he’ll be at school and Lego League for most of his actual birthday, we’re going to go out to dinner on Sunday to celebrate.

So my only real intention for the week is to stay on top of everything I need to do and not lose my sanity! I’d also REALLY like to get a few more dolls made by Thursday morning at the latest. Monday and Saturday I’ll be running all over picking up things I need for the parties, but I think I can make myself stay home and productive the rest of the week. And I have the sign painting class thrown in for a bit of fun. I broke out my rusty Illustrator skills and designed my own stencil this time, so I’m excited to paint it!

Unfortunately, I don’t have my meal plan figured out. But I need some freezer room, so I think we’re going to be eating from our frozen stock all week. It’ll work out.

Wish me luck, guys. It SHOULD be a really great week!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 09.08.2019

What a week! I’d say that the first week of September, the first week of school, was a roaring success. I loved it! I wouldn’t say we’re immediately back into a regular routine yet, but it’s been a good start!

Tuesday was the first day of school. They were both really angry about having to go back. The four of us walked together and dropped Caden at his school first and then Shepard. Unfortunately, it was raining the whole time and then started pouring right when we got to Shepard’s school, so it was a very hasty goodbye. I felt bad about that, but maybe it was for the best because he was really nervous and dragging it out any longer might have made things worse.

I think Caden’s only issue is that he just plain didn’t want to go back to school. He was also a little upset about how few of his 4th grade friends were going to be in class with him again. BUT he came home and announced that 9 of the kids that he was in class with from K-3 are in his 5th grade class, so he was really happy. I’m sure he wouldn’t admit to LIKING school, but it seemed to go really well for him this week. He’s excited about his new teacher and all the parties they get to have this year.

I didn’t realize this until we were walking and it came up, but I guess Shepard was upset about being the only 3rd grade class at his school. I thought this would be a selling point – the oldest kids in the school, they’d therefore be the coolest, right? But I guess he felt like maybe his class was dumb or left behind since all of the non-charter 3rd grade classes switch over to the middle school. He wants to be at the middle school too. I’m definitely a little worried about the transition for him next year, after an entire school year separated from 3/4 of the kids in his grade. But…I’ll have to worry about that next summer. At any rate, I think the first days went pretty well for him. He hasn’t wanted to talk about it. He hasn’t been as happy and excited as Caden. But I know he thrives being around his friends all day.

I spent the first day of school running errands. I didn’t really want to, but it was the only day it was going to work out. Plus it was a good distraction from worrying about how the first day was going.

Wednesday was picture day. They were both SO angry I made them wear button down shirts. Shepard was doing everything he could to get out of it. You know, a few years ago they were both clamoring to wear button shirts as often as possible to look like Daddy. Now it’s uncool.

Shepard said he was going to smile like this. I’m sure the photographer wouldn’t have let that be the final image, but I almost think I’d like it better than the blank stare we usually get. Caden was able to see his photo right away on a printed ID card, but he wasn’t allowed to bring it home. He said the teacher parted his hair and smashed it down against the sides of his head, so I think all my attempts to make it fluffy and cute before school were thwarted.

I spent Wednesday morning working and then took the cats to the vet for their annual check up. The vet commented again and again how healthy they look for their age, so I guess we’re doing pretty good! She thinks they both might have some sort of allergies/irritations, so they were given some shots to try and counteract that. But overall, they’re pretty healthy.

I never expected them to remember in the midst of all this new stuff going on, but they hatched a plan in the morning for Shepard to meet Caden at a certain spot and then they would walk to meet me at the library and we’d go to the farmers market after school. And shockingly, they showed up! They were giving away apple cider popsicles this week. It was so nice!

I was determined on Thursday to finally sit down and actually get a good chunk of work done. It was NOT a productive week. Well, it WAS, but not for doll production. I was just about finishing stuffing when I ran out of polyfil. I ALWAYS have a backup box in the basement, so I can’t believe I was out. I had to go to Beaver Dam anyway to spend some time with my mom and brother’s pets while they’re in Nebraska, so I just left earlier to go to Walmart and get more polyfil.

Caden came home happy again. Immediately got comfy with his seeds and book to hang out on the porch all afternoon.

He’s been reading a lot this week. In part because he lost screens for awhile. But he also seems to really be enjoying it again. He mostly stuck with graphic novels all summer, but he’s back into the bigger books again now.

I spent a little time this week slowly switching over to fall decor. I don’t plan on putting a lot of things out – we just don’t have shelf or counter spaces to change up decorations anymore. But I LOVE swapping out fresh blankets and pillows. I’ve been stocking up on fall candles too, and lighting them at every opportunity. And I switched over to my fall mugs. I thought I had more than this! I’ve been on a roll finding cute Halloween mugs in stores lately, but I don’t want to take those out until October.

Midday Friday everything went downhill when I went to check on the pets and while I was trying to cuddle with Gracie on the couch I twisted my back and pulled a muscle that hurt SO BAD. I was in immobilizing pain the rest of the day, rendering myself completely useful other than reading this amazing book. Strangely, at about the exact same time, Caden was at recess playing gaga ball and pulled a muscle in his groin. I guess they gave him a heating back to set on his lap for a few hours, but it wasn’t helping so he ended up coming home early. It seemed to scare him to have such a weird pain, more than the pain itself bothering him. He just took it easy the rest of the night too.

I was proud of myself for sticking with my 4:30 cut off time for sewing every day this week. I think it’s the healthiest boundary I can choose to start living by regularly. It gave me so much freedom in the evenings to do housework and read. The problem, though, is that I wasn’t actually getting nearly enough time to work before 4:30. Too much running around this week. So I had to put in a 12 hour day yesterday and FINALLY finished up my first batch of fall dolls for the year. I really liked how they turned out!

Greg and the boys were at Cedar Lake for the day, helping bring in the docks. Caden ended up staying in Beaver Dam for the night. I was hungry for some type of tasty and filling snack, and ended up making this peanut butter popcorn. It is SO GOOD. Shepard wasn’t very enthused after his first few bites, but I loved it. It was a good end to the week.

Sunday Intentions

I’m hoping to get back on top of things and start writing separate weekend posts again. I gave up over the summer because I never had that much to be intentional about in the week ahead. I was just trying to survive. But September is all about getting back on top of things – PLUS I need a place to be accountable for keeping up with my meal planning!

This week is all about falling back into a more normal routine with hours during the day to actually work. Though it’s still a slightly busier than normal week. I’ll need to run errands on Monday. Tuesday Annie gets her stitches taken out. On Wednesday I’m going to throw a coffee gathering at my house, open to anyone who wants to come. I haven’t actually asked anyone yet, but I hope it will be successful. And on Saturday I’m going to a big vintage market in Illinois.

My highest intention for the week is to make two smaller batches of dolls. I’m going to make a few apple themed dolls first and then my first few Halloween dolls. I think if I can stay on task I can get them done.

My second intention is to connect with a few friends again. Hopefully with this coffee morning! Otherwise, make some plans with a few people in the coming weeks. As much as I often feel like giving up all my hopes and dreams of amazing female friendships, I don’t actually want to give up. I’m ready to give it another shot.

Meal¬†Plans¬†(I’m¬†not¬†set¬†on¬†exactly¬†what¬†days¬†these¬†will¬†be¬†served,¬†but…an¬†approximation)

Monday – Rotisserie Chicken from Costco and Roasted Vegetables

Tuesday – Jamaican Jerk Chili (without the beans)

Wednesday – Spicy Peanut Noodles with Leftover Rotisserie Chicken

Thursday – Cheddarwursts/Leftovers

Friday – Jalapeno Popper Pretzel Crust Pizza

Have a good week!

September 2019 Goals

Well, we’re down to the final few hours of summer vacation. I know about midday tomorrow I’m going to be thrilled to get back to a normal routine with so much more time to myself to actually work and get things done. But it’s really hard to shake that first day of school anxiety, even if I’m not the one going to school. I have no reason to be nervous about this school year. Caden’s basically an old pro at middle school by now. A few of his best friends are in his class. He’ll be fine, even if he’s not happy about being there. Shepard is in his last year at his charter school and it’s the year where they basically do nonstop awesome things. He’s the life of the party around his friends and once he’s back in the thick of things he’ll be so happy. But change is still hard. Even if it’s not as significant as the years when they’re changing schools and entering unknown territory. I’ve been trying so hard to distract myself today and do basically anything besides think of tomorrow. As hard as summer is on me, the end is always sad.

I’ve also been racking my brain today on which goals I should focus on this month. There are always a million to pick from. But September is such a hard month as we transition back. I don’t want to pile too much on my plate as I’m also transitioning back. Plus, September is always a crazy busy month for us too. It’s filled with a lot of amazing things that can be so much fun. But it can also be really overwhelming if I’m not rested and organized and both physically and emotionally prepared for it. So I’ve decided to focus on that and choose my goals around things that will help me feel more on top of my life, rather than add anything extra that might be impossible to achieve.

1¬†–¬†Meal¬†Plan¬†Every¬†Week

Honestly I think all food related aspects of having my kids home all day over the summer is what overwhelmed me the most. They were grabbing snacks ALL THE TIME. They were looking for more food five minutes after dinner was over every single day. They were complaining about what was on their plates at every meal. They (ahem, Caden) were refusing to do ANYTHING to learn how to serve themselves breakfast or a healthy alternative to a bag of chips or pieces of candy. It wore me down like nothing else because it was so essential to our life (obviously) and I just could not keep up or keep them happy and I finally just plain gave up. I don’t think I made more than one or two real dinners a week in the last two months. This last week and a half we’ve gone to restaurants or gotten take out almost every single day. This is clearly not a healthy or sustainable way to feed your family. SO. I will start with meal planning. It will take away all the last minute stress of trying to pull a meal together. It will make me actually excited about what I’m going to make since I can pick the meals myself and look forward to them. It will help me grocery shop better. It’s really just the easiest thing I can do to bring stability back into our evenings and a whole lot more peace to my life.

2¬†–¬†Watch¬†Less,¬†Listen¬†More

I really love to watch tv while I work. But I’ve noticed this past month when I’ve mostly been watching Queer¬†Eye, that I’m so distracted by the show (how can you look away?! They’re having so much fun!) that I’m really not being very productive! I always have a ton of podcasts available to listen to, but ideally I’d like to start trying audiobooks again too. I think I could really increase my productivity if I took away that extra visual distraction. Not ALL the time. But most.

3¬†–¬†Read¬†Atomic¬†Habits

I really need to add in some sort of reading goal every month, just because it’s fun for me. This month it feels like I need to challenge myself a bit more and start reading books that could inspire me to be a better person. I’ve heard great things about this particular book and it feels especially fitting for September.

4¬†–¬†No¬†Working¬†on¬†Weeknights

I’m not going to go crazy and say no nights or weekends. Though honestly every Saturday in September is already booked, so I don’t have a ton of available weekend time to work anyway. But I DO think I need some sort of work/life balance and the best way to do that is to establish a cut off time for myself those five days a week. I’m thinking maybe 4:30, about when I’d start making dinner. If for some reason the guys are all gone for the night and I WANT to work, then it’s allowed. But I’d like to give myself the freedom to do whatever I darn well choose in the night, even if it’s just laundry and dishes. And guilt free too. It’s not like most of the workforce is coming home after their 8-10 hours and feeling like they still need to be working the rest of the night. Just because I’m surrounded by my work doesn’t mean I always need to be paying attention to it. This is a boundary I’d really like to try and keep.

5¬†–¬†Take¬†Care¬†of¬†Me

One thing I’ve really noticed in the last few weeks is how little joy I have. Sure there have been plenty of fleeting moments of happiness and contentment. But I want to feel joy all the time. I want to be the best person I can be without feeling like I’m killing myself over it. I want to take a break if I need one and not feel an ounce of guilt. I want my worth to stop being determined by the way other people treat me. I want to find a reason to be happy with who I am and what my life is from within myself. And really the only way I can think to do that is to start taking a whole lot better care of myself. Move more. Eat less, eat better. Rest when I need it. Laugh with Greg. Be more lighthearted with my kids. Find time to see my friends. Play hooky. Or work really hard if that’s what’ll bring me the most joy that day. I mean, my “work” can be insanely fulfilling when I’m not overwhelmed by it. I’m not proposing that I shirk all my responsibilities this month because there are a lot of them and everything would fall apart if I stopped caring. But I want to be extremely in tune to what I NEED every minute of every day. I want to live the best life I can make for myself. And if I consider my own needs first maybe everything else will just fall into place.

I think that’s enough for September! Happy first day of school!!