Sometimes Better Really is Better

I started playing violin 4.5 years ago on a borrowed violin that probably cost $200.  At the beginning I thought I sounded bad because I was bad.  And it was largely true.  You hear about multi-million dollar instruments that sound better than the average fiddle and wonder how that can possibly true.  After all, it’s just a wooden box, right?

A year later, I was offered a $500 violin to purchase.  It was being traded in by one of the kids in my teacher’s studio.  But when the dealer saw me with it he instantly knew it didn’t work for me.  You’d think that a beginner who has played for one year wouldn’t know the difference between a good violin and a bad one, but this one didn’t do it for me, and even I could tell.  So I ended up with a $1,200 instrument.  Now, it’s easy to say that a dealer talked me into paying more than I should, but the difference between $200 and $1200 was way bigger than $200 and $500.

The next upgrade, just last year, was a significant one in terms of value – not just in cost, but in playability and sound.  At the same time, I bought a better bow too.  A $120 bow and a $200 bow were terrible in comparison to the new stick.  I know it’s hard to explain how a stick can make a difference in your playing.  It’s really something you have to experience.

If you can’t hear the difference in a bow or an instrument, it’s OK.  That just means you haven’t outgrown your instrument yet.  Or, it might just mean you haven’t tried one that is better than you are.  The funny thing is, the better your instrument is, the more you learn from it.

It may take me a while to deserve the instrument I have now.  I’m finding that the better you get, the harder it is to get better.  Improvement happens slowly, and you have to be OK with that.  I’m trying really hard to be.

The Analog Brain

It is becoming clear to me that I live under a rock.  First, it took me forever to find out about subscription clothing services, and now I find that I missed an entirely new way for me to make my lists and keep track of my calendars.  I finally discovered the Bullet Journal.

At first I was skeptical.  When Bullet Journal pins started popping up on my Pinterest feed, I assumed it was just a time-waster for stay-at-home moms who had to find new ways to use all their old scrap-booking and stamping materials since nobody does that anymore.  (Sorry ladies, judgemental girl is judgemental.)  I don’t have time for anything (besides knitting & violin) that doesn’t involve work or home responsibilities, so I ignored the fad.

The other day a FaceBook friend posted that she had discovered Bullet Journal and she was hooked.  Now I tend to find this particular friend to be a sensible and non-herd-following sort, so my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check it out.  The concept was conceived by Ryder Carroll and is outlined in his website located HERE.   Seriously, go check it out.  I’ll wait.

After watching the video I couldn’t stop thinking of it.  The desire to try the process was so strong I hit up Amazon in the middle of a sleepless night and ordered a notebook and some fine-line pens.  They haven’t arrived yet so I have taken consolation in pinning a ton of ideas to my Pinterest board.  I’m going to try the system for a month to see if it helps me keep my projects and appointments on track any better than my delightfully (dis)organized pile of multi-colored post-it notes.  We’ll see how it goes.  With any luck, this may be the solution to my scheduling issues.  If not, I’ll add it to the towering pile of shit I tried that didn’t work out. All I have to lose is a blank notebook.  With the barrier to entry so low, if it fails I’m out almost nothing.

Trunk Club Review #1

Stitch Fix was so much fun that I decided to try Trunk Club.  Trunk Club used to be for men only, but last fall they started styling for women too.  You still have to sign up and provide credit card info, as well as fill out a style profile.  Then your stylist either messages, emails or calls you.  I elected to go with messaging because that’s just easier for me.  You always have the same stylist.  There’s none of that switching about like on stitch fix, so it pays to really be honest and open about size, fit, preferences, and price point.  After your discussion, your stylist puts together 10-15 items for you to preview online.  You get to discard any items that just won’t work, then you get a big box in the mail about a week later.  There’s no cost for this.  The only money you pay is when you buy something.

Today I got my first box.  My stylist (Hi Haley!) sent me some great items.  I had high hopes for a few, and felt like there were a few things that wouldn’t work right away.  However, I didn’t discard anything from my preview because you never know how something will look when it’s on you and not some 6 foot skinny French model.  Everything comes packaged in an appealing way, and they include tape and a shipping label so you can send it back after your 10 day (!!!!) try-on period.

The first thing I tried was a pair of black dress pants, which were just ok.  They were about 2 inches too long so I paired them with the platform sandals Haley sent.  Since I already have 2 pair of black dress pants, these would have to be awesome for me to keep them.  They weren’t, so the pants are going back.  You’ll see them in a few pics coming up.  Here are the sandals.  They’re cute, but nothing special.  Plus, platforms make me feel a bit tottery.

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The next thing I put on was a white dress shirt.  It’s a staple that I don’t own and probably should.  However, this one was simply awful.  The sleeves were too long.  The shoulders were too wide, and it looked like I was wearing a Panther pavilion, complete with door flaps in the back.  Not sure if you can tell in the picture, but that flap is open all the way up to the collar.  So not work appropriate.  Um..   that’s a no.  Thanks for playing.

Moving on, there was a cute mixed media tank.  It is comfortable and doesn’t look bad, but I have way too much black in my wardrobe already so I’ll probably send it back.  Haley also sent a blue top that was comfortable but too short – hitting me right at my most unflattering point.  (Why, hello tummy pooch!  Fancy meeting you here.)  This is a time when I’m glad I had her send everything from the preview because it was black in the picture and I don’t need any black tops, but the blue is pretty.  Also in the box was a cute blue button down.  I had to throw on the layering tank I wore to work because it was so sheer.  I liked the fabric but didn’t care for the weird boob pocket or the funky sleeves that stuck up like wings.

I figured the next several items were pretty much a no go from the preview, and I was right.  The first is a white linen shirt dress, which I styled with the scarf and gladiator sandals Haley sent.  The scarf was too bulky and pastel, which makes me look dead.  The white dress was too sheer (I wore it with a full slip), too boxy, and had those weird boob pockets.  The sandals made me look short and cut across the top of just my left foot.  I took them off right after the picture.  The other dress was a maxi.  I have had terrible luck with maxi dresses and this was no exception.  First off, it’s mainly black, which I don’t need.  Secondly, the jersey did my figure no favors, and was not at all helped by the empire waist band that cut me off part way up my boobs.  The only good thing about both of these dresses was that they were exactly the right length.  That didn’t make up for all the negatives, so bye bye white dress and black maxi.  Check out that look of disgust and the bingo wings.  Being a middle-aged desk jockey sucks.

The next thing was THE most anticipated thing in my box.  When I pulled out these Paige high waist Transcend jeans I was in love.  The fabric and color were perfect.  I was unsure about the flare, but had my fingers crossed.  Sadly, they were more of a mid-rise than a high rise, nearly 3 inches too long, and gapped at the waist in the back.  The flare made me look even shorter than ever.  I tried them on with a tank Haley sent but didn’t like since it’s mostly black and doesn’t cover my bra straps.  It’s also kind of shapeless. I’m so sad about the jeans, because my butt looks amazing and I really needed some new jeans. But with a $200 price tag, I’ll wait for a pair that works better.

From the preview, I had really hoped that this last dress would be wonderful.  It’s an A-line, which usually works, although a fit-and-flare might have been a better pick.  I liked that it had sleeves, and princess seams.  It’s the last thing I tried on because I figured it was the most likely to be successful.  At first I thought it was. It was a bit roomy in the shoulders, and would look a bit better with some shapewear, but it isn’t too bad, right?  I like the color so I took a close up in better lighting.  It has been raining here for 12 days straight!  No make-up, flat hair, don’t care.

I was so excited, I ran downstairs to show off to my husband.  He liked it.  Yay!  I was ready to overlook the too-wide shoulders and weird length sleeves until I looked at the back and noticed the ridiculous amount of bunching.  Yuck!

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Sometimes I feel as if I’m doomed to never find clothes that fit.

I’m pretty certain all of this is going back, though I’m still thinking about the mixed media tank.  I’ll try this again.  Maybe I’ll have better luck next time.  Also, my mirrors are super dusty.  Whoops!  Time to actually clean and not just tidy up.

This is For the Birds

We had such a cold, snowy winter I worried that the local birds (especially the cardinals) wouldn’t find enough to eat.  I found some bird seed that had been a give-away at a wedding and laid it out on the back deck in a tin pie pan.  The birds thought that was wonderful.  They came by the dozens, and soon there was no seed left.

Since my little experiment had gone so well, I purchased a bird feeder and some seed.  Well, the local bird community thought that was just the best idea ever.  I must confess that I thought that having bird feeders was such an old-lady thing to do, but the whole family has really enjoyed watching the birds.  Especially the cardinals.  There’s a big cardinal we named Brutus.  He’s so fat he looks like a dirigible coming in for a landing.

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As the season has changed, so has our bird population.  Warmer weather has brought all kinds of new birds, including a bunch of rather unwelcome crows.  I have nothing against crows in general, but these fellows chase all the other birds away and completely dump the feeder every day to pick out the corn.

I read somewhere that switching over to black oil sunflower seed for a couple of weeks would discourage the crows.  They do seem to be coming by less frequently, but they still check things out.  It has only been about a week so far.  Hopefully they’ll find some new feeder soon so I can switch back to the other mix.  Black oil sunflower seed is more than twice the cost of what I was getting before.

Just so I have it documented somewhere, here’s a list of what comes around so far: cardinals, house finches, mourning doves, american goldfinches, crows, american tree sparrow, chipping sparrow, black capped chickadee, red breasted nuthatch, song sparrow, pine siskin, and carolina wren.  Some of them have stopped coming since we changed the seed.  Right now the cardinals, house finches, and american goldfinches are our primary visitors.  Maybe summer will bring us different birds.  We’ll see.

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My First Stitch Fix

I have a dirty little secret.  I love to shop.  In fact, Amazon Prime pretty much pays for itself in the first two months of the year based on how much I order.  The UPS guy knows my address by heart.  This is because I really don’t like going to the store.  When I do enter one, it’s a grab and go situation.  Get in, get it, and get out.  It has nothing to do with me being an extreme introvert.  Nope.  Ok, yes it does.

What you might not know is I love fashion.  If I were skinny me with fat me’s income, my closet would make you cry with envy.  But going into a store, browsing through racks of clothes, and changing in a stuffy dressing room under unflattering flourescent lighting is pretty much my idea of torture.  There’s too much input, and nothing ever fits anyway.

I was commiserating with a girlfriend at the office about my lack of cute work clothes a week or so ago and she mentioned that her friends love this service called Stitch Fix.  You set up a style profile that includes some pretty thorough questions about what kind of clothes you like, the sizes you wear, your proportions, things to avoid, and preferred price points.  Then you have the option to schedule a “fix” and a stylist will take your information (and any other info you share like your Pinterest, Twitter, etc.) and send out five surprise items.  They don’t make an “outfit” per se, but they should fill in some gaps in your current wardrobe.

I decided to try it.  After all, it lets me try new clothes (yay!!!), I won’t be overwhelmed by too many choices, and I might learn a bit more about how to dress this rather frumpy peri-menopausal frame.  There is a $20 styling fee, but if you buy something, it’s applied to your purchase.  There’s no way I’m not going to buy something, so I had nothing to lose.  If you don’t want any (or all) of the items, you plunk them in the provided pre-paid priorty mail envelope and drop it in the nearest post office box within three days.  A 25% discount applies if you buy everything in your fix.

My first fix arrived today.  Seriously, where has this been my whole life?!  Wait, words can’t describe my glee!  I’m so excited with this that I’m even going to post (gasp!) selfies!

Here’s what the box looks like.

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It comes with a styling idea card and a personalized note from your stylist.

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I unwrapped the pretty tissue paper to discover this!

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Oh my!  It’s not something I would have been drawn to in a store, but the colors in that top piece were so pretty I rushed to put it on.  It fit perfectly, and hubby liked it.  The belt is mine.  That’s one of the coolest things about trying things on at home, you can figure out what you already have that works with it.  I have shoes to match the belt but was too lazy to get them out.

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Seriously, these colors are so pretty!  I would never have thought this pattern would work for me, but it does.  Ignore the bushman eyebrows.

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I’ll never be a model.  Oh well….      Next, I paired this green blouse they sent with the skirt that was in the box.

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Digging it.  Check out the sweet tulip sleeves!

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Even though I already have a blouse in this exact color in a smaller size *cries*, I’m buying this one.  Blouses with adorable details that fit are far and few between.  Stitch Fix also carries jewelry, bags, and shoes.  They sent me these awesome enameled bangles.  They had me at enamel.  Gotta love that pasty, Polish complexion, amiright?

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This last piece I’m not so sure of.  It’s a mixed material knit top.  The fabric is OMG so soft!  It’s super comfortable.  But it seems a bit long on me, and it feels boxy, and I’m not so sure of the polka dots.  The stylist suggested pairing with white denim, but I don’t have that, so I threw on a pair of skinnies, my favorite perforated gold flats, and my go-to Stella & Dot lariat necklace.  Tell me what you think.  I’m not sure about this one.

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And the back –

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I loved my first fix!  If this appeals to you, go for it!  Here are some final thoughts to help you make a decision.

  • Prices are retail, but they price-match.  Although you can choose your price point, keep in mind that the prices average $55 per piece (before discount).  However, these items are not from Target or Old Navy.  You’re more likely to find these brands at Nordstroms.
  • The quality of these clothes is better than the stuff I usually buy.  That dress is fully lined, and I’ve NEVER felt a t-shirt that soft.
  • The picks are personalized to your wants and needs.  Your stylist is there to help you.
  • Do you like fun surprises in boxes arriving to your door?  I do.  Enough said.
  • Are you too busy/tired/overwhelmed to shop for yourself?  Fill out a style profile and get started.
  • Fixes can be scheduled on a bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, or as-needed basis.
  • If you need styling for a wedding/cruise/camping trip (whatever), just tell your stylist before your next fix.
  • Your Pinterest board is your best tool for guiding your stylist.  Here’s mine if you’re curious My Style Pinboard
  • They carry Petite and Tall sizes, but only go up to size 14.  Sorry.  If it makes you feel better, I’m a 14.
  • Some folks think that only slender young women can have successful fixes.  Proving ya’ll wrong, right here.  Ha!
  • They will be starting up fixes for Men in the fall.  Hubby is going to look so dapper!
  • Hate taking your little kids to the store to try on clothes?  I found a subscription service for them too: Sprouting Threads

Now the nitty gritty.  I did not receive compensation for this post, nor did I receive anything for free.  However, if you click over to the website using this link – Stitch Fix I might be eligible to receive a referral credit.  I don’t expect any.  Anyone who is interested has probably done their own homework by now.  I’m pretty late to the party.

Planting the Salad Crops

The days have been lovely and warm this week.  I ended up taking two days off from work to recover.  I still feel wobbly, but not awful – just tired, but I really wanted to take advantage of the comfortable temperature today to work in the yard.  I added some manure to one of the square foot garden beds and put in the salad crops.

10398736_10208874805686445_8949625700541521115_nThose are peas over by the trellis.  I started them indoors about four weeks ago and hardened them off this week.  They should be OK.  The other plants you see (if you can) are spinach and chard.  Filling the rest of the squares are three types of lettuce, a cabbage, radishes, carrots, and beets.  Some were direct sown, some already started.  Although our final frost date isn’t until April 15, I feel as if we have probably seen the last of the freezing temperatures.  As early as it is, if something does freeze, there will be plenty of time to direct sow later if need be.

I weeded the other square foot bed some more today.  It is going to take a ton of work to get back in shape, but it is more than half way there.  Moe is a little irritated with me for leaving clumps of weeds in the yard, but I don’t have enough energy to gather them up.  I’ll send one of the children out later to take care of it.  Once this bed is cleaned up I will put in the other plants.  Still not sure if I’ll waste it on the watermelon the kids want.  Ideally, we’ll get that grape arbor put in and I’ll plant the watermelon under that so I can put some better behaved plants in the bed.

Touring the yard, I found that the lilac appears to have made it through the winter, as well as the lillies, one of the peonies for sure, and the cherry trees.  All of the daffodils in the back are setting blooms, and the ones I planted out front in December are coming up.  Most of the tulips came up too, and one is setting a bud, so yay!

12814182_10208874797966252_8577431098681075097_nI should go shopping and pick up a new drop spreader so I can fertilize the yard, but I’m beat.  Instead, I’ll play the violin, read a book, and maybe knit.  There’s always tomorrow, right?

Lucky Enough to Forget

Now that I have started to come down from last week’s excitement, I realized something important.  I forgot that I have a chronic illness.  That’s huge and amazing at the same time.  First off, how awesome is it that I have managed to arrange my lifestyle to accommodate enough time for self-care that my symptoms are minimal enough not to have a negative impact most of the time?  I see friends of mine with similar chronic conditions talk about how many spoons they have left and thank my lucky stars that I usually have enough spoons to get through each day with a few in reserve.  Spoon Theory

Sure, I have my bad days, but my illness is largely in remission.  In fact, I’m not even medicating for it right now.  But I’m never going to be cured, and it could turn ugly and kill me without a lot of warning.  So I wake up every morning and say to myself “today is not the day” and move on with my life.  Because my life is unbelievably good and I love it.

It wasn’t that long ago really that I had to worry about covering up the fact that my hair was falling out, or having to walk with a cane, or couldn’t write my name because the tremors were so bad.  Ok, some days I hurt, or my vision goes all wonky, I’m short of breath, and I can’t think or talk straight.  I admit it.  Some days just suck, but it has been much, much worse.

So I was taken a bit by surprise how tremendously awful I felt during this camp.  My emotions were all over the map.  I shook, my heart rate wouldn’t slow, my eyes were red, not just from crying, but from swelling of the muscles around them.  In short, I didn’t do what I needed to do to keep from being a broken mess.  Oddly enough, I didn’t make the connection to my disease until today when I was sitting at work wondering why I still felt so darn terrible.  Duh!  You’re sick, stupid.

I forgot.

It’s sort of a blessing, really.  While it was miserable at the time, I am so lucky that I am in a position that I can forget something that is such a big part of my life.  Still, forgetting was dumb and I shouldn’t make that mistake again.  There really aren’t enough spoons for that anymore.