Tuesday, March 24, 2020

In Pursuit of "Sheltering-in-Place" Sanity

We've all seen the memes circulating about introverts' declaration that they've been preparing for self-quarantining their whole lives.  They're pretty funny and I would say most definitely true.  I am a self-proclaimed [outgoing] introvert whom upon hearing of a possible multi-week shut-in began dreaming of all the projects around the house that would be accomplished.  Being married to a very non-introverted outgoing extrovert, I quickly saw how being a homebody doesn't necessarily come as second nature to all.

So, I decided to put together a list of different daily and weekly events that one can look forward to during this quiet and sometimes lonely few weeks.

Learning New Music
With many hours in the day spent at home, this presents a great opportunity to learn that piece you've been putting off for a while.  I've also started looking into new artists that have much of their music available on Musescore, which offered a 30-day free trial.  Additionally, I've started picking up my guitar again (which my fingers do not appreciate) and it's comforting to have the house filled with music.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

As I mentioned above, I dream of having extra hours to organize. Throughout the year, I like to go through cabinets, closets, drawers, etc. that have become overloaded and disorganized.  During our current stint at home, I've cleaned up the laundry room (and brought it back to its former glory shown here) and cleaned out all of our island drawers (containing flatware, cooking utensils, cooking tools, plastic containers, and the children's plastic dishes).  We also made a drop-off at Goodwill (which was surprisingly still opened) of donation items crowding our guest room and downstairs TV room.  Still left to complete include: 
  1. My clothing drawers (I've accumulated about a million and a half t-shirts over the past few years of running in races)
  2. The children's dresser drawers (because they're both in a growth spurt and definitely will not be fitting into their current school uniforms when school resumes in the fall)
  3. The art cabinets (lesbihonest... I'll probably save this one for last)
  4. The game/puzzle cabinet
  5. The linen closet (I've done this fairly recently but feel it needs some tidying)
Two books that have really helped encourage me with organizing over the years are Emily's Ley's Simplified Life and Marie Kondo's Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  

Two sisters turned me on to this service a few weeks before schools and such closed their doors.  It's a clothing rental service that offers different packages of clothing to borrow.  Once you're done with the clothes (either after a day or after a month), simply place in the large envelope (shipping's already included!) and stick it in the mailbox.  You do have the option of purchasing items you can't bear to send back.  This has been a little luxury that it's been fun to look forwards to every week or so.  New clothes (without having to leave the house) can definitely lift your spirits and keep you from falling into a "bla" mood.

Photo by Belle Co from Pexels

Zoom Happy Hours
You've received your first Le Tote shipment, which encouraged you to actually style your hair!  All dressed up with nowhere to go?  Nonsense.  Set up a free Zoom conference with a few friends and catch up over a glass of wine while safely remaining distanced.  I thought this was going to be super lame the first time around, but it was actually really fun to catch up with a group while each of us enjoyed the beautiful weather.  This will never take the place on live-action happy hours but is a great substitute while remaining socially responsible.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Book Club
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, there seems to be so much more time to actually read for pleasure these days.  While reading in and of itself is entertaining, why not get a few friends together to read the same book then set a date to meet over video-conferencing to discuss it?  Most people would love the chance to join a book club but don't generally have the time to get the reading completed.  Use our extra time to set goals to complete books and make it extra fun by conversing with some pals upon the completion of each book.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl from Pexels
Bible Study
Another activity that I easily put off are Bible studies.  I'll very ambitiously purchase one while attending a conference but (full disclosure) most likely not complete it on my own.  When Chris and I were first married and many of my friends were having their first babies, I suggested a "book club" which focused on completing Bible studies and weekly meetings at each other's homes to discuss chapters over brunch.  It was such a fun time and a great way to stay involved with friends.  As we had more and more children, it became less and less simple to schedule times that worked for everyone.  I've recently started talking about getting together the old group to complete a study together over the next 6 weeks.  These studies will not only provide daily activities to complete but also added anticipation of weekly virtual gatherings.

I hope this list has provided you with additional means to stay entertained during this unprecedented time upon us.  While I realize most of these items listed are introverted in nature, I do hope some of them provide means to engage with others through the vast means of technology that is accessible!

FTC: This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.  Links may be affiliate.

Monday, March 23, 2020

In Pursuit of a Gracious Homelife

Excitement of blooms.
The colors all fall to earth.
Carpet of petals.

Our Spring 2020 was ushered in with unprecedented uniqueness.  The whole world, it seems, had slammed on the breaks.  Chris celebrated his second week of working from home.  The children had completed their first week of Long-Term School Closure homeschooling assignments.  Likewise, I had successfully completed a week of virtual piano lessons in my studio. 

This break-but-not-a-break came at us somewhat unexpected (I mean, at some point, we all knew closures were inevitable, but really- did anyone expect to become their child's schoolwork implementors from mid-March through the end of the year?).  When the call finally came, I knew we needed to set some ground rules to not only help us survive but to set us up for success in thriving during our extended time together at home.

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels
As many type-A parents shared on social media, I, too, created a schedule to help us make sure we maintained structure during our two-week-turned-three-month intermission from regularly scheduled programming.  Over the week, we adjusted and fell into a very gentle routine.  I wanted to share bits of our routine with my readers in hopes of bringing inspiration for thriving during this quiet time.

Photo by Burst from Pexels
8:00-9:00 We all appreciate sleeping in and leaving our alarm clocks set to off allow us time to naturally wake each morning.  We allow the children to have a slow morning as Chris and I make our French press coffee and go through the day's work commitments.  I'll journal in my gratitudes and affirmations journal, check email, balance our budget, and print out the children's many pages of work for the day.  

10:00-1:00  These are the times I've been holding my virtual piano lessons.  I've fought the virtual lesson model for quite a while and still do not believe it to be the most pedagogically sound means of instruction, but it works for the time being.  The fact that it's new to my students does make it exciting and it is fun to see them in their homes and see them playing their own instruments!  
This is also the time Fiona and Eliot watch their instructional videos (sent by their amazing teachers each morning) and complete their homework sheets.  It's so funny what resources you find you need more of each day and one we quickly realized we need to make sure was on hand was plenty of printing paper and ink!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

1:00-4:00 Afternoons allow free time for myself and the children.  This is generally when I'll walk out to get the newspaper and complete the daily sudoku.  If I leave it out, Chris will sometimes squeeze in the crossword puzzle.  Our chickens have recently decided there are so many more interesting places to lay eggs other than their nesting box, so daily Easter egg hunts provide fresh air and entertainment!

Photo by VisionPic .net from Pexels

5:00 If the weather has let up at all (which surprisingly it does, most days) we'll take a family walk.  We have many options in our neighborhood and surrounding sidewalks for short and long walks and it provides much-desired exercise and fresh air.

6:00 We've been attempting to have earlier (for us) dinners and have continued to enjoy the various meal box subscription services we rotate through each month.  Our favorites have been Everyplate, HelloFresh, HomeChef, and Marley Spoon.  While these meal kits are generally not cheaper than going to the store and purchasing all of the ingredients yourself, they do a fabulous job of providing a variety of recipes that we wouldn't normally think of creating.  Additionally, all of the ingredients are appropriately portioned so that you're not purchasing a large amount of an ingredient you rarely use only to throw out the unused portion a week later.  

7:30 Early dinners normally allow for a family movie night.  So far we've watched Pitch Perfect 1, 2, & 3, Starwars IV, and Mean Girls.  My daughter is now slightly obsessed with acapella versions of pop songs.  We finally started a trial of Disney + and look forward to exploring its programming over the next few weeks.
Photo by Elizaveta Dushechkina from Pexels

9:00 We've attempted to keep bedtime relatively early and because of that I still have time for my nightly bathtime ritual which helps in keeping a sense of normal to my days.  I've been reading a whole lot at night and recently finished Death at Chateau Bremont and just started Where the Crawdads Sing which I'm absolutely loving.  I've noticed that many of the books I read take a few chapters (sometimes up to half-way through) to really catch my attention and keep me wanting to read.  Delia Owen's best seller immediately captured my interest and I've been reading multiple chapters a day.

While this peculiar time is still somewhat of a novelty, my hope is that we can graciously continue in this slow, steady rhythm, and are able to look back to this time fondly.

FTC: This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.  Links may be affiliate.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

In Pursuit of Success: Putting People First.

The start of a new year is always a great time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.  Seeing as we're nearly in the seventh week of 2020, I've had quite a few weeks to reflect and decided to record some of my contemplations here.  

I began teaching piano lessons at the age of 15.  It was somewhat of an accident: my friend (who was my neighbor*) wanted to learn to play "Moonlight Sonata" and I could teach her.  From there, my love of teaching grew and I soon found myself in a full-time teaching position at a local** music store.  The store, which primarily sold guitars and did rentals for middle school and high school band students, had about half a dozen studios in the back, one of which became my place of residence from 3:00-6:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and 10:00-6:00 on Saturdays.  

Colleen, my friend and first piano student, and I.
My love of teaching prompted my choice of study in college: I was accepted into a music school with an amazing piano teacher and fabulous piano pedagogy*** teacher.  They taught me about playing techniques, the history of the music and its composers, and nearly every theoretical concept of music.  One lesson I found particularly interesting was the business of teaching piano.  I was taught how to schedule students, how to keep track of expenses, and the somewhat foreign concept of auditioning students.

We were taught to hold auditions for any potential students to make sure we were the right fit for them.  We were taught about learning styles and personality types and the very basic human concept that not every teacher is suited for every student.

Around this same time, the music store where I taught was bought out by a different family.  The family purchasing it were very successful business owners and soon after the purchase, all of the teachers and staff were brought together for a pep-talk.  We discussed questions, exchanged ideas, and heard some instructions from the new owner that  Mind you, this was over 15 years ago, so I will not state direct quotes, but here's the gist of it:
You don't get along with the student?  So what!  You have a problem with them or their parents?  Who cares?  We're going to fill your schedules and give you as many students as possible!  You know why?  Because their parents write the checks.  So the next time you have an issue with the student, just smile and accept the check.
I.was.shocked.  Wasn't I being taught by successful college professors that this was exactly what we DIDN'T do?  That was a turning point in my teaching career: I decided right there what type of teacher I wanted to be: the type of teacher who did what was best for her students, not what was best for her pocketbook. 

Miss Naylor, my friend and college piano professor, and I.
Over the years, I've had opportunities to put this into action. From referring top, award-winning students to teachers with greater teaching ability to telling children who wanted to take with me that I didn't feel I was the best fit for them.  They're never easy discussions to have, but I have never regretted one of them.  In the end, I knew in my heart that I was doing what was my absolute best for the student.

Fast forward 20 years:  I am still teaching piano lessons and, as many of you know, have recently earned my Georgia Real Estate license.  I signed on with Harry Norman Realtors in June 2019 and have loved every single bit of it.  It has been a very slow learning process but along the way I've kept the same matra: put people first.  Do what is in THEIR best interest.  Do the best you can for them.  I know this will look different in different situations, but I am confident that this is how I want to build my business.

Cyan, my friend and first client, and her daughter at their new home!
Happy New Year and may 2020 bring you and your family peace, love, health, happiness, and prosperity.

Thank you ever so much to CottonBro for the use of their gorgeous stock photos.

*The term neighbor is used very lightly here:  growing up in the country, "neighbors" were anyone within a 10-minute drive.  My friend fit that bill.

**This "local" music store was approximately 35-minutes away from my home.

***Piano Pedagogy is teaching private piano lessons as opposed to general music education.  

Friday, August 02, 2019

In Pursuit of Passion- My Journey to a New Career

As a young child, I started collecting old House Beautiful and Southern Living magazines.  By the time I was 16, I was subscribed to the newly published magazine; Real Simple.  The desire for "Home" has always been in my heart.  Fast-forward 11 years and my husband and I were ready to buy our first house.  Little did we know that journey would take us 3 years.

Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels

Thirty-six months of daily listing searches and countless hours of driving around, looking for the perfect home.  Then on February 8, 2014 at about 8:00 in the morning, we found it.  We immediately called our realtor to schedule a viewing, were the first ones in the door, made an offer that night, and moved in less than 5 weeks later.

The interesting thing is when you spend SO long searching for the perfect home, it's somewhat difficult to stop.  I loved our home but had unknowingly also developed a new love: real estate.  Scanning the pages of newly listed houses, constantly using apps to pull up houses where "for sale" signs had appeared overnight, and dragging my family on Sunday afternoon outings to see open houses continued to be the norm.

As our children have grown and our season of life has changed, Chris and I decided it was time to turn this lifestyle hobby into a career.  I spent the fall and winter of 2018/2019 studying and finally received my Georgia Real Estate License on June 10, 2019.  I quickly signed up with Harry Norman Realtors, Atlanta's oldest residential real estate firm.

Real Estate isn't just a career for me, it's a passion.  While the classes were long and the exams stressful, I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to help people buy and sell homes.  I believe that everyone deserves to have that feeling we felt when we walked into our house and immediately knew "This is the ONE.  THIS is our HOME."

Monday, July 01, 2019

In Pursuit of Local Fare... Citizen Soul of Alpharetta

This post was originally going to be an addition to a "Linger Moments" post, but after writing it, I decided it deserved its own place.  So, get cozy and prepare to get hungry as you read about Alpharetta's new offering, Citizen Soul.

Just when you thought Alpharetta didn't need another restaurant, along comes one that makes you realize what's been missing all along.  Citizen Soul is situated on South Main Street, Alpharetta, directly in front of the new Alpharetta City Hall.

Don't let their Northern Californian pub-style fare conjure up images of dark, seedy pubs.  Instead, think refined comfort food with a cozy yet bright atmosphere.

Unique furnishings include a glass-case meat cooler and wine cellar.  Their menu changes seasonally to spotlight in-season produce, and even boasts a gluten-free fried chicken.  Their charcuterie and fromage plates are an absolute must, and their remarkable wine list has something for everyone.

Executive Chef, Asheville native Sean Clark (former executive chef of Aspens Steakhouse and mentor to head chefs at multiple Alpharetta restaurants) brings it home by giving us one more reason to skip the downtown traffic and stay in Alpharetta.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Linger Moments No. 10



to stay in a place longer than necessary, typically because of a reluctance to leave.

You know those moments: the ones often catching you by surprise, causing you to pause a little longer than perhaps intended.  Whether your upcoming weekend is one filled with activities or has the promise of being a relaxing weekend, you are invited to take a moment to linger before heading to the end of the week.

Faith and Fizz Bath Bombs

I experienced my first bath bomb (ever) last fall.  I bought it on a whim at a wine festival after I had avoided giving into the craze for many years.  I decided to try it because it smelled good and I'm a sucker for good scents.  It was (of course) amazing.  However, it was also $10.  Considering I draw a bath at least three times a week, I knew it would not be wise to incorporate this bombing routine on a nightly basis.  I started looking into shops on Etsy that would offer these bathtime explosives with high-quality ingredients but at a more reasonable price.  And then I found Faith and Fizz Soap Co.  She has an incredible assortment of bath bombs which she offers in multiple sizes!  My absolute favorite is the Charcoal and Rose bath bomb which has the most intoxicating scent of rose (without being overpowering).  The milky coconut and calendula bath bomb comes in at a close second!  All of her bath bombs contain special oils that always leave my skin feeling super silky.  Amber (the shop owner) is super friendly and even slips some samples into my orders which is always a fun surprise!  

I can't even remember how I found this, but am so glad I did.  The Cheddar Need2Know Daily Email arrives in my inbox 5 days a week.  It provides a short snap-shot at political, economic, sports, pop-culture (etc) news and I absolutely love it.  They recently started a podcast of the same headlines contained in the daily email, but the email contains little quips that I feel the podcast just doesn't do as well.  There's always a retweet of the day (which is always hilarious) and every Thursday features a "Love it, Hate it, Ate it" section which never disappoints.  

Schar Gluten-Free Artisan Baker White Bread

Gulten-Free people, Rejoice.  For realz.  Eight years ago I started experiencing random complete-body hive breakouts.  They generally happened when I would get very hot and sometimes when exercising.   For a while I thought it might be rosemary, which happened to be a common denominator in a few of the reactions.  I later discovered that it was actually wheat-based gluten which I have since learned to avoid.  For those of you who know me, you know this situation is actually pretty sad.  Why?  Because Sandwiches. Are. My. Jam.  Like Garfield has his lasagna or Kevin his cheese pizza, sandwiches have always been my favorite thing.  I can tell you all of the best sandwich places in the Southeast.  I know the scientific formula for creating the best sandwich ever.  We literally celebrate several yearly seasons with very specific sandwiches. All of this to say that I have finally found a gluten-free bread that does not have the consistency of pudding, nor does it taste like a cornmeal trying to be a sandwich bread.  Schar Gluten-Free bread is the absolute BEST (EVEN better than the handmade gf breads from the local bakeries).  It's fine eaten plain but is absolutely amazing toasted.  I discovered it at our Publix (which no longer carries it) but have also found it at Sprouts.  

Monday, June 03, 2019

In Pursuit of Closet Sanity

As a child, I have very fond memories of an event that happened a few times.   My mom and older sister would come into my and my younger sister's room and COMPLETELY clean it out.  Like, top to bottom, a full-on purge.  The nights after this happened were some of my favorites as our space was clean and so, it seemed, were our minds.  We would take out just one toy and play for hours with it instead of mindlessly rotating through a million toys and ultimately becoming bored.

As a grown-up, I still enjoy a good spring cleaning.  Although a similar concept, I now have a myriad of options of different areas of our home to purge.  Last night, it was the closet.

I have about 50 French Lifestyle books in my library.  24% of them talk about food while 22% of them are memoirs or fiction.  And an astounding 44% of them contain at least one entire chapter on a typical French person's wardrobe.  Over and over again, they each preach the gospel of selecting a few key clothing items that work for your body and make you feel great.

One opinion that they generally tie into this belief system is that "less is more."  Rather than mindlessly accumulating clothing, they often encourage readers to purchase fewer high-quality classic items and create their wardrobe around those core pieces.  While this is not a new concept, I do believe it is gaining momentum through Marie Kondo's Life-Changing Majic of Tidying Up.

Why is this movement becoming increasingly popular?  Read below to see my views on this budding closet-shift.

1.  When you look great, you feel great.  How much easier is it to look great when you only own clothing you look great in and love?  This view doesn't even begin to touch on the whole issue of regard for taking the time to look presentable.  Dressing well (notice I said "dressing well" and not "dressing up") shows that you respect yourself and others enough to put some time into your appearance, even if it's as simple as wearing clothes that fit you.

2. "Change your space, change your life."  Let's just take a look at this picture below.  The first is of my closet before I stuck it to it and did a major clean-out.  Now, keep in mind that I originally adopted the capsule wardrobe concept back in 2012 while living with my in-law's.  We had the largest closet I had ever owned and I had it filled to the brim!  I had always had my smaller closets packed and this larger closet just gave me more room to grow!  Although I had read of the concept of capsule wardrobes for years, it wasn't until I read Jennifer L. Scott's book, Lessons from Madame Chic, I decided to finally take the plunge.  Assessing my closet, I realized it was true- while I had many articles of clothing, there were really only a few items I repeatedly wore.  I started the purging process and that summer purchased a handful of thoughtfully purchased tops (that fit perfectly!) to complete my wardrobe.

Now, twice a year I take the time to evaluate my wardrobe: what's working, what's not.  What fits and what maybe no longer fits me or my lifestyle.  I change it out for the season, and then try to fill any holes with high-quality items that I know I will wear for a while.

So why was my closet SO full of SO many clothes if you do this twice a year?  Well, last season I didn't take the time to change out my wardrobes properly.  We were in a crazy busy season of life and so I just threw all of my other warmer-weather clothing in with my fall/winter wardrobe.  I didn't go through and evaluate anything, I just crammed.  And look at the result!  I kept forgetting about clothing I had and constantly had to weed through heavy winter coats just to get to what I wanted!  It was very frustrating and completely uninspiring to get dressed in the morning.

Now the after picture:

Everything is orderly, "sell and donate" items are removed and there's even a little place to showcase some artfully placed Chanel wrapping and a pair of my favorite shoes of Fiona's from when she was little!

3. Plan to succeed.  This last one can take on so many facets.  I'll give you three:

  • When your closet is in order with a condensed wardrobe of what you actually wear, you will probably be able to see everything.  Being able to see everything helps you KNOW what you have (or don't have) and can help prevent unnecessary spending.
  • When your closet is in order with a condensed wardrobe of what you actually wear, you will also be able to see what is clean and what is not, which will save you time in getting dressed and looking for that *one* shirt.
  • When you have a condensed wardrobe of items you actually wear, you'll probably not have as many clothes as you have now (obvs, right?).  Well, guess what chore is directly related to the amount of clothing you have?  The ever-present-will-never-go-away-no-matter-how-much-you-do-it-chore of laundry.  Have hundreds of articles of clothing?  You'll probably be able to go a whole week (but probably more!) before you MUST do laundry.  I know in our household, laundry piles up pretty quickly.  I attempt to wrangle the piles by doing a little bit of laundry, every day.  And since there's a finite number of clothes in our possession, the odds of it piling up to unbearable heights are very slim.
So there you have it.  That same feeling that came as a child having a clean room carries on now into my adult life in many ways, especially in my clean and decluttered closet.   For me, the same satisfaction from taking out one article of clothing and knowing it will work and make me feel and look great will always outweigh the other option of having loads and loads of clothes (and laundry) that I may or may not actually wear.