Four Things

 

What are your weekend plans? My parents are visiting, so I get to play tourist and show them the sites around the city. I am excited for deep dish and many museums. I am equally excited that I have the day off of work. Wishing you an equally restful weekend! Here are four fun things to check out while you’re chillin’.

Loving the art project From Scraps, creating special things our of the discards.

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Extraordinary Routines is a cool page where you can glean wisdom from successful and relatable ordinary people. Tina Roth for example, the founder of Tattly and Swiss-Miss and way more, shares details about maintaining a sense of family for her kids even as a divorced family. I have known families who have these happy-endings divorces, where both sides can comfortably celebrate birthdays and holidays and make co-decisions about their kids life. It was very neat to read her perspective!

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I am equal parts obsessed with and terrified by Michelle Griffiths Instagram. She doesn’t just slackline… she does yoga on the slackline. In insane places like the canyons of Moab!!! I can’t stop looking. She leads workshops, if you’re into that sort of thing. But HOW does she set up the rig???

Have you ever been rock climbing? I have been going on the regular and when my friend posted this on my timeline she summed it up with “This is how I feel sometimes.” No worries, Sara, after watching these I can say with absolute confidence that we are images of grace on that wall.

My Fall Recipe Playlist

Do you find your eating habits shift seasonally? If we’re not careful, that means sweets and chex mix all winter, doesn’t it? I had been drinking delicious green goddess smoothies since spring and then one day I woke up and it was so cold I couldn’t bear the thought of a frozen drink. That is probably the same day I started making soups and using only orange vegetables. Here are the fall recipes that I keep going back to.

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Avgolemono 
A greek lemon-dill soup that takes 15 minutes to whip together, and uses mostly handy ingredients. This soup is for when you are sick (or just cold), and is bright and reminiscent of summer. This can be made with chicken, but I have been using this recipe by Dinner a Love Story and skipping the meat. Next time I will try the heartier family recipe from Jojotastic, also using a vegetable base. The onion, celery, and carrot will give it a flavorful base. To make this a meal worth sharing, butter up some fresh sourdough and serve a crisp salad on the side.

 

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Corn Chile Chowder
This recipe calls for jalepeño, but I decided to add a little New Mexico heat with a load of green chile. Creamy and spicy, this chowder hit the spot. Tamp the heat with sweet cornbread and apple cider.

 

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Kale and Butterbeans
This has become a weekly default, for when I want to eat healthy and have warm comfort food. I add as much kale as I can stand, am generous with the lemon juice, and always skip the parmesan and optional eggs. We recently used up some breakfast sausage by adding it to the mix, and it was very good.

 

 

 

 

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
I made these because in college, I bought one of these from my favorite coffee shop like, every other day. This batch came out even better than my coffee shop inspiration- they were soft and fluffy on the inside, and the chocolate chips held their shape. Brown butter glaze is always good, but honestly, I could have skipped it and felt better about my breakfast habit!

 

 

 

For other ideas, consider these amazing sweet potato options: stew, noodles, and egg boats.

Coming soon: Stuffed and Curried Sweet Potato

In the mean time: The Meal that was SO Good I Forgot to Take Pictures

Gift Guide for Wisened Storytellers and Givers of Great Advice

All of my friends call their mom. ALL the time. I call my mom all the time. My dad and I exchange cat photos with simple captions: “cat in box,” “uh-oh,” etc. My parents are also at an age where comfort and function reign supreme. When choosing gifts for them, I look for things they can use, and things they will use.

MC-B-LG-GG-2They deserve the niceties. Splurge for a pair of luxury slippers with detachable soles so they can get the mail while keeping their feet warm in soft lambswool. Bonus: the soles come in your choice of 8 colors.

The inconveniences of aging (going to the doctor more, keeping track of new medicine) don’t have to be ugly or messy. This elegant pill box is especially good for anyone on the go, and the company Port and Polish only makes pill boxes. With one product to focus on, it must be good! Buying one for everyone? Choose three for $45 (now $40). 

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The Saj ball foot roller is like a tiny spiky foam roller for your feet. Drop one on the floor, and roll it against the bottom of your foot for an easy massage. Sure, you can buy them a pedicure, but that lasts for one day. The foot roller lasts a life time!

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More on the topic of slippers you can wear anywhere: sleeping bag slippers. That’s not their real name, but these look like all day sleeping bags you can wear on your feet, and are the ultimate camp/lounge shoe.

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The squatty potty, but only for close family. And maybe not the gift you give at the huge holiday party. 😉

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Smartwool socks, because you know they want some and you also know they would never pay for them!

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A biography of Alexander Hamilton. Here me out: 5 years ago, your dad is the only person you could ever imagine reading a newly released biography of Alexander Hamilton. The magic of the musical Hamilton is that it merges history, a topic well understood by older generations, with pop culture that younger generations are entrenched in. Buy yourself a copy (or watch the Drunk History episode with Lin Manuel Miranda for the condensed version) and discuss the heated relationship of Hamilton and Burr next time you visit.

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Does your dad make his vacation photos the screen saver on the computer? Mine does. Take his photo-bragging game to the next level with a large digital picture frame. This device accepts photos from the user friendly USB plug-in.

A Case Against the Hanger Trick

Or, “Why to Keep Your Clothes.”

Minimalism is in. Big time. And I am all for it! My family identifies me as a wanna-be minimalist. I talk the talk and pretend to cut back, but I will always be a maximalist at heart. I think it’s genetic?

I’ve used the hanger trick. Haven’t heard of it? You turn all of the hangers in your closet backwards. At the end of the season, any seasonal items that haven’t been turned around go. I use this tactic with moderation. It has helped me pass on beloved dresses and shrunken shorts to my sister and friends, and has moved tees and sweaters that I just can’t let go of back into my childhood bedroom (sorry mom!). I was looking at my closet and thinking about flipping those hangers again, but here’s the deal…

I wear work clothes 5 days a week. When I am not in work clothes, I am usually in workout clothes or pajamas. Sometimes, once or twice a week, I put on “real people clothes.” We talk about dual function, but as a teacher I am expected to dress up and dress conservatively, and frankly when I’m out of school and spending time with friends, I want to do anything but. I want to wear comfortable and flattering clothing.

When I’m teaching, I am moving around all day. I wear large, frumpy clothing so that I don’t have to worry about everything staying in place. I sweat and spill coffee and escort sick children out of the room. That’s why I’m wearing baggy sweaters that were on clearance at target. I would like to dress more like myself at work, but in my current environment I feel like I just can’t do that.

The solution: invest in building my personal wardrobe for when I’m out. It is a small selection, and I repeat favorites throughout the whole season, and then some. So, I’m going to hold onto the little black dresses and bright high heels and delicate caftan because one day, on vacation or date night or at a special event or ceremony I will have the perfect excuse to wear it again. So I’m not going to get rid of those nice pieces, even if I haven’t worn them in 6-12 months, and I will buy one or two more. I went to a special work function recently, where I did not have to adhere to uniform, and I threw on an old waffle knit sweater that I used to wear during ceramics class, and may still have patches of dried clay on the sleeves. It was the nicest looking casual top I could find in my closet this morning. (Yikes.)

So here is a call to hold on to those items that let your personality shine through, and make you feel comfortable and happy and like yourself. Because Friday-Sunday, we can get away from our work identity and rediscover the person that brought us there.

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Sweater Wishlist

I have been so cold, lately! I guess the changing of seasons sort of snuck on me. As a result, I’ve been keeping tabs on the sweaters that I want the most… and I can’t afford any of them! I am looking for sweaters that are soft and not itchy, breathable but not flimsy. So, here are the sweaters I wish I had to keep me warm.

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The cashmere crew in donegal is a workhorse I would wear for years.

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I love how this cat print is a neutral and is a wild pattern at the same time.

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This is the emerald knit of my dreams. I have been looking for the perfect chunky/oversized/mossy sweater for years. This looks pretty close.

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This waffle knit looks like it has a little more structure than the sweater above, but… the one above is so fuzzy!!

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I love how slouchy and textured this yellow number is. It would be perfect for wearing on dreary days walking around at the museum.

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Loving the cross-back. My sister has this piece as a part of her going out capsule. How mad would she be if I bought one in the same color…?

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I am completely obsessed with Misha and Puffs popcorn sweater in confetti cake (and other amazing colors), and I can get behind their cause and would love to support the makers but I just cannot swing that price. I could buy a trip to the Caribbean for the cost of that sweater. I could buy all of the sweaters pictured above for that price! In my desperate longing for this unique puffy piece, I found these similar styles:

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A perfect pick for a teacher during the holidays… except that kindergarteners would have a field day with the pom-poms, not to mention my cat!

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This dusty pink one is a little more sophisticated than the festive one above. Both are simplified versions of the Misha & Puff, though, with pom-poms just stuck on the front, not knitted all around. Admittedly, this sweater is the closest to my price point.

 

I’m going to be honest. This post is an excuse for me to save all of my dream sweaters to one page, so that when I have some extra money to spend, I can go for it. Do you have a favorite sweater that never fails? There seem to be strong opinions about fabric and how great merino and cashmere are in the case against acrylic. What do you think?

Related: Fall Outfits in Three Moods

Engage

What is your favorite holiday? I think mine is Halloween. I hope you had a great one, full of spooks and treats. I have been feeling a little slow and dreary lately, and have definitely been dragging my feet here on the blog, with a pitiful 8 posts for the month of October! Thanks for sticking with me. I love this page, and want to keep building the momentum we’ve gained since its origin in March.

October was themed “discovery.” My words on the month were,

“October brings the first brisk bites of fall weather, with the accompanying sense of opportunity. It is a time of year that people consume all sorts of flavors we neglect the rest of the year: apple, pumpkin, nutmeg, mace, squash! The same goes for color and texture. The other day I bought goldenrod high heels and a royal blue velvet clutch. Granted, the purchases were for a specific wedding outfit, but the color and texture were so unlike me! I think I caught a little bit of this autumn influence.”

Ways I was an explorer in my own world:

-I did in fact wear those goldenrod heels and royal blue velvet clutch to the wedding. It was quite a statement. People were referring to me as “the girl in yellow shoes.”

-I tried something very intimidating and started teaching my middle school students how to play guitar. I also taught my intermediate students a Halloween dance that they performed today. And all of it was… okay. It’s been going well. So trying new things pays off.

-I have made a new habit shift and am not snacking incessantly every night. Tip for others trying to limit their snacks: turn the tv off. Find something else to do. I am playing music while I work tonight, and it provides comfort and company without encouraging me to check out for an hour. Rather, I feel more engaged.

-As frustrating as it has been, I have put a hold on personal spending so that I can provide health care for myself and my cat (who is having a hard time lately), so that I can kill my leftover summer debt, and so that I can by that stock I want and start an money market account. Most difficult, I am committing to a summer job, which will turn my normally blissful hot summer days into… a job.

As I look ahead to November, I am thinking of overused words like “self-care” and “presence.” Not that these aren’t important, but it feels like everyone is talking about it and no one is doing it? What do those things even mean? There is a spa down the street from my climbing gym, but the money I would spend there could buy me two personal training sessions. Is the gym my self care? I am so tired after climbing late at night. Should I be relaxing at home instead? But does that really make me feel better??

Those words are too vague to use as my theme, because I need clear direction in these long and dark months. So, my mantra for the month, both here and guiding my everyday practices, will be engage. I strive to be engaged in each task I commit to, and engaged in my life. At work, in my exercises, while I make music, with my partner, with my family. There are a lot of fun and loving ways to connect that I strive to practice this November.

Happy Halloween!
-K

 

The October Roundup:
Wake Me Up When September Ends?
Discovery
Reflections and Intentions
Fall Outfits in Three Moods
Four Things
Weekend Update
The Mysteries and Thrillers My Friends Recommend
The Day After Friday the 13th

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The Day After Friday the 13th

I spent Friday the 13th on a walking ghost tour of Chicago. Walking through the dark and brisk city, imagining a time when fires and 20 feet rivers could wipe out hundreds of people had a hollowing and thrilling effect. Old Chicago legends were debunked and rebunked, and if you’ve ever been on a ghost tour you know what I mean by that. I was familiar with a few stories, including the murder house of H. H. Holmes, because of the brilliant podcast, Lore. These folklore tales are always based in history and documented accounts, but are designed to stimulate your imagination.

Imagine my delight when, on this extremely dark and rainy Saturday the 14th, I discovered that the new Lore tv show was released yesterday! I watched the first episode this morning, and it is the perfect Halloween-season show. I’m all about a terrifying episode of American Horror Story, but Lore is great because it is based in fact, does not exaggerate the already awful events being recounted, and can be watched alone. I can’t really watch American Horror Story or even Black Mirror on my own in the evening because I get freaked out. Lore just made me really really curious. It made me think things like ‘oh my god nighttime before electricity was so scary!’ Back then, if it was windy outside, your candle might go out and you are already afraid of sickness/death/ghosts/demons etc. It’s kind of like the haunted version of drunk history?

Our tour guide described our ghost tour as a moving campfire. We took our spooky stories to the road! The Lore podcast has always been that for me, oral history and scary stories to accompany late night drives. Now these chilly tales will be even better enjoyed from my warm apartment with a cup of hot cider in my hands.

 

 

The Mysteries and Thrillers My Friends Recommend

Approaching the beginning of October, I reached out on Facebook to find all novels thriller and mystery. I love these genres but have barely scratched the surface! I was excited for the variety of recommendations my Facebook friend gave, and it was fun to see which books resonated with different people. So, courtesy of my acquaintances new and old, here is our October reading list.

All things Agatha Christie
-Lee

It seems one can’t go wrong with Agatha Christie. I have not yet approached these standards of murder mystery! I found this Amazon author’s page helpful in exploring my options with Christie. Do you have a favorite book of hers?

Gillian Flynn: Sharp Objects and Dark Places
-Sara

We’ve all ready Gone Girl, right? I guess I finished the book and just sort of forgot about the author. I enjoyed the book, although sometimes all of the hype before the story leaves me a little let down after I finally finish it. One quality I like about these stories is how the truth of the crime stares you in the face the entire time, but the events throughout the story fill you with self-doubt. The answer to the mystery somehow sneaks up on you!

Gaslight Mysteries
-Christa

This murder mystery series has a midwife as a main character. Any time there is a midwife, you can expect a female centered plot. Bonus: the title of each book has “Murder” as the first word.

Double recommendation for Child 44
-Sara, seconded by Rikky

This Child 44 Trilogy must be incredible. The comment section below this recommendation left few details, just a strong insistence that I must read it. There is also a movie? Somehow this is my first time hearing about the books or movie!

Darkly Dreaming Dexter
-Sean

Amazon tells me that devout fans of the show might not love the books. But then again, most people who read a book first always hate the tv version. A freaky book to get you in the Halloween spirit.

Final Girls
-Kate

Kate says “I just finished Final Girls and it was the best book I’ve read in 2017. There were so many wonderful twists and turns. I had no idea whodunit until they revealed it. I read a lot of mystery and thriller so I like to think I’m good at this. Trust me you will enjoy it. It’s the perfect end of summer, beginning of Halloween season read. If you read it lemme know your thoughts!! I’ve been dying to talk about it.” I’m sold.

Tony and Anne Hillerman Books
-Bethany

These books will transport you to the stillness of the west and the sinister mood of not knowing who in your small, close-knit community can be trusted. This police procedural models the inefficiency of “the system,” and the need to keep your bits about you at all times. I ready Skinwalkers just after moving back from out west, and the spooky superstitions are told with the candidness any Navajo will tell these tales with.

 

 

 

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, or, On the Segregation of the Queen
-My recommendation

A Mary Russell novel, the first book of this series introduces Sherlock Holmes and his partner, not sidekick, but partner in solving mystery. I retired-ish Holmes takes on only cases than interest him, and starts the novel guiding and teaching Ms. Russell. By the end, she is able to keep up, and even wins a few matches of chess against the infallible Sherlock.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Series
-My recommendation

The Millennium trilogy is by far my favorite series of books I have ever read. Larson’s writing is captivating, and the main character Salander is such a badass. If you enjoyed the movie, Swedish or English, trust me, you won’t be able to put these books down. I do like the new books, continuing the series under a different pen. They don’t have quite the same impact on me as the originals, though.

All of Ruth Ware’s books
-Recommended by Sara and seconded by me!

I have become such an intense fan of Ruth Ware and everything that she has written. I loved “In a Dark, Dark, Wood,” but I was addicted to “The Woman in Cabin 10.” Ware’s characters are ferociously independent, but the events that lead them to risk are so relatable. A bachelorette party, a work trip, a high school reunion. We all pretty much do all of those things at some point, and they are usually considered safe and pleasant experiences. After finishing “The Woman in Cabin 10,” the gruesome murder of Kim Wall was discovered. I couldn’t get over it because I had just finished this book and been living in the mindset of the protagonist, a journalist who is kidnapped my a murderous owner of the ship. Ruth Ware’s books are almost too real.

 

Thanks to all of the recommendations, friends! Do you have any favorites that I missed?

 

Related: A Collection of Book Lists
Related: True Crime

Weekend Update

I know, I know. “Weekend Update” is already taken. I’m using it (for now, at least) to introduce my new beginning-of-the-week posts. Moving from Reflections and Intentions to something that requires me to be more thoughtful and genuine with all of you. 

What I Did

I wore this alpine meadows outfit at a wedding. Apparently I became semi-famous as “the girl in the yellow shoes.”

Speaking of the wedding, we stayed in the most beautiful hotel that had a curved, purple velvet chair. I read this book front to end in that chair (and on the plane). Adding a curved, purple velvet chair to my dream apartment list.

I began the first of several administrative updates to my blog. I am hoping to expand in many ways, including affiliate links in my holiday posts, which will help me divert more time and attention to those details. I would also like to open up The Wonder Of to guest submissions. More news to come!

What I’m Going to Do

Go on a ghost tour of Chicago with some awesome friends! Even better, we are going on Friday the 13th! I am excited for this spooky evening.

Teach guitar to middle school kids??? Keep me in your thoughts.

Pay my debts and plan for the holidays. If I get those things cleared now, I should be stress-free by December. I think. I hope. Planning to give you a peek into my holiday travel arrangements, including details on multi-city flight bookings, and a top secret update about some of TSA’s newest changes.

Related: 

Discovery

Fall Outfits in Three Moods

Four Things

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Four Things

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I think everyone should try their own Face the Foliage project in the spirit of changing leaves and all things fall. What a good opportunity to take a mindful walk and make art.

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This sweet potato round-up is seriously good. I’m between these tempting noodles with cashew sauce (?!) and the sweet potato peanut stew. Yeah. Sweet potato peanut stew.

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My next read, if only to watch the movie after.

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I can’t stop watching these mesmerizing animations of Nigerian hairstyles. What a cool art project.