Wear It Well Wednesday: Striped Shirt + Scarf

The day I donned this outfit, the predicted high temp here in Fort Collins was only 68 degrees. To this Florida woman, that’s a genuinely cool temperature. When we left the apartment this morning (first to exchange a 23-pound bag of aluminum cans for cash at the recycling center), the temperature was only at 60 degrees, and Woodrow declared, “It’s like the coldest day in Orlando!” Not quite, but it was refreshing indeed.

This is not the outfit I necessarily would have selected to haul around aluminum cans that the boys (along with some parental assistance) have been collecting. But we had a few errands to run, and a birthday party later in the afternoon. So the clothes I put on this morning needed to last all day. Plus, I wore the same tank top and skirt 3 days last week, so it was time for a fresh outfit.

scarf striped shirt upper body

Let me break it down:  One of my sisters-in-law passed these jeans on to me {you’ve seen them in a WIWW post before}. The striped shirt came from the give-away table at Mike’s office. He picked it up just before we left for the summer, and I brought it along–hoping I’d have the opportunity to wear it in Colorado. Today I did! The scarf is one of our recent yard sale purchases, at only a quarter.

The neck wear is, I believe, called an infinity scarf. I wasn’t exactly sure how to arrange it on myself, so when a woman stopped me at the grocery store today to remark on how this goldenrod shade is her favorite color, I stopped her. “I don’t really know how to wear this kind of scarf. Is this right? Is this how it’s done?” I asked. She affirmed that it was and also explained another way she wore hers, although I didn’t quite follow the explanation. But I love getting compliments on cheap purchases and hand-me-down pieces!

striped shirt and scarf

And here’s a full-length shot, showing my nearly-ubiquitous cowboy boots, a gift from my parents that keeps on giving. You can’t see the hand-me-down barrette (from my mama–now that my short haircut from January is growing out, I need to have hair doo-dads to hold it back) and the hand-me-down socks inside the boots. The whole outfit:  just 25 cents, the price of the second-hand scarf.

I biked with the boys to and from the Colorado State University campus wearing this outfit today, and I give it thumbs up for bike-ability. P.S. Even my bike helmet is second-hand–an extra that my husband had years ago. But don’t expect to see a WIWW post featuring me with a helmet on my head. 

We bought a couple more scarves, each for a quarter, at the same yard sale where we got this one; maybe I’ll put together more outfits with some of those scarves soon!

 

Something New Saturday: Chocolate Sourdough Bread

I first discovered chocolate sourdough bread (also known as sourdough noir) in a novel my friend Meg gave me for my birthday this past January. I’d never heard of it until I read about it in the pages of Stones for BreadAnd I determined that I would bake it.

As the name implies, it’s bread (not cake) so it’s not as sweet as a typical dessert. The recipe included in the novel (and one that I found online) called for dried fruits as well as chocolate and baking cocoa, along with sugar. I used mixed dried berries for our loaf.

I’ve made sourdough bread for years–just the plain kind which I bake from scratch using a homemade sourdough starter. We use this bread for sandwiches, French toast, and everything in between. Even homemade croutons. I also brought my big jar of starter out here to Colorado with us–which took some amount of care, let me tell you. Sourdough noir, however, is anything but plain. It’s also a good deal more complicated in how it’s made, as compared to the regular sourdough bread that I bake by rote at this point.

sour dough noir
Finished product:  chocolate sourdough bread.

I liked the results, and the boys really enjoyed it, too–we toasted slices of it for breakfast and snacks. Smeared with some Kerrygold butter, it tasted delectable. I do plan to make it again. Next time, I’ll use semi-sweet chocolate chips, instead of a bar of dark chocolate broken into bits.

chocolate sourdough with butter

Since we’ve been in Colorado, I’ve even used my sourdough starter to make pizza dough. It was moderately successful, but I’m keen to try again–just as I am with the sourdough noir. 

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”
James Beard

Embracing with Faith our Summer Re-location

One thing I appreciate about living in Colorado:  There are no lizards. I can leave the front door of our apartment open when the weather is mild and never worry that I’ll find lizards running around the floors (or inside our shoes) later in the day. This spring–back in Orlando–I found a little lizard in our kitchen sink. I can’t count how many times I’ve almost tripped trying to avoid stepping on a lizard in our driveway or on the sidewalk. But I’ve never seen a lizard in Colorado. Also:  No fire ants. NO FIRE ANTS! Those are parts of Florida I don’t mind leaving behind for the summer.

Colorado offers beauty, adventure, outdoor fun galore. It’s also not home. It’s not the place where I do life. I do like to travel–as in, pack bags, go someplace for a visit, and then come home. {I actually like living overseas more than I enjoy travel, but there again, one puts down some roots and establishes a life if making a home in that place, wherever that place may be.} But this is more than–different than–travel. It’s packing up our house for a summer renter. It’s packing our family’s belongings to be away for over 2 months. It’s asking questions:  Do I pack the crock pot, or buy one at Goodwill when we get out there? How many dish towels should I pack? Will our tenant take care of our plants for the summer? 

frames

It’s also recognizing that we’ll be away from our church for 11 Sundays. ELEVEN. Another question:  How can we connect with people there–especially when we know hardly anybody there–if we’re not THERE? 

And it’s work. So. Much. Work. Imagine giving your entire house a spring clean to prep it for a person who’s going to pay (a modest amount) to live there, while simultaneously packing lots of boxes to be shipped out to Colorado for your family (along with suitcases and school supplies, since our home school year didn’t end until mid-June) AND continuing with normal life chores. Baking cupcakes for the Cub Scout den party and prepping for our end-of-year home-school evaluations, for instance. You know how busy the month of May can be for families, what with all the end-of-school-year functions? Yeah, like that. Plus readying my home for the house sitter AND getting all four of us packed to travel cross-country and plant ourselves in a new place for the summer–long enough to be more than a trip, but too short to consider that we’ve moved to a new home.

cupcakes with sprinkles

But here we are. End-of-year festivities and responsibilities have been fulfilled. We live in a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment this summer–instead of our 3-bedroom, 2-bath house in Orlando. Less housework is required, and the weather is delightful. I mean, there is NO humidity. The city of Fort Collins is a cool, interesting place to be. Our boys are making friends with other Cru kids, and the pool is just steps from our door (although the water has been far too cold for me so far). There’s a community gas grill that Mike has used multiple times already, enjoying a working grill since we actually moved our broken gas grill to our new home in 2015 and still haven’t fixed it. He’s missed grilling and is making up for that by grilling everything from corn on the cob and tomatoes to chicken and pork chops.

We’ve hiked, biked, fished, played, taken advantage of the plethora of summer yard sales out here. I got a small tape measure for a nickel–just 5 cents–that I’m using as I sew more quilt tops while we’re here.

There’s much to appreciate in this place where I’ve spent the summers of 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and now 2017. And even with my horrible sense of direction, I’ve lived here enough months collectively that I remember how to get many places without using GPS.

But there’s still struggle, transition–the boys have their own, and I have my own, and I must help them navigate theirs. Conducting school out here, even at a slower pace, has been really difficult. I don’t have a specific summer job to do with our ministry out here, as my husband does. I still edit ministry stories on a minimal basis, the role I fill normally with Cru. But I don’t have a niche to fill out here; my real purpose in being out here is so our family can be together for the summer while Mike serves in his summer role. That’s more struggle.

And yet, since we’re planted here for the summer, I want to bloom here for the summer. In early May, I wrote in my journal, Lord, thank you for whatever our summer holds. My desire, my hope, is to embrace by faith whatever God has for us–and for me–this summer. I want to have the heart to receive with grace what He gives.

picnic tea set

What He’s given so far (besides that crazy cheap tape measure):  On the way out to Colorado, I spoke at my sister’s church about the Luo Pad program (led by Cru’s humanitarian ministry, GAiN), a cause close to my heart. The women who attended responded with great interest in sewing Luo Pads as an ongoing project. What a treat that I got to do some public speaking–which I love but rarely get to do–and that I got to share about a ministry opportunity that meets tangible needs as an expression of God’s love. I’ve also had a chance to help a mom with a Cru conference job here who’s needed an extra hand.

luo pad chalk board

There’s more summer to come, and I’m hopeful that God will continue to give me grace to take hold of all that He ushers into my time here in Colorado. I want to remember that EVERY DAY counts. This is not a season of simply marking time until we arrive back in Orlando in early August; these are days of living by faith, living out my faith. Embracing it with faith.

 

 

 

Something New Saturday: Homemade Dog Chew Toys

Back during Advent, when our family sought to give a gift a day, we tried a new project with old t-shirts:  dog chew toys. We gave the toys to friends with pets and also took several on our Christmas travels to share with family members who are dog owners.

The process was one that we did as a family–but the boys learned to create these on their own, as well. In fact, in a knapsack back in their closet at home, they have fabric pieces awaiting transformation into more dog chew toys. Both boys envision making a little side business out of these efforts.

five dog chew toys
Our first batch of chew toys last December:  blue, gray, and white t-shirts knotted and braided together.

Besides t-shirts, the only other tool needed to make these is a pair of scissors. We cut off the shirt sleeves and then cut the shirts into strips. We knotted together 9 strips at one end–three sections of 3 fabric strips each–and then proceeded to braid the sections. (Tip:  The tighter you make the braid, the better.) It helps if one person holds down the knot while another person does the braiding. Then knot the ends, and you have a toy. We also snipped off sections that hung longer than the other strips once we had a finished product.

Here’s a link to instructions for the DIY dog chew toy (slightly different than the ones we used). Besides presenting these as gifts to pet-owning friends and family or selling them, these toys might make great donations to animal shelters–as a project for your family, church group, Scout troop, etc.

The act of creating is always a joy. From my family to yours, may you have tons o’ fun with whatever you create this summer.

 

Wear It Well Wednesday: Summer Travels + Road Trip Survival Tips

It’s been over a week since we left home, beginning our trip out to Colorado for the summer. We’ve visited with family, caught a bit of time with a friend over BBQ and ice cream (I was in her wedding; she was in mine), watched my boys play long and hard with their cousins. We also set aside a day to experience the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport, Mississippi…not far from my hometown.

The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center was birthed out of my aunt Carole Lynn’s desire to honor her daughter–my cousin–Lynn, who passed away as a college freshman. Aunt Carole Lynn’s labor of love produced a top-notch, hands-on destination for kids. While exploring the outdoor attractions of the Discovery Center–including some impressive tree houses–we snapped this shot of my latest Wear It Well Wednesday ensemble:

allison at lynn meadows discovery center

All of the above consists of hand-me-downs:  The peachy/coral tank came from the give-away table at Mike’s office. Both the shorts and light blue-almost lavender short-sleeved cardigan arrived in a box of cast-offs from friend and ministry supporter Vivian in Texas. I kept these 2 pieces from her for myself. This is one of the outfits I will don over and over this summer while away from home. We tried to pack minimally; nonetheless, our van is stuffed to the rafters.

Speaking of traveling and road-tripping…I like to shake up the routine from time to time, but getting our entire family to Colorado for the summer, trying to establish a sense of rooted-ness and a sense of home in an apartment that is not ours, is challenging. For over a week now, I’ve felt the limbo that comes from living out of a suitcase (or duffel bag, to be exact). So I wanted to share a few of my road trip survival tips:

colored pencil set

  1. Books. I brought the first book in the Andrew Peterson Wingfeather Saga series (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness) that I borrowed from my sister. I’ve been reading this aloud to the boys while we drive. We also downloaded several audio books in the Boxcar Children series–thanks, Hoopla!–to entertain the boys, too.
  2. Hug your children. On a normal day, I hug the boys almost hourly–especially Garfield, whose love language is probably physical touch. Apart from hugs, we also wrestle (by trying to pull each other off the bed); I give piggy back rides; sometimes Garfield even sits in my lap for school work. When they spend days playing non-stop with cousins–or we spend days riding in separate seats in our van–we rarely get our usual cuddle time/play time/wrestle time with each other. So I take advantage of moments to hug them when I can; it helps us stay connected.
  3. Floss your teeth. Nothing is “normal” when on the road, including our eating. Eating out then is more for calories than fun, and I start to feel I cannot make one more decision about where to stop for lunch. I can’t provide made-from-scratch, whole-food dishes for myself or my family when we’re in a different place from day to day, but I can take care of myself in other ways. Like flossing my teeth. I can at least do that, and it gives me a small sense of accomplishment that I’ve done something good. 
  4. Move when you can. Not only is our eating anything but normal, I’m not working out with any regularity, either. Self-care takes more discipline while traveling with family in tow–and I honestly don’t have the time for work-outs right now–but I can do something. I can walk with Garfield around a restaurant while we wait for our food. I can do some calf raises, squats, stretching in a corner of the hotel room before bed. Even a little bit of movement helps me feel healthier.
  5. Drink loads of water. Eating not-so-well and not getting enough fresh air or exercise already, I try to consume plenty of water. Especially at altitude.
  6. Make time to have solitude. It’s unrealistic to expect abundant alone time while visiting family and road-tripping cross country. That’s not really the point, after all. But if you’re an introvert, like me, you’ll probably enjoy your family more (and they will DEFINITELY enjoy you more) if you can carve out a bit of time to be alone and recharge. One night while at my sister and brother-in-law’s home, I went to bed about an hour early so I could pray, write in my journal, and reflect on some Scripture verses. I went to sleep refreshed and at peace.
  7. Elderberry syrupI buy homemade elderberry syrup crafted by a woman in the Orlando area. We take a spoonful a day as preventive medicine because elderberries are very high in anti-oxidants. I ordered a special batch from Julie, who makes this syrup using raw honey and organic elderberries, so that we’d have a little immune booster in the midst of all the junk food we’ll consume while on the road.

Hopefully, the next time I post we’ll have finished our 4 nights of hotel stays (and 7 nights with various family members) and will be settled into our summer apartment. Enjoy your Wednesday, dear readers!

My Selling Experience with thredUP Online Consignment

For nearly a year, my women’s group (formerly called Women of Vision) has raised funds to support gospel-centered humanitarian work around the world. Our upcoming project stays closer to home, though–we’re raising money to purchase disposable diapers for the families who receive services at the Orlando Union Rescue Mission.

One way we’ve earned cash for these giving projects is by selling clothing–mostly at brick-and-mortar consignment stores. But at the end of last year–New Year’s Eve, to be exact–I filled a bag near to bursting and mailed it to thredUP, a consignment shop selling items online.

After taking armloads of clothing, shoes, and accessories to Style Encore (a national consignment store chain with 2 locations in Orlando) in December, I took what remained and re-sorted it to determine what I might ship to thredUP. Good:  They accept clothes that are older than what Style Encore will buy. Also good:  ThredUP lists all the brands they accept (such as J Crew, Gap, Express, much more), so I could check on their website before I included a certain item in the bag.

It took over an hour to check each item against their list of accepted brands, but I was willing to invest the time–especially since this fundraising effort cost us nothing. After sorting and organizing, I filled the bag I’d requested from them. Good:  ThredUP sends the shipping bag to you for free, and then you get to ship it back to them for free. I got that bag slap full, in hopes of making more money for our group’s efforts.

thred-up-bag
Full thredUP bag ready for shipping. Cute polka dots, no?

Within a few days, I received an email message confirming that my bag had been delivered. In a few weeks, I got a message with the results of the processing they did of the bag’s contents.  Several items they accepted upfront and offered an amount for those (buying those items from me outright in order to sell them on their site). Fourteen more items they agreed to consign–meaning they would sell the items on their site on my behalf. They would make a profit, and I would receive a portion of the sale, too.

As items sold, I received a message informing me of each sale. (Another good.) With each sale, though, there was a waiting period before I could cash out (not so good). And they set a time limit on how long my items would remain for sale on their site, which is typical for any company or store that agrees to consign items on a seller’s behalf.

When the time began to run out on my consignment items, I logged in and lowered the prices–they give that option (good). I currently have $29.85 in my account–which could be used to purchase pieces on their site. I’m choosing to cash out {obviously}, which means I request the money be sent to me rather than spending it at thredUP. Two options for this:  Have the funds sent to a PayPal account, which charges 2% in fees. OR have it transferred to a Visa gift card, which carries no fees. I chose that option.

toilet planter
Something good where you least expect it…

Now, if you’ve been following the time line, you’ll notice that, from start to finish, this process spanned about 4 and 1/2 months. If you need to raise some fast cash and have some nicer, newer clothes to sell, this is probably not the method for you. I do believe it’s worth it for what we’re trying to accomplish, but this procedure does require some patience. If you are willing to wait, however, you might find this a pleasantly surprising way to turn some unwanted pieces into a bit of mad money. ThredUP also sells children’s clothing, so you might go that route, as well.

You have the option to request your items be returned to you if they are not bought, but that will cost you. Otherwise–and this is good–the unwanted pieces are donated.

By selling clothes and other items that dropped in my lap free of charge–from friends and family–our group will pocket over $29 to assist in our diaper-buying efforts. All it cost me was time. This selling option gave us money that we wouldn’t otherwise have raised. For that, I’m thankful, and I’d be willing to do it again.

 

 

4 Things I Learn from Being a One-Car Family

Today, for the first time in well over a week, I went to the grocery store. My husband’s car pool situation didn’t work so well this week, and he had to drive by himself each day. He elected to work from home today {Friday}.With access to our van, I could therefore drive to the store so I could restock the fridge and pantry.

In March, we celebrated–and I do mean celebrated–5 years of functioning as a one-car family of 4. Half a decade! For families in larger cities, where public transit is more available, this might not seem such a feat. For other families, managing a household with 2 drivers and 2 children but only one car sounds unreasonable. But we do, and (for the most part) we do it well.

boys catching wind
The boys catching a breeze in the backyard one day.

This all started in the fall of 2011, thanks in part to many of the books I’d been reading–from works by the well-known Christian author Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President:  Politics for Ordinary Radicals and The Irresistible Revolution, to a book called Radical Homemaking:  Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by author Shannon Hayes. [Side bar:  I cannot recommend Radical Homemaking highly enough! It’s NOT a feel-good book about decorating and entertaining as a happy wife. It IS a manifesto of sorts about the value of being a producer more than a consumer, and how “homemaking” frees us up to do that.]

I was yearning to simplify our lives in radical ways. By driving less, I knew we could accomplish that:  less money spent on car insurance, upkeep, gasoline, tolls; less pollution contributed to the environment. That fall, I began praying that my husband would come on board with the idea of being a one-car family. At that time, we had a small 4-door car and a mini-van. I stayed at home with the boys, and many days the van simply sat in the parking lot of our townhouse complex. I didn’t broach the topic with Mike so much as I mentioned, once in a while, what the benefits might be of ridding ourselves of a vehicle. And I kept praying.

Months later, as I again offered my thoughts of how we could probably get by with one car, Mike showed interest. He’d been considering it. We had a thorough conversation about it, and we agreed to give it a go. We sold the mini-van and kept our Hyundai Elantra. In case you don’t know, this model of car is small. But I loved driving it! It was peppy. It got totaled in a wreck in 2014 (no worries; the boys and I were fine, and Mike wasn’t with us at the time), and I still miss that little car that the boys had named Gray-ie. (Our silver van was named Sylvia; our current mini-van, purchased after the Elantra was totaled, is white. The boys named it Igloo. I never get a say in these things.)

air boat ride
Waiting for an air boat ride almost 5 years ago.

My plan (casual comments and lots of prayer) had worked! Incidentally, I tried the same tactic a couple of years ago regarding getting rid of our TV–to no avail. Let it be a reminder to me that prayer is not a magic formula, and that my husband is NOT EXACTLY like me.

In these past 5 years, I’ve been learning some lessons from this one-car lifestyle. Here are 4 of them:

  1. Living a simple life requires intention. Simple living isn’t synonymous with “easy” living. In our middle-class, North American culture, one must be deliberate about saying “no” to the never-ending influx of stuff. In terms of vehicle ownership, we’ve also had to be intentional with planning:  car pools, schedules, dentist appointments. Once Mike had to leave the boys’ soccer practice early to get to a Cub Scout leaders’ meeting. He took the car, while I stayed at the park and fished with the boys after practice concluded until he came back to pick us up. There are many instances where one of us drops off the other (with or without children, depending on the event) and comes back later to pick that spouse up. We have to be committed to figuring things out in order to make this work.

    wilson and calvin on floor in pallet
    The boys (AKA Woodrow and Garfield) enjoying their living room fort years ago.
  2. Being interdependent on one another is good. And it’s not the same as being dependent. Choosing to own only one vehicle means that there are times when we need to ask for help. Whether it’s Mike’s talking with co-workers about carpooling (which typically benefits both parties) to sometimes asking for a ride or even borrowing a friend’s extra car after Gray-ie got totaled but before we bought Igloo, we sometimes find ourselves needing to seek out others’ help. You know what? That’s how the life of Christ-followers is meant to be lived.

    We seem to value individualism and independence so greatly in our society that we often do almost anything to avoid putting ourselves in the position of needing. But the early church didn’t seem to live this way:  Acts 2:44-45:  “44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”

    Every person within the body of Christ both has something significant to offer as well as a need to receive what others can offer. Sometimes our family simply needs a friend who will drive my husband home from work or drop off Woodrow at Boy Scouts.

    And what can we offer? In late February, a homeless mom and her 2 daughters stayed with us for 3 days while they transitioned from a shelter to an extended-stay hotel. I did their laundry, gave the mom a pair of my underwear (she had only one), and drove her to and from work on a Saturday. On that Sunday, I babysat her 2 children–one of whom was sick–while she worked, and Mike drove her to and from work. I can offer my home, my time, my decent abilities at cooking to provide a meal… Philippians 2:4…do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Friends and fellow Christ-followers do this for us, and we do it for others, too.

    boys rain boots

  3. Living according to my convictions and priorities is worth the work. I studied Environmental Biology in college, primarily because I loved God’s creation and believed this reflection of His beauty and creativity should be protected, that caring for the world He made also helped care for the people He created. So it matters to me how my family lives on God’s green earth. Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it…” I believe He holds us accountable to that. How are we treating His earth? 
  4. We do what we can. I can’t do everything, so I do what I can. Do you know the story of Katie Davis, from her book Kisses for Katie? In her own words, this very young woman quit her comfortable life, moved to Uganda, and began serving there:  teaching school, adopting orphans, caring for the sick. I read her book in my late 30’s and felt the longing that it stirred in my own soul. But I can’t quit my life as it stands now. I can’t drop everything and move to a developing nation, unless God leads our family to do so. Instead of daydreaming about what I might do, I try to pay attention to what I CAN do. We CAN survive and even thrive with one car, saving money which frees us up to give more generously, causing a bit less pollution in our world. We do what we can.

    Fellow Christ-followers, how might God’s Spirit be tugging at your heart to take a step of faith in living simply–in doing what you can? I’d love to hear your thoughts because I love being inspired by others.