Thursday, February 11, 2016

4 Facts Survey

My new friend Jackie, of My (Sort of) Adult Life, nominated me to answer a few "getting to know you" type questions in the Four Facts survey :-)  Reminds me of the old MySpace surveys (remember?), so yay for a throwback!

Four names people call me other than my real name: 
  • Kat - sometimes my sister, mostly me when I'm scolding myself.  As in, "Get it together, Kat."  No clue why I don't just call myself Katie!
  • Momma Bear -  Ethan and I have taken to calling each other Momma Bear and Papa Bear lately :-)
  • Sweetie - (also: honey, sometimes baby) 
  • Aunt Katie - literally the only other thing I can think of that people call me.  I've never really had nicknames!!  Anyone want to give me one? ;-)

Four jobs I've had:
  • Substitute teacher - from 6th grade through high school, for several districts.  Loved it!
  • Jewelry instructor - at a national craft store chain... loved teaching, was not a fan of the whole corporate thing... 
  • Security officer - at an all-but-dead mall in my hometown.  I usually worked the Saturday night-into-Sunday morning midnight shift.  Most people looked at 5'3" me in my uniform and tall trooper hat and laughed.  
  • Candy Striper - yeah, this was volunteer, but it was hands down the best "job" ever!  I did it for five years, and made sooo many great friends and a ton of great memories. 

Four movies I've watched more than once (I tend to rewatch a LOT of movies, so these are some of my most-watched):
  • Star Wars.  (The six oldest ones, anyway).  My dad got me hooked when I was little, and I watched the old trilogy enough to memorize them... then the prequels came out... memorized those, too.  Then I met Ethan, and finished a quote he started over a meal he'd made me... made him fall in love with me right then and there ;-)  Star Wars has been good to me ;-)
  • Legally Blonde - whoever said orange is the new pink, was SERIOUSLY disturbed.
  • Miss Congeniality - S.I.N.G!
  • Mamma Mia - This movie is seriously my insta-happy!  Like Wellbutrin in video form ;-) And Meryl Streep is the bomb! 

Four books (or authors) I'd recommend:
  • The Princess by Lori Wick - Just a sweet, feel-good Christian romance novel... not even super-unique, but it's one of my favorites :-) 
  • Just about anything by Philippa Gregory - I love historical fiction from the Tudor period :-)
  • The Witness Wore Red - Women who find the strength to escape toxic or dangerous situations are awesome.
  • Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland - ditto above ;-)

Four places I've lived: 
  • Middletown, OH - hometown.
  • Oxford, OH - college town (Love and Honor!)
  • Carlisle, OH - newlywed town
  • Anderson, SC - brief (1.5 year) adventure for Ethan's job before coming home!

Four places I've visited:
  • Gatlinburg/Sevierville/Pigeon Forge, TN - Ethan's side's favorite vacation spot
  • Mediterranean - Nice, Cannes, Rome, Vatican City, Florence, Pisa, Sorrento, Amalfi, Naples... on our honeymoon.
  • Paris, France - 3 day "layover" on our way home from our honeymoon.  (Included a day trip to Normandy and the D-Day beaches!)

Four things I'd rather be doing right now: (Honestly... nothing... I'm playing around online, blogging, watching a movie, hanging out with my wonderful husband, and eating.  I'm fairly content at the moment! So... four of my other favorite things to do...)
  • Driving back roads with the windows down and Reba or Garth turned up!
  • Baking
  • Getting a massage
  • Sleeping

Four things I prefer not to eat:
  • Pickles - I may be the only mother in the world who made through an entire pregnancy without eating or wanting a single pickle. 
  • Mustard
  • Onions
  • Peppers

Four of my FAVORITE foods: 
  • Bacon cheeseburger 
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Sour/fruity candy

Four TV shows I watch:
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Brooklyn-99
  • You, Me, and the Apocalypse
  • Jane the Virgin 

Four things I'm looking forward to this year:
  • Abbie's and Sam's first birthday!  And all the exciting planning that goes along with it!
  • My first 29th birthday ;-)   
  • Hopefully meeting my bloggy bestie in person and getting a biggggg hug!
  • My other bestie hopefully visiting this summer?

Four things I'm always saying:
  • "People are crazy."  - Am I right?
  • "Ow." - I'm a hopeless klutz ;-)
  • "Dude." - Because sometimes, that's all you CAN say.
  • "They're so YUMMY!" - My kids are delicious. 
Four bloggers I tag to do this:
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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

3 More Voices on Relationships and Social Media (Continuing the Conversation)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post about social media and hypersensitivity... today, I wanted to follow up on that a bit and share some posts by other bloggers who are also thinking about some of the things I talked about in my original post :-)

Lindsay at It's Simply Lindsay wrote about how to respond to negativity with kindness.  I was challenged by it...  I try to be a kind person, but it sure isn't easy sometimes!  She reminds us of all the reasons why this is such an important and valuable skill to learn.

Annie at The Free and Wild Blog shared this, about the generation who put down their phones.  I feel like maybe some of her points are a little bit overstated (although not necessarily untrue), but it's compelling and an interesting read. :-) Check it out and see what you think :-)

Emma at The Happy Journal wrote a very heartfelt post about considering what you post and being positive on social media.  I'd be interested to read your thoughts on this... personally, I have shared a lot of struggles and "darker" feelings around my depression, infertility, etc, and I've done so out of a desire to relate, connect, and hopefully encourage.  I don't regret it, and I have no plans to do what she did, although I greatly respect her actions and the epiphany that led to them :-)  

I love that there's room for all kinds of very different approaches to the way we handle and utilize social media, and that not one of these approaches is a one-size-fits-all solution or template for everybody. 
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Monday, February 1, 2016

Illustrated Faith: First Few Pages (Matthew, Exodus, 1 Samuel)

This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on it and make a purchase, it will not cost you any extra, but I'll make a teeny bit of money from it.  Thanks!

I have been following the Illustrated Faith movement with great interest for a few months, and I got my first journaling Bible for Christmas! I've done a few pages, and while I am nowhere near as artistically inclined as lots of the other people who do this, that's not really what it's about :-) 

Here are a few of my favorites... I'm doing favorite memory verses and also hoping to start journaling passages used in our pastor's sermons.

My first pages <3  A story I can relate to, a cry I remember well... and a happy ending I'm thankful I can also claim <3

Fun fact: the music is roughly Amazing Grace.  Very roughly, because I didn't feel like messing with all the lines ;-) Another fun fact: I haven't touched watercolors since elementary school... haha!
Maybe my favorite... this speaks to my tired new mom, anxious, PPD, etc heart. Such a powerful promise!
I really feel like this is revolutionizing my quiet time!  It makes so much sense to me to journal and study this way... as a visual, creative person, outlines and detailed notes don't come naturally to me, and don't stick with me.  But rolling a passage around in my head for a while, praying about what I'm supposed to take away from it, then trying to express that visually has helped both the words and the message stay in my head and heart much better :-) 

Who else has tried this?  Would you please share any of your favorite inspiration, or your own posts?  If you haven't tried this and you're a visual creative like I am, I encourage you to give it a whirl!
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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Coming Soon... Some Big and Small Changes to Always, Katie

Hello friends!  I have some fun stuff and a little bit of business I want to run by you all today...

First of all... have you guys noticed the ads in my sidebar and at the bottom of the page?  I'm hoping they haven't been too obtrusive :-)  They've been around for a year and a half or two (honestly can't remember when I installed them!) and I finally earned my first paycheck from them this week!  Every time someone views a page where an ad lives, I make a teeny bit of money (so... if you're viewing this page... thank you!).  When that builds up to a certain amount in my account, the ad company pays it out. I notied a few months ago that I was getting close to the payout amount, so Ethan and I started talking about what to do with that extra money when it came in.  

I was so excited to be able to contribute half of the money to household expenses. As a stay-at-home mom, I know I contribute (and work hard), but it was nice to be able to contribute a teeeeny bit of actual material income to our budget.  ;-)  The other half, I am putting back into the blog.  I've been wanting to make some changes around here, but didn't really want to invest in advance.  I know that's the best way to make progress, but it isn't a good strategy for our family :-)  

So here's what some of those changes are going to look like:

  • A new design.  I have been looking for a new template for the blog, and I've narrowed it down to a couple.  I'm going to be purchasing one this week and installing it hopefully over the weekend.  I want something with a lot of white space, clean-looking, and simple. :-)  Don't be too startled when you visit next week and this space looks a lot different! ;-)
  • Collaborations with other bloggers and shops.  This will hopefully include a couple of giveaways, maybe a new link-up series hosted here, and some ad-swaps (where we put another blogger's photo and link on our sidebar in exchange for them doing the same for us).
  • Stepped-up images.  I have been exploring my house with my DSLR, trying to add "stock photographs" to the library of photos I own, so I can create more "pin-worthy" blog images for the blog, and just elevate the appearance a little.  This, of course, isn't really something I needed to earn money to invest in, but this time of change seems like a good time to focus on this area a little bit.
  • Editing and improving old posts.  Along with the stepped-up images for future posts, I am going to go back in my archive and update some of my "oldies-but-goodies" to include higher-quality photos and pin-able images. I also need to check links to make sure none are broken, and identify which links may be affiliate links. Some posts will be permanently archived if they no longer fit the theme and focus of the blog, or don't serve as relevant bits of my history.
  • Streamlining.  I'll be getting rid of some labels and other things that clutter up my sidebars and posts.  Going for very clean and uncluttered!
  • Getting up to code.  I have been learning a lot lately from other bloggers about some of the legal aspects of blogging, and I am going to be working hard over the next few weeks to get certain areas of the blog into compliance.  I started this so long ago as basically an online journal that it has been tough and weird to try to keep up with all the changes in the blogosphere!

My hope is that all of these changes will help make this blog both more inviting and engaging for readers, and more attractive to potential collaborators.  Because I am committed to reinvesting half of everything I earn into the blog, more collaborators will translate to more fun and exciting things for you to learn, explore, or win :-) 

I am really excited to "grow up" my blog a little bit!  I'd love to hear from you... what sort of content do you enjoy most?  Are there any bloggers or shops you'd love to see me collaborate with?
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Monday, January 25, 2016

Momma Must Have: The Vintage Honey Shop

I received this product free of charge for the purpose of this review.  All opinions expressed are 100% my own.  Because I'm way too opinionated to do it any other way ;-)

I've written before about the postpartum depression I have been experiencing since shortly after the birth of the twins.  In addition to the biological predisposition and the crazy hormone soup that floods a woman's brain after delivery, new moms have to adjust to a whole new identity.  Their body is permanently changed, their thoughts and motivations are different, and they often don't have the time or energy to engage in activities that they have always enjoyed.  It can be strange to barely recognize yourself in your own head or in the mirror.

One thing that had been hard for me to adjust to was putting away my jewelry.  I've made hundreds of pieces for myself over the years, and Ethan has given me several beautiful and sentimental pieces, but they are all so delicate that I've been afraid to wear them with the babies.  I don't want them broken, but I REALLY don't want them to turn into choking hazards!  I know that stopping wearing jewelry sounds like too silly of a thing to even be considered a sacrifice, but accessorizing has been a big part of my fashion sense and a small part of my identity for a long time... I mean, I sold jewelry and taught jewelry-making!  So losing this form of self-expression was a little jarring.

picture by The Vintage Honey Shop

You may recall  I mentioned in my Black Friday/Small Biz Saturday/Cyber Monday post that I loved the look of these necklaces and was interested in having one.  The concept is so clever to me - necklaces that are designed to not only be safe, but beneficial for your little ones!  They are made with organic wood beads, soft cotton fabric, silky ribbon ties, and sometimes organic wood teething ring pendants.  

I was excited to wear one of these necklaces because my Sam is a hair puller.  When he starts getting really grabby, I throw on one of my necklaces.  Oh, the glamorous night shirt and sweatpants ensembles I have accessorized with these! It gives him something to pull on and play with while I feed him, and lets me keep what hair postpartum hair fall has left me.  The ribbon ties make the length adjustable, and they are wide enough that they don't cut in to the back of my neck when a baby is tugging on them.  

Picture by The Vintage Honey Shop

Both of our babies have been teething for... ever, basically.  They have some really bad days every once in a while, but even on good days they love to gnaw.  They gnaw on their toys, their hands, OUR hands... and anything else they can get into their mouths. :-)  These necklaces, especially the ones with the wood rings, are great for this!  They're totally safe for the babies to have in their mouths, and the beads and ring seem to really soothe their sore gums.  I think the fun patterns may also help hold their attention, but I could be wrong about that.  I do know that my daughter seems to share her momma's love for pretty, girly things ;-)  When they started fussing in church this week, I held Abbie and let her chew on my necklace for a while.  It kept her distracted for several minutes... which, in baby time, is a near eternity!

Besides the wonderful practical uses of these necklaces, they come in so many gorgeous and fun patterns and are fun to wear.  I love being able to accesorize again!  In a small way, I feel like it's a way for me to integrate the old me and the new momma me. :-)    

Priced at $22 and $28, the fabric teething necklaces are a tiny bit of a splurge for the new parent, newly mindful that babies are expensive, but it is a splurge that I feel is well worth it. These would make a great baby shower or new mom gift. Something pretty for her, not just practical for her babies, and something she may not do for herself.  She's going through a huge life change, she deserves something pretty :-)  And because they ROCK, The Vintage Honey Shop is offering Always, Katie readers a 15% off code!  WooHoo! 


What is your go-to shower gift?  I always like to buy from the registry, then add a little something personal or fun :-)
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