Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tech to Help Plan the Perfect Date Night

This is a sponsored post brought to you as a U.S. Cellular Ambassador.  All opinions are my own.

Planning the perfect date night has changed a lot since my husband and I started dating almost 18 years ago (yes I had to check how long!).  I remember when I got my first cell phone my freshman year in college from U.S. Cellular.  It was a Nokia.  I loved it, however, it didn’t have near the capability of my iPhone today.  I’m not sure I even knew how to text with the number keys…and I certainly couldn't look up a good restaurant to go to.

There are so many options available today to help plan the perfect date night, and as a married mama, date nights are most definitely fun and important!


My favorite dates with my husband are pretty basic, getting out to a nice dinner that I don’t have to cook or clean up from, and a place where we can sit and talk – all important to me.  But, it seems to take us FOREVER to figure out exactly what we want to do.

Top Five Apps to Plan your Perfect Date

OpenTable – This app is perfect because it helps you find restaurants to eat at, and then lets you also make reservations – win-win!  And if you have Apple Pay, you can use your iPhone to pay for everything.

Poynt – If you aren’t ready for your evening to end and instead want to get out to get drinks after your meal, Poynt will use location services to find the closest hot spot for after-dinner fun. 

Bouqs – I am kind of old fashioned in that I LOVE to get fresh flowers from my husband.  They always brighten my day (and my home – especially in the middle of winter).  This app allows you to buy flowers and even have them delivered same day.  This app would actually work for any occasion where a special bouquet is needed!

Vivino – This app is perfect for the in-home date night.  If you are having trouble finding a wine for the evening, you can snap a picture of the label, and the app will tell you ratings, reviews and even food pairings for that wine.

Date Night by Care.com – As a mom, going out for a date is hard, but this app makes it easy to find childcare in your area.  It also will open OpenTable and Fandango to help plan out your dinner and a movie.

What was your most memorable date night?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

knitting and reading

After my little planning retreat this past weekend, I feel a little more on track with my knitting.  I think that getting my head around what I want to accomplish in the next few months, as well as what my family is going to be doing is the main reason I needed that planning retreat.  But, it had the added benefit of freeing up mind space so I could sit down and knit without feeling guilty about not getting the *other stuff* done.


I really only just started this cowl.  I purchased the yarn last year because I just loved the white and tan together.  It looks so pretty in the skein!  However, I could not figure out what to knit to make the beautiful yarn shine.  I finally searched ravelry for the exact type of yarn that I had, and found this pretty honey cowl.  It is super simple, which is what I need right now, but also I think it will be a nice knit to have.


Both Emma and Jack have asked if I am knitting it for them.  Emma because she thinks she needs a new cowl, and Jack because he keeps getting snow on his face when he goes outside.  I told them both I was knitting it for me, but I have a feeling we will be sharing it.

My reading is two-fold.  First, I am looking at seed catalogs.

After the 3 feet of snow we got last week, and now the 50 degree temperatures this week, I am thinking spring.  And spring means gardening in my world.  I am definitely excited to get out there and start working.  Granted we have an awful lot of snow, and even with the warm temperatures we are having this week I don’t expect it to be going away anytime soon (it is February after all!), but I am in the dreaming and planning stages now – heavy on the dreaming.

I am actually thinking about trying to grow hops this year.  I think it would be fun for Matt use some homegrown hops in his beer brewing, and attempting to grow something completely out of the ordinary will be fun and challenging for me as well.  I’m not really sure how they will do, but I am excited to do some more research on it.


And finally an old book, Affluenza (there is a new version out now, but the one I linked is the book I have).  I actually bought this book maybe 10 or 12 years ago.  I have read it, and I remember it was kind of at the beginning of my journey to follow a different path – less stuff, more homesteading, more homemaking.  It is really a very enlightening book, but one I haven’t read in a decade, and one I have been thinking about more recently.

When I was talking about slowing down a couple weeks ago, I realized that it is so easy for me to be caught up in the *stuff* of this western life I live in.  There is so much, it is so easy to get, and it is fun.  I like stuff just as much as the next person, but there comes a point when it is no longer fun, and I think I reached that point more recently after a time of slowly letting that original purpose of a different path slip.

I can’t really speak to many of the specifics of the book because I am just starting it again, but from what I remember it is quite good.  Some much more liberal ideas than I typically have, and I definitely gloss over some of the ideas, but overall, a good book that I am looking forward to digging into again.


What fun thing are you working on this week?  Any new books on the horizon?

Monday, February 20, 2017

What is a Planning Retreat and Why do I Need One?

I have heard the term planning or personal retreat several times in the past couple of years.  It always seemed like something that was not a right fit for me.  Not because I didn’t want to participate in a weekend of personal introspection – I mean the idea of going to a hotel by myself for a weekend where I could just concentrate on all of the thoughts in my head without any interruption (and room service of course!) – but the idea that I could actually put together such a trip was not at all on my radar.

Two years ago I had an infant, and with nursing and two older children to also take care of, the last thing I wanted to do was go away for a weekend (OK I may have secretly wanted to go away for a weekend!).

Then I realized that I needed that time to sit down and get all of my thoughts out of my head.


I read a book at the beginning of the year called Essentialism.  It is more of a business book than a self-help book.  It talks a lot about how executives in business are able to make decisions by weeding out the un-necessary or the unessential.  Instead, they make time only for what is essential, and somehow it seems to work.

One of the key parts of the book that I read was about thinking days.  One particular executive would take his entire team to have a “thinking day” where no technology was involved, no replying to e-mails, and instead they sat down and did some good, old-fashioned brainstorming.

That idea stuck with me.

Then I heard in the art of simple podcast, Tsh Oxenreider discussed the book and her desire to take a monthly “thinking day.”  During this day she could get all of the thoughts that never seem to make it out onto paper out of her head. 

It was at this point that I connected personal retreat weekends, planning weekends and thinking days.

I needed that time to be able to get my thoughts out and plan for what is next.

What exactly is a planning retreat?

Well, it can certainly be anything that you need it to be.  Perhaps you are in a busy season and you need to straighten out your schedule in order to be present for family time.  Maybe you are coming off of a busy season and you need a sort of reset to see what is next.  Homeschool planning certainly comes to mind for me.  Or perhaps it is everything?

For me, a planning retreat honestly meant uninterrupted time where I could get my thoughts down, and then put order to them.


Oftentimes I have so many items on my to-do list and running through my mind, that no matter how many lists I make, it does no good.  Not because I am not trying, but because there is no order.  There are too many things to do, and instead of figuring out the next best thing, my brain shuts down and goes into survival mode.

This was me at the end of the year last year, and I knew that I would need to change things.  So, I circled the first free Saturday on the calendar – towards the end of February – and I designated it my “planning retreat.”

Giving myself that date, that set time, where I knew I would be able to sit down and start to make sense of the jumbled mess of ideas and thoughts and dreams in my head freed me to continue working in the present through a very busy season (the holidays and the remaining basketball season).

I realized that I had to give myself permission to take that time.  Yes, it would be difficult on my family to have me be not present for a time – I am a mom that is always available to my family.  I am frequently putting their needs before my own.  A lot of the time that is necessary – I do have three small children – but I noticed myself saying fewer yeses to myself, and more yeses to everyone else.

Do you have to *plan* for a Planning Retreat?

Well, I think yes and no here.  For me, I personally needed to have some sort of agenda for my planning retreat.  While I would like to say that I could just sit and think, more often than not when I have any free time I will sit idle for some time relishing in the silence and be so overwhelmed with all the thoughts, I am rather unproductive. 


A planning retreat, while also used as a personal retreat, was not going to be me going away for a weekend at the spa.  It was essentially an uninterrupted working weekend – at least that was my hope.

I had homeschool planning to do – the end of the year planning as well as thinking ahead to which books I need to get for the coming year (we school year round).  I knew that I wanted to take time to get down ideas for my blog, to wrap my head around this business that I am building.  I also knew that I needed to get some personal goal setting done.  I started the year out strong with my word margin but I need to look forward and see where that word is going to lead me as the year continues.

Do I think that every person would benefit from a planning retreat, or a personal retreat, or even a thinking day?

Absolutely. 

Does it have to mimic my planning retreat?

Absolutely not.

I think that as you are able,  you see what your specific needs are.  Mine just happen to be planning for the months ahead.  Yours could perhaps be more self-care – that visit to the spa.  A weekend of writing a book, or a weekend of reading books.

Know that your retreat weekend will not be the same as anyone else’s.  That is totally fine, it is really about self-care for you, and you alone.

I think the first step is honestly to give yourself permission to do something like this.  That permission was hard for me to grant myself.  I struggle in being able to give myself time away from my kids.  I definitely feel like they are only so little for so long, and I don’t want to miss anything.  Having a weekend where we aren’t able to be together is a sacrifice for me, and not one that I take on easily; but at the same time, taking that time away allows for me to be a better wife and mama, and allows me the time to recharge – and that is very welcome.

Have you ever taken a personal retreat? Did you have an agenda going in, or prefer to have a more organic approach?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

knitting and reading

After talking a little bit last week about slowing down as well as the  fear of missing out I realized that I have been putting my knitting on the back-burner for so long.  Not so much my reading, I seem to be able to do that in any setting (thanks to the lovely kindle app, thank you very much).

You would think that knitting would be such an easy thing to incorporate into a slow-living lifestyle, and honestly, it used to be.  For some reason, my knitting has not come to the forefront.

I know that I have been talking about trying to knit more over the past year, but I haven't, and it definitely makes me a little bit sad overall, but I am hoping to change that.


All that to say I have mostly finished Lucy's hat.  I was hoping to have it finished sooner rather than later, especially since we are moving right through February at a pretty quick pace.  Of course, I realized that my ideas of winter leaving early were for naught.  We got over two feet of snow this past weekend, and are expecting another foot today and tomorrow.  I definitely should expect this living in Maine, but even Mainers tend to scoff at the amount of snow we have gotten over the past week and a half (too much!).

I still have to weave in the ends, but for the most part it is usable, and that is the thing that matters.  Now to figure out what my next project will be...maybe something that is quick like dish rags!

As for my reading, that is faring much better.  I have been taking the kids' quiet time as quiet time for myself as well.  Instead of flitting around trying to accomplish as many chores as possible in 90 minutes, I decided to sit down with tea and a book, and it has been marvelous.


My most current read is Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner.  It was just what my soul needed to read this past week as well.  It is about a woman taking time to step back, and that is exactly what I am trying to accomplish.  The book is less about saying the *right* yes and more about taking the time to see what is around you, and making choices that are the best for you and your family - exactly what I am trying to accomplish.

I think that in my quest for slow living I am constantly pushing against the mainstream.  While I like to think of myself as no longer a people-pleaser, I also need to remember that I am a recovering people-pleaser, so I still say yes when I know I shouldn't, and I still want to make sure everyone else around me is happy - sometimes at the expense of my own happiness.

One really interesting part of the book was when the author discussed the difference between many and more.

Many is measurable.  More is immeasurable.  We wanted more.  (How much?)  We needed more.  (How much?)  More is a never-ending immeasurable.  It can't be counted or valued or summed or justified.  More is always, by definition, just ahead at the horizon.  That's why we never stop chasing it.  More is never enough. 

That was definitely a wake up for me.  I think as humans we inherently want more.  That isn't always a bad thing, but in the age of social media and instant everything, it is for me.


I am constantly looking for validation in my decisions, and this book definitely allowed some of that for me.  Saying it is OK to step back a bit, to maybe not try to do all the things, even if they are really fun and exciting.  

I definitely recommend it!

What are you working on this week creatively?  Any fun new books I should put on my reading list?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How to Overcome the Fear of Missing Out

Have you heard of the fear of missing out?  I know it is not a new thing, but it is something that I have been thinking about lately – especially with all of my desire to slow life down a bit.  I need to overcome this fear.

If you haven’t heard of this, it is exactly as it sounds.

From Wikipedia – “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.”


If you look into this idea it is most often associated with social media and Millennials, of which I am one, albeit on the much older side of Millennials!

I do not look at it in only the same way the mainstream looks at it.  I am less concerned about missing out for myself, and much more concerned about my children “missing out.”

Before I had kids, social media was present, but it wasn’t as present as it is now.  Sure, I had a Facebook account, in fact I got one soon after Facebook first came out because I still had my college e-mail address – yes, I had already graduated college when Facebook first arrived on the scene. 

In fact, I rebelled against most social media for a very long time. 


I had a Facebook account with a whole lot of friends – mainly from high school and college whom I never actually talked to.  I found myself entrenched in finding out what everyone was up to – so I deleted my account.  I came back after a while and started a new account…just to again delete it.  Now I use Facebook in a much different way, it is there for me to use to connect to my readers, but also it is how almost every community activity/church activity/friend communication is performed.

So here is social media, and there I am, trying to stay afloat.

I’m not exactly sure when the change to feeling like my kids may be missing out began.  I think that perhaps it is a struggle specifically because we homeschool, and I don’t know many other homeschoolers in our area.  I don’t want my kids to feel left behind even though I know they are totally well-adjusted little kids that do all the normal little kid things, just not in a school setting.

What happens when you think that you (or your kids) are missing out?  You overcompensate.

And that is where we are today.  Overcompensating.

It seems that because of what everyone else is accomplishing on a daily basis, I feel the need to keep up.  I want to make sure that my kids are participating in activities; I want to make sure they are keeping up with their public school counterparts.  I need to make sure that I am following their interests, while still guiding them to a responsible adulthood.


However, what I see instead, is that we end up rushing.  We are rushing around to all the things, and less likely to enjoy those activities.  There is less time to be a kid.

Yesterday I talked a bit about thinking back on my own childhood.  It was not very busy.  The things I remember most are going to a family friend’s house on the weekend with my mom, where my brother and I would run around with other kids, make homemade pizza, drink cocoa in the winter, and generally have fun – with no set activities.  We made it up as we went along.

The summers were spent at the lake, boating, swimming, water skiing.  The winters were spent snowmobiling and ice skating out on a farm pond.  I don’t remember any organized activities until I was in middle school.  Yet, here I am, putting my kids in sports at the age of five.


Don’t get me wrong, I love sports, I love watching my kids in sports, and they enjoy it immensely – that is why we have continued.  However, I do recognize the differences from when I was younger.  It is more competitive now.  The seasons are longer, they have more off-season options (that are less like options and more like necessities) for clinics and camps.  It almost seems like if you don’t put your child in sports to learn them *enough* before 3rd grade, you can’t put them in sports anymore.

The Fear of Missing Out.

In my quest for slowing down, I need to start taking these thoughts into account.  I can’t have the kids in three different activities each…first we would never be able to get the kids to all the places they need to be, and second, we don’t want to.

I missed family dinners this past basketball season.  And it wasn’t just because of basketball, it was theater, it was late work nights and meetings.  Of course we can’t slow every aspect of our lives, but there need to be choices, and you cannot make a choice based on fear.

What is the answer then?  How do you overcome the fear of missing out?

I think that to every person it will be different.  Based on some of the comments I got yesterday, I know that some people thrive in being busy – but those people are busy on purpose, it is what feeds them, and gives them energy.


I am not one of those people.  And while I thought that perhaps my oldest was one of those people, now I am not so sure.  She was definitely busier than usual this past fall, and I thought she was enjoying it, until December when she was done.  She still wanted to do her activities because she saw them as social times, but she didn’t want the commitment.  She wanted the freedom of not having a specific schedule to follow.

Freedom.

That is what it comes down to for us.  We want to be able to have the freedom to choose what our next step will be.  I’m not sure if organized sports are really what we need.  It might be a family day of being outside like Renee and her family, it might be having a planned day of unplugging from technology, perhaps it is letting the kids have more control over their own schedules – instead of signing them up for the sports and activities they have done in the past, maybe they create a minecraft group or a book club or just a group of friends to hang out with whenever, they get to choose.

Learning to overcome the fear of missing out is something that is difficult.  We are faced with a constant barrage of “better.”  Whether it is the vacation pictures your friend posted on Facebook, or that Instagram picture you saw of a child testing for their next belt.  Maybe it is that blogger that took an amazing retreat weekend while you can barely get to the bathroom alone.  It could be anything.

But, if we let those images flood our brains, instead of living our lives on purpose, we are chasing something that we don’t necessarily want.  Or even if we do want it, we are disappointed in the small steps that we are making towards that goal when it seems like it was so utterly easy for someone else to get to achieve.

We can’t forget about the struggles that every person faces every day.  I know it isn’t popular to talk about the struggles, but they are there, everyone has them.  What may be a struggle for me may be a breeze for you, and vice versa.

I think the key is to not fall into that comparison trap.  Just because I would love to be able to knit my kids all sweaters, and I know many wonderful bloggers that accomplish that over and over again, I need to be happy with doing a few rows here and there on a table runner.  I should be happy about my own progress without measuring it against anyone else’s.

This year as I am exploring over and over again how to gain more margin in my life, I realize I need to set my own standards.  I should be looking at my life in comparison to my life last year, and my life five years before that.  That is the only measure that matters.

No one should desire exactly the same thing as me.  While the pictures may be pretty, and I may say “oh, I definitely want that,” I need to evaluate it further.  I need to look at my life, what direction I want to go in, and see if that is the right path.

I am definitely in a season of reflection.  I think that is warranted after a busy season that seemed to drag me along instead of my forging ahead.  It is a constant battle to make sure I am living rightly for me, for my family.  My hope is that over the next several weeks I can come up with a good plan for moving ahead.  As my kids get older, they will be involved in life and other activities, and I want to make sure I balance out the structure with the freedom.  I want my kids to experience the choices of life, and learn to make good decisions.  In order for them to succeed, I also need to learn to make these good decisions.

In order to beat the fear of missing out, I need to be willing to face the hard facts in my own life.  I need to look at what I want to do and see if this shiny new thing I saw on Pinterest actually fits in with individual and family goals.

It is exciting to know that there is a path specifically for me; one that not everyone will agree with, but hopefully I will be respected for forging my own way.  It is another part of the journey of life.  Taking the time for my family to slow down is a big part of that journey and figuring out what is next.


Do you experience the fear of missing out?  What are your strategies to move ahead?

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Skill of Slow Living - How to Make it Work

What do you imagine when you think about your childhood?  I see a lot of the outdoors.  Living in Maine, being outside was second nature.  As a child I was told to play outside or read if I was bored, activities on the weekend were playing in the woods and enjoying nature, not running around to as many activities as we could possibly fit in.


I am one of the first of the Millennial generation, and I know that I am probably one of the last to remember an early childhood without screens, without the academic pressures of today, without so much negativity.

I don’t know if I was just protected from it, or if the addition of social media and an online presence from a very young age now changes the way that children perceive life in the “real world.”

Margin.  That is my word of the year.  Margin.  White Space.  Quiet.

These are some of the words that have been rolling around in my brain for the past month.

I haven’t quite found my footing in 2017 yet.  It seems like there is just.so.much. going on out in the world to really feel comfortable with any of it.  The negativity is draining.  Watching the news is draining.  Trying to keep up with the general day to day is draining.

It reminded me of a term that I held dear for many years – slow living.

The term slow-living seemed to come around the same time that slow-food entered into my life.

Slow food is just what it sounds like – taking the time to appreciate the delicious food that we have available to us.  But, it started to go farther.  It was a movement; a movement about getting back to the basics of life.  About enjoying the process of making food, about finding food in our local food shed, about remembering the cost to bring that food to our tables. 

Slow living is much the same. 

Instead of the constant stuff, instead we see experience, instead of going going going, we take a step back to slow down and experience life instead of letting it pass us by.

The past several months have been full of busy for my family.  They always are.  Between school, basketball, church activities, the holidays, the political climate, it is a lot of busy, a lot of constant information to be dealt with.

But my word is margin this year.

Margin.  I need more of it.  I need that permission to slow down.  To have a lazy Saturday drinking coffee and reading a book, to be able to say yes to a last minute outing with my mom, or to have an impromptu movie night with friends.

Instead, it seems when there is a moment to breathe, I don’t want to do anything else, because I have been so overwhelmed.  Because I know that there is another something that needs to be done soon.

I need to slow down.  I know that I need to re-prioritize.  I need to start thinking about self-care more, and less about the fear of missing out for my children, for myself.

It is a good time for me to reflect on the changes that I want to make in our daily lives.  Basketball is done for the year!  It is the dead of winter, and we are in our final stretch of homeschooling for the year – we will go straight through to the middle of May and then be done for a bit.

I’m not sure what the changes are that I will make, or how I will make them; I’m not sure what slow living looks like for us, here, in 2017.  But, I am ready to start exploring those themes the way I did back when I only had one little one in the house.

Evaluating our schedule, what we desire for in our days, the most important items; those will be the first steps.  What is essential?  What do I want to say Yes to?  What am I saying Yes to begrudgingly?

Living slow is not something that happens easily.  It is something that you have to fight for, and make adjustments frequently.  It is too easy to get caught up in the current of life, and you forget to slow down, to enjoy life.

Have you heard of slow-living?  Is that something you desire in your own life?