Creativity

What I spent: April 2017

What I spent: April 2017 | RISING*SHINING

Tracking our spending assiduously, including my own personal allowance spending, continues to be so satisfying. I'm finding it easy in some ways to stick (pretty much) to my budget of $100 of personal allowance spending per month, but hard in other ways.

There are SO! MANY! things I want to buy during the month. By sharing my purchases at the end of the month I might make it look easy to stick to a personal allowance budget but please know that it is not without plenty of restraint!

I've noticed that I'm especially bombarded with "wants" scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest. No surprise but it does leave me thinking of ways to avoid triggering a "buy" impulse. I've shared my method of snapping a photo instead of making a purchase when I'm in a store. I now have collections on my phone for DECOR, CLOTHES, and PLANTS. Those seem to be the things where I'm most tempted to spend money. That helps but wanting to spend up to and beyond my monthly budget remains something I have to actively fight. I've started unsubscribing to brand Instagram feeds for that reason. Instead, I'll try to save a photo to Pinterest of something I like from the brand and then unsubscribe from the feed. 

What all this makes me thing of is how incredibly, and perhaps grossly, privileged I am. On the one hand I can fret that there are so many things that others have that I "can't have." On the other hand, I can think of how rich you have to be to have a budget of $100 per month to spend on whatever you want. I recognize how luxurious this is. But then when you surround yourself with others living the same luxurious life it's alarming how easy it is to feel that I don't have enough.

I try to practice gratitude regularly for all that I have, to get perspective on how wealthy we are and to look for fulfillment outside of material possessions. But I do want to be honest that there are plenty of things I'd love to buy and often wish that I could.   

What I spent in April:

$10.88 - vintage Girl Scout Handbook found while antiquing. I love finding old books on topics dear to me. I was a Girl Scout until my junior year in high school and have fond memories of earning badges and camping in the woods. I'm still friend with many of the girls from Troop 1039.

$16.71 - embroidery supplies to work on the embroidery pattern that I purchased in March. I started the project in Austin and spent a few hours over the week stitching on my parents beautiful screened-in back porch and looking at the Texas oak trees.

$3.99 - coffee at Starbucks for myself and one of Dash's preschool teachers. She mentioned she hadn't had time to have coffee that day and I said that no one who teaches preschoolers should be without coffee.

$12.62 - breakfast at the airport on my way to Austin.

$18.78 - breakfast tacos and coffee with a dear girl friend while home in Austin, my treat. We arrived for breakfast and stayed until they were starting to bring out fajitas for the lunch crowd around us. 

$5.41 - coffee + cookie treat during a work day which felt so luxurious. Technically I could not include this in my monthly spending because my dad always likes to slip me a $20 when I'm home so I used "dad dollar" cash. But to be conservative I'm counting it against my monthly spending.

$15.00 - mascara x 2 (because I'm trying to change my mascara more frequently instead of using the same one for more than a year) and cuticle clippers.

$31.68 - dinner at Postino to celebrate a girl friend's birthday. The best bruschetta.

$2.11 - again with the Starbucks! Small cup of coffee. In my defense, a colleague asked me to connect with someone they know for a networking/informational interview. 

Total spent: $117.18 out of $100 budgeted. 

 

In March $101.35 out of $100 budgeted

In February 2017: $78.57 of $100 budgeted

In January 2017: $126.25 of $150 budgeted


April catch up

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When I set my word of CHOOSE for 2017 I was interested to see how I would manifest it in my life. I said that above all else I want to CHOOSE family and writing this year, the two things that are most important to me.

At the time I had a very full plate: working full time, parenting two little boys, co-running a household, co-hosting and producing two podcasts, co-owning Copper Quail Style, working part time as a freelance writer, exercising regularly, being active in a book club and trying to write for myself on this blog. On top of all that maintaining friendships and relationships with family, not to mention Chris!, which I want to add since that does require time and energy as well. WHEW.

I've realized that essentially since Dashiell was born - four years ago! - I've been filling my plate, heaping it ever more full. I've tried to be intentional about how I spend my time. And, indeed, when I surveyed all the things I was doing I saw relationships and pursuits that I loved. However, I was at a point where I was spending most days and nights working. I've had the energy to work post-bedtime since Dash was a baby because my creative work brings me fulfillment. But sometime in the past few months I started packing my days too full and wasn't giving myself enough time when I could not accomplish something. It made my full time work and creative work much less fulfilling and even stressful.

So, I did a lot of thinking. I decided to step away from Copper Quail Style, which was just launched last summer. I'm so proud of what my friend Becky and I created. Along the way I learned so much, which was one of my main goals with the venture. I am happy that it will continue in the capable hands of my friend. I also turned over the editing of Matrimoney to Chris, which gives me back a weeknight about every other week. I've also been intentional about not making many plans for the weekends and only trying to commit to things I really want to do (if they aren't required). 

What I have left on my plate feels much more manageable. I no longer have a stress knot in my stomach. Hooray! Taking things off my plate is so satisfying and has made a big difference for me already. I can already point to the following things that I've been able to do because I've made the room:

+ spend two or more weeknights reading and going to bed early

+ traveling to Austin to be with family with less than 24 hours notice and staying for five days after my grandmother passed away in early April

+ Making last minute plans to meet a friend for a Saturday morning park play date

+ Have one or more weekends per month with NO plans and having time for spontaneous family adventures

+ Working in the yard, which is something I love to do

+ Going for a long walk around our neighborhood after bedtime 

Reading The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck recently was great timing and emphasizes the importance of taking stock of what really brings you fulfillment and how you spend your time. In my case I don't think there are too many things that I don't care about taking up my time (I'm grateful for that and have worked to make that the case!) but I still just had too many things going on.

Taking a couple things off my plate has me thinking about how to get back even more unstructured time that I can spend with my family, writing and on other things. For example, I've been wanting to take better advantage of the amazing museums and cultural resources near us. I'm so excited to go to the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit in the next few months!  

It's good to shake things up every now and then, to take stock of values and compare that to how I'm spending my time. And look! Time to write a blog post, hurrah!


The Year of Kelsey in review

Year of Kelsey in review | RISING*SHINING

Every year is significant but this past year felt especially so for personal growth. Heading into 2016 I hoped that over the year I would begin to emerge from the intensely demanding period of having two boys under three, waking many times during the night and breastfeeding. I was looking forward to reclaiming my body and energy, and focusing some of that new-found energy on myself.

So I declared 2016 The Year of Kelsey. I made goals of building a capsule wardrobe, a capsule skin care and makeup routine, going on creative field trips and traveling by myself. I worked on these goals all year and as The Year of Kelsey wraps up I feel really good about the progress I made.  

+ Create a capsule wardrobe of timeless, quality pieces.

I started 2016 with a limited wardrobe. I had worked to get rid of clothing I didn't love to wear or that I was just never going to fit back into - despite losing just about all of my pregnancy weight there are just changes in my body that are here to stay!

I've been "figuring out" my style for a while and am finally starting to feel confidence in what kind of clothes I want to wear: classic, pulled-together, understated and with a hint of my modern aesthetic. I've also realized that I prefer simplicity and eliminating choice. I don't love shopping and while I do have a style preference I don't want to spend time and effort on my style. I want to buy clothes that fit well and look great and then wear those until they wear out.

Over the year I invested close to $1,000 to update my wardrobe. There are still items I would love to add to my capsule wardrobe, like tall boots, but I've eliminated stress about clothing from my life. I don't feel an urgency to purchase new clothes because I feel like "I don't have anything to wear." And the clothes that I do have feel like good expressions of the style I want to have. It feels really good.

Here are some of my favorite items of clothing purchased this year:

+ High-rise skinny ankle jeans. Were these jeans designed specifically for me? Unlikely. But they are my favorite jeans ever so I like to think that maybe they were. I only have two pairs of jeans - in dark denim wash and dark grey - and they are this cut. 

+ Black blazer. I've wanted to wear a blazer for years and I still get a tiny thrill every time I wear mine. Wearing a blazer makes me feel so pulled together. I wear it to work now that it's cooler or with jeans and a blouse for a date.

+ Flowly blouses. Pictured above, and similar to this and this.

+ 24/7 classic t-shirt bra. Favorite bra I've ever owned. I have two and plan to get another this year.

+ Pea coat. In my signature plum color. :) 

 + Create a capsule skin care and beauty routine.

Similar to my feelings about clothes, I don't want to spend a lot of time or mental energy on skin care and makeup. I want to take care of my skin and have a makeup routine that leaves me looking pulled together but natural (and diminished tired eyes, ahem). But I don't see myself ever being someone who has multiple mascaras or eye shadows. I want to find the one thing that works for me and then not think about it.

To figure out what to buy I read my favorite Beauty Uniform posts and talked to girl friends for makeup recommendations. (Last year, Erica and I chatted about beauty uniforms if you'd like to listen in.) And over the year built a skincare routine that I love and that leaves my skin feeling healthy and smooth. This includes wearing sunscreen daily which is a habit I set out to acquire in 2016. 

I also started consistently painting my nails this year! Thanks to tips and encouragement from my neighbor and nail guru Erica. I've mentioned that I have a bad habit of picking at my cuticles and painting my nails helps with this so much.

Here are my favorite finds:

+ Orly Bonder base coat, Seche Vite top coat and Essie nail colors. Using these I can paint my nails on the weekend and the color will last through the week with minimal chips. My favorite color right now is Carry On, and I love to do one nail with Penny Talk.

 + Paula's Choice toner and exfoliator. I also loved this article and this one explaining what these products do (granted, they are written by the company but I still found them helpful). I've noticed that my skin feels smoother and looks healthier when I use these consistently. Plus I love the simple twice-daily routine of wash-tone-exfoliate.

+ Paula's Choice Resist Youth Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50 - my daily sunscreen. Light, non-greasy and no lingering scent of sunscreen.

 + Go on at least three creative field trips.

I love the idea of creative field trips - any kind of outing with the simple goal of being creatively inspired. This year Chris and I attended a talk by Johnny Depp, I went to a lunch-time poetry lecture and recorded my birth stories as part of the Creative Push project.

Certainly I found inspiration at many other times this year but having a creative field trip goal did help me to glimpse all the creativity and art that surrounds me. I'd love to keep seeking it out and have plans to see Push Comes to Shove: Women in Power with this awesome lady in early January.

+ Take a solo trip.

This is one I didn't get to do. But I did have an awesome writers' retreat with Erica and Sarah and an amazing adventure to the Pacific Northwest with Chris. While a solo trip didn't happen this past year I'd love to make from time to time. Although I love to meet new people and be social I'm an introvert and relish quiet and time alone.

 

Becoming a mother a little over three and a half years ago was the most significant and best change of my life. It's a role and identity that is the most demanding and the most rewarding. As the boys get older I have more time and energy to invest in myself, and over the past year I felt that shift. My Year of Kelsey goals highlighted the importance of investing in myself even as I give so much to others.

This year I invested in a foundation for taking care of myself - a quality wardrobe and reflecting on my style, taking care of my skin and finding a simple makeup routine, nurturing my creativity, and traveling without my children. By establishing this foundation I don't have to spend as much energy on these things in the future (especially the wardrobe and skin care/makeup) which lets me extend myself to things that really matter, like my family and my creative pursuits. A perfect place to start a new year.

P.S. New Matrimoney episode today is us chatting about our 2016 finances - what we made and where ti all went.


Our 2016 Christmas cards

Our 2016 Christmas cards! | RISING*SHINING Our 2016 Christmas cards! | RISING*SHINING

Every year I enjoy creating our family Christmas card and sending them all across the country, from San Francisco to Brooklyn, and even to Canada! I designed our cards myself again this year and I'm so happy with how they turned out.

Here are our cards in previous years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015 (so many!).

Originally I thought I would do a collection of photos from the year like I did in our card last year. But then I remembered the awesome family picture we took together during Chris's birthday trip to Prescott. Plus the fact that our boys were really into dinosaurs this year. And so the idea of using the photo + RAWWR! was born. On the back of the card I love to include a few notes about the year and what we've been up to.

I used Adobe Photoshop Elements (and my basic design skills) to make the card. Before diving in I browse Pinterest or some of the popular Christmas card sites to get ideas for font pairings and layout. I grabbed the Grand Hotel font for free online. And then I just start tinkering and am able to pull something together over one or two evenings. A key for me is to block out time to make the card. I don't want to feel stressed and rushed. So I start to think about designing the card in early November to leave time to make it and have it delivered by early December.

As usual, I designed our card to fit on a two-sided 5 x 7 postcard and ordered a set of 100 (the postcard order is 100 minimum but I like to send lots of cards so that's okay!). In previous years I've used OvernightPrints and GotPrint. This year I used VistaPrint because they were having a great sale when I was looking to order (a bit before Thanksgiving). My order was discounted from $50 to $32.97! I get so much satisfaction from not only creating our cards but paying so much less than the typical $1 - 2/card.

For envelopes I purchased brown kraft paper envelopes at Hobby Lobby. On the back I added two strips of festive washi tape and am still using our trusty address stamp from Three Designing Women (have replaced the ink pad once in 8 years!).

If you didn't get a snail mail card from me, please consider this a virtual card from my family to yours!

Today we're off to see Rogue One with friends at Alamo Drafthouse (!!) before my family arrives and then it's holiday festivity through the next week. The best!

Wishing you a cozy weekend and a very merry Christmas if you are celebrating. 


What fills you up?

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Last Saturday, in those long hours between nap and dinner, the boys were getting restless and so was I. Chris was happy to be at home with Cedric and so Dashiell and I made plans for an outing. First, we headed to the library where we walked hand in hand through the doors and Dashiell returned our books through the slot, one by one. We stopped by the giant doll house behind glass and searched for the hidden pumpkins, as is the theme this season, before combing the shelves in the children's section. 

After filling our canvas bag and checking out our books I told Dash I wanted to go to the plant store next. It was late afternoon at the nursery and few other people were browsing. The sun was low and the temperature perfect. Dash pointed out all the flowers to me and asked me to smell many of them. I snapped pictures of plants with my phone and Dashiell enjoyed exploring on his own and let me know proudly, "I'll just go this way and meet you over there." We met the nursery cat in the back near the trees and pet her belly when she showed it to us. I didn't buy anything but left feeling so relaxed and fulfilled. I kept thinking about the outing, the library and the nursery, for the rest of the weekend and into my full week. Just thinking of it now makes me smile.

Later that weekend Chris went out for a couple hours on his own and when we came back had a report from a local music store where he looked at banjos, pianos and acoustic guitars. He was content and energized. I laughed a bit to myself, thinking of how we'd found the same thing but at different places and how Chris's outing was so perfectly Chris and how mine was so perfectly Kelsey.

My go-to thought when I have a bit of time is to be productive - to work on my blog, or podcasts or to get a task done. And being productive and working on projects I'm passionate about is fulfilling, but it's not the same contented energy I got from my library  and nursery outing with Dashiell. And so I've been thinking about the things that fill me up, especially of the the easily accessible, free and screen-free variety. Here's what I've come up with:

+ Wandering through a plant nursery 

+ Browsing at the library

+ Drinking coffee outside, with content and independent children playing nearby :)

+ Watering plants

+ Looking through cookbooks and cooking magazines

+ Cooking from a recipe while listening to a podcast

+ Reading

+ My evening skincare routine of tonerexfoliator, and moisturizer

+ Painting my nails while listening to a podcast

+ Going on a walk, especially at the nearby Riparian Preserve

+ Outings with just one of my boys. Being out with the whole family, or both boys on my own, can be fun but it can also be a lot of management. Being out with just one feels so easy and relaxing, it feels like I'm winning at parenting.

+ Playing dice or cards during an afternoon date with Chris over beer or coffee (not free, especially if a babysitter is needed, but a favorite activity for sure)

Certainly many other things in my life are fulfilling and fun but these are the things that feel purely enjoyable and don't feel like "work" in any way. As I brainstormed what would be on a my list I found a common theme of not being rushed. I enjoy most things, even a trip to Trader Joe's, if I can go at my own pace. And this made me realize how often I need to multi-task during my days - both at home and at work - and how much I dislike multi-tasking. In some parts of my life it's a necessity but I could look for ways to cut down on the need to multi-task. For example, prepping all lunches the night before means less multi-tasking the next morning. And closing my email application at work means I don't see new email notifications pop up.

Putting together this list reminds me that there are simple things I can do to recharge, and it's so interesting to see the common theme of taking my time. I am a creature of habit, as will be a surprise to no one, and among all the other things on my to-do lists I want to remember to do the things that are purely Kelsey

I'd love to know what fills you up and make you feel like you!