tidying up: part 3


One week later:

I dropped my stuff off at savers today. Three garbage bags and two plastic bins worth. I did grab one pair of danskos and my boden sweaters out but only because I think I can sell them somewhere. I also grabbed my long brown pullover sweater out, but only until I can find something better to replace it with. I spent about two hours then looking for sweaters and t-shirts and only bought two cardigans. One is in like-new condition and is orange-red with tiny polka dots (maybe I can get rid of the vintage orange cashmere cardigan? We’ll see…) and the other is gray, drapey cashmere huge, feather light and just luscious. It was marked as $30, but I got a 30% off coupon for donating so it was only $21, which would be amazing if it were new. It doesn’t show any wear but it’s sort of perfumey so I’m going to try to get rid of the smell. Wish me luck! [note: after 2 handwashes and a thorough spraying with unscented febreze it is much better.  still not 100% fragrance free, but totally fine and i’ve already worn it several times and i looooooove it!]

and yes, i realize this should be a picture of me wearing this sweater, but the baby woke up from her nap and i want to get this posted, so you get this hanger shot.  it’s pretty blasphemous to have a cashmere sweater on a hanger but… do you fold drapey cardigans?  i’m not sure how….


Thoughts on privilege:

The more I go through this process, the more I realize that there’s a huge amount of privilege that exists in a life where I can get rid of the things I don’t love and if there’s something that I need to own and I don’t already own a version of that thing that I love, that I assume I can just go buy one that I do love.  It will take a great deal of reflection not to just trash stuff that’s not perfect and run out to buy the nicest version of that thing that I can find.  And that mindset? Buying the nicest of something instead of buying the thing that will work just fine even if it’s not exactly right but it’s on sale? That goes against pretty much all of my upbringing.  From my Depression era grandparents to my ‘Live Simply so that Others May Simply Live’ Mennonite heritage. But I’m not sure that hoarding tons and tons of stuff really lives up to those morals either. What if thoughtfully purchasing items that have been made by workers that have received a fair wage were my new norm? Hmmmm…..

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tidying up: part 2


My thought the first morning of using my new wardrobe: “oh *%#@. I have nothing to wear!” (note: i did actually find something to wear.  it was an outfit i wouldn’t have put together before, but i loved wearing it all day and it ended up being the perfect thing. hmmm… maybe there’s something to this concept after all….)


Realizations later in the day as I reflected on this experience so far:

–Maybe I’m not cut out for a “capsule wardrobe.” I get bored easily with clothes and love to wear new (to me) things. Is it really possible that if I had a wardrobe full of only things that I love (but not very many of them) that I’d be okay with that?  Yes, it would be nice to have clothes that fit right every time I wore them and that I feel confident in, but…. how many times can I wear a fuscia top before I’m sick of fuschia? (see: summer of 1980-something when my mom decided to create a wardrobe around the color royal blue for me.  I really do not like royal blue anymore. sorry, mom.)

–I went to Madewell to try on some clothes from the “hunting list” above today during my break. Turns out, I’m even pickier when clothes cost $100 apiece. There was a sweater there that was deliciously squishy soft, had a great hi-lo hemline and just the general shape of the sweater was perfect….. except for the turtleneck.  And not a drapey cowl, neckline, but a true turtleneck.  gah. did NOT like.  will continue the hunt.  I did enjoy chatting with the salesperson, however.  She had a body shape somewhat similar to mine and when I was admiring the feel of a sweater dress and lamenting that my body was “too curvy in all the wrong places” to wear something like that, she gently corrected me by saying, “No, you’re just like me where you need a dress with a little more structure–something that nips in at the waist.  This sweater dress doesn’t provide any of that structure.” you see that there?  how she redirected the problem to the DRESS and not to my BODY?  I need to adopt that mindset.  I left with two pairs of socks that were on sale.

–later, after an even less successful trip to Title Nine (also with a similar body-typed salesperson, woot!), I was overcome by emotion when I realized that even if I found the PERFECT piece of clothing, I’d be tempted not to fork over big, not-on-sale, brand-new bucks for it because I keep thinking I’m going to be losing weight soon and then I’d have this super-expensive, way-too-big piece of clothing that would make me sad to be smaller, sad to have “wasted” the money on something I could no longer wear. I REALIZE THIS IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO THINK ABOUT MY CLOTHING, but wow, is it deep-seated.  I remember how exciting it was to buy new things to wear as I was losing weight a few years ago.  Everything looked so much better on my slimmer body and it was SO exciting to see those size tags going down in number.  And yet, would I allow myself to buy expensive things if I was that weight again, or would I be afraid that I was going to gain the weight back, so it would be a waste?  Maybe the problem is also that I’m afraid that I’ll buy a $100 sweater and then shrink it or stain it or something. I’m just not used to investing that much capital into my clothes.

Two days later:

I’m shopping on ThredUp and realizing that I’m shying away from “unique” items (like a t-shirt with a beaded collar) because if I only have a small number of pieces of clothes, then if I have a really recognizable piece and need to wear it over and over again, it will be more easily remembered. What if other people get bored of me wearing the same thing over and over?  What if I get bored of it? But what if I get bored of just wearing closet basics all the time?


Three days later:

Unexpected side effect–at the end of the day, instead of dropping my clothes on my bedroom floor, I’m making decisions about whether they need to be washed and if they don’t, I’m putting them away.  Weird. Wonder how long that’ll last. Nice though. (It’s because I don’t want my faves to fade and because i can’t have all my clothes in the laundry at once…)

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a new happy stuff series: tidying up, part 1

IMGP0071like many, many other bloggers (and women in general), i recently read the life-changing magic of tidying up and, like pretty much everyone i’ve spoken to who read this book, there were some bits of it that have really stuck with me and some bits that i didn’t find useful or found to be…. insufficient for me. i didn’t realize when i saw this little book come across the library desk that it was a “thing” and that tons of people were reading it, i was just attracted to the title and the cover (good job, book designers!). one of the messages in the book that i can’t seem to get out of my head is that she points out that you can either a) de-clutter your house and life now and enjoy living in a less cluttered space for the rest of your life or b) de-clutter later (and live in clutter between now and then) or c) live in clutter for the rest of your life and make someone else clean it up after you die. whoa.

also, she encourages you to start the process by envisioning the space you’d like to live in.  what would it be like to live with less clutter, in a calm, organized environment surrounded only by the things you love?  i feel like other books i’ve read before have sort of said these things, but for some reason, i can’t stop thinking about it now.  especially since i’ve been feeling so overwhelmed for the past few years and mr. happy stuff is, in general not happy about me bringing home purchases any time i go shopping.  not because of the money spent, but because of the space it takes up in our home and in our lives.  but it’s so overwhelming and where do i start?

imagine my utter delight when one of my friends at our annual women’s retreat said that she had just gone through her closet to create a “capsule wardrobe” and that she loved the process and would really enjoy helping other people to purge their own closets as well.  yes, please! the author of “tidying up” recommends starting with your clothes (specifically tops — shirts, sweaters, jackets, etc.), so a closet purge with the help of a friend would be perfect!  this dear friend also has a daughter just a little older than mine, so i hoped maybe they could play together long enough for us to get a bit of work done. we set a date and the morning before she arrived for the first day of reducing the stuff, i piled all of my tops onto my couch (the girls can play in our living room more easily than in my bedroom) and i wrote down how i was feeling just for a chance to pause and reflect. here is the mountain of tops i owned (plus a random cute elephant in a pirate hat peeking out from behind the couch):IMG_5964here’s what i wrote:

“I’m feeling actually heart-fluttery nervous.  A little scared (really?) — that i won’t love any of my clothes.  That I’ll be embarrassed by how many clothes i own.  that i’ll end up with 3 shirts.  That I won’t be able to get rid of enough.  It’s possible that the “nervous” feeling is also excitement.  How awesome would it be to own an entire closet full of clothes that I only love?  An entire house of only things that I love?”

after she left, here’s what i kept:

IMG_5967and here’s what i got rid of:

IMG_5968and i wrote some more reflections:

“It is SUPER exciting to see three garbage bags [*note, another bag was filled after this photo was taken] and one plastic bin full of clothes that I’m saying goodbye to.  It is very gratifying to be able to get rid of all the ugly plastic hangers and wire hangers and just keep the nice ones. [bonus side effect!]  I love how much “breathing room” my hanging clothes already have (still need to purge dresses and skirts), but the extra room in my dresser drawer where t-shirts once filled it so full that I could barely close it (I can see the bottom of the drawer in about half of the drawer) is frankly, terrifying.  What if I chose poorly?  What if I picked the wrong ones to keep and the wrong ones to toss? Why is there SO much purple? And yes, I love these shirts, they’re the ones I keep coming back to, the ones I feel most confident in, I love the way they fit, but… if I’m honest, some of them (because they get SO much wear) are starting to look a little faded. The collars are permanently wrinkled wrong. A few have teeny holes (some I’ve even mended to keep them from growing larger). I think that perhaps the only way to remedy this slight feeling of panic is to make a list of all the things I’d like to have better versions of and when I find those better versions, get rid of these formerly beloved pieces.”

My hunting list (steer clear of magenta!):

— a truly soft, comfy, flattering hoodie to wear to yoga or around the house.  Maybe with thumb holes in the sleeves?

— a flowy black cardigan to replace the one with teeny holes

— New t-shirts with the hemline and fit like my favorite grape-colored one.

— New mustard colored cardigan (maybe toss the orange one then?)

— more big comfy sweaters like the new dark teal one

my next post will include more reflections on what it’s been like to live with a reduced closet for the past few weeks.

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mooooovie monday

i’m finally working on getting some older footage made up into movies.  this was from this summer.  the best part was the happy baby’s arm inside a calf’s mouth up to her elbow, but unfortunately, i didn’t film that, so….. you get this mix of some video and some stills.  enjoy!

Isadora visits the Dairy Farm from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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genius recipes by kristen miglore

i have a new favorite cookbook. i first read about it on this blog post and placed a hold on it from my library. when it arrived, i read it straight through, cover to cover with a few breaks for kid interruptions. by the time i was done, the bookmarks i had tucked in to mark the recipes i wanted to try looked like fringe.

the first recipe i tried was the poached scrambled eggs


IMG_5631 IMG_5632 my two kids went through a dozen eggs cooked this way.  it was a hit!  super easy, super tasty and very fast.

i had also discovered, while i was reading it, that there were at least 5 or 6 recipes in the book that i had already discovered and tried and all of them were memorably delicious. i was hooked.

i have now tried…

marcella hazan’s tomato sauce:


kenny shopsin’s crepes:


northern spy food co.’s kale salad (i had almost all the ingredients in my csa box that week!)IMG_5689

marie-helene’s apple cakeIMG_5709

sylvia thompson’s fresh ginger cake  (i don’t recommend using a bundt pan)IMG_5770i also made the chocolate muscovado banana cake, but neglected to photograph it.  plus, it had the problem that all banana cake/bread/loaves do when i try to make them–the top always ends up gooey, even though i tested it in the oven and it came out clean! i’m definitely trying that recipe again, but i might just do it in muffin cups which are much easier to cook thoroughly and everyone loves muffins anyway.

the verdict? i need to own a copy of this book myself. it is too much fun to cook recipes that i know will give amazing results.

p.s. i’m finding that at this point in my life, it’s much easier to spend my creative time in the kitchen than in the sewing room (little curious fingers + sharp, fast needles = not a good idea). if there are any loyal readers still following this blog, tell me– would you like to hear more about my cooking adventures? these photos were taken with my phone, so they’re not the best, but i might be motivated to do better if i know someone (other than mom (sigh)–  hi, mom!  love you!) is reading….

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movie monday: another episode with cow chicken

Cow Chicken (and Rosalie) from carissaabc on Vimeo.

Posted in stuff that makes me smile, summer, video | 1 Comment

movie monday: hello kitty

to fully appreciate this movie, you need to understand that maryann is usually the more reclusive and non-tolerant kitty.  she hides whenever the happy boy comes around!



Izza + MaryAnn from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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healthy media habits: a personal challenge

happystuffmediachallengei have an addiction. i’m willing to bet lots of money that i am not the only parent with this addiction, but i feel especially guilty about it because i talk to parents as part of my job about limiting their own media use and yet, all too frequently, i find my eyeballs glued to my phone, catching up on facebook posts (sometimes worthwhile, too often clickbait or just a rabbit hole that leads to something else that leads to something else…), twitter updates, blog posts, e-mail, instagram photos and my pinterest feed. it’s one thing to allow myself to sink into this quagmire on my own time, after the kids are in bed when i know i should be doing something more productive or edifying or engaging with a real, live friend (yes, by “liking” their photos, i’m sort of engaging with my facebook friends, but if you look at that list of social media above, too much of it is engaging with online people that i don’t even know.)….. but it’s a whole different pile of awful when i’m scrolling on my screen when my kids are around and maybe even trying to engage with me. ack! this is not the kind of parent i want to be!  this is not how i want to model media use!  i don’t want my kids to shut me out in favor of their phones when they’re teens and this is exactly the road we’re going down!

but here’s the thing–screens are a big part of our lives.  i can’t just say, “i’m going to turn off all screens whenever my kids are awake and with me.” because… that’s not realistic.  i use my phone for recipes, to check the weather forecast, to communicate (texts, e-mails, phone calls) with friends who are trying to schedule playdates or whenever i make appointments of any kind, to do facetime with granna…. screens are not going away anytime soon, so how can i teach my kids to incorporate screens in to their lives in a balanced way?

hooraygrannai have had a lot of success in past years by issuing “challenges” to myself (especially if i can get a few friends to join in the challenge with me), so here’s my healthy media challenge for myself:

–for one week (with the hope that i can sustain this or some measure of this effort much longer than one week) i will consciously limit my phone use during the hours that my children are awake and with me.

–to keep me honest in this effort, i will say, out loud, to my children, what my purpose for using a screen will be anytime that i need to use one (“i am looking for the recipe that we’ll use for tonight’s supper.” “i am checking to see if your friend’s mom e-mailed me back about getting together today.”).

–i will use the screen for that stated purpose and then i will put the screen away when i am done (instead of “just checking” all of my social media sites for updates).

–i will tell my children about this personal challenge so they can help keep me on track.

–i am confessing this to you, the general public, my friends, whoever reads this post, in the hopes that being accountable to someone will help me stick to this.  at least for this one week, so i can observe any differences.

–i may or may not post updates or progress reports online during this week because that would involve more screentime. so let’s just say that i’ll try to post an end-of-week reflection if anything really profound occurs to me during my one-week trial.  or i’ll post a little something if i decide that i love it and want to continue (because i’ll still need to know that you’re all out there watching me, keeping me honest).

who wants to join me?  you can set your own rules or you can use mine.  i’d love to hear from you about your thoughts and experiences.  let’s support each other as we fumble our way towards healthy media modeling.

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movie monday (are you sick of these yet? sorry.) (not sorry.)

How to be a Toddler from carissaabc on Vimeo.

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movie….. saturday! (i can’t wait to show you this one)

How to Enjoy a Tomato from carissaabc on Vimeo.

Posted in baby stuff, laugh, summer, video | 1 Comment