My little "laura"

Lucy has been obsessed with "Laura and Mary" for well over a year now. I've only read her the first four books (on purpose, we own them all but I'm saving them since Laura ages with the books) but we've read those four several times and she's listened the Little House on the Prairie on audio book several times as well. So much of her pretend play involves Laura.

Sadly, I had never made her a prairie girl dress up outfit. I meant to but I wanted to "do it right" and had put it off. But last week I got an email about her upcoming American Heritage Girl mother daughter tea party. There was going to be a fashion show and the girls could dress up in one of several themes. Of course, Lucy picked her favorite book character - the one and only Laura Ingalls!

But I only had 8 days to put together a costume. And I'm having a Hashimoto's flair up which not only leaves me with little energy, but also joint pain, mostly in my wrists and elbows. I could only sew about 10 minutes before it was too painful too continue. Ack! There was no way I could pull off the authentic costume of my dreams. So, in true basement style, I compromised. We ran to the fabric store and got this sorta -calico fabric. Not totally traditional but at least a floral. I used this very simple (and free!) peasant dress pattern I'd used before (for her Laura pajamas!) and completely improvised an apron. We borrowed the bonnet from a friend but I will be making/buying one for her in the future.

And while it may not be the costume of my dreams, it is the costume of hers. And I think she's adorable in it too :-)

Tea party is about to begin. Lucy and "Charlotte" are excited!

On the cat walk

My sad attempt at a selfie

 A better shot with some help from a fellow mom


Back to the Classics Challenge: Persuasion

Ah, Persuasion. The under-appreciated Austen novel. Which is kind of ironic considering how Anne is the under-appreciated heroine in this book. But I really do like both Anne and the novel even if I forget it sometimes. I knew I read Persuasion in high school and when I made my list of books for the Classics Challenge, I was thinking I hadn't read it since but I recently realized I read through all of them back when Lucy was first born. And then of course I had to watch all the movies. That's really the big "problem" I have with Jane Austen. I can't seem to just read or watch one of her stories without going on to read them all. The struggle is real.

But every time I read this one, it grows on me more. First of all, I love Anne. If I had to describe myself as Jane Austen character, I probably would still say Elinor (which is the real reason why Lucy's middle name is Elinor. Yes, spelled like that!) but I could easily say Anne too. They are actually quite similar in character and personality I think, just different in circumstances because while Elinor is different from her mother and sister, she still has a good relationship with them and while they may not understand her, they do understand that they need her. But Anne, she's all alone. But she's so good. What else is good about Persuasion. Well, uhm, let's see - The Letter. And yes, I think it really needs to be capitalized like that. I'm not really normally a big "Romantic moment" type gal, more of an appreciate the everyday sort. But even I swoon at The Letter. It just can't be helped.

I also appreciate that it seems to be less about outside circumstances and more about our two main characters thoughts. Now, I say "seems" because I think you could make the case otherwise and there are some things that need to line up, like a certain other couple falling in love, but unlike other Austen works where I might be actually wondering how things would align so my characters could be happy at the end, in this, for the most part, we're just waiting for our main couple to figure things out. But I love how we get to watch that unfold. Add in the idea of regrets and living with past decisions, right or wrong they might have been or seemed at the time you made them, and this really is a book that ages well with a person. Those are things that are just easier to relate to the more you experience life.

Or maybe that's not it at all. Maybe it just seems fresher because I haven't read it as much as Austen's other works. Actually, I think that's my big problem with Jane Austen. I've read them all already. Oh Jane. You were gone too soon.

Persuasion was my Re-read a Classic from School selection. Head over to Books and Chocolate for more reviews!


Things I love: My Bullet Journal

I've talked about my bullet journal in passing before but it really deserves its own post. This won't be a How to make a Bullet Journal 101 post, there are tons of those around, including what I think is the original here.

This is the first year since college that I've been able to really keep a calendar/to-do organizational system going. And since I got my first smart phone around this time last year, you might think it would be related to that, but no, this thing is all paper. And I like it that way. I won't say I don't love and use my phone and its apps because I do, more than I wish to admit. But for organizing, I've determined that I need paper and pen.

In college, I used the free calendar the student rec center gave out for my calendar along with lots of random papers for my to-do lists and a mental log of where all those papers were and anything else that I hadn't written down. I'm not sure why the student gym handed out calendars but I liked theirs a lot and it was free so it worked. Then I graduated and dropped the calendar and stuck with the random paper method. Not the best idea. Add in a bit of mommy brain and I was in trouble. But I couldn't keep a system going. I tried! I did. And I'm such an organizational junkie when it comes to other things that it drove me nuts not to have a system.

Cue clouds opening and heavenly angel music, enter the bullet journal. This system is genius and it exactly what I need. And the proof is that I started December 2014 and am still using it!

It sits right here most of the time, on the far edge of my kitchen island. If it isn't there, in my purse or in my hand, I'm in trouble.

I've tweaked it a bit but it is still pretty simple. The only thing I really do differently than the video is that I use these plastic tabs to mark my most used pages. They come off the page without tearing the paper and I've used the same three all year (they are made of stiff plastic). One stays at my outdoor log so I can update it weekly and the other two move to be on the current month and daily spots. I've just added a few new ones too but I'm still deciding if they are helpful or overkill.

I keep everything in here. My written plan for AO Y1. But I actually did a some very messy pre-planning for AO Year 1 on scratch paper and then when I had a better sense of what I wanted, I wrote it here as a reference. The bullet journal does a great job of lessing my ridiculous "fear of messing it up" but it can't remove it entirely I guess. Most of my pages are NOT this neat!

 A list of what meals I have in the freezer.

My monthly spread. I know some people need the visual blocks for days but I love love love the list format!

As you can tell, mine is also pretty boring. I love looking at the colorful ones on pinterest and instagram and have tried to incorporate at least a colorful ink but it's never gonna be artwork and it doesn't have lots of inspirational quotes or fun doodles in it. That's just not how I write but it works for me. And I no longer show up to things on the wrong week or write down a really complete list and then have to bang my head on the wall when I lose it.

BuJu Inspirational links:

My current Bullet Journal, a large red hardcover squared moleskin. My brother got me this for Christmas last year (Thanks Ben!) and I've still only used about half of it. It's working great and I really have no complaints but I like to mix things up so when I do eventually need another one, I might try this dotted version  or even a Leuchtturm (page numbers already added!). I know what you're thinking. Wow, MacKenzie, using dotted paper instead of grid, that's living on the wild side! But yes, yes, I just might.

Here are some fun hacks if you like incorporating pretty stuff. Or just like looking at and dreaming of the pretty stuff.

And here are some pretty pen quivers. I'm way to cheap to spend $30 on something that holds a pen but there are lots of tutorials out there to add a pen holder with duct tape or even a button (I think that's my favorite). I really should do that.


Enemy of the Good

Ah, the basement. The never ending project, am I right? I mean, I mention our work on it one to two times a year. But this time, I won't be talking about our working on it. I'll be talking about our not working on it. Because, here's the thing. I've got a list of the things that need to happen. And once they do, I envision it being a fairly decent space. I've got a vision. But...

Life. It's so daily. And I came to realize two things. 1) As much as I would love a pretty space, it can't be a priority right now in terms of time. And money, but mostly time. 2) I wasn't quite sure how it would be used. We didn't use it because it wasn't set up but it wasn't set up because I was waiting until we finished some of the updates but I wasn't finishing the updates because (in addition to a low amount of free time), I wasn't sure how we would use it!

So Christmas day, I made Craig come down there with me and we just set it up in the way I thought would work best. We didn't buy presents for each other so I called this my present - just in case you are wondering how I convinced my husband to spend Christmas day moving storage totes and mopping. It didn't hurt that the kids got a fun tumbling mat as a present and we needed a space to set it up.

And now, they love it! They play down there a ton. Our living room has always been our playroom and I'm relaxed about messes but I do insist that things get picked up daily. But in the basement, they can set up elaborate stores that sell books and fruit and princess dresses. Or arrange big cardboard boxes into pirate ships on an ocean. And it can stay there for days, I don't care. It's still pretty ugly.

Okay, really ugly! I'm almost embarrassed to post these pictures. But if you remember the befores, we are making progress. Albeit very very slow progress.

But when Lucy and Jonah wake up at 6:30 and go play down there together and let Norah and I sleep in another thirty minutes to an hour, I have to say, the ugly seems a small price to pay. 


Back to the Classics Challenge: The Woman in White

First one down! I choose The Woman in White for my Classic Detective Novel Selection. This was probably the classic I was most anxious to start and I did as soon as the clock struck midnight. Yes, I was literally reading this at 12:30 am Jan 1, 2016! I love the mystery genre and had been wanting to read it for a while. Collins did not disappoint. This is right up there with The Moonstone.

In terms of mystery, it isn't quite as strong as The Moonstone. I really had no idea how that one would play out until the very end. But there was a lot to love in this one too - the characters for starters. And the differing viewpoints. Multiple narrators is a technique I often shudder at because its so often done just to provide information for the reader that would be impossible otherwise. And if you're not going to do it right, just let your main narrator overhear a conversation or find a page of a diary or something, please. But here, while we do get different information from each viewpoint we also, and I'd say even more importantly, we really get a feel for each character. Each section is clearly marked with who is doing the writing but I honestly think you could easily figure who was narrating even if someone went through and marked it out with a sharpie. I'm not sure who would do such a thing, maybe a little brother, but my point is, each character is fully fleshed out from our loving and loyal hero to the gullible housekeeper and even the narcissistic uncle, whose nerves would rival even Mrs. Bennet's.

And when I compared the mystery aspect to The Moonstone, I didn't mean to imply it wasn't good. It isn't quite the quintessential mystery that The Moonstone is, which makes sense seeing as this was writing first and The Moonstone is considered to be the first detective novel in the English language. Even so, it's obvious Collins was getting ready to create that genre. Our main character Hartright does a pretty admirable job in his role as amateur detective and this book contains more sleuthing than some stories with a professional often do. I mean, he actually goes places and looks for information!

If I had one negative to say, its that he made my favorite female character Marian, really ugly. Why? I mean, she doesn't have to be drop dead gorgeous but must she be repulsive? Either way, she's a great character. A great character for a great book. I feel like I'm gushing but considering I read this 800 page (or so? I read it on a kindle so I'm not quite sure but its long) book in about 5 days, the numbers gush for themselves. And now that I've read several of his works, I can be confident in saying Wilkie Collins is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

For more about the Back to the Classics Challenge, head over to Books and Chocolate. It's a great place to find great old books to read!