Photo May 17, 6 51 11 PM

Pretty Blooms Out On the Trails

One of the things I most love about where I live is the easy access to an extensive system of biking and walking trails. The trail that we use is a short five-minute walk away and follows Walnut Creek. I have been enjoying my early evening walks so much now that the weather is better. Many of the native prairie flowers are in bloom as well as the honeysuckles, which smell so sweet and fresh.Every day I notice something new to appreciate about

Every day I notice something new to appreciate about the stretch of trail that I walk. Yesterday, I saw a family of ducklings going for a swim in the creek. On Monday, Booker and I ran right into a young deer. We see groups of deer fairly frequently, and they don’t seem to be afraid of us at all.

Today I stopped to take some photographs of the flowers that were blooming alongside the trail. I know they’re just weeds, but I really love them, especially the phlox.

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Flowers - Windsor Heights Iowa

Phlox

Photo May 17, 6 51 11 PM

I’m really grateful every day that I can easily get out into nature and be surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers while I walk.

Photo May 18, 6 11 14 PM

FitBit Alta Review and 10,000 Steps Per Day

When school ended a few weeks ago, I began to worry about not getting enough activity during the day. At school and in most of my classes, I’m not sitting very much or at all. Or if I am sitting, then I’m up and moving pretty frequently to talk with students. I have to walk to and from my car as well as between buildings for different classes.

For the summer, I’m working in the design studio four days per week instead of two, and I do sit for most of the day. I decided that I wanted to make sure that I got up and walked around frequently throughout the day even if it was only for a minute.

Several years ago, I had used the small clip-on FitBit to help motivate me to get more exercise. The dog ate the first one, and I lost the second one when the clip loosened, and it fell off my clothes. I knew I didn’t want to go that route again, so I began researching alternatives and ultimately settled on the FitBit Alta.

FitBit Alta Review

The Design

The FitBit Alta isn’t as wide as the FitBit Charge. It has a smooth black display, which is matte silver underneath. The band comes in two sizes, small and large, and I ordered the small because I have tiny wrists. I read Amazon reviews that people were struggling with snapping the band closed, but I haven’t had any troubles with it at all. I wear it two notches from the tightest size, and it’s a little loose, but not floppy.

FitBit Alta Review

FitBit Alta Review

Photo May 18, 6 11 14 PM

FitBit Alta Review

Alta arrives with a USB charger and a Bluetooth connector for your computer, which I have never used. I’ve found that the charge lasts about three to four days. When I see the battery is low, I charge it in the evening while we’re watching tv so that it’s ready to go by the time I go to bed.

Features

The FitBit Alta comes with a nice array of features that take it beyond a basic step counter. Unlike some other fitness trackers, it has a digital interface that includes a clock so you can wear it in place of a watch. You can also check your step count, mileage, calories and active minutes without having to open the app on your phone.

In addition to counting your overall daily steps, every hour between 9:00 and 6:00, Alta will give you a little buzz on the wrist if you haven’t walked 250 steps by the fifty-minute mark. The app tracks how many hours you were able to meet the 250 step minimum. This feature is really helping with my goal to move a little throughout the day.

FitBit Alta Review

The app allows you to set goals for your steps and sleep as well as track other information like food and weight. It provides detailed information about your activity and graphs it automatically, which is perfect for an OCD nerd like me. So far I only track steps and sleep as I’m not concerned with calories or weight, but it’s nice that you don’t have to enter this information in a separate app if you do want to track it.

10,000 Steps

I’ve been using Alta for about two weeks now to track my steps and sleep. My goal is 10,000 steps per day, and I am fairly successful at meeting that goal if I take a long walk after work for about an hour. On other days, I’ve gone for two shorter walks instead. As long as the weather is good, it’s pretty easy to meet the 10,000 steps.

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If the weather is bad, meeting the 10,000 step goal is a little more challenging. I’m not beating myself up over this though. I know things like rain and after work plans will get in the way, so I’m shooting for a 7,000 step average.

Sleep Tracking

I do wear the band to bed and use the silent alarm. I love this feature because I no longer use my phone as an alarm clock. I have been steadily making progress towards not checking my phone as it gets closer to bedtime, hoping that I will sleep more soundly. I’ve found that eliminating the phone in combination with lavender essential oil has helped my sleep dramatically.

FitBit Alta Review

(The light blue is restless time and the pink is awake time. My dog wakes me up at 5:00 every morning, which is why you see that pink band, and then I go back to sleep for an hour.)

The app allows you to set multiple silent alarms and indicate which days you want to use them. When the wristband buzzes, you tap the face to turn it off. I also like that the Alta senses when you go to sleep. You don’t need to manually tell it to start sleep mode.

Negatives

As much as I like the FitBit Alta, it’s definitely not perfect. I am certain that it logs steps even when I’m not moving, usually when I’m doing something with my hands. I also find it difficult to get the display to turn on and often have to tap it multiple times. I wish that the leather bands were available in different colors like black and brown or that the metal band was available in gold. Why can’t someone make a good looking fitness tracker?

Positives

The positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I’m definitely moving more throughout the day and going on more walks. I have even been parking towards the back at the grocery store in order to get more steps. I was also able to see that I wasn’t getting nearly as much sleep as I thought I was and started going to bed a little earlier and sleeping a little bit later. In the past two weeks, I’ve noticed that my stamina on my longer walks has increased, and so has the dog’s!

I ordered my FitBit Alta on Amazon, and the Prime shipping was spot on as usual. If you’re interested in the Alta, I would recommend reading through some of the Amazon reviews to understand other people’s experiences.

I love data and tracking metrics so I don’t see myself going without some kind of tracker anytime soon. I may upgrade to the new Apple watch eventually if they have managed to improve the battery life, but for right now I’m happy with the Alta.

Do you use a fitness tracker? If so, which one?

FitBit Alta Review

Repeatable pattern from doodles

Pattern Play Doodles

Yesterday, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post by Justina Blakeney leading to a blog post tutorial she had written on how to turn your doodles into a repeatable pattern. I thought, I could do that! So, often when I have that kind of thought, I don’t act and simply move on. But, yesterday I was in the mood to actually do something, so I got out my sketchbook and my new watercolor brush markers and started doodling.

Plant Doodles Zig Brush Markers

I was inspired by my houseplants and the flowering trees in our yard and neighborhood. It wasn’t long before I had filled the entire page.

Then I followed the instructions in Justina’s tutorial. It wasn’t hard to separate each doodle onto its own layer in Photoshop. Then I created a new blank file that was 2000 x 2000 pixels and set up guides as a 200 pixel margin. I copied and pasted the doodles until I liked how they looked. Then I followed the steps to create a repeatable tile.

This was my first result:

doodle art repeatable pattern

This morning, I played with the original doodles again and created two more variations, but really, the options are endless.

doodle art repeatable pattern

doodle art repeatable pattern

I love the idea that I can create a library of my doodles and combine them and recombine them in new ways to make new patterns. I can easily see this becoming a new obsession. The level of Photoshop skills needed to create these patterns is pretty low….selecting, copying, pasting and using layers and guides.

Kuretake Fude Real Brush Pen, Clean Color

I also have to mention the markers that I used to create the tutorials. I recently purchased these brush pens by Kuratake to use in brush lettering, but they are also perfect for doodles and sketching. The colors are bright and clear and blend so easily either alone or with water. I would definitely recommend them if you’re looking for an easy portable way to play with color in your sketchbook.

Spring Wish List and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

One of my big goals for the first quarter of this year was to purge my wardrobe using the Marie Kondo method. If you haven’t yet read The Life Changing Method of Tidying Up, the basic principle is that you gather all items of a certain category in one place. Then you hold each item in your hands and ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” If it doesn’t, then out it goes.

I knew that this was going to be a daunting task, and so I scheduled it for a day of my spring break when I had absolutely nothing else planned. I took every piece of clothing, shoes and accessories (not jewelry) out of our closet, dresser and the guest room closet and dresser and dumped them into a pile on the bed and floor.

I ruthlessly picked up each piece and asked myself first, “Does this bring my joy?” If I didn’t feel a strong pull either way, I then asked myself, “How did this make me feel the last time I put it on?” Then I tried to picture myself wearing it. If the feeling was at all negative, I decided whether the object was worth trying to sell or whether it should be donated or thrown away.

Four hours later, I had put everything back into my closet and dresser drawers, folding and organizing according to the KonMari techniques described in the book. For reference sake, our closet is 6’6″ long, and our dresser is the big IKEA Hemnes, of which I use half. Before the purge, all of my wardrobe real estate was stuffed. Afterwards, I was left with one completely  empty closet shelf 3′ wide and a nearly empty big drawer in the dresser. The closet rods have plenty of wiggle room. I got rid of a lot of stuff, some of which I’d been holding onto for over a decade, and it felt really good.

Most of the items that remain are ones I truly love. I did keep a few things out of necessity that I plan to replace. The process helped me to identify what types of clothes I really like to wear and also what gaps need to be filled. I have a strong desire to be much more intentional about my purchases.  I don’t shop a lot, but when I do, I tend to make decisions under pressure or motivated by sale prices. This process helped me to realize that several of my favorite pieces were ones that I’d purchased full price (gasp!) at Anthropologie.

I also made a concentrated effort to alter items I loved that didn’t fit quite right. I found a great tailor and have been bringing him two pieces at a time, beginning with jeans, and having the waists nipped in and the hems slimmed and shortened. Each alteration is around $20, which adds up, but it’s been so worth it. I don’t know why I’ve resisted alterations for so long.

Now that my closet is looking pretty bare and spring is upon us, I have been doing some virtual shopping and planning for which pieces I want to add. For the time being, I plan to stick to neutrals so I can capitalize on mixing and matching. My focus is on pieces that are work appropriate but can also be dressed down for the weekend.

 

Spring Style Wish List

Flutter Hem Top | Chambray Shirt | White Denim | Satchel Bag | Booties | Striped Dress | Necklace

Have you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? If so, have you started on the process? What was your closet purging experience like?

Shop Spring Style

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers to Follow

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers to Follow

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers to Follow

Fashion and clothes have always been a challenge for me. I attended Catholic school from 6th grade to 12th grade. Getting dressed involved picking my skirt up off the floor, selecting a clean shirt, and trying to find a pair of knee socks or tights without holes in them. I had two or three pairs of shoes that I rotated. There wasn’t much to it, and I loved it.

In college, I tried to try, but looking back, I was probably a sartorial disaster. I am 5’1″, and back then we didn’t really have internet shopping. I ordered J. Crew out of a catalog, but there weren’t many or any mainstream brands offering petite fashion in an accessible way outside of the big cities. I wore a lot of clothes that were out of proportion or just too big.

Things have gotten better since then but I still find fashion challenging. The magazines and brands all showcase women who are 5’9″ or taller with skinny thighs. That is definitely not me. When I look at how they’ve styled outfits, I can immediately see they won’t work for me. Here in Des Moines, we now have one source for petite clothes outside of department stores – The Loft – and their selection leaves a lot to be desired when compared to what’s available on their website.

For the last several years, petite fashion bloggers have been a lifesaver for me. I choose to follow bloggers who shop at mainstream accessible stores like J. Crew, Loft, Anthropologie, Ann Taylor and Madewell. Their outfit posts have made it so much easier for me evaluate clothing proportions and understand how to purchase and alter clothes so that they are more flattering. These ladies are so creative and incredibly inspiring, and I am very indebted to them for making fashion fun – like it’s supposed to be.

1 – Extra Petite

Jean is likely well-known to anyone who follows petite fashion. She was the first petite fashion blogger that I began following, and I really appreciate her thoughtful reviews and advice. I also like how she mixes high and low pieces and invests in quality when it counts, which is something I aspire to do, but also shops the sales at Loft and H&M.

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers to Follow: Extra Petite

Rainy Days: Navy, Trench + Scallops

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers to Follow: Extra Petite

Easy Top Knot: High Bun that Actually Stays Put

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers to Follow: Extra Petite

Turquoise Time

2 – Good Life (for Less)

Of the five bloggers I’ve featured here, I would say that Jill is closest to my body type and overall style. Since she lives in Michigan, her seasons and climate are the most relevant to what we experience here in Iowa. I’ve followed her lead in focusing on adding neutrals that mix and match to my closet, which really makes getting dressed so much easier.

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers to Follow - Jill's Good Life for Less

My Everyday Style: Cold Snap

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My Everyday Style: Boots + Blazer!

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My Everyday Style: A Chambray Blazer!

3 – Crystalin Marie

Crystalin Marie is a relatively new-to-me fashion blogger. She just relocated to Portland (jealous), and I really like her preppy meets edgy style. In the third photo, you’ll see her wearing flare jeans, which was a trend I really couldn’t envision myself trying, but now I’m inspired to give them another go. Good thing I held on to one of my favorite pairs from the last time they were in style.

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers to Follow - Crystalin Marie

Three Tricks to Wearing Plaid after the Holidays

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M. Gemi Felize Moccasins

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Petite Friendly Flare Jeans

4 – Hello Framboise

Tam is an attorney who often appears in court. I look to her for inspiration on business/work wear. I enjoy her style because she often pairs neutrals with brights and excels at pattern mixing.

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers: Hello, Framboise

work outfit: red + navy + the madewell transport tote

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers: Hello, Framboise

petite-friendly maxi dresses at anthropologie

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers: Hello, Framboise

work outfit: coral and black dots

5 – Alterations Needed

Kelly’s style leans to the masculine/tomboy side, which I can appreciate but usually don’t incorporate into my own closet. Her blog contains a wealth of knowledge on both styling and altering garments to suit a more petite frame.

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers: Alterations Needed

Petite Friendly Slouchy Destroyed Denim

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers: Alterations Needed

The Shoes Make The Outfit – LOFT Tasseled Strappy Sandals

Five Petite Fashion Bloggers: Alterations Needed

Welcome To My Graphic Tee Renaissance

Where do you look for fashion inspiration? Do you have any favorite fashion bloggers to recommend?