Thanksgiving Wardrobe Picks

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Brown Sweater, Black Skinny Jeans, Beaded Top, Gold Velvet Top, Tee Shirt (similar), Black Spotted Top, Leather (Pleather) Skirt (similar)

Oh man! How long has it been? Too long! As always, friends, I’m over here trying to do the BLEND– creating meaningful space for the most important things in my life!! Something I frequently return to is that this space really IS meaningful to me. I may not have as much time as I once did to devote to editorial, but I certainly still enjoy pulling together a mix of life and style content. So here’s my latest guide to fall dressing with a special emphasis on Thanksgiving.

This Thanksgiving I’m keeping it casual. However, I’ve found that Thanksgiving often calls for special touches– a cozy sweater, a little bit of leather, and something with sparkle. This hint of sparkle is practically part of my genetic code as I remember back to my grandmother’s gold lame mumu she donned each Thanksgiving of my childhood. I’m really digging all of the golds, browns, and elevated neutrals that fall style invariably forecasts. Not only is fall extra-special when it comes to neutrals, you can also have fun adding texture and layers as the temps drop.

One thing about this style mash-up is that each of these pieces can be subbed in throughout the weekend to fit your schedule. Is everyone in your family wearing jeans and a tee shirt for dinner? Great! You’ve got a great graphic option. Are you heading out to a special performance or desert soiree? Fabulous, you’ll throw on your leather skirt and velvet top, plus leopard mules. Are you heading to a pre-feast neighborhood football game? Awesome. You can reach for a sweater, jeans, beanie, and cozy coat to keep you warm while you cheer on your mates. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Cozy Coat, Hat, Velvet Ribbons, Turquoise Ring, Birkenstocks, Sneakers, Leopard Mules, Rings, Oversize Jean Jacket

Thanksgiving Extras

 

Be kind (to yourself)

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I’ve wanted to write a New Year, 2019, post all January. I want to talk about what I am pledging to do with my time this year, and I want to find out what you have set as your goals or resolutions for 2019. I am realizing that there are many reasons that folks don’t subscribe to the January goal setting frenzy, but I think that because it’s my birthday month I feel additionally on-board with the resolution setting set.

If you abhor resolutions that center around an arbitrary date of the year you may consider this post alternatively titled “Lessons from Dedicating 30 Days to Yoga.” You see, I began this year with many intentions– like bringing more peace and patience into my life, and renewing my commitment to not buying new things. For reference, that didn’t really work out for me as a year-long endeavor. Mostly because I came to the project grossly underprepared to support myself. More on that later.

But this year, I am still evaluating and cornering my spending habits, I’m still seeking to be a parent that speaks more peace to my children, and I’m still trying to be a human that is more patient with her fellow humans at large– in the classroom, on the road, at the grocery store, on the news, and on and on.

Instead of putting immense pressure on myself to be all that I wanted to be on January 1, I decided that I would first engage in a yoga practice that lasts the entire month of January. This was one of the best moves I’ve made in terms of beginning a New Year, and I hope I’ll remember how cleansing, enlightening, grounding, and opening this journey has been.

One of these personal revelations is a two-part story with yet another alternative post title: “The difference between being hard on yourself and kind to yourself (even honest with yourself) is not that you need to stop being too easy on yourself.”

Allow me to explain. Four nights ago I was doing Adriene’s (Yoga with Adriene) Dedicate 30 Day Yoga Journey. Nearing the end of her practice we were lying in a final Shavasana. The practice had been about sweetness and Adrienne was saying, “Sometimes it’s not only about WHAT we do but HOW we do it. Consider that.” Now this is an idea that I subscribe to. We should all think about what we are doing. Why we are doing it, how we are doing it are keys to the ‘what’. Adriene went on, “Are you more in the habit of being hard on yourself or can you get more in the habit…”

My video stopped streaming at this exact moment. And I was left trying to figure out what Adriene was going to say next. The truth is that when I finished her statement the only thing that I could come up with was, “Or are you in habit of being too easy on yourself. Do you need to push yourself harder?” In other words, do you cut yourself a break too often, are you lazy, apathetic, flawed? And on and on and on with the self-denigrating comments. I was ready to get on the wagon and stone myself for being a push over. Why didn’t I see that this was the same thing as being TOO HARD ON MYSELF?

My video eventually reloaded and Adriene said, “Are you more in the habit of being hard on yourself, or can you get more in the habit of finding practices that help you, get you, in the habit of being sweet to yourself. EVEN WHEN YOU MESS UP.”

Stunned silence from my mat.

Can you be kind to yourself? Even when you mess up? Can you? Can I?

This brings me to my next story. Hang with me here. There was once a girl who couldn’t spell. That girl was me, I’m still that girl. And I don’t know when I began to believe or it was pointed out to me that I could not spell. (I hope at this point you are already seeing the irony of this reality as I am an English teacher. An English teacher who can’t spell.) Apparently, not even being a school Spelling Bee champion served to solve this self-image notion.

But this not-being-able-to-spell thing has been something that has haunted me for my entire life. Not just academically, but not being able to spell became something of a self-forecast for all of my failings, all the stuff I couldn’t do. It became a sign that I wasn’t cut out for success.

Well from this girl– me– came a sweet little boy– P. As it turns out, he showed some of the same phonetic unawareness that his mom had/has. That mom– me– told this little boy– my son– that he “could not spell.” Just like that, “You can’t spell.” Just like I had been told.

Now I tried to forecast some solutions to this problem by explaining that he could memorize words and thereby overcome his failing. “We can’t spell.” I kept telling him, like we were rowing this boat called “Can’t Spell” together. Fast forward to Parent-Teacher-Student conferences 2019.

As we concluded our meeting, my son’s sweet teacher asked if I had any questions for her and I felt that this would be a great time to bring up the spelling thing. I explained, “I can’t spell. And I’m worried that this might be the case for my son. It appears that he doesn’t have phonetic awareness.”

His teacher stoped me in my tracks and said, “Oh! That sounds just like me! Your son can spell, he just needs to practice with different variations of each phonemic pairing. It wasn’t until I was a teacher that I  realized there were certain vowels and sounds that were patterned through language. But you know what? (She turns to my son.) For every one of these patterns there are times when the rules apply and there are times when the English language breaks those rules! You CAN spell!” She declared with certainty.

Just like that. “YOU CAN SPELL!” With all of the vigor and certainty of a seasoned educator who knows that as she bolsters students to believe in themselves they will fulfill those prophecies and SPELL.

I was stunned into silence again. Here I had been telling myself (for years) that I couldn’t spell. I had been telling my son that he couldn’t spell. I had been practicing this can’t over and over and over. My son’s teacher continued, “The wonderful thing about spelling is that you do need to memorize how to spell words. Once you can recognize different patterns like ‘r’ controlled vowels– er, ur, ir, or– then you can begin to memorize which words use which patterns.”

I nearly fell off my chair. More than that, I was ashamed for telling my boy that he couldn’t, that he didn’t, that he wasn’t able to. Nothing better than strapping yourself to your failings and then just clinging to them! In that moment I remembered my yoga, the moment that I was so certain that my instructor was going to tell me that perhaps if yoga wasn’t working for me or working a change on or in me I was being too easy on myself.

I realized that I am constantly falling into this belief that if I will just push harder, do more, press into my present with more resolve, then– and only then– will I come out conqueror. But in those moments, on that mat and in that classroom, I realized that I need to be a whole lot kinder to myself and to those around me.

You, my beautiful friend, thank you for reading this post. I’m learning, slowly and steadily, to pass on the power of believing in yourself to my kids and to my deeper self. You, me, we all need to be more kind to ourselves. Happy 2019!

XX,
Megan

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Winter Adventure: Packing List

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While on winter break, we’re headed North to catch some extra snowflakes. I know that many of my readers are native to four-season climates, but it’s always helpful to have a go-to packing list for winter weather and winter adventures regardless of whether you’re out in the cold on the regular or a sun-baby leaving the palm trees for the slopes!

One thing that I’ve learned over my many cold-weather packing experiences is that it can sometimes be hard to pare down your choices when it comes to frozen conditions and that the frigid elements make what you put in your bag even more important.

My short list is– two to three sweaters, two flannel shirts, two pair of jeans, two base layers, one pair of snow pants, two pair of boots, two coats, one pair of gloves, one winter hat, one buff (or neck gaiter), five to seven pairs of socks, and one pair of pajamas.

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Sweaters x 3

First up, my very favorite piece of clothing—The Sweater. Sweaters really are a necessary part of packing for winter travel and adventure. My all-time favorite travel sweater is this gray merino sweater from Patagonia. It’s a men’s sweater from a few years ago, and I have gotten more wear out of it than any other sweater I own. If you know me, that is saying a lot because I am a sweater horse and have a collection that is well-loved and well-worn.

The key to a good sweater for adventure is to invest in some real wool. I could sing the praises of wool all. day. long. The important thing about wool is that it traps and keeps water and wetness away from your skins, dries quickly, and maintains warmth, so while you may be wet and even sweaty you’re much more likely to stay warm and toasty in wool. Cotton is the opposite, it keeps water next to your skin, is very heavy when wet, and takes a very long time to dry. The best option for snow shoeing, skiing, and snow biking is wool, hands down.

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Flannel x 2

Though flannel is often made from cotton, I have one thick Woolrich button-up that’s also made from wool and I bring this on every winter excursion. I will also break my no cotton rule for flannel as they are comfy extras and can easily be layered under a sweater, coat or other heartier piece of outerwear. I have several favorites from Madewell including this option.

Jeans x 2 + Snow Pants

I bring jeans for days or times that I don’t plan on being active like a nice dinner out after a day of skiing, or our plans to ring in the New Year with friends in Sun Valley. Jeans are great for long travel days in a plane or a car so I always pack a couple pair. My current faves are a high-rise pair from Madewell with a button fly.

I also love this ponte pair from James Jeans. Because these are old and sold out I’ve scoped out two other pairs you might want to look at, HERE, HERE, and HERE. They are the perfect blend of refined because they have back pockets like jeans, but they are made of poly so they feel and wear more like a legging.

Base Layers x 2

Crucial to all winter travel, especially if you are mixing in outdoor adventures are base layers. I also recommend wool base layers and it’s good to do your homework in this area because there are so many different variety of wool under-layers. For temperate climates I love this light weight Smartwool underlayer. But for a thicker, substantive pair you might want to try the new Patagonia capeline air base layer. They’re made from a merino-poly blend and the reviews are tops!

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Gloves x Hat x Buff

Also very necessary to keeping warm and wonderful is protecting all of your extremities. I have been wearing a pair of Gordini gloves for several years now. Partially this is because I don’t downhill ski and partially it’s because I haven’t needed anything warmer. This year my sweet hubby bought me a sweet pair of Hestra gloves and my life has forever changed. Gone are the days of frozen flanges. I couldn’t be more stoked.

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The hat I’ll bring is this fun red beanie. Pick something warm and why not go for a puff-ball on top if you’re feeling winter-festive? And let’s not forget that neck. I wear a neck gaiter nearly every time I head out into the frost. They are a must have if the wind picks up, and it is always nice to warm up your lips on long slogs.

Socks x 5

You can never have too many pairs of socks. Well… I guess if your sock stash caused you to have to bring another carry-on you may have over-done-it! I like to bring five to seven pair of socks. Here’s the thing, if your feet are cold add a pair of socks. Doubling up on socks has saved me on more snow shoeing expeditions than I can count.

Our favorite sock fetish right now is definitely Stance. However most of the ones I’ll bring are actually these wool cycling socks that I like to steal from my hubby. They are plush! Your feet will be nice and roasted when you’re finished.

Boots x 2

I’ll bring three pair of boots with me on this little adventure– my Sorel Joan of Arctics, my Asolo hiking boots, and a pair of more fashionable booties, THESE if you are interested. If we weren’t traveling by car, I would need to rethink my shoe choices and stick to two pair of boots. I am also toying with throwing in my favorite winter slippers by Haflinger. These babies keep out the cold on any frozen floor.

Coats x 3

For a trip that consists of space saving measures I would bring a packable down coat, and my wool winter coat. Because we are in our own rig I’m bringing my Gortex shell as well. I just updated to the Patagonia Powder Bowl jacket, but I had my last Gortex shell for almost fifteen years. The fact of the matter is if you buy quality your cost per wear often plummets.

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7 Ideas to Update Your Family Smartphone Habits

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Christmas is upon us! As we skate through the holiday season I wanted to share some of the ways that I have found to both evaluate and update smart phone usage in your home. After all, the Holidays are a time to connect with our families, enjoy time spent with friends, and remember with gratitude the blessings of the past year.

In the age of digital-everything, I’ve found that while I might have a desire to be on my phone scrolling and rolling my way across the internet, my propensity to pick up my phone doesn’t always bring me what I’m looking for– JOY! In fact, the more I spend precious weekend minutes (and hours) on my phone the more bothered, bugged, and dissatisfied I become.

Engaging in an era of constant technological reinvention can feel exhausting. However, as we realize that smartphones are tools– tools that have a very functional, serviceable purpose, yes– the better we will be able to stave off the smartphone toll– disconnection, dissatisfaction, and disappointment.

My phone can call up my latest dinner recipe, play my favorite song-set, cue my most recent to-do list, and give me access to my current yoga routine. To me, these are all winning ways to use my phone. I can also admit that I’ve used my phone as a babysitter (hello most recent trip to the salon), and I’ve used it as a kid-entertainer (hello date night for mom and dad). We call this the “cell phone trick”, but as parents we always need to check ourselves in terms of how much screen-time we’re allowing. Kids can’t and shouldn’t be responsible to either enable or limit their own media consumption. That job still rests on the shoulders of thoughtful parents.

Getting your Instagram fix is fine, but if you find yourself scrolling mindlessly through your feed over and over you might want to choose a few other activities that keep your attention and bring human interaction.

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Add an app to track your usage

One of the best ways to find out how much you really use your phone is with an app to track your usage. With a recent iOS update, my phone began giving me a weekly “Screen Time” report. Now whether this was always available on my phone and I didn’t use it, or whether this is a recent Apple installment, this weekly Screen Time report is a great way to get a picture of your phone use!

I’ve really liked knowing how much time I’m spending on my screen, and it enables me to see how much time is spent on the individual sites on the internet as well as on apps that my kids use like Minecraft. For example, last week I spent a total of 20 hours on my phone. To me that sounded like A LOT. But when I saw how much I spent on my meal planning website, the clock that I use as a timer in my class each day, and the time that my kids played on various apps (about 5 hours total). I felt as though I was a more aware user. For me this awareness brings the opportunity to evaluate, re-set if necessary, and scaffold my phone use for the next week!

Put your phone away at dinner. Period.

This hard and fast rule has really changed the atmosphere in our home. I’ll give my husband and I a pat on the back for continuing to honor family dinner, and I’ve written about the power and importance of this daily ritual here on Refined + Rugged. But making sure that family dinner doesn’t devolve into a family internet surf has really helped to make the precious moments of the day we get to spend together even more meaningful.

A lot of families have cell phone use rules, and I hope that yours is one of them. My philosophy is that having rules and usage guidelines that apply to EVERYONE in a family helps to communicate to ourselves and to our kids that the human is in charge of the phone not vice versa.

As we have set specific times that phones are not allowed or not present, I have watched the way that our interactions with one another grow in meaningful ways. We spend more time outside, we spend more time talking and laughing together, we spend more time reading, playing instruments, getting in a workout, doing homework, participating in activities in our community. As our cell phone usage goes down, our engagement with one another invariable increases, and our happiness quotient generally rises. Win!

Create Times when Phones are Acceptable

Along with being sure that you have hard and fast rules for putting away your phone, it is also wise to make sure that you have times when phones are appropriate. For example, we really do take dates in our small town and leave our boys at home to play games on the phone, watch TV, or generally have screen-time. Because we are only a few blocks away, it feels like getting more bang for our buck to have the smartphone act as our babysitter.

We also have a weekly Minecraft club at our library. I was originally reticent to sign the boys up for an hour of game time each week. However, instead of causing MORE screen-time later in the week, it has allowed us the freedom to play and game and the freedom to say, “No, you had your screen-time on Wednesday.”

Saturday morning is another time we allow our kids time on the smartphone or smart-device. Hard working parents need breaks, but I have found that it is best to have these as scheduled times. If my people know that Saturday morning is one time they will be able to watch television, play Minecraft, and use apps like “The Elements”, we all have this screen-time to look forward to rather than allowing it to rule every minute of our lives or make a fight when one isn’t needed.

Remember that Small People are Watching

The more our world engages in the digital universe the more we may find ourself interfacing with technology. Remember that individuals, partners, families really can make a difference in digital citizenship by evaluating and then limiting smartphone and smart-device usage.

As I look at the way I use my smartphone, I have been reminded that in most cases when I am on my phone some small set of eyes is watching. Try this for an afternoon or a day. Turn off your phone. Put it in a drawer or in a desk and then go out with the purpose of observing the way that other people use their phones.

Think about the fact that for most children the ideas, images, examples, and trend-setters for smartphone use are the adults in their life. For the most part they walk about without phones watching the way the the world around them chooses to interact with technology. What would the smartphone world look like to you if you were a child?

For example, we have strongly encouraged reading in our household. A few nights ago my boys were soaking in the warmth of their good reads in front of a glowing fire. I have been guilty, in these moments of silence when my children are engaged, to take the time to peruse my phone. In other words, my children are engaged in the real world, they are learning, reading, growing and expanding their sweet minds, and I am taking my “phone time”.

How does this look to them? Because as much as I may pretend to limit my smartphone usage, there are certainly times when I should make the executive decision to TURN IT OFF. I made the choice then and there to grab a book, highly recommended to me by our school librarian, and read.

Make a list of all of the activities you like to do without your smartphone

Maybe you’re not an avid reader so picking up a book isn’t appealing to you. Instead of a book, what you should look for is an enterprise that excites you that is not linked to your phone! While writing this post, I was encouraged to make a list of all of the activities, projects, and endeavors I can opt into before I pick up my phone.

While your list may look different from mine, the idea is the same– make the time and take the opportunity to do things that don’t involve digital isolation. Even when you are commenting a friend’s Facebook post or latest Instagram update you do so in a vacuum in that very moment. You are all alone. What are other things you can do to keep your spirits high and your outlook positive in the coming year?

When you’re stuck scrolling, just turn it off!

In the end, if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your phone on a Friday evening– STOP! One of the most powerful realizations about your phone is that you are in charge. So if you do end up in the internet’s web far out into the galaxy of google searches, it might be best for all to simply put the phone down and walk away.

Take Stock of your Situation

Just as you might look at the Screen Time stats on your phone, take the time to evaluate your phone usage over time. Sometimes we take a couple steps forward and then a couple of steps back. I am advocating a constant analysis of the ways which smartphones can be corralled, limited, and controlled as a mode of human convenience rather than a time-sucking monster.

My ultimate concern is that we model for our little humans the kind of digital citizens we hope that they will be one day, and that we leave the rising generation with the skills to realize that they are the masters of the digital world, not vice versa.

I hope your Holiday really is merry and bright. I hope that the love and connection you create transcends technology. I hope that reigning in your phone will put you back in the driver’s seat of your sleigh. Sending you love and well wishes from an average human fighting the good fight to unplug, unwind, and fully enjoy this special time of year. Happy Friday, friends.

XX, Megan

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Getting Real

I’m looking down the pipeline toward the end of 2018. What?!? I cannot believe we’ve come this far, can you? I’m flabbergast (if you didn’t gather from the over-abundance of exclamation points)! As we come in toward the finish line, I’ve paused to think about some of the things that I accomplished this past year and some of the my hopes and dreams for the year to come.

When I began Refined + Rugged I was a stay-at-home parent with two small boys. I wanted a way to push myself to write everyday, but I felt as though I didn’t want the writing to be too complicated or that I had time to devote to larger publishing projects. I wanted a way to document my style and to talk about fashion. I still love styling up wonderful outfits, though my daily wardrobe is decidedly more professional.

I also wanted a way to journal pieces of my life that would otherwise be lost! So here I am back at my computer because I want to dip my toe back into this thing called blogging. Really I view this as an online journal, a repository for the same stuff I wanted to capture the first time around– substance and some of my family goings on, style and some of my daily outfits, self and some of the stuff that floats around in my head.

As of late I’ve been inspired by some fantastic bloggers who continue to blog to their very own beat, and I’ve had a talk with myself that goes something like this: “You don’t have to do this the way that everyone else does this. You don’t have anything to prove by being part of the online community of lifestyle and tastemakers. You don’t have to be any brand but your own.”

Yes, here I am, thinking about how I can continue to create content for this site while I work at being the best partner and mom that I can, employed in my dream job as an English teacher which takes A LOT of my energy and time, and still living in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I hope that I’ll be able to take this a day at a time and continue to offer creative inspiration to others. Heaven knows I need encouragement, support, care, and voice. I consider this a tiny opportunity to be heard.

Thank you all who have followed my blog from day one, those who continue to follow me on this journey, or those who have begun to follow me at some point along the way. I treasure the chance to share on this platform and can’t wait to employ everything I’ve learned about the comma splice in the last year! LOL.

XX,

Megan