Thursday, May 28, 2015

I've been busy.

Well, it's waaaaay too late in the week to try to pass this post off as a belated 10 Things on Tuesday, so we'll just call it a general update post, instead. Things have been pretty crazy!

1. (I like numbered lists. Deal with it.) After a change to her medication, my mom was super sick again most of last week. At one point she fell while trying to get off the couch, and I was physically incapable of getting her up (She only weighs like 100 lbs, but my back sucks in general and my car accident a few months ago certainly didn't help it) so we had to call 911. I felt pretty lame telling the dispatcher "My mother has fallen and, uh... this is a total cliche, but can't get up." She didn't want to go to the hospital, though, and they couldn't exactly force her so they just got her back up onto the sofa and checked vitals and such. I'll save you all the drawn out details of the story, but I ended up getting a *total* of about 8 hours of sleep across five days before I had a total sobbing breakdown and told mom she had to call in reinforcements. My sister that lives a couple of hours away came down the next morning and I got like three GLORIOUS hours of uninterrupted sleep that ended with her calling my phone and waking me up because mom had finally agreed to go to the hospital. My poor sister was so stressed and frazzled from just four hours of taking care of mom that all I could do was look at her unblinking and say "Five. Days. On no sleep."

2. So,  the momma spent a few nights in the hospital, got switched to a new combo of medications, and came home on Tues. My middle sister took the week off work to come help take care of her (whew!) so at least I've been managing a solid four or five hours of sleep the last couple of nights.

3. All of the above led to one of those "Wow, I really can not continue like this" epiphany moments. Anxiety and depression are things that I struggle with on an almost daily basis, so just taking good care of myself takes a lot out of me - I am totally not capable of providing serious care for another person. I'm fine when mom is relatively healthy and I just need to pop by her house a few times a day to check in, make sure she is taking all of her pills, etc, but the level of care she needed last week was (almost literally) killing me. I feel like the absolute best thing I can do right now is somehow come up with the $ to move back to Florida so that my sister can take over my apartment (I live in an in-law apartment attached to my mom's house) and take care of her much better than I'm able to. I've been dying to move back to FL for years, so this is kind of the "this has to happen NOW" moment.

4. I browsed through the current seasonal jobs available at Disney, and got super excited to see that they had a social media position. Disney World and Twitter? I am beyond qualified for that one. But sadly, I got the "we have decided to look at candidates with qualifications and experience that are a better match" form letter rejection. Given that they wanted someone with writing experience (I've been a freelance writer for 5 years now), Disney experience (I was a concierge there for almost 3 years) and social media experience (yep.), I have no idea what more they wanted, but c'est la vie. However...

5. It got me thinking. First, I thought "Hey! Maybe I could get an apartment community to discount my rent in exchange for running their FB/Twitter/etc!" and then I thought "Wait, maybe I could also do that for places other than where I want to live?? And in one of those weird periods of inspiration where an idea forms in your brain all at once, like JKR figuring out the plot of Harry Potter on a train, I had a complete business plan, pricing structure and all, worked out in about an hour. Woot!

6. I still need to put together a website, but you can follow Sun Cat Creative on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram already! There's not much of anything up yet, but the support would mean a lot to me!

7. Y'all have no idea how many names I went through before finding one that was available, btw. Every time I thought I had something totally unique, LOLNOPE. Hazel Creative? (after my mother's maiden name) Taken. Black Cat Media? Taken. Little Bear (after my Bear cat) Media? Taken. Literally evvvverything. So I figured "sun" because Florida and "cat" because duh, crazy cat lady. Voila!

8. I promise not to spam you guys with this (since I did also mention it in my last post) but I also set up a Go Fund Me page where you can throw a couple of dollars towards my moving fund if you want to be an awesome person and earn all kinds of good karma points and feel really rad about yourself. I felt super self conscious about setting it up, because a) I *never* ask for help with like, anything, and b) there are so many pages on there raising $ for adorable pet vet bills or family funeral expenses or other heartbreaking things that I felt super lame setting one up for moving expenses. But I need to come up with around $4k in a couple of months, so I am doing literally everything possible short of workin' the pole (and man, if I was in better shape I'd probably even consider that) to make it happen.

9. In totally unrelated news, I got Gretchen Rubin's new book in the mail today! Excited to dive in once I actually get some free time!

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10. And last, I DID actually finally get a small break to soak up some sun! The hospital mom was at was practically right across the street from a park on the lake, so after visiting her on Monday I went over for about half an hour to de-stress and enjoy the (finally!) beautiful weather. Much needed!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

11 Things I Miss About Orlando

I've been super homesick lately, and thus I give you... 11 Things I Miss About Orlando!

1. Crazy Florida Thunderstorms - Florida has more lightning than anywhere else in the country (possibly the world?), and it's so much fun to sit by the window and watch huge bolts of lightning crack across the sky.

2. Palm Trees

3. Lazy afternoons spent wandering Disney resorts, snapping photos.

4. The totally subtle way that we celebrate holidays. 

5. Afternoon tea with my Katie! We've been doing them since... 2005? I think? I would ill for a cup of Eros and one of those scones right now, y'all.

6. And shenanigans with my Florida friends in general!

7. And yes, I love spending time in the theme parks. But I'm more about exploring and finding cool overlooked details than riding Space Mountain for the millionth time. (Points if you know where this pic was taken!)

8. Butterbeer, duh. 

9. Tijuana Flats and their house made hot sauces. Must try at least half a dozen different hot sauces with each meal. 

 10. Publix. I freakin' love Publix.

11. And downtown Orlando, obviously, especially at night, double especially when there are great local bands playing.

I've been trying to save up $ to move back for YEARS now, so I finally gave in and set up a Go Fund Me page to help with moving expenses in hopes of finally, FINALLY getting back there by the end of the summer! If you'd like to throw a dollar or three my way, I'd appreciate you bunches! Just think of all of the awesome blog content y'all get when I move back! Disney and beaches and general Florida craziness galore!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

10 Things on Wednesday - Volume 39

1. Although I have a Stitch Fix scheduled for the middle of June, I heard about ModaBox this weekend and am giving them a try, too. The biggest negative I've found to ModaBox so far is that they don't seem to offer referral credits (yet?), which is a big deal to me since those play a big part in making Stitch Fix more affordable. On the other hand, they don't charge a styling fee, you get 7 days to try your items instead of 3, and the stylists actually contact you with questions while they're putting your box together, so I'm feeling optimistic! I'll let you guys know how it goes!

2. I made the mistake of test driving this beauty last week:

It's the first Mustang I've driven since I totaled mine, and... Omgggggg. It felt so good, like home, and so freaking STURDY compared to the little car I have now. I was in love, hardcore, but my car is worth practically nothing as a trade-in (delightful to learn 2 months after buying it!), and I just can't put myself $10k+ in debt right now. But I'm now back to actively checking the car sites for one a little more in my price range.

3. I recently listened to the audiobook of The Hoarder in You because it is written by one of the people who helps people clean & organize on Hoarders, and I love me some reality TV about houses messier than mine. It was a little too aimed at people with *serious* clutter problems for me to pick up many useful ideas, but I did have one big takeaway that I thought I'd share with you guys: OHIO - Only Handle It Once. Although it's mostly aimed at keeping people from making a "Meh, I'll decide about this later" pile while cleaning out their closet and whatnot, I've been applying it to online things. Rather than scrolling past emails and unread posts on Bloglovin dozens of time thinking I'll get around to reading them later, I've been trying to go ahead and do it then. Definitely cuts down on some stress!

4. This is #4 because my beloved Orlando City Soccer Club scored not one, not two or three, but FOUR goals against the LA Galaxy on Sunday, resulting in a 4-0 game and our very first home field win. The only way it could have been better is if I was home to watch it in person, and hit downtown afterwards to celebrate! Soon.

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5. Yeah, I'm watching The Bachelorette again. I think that the way they started off with two potential bachelorettes this season was awkward and weird, but then again, the whole series is like that, so... *shrug*. I'm not attracted to any of the dudes, as usual, but we'll see how this season plays out. I am pleased by which Bachelorette the guys voted to keep! (I don't want to spoil it in case any of you are a few days behind, too. I'm catching up on last night's while typing this.)

6. I think I mentioned in a previous 10 Things that I've also been watching A&E's "Married at First Sight." I think there are only a few weeks left, but I have to bring up something that happened in the last episode I saw - the couple living in Manhattan bought an $83 bath towel. Is this seriously a thing that people do? If yes, WHY? WHYYYYY? $8 bath towel? Sure, if it's all soft and pretty and fancy. EIGHTY EFFING THREE? NO.

7. Every now and then, I feel like I missed out by never having roommates in my 20s. I'm a solitary creature by nature, but sometimes it sounds fun? Did I miss out?

8. Any e-reader suggestions? I've been saving up my Amazon GC's from surveys and Swagbucks with plans to get a Kindle Fire, but is there something that's a better value? Hit me up with opinions!

9. I'm trying to get back into a daily yoga habit. I was doing SO WELL at the beginning of this year - almost every day in January! And then, of course, I smooshed my car in the beginning of Feb and everything I read said not to do yoga for a couple of weeks after a car wreck, so I cut back to just a little light stretching, and then pretty much nothing. And now I feel like crap. I still have my GaiamTV membership, so I've been poking through their bazillions of yoga videos in search of something short & fairly chill to start with.

10. Today has been really long. I'm finishing this up at 11:54 pm as the last David Letterman show rolls its end credits. That seems like as good of a #10 as anything!

Friday, May 15, 2015

April Stitch Fix Review

Time for another Stitch Fix blog review!

I think this might be my last Stitch Fix, you guys. I'm so bummed.

The whole point of Stitch Fix is to have fun being surprised by a box full of clothes tailored to your likes, and this fix was not fun at all for me. I went from super excited to see the box on my doorstep a day early to fighting back tears less than 10 minutes later as I was trying things on.

After my March Stitch Fix review, I contacted Stitch Fix customer service about the fact that out of four Stitch Fix boxes so far, I've only liked two items. 2 out of 20 is not great. Customer service got right back to me and offered to waive the styling fee for my April fix, and suggested that I add a bit more to my notes section of my profile, so I did just that. In my note to my stylist this month, I mentioned that I have trips to Savannah, GA and New Orleans planned soon, so I'd love lightweight dresses perfect for adventuring around humid southern cities. (I think I'd be happy with a whole box of Stitch Fix dresses!) I was definitely hoping to receive something along the lines of the cute dresses I've pinned recently:

Stitch Fix Pinterest Board

Had to shrink this a bit to fit, but you can click it for full size! As you can probably tell, though, I like v-neck or wrap style dresses with an empire (or close to) waistline. Preferably just above the knee, but I did pin a couple of maxis with notes that I usually don't like them, but that the ones I pinned were so cute I'd be open to trying! (You can check out my Stitch Fix Pinterest board here, btw! It's a mix of Stitch Fix items I've seen on other blogs and boards, and outfits from other shops that I'd like to receive something similar to. I also point my stylist towards my Style Pinboard, which I'm a little less picky about pinning to - for instance a dress I love that I know wouldn't work on my body might still go there, but I still think it's worth looking at for an idea of my aesthetic in general.)

I also mentioned that I'd love a great pair of shorts - something more fun than regular denim, but nothing too out there in terms of crazy patterns.

Stitch Fix Box

Seeing that my Stitch Fix box has arrived is always exciting!

Stitch Fix Box Opening

Stitch Fix box opening! My first thoughts just from seeing the fabrics and colors like this were (top to bottom) maybe-no-yes-no-yes!

I took the suggestion that I've seen online this time - not looking at my stylist note or prices until after I'd tried everything on. I wanted to get my honest reactions to pieces without being clouded by price.

All tops are pictured with my Kut from the Kloth Diana skinny jeans from my 2nd Stitch Fix, btw!

Pixley Indianan Graphic Print Mixed Material Tee - $44

Pixley Indianan Graphic Print Mixed Material TeeBack of Pixley Indianan Graphic Print Mixed Material Tee

This top had potential. Although I've mentioned my distaste for grey several times, the pattern was fun. If this had fit fantastically, it would have been a contender as a keeper, but unfortunately it looked super boxy on:

Stitch Fix Pixley Indianan Graphic Print Mixed Material Tee
Back of Pixley Indianan Graphic Print Mixed Material Tee Stitch Fix

I actually like the rear view of this quite a bit, but I think we can all agree that the front is pretty blahhh.

Skies Are Blue Gus Henley Top - $44

Skies Are Blue Gus Henley Top

I never wear cream colors like this since I'm so pale, but I did really like the print on this top. The shape seemed okay, but the fit was a little off again.

Stitch Fix Skies Are Blue Gus Henley Top

Skies Are Blue Gus Henley Top Stitch Fix

A little tough to tell from pics, but this was a bit tight around my chest and shoulder area, while being a little too large on the lower half. I think that the way the fabric is made to gather just below the shoulders is sort of unflattering on me, too. I didn't hate this one on, at least, and tried on the idea of keeping it, but I just didn't like it enough. (If I like something a little bit but I'm not in love, I'll think "If I had to go run an errand right now, would I grab this from my closet to wear?" If I think I'd reach for something else instead, it's not a keeper.)

Fun2Fun Clarise Mixed Print Tank - $38

Clarise Mixed Print Tank Stitch Fix Fun2Fun

After loving this fabric at first glance, I was super bummed to pull it out of the box and see the shape... or lack thereof, I guess? I keep mentioning in my checkout notes that blousey style tops don't work on me at all. I need some sort of shape to a top to keep it from looking like a tent on my body. Like this:

Fun2Fun Clarise Mixed Print Tank

Hello! Would your troupe of girl scouts like to use my top as a tent?

Stitch Fix Fun2Fun Clarise Mixed Print Tank

I think the problem with this top is really simple: It's basically A-shaped, getting wider as you move top to bottom, while my upper body is totally V-shaped. Trying to combine my widest part with its narrowest is just disaster. But yeah, I'd say this definitely illustrates why I need a top that doesn't just continue straight down from the largest part of my bust - otherwise my waist looks literally twice as thick as it is! I don't think *anyone* wants that! I do have to give my stylist credit for the overall vibe of the top - it's definitely in the right family of styles I'd reach for, just totally the wrong shape.

Kut from the Kloth Elliot Cargo Pocket Shorts - $58

Kut from the Kloth Elliot Cargo Pocket Shorts

I liked these shorts a lot at first glance - the color is great, and I've been pleased with the quality of Kut from the Kloth in the past. However, when I put them on I found that they were super long and that I wasn't a fan of the placement pockets at all. The way they're oriented towards the outer edge of the thigh makes my upper thighs look way larger than they are.
Teal Kut from the Kloth Elliot Cargo Pocket Shorts

In hopes of liking them more, I tried cuffing the shorts a bit. I definitely thought they looked better at a more shorts-y length, but I still wasn't sold.

Stitch Fix Kut from the Kloth Elliot Cargo Pocket Shorts Teal

 I kept trying to like these shorts because I love the color and I desperately wanted to like *something* from this Fix, but every time I put them on and looked in the mirror, all I could think was "WOW do I hate those pockets" If only these hadn't been cargo style, I'd probably have kept and worn them a dozen times by now!

Papermoon Waters Abstract Print Maxi Dress - $68

Papermoon Waters Abstract Print Maxi Dress

This is where I'm going to sound incredibly lame: This dress was the last item I tried on, and I came really close to crying when I did. The best analogy I can come up with is to be super excited to open a Christmas present from your boyfriend, only to be totally disappointed because it's just so wrong that you wonder if he knows you at all. Okay, that's probably a little over the top, but it's the best I can do in terms of explaining. There's nothing wrong with this dress, it's just not me at all. I definitely didn't feel cute in it, or that someone had put thought into picking it for me, and after four other items that didn't work, I kinda broke. I'd gotten my hopes up about getting what I'd asked for - a light, summery dress to explore NOLA & Savannah in on my vacations - that the letdown was probably harder than if I hadn't made any requests. The print is kind of cute, but I'm not into black and white at all, the waistline is wrong on my body, the neckline is meh, and if I'm going to be frolicking around Southern cities in 90+ degree heat with crazy humidity, I'm not going to want a maxi dress. And while it was fairly inexpensive as far as Stitch Fix dresses go, I couldn't discern any real difference in quality from the $16 maxi dress I'd tried on at Walmart the previous week. (That one didn't look good on me, either, but when you see a cute dress for $16, you've gotta at least give it a try!)

Although I didn't keep anything from this Fix, I do have to praise the prices! In previous fixes, I kept getting items that were way above my budget, but everything I was sent this time was much more reasonable. The five items came to $252 total, which would have been less than $200 for everything if I'd kept all 5 and gotten the 25% "buy 5 discount". WAY more in my price range than past fixes have been, so kudos for that, at least! here's the part of my multiple Fix Fails that baffles me: Other than my larger on top proportions, I don't feel like I have a difficult body to dress. While I'm far from modelesque, I'm tall and hourglass shaped and a very "average" size 8-10/medium. It seems like it would be super easy to pick clothes that flatter my shape? And yet only two items out of 25 have been keepers, with almost all of the "no" items being because of them looking not great on my body type. (There was one fantastic dress that I vetoed because of price and pattern, but I think almost everything else has been fit.) So I decided to try an experiment - I set off to some local clothing stores to find out if I tend to stick to the same shape of dresses because I'm old and stuck in my ways, or if I just know my body really well at this point and know what looks best on it. Stay tuned for the results of the experiment!

I do still have a small Stitch Fix credit (I get credit if anyone signs up via my link, which I really appreciate!), so I'm giving it one more go in June. Maybe this last try will be a winner and restore my faith? Fingers crossed!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Show Us Your Books: May 2015

Life According to Steph
I'm linking up for Show Us Your Books!  Here's what I've been reading since last month's post!

Midnight Crossroad 

I received an advance review copy of the 2nd book in this new trilogy by Charlaine Harris (author of the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood books), so I grabbed this one (the first) from my local library to read before I start that one.

It didn't get off to a great start, to be honest. It took about 40 pages (almost 1/5 of the book) before I was actually interested in the characters or the plot. While I always liked Sookie (at least in the books - TV show Sookie got annoying quickly), I found it a lot harder to relate to main characters like guys named Manfred and Bobo. However, Harris is good at painting supporting characters that are truly intriguing. Like the True Blood books, this series has a bit of the paranormal going on, but the "world" is mostly realistic and believable otherwise. I think the main reason the beginning of the book seemed to drag was that the author's establishment of a new setting and characters was carried out a little clunkily, (Totally a word) rather than feeling effortless. There's a lot of setting up setting and backstory going on, obviously preparing for the other books in the series. Still, once the story got rolling, I definitely got into it and I'm looking forward to the second one, Day Shift, although I'm not yet sure if that will be where things really pick up, or sort of bleh - it could really go either way. (The paperback and Kindle versions Midnight Crossroad are currently less than 8 bucks on Amazon, btw! Score!)

Poll for you guys - I spent a good chunk of this book wondering if Bobo would be pronounced Bo-Bo or Bob-O. What's your guess?

I Am Malala

I'm sure you've heard abut Malala by now, the teenage girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, survived, and went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize and write this book. I listened to this as an audiobook, and I'm glad I did, even though Malala only reads the prologue. I don't even know what to say about this, other than to comment on what an inspiring, strong young woman she is.

Stolen Innocence

If you've ever wanted an inside peek at just how nutty things can be inside certain fundamental religious groups... here ya go. Elissa Wall was raised in the FLDS church, a super extreme branch of Mormonism (I may not be describing that correctly - but it is totally separate from the regular LDS church) that still practices polygamy, among other things. In fact, the group believes that a man can't enter the best level of heaven unless he has at least three wives, and his wives and children are considered to be his property. If a husband/father should somehow disappoint the church leaders, his wife and kids can even be assigned to a new man, who is chosen for them without their say.

Soooo, yeah. Not exactly a "Girl power!" kind of group, ya know?

Stolen Innocence shares the author's story of her childhood growing up in this environment, but that "childhood" is cut extremely short when the man that the church considers to be a prophet gets a "message" that she is to be married... at 14. To a man in his early 20s. Who happens to also be her first cousin. Throw in the fact that the kids only go to a school run by the church, where the education is all centered around religion with no regular science or history, and you get a 14 year old girl on her honeymoon who doesn't even know that sex exists. Do I even need to add that things don't go so well?

I was definitely sucked into Elissa's story, although from reviews I've seen on Goodreads, it might not be as well told as books by other women who escaped from the same group. Still, totally worth reading and definitely eye-opening.

Working Stiff

I think you have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy Working Stiff. If you're squeamish or easily freaked out, skip this one. If you're fascinated by CSI, medical stuff, forensics, crime scenes, or enjoyed books like Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, you will probably dig this, too. I love medical stuff, anatomy and physiology, the crazy ways that the body works, etc, so I was totally into it. The book covers the two years that the author spent in New York learning to be a medical examiner, which mostly involves doing autopsies on bodies of homicide and suicide victims, or those with otherwise questionable or mysterious deaths. It's totally fascinating, and I learned a lot (It had never actually occurred to me that "autopsy" technically translates to "see for yourself".), and as a person who watches way too much cable news, it gave me some handy background info on things I hear about frequently.  (For instance, I remember seeing countless interviews where Dr. Baden talked about tracing the bullet paths during the Michael Brown autopsy, so it was interesting to read about a similar autopsy. OMG, does this make me super weird, or just really, really nerdy?)

It didn't occur to me at the beginning of the book when the author mentioned the time period that she was working in NYC that it included 9/11. The part of the book dealing with the aftermath is hard to read, even so many years later. We have heard countless times about the huge scale of death on that day, but seeing it from this perspective sheds new light on just how awful it was. (For example, while x-raying a man's torso in attempt to find clues to help identify it, they found a woman's hand inside. You can't help but start to wonder how that even happened, but most likely will quickly decide that you'd rather not think about it too much.)

And holy crap, I just realized that I do NOT exactly have cheerful books on this month's list! I'm in the middle of two totally non-depressing books, though, so next month should be a little less weird.

Read anything awesome lately?

Friday, May 08, 2015

Confession: My Cats Eat Better Than I Do. #InspiredByCrafted

This post is sponsored by Hill’s. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Hill’s® Ideal Balance® Crafted™, but Straight On Till Morning only shares information we feel is relevant to my readers. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. is not responsible for the content of this article.

Late last night, I looked up from my laptop screen and fell in love with this little face all over again,

My little Bear is probably not "cute" by most cat standards - he's a big, burly black cat who looks way more like he should be stealing picnic baskets or catching salmon from a stream with the other bears than doing adorable cat things. But he's my Bear, (or "Bear of my life", as I like to call him in a weird Game of Thrones nod)and I think he's the cutest ever.

I posted about the new line of Hill's Ideal Balance™ Crafted® cat foods recently, which offers kitty food made in small batches from recipes created by master bakers to include delicious high quality meats, ancient grains, and wholesome veggies, all gently cooked to perfection. I have to admit that I was pretty amused when I first looked at the ingredient lists - quinoa? chickpeas? It sounds exactly like what you'd find in my cupboard and fridge! (Yes, there's more than coffee in my kitchen. Who knew?)

It's no surprise that my cats probably eat better than I do most of the time! Why can't delicious, perfectly balanced nutrition for humans come from a can I could just pop open? I'd be so healthy!

Crystal food on the left, Bear food on the right! Quinoa for everyone!

As if the fact that my quinoa takes 30 minutes to make and Bear's is ready to go isn't enough, his dinner also included salmon for easily digestible lean protein, taurine which is packed with amino acids for healthy eyes, even more protein from egg whites, pork liver, chicken fat, and sunflower oil to help build his big ol' Bear muscles!

Being a blogger's cat is a tough job, but someone's gotta do it! 

You can also find the Crafted wet cat food in Roasted Tuna & Vegetable Medley and Savory Chicken Pot Pie with Buckwheat varieties, as well as custom shaped dry cat food that's made with just as much love and care as the wet, and gently cooked for optimal taste and nutrition!

Do your pets eat better than you do, in terms of balanced nutrition, delicious ingredients, or both? Or are you way better than I am at putting together tasty, healthy meals for yourself? And seriously, when are they going to come out with deliciously crafted gourmet meals for humans in a can? 'Cause I need that.