Summer Learning Inspiration: Family History Part 2


Here is part 2 of my Library Inspired genealogy project on the KRL blog.
I keep finding new information to fill in the gaps, but each new detail begs new questions. I can see why people get hooked by this hobby!

Originally posted on Kitsap Regional Library - Speaking Volumes:

Welcome guest blogger, Jo Blackford.

This summer I’ve been working to organize my grandmother’s family tree research into a format that is easy to search, refer to, and share. I shared my initial plans to figure out how to do that in an earlier post.  Here is the culmination of my project:

I started by reading genealogy software reviews online and learned that most (if not all) of them use a standardized file format for imports and exports, which means that you aren’t committing to a whole system when you choose which program to use. Thank goodness for that! Family Tree Maker (FTM) and seemed to have a good system that works on both Macs and PCs, so I was leaning in that direction.

I took a trip to the Sylvan Way library to see what help the Genealogy Center might be able to offer. The ladies there were…

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June Project 333 review, heading into a hot July

I’ve probably mentioned (several times) that it’s been unseasonably hot and dry here in the Pacific NW this spring. For all intents and purposes, we skipped spring, if spring is defined as the mild few months of rain before summer begins on July 5th. Not this year! We have had record high temperatures and almost non-existent rainfall in May and June. Our 2 months of summer (July 5th – Sept 1) looks like it’s going to be at least 4 months this year. The mountains have already lost almost all of their snowpack and the grass is dormant and tinder dry, as if it was mid-August rather than early July.

pug in dry grass

It’s a good thing I found some cute shorts! Because I need them.

The star pieces in my wardrobe in June were: blue print cotton knit dress, turquoise shorts (formerly known as aqua shorts, but they’re really turquoise), capri pants, black v-neck short sleeve tees, layering tanks, pink Loft cardigan, and a grey lightweight sweatshirt. A few of those things are obviously from before it got stinking hot a couple of weeks ago. You might also notice that a couple of those items are plural – I count 2 identical black tees as one item, and my 4 layering tanks are also listed as one item.

That blue cotton dress is wonderful when the weather gets hot. It’s cute and very easy to wear. If I could only have one dress this would be the one. It would be perfect if it only had POCKETS! But unlike my pocketed sundresses it has a good amount of coverage in the shoulders and back, so I don’t have to wear so much sunscreen. One day women will be able to have it all… pockets in every dress… ;)

I have a lot of items that didn’t get as much wear as I would have expected. Plenty of zeros and ones on my tracking sheet as usual. Some pieces have been removed for the rest of summer since it’s obvious that I’m not going to wear black skinny jeans in 90F weather. I don’t spend much time in air conditioned spaces and I would rather not wear jeans on hot days when I could wear a skirt or shorts instead. I’m pretty satisfied with my wardrobe right now. I have about 32 pieces of clothing – not too many, not too few. But I’m always reassessing.

I’m not likely to need a cardigan much in the next 8 weeks, but when I do need one I usually have a specific one in mind to work with the rest of my outfit, so I’m leaving my 4 favorites in my wardrobe. The pink Loft cardigan is my favorite – I tend to wear it like some people would wear a robe, around the house, over a nightgown, or when there’s a chill in the air. Maybe next week when we get some normal 78F weather I’ll be able to wear it in the mornings.

Right now I can’t even imagine that. The inside of my house has been 77-86F for the last 3 weeks or so, which is awful! It’s been over 80F and up to 93F outside, with a lot less overnight cooling than we are used to. I wear shorts and a tank or a loose cotton dress in this weather. As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m so glad I found some cute shorts this season. They have been working out really well. I don’t always feel like I look good in shorts, but in this heat I really don’t care.

(You know what they say about how to get a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body!)

read to swim

Which reminds me – I haven’t quite found a place to swim yet, but when I do, I am ready. I bought a cute basic tank swimsuit and a couple of half-price beach towels. Now I won’t be scrambling around embarrassed if I get invited to a lake for a dip. Swimsuits are tricky, but I think the one I found is a good compromise, and it was on sale. At the very least I’ll need it for Thanksgiving with family in Hawaii (!!) but I’m hoping to make friends with someone with a pool.

Why doesn’t anyone around here have central air or a pool?! Oh yeah, because our summer usually lasts 60 days…

Well anyway. I’ll stop complaining about the weather, especially since I actually LOVE summer. I’ve made a new list for July 1 – Oct 1, but it’s really just the same things I have now, without all the extra cool weather stuff that I needed back in March. You can find my list (32 clothing items I think) and tracking sheet here as always.

Thanks for stopping by.


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saying goodbye to worn out shoes

I never got caught up in that “Velveteen Rabbit” trap of seeing my soft toys as real creatures, perhaps because I have never actually read that book. I don’t name my appliances, except my Kindle (Bibliomatic). But I do, sometimes, have trouble letting go of inanimate things, especially unique or unusual things.

And so I am here today to say goodbye to two pairs of shoes that have served me well, but which are well past their prime. They are very ordinary in some respects, special in others. I’ve been holding onto them too long, but I can see they need to go.

goodbye old shoes

The first pair are my favorites, my teal Converse. Well, they were teal. They are so well broken in now, truly broken, with torn fabric and cracks in the rubber that actually make them extremely comfortable and easy to wear, molded to my feet.

They weren’t so comfortable when I first got them. I tended to catch the rubber toe on carpet and uneven sidewalk surfaces as if they were too big, a problem that has never completely gone away. And the soles weren’t as flexible as I would like until the uppers started disintegrating. But boy, were they cute!

teal converse

Teal is such an awesome color, and and they have a special limited edition double tongue with a black, white, orange, and yellow floral print that contrasts really nicely with the main color. That double tongue has the added benefit of breaking the line of the shoe too, so I don’t look like I have giant clown feet. (I don’t have cute little feet like some lucky short girls do.) People noticed the double tongue and commented on it, which made me feel like I had special shoes, which is easy to confuse with being special as a person or having special character or taste.

I bought those sneakers sometime before April 2009. Wow! That’s a long time to have a pair of sneakers. Most of the other shoes in my shoe photo-shoot from 2009 are long gone now, although I still have the leather boots and the pumps and the fancy beaded slippers which I keep as a piece of art rather than as footwear. Oh, and how I loved those brown criss-cross sandals. I had forgotten how cute they were.

2009 shoes

I replaced my teal Converse with a pair of black, white, and pink ones with a grey double tongue detail several years ago. I honestly intended that the new ones should replace the old… but I wasn’t ready to let go of the old ones that were so comfortable while the new ones were so stiff. And I have worn both pairs A LOT over the last few years, choosing whichever pair would match better with the colors I was wearing.

But now I’m ready. The teal Converse aren’t even teal any more.

The other pair of shoes I’m letting go of have also featured in a shoe photo-shoot. In fact, they’ve even been on this blog before. They are a pathetic little pair of black slip ons, what we would probably have called sand-shoes back in the day, although these days they would be more likely to be compared to Toms. I bought them in Hawaii in 2010 at Payless. They cost $3. We had been warned that the walk we intended to do to Manoa Falls was best done in sneakers, not the flip flops that we’d been wearing everywhere else. So I chose the cheapest pair I could find, and they met my needs. I had intended to dump them when we were done, expecting the Hawaiian mud to ruin them, but when they washed up fine I couldn’t do it. They followed me home and were a handy shoe to slip on, but they weren’t the best shoe choice if I had much walking to do, and I had plenty of better options.

They had been relegated to the back door when the library’s decorated shoe project came up. I didn’t really intend to keep the shoes after I doodled all over them, but of course turning them into unique artwork made them much harder to let go of. It’s been 3 years since then…

doodle shoes

They ended up at the back door again. Part of me thinks they should go back there even now, because, after all, it is useful to have a pair of slip on shoes at the back door when one lives in a shoes-off home.

The part of me that gets sick of tripping over too many shoes at the back door told me that they have to go. But I think that part of me forgets that I need something I can slip on when I wear socks – flip flops only work in the barefoot summer months. When my back door flip flops finally die, or when I finally let them go, I will find myself some slides or crocs.

As I say goodbye to these shoes I acknowledge that, at various times, they made me happy with their color or pattern, they prompted compliments from strangers, they kept my feet safe, and they met my needs. They also (sometimes) made my feet hurt and (probably) made people think badly of me for wearing such crappy old shoes. If I was poor I would be able to get a few more months or years wear out of both of them, but I am thankfully not poor. I have many other pairs of shoes to wear.

I hope my shoes can be ground up to live again as sports court material.

I thank them for many years of service.

And I don’t care if people think I’m nuts for writing this farewell.  If it gets the shoes out the door, finally, it’s worth doing.


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Summer Learning Inspiration: Family History


I wrote a guest post for Kitsap Regional Library’s blog about what I’m doing for Summer Learning this year.

Originally posted on Kitsap Regional Library - Speaking Volumes:

Summer Learning Inspiration: This post is part of a series from folks in our community who have agreed to share inspiration and talk about some of the amazing things that they’ve been #LibraryInspired to learn! Welcome guest blogger Jo Blackford.

This summer I want to tackle a project that I’ve had vague plans to do for far too long – organizing my grandmother’s family tree research into a format that is easy to search, refer to, and share. I’ve had copies of her papers, family trees written by hand, for the last decade, ever since I asked my family for help when I was creating a family tree quilt for her. Her handwriting is neat and fairly legible, but stacks of paper are not easy to reference or organize, and, to be honest, I often forget where I have them stored. (Don’t worry, I found them in the first place…

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caramel corn and defaulting to favorites

I opened a bag of caramel popcorn the other day to eat while we watched a movie. I like the idea of caramel corn. The reality? Not so much. My teeth stuck together and I really didn’t need much of it anyway – it’s awfully sweet. So I re-fastened the bag and set it aside.

A few days later I dipped into it again, just a little handful. But I immediately regretted it. I went and brushed my teeth and decided that I’d had enough of caramel corn.

“I was going to take the rest of this caramel corn to work to share. But did you want any?”

Hubby replied that he did. Not a lot. Just a small portion. But yes.

So I put the caramel corn back on the counter. It was about half full.

Two weeks later I’ve dipped into it a few more times, seduced again by the idea of it. Just a small handful each time. Just enough to stick my teeth together. It’s right in my line of sight because I’m leaving it on the counter so hubby can see it and eat it like he said he wanted to.

Hubby hasn’t touched it.

I found myself annoyed. So, he doesn’t want to me to share it, he wants to keep it around, but he’s not actually eating it, and now it’s probably going stale and then no one is going to eat it. What a waste! That’s so stupid.

(It’s easy to see other people’s stupidity, especially people you live with  ;)  It’s just a small annoyance. I don’t think hubby is stupid. I just think this behavior is stupid.)

But I realized we all do this, all the time. When someone asks “do you want this thing?” we usually say yes, because we like the thing, and it’s right here, and even though we don’t want it right now, we can definitely picture a time in the near future when we’re going to want it.

When push comes to shove, though, when hubby reaches for a snack, caramel corn is not the snack he wants. Cheesy crackers are more his style. A gin & tonic goes better with an after dinner movie. No one wants to eat sweets with a G&T. In the “right now” we choose our favorites, and hubby’s favorite is not ever caramel corn.

Netflix found that people do this all the time too. They queue up art house films, documentaries that sound so interesting, and intriguing foreign films that critics have called “challenging” and “life changing.” But when they sit down to stream a movie right now after a long week they scroll right past 12 Years a Slave and I Vitelloni to watch Guardians of the Galaxy or Love Actually (again). We imagine our future self as an idealized version of ourself, one who watches Important Films. Future Self is going to do all kinds of worthwhile things, all the things we’ve been meaning to do. But Right Now Self just doesn’t have the energy, would rather just reach for a familiar comfort and watch something fun.

In the case of movies, queueing something on Netflix doesn’t cost us anything, and it doesn’t deprive anyone else of it. But when we do this same thing with physical objects, this tendency can actually be viewed as a form of hoarding. We keep things we’re not using for some imagined future, but we don’t use them. And that means no one can use or enjoy them either. The longer we store them, the more like they will end up damaged, broken, and unusable by the time that “someday” comes along.

At this rate my caramel corn is probably going to end up in the trash. No one’s life is going to be harmed by being deprived of it, but still, it’s a waste. Someone needs to make caramel corn in small serving packages, but that’s a complaint for a different blog post! Buying special food for Future Self has to be one of the leading causes of food waste. I get tempted by “superfoods” and exotic vegetables, but Right Now Self just doesn’t know what to do with them. So, guess where they end up?

In the case of the old kindle sitting in the cupboard, which somebody said they’d use, but didn’t, it’s becoming more and more obsolete every day. A year ago we might have been able to sell it for a few dollars and someone would have been excited to have it. In another year it will be little better than trash. Some things actually become impossible to get rid of as they age – you have to pay people to take away some old TVs.

(BTW don’t get me wrong, I do this just as much as hubby does. I held onto my iPod Touch for 3 years before finally admitting that I would never find another use for it. I’m always opening some new food I’m sure I’m going to start eating, but then forgetting all about it because I’m too busy eating my favorites. It’s just easier to be annoyed at this behavior when you see it in other people!)

One of the hardest questions to answer in the decluttering process is “am I ever going to use this (again)?”  More often than not the answer is no. Some of us cycle back to old hobbies and get excited to wear clothes we were previously sick of. But if you are happy to use plain Ivory soap and you can’t imagine not having a bar in the shower, is it really likely that you’re going to suddenly switch to using scented body wash, especially if that body wash has been sitting in your cupboard for several months? If you put the special soap next to the Ivory in the shower and find that you’re still reaching for the Ivory, maybe it would have been better to pass the special soap on and give someone else the gift of it, instead of holding on to it and under-using it.

If you’re not eager to set aside your “usual” when you’re offered something new, chances are your Future Self isn’t going to be either. That’s how we end up wearing the same old clothes even after we go shopping for new ones. If you’re not ready to put the new clothes on right now and leave behind the items you tell yourself they’re replacing, you probably didn’t need to buy the new version at all.

Which reminds me, I still have 2 denim skirts in my closet where there should only be one – the new one that I got to replace the old one.

So, I’m not going to ask hubby about the caramel corn again. If I make it go away, I bet he will never ask me what happened to it. If I told him we ate it all when Friend came over to watch a movie he wouldn’t be upset, so I may as well just take it to work and share it, just as I had originally planned. If I was to put a little portion in a container for him I’m sure I will find myself annoyed when it sits untouched for months (just like his other special snacks, which have been on the counter forever). I think I might just get rid of the caramel corn and ask for forgiveness if (big IF) the issue ever arises.

And I’m going to wear that new denim skirt again today, and I’m going to put the old one in the donation bag. Even if the new one isn’t perfect, even if it’s not the One True Skirt, the Skirt of Destiny, it’s still two pockets better than the old one.

Thanks for reading my long-winded thoughts on caramel corn. Hopefully you thought of something in your life that’s caramel corn-like that you can admit you will never use and pass it on for someone else to enjoy.

Bye for now,


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May Project 333 review and new purchases

Hi there,

I’m back with a reflection on what I’ve been wearing lately. I feel like I’ve made some progress, passing along some things that I really don’t love any more, and buying some really useful replacement pieces.

My most recent donations were:

7 cardigans or sweaters, 5 dresses, 2 skirts, 4 t-shirts or tanks, 1 pair of exercise capris, and some extra winter things, never-worn colorful tights and such.

Some of these donations were older items that have served their time. A few pieces were just not quite right – poor quality, or poorly fitting. I can do without cheap junk. I have nicer pieces that I can wear more often instead.

My latest purchases were:

a pink cotton tank with a fancy crochet detail, a reversible raspberry/floral printed gathered cotton skirt, and some shorts I have mentioned previously (a pair of slate blue capris, aqua cotton shorts, blue cotton shorts) and a hip length lilac cardigan.  All that for less than $30 total from Goodwill!

p333Juneblog1 p333Juneblog2

I wore the reversible skirt several times last week to see what it would go with. It was a challenge to my initial thought that this skirt might be a mistake to buy (even for $3) because it wouldn’t go with many tops. I easily managed 4 different looks in one week so I’m satisfied that it works. I wish it had pockets, but reversible is also a pretty awesome feature.

And just the other day I found a replacement denim skirt that has pockets and a nice A-line shape. It’s stretch denim and the pockets are functional and the length is a little less matronly than my current denim skirt (which can look a bit frumpy). This new skirt shows off that I have knees (lol) but is still long enough to be comfortable and easy to wear. Oh, and did I mention the price? $2.12 from the St Vincent de Paul thrift shop. I plan to donate my old denim skirt.

I took a close-up of my new pink tank. It’s soft crease-y cotton. Very breezy. The color is a little more purple/raspberry-toned that it appears here, as is the reversible skirt.


Isn’t that crochet detailing nice? I know these kinds of shirts have been a dime-a-dozen these last few years but I really like this particular detailing. The top is very simple, but it’s not plain. I would definitely wear this on those occasions where I want to dress casually but with a little flair.

I found a cute little purse at Goodwill another day:

the zakka purse

Linen, mustard, teal, and polka dots. It seems to be brand new. My phone fits in it with space for a few other small things, and it has a little attachment where it could have a chain or wrist strap attached. btw the backdrop is the plain raspberry side of the reversible skirt – the color is a little more accurate here.

I finally ordered some ballet flats to try on! Three pairs are coming from Nordstrom and Amazon. Maybe if I’m lucky one pair will work. I ordered tan, pink, and black in 3 different brands and styles, so who knows what I’ll end up with? Chances are none of them will work, but at least I’m trying. If these don’t work I’ll try Zappos’ overwhelming array of options. The black pair arrived while I was writing this and they don’t work at all. Too much toe cleavage, as I suspected. Thank goodness for easy free returns.

I always note the “stars” of my wardrobe (4 wears or more) after each month of tracking what I wear. This month’s stars were: my jeans, new capris, new reversible skirt, new lilac cardigan, the ever-faithful long pink cardigan, pink sweatshirt, pink striped tee, black lace top, and several layering tanks which I count as a single item. I wore each of my dresses once or twice but mostly wore separates. The weather was variable, ranging from mild to quite hot, so I wore summery tanks and long sleeved shirts this month. This weather offers a lot of options – if I’m staying at home (where the temperature is fairly constant) I might wear a lightweight long sleeved top, but if I’m going out and moving around I might opt for layering a tank with a cardigan. It’s nice right now – neither too hot nor too cold.

I have a couple of things I’m planning on passing along soon. The old denim skirt, for one. And probably the “fancy” raspberry see through blouse I bought a few months ago. I don’t think it is quite what I need and I’m not sure I will ever wear it. For now it’s in my “dressy” mini-capsule – 4 items that hang in the corner of my closet, just in case.

So all in all I’m feeling good about my summer wardrobe. I’ve put away all of my drab wooly clothes and pulled out almost all of my summer things. I think the only thing still on my shopping list is a pair of ballet flats. I did have a moment of feeling bad the other day when someone asked about stored items on the Dress with Less Course Facebook page. Lots of people said they only have 8 or 9 off-season items. I have a lot more than that! I thought I had quite a lot of cross-over between seasons, but after reading that I kind of felt like I was failing. But I know that isn’t true. Even if I had no crossover items at all I wouldn’t be failing this. I’m not even counting items (but I think I have about 40 clothing pieces in my closet). I just try to keep track of what I have and how it works together to have a small, functional wardrobe. I think as time goes on I might have less, but I’m not worrying too much about it. As long as everything fits into my space and gets worn a reasonable amount I consider this project a success.

Thanks for stopping by!





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hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees

It’s that magical time of the year when all the gardens look lovely! The rhododendrons are blooming all over town and my garden is a riot of purple, pink, blue, and green. We haven’t had as much spring rain as we normally would, but we’ve had some seasonal drab days punctuated by beautiful sunny periods these last few weeks, so everything is growing like crazy. I got some new flowers (more lavender, more lithodora, more white flowering something-or-other that spreads and cascades, and a new plant – a beautiful purple columbine) and three cherry tomato plants in the ground. Now I just have to do the boring bits – weeding, more weeding, and taking care of the garden’s water needs.

garden, currently

Lately I had been thinking about getting a hummingbird feeder. Lots of people seem to have one or two red bottles hanging out in their yard and it seemed like such an easy thing – fill a feeder with sugar water and sit back and watch the hummingbirds come to visit.

But then I did a little research. I had gotten rid of my bird feeders after I found out that if you don’t keep them really clean you can facilitate the spread of illness between birds. And I wasn’t the best at keeping up with cleaning and refilling the feeders. It turned into kind of a nuisance. Well, it turns out that hummingbird feeders present the same issues. They are supposed to be cleaned at least once or twice a week. Sugar water kept in the sun is a perfect growing medium for mold and bacteria. Ideally the feeders should be emptied (by the birds) and refilled every day or so to keep them clean and fresh. Of course I don’t think most people are doing that. But I would feel horrible thinking about harming the little birds I was trying to help.

Oh, and those little feeders with lots of drinking ports are a bit of a con. Hummingbirds are notoriously territorial about their feeding spots, so each feeder will likely only cater to one bird, and having several tiny feeders dotted around the yard is recommended if you’re serious about attracting lots of hummingbirds. So that’s several feeders to gather, clean, and refill every few days.

Sigh. At this point I decided that buying a hummingbird feeder sounded like more trouble than it was worth for me. I dislike having to clean finicky plastic things covered in mold. I don’t want to have to find a little bottle brush to scrub out the crevices of a feeder. I don’t want to have to refill a feeder on a daily or even weekly basis. I’m just not a big fan of maintenance, you know?

And then I started wondering what the simple way to attract and feed hummingbirds (and butterflies and bees) would look like and I realized I already have it right in front of me! A colorful garden with a range of flowers that attract nectar-loving wildlife. I already have hummingbirds – they come to feed on the rosemary, and on the Rose of Sharon. I’ve seen them figure out that the NZ flax flowers are worth drinking from even though they aren’t red or purple. I had gotten the idea to put up a feeder because a hummingbird had “visited” me outside my house while I was talking to a neighbor recently. I already call my garden Beetopia, so I’m on the right track already. Planting a few more varieties of flowers in different parts of the garden that bloom at different times of the year is probably all I need to do to attract more hummingbirds and bees, although now I realize I’m never going to see lots of hummingbirds gathered in one spot to feed.

Letting nature take care of her own is by far the simplest solution to this “problem.”

It’s funny how often I figure out the right “solution” to my “problems” is just to let it go and do nothing. It’s much more fun to talk about turning a mason jar into a bird feeder –  painting it with some special product and then fashioning a feeder out of junk you have lying around the house… or about locating the perfect feeder out of the hundreds on the market. But writing about living simply and frugally is often rather dull because so many stories end with “I realized I didn’t need to buy or do anything at all, so I just let go and stopped seeing this as a problem.”

It’s all too easy to fall prey to the solutions being sold in every store and not notice that you never actually had a problem in the first place.

Just a thought.

Thank for stopping by today,


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