Beauty school dropout… go back to high school…


Baby get moving (Baby get movin),
Why keep your feeble hopes alive?
What are you proving (What are you provin)?
You’ve got the dream but not the drive.

I’ve always thought that song was a little harsh.  I mean — we all try things that don’t work out, right?  No need to be rude, Dream Angel.

A lot has been going on behind the scenes here in Beauty School Dropout Land, and I’ve decided that it’s time to take a break from blogging.  I don’t know if this will be goodbye forever, but for now — it’s time.  Between my family, my job, a too-long commute, volunteering at church and lots of other hobbies, I just don’t have a lot left over to give to this blog.  And I don’t ever want to feel like I’m phoning it in or writing out of an obligation.

I’ll still be around, reading my favorite blogs, commenting when I really have something useful to add to the conversation, and posting pictures of my kids, my knitting and other assorted nonsense on Instagram, and hopefully spending a little more of my time and mental energy on the people in my immediate circle of family and friends.

Now I’ve called the shot, get off the block, I really gotta fly!
Gotta be going to that malt shop in the sky!

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Charlotte, the female CEO you left behind in the Amazon

Quick Lit February

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg.  4 out of 5 stars.  I know this book got a lot of negative publicity when it first came out, but I think everyone in the professional/business world — women and men – should read this book.  We all know that there are tons of women graduating from law, business, and medical schools, but hardly any women CEOs — this book talks about the reasons why.  It inspired me to take more control of my career moving forward.

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White.  (Spoiler alert.)  3 out of 5 stars. This was the latest read-aloud chapter book that we finished with my son, and I have to say… I didn’t like it as much as I remembered.  I also remember being really sad at the end, but my son didn’t seem to upset by Charlotte’s death. Maybe because our dog was on death’s door about a month ago so we’ve been talking about death a lot?  (Our dog has made a miraculous recovery.  The equivalent of your 90 yr old grandma breaking her hip and being able to walk again.)

The Girl You Left Behind, JoJo Moyes.  3 out of 5 stars.  I liked this book, but I do NOT recommend the audiobook.  The French accents at the beginning drove me crazy.  I actually almost quit listening to it, and then the second storyline started, and I decided to stick it out.  The book is the dual storylines of a French woman during WWI occupied France, and an English woman in modern-day London who owned a painting of the French woman, and fights to keep it when her relatives claimed it had been stolen in the war.  Good love story and legal drama.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett.  4 out of 5 stars.  If you like Ann Patchett, you’ve got to read this.  It’s my favorite book from her since Bel Canto.  (I still like Bel Canto better, but this is a close second.)  A pharmaceutical research scientist heads deep into the Amazon to check on the progress of her company’s most promising new fertility treatment (and the eccentric doctor heading up the research) as well as find out the truth about the mysterious death of her colleague who had previously been sent there with the same mission.  If you enjoy stories that get into issues of medical ethics – this is a must read.

Whatcha readin’ lately?  I need a new novel…

Life According to Steph
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Project Life, starting Year Three

Project Life Year Three

I’m starting my third Project Life album, simpler than ever.  This year I’ve decided to use all black and white cards (Project Life Good Times kit) and do a lot more journaling.




It’s mostly a family photo album, but I want to include more stuff of my own this year, like my craft projects (still need to print a photo of the socks I finished knitting!) and I want to make sure to make it a family album — all of us, not just the kids.  (Not doing so well on that so far — oops!)



A fun weekend hike — blogged here.  This set of pages is a little busier than I would like, and I think from now on I’m going to take a page from Kathleen, one of my fav PL bloggers, and include more white space or “frames” around my photos.



I’m also embracing the iPhone camera and trying to include a lot more photos of “everyday life” — not just special occasions or big events.  (I also need to get back to using a real camera sometimes.  I have the most beautiful photos of Josiah from a few years ago, and so many blurry shots of baby Sam.  But I digress…)

It occurred to me as I was writing this post that three years is a pretty long time to stick with a hobby, especially a crafty hobby!  Do you have any hobbies that you’ve stuck with for a long time?  What are they?

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Be My Transformer Valentine


It’s almost Valentine’s Day!  I don’t have plans with my Valentine yet, but my son has been hard at work on his Valentine’s box for school.  All of a sudden, his ninja turtle and superhero obsession has morphed into a love of all things Transformers.

Being fairly lazy when it comes to preschool art projects, when I got this red and white patterned box in the mail a few weeks ago, I was really excited.  I mean, the decorating is practically done for me!  My son confirmed that he wanted a Transformers box, I printed out some coloring sheets and let him go to town.  I did the cutting and taping, but I love that it still looks like an almost-5-year-old had a hand in the decorating of his own Valentines box.



Do you remember making Valentines boxes as a kid?  What was your favorite one (or a favorite one you’ve helped someone else make?)

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Postcard from Cedar Gap Wilderness Area

postcard Cedar Gap

Cedar Gap Wilderness Area is a  431 acre forest area at the headwaters of the Bryant Creek in Wright County, Missouri.  I drive past the turn-off for it on my way to work, and I’d always wondered about it, but then our local newspaper ran a story about it and I realized what a cool hike was only a few miles from my home.  I recruited some friends and we went for a family hike on a warm weekend in January.


The hike starts in a heavily forested area, and you head downhill towards the creek.  It was in the 50s that day, but it had been cold just a few days before, so the creek was frozen on top with running water underneath, and there were icicles everywhere.  The trail is lined by limestone bluffs and I bet the area is absolutely gorgeous in the fall.

Scrambling across the creek was pretty tricky with the icy conditions, but we managed to do it without anyone falling in the water.  (Even the kids – and some adults – who just had to play around on the rocks!)  The hike back up to the parking lot was fairly steep, and at one point it opens into a glade that is the second highest point in Missouri.  (Around 1700 ft)  The conservation department says the loop is 1.6 miles, but we explored the creek quite a bit so I think we ended up hiking around 3 miles.  I was really proud of my son for hiking the whole way without complaining.

We celebrated a successful first two-kid hike with donuts in the parking lot!  (Sam stole mine.)


Postcards from the Ozarks

Stay tuned for the next installment of Postcards from the Ozarks!

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I hate my winter capsule wardrobe

Photo Credit: onesieworld via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: onesieworld via Compfight cc

Disclaimer: the photo above is not me.  I may not love her outfit, but you’ve got to admit – she is OWNING it.

I’ve been struggling to write this post for weeks.  I mean, we’re more than halfway through winter already — Hi Mr. Groundhog! —  shouldn’t I have this post done already?  Shouldn’t I have my winter wardrobe finalized?  Short of going on a shopping spree (which is exactly what I’m trying NOT to do with these limited seasonal wardrobes) I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that my winter clothes and I are just not getting along.

Putting together a winter capsule wardrobe was much more difficult than I expected.  I’ve been doing this capsule wardrobe thing since summer, but the winter wardrobe has been the hardest by far.  I’m not sure if it’s the wide range of temperatures we’ve experienced in the last two months (from 70 – 0 degrees!), just the fact that I don’t like being cold, or feeling perfectionistic about trying to find the perfect wardrobe that will all mix-and-match together, but it’s been a 6 weeks in the making and I’m still not happy with it.

Clothes selection process:  My theme for the winter wardrobe was “warm and cozy,” and I chose black and white as my main colors, with accents of purple and green. (This has more to do with what was already in my wardrobe than any intentional choice on my part, or trying to be in style.)  I work in a business casual office three days a week, work at home two days a week, and have very casual weekend days, dressing up for church about the same as I do for work.  My wardrobe needs to be about 50-50 professional and casual clothes, and I try to look for pieces that can crossover for both categories.

clothes venn diagram

This is a lot harder than it sounds like.  I have a few tops that fall into that green “just right” category, but not many.  I’m still in a stage of life where my casual clothes are likely to be used as a snot rag or be worn during a preschooler wrestling match or crawling around on the ground.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things, but here are the staples of my capsule wardrobe, from most worn to least worn items.  (I was tempted to seriously geek out and make a spreadsheet for this, but instead I settled for various symbols to indicate my uses and issues with this wardrobe.)

  1. Black dress pants ! @ +
  2. Gray dress pants ! @ +
  3. Dark-wash skinny jeans ! ~ +
  4. White button-down shirt ! @
  5. Black jeans ! ~
  6. Gray half-zip cabled sweater ! @ ~ +
  7. Snowflake printed fleece jacket ! ~
  8. Purple turtleneck sweater ! @ ~
  9. Bright blue running shoes ! ~
  10. White beaded long-sleeve T-shirt ! @ ~ +
  11. Ratty old Mizzou Law long-sleeved t-shirt ! ~ +
  12. Tall flat black boots ! @ ~ +
  13. Brown short boots ! @
  14. Dark-wash boot-cut jeans ! % ~
  15. Black turtleneck * @
  16. Chambray button-down shirt % @ ~
  17. Purple button-down shirt @ +
  18. Another pair of black dress pants % @ +
  19. Black tuxedo suit jacket in a soft material @
  20. Light gray wool dress % @
  21. Gray tweed skirt with big bow @
  22. Teal polka-dotted cardigan % @
  23. Green and white striped long-sleeved T-shirt ~
  24. Long cream printed sweatshirt * ~
  25. Black short boots @
  26. Teal quilted flats % * @
  27. Tan dress pants ? % @ +
  28. Crazy patterned leggings * ? ~
  29. Gray oversized knitted vest % ? @ ~
  30. Black pencil skirt ? @
  31. Brown velvety jacket ? @ ~ +
  32. Little black dress ?? @
  33. Thick black leggings ?? ~
  34. Black short-sleeved T-shirt ?? ~ +
  35. Black cardigan * ?? @


* New purchase     + More than 3 years old    Hardly worn    ?? Not worn at all

! Worn a lot           % Don’t like how it fits      @ Work             ~ Casual

I think it’s really interesting that most of the items I wore the most had already been in my wardrobe for 3 years or more.  Even though I am not that happy with my winter capsule wardrobe, I know I learned from it.

Lessons Learned

  • No skirts or dresses in winter.  It’s just too cold.
  • No more leggings until I get some longer shirts!
  • I have too many things in my wardrobe that just don’t fit me well anymore.  (Having two kids will do that to you!)  Future clothes shopping needs to be focused on replacing things I know I like instead of chasing the latest fad.  (I think I wore those patterned leggings two times?  Maybe once?)
  • Overlapping work and play clothes doesn’t work very well for me, I just end up with stuff that’s too casual for work and too dressy for home.
  • I miss wearing bright colors.  I know it’s partially a seasonal thing, but a neutral palette is just boring to me.
  • I shouldn’t buy things just because I think they’ll be good “staples.”  I wear cardigans quite a bit for work, but I wear that polka-dotted teal one 10 times more than the plain black one.

The groundhog says 6 more weeks of winter, so I’m going to suck it up and live with these clothes that annoy me for a little while longer.  But I am SOOOOO excited for spring!

I have to ask – does anyone out there actually like winter?  Are you sick of all your winter clothes like me?

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2015 Goals Update: 2/12

Photo Credit: M_Strasser via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: M_Strasser via Compfight cc

February is all about micro goals. This is the complete opposite of how I normally operate, which is to get really excited setting big goals for myself, plan it all out, then not follow through because [insert a million excuses here].

Inspired by several commenters from my Fitness Check-in post, I am going to use February as a baseline for tiny habits that are all about taking care of myself, so I can take care of all the people and stuff in my life.  I even found an email accountability buddy!  You guys are awesome.

Here are my micro goals for February.  I’m tracking them on the app (formerly Lift) if you want to cheer me on!  (I really don’t need another app in my life, but the reminders work well for my Obliger nature.

  • Go to bed by 10:30 every night.  (Yes, sigh… even weekends.  The kids wake up just as early and I’m extra cranky if I’m tired.)
  • Exercise for 10 minutes a day.
  • Meditate/pray/journal for 5 minutes a day.
  • Pay a compliment to my husband every day.
  • Hug every family member every day.

I love setting goals, but sometimes I feel like constantly striving for self-improvement makes me lose sight of the good things I have already accomplished.  I decided I should try listing out some of the healthy habits that I have already established, and you know what?  Not too shabby.  Not too shabby, indeed.

  • I take vitamins every day.
  • I wear sunscreen on my face every day.
  • I drink a lot of water.
  • I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.
  • I read bedtime stories to my kids every night.

It’s the little things, right?  What micro-habits do you practice that make your life great?

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Thriving in January

Hiking in January = giant icicles!

Hiking in January = giant icicles!

Month #1 of 2015 is in the books.  And you know what?  2015 has been pretty good to me so far.  I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer today to talk about what made my month great.

Raspberry oatmeal cookie bars.  It’s one of those desserts that I love to eat but I’d never actually made.  I needed a quick dessert for a small group Bible study at my house and they couldn’t have been easier.  Any jam will work, but the tartness of raspberry balances out the sweetness of the cookie part the best.  (Why yes I’ve made this recipe twice in one month.  I didn’t eat them ALL myself, I promise!)

Sleep (more specifically, enforcing a bedtime on myself!)  Since my word for the year is Steady, I’ve been doing some brainstorming about things that make me feel steady vs unsteady in various situations.  I’ve come to the conclusion that almost everything in life is more manageable after a good night’s sleep.  My baby still wakes up once a night most nights, and I have to wake up around 5:30am on the days I commute, so it really is essential for me to go to bed at a decent hour.  My goal is 10:30, and I’ve made it most nights, even when I’d rather stay up and watch another episode of Friends!

Moisturize moisturize moisturize.  Fingers crossed, knock on wood, no whammies no whammies no whammies… I think I’ve managed to avoid the horrible dry skin and never-healing cracked knuckles that plagued me last winter.  Earth Science Almond Aloe SPF 15 face lotion + argan oil for the dry patches on my face + Aveeno body lotion + Made On hard lotion for my knuckles and cuticles + eos Sweet Mint lip balm is my winning combination.  (Wow… that’s a lot of stuff.  I swear I’m not really that high maintenance!)

Temperate Vortex.  I don’t think the warm streak we had mid-January has an official name, but 50s and 60s in January is AMAZING.  What a difference from last year!

Emergen-C.  Even with the warmer temperatures, there seem to be lots of colds going around.  It’s probably just in my head, but I’m convinced that a daily dose of Emergen-C makes a difference in staying well.

Cocoa almonds.  I bought a big bag of them in the Christmas clearance aisle, and they’re so good for a chocolate fix!  I know I probably eat more of them than I should, but it’s better than a handful of chocolate chips.

A Million Mutu Mama Workouts app.  I’ve written before about my diastasis recti, but I didn’t realize what a long road it would be to heal it.  I’ve been working on it for almost a year now, and at this point I’m convinced that there are certain exercises I will probably never be able to do again.  Even though I won’t miss doing crunches, it can be hard to come up with good modifications when I’m working out, which is why I love this app.  It’s pricey for an app ($8.99) but cheap compared to the cost of the full Mutu video system ($50-100 depending if you catch a sale) and it contains a lot of the same information, plus even more workouts and ideas for safe ab strengthening exercises.  Anyone who really wants to focus on core strength could benefit from this app, but especially postpartum moms who just can’t seem to get rid of the pooch.

Knitting.  I have a renewed love of knitting these days… it’s just so relaxing to hang out on the couch with a good TV show and knit a few stitches at the end of a long day, and I love seeing the steady progress and having a completed project at the end of it.  I feel like so many things in my life have to be done over and over (laundry, cooking, cleaning the kitchen, etc) or never have a clear end point (most of my work projects), so I love the fact that with knitting, when you’re done, you’re DONE — plus I have a new pair of cozy socks to wear!

Instagram.  You guys… I’m SO over facebook but I can’t completely quit it.  There are just a few groups and a few friends that make it worth it to stay.  But Instagram I just love.  Everyone I follow is friendly and positive and real.  (My username is skerner if you want to follow me — I’ll follow you back as long as you promise no political rants and links to depressing news stories.)

Snow day make-up days.  I get not one, but TWO holidays this winter (MLK Jr Day and Presidents Day) that my son has to go to school to make up snow days.  WOO HOO!  You’ll find me knitting and watching Downton Abbey.  And hopefully taking a nap.

The sun.  Have you noticed?  It’s staying light a teensy bit longer each night, and it’s making me so happy.  I know we have a lot of winter days ahead, but just seeing the sun stick around a few extra minutes at the end of each day gives me a lot of encouragement.

Gas prices. I won’t torture you with a picture of a gas station sign or a gas pump, but for someone who drives over 300 miles a week, gas below $2 has made a huge difference in my budget.

Styling wand. I have stick-straight hair. I know people who straighten their hair every day would kill for that, but honestly it gets kind of boring. I bought a styling wand for myself recently after consulting with some younger friends and my hairdresser about how it works. I am still learning how to use it, but it’s really fun to have some curls every once in a while!

How did January treat you?  Do you have any secrets for avoiding getting sick in the winter?

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Cooking School: Where Do I Start?

Photo Credit: beingoxymoronish. via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: beingoxymoronish. via Compfight cc

Welcome to my Cooking School series, which is designed to share what I’ve learned as an experienced home cook with people who want to learn how to cook healthy, homemade food. If you have a topic you’d like me to address, please leave a comment!

I don’t know who said “Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle,” but it definitely applies to the journey of learning to cook healthy meals.  I think it’s a lifelong process and we all have room for improvement.  That being said, if you’re just getting started, please don’t get discouraged by people who have been on the journey longer!

Normally my Cooking School posts are more instructional, but today I just wanted to write a note of encouragement to all of those people out there who want to learn to cook, or change the way they cook, but aren’t sure where to start.  You can do this!  You are not behind.  Jump in where you are and don’t feel guilty about how you’ve done things in the past.

Over the holidays, I was having a conversation with a family member who is really wanting to get away from convenience foods and fast food, and help her kids start eating healthier foods, but doesn’t know where to start.  My husband excitedly showed her the menu planning website we’ve been using lately, filled with things like curry, roasted salmon, and lamb kebabs.  It was a bit overwhelming for someone trying to break out of a mac-n-cheese and chicken nugget rut!  I know my husband was trying to help, but it’s not realistic to go from the freezer section to 5 homemade meals a week.  We didn’t get there overnight and it’s unreasonable to expect anyone else could, either.

I grew up in a family where we ate out a lot (my mom ran a business and worked a ton) but we ate pretty healthy when we ate at home.  My mom has always been interested in the latest health trends (she’s all about her chia and flax seed these days) so that balanced out all the Pizza Hut and Golden Corral we ate.  My own real food journey started several years ago, when I watched Fast Food Nation.  I’ve never been a big fast food eater, but that movie convinced me of the importance of eating foods that were as close to their natural state as possible, and trying to avoid unpronounceable ingredients.  Not long after that, I read Animal Vegetable Miracle, and started shopping at farmer’s markets and even joined a CSA for a while.  Michael Pollan and the blog Kitchen Stewardship were big influences for me as well.

These days, between a full time job and little kids keeping me busy, don’t have time to volunteer on the CSA farm or even visit the farmer’s market on a regular basis.  I focus on cooking and eating a wide variety of foods (including lots of veggies) that are as unprocessed as possible.  No, my kids don’t always eat everything I serve them — but at least they’re being exposed to them and seeing them being eaten.  (Keep trying, and eventually it will pay off.  My 4.5 year old asked for seconds of brussels sprouts the other day.)

Each person has their own reasons for starting to cook and eat healthier.  Figure out what your why is — if you base the changes in your eating/cooking off of your values, you will be much more likely to be successful.  And I’m here cheering you on!

What or who has influenced the way you cook or eat?

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Sam at 18 months


It’s been too long since we’ve had an update from the #magicalunicornbaby.  At 18 months, Sam…

…has a new nickname.  #troublebaby  We use “trouble” as a verb in our house now.  “What’s Sam doing?”  “Troubling in the living room.”


…is into EVERYTHING.  Loves to unload all the sippy cups onto the kitchen floor.  Obsessed with the Ninja blender.  (Amazingly he’s only gotten one minor cut.  I am much more vigilant about keeping that cabinet locked now!)  He will literally run if he sees our bathroom door open, so he can rummage through the drawer, steal our toothbrushes, and chew on them.


…says Mama and Dada, and attempts to say dog, brother, up, uh-oh, peekaboo (Boo!), and bark-bark.  Not super-verbal for his age, but ahead of where his older brother was, so I feel pretty good about it.


…will eat everything in sight, and gets mad if anyone is eating something and not giving him a bite.  (I am enjoying this for as long as it lasts, I know the picky eating phase will probably kick in any day.)


…loves to push buttons, especially on my phone if he can get a hold of it.  Siri’s reaction to the mumblings of a pre-verbal toddler are pretty amusing.

Overall I’m really enjoying this age.  Sam has his moments of frustration where he wants something but can’t communicate it to us, and we have to stay on our toes or he’ll get into something he shouldn’t but overall he is a pretty fun, easy-going guy to have around.  Maybe it’s a second child thing, but he is amazingly adaptable on days when we have to push his nap way back because we’re busy in the afternoon.  He still usually wakes up once a night, but he settles back down pretty quickly.

What’s your favorite thing about the stage of life you or your kids are in right now?

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