Stitch Fix #6

It was a beautiful summery day when my newest Stitch Fix made its way to my doorstep. Eager to get packing for my summer vacation I anticipated the box’s arrival. I knew that my stylist would have some cute and trendy summer pieces picked out just for me and she was sure not to disappoint. Here’s a look at my sixth fix:

1. Rinald Front Pocket Blouse (Fun2Fun)

This sleeveless blouse was a perfect cut and style for my wardrobe. It is simple with its nautical anchor pattern and can easily be paired with countless accessories and bottoms. I think this shirt would pair well with last month’s TOMS to bring out a pop of color. Of course I kept this piece.

2. Elda Beaded Drop Earrings (Nakamol)

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These cute earrings were handmade by local Thai artists. Although adorable, I found it hard to pay $38.00 for a pair of simple earrings.

3. Becker V-Neck Blouse (Alice Blue)

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This floral top was super cute and the pattern was a lot of fun, however, this is another piece that I sent back to Stitch Fix. I did so because of the fit of the top. You can’t tell too much because of the angle of the picture, but this shirt was really tight in certain areas and after a little wiggle test it didn’t prove itself as a comfortable piece. As a busy mom-on-the-go comfort is even more important than fashion. So after a quick change this shirt found itself in the return envelope.

4. Pedrine Keyhole Back Top (Renee C)

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This fun navy and orange blouse was another great fit and adorable print. It paired well with the skirt which was also part of the fix. I could see myself wearing this top in many different ways so I kept it!

5. Devon Pleated Mini Skirt (Loveappella)

This skirt is pictured above under the Renee C top.You can’t tell too well from this picture, but the skirt was a bit too large for me. With very little effort it slid up and down my waist. Wearing this skirt in public would cause anxiety because I would constantly be afraid that it would fall down. I’m not sure if the skirt size just ran large or if I may have dropped a pants size because of recent workouts. I’m going to claim the latter even if that isn’t necessarily the case.

Overall, I got a couple of new pieces to add to my vacation suitcase. I look forward to creating fun outfits using my new tops from my sixth Stitch Fix.

If you are unfamiliar with Stitch Fix or are interested in learning more about the details, prices, and additional services check out My First Fix where I outlined the process in depth.

Also, if you are interested in giving Stitch Fix a shot use this link to give me credit for the referral.

Keep it stylish, readers!

The Ameri Brit Mom

*This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation as a result of this post. 

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TBR Summer 2016

Words cannot adequately express how excited I am to make a dent in my To-Be-Read list this summer. I’ve been working my way through a 24 Book Challenge this year and as of late have also fallen in love with The Selection series and plan to intersperse that reading with my book challenge. Here is a look at the next ten books on my TBR list:

  1. A Seperate Peace by John Knowles (currently on page 140/204)
  2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  3. The One by Kiera Cass
  4. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
  5. The Heir by Kiera Cass
  6. Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland
  7. The Crown by Kiera Cass
  8. The Cellar by Natasha Preston
  9. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

 

Outlining: The Irresistible Novel

Chapter eleven of Gerke’s book, The Irresistible Novel, is a little different than the previous ten. Up to this point each chapter has focused on a principle of writing (like POV, setting, characters, etc.) but chapter eleven is centered more on the discipline of writing. The main statement of debate being, “You must always outline your novel, or it will be doomed.” (Gerke 78)

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Outlining

As always, the statement above has no absolute answer. Each writer has their own style, discipline, and preference. In Gerke’s book he is aiming at helping writers to find their voice by causing them to evaluate important arguments in the art of writing. When it comes to outlining there are those wh0 do (plotters) and those who do not (pantsers.)

A plotter begins the writing process by first planning out major plot points. They may have a detailed outline completed before they ever start page one. They may also choose to outline in a less specific manner using working outlines that change throughout the writing process. A benefit to being a plotter is that the writer has a clear direction to their writing which helps them stay focused throughout the construction of their novel. A drawback to being a plotter is that some writers feel confined to their outline so much that it stifles their creativity. Those who over plan often feel that by the time they sit down to write their book that they have already done so. Many a book has died due to over planning and lack of interest.

A pantser sits down to write page one with no prior outline. Those who prefer this method enjoy following the characters and letting the characters rather than the plot take the lead as they write. They sit down to craft their novel with little to no planning, but the freedom of creativity guides them through the pages. A benefit to being a pantser is that the story truly speaks for itself and there is no need to feel suffocated by plot points drawn up on a map or word document. A drawback to being a pantser is that oftentimes starting a story without a clear direction can make such action obvious to your readers as they sense that the characters are just meandering through the plot.

My Current Project…

I’m sure this is no shocker, but when I sat down to write my first book I had a plan.

I had written a short story that I had fallen in love with. I had a main character, a problem, and somewhat of a solution. I read the short story to my husband and he enjoyed it as well. And from there I decided to expand the tale into novel form. (Little did I know just how long of a process that would be!)

I drafted a working outline on Google Docs. I knew fairly early in the process that I wanted my book to have alternating POV so I planned out the number and organization of chapters accordingly. I didn’t go too in depth because I wanted the book to write itself as much as possible. My first outline was half a page. It included major plot points for each chapter and highlighted the climax and possible resolutions.

The good thing about this being a working outline was that I never felt tied to what I had planned. Countless times throughout the process I added and subtracted from that original plan. I even got halfway through and decided I wanted another character to be more important than I had allowed them to be. All it took was about five minutes reworking the outline to give myself permission to go more in depth with that character.

I liked this process because it kept me focused on the direction of my story. It also kept me from forgetting to tie up loose ends. I was able to embrace creative liberties each time I sat down to write.

I know outlining isn’t for everybody, but if you are anything like me then it will save your sanity and possibly your story if you create at least a bare minimum plan.

Five Minute Friday: Cheer

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is Cheer. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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Over the past week and a half I have suffered from a major allergy flare up. Three years ago I began to develop seasonal allergies, but it remained relatively mild until recently. As the weather switched from hot-and-muggy to cool-and-wet and back to hot-and-muggy my sinuses decided to rebel. With the abrupt change of weather my allergies caused me to cough and sneeze uncontrollably. Before long I finally decided to visit the doctor.

A student of mine had been diagnosed with pertussis and after googling symptoms of the nasty disease I convinced myself that the whooping cough was my own prognosis as well. (Curse you, Web MD!)

Last Thursday I was prescribed two medications to keep my allergies at bay, but they were too far gone. As my conditions worsened it became clear to me that not only did I have an allergy flare up but that infections had developed as a result. A few days later I found myself in the urgent care with an ear infection as well as an infection that had developed in my chest. I never knew that allergies could lead to infections, but we will call this a lesson learned.

I’m now on five medications and an albuterol inhaler that I must use every four hours. I had a strep test and a breathing treatment on Tuesday. I’ve been exhausted for over a week partially due to the infections and partially due to the amount of medication I’ve been taking.

But I’m choosing to be cheerful throughout this bout of sickness.

I am cheerful because I began my summer vacation today. I am cheerful because after three pretty rough days I’m starting to clear up and feel a bit better. I am cheerful because I can tell that much of my energy is returning. And I am cheerful because God is still good even when I can’t take a deep breath on my own.

What do you have to be cheerful about today?

The Ameri Brit Mom

Summer Bucket List 2016

The school year has officially come to a close. Each year I’m always astounded by how quickly things wrap up. It seems like only a few days ago that I was trying to learn the names of each of my one hundred sixty students, and now they are on to the tenth grade. 2015-2016 was a fantastic school year for me. I utilized more technology, taught my first honors course, met an author, and built a curriculum map for my courses. Yesterday during the annual kick-ball tournaments I found myself reminiscing about the school year and being thankful for such a great group of students and a job that I enjoy so much.

This morning I finalized grades and packed away my classroom for its summer hibernation. I turned my key for the last time as a fifth year teacher and I welcomed summer 2016. Now I’m ready to embrace family time, sunshine, and all of our travel plans. Here’s a look at some things I’m hoping to accomplish this summer:

1. Travel to Chicago and England

In a couple of weeks we will begin our annual travels to England to visit my husband’s friends and family. This year we are going to drive to Chicago, Illinois to catch our flight. There are a couple of reasons why we chose to depart from Chicago. First, it allowed us to save a couple hundred bucks per ticket to fly from O’Hare as opposed to Columbus. Second, the book that I wrote last year is set in Chicago. I still need to add thousand words or so to the manuscript so I plan to do some research and writing while in Chicago. We will be spending four days in the city and we are still looking for things to fill our itinerary. If you have suggestions, please comment!

Our English adventure this summer will be a month long holiday. Most of our time will be spent in my husband’s hometown of Eastleigh, but we will also be heading to other locations throughout the country. We are so excited to get to England–Costa, a hot mocha better be waiting for me!

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2. Finish Reading a Book Every Other Week

The pace of the school year makes it really hard to put a significant dent in my 24 Book Challenge. I hope to get caught up with where I should be in the challenge by the end of the summer. I may even be able to finish the challenge by August depending on the amount of free time I am afforded.

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3. Wrap Up My Manuscript For My First Book

I finished writing my first book over Christmas break. Since wrapping up that initial draft I’ve realized I’m a couple thousand words short of what many publishers prefer for the genre. I plan to use my extra time in the summer to match the word requirements through research in Chicago, added dialogue, and better execution of major plot points. I’ll keep you updated along the way. I even plan to reach out to all of my blog readers for title, cover, and publisher suggestions.

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4. Picnic At Several Metro Parks

Once my awful allergy flare up clears I am excited to visit several Columbus Metro Parks with friends and family. This will start tomorrow as we have made dinner plans with church friends at the newest Metro Park in the area. Columbus has a wonderful parks system that I will be taking advantage of regularly during these summer months.

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5. Run On Average 20 Miles Per Week

I’m very excited to get back into running shape. Excluding the past few days (since I’ve been battling some infections stemming from allergies) I’ve been able to get back into shape fairly easily. I would like to see myself average twenty miles per week in running throughout the summer. I’m especially excited to run frequently while in England–that’s never happened before! It would also be cool to run a 5k or two this summer. My ultimate goal is to run the Columbus Marathon (half) in October so that will require keeping myself in shape throughout the summer.

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As you look forward to the summer is there anything that you are particularly excited about? Share your goals and plans in the comments 🙂

The Ameri Brit Mom

Book Review: The Elite

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, and outside influences.

Title: The Elite

Author: Kiera Cass

Publisher: HarperTeen

Copyright Date: 2013

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The end of the school year is quickly approaching. While I should be working feverishly to wrap up grading and all of the end of the school year activities I’ve found myself instead retreating into the beautifully crafted world of Illea once again. A few weeks ago I finished the book, The Selection, which is the first book in this phenomenal series by Kiera Cass. I’ve never  been one to fall head over heels for a series, but Cass has captured my interest and attention with her characters, setting, and intense plot. So instead of diving into all of the chaos of the end of the year I’m diving into a good series and finding myself relaxed by the familiarity of America Singer.

America was part of the Selection. Prince Maxon of Illea is in need of a bride and the custom of the nation is to host a Selection by which a member of each of the thirty-five  districts represents their caste and their home in the competition for the crown. By the end of the first book America Singer finds herself in the final six of the competition, also known as the Elite. The closer America gets to the finish the more she questions whether she has all it takes to become Illea’s next queen.

In this second installment to the series America is being tested and monitored more than ever before. Challenges are  created to help Maxon make his final decision. He has made it clear to America that he is in love with her, but she slows down the Selection process with her own self-doubt and confusion.

Before her trip to the capital America belonged to a lower caste and gave her heart to Aspen, a boy even worse off as far as castes were concerned. When Aspen re-enters her life he brings their past to the surface and causes even more uncertainty to fall on America’s shoulders. She finds herself caught between the life of a future queen and the life she had promised to Aspen. She finds her heart tangled up in a love triangle.

As the prince senses that things are changing between America and himself he begins to invest more time into the other members of the Selection. He begins to court the other girls leaving America with feelings of betrayal. But isn’t that what she was doing to the prince with Aspen?

At the end of this second book an ultimatum is given and an understanding reached. Will America continue to fight for the crown or will she settle down with Aspen, her first love?

Believe it or not I’ve been hooked by this series. There’s just something about the way that Kiera Cass writes that keeps me so engrossed in her books. I’m planning to finish reading this series throughout the summer. But for now, I should probably grade essays and get through my summer check-out list if I plan to be on summer vacation by the end of the week.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

Speech Attributions: The Irresistible Novel

Today’s topic from the tenth chapter of The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke is one that goes undetected by many readers. In this chapter Gerke takes a look at the arguments for and against the use of speech attributions.

“Speech attributions are the ‘he said’ parts of a dialogue scene.” (Gerke 72)

Keep in mind that the purpose of this book is not to lay down a list of writing rules. Instead, Gerke is challenging his readers to take a closer look at their own writing in order to create a solid writing voice. Each chapter provides an in-depth description about a particular idea from fiction and explains why some favor or oppose that particular thing. This week the argument is, “You should avoid using said and asked too much and should instead find alternatives as often as possible.” (Gerke 72)

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Speech Attributions

When it comes to the use of common speech attributions there are two camps. There are those who believe that you should absolutely avoid repeating the same words over and over again in your story. Others believe that the average reader does not detect the continual use of the common attributions and they should be kept simple to avoid impeding on the story. The middle ground between these two camps would say that it is okay to occasionally use words like said or asked, but whenever possible a writer should try to shake things up by either using other attributions or beats. The danger of using other attributions is that if you try too hard to avoid the common terms you run the risk of distracting your reader. A better alternative would be the use of beats.

A beat is an easy replacement for a speech attribution for a few reasons:

  1. A beat replaces a speech attribution while more or less performing the same function.
  2. A beat ties the reader to the setting.
  3. A beat is a primary tool for managing rhythm and pace of a dialogue scene.

Here is an example of a beat from the book:

“That’s terrific!” Julia sat on the ottoman. “When do you start?”

Not only does the beat highlighted above convey a natural pause in the speech, but it also ties the speaker to the setting. Beats make it clear who is speaking and how they do so. It becomes easier to hear Julia’s tone as we see where she is as opposed to being left to guess with the use of an unoriginal or overly painted speech attribution.

My Current Project…

I will be honest with you: I don’t see a problem with using the words said and asked. I do think that these words can easily be overdone, but there is an appropriate time and place to use them in writing.

Below is a short dialogue scene that happens about 3/4 of the way through my book. Michael has just experienced a tragedy and his intern (and crush) shows up at his front door. I blurred out some things that give away major plot points. Let me know what you think about the pacing of this scene based on the speech attributions and beats.

The next morning the doorbell to the Berry home brought life back into the house. Each member of the family stirred from their spot in the living room. Raymond threw back a blanket that had kept him warm overnight and swung his legs toward the floor. His bare toes shuddered at the coolness of the hardwood beneath them. Michael and the kids all began to untangle on the recliner. Raymond ran a hand through his hair as he placed his opposite hand on the door handle.

“Hello, can I help you?” He asked the apparent stranger on the front porch.

“Yes, I was wondering if Mr. Walker was in?” Immediately Michael stood up. His heart raced at the recognition of the voice on the other side of the door. He straightened his shirt and brushed his hair with his fingertips. Evelyn looked up at him and smiled. She had seen enough movies to know that the woman at the door was someone her older brother fancied.

“Come in.” Raymond spoke to the young woman. And as her black heels touched the wood floor inside the entryway her small voice could be heard.

“Thank you.”

Michael made his way over to the entryway. Rebekah quickly made her way across the entry and threw her arms around him.

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Walker.” Rebekah said with tears on the brim of each eye.

“Thank you, Rebekah.” Michael said with gratitude and a blushing face.

Raymond ushered the younger siblings out of the entry and toward the kitchen to fix breakfast. Michael was appreciative of the privacy.

“What are you doing here?” Michael questioned his intern.

“I knew it wasn’t like you to take a week off. So I went to Galik and asked him where you had gone. Don’t be mad, because I know he probably broke a HIPPA law or something, but he told me about—-. I figured out how to find you. Why didn’t you tell me ——?” Rebekah spoke quickly as though she had rehearsed this dialogue on her journey.

“I didn’t know for very long.” Michael admitted.

“You should have told me.” Rebekah sounded hurt.

“I didn’t want to trouble you.” Michael sounded jaded in his response.

“Well, I’m troubled now. I don’t like that you didn’t tell me.”

“I’m sorry.” He apologized.

“Well, that’s it. I traveled all this way on a weekend to hear you say that.” She flirted.

“Guess I’ll see you next week then.” Michael was unsure of himself. Conversation and flirtation were a foreign language to him.

“Invite me on a walk? This end of town is so charming.” She smiled again showing off her beautifully straight teeth.

“Sure, do you mind if I change my clothes really quick?” He asked.

“Not at all.” Michael bounded up the staircase toward his old bedroom. He felt like he was in high school again. Jitters filled his stomach as he raced to change and brush his teeth. The last thing he wanted to do was keep the beautiful girl downstairs waiting.

Five Minute Friday: Expect

This week the topic for the Five Minute Friday link-up post is Expect. What is a link-up? Essentially a link-up is when you join other bloggers and write on a similar topic. You share your blog posts with one another and begin conversations via a host site. You can head over to Kate Motaung’s page to check out other entries from inspired bloggers. Here’s my five minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing on this week’s topic:

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All that lies between myself and summer vacation is three days. Next Wednesday the students will leave my classroom for the final time. When I think about that moment I’m overcome because it has been a great year, but I am also excited for all that the summer holds for my family.

I’m expecting a long, fun summer full of family activities, travel, and lots of reading.

I’m expecting joy.

I’m expecting rest.

I’m expecting love.

I’m looking forward to a mini-trip to Chicago in nineteen days. Long car rides, sight seeing, and trying new foods are always full of wonderful memories. I expect that trip to be full of them.

I’m excited about spending a month in the summer back at my husband’s home in England. It’s always nice to get away and catch up with our family across the sea.

I’m also ecstatic about not having to grade essays, projects, or late work for a whole three months!

Here’s to summer 2016.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Brothers on the Field

The following is an article that I wrote for the Covenant Life Magazine May 2016 issue. This is a publication put out by Covenant Church quarterly. Some of you have been asking to see the article so here it is:

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Fifteen minutes south of Grove City in the small town of Ashville, God is moving in big ways through athletes at Teays Valley High School. Neal Davis, a senior captain of the football team and member of Covenant Church, has made a big impact on the life change taking place on that campus. Neal began to cultivate a relationship with Christ his freshman year of high school and soon became a leader in his school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Neal used that platform along with his enthusiasm to spread God’s Word in order to reach his team.

“I was invited by my FCA Advisors and David to attend Covenant and I was looking for an uptempo and more modern church. Everyone shared my excitement for God and I felt like I belonged.” Neal recounted about his initial experiences at the church.

As a leader for FCA, Neal was in a position to impact others and lead them to Christ. Through his involvement in teams and FCA he met Walker Moore. Walker, a younger football player, looked up to Neal as a team captain. Before long Walker began to notice that there was something different about Neal. He wasn’t like many of the other athletes. Although passionate about his sport, Neal still displayed his faith on the football field. He was encouraging and applied the principles of his faith to playing the game.

Walker began to spend more time with Neal and soon came to faith as well. Shortly after Walker accepted Christ, Neal invited Walker to Covenant Church. Through their friendship they have been able to reach and impact other members of their team as well. Both Neal and Walker have felt called to roles of leadership amongst their peers and are known for their character throughout the high school. They both have a large influence and credit God for their successes in academics, sports, and beyond.

However, it wasn’t always that easy to bring his friends to church. Over the next two years Neal continually invited other members of his team to attend church with him often without success. But one week after many attempts he was able to convince the team co-captain and quarterback, Drew Pennington, to join him on a Sunday morning.

“Neal asked me to go with him several times, eventually I decided to check out the church and I loved it. Now I attend Covenant nearly every Sunday.” Pennington recounted about his decision to call Covenant Church his home. Prior to attending the church Pennington had not accepted Christ. He had always known that God was making a big impact in the lives of his friends and he soon would experience those changes himself once he accepted the invitation.

It is through the prayer and persistence of one high school student that God brought several members of a team to know him. Neal’s journey of faith and his courage to reach out to others around him started a chain reaction on his team.

“Faith, Family, Football…” Neal’s mantra is a perfect example of how God has shaken up the lives and priorities of these three high school athletes. In a day and age where kids and families can be so centered on what they do these boys are choosing to place their focus on who they are in Christ. They are all three extremely talented athletes and two of them will be competing beyond the high school platform, but they have learned that if God isn’t first then everything else is worthless.

This January, all three of these students decided to make an outward expression of their decisions to follow Christ and were baptized. God has started a chain reaction with this high school football team, but this story isn’t finished yet. One of the Core Five values of Covenant is that We Bring Our Friends. Their story serves as a lesson to everyone that the more we step out and invite others to church the higher the possibility that those people will accept that invitation. This is a reminder that it just takes prayer and persistence to set off a chain reaction in your sphere of influence. If you don’t give up even when a friend, family member, or co-worker says “no” God may still be using you to work on their heart.

 

“I have been growing in my relationship with Christ and I felt that being baptized was that next step to growing closer to Christ.” Walker Moore

 

“I had always wanted to [be baptized] and I knew if I did in January my friends may be more comfortable doing so too.” Neal Davis

 

“I decided to put all of my faith and trust in God and to follow the path he has for me.” Drew Pennington