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Stitch Fix Tips and Tricks

Stitch Fix

Thinking about trying a subscription service like Stitch Fix? I haven’t tried one myself (I am not-so-much a shopping person, but when I do shop, I like to shop), but if I were going to try it out, I’d want a few tips and tricks to help me get the most out of it, because I’ve heard reviews all over the map for the service. Fortunately, the altdotlife hive mind has a lot of great ideas on how to improve your Stitch Fix results. Here are a few:

Having a hard time getting clothes you love? If you write your stylist a detailed note about an event you’re going to,  they might have an easier time finding something you’d like.

I also write a detailed note with my various upcoming events, this can be real or fictional.  Like, I got a really nice top when I said I wanted something to wear out to a bar while visiting major city with an old friend from high school.  Totally fictional event, great shirt!

Not loving all your StitchFix picks, but want to keep trying? There are buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook just for this purpose. You can find one that matches your size, or check out groups for accessories.

And finally, don’t forget to update Pinterest to improve your box selections:

With stitchfix I found the stylist really looks at my Pinterest board, which I hadn’t been updating that frequently. Once I made sure to add a few things regularly my boxes improved a lot.

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Ask the Expert: Simplicity Parenting

Simplicity Parenting 101

Have you ever had one of those parenting moments? You know the ones– you’re rushing to get supper made after a long day at work. You’re dashing down to the bus stop as fast as your kids can walk. You have watched one (or a million) too many Caillou… and then you snap? Or maybe your kid snaps. It all ends in tears, whether kid-sized or adult. It’s not fun, and it can leave you feeling a little queasy and disconnected.

Or is that just me? (Please don’t tell me if it’s just me, ok?)

I try really hard to create rhythm and ritual for my kids, and post-homework reading aloud to each other is one of my treasured parenting moments. But honestly? It’s still kind of a challenge for me. Sometimes I feel like I need a parenting support group, and that’s one of the things I love about altdotlife– the fact that I can always find a quick post-work recipe or strategies for handling tantrums and a sympathetic ear. But sometimes it feels like what I really need is a parenting coach, and a little more strategy around my parenting skills.

Join our online group coaching session in the forum. (Not a member? Join for free— the coaching session is on the parenting forum for more privacy.)

The awesome thing about altdotlife is that we have so many smart women as part of the community. Almost any question you can think of? Someone here will have an answer. And in this case, long-time ADL member Lisa Weiner, who is a certified Simplicity Parenting counselor, has volunteered to host an “ask the expert” thread (AKA, multi-day online group coaching session) about how to bring more peace to your parenting. Got questions? She’s got answers.

Want a sneak peak? Here are some of the posts she’s written recently on her Handmade Parenting blog:

If you’ve got questions about how to simplify your parenting, and bring a little more joy and connection into your life, drop by the forum and join in the Ask the Family Coach thread.

This thread will only be active for a few days, because Lisa will begin teaching her Simplicity Parenting 101 online course on Monday. So drop by between now and Sunday evening, and bring all your questions that might benefit from a trained parenting coach (in addition to the contributions of the rest of the awesome altdotlife parenting community).

Here’s how to win a spot in Simplicity Parenting 101

Enroll with coupon code MINDFUL-20As a thank you to the altdotlife community, Lisa has offered a special 20% altdotlife discount for her Simplicity Parenting 101 course, which you can get with the coupon code MINDFUL-20. And she’s donated a spot in Simplicity Parenting 101. Here’s how you can enter to win a spot in Simplicity Parenting 101:

  • Join in the forum thread this weekend (it’s a win-win: instant advice + chance to win the deeper experience of joining the course), and
  • Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. (Tag @altdotlife  on Twitter or Facebook, or drop us a note with the link, so we don’t miss any of your entries!), and
  • “Like” Handmade Parenting or altdotlife on Facebook.

We’ll have to close out the contest at noon EST on Sunday, April 3, so that you have time to enroll in the course before it closes Sunday night.

Disclosure: this isn’t an affiliate deal, it’s a donation from Handmade Parenting, but the altdotlife team helped build out the tech for this online course. (No kickbacks, I just really want to see this course fill with awesome parents, and I think the altdotlife community is a great match for the course material.)

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Going Solar: Installing Solar Panels

Full Set of Panels

Have you been thinking about taking advantage of tax credits to install solar panels this year? If so, check out the thread Going solar to join the discussion of how to size for growth, bulk buys with other people, tax credits, and buy vs. lease programs.

Tax Incentives and Bulk Buys:

We have good local tax incentives plus the ability to save on installation via a bulk co-op purchase such that the economics look WAY better than I expected (breakeven estimated in 5-6 years). Anyone want to share your experiences with solar – pros, cons, pitfalls, surprises, benefits?

Planning for Growth:

When considering the number of panels to install, we thought a lot about growth.  We’re incredibly frugal with electricity now, but don’t have to be so stingy with lights and such once we’re using solar. Also, our kids will use more as they got older and we’ll probably replace our aging cars with plug-in hybrids eventually, so we’re getting more panels than we required to meet our current needs.  I think we added three panels above the installers recommendation for meeting current usage.

Excess Electricity:

I know a few people with panels who generate more than they use — and then sell the excess to the power companies. So they get a monthly check. Now *that* sounds awesome.

We have a system which puts any surplus electricity being generated but not used into heating our hot water, so I hope to see our electricity and our natural gas bills both come down.  One recommendation I would make is to get a monitoring system, ours feeds to a secure web page, which means I can see figures on what we are generating, what we are using, what we are importing and/or exporting from anywhere with an internet connection.  This has made all the difference to how we use electricity, including setting timers on the dishwasher and washing machine to use ‘free’ power, and also being aware of which appliances are energy hogs

Need a New Roof?

…we just got some of our initial paperwork and it indicates that if you replace your roof as part of the solar installation process (not sure how intertwined these need to be – if you have to use the same contractor or what), the roof replacement costs are also eligible for the 30% federal tax credit.

Do you have advice or questions about going solar? Add it in the comments below, or join the conversation on the forum: Going solar.

Image credit: Full Set of Panels by joncallas, CC attribution license

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Teaching Your Kids to Code

This week is Computer Science Education Week. At our house, it was also the week of Strep throat and two snow days (with very little snow). Which means that after my kids had spent hours turning their blocks and rubber balls into Rube Goldberg machines, put on five puppet shows, and made endless “potions” out of baking soda, vinegar, food coloring, and Orbeez, they begged me to help them build a computer game. Specifically, a “game with pulleys, just like a Rube Goldberg machine, Mom!”

ZOOM . games . Goldburger To Go | PBS KidsThe first thing we did was look for a Rube Goldberg game to play, as research. There are lots of Rube Goldberg games online, some sketchier than others. (There were a few times I hurriedly closed down the browser as multiple windows started popping up.) We finally found one that was about the right level of play for my eight year old, the PBS Kids Goldburger To Go. Just like a real Goldberg machine, it was equal parts fascinated discovery, and frustration. It took a more than a few minutes, but she worked through the whole thing, and then happily showed her 5 year old sister how to play.

Protip: Starting with a PBS Kids game as your coding level target? May be setting expectations a little high. But they did have lots of fun with it.

Want more ideas for getting your kids interested in STEM? Check out the thread Wishlist: STEM Toys, or create a free log-in to join the discussion of Simple and engaging STEM activities that come in all colours and Encouraging STEM In Our Daughters (in our non-public parenting boards).

We’d played around with Scratch and Hopscotch before, but the kids found them a little frustrating– too hard to use trial and error to map their complex visions of world-conquering computer games into reality. While there are primitive pulley games on Scratch, when you peek at the code, they look well above the 8 year old one-hour effort.

So I was pleased to discover the Edutopia review of 7 Apps for Teaching Children Coding Skills. This is a great round-up of kid-friendly programming options, from the very young on up to teens.

My oldest jumped right into GameStar Mechanic, happily playing and building maze video games for at least an hour, while I sat with her sister to take a look at Move the Turtle on the iPad. Move the Turtle was just about right for a first grader, and worked well for my kindergartener-with-mom-at-elbow to read the instructions and help interpret them. But soon enough, maze video games got boring, and I was glad we’d tried out GameStar Mechanic out before paying for the full version.

TynkerWe moved on to Tynker. (OK, I admit, I moved on to Tynker when they were finally back in school yesterday.) My first impression of Tynker: the interface looks just like Scratch. But wait! Instead of learning by copying and editing existing games, jumping right into the editing window, Tynker has simple learn-to-program games. Start by teaching a puppy to run 10 steps, then 40, then learn how to loop by jumping over a series of traffic cones. Tynker is similar to Move the Turtle in how it has simple puzzles with instructional “hints,” but the interface is story-based, animated, and more engaging in general.  This one looks like a winner, and I’ll definitely run the kids through all of the many Hour of Code game tutorials. If they like it as much as I think they will, they might get the $50 course under the tree this year. They might be able to go through the Hour of Code tutorials and learn enough to jump back into Scratch, because they use the same drag-and-drop block interface.

Cargo-BotThe final option might just meet their approval for building a “pulley game.” Cargo-Bot is a free iPad game that allows kids to program a crane to lift, lower, and move blocks from one spot to another. This is about the right level of effort to start my kids off at: program an existing structure to move up, down, and sideways. The Scratch pulleys, with their individual moving sprites, might be a step farther down the road, but I think Cargo-Bot will be just right for our next snow day.

Image credits: Blue Glow by Jim Sneddon, Goldburger To Go via PBS Kids, Cargo-Bot via Two Lives Left

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Music Lessons for Kids

Child on the piano

We recently got a piano, and my daughter, age 3, is completely enchanted by it. I do play piano, though it has been many years. She is too young for us to want to pursue formal lessons, but I am wondering if anyone here has taught their child some piano basics and wants to share some ideas. She has a good mastery of letter and numeral recognition. Any recommendations for basic lesson books for the youngest of beginners?

Is your child interested in learning to play an instrument? Check out the thread Introducing your child to the piano (or other musical instruction)

We’ve got a new thread this week on how to introduce your child to music lessons. If he or she is showing interest in your piano (or flute, or drums, or kazoo), what do you do? How do you know if she’s too young to learn without being frustrated? What are the best resources to help her learn? You have questions, we have answers:

Piano teacher weighing in here. I actually don’t care for Burnam, John Thompson or most of the older piano lesson books for young beginners. The pacing is odd and some of them rely too heavily on finger numbers. I’m a total convert to the Piano Adventures series. They actually have a wonderful series for very young beginners, though I would say 3 is too little even for those. The site is great and offers a lot of info to help teachers and parents teach the concepts in the books.

My (almost) three year old loves to have “lessons” and what we do is, we talk about black keys and white keys, and practice playing together on the white keys or on the black keys. (I just play a simple chord pattern in either C or C# to duet with her.) We also practice playing loudly and softly, long notes and short notes (staccato). I talk with her about finding patterns on the piano of 2 black keys together and 3 black keys, and then she finds all the groups of two and plays them. We also talk about finger numbers and practice playing a note of her choice with each finger. All these exercises are in the first several pages of the books I linked above – but that’s about as far as she’s able to do at 35mo.

Most kids I don’t recommend begin piano lessons until they have the reading readiness to understand the idea of reading symbols across a page from left to right, the attention span to sit and do an activity for 20 minutes, and the fine motor skills to play notes with one finger at a time. And an interest in learning piano of course!

Drop by the thread Introducing your child to the piano (or other musical instruction) to ask your own questions about music education, or to chime in with other resources or advice.

Image credit: Petits doigts au piano by stephane4500

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