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There are a lot of stereotypes about coupon users, most of which have to do with them being obsessed with saving money, to the point where they sometimes buy things that they don’t even need. I’m sure actual coupon users aren’t like the stereotypes, but for those of us who have a tendency to obsess anyway, I can see how it might be easy to get caught up in the goal. I do love saving money, and I’m sure I sometimes take offers for free or cheap things that I otherwise wouldn’t accept, but I don’t want to be an obsessive when it comes to coupons.

I have some simple rules for how I use coupons; one way is saying that I’ll take a finite quantity of “waiting” time and turn it into coupon-seeking time, but I generally won’t seek out good deals. This means that if Husband is still getting ready in the morning, I’ll flip through the latest flyers to be thrown on our doorstep and clip anything we already use to stick in my wallet. If I know we will probably go out to eat on the weekend, I’ll clip a coupon for our favorite Mexican food place.

If I know I need to grocery shop soon, I’ll open the grocery store app and go to the “pre-load coupons” part of the application. This is unusually wonderful because I have a tendency to forget the coupons I do cut, so keeping them pre-stored on my store card is a great idea. I will pre-load more than I might actually use, but in general my shopping strategy is to forget what I loaded and buy what I need. That way, I can truly count the 50 cents or 3 dollars as savings, not as having prompted me to buy more.

What are your strategies with coupons? I wouldn’t mind using them better or more, but I also really like the small amount of time I spend on them now. Any pointers in the comments are more than welcome.

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On Saturday, we hosted our first ever Friendsgiving, which is essentially just a potluck that falls sometime near Thanksgiving, but is more festive because it has an autumnal theme. There were multiple dishes that featured squashes of various types. I was in heaven.

I especially liked that I didn’t have to make anything fancy; I toasted hawaiian rolls and made turkey sliders out of them, then baked up some grocery-store frozen sweet potato fries, and made a loaf of take and bake multigrain bread. I also made green bean casserole, mostly because I love crispy fried onions. The guests provided the charming food: homemade butternut squash soup, corn pudding, pumpkin pie, baked beans, and an amazing cookies and cream cake.

The beginning of the party felt comfy and homey, given that almost everyone had met each other before, but around two hours in I thought the party was about to peter out and people were going to go home. Instead, someone started a card game and everyone who wasn’t playing watched and chatted and ate second servings of dessert. They finally left just before midnight, and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

The thing I noticed with this party was that the people who know us are starting to become a group – sure, I may not invite each person’s favorite people to every party, but they know each other well enough to wish each other well. One of my guests suggested we make a potluck a monthly thing, inviting a big list of people with the assumption that some people won’t be able to make it each month but overall getting some subset of people together through the winter time. I love the idea of a roving party that happens each month in a different house; not only am I not really one for hosting (I do my best but love visiting other people’s homes more), I love the automatic-ness of a monthly gathering where you’ll get to catch up with the same group, deepening the bond.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you as well! I’m grateful that you read my blog. 🙂

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Today’s Monday Motivation is all about a common problem: unclear supervisors. Certainly, people talk about their bosses in a negative way, but I rarely encounter truly unpleasant bosses. Instead, I find bosses, or sometimes editorial supervisors when I’m writing, have trouble making their expectations clear.

I worry because I want my bosses AND myself to shine, and lack of clarity wastes time, exhausts both of us, and results in bad work. So when I don’t understand what a boss wants, I try to process a little first: certainly, my impatient self wants to run in and demand a clearer response, or (too often) a better project or writing design. Instead, it is important for me to clear away my initial impatience and rebellion and look at what will really help the situation?

9 times out of 10, giving my boss the benefit of the doubt and asking for clarification in a way that respects their vision of the project is the best way to go. I will only be really blunt with a boss who has persistently not answered my questions or made the work take much longer than necessary; otherwise, I want to avoid burning bridges.

So if you are dealing with a supervisor who isn’t clearly expressing what he or she wants, know you are in good company – we have all been there! Anyone who has also BEEN a supervisor knows how challenging it is to express what you want from a project before you’ve seen the final project. Respect, patience, and kindness can go a long way on both sides, and by giving each other the best you have to offer, you are more likely to power through your Monday and the rest of the week to come!

What do you do when faced with an unclear supervisor’s needs? Share your best strategies for remaining positive in the comments!

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I have known for a long time that my addiction to coffee was too much: I was drinking 3 or 4 cups of strong coffee a day, accepting the jitters that came with them, and enjoying the positive rush that came with all that energy. It didn’t always change into lasting productivity, but it did create a deep dependence on the bean for happiness.

I realized early this year that I was taking it for granted and not really getting much out of my coffee experience, which was a shame. I realized that one way to regain the pleasure of coffee would be to reduce my dependence, and for that, I realized, I needed an intermediary: decaf coffee.

The immediate problem was that I had easy access to wonderful, well made caffeinated coffee, but all the sources locally didn’t seem to make good decaf. It seems like making good decaf coffee is a fairly untapped market in my area, actually.

So I came up with a solution: I tried a new subscription service, called Bean Box. They sent me 4 small bags of artisanal decaf coffee to try, which meant that I had novelty and high quality coffee to look forward to in the mornings. For instance, I was able to try Seattle Coffee Works “Our Best Decaf,” which mixed beans from all over the world to make a really high-flavor coffee, not at all the flat cup-of-joe I had found most decaf to be.

I am not off coffee entirely, but I now drink at least one cup of decaf a day, and sometimes a half-caff cup some other time. This means that when I do get that caffeine, I’m so much more mindful and grateful for it, and the rest of the time, I’m focusing on the flavor, not the addiction, so I hope I will eventually find my own perfect decaf roast so that I don’t feel chained to the caffeine like I used to.

This post is not sponsored by Bean Box, but if you want to try it for 5 dollars off, feel free to use my referral code! It gives me coffee credit too, which doesn’t hurt. 🙂

 

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The Best Self Journal I’ve been filling out is useful because, even though it only covers 13 weeks, it can be any 13 weeks, due to not having dates filled out. I recently went in and filled out the whole space, turning a blank, generic calendar into an actual month. Already, November seems like it will be so short and yet so full of events.

The Journal made we think that we so often let days pass without taking a moment to think about them, or else we skip months and months ahead to our next vacation or our next promotion or our next family reunion. Certainly, these things are worth planning and celebrating, but after meeting my little nephew, who has done so much growing in only 8 days, I am reminded that planning for the future should include the present, and all the inconsequential days between now and the fulfillment of our goals.

I want to be the kind of person who plans for the future in big dreams but mostly in small, day-sized chunks, so that I can say that I didn’t just scramble and scramble to get to my goal, but that I lived the goal by living each day by the principles. This reminds me a bit of Jess Lively, of the Lively Show podcast, who is always mentioning that we have to set our intentions based on what we value, rather than just making goals blindly and hustling like crazy to make them happen.

So yes, I’m thinking about running a half marathon again, and I’m thinking about feeling strong during my upcoming yoga retreat, and I’m thinking about planning a trip to Europe to revisit old friends… but I’m also trying to live an active lifestyle and keep my Spanish skills polished every day, in bite-sized chunks of activity. One small step at a time even as I dream.

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I’ve been thinking for a while that I needed an organization strategy that wasn’t just my pile of to-do list… and I think I’ve found one to try. The Self Journal is my new project, and I’ve already seen some awesome results.

The organization of a Self Journal isn’t about just structuring one’s daily and weekly and monthly schedule. It organizes you toward goals. At the very beginning, I set some major goals for myself: I want to do a better job of keeping in touch with and caring for my friends and family, I want to increase exercise and healthy eating, and I want to up my game in my writing work. The journal helped me identify sub-tasks, motivations, and even rewards for when I accomplish these things!

The journal lasts for 13 weeks, and I plan to make a post every week about what I’m experiencing and seeing from the journal. It is very different from all my past yearly planners, but I hope to pay better attention to the goals of this planner and really try the system.

Already, I’ve noticed that I love having a morning and evening moment for coming up with things to be grateful for. I also love the “lessons learned” and “wins” sections each day. I normally don’t take enough time to focus both on a productive framing of my failures – i.e. what they taught me – or on a moment of my own success. For me, unfortunately, most successes just manifest as a moment of relief before I move on to something else, and already I’m noticing that I am more grateful for my successes and more excited about doing better each day.

I’m also recording more memorable moments – things like my co-workers dressing up as witches and making me smile as they give candy to the rest of the staff today – and that is something I’ve never done well enough. I hope to be able to report more progress on my 3 goals next week because of this experience, but for now, feel free to check out the SELF journal at this link!

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I had a pretty exciting day yesterday. For the first time ever, I have a baby nephew; my sister in law gave birth to a little dude and they are both doing really well! The baby is going to be spoiled, I can tell: neither her family, nor Husband’s family have ever had a member of the new generation. A bunch of grandparents were born yesterday. 🙂

There’s no babies on my side of the family either, so it really makes me feel like my cousins and I are entering a new time of life. For years, our families have been having adults-only kind of trips: rowdy camping trips where we all stay up late into the night telling stories by the fire, adventurous trips of all kinds. There will be a new domesticity for Husband’s brother’s family; while I’m sure they’ll still come out when we’re camping, they will also have to keep the little guy on a schedule. They’ll be pretty tired themselves just with keeping a little life alive.

Husband and I are pretty excited about being aunt and uncle; we want to take the little guy to the zoo and have him visit in the summers and of course, we’re going down to meet him. It also makes us think about the future though: someday, our married-no-kids lifestyle might change. It’s interesting to think how I can make all these big plans, thoughts for how my career and travel will go, but in the end, it will also be determined by the little lives around me, big and small. Some of them are people I already love, and some of them, like my new nephew, come into my life all of a sudden and are important to me without ever doing anything to earn it.

Just thinking about the next generation over here; don’t mind me and my musings. 🙂

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The Monday after a road trip – even and awesome road trip where I saw beautiful Fall foliage, a cute 1700s-era town, a cool digital media conference, and a particularly tasty glass of apple cider – can be rough because I feel like I am teleporting back to reality with no lead-up or planning. To-do lists obviously help with this a bit.

In my stocking a few years ago, my mother in law included an adorable notepad of list paper that I have now used more than half of. The little eyeglasses motif and the goofy phrase “Nerd is the word” have been on every to-do list I’ve written for two years. I need these lists the way other people need their morning coffee; they energize me because once I can actually see everything I have to do written out in front of me, I feel like I can actually do all of it.

I came home to a (mistaken) unpaid toll violation notice, a jury duty summons that conflicts with a big trip, and a check I need to cash, but by putting all three of them down on a list, along with some of the bigger start-of-week work tasks, I start to calm myself down.

I know that I don’t really need to have physical notes now that so many to-do list applications and softwares exist, and I do use Evernote to organize my day at work along with some of the drafts of documents I work on, but I really cannot substitute them fully for the paper to-do list.

Today’s intention: mark off items from my to-do list at double-time today so that I don’t feel overwhelmed for the rest of the week, which has more travel coming. Also an intention: accept that things are a little bonkers and that is just how it has to be these days!

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This weekend has confirmed for me a lot of things: we have casual, good friends here in town, and there is plenty to do with time here, and there are still so many more good projects to be a part of as the town builds itself into a great place to live. I’ve never felt more connected here, more like we’re getting something done by being a part of this community.

And at the same time, all I can think about are other places. I think about Madrid, where I was able to build a community from pretty much no connections to my past life, where I loved and cared for people who were also far from home and where people who grew up in another culture cared for and loved me. I think about my husband’s home town, sitting on my in-laws back porch by the bear-proof bird feeder and the way that spot makes me feel when it is early morning and I’m still in pajamas. I think about how so much family has clustered there, how they bend over backwards to help each other but also just to enjoy each other, to sit around campfires together.

It is so strange to be torn between good options – for so much of my life, I’ve thought that none of the places could be home, except maybe my college town, and now many places remind me how home they have been to me. I don’t know what the future holds or where we might go, but I know that this place has grown on me in the two years we’ve been here – our two year anniversary with the house is this week. I also know that the meaning of nearby family has grown on me, and the meaning of city life and excitement and Spanish and their deep loyalty to those they love… it has all grown on me.

My maps never were very tidy, but these days in particular, I feel like the star for where I am is so entwined with the stars for where I have been. “You are here.” But also “Your heart is here” and “Your mind is here” and “Your friends are there” and “your family is over there.” What a map, and what a life choice it is to be a person in one place.

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One of my friends, E, recently started working at a store that sells make-up and other beauty essentials. Her pictures online after starting to work there have been gorgeous – not only are all the tubes and compacts adorable, but her face looks so sophisticated, exciting; if I saw her for the first time from across a room, I’d want to talk to her! Besides the fact that she’s also my friend and I like talking to my friends.

I have such a strange relationship with make-up – my mother never wore it, but I knew about it through my pre-teen and teenage years. At summer camps and college, I’d borrow a lip color or an eye shadow, but I didn’t own my own; I eventually bought a lipstick, a mascara… until I had my own bare-bones collection.

It makes sense, though, that my collection stayed small for a long time, because I wore it only on special occasions, or perhaps the first day of class. It wasn’t until I moved to Spain, where bold lip colors and a perfect eye were so standard that I felt weirder without them than with them. For those two years, I spent most days wearing at least a little make-up. It was the only time when there were people in my life who had never seen me without make-up but who were close friends.

When I returned to the States, there were more people who went natural-look, and I got lazy – I was in a long-distance relationship, which is uniquely good for making you think you don’t need make-up to impress anyone and you don’t need make-up to look good for a particular person. I found myself pulling it out only occasionally when there was a party or a poetry reading, but usually nothing.

I thought, when I got my first full-time job, that I’d wear make-up; I was younger than most of my colleagues, and I was working with college students, and make-up would have been a good way to make myself look older than them. I even found a bunch of great promo codes and splurged on an order from Benefit (love their products, even if I neglect them!). It didn’t last though – I’m confident that I can do my job with or without eyeliner. I wear it for big days, and when my husband and I go on dates, but not otherwise.

Part of me thinks that my love of make-up is wasteful, since I don’t follow through and wear it, and part of me thinks that being obsessed with making my face into a canvas is a little wasteful anyway; I could spend money a different way, and the environment probably wouldn’t mind if we didn’t make a bunch of face products from our natural resources.

How do you feel about make-up? Does it complicate your life or give your life a little sparkle? I find it can go either way for me, but one thing is for sure: I don’t think women should feel the pressure to wear it, even if they are having a zit day! Being who you are is an important thing, and unless make-up is part of what you want to be wearing, it should be very optional.

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