Category Archives: On the Brain…

October Memories, November Goals

This is a slightly melted Zombie Frappuccino. Look at the color at the bottom. Foul.

As I write this, it’s the first day of November and a brand new month in the busiest season of the year. I was brandishing a Styrofoam sword in a haunted house last night, and this morning I’m sipping my coffee from a paper cup adorned with Christmas trees and wrapped gifts. Starbucks wastes no time.

Speaking of time, I’m looking forward to a relaxing November after a busy October. I had places to be—or was sick in bed—every single day in October, which is highly unusual for a girl who strives to keep one whole day free each weekend for her books, baths, and cats. In October, there were family birthdays to celebrate, a dear friend’s wedding to attend, a trip to my alma mater for homecoming, Halloween events, urgent errands, a terrible virus/cold, several medical/vet appointments, and, of course, my full-time job.

I know I’ve been busier than usual because certain things have fallen by the wayside at home. I haven’t pulled out my winter clothing yet. I ordered new bedding but I haven’t swapped out the old. Summer-themed prints are still in the picture frames on my dresser, behind a mountain of clutter and recent purchases. October flew by so fast that we didn’t even buy pumpkins for the porch, or make our annual visit to a farmer’s market or corn maze!

It was a good month overall, though, and I certainly don’t mean to complain about friendship and fun. I’ve jotted down some October memories below.

The Good:

  • A Witches Tea Party at the Hunter House Victorian Museum, followed by drinks at a rooftop bar, poke bowls, and singing aloud to an awesome cover band.
  • My friend’s beautiful autumn wedding. The ceremony was poignant and funny and the reception struck exactly the right tone between elegant (chandeliers, string lights, white pumpkins) and casual (bluegrass band, open bar, family-style BBQ dinner).
  • Dancing with Will to Mumford & Sons and Johnny Cash songs.
  • Tailgating in Gainesville with wonderful friends! Singing Gainesville-native Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” in a stadium full of Gators.
  • Helping to create an awesome haunted backyard for trick-or-treaters!
  • My pirate wench costume.
  • Clark is okay after a scary emergency vet appointment. Whew.
  • A good friend of mine began dating a wonderful guy.
  • The smell of college brochures (fancy paper, slick printing) and fun-size candy bars (plasticky, sweet).

The Bad:

  • The unexpected passing of a dear family friend, Miss Melinda.
  • The loss of Tom Petty.

The Ugly:

  • The Florida Gators football season.
  • The death of my iPhone.
  • The terrible, terrible virus that worked its way around my office and household.
  • The Zombie Frappuccino.

My goal for November is to recharge and reset. More specifically, I want to:

  • Overhaul my bedroom. Dust, declutter, and organize.
  • Assess and supplement my fall/winter wardrobe. Put away my few summer-specific items and set aside or donate anything that doesn’t feel warm and cozy. (I’m looking at you, polyester shirts.)
  • Pack away Halloween decorations (sad) and bring out the Thanksgiving things (yay!).
  • Bake pumpkin bread.
  • Make a dent in my Christmas shopping and wrapping (or, at least, the planning).
  • Plan my Christmas toy drive and food bank donations (I love to scheme to get the most bang for my buck).
  • Host our annual family Thanksgiving at our house.

How was your October? What are your plans for November? What signs do you notice in your own life when you need to recharge and reset?

Minimalist Cube Dweller

I had one more bag, too. Not bad!

I had one more bag, too. Not bad!

After writing recently about minimalist living in college, I realized that I actually do live lightly in one area of my life: at work!

I realized this last week because I had to move to another desk. I cleaned out and packed up in no time at all, and I was able to move ALL of my stuff in three cloth grocery bags that I could carry at ONE time! #goals

My work happens on the computer, so it’s easy for me to stay fairly “paperless.” I keep a few working copies of current projects and some reference materials in hard copy, but everything else resides on the network. As for personal stuff, I only keep a few items around: a small electric fan, a cup of favorite pens, a mug/tumbler, a cardigan, paper towels, Kleenex, and a few small decorative doo-dads. I bring in a small space heater in the winter, too.

I don’t display any photos, certificates, potted plants, etc., so my cubicle always looks kinda bare, but it doesn’t bother me.  Other people occasionally comment on it, and at one of my previous jobs, a friend actually printed a picture of a cross-stitch sampler that read “Home Sweet Home” and pinned it in my cube–hah!

I’ve know people who have jungles of plants in their cubicles or who bring in entire personal reference libraries, but that just doesn’t appeal to me.  I understand, though, why some people would want to “nest” in the space where they spend most of their waking hours.  I guess I just don’t think of my workspace as truly mine–after all, desk assignments change and jobs change.  I don’t want my cubicle to be too comfortable or welcoming, either, because I want this space to be temporary and transient.  I want always to be heading AWAY from my work cubicle and TOWARD home or my personal projects or my next (and presumably better) job.  (Don’t get me wrong–I really like my current job, but I also really like the idea of working from home or starting my own business!)

It wouldn’t be so bad, though, to bring in a few more things to jazz up my new desk.  I’ll think on it…

– Angela

More Locket Madness

Please excuse the faux leather backdrop. #classy

Please excuse the faux leather backdrop. #classy

Eek! I’m so excited. Per my latest (rekindled) interest, I recently ordered a glass locket and some charms for my mother’s birthday. Everything finally trickled in and it’s all so cute. Here are the charms I got for her (and why):

cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute

cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute cute

A “Love my cat” charm. Mama’s favorite cat passed away a few months ago. Squealy was an all-gray and all-sass cat, and she and Mama would share night-time snacks of cheese and ice cream. I know that Mama misses her.

Sewing machine charm. This 1980’s-style sewing machine looks exactly like the machine my mom uses for all her sewing projects. The sewing machine was a gift from her father/my grandfather, too.

A “Country Girl” charm. Mama grew up in a rural area, and she and Daddy raised my sisters and me in a rural area, too. The country is the best place to grow up–lots of outdoor adventures!

A Nativity scene charm. My mom loves Nativity sets and has several. She always makes sure that her sets are kid-friendly, because it’s important to her that children can play with the pieces and learn the Christmas story.

“FAITH” charm. Mama’s faith is central to her life.

A letter “K” charm. This is Mama’s initial. 🙂

Diet Coke charm. Mama LOVES Diet Coke. Loves it. She’s probably drinking one right now.

Red & clear crystal hearts. Mama has a very big heart. She’s always helping someone, and she’s very generous with her time and energy. She’s not afraid of hard work or getting dirty, and she’ll wear herself out helping others before she thinks of herself.  She’s especially good at befriending and caring for the elderly, too. She senses their needs and concerns and provides such good care and company.

Cardinal charm. Red cardinals always remind Mama of her own mother. I’ve gotten a few other cardinal items for Mama in the past and she always seems to enjoy them.

It was a bit of a lucky break that almost everything fell into a red, black, white, and silver color scheme!  I just tried to think of charms that represented some of Mama’s favorite things and some of the biggest and best aspects of her personality.  I can’t wait to give this necklace to her! I’m going to package the locket and all the little charms separately (in tiny origami boxes!) so Mama can have the fun of discovering each little piece and putting it all together. I hope she likes it.

– Angela

Yay!

Everything fits! Yay!

Back In My Day…

Maybe a plant would help? (Image from www.usnews.com)

Maybe a plant would help? (Image from www.usnews.com)

My girl crush Light By Coco recently posted a video about maintaining a minimalist lifestyle while in college. I’ve been thinking about the video a lot lately because I love the idea of jetting off for an extended period of time with just the essentials…while also keeping a home base with everything else!

I believe I would be better at “living light” at this point in my life–ahem, in my thirties–than I would have been when I was in college. When I was young and starting over fresh in a brand-new place, I depended so much on my clothes, posters, photos, and other “stuff” to introduce myself to others (and to feel more comfortable in an alien place!). The stuff functioned as a kind of shorthand to quickly define myself to classmates and find some “safe,” like-minded people to hang out with (at least initially).

One of the reasons for going to college, though, is getting to know different kinds of people and trying new things, so maybe it would be good if everyone started with a fairly blank slate. In her video, Coco said that she could probably go off to college today with a only a carry-on bag! Can you imagine? That sounds so light and free. Like most college students, I moved at least once every year, and it was a royal pain to drag around all my books, clothes, and decorative stuff each time.

Coco’s video made me think about all the ways it would seem easier to “live light” if I were going to college today. I know myself better and am more confident, for starters, so I don’t think I would feel so dependent on certain clothes and decorations and whatnot to impress other people. Plus, there are so many ways that the internet would make minimalist college living easier. This makes me sound so old, but the internet is way different today than it was when I was in college, and it provides a kind of reach-back support that my peers and I didn’t have. Consider, for example:

Books. All of my college textbooks were expensive, bulky, and heavy. I bought used textbooks whenever I could, but they were still insanely expensive. You could sell your books at the end of the semester, but the bookstore only paid you like 10 to 20% of your original purchase price. It was (and is) a total racket. I usually kept my books, too, because I thought I might need to refer back to them. Today, though, the internet makes the textbook market much bigger and more competitive, and there are options for cheaply renting books or buying electronic books–options that I didn’t have when I was in college. Plus, the internet has all the information you could possibly need to refer back to, so there’s no need to maintain your own personal library.

Shopping. If you needed anything special when I was in school, you had to line up a ride to a store (freshmen couldn’t have cars) or ask your parents to send it. Today, you can order anything online and have it sent directly to you–often with free shipping! This didn’t really exist when I was in college. I remember, for example, having to scramble around town with my aunt one night to get a formal dress and shoes for some event. It was insane. Today, you could just order a few dresses and return the ones that don’t fit…OR rent formal dresses from sites like Rent the Runway…OR call up a cheap Uber ride!

Identity. Today, people define and identify themselves by their online presence in a way that hadn’t really taken root yet when I was college. Instead of looking at someone’s dorm room decorations or CD rack (yep!) to get an idea of their personality and interests, today you would just look them up on Instagram or YouTube.

There are tons of other ways that computers make it easier to live a minimal lifestyle in college today, too–just think about banking, record keeping, and entertainment, for example. Hmm. Looking over this post makes me realize, though, that many of these points don’t only apply to college life…so why am I still hanging onto so many books and files and stuff?! 🙂

– Angela

A Fancy Lady

Only the finest Band-Aids for me, you see...

Only the finest adhesive bandages for me, you see…

I have a few quirks.  (Shocking, I know.)  I’m particularly weird about stockpiling an excessive amount of household paper goods and personal care products–stuff like toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex, and Q-tips.

I also like to hoard Band-Aids. I can’t remember the last time I actually used a Band-Aid, but I like to keep several boxes on hand. And not just any Band-Aids–designer Band-Aids!

I can’t afford luxury clothes, fine leather goods, or fancy housewares, dammit, but I WILL have brand-name Band-Aids commissioned by REAL designers! (Hey, remember this post?)

I’ve been thinking about my Band-Aid obsession lately because I’ve been trying to get my hands on a box of Oh Joy! Band-Aids for months–that is, bandages created by the designer/blogger Joy Cho. They’re only available at Target and my local store was always sold out, but I finally snagged a box this past weekend. Huzzah!

This recent acquisiton brings my stable of designers to three:

Cynthia Rowley Band-Aids

Cynthia Rowley – my picks for fall

Cynthia Rowley — The CR Band-Aids are the best. They’re printed with sequins, lace, gold chains, jewels, and mini photos of runway models. Squee!

Isaac Mizrahi Band-Aids

Affordable Isaac Mizrahi

Isaac Mizrahi — These are cute, too–with hearts and flowers and graphic text and even girly camouflage.

Joy Cho (Oh Joy!) Band-Aids

Compromised epidermis has never been more Oh Joy!-ful…

Oh Joy! — Yay! Cute and colorful! Like abstract watercolor prints!
J. Crew has also designed a set of Band-Aids, so those are next on my list. There’s a kid version (meh) and this adult version:

The only thing at J. Crew that will(might?) fit me...

The only thing at J. Crew that might fit me…

Now I just have to remember to USE some of these cute Band-Aids!

— Angela

P.S. I hoard paper and personal care products, yet I don’t keep a supply of food or water stocked for a rainy day. I’m screwed in the event of a zombie apocalypse. I don’t think there will be much of a bartering market for makeup sponges and organic hair conditioner.

CHOMP!

This is a blurry pictures but you get the idea.

This is a blurry picture but you get the idea.

I’m back on the glass locket trend!

I know, I know–I’m way behind on charm bracelet trends. And yes, there ARE “charm bracelet trends.” For example, the Alex & Ani charm bracelets are still going fairly strong right now, but I never got into those. And remember Italian charm bracelets? And how those were followed by Pandora bracelets? I feel like the glass locket trend came after the Pandora trend but before the Alex & Ani trend…

Anyway, I wore my “favorite things” Origami Owl locket a few times this past winter before setting it aside for a while. I picked it back up recently and found that the back window had completely fallen off the locket and my charms were floating loose in my jewelry box. Boo! I looked online and it seems that this is a common problem for Origami Owl lockets–the lockets are expensive and notorious for breaking, but they’re only covered by a short-fuse warranty. I’m lucky that my locket broke in my jewelry box rather than when wearing it. It would be a bummer to possibly lose all my charms.

Anyway, looking at the locket stuff got me excited again about all the cute little charms out in the world. I also own a generic locket bracelet from a local gift store (which was cheaper than an Origami Owl bracelet and probably much sturdier), so I ordered myself a new set of charms to celebrate the upcoming…

COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON!

Whoo-hoo! Go Gators! 🙂

I found a ready-made set of University of Florida charms on Etsy that included:

  • An Albert mascot
  • An oval Gators logo
  • A rectangular Gators logo
  • An orange “Gators” script logo
  • A blue letter “F”
  • An orange crystal heart
  • A blue crystal heart
  • And a football!

The set also came with three more charms: a “2015” text charm, a “best” text charm, and a letter “U” charm. Meh. These didn’t excite me, so I didn’t add them to my (already full) locket. Plus, having the “F” and “U” together looked more like “Eff You” than “UF”…

I kinda want to make an autumn-themed locket now, too–maybe leaves and crystals in red, orange, and yellow mixed with a pumpkin or two. Squee! I also plan to order a locket for my mom’s birthday. Somebody stop me!

Here’s the thing, though–you can find great and very inexpensive charms and lockets on eBay, Etsy, and Amazon. Many of the charms can be purchased individually and shipped for around $2 or less, or purchased and shipped in various sets or configurations for less than $1 each. I got ELEVEN great (albeit bootleg) UF charms on Etsy for about $7, which is what I expect Origami Owl will charge for ONE of its officially licensed college charms when they’re released in the fall. Granted, the coloring and detail on the Origami Owl charms will probably be better than mine, but that’s not worth the price difference to me for a trendy little thing that will fade away sooner rather than later.

My #1 tip when shopping for glass lockets and charms: If you find a locket or charm that you like, search for it at all three major retail sites (eBay, Etsy, and Amazon) to find the best price. Also, complete a general search for “floating charms” at each site, which will often lead you to sellers who allow you to pick and choose a certain number of charms from an extensive menu for one low fixed price.

Go Gators!

– Angela

Mangomini

Cute Bookworm Style by Cindy Mangomini.  (Ignore the numbers.)

Cute Bookworm Style by Cindy Mangomini. (Ignore the numbers.)

I was toodling around the interwebs yesterday looking for Kanako pictures when I stumbled across the work of another great illustrator: Cindy Mangomini.  She draws themed collages of adorable clothes, accessories, and other objects.  Everything is so detailed and cute and it’s right up my alley.  Check out all of her work here!

How to be Parisian by Cindy Mangomini.  Oui oui!

How to be Parisian by Cindy Mangomini. Oui!

How to Prepare for a Job Interview by Cindy Mangomini.  Get it, gurls!

How to Prepare for a Job Interview by Cindy Mangomini. Get it, girl!

Remembering The Baby-Sitters Club

Hmm. Not her best outfit.

Hmm. Not her best outfit.

I recently took this BuzzFeed quiz and it rekindled my long-dormant memories of The Baby-Sitters Club book series!

I LOVED The Baby-Sitters Club (BSC!) books when I was a kid, and just seeing the characters’ handwriting reproduced in the quiz made me so nostalgic. I earned a perfect score, but my correct answers were less about remembering the plot lines (which must be from books released after I outgrew the series) and more about remembering which handwriting belonged to which character (the books always included snippets of handwritten text from each girl).

We all know the premise of the BSC books, right? A group of middle school friends joins together to form a babysitting collective. They advertise (with flyers!) and meet at the same time and place each week to receive (landline!) phone calls from neighborhood parents looking to schedule responsible, affordable babysitters. The girls live in fictional Stoneybrook, Connecticut—a super-safe, super-idyllic, and super-WASP-y suburb. The BSC books are all about the girls’ adolescent adventures in this sweet, perfect bubble of a world. Each character was unique so readers could quickly identify with or aspire to one or more of the babysitters—Kristy was the sporty firecracker, Claudia was the artsy free spirit, Mary Anne was the shy Victorian bookworm, Dawn was the hippie chick, etc.

My favorite babysitter was Stacey McGill. The word used to describe Stacey in every book was “sophisticated,” and she had a certain kind of pre-teen glamour. She had grown up in New York City, where she was allowed to take cabs and trains without an adult (and this was before Mayor Giuliani cleaned up the place). Stacey had fluffy blond hair (probably feathered, now that I think about it) and she wore makeup and had the most stylish clothes. Maybe she even had her ears pierced twice? (Like I said—GLAMOUR.) Stacey moved to Stoneybrook when her parents divorced, I think.

Stacey had diabetes, too, which added another layer of exoticism and maturity to her character. She kept a strict diet, managed her own medicine regimen, and went to fancy city doctors. I loved going to the doctor as a kid, so I think this aspect of Stacey’s identity made her even more attractive to me. I only had asthma and allergies, but I loved the special, important feeling that a doctor’s visit gave me—conferring with this respected, educated man, being out alone with my mom, and maybe going out for lunch together after my appointment.

I read the BSC books in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, so I can only imagine how far diabetes treatment has come in the last two decades. I remember an especially poignant scene in the books when Stacey is babysitting her favorite charge—a quiet, sweet little girl named Charlotte—and they visit a candy shop. The store is beautiful and bursting with colorful candy, including fancy individual chocolates set out on silver trays. Charlotte begs for a treat—”Just one? One each?”—and Stacey feels in her pocket and realizes that she has “more than enough money for two pieces of candy.” Stacey’s sorely tempted, and she goes so far as to pull out her money and place it on the glass case, but then she makes the right decision. She can’t afford the extra sugar, and Charlotte can’t ruin her dinner, so they leave the store empty-handed and disappointed.

Ugh. I can’t even. Just imagine not being able to eat a single piece of candy for fear of derailing an entire delicate balance of glucose and insulin! The unfairness! The grave responsibility! The perfectly coiffed exterior belying deprivation and severe illness!

So I especially loved tragic, beautiful Stacey, but I loved everything about the BSC. The girls were so organized and they had a surprisingly strong grasp of parliamentary procedure for their age. They had formal titles (president, vice president, etc.), fulfilled clearly defined roles and responsibilities, kept attendance and meeting minutes, called for discussion of new and old business, kept a master schedule, etc. They also collected monthly dues from each member, and the money was used for advertising (flyers), communications (Claudia’s personal landline—the height of privilege in that time), and inventory—that is, outfitting their “Kid Kits,” the boxes of craft supplies, small toys, and other goodies that they would take to babysitting jobs to entertain the kids.

GAH. All of that order and independence and responsibility just SPEAKS TO ME, then and now. These girls were making and managing their own money, organizing their own time, and handling their own affairs. What could they have accomplished with business degrees? Syncing calendar apps? Or even driver’s licenses?! It boggles the mind.

All of that organization and wholesomeness may sound boring, but it wasn’t—at least not to me. The girls had their interpersonal issues, family dramas (divorce, remarriage, death, sibling rivalry), babysitting challenges, and some limited romantic experiences. And when things got too calm and predictable in Stoneybrook, you could always read one of the BSC Super Specials. These books were extra-long and usually followed the girls on some kind of vacation or adventure. They worked as camp counselors in one Super Special, went on a cruise in another, and visited Disney World in another.  My family couldn’t afford to go on any fancy trips like these, so I loved taking in every detail about the amenities and attractions.

I kinda want to re-read the BSC books after writing about all of this, but I’m afraid that re-reading them might ruin my good memories. I don’t want the books to seem flat and trite, and I don’t want pesky facts to mar whatever impressions or memories I have. (In a similar way, I don’t plan to read Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. I love Atticus and Scout just as they are in my head.)

So—did YOU ever read the BSC books? Which babysitter was YOUR favorite?

P.S. Stacey’s handwriting was cute and bubbly and she dotted her lowercase i’s with hearts. Totes adorbs, of course.

P.P.S. So I took this quiz, too, and got Logan Bruno. Weird.

My Favorite Things – A Personal Icon Set

Oh, the fascinating life I do lead!

Oh, the fascinating life I do lead!

So, I was inspired by Gloria of the blog Little White Whale to create my own icon set–and it was really fun to make. 🙂

Click on the image above for a better view!

 Target / Naps / Baths / Coffee Frappuccinos / My iPhone 6+ / Coca-Cola / Tuxedo cats / To do lists! / Tabby cats

I used Microsoft Visio to make these, but I bet Word could be used, too (just with more strife). I only resized, layered, and colored the stock shapes and symbols offered by Visio because I have absolutely no drawing or illustration skills. I think my icons turned out pretty cute, though–I like the thick lines and bright colors and simple shapes. They remind me of Hello Kitty and the PowerPuff Girls!

What would YOUR personal icon set include?

– Angela

Going Green(er)

Bouge alert!  (Image from BrushWithBamboo.com.)

Bouge alert! (Image from BrushWithBamboo.com.)

I find myself frequently re-reading the blogs Zero Waste Home and Trash Is For Tossers, and I think the message is finally starting to sink in.

I’m not ready to make any big lifestyle changes right now, but I’m definitely interested in making some easy-but-effective modifications to my trashy life.

Here are the painless ways I’m going green(er):

– I’m trying to remember to refuse plastic bags whenever I can. It helps that I carry a big purse and can usually stow my purchases in there.

– I bought a set of reusable (and washable) cloth grocery bags and actually remembered to bring them to the store this past weekend! Woot!

– I brought my collected plastic bags to the store, too, and recycled them.

– I bought 100% recycled (60% post-consumer waste) toilet paper, and I’m on the lookout for a good paper towel option.

– I did the math and realized that I will use about 300 plastic toothbrushes in my lifetime (whoa). As recommended by multiple zero-wasters, I just ordered a set of biodegradable/compostable toothbrushes from the Brush With Bamboo company. The wooden handles and white bristles look so nice, too–very design-y and modern and Instagram-worthy.

– I plan to ask a seamstress to repair/tweak a couple of shirts that I already own (rather than replace them).

– And, as you know and are probably tired of hearing about, I launched my Junk Mail War (update 1 and update 2).

Huzzah! It feels good to make these small changes, especially because I create tons (literally) of other waste elsewhere in my life. I know these actions are only a drop in the bucket, but maybe one day I will be able to take things further.

– Angela

P.S. I’m also contemplating the purchase of a reusable silicone menstrual cup…TMI?