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I tend to make lofty resolutions and then I get discouraged because I can't stick to anything. This year, I decided to keep it clear & simple with tangible and realistic goals. I'm so excited to tackle 2014; hoping to learn a lot & focus on breathing a little deeper.
My 2014 Resolutions:
Keep reading & get a library card.
One of my resolutions from last year was to read more, and I actually did a pretty great job. I ready probably 10-12 books this year, and next year I hope to keep the momentum building and read even more. I also have been meaning to get a library card, so that's high up on the priority list for 2014.
Learn to can.
I love cooking so much that I constantly have leftovers. I'm pretty good about freezing them & cutting down on waste, but if I could can, then I would be able to free up some freezer space and have ready-to-go meals, soups & sauces. These kinds of things make great gifts as well!
Brew some kombucha.
I. love. kombucha. Don't love that it costs $4 per bottle. So, as I've been getting into cooking, canning & all things crafty, I think kombucha is definitely something I can figure out in the coming year.
I did not camp in 2013. I'm not happy about it. I will not allow 2014 to succumb to this same sad fate. Dear tent, get ready!
Learn to crochet.
I really want to be that crazy 20 something with a bag of yarn at the airport, just making serious progress on a lovely handmade scarf. Is there something wrong with that? I hope not, because Mr. 2014, it's going to happen.
Definitely journal. Maybe a book?
Make a photo album.
I've been doing a great job at using my camera and taking more pictures this year, but I hate that the only real gallery of edited photos lives on my Instagram. I would love to make a real live scrapbook/photo album this year.
I did get back into painting in 2013, but I only finished one piece. I want to change that in 2014. I have a piece I just started, and one in mind for my BFFs wedding gift, so I'm ready to beat the 2013 tally.
Exercise 3-5 times a week.
I'm certainly going to try. Some weeks it won't happen, but I'm prepared to forgive myself. Also, hikes and bike rides count, so there's that.
What are your 2013 resolutions?! Comment below!
Not going to lie, I'm thrilled 2014 is upon us; 2013's been a bit of a doozy. Rather than dwell on the muck, let's recap the staggering moments, the unwonted and the bliss that carried me through.
Here's what I learned:
Some humans are wonderful.
My biggest struggle this year, losing my pup, was also my greatest blessing. The outpouring of community support, complete strangers volunteering to help, astounded me. Honestly, the experience restored my faith in humanity. Yes, some people are all around repugnant, but others, will dazzle, surprise & humble you with their kindness. Seek out the givers, the lovers, the doers; they're out there.
Waves make everything better. And also, bacon.
Every time I want to cry, pout or scream, I should head directly to the beach. Night or day. Rain or shine. The sand, the sounds, the air... always heals. Always. And for those nights where I let the stubborn win and the bourbon heal, well that's where bacon comes in. Bacon saves Saturdays. There is a scientific reason for this phenomenon. Drinking causes a depletion of sodium, and what's more heavenly and salty than bacon? There isn't such a thing.
Buying in bulk is an art form.
Go big or go home when it comes to major savings on whisky; it doesn't go bad. Also, everything is cheaper on Amazon. And when you buy in bulk, that means super cheap. And when you Subscribe & Save? SUPER. DUPER. CHEAP. I've done price comparisons to all the local grocers, targets, etc. I now buy so many household items via Amazon, that my post lady totally called me out. She literally remarked, "Damnnn gurl, watchu doing? Driving that orange car and all these boxes. You crack me up." Well, and here I was thinking I was only entertaining myself on this venture. Wrong.
Friends are forever.
I feel so lucky to have a crew of amazing, kind, stirring friends, from all different chapters, living so close. It shouldn't even be legal, that's how incredible. Living nearly 3,000 miles away from home, it makes a world of difference in my life. Even though I love the hermit life, my friends keep me grounded, unstinting, and thankful.
Headstands? Super fun.
I started practicing my headstands when I moved into my own apartment and I recommend it to everyone. Not only is it good for your health, but it's good for your soul. Makes me feel like a kid. I feel like an old fart too frequently, so I revel in my headstand fun. You should give it a try, but have someone experienced (yoga instructor, perhaps?) show you how first. Neck injuries are no fun.
I'm a killer soup chef.
I started getting really into cooking now that I have my own apartment. And I'm quite good at it. AND I love it! Win, win, win. My friends agree. Especially when I feed them soup, pumpkin lasagna, corn muffins... and whatever else I've been inspired to whip up and share. Sharing is fun. Giving feels good. And food? Nothing better. Also, I've mastered the art of freezing/storing left overs so I'm seriously cutting down on eating out and my bank account is grateful.
Yes, so many fish. Learn to laugh with/at them all.
For an introvert with disdain for driving on week nights, I'm proud of myself for trying out online dating. Sure, I've cycled through a slew of men and still single, but I learned a lot. I got out of my house, shared laughs, trusted in strangers, went sailing, went hiking, even paddle boarding, lived in the moment, felt inspired, also crazy, often disappointed, but in the end always glad I took a risk, because no one trumps my dating tales at ladies night. The most valuable thing I learned from it all is that I am enough. Just me, alone or with company, I can take care of myself, love myself and pick myself back up no matter how many times I get let down. One day, that special one will come along... just when I least expect it, right? (My mom thinks so.)
Smiles make more smiles.
Get out of your head. Take a deep breath. Smile at every person you see and say hi to some of them. This practice makes all the difference in my day. And when I get smiles back, I know I'm helping someone else feel better too. And that feels fantastic. Smile, smile, smiles.
Books will always shoot you back a text.
One resolution for 2013 that I really stuck to was upping my reading game. I've been averaging about a book a month this year, which I consider a major improvement from the past couple years prior. Best part is, it hasn't been so challenging, because I love reading. The more I read, the more I want to read. It's a funny thing. I even joined a book club, so I look forward to continuing this rapid book consumption in 2014.
Spiders aren't so bad, and dancing alone in your underwear? Underrated.
When I'm feeling down, I remind myself that I live alone, in a nice apartment, in Los Angeles, only 3 miles away from the beach. Yes, I have some creepy crawlers lurking in my corners that I have to handle all on my lonesome, but I can also forget about that and strip down, blast some tunes and dance like no one's watching. Because no one is. Nothing trumps that kind of freedom.
What are your favorite moments from 2013? Comment below!
If I'm going to be honest, cookies just might be my favorite thing about the holidays. Sure, family is great, presents are fun, but ginger snaps have my heart. My mom's ginger snaps are so dangerously good, and this year I found way to make them even better. I blew my own mind. Peanut butter chips. Why not? I'll admit, I tested two little nuggets before I attacked the batter wtih the peanut buttery goodness, but I mean, seriously. Why I shrugged an ounce of doubt is really quite puzzling.
I ate half a dozen cookies fresh out of the oven that night. And I didn't even feel bad about it. I've just accepted I'm going to exist in constant sugar coma until 2014. Denying myself a single cookie this holiday season is simply not on this girl's agenda. And I'm not saying no to pie. I'm not saying no to cheese. So clearly, getting into a consistent work out regime come the new year is making it on to the list of resolutions, but for the rest of this glorious month of December, I'm participating in all festivities, con cookies. Who's with me?
Wow- I really sidetracked on an indignant cookie monster rant there, my apologies. Onto the recipe, which I'm proud to share, my mom texted to me from her ipad. She's so hip, it's really quite impressive. (This recipe looks like it could have been written by Betty Crocker herself, am I right?)
I had to share this old school version, but I understand it's not so easy to follow, so I took the liberty of transposing for you.
2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves (i omit) *that's my mom, not i. i added those cloves right on in & i didn't regret it.
1/4 tsp. pepper
6 oz. (1/2 stix) butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup molasses
granulated sugar to roll cookies in
walnuts & pecans, halved sliced, or coarsly chopped (optional) i did these sans nuts
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and black pepper, set aside.
In large bowl of electric mixer cream the butter. (I did not have an electric mixer, so I did all of this by hand. I was too tired to make a second batch, but I survived and the cookies did not suffer.)
Add brown sugar and beat well.
Add egg and molasses and beat a few more minutes until light in color.
On low speed gradually add sifted dry ingredients, scraping bowl with rubber spatula and beating until incorporated.
Refridgerate dough briefly until it can be handled. 10-15 min may be enough. (and in my case it certainly was)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut tinfoil to fit cookie sheets.
Spread granulated sugar on large piece of wax paper.
Use one round tablespoon of dough for each cookie.
Roll buttered hands, then in sugar, and place 2 1/2 to 3 inches apart on cookie sheets.
Bake almost 13 minutes, reversing cookie sheets if necessary to insure even browning.
Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Makes 24 large cookies. (Ok, maybe I had more than a half dozen cookies.)
And there you have it.
The holidays are my favorite time of year, but it can also be expensive if you're living on a tight budget. With parties, gifts to buy, houses to decorate... etc. The expenses can be a bit overwhelming. I've been getting really into recycling, repurposing and making as much as I can by hand this year, so I am here to share a few ideas on where you can make some adjustments and save some of those precious dollars. :)
1. Make your own wrapping paper.
With Pinterest, there are a plethora of DIY gift wrapping ideas. I usually save any gift bags I get throughout the year and for any gifts that fit better in a box- I make my own wrapping paper. This year, I have been saving all of the butcher paper that comes as packing material in my Amazon Subscribe & Save deliveries. (Yes, I'm totally obsessed with Amazon) It's a little bit crumpled, but I figure this will add to the 'rustic' look. I plan on tying these up with some red twine and a sprig of rosemary. I expect they will smell and look quite lovely.
2. Recycle those boxes into a Christmas tree.
If you are going home for the holidays or can't afford a tree, there are plenty of ideas to get the feeling without dishing out big bucks for a tree that's really going to create a lot of mess for a short amount of time. I love this idea for a cardboard Christmas tree! I've been saving my boxes (I just break them down and store them behind the couch with the spiders) and I plan to just paint the tree when I'm finished! They kept the cardboard look, but I personally am tied to the whole green tree thing...
3. Learn oragami for some DIY ornaments.
My family is coming to Palm Springs to celelbrate Christmas this year, so my Mom asked me to come up with some ideas on how to make our rental house look a bit festive so we didn't feel totally disconnected from the spirit of Christmas while lounging by the pool. I've always wanted to learn to make oragami, so I got this book from amazon that came with paper & holiday inspired oragami how-tos. We're going to learn to make these as a family, and the nerd in me is really excited about it.
4. Gift your friends something handmade.
No one wants to be the only friend not participating in the gifting rituals of Christmas time, but there are ways of giving without breaking the bank. This year, I got a canning kit (Yes, from Amazon) and I am planning on making a bunch of caramel sauce & canning it with some red bows on top. This way I will fulfill my dreams of learning to can AND all my friends and family will have a little something sweet to ring in 2014 and I'll still be able to pay my rent come January.
5. Eat in when possible and never turn down leftovers.
There are going to be some holiday celelbrations where you end up going out and spending money on some food and drinks. Expect that- and try to cut out eating out when you're alone. Pack your lunches. Stay home, make soup, drink tea and your bank account will bless you with a much larger available balance. Another sneaky little tip: If you attend a holiday party, stick around and help the host clean up! When you're putting away the scraps and the fridge is full... don't say no when they insist you help eat the leftovers. ;)
all images via Pinterest.
Happy November! It's me, Ilene (aka illy) of Much Love, illy back with another post for you good people! Did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month? Lots of writers make it a goal to write their novels from start to finish. There is even a website that brings all of these writers together. I have some friends that have taken part with it and have said nothing but good things about it - because the challenge makes you just write your heart out without editing or criticism. Just write! As a writer myself and a lover of books of all kinds, I thought it'd be fun to talk about some of my favorite writers (from my childhood and recently) and the novels that they wrote:
John Green and The Fault in Our Stars. A good writer understand people - how they think, how they feel. That is John Green. I read this book in two days, feeling every bit of raw emotion that it exuded. And if you pick this one up, be sure to grab a box of Kleenex, too. You're going to need it.
Hey there, Valentina here. Like everyone else come this time of year, I am obsessed wtih... pumpkin! Pumpkin lattes are my favorite, as is pumpkin pie. And pumpkin this, and pumpkin that... I know you've probably been reading all about how we're all so happy autumn is here and we can get cozy and sip hot tea (or pumpkin latte) by teh fire, and make warm meals to fil our tummies. We're all getting ready for that marathon called Thanksgiving. I can't wait to try my hand at a couple pumpkin recipes. How about you?
Here's some of the best of what I've seen:
I can't wait to try each and every one of these (probably not all in the same week. I'll spread it out over time... maybe. I'm quite the obsessed, you see). You can visit me over here to check in and see if I've succeeded or not.
In attempt to get in the Halloween spirit and add some art to our office, we decided to get a lil craft up in the Blowfish Ecomm Office. We found this fun Halloween-themed project over on A Beautiful Mess and decided to give it a try. Even though skulls are rather festive, we thought this was something we wouldn't mind looking at year round. We didn't have a big printer to print a picture to use as a guide, so we kind of improvised and just used blue painters tape to trace out an outline to follow. We also used Martha Stewart's sparkly black paint, rather than the flat black, because who doesn't love sparkles?
Ours didn't turn out quite as spectacular as our inspiration, but we named our Skeleton Mearl, and we think he's got a whole lot of character. He's part of the family already and feeling quite at home.
Here's some pics of the process:
Gather Supplies (Painted Wood Board, Hammer, Tape, Marker, Nails, Hammer, String)
Tape out your Skull or shape of choice.
Draw the outline.
Nail it in!
Start wrapping the string around!
There's no wrong way, so have fun while you're at it!
Lindsey & Karen & Shayna & Leslie
Wednesday night I headed out to Style Fashion Week at LA Live in Downtown Los Angeles. It was so much fun! I got to go backstage with jewelry designer, JAKIMAC while she prepped the models who were walking in the Mister Triple X fashion show. It was so fun seeing the craziness backstage... The guys & gals getting dressed, makeuped & styled! Amazing! I saw Bobby Brown (not my top pick, but in my opinion all celebrity sightings are noteworthy) and I hear that Lindsay Lohan made a very brief appearance.
I got a little click-happy and took over 300 pictures, but here's some of my favorites:
(Such cool lighting!)
(Check out those JAKIMAC accessories!)
(before the peeps arrived... )
(I might have been creepin a little bit backstage... )
(But surrounded by hot bods like this... can you really blame me? I was just happy I kept the drool in my mouth.)
So, I spent this past weekend at FYF Fest and for those of you who haven't heard about it, it's basically a baby Coachella situation in downtown Los Angeles. This year featured an amazing lineup of some bigger artists like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Bloody Valentine, TV on the Radio, Washed Out, Solange... as well as some of the lesser known indie guys like The Oh Sees, Toro Y Moi, Ty Segall & Yo Lo Tengo. I had an amazing time with my longtime gal pal, made some new friends and heard some great music.
This past weekend also marked one year since I moved to Los Angeles, which made me all nostalgic and got me thinking about how I ended up where I am... In my college days (back when I had a fair amount of free time) I loved discovering new bands & making playlists to share with friends. This obsession blossomed into a music blog called In A Town Close to Indiana, which was a musical wine list of sorts. I posted a new song every day and described what it smelled like, tasted like & paired best with (really nerdy, I know, don't judge). When I graduated and the job market for Interior Designers was at an all-time low- I unleashed my inner entrepreneur and dove into the music scene. I ran chicago.com/music, which featured local bands and shows, and started up a management, booking & promotions company called Chicago Beats. On top of that I played in a band that performed at local venues. A couple years and a lot of stories later, I decided I liked music more as a hobby than a career. My experience with building a website, branding, and promoting musicians via the internet and such is what shaped my resume and landed me the job at Blowfish Shoes. One year later, Los Angeles feels like home and working in the fashion industry bodes better for the neurotically punctual being that I am.
That being said, after all this self reflection I realized I miss discovering new music and sharing playlists with friends, so that inspired me to make a playlist just for you. It's your lucky day. Listen on, my friends...
After indulging in all this awesomeness, you might ask where I find all these new jams. It's not a simple answer (this playlist took me three days to create, edit & approve), but I've taken some time to spell it out for you. My hope is that you will take my advice and go on to impress all of your friends.
Here's how to become a new music discovering savant in 10 easy steps:
1. Get yourself a Spotify account.
If you don't have Spotify, I'm sorry, but you're missing out. It's fantastic. For someone who really appreciates listening to albums in their entirety, it's kind of essential. I personally opt for the $9.99 a month option because I feel better about making my contribution to the musical community, plus it means I have total access to my jams while driving, lounging in my living room, or working really hard (like right now). Spotify allows you to drag & drop songs into personal playlists that you can share or hoard as you please, and if you opt for the paid service, you can make these playlists available offline on your electronic device of choice.
2. Stalk your friends on Spotify.
It's not creepy, I promise. I have a few friends that I know listen to good music and I am always stalking their listening options. (I might cry if a certain someone discovers the 'private session' feature- so I'd appreciate if everyone just kept that information on the DL.) I have discovered some of my favorite new bands using this method, and I've also discovered a lot more of my friends listen to sappy country songs late at night than I ever imagined possible. Also noteworthy: caught an ex flame listening to a lot of Avril Levigne and it really helped in the healing process.
3. Hit up Spotify's Discover feature.
Pandora totally trumps Spotify's radio feature, but Spotify has made major progress on their 'Discover' feature. It recommends artists based on what you've listened to, reminds you when you've forgotten about that band you used to listen to on repeat 24/7, and even informs you when your favorite bands are playing at a venue near you! Very cool, I know. I just found out Alt-J is playing in LA tonight via Spotify's Discover features... but after spending all weekend at FYF Fest a night chock-full of pjs & chapters sounds much more appealing. 25 going on 80... *Face palm*
I think we all got the memo on this by now. Go to Pandora.com and type in your favorite artist of the moment and Pandora will play similar jams for hours on end and you can opt to pay your way to commercial free listening. When you hear a new song you like that you haven't heard before... write. it. down. Look it up later on Spotify and drag it on into your 'new music' playlist.
5. Tell your friends to share.
If you're feeling a little lazy, text your friend who just loves music and ask for help. We all have at least one of those friends, so don't be shy. If you're feeling especially lazy, just copy & paste this message and press send: 'Hey friend! Since you are so ridiculously awesome, I thought you might like to make me a playlist so I can be reminded of your amazing taste in music. Am I right? Looking forward to listening! Let's grab a drink next week!' If they deny your request, remind them that sharing is caring.
6. Take advantage of YouTube.
As someone who does Social Media for a living, perhaps I should not admit that I only recently started using YouTube. Big surprise- I'm hooked. Not only can I make playlists that double as a music video mashup, but their algorithms that pull up a list of recommendations based on what other people who viewed the video you're watching also viewed... they work. While making this playlist, I discovered at least 5 other artists that I'm really digging just by browsing the sidebar. I might be the last person in the universe to realize the wonders of YouTube, but if perchance that's actually you, it's time to jump on that boat.
7. Hit up the Blogosphere.
New music is a topic that comes up with great frequency in the world of blogging. Find some music blogs you like and check in every now and then to see what newness & coolness they have in store. I personally love aurgasm.us; they've got a grasp on the obscure.
8. Get down with Indie Shuffle.
Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of this gem, because I only learned about it last night. (Sidenote: OKCupid hasn't proven very successful in finding a new boyfriend, but for new restaurants, websites, terribly awkward goodbyes & other random facts- it totally wins.) Indie Shuffle is basically a portal into another realm of new music discovery. They employee writers from all over the world to seek out amazing jams just for you. If you peruse the 'about' section you will find links to a lot of cool blogs and music sites that are likely worth checking out. Hop on it!
Sometimes I feel compelled to walk into Anthropologie, park it on the couch and just Shazam on down all afternoon. Please tell me you know what I'm talking about?!... I am a Shazamaholic if there is such a thing. I have it readily available on the home screen of my iPhone so that I can Shazam on the rare occasion that I hear something thrilling on the radio, or in a bar, or store... you get the idea. Download it and make sure it isn't hidden three swipes and a figertap or two away.
10. Pen, pad, or keyboards come in handy.
You might think you'll remember the name of that band you heard on the radio, or that other one your friend told you about, but if your memory is anything like mine... I can promise you won't. Don't fight it- put it in writing and look it up later. This may be the most important piece of advice as you embark on this discovering new music voyage; take heed.
O, and have yourself the happiest of hump days.
Last week we celebrated Internation Picnic Day with an indoor picnic. We couldn't all leave the office at once, so we brought the party inside and had such a great time. The picnic was complete with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, muffins, strawberries and of course, lemonade. Picnics are one of my favorite things about the summer months, so it felt really great kickin' it off with some fun at work. Made me very excited for some picnic fun in the sun.
Take a peek at a few of the pictures we took:
Lots of yummy picnic supplies & flowers, of course.
Getting really excited about strawberries & lemonade.
These girls find muffins really funny...
Proper picnic etiquette, clearly.
Did you celebrate Picnic Day?! Are you looking forward to summer picnics?