Sunday, September 28, 2014

2 Months Away from Social Media

I guess blogger and pinterest still kind of mean that I'm on social media, but as for instagram (for the most part), facebook, twitter, etc....it's been 2 months since I've been active on those.

I have to say that it feels great to be away from all that. I got this vibe on facebook of "keeping up with the Joneses", which was becoming quite repulsive to me. Not only from looking at other people posting their attention whore status updates and photos, but also from folks potentially perceiving my updates like that. Now that I'm away from facebook, and I hear people talking about what they read from their friend on facebook, or some comment drama, or whatnot...I'm so thrilled to have pulled myself out of that hot mess. It's just not real life....but when you are constantly checking your facebook, posting things to your facebook, you kind of end up living through facebook. IF IT'S NOT ON FACEBOOK, IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. Lol.

I have to admit that it is kind of strange to not know what's going on with family and friends. Folks are very liberal with making personal information known on facebook, but it's not normal any more for someone to text an update to a friend, or email them some pictures of what's been going on in their lives...which I can understand. I wouldn't really do that either, unless it was some big news or something extraordinary. I ran into a high school friend around town the other day, and I didn't recognize her because her hair was super short (not like she had it in high school, nor in her facebook pics before I dropped off that planet). It felt cool to see someone, and actually NOT KNOW what is going on with them....and have the opportunity to legitimately catch up. Not just pretend to not know everything they've posted on their facebook.

My favorite thing about not being on social media is getting to miss out on reading political drivel during election season from people who I thought I really saw eye-to-eye with. One of the things I found annoying about my facebook experience in particular was that I had to block or hide individuals or certain types of posts from lots of people due to me inadvertently judging folks HARD for the crap they posted on facebook. What's the point of facebook when you've hidden like, a third of the people you're "friends" with?

Overall, I truly don't see myself returning to facebook or anything similar for any reason. I'm reinventing myself in many ways, and hoping to turn a new leaf and branch out into new social networks (off of social media) when I'm ready to do so.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Recovering nail biters out there?

I think I've learned the secret to recovering destroyed finger nails after decades of nail biting! It's no cure for ebola, but it's something. Though, I fear that my nail biting habits will return as I'm officially studying for and taking my PHR exam in three months. Fingers crossed - no pun intended.

Before I get into what has been actually working for me, things I've tried that haven't worked....
  • Getting my wisdom teeth pulled. Was the longest I've ever let my nails grow, but sadly I gnawed them away immediately after my mouth recovered.
  • Getting fake nails. This actually left my nails in far worse condition (which says a lot, because they were already so thin from being bitten away)
  • Letting them grow on and on without trimming intermittently. They'd grow, but they'd break so easily because they were so weak.
So what has been working?
  • Keeping them manicured...three steps: 1. Hardener base coat 2. Polish 3. Top coat. Somehow this makes them a lot thicker, and protects them from chipping or tearing during every day life. Painting my nails has been kind of therapeutic, to be honest...you could almost meditate or pray while you're being meticulous over your nails.
  • Trimming a bit off the top each time I re-manicure (anywhere from every 3 days to once a week). Kind of like growing out hair, keeping nails trimmed takes off the shriveled edges, so that a clean edge can end up growing longer.
  • NO BITING - duh.
  • Drinking more water. I recently started a conscious effort to drink a ton more water, and magically, any ridges that I had in my nails (which would sometimes cause them to break) have almost disappeared. I am hypothesizing that this is a result of my drinking more water.
Disclaimer....they are still on the short side on the "how females keep their nails" spectrum, but for me, this is really quite long. Also, I'm no pro at painting my nails, but this was my attempt at a chunky french manicure....

Friday, September 26, 2014

Adventurous day drinking.

I don't really have much to say for today, other than it was one of those days where I needed to get out of the office on my lunch break for a bit, and drink some Thai/Vietnamese/Korean/??? drinks that involve not only the liquid you are slurping through a straw, but also a variety of solids and gelatinous deliciousness. Coconut. Jelly. Odd fruits. Basil seeds. Grass. I really enjoyed it....it was definitely taking my bubble tea affinity to the next level.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What happens when you have kids? You acquire LOTS of stuff.

When you have kids, you have a lot of kid-stuff in your home....almost without having a say in it. You really do have to accept the fact that you'll have this extra truckload of stuff in your home.

How does one manage the piles and piles of things that make their way into the house? I can comment on how I manage it...for now, I don't really involve the kids in this process because they are still too young to get it. Of course I never get rid of their beloved/favorite toys...they have never noticed when I've gotten rid of something broken or donated something they never played with much in the first place.

my living room - pre and post toy declutter sesh.
  • I try to go through the kids' clothing, books, dishes, and toys every couple of months or so, to keep the sheer amount of stuff from taking over the entire apartment, and to rid ourselves of the stuff that is useless, broken, or too small (if clothing). 
  •  First, get all of it out in the open. From every single room, nook, and cranny of your house. You have to see everything you're working with. 
  • Four piles: keep, donate, trash, and store (toy rotation can be a good thing).
  • Keep the toys that still work and that you notice the kids playing with. Donate toys that the kids have outgrown or don't really use anymore. Trash toys that are straight up busted. Store toys that you wish to rotate out, so that not ALL the toys are out ALL the time.
  • Put the "keep" toys back using a storage system that is easy-access, yet discreet if it needs to be.
  • And done! Your kids no longer have to sift through busted toys to get to their favorites. And you're not having to manage the cleaning and storing of said busted toys any longer.
Other things to note, regarding the intake of kid stuff....
  • I try not to buy the kids physically huge toys (read - would need to sit out on the floor at all times) unless they are a true value-add.
  • I do my best to keep toy-buying to birthdays and special occasions (and limit the volume during those times), but that isn't always realistic, as we do like to get them things off-cycle from time to time.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Project 333...what I've learned a few months in.

Now that I've been trying to follow Project 333 for a few months now, I've learned more about how it works for me in my lifestyle...

1. High quality is the best...in the right pieces. Jeans, bags, shoes, and athletic gear. Those are where high quality goes a long way for me. (I recently replaced my old navy jeans with some nicer ones when they became unpresentable and dumpy due to bagginess. Yuck/yay.)

2. A few cheaper, less durable clothes in the mix = turn and burn to release boredom. If you have some cheaper blouses that you like, but wear to shreds within the span of a year, it at least allows you mix up your look a bit while still having a simple pared down wardrobe.

3. I do like to mix around my jewelry after all. What works best for me is picking some jewelry from my collection to wear for a week, then getting out a new combo for the next week, etc. This gives the benefit of simplicity, while still adding the interest of change.

4. Pumps are necessary for me in a professional setting, after all. I've tried to not replace my heels that I wore down, but I just have certain days where I need to dress to the nines (particularly when presenting), so I've got some basic nude pumps en route to me as I type this.

5. Fine knit basic cardigans always suck regardless of price (in my experience), so just get the cheapest kind you can still look good in. They are a staple in my wardrobe despite their delicate, fickle ways. My yellow one looks terrible after just 6 months, so I'm planning to replace it with something much cheaper.

6. I don't like wearing dresses or skirts that much.

Sometimes I reminisce on the days when I was a stay at home mom or college student and didn't have to fuss so much over my clothing looking professional and presentable. Having less clothes has made it so much easier, but it's still a learning process around what works in what ways.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My minimalist meal take-to-work prep in action!

I'm executing the plan I made last week regarding my meal plan, which is to find things I love to eat and create a routine out of those things. Steamlining my life is what I'm about now - it's an iterative process, so I feel like I'm in a good place to move into addressing a huge area of chaos for me: my food.

I did my first prep session for the week ahead, as per my meal plan. It was surprisingly easy, and took me less than 30 minutes including cleaning, cooking, etc. I made four meals for breakfasts and lunches at work, since one of the days I'm presenting and getting breakfast and lunch catered.

My breakfasts will consist of Special K chocolate mocha protein shakes (not pictured) and these berry/Greek yogurt/granola parfaits. The yogurt I love is Fage Greek Yogurt (pronounced "fah-yeh"). I use frozen berries for these because they mix up better with the yogurt. The granola is from the self-serve bulk section of HEB...I chose a coconut/almond granola. We'll see how that is....
The main portion of my lunches will be these green wraps. These particular ones contain hummus, organic deli chicken, cucumber, and spinach. I was hoping to make it to Potbelly to pick up my favorite hot pepper mix to add in, but I'll get around to that later.
The side dish for my lunches is this Mediterranean curry cous cous. I like the Far East brand that HEB carries. It takes 5 minutes to make, and adds a bit of interest and substance to the lunch.



Friday, September 19, 2014

First attempt EVER at a minimal meal plan.

I was reading in one minimalist blog - zen habits, I believe - that one person found that eating the same thing every day (something that he loves, albeit), has changed his life for the better. Takes the guesswork out of food budgeting, cooking (for those of us who dislike cooking), and the dreaded "what do I take for lunch?" each morning.

Lately I've started to feel overwhelmed by food. I feel like we spend so much money on groceries, yet have very little show for it. I'm always fretting over what the eff I should take for lunch, and don't even get me started on dinner.

Here is what I plan to eat next week (kids and hubby will join for dinners)...of course I'll buy extra fruits and whatnot for snacking purposes, but these are the meals...


Thursday, September 18, 2014

My business trip: what I packed, wore, ate, learned, etc.

I think it's nice to travel every once in awhile for business, but it's definitely not glamorous - in fact, it's very exhausting in reality. You lose a lot of "personal" free time when you travel, because you're either working or in transport to/from your destination. With little kids at home, I do feel lucky to have a job where I don't need to travel often. However, it was actually really nice to see some colleagues in person. I got to meet some for the first time f2f and get to know more on a personal level, which just can't be done quite as well over the phone.

Organization and packing light....pictures below.

  • I took a half-size carry on for all my belongings, and the only small personal items needed in addition were my purse and of course a coffee.
  • Packing is so much more efficient/organized when it's done "compartmentalized". I did that by placing all my undies/bras/pjs rolled up in a separate bag, my dry makeup, jewelry, brushes, etc. in a medium-sized floral bag, and finally my liquid items in a transparent quart-sized bag for the TSA's benefit....
  • Rolling clothes up is the way that works best for me to maximize space. With that being said, I realized that a crisp button-up shirt would be a disaster rolled up in my suitcase, so I took a grey comfy shirt instead (that doesn't require ironing). I wore my suit jacket on the plane and every day to work, so it was never crumpled up in my suitcase.
Pictured are the "compartment" bags I took, as well as the entirety of my belongings I took on my travels...it was so nice to pack light, especially whilst watching others struggle with huge suitcases and multiple bags. Pobrecitas!

Here are a couple of my outfits for work...you'll notice they are slightly different than what I initially planned, but it worked really well for comfort and being wrinkle free! I also opted to bring one of my bold-colored necklaces instead of my gold one, just to stand out a bit in the group. You can't tell cause this pic is b/w...obviously.

 What I ate and what I learned....pics below.

When I travel, eating is absolutely the highlight and central feature of my life. The goal is to either be eating, be hungry so that you can eat, or get hungry. I think eating can make business travel a bit more bearable, and dare I say, a bit more fun!

Some new things I tried:
  • Amazing upscale Indian restaurant that was just a walk away from our hotel - I found it on my Yelp app, so my coworker and I walked over and we both agreed it was one of the best meals we've ever had. I had mustard seed and coconut curry chicken, tandoori shrimp, and crab masala on naan.
  • Shrimp and grits. It had sausage in it as well, and since the particular restaurant was very fancy, I had to at least try to eat the sausage (I hate sausage). I had a few pieces, but ended up eating around the rest of them. Then a co-worker called me out on it, and I felt like I was 5 years old....
  • BANGKOK PEANUT ICE CREAM - SPICY. The best ice cream I've ever had, no lie. It makes me want to put chili powder on all my ice cream from this moment forward.
Some new things I learned:
  •  The Four Seasons is a great place to stay. It was my first time to stay at a Four Seasons hotel, and it definitely lived up to the hype. I learned that they put a $400 ADDITIONAL charge on your card (without telling you - surprise!) in case you incur incidentals (spa, room service, getting your shoes shined). No worries, any amount not used gets refunded after check-out.
  • I need to buy a iPhone charging stick to keep in my bag for travel next time.
  • Going to a new place and being around different people and cultures is refreshing in the sense that it gives you an opportunity to evaluate yourself and your own life. I actually came back feeling a bit inspired....being pulled out of my daily grind is a good thing from time to time.
1. The city 2. My hotel room 3. My hotel 4. DELECTABLE INDIAN FOOD

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My new favorite hairstyle...


I bought a hair bun maker (looks like a mesh donut, and was $2), and now that I have it, I fear that I'll never wear my hair down again. I have always loved wearing my hair in a bun, but the problem has been that it's looked too sloppy to wear at work. That has now changed! With this thing, I can very easily get a polished looking bun in 30 seconds or less...

There are lots of tutorials and info for these things if you google, but really all the process involves is putting your hair in a ponytail through the bun maker, arranging it, and securing it with another elastic and maybe some bobby pins.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kids' fall/winter haul....H&M!

We typically buy clothing for our kids twice a year, once for spring/summer, and once for fall/winter. Both are toddlers, so they grow super-fast and their previous years' clothes for a particular season almost never last over to the next year, even if I buy them with a bit of extra room.

We try to keep around a collection of only the essential items, since clothes for growing softies really don't last very long. In the past, I've liked to shop for kids clothes at Old Navy, Target, Once Upon a Child, etc., because the durability and longevity of the clothing doesn't matter as much for kids clothing that they'll grow out of shortly, as opposed to adult clothing that is more of an "investment". However, I'm pretty sure I may have found my new favorite place to go for kids clothes....H&M! Very inexpensive, lots of cute styles and basics to choose from, and for the price, the clothing actually seems to be pretty well-made. Piece of advice on shopping at H&M....go in person. Don't order online. Because the sizing is all over the place, and you really have to "eyeball" the sizes for each item to see how it may fit your kid. I found that I bought a size up from even a generous "room to grow" size that I'd get at other stores.

Here are my purchases for my daughter, who is 3:
printed sweater tunic, three basic long sleeve shirts, a grey hat, soft black pants, soft polka dot pants, and minnie mouse undies! she already has some dresses and leggings, so this stuff completes her clothing for fall/winter.
And here are my purchases for my son, who will be 2 in a couple of months:
four basic long sleeve shirts, a striped sweater, two pairs of cargo pants, a hat, and some kawaii creature pjs. he already had a few pairs of pants, but was in dire need of some long sleeve shirts.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My 3 Day Business Trip Capsule Wardrobe

Next week I'm going on a 3 day business trip. When I travel alone, I like to go super-light. Recycling clothing pieces, packing versatile items, and only including essentials (especially with makeup/toiletries) makes traveling much easier.

For the purposes of this trip, I'll be going straight from the airport to the office at my destination (and vise versa on the way back), so unfortunately there is not much of an opportunity to wear yoga pants and a sweatshirt on the plane. Therefore, I have to be equipped with comfortable clothes that can also serve as business casual attire. The first night off will be just exploring the city - nothing planned after hours. I'm really looking forward to that - hoping to find a delectable restaurant to try. The second night I have a dinner to attend, and will go straight there from the office.

Here is what I'm planning to wear during my trip...



Monday, September 8, 2014

Start Somewhere: Purging over 28 thousand unwanted digital items!

Want to start streamlining your life, but not sure where to start? Perhaps clearing out unwanted files on your email or computer will get you going in the right direction...it has proven to make a huge difference for me.

We've been so good about decluttering our home and closets, but I've avoided addressing the cluster-eff that is my digital realm. I finally decided to face my fears and dive into four years of backed up files and emails, and now that the bulk of the purge is complete, it feels sleek and streamlined. In fact, it almost feels like I have a brand new computer - the cheap thrills of decluttering. And this is only the purging part....I haven't started to really get my file storage "infrastructure" organized yet. That will be another project, and frankly, the initial declutter is always the most difficult part.

I did a search for any important emails I needed to hang onto (let's be honest, there were only a handful, if any), and after that, I went folder by folder and hit "select all" and then DELETE. The trashcan icon is my new best friend. The Zero Inbox is an elusive state of being, but very satisfactory when you actually achieve it. Even if you are sitting in a room full of crap stacked upon crap stacked upon crap, you may feel just a little bit more "minimalist" if your email is cleaned out.
Over 17 thousand emails weighing my inbox down...YES I WANT TO CONTINUE.
Zen.
As I've become aware, apparently clearing one's inbox is a gateway drug for clearing out digital files as well. So I went through my computer and purged any unwanted files (almost 25 gigs worth...)
Turning my recycle bin all the way upside down.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Closet Tour!

Want to get up close and personal with my closet? No worries, I will not disclose the contents of my bra and underwear drawers (yet), but at least you'll see how I store them! My closet is definitely a work in progress, but it's become rather functional for me, especially since I started trying to follow Project 333. We have a pretty good-sized walk-in closet, but I'll only show my side, to spare my husband (and your eyes, from the large amount of weights and exercise gear on his side).

Peeking inside our closet door. I store shoes on the shelves (along with art supplies), and my laundry basket is underneath. Most of my clothes are hanging, but I do keep a small set of drawers on the floor under my hanging clothes for storing the following: top drawer: socks and pantyhose (ack), second drawer: undies, third drawer: bras, bottom drawer: accessories, a few sleeps shirts, swimsuit, etc.

On the left, I have my work clothes. On the right, my athletic gear and winter coat. Within those categories, I hang my tops together, and pants/skirts together. I hang my purse on a little area that peeks out from the shelves above.

There is a shelf above to store other stuff. I have my suitcase (which contains another smaller suitcase), a floral box full of keepsakes (my favorite baby outfits for the kids, a few small sentimental items, etc.), a striped box that contains our christmas decor (it's not a lot, but it does make our small space quite festive!), and then the kids' trick or treat baskets and easter baskets. I believe I could store the kids stuff in their closet easily, but haven't gotten around to organizing it yet to make the transition.

Here is a closer look at the front shelves. I have my main shoes I wear all the time (two pairs of flats, boots, and birkenstocks), as well as my heels for special occasions, and also my running shoes and chacos (for outdoor adventures!). Below you can see some watercolor paper and canvases, as well as my paints, bushes, and markers. On the floor, there is a large container full of photo albums and our digital photos on disk (I need to work on archiving these better), and of course, my lovely laundry basket.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Simple dates are the best...

Finding an amazing, yet cheap restaurant within which to chow and chat.
To me, a good date has to have two components: 1. Good food/drink and 2. Good conversation. I think that many people get stressed out about planning or going on a date thinking that it needs to be some extravagant (and thus expensive) affair...but if you keep it simple, it can be stress free and highly enjoyable. Trying a new restaurant with my husband is one of my favorite things to do, and when we get some time alone together, I always really enjoy our conversation. After being married for over five years, it seems that we still haven't run out of things to talk about.

The caveot to this is that you have to be compatible with your date. If you are looking for good conversation and you go on a date with an idiot, then you won't have a good time. When you like to enjoy simple dates with someone (going for a run together, or grabbing coffee together), the success of the date relies heavily on the quality of your partner (and you). This makes me think....maybe when you marry solely for money, and you're not too crazy about your partner's personality....at least you have the extravagance of the dates to distract you from not liking your partner. When you marry for love, you get to enjoy simplicity together, and still really love life. I'm no relationship expert....just rambling my 2 cents.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I dressed like a man today. And, Whole Foods makeup review.

I consider myself to be quite feminine, but for some reason in the business world, I feel much more comfortable and powerful when I'm dressed like a man (dress shirt, pants, suit jacket). I can really tell a difference in my presence and the way I interact with others at work when I'm wearing this sort of outfit....and I like it.

On another note, ironically right after I wrote my first entry about makeup, my powder as well as my bronzer both crapped out on me. My powder ran out and the rest crumbled up and was impossible to get on my brush, and the bronzer has been starting to irritate my skin a lot, so I had to trash it.

Thus, as I have been doing lately with many of my purchases (or lack thereof), I decided to go the au natural route with my replacements....enter Whole Foods makeup! It's really really difficult to find natural makeup products (I normally have to really scour Ulta for those), so I thought it would be much more accessible moving forward if I found some Whole Foods makeup I liked.

I decided not to replace the bronzer, and just get a new powder. I also got a bright pink lipstick (my favorite type to wear). The brand Mineral Fusion (Whole Foods makeup partner) - powder color: Neutral 1; lipstick color: Charming.

After wearing these, I LOVE THEM. They are pricier than drugstore makeup, but such is life when you want "natural" makeup, apparently. They are still cheaper than many of the products found in Sephora or Ulta.
I think lipstick colors that look shocking in the tube are actually the prettiest ones when worn!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Confession Time.....

My confession is that I still use my Boppy pillow....and neither of my kids are infants any more.

A Boppy pillow is a kind of C-shaped pillow that is made specifically for use with babies - nursing, holding, propping them up, tummy time, cradling them, etc. You buy the pillow, and can choose from dozens of slip cover looks. I loved using the Boppy pillow with both of my kids when they were babies...for my daughter in particular because I had a C-Section with her, and it was too painful to hold her on my own for the first few weeks, so the Boppy allowed me to set her up close to my chest while she nursed.

The thing is....the Boppy, for me, is still SO useful. In fact, I use it every day. It's great as a laptop cushion when I'm laying in bed or sitting on the couch, because I can rest my arms on it and it elevates the laptop to where I can see it better. It can be used as a food surface for when you want to snack or eat whilst watching TV. The Boppy is also quite useful as a pillow in the more traditional sense -  I sometimes hold it while I sleep (sorry, husband!), and sometimes I put it under my knees if I sleep on my back.

I've been rather quick to purge baby items/equipment as my youngest has grown past them (we don't plan to have any more babies). As you probably know, I'm a huge fan of getting rid of things we don't use, so I'm normally very efficient and swift with regard to giving away our baby items. The Boppy is just so functional to me...I can't bring myself to get rid of it in favor of a "grown up" pillow....

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Enjoying the little things...like an easy/cheap spot cleaning fix for carpet!

Our dining area has carpet. We have two small kids. Need I say anything else?

I discovered an amazingly simple and very common-sense (but not for me) way to clean the fossilized spots on our carpet using supplies most people already have on hand (found here). I tried it out, and I was actually shocked at how easy it was and how well it worked. This is the kind of productive energy spend that I'm hoping to get more of in my life as I continue to de-clutter both my physical and mental distractions. Finding enjoyment in even the mundane things that could benefit my home and my family is an interesting task I've put myself to, and so far, our carpet now looks a lot less ratchet.
Before and after!
Have some bothersome stains to remove from your carpet? Before forking out the $$ to rent a carpet shampoo machine, try this...

2 cups warm/hot water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon clear dish soap
mix these together and scrub your carpet stains with a wash cloth