Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bundles of Joy

I love getting mail. This week was a particularly good week for it, too. In addition to the usual roundup of bills and bank statements, I received some fun presents each time I opened my mailbox. 

First, I got the March issues of my two favorite magazines, InStyle and Yoga Journal.

Then, I got valentine's day cards. Thanks to all of you that love me! I miss you all and I am sorry I am not a better correspondent.


Finally, I got a package from my new favorite mail subscription service. Step aside, birch box, and make way for Graze:

Four servings of snacks picked out for me based on my likes and dislikes. In this box, I got dried berries (extra serving of iron!), banoffee pie trail mix, summer berry granola bars, and Texas corn salsa savory bites. I get my next box in four weeks so my original plan was to try to stretch this box out. Everything looks so tasty I might not be able to do it! If anyone wants to give Graze a try, click here for a friends and family discount code.

I love mail subscriptions; it is so fun to come home to something picked out for you. I also subscribe to Stitch Fix, a home styling service. I am expecting my spring box from them in late March. We will see how it goes!

What other mail order subscriptions are out there? What are your favorites?


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Chicago is for Lovers

It's valentine's weekend and despite the frosty weather, Chicago is crowded with happy and sometimes boisterous couples. All week it was a flurry of red wearing, sweet eating, and flower delivering at work. I was lucky enough to celebrate my valentine's day the weekend prior with a romantic dinner at Cite Chicago atop Lake Point Tower, and I spent my valentine's night in a yoga class with one of my favorite instructors.

While valentine's day is certainly not the only day of the year to play the romance card, most couples feel obliged to observe it. For some reason, my boyfriend and I seem to be going in reverse; when we first started dating we didn't celebrate valentines day to a point (though he made it a habit of buying me flowers). Now that we live far apart, we have to celebrate every minute we have together so this valentine's day was going to be a blowout by default. We did the whole deal; romantic dinner, chocolate, wine, candlelight. It was wonderful, and I'm thankful for that night and more valentines days to come!


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Snowy Saturday Projects

It's been a crazy week in my work world, tying up loose ends with my exhibit and wrapping up 2013 (my performance review, finally). Plus, the bitter cold is always exhausting so it was nice to reach Saturday and the start of a new month with the promise of unwinding.

It's been snowing nonstop since around 9pm last night. Thought that doesn't necessarily mean I have to stay in all day, it does mean that I have plenty of inside activities planned. Usually it's basic stuff like laundry, crock pot meal prep, Pinterest projects and cleaning but occasionally I go through my closet and rearrange it. Today was a closet overhaul day.

This all started when I began to question the logic of my current arrangement. I have two closets in my apartment; one by the door that I use to store cleaning supplies, my coats, and my winter shoes. The other is further down the hall and closer to the bedroom and holds the rest of my clothes, including my winter accessories. It just didn't make sense to me- I have to take my shoes and coat off to put them in the first closet, then take my hat, scarf, gloves, and leg warmers off to put them in the second closet. It would make much more sense if the two were together.

I have an old shoe holder that hangs in a closet. At the recommendation of InStyle's August 2013 issue, I was using it to hold jeans (organized by color). To accommodate my winter accessories, I removed all the jeans, transferred the shoe holder to the hallway, and stacked my scarves, hats, and whatnot into each of the compartments. It makes things much easier now.

But, pulling out the jeans kicked off the "one thing led to another" chain reaction. At some point I just threw in the towel and decided to assess my clothes for the upcoming spring season and the women's history month Working Wardrobes clothes drive. Wishful thinking on the spring weather, huh?

Because I like to do things systematically wherever possible, I looked to two guides to help me through this process. Last September InStyle did a great piece called Conquer Your Closet that I can't seem to find online to share with you. It's all about how to decide what pieces to keep, which to get rid of, and how to replace them with things that you love. It gets a little bit serious; I'm not nearly as mature or wealthy enough to require acid free archival boxes for my clothes just yet.

A much more accessible and introspective version is Real Simple's Define Your Signature Style. In addition to looking at which pieces to keep or donate, it guides you through the exercise of deciding which pieces of your wardrobe are your favorite (and why). It starts with a really fun discussion: what are your 5 favorite pieces in your whole closet? You're instructed to choose one from each clothing "category". Of course, this is a challenge because I love a lot of my clothes but don't get to wear them often for weather or occasion reasons, but here's what I came up with:

This is (not an outfit at all, but):
- a gray pencil skirt from The Limited
-poppy red a line dress from The Limited
- blue sweater from The Loft
- Madewell Chambray (thanks, Mom!)
- soft, deep navy jeans from Genetic Denim
- claret blazer from The Loft

From this, I conclude that my style is slightly dressier but still comfortable, and it tends to be in richer hues. 

I encourage everyone to do this exercise and let me know what they come up with! 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Obsessed

I want to feel what it's like to be obsessed with something. Most artists would call that passion.

The word obsessed gets thrown around a lot these days: in reference to hobbies, favorite TV shows, or celebrities. Over the weekend I watched the entire BBC Blue Planet TV series about ocean life, but I wouldn't say I was obsessed. I might be obsessed with yoga since I do it every day and think about it throughout the day, but that's not what I'm talking about here.

I don't mean obsessed in a passive way, like the obsession with Pinterest that you just keep looking and looking at new and interesting things. Or television shows on Netflix that start after 15 seconds without having to click a single button.

I want an active obsession, passionate to the point of being possessed with the idea. I want to be so focused that I keep coming back to that thought, chipping away at it until I get it right. Of course there's always going to be some frustration, but I want to experience a drive to push past it in pursuit of my concept of perfection.

I'm sure professional writers are like this; they have a vision of how they want something to look, and they don't lose sight of it. I seem to have my normal writing ADD, where I think of 5-6 good ideas but get about as far as outlining them and writing the first third then moving on. I don't know how to develop this focus; is it just because the idea is so good? Or is it just practice of keeping at it?

I've been working on my writing discipline; trying to contribute 35 minutes to the blog each day and 45-50 minutes of careful writing on a longer piece. Right now it's sort of like exercise, I do it because I feel better then I'm done, and I need to keep in practice. I just don't have a solid feeling for it, and I can't really tell if my interest in my longer piece is fizzling or if I'm just settling for what I have written thus far.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Self-Health Saturday

It was good to get back to my normal routine for the weekend after being sick for most of the week. Just like the calm before the storm, Chicago was gifted with a frosty but clear and sunny morning today. I kept reminding myself not to get too used to how nice the sky looked, because it's about to get ridiculous.


Despite wanting to do nothing but sleep just two days prior, this morning I woke up before the sun and was ready to spring into action. Seeing the sunrise, I laced up my shoes and went for a very peaceful jog through the snow filled parks. Of course, the sidewalks are maintained by the city so I didn't have too much fear of wet feet, but the depth of the snow on the grass and in Millennium Park's pavilion is amazing. Though it was a slow and cautious run, it was nice to shake my legs out and clear my lungs of any remaining mucus. After stocking up on groceries for the forthcoming freeze, I baked some banana flaxseed muffins and went to yoga. 

When I'm in good health, my storytelling powers are operating in full capacity. It's amazing what a little run and some nice outdoor air can do for inspiration. Creative people are fascinating to me; and I always want to learn how people think, when they do their best thinking, and what triggers a good idea in their minds. 

As far as thinking goes, here's a pop quiz. What popular late 70s early 80s sci-fi horror film was inspired by this tiny little guy?



Like I said inspiration can come from anywhere...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Freefall

Zula leans against the window pane, her heavy breathing dissolving the ice crystals on the glass. It feels cool against her cheek and smooths her eye, its lid heavy with bruises. Desperate to wrap the chilled air around her, she carefully slides the glass away from her. Inch by inch the arctic puffs of air lick her shoulders until she is swallowed in an icy blast. She closes her eyes and breathes deep, each breath like a sip of a cold and refreshing mint julep.

An angry specter rises behind her eyes. Armando in a rage, Armando's voice flinging scathing words she hardly deserves. Armando's hands destroying the last of their wedding china. Armando's eyes burning into hers as his grip tightens around her shoulders and winds up towards her face.

The screen creaks stiffly as Zula shifts onto her back, her bare shoulders and vertebrae fully exposed to the night air. Shifting her weight between her toes and her heels, she ponders the fragility of the screen. Though it buoyantly presses her back into the room, each time she leans a bit further, trying to find the tipping point. It's a long way down, she knows without looking. Would it be better to lay out and watch the light of her bedroom shrink further and further away? Or should she face the darkness of the night, and let it devour her entirely?

A rancid puff of hot breath on her face brings her back from swimming through space. Her ears roaring, Zula barely registers a word Armando spits at her. Remembering the open window, she spies her opportunity. Like a dam that's crumbled after years of disrepair, her fear, anger, rage, and resentment spill out shrilly. Someone, anyone awake at this hour would hear her last words to the world.

Thick silence falls between them as her cries echo in the funnel of high-rises that line the street. Armando steps back and evaluates his opponent, fueled by her emptiness. Nothing left to give, she stands tall, ready to accept whatever he's prepared to dish out.

He lunges at her; she crumples against the windowsill. His breathing comes faster in labored bursts, and her vision starts to telescope into a smaller and smaller point. All the while the screen creaks with each bit of pressure.

Zula's legs buckle beneath her and she leans sideways, falling to the floor. Armando's grunt abruptly changes to a gasp, and he is swallowed into the night.

She lays very still, unsure of how to move, what to do next. A few snowflakes, disturbed by the dislodged screen, float down and rest on her ankle, her shoulder. She breathes in ice once more, and lets it out in a choked sob.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sijo

A sijo is a Korean version of a haiku. Like a haiku, it has three lines, but the syllabic requirements are not as strict. Each line must range between 14-16 syllables (as opposed to the 5-7-5 requirement with haikus).

However, there are structural rules surrounding sijos. According to Wikipedia, they "may be narrative or thematic and introduces a situation in line 1, development in line 2, and twist and conclusion in line 3. The first half of the final line employs a “twist”: a surprise of meaning, sound, or other device."

Here's one of my sijos, ripe with nostalgia and homesickness:

Afternoon Drive

Her butterfly eyelashes tremble while gold curls graze bare shoulders
He grins, smoothing his unruly hair in the rear view mirror
Timidity is swept away with the breeze on PCH