Monday, May 26, 2014

200 Words on Breakfast

Though the chimes of her alarm sounded promptly at 6am, she was already awake, contemplating the Sunday sun peeking under the flimsy blinds. Tossing back the covers, she dressed quickly and hurried downstairs from her tiny apartment. Pushing off the curb on her bike, she pedaled smoothly away from the bustling city and down a tree lined street towards the farmers market.

Strolling amongst the vendors' booths, she paused at the end of each row to inhale the scents that promised fresh, crisp produce in the next aisle. Trying to decide between a golden pineapple and a sonorous cantaloupe, a basket of ruby red strawberries caught her eye. Thanking the vendor, she nestled the berries in the bike basket and hastened home. 

After a quick rinse, she arranged the strawberries in a bowl. Selecting the ripest, she carefully separated their feathery leaves and sliced the hull into thin slivers. Spreading crunchy peanut butter on sugary sweet cinnamon raisin bread, the berries made a perfect topping for a Sunday breakfast.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

150 Words: Vegetable Fried Rice

Trying to get back into my writing this summer, I've picked up a book of creative writing prompts from the library. When I'm not working on a story, I'm going to try to work through a few of the prompts. The first one is about food, as apparently taste is the most overlooked sense in creative writing. 

The lime green bowl drifted slowly in circles, the wax paper puffing like a sail in the invisible gales of the microwave. Tapping out an impatient rhythm on the tile floor, she inhaled breath after breath of the salty sweet sauce emanating from the kitchen. A few staccato beeps indicate that the vegetable fried rice is ready for consumption.

After tangling with the pair of chopsticks, she takes the first bite and determines the edamame are the popcorn of the vegetable world. Salty and delightfully chewy, they pop under the pressure of each chew. Accompanied by a symphony of crunch provided by onion, red pepper, and carrots, these green nuggets put the punctuation on each bite of the savory dish. A few bites later, the chopsticks are scraping ceramic and the promise of more fried rice waits in the freezer.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Moleskines

From time to time (and especially on stressful days) I hear a voice in my head that chides me for my lack of commitment to my writing. 

You could be talented, it says. If you just set aside some time to work through things. You hardly ever write, and that's why you're suffering. That's why your work feels flat and your inspiration tapped. You need to work for it

Then, there's other times like today when I was cleaning my closet (ok, really my whole apartment). Re-arranging the books on my shelves, I started pulling down a spiral bound notebook to see if it can be recycled. To my surprise, all the pages were filled. So I pulled down another (same thing!). 

Finally, I pulled down a fistful of colorful Moleskines. I can't recall when this happened, but one year my family colluded to give me a bunch of Moleskines in different colors for my birthday. Though they're different sizes and different grid line rules, they're all full. 

All Ten.

Every. Single. Page.

At first, I couldn't believe I'd written that much. Then, I sat down and read through some of the short stories (many of which are posted on this blog). Some are too hilariously awful to ever face the internet, while others are not promising enough to be a short story but interesting enough to potentially become something else. 

So, a simple fit of spring cleaning taught me something today. I learned not to doubt myself as much as I do (especially when it comes to writing!).

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.