Wednesday, October 24, 2012

today I love...

...this little kid.  At the ripe old age of eight, she's decided to not only express herself in a fun and unique way through fashion, but is doing it in an inspiring crusade of historical education.

Check it out.

Every Wednesday, I write about something I love that day.  It doesn't necessarily have to be remotely related to anything; it just has to be fabulous!

Monday, October 22, 2012

new systems

As you know, I recently got rid of between a third and half of my entire clothing collection, which was no small feat.  I collect inordinate quantities of apparel.  It's not too hard on my wallet or financial plans, because 98% of it comes from yard sales and thrift stores, but it still takes up a ding-dang lot of space.  And it was frustrating because I could rarely find a particular piece that would be buried under everything else, and/or I wouldn't even really know what all I had!   I longed for a more curated wardrobe.  

So I went through the Great Purge of 2012, and boy did it feel good.  In the wake of that, I've been iteratively tweaking and reorganizing what's left, as well as removing the occasional unused item that's still hanging around, in order to optimize the overall system.  

Today I'm going to share what seems like a silly and insignificant little lesson, but that I absolutely love. 

I recently learned how to fold. 

Okay, that sounds even less climactic than I'd thought it would be.  Everyone knows how to fold clothing right?  You learned when you were seven, and your mom couldn't stand your habit of storing everything in a pile on the floor.  Or at least you shoved your piles into drawers.  I'm not judging. 

I'd kind of thought that all ways of folding were essentially equivalent.  Take garment, make flat and reasonably neat, stack in a pile.  Take things from pile.  If you want something at the bottom of the pile, you pretty much have to take the top part of the stack off, play a precarious game of jenga and caaaaaaaarefully extract what you're after, or cause the whole thing to topple messily and ruining your organization scheme in the first place.  Oh, and if it's all in a drawer, the stuff at the bottom is nearly impossible to see anyway. 

It's a small thing, but that little bit of frustration every day can get to a person. 

Recently, via this article, I came across a different way of both folding items and of packing them into drawers.  It involves 'filing' your clothing, so that each thing is both visible and easy to extract without disrupting the overall system.  As a bonus, it turns out that you can fit SO MUCH MORE stuff in a drawer, while simultaneously making it more accessible.  Oh Ceiling Cat, what a revelation.  

This drawer, previously only holding pajamas, now holds pajamas, my swimsuit and cover-ups, long underwear, T-shirts, and tank tops.  It's not perfect, but hot damn if it isn't incredibly convenient.  

Yes, these are my socks.  Yes, they're folded and sorted into rows.  Don't judge me.   

A combination of the Great Purge, implementing a seasonal wardrobe scheme (more on that later), and this new folding method has allowed me to completely empty out my enormously bulky and heavy Dresser of Doom.  My entire wardrobe is in the closet, in a container under my bed, and in two little drawered nightstand things.  They work well enough, but ultimately I'd love to find a small dresser with more shallow drawers in it.  The contents of both nightstands could easily be combined into one piece of furniture with similar overall dimensions as one of them, if it had shallower drawers, and hence more of them.  This system leads to a lot of wasted vertical space, even as it facilitates fitting more into the drawers overall despite that limitation.  Imagine the sheer optimizing power of the filing system deployed in a more ideal environment!

Sorry, my geekiness is showing there.  

Even my underwear are folded like this.  Previously, I was of the toss-it-in-the-drawer-and-smash-it-closed persuasion, as I'd given up on any sort of organization for drawers.  But this pervading sense of order, coupled with the ability to see and get at any particular article of clothing, really makes me happy.  It's the simple things.

Friday, October 19, 2012

finding passion, part 7: flow

I'm working through the '27 Questions to Find Your Passion' worksheet from Live Your Legend, a fabulous site devoted to encouraging people to discover their passions and pursue them.  Join me!

Question #7: When was the last time you were in a state of flow, in the zone and totally lost track of time? What were you doing?

To be quite honest, I'm having a difficult time remembering the last time that happened on any significant scale. Perhaps that's a sad commentary, but it's been quite a while since I was so into something that it absorbed me completely.  I find the current lack of that in my life rather disquieting.  

But the question is not asking how long it's been; it's asking what the activity was.  So I shall attempt to summon an answer. 

Editing, I suppose.  As in part 6, I can easily get into a sort of flow regarding the editing/typesetting of documents.  Also, I used to become absorbed in math projects/research/homework when in school, and I do still get some of that same excitement and engagement when one of my grad-school friends asks me a crunchy math question.  

And, of course, dance.  For sanity maintenance I go out dancing once a week, and usually have no idea what time it is until they call for the last song.  Dance is a huge part of who I am.  It rejuvenates me, it makes me happy, it connects with me on a very visceral level. 

Previous questions: part 1:happiness , part 2: invincibility, part 3: gratitude, part 4: skills, part 5: heroes, part 6: obsession.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

today I love, jumptoast edition

When sitting in a toasting circle around a campfire, there's a phenomenon known as the 'jumptoast.'  That's what happens when it's not really your turn with the bottle, but you claim it anyway, for Very Important and time-sensitive reasons.

This warrants a 'today I love' jumptoast, despite today not being a Wednesday.

Today I love the internet.

Most of the time it's hideously offensive and thoughtless and cruel, but occasionally something really awesome turns up.

This summer, BIC came out with silly 'for her' pens (annoyingly implying that we girly-types are completely incapable of using Normal Manly Pens), and Amazon reviewers responded in a marvelously snarky fashion.

Now they've gone and done it again.

Even the notorious cesspool Reddit can occasionally be decent.

The internet is an amazing tool, and it's truly up to us how we use it.  I'm all for making it a safe space to actually talk about important stuff when needed, and to enjoy humor when that's needed.  To find like-minded folks to remind you to appreciate what you have.  To celebrate the people and things in this world that aren't shitty instead of just complaining about the things that are.  To embrace the fabulous.

Claiming a little corner of it is the first step, and I'm very happy that I have the opportunity to that.  I'm learning more every day about what I want to create, what I feel like the world needs, and how to make that happen.  Thank you for coming on this journey with me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

today I love...

...this amazing artist.  He makes these incredible mandala-like scenes and sculptures out of... table salt.  In a squeeze bottle.  Dude.

Every Wednesday, I write about something I love that day.  It doesn't necessarily have to be remotely related to anything; it just has to be fabulous!

Monday, October 15, 2012


I love gardening.  There's something magical about being able to see gorgeous plants grow out of virtually nothing, keep them healthy, and be rewarded with the most local food of all.  

Okay, so The Guy actually does a lot of the plant maintenance.  That's not my fault!  I have a longer commute.  And stuff.  

Anyway, I wanted to take you on a mini tour of what we've got growing.  

First up, we have the Great Tomato Jungle on the back porch.  The seedlings were originally purchased from the farmer's market, and were mislabeled.  I thought I was getting heirloom tomato plants (the ugly, bulbous, multicolored, ungodly delicious ones), but they turned out to be cherry tomatoes.  And as it turns out, cherry tomato plants like to take over the universe!  It's unreal.  We have our very own thicket of tomatoes.   One was also planted in an upside-down-tomato thingie, and it promptly grew all the way down to the ground.  These plants are unreal. 

So, so many tomatoes.  These pictures were taken a little while ago, when they were just starting to think about ripening.  We'd had to continually pinch off the flowers to keep them from over-extending themselves even more.  Lately we've been getting buckets of the juicy little ripe tomatoes, and have taken to throwing them in everything, and to grilling 'em on skewers for tomato sauce.  Yum.

Then there's the herb trough.  It's a nifty metal animal-watering sort of thingie, that we filled with dirt.  Grows stuff like you wouldn't imagine.  Earlier in the summer the chive plant set off on its own world-conquest plan, and we harvested armfuls of the stuff.  Much was chopped and dried --- one handy thing about the desert is that anything placed on a metal tray in the sun becomes beautifully dried in about an hour.  The porch table becomes practically a cooking surface.  The rest of the chives were mixed with butter and frozen, for a ready supply of chive butter.  Makes everything better.  That's a fact.

After the chives were thwarted in their evil plans, the basil plant took the opportunity to thoroughly dominate the herb-trough population.  There's also oregano, marjoram, and quite a lot of Italian parsley, but they're all eclipsed by the basil.  The only thing that's immediately apparent in this picture is some of the baby lettuces developing at the edge of the trough.  Witness the quite upwardly mobile basil:

And its cousin, across the yard.  Yes, that's a basil shrubbery.  I, for one, welcome our new basil overlords.

Ah, summer.  Grilled superfresh tomatoes + all the basil you can carry = the most delicious pasta sauce ever.   As autumn comes upon us, we will have to harvest the glorious basil, and it will probably be made into pesto.  Also, proto-pesto basil cubes, made by grinding the basil up with olive oil and freezing the concoction in ice cube trays, then popping them out into a freezer bag and tossing in the deep freeze.  Instant basil punch to whatever you're cooking!

Friday, October 12, 2012

finding passion, part 6: obsession

I'm working through the '27 Questions to Find Your Passion' worksheet from Live Your Legend, a fabulous site devoted to encouraging people to discover their passions and pursue them.  Join me!

Question #6: When was the last time you massively over-delivered on something?  What was it and why did you work so damn hard?

For work, I think this would have to be a recent powerpoint presentation I had the opportunity to put together for a long-term project.  I spent days obsessing over very specific animations and tweaking everything to deliver the information in the best possible way.  I got completely absorbed in the design of the thing, and even spent a lot of my own time at home and on my commute working on it, and I was inordinately proud of it. 

Why did I work so damn hard?  Because it was fun.  Because for whatever reason I intensely enjoy reformatting data into digestible forms and designing visuals to succinctly convey information.

The last personal project that I remember becoming completely obsessed with was when I was rewriting and reformatting my résumé.  I'm a huge fan of LaTeX, an incredibly powerful typesetting system, and wrote my own style file for my household's résumés.  Again, I spent tons of time at home and on commutes working on it and tweaking all the fiddly bits.  I'd spend hours researching online about effective résumé presentation guidelines and principles.  I'd look up and hours would have passed while I was absorbed in the project.  

Why did I put so much work into that?  It wasn't really because of how important a résumé is in one's professional life, though that's a perk.  Fundamentally, it was because of how passionate I felt about presenting the requisite information in the most effective way possible.

Hmm.  There seems to be a trend here.  

Previous questions: part 1:happiness , part 2: invincibilitypart 3: gratitudepart 4: skillspart 5: heroes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

today I love...


Every Wednesday, I write about something I love that day.  It doesn't necessarily have to be remotely related to anything; it just has to be fabulous!

Monday, October 08, 2012

weekend project: noms!

I love to cook.  So does The Guy.  We have gazillions (yes, that's a technical term) of cookbooks.  We also have so many recipes that have been cut out of magazines, printed out and folded for years, or scribbled on the backs of grocery lists.  He's had a pile of recipes on scraps of paper that have just floated inside a cookbook, sandwiched behind the front cover.  It was a bit of a deathtrap, admittedly. 

A while ago, I got fed up with that.  Finding a particular recipe was rather difficult, and they kept falling everywhere.  Enter The Great Recipe Organization Campaign of 2012.  This started a few months ago, wherein I began corralling stray recipes in a box, and going through our stash of back-issues of Bon Appétit for ones worthy of cutting out.  I was inspired by so many other projects like this out on the interwebs.  I found a nice big binder for the finished product, and a bunch of page protectors.  

Then all of that sat in the back room and was completely ignored.  

Until this past Sunday morning, when I hauled it all out and spread it on the kitchen table, sorting into piles.  The Guy pitched in, helping decide which ones to keep and what categories they should go in, and digging out his old family recipes from their hiding places for me.  

I ended up with five categories: new stuff to try, savory, sweet, old family recipes, and concept pieces.  I used write-on-able sticky tab thingies put right onto the sheet protectors to delineate the sections, but there are all kinds of tools for that sort of thing.  

All except the 'to try' and 'concept' categories exclusively contained tried-and-true recipes that were known to be delicious and we'll definitely want to make again.  Stuff from the 'to try' section will be moved to savory or sweet, as appropriate, once they're made and declared to be worthy.  The 'concept' section is for ideas that were kept just as notions, but not necessarily as whole recipes as written.  The idea of making a semi-frittata out of fettuccine is more important than the magazine's exact recipe for the tomato sauce to go with it.  We're semi-accomplished cooks, and free-lance off of recipes anyway.   Once tried, incorporated, and remembered, the 'concept' recipes will probably just be thrown away, but in the meantime they serve a useful purpose as a reminder of new ideas to try.  

Others might have different categories, of course.  Main courses, sides, breads, etc.  But for our purposes, and because I didn't really feel like sorting through with that fine-toothed of a comb, I stuck with some pretty broad categories.  It all depends on how you cook, what sorts of recipes you've got, and how finely you want to split hairs.  Perhaps as the book expands it'll undergo a reorganization at some point.  Who knows?

Here it is.  I've taken to calling it The Book.  

If a sheet protector didn't contain a full-page printout of a recipe, I stuffed in some blue paper I found in my craft stuff to serve as a backdrop.  Then recipes were just layered on top of the backing paper in whatever configuration made sense.  I found that they didn't even need to be glued down, which made the whole thing simpler as well as more modular.  If they shift around too much over time, some gluing-down might happen, ultimately, but for now it seems to be holding just fine as is.

The beautiful thing about The Book is that not only do we no longer have to dig through stacks of papers to find a particular favorite recipe, but the sheet protectors mean that the things are largely water-resistant.  This is good in a kitchen, as they'll be less prone to getting destroyed by water, blobs of cookie dough, and bacon grease.  To be fair, many of the recipes in The Book already have spots and stains from just such treatment, and I didn't bother to retype them or anything.  I think it lends character.  But the water resistance will add to their longevity, especially for those multiple-decades-old papers for old family recipes.  

By the way, we've already started using The Book.  Thy Guy made a delicious pilaf for dinner last night, cooking out of the recipe I'd transcribed into the book.  In case you're curious, it's originally from Alton Brown, the science nerd of food.  So tasty. 

And that's my weekend project.  I love it, and it's nice to actually finish something for a change.  Here's to many years of yummy cooking, expanded recipe collections, and good organization!

Friday, October 05, 2012

finding passion, part 5: heroes

I'm working through the '27 Questions to Find Your Passion' worksheet from Live Your Legend, a fabulous site devoted to encouraging people to discover their passions and pursue them.  Join me!

Question #5: Who do you look up to?  Who are your mentors?  Who inspires you?  Why?

Aaaaaand we're back.  I've been a bad blogger about updating for a while now, and it's time to pick up this thread again.  

In no particular order, these are the people who I feel admiration for today.  The list might change tomorrow.  These are the people who make my heart catch in my throat if I imagine that I have the opportunity to sit down to lunch with them.  
  • Robert, the best tango instructor in the universe.  Maybe in other universes, too. 
  • Don, my kick-ass math tutor and friend from my undergrad years.  He was in the military, and then decided to study math.  'Cuz it's fun.  He helped me to truly grok a lot of the higher-level coursework, and we had so many great discussions.
  • Melissa, my feminist blogger hero.  She has so much strength, the ability to beautifully articulate so many important sentiments that can be so darn hard to express, and has put so much work into making her blog into a safe space for everyone.  I admire her from the very depths of my being.  
  • Leo, of course.  All bloggers everywhere admire Leo, as far as I can tell.  For his success, for his eloquently simple and peaceful perspective on life, and for his ability to cut out all the noise and focus on what's really important. 
  • My grandfather.  He's incredibly strong, kind, and perseverant.  With a snide sense of humor so subtle that it can take days to even realize he'd made a joke.  But it was a damn good one.
  • Gala, for being unabashedly fabulous, glittery, and in love with herself. 
  • And of course, Nikola Tesla.  For being an amazingly radical scientist whom history seems to have largely overlooked.  Also Barbara McClintock.  Same reason.
Who inspires you?

Previous questions: part 1:happiness , part 2: invincibilitypart 3: gratitudepart 4: skills.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

today I love...

...this wardrobe grid.  The author took sixteen pieces --- four each of tops, bottoms, shoes, and accessories, and arranged them in a cute little four-by-four matrix.  Then outfits are made by choosing arbitrary rows, columns, or diagonals.

I adore this.  This concept just might wind up being incorporated into my obsessive planning stages before travel from now on.  I always work hard to mix and match pieces such that I can take as little stuff as possible, and this provides yet another tool to assist in that.

Simple and brilliant!

Every Wednesday, I write about something I love that day.  It doesn't necessarily have to be remotely related to anything; it just has to be fabulous!

Monday, October 01, 2012


I like shiny things, and I like pretty jewelry.  My stuff is mostly of the gaudy costume variety, but it's lots of fun.

However, I had a problem.  All that prettiness was jammed into a too-small jewelry box, and the process of finding, extracting, and detangling a given piece was nigh unto impossible.  It consequently never got worn; such a waste!  I simply (I thought) had too much of it.  Then the Great Jewelry Purge of 2011 commenced.  I took over the dining table for a day, went through every piece, and only kept the ones that
  1. were in good shape,
  2. fit my current style,
  3. actually went with at least something I owned, and
  4. I absolutely loved. 
The theory was that if I could actually find and access the stuff, it might actually get worn for a change. 

I even took the better pieces to my jeweler to get them a sonicator bath to clean 'em up.  The purged rejects, still comprised of fun and funky bling, went to a friend's party where all the people there had a grand time going through 'em and picking out new favorites.  It's fun seeing my old jewelry proudly displayed on my friends. 

The remaining jewelry (about a fifth of the original quantity.  I'm down to five pairs of earrings.  Five!) was lovingly placed back in the jewelry box, where it promptly tangled into a hideous mess again.  

Well, damn.  Apparently I missed something.  

Then I found all kinds of nifty inspiration on the trusty interwebs.  People were conquering their disorganized jewelry realities with corkboard and picture frames, ribbons and drawer handles, cake stands and deer antlers.  Antique display cabinets.  Burlap.  Driftwood.  Old printer's cases.  Surely I could come up with something. 

I didn't need a lot of ring/bracelet/earring storage, because most of my collection is of the necklace variety.  And I wanted something to hang on the wall instead of taking up surface space on furniture. 

Poking around the garage, I found a little knick-knack display shelf that we'd bought and never gotten around to putting up.  Its white surface was a little marred, but I also scrounged up some black spray paint, and that took care of it.  Digging through a tub of hardware turned up a box of cup hooks.  My very small antique teacup collection perched on top of the shelf, for rings and such.  And then... voila!  A nifty jewelry storage solution, effectively for free. 

Incidentally, it turns out that cup hooks don't like being driven into wood without pilot holes being drilled.  Frustrating.  But on the plus side, I got to play with power tools!

Now I can actually see what I've got, and consequently it gets worn much more often.  It's a small thing, yes, but it makes me smile every time I look at it.  Sometimes small but brilliant solutions are plenty significant.  And hey, I got a whole five bucks for that unneeded jewelry box at my yard sale.