Tuesday, January 31, 2012

the 30 day challenge

I think it's pretty obvious from this blog that I am a big time list maker. I like to plan out goals and make To Do Lists for the day/week/month/year. Oh, and for my whole life. Yikes.

I'm good at the planning part. I suck at the executing part.

I know this, and yet I can't stop myself from listing unattainable goals for myself each year. December and January are stressful and exciting months for me as I try to figure out what I want to accomplish in the coming year. I usually scribble down a 3-5 page list and then feel overwhelmed because I know I won't be able to accomplish these things, but I know I will feel like I've failed if I take anything off the list, too.

DO ALL THE THINGS is not the most effective mantra for achieving anything.

So this year I am doing something different: The 30 Day Challenge. Times twelve.

Instead of trying to accomplish a hundred things in the next 12 months, I'm achieving long-term goals 30 days at a time. Each month a new challenge - doing something for 30 straight days (or 29 or 31, depending on the month!). It could be eliminating a bad habit, starting a good habit, or working on a project - but it has to be something that I will do every day for an entire month. And it's working!

Some of the challenges I will share here and some of them I won't. In January I read (from a book) every day and started a new skin care routine. Good for the mind and good for the body. Check and check. And while I won't put the pressure on myself to read every day after January is over, I've set myself up to continue these good habits - to read more and take better care of myself in the coming months.
30 day challenge
I've done things like this before (I like to give up meat for Lent every year), but I'm really excited to do a new challenge each month in 2012. This format really works for me and I'm so much more successful when I have a challenge broken into smaller achievable steps. I can pretty much do anything for 30 straight days, and when I do, I really feel like I've accomplished something. (At the very least, I finished four books this month and now have smoother, healthier skin!)

And if that wasn't enough inspirational cheerleading (gag!) for you, check out Matt Cutts' TED Talk on trying something new for 30 days.

February, here I come!

Monday, January 30, 2012

life list #55: visit a winery/vineyard

virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
It's pretty awesome when you can cross an item off your Life List on your birthday (while getting drunk!). And last month, I did just that when I took a Virginia winery tour on the day I turned 33.

Now, yes I love wine, and yes, I have lived in Virginia most of my life and yes, while Virginia is no California or Washington, it is a fairly decent wine state, so you may be wondering why I've never in my 33 years been to a Virginia winery. The answer is logistics. I'm not a fan of drinking and driving and I'm not a fan of being a designated driver. So getting to a winery without mixing alcohol and automobiles is darn near impossible. We tend to stick to metro-accessible watering holes.

Getting to a winery is a whole lot easier, however, if your boyfriend rents you one of these:
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
Doesn't Larry have the best ideas? Being two days before Christmas, my birthday is extremely difficult to schedule around. Since childhood, I was always disappointed when no one could come to my birthday party or I had to celebrate it in January. But this year a few of my closest buddies took the day off from work to spend the day celebrating with me...and cruising around the Virginia countryside in a limo drinking wine. I'm a lucky girl to have such awesome friends!

The winery tour was amazing! We hit three wineries and a brewery, and it was one of the most fun days of my life (and definitely the best birthday)! To be honest, I really didn't think you could get that drunk from a wine tasting. We frequently go to wine tastings at local wine shops and I've never been the slightest bit tingly afterwards. But if you do three full wine tastings (usually about 8 wines each), a beer tasting, AND have a glass of wine at each winery, you will be drunk. Very very drunk. Which I suppose is an appropriate way to spend one's birthday! Thank goodness for the limo and our awesome driver, whose name I can't remember. (Probably because I was drunk.)

We started the tour at Sunset Hills Vineyard, which was just what you'd expect a winery to look like. It was located in a beautiful old red barn that was built in the 1800s, but had recently been restored by the Amish:
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
I typically strongly prefer red wines, but we all loved the whites at Sunset Hills. Virginia is home to some varietals I'd never tasted, and their Sunset White is a blend of Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier. We came home with several bottles of this wine.

After the tasting, we ordered a cheese and charcuterie basket and ate lunch (and drank more wine) on the mezzanine overlooking the winery.virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
The leftovers from the charcuterie basket are in my bag. "Is that a salami in your pocket...?"
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
Then it was back in the limo...
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011

...and on to stop #2: Corcoran Vineyards. We arrived at an unassuming little house, and when we went inside the tasting room discovered that we were actually in a log cabin built in 1750 - low ceilings, sloped floors, fireplace - could not have been more cozy! Pouring the wines was Lori Corcoran, the winemaker herself - and she was super outgoing, friendly, hilarious, extremely knowledgeable, AND she makes great wine!  Every wine at Corcoran was fantastic and I just cannot say enough good things about this place!
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
But Corcoran is not just a winery. They also have a brewery. This is where things start getting a little fuzzy...
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
They had cute little beers...
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
...and a cute little puppy!
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
"Hey lady, is that salami in your pocket...?"

Did I say things got a little fuzzy? I meant a lot fuzzy. 
Exhibit A:
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
Step 1: Drink lots of little beers! Step 2: Get hiccups.

So we filled up our growlers and then got back in the limo...
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
Our final stop was Breaux Vineyards. I don't remember much of this place except I really had to pee. And the wines were good, too.
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
After our full day of alcohol consumption, the limo driver got us safely home (and even snapped our picture)...
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
...so we could consume more alcohol. Some friends who couldn't make it on the wine tour stopped by, and the celebrations continued into the evening. I'm fairly certain I drank more wine and beer, drunk dialed my mother, and then watched the boys set off various explosives.
christmas eve 2011
virginia winery/birthday tour 2011
Despite the fact that I was hungover all of Christmas Eve, the winery tour was a great time and I can't wait to do it again. I was highly impressed with the quality of Virginia wines and am now a little obsessed with visiting more local vineyards - there are over 200 in the state alone.

That should keep me busy...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

that's what he said . #7

As I was going through some papers as part of my decluttering effort, I found a scrap on which I had jotted a perplexing message. I finally remembered that it was something Larry had said to me in his sleep, and I wrote it down so I could confuse myself later remember it.

Larry: I bruised my fiduciary gland!


Friday, January 27, 2012

collections | on my nightstand

There is a ridiculous amount of stuff on/in my nightstand:
collections | on my nightstand
collections | on my nightstand
collections | on my nightstand
collections | on my nightstand

  • travel jewelry case by Fossil
  • eyeglass case and prescription glasses
  • mango and pomegranate body scrub by Dress Green
  • 3 Ace Bandage clips
  • red puppy iPhone case by kokopenguin


  • ceramic egg crates and earrings (most of which came from various Etsy sellers)
  • Life Magazine: 100 Places to See in Your Lifetime
  • mint & vanilla snow day body cream by Dress Green
  • bowl (that previously held all the crap in the right column!)
  • wine tasting menu from Corcoran Vineyards
  • earbuds
  • 2 business cards from our vacation at Luminhaus
  • earrings and necklace
  • business card from a jeweler who sized my finger a few years ago
  • ticket stub from Rachel Getting Married, which we saw in the theater 1/24/09 (and which I evidently saved for THREE years because the stub says RACHEL on it)
  • 2 swizzle sticks from the lounge on the 95th floor of John Hancock Center in Chicago
  • contact lens case
  • travel-sized lotion pilfered from a hotel
  • matchbox from 2941
  • 2 candy wrappers
  • rusty nail clippers
  • 3 Philipine coins, 1 U.S. penny, and 1 Canadian dime
  • a paperclip, a stamp, a sticker that says SQUEEZE ME
  • an unidentifiable half-disintegrated pill (Pepto?)
  • 3 Lifesavers and 1 Starlight Mint in various stages of melting
  • earplug case
  • a collection of buttons from clothes I probably no longer own
  • a tag cut out of a shirt
  • yellow zippered bag

  • iPad pillow stand by Dog Named Banjo (Isn't that the best shop name?!)
  • case for an old MP3 player
  • To Do list written on an index card
  • fuzzy aloe-infused socks
  • tag from a hot water bottle
  • receipt from Old Navy from May 2011
  • ceramic necklace by Kim Westad
  • 8 lip balms (1 Burt's Bees and 7 from various Etsy sellers)
  • 4 postcards from New River Gorge
  • colorful notepad
  • user's manual for my Nikon D7000
  • silver washi tape
  • sleeping mask (Never used this in my life and no idea where it came from! I think Larry got it on an international flight and it somehow migrated to my nightstand.)
  • tissues and modern tissue box cover by Yokomono Studio

PHOTO #4  

Doesn't everyone have 31 books on their nightstand?
Currently Reading: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

collections | an introduction

I'm so excited to introduce my new photo series: Collections. Despite my battle with clutter, I am not an intentional collector - I don't save stamps or bottle caps or souvenir spoons. But I realized that everyone has unintentional collections of things - whether it's as simple as a stash of paper clips on your desk, a stack of books next to your bed, or a pile of CDs in your glove compartment - all of these things are collections. These are the things I will explore with my new photo series.

I've been cleaning out boxes and drawers as part of my January cleaning and it's really made me think about things. What items are important to me? What's worth keeping? What do Larry and I have collections of? Why do we accumulate these things?

There are some things that we are proud to own: we have a substantial collection of books and CDs. I guess you could say that we collect recipes and spices. I'm fine with owning all these things because reading, music, and food are three things that Larry and I are passionate about.

Come to think of of it, we also collect music posters. We have eight hanging in our library (which is the room that also houses our books, CDs, and recipe binders/cookbooks). We have more rolled up in tubes that we aren't sure what to do with.

I also collect postcards. And I have an accidental coin collection that accumulated from my travels in Europe as a college student. I own a ridiculous amount of lip balm and gloss - not something I intended to collect, but something I just happen to own a lot of. I guess you could say I collect photo files, since there are probably 40,000 on this computer. That's a problem. I might be a hoarder of image files. Or more likely - just too lazy to go through them.

Then there are unintentional collections - crinkled up receipts, pennies, and pieces of melted gum that accumulate in the bottom of my purse. Balls of dog hair on the stairs (ew). And I must say, we have quite a collection of dog poop in our yard...

Anyway, these are the things I will explore in my photo series (ok, maybe not the dog poop) - collections of things, whether they are a collection because they are similar items or because they are a group of things that happen to occupy the same area (a purse, a desk, a glove compartment).

This project will explore the aesthetics of composing the items (similar to Things Organized Neatly) and will also reveal something about me since I always find it's interesting to learn what people keep in their bag, on their desk, etc. I guess it's sort of like peeking in someone's medicine cabinet - though I've never done that, and also, our bathroom doesn't have a medicine cabinet, so I can't share what's in ours!

As a bonus, I hope this little experiment will make me think about what's worth keeping and what I can get rid of. (I can already tell you that I don't need to spend money on any more lip balm for at least the next two years!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

confessions | on hoarding and decision-making and keeping it real

our messy house
I originally started writing this post as an introduction to a new photo series I'll be featuring on my blog: Collections. The new photo series isn't about my urge to hoard things, it's really about photographing collections of ordinary items around my house - things that I don't even realize are collections until all the items are together in one place. 

While writing this post that was supposed to be about collections, I ended up getting carried away analyzing my urge to hoard things and how owning extra stuff clutters up not just my home, but my life, and my ability to make decisions and be productive.

The post below really has nothing to do with my photo series, and to be honest, it makes me seem a bit wacko. Since it wasn't relevant to my photo series, I thought about deleting it, but realized it's a subject worth addressing. I know I'm not the only one who struggles with owning too much stuff. While Larry and I joke that we're hoarders, don't worry, we don't have a stack of dead cats in our basement. (Ok, we don't have a basement. But we do have an attic, and I'm 100% certain that it is completely free of cats, dead or living.) Our house is comfortably lived in, we entertain (just ignore the collection of dog hair!), and the messes are hidden behind closed doors. (Please don't look in the guest room! No really! Don't go in there! Wait, you want to stay (gulp) overnight? Do you mind...sleeping on the couch?) Everyone has a room like that, right? (Oh yeah, don't look in our closets either. And for the love of God, DO NOT go in the attic.)
our messy house

I'm happiest and most productive when my home is organized, minimal, and clutter-free.

My home is never organized, minimal, and clutter-free.

our messy house
We own a LOT of CDs. Most of them are not in their cases.

Despite my best intentions to rid my house of junk and live simply, clutter-free living is not in my nature. I am constantly battling my instinct to save, to keep, to hoard. "I might need this someday," "I paid good money for this," "But it still works," "Someday I might be skinny enough to wear this again," and so on. I didn't live through the Great Depression, so I have no societal influences to explain my urge to save that aluminum can (But I could make it into a candle holder! Or a flower pot!), that bit of rope (Wrap a present with it!), or those old stumps in the backyard (I had the best intentions of transforming them into gorgeous garden stools!).

our messy house
In our mudroom, aka Mt. Trashmore. 
Things to note: Paint cans left by the previous owner. Grungy towel for wiping dog paws. Overflowing recycling bins.

There are catalogs to go through, old clothes that need to be donated to charity, and don't even get me started on the scraps of paper and post-it notes, all scrawled with To Do lists, cryptic sketches, middle-of-the-night ideas, and websites I need to check out, etc.

our messy house
Dishes that refuse to wash themselves. Jerks.

our messy house
Papers that refuse to file themselves. Assholes.

I'm well aware of my shortcomings and am always trying to remedy them. Yes, I've read about clutter-free living, clutter-reducing boot camp, purging your possessions down to 100 things (that's just crazy talk) and yes, I know it's best to only have useful and and beautiful items occupying the space in my home. A noble cause, but that's easier said than done!

our messy house
In the linen closet: a collection of beach towels.

When we bought our house and I moved out of my apartment, I used the move as the opportunity to get rid of lots of crap. And boy did I purge! But still, there were some things that I couldn't decide on, so they got packed up, and 3 1/2 years later, those items are still in boxes. Clearly, I didn't miss those things and it is unnecessary for me to keep them. But yeah, they're still in the attic.

our messy house
The top of my vanity. Disgraceful. 

I've found that the problem that bogs me down most in my daily life is decision making. I am the most indecisive person in the world. I can't decide what to wear, where to eat dinner, or which book to read next. When I buy something new, I spend hours researching ALL the different options and comparing prices before I make my purchase. It's a major character flaw. It's annoying - to others and to me. The internet, which makes millions of options for everything available to everyone, does not help with this problem. Information overload is not a good thing for me.

In analyzing this flaw of mine, I've found that my problem with decision-making comes down to having too many choices. When I'm on vacation and I have only 5 outfits to choose from, getting dressed in the morning is a breeze. When I'm at home and I have a whole closet full of clothes (plus a couple of laundry baskets with clothes that never got put away, plus a dryer full of clothes that haven't been folded yet), the decision of what to wear can be paralyzing. That's lame. But true.

our messy house
Pile of clothes. Location: On a chair.
So in attempting to declutter and simplify my life, I am striving to reduce the number of choices I have, so that daily decision-making isn't such a challenge for me. (Don't even get me started on major life-altering decisions. Baby steps, please, baby steps!)

Do you see the catch-22 here? I need my space to be clutter-free to help me make decisions and stay motivated, yet to eliminate the clutter I have to make decisions as to what to keep/toss/donate and be motivated enough to go through it all. Oy.

our messy house
Junk mail in its natural breeding ground: Our dining room table.

our messy house
Our freezer (stocked with Unidentified Frozen Objects) and fridge (Hey, who wants a 3 month old rotten peach???)

For someone who has packratting in her genes (my mother can't visit without bringing me a newspaper clipping, some coupons, and some sort of trinket, while my dad's house is littered with piles of books, newspapers, and magazines), and a creative personality (all artists are messy, right?), I fear this will be a lifelong struggle for me. Some sources of clutter I've conquered over the years (Do I really need 17 kinds of hair gel when the one that works best is from the drug store? Just say no to the expensive stuff they try to sell you at the salon!) and some I just cannot beat (I try to open up the mail over the recycling bin, but still it piles up on every flat surface in the house. Damn you, junk mailers! Also, do I really have to do the dishes EVERY day?!).

CLEAN ALL THE THINGS?! (I don't wanna!)

our messy house
Dog snot on the window. Easily remedied in 15 seconds with a bottle of windex. Easily messed up again in 15 seconds with a dog nose.

I've recently been going through some of those "still packed three years later" boxes as part of a goal to start the year organized. New Year's cleaning if you will. It's a gargantuan task. And some of the things I've found in those long forgotten boxes are what inspired the Collections photo series. But really they reveal a bigger issue: Larry and I are pigs. And we might need professional help.

our messy house
My studio. This room should be condemned. OMG.
(I took the pictures in this post several months ago because I had planned to do a photo post that was a confession of sorts - all the little messes in my houses artistically photographed out of focus - the piles of laundry, the dirty dishes, the shoes by the back door...all the things that show we're real people. I've seen other bloggers do the same and always think it's so refreshing to see that bloggers are real and imperfect. I think there's so much pressure for bloggers to portray their lives and homes as perfect, so here's my dirty not-so-little secret: we're messy. Oh yes, we are.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

around here: december + january

shark vs dummy
My blog has been pretty lame lately. Come to think of it, so have I.

Where did the last few months go? December was a blur and now January is almost over and I'm left with a feeling of WHA HAPPEN?!?! There's been a lot of movie watching, book reading, and puppy snuggling lately, but no weekend adventures, no changes to the routine. I'm in survival mode, hunkered down and trying to make it through winter. Yes, I'm in serious need of a vacation. And make it somewhere warm, please!

I was going through some random photos from the last few months that I never shared here as a reminder that the last few weeks did indeed happen and that there were moments of downtime that occurred in between the holidays.

In December and January, we...

greyhound dog

Loved twinkle lights:
red lights

Celebrated Christmas seven times:
me and dad
christmas 2011
larry and sheila
tuckered out

price tags
va and md

Played with balls:

Played with sharks:

Had a bit of snow:
ice on the roof

Messed up my desk:
desk mess

Hoarded stuffies:
stuffie hoarder

Ate deep dish potato gratin:
deep dish potato gratin

Bit the mail:
mail biter

Bit ice:
gravy likes ice

And yes, finally packed up Christmas:
christmas boxed up

And now time to move on. Time to break out the camera again, and the sketchbook. Time to make new things. Time to get moving, to accomplish things, to socialize.

(Time to get off my ass!)