Wednesday Wordplay: Have a Diverting Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Just popping in to wish you a lovely longgggg weekend. If you do have to go to work on Thursday or Friday, first off, thank you! I know many people in the medical field, retail, and just people who don't get vacation days need to go in to the office. I am thankful! I also hope it is at least a slow day at work for you.

Here are a few words for you to word-drop over the turkey to impress all of your extended family members:

ethereal - adj. light, airy, or tenuous.

Aunt Charlotte, laughing with her nieces and nephews, always had an ethereal glow about her.

diverting - adj. serving to divert; entertaining, amusing.

Have a diverting Thanksgiving celebration! [Okay, I admit, no one ever says that. But it is more interesting than "happy." Also, it reminds me of the Spanish word for "fun" - divertido!]

eldritch - adj. eerie; weird; spooky.

I don't want to sleep at Aunt Hazel's eldritch house for Thanksgiving. It's practically haunted!

gnostic - adj. pertaining to knowledge.

My gnostic older sister Joyce is always full of fun facts at the Thanksgiving table. [haha, in real life I'm more known for saying things like "Wait. Is Nepal a country or a city?" but you know, this is my blog so, I can be gnostic in my imaginary online persona if I want to ;)]

Also, don't you think words with silent g's just bring a little something extra to the table? I'm sure the gnomes agree.

laconic - adj. using few words; expressing much in few words; concise.

I hated sitting by cousin Joe. He added nothing but laconic replies and condescending looks to the conversation.

a snapshot from a walk this morning!
(Photo credit goes to Stephen, you can see me in the ear muffs in the background :)
Stephen and I off to Pittsburgh to spend some time with the parents and the littlest sister (we will miss the other two!) Plans include eating Thanksgiving dinner, exploring some areas of Pittsburgh, and learning to make homemade baklava from a friend! I might even bake that homemade pie I've been meaning to make from my 101 in 1001 list, but I can't make any promises :)

I probably won't be back to blogging until Monday - but be sure to follow along on instagram for snapshots (like the one above)!

Wishing you all lovely Thanksgivings. I'm thankful for everyone who reads this blog :), my friends and family in my life, my boyfriend, and, of course, my cat!
Tywin is ready for winter with my coat! 

Enjoy your holiday weekends!

p.s. Thanks to the friends who sent word recommendations my way! If you have ideas for WW, feel free to shoot them to me! I'm always looking to learn!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: I read a book on cleaning. Voluntarily.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I am beyond shocked that I read and enjoyed a book on cleaning. But I did!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo was on one of the most bizarre book topics. I mean, cleaning? I don't think I've ever read a single blog post on cleaning, let alone a book! But I'm so glad I read it.

I bought this book for my twin sister, Becky, for her birthday. We are opposite in that she's organized, enjoys tidying, and is not a huge slob. Upon glancing into each of our cars, you would immediately know which twin stole all the clean genes. So, after Becky read and (naturally) loved this book, she recommended it to me. I was skeptical, but went for it.

When you're on an airplane, what else do you do but read? (Or desperately try to convert your seatmate to your religion. This has happened to me. I am (still) not a Jehovah witness, sorry to disappoint.)
The author, Marie Kondo is, quite literally, all the rage in Japan. She's a tidying consultant who travels around Japan (where she's from) and sometimes elsewhere to help her clients take control of their homes (or businesses) in one big special cleaning event using her method. She promises her customers don't "rebound" - and boasts that she has never had a repeat customer! Her passion about tidying and organizing shines through on each page.

It's like if I wrote a book on Tywin.* That passionate! But actually intriguing and applicable.

Marie encourages us to strive for perfection when it comes to cleaning. She breaks it down into 2 big components - discarding and organizing, and emphasizes that you MUST discard first.

But how do you discard things!?! When I was moving in August, it was such a struggle to get rid of random stuff. Don't worry, Marie breaks it down to a science (her science), including the specific order you should sort things. She says:

"Every object has a different role to play. Not all clothes have come to you to be worn threadbare. It is the same with people. Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those special people even more."

The dress you've never worn? It's purpose was to show you what dresses you actually like. Get rid of it. Only keep books that belong in the hall of fame. Marie's rule of thumb for sorting papers? Get rid of everything. Her approach, in sum, is only keep objects that spark joy. Hold each item in your hands and ask, does this object bring me joy? 

I think all my sea shells bring me joy :)
Then it comes to effective storage, or as Marie puts it "the sacred act of choosing a home for my belongings." She recommends not seeking fancy storage solutions, utilizing shoe boxes, storing nothing on sink tops, kitchen counters, or in bath tubs, and never, ever, balling up your socks!

She breaks things down in simple terms, like: "Clutter has only two possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it unclear where things belong." And really just caused me to think about my assumed innate un-tidyness in a whole new way.

And, after using her tried-and-true method, Marie promises that the result is more than a clean house. "The lives of those who tidy thoroughly and completely, in a single shot, are without exception dramatically altered."

She talks of honing your decision making skills with each object, and being able to choose what you want to do with your life, not just your things. She's had clients who have made big decisions -- like totally switching career paths -- after undergoing this process.

What do you think? Will you give a book on cleaning a shot? It could also be a great gift for someone who's tough to buy for. I know spring is the popular cleaning time, but I think the beginning of winter actually makes the most sense - I'm going to be spending a lot of winter time in the warmth of my apartment, so it might as well be tidy. I'm considering giving Marie's method a try - I'll keep you posted!

I hope your "short" week is off to a good start - almost Thanksgiving! :)


p.s. When I was buying this book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever was also recommended to me. Not sure I'm quite there yet, but if de-cluttering is old hat to you, you might be interested.

*Book deal pending, but I'm optimistic.

6 Questions for Life's Most Important Search (for your Signature Scent)

Monday, November 24, 2014

If there's one thing beauty blogs have taught me, it's the importance of signature scents.  Since I am the physical embodiment of outer beauty, it may hard to believe that I often (gasp) leave the apartment without even a hint of perfume.* It's just -- much like my life's calling or, you know, my ultimate purpose -- my signature scent is elusive. And although Walmart and Bath & Body Works filled that gap when I needed a little somethin' somethin' for middle school dances, I have graduated into a world where my sought-after scent is neither easily found nor cheaply purchased.

(To be honest, the second I had outgrown the kid's glitter section at B&BW, a lot of the store's appeal was gone.)
But, no fear, flocks of eager young ladies (or gentlemen) on your belaboring search for the perfect scent! I've put together a fool-proof round of questions to guide you on your quest. Ask yourselves these 6 questions, and you won't be led astray when making one of life's most important decisions:

1. Am I allergic to this perfume? I was spending hours searching for my soul-scent the other day (read: walking quickly through Nordstrom Rack), when I past a Burberry display. I once had a counterfeit Burberry purse hastily purchased on the streets of Manhattan, so I figured, why not give it a spritz? When I started having a sneezing attack on my drive home, I knew who to blame. It doesn't matter how good you smell, if you're sneezing, people will not draw close to you.

2. Will this perfume give me a rash? I've never gotten a rash from a perfume, but I have to assume it's possible. Studies show perfume is basically made from the extracts of exotic flowers, chemicals, animal products, toxic waste, and, you know, poison. A rash is not a far-fetched possibility. Be forewarned and steer clear of rash-inducing sprays. No matter how your nostrils react, a neck rash is never classy.**

3. At least 60% of the time, will it work every time? This one's a given. If the statistics aren't at least as convincing as those infamously stated on Anchorman, the scent is just not worth your time, money, effort, or secret storage closet.

4. When watching ads for this perfume, is anyone clothed? If the ad for your special scent contains predominately clothed beings, is it really worth it? The truly good perfume ads are essentially X-rated. Do you really want to be associated with a scent that encourages modesty, conservative style, or (gasp) platonic relationships? If your scent doesn't draw flocks of possible mates to your door, like ants swarming spilled sour patch kids on the sidewalk, it really doesn't deserve to be called your signature.

5. Does the bottle look more expensive than most things in my home? Everyone knows inner beauty is for amateurs, so do you really want a signature scent that only smells good? Absolutely not. Your scent needs not only to smell good, but also to sit on a mirror tray and make your bathroom look so much better the value of your house increases. 

6. Do I need to take out debt to purchase this scent? Let's be real, if you can afford it, it's probably not good enough to be your scent-mate. Much like if the guy likes you back, could he really be your soulmate? Just as love is only real if it's unrequited and consistently dramatic and difficult, your signature scent is worth the fight. Taking out debt to acquire your perfect scent is not only highly likely, it's highly recommended.

Now that you are guarded with these exceptional questions to light your way, go forth and sample, my friends. 


*and sometimes unshowered.
**a neck tattoo on the other hand? Always classy. I recommend praying hands or an ambiguous Chinese character.

Not That Kind of Girl: My take on Lena Dunham's (controversial?) memoir

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I'll admit, I've never seen an episode of Girls. 

But, much like I've never seen an episode of 30 Rock or The Mindy Project and still read and enjoyed Tina Fey's and Mindy Kaling's memoirs, I thought I'd give Lena Dunham's memoir a go! I'm more of a reader than a watcher, it seems.

 Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl: A young woman tells you what she's "learned" really was all the rage in the blogosphere (including this series of Ask Lena videos), with lots of hype preceding its October release. This coincided with my birthday (like TS 1989 did), so I was gifted it, along with Mindy's and BJ's books. (Thank you!)

I call this picture "The cleanest my nightstand has ever been." (thanks for the candle, Klaire!)
I read Mindy's first, then dove into this one. They are very very different! Lena breaks her series of essays into 5 sections: Love & Sex (67 pages), Body (42 pages), Friendship (32 pages), Work (39 pages), Big Picture (57 pages).

The page numbers are telling: much like an HBO show, there's a lot of sex in this book, and if you don't want to deal with that, then don't read it. Sex seems to sneak it's way into the other chapters as well. I thought it was fine she included it, obviously, it's her book, she clearly thinks it's an important part of her life. There's just....a lot. For example, she recounts the same college sex scene twice from two different perspectives, which is a little disconcerting because it was not a fun-to-read passage the first time around.

However, I understand not everyone's goal when writing is "make it fun to read." Her work certainly makes you think. Still, I was a little relieved when Section 1 concluded, as it was starting to feel a tad redundant. (She's a talented writer, just want to keep it real!)

The inside cover art is kaleidoscope-cool.
My favorite passages came from the Friendship and Big Picture sections.

From the Friendship Section:

"There are two types of women in particular who inspire my envy. The first is an ebullient one, happily engaged from morning until night, able to enjoy things like group lunches, spontaneous vacations to Cartagena with gangs of girlfriends, and planning other people's baby showers. The bigger existential questions don't seem to plague her, and she can clean her stove without ever once thinking, What's the point? It just gets dirty again anyway and then we die."

I couldn't agree more - to make it through a week (or a day?) without some morbid question passing through my mind - what would it be like!? To be able to accept things as "so so fun!" and not get caught up in all the ways it you know, actually, could have been better. She goes onto confirm these women are smart, not flighty or superficial, and she's jealous.

From the Big Picture Section, from a chapter entitled Is This Even Real? Thoughts on Death and Dying:

"I wish I could be one of those young people who seems totally unaware of the fact that her gleaming nubile body is, in fact, fallible. (Maybe you have to have a gleaming nubile body to feel that way. Beautiful self-delusion: Isn't that what being young is all about?....But I am not one of those young people. I've been obsessed with death since I was born."

I, personally, have not been obsessed with death since birth, but I have struggled with NOT being able to be as "carefree" as we're "supposed" to be in our youth. Lena's chapter is incredibly thought-provoking, it might be my favorite one in the whole book.

She also shares stories from her time in therapy (starting in childhood), sleep-away camp, lots of college tales, and growing up with her younger sister, Grace, who eventually came out of the closet. There is lots of controversy surrounding her relationship with her sister (just Google it if interested; it's NSFW.) Having read the whole book, I find the accusations (based on the book alone), way over-the-top. That is not the story Lena told in the book. It seems like people picking and choosing passages to try to weave a narrative that is, in fact, not there. That's just my opinion - perhaps there's tons of mounting evidence proving the accusation, I just don't think it's fair to accuse her based on a narrative seemingly woven by people with cruel intentions.

That being said, I was an English major in college, so I understand that everyone can read and interpret books in many different ways. We weren't able to check Emily Bronte's twitter feed to see what she REALLY meant by this Heathcliff dude, we just interpreted.

In all, I think almost all of Lena's essays are bursting with emotion, some are quite thought-provoking, some convey an very upper-class side of living that I had trouble relating to, the sex ones get redundant, the friendship ones were great (I wish there were more!), and I would have liked more details about her work and success with Girls as well. But, as I said, that's just my interpretation. To form your own, you'll have to read it for yourself!

Wednesday Word Play: Put that in your pipe and smoke it

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hey homies, I'm back for another rendition of Wednesday Wordplay, which celebrates my love for words and my limited vocabulary. Killer combo. :)

I hope you enjoyed last week's work hard, complain harder feature and have been writing screeds that threaten to defenestrate your insufferable co-worker who's an inveterate kool-aid drinker and also such a milquetoast. Phew.

This week I thought I'd focus on a few idioms and their origins. With a pipe theme, because Frosty. (Snow is currently falling out my window.)


1. Pipe Dream: noun. Any fantastic notion, hope or story.

"This might be a pipe dream, but I'm hoping my blog gets 1 million followers after I share the origin of pipe dream." ;)

Most people know what this means, but where'd the phrase come from? I found out from a friend this past weekend while bowling and verified it on the link above.

TANGENT: Fun fact: I once bowled a 9. I was in eighth grade, and I was trying. This weekend I bowled (wait for it)....a 28. In the first game. Then, in the second game I bowled a 104. I'm consistently incredibly inconsistent when it comes to bowling.

A pipe dream is alluding to the dreams produced while smoking an opium pipe. Who knew? I've never smoked opium, but apparently I unknowingly reference it.*

You can buy these on Etsy. Perhaps interesting Q-tip holders?

2. Down the Pipe: This actually is not the correct idiom that means "soon to happen or appear." It's actually Down the Pike, where "pike" refers to "turnpike" (aka a big highway). However, "pike" isn't really used anymore, outside of this idiom, and "pipe" obviously is. So, you hear both, and see both idioms in writing. For every one published example of "down the pipe" there are two "down the pikes" according to this useful post on the grammarist.

So, in short, you could say "Next week, we have some exciting happenings coming down the pike" or  "Next week, we have exciting happenings coming down the pipe"and, I mean, everyone would get what you mean either way.**

But technically, stick with "pike" if you want to pay homage to the idiom's origin.

3. Pipe Down: slang, to stop talking or be quiet.

"Hey Tywin, pipe down! I'm trying to watch Game of Thrones."

This one has a nautical origin. On ships, a boatswain's pipe was used to give signals. "Piping down" was the specific signal dismissing men from duty for the day, and telling them to go under the docks and retire for the night. (Sources: onetwothree.)

Well, that's all for this week! I hope you enjoyed learning a little history of some commonly used phrases :) The more you know, right?

Happy Hump day, you guys! One week and one day until Thanksgiving!!

Haha! *image

p.s. Tune back in tomorrow for a book review! Yep, another memoir.

*Reminds me: there is a ton of opium smoking in The Good Earth. As I said back in July, I really recommend that book! (for more than just the opium. Haha.)

**I have to assume you're referring to Thanksgiving.

Mom's Meals: French Dip Sandwiches

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I decided to share a quick crock-pot meal with you all this week, because the weather outside is frightful. (It snowed over the weekend and it's 10 degrees in Madison as I type! Thank goodness for furnaces and sweaters.) Stephen and I only have one underground spot between us, and I was the lucky one over the frigid weekend, so yesterday started with jumping his car before work. Gift idea: any new drivers need jumper cables. I got them one year for Christmas, and they've been infinitely useful. Especially since I live in the arctic tundra.

It's comforting to know that one by-product of cold weather is warm meals taste that much more delicious.

I believe my grandma taught my mom to make French Dip Sandwiches. It's great to make for large groups, because who doesn't love a hearty sandwich? And, in true crock-pot glory, it's plug and play. Or set and stay. Whatever odd two-verb phrase you want to use to celebrate laziness works here, really.

~2lb Eye of Round Roast
1 can beef consommé
1 zesty Italian seasoning packet
1 au jus gravy packet
Kaiser Rolls

As you might be able to tell from the above ingredients, salt plays a critical role in this meal. (It's the first ingredient in the Italian seasoning packet and the au jus gravy packet) So, if you're on a low-sodium diet, I'd recommend getting off that diet and then making this!

For those of you who (like me) didn't know how any of those ingredients looked initially.
1. Pour beef consomme, Italian seasoning packet, and au jus gravy packet into crock pot. Stir.
2. Add Eye of Round Roast.
3. Let cook for ~4-6 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high. (depending on how well done you want your meat cooked)
4. Slice the roast and return it to the juices in the crock pot.
5. Serve on rolls as sandwiches and use the sauce for dipping.

You can add cheese if you want, but this is actually so good I usually just eat it cheese-less!* I'd love to hear what you think after trying it! Or if you have any easy go-to crock-pot meals. Go forth and crock pot, homies.


p.s. More crock pot fun: my favorite chili.

*And I have a theory that almost any meal can be improved with cheese. So the fact that I eat this without cheese is quite the compliment to the stand-alone glory of the french dip sandwich.

Why I think it's okay to toss out your life plan

Monday, November 17, 2014

I have a friend, I'll call her L. So, L was dating a guy, I'll call him J. So L and J go on 9 or so dates and things seem to be progressing nicely. L has her own dreams, and is working towards a graduate degree. J already has his PhD and a house. At slightly different life stages, but agree on most things, laugh when they're together, all the feel-good beginning of relationship stuff.

When, on date 10, J drops this bomb: 

"I just want to get married and have kids soon, and you're not there yet, [with your graduate degree that will take 2.5 more years] so, yeah, I don't see us working out." and that's that. He breaks up with her because she doesn't fit into his "life plan." J is a nearly 30-year-old man with a PhD! And he breaks up with her on behalf of his IMAGINARY plan not matching the projected near-future of her life. As if his chances are so high he's just going to stumble upon a nubile lady-in-waiting eager to give birth at the drop of a hat.

I couldn't disagree with J's outlook more. Here's my stance: Life isn't about finding someone's whose "plan" matches your "plan." Life is about finding people you care about and building your plans around them.

You can't just make a plan and fill people into slots. Husband? Check. Best Friend? Check. Child? Check. Your life is not a project plan. You're dealing with people. Living, breathing, changing beings. Who don't solely exist to be forced into your timelines.

Although I did the standard high school > college > job thing that is common, at least in this era in the United States, I never concocted some grand plan for my life outside of that.

I am not (and have never been) one of those people who says "..and I want to get married by the time I'm 24 so I can start having kids when I'm 26 and be done having kids when I'm 30." or whatever. You know what I'm talking about, obviously. A lot of people do it! I just never did. 


Regardless, many people map this stuff out, including our aforementioned J, and I want to know: is it comforting? Or stressful? I think it sounds overwhelming! I'm reminded of Van Zant's Help Somebody where they twang "And if you want to hear God laugh tell him your plans." 

(Tangent: I was a huge country fan in high school. I saw Tim, Faith, Toby, Kenny, Luke, and Keith in concert. Yes, I'm assuming if you're a country fan you don't need last names and if you aren't you don't care.)

If you have grandiose, detailed life plans, I just fear you're probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Maybe it's the ex-Project Manager in me, but things take longer than expected, people let you down, and there are so many outside variables you can't predict it seems almost silly or arrogant or both to map out your life as if you have complete control over it. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for goals. (Example A: 101 in 1001 list) But that's very different than a "master plan" for life (which I decidedly don't have.)

I think it's much more important to prioritize the important people in your life, and not to worry about missing the alleged "milestones." If you would have told me when I was 20 that at age 26 I'd be living in Madison, Wisconsin with my boyfriend and a cat there is no way I would have believed you. A CAT?!? This is preposterous.*

But life is life. It ebbs and flows and moves along regardless of your plans for it. Days happen whether or not you plan them out. Minutes pass with and without back-to-back hourly meetings.** People who you thought would be with you forever suddenly leave. People who you never would have guessed stick around. And I just think you might miss out on some pretty great people if you move through life with blinders on, prioritizing a so-called "plan" rather than the people who happen to come into your life. I'm looking at you, J.

So, if you're being held back by some detailed milestones creeping up on your life, and you're starting to worry about missing your dates, here's my advice: get rid of your plan. You can live without it. You may even live better.


*Mike Birbiglia voice.
**One of the strangest part of not having a full time job anymore is the lack of meetings. And how time passes by just the same.

Weekly Favorites: Warm Weekend Wishes

Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Friday! After a fun trip home to Pittsburgh last weekend, I'm excited to spend this weekend hanging out in Madison. And by hanging out I mean "bundling up in excessive layers and finding my scarves, mittens, and hats" cause baby, it's cold outside. (And snowing!) (I'm not sure which emotion that exclamation point represents.)

Wishing you a relaxing weekend! Seven fun links as you watch the clock at work this Friday (I'm always looking out for inveterate time-wasters):

1. I've always loved Mark Twain quotes. This one is my recent favorite. (For obvious reasons.)

2. Read Harry Potter to avoid ER trips! Expecto Patronum means "I await a protector" in Latin! And 23 more facts about everyone's favorite series wizard in this John Green video from mental floss. (My youngest sister and I agree that the last one is the cutest!)

3. "The expectation for women to get married in their 20s is completely tired and outdated" says this Elle article on why millenials are waiting to wed.

4. "A Healthy Sense of Leisure" is one of the Pope's top ten tips for becoming a happier person.

5. One of my dear friends lost a college friend to suicide. Her parents started a foundation in her honor. Their powerful video encourages people to break the stigma around mental illness. (and shares this startling fact: there are twice as many suicides each year as homicides.)

5.  Twin Love: Adopted Twins Separated at Birth, Reunited on Facebook (proving all isn't wrong in the world of social media.)

6. This Isabelle Allende TED talk is part hilarious, part sad, and all thought-provoking.

7. Underrated* throwback rap song of the week. (what's up fresh, it's our turn baby.)

A snap from a Pennsylvania hike with the family last weekend.
Or as I like to call it: The End of the Fall as We Know It.
Have a delightful weekend - and stay warm!


*I'm not actually sure how highly this song was rated. But it couldn't possibly be rated high enough for me to say it was NOT underrated. 

Wednesday Wordplay: Work Hard, Complain Harder

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I have a confession to make: I am incredibly self-conscious about my limited vocabulary. I actually never really worried about it until about half-way through my 3-year career as a software implementer (being an English major in college didn't phase me.) Until my job, I had never met so many people with such expansive vocabularies. Sure, there were a few co-workers who "word dropped" aka intentionally used a bigger word than necessary to flaunt (or somehow prove) their alleged intelligence. But not most people. Most of my co-workers just naturally spoke at a much higher reading level than I do.

Someone saying "I made an ostensibly innocuous change in the system that ended up corrupting thousands of records" was commonplace.*

These sentences had me scrambling to google words that I didn't know how spell. I do the same thing when I read - constantly googling words to get definitions. I then screenshot the words. My phone (out of storage!) is filled with words I don't know, that I'm trying to learn. I have to choose which screenshot to delete every time I want to take a cat picture.

Life truly is full of difficult choices, you guys.

When Tywin hears the vacuum in the hallway. All business.
But I haven't really been retaining much, and I want to prove that even though I'm now on the wrong side of 25 I'm still capable of learning words. (Especially since I'm aspiring to be a writer - my vocabulary bothers me a lot!) I know if I blog about words I'll remember them. I essentially remember every sentence I've ever typed on this website. I can quote blog posts I wrote nearly 4 years ago.**

So, this Wednesday Wordplay series is for me to learn, but if you want to follow along, you may learn something too! Just don't make fun of me if my words are SO easy that you can't believe I need to learn them. Baby steps! We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I'm really good at getting lost in cities and complaining about business travel, for example.

This week's theme: words to improve your complaints about work. We all know part of having a job is complaining about said job. These five words will help you relish in complaining (just remember to complain out loud amongst friends not online in writing amongst potential employers.)

1. Insufferable: adjective. Not to be endured; intolerable; unbearable.

Don't say "That meeting sucked" say "That meeting was insufferable." Your co-worker who is so rude you can't stand being around him isn't a moron. He's an insufferable moron.

2. Inveterate: adjective. 1. Settled or confirmed in a habit, practice, feeling, or the like. 2. Firmly established by long continuance, as a disease, habit, practice, feeling, etc.; chronic.

Is your boss a misogynist? No, he's an inveterate misogynist. (I've never had a misogynistic boss who was stuck in his ways, but if I did, he would deserve this powerful adjective.) Timmy has the inveterate habit of oversleeping and coming in late to work.

3. Screed: noun. 1. A long discourse or essay, especially a diatribe.

Google says "a long speech or piece of writing, typically one regarded as tedious." ( and Google don't exactly matched up.)

(Note: this word also has many alternate definitions regarding Building/Construction, but I don't care about those ones.)

Did anyone read that screed the boss emailed us yesterday? The meeting only got worse when Tony launched into a political screed that was totally off-topic.

4. Milquetoast: noun. 1. A very timid, unassertive, spineless person, especially one who is easily dominated or intimidated.

If John wasn't such a milquetoast he wouldn't get so much work dumped on him.

5. Defenestrate: verb (used with an object). 1. To throw (a person or thing) out of a window.

Susan's presentation made me want to defenestrate my laptop. Alex's presentation made me want to defenestrate him.

That's all for today! I hope complaining about the work week just got a little more enjoyable. :)


p.s. Since complaining about work is a universal bond (like smiling), I wrote this piece for Thought Catalog: The 5 Types of Annoying People in Meetings

p.p.s. "Complain Harder" Image above from unspirational instagram - follow along for a good laugh. Cat pic from my instagram - follow along for a good cat picture!

p.p.p.s. I can't believe how worried I am about using a word incorrectly in those sentences :) Just let me know, I'm obviously just trying to learn!

*For legal reasons, I should say that just the large, impressively spoken words are common place, not the record corruption.
**But I don't because I get that no one cares. :)

Mom's Meals: Honey Mustard Chicken

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Today I'm sharing with you another one of my mom's recipes that is obviously awesome (I mean, do you expect anything less when you come to this little corner of the internet?) but here are reasons to validate aforementioned awesomeness:

1. You only need 5 ingredients.
2. You probably already have some of these ingredients
3. These ingredients are SO easy to find in the stores if you don't have them!

Everyone knows (read: I adamantly believe) that grocery shopping is difficult.* So, when you have to track down cream of tartar or french fried onions amidst aisles of chaos it's just like COUNT ME OUT. I'll end up in an aisle of cleaning supplies, deodorant, and greeting cards and that's after asking for help. I've been going to the same Target for ~3 years now and can never remember where the Kleenex are. My lack of any sense of direction combined with my general unawareness really comes out in grocery shopping scenarios. 

So, honey mustard chicken = hardly any ingredients = less grocery store induced panic. Here they are:

1 chicken, cut up, or preferred chicken pieces (with bones)
1/4 cup butter, melted (half a stick)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 Dijon-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Isn't it funny how Honey Mustard Chicken has honey AND mustard in it? The first time I made it it was like *ding*ding*ding! A both shocking and obvious revelation. Kind of like when I realized that the first letter in the Disney logo was a "D."

In case you don't know how those ingredients look, I moonlight as a photographer ;)

Honey comes in bear-shaped containers and NEVER expires! (Next blog post: a love letter to honey.)
Ingredients not pictured: chicken & pepper. Even you know what those look like. And most people already have pepper. I say most because one time I was cooking right after I moved to Madison for a job and I had to buy salt. I distinctly remember one of my friends making fun of me saying, "You had to buy salt!?!?!?!" As if no one else ever has ever had to buy salt. And everyone else's apartments (and homes) come equipped with water, heat, and salt. So if you have to buy pepper, no judgment.

Now that you've got you're stuff, here's what you do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place chicken in baking dish and sprinkle with pepper.
Melt butter in microwave, stir in honey and mustard.
Pour over chicken.
Bake uncovered for one hour, basting every 15 minutes until chicken is tender and brown.

the mixture.

covering the chicken and basting is important so it doesn't burn.
Let this be a lesson to you: I basted (which is just pouring the sauce back over the pieces) twice instead of 3 times, and see how it burned a little? Still delicious though!
Let me know what you think! (And if you have any tips on photographing food! I find it much harder than expected.) This is also great leftover, so if you make some on Sunday it's a nice thing to have for lunch at work throughout the week. Enjoy!

p.s. ICYMI: Chicken Stir Fry
p.p.s. My goal for my next recipe is to use something other than chicken, but I can't make any promises.

*Not quite as hard as managing mail, but definitely harder than sitting on the couch and reading memoirs for hours on end.

Jollifiers: T-Shirt Quilt

Monday, November 10, 2014

Do you have a gigantic pile of T-shirts slowly taking over your bedroom? Well, I have an idea for you!

I haven't blogged much about objects on here because it doesn't come naturally for me to muster enthusiasm surrounding a product (I'm all about splurging on experiences though, like, you know, eating dessert) -- but I was recently reading this post over on Cup of Jo that uses the term "jollifier" which are things in your home that make you smile when you see them.* And I liked that concept! So I thought it might be fun to start doing the occasional post on my life's little jollifiers (to share ideas of things you may want or even gift ideas for the holidays.)

So my problem (insane amount of gym tees) officially turned into a "jollifier" (object that makes me happy) this weekend. My mom's friend, Joan, hand made me a quilt with a bunch of my old tee shirts. It turned out beautifully (especially considering what she was working with)! What a great transformation! Here it is:

It's pretty big! On a king bed for these photos. It was made to use on a couch as a throw blanket. A pretty nice weight, not too heavy, not too light. My first custom quilt!

The stitch used is called the "meandering" stitch. Isn't it fun? Free-flowing but still consistent and professional-looking. Learning all this quilt lingo** made me want to pick up a needle and thread. (Of course, I own neither of those things.) Also, sorry to rub in your face that I was the Beaver County Bantam Basketball 5th Grade Champion in 2000 (or Y2K as we cool people called it.) When you accomplish something that special, it needs to be immortalized and bragged about to other lesser-accomplished beings. You wouldn't understand. (Unless you, too, possess a shirt of such splendor.)

Yesterday was not the best day to celebrate my Steelers fandom, but every day is a great day to celebrate my Rock Solid AAU basketball team, my Bucknell Bison-ness, attending Madison elementary school in Iowa, and a mediocre track career at Hopewell High.

I just love it! If you (or a friend/family member) have an overwhelming number of tees, this is a GREAT thing to do with them. It also encouraged me to donate a bunch of old ratty shirts, because the exercise of choosing the shirts for the quilt made me reflect on which were my favorites, and which probably needed to be donated (or turned into rags) years ago.


The quilt took a few months to make (As I said, made by a friend - thanks again, Joan!), but there are many services on the internet that offer t-shirt blankets as well. Most of the internet ones are ~$500 so I'd recommend googling local quilters in your area who offer custom-quilt services. I searched around Madison and quite a few local quilters offer this service. It may be a little too late to order one in time for a Christmas gift, but it's never too early to start the process. If you're thinking of making your own (more power to you!) a few tips: note how she made all squares the same size. She did this by choosing the biggest one, and then adding borders to smaller shirts. Also, she sewed them all together and then sent them to a quilter to do the meandering stitch.

No matter what time of year you get yours, it's such a nice thing to have around the apartment - filled with memories.

The whole thing! 20 T-Shirts. This shot involved standing on a chair (and almost hitting my head on the ceiling fan.)
The things I do for you. ;)

p.s. I just started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo, and she is also all for only having items that "spark joy."

p.p.s. Just so you know, I'm actively reading 3 books simultaneously (so when I said I was reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn that is also true. :) I've been slowly reading multiple books. Strange method, but keeps things eclectic.)

*Term coined by Deborah Needleman who wrote The Perfectly Imperfect Home. (which I haven't read)
**I learned two quilting terms. I forget the other one. But that is certainly one heck of a meandering stitch.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Each year, I forget how close the end of October is to the beginning of November. I know that's an incredibly stupid thing to admit, but mine and Becky's birthday is October 24, and I always forget how close that is to my mom's birthday, November 5! They are actually 12 days apart, but feel like they are a MONTH apart. Time zones, calendars, life. When will I figure any of it out?

So, in honor of my mom's birthday which is TODAY this is a picture of a card I bought my mom for her birthday. Since I haven't been able to manage: a.) addressing the card b.) stamping the envelope or c.) putting it in the mailbox, I am virtually delivering it to her:

I love snail mail, but it's hard.
The bike is in honor of the fact that she and my dad came out to Madison this summer, brought their bikes, and we did the 13 mile ride around Lake Monona together - woo hoo!

Fortunately, my mom has always been very understanding, so I know she won't be mad about my lack of timely mailing. Since I'm going home this weekend, I'll just bring it to her then! Yes, it is easier for me to physically transport myself across the country than put something in the mail. (I wrote this post two years ago on my ineptitude with mail management, and that notion still holds true.)

I feel that getting a cat that literally doesn't listen to a word that I say is probably a teeny tiny glimpse into what it's like to have children, so that makes me even more appreciative for all that my mom has done for my sisters and me over the years. If even pet parenthood is harder than I thought, I can only imagine what real parenthood is like. I mean, it's a safe bet that it's harder than mailing cards on time.

When we were a tiny family of four and I was under 5 feet tall (I have no recollection of those times.)

So, without further ado:


I hope you enjoy your card! (As much as possible to enjoy an image of a card?) I look forward to seeing you this weekend :) We will have to eat a Dairy Queen ice cream cake (if not 2, as we've never had one for our bday this year yet :) ) Love you!


p.s. My mom's mother's day post from 2013
p.p.s. My mom's delicious stir fry recipe
p.p.p.s. the virtual flowers I gave my mom two years ago (I know, I really shoot for the stars. Also, this contains a funny Peoria work travel story I forgot about)

You are a Human Being, Not a Human Doing

Monday, November 3, 2014

When I was going through my bad period of clinical depression in college, I saw a psychologist named Linda once a week for an hour.

In short, I loved the experience. When people talk about "the college experience" I know they mean more "drinking beers in the shower to get ready to go out and pre-game simultaneously" and less "life-changing free psychological services" but, to this day, the latter is a college experience I cherish.*

Now as I said before, clinical depression is generally an internal battle, not a result of external factors. But, obviously, just because you're depressed doesn't mean you're somehow immune to life's annoyances and tiny tragedies.

So, often during my weekly hour with Linda, I'd talk about grades on tests, writing papers, fouling out of basketball games, going to lame parties, not being invited to "cool" parties, and whatever. Regular run-of-the-mill college crap. ("Depressed people! They're just like you!" ;) ) My focus was often on things I was doing, the seemingly impossible ever-growing to do list, and things I thought I was doing poorly.

Linda continuously reminded me:

"You are a human being, not a human doing."

Years later, I still love that simple, yet powerful, sentiment.

We are so obsessed with metrics in our society, that we often see ourselves as equivalent to our "results."

We go from asking ourselves in High School: What's my  SAT score? What's my class rank? What colleges did I get into? 

To College: What's my GPA? What sorority/fraternity did I get into? What's my team's record? 

To Life after college: How much money do I make? Where do I live? What car do I drive? How many likes did my facebook picture get? How many hours do I work a week? 

Not realizing, of course, that the whole time we're asking ourselves all of the wrong questions, shining the light on relatively unimportant things. Our lives are not our resumes; our lives cannot be distilled down to a single sheet of paper.** We are more than a carefully curated list of concrete accomplishments.

We are the little things, the tiny actions, the subtle nuances, the fleeting thoughts, the passing emotions. The growing friendships, the intimate bonds, the open smiles.

Your essence cannot be contained on an 8 1/2 x 11 inches of space, you are so much more expansive than that. And when you leave this world, and someone does try to deduce your entire, dynamic life into a tiny newspaper blurb, it will look nothing like your resume. You will never read an obituary that looks like this:

Ashley was a center starter on her basketball team, she scored 8.9 points per game, got 9.2 rebounds per game, and died with a 3.85 GPA. She left behind a six-digit job offer and a signed lease on an awesome apartment in the most expensive part of town. She was survived by her beloved Audi A-4.

Salaries are not mentioned in obituaries, but people are always mentioned. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, husbands, children, grandchildren, are always mentioned. So why do we define ourselves by what we DO? We need to define ourselves by who we are, and how we love.
So, I'm not a psychologist (neither was Walt), and actually never took a single psychology class in college, so if you want to ignore me, I'm not offended :) But I just think you deserve to cut yourself some slack if your To Do list seems insurmountable, your resume looks disappointing, or your "metrics" aren't up to society's standards. And just be. It's enough. Thankfully, you are a human being, and not a human doing.


p.s. Have you read the Tao of Pooh? From amazon: "While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just is." It's a lovely, quick read.

p.p.s. ICYMI: my blog post on depression turned Thought Catalog article and I'm so excited for all the support from everyone about it :) A little thing, but a big step for me. There are 30+ comments, and most aren't mean. (ha!)

*I'm no prude, but never have I ever drank a beer in the shower. (You can put a finger down.)
**Even if it is pink and scented.