Monday, September 23, 2013

On Creating Your Own Cocoon...

Interior decorating is a small passion of mine. However, I have been hesitant to share my interest on this blog because, basically, I have no impressive home of my own to show you. In fact, I don't even have my own space. What I do have is a room. One bedroom that I share with my boyfriend in a house filled with other people, including the owner, which means I have almost no say in the house's appearance.

While James and I do plan on moving out within a year, it is really important to me that I create a space where I feel at home--a cocoon where I can retreat from the world and feel comfortable and at ease. For me this means that my room be true to me (and to James since the poor guy has to share a space with me). While this isn't always easy when most of your furniture was given to you for free and your decorating budget is minuscule, I have found that it is possible. Of course there are things that I would love to add or change, but for right now, I am waiting until I have my own place and choosing to find solace in the comfortable nest I have created. Here's how I created a room that feels less like someone else's house and more like me:

1. Painted walls. Now I understand that this is not always an option for most renters, especially when they are only renting one room. However, I am really lucky because the owner (James' cousin) was going to paint over the horrible paint job in that room anyway and he let us choose the color. Keeping in mind James' more masculine and simple taste, I chose Benjamin Moore's Coventry Gray for the room. It is a medium gray that actually looks like it has blue undertones in natural light, and it is perfect for making our room feel like a sanctuary. Not only does is separate our room from the off-white color of the rest of the house, it is also a soothing color that helps make our bedroom cozier without being too dark.

2. Small details. Something that a young renter might not think to do is change out the light switch plates and socket plates with ones that suit your taste. James and I chose these simple, metal plates. They didn't cost that much and took very little time to change out. Now doesn't that look so much better than plain, plastic ones? (And yes, that red paint on the switch is from the previous paint job. I told you it was horrible.) We also added simple hooks underneath the switch for hanging our keys. There are prettier ones available, but we were already spending a lot of money when we first moved in. 

3. Real art. While posters and popular prints were my style choice back in college, for my post-college life, I have opted to save my walls for real, framed art, a framed photograph, and my jewelry collection. I don't think anything offers the chance for you to make a room more sophisticated or more you than art. If you feel that buying original art is a little out of your price range, consider making your own like I did or buying prints of artists you like. I would avoid Van Gogh's Starry Night or anything else so well-known as it tends to be overdone. Here is the chance to make your own statement. Etsy is a great source for art and allows you to support an artist while decorating your room. In my room I hung my own original watercolors, which cost me only as much as materials and the frame (Target). The painting over my dresser is one I did in my intermediate class in college, while the others are from my trip to Venice, which make them some of my best souvenirs. 

4. Plants. I feel that plants are really important for creating a space that you can be comfortable in. Not only do they bring life, literally, to a room, but as humans, we crave nature, and being surrounded by plants or other natural elements soothes us and relieves stress. I lived in Arizona for only a few months before I began to crave the comfort of green plants around me, and I have learned that nothing completes a room like something alive. In my room, I have an orchid, an air cactus, and some other green, leafy plants that I bought at a grocery store.

5. Candle. This one is pretty simple. If you can control the scent of your room, you will be able to block out the chaos for the rest of the house and feel more at ease in your personal space. 

6. Bulletin board collage. While I try to make sure that everything in my room is truly me, from my books, to the small tchotchkes on my dresser, to my furniture and bedding, my bulletin board is a way to showcase my interests, photographs, souvenirs and other trinkets in an artistic way. The items that fill this board are things that I might not find ways to display otherwise in my room. While the blanket I choose to display on my bed is high-impact and important for creating the tone of my room (I chose my quilt made by my grandmother and a fuzzy throw over a graphic duvet cover from Target), my bulletin board adds depth and a much more personal touch than those items. In a way it is a treasure chest of memories displayed for me to see at any times, and it helps me feel that the space is mine more than a paint color or anything else. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On the Fast-approaching Fall...

While my friends in California have been begging for the beginning of autumn, I have spent the entire month of August basically dreading the fall. I felt like I hadn't gotten enough summer time in yet. I mean, I haven't used my bathing suit once! However, now that it's September (and last week was blazing hot), I'm actually starting to get excited for fall. It has always been my favorite season, and I always felt that it started way too late in California (Arizona doesn't really have a fall. It goes from summer to winter in about two weeks). I'm really excited to see what the season is like here in Chicagoland (while I visited during Thanksgiving last year, I missed the time when all the leaves were changing. It looked like winter instead, even if it didn't feel like it yet).

Now I'm looking forward to wearing scarves and jackets and cute outfits without sweating. Here's to fall! And I hope it's a long one because the thought of winter coming is scaring me.

Monday, August 26, 2013

On Good Reads...

As I mentioned last post, I am not only an avid reader, but I also work at Barnes & Noble, which means that I probably should be recommending some books to you guys.

Right now I'm reading the Martian Trilogy by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but Sci-fi is not my usual genre. Normally I stick to women's fiction, magical realism, or historical fiction, although I do like to take on different genres every once in a while. For example, I'm really into the Chew graphic novel series. It is so funny and great. I definitely recommend it. Another great read is The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. It is a great book for those who are into magical realism. Fans of the Night Circus seem  to like this one.

But I'm not going to talk about those books today. The one I want to recommend to anyone and everyone is Juliet by Anne Fortier, which I actually read two years ago.

My well-loved copy
Containing all the beauty of Tuscany, the thrill of a good mystery, and the romance of Shakespeare's most famous tragedy, Anne Fortier's novel takes you behind the legend that inspired the tale of star-crossed lovers and into a world where "the plague on both your houses" may still be in effect. A thrilling romance that incorporates history and dazzling storytelling, I would call Juliet a must read for all different types of readers.

This is the description on back of the book:
When Julie Jacobs inherits a key to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy, she is told that it will lead her to an old family treasure. Soon she is launched on a winding and perilous journey into the history of her ancestor Giulietta, whose legendary love for a young man named Romeo rocked the foundations of medieval Siena. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families immortalized in Shakespeare’s unforgettable blood feud, she begins to realize that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is the next target. It seems that the only one who can save Julie from her fate is Romeo—but where is he?
I've only read this book once, but I definitely want to read it again. Picked up on a whim at an airport while traveling for my first post-college job, this book caught me by surprise and served to fill the loneliness I was feeling during this period in my life. And when I finished, I felt ready to fall in love (I met my current boyfriend the following month, which might be entirely coincidental). It's a book that I feel deserves to be recommended because I'm afraid you may never hear of it otherwise. And if you're not a big fan of Shakespeare's story don't worry. While I liked the play, I felt that Romeo and Juliet were two reckless teenagers. However, in this book, my feelings were different, and yours will be too.

If you're looking for a good book to read right now, consider this one, and head down to your local Barnes & Noble today ;)

Friday, August 23, 2013

On Work...

OK, so we ended up not going to the beach last Sunday. I received a lot of work last minute over the weekend, which really ruined our plans. I feel like today is the first day I've truly relaxed in two weeks. But I don't want to complain that I had work because it helped me buy a new shirt today ;)

I don't think I've actually mentioned what I've been doing work wise lately. I've been working part-time as a transcriber for an educational company, transcribing online course videos for the hearing impaired. I also work as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble to supplement that income.

When I'm not working, I have, unfortunately, not been painting as I promised I would. I've mostly been cooking and watching movies, while ignoring the blank canvas sitting next to me on my desk.

My books have also been neglected lately, which is a shame because I'm having a hard time not using my employee discount at Barnes & Noble. My nightstand/bookshelf is being taken over. And the pile just keeps growing.

I've also been trying to cook. I bought the Test Kitchen's Pasta Revolution, and I've already made two dishes. The ravioli tonight was DELISH!

Friday, August 16, 2013

On Hiking, Natural Beauty and Starved Rock...

James and the purple light
This past weekend James and I, along with a group of friends, made the trek to Starved Rock State Park to hike and enjoy the general splendor of nature. It was a nice change of scenery. We got to escape the flatland that Illinois and the Midwest are known for and hike up the bluffs at Starved Rock. It was really beautiful, and all that stunning greenery kept us shaded and cool during our exercise. And exercise it was. I think we ended up hiking eight miles total in four hours, with intermittent sprints when we were being chased by a very determined horse fly.

I'm really glad we got to go. It was nice seeing a little bit more of my new home state, and being around that much nature was really refreshing.

This Sunday: the beach near Navy Pier in Chicago!
Andrew hiking up the incline

Saturday, July 27, 2013

On Cooking... after living 23 years and saying I hate cooking for many of turns out that I may actually like it. I was craving some good food last week and decided to make a dish that my roommate used to make a lot in college, and I was so proud of myself when I was actually able to make it. It felt like such an accomplishment, and it was delicious to boot! So later in the week I made another pasta, and I have more recipes waiting for me to try :)

I was so excited about cooking that I made my own recipe books with an old binder, tape, and calligraphy.
So here are the recipes in case you're in the mood for delicious food. The first one is by Giada de Laurentiis of the Food Network.

Ignore the ugly, green counter
Creamy Orzo

1 pound orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, juices drained
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a heavy large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic, and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cream and peas. Add the orzo and toss to coat. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the Parmesan to the pasta mixture and toss to coat. Stir the pasta mixture until the sauce coats the pasta thickly, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to maintain a creamy consistency. Season the orzo with salt and pepper, and serve.

Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce Over Pasta

1 lb pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (or minced)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 -1 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (grated will not work well, shredded works best!)
salt and pepper
4 -5 scallions (green onions, diced with scissors)

Cook pasta according to directions.
When pasta is half way done, start with cream sauce in separate pot.
Add butter, olive oil and garlic and saute on med-low heat until butter is melted, then add red pepper flakes and saute.
Mix in flour until combined.
Add milk and chicken broth, bring to a boil, lower heat and stir until thickened.
Add parmesan and stir until melted.
Serve over pasta, and top with green onions.
Option: Add cooked, diced chicken.

On this one, I decided to not to add the scallions and added peas instead, which were delicious! I think I'll make a pea pesto pasta later in the week! And I might just have to get myself a good cookbook soon.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Happiness Project: Make More Art

Watercolor of my friend Liane and her bf in front of Mt. Fuji in Japan
My goal for this month is to paint more. Unfortunately I don't really know what to paint, but I want to find something to do at least every couple days...even if I'm painting pictures of mugs and stuff from my cupboard.

I'm learning a lot about my art style, but I'm frustrated with my lack of improvement. I want to be great already!! But the only way to truly get better is to experiment and paint, paint, paint. So this month I want to actually do it! I'm going to be painting a similar scene to this one on canvas this month for my friend Liane. I like canvas so much more than rough watercolor paper, which the one above is on. Canvas is smoother ans more forgiving. Paper won't let you blend something out or try to remove the paint if you mess up. I also have a couple large sheets of cold press watercolor paper that I need to use. That paper is also smoother than rough, but I don't want to waste it on anything trivial. I'm too poor to afford more supplies right now. I need to get out there and take some pictures, so I'll have something to paint. So I guess I'm returning to that other goal; I need to take more pictures!

Sorry if this post was rambly...I am writing it at 1:45 in the morning.

Monday, June 17, 2013

On Father's Day...

This weekend was kind of hard on me homesickness wise. Saturday was my mom's birthday, and Sunday was Father's Day.

While I couldn't be home with  my own family, I did get to have a lot of fun with James' family. Yesterday we even played softball for the second Sunday in a row!

When I was in high school, I hurt my shoulder playing softball, and it has been a really long time now since I've played, so I can't tell you how much fun it is to play again, even if it was just a little pickup game. On a sour note, I kind of hurt my groin on my first run to first base, which teaches me that I need to stretch a little better before next Sunday's game. :)

Friday, May 31, 2013

On Memorial Day Weekend...

Last weekend for Memorial Day, James and I went camping with his family at his family's campground. While it would have been more fun had it been warmer and sunny, it was a fun weekend, with rain and all. Here are a few pictures that I took during our stay. I also posted most of them on Instagram if you want to follow me there. And yes, I'm still getting used to the weather. It is storming out here in the Midwest. 

James didn't want his pic taken, but I think I look good. I call this look camp-chic.

Still playing with my photo app :)

Ditka, the family dog, came too

Camp games. James and I lost pretty bad.

James using his hand-fashioned roasting stick, made with two sticks and leaves.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

On the Wonderful New A Beautiful Mess App...

A Beautiful Mess is a spectacular blog that I love, and this last week they set Instagram on fire with their new photo app. My entire feed has been full of photos enhanced by the fun app, and I completely understand why since I have been having so much fun with it myself. If you have an iPhone and love to add words or doodles to your photos, definitely check it out. Here are some of the photos I have been creating:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On Chicago...

During my disaster of a day yesterday, which served as a perfect example of Murphy's Law, I got to explore downtown Chicago and see some of its many attractions. I would have taken pictures but my phone was dead, which led to me being lost in the city for HOURS, hence the disaster.
Here's some of what I saw in pictures not taken by me of Millennium Park and the John Hopkins building where my interview was:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On Life Lately...

I'm choosing to remain mum on my whole job situation right now since there are a few things currently in the works...fingers crossed everybody!

However, if you've been wondering what I have been up to lately, my life has been pretty good. Just because you're jobless and poor doesn't mean life can't still be fabulous.

Spring has finally arrived in the Chicagoland and it has come in full force. Growing up in California kind of numbed me to everyday, natural beauty in some ways, but suffering through a Midwest winter (OK I was only here for two months. I'm a big baby.) has made me that much more grateful for spring, flowers, sun and spring clothes.

I've been spending a lot of time with James' family lately. When your own family is 2,000 miles away and you have no local friends of your own, hanging out with your future in-laws can be fun (we're not engaged...I'm just saying).

Also, I am so into all things 20s right now. I recently read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which takes place in Paris during the 1920s (it is about Hadley Hemingway during the same period Ernest Hemingway wrote about in A Moveable Feast), and now I am reading The Diviners by Libba Bray, which combines the supernatural with New York in the 20s. This is all preparing me for, you guessed it, THE GREAT GATSBY. After my interview on Friday I am definitely seeing this movie (hopefully in celebration)*. I love Baz Luhrmann, Leonardo Dicaprio and the Great Gatsby. How can this movie go wrong?

*Sorry about all the parentheses today. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Life as a Starving Artist/Writer...

So can I go back and delete this post, where I thought that I would have money for food and stuff while I was looking for a job?

Sometimes optimism bites you in the ass.

I swear I am good at writing and would be a terrific employee. Somebody hire me please.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Things That Make Me Feel Like a Grown-up...

1. Wearing lipstick
2. Paying bills
3. Buying non-fun stuff for the house (e.g. detergent, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, etc)
4. Decorating the house
5. Wearing a blazer

Friday, April 12, 2013

On Being Unemployed...Again

I don't have to tell you that being unemployed sucks. And now it seems that I have spent most of my post-collegiate life stuck in unemployment, or almost half of it anyway.
It has me feeling like a failure... because the person that was so good at school sucks at being employed.

Am I really just not good at anything? Or maybe the problem is that I have no passion for anything...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On Technology Addiction...

There's a great line in the book I'm reading:

"Claire wakes jonesing for data; she fumbles on the crowded bedside table for her BlackBerry, takes a digital hit. Fourteen emails, six tweets, five friend requests, three texts, and her calendar--life in a palm."

Isn't this so true. I know my phone is one of the first things I grab when I get up, or even before I get up. I check Facebook even before I throw off the covers. It's a little unhealthy.

The book is Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter by the way.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

If I'm Being Honest...

Ok so I am freaking out, and I'm not entirely sure why. Aside from my lovely bout of the flu at the beginning of the week, I don't know why I should feel as much anxiety as I have been for the past couple days. It's so bad that I've been having a hard time sleeping, with terrible dreams to top it all off. Plus I've been waking up with stomach cramps from my bad nerves.

The worst part about having this feeling is that I can't really figure out why I am so anxious. I mean I know why I might be, and the truth is that it might be EVERYTHING I am dealing with, not just one thing, that has me feeling this way.

Possible Causes of my Anxiety:
1. Having no real job means I have no real money and no ability to go out and do things.
2. I have no control over the house in which I live. I prefer to stay in my bedroom at this point...don't even get me started on the decorating choices in the living room.
3. Whenever James and I do go out with friends or his family, they are HIS friends and family, which I think makes me feel the need to impress them even more than I might normally feel when meeting people.
4. James' family is experiencing internal drama pretty much all the time.
5. Overall I feel a lack of control over my life and that scares me. I'm scared of what my future holds. I'm scared of how dependent I feel on James right now. I'm just scared.

I know that these feelings are a part of moving to a new city and trying to make a life there, but I have to write about it because the knots in my stomach keep getting worse, and I have to start acknowledging it. I like to pretend that I'm ok most of the time, and it takes its toll. Hopefully writing this down will help some.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On Portillo's...

Ok, so this place is amazing.
I may have to reconsider my stance on Chicago food. This is just the beginning...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Chicago...

So I made it. I still don't have a computer set up so my posts might be limited for a little bit, but once I am up and running, I will let you know all about my new adventures!

P.S. I am experiencing my first snow fall! I can't help but sing "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" he he he he.

Friday, February 22, 2013

On My Newest Painting...

I don't know how I feel about this one yet. It is so unlike anything I've ever done before. It could probably use more work, but I have to give it to its recipient tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On New Job Opportunities...

Yesterday was my last day of work, which gives me the rest of this week to pack and clean the house. Quitting was relatively painless. My boss was gracious and said he would give me a stellar recommendation, and the programmer who handles my day-to-day tasks even passed my name onto a friend who is looking for freelance writers, which sends me over the moon!

I was so afraid of being unemployed again, but with a fall-back freelance writing jobs already on hand and another job becoming available in the future, I don't think I'll have to worry about money too much while looking for a full-time job I will love. It just makes the moving process a little more stress free. It's funny though; I never thought I would be someone with connections. Just goes to show that sometimes everything works out just fine.

I hope I didn't jinx myself with this post...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On In-n-Out...

While people tell me that one of Chicago's best features is its food, I say the absence of In-n-Out means that it can't be THAT good.

I'm trying to get as much of this tasty place as I can before I move. I have had it twice in the past week. Apparently my hunger for In-n-Out overrides my need to save money for the move.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On How Moving Day is Fast Approaching...

Well, I move on February 25th, so I'm trying to enjoy as much mild weather as I can before heading to the freezing temperatures of Chicago.

I'm really excited guys. And really nervous.

I have my moving truck reserved and my brother's plane tickets bought. I am really glad he is flying out to drive with me. Not only will the drive be that much easier, but I am excited to get that time to spend with him before I'm almost 2,000 miles away (He still lives with my parents in San Diego County).

I got a freelance writing gig to keep me afloat while looking for a job. For that, I am grateful.

I have yet to tell my boss I am leaving. I'm not going to lie; I feel pretty guilty. I am the only in-office employee he has at this point and I know he wanted me to continue with him as his business transitions. But I'm afraid to tell him yet because he might let me go as soon as I tell him. I've decided to wait until I get my next paycheck before springing it on him. I hope he will be fine with it.

But I'm excited. I'm excited to be with James again. I'm excited to explore a new place.

I'm not excited to leave Rachel, but we'll be fine. I know it.

Deep breath.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Smashbook: Scrapbooking for the Non-Scrapbooker...

So I have managed to finish one of my goals for this month of creativity/doing what I love. Meet my Smashbook. A twist on traditional scrapbooking, this is a book that comes in a variety of themes. Each page comes already decorated, which is great for me because I think the whole process of a traditional scrapbook seemed overwhelming, which is probably why I've waited a year and a half to even start. The Smashbook allowed me to make my scrapbook into a much more artsy and less-organized affair. I added pictures, souvenirs, journal entries that I wrote while in Venice and even added a few of my watercolors. I am not quite done with my project yet. I want to add pictures of a few more of my watercolors and write ending thoughts in the back of the book. Over all, I like the way it turned out. Smashbooks are a really great way to scrapbook on the go or to do inspiration journals. Every book comes with a great pen/glue stick, and I accented my book with tapes and notepads that I also bought along with it. Check out some of the pages below: 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Happiness Project: Do What You Love

So I wasn't that great at taking pictures during the past month, but I managed to take more than I was previously. I should consider doing a photo-a-day challenge again, but might wait until I get my iPhone back. Mine broke Wednesday, and I am currently using my old AT&T Go Phone from a couple years ago. I do have a little digital camera that I could use, but that is so much less convenient than the iPhone. Oh how technology has spoiled me. I barely remember what it was like to get film developed...

Anyway, for this month I have chosen to pursue the things that I love but don't make time for. Oftentimes I get home from work and work out, eat, watch TV and play around on my computer, shower, read a little and then go to bed. No where in there do I make time for creating, and, to tell you the truth, I don't even read enough for my liking. So for this month, I'm going to make time for being creative.

I already know a few ways I can do this:

1. I will finish the painting I have been working on since before Thanksgiving for a friend.
2. I will finally create a scrapbook of my trip to Venice almost 2 years ago.
3. I will write at least one short story.

Now fitting this in might be difficult, especially since I just picked up a freelance writing job, but I will work to do each of these things this month, amid my working full time and planning to move to Chicago at the end of February. But even if I don't fit something creative in every day, I will work to get it in as much as possible. Creativity is something you must actively practice, and I want to make sure it is a priority in my life.

And on that note, I wanted to link to something I discovered yesterday: Blossom Magazine. I'll let the online magazine's creator describe it herself: 
"Blossom" is a visual journal that's all about loving your life and living it fully and authentically. Filled with loads of creative ideas and inspirations, Blossom celebrates our creative expression and passions; our mantra is "Create Love, Be Kind and Express Beauty"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

On How My Life Revolves Around My Best Friend...

Rachel and Me at a Bridal Show Photobooth
Lately I feel like my life has been revolving around my best friend and her upcoming nuptials. This isn't her fault; I'm probably more excited than she is. In fact, it probably has something to do with how my life has ALWAYS revolved around her. I mean, she's the reason I moved to Phoenix in the first place.

We've always been a bit crazy
On another note, it has been so cold lately. I know I was complaining about the heat before, but I guess I'm just a baby. This cold should help me prepare a little for Chicago.

Dude! Dude! DUDE! Happy Birthday Best Friend!