Caught in a Rainstorm…

From the inside looking out

From the inside looking out

While walking with Ellie through my neighborhood, we were caught in a rainstorm. The skies were overcast and forecasted some fog and maybe a light drizzle. We were not prepared for what we got caught in, with me in some loose pants, a tank top and Ellie just freshly groomed.  This moment happened out of nowhere, and yet seemed so intentional.  Being caught unexpectedly in a rainstorm was on my list this year of 30 Things to do Before 31. How perfectly serendipitous.

So, I did what any rational human would do when caught in a complete downpour.  I just let life happen.  I stopped and focused on all of the feels.

I wanted to experience and be mindful of all that was happening. To listen to the sound of the rain pour down around me, hitting the garbage cans I stood near, the water crash against the leaves on the trees overhead, and the puddles that were quickly forming beneath.  To feel the water slide down my face and soak through my clothes. To feel the weight of my clothing get heavier with each additional second. To feel my hair slowly get plastered to my face and drip on my shoulders. To feel my socks get soaked through my shoes.  To watch Ellie attempt to shake off the water from her coat, only to be disgruntled with more water pelting her.  To capture the moment in its entirety.

That is what I experienced in that rainstorm.  Then something interesting happened, I realized that once you are already soaked that the feeling is, nice. I was able to walk, or run, or stomp through any puddle I desired. I could take my time and smile to the others who were running for shelter or frantically scrambling for any sort of cover.  I could appreciate this secret moment I was sharing with my dog.  Since it was raining, there was no way for me to capture it on camera or worry about any outside influence.  I was disconnected.  I was only present on this street in my neighborhood in the rain.

I was not in a hurry to get home.  I was not in a hurry for anything in that moment. I felt young and free.  This was mindfulness.  I was blissfully happy. 

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October: Be present with a photo a day…

#bepresentSeptember’s almost over, and Fall is officially here!  After enjoying the Supermoon Total Lunar Eclipse this week, I am inspired to embark on another Photo Challenge.  This challenge will be throughout the month of October and will be celebrating all things Fall and all things October. It is only fitting, as October is my favorite month{more to come on this topic} and so many good feels occur during those 31 days.

Unlike most Photo Challenges, I will not be making a list of various photos that I want to capture. Instead, I am going to focus on being in the present and capture whatever moves me each day.  To be in the present, means to slow down and focus on what is happening in that precise moment without thinking of the past nor daydreaming of what will come.  It is to focus on the emotions, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the weather or landscape, and really feeling all of the senses in their entirety.  By making a list of photo ideas, I would be creating a preconceived set of photos that I would be aspiring to capture throughout the month.  That is the exact opposite of what I want to accomplish.

I am looking to do one thing this month, to fully experience October.  This Photo Challenge will be in conjunction with my Being in the Present, both of which are on my list of 30 Things to do Before I’m 31.  Join me on instagram using hashtag #bepresent or just follow along!

100HappyDays…

Frame.1

Frame1The next 18 days of my 100HappyDays, of my personal Happiness Project, include enjoying some beautiful and deep snow, checking out new places and joining some new book clubs and film clubs, running around, eating the yummy snacks from my latest Graze box from my dear Sister-in-Law, eating more yummy things like breakfast burritos and muffins, writing some letters, checking out Orchids, celebrating Rocky Mountain National Park’s 100th Anniversary, and doodling.  Happiness is in the little things, the minor details in your day of stress, heartbreak, and fatigue.  It is all about being present, today.  Tomorrow is unknown, and yesterday is gone.  

A minimalist’s suitcase…

I recently flew to Kansas City for a week for work and found myself debating my wardrobe.  I knew that I needed clothing for a multitude of activities; work, exercise, travel, leisure, and possibly a night out for drinks.  This was my wardrobe.

Minimalist luggage

My minimalist wardrobe for a week in Kansas City.

The Items:

  • Black cotton short sleeved dress from Patagonia

  • White and black striped cap sleeve blouse from Loft

  • Gray knee length cotton skirt from Loft

  • Taupe wool wrap sweater from Loft

  • Yellow polka dot 3/4 sleeve top from Lululemon

  • Light gray polka dot tank from Lululemon

  • Black cropped leggings from Patagonia

  • Black Chaco flip flops

  • Yellow Soloman XR Mission runners

The easiest way to pair down your wardrobe, especially for travel, is to choose a base color.  Your base color should be a neutral that all of the other accent pieces match.  By choosing one neutral color you automatically eliminate the need for multiple pairs of shoes or bags to match.  No more needing to pack a pair of brown and black shoes along with a brown and black purse to match!  You can literally cut your suitcase in half just by choosing a base color.  For my week-long wardrobe, I chose back as my base color.  Black is great for traveling because it doesn’t show dirt or wrinkles as badly as browns, tans, or even navy.  Black is classic and tends to unintentially lean towards the more professional and put together side.  I knew that by choosing black, all of my other accent pieces would match, giving my finished wardrobe a more cohesive look. 

The next thing to focus on is individual pieces that make up a whole.  What that means is to step back and stop thinking about your wardrobe in the terms of “outfits” and more in the way of “items” that can be mixed and matched.  We are trained, when we pack for a trip, to look at our entire wardrobe and pick out specific outfits that we feel great in.  The problem that we run into is then packing too many items that we wear only once, as that specific outfit.  Instead, look at your wardrobe, choose your base color, and then choose specific articles of clothing you feel great in.  Maybe it is that pair of jeans that always makes you feel sexy, or even that lightweight wool sweater that you get complimented on every time you wear.  Those are the “items” you want to pick out.  

Then you need to go through all of those individual items that are your favorites and piece them into a whole wardrobe.  This can be a done a couple of different ways, but the easiest way that I have found is to choose two more accent colors that go well together along with your base color.  Examples are green and orange, yellow and cream, or blue and yellow.  For my wardrobe, I chose bright yellow and light grey.  Now you can eliminate all of the other items you picked out.  This should narrow down your individual “items” significantly.  Lastly, you pick out the staple pieces you will need; pants, skirt, dress, long sleeve top or sweater, short sleeve blouse, tank, shorts, etc.  Now look at the “items” you have left.  Look at them from afar as a an entire wardrobe and you will see that they are cohesive, they are manageable, they are simple yet still your own style.  Voila!  You have your packed wardrobe!

You can always get more technical and look at specific types of fabrics and whether they wick dirt, are wrinkle and/or water resistance, have sun protection, or even have simple washing instructions that you can do in a hotel sink with soap.  I feel as though this is an entirely different blog post that I fully intend to write later as I continue along my minimalism journey in part of my 28 Things to do Before I’m 29.   So don’t worry, I won’t bore you now with that! 

Lastly, keep in mind that ultimately you want to feel like yourself and be comfortable.  Although my wardrobe above is nine items (including shoes), and some may even argue that is too many, I am not here to tell you what your magic number is.  You will ultimately determine that based on where you are going, for how long, and what all you need to be prepared for.  Just know that your number is most likely more than half of what you are typically packing now.  Eliminate the clutter in your suitcase and never pay a checked bag fee again!

Happy packing and light travels! 

Recap of 30 Items for 30 Days Challenge and how I started…

I have successfully completed the 30 Items for 30 Days Challenge and am still going strong!  I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and found it inspirational.  It was the perfect stepping stone for fully purging my closet and understanding how little I really need (and want even).  When I first set out to complete this, I knew exactly why I wanted to do it and what I wanted to gain.  In the end, I learned a lot more about myself and my style.  Below is a collage of all of my clothing items along with a list that explains this top to bottom, left to right.

  1. Olive cotton tank by J.Crew 
  2. White cotton tank with embroidered neckline by Isis
  3. Orange running tank by Nike
  4. Red floral yoga tank by Patagonia
  5. Teal floral yoga top by Patagonia
  6. Yellow tank with lace collar by Anthropologie
  7. Camel silk shirt dress by Banana Republic
  8. Gray floral dress by Patagonia
  9. White and camel sweater tunic by Nau
  10. Yellow tee shirt by Nau
  11. Gray hiking shorts by Lole
  12. Black shorts by Lole
  13. Black running tights by Nike
  14. Dark boot cut jeans by Loft
  15. Black long sleeve 1/4 sleeve pullover by Patagonia
  16. Yellow sheer floral blouse by Free People
  17. Dark green hiking capris by Patagonia
  18. Pink sheer button up tunic by J. Crew
  19. Maroon yoga capri by Patagonia
  20. Orange running tee by Patagonia
  21. Black scoop neck tee by Nau
  22. Purple and orange floral blouse by Anthropologie
  23. Dark purple rain jacket by Nau
  24. Dark Grey Ehler’s Animal Care tee
  25. Off white scoop neck 3/4 sleeve tee by Lole
  26. Purple skirt by Isis
  27. Black and white striped skirt by Loft
  28. Black Chaco sandals
  29. Olive Toms shoes
  30. Red Asics trail running sneakers

My wardrobe’s camouflage =) It’s oh so pretty!

The first step in minimizing my wardrobe and creating a daily uniform, was to decide upon a color scheme.  By choosing a neutral like brown, navy or black (I chose black), and then focusing on 3-5 accent colors to accentuate your personality and style sense, you are able to minimize many headaches including the various decisions on how to accessorize and which shoes to wear or pack.  No need for both brown and black shoes and accessories anymore!  I found that I eliminated half of my entire wardrobe, just by narrowing down colors! For my accent colors, I chose warm earth hues such as oranges, yellows, greens, and purples.  The idea is that the colors should all blend together and match one another.

As you can see from my 30 items, the single most important thing in making my 30+ days go by quickly, is the fact that any of my tops will match any of my bottoms.  I made sure that not any particular piece of clothing stood out as something that only went with one or two items.  I needed versatility.  I needed high functionality.  I also needed to express myself through my wardrobe, without feeling deprived.   A few other steps in minimizing my wardrobe and establishing my uniform I will highlight at a later time. These include choosing high quality fabrics and eco-friendly brands, pieces that are both versatile and functional, finding items that make you feel great, and the art of accessorizing.

For now, if you are downsizing or simply looking for some freedom from your closet and billfold.  Take my advice, and simple establish a color scheme for yourself that you continuously stick with. If your neutral is black, then toss all brown items including brown shoes and purses.  I guarantee you will feel more free instantaneously. Enjoy the purge!

 

30 Items for 30(31) Days

My minimalistic 30 items in my lovely new wardrobe that Tyler built for me from IKEA on a recent trip to Pittsburgh.

In my strive towards complete minimalism, I am jumping into my first of many “challenges”.  After downsizing my closet for my move, I have begun feeling overwhelmed by how much I still have in my closet that goes untouched.  I understand that it simply is not the season for said items, but for me this not an acceptable excuse.  I want to eliminate any clutter and especially eliminate any items that are taking up valued space inside of my tiny closet.  In order for me to do this, I have decided to take on a challenge of 30 Items for 30 days (actually 31 to make it through the month of July for simplicity).  As mentioned earlier, this is my first of many “challenges” that I plan on attempting as stated on my 27 Things To Do Before I’m 28 list.

Many may be asking why I am about to take on this challenge and limit myself to the same 30 items of clothing for an entire month?  The answer to that is simple: I want to downsize my closet to the bare essentials.  I want to configure a personal uniform for myself to make things easier.  Easier for when I am determining something to wear, easier for doing laundry, easier when attempting to pack as light as possible,  and easier by eliminating that feeling of need to go shopping because I have one single item that matches nothing else in my wardrobe.

Why 30 items? Why not more or less even?  30 sounded like a reasonable number that would allow me to include shoes, outerwear, and any warmer items needed.  30 sounded like a number that I could strive for without completely feeling limited and a loss of person identity.  30, to me, is a number that can still get smaller, yet one that is significantly smaller than my entire wardrobe number of 100 items.

Throughout the month of July I expect to learn which pieces of my wardrobe are absolute essentials and which are just the fluff that adds decorative flare and personality.  My ultimate goal by the end of July is to realize that my wardrobe can be cut in half completely, freeing me of 50 extra items that I really do not need.  Here goes!

#24: Visit New York City

Well folks, I did it.  I went to the Big Apple.  I saw the skyscrapers.  I witnessed china town, ground zero, central park and what authentic Italian food should taste like.  All in one quick weekend! For Mother’s Day (I sadly was across the country from my beloved mother), we took a weekend trip to New York City with Ty’s mother to visit his family.  One huge advantage to living in Hollidaysburg is that we are only a half days drive away from so many metropolis cities.  NYC being one of them.  It was the easiest five hour drive.  I kindly let Tyler drive.

Our very brief weekend in New York was a very tiny taste of the city.  Obviously.  Before you continue reading on about my first impressions, I should make the disclaimer that I am going to return to NYC for another weekend soon in order to experience the city on my own terms.  I want to give it the full chance it deserves before making my final decision on what I think of the The City That Never Sleeps.

We all have some idea of what New York City is in our minds.  Be it the cafe in When Harry Met Sally, or the glamour that surrounds Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire.  For myself, I was prepared to overwhelmed by the loudness and rudeness that is the East Coast.  I was excited for the fashion and eclecticism.  I was dreading the smell and disgusting feeling of smog in the air that seems to form grease and grim on your face within hours.  I eagerly wanted to feel a vibrant city that absorbed me with its livelihood.  I could not wait to be taken aback by the public art and architecture overcoming my senses.  My preconceptions came from reading books such as The Bell Jar, The Great Gatsby, and The Fountainhead.  Like most people, my imagination was off.  And not in all negative ways.

To be completely honest, I enjoyed the city.  I fell in love with the architecture, the food, and the bright neon signs everywhere.  Of course the city is huge, and feels even larger for the fact that I could see for blocks down each street every which way I looked.  That was something new to me.  That is so unlike San Francisco or even Chicago.  I did not have the opportunity to explore any museums, which was a letdown for my art nerd side.  The city was a lot more gray to me than any other city, which made the neon signs seem almost misplaced at times.  All of the buildings were gray cement, gray bricks, or other gray matter.  It felt cold and disconnected.  Maybe that is what some people love about the city.  For me, my favorite place was China Town.  The colors of the fresh produce, the smells of the fresh seafood, the sound of scurrying feet all around.  I was enthralled.

I came across one street of murals.  Murals is what I seek out and hunt down in all cities.  I was thrilled to find some in China Town and hope to spend some time observing them more in future visits.

Overall, I was neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed by anything.  Maybe that is what left me feeling like my first impression was a bit incomplete.  I’d like to keep the idea of what New York City was in the 40’s and 50’s in my mind, because to me that was when I would have fallen in love with it.  But for now I can cross off yet another thing on my list of 27 Things To Do Before I’m 28.  I finally have visited New York City.  And I plan to return soon.

Jump On This Band Wagon for Earth Day…

Every once in a while I will notice a trend.  Something that is so apparent that you won’t be able to walk into any boutique, coffee shop, or nearest bookstore without being bombarded with the trend.  Right now, I am seeing owls everywhere I look.  They are on necklaces, earrings, bags, clothing, artwork, and even cookie jars! It’s about time that an animal as complex as the owl is given some spotlight.

Owls, like the jellyfish, are one of the great predators who remain somewhat of a mystery.  They are ancient creatures who were depicted in not only the Greek mythology as the favored creature of Athena, goddess of wisdom, but also throughout Roman and Native American mythology as a sinister creature calling the dead.  This trend is long overdue seeing as how often owls come up in pop culture ranging from the popular 80’s TV series, Twin Peaks, with that infamous quote, “the owls are not what they seem”, to Harry Potter’s pet messenger Hedwig.

So why this long time love affair with owls?  To me, the answer is simple.  They are a mystery.  They are a great hunter with few natural predators.  They almost seem mythical at times for how rarely they are spotted. Their symbolism ranges from good luck and wisdom, to being sinister and associated with foreshadowing doom and death.  They are built to be exceptional hunters who hunt mice, rats, rabbits and other rodents that farmers detest.  The Audubon Society defines them as, “nocturnal and often solitary, they are usually shy of humans and avoid them when possible.” The owl is my animal totem, or spirit animal.  I relate to them, admire them, fear them, and want to protect them. 

Here is where jumping on the band wagon to the owl trend comes in play. This Sunday the 22nd, for Earth Day, help to conserve these great creatures.  Although they have few natural predators, their real danger lies in the influences of human activity.  They need large fields and forests where they can find food and shelter.  For this reason, owls can quite easily be forced toward extinction should their environment continue to deteriorate.

So for this Earthy Day help our owls:

1)      Inform the Conservation Department of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service if you know of someone who has killed or disturbed owls.

2)      Place nesting boxes for barns owls and screen owls in your backyard.

3)      If you must use pesticides, use conservative amounts with care.  Owls like your rats and mice and will control their population if you encourage them to live around you.

4)      Donate to an owl conservation or research non-profit like the Burrowing Owl Conservation Network or Owl Institute.  Both of these are located in the U.S. and provide conservation to our areas owl populations. 

“The Purge”

"Diminishing Icecap", 15"x6" 2009 handwoven organic cotton

The chaos that has surrounded my life for the past month or so has been great, but the benefits have been showing their faces in every little corner. One of the biggest benefits of having to pack up and move via a small, compartmentalized Volkswagen Golf has been “the purge”. I have been attempting to move myself and my lifestyle away from materialism and clutter as much as possible by studying and practicing Minimalism where applicable. For many this sounds absurd. For those who have known me for years, this sounds impossible. I come from a family who has a name for random crap and clutter. We all have so much of these knickknacks, scraps of paper and other useless items that we actually have a madeup name for it all: jibbies. Growing up, I was one of the worst offenders of obtaining and holding onto jibbies. My family has always teased me that my jibbies procreated baby jibbies and so forth; until I made the decision that these jibbies were not only unnecessary, but that they were holding me down, consuming and suffocating me. I decided to break free of this hold that “things” had over me. Thus “the purge” was born.

For myself, and many of you, we hold onto items that once held sentimental value, were cherished by us, or believed to have a purpose in the future. These items might be photographs from past times, collections you started in your youth, old clothing that you once felt attractive in, books that have sat on a bookshelf for years and have collected dust, memorabilia and heirlooms, or even household cleaning products and tools that are thought to be useful in the future. But when it comes down to it and those infamous theoretical inquiries of, “what would you grab in the event of a fire?” or “if you were stranded on an island and could have ten things…” do any of these items make your priority list? Odds are that your answer would be “no”.

Moving forced me to do what I have wanted to do for so long. It forced me to re-evaluate all of my possessions and ask those two hypothetical questions. I knew that I did not want to deal with the hassle of packing up (and shipping) a bunch of random stuff, only to unpack it in my new home and feel the heaviness it burdened me with. After all, if it was not part of my few essential items chosen to be crammed into the trunk of my car, then what was its purpose? This is how “the purge” began for me. I can say without any doubt that since this purging of things has begun, it has been nothing but rewarding, calming, and put things in better perspective. Maybe you want to try it?

New Toys and Cookies

Today I played with my new toys from my lovely mother:  my very own Sunbeam standup mixer, rolling pin, and rolling pin mat!  Yes, these are items that I have lacked and when necessary were borrowed from her well equipped kitchen. I have downsized to a much smaller, simpler kitchen set up where space is limited and counter space must be clear.  

I was feeling slightly homesick so I decided to put my energy into baking some yummy treats, just in time for Easter.  I busted out my grandmothers cookbook for her Snickerdoodle and Oatmeal cookies.  As you can see, the trick to keeping a minimalistic kitchen clean and organized, I continuously did dishes and put things away before moving on to the next step when time allowed. It helps to keep the clean up at the end down as well, which is an added bonus.

Ofia curiously sniffed out the kitchen scene and oven. No animals were harmed.

As you can see, the cookies all successfully made it out without burning or any other unfortunate incident.  Now the trick is to save some from Tyler’s eating before Easter dinner on Sunday!