Monthly: October 2016

We’re already halfway through October, and aside from the setback of being sick this week, it’s shaping up to be one hell of a month!

I’m getting more into curating my time and my life lately, so I wanted to start a monthly column to share my goals and favorites.

October Excitement:
-My 24th birthday was on October 9.  (October 9th was also John Lennon’s birthday, by the way.)  I wrote a post about it—24 promises to be a big year for me!  I’m moving into a new phase of my life, the go-getter phase, and I’m excited to share my journey.  This past year has been very focused on learning life skills, like cooking and remembering to buy toilet paper and not being reliant on Adderall, and I’m very ready to move past the basic concerns (which I feel like I’ve pretty much mastered) on to the hard work of achieving my dreams.

fall-fashion

October Goals:
-I’m co-writing a two volume academic writing textbook for my job right now, and I want to have my chapter on essay structure completely drafted with exercises and everything by the end of October.  It’s not a very sexy goal, but it’s gonna look great on that resume!

-I’m also submitting my writing to literary journals again this month.  I received my last rejection over a year ago, but when I graduated from college and started planning my wedding and my big move across the world, I got too busy with the everyday of life and fell into a massive rut of writer’s block, which in turn robbed me of my confidence and motivation to submit.  But this month I’m getting my work back out there!  I renewed my Duotrope subscription just for the month of October.

October Inspiration:
-October is one of my favorite months.  The change of seasons is a huge inspiration for me.  When I moved from Wisconsin to Chengdu last year, I thought there was no change in seasons in October—it still frequently reached 80 degrees or higher, the leaves were still green, and there is no such thing as a pumpkin spice latte here.  But now that I’ve gotten to know Chengdu a little better, I’m able to tune in to the subtler changes.  The ginkgo trees are starting to drop their berries, it rains more frequently, and the temperatures are dropping from the upper 90s to the 70s, even the 60s now and then.  I’m still getting cozy with warm drinks and (light) blankets, I’ve just come to accept that fall in Chengdu means more lightweight blazers and cardigans, not necessarily oversized sweaters.

fall-sweater
Keep an eye out for my latest fall clothes haul in a post this week!

-I’m getting super inspired by Jenny Mustard right now.  I love both her blog and her youtube channel—although I’m not a minimalist like her, I’m very conscious about my consumption and my impact on the world.  I find her content very thought-provoking, and just in the past 24 hours Nathan and I have been spurred into two separate long and fascinating conversations by something Jenny said.  I also love how motivated she is, and how skilled she seems at organizing her life and her time.

October Food:
-I’ve been eating a lot of orange vegetables lately: butternut squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes are the stars of most of my cooking.  I love this sweet potato curry, and butternut squash mac and cheese is literally the perfect vegan comfort food.  I’m really interested in trying this butternut squash, onion, and apple pizza, too—that’s one of my favorite flavor combinations, and it looks so good!

garlic
Garlic is my year-round bae, though

-Since I got an immersion blender for my birthday, soups, dips, and sauces are the orders of the month.  I made a great sweet potato curry soup the other day, and I’m nursing an obsession with baba ganoush.  (Thinking of making a pizza with baba ganoush instead of sauce… hmmm… look for a recipe soon!) I’ve been dying to try this onion and apple spread on some homemade potato scones, too, and now that I have an immersion blender, I have a great excuse!

baba-ganoush
I seriously can’t stop eating baba ganoush!  I’m not kidding… send help…

October Drinks:
-Nathan and I quit drinking alcohol entirely for the last half of September, and I’ve been really loving how much more clear-headed I feel and how much easier it is to stay hydrated, so I’m more or less continuing to steer clear of the stuff!  This isn’t permanent abstinence—when I move back to the US, I’m sure I’ll still enjoy a good craft beer here and there.  But the alcohol in China is honestly pretty awful, so what’s the point in drinking it if it just makes me feel bad?  I’ll still indulge on rare occasions, but my October drink is not drinking!

-We also recently broke our little French press and bought this gorgeous thing as a replacement!  It makes 1L of coffee, which is perfect for us—just enough for each of us to have a nice, big mug in the morning on our days off.  I’ve also discovered a new favorite blend: Archer Farms French Roast.  I never knew I was a dark roast girl, but it’s like a big, strong hug.  It’s amazing.  For a totally different flavor, I’m also enjoying Archer Farms’ apple cider donut coffee, but it’s such a sweet light roast that it’s almost like a strong tea rather than a coffee.

french-press

October Items:
-I’m a little obsessed with pillows this month!  I recently bought a poop emoji pillow, because let’s be honest, it expresses the deepest reaches of my soul.  And Nathan’s Chinese tutor somehow remembered my birthday (he’s mentioned it to her ONCE, a whole year ago!) and gave me this unbelievable bear pillow from Miniso.  It is the cutest pillow I’ve seen in a good long time, and it’s quite possibly the softest thing I’ve ever touched!  I simultaneously want to sleep on it every single night, and never use it so that it retains this springy softness forever!

miniso-pillow

October Apps:
-I’ve recently started using Sleep Cycle to track my sleep quality and wake me up at the most optimal time in my sleep cycle.  I wake up feeling much more energized this way—I mean, it’s a really noticeable difference!  I’ve been using it for about two and a half weeks, and I’ve hit snooze twice total in that time.  Normally I hit snooze two or three times every morning!  Not only does it wake me up better than a traditional alarm, it’s been really enlightening to see a visualization of my sleep quality on different nights.  You can pay a little extra money to get more features, including an analysis of what factors are affecting your sleep, but I find I don’t need to.  If I drink coffee late in the day and that night my sleep quality is 75% instead of 93%, I pretty much know what I did.

-I’m also really enjoying the game Alphabear.  It’s a really cute and clever word game!  Like a sort of reverse Scrabble, but with adorable bouncing bears instead of Double Letter Score tiles.

* * *

So, there you have it: the month of October according to me!  Make sure to follow me here on WordPress or on Bloglovin (you could be the first one 😉 heyyy) so you don’t miss my next post!  I post regularly about travel, fashion, lifestyle, writing, food and health, and more!

Journaling For Success: 4 Tips To Make Journaling Work For You

Look, life is complicated at the best of times.  At the worst, it’s downright overwhelming.  If you’re anything like me, it can be really hard to keep your feelings and your goals straight in your head.  Maybe you’re one of those people who keeps thinking “I should start meditating,” but gets discouraged by the barrage of thoughts that comes barreling into your head when you try to empty it out.  Maybe you’ve tried manifesting success, but you didn’t have the focus and quit before you had a chance to find out if it worked.  Maybe you wrote a journal as a child, but quit when life got busy.

Well, all of those apply to me, and those are all the more reasons to journal as an adult.  I’ve discovered that journaling can be your meditation, can be your manifestation and visualization.  You just have to change your attitude about it.

When I was a kid, I used to write an exhaustive journal covering every detail of my daily goings-on.  That’s fine when you’re a little girl living in the countryside, because frankly there’s not much going on.  But as you get older, that gets to be… pretty much impossible.  That kept me from journaling for a long time.  I’d start a journal here and there through college, any time I found a cute notebook or felt overwhelmed by my life, but invariably the task became overwhelming itself as I fell further and further behind in my exhaustive recounting of events.  I put pressure on myself to record my life in this way in case I ever wanted to go back and remember.  But I’ve realized recently that I was going about it all wrong.

So what’s the right way to journal?  Like so many things, the right way to journal is immensely personal.  But I think the way I’ve settled on is pretty damn good.

journaling-for-success-1

A beautiful notebook and a trusty pen: the most important tools you can have in life.

Every couple of days, I sit down with a felt-tip pen, a beautiful journal gifted to me by my father-in-law, and a strong cup of coffee, and I write.  I don’t waste any time at all on the events of my day (let’s be honest, I was never going to reread it anyway), but I use the journaling as an opportunity to concentrate on what really matters to me.  I write about feelings that I’m struggling to sort through or make sense of, but more importantly I write about my goals, and what steps I should be taking to move towards those goals.  I write about what’s worrying me, and about how I can prevent the negative outcomes that I’m fretting about.

Writing about these topics means that journaling itself is meditation for me.  It empties my head of everything that doesn’t deserve my full attention.  It’s manifestation, it’s visualization of success.  It’s a great way to focus on my goals.  Whenever I do it, I come away feeling a thousand times more clear-headed and motivated.  So I thought I’d share some tips on how to make journaling work for you:

  1. Identify your purpose.

Figuring out your reason for journaling is the most important step to turning your journal into an effective tool for self-improvement and motivation, because it shows you what to write. I don’t journal to remember things.  I don’t journal to confess my secrets.  I journal to keep my head clear and my intentions focused.  This completely shapes what I write in my journal.  I recommend using your journal as a safe space where you don’t harshly judge yourself, but you are honest with yourself about what you do and don’t want, what you are and are not accomplishing, and in what ways you could improve.  If something isn’t important, don’t write about it.  Only writing about the important things will help you stay focused on them throughout the day.

  1. Make it a habit.

Choose a time that works for you—a time when you’re motivated but not busy, a time when you can isolate yourself a little bit and focus—and build journaling into your routine for that time.  I like to journal in the morning, every second or third day.  By doing it in the morning, I’m awake and I can harness the focused energy I get from journaling to motivate me for the rest of the day.  By doing it every other day or so, enough time has passed that I have more thoughts crowding into my head, but not too much time has passed, so I’m not overwhelmed by the amount I feel I need to write down.

This is easy for me to do, because I have a job where I only work two days a week (I’ll write a post on how I live comfortably on two days’ work a week soon), but it may not work for you.  It may be better for you to write in the evening, or the afternoon, every day or only once a week.  There’s no right or wrong time to journal—as long as you choose a time where you can breathe, relax, and concentrate on yourself for a little while!  Just make sure you keep doing it regularly.  It’s the same as anything else: you need to be consistent to see the benefits.

journaling-for-success-3

I need to be alone when I journal–but it’s okay, the stuffed animals can watch 😉

  1. Do it in a special space.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but having a specific place where I journal helps me get in the mind-examining mood.  I like to do it in my bed—the only thing I do in bed other than sleeping and sex.  (By the way, staying out of the bed when I’m awake is one of the most life-changing habits I’ve quit, but that’s a post for another time.)  I sit on top of the covers, with the pillows piled behind me, the curtains open so the weak morning sunlight spills in, and my coffee on the bedside table next to me.  It’s a place where I can be alone and feel comfortable.  Since I don’t usually hang out in my bed, it feels like a special, pampering event.

  1. Don’t feel pressured to journal in any specific way.

Don’t think you need to write “dear diary” at the beginning of your entries, or sign your name at the end.  Don’t think you need to address your entries to anyone, or even write in paragraphs.  If you want to make a bulleted list or draw a picture, go for it!  This is your space.  Take liberties.  Do what feels right to you.  I personally write in straightforward stream-of-consciousness paragraphs, but that doesn’t mean you have to!  Experiment, and find out what style allows you to express yourself freely and honestly, without distraction.  Remember: it’s all about your goals.

journaling-for-success-2

Now, go on!  Crack open a notebook and start writing your way to success!