My Morning Routine for a Successful Day

Hey, everybody!  It’s almost 11am here, the time I used to wake up every day I didn’t work.  In those days, I always felt both rushed and lazy when I didn’t have somewhere I had to go in the morning (and even more rushed and lazy when I did).  But ever since I started waking up earlier, I’ve been happier, more clear-headed, and more productive all day!  So I wanted to share with you how I get my days off to a good start.

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I wake up between 6.30 and 7.30, depending on how late I went to bed the night before.  These winter days, that means I’m up before the sun.  On work days, I hate waking up in the dark, but on my days off it’s a little cozy and calming.

The first thing I do is brush my teeth (of course) and drink about a half-liter of cool water.  This gets me hydrated right away–I’m not the kind of person who wakes up in the middle of the night to drink up, so I’m often quite thirsty when I wake up.  More than just hydrating me, the cool water helps me wake up quickly!

Next I get coffee brewing in my French press.  I like to let that steep for a long time, because I like my coffee quite strong.  While that’s sitting, I do a little bit of yoga or pilates to get my blood flowing.  I’m not one of those people who can hop out of bed and go straight on a run (or, frankly, one of those people who can go on a run at all), but I can make it to a  yoga mat.

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Now that my mind and body are up and at ’em, I get to sit down to breakfast and my much-loved cup of coffee!  I usually prefer to eat raw food for breakfast, because I feel like I’m more energetic afterwards than if I eat a cooked breakfast, but sometimes I eat leftovers from last night’s dinner.

While I eat, I write my to do list for the day, check social media, and (if I have time left over), read the news or book reviews.  I only let myself do my morning social media catch-up during breakfast, because I know for a fact if I don’t limit it, I’ll spend the whole morning on it.

So that’s it!

Today I had a banana, a goji berry persimmon energy bar I made yesterday, and some more water (with cranberries).

morning-routine-goji-persimmon-energy-bar

I can’t give you a recipe for these bars, because I just threw random amounts of everything in my food processor till it tasted good and had a decent consistency, but I can tell you what’s in here so you can experiment yourself:

Dates. Goji berries. Dried cranberries. Persimmon. Oats. Ground walnut. Allspice. Cinnamon. Brown sugar (just a little). Coconut oil.

Boom–blend, spread, refrigerate, and you’re done!


How do you spend your mornings?  Do you just roll out of bed and faceplant in your coffee machine, like I used to?  Or do you have a routine?  Tell me about it in the comments–I’m always looking out for new ideas!

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Energy Saving Tips: How We Made One Month’s Electricity Last FIVE Months

My husband and I live in China, which you’re probably aware is one of the most polluted countries in the world right now.  Is it as bad as the media makes it sound?  Well… sometimes.  We live in Chengdu, which has relatively clean air for its size (fifth largest city in the country) due to its propensity for rain and the mountains that surround it, but even so, Nathan wears a mask all winter long.  In the past year, I only wore my mask a handful of times—but I did get sick from the pollution almost as many times.

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We did have one or two days of “hazardous” air quality last winter.

Before we moved to China, I was very concerned about climate change; my senior year of college I wrote my 100-page creative writing “thesis” on climate change in the Midwest, and it was my second major climate-related writing project.  I have a third in the planning stages, incidentally.

But when we moved to China, our focus on the environment really sharpened.  It’s easy to ignore environmental problems when you live in a developed country.  It’s a very different perspective when you live next to a waterway that alternates between olive green and dog-poop brown, when you have to boil the tap water before you can drink it*, when you might get food poisoning from eating the vegetables raw.  When breathing the air can make you sick.

*even then it might not strictly be safe—I had a student miss class last semester because he had to have surgery to remove collected sediment (“small rocks,” as he put it) from his stomach.

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I wouldn’t want to drink that water…

We quit eating animal products in January, after learning that animal agriculture accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined.  And when we learned that more than 70% of Chinese electricity comes from coal, we resolved to do our part in reducing that coal burning by drastically reducing our energy consumption.

In fact, we reduced it to less than 1/5 of what it was before.

For a little context, we receive a 300RMB energy allowance per month—evidently the average monthly energy consumption of a three-person Chinese family.  When we first arrived, we used that amount approximately monthly.  But in February we decided to take seriously the environmental burden of our energy consumption, and we took some big steps to cut back.  This is how we used less than one month’s energy allowance (200RMB) to last us five months—without sacrificing our comfort.

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We turned off the lights.

This is such an obvious solution, it’s the first energy-saving measure you hear: turn the lights off when you leave the room.  But why can’t you turn the lights off while you’re in the room?

We don’t get great natural lighting in our apartment.  In fact, our natural lighting situation is pretty abysmal.  Our apartment’s windows face away from the sun, a few hundred feet from the next tall apartment building, with trees in between.  Add that to the fact that Chengdu has fewer sunny days than Seattle, and you’ve got a recipe for a dark apartment.

But you know what?  We can still see.  We rarely turn the lights on before 7 or 8pm, except for the bathroom light and a small LED lamp that Nathan uses to study Chinese by.  Low light is easy to get used to, even a bit relaxing.  And if you have bad eyesight or find it hard to focus in low lighting, a small, energy-efficient lamp that lets off cool-colored light will be at least as effective as an overhead light.

At night, of course, we do turn on lights—but only the lights we’re actually using.

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We turned off the A/C and the heater.

This one is a little conditional, and it’s the one that makes people think we’re crazy.  It only gets down to about 40 Fahrenheit (about 4 Celsius) during your average Chengdu winter.  I grew up in Wisconsin—40 Fahrenheit is a balmy spring day to me!  But the climate control in our apartment was our biggest energy sink by far, so it was an obvious choice to stop.

That said, not using the heater still took some adjusting.  Even if, like me, you don’t think 40 degrees is a big deal, people expect to be warm and comfortable in their home, and after a few days at those temperatures, you start feeling cold to the bone.

But there are easy solutions to this that are much more energy-efficient than using your heater!

For one thing, long underwear.  Buy a comfortable, high-quality pair of long underwear.  Mine is purple and lined with synthetic fleece inside.  They’re comfortable, cozy, and oh-so-warm.  And I wear them all winter.  If long underwear alone isn’t warm enough, layer on those sweaters!  Who doesn’t love an oversized sweater?  I mean, really?  Shouldn’t you be celebrating the excuse to walk around basically covered in blankets all day?

For another thing, we bought heat fans.  This is something I’ve never seen in the United States, but they’re everywhere in China.  Now, these still use electricity to run, so we do try not to use them too much.  But because you’re able to focus a blast of heat directly onto your body, you don’t need them on for too long.  You can turn one on facing you until you feel nice and toasty, then turn it back off until you’re cold again.

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We don’t use a dishwasher or a clothes dryer.

Okay, that’s mostly because we don’t own either one, and if I had access to a dishwasher I would definitely use it.  But I don’t particularly miss a clothes dryer.  We just have a line strung up in our laundry room, and we keep that small window open to dry our clothes more effectively.  (We close the door to the laundry room during the cold months to try and contain the cold air.)

Additionally, our refrigerator is very small—it doesn’t even come up to my shoulders.  How do we live with a small refrigerator?  Easy: we eat a fresh diet of plant-based whole foods.  We don’t waste space on drinks like milk, juice, or soda.  We keep almost exclusively condiments and leftovers in our refrigerator, because the fresh produce that makes up a majority of our diet is by and large purchased within a day of when we plan to eat it, at one of the markets within a 15-minute walk of our apartment.

We made DIY dehumidifiers.

Chengdu is extremely damp.  When we first moved into our apartment, it had a horror-movie mold problem, which it had evidently cultivated over the course of just one rainy, humid summer sans inhabitants.  Aside from plugging some holes with spray foam and scrubbing the shit out of our walls with bleach water, we had to find a way to dehumidify our apartment.  But we didn’t want to buy a dehumidifier, for both cost and environmental reasons.  So instead we bought a few cute buckets, some colanders that approximately fit the mouths of the buckets, and some bags of calcium chloride.  You just put the colander inside the bucket and add calcium chloride to it—and boom!  Instant energy-efficient dehumidifier.  The bucket collects the water from the atmosphere.

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You can buy calcium chloride quite cheap online, at least here in China!

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And here we are, living in comfort with low energy costs!  I hope you’ve found this post somewhat informative!  Make sure to follow me for more posts about living low on the food, energy, and generational chain, from vegan health posts to cheap and ethical fashion and lifestyle posts and more!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

Inspiration Is A Habit, Not A Lightening Strike

As a writer, I’ve encountered far more than my fair share of folks for whom inspiration is a fickle muse, a sporadic enigma, a ghost who haunts at random. I think it’s a common attitude: inspiration comes when it damn well wants, and you just have to be ready and waiting for that moment. People use it as an excuse for procrastination, an explanation for writer’s block, a justification for a prolonged silence on their blog or their YouTube channel, whatever.

For some people, this is a source of exasperation: “I want to write, but the muse isn’t coming!” they lament, or they ask, “How do you get the muse to visit you?”  For others, it’s a reason to brag: “I never work on a schedule, I wait for inspiration to strike!”  Either way, it’s an attitude that relies on a lie.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a pure hobbyist who paints because it’s calming, or writes poetry as therapy, that’s 100% fine.  In fact, it’s great—but this post isn’t for you.  If you’re someone who wants to build a career out of your art or your content, or at least some recognition in your field, listen up.  Even if you’re doing it just for fun, but you want to improve your abilities as a writer or a photographer or, hell, even a chef—listen up.

Inspiration doesn’t control you.  You control your inspiration.

It’s always a good idea to decorate your space with things that inspire you, to keep your
~brain juices~ flowing throughout the day.

Inspiration isn’t an external force.  It’s not a heavenly hand bestowing ideas upon you.  It’s just your brain making connections, having ideas, doing the things a brain is meant to do.  Inspiration is just the practice of seeing new possibilities and larger meaning in the mundane world around you.  It’s the practice of recognizing that the world around you isn’t mundane.  It’s the practice of seeing everything as stimuli.

The keyword here is practice.  To be inspired, you need to keep the inspiration pathways in your brain warm.  Limber them up—look for inspiration.  The more you look, the more you’ll see.  There is inspiration all around you, all of the time, but if you’re not looking for it, you’ll miss it.  It’s truly a habit that you need to cultivate.  When you scroll through pictures on Instagram or tumblr or wherever you like to waste your time, don’t just let the media wash over you.  Think about it.  Figure out why it speaks to you, and get inspired!

Do this all the time.  Do it while you walk.  Do it while you shower.  Do it when you’re sitting in class, or in meetings, or in a coffee shop.  The more you look for inspiration, the more you’ll find it.

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Once you find inspiration, make sure you catch it!  I always carry a small notebook with me for recording ideas.  Right now I’m carrying the fish, which I got for 25RMB at the famous
Fang Suo Commune bookstore here in Chengdu.

I know this from experience: at certain times in my life, everything from news stories about criminals to obscure facts about Ancient Egypt to the sight of a leaf on the sidewalk sent me scurrying for my notebook to jot down an idea or scribble a stanza.  At other times, my brain has been a dry well while I prioritized things like washing dishes and getting to work on time and ignored the magic and intrigue of everything around me.  (Not that washing dishes and getting to work on time are incompatible with a creative life—it’s just a matter of balance, and I think one or the other tends to slip before you reach your balance.)  But now I’m getting it back.  I’m getting back in the habit of being inspired.

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