Yuletide Greetings From Yosemite

This post is going up a little late, but I hope everyone had a lovely winter holiday! I didn't do very much with my vacation time, but getting the opportunity to decompress and catch up on some sleep was extremely welcome.

Alex and I took a drive down to Yosemite National Park the day before Christmas Eve. It started snowing pretty heavily the minute we got there and I haven't seen snow fall in person in years, so that was a huge treat. The park was also incredibly devoid of people, so it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves.

The snow wasn't coming down consistently enough throughout the park for me to have many opportunities to photograph it, which was a shame. But it was cold enough that by the end of the day my feet were freezing and I was eager to get home and dive under the covers with a warm mug of glögg.

I love the cold weather, even if it does make it next to impossible to get out of my warm bed in the morning. If you get to see snow at home during winter, I'm extremely jealous!

Goals for the New Year, 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!

The year is finally over, and I think we can all agree it has been a tough one.

I don't really want to get into enumerating my personal failures during the last twelve months, I think I've mentally punished myself more than enough for them at this point. Suffice to say I've taken quite a bit of time to think about what I could have done better. I've made peace with the things I can't change, and I'm working very hard to change the things I can. That being said...

Here are 10 goals I have for the upcoming year

1. Live more minimally. Get rid of 50 Articles of Clothing and/or Accessories. As a kid I was blessed with a basically limitless amount of storage space for all my junk. But as an adult living in the Bay Area I'm learning just how expensive space can be. I know 50 items might seem like a lot, but I've managed to schlep an enormous amount of stuff with me over 3 moves in the past 5 years. I haven't grown much since I hit 16. I have still have a sweatshirt I got when I was 15. It's time to dump the stuff I no longer use or need.

2. Look more consistently put together. I'm not ashamed to say I've struggled with depression and anxiety, but both have taken their toll on my overall appearance, especially in the last few years. I haven't been taking amazing care of my skin or hair, and heck, I could stand to floss more too. Many mornings I'm too tired or lazy to do much besides roll out of bed, throw on whatever clothes I can reach quickly, do a quick rinse and walk out the door. I rarely put on makeup. I'd like to look more consistently put together, especially at work. I feel a lot happier and more confident when I'm well dressed and well groomed.

3. Read (or listen to) one new book per month. I set this goal for myself last year, but fell incredibly short. One thing I've learned so far is that if I try to only read physical books, I will absolutely fail. I love the feel of a real book in my hand as much as anyone, but carrying them around with me (especially the giant tomes I've been gravitating towards) is too much hassle. I've actually done a ridiculous amount of reading on my iPhone and MacBook via iBooks. Once I switched to digital I ended up reading a lot more in my down time. I've also found it really helps to have a copy of the audiobook so I can listen while cleaning or driving, etc. 

4. Make at least one blog post per month. I've set the bar pretty low, but I'm more concerned about the consistency and quality rather than the quantity of posts. I think keeping it to one per month minimum super doable! And I really want to have more content here.

5. Donate at least $200 to charity this year. I know it's not a huge amount, but it's a goal I know I can meet. I made a few donations over the past year where I could afford it, and I want to exceed that amount in the next year. The world can be a dangerous place, and you never know when the next disaster (man-made or natural) might strike. This way I have a little cash put aside specifically for the purpose of helping people. If I get the chance to do some volunteer work, that would be something I'd also be interested in!

6. Be more responsive; start unpleasant or annoying tasks immediately, instead of continually putting them off. This one is probably every procrastinator's New Year's resolution, but I cannot even begin to tell you how many horrible things I've brought upon myself as a result of procrastination. This is something I've been working on really hard for the past few months. I've still got a long way to go, but I'm proud of the progress I've made so far.

7. Overhaul the blog. I threw Blackwell & Bone up in less than a day when I first put up the website. It's very minimally tweaked from the original design. I'd love to come up with a logo for it and customize it a bit more. I'm also working on some regularly scheduled posts on certain topics. By the end of next year I want this to be a space I'm really proud of.

8. Take more time away from work and not feel bad about it. I have taken very little paid vacation time as an adult. I've always preferred to go unpaid when calling out sick, and I have only gone on one actual vacation in the last five years. Because of that, I haven't done very much traveling and I often feel incredibly burnt out at work. That's not healthy. I've hit my ceiling for paid time off and I intend to use it to travel more and explore.

8. Spend more time being creative. I'm a lot happier when I make time to draw, write, take pictures and play music. I'm going to try very hard to dedicate more of my spare time to being creative. I just got an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil and I've enjoyed using them a lot more than I initially thought I would. That alone has been getting me to sketch more frequently.

9. Be more physically active. This will become hugely easier once I move, which I will be doing at the end of the month. I also need to find my Fitbit.. it's been missing for several months. I also need to get some proper workout clothes.

10. Use my planner and have specific plans of action for tasks! This one sounds boring but is incredibly key to me being productive. I have a bad habit of trying to multitask, when really I should just be focusing on doing one thing at a time. It's much easier for me to focus when my time is budgeted in advance and things are broken down into manageable pieces for me. I have a great planner, but never quite got into the habit of using it regularly. I'd like to nail down a good workflow that includes a planner.

I'll be doing FOUR updates during the next year specifically to check up on the progress of my goals:

1 Month - End of January
3 Months - End of March
6 Months - End of June
12 Months - End of December

I'll link my progress posts up to this master post for comparison and do a big summary at the end of this year. They'll be fun little freebies towards my one post per month quota, and I'll have something to chart my progress with.

If you have any new goals for the coming year, my biggest piece of advice is not letting the little slip ups discourage you from continuing to work towards your goals. Too often I've given up on projects because everything wasn't 100 percent perfect. Print out your list of goals and go through it regularly; once a week, once a month, or however often you need. It'll help you stay mindful of the progress you have made, and how far you ahve to go. Journal about it if you like to track your progress that way.

Good luck and I'll see you in a month!

Halloween at Hogsmeade

a sign at one of the entrances to "Hogsmeade"

This past weekend my boyfriend and I took a trip down to Southern California for Halloween. We spent our first day out there at Universal Studios Hollywood, and most of the time we spent at Universal was at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I grew up with Harry Potter, the age of the trio roughly coinciding with my own age as the books came out. I still find going back and reading the books to be very comforting, so it was fun getting to immerse myself in that world again.

The Wizarding World section of Universal is modeled after Hogsmeade village in winter. Fake snow covers all the buildings, which clashes oddly with the balmy Southern California weather, but looks beautiful. It was a bit overcast the day we were there, so it definitely looks nice and cool in the photos. You wouldn't know that I'm just out of shot, sweating from running about in the heat.

The store fronts all look beautiful, though you can't enter every building. The shops you can't enter are still decorated nicely so you can see interesting details when you peer through the windows, and often the storefront displays are interactive. If you purchase the right type of wand and cast a spell in the right way in front of a window you can make parts of the display move. I didn't get a chance to try it out myself (I left wandless, unfortunately) but it was fun watching other people try it out!

Honeydukes is filled with a variety of sweets mentioned in the books; Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Sherbet Lemon (Dumbledore's favorite), etc. I picked up a Chocolate Frog that contained a Rowena Ravenclaw trading card and a Pumpkin Juice, which I was pleasantly surprised to find contained some actual pumpkin (though it's still mostly apple juice). I'm keen to attempt to recreate the drink at home soon.

In Hogsmeade there's a recreation of The Three Broomsticks, where you can get food and drink. The food is fine, but I was able to finally get a Butterbeer, which was quite good if you're into that sort of thing (it's very sweet).

As I understand it Universal in Orlando has a functioning recreation of the Hogwarts Express, but the one at Universal Hollywood is stationary and just for show. Still, most of the day they have a conductor standing in front of it for photo ops.

And here I am, full geek, trying on my house robes. I was (and continue to be) in denial about getting sorted into Slytherin. I've always thought of myself as a Ravenclaw. But, I've been sorted into Slytherin something like 3 times now, so I'm just starting to accept it, haha.

Autumn Champagne & Gold - Shopping

When I was younger I was incredibly resistant to wearing gold, but as I've gotten older I've warmed to the idea. A few years ago bought my first piece of yellow gold jewelry, then I got a gold iPhone. My jewelry box is still primarily filled with white gold and silver, but I've started to make a little room for gold and rose gold.

Many weeks ago I received a mailer from one my favorite online lingerie stores, Journelle, containing an image of the Champagne Balcony Bra from Fleur of England (above right). The color of the straps caught my interest immediately and I've been obsessed with their Champagne collection ever since. Fleur of England's Sophia collection actually contains 'rose gold' but I find it's a little too pink-leaning for my liking.

More than half of the jewelry I've collected as an adult is from Bloodmilk. Jess offers a lot of her work in a rose gold variant, and eventually I'll pick some up. And, of course, I'm always clad in black, but I find little places to slip in some gold when accessorizing though. Who knows, maybe one day I'll have just as much gold in my wardrobe as silver.

Aromatherapy - Photo Box

It's a long weekend and I decided to take a day to treat myself. I made it out of the house to see X-Men: Apocalypse at Alamo Drafthouse, which was a fun distraction, but it's not exactly poised to become my favorite X-Men movie.

having a reason to dress up was also nice

On the plus side, they often create themed cocktails for showings and the drinks they created for Apocalypse were named after different mutations. I got the Super Strength Shake, which was great. I wanted to try Flight and Immortality, but I'm not a big drinker, so I didn't have room for them.

On the way home I stopped at Paxton Gate and I found a few little things to pick up. 

Sydney Hale Co. makes hand poured soy wax candles and 10% of all profits are donated to dog rescue, which is pretty cool.

The candle I picked up seems to be older stock, from prior to the rebranding they seem to have done recently. I'm hoping their new labels have a protective finish, because I'm sure I'll be picking up more of these in the future and that was the only thing I felt needed to be improved upon.

Applewood & Birch is fresh and lightly sweet. This would make a terrific Fall scent, a nice alternative to the more intense, cloyingly sweet, pumpkin spice candles that are ubiquitous during the season. I'm used to apple-y scents being paired with spice, but this is a different and very pleasant offering. This morning, with the cool breeze flowing through my windows and this fragrance in the air, it almost felt like October.

I also picked up Lavender Eau de Parum by elizabethW. It smells absolutely divine and it actually reminds me of the (now, sadly discontinued) For Strange Women scent, London Fog. However, like London Fog, it has some of the least staying power I've ever experienced with a perfume. I'm not sure if it's this particular scent or my body chemistry or what, but the scent lingers for about an hour before fading completely. I practically doused myself in it and it was almost undetectable in less than two hours. I'm not sure if this is one I'll purchase again even though I'm in love with the smell. What I may do is pick up the hand cream or body oil for this scent and see if the staying power for those products is any better.

It's been a stressful few weeks and I haven't been posting much, but you'll be hearing from me more frequently soon. At any rate, all these nice smells are putting me in a much better mood.

Hope you're all having a pleasant Memorial Day weekend!