Monday, August 31, 2015

August Minimalism Wrapup

I concluded the minimalism challenge (originally from this weekend. The remaining items were the most difficult for me, and I didn't succeed at all of them. I think what's important is that I became more aware of my actions and I can work on being more present from now on.

The last tasks

No complaint day. I see myself as a positive person, but when I focused on no complaints for a day I realized how difficult it is to not make negative comments about what goes awry throughout the day. My no-complaint day fell on a workday, and last week was particularly frustrating workwise. My VPN connection was extremely slow and my workload was hefty. I tried to make the best of it, but I am not perfect. I let the stress get to me sometimes. I did the best I could to not complain.

No TV all day, read instead. I have tried to do this task several times this month. One recent Saturday I went without TV until late that evening when Graham came home from work. On another day, this time a workday, I made it most of the day.

Leave a whole day unplanned. I left a weekend day unplanned, which has been rare this summer. I tend to keep a list of not only errands to run but also fun stuff to do. What can I say? I'm a planner. It ended up being a lazy Saturday. The rain did nothing to help my motivation to get out of the house. I watched "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," which -- believe it or not -- I have never watched in its entirety. I binged on chips and queso. I searched online for a winter coat and rain boots in anticipation of the W word.

Practice single-tasking. This is next to impossible for me when it comes to work. I purposely focused on this on a workday in order to try to avoid stress. I have to constantly remind myself (and others) that I can only do one thing at a time. The most frustrating thing for me is having to stop a project halfway to do something else, which happens frequently at work. I might be editing one report and will have to drop it to edit something for my department's top manager. I kept an eye on how many browser tabs I kept open and tried to avoid getting distracted on the Web.

Stay offline for one day. Fail. I didn't do this all month. It would have been impossible to do this on a weekday because of work, so I saved this for a weekend. But I completely forgot until I found myself on Twitter, then Blogger, then down the rabbit hole of the Internet. I'll focus on not being online while I'm out doing things with my friends and family, but let's face it, the Internet is such a part of our daily lives. I look forward to the next time Graham and I go camping, because that's really the only time I ever fully disconnect for entire days.

Previously accomplished

Part 1: Unfollow and unfriend; streamline your reading list; turn off notifications; clean out your closet.

Part 2: Evaluate your last five purchases; learn to enjoy solitude; go for a walk and practice mindfulness; go bare-faced.

Part 3: Meditate for 15 minutes; no email or social media until lunch; let go of a goal; downsize your beauty collection.

Part 4: Journal for 20 minutes; identify 3-6 priorities; follow a morning routine; identify stress triggers.

Part 5: Declutter your digital life; define your goals for the year; take a step toward learning a new skill; clear out your junk drawer.

Part 6: No purchases for 24 hours; practice gratitude; evaluate your commitments; create a relaxing bedtime routine; examine your daily habits. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Let Go of Expectations

Twice this week I have signed up for yoga classes expecting to sweat profusely. Twice this week I didn't get what I wanted.

On Sunday, I registered for a Vinyasa 1-2 class at one of my neighborhood studios. I wanted to build strength, especially via core work. I figured that a class described as 1-2 would include some inversions (or even just the suggestion to try one).

I did not sweat even a drop.

Instead, the class was gentle. We didn't even do downward-facing dog. We didn't do any sun salutations. We barely left the floor. Halfway through class I found myself annoyed. In yoga? Yes, I was annoyed in yoga class. I felt like I didn't get what I was paying for. I wanted a workout.

I could be angry or I could take what I could from the class. In that moment, I decided to make the most out of it. You can still get something out of this, I thought.

And so I breathed and stretched and participated wholeheartedly. It was an hour and a half class, and not once did I feel challenged physically, but it was a mental battle.

At the end of class, we moved into savasana. The instructor told us she was going to chant. When she opened her mouth, it was as if the gates of heaven opened. She had one of the most lovely voices I have ever heard. It was mesmerizing and relaxing and beautiful. It was then I realized that maybe I didn't get what I wanted, but I certainly got what I needed out of that yoga practice.

On another night, I attended a class that focused on strength and flexibility. Again, I expected a workout. But as soon as we started to flow through chaturanga, I realized I was still extremely sore in my arms from a previous class that week. I also realized quickly that the instructor was a recent YTT grad. She seemed a little nervous, and the class was more of a basics class than usual.

The class, however, offered me something I didn't know I needed. During centering, the instructor walked to each of the two students and gave us a shoulder massage. She had a lovely touch that was just a perfect balance of gentle and firm. Because the class way so small, the instructor walked around a lot to adjust and massage. And in savasana, she again rubbed our shoulders and necks. It felt heavenly. It was the perfect way to end an evening after work.

These two yoga classes reminded me of something many of my instructors have said. They would tell the students to let go of expectations. Usually I would take this as, you might not get as far as you have in the past, and that's OK. But that also applies to the instructor. You might not get what you usually get from the teacher, and that's OK. You will always benefit from going to a class. Let go of what you think the instructor will do and just let yourself be in the moment. Let go of wanting to do a certain pose or go deeper into a posture.

That same lesson can be applied off the mat. Let go of how you think something will go and just experience and appreciate it the way it is. So, this weekend, and always, leave your expectations at home and go out and enjoy the moment.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Moksha Yoga Phoenix

I think it's important to make time for yoga while on vacation. On a recent trip to Phoenix, I tried out a new studio in north Phoenix. Moksha Yoga opened before I moved to Chicago, but I didn't have a chance to try it while I was living in Phoenix. Since then, one of my favorite yoga instructors has moved her classes there. I had to check it out.

I did some homework on Moksha's website and found new students only pay $5. That's an incredible deal for a class. I also saw that yoga teachers can get monthly memberships for $50. That made me wish I still lived in Phoenix. You can spend that much for a week of classes.

Moksha is located in a shopping center near Piestewa Peak. It's only a couple of miles from my home in Phoenix. The outside of the studio was kind of plain, but the inside has lovely, spacious yoga rooms. If you look at the schedule, you'll see classes taught by the most well-known and respected yoga teachers in Phoenix. Class types include Ashtanga, Core Flow, Nidra and Master Flow, which is what I took. The back of the space had all the props you could need and mats to borrow, something I appreciate because I couldn't fit my mat in my carry-on. I think it's a nice touch when studios don't charge for mat rental.

The instructor, Angie, has recently traveled to India to further her teacher training, and that shows in her classes. She incorporates more chanting than before and we began class with breathing techniques that aren't always done in yoga classes nowadays. I'll definitely be back to Moksha next time I am in Phoenix for work. In the winter months, it would work out so well to hike Piestewa and then take a class, or vice versa.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Return of Weekly Workout Recaps

Why would anyone care what my weekly workouts are? I don't really think anyone does. But I share them because it keeps me accountable and might help others in some way. Maybe it helps to hear you're not alone in lacking motivation. Or maybe you wonder what it would take to train for a half marathon after getting a late start. That's what I'm doing now. Summer in Chicago has been my excuse to skip a lot of running. I started to get back into it in the past week and a half. Hence, the return of my weekly accountability posts.

Monday: 1 mile. What can I say? I am easing into this half-marathon training.

Tuesday: 1.2 miles.

Wednesday: 3.8-mile group run. Chicago cooled down a bit that day. The breeze felt so nice. I liked running with the group because it sped me up from my turtle-ly slow pace.

Thursday: Nothing. I had every intention of going to yoga at the studio, but I didn't make it.

Friday: 1-hour Hatha yoga class. The class began with meditation and chants to Ganesha, the destroyer of obstacles. We repeated "Om gan ganapataye namaha" three times in a call and response and then three times together as a class. I missed yoga at this particular studio because it has no music and it's not just about a physical workout.

Saturday: 7.6 miles. I've been experiencing some tightness in my right hip that I attribute to not doing enough yoga. I felt that same tightness but alleviate it with some stretching and by taking the run nice and slow.

Sunday: 90-minute vinyasa yoga class. The class wasn't as challenging as I would have liked, but sometimes I need to dial things back a bit. I had a realization during class that I need to let go of my expectations for classes, my practice and in life in general, but I'll share more on that later.


My motivation the last week has been that I don't feel comfortable in my body at the moment. My clothes aren't fitting as well as they used to, and it doesn't help that the few fall clothing purchases I made were too small. I had to return them and get bigger sizes. That was a blow to the ego and a reminder that I need to be more mindful of what I eat and how much exercise I get/steps I take. Let's hope I can keep this motivation going. 

What are your tips for staying motivated to work out?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August Minimalism Challenge, Part 6

I've reached the home stretch of the Minimalism Challenge. I now have the five hardest tasks (for me) remaining for the month: Stay offline for one day, no-complaint day, practice single-tasking, no TV all day (which I've already attempted twice), and leave a whole day unplanned. Wish me luck!


No purchases for 24 hours. You would think this is easy, but then you suddenly have the urge to get Starbucks or a doughnut. (Or is that just me?) I succeeded in not buying anything, but, like the other tasks in this challenge, it was  a battle.

Practice gratitude. I had a particularly unpleasant day recently when I attended a court hearing regarding my apartment building, which is in foreclosure. On that same day, some miscommunication at work frustrated me so much that it came out of my eyeballs in the form of tears. And so I journaled about what I'm grateful for to remind myself I am actually blessed. Some of the things I said I'm grateful for: my hard-working husband, my ability to work from home, and our ability to travel.

Evaluate your commitments. What are my commitments? I have my full-time job, this blog, my running group and half-marathon training, my yoga practice, and of course my relationships with people in my life. I am going to start my five-week photography class as soon as I find one that fits my schedule and when I buy a tripod. I think I have enough going on right now that I am not overwhelmed, which is why I have been holding back on pursuing a teaching gig. I have always taken on too much. While I enjoyed teaching, I remember rushing home after my full-time job to change and then driving in rush-hour traffic to get to my class. I loved teaching, but I didn't take pleasure in the constant chaos of always having to be somewhere.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Having a set bedtime routine isn't always feasible for me because no evening is the same. Some nights Graham is home from work and we spend time together, and other nights he isn't home until late and he finds me sleeping on the couch. The only things I tend to do regularly are wash my face/use a facial toner and brush my teeth, and to be honest, I skip washing my face sometimes. I know I shouldn't, so I'll work on doing that. Ideally I would do some relaxing yoga poses before bed, too.

Examine your daily habits. I could always add in a few minutes of yoga and meditation to my daily routine, so I'll try to remember that. One thing I want to cut back on is starting my day by scrolling through social media. I need to ease into the day before I concern myself about what the world is up to.

Previously accomplished:

Part 1: Unfollow and unfriend; streamline your reading list; turn off notifications; clean out your closet.

Part 2: Evaluate your last five purchases; learn to enjoy solitude; go for a walk and practice mindfulness; go bare-faced.

Part 3: Meditate for 15 minutes; no email or social media until lunch; let go of a goal; downsize your beauty collection.

Part 4: Journal for 20 minutes; identify 3-6 priorities; follow a morning routine; identify stress triggers.

Part 5: Declutter your digital life; define your goals for the year; take a step toward learning a new skill; clear out your junk drawer.

Monday, August 24, 2015

I Dabbled in Photography

I've always loved photography. I took a photojournalism class in college, but I never pursued it beyond that. I'm finally at the place where I am willing and able to devote more time to developing this skill. I'd love to improve the quality of the photos I take, even if my plans don't include becoming a professional photographer.

I started my journey with a class I found on Dabble. I had heard about Dabble from a friend who has tried classes in all sorts of subjects. The class, called DSLR Fundamentals: How's This Camera Work, Anyway?, was an introduction to the basics of photography. It was a good refresher course, and the instructor kept the class small, which meant we each got help when we needed it. The class met at the Millennium Park welcome center and walked to a smaller park down the street in order to avoid the crowds.

As we played with shutter speed, we were encouraged to take photos and make mistakes. We played with different settings to see how it affects the photos.

A fountain at a fast shutter speed

A longer exposure. As you can see, a do not have a steady hand. A tripod would have made this a lot better (as would moving to a fountain that had more light.)
 Then we experimented with changing the aperture setting.

At the end of class, we walked to a street corner to try motion shots in which the subject is clear but the background is blurry. Here's my best attempt:

As I walked back to the train, I played around with the camera settings and took some shots. Chicago makes for a beautiful model, don't you think?

The class taught me I have so much to learn about photography. I plan to follow up this class with an intermediate five-week course as well as a sunset photography. I can't wait to take better photos!

Friday, August 21, 2015

August Minimalism Challenge, Part 5

The 30-Day Minimalism Challenge  continues. I have some interesting challenges to tackle in the remaining days, including not buying anything for 24 hours and no TV all day (?!).


Declutter your digital life. This is an ongoing process. I started to sort through my emails to delete unnecessary messages, but it seems never-ending. I also deleted files from my Google Drive and cleared out some messages from other inboxes. I need to finish some of the 12 or so draft blog posts I have saved, along with many other tasks. It seems like I have dug myself into a hole, because my digital life is quite cluttered. I will focus on this bit by bit. Rome wasn't built in one day.

Define your goals for the year.  I blogged about my goals in December.  My goals were to run a marathon (done), move (done), volunteer more (not done), travel outside the country (trip being planned) and to a state I haven't visited (done), teach yoga again (evaluating whether I want to do this), do a headstand away from the wall (I let go of this goal) and work on a book (in progress). My goal for the remainder of 2015 is to act in ways that align with my priorities. I want to focus on my time with Graham, explore my new city, maintain relationships with old friends and create new friendships, get in better shape and save more/pay down debt.

Take a step toward learning a new skill. I signed up for a photography class to better learn how to use my camera. I have plans to take other photography classes after that. I want to develop that skill and see where that takes me.

Clear out your junk drawer. I don't really have one. I sorted through my desk drawer and everything is organized and essential. I have my journals, my other laptop, Post-Its, various office supplies and work notebooks and reference sheets. What Graham and I need to address is a basket of mail that needs to be sorted and dealt with. I need a file container to store that paperwork that may or may not be necessary someday. That's a task to add to the list for another day. 

Previously accomplished:

Part 1: Unfollow and unfriend; streamline your reading list; turn off notifications; clean out your closet.

Part 2: Evaluate your last five purchases; learn to enjoy solitude; go for a walk and practice mindfulness; go bare-faced.

Part 3: Meditate for 15 minutes; no email or social media until lunch; let go of a goal; downsize your beauty collection.

Part 4: Journal for 20 minutes; identify 3-6 priorities; follow a morning routine; identify stress triggers.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nana's Squash, Zucchini and Corn Soup

My nana recently made a delicious yet simple soup that I love. I didn't have the recipe for it, but I vaguely remembered what she put in it, so I tried my best to recreate it. Note: I do not really know what I'm doing in the kitchen. My method of cooking is to follow Pinterest recipes to the T and to use canned sauces as much as possible to cut down on preparation time. This soup reminds me of the comfort of my nana's house in Rocky Point (Puerto PeƱasco), Mexico. She used to make this when I would visit her in my childhood. It's comforting to make this now that I live in Chicago, so far away from my family in Arizona and Mexico.


2 cups water
1 can (about 8 ounces) of tomato sauce
1 green chile
1 summer squash
1 zucchini (You can also use two summer squashes or two zucchinis.)
1 can of corn
Half (or whole) white onion
4-5 slices of pepper Jack cheese (3-4 ounces; I used Sargento.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle of garlic salt

The great thing about soup is that you can add other ingredients or different kinds of cheeses. This was enough for Graham and me for 2-3 days.

Add water and tomato sauce to pot and stir. Turn to medium high heat. Cut up the vegetables and add them to the pan. Add the cheese, stir and then simmer (mixing occasionally) for about 15-20 minutes. Add salt, pepper and garlic salt. (I knew it was done when I bit into the squash and it was tender.)

And that's it! Easy, right?

As I ate this, I thought about my family and about Phoenix. I was so proud of myself for being to create a little piece of home. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How I Get 10,000 Steps a Day Despite Having a Desk Job

It's tough to get all my steps in as a work-from-home editor. I have found ways to force myself to walk around more and get some exercise, otherwise my Garmin will yell at me --- or vibrate and say "Move!" I don't always hit the 10,000 step mark, but these little steps go a long way:
  • Take the dogs for an extra walk around the block. I take my dogs one at a time for two reasons: 1. I get even more steps in. 2. They are a little too much for me to handle together.
  • Sweep or vacuum. I have to do this often because, as No. 1 mentions, I have two dogs.
  • When I have a break between tasks, I will walk into another room and do a round of exercises. These can be crunches, handstand practice, jumping jacks, pushups or yoga poses. 
  • Find any reason to take the stairs. Take out the trash, check the mail, whatever.
  • Go for a walk or run during my lunch break. 
  • Eat lunch away from my desk. It's not much of a walk, but every step counts.
  • Switch up my work space. I walk to a different room or go to Starbucks or another coffee shop to work. Again, every step counts.
  • Run errands or go to yoga at the studio before or after work. I walk whenever I can. 
It seems I have exhausted my ideas for how to take more steps during my workday. How do you get your steps?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest 2015

Seeking to find artwork for our abundant bare wall space, Graham and I walked over to the Glenwood Ave. Arts Fest in our Rogers Park neighborhood on Sunday.

The farmers market was held next to the fest, creating one big walkable marketplace. One of the first booths to catch our eye was Anastasia Mak's. We were drawn to her vibrant pieces, many of which were of Chicago landmarks. We made our way around the entire fest before deciding we wanted to buy a print for my office. I also walked away with a print of a turtle from Bala Thiagarajan and a homemade body wash in a Raspberry scent. I wished I could have bought something from every artist.

A sangria slushie took my mind off the humidity for just a little while. I wanted more, especially with Graham stealing sips of mine.

The murals of Rogers Park complemented the event.

Besides the food vendors, Heartland Cafe was a Sunday brunch option. I've been wanting to try it for weeks.

The Sunday farmers market was to the east of the train tracks.

On the walk home, we more spotted local restaurants that we'd like to try out, including a Mexican food place. We realized there's still so much of Rogers Park and Chicago we haven't seen.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

August Minimalism Challenge, Part 4

My attempt to complete every task in the Minimalism Challenge from Into Mind continues with these prompts. The goal is to build habits that support a more intentional life.


Journal for 20 minutes. I need to get back into journaling regularly, so I appreciate this challenge. I wrote about yoga and reflected on whether I want to teach again.

Identify 3-6 priorities. This prompt aligned with my desire to get back into writing in my journal. My priorities right now are:

1. Spending time with Graham
2. Keeping in touch with friends/family and growing new friendships in Chicago
3. Yoga, running and strength training
4. Paying off debt and building up our savings
5. Simplifying
6. Being more intentional in my actions

Follow a morning routine. I usually follow this routine: I wake up and immediately feed and water the dogs. I grab a water for myself. I then straighten up the apartment, because I like starting the day in a clean place. Then it's my time to get coffee and eat breakfast. My goal is to fit meditation in here, ideally right when I wake up. Before long it's time to get to work. Some days I'll try to make it to yoga or go to the grocery store, but that depends on what time I roll out of bed.

Identify stress triggers. My biggest stressor is lack of control, which I need to realize is OK. I get stressed when things don't go as planned or when something throws off my routine. That's why I need to practice yoga.

Previously accomplished:

Part 1: Unfollow and unfriend; streamline your reading list; turn off notifications; clean out your closet.

Part 2: Evaluate your last five purchases; learn to enjoy solitude; go for a walk and practice mindfulness; go bare-faced.

Part 3: Meditate for 15 minutes; no email or social media until lunch; let go of a goal; downsize your beauty collection.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Arizona Monsoon Storms

It may sound crazy, but I miss Phoenix's monsoons. They were a respite from the monotony of sunshine and 110 degree heat. The storms didn't last long, but they put on a colorful show.

Graham and I used to race to the mountain when we knew there would be a storm or when a storm had just passed through our neighborhood. Those storms always created the best sunsets.

We would run to a specific viewing spot at Dreamy Draw Recreation Area. The trick is to get to the parking lot before it closes.

Sometimes storms in the West Valley would be visible. The rainfall would created a silhouette. If you're lucky, you might see some lightning. To the south would be downtown Phoenix's skyline, clouded in the city's dusty haze. We would wait long enough to see the colors change. Those evenings were always the best summer nights. 

Sometimes I miss being able to hike those mountains in the middle of the city. But one thing I don't miss? That feeling of just having opened an oven  all day, every day. If things work out as we'd like them to, we'll find ourselves in Phoenix in the cooler months. I can't wait to go back our spot. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August Minimalism Challenge, Part 3

The 30-day minimalism challenge continues with four more accomplishments. The challenge from Into Mind is aimed at living a simpler, more intentional life. If that intrigues you, give it a try and let me know how it went. Some of these are going to be extremely difficult, but I'm going to try. (These tasks can be done in any order, as long as none is skipped.)


Meditate for 15 minutes. The first time I tried this after not meditating for months, I lasted about 5 minutes. My mind was wandering. I tried again with an alarm set on my phone for 15 minutes. After about 7 minutes, I changed my seating position. After another 5 or so minutes I looked at the time. I made it to 13 minutes before I had to get up. I hope to eventually be able to meditate for 15 minutes without having to check the time or fidget.

No email or social media until lunch. It was actually brunch and this was difficult for me. At 9:34 a.m. I opened Twitter for 10 seconds before I realized what I was doing. Minutes later, I opened my work email for a second and immediately closed it. D'oh! But for the most part I was able to stay off until close to 1 p.m.

Let go of a goal. I am letting go of the goal to get into handstand by the end of the year. It will happen when it happens. It will happen when I am ready to let go of the fear.

Downsize your beauty collection. I don't have much of a beauty collection, but I got rid of some makeup that I never wear.

Previously accomplished:

Part 1: Unfollow and unfriend; streamline your reading list; turn off notifications; clean out your closet.

Part 2: Evaluate your last five purchases; learn to enjoy solitude; go for a walk and practice mindfulness; go bare-faced.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Johnnyswim at the Space in Evanston

Graham and I were able to hear our favorite duo, Johnnyswim, in Evanston last week. Their music is special to us: Amanda and Abner sing our wedding song, "Take the World."

We had never been to Evanston, so when we stepped out of the train station we were pleasantly surprised by the different vibe it gives off vs. Chicago. It was a short walk to the Space, which didn't appear to be a concert venue from the outside. The building says Union/Space outside; Union is the name of the restaurant in the front. We walked in and saw a long hallway with a few people waiting in line. Autographed band posters hang on one wall, and other is an exposed-brick wall.

We had arrived an hour and half early because we had standing-room only tickets and I wanted to get a good spot. When we walked inside, we saw that the Space also has tables that can be reserved. Sadly, these tables must have been sold out when I bought our tickets. We were told we could stand along the bar area or in the back behind the tables and seats. We picked a spot at the end of the bar so I could see; my height tends to be an issue at concerts. It was convenient because we didn't have to move to get our drinks. I sipped on a Herbie Hancock, which the server described as magical. Her description is accurate; it's a delicious mix of white rum, Falernum and watermelon.

As 8 p.m. approached, the Space filled up. We had only a couple of minutes before the show when a couple came to the end of the bar and stood right in front of me, in an area the servers had been using to access the bar. I gave Graham a worried look. He asked a server whether the couple's spot was legit, and she said, "Absolutely not. If they still stand there when the show starts I'll say something." I was relieved. The couple ended up moving on their own to a spot to the right of us that didn't block my view. I mention the couple because I find it appalling that it wouldn't even occur to people that someone might have been waiting for hours when they block the person's view. If you want to see your favorite artists from a good spot, arrive early.

Then the show began. I was emotional throughout most of the show because 1. I am a baby and 2. Their songs really hit home. (Specifically the song "Home" and "Diamonds.") I nearly cried when they played "Take the World." Abner said the Space is his favorite place to play. I can see why. It's intimate and relaxed, and the music sounded great. There isn't a bad seat in the house. At one point, Abner and Amanda came out into the crowd to sing.

 I didn't want the night to end,

Friday, August 7, 2015

August Minimalism Challenge, Part 2


Evaluate your last five purchases. 
1. Replacement lens cap. I have now lost the caps to both my camera lenses. This is why I can't have nice things. I bought a new one to prevent scratches.
2. Dinner at Quartino. I wanted to get dinner with a friend who was in Chicago for the weekend. The purchase is in line with my preference to spend money on experiences and not things.
3. Autographed Johnnyswim poster. After their amazing show at the Space in Evanston, I wanted to support them in some way. I'm hanging the poster in my office, which needs more art.
4. CTA train tickets. It was either spend $30 or more for parking in the Loop during Lollapalooza weekend or take the train. I have been riding the train a lot this past week and a half.
5. Starbucks. This is where I need to cut back. Starbucks recently cut my favorite drink, so I have no reason to go there so much.

Learn to enjoy solitude. Go for a walk and practice mindfulness. Both done. I have always enjoyed solitude and I am alone quite a bit. It's an introvert's dream.

Go bare-faced. I actually do this all the time. It's one of the perks of working from home.

Read Part 1 of my attempt to complete the challenge here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August Minimalism Challenge

Challenge via

I came across this 30-day minimalism challenge from Into Mind while reading the alyssagoesbang blog recently. The goal is to live a simpler, more intentional life. If that intrigues you, give it a try and let me know how it went. Some of these are going to be extremely difficult, but I'm going to try. (These tasks can be done in any order, as long as none is skipped.)

Accomplished so far

Unfollow and unfriend. I do this regularly, but I took some time to go through my timeline and unfollow people who don't post what I deemed to be relevant or interesting information. On Facebook, I unfriended people I haven't spoken to in years, though I had already done this recently. I also hid some people I remain friends with from my news feed so that I don't regularly see their negative or excessive posts.

Streamline your reading list. This one was easy because I haven't been doing much reading outside of work. I find that I do so much reading during the day that I don't want to spend more time on that activity. Perhaps I'll do more reading for pleasure during the winter.

Turn off notifications. I had already turned off Facebook notifications, but I also stopped Instagram and Twitter alerts on my phone. I am keeping Gmail notifications on my main account for now because I sometimes need to answer emails quickly.

Clean out your closet. This item has been in progress since the move to Chicago. I donated and sold a bunch of clothes during the packing process. In the past two weeks, I've also sold some clothing items on eBay and have a couple more listed. I plan to list at least three more items, though my closet is looking pretty lean.

That's four down, 26 to go!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Lincoln Park Zoo, Take 2

This weekend was one for revisiting a couple Chicago attractions. Both times I was pleasantly surprised to see things I missed the first time.

I walked a section of Lincoln Park Zoo that I skipped on my first visit. Walking a different route gives you a different perspective and can make it feel like your first time at the zoo.

Among the animals I missed the first time around was the Sichuan takin and the flamingos in one of the gardens. We stopped to listen to the zoo employees, who are set up around the zoo to share tidbits about the animals.

It's a great place to take visitors with children, and, best of all, the zoo is free!