Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Summer colors

It's terribly annoying when people complain about the weather, but this heatwave we're in is slowly breaking me. I've been going to yoga classes every evening because at least then I'm sweating while moving instead of sweating while lying splayed on the living room floor. It just feels better.

And even though many of you are probably done with summer already, here are a couple of pretty things that I've been enjoying over the last month ...

matte colorburst
{matte colorburst}

grapefruit saison from golden road
{grapefruit saison from golden road}

:: I've always had a hard time with bright lip color, because it makes me feel self conscious and I'm worried it's on my teeth or all over my face (this is a real possibility - I frequently don't see myself in the mirror until 2pm at which point I realize my hair has been doing something crazy all day and everyone has been too polite to say anything). But I couldn't resist these little tubes. They're the Revlon Colorburst Matte Balms and they're awesome. I have 240, which is a gorgeous red, and 245, which is a bright coral. You can apply them lightly and rub them in and get a stain effect, or you can apply them heavily, blot a couple times and you're good to go for hours. I've had good luck with them surviving everything but a full meal, which seems fair. If your lips are dry, it can go on chalky, so I like to put chapstick on while I'm getting ready and let it absorb for a while before putting on the color. Somehow the fact that these are matte makes me feel less self conscious about wearing them. I used to be a major shine addict (anyone remember Mac Lip Glass?) but this is a nice change.

:: We've been enjoying a lot of saisons this summer. They're lighter, less hoppy, very refreshing. If you're a hops addict (I fully admit that I have a problem) it might be a hard sell at first, but I've come to love them. I'll admit that I bought this grapefruit saison the first time because it came in the prettiest can I've ever seen, but it really is a great beer. We've been picking it up at Whole Foods whenever we see it. Nicely done, Golden Road.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reading, lately

I've been taking my reading a little more slowly than usual, in deference to my eyes. Let me tell you, lying around with your eyes closed is boring. I've been trying to make the enforced downtime feel useful by practicing timed breathing or listening to guided meditations, which makes it more bearable, but I still miss devouring books.

Runaway - Alice Munro's short stories are always lovely. These are simple, finely drawn pictures of people's lives. I loved that some of the characters spanned a couple of stories. Short stories are a double edged sword. I love the uncertainty and possibility you're left with at the end of a piece when everything isn't neatly wrapped up. On the other hand, it can be hard to let go of the characters. Having a story extended over a few "chapters" is a nice in-between.

The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories - Another set of short stories. I was just feeling it that week. These stories are darkly funny, emphasis on the dark. There were a surprising number of boats (ships?) worked in and I'll admit it took me two tries to get drawn into the title story mostly because my eyes glaze over at boat details. BUT it picked up quickly and I ended up really enjoying these.

The Artist of Disappearance - I think I had a Kindle fail here. I checked this out from the library as an e-book and it was the single titular novella. Apparently there are supposed to be three included, so I'll need to check out the print version to read the other two. Bummer. It was a beautiful, haunting short story about a solitary man who expresses himself through the creation of Andy Goldsworthy-esque nature art.

The Lowland - I've loved Jhumpa Lahiri since Interpreter of Maladies, and this was no exception. Her writing is lyrical but still pointed and it's easy to fall right into her stories. This novel is about two brothers, two continents, family loyalty and betrayals. I was expecting this to be another series of short stories and was already feeling sad about leaving the brothers behind when I realized it was a novel. Score.

My Hollywood - I'm not completely sure how to talk about this book. It revolves around a couple of families and their relationships with their nannies, set in a wealthy area in LA. As I read the book I felt more and more depressed, which was maybe the intention. The narration is split between the mother and the nanny and I was mildly uncomfortable with the broken English used for the nanny (too easily offended? quite possibly). I also thought the ending was a little too movie-ish. Maybe appropriate given the title?

Casebook - This is another novel by Mona Simpson and I enjoyed it much more than My Hollywood. You're witnessing a divorce (and the subsequent years) from the point of view of a young boy who is spying on his parents. As a narrator, Miles is engaging and the story carries. There's still something about Simpson's writing that just isn't my favorite but it's hard to put my finger on it. I think it feels a little pat and it's more plot driven than descriptive, sometimes.

Americanah - Everyone and their mother (and my own stepmother) recommended this book to me and it didn't disappoint. It follows a woman as she travels from her native Nigeria to the east coast of America and then back again. The story is good, the writing is sharp and the descriptions are wonderful. The only thing I'll quibble with is that the main character is supposed to be a blogger and the descriptions of her blog taking off like wildfire and growing into a lucrative business accidentally was a little hard to swallow. I mean, there is a huge difference between a hobby blog and one that you actively make money with and one of them requires a whoooole lot more in the way of effort, marketing, etc. But it's just a plot point and I was able to push that aside. The commentary on race in America was interesting. That is the world's flattest sentence, but I've tried rewriting it a bunch of times and it's tough to explain. I can't say how true it is or how well described it was, because I'm a white woman and I feel like everything I try to say about how wonderful it is comes off as condescending or oblivious or try-hard. Now I'm trying to craft a follow up sentence and failing. Let me just say that I really enjoyed this book and it gave me an amazing, observational peek on someone else's perspective.

All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, The Book of Life) - Lauren and I share a love of decently written supernatural novels (no Twilight, thanks) and when she started reading this trilogy I had to jump in (two years later, after all three had been released). It's a tough one to criticize because the author is so clearly earnest and enjoying herself and I don't want to stomp on that. But I think it's fair to say that it gets a little weird. The basic premise is that a Yale University professor, who happens to be a witch, falls head over heels for a mysterious stranger who turns out to be a vampire. Chaos ensues. The first one is pretty solid, the second one gets a bit lost due to a time traveling plot that allows Harkness to get caught up in her obvious love of history (she's a history professor, as I was not in the least bit surprised to discover later). By the third one, I was feeling irked with the main characters and their obsessive love affair, complete with some of the most embarrassing sex scenes I've ever read. It's as if your favorite professor decided to write tasteful, terribly boring porn. All that said, if you like this genre, you'll probably enjoy it quite a bit. Harkness does a good job of building up the supernatural world and the main plot is engaging, although there's a lot of meandering so you just need to give in and be patient. You can go ahead and skim the vampire-witch action bits unless you're into that sort of thing. Lauren has a description of the first book up that's both funnier and better written than my rather vague overview.

Never Go Back (a Jack Reacher novel) - Not my favorite Jack Reacher but still enjoyable. It got a wee bit convoluted, which can happen with thrillers, especially if they involve the military. I'm not ready to say the series is going downhill, because I think it just has occasional misses.

Dust (a Kay Scarpetta novel) - I am obviously a crazy masochist, because that is the only possible way to explain the fact that I'm still reading this series. Every time I see that there's a new one out I have to grit my teeth and take a deep breath before diving in. I know it will be horrible but I still do it and then sometimes I re-read Cause of Death to remind myself that it wasn't always so bad. But guys, it's gotten bad. If I were any less compulsive I'd have stopped reading these years ago because at this point it's basically torturous.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Rearranging

We did a pretty major (heartwrenching) book clean out when we moved. I was feeling pretty good about the fact that we got our books on the low shelves in our living room. And then I discovered a couple more boxes of my favorites in the back of a closet. Whoops.

new bedside table
{new bedside table}

I rearranged a bit to accommodate them. I took the very old crate that we'd been using for shoes in our old place, put it on its side and filled it with books (it's deep enough that there are two layers, so one isn't visible here). Then I put a tray on top to corral my nightstand stuff. It's not the most elegant solution, but it works okay.

Our bedroom has been neglected. We had so many other projects in the rest of the house and I think we just ran out of energy. Until a couple weekends ago we actually had an empty dresser taking up a huge amount of space in there because we kept meaning to Craigslist it and never got around to it. We finally ended up giving it to my sister and somehow freeing up that space has me more motivated to make progress in the space.

In theory I want my bedroom to be a sanctuary with perfect linens and uncluttered surfaces. In practice it ends up being more like, can I sleep here? Okay, good enough.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dry eyes battle

I'm still fumbling through this dry eyes situation that I've mentioned a couple times here. I had never had an issue with my eyes (other than fairly terrible vision) until Thanksgiving of last year, when I noticed my right eye felt like I had an eyelash stuck in it, except there was nothing there. Turns out my cornea was scratched and as it continued to get worse I finally realized the underlying cause was dry eyes. It progressed over the next several months and I quickly graduated from my optometrist to an ophthalmologist.

fighting it
{fighting it}

I'm certainly not an expert, and I'm still struggling a lot. I have good days where I feel almost completely normal and then I have bad days where I can't see anything unless I hold it three inches from my face (works for a phone, not so effective with a computer screen) and I want to cry in frustration.

I've got my basic arsenal down and it's actually pretty simple for now. I'm attacking on a few different fronts. I did some frantic online research/shopping when I decided to get serious about this (oh, the irony of having to use the computer to find information about a condition that is worsened by using the computer!).

Humidifier - (x2 - one for my office, one for the bedroom). This one was the cheapest, simplest humidifier I could find and it's been great. The misty air is cold, which means you can have an unpleasant tendency to dampness if you aim it too close to your clothes. I'm honestly not sure if the humidifier is making a huge difference, but it's a relatively low cost, low impact option, so I'm sticking with it.

Eye drops - I use two different kinds of eye drops, a lighter one during the day and a heavy gel at night. They are both preservative free, which is critical if you're using them often. They come in individual vials, which are meant for single use but I can recap my daytime ones and get a few applications out of each one. I use RefreshPlus during the day, which I get from Costco for a little less money ($20 for 100 vials, which lasts me about a month) and before I go to bed at night I put in Thera Tears gel, close my eyes and sort of massage it in. Then I carefully wipe my eyes with damp washcloth, because I hate having gel all over my eyelashes when I wake up.

Omega-3s - I'm taking vitamins for the first time in my life. There is some evidence that omega-3s can help with dry eyes (some studies here). I figured I should be taking them for general health anyways, so that was an easy decision. And since I was already in for it, I added in a vitamin B complex and the vitamin D my doctor asked me to start taking 5 years ago. I'm basically the healthiest person alive now! Right now I'm just using the Thera Tears vitamin, because I was overwhelmed and tired of researching things. Since the omega-3 is the important part I'll probably save a little money and just start sharing the Costco fish oil pills that we buy for Circe (yes, our dog has been taking all her supplements daily since we've had her - not sure why it takes a crisis to convince me to do the same). It can take 4 - 8 weeks before you notice an improvement. Last week was my fifth week and I felt like I turned a little corner. It was the first week in months where I felt pretty normal all week. I don't want to jinx it, but I'm hopeful. This week I've had a little blurring but nothing terrible. I'm now obsessive about never missing my pills and I wish I'd tried this earlier.

Hot/cold compresses - There's some debate over compresses. People generally recommend a hot compress to help unplug (possibly) blocked oil ducts. On the other hand, some people swear by cold compresses to help reduce inflammation. I go ahead and do both. I store my gel eye mask in the freezer and when I get home from work I take out my contacts* and do a 10 - 20 minute cold compress. I leave the mask out and then right before I go to bed I'll heat it in the microwave and do a 10 minute hot compress. Again, not sure this helps but it feels good. The mask is relatively cheap and it's been holding up well so far.

Miscellaneous -

I've had temporary punctal plugs inserted twice now and they seem to help me quite a bit but I think the left one came out shortly after it was inserted this time around. My left eye (which was my good eye for the first few months) has been a disaster, way worse than my right. FYI - the punctal plugs aren't scary at all. Each one looks like a tiny grain of rice and it takes about two seconds for the ophthalmologist to pop it into the tear duct. They dissolve slowly and mine are supposed to last about 3 months but don't make it quite that long. I have a little discomfort right after insertion (not painful, but I'm aware of it) but they seem to settle in overnight and then I can't tell they're there.

Eyelid hygiene is usually recommended. I don't worry much about this, because I wash my face every night with gentle soap and do a pretty thorough massage of my eyelids to make sure I get all my mascara off.

Work habits are the toughest for me. The rule I keep hearing is take a break from computer work every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away. I don't know about you, but that's difficult for me. First, I guess I should be setting an alarm to go off every 20 minutes, but I haven't done it. Second, I tend to get really focused and then I hate being interrupted when I'm working on something. (I'm fully aware these are excuses - I'm going to set up the alarm on my phone now)

I have been trying to reduce my screen time as much as possible. I don't use the computer much for recreational stuff if I'm having a bad spell (hence, sporadic posting). Sadly, reading is sometimes difficult as well and I have to be more strategic about it. I'm going to look into checking out audio books from the library if I don't improve soon.

Upcoming - at my last ophthalmologist appointment he recommended permanent punctal plugs and Restasis prescription eye drops. I resisted because I felt I hadn't done everything I could on my end. But after 1.5 months of effort, I'm ready to go try anything. I'll probably take him up on those at my next appointment. But maybe not the permanent plugs because those still make me nervous (what if I don't have insurance at some point and that's when a plug decides to go rogue in my tear duct?!).




* And this is maybe where you want to yell at me, because I'm still wearing contact lenses against the advice of my ophthalmologist. He thinks that my dry eyes are caused by contacts but I'm not so sure. I followed his advice initially and went completely without contacts for a month ... and then another month ... and then another month. It didn't make an appreciable difference in my eye situation. I seem to have about the same number of good and bad days whether I'm wearing contacts or glasses. One side effect of the dry eyes is that I'm pretty sensitive to bright light and being able to easily slip sunglasses on and off is a huge benefit. I also just hate wearing my glasses, especially at the gym. I am extremely careful with my contacts, never sleep in them and change them out as scheduled. I feel pretty confident that this isn't setting me back, but who knows? One thing I've found really helpful - I put a daytime eye drop (RefreshPlus) in each eye right before putting my contacts in. Then I put an eyedrop in the contact lens before I insert it and follow the whole thing up with an eyedrop in each eye. My eyes don't dry out any faster when I'm wearing contacts (I have soft hydrogel lenses) and it's much easier for me to put eyedrops in because I'm not having to take my glasses off each time. Have I justified my vain and potentially bad decision enough now?

Friday, August 29, 2014

New splurge

I'd been putting off buying a new nighttime face lotion for ages because there are so many options, at so many price points and the research is just a pain. And then the internet worked for me* and I finally found one with almost no effort. It's officially the best face lotion I've ever tried.

rose day cream
{rose day cream}

It's called day cream, but I only use it at night, because it doesn't have SPF in it. It's very, very thick, and my dry skin loves it. I massage it in gently and it takes a minute to absorb. My skin feels a million times better since I started using it and I think it looks better as well. 

I was initially uncertain because it seemed expensive ($35 for 1 oz) but I've been using it nightly for the last two months and I haven't put much of a dent in the tube. I'm guessing I'll get 4 - 6 months out of it, and I can certainly live with that cost. 

It smells lightly of roses, so you'll either love it or it will remind you of old ladies. That's just a personal preference. I'm team roses.

*Emily posted a link to an article about Keri Russell's skin care regime and this is the lotion mentioned.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Closet strategy

So you've all been hearing about capsule wardrobes forever, right? Only using 30ish pieces of clothing or something like that? This is really appealing to me because I'm a terrible shopper and I'm finally realizing that the issue is that I don't like shopping very much most of the time*. You'd think this would mean I have less clothing, but no. It just means I have oddly assorted clothing and then wear the same things over and over again. Back in January I decided I needed to come up with a better system that would be more uniform-y and efficient. So now it's August ...

before
{before}

I was initially planning a pretty drastic overhaul. I wanted to cut my wardrobe down to 35 pieces (including shoes and clothes, everything except underwear and workout gear). I read through the guide at Unfancy and it seemed fairly doable (note - I've linked to the wardrobe planner but you'll need to poke around a little to get more information from her site about how she pieces out her wardrobe). I liked that it at least gave me a solid outline of how I'd want my closet allocated and what pieces I might need. I strategized quite a bit. 

But strategizing is not the same as executing. When I actually went to tackle my closet it became clear that getting down to 35 pieces all at once was going to be a huge mental effort and I was probably going to burn out my decision making power before I was done. This has happened in the past and it gets ugly. Sometimes I give up and put everything back in the closet. Sometimes I give up and toss out all my long sleeved shirts because I haven't worn them in months (ignoring the fact that it's summer) and then in October I have nothing to wear. I took a modified approach instead. 

I worked methodically, pulling out everything from one section at a time. I spread it all out and sorted into categories (tops, bottoms, special occasion, etc) to get an idea of what I had. Some pieces I knew needed to go - I didn't care about them and I hadn't worn them in forever. Some pieces were clear keepers (I'd worn them multiple times in the last few weeks). Then there were all the in-between things. Stuff I loved but hadn't worn in a long time. Pieces that could potentially be really useful (or used to be useful) but I didn't love that much. 

I started to feel overwhelmed with the decision making process so I decided to set up a clothing purgatory. Anything I wasn't sure about I marked with a piece of yellow ribbon, either knotted on the hanger or pinned on the tag. If I wear something and feel good about it, I'll take off the yellow ribbon. In a few months I'll revisit my closet and anything that still has a yellow ribbon will go. 

I also have a few purple tags, which are for pieces of clothing I do wear a lot but would like to replace with a better version soon. This way I'll know to keep my eye out for those staples. 

hanging
{hanging}

I think the marking system is what made it possible for me to get through everything without feeling overly stressed out. It's worth noting that I did not try anything on. I felt like that would just get distracting (and possibly depressing) and I was pretty sure I wouldn't finish. I'm just spreading it out a bit, since I'll eventually try these things on when I'm deciding what to wear. I think I can handle it better in small doses. 

in progress
{in progress}

In addition I set aside a couple of boxes and stashed them on my top shelf. One has my winter/holiday clothing and one has clothing I'm not quite fitting into right now. It's been a rough year, guys. I'm not going to beat myself up about it, but there's a good 5 - 10 pounds standing between me and my usual jeans. I figure if I'm still here in another six months, I can just give the whole box away in one go. 

This isn't quite everything - my dresses are hanging in the coat closet but I sorted through them with the same system. 

So I didn't exactly achieve my goal (I have no idea how many pieces of clothing I still own) but I think I'm heading in the right direction. I'm going to see how it goes and hopefully I can make this an ongoing process over the next several months. I want to be in a place where getting dressed is easy and I'm happy with all my clothes. 


* Once I realized this it was nice because I mostly stopped shopping. But it's lead to the secondary situation I'm in now, where I've worn through every pair of everyday shoes and now I need to buy sandals, flats and sneakers and it's a nightmare, because I hate shoe shopping more than anything else. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The weekend, briefly

pancakes
{pancakes}

sorting
{sorting}

lazy afternoon
{lazy afternoon}

baby girl
{baby girl}

I had a pretty productive weekend. We had D's little brother up so I made pancakes for us. I'm still looking for the perfect buttermilk-esque pancake recipe. I usually use this one (subbing lemon juice for the vinegar) but this weekend I had buttermilk so I tried a new one. They're both great, not sure that one is better than the other. I might keep testing.

The boys went to FYF fest and I settled in for a marathon closet session. More on that later - it's something I've been putting off for months. After six solid hours of work I stopped and spent the rest of the evening watching Scandal and drinking rosé and trying to convince Circe to be social. She's mostly only interested in snuggling at night and she prefers to spend most of the day alone in the closet in our bedroom (I know, she's a weird one).