The Living Project: Inspiration? Board

10649570_605278726092_6923458149409283308_n If you recall from the planning update I posted about this month’s Living Projects, I said I would create a mood board. From Living: 

In Harmony—We use digital pin-boards constantly to curate beautiful images, categorized by themes. We also like to take this habit offline: Create an old-fashioned mood board with visually striking inspiration (think paint chips, fabric scraps, calendars, magazine tear-outs, and personal photos). Working in a color scheme—we chose warm oranges and yellows—makes a harmonious focal point in your office.

Naturally, this entry in the magazine was so slender it didn’t even warrant a corresponding article online. (Come on,!) But I thought it was a good kick-off project—something not too far beyond my existing abilities that would get me started on a nice trajectory not only for the Living Project, but also for my September focus on creative projects in general.

My first task was to decide what exactly I was going to use this inspiration board to inspire. While the details are still in the Top Secret file, I finally settled on an upcoming project (TBD!) that will include a website that needs designing. With that project in mind, I drummed up a color palette, a vibe, and a direction I wanted to take things, and I set off running.

Gathering ideas was pretty easy—I had a number of items lying around, some great magazine clippings, personal photos, postcards, and so forth, that I really liked. I stopped by the hardware store to select some paint chips, and snagged several pictures I had on Pinterest with the intention of printing them for the board. I ordered an inexpensive bulletin board from Amazon (knowing that, if I enjoyed this project, I could reuse it again and again and it wouldn’t get tatty like foamcore), and set to work.

And that’s where I ran into my big snag.

Continue reading

September Focus: Creative Projects

Well! August’s focus was nutrition, and it took me nearly the whole month to get started up. But September’s focus—engaging in creative projects—is, I think, already well underway. First I have the #LivingProject to take up my time and energy. And that will be a total blast. 

Next, I have also been gathering the occasional project from Darby Smart—which has been great for someone like me who has a little problem with craft follow-through and needed a set of training wheels. I made some ring dishes and a cell phone case that (oops) doesn’t fit my cell phone, and I have some napkin rings and magnets and more jewelry holders and some ceramic tile things lined up for next. So hopefully I’ll be smart about this and scatter them throughout the month, instead of deciding to blitz my way through them in one weekend and suffer massive burnout. 

Ultimately, the goal is to take the training wheels off—start thinking more creatively about my life around me, take on more opportunities to flex my creative wings—be it via crafts, fine arts, more writing (another month’s focus), or something else entirely. The point is to allow my mind to start thinking creatively about all of the various problems and opportunities it encounters as I go through my days. And if that means I wind up with a more creative home, work life, family structure, and interior life, well then I think that’s a success.

Anyway, I obviously have the #LivingProject tasks and my little crafts to tackle this month, but if you think there’s something I should try to take on for this month’s focus, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to drop suggestions in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter @dumbleadore

Monday Miscellany


Hello again! I think I skipped a Monday or two in there, unfortunately. I’ve been more than a little wiped out, and trying to catch up. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately: 

10632869_598582889602_6460249685637924783_n Last weekend I went up to Portland to visit my family. All four of us hit up the Rose Garden, which is gorgeous this time of year. We also ate loads of macaroni and cheese, went to a wine tasting, went book shopping, and Dad showed me around his classroom for the upcoming year. 

That was my last travel until October, but it was great to get to see everyone—my brother even had cancelled plans for the weekend, so he and I got to hang out quite a bit. We don’t see each other often, so I’m grateful I had the opportunity to fly up. Bonus: My dear friend Tia, who also lives near them, had a little free time and grabbed some coffee with me. Some friendships are the same no matter when you left off last. And I get to see her again at Christmastime! 2014 isn’t bad.

10610943_598658867342_725605417227463978_n10253990_598658847382_6913032789632505456_nLast Monday, Andres & I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary. I gave him some nice monogrammed cotton jersey sheets, and he gave me the pictured tea set. Also pictured: the replica of our wedding cake he ordered from the bakery where we got the original. See, when we got married, we did the traditional “feed each other a bite of your wedding cake for everyone to see” bit (no, no smushing!). But aside from that one bite, I never got another piece of my own wedding cake—which was disappointing, because Lotta’s makes a damn fine cake.  At some point in the last year, I mentioned that disappointment to Andres, who dutifully set a reminder in his phone and went and got a replica of the top layer of our cake, same decoration, same flavor, same bakery, for our anniversary. Needless to say, these were awesome anniversary gifts and I feel pretty spoiled at the moment. 

On the nutrition front, it’s been all about planning and keeping things tidy. I haven’t been perfect (hello, anniversary cake!), but I’ve gotten a lot better about feeding myself healthily over the course of this month, and I have high hopes for the first week of September being a completely nutritious one. The best part about that is the improvement in my energy and how I feel physically, so bring it on! 

In my reading life

I finished:

As you know, I’ve announced and planned out the #LivingProject, which I’m so excited about!  I’m in the middle of a hiring round at work, and am in the planning stages of a project I have high hopes for at work as well. 

And I think that’s us all caught up! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about this month’s focus. 

The Living Project: September Plan



Okay, folks, this is it: I’ve obtained the September 2014 edition of Martha Stewart Living, have perused every page carefully, and thought through the project a bit more carefully.

As I mentioned before, I intend to do 4 projects per month for the next year, each taken from the glossy pages of Living. Having thought it through, I came to the conclusion that the project—like any great project of Martha Stewart’s, of course—ought to have a presiding logic that rules it. So here’s mine:

Each month, I’ll select one project in each of the following loosely-defined categories: mind, home, body, life. That last one is obviously something of a wild-card, and I’ve been intentionally vague with the rest.

With the projects I select, I must complete them by the month’s end, including a full report here on the blog about the progress, process, status, and finishing conclusions at which I arrive.  Even if I fuck up. (Let’s be honest: especially if I fuck up.)

I will rate each project, once I’m finished, on a scale from 1-5 Marthas. (Wait till you see them. There are half-Marthas.) This rating will be based on ease of task, sense of accomplishment or achievement, sense of pleasure in the process, and sense of pleasure in the result. In other words, the 1-5 Martha Rating Scale is entirely subjective and likely to be influenced heavily by my personal whims.

For September, here are a few projects I rejected, first of all:

  • throwing a benefit for the Audubon Society
  • hand embroidering a back-to-school smock for a child
  • crocheted pencil cases
  • DIY brass-legged side tables
  • muesli coffee cake
  • beige decorating (I’m completely not kidding)
  • gardening
  • braised pork
  • leather-strap key fobs
  • helping our pets adjust to the school year
  • UVC-sanitizing our cell phones

As tantalizing as all of those choices were (…erm), here are the ones I selected instead, and the dates on which you can look for my posts about them:

IMG_2739HOME—The Mood Board: September 7. You mean I can’t do this shit on Pinterest? MarStew actually has us creating a friggin inspiration board with, like, paper and stuff. Look for mine to be a hot mess, and probably not all that inspiring. From the magazine:

In Harmony—We use digital pin-boards constantly to curate beautiful images, categorized by themes. We also like to take this habit offline: Create an old-fashioned mood board with visually striking inspiration (think paint chips, fabric scraps, calendars, magazine tear-outs, and personal photos). Working in a color scheme—we chose warm oranges and yellows—makes a harmonious focal point in your office. 

Okay then.

IMG_2740BODY—Pear Chips: September 14. At least I get a tasty snack out of this—one my nutritionist wouldn’t hate, either. Martha even offers a few variations on the theme, so not only will I be making a lot of these, I’ll have enough—and enough types—to share. From the magazine:

Perfect Pear-ings—Slow-roasted pear chips let you switch out the crackers on your cheese plate for something seasonal (and gluten-free). The slightly sweet crisps are the perfect crunchy partner for a round of gooey triple-cream cheese and some toasted pecans. Of course, the chips are also a satisfying—and wholesome—snack all by themselves. 

Look, bitches, I love pears, and on my current nutritional regimen I don’t get to eat a lot of chips, so I’m stoked.

IMG_2741LIFE—Body Scrubs: September 21. Living did a feature on 10 different body scrubs, and this sacrificial lamb is going to try all of them for you. You’re welcome. I am such a martyr. From the magazine:

Go With the Grain—Start this new season off right with a total-body tune-up to buff away any dry flakes. Step into the shower with a body scrub and walk out with silky-smooth skin. As a bonus, you’ll be invigorated by the aroma of coffee grounds, the sinus-clearing power of eucalyptus, or a mineral-rich sea salt. 

The things I do for my people, I tell you. I’m not going to lie—I expect this project to get 5 Marthas.

IMG_2738MIND—Living Book Club: September 28. Like I wasn’t going to opt for the book reading if there was a book to read. Martha’s Living Book Club is reading Haruki Murakami’s latest offering, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, and damnit, I’m going to read it with them. From the magazine:

Living Book Club—Read along with the Living book club as we dive into Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Knopf), the latest novel from Haruki Murakami, author of the international best seller 1Q84. Keep up with the latest book-club news by visiting our website.

So, yeah, I’ll definitely be using the book club’s online site and reporting my adventures there, too. Naturally, I am really excited about this; I’ve liked the Murakami I’ve read in the past, have heard decent things about this book, and see a lot of comedic—or enlightening!—potential in participating in a book club with the MarStewCrew.

Naturally, I hope you’ll be following along as I participate in this project. If you’d like to do your own personal Martha challenge, I’m calling this the #LivingProject, and I’d love to have you join me! Feel free to borrow the hashtag, and share pictures of your own #LivingProject victories and defeats on the Dumbleadore Facebook page. As we proceed through this month, I’m planning on doing a few giveaways, so share my blog with your friends and don’t forget to like the FB page, or follow me and my foul mouth on Twitter.

Mad About Martha!

marthaSo, I promised a new project, and here I am, delivering.

I have a confession to make.

I adore—positively scrumptiously unrepentantly adore—Martha Stewart. That bitch—and I mean that with all due respect, Your Cleanliness—is incredible. Batshit insane, possibly. But also just about as capable and powerful and mind-blowingly competent as a person could possibly be. I follow her on Pinterest and Twitter, and I alternate between laughing in disbelief at some of the stuff she says (her recent enthusiasm for some synchronized swimmers at a breast cancer benefit had me snorting), and taking copious fucking notes, because here’s the thing: Martha is kooky and privileged and more than a little out of touch, but bitch can domesticate like a goddamn boss. I literally learn something new every time I stumble across something from her website, TV show, or magazine.

And then so I recently discovered Jen Lancaster via this li’l book she wrote called The Tao of Martha, in which, yep, Jen goes ahead and spends a year on some seriously Martha-worthy projects. It was fantastic; she had me in tears, laughing (half in hilarity, half in recognition) at her efforts to replicate the Goddess’s universe of domestic advice. (I hear, by the way, that this is Lancaster’s worst book, which is great, because this book made me adore her and want to read more of her stuff, so it can only go uphill from here!) But a few things nagged at me reading Lancaster’s book: first, she’s reached a point in her career and life journey where achieving Martha-dom is pretty… accessible. The woman has written some seriously successful books and has the cash to shell out on some Marthafication like whoa. Second, there was something about the way she approached her project… a sort of slapdash, seat-of-her-pants approach to planning the project, which she pulled from all kinds of Martha-sources: books, website, magazines, shows, radio programs, interviews, what-have-you. It was all over the place. Like when halfway through the year she’s just like, I KNOW WHAT I’LL DO THIS MONTH FOR MY MARTHA PROJECT!

So the wheels in my head have been turning, and I thought I would do something with similar inspiration to Jen Lancaster’s Year of LIVING, but make it an actual year of LIVING. So, starting in September, I am going to do 4 projects per month taken straight from the pages of Martha Stewart Living. I won’t use any other sources, won’t rack my brain for what to do—I’ll just pick up the month’s magazine from the newsstand, flip through until I find 4 projects that sound interesting or funny or delicious or challenging, and give them a whack.

I have a real potential to get hamstrung by my budget (which is not Martha-sized, or even Jen-sized), and also I have another challenge these ladies don’t have—I have a whole full-time, sometimes stressful job I have to do. So no getting paid to write about this, and no getting paid to just… be an expert on this. (I know Martha and Jen both do way more than that; I’m not dissing them, I swear.) I’ll just have to temper my expectations each month with reality, which is that I can’t engage in projects that last more than a weekend or evenings, because I just don’t have time.

And at the end of this year? Well, hopefully I’ll have discovered new recipes I like, made my home a little nicer, gotten over my fear of beige (….probably not). Whatever the case may be, I’ll have a year to look back on—my first year in my 30s—spent learning at the immaculately pedicured feet of the Queen of Clean, the Domestic Diva herself—Martha.

Monday Miscellany

Hi everyone! How was your weekend? I had a really relaxing time; Andres and I saw two movies (The Hundred-Foot Journey, which was excellent and made me really hungry, and What If?, starring the inimitable Daniel Radcliffe, who is adorable in everything—this one had some finely written moments, which I appreciated, and did some subtle jabbing at the whole manic pixie dream girl thing). We also bought an ice cream cake from Coldstone and got our kitchen cleaned up, together. Teamwork!

paradise raisinNetflix-wise, my Sunday workday included episodes of Jack Taylor, Bob’s Burgers, The Vicar of Dibley, and Last Tango in Halifax. (Comments: Iain Glen’s voice is so soothing! I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to watch The Vicar of Dibley. Last Tango is shaping up quite nicely. I’m meh on Bob’s Burgers, though everyone I know is apeshit about it.) I also watched two movies—Paradise, about an evangelical girl whose tragic accident sends her on a tailspin trip to Las Vegas (surprisingly funny and heartwarming), and a newish version of Raisin in the Sun, which was a really faithful adaptation and gloriously acted by the likes of Phylicia Rashad, Audra MacDonald, and Sean Combs. Glorious! I adore Raisin, so it was great to see it given such great attention in this format.

Andres and I are still reading Dodger by Terry Pratchett; we’re about 2/3 of the way through it now. After that, we’re reading The Giver in anticipation of seeing the film.

On the Internet: 

  • Mark Bittman talks about finding your comfort food (New York Times)
  • The Time I Spent On A Commercial Whaling Ship Totally Changed My Perspective On The World (Clickhole)
  • An Iranian couple who run a mobile library out of their taxi (Wall Street Journal)
  • How Wizards Do Money: Ron Weasley (with a strong nod to Ronbledore!) (The Billfold)
  • I just discovered the OCLC’s experimental Dewey classifier—plug in any ISBN and it will give you the best Dewey guess for that book! (OCLC)

In my reading life: 

I finished:

I’ve got some ideas and projects up my sleeve, so keep your eyes peeled for more from me soon. Let me know how your weekend was in the comments!

Healthy Eating: Getting Started

chopped carrots, white onions, and celeryTo me, whenever I’ve made any kind of dietary change in the past, the part that’s most daunting is just getting started. There are cabinets and refrigerators and freezers to clean out, planning and shopping to do, a kitchen to prepare, and if you’re starting from a nutritional ground zero, like Andres and I are this month, you’ve not even been cooking much of anything lately. Old mental muscles are weak from disuse. You have habits to break in again.

You may be thinking to yourself, is this woman eating the Pasta Roni really about to advise us on healthy eating? And you would be thinking correctly! But trust me on this–I have made major dietary changes before, and I am making them again. And what I’ve learned from trial and error is: take it slow. One step at a time. So here are my getting started steps:

Step One: Clean House. I find it to be next to impossible to cook and eat healthy meals if my sink is full of dirty dishes and my counters are covered with clutter, so step one for me really is to get that kitchen cleaned up. You want a spotless stove and oven, an empty sink, plenty of clean dishes (both cookware and serving dishes), as much counter space as you can rustle up, and a refrigerator that isn’t packed to the gills with stuff you don’t intend to eat anymore. In fact, I really like my refrigerator to be near empty, and then I try to shop for only what we’ll eat in that particular week. I get pretty close to this most of the time, which means that, first of all, no funky smells start emitting from my fridge, and second, there’s not a lot of waste in my kitchen. I buy only what we’ll use, and I use it that week. The same goes for your pantry and freezer; no need to keep things around that will just derail your eating plans, and no use in keeping things that “might” find their way into “something, someday.” Donate nonperishable goods to your local food bank, and move on. Plus, getting rid of things that aren’t on that week’s meal plan means it’s much easier to find what you do need for what you’re cooking. Exceptions? Condiments, spices, some baking basics, whole grains. Many of these are best bought in bulk anyway.

Step Two: Start cooking—anything. Okay, your kitchen is spotless and you actually have counter space. But you’re still feeling daunted. (Of course you are!) No worries. For the next week, go ahead and just make sure that you don’t order any takeout, and try to pack your lunches. Eat whatever you want—canned soup, boxed pasta dinners, frozen chicken nuggets, ice cream cake. Just eat it from home. Turn your stove on, and do the cooking—and the washing up—yourself. Focus on maintaining the cleanliness of the kitchen and eating through the food that’s actually in your house.

After these two steps, when you’ve made yourself a little more comfortable in your kitchen again, and have started to set aside that time at the end of each day for making the evening’s dinner, I’ve found it’s a lot easier to transition into cooking healthier meals.

I’m pleased to report that my kitchen is finally in working order again, and I did cook tonight (albeit, as before mentioned, Pasta Roni). I’m going to spend the rest of this week getting back in the habit of cooking, so that next week (right in time for the end of August!) I can finally make the full transition back into eating more nutritiously.*

*I’m never going to advise other people on what to eat—I’m not a nutritionist and don’t like the whole way we talk about food and health in our culture. Suffice it to say that I’m making choices for me about what feels right to eat, and I don’t sign on for food shaming of any kind.