Happy New Year Everyone!

brush pen

Well, it’s that time again, blogosphere. It’s a new year. And of course, inevitably that means it’s RESOLUTION TIME.


Once again, as I always do, I’m going to come up with a list of things I want to accomplish/work at in 2016.

I haven’t been terribly successful with this kind of goal making in the past, and last year was no different (I’ll have a post next week assessing my successes and not-so-successes from 2015), but I don’t really feel like that’s a huge problem. My general attitude about these things is that it doesn’t hurt to try. I’m a big believer in the process – the idea that you don’t have to meet EVERY resolution to the letter for resolution making to help you better yourself. I honestly don’t think resolutions not met are really FAILURES – so long as there was some effort made, and so long as you tried to be conscious of your decision-making.

To me it’s all about intention, and my intention is to better myself in whatever way I can – even if I don’t necessarily meet the specific goals I originally laid out. At the risk of sounding like a motivational office poster – it’s all about the journey.

And so whether I meet them or not, I’m gonna keep making them.

So, here we go.



1) Learn Brush Calligraphy

I’ve wanted to do this for forever, plain and simple. I can do a competent Blackletter with normal calligraphy nibs already, and so I figure learning this more modern and fun style is just a matter of setting my mind to it. I can already do it some – so long as I have references (see above) – but I want to perfect my technique, learn the fonts by heart and be able to do it on the fly.


2) Fill a full sketchbook with figure drawing

I had “fill a sketchbook” on my list last year, and while I got close, it was mostly with attempts at hand-lettering, which, while fun, was not exactly the original goal I had in mind. See, I used to draw a ton when I was younger, and I want to get back to it – and specifically, I like drawing people. So this year I’m specifying.


3) Read for at least 2 hours a week (reading not required by work) and be better about updating Goodreads.

Now that I’m an adult, I legitimately always have “read more” in some form on my list. This year is no different. I read like CRAZY as a kid, and I really long for the days when I’d go through like, 4 or 5 books a week. While I realize that THAT will never happen again – I have spent the last few years really trying to make regular pleasure reading a habit again. I tried putting a specific number on how many books I wanted to read last year, and it did increase my total reading from last year – but I also kind of felt constrained by it. Particularly since I chose specific books from the start.

So this year I’m going to try a time requirement instead, and see if that works a little better. I figure if I read for like, 15 minutes to half an hour most nights in bed, I can hit that 2 hour mark pretty consistently.

I’m also going to try to keep up a little better with Goodreads, just because.


4) Finish all outstanding WIPs – both Knitting and Crochet

Ugh, I’ve been so bad about WIPs (works in progress) this past year. I’ve started a bunch, and then abandoned them like, a third of the way in. I just need to get them off the needles and hooks. They’re cluttering up my space, half-finished, and I don’t like it. If I can get down to 0 WIPs, I’ll be a happy camper.


5) Run another 5k

I miss running regularly. I want to get back into it. It’s as simple as that.

recipe books

6) Try 12 new recipes

I love cooking. Love it. But as we found out with last two years’ resolutions, I uhhhhh don’t have enough time to do it with any regularity. And when I do? I basically cook the same like, seven dishes. Because they’re easy, and I know them from memory. So this year I’m not endeavoring to cook more, or cook healthier – I’m simply seeking to diversify my recipe repertoire. Make 7 into 19. Maybe 20 if we make it a baker’s dozen.

Lets make it a baker’s dozen.


7) Get better with makeup

I have a ton of makeup. Like, really good makeup. Stila, and Urban Decay, and Tarte… lots of stuff I could never in a bazillion years afford to buy myself (I’ve acquired most of my collection as gifts over the years). But I kind of sort of don’t know how to actually use it? Like, I can do a decent everyday look, and I have my concert look. But that’s basically it. I change up the colors I use, mostly, but it’s still just those same two looks: simple liner and one shadow (for everyday), or a cat-eye and dark shadow gradient (concerts).

I have all this wonderful wonderful stuff (that is a delight to use) – so I really should be using it more regularly. Specifically this year I have three goals: 1) I want to get better about using color – learn how to blend them and depart from my usual browns and greys 2) I want to try new eyeshadow looks – for example, a smokey eye vs. a simple one, colored eyeliner, etc… and 3), in a slight continuance of last year’s “take more fashion risks” – I want to wear red lipstick without it being Christmas or a concert. Just because.


8) Pajamas are for bedtime only.

Working from home part of the year is AWESOME, but it’s definitely not without its own drawbacks and challenges. I’ve pretty much got a good routine down – I resist the urge to sleep in, to take too many breaks, to play video games instead of working when I should, etc… but there’s one big temptation I haven’t yet conquered, and that’s the temptation to stay in my PJs all day. See, I basically just sleep in sweats and tee shirts. I haven’t owned actual “pajamas” since I was like… idk, 10? And the bottom line is, comfy as they may be, hanging around in the clothes I sleep in all day – even if they’re fresh from the washer after a shower – makes me feel less productive (even if I haven’t been) and lazy (no matter how much I got done). A few days of that can take tremendous a toll on my overall attitude. I quickly start to feel like I don’t have my shit together – and that’s horrible for someone who has an anxiety issue that has recently centered around feeling like they don’t have their shit together.

So I’m just not going to do it anymore. I recently invested in actual pajamas, so I’m hoping that having “sleep clothes” that are specifically different from my “hang around the house clothes” will make a difference. I’m going to make a point to “get dressed” every single day and see where that takes me.

9) Make the damn bed. EVERY. DAY.

This is along the same lines as the last goal – basically I feel like I have my shit together more when I make my bed. And since my big issue with anxiety last year spent a lot of time centered around NOT feeling like I have my shit together – I’m just going to do it.

10) Organize, Organize, Organize!

Again, same as above. Chaos around me leads to chaos internally. So I’m going to keep everything far more organized this year. The more organized everything is, the easier it is to keep the apartment clean, and the cleaner the apartment – the better I feel.

I hope.

11) Drink more water

I just generally have a problem with this. I don’t drink enough liquid throughout the day and that is starting to have more and more of a toll on my overall health as I get older (in ways I’m 100% sure you don’t want to hear about). So more water it is.


And last, but honestly the most important:

12) Stay Thankful

My 30 Days of Gratitude challenge – though I never finished it in terms of blog posts, made a HUGE difference in my end-of-year attitude. It was the most stress-free end of the semester into holiday season that I’ve had in a very long time. And so I want to try to hold onto that magic as best I can. I want to try to keep that positivity and easy contentment, even as we move into the new year.

And hopefully, all these things together will make for an overall more positive 2016.

Here’s hoping.

Happy New Year!

Mani Monday (Tuesday? Whoops): Christmas Edition

Christmas Mani

I’m a day late for Mani Monday because I was hanging out at my parents’ place with Hilde and the Plooper (and my parents too!), but I do want to share my Christmas manicure with you guys before the year ends (like, holy crap, where did the rest of December go exactly?).

Like last christmas, I went rather simple this year – mainly due to time constraints. Christmas Eve is always a hectic day for me, because in addition to prepping all my presents for others and packing a bag for my parent’s house for the next few days, I also have to prep myself for work (I sing at a church for the midnight service). That of course means dressing up, and doing my hair, and putting on makeup, and just generally all those girly things that I am horribly bad and slow at. My nails always end up taking a backseat in the rush. This year I went with just a bright red, with glitter gradients on ring finger and thumb as accents. Specifically I used Deborah Lippmann It’s Raining Men as the base, and Funky Fingers Fra-Gee-Lay for the accents.

Christmas mani polishes

It’s Raining Men is a SUPER pigmented cherry apple red which applies like a dream. Smooth, full coverage in one coat (although I used two just because) and dries fairly quickly. I just seriously love Deborah Lippmann polishes – they’re just so on point in terms of formula.

Funky Fingers Fra-Gee-Lay is a Christmas themed glitter from the Christmas Story collection they put out last year, filled with red, white, and green glitters of all sizes. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to be for a hex glitter – decent coverage, but not the best choice for a glitter gradient because of the larger size of the glitter. So application for this mani was a little bit finicky, but I really like the result, soooooo… worth it.

A+ for both polishes.

And just because, I’ll leave you with what I woke up to sharing the twin bed with me at my parents’ house Christmas morning*. A little more crowded than I’m used to, for sure – but I’m sure not complaining!

Dogs on bed

I hope everyone had a happy and healthy holiday (or regular day, or whatever)!

*(Pardon the weird edges – I tried to blur the background in photoshop so as not to reveal the mess my dresser became over the holiday, and, well, I’m not skilled at photoshop.)

Happy (Very Belated) Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a lovely holiday! Ours was busy, but joy (and dog*) filled – and even though I’m still working through my 30 days of Gratitude and Reflection Challenge (I will finish it eventually – I will just probably start sprinkling in regular posts in between now that November is over and we’re on the lead-up to Christmas and New Years…) I really felt like the active effort I’ve been making to be present and grateful made a significant difference in my outlook.


I was able to meet the demands of my “hell weeks” – the weeks before and after Thanksgiving when all my papers and assignments start coming in to be graded – with an energy I haven’t had since probably my first or second year doing this. Usually “hell week” is the week where I find myself sinking into a little bit of a depression over the state of my life and career – you know, the whole 28, working 3 jobs, and only bringing in barely enough to live thing. What happens is that usually, as I’m buried under the mountains of work, my exhaustion begins to interfere with me remembering why I do this in the first place. Why I really, truly love my job.


I didn’t forget that this year. While I may have let blogging slide, I didn’t find myself sinking into that emotional trap. I didn’t lose sight of the joy and the gratitude. And that made all the difference in the world.

This year has been rough in terms of finding balance – and I must admit I’m still struggling to do so. But I’m really feeling better, and I’m hoping that by next year I can get back on the consistent blogging horse in earnest.

So thanks for hanging in there with me.


*Quite literally the only photos I have from the day of Thanksgiving are of Rusalka, Hilde, and my Aunt’s dog, Heidi. I guess I was in a dog > food mindset that day. Oh well, there are worse things.

30 Days of Gratitude and Reflection – Days 6-9

I said at the beginning of this that I’d probably be doing some “catch-up” type posts as I work through this blog challenge, and I was not wrong. The middle of November is always crunch time at work, and my schedule makes posting truly daily pretty much impossible because of the time it takes to photograph, edit, and publish a post. But while I don’t have the time to publish daily, I have been making sure to take a moment of my day, everyday, to think about that day’s prompt.

And so here’s the first catch-up post, with Days 6 – 10.


Day 6
Something From Childhood: My Dancing Russian Girl


My grandmother has one of these little dolls that from a very early age I used to love. She’s basically just a little shell on a post, so that when you touch her, she swings back and forth like she’s dancing. A simple little thing, really. Probably didn’t cost more than $10. Me getting her wasn’t any sort of big deal either. We were at the church christmas festival or picnic or something and they had a little table where they were selling Russian themed stuff (I was raised Russian Orthodox), including these little dolls. Whoever I was with at the time (I was really young – I don’t even remember) let me pick one out because I was always staring at my grandmother’s and making it dance. And that’s it. No huge significance, no life changing event. Just an offhanded, “Would you like one?” moment. But she’s been with me ever since, and she makes me smile.

It’s hard to verbalize exactly why, but I guess most of it’s because even though I’m mostly Ukrainian, not Russian – she still brings me back to warm memories of holidays surrounded by tradition and heritage. Of pirogies and halupki, of candlelight and hushed praying in Russian, of the deep Bass voices and eight-part harmonies of Orthodox church music. She reminds me that I’m connected to the past in so many rich and varied ways. And for that, I’m grateful.


Day 7
An Everyday Thing: My Collection of Cozy Blankets

I love blankets. I seriously love them. Nothing makes me feel better after several weeks of scheduled hell than coming home in the winter and curling up under a big floofy blanket. Except maybe doing so with a cup of tea spiked with whiskey, and a good video game or book.


Day 8
A Favorite Saying/Quote

you are not required

“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm”

I saw this on Reddit once, several years ago, and in the time since it’s made the rounds on Pinterest and several other places. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time, and I continue to need the reminder of this simple fact. I run myself so ragged sometimes in the effort to keep others happy. Now sometimes, it’s necessary. Doing so is, honestly, sometimes just part of being a teacher. I might be exhausted, and achy, and ready to leave, but if a student comes to my office door with a paper in hand genuinely wanting help – I won’t turn them away.

But it is nice to have the reminder that there’s a limit. Or rather, that there should be. A reminder that I am not failing as a teacher, or significant other, or daughter, or sister, or whatever other role I’m filling that day if I have to stop and say “no” occasionally for my own wellbeing.


Day 9
Memory: Memories of Our First Dog


That little nugget there is me, standing with my parent’s first dog – Petrushka – and my paternal grandfather. My aunt posted this photo on Facebook the other day and seeing it flooded me with smiles and memories, not just of my Grandfather, who died back in 1999, but of Petrushka as well.

Now, my grandfather I think of often. He had served in the military in the Pacific during the ending days of WWII, and with that developing as my specialty, he’s on my mind frequently, and as such, so are my memories of him.

Petrushka, however – I quite literally hadn’t thought of in years. See, Petrushka and I had a tumultuous relationship. I was young. And she was quite large. And then there was the fact that she bit me once when I was a toddler. Like, a “directly in the face – needed a lot of stitches and it’s a miracle my face isn’t deformed” kind of bite.

Now, before you start accusing my parents of negligence for not putting her down or giving her away after that – it legitimately wasn’t the dog’s fault. She had been fast asleep in front of the couch and our asshole cat at the time, Arthur, decided it would be a great idea to reach down, hook her ears with his claws, and yank. She snapped reflexively as she woke and I just happened to be in the way as I toddled by. With the exception of that one moment, she was always really great with kids.

She died only a few years after everything happened, at the ripe old age of 12, and I’ve always felt a bit guilty for how I treated her after that. She was a very friendly dog and always tried to be affectionate with me – but I was afraid. I was very young – like toddler young – and I didn’t understand the concept of accident. I didn’t really understand what had happened. And so I spent almost the rest of her life shying away.

I don’t precisely remember this specific moment. But I cherish the memories it brings to the surface of Petrushka. The good, the bad, and the lessons I learned about animals and guilt by looking back on my fear. Rest easy, Petrushka. You were a good dog.

(I do suppose this would have been a better fit on Day 2: A Photo – but I wasn’t aware of its existence at the time.)

30 Days of Gratitude and Reflection – Day 4

A Food Item: COFFEE

Steelers Tervis

Today I am thankful for coffee, in all its iterations. Coffee, espresso, lattes, coffee beans, coffee grounds, coffee flavored whatever. Just, coffee.

It keeps me running, and keeps the number of civilian casualties as a byproduct of me continuing to function down to a minimum.

I really don’t know how I’d keep my schedule up without it. And there would certainly be a lot more unhappy people around me as a result of my demeanor.

Christmas Latte

Actually, I’m pretty sure I would just cease to function.

Isn’t that the very definition of an addict?


Oh well.


Pouring into cup

What food item are you thankful for?

30 Days – Day 2: A Photograph

So this one is taking a decidedly unexpected turn. I originally had several cherished family photos in mind when I compiled the challenge list, but ultimately due to questions of whether or not my internet-wary family would appreciate having them posted for all to see I’ve decided to go in a different direction (although the hunt through all our old albums was certainly beneficial for me from a gratitude standpoint – which after all was the point of this project.)

So I’m going in a more professional direction with this and in the process I guess I’m changing the prompt a little.

So here we go.

On day 2 of this challenge, I am grateful for: War Photographers.

Joe Odonnell

A quick warning here: some (all) of the photographs that I will link here are not for the faint of heart. Click through at your own risk.

This probably seems to you like a very strange thing to be grateful for. So let me explain.

See, professionally my research interests are dark. I gravitate towards the history of warfare – particularly the two biggies for the US in the 20th century – WWII and Vietnam. And as someone who routinely and purposefully surrounds herself with some of the worst things humanity has done to itself, the extremes of human suffering and brutality – you sort of develop a distance from the subject. You become jaded and separated from the reality of it, really as a defense mechanism more than anything.

It is easy to stop seeing the people you read about as real. It is easy to begin reading it almost as if it was fiction – to get that same sense of detached disgust that comes with watching a particularly gory battle scene in a movie, or a fictional bad-guy order some sort of horrible fate for the hero. You know it’s awful. You know it’s horrifying. But it doesn’t really pack quite as much of a punch as it should.

You become desensitized. You stop seeing who you’re reading about as people, and more as a subject or a case study.

And as far as I’m concerned, nothing is more dangerous than that.

So today, I am grateful for all the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to record the horrors we’ve precipitated. The photographs they produced are the things that keep me grounded in reality more than anything – by recording the moments when we as a species have lost sight of our humanity, they’ve allowed me to maintain mine as I study it all.

I can read several thousand first hand accounts of the human suffering caused by the firebombing in Japan, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but nothing connects me to the reality of that more than photos of it. Nothing reminds me that these were real people who lived through this horror – not some fictional retelling – than the photos that let me see the suffering with my own two eyes. I can read hundreds of historians telling me about the civilian toll of the napalming and “search and destroy” techniques utilized in the Vietnamese countryside, but nothing drives it home quite like seeing the pain in the flesh – in the cries of a little girl in pain, or the fear in an older woman’s eyes. I can read Holocaust memoir after Holocaust memoir, but nothing hammers in the true horror of it like seeing the bodies, seeing the graves, seeing the condition of the survivors.

Seeing, after all, is believing.

And on a far less personal level – nothing forces us (as a society) to confront the reality of our past quite like photography – specifically because it forces us to admit that the pain was real. The suffering was real. That these were actual things that humans did to other humans – purposefully, no less. There’s a realness in the pain behind these photographs that even the best actor couldn’t reproduce, and nothing can remind us of the real human toll of war quite as effectively.

And that reminder is invaluable.

It is horrible that these things happened. But they did. And we cannot let that fact be forgotten. Remembering the human toll of war is what will be most effective in helping us prevent these things from happening again.

You know the old saying, that a picture is worth a thousand words? There is nowhere that this is more true than in photography of war. One photograph can be more effective in arguing for peace than a million words spilled by a million people on the subject. And today, I am grateful for that.


[Photo of Joe O’Donnell – US Marine and Photojournalist known for his photos of post-surrender Japan, including the aftermath of the atomic bombs. Clicking the image will take you to the source.]