Reassessing for 2017

So any of you who have been around for a while know that my blogging over the last two years has been… sporadic at best. I’ll have a month or two where I’m really consistent, and then go on radio silence for three. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years trying to figure out why I can’t seem to break this cycle, and honestly there are like, a thousand reasons.

I originally had a massively long post typed out listing them all, but I scrapped that because it all just sounded like I was making excuses. And that makes this feel like less of a hobby and more of a job, and goodness knows the last thing I need right now is another job (I currently have four).

So no reasons, no excuses. I’m done looking for them and focusing on them. Instead, I think the time has come for some retooling.

Part of this is to make it work better for me, for my life and schedule, and in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling guilty for not having posted in a while. Part of it is to try to provide more consistent content here.

I do, of course, want to start focusing a little more back on my hobbies – expect more book reviews, hopefully some more project posts… that goes along with some lifestyle changes that I’m trying to make on a more personal level. But I also want to figure out some semi-regular features that can stick around even when I don’t have time to create anything physical.

What form those are going to take, I don’t know. Any suggestions, or well established blog events (things like Blogmus or Throwback Thursday or Friday Favorites) would be welcomed.

So I guess, my question in all this is, beyond project posts, what kind of content do you like? What would you like to see more of from Magpie Making Do? Are there any older posts in particular that you’d like to see more like?

Additionally, I’ve been intending for a long time to switch from wordpress.com to a self-hosted wordpress.org site. I even bought the domain name, and have hosting all set up – but I’ve been holding off until I can be more consistent about content… mainly as an excuse, because switching over seems a little intimidating and scary, and I really don’t want to lose the readers I already have here. Has anyone taken this plunge already, and are there any tips or recommendations you might want to share?

Any and all input (as long as it’s polite!) is welcome in the comments, and I’ll keep mulling over things too!

2017 Bullet Journal Setup

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I’ve done a detailed Bullet Journal Set-up post the last two years, but as I started to set up this year’s, I realized that over the course of those two posts, I’ve really sort of settled into the system that works for me. So this year, I’m not really changing much up from last year, and as a result this post will be a bit more brief than prior years.

I’m using a different size notebook this time – last year I tried to stick with the standard Moleskein size, but without actually using a moleskein, and I ended up rather unhappy with my selection, and ultimate choice. It was cute, but kind of boring, and I didn’t end up using it as much as I should have as a result. Because I’m fussy like that for whatever reason.

This year I went with a slightly larger size journal from Design Works Ink and I am in love with it. The size is perfect for me, I love the Month/Day listing at the top of the page for daily to-do lists, and the paper is thick enough that I can even use my sharpies and heavy duty markers with minimal bleed through.

monthly

As for the setup, I have some pictures for you, but it’s pretty similar to what I’ve done in the past (>here’s 2015, and here’s 2016). Once again I used the free monthly calendar pages from The Handmade Home’s 2017 Planner. They’ve worked very well for me over the years, and I suspect this year will be no different.

Bonus of the larger notebook size, I didn’t have to fuss with folding and getting the pages to lay flat like I did in the past. I printed them at 93% of full size, and they fit perfectly at one to a page.

Yearly goals

Next up, I’ve got my yearly goals, which you can read more about here

accomplishments

And then the one actually new page for this year is this monthly accomplishment tracker. Basically I’m trying to be more positive, and I think if I go back at the end of each month and list my overall accomplishments, at the end of the year I might feel a whole lot better about how things went than I did this year. I hope, anyway.

book and savings log

Next I’ve got my book log, and a savings tracker (as per my 2017 goals, I have to get my savings happening again).

monthly goals and habit tracker

Following that, I’ve got my individual monthly goals (I suppose that this is a new-to-the-blog feature, as I only started including it AFTER I posted last year’s set-up) and habit tracker.

daily

And then I’ve got my monthly detail calendar for more nitty-gritty planning purposes. (See either my 2016 or 2015 post for why I need the printed calendar AND this).

I’ve enjoyed experimenting a little to match my writing styles with the overall more polished look of the notebook itself, and I think planner-wise, it’s going to be a good year!

How about you? Do you use aspects of the Bullet Journal system? Any fun new spreads you’re using this year?

My 2017 Goals

Yearly goals

So it’s January, and of course, that means it’s resolution time. I’ve spent a lot of time these last two weeks really putting thought into what this year’s goals should be, because I feel like I’m very much at a crossroads of sorts. I’m turning the big 3-0 this May, and there’s a lot of things in my life that I feel like I need to address before I cross officially into the realm of “Thirty-something.”

The resulting list is a lot more conceptual than my goals have been in the past. More overall lifestyle changes than specific, quantifiable goals. And while that made coming up with photos to break up the wall of text in this post almost impossible, I feel like overall this is a list of goals that has some real potential to up the happiness factor in my life as I cross this major milestone.

And so without further explaination, here are my goals for 2017. Hopefully you’ll all be able to follow along and see the changes along with me.

Magpie’s Goals for 2017

1) Limit my video gaming.

One of the big byproducts of my anxiety problems over the last two years has been an excessive gaming habit. When my anxiety got bad, and as my work schedule became more and more consuming I turned more and more to video games as the only way to effectively “shut off” my brain and my anxiety. They are an easy refuge – no materials or supplies to pull out, and I don’t need the concentration level that reading requires… just press a button and BAM, I’m in Thedas. Or Tamriel. Or the Wasteland. Somewhere far far away from the constant juggling of responsibilities that is my life.

And sometimes, that’s not a bad thing. But over the past few years I also feel like it’s become a bit of a crutch. I’ve spent far too much of my already precious free time on video games, and all my other hobbies have completely fallen by the wayside. Reading, knitting, crocheting, my photo albums… pretty much everything. And I miss my other hobbies.

2) Spend more time on creative pursuits.

An auxiliary to goal number one – I want to use what little free time I have a little more productively. I did not finish a single knitting project in 2016. I’m well more than a year behind on my photo albums. And basically, if these are hobbies I’m not going to pursue, why am I storing all these supplies here? Which brings me to my next goal:

3) Purge stuff.

I have too much stuff given my current living situation and constraints. And it very much is a problem for me – for my mindset, for my productivity, and for my ability to stay organized and on top of things. And so I need to spend 2017 fixing that. Getting rid of things, putting things I can’t get rid of but don’t use regularly given my current situation into storage. Basically just simplify. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

4) Develop a more consistent routine.

I don’t have one. And I should. With all the jobs that I’m juggling, as much as the “free spirit” side of my personality may hate it, I need to be a little more regimented and disciplined in my routines. First on the docket will be a morning routine, then once all four jobs are back in swing I’ll tackle a meal planning routine. Hopefully, anyway.

5) Be more disciplined.

I give into my whims far too easily these days – and it’s not a freedom I really have room for. Whether it be snacking when I know I shouldn’t, or impulse purchases when I know I need the money for other, more important things down the road – I’m just not disciplined enough. A lot of that comes from fatigue. I’m tired all the time, and the more tired I am, the more likely I am to say, “let’s just order in” or “McDonalds is right there” or “just five more minutes of sleep – I don’t need to put on makeup today.” The result is that I feel bigger, less productive, and less on top of things than ever, and it’s not good.

6) Retool Blogging.

I like blogging as a hobby. Its one I very much enjoy and very much miss when I end up going on my little radio-silences. And I want to try to avoid that this year. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do it yet, and I’ll probably make another post throwing around ideas at a later date, but bottom line is I need to come up with a better system for here, so that I stay inspired, stay consistent, and all without making this feel like a chore. That’s a lot packed into one goal, eh?

7) Avoid overeating.

This goes hand and hand with #5. I don’t eat particularly unhealthily. I try to get my veggies in, and even when we eat out I try to avoid super fried or unhealthy stuff. My big problem is not WHAT I eat – it’s HOW I eat. I overeat far too frequently and my portions are just WAY too big for the size I’m supposed to be. I also eat super quickly – probably a byproduct of my hectic schedule – so I don’t realize exactly how full I am until it’s too late and I feel miserable. I’ve gotta stop this. Both for the wellbeing of my waistband, my wallet, and my state of mind.

8) Move more.

Again, hand in hand with other goals, this time #1, #4 and #5. I don’t move enough. It’s that simple. My life has become increasingly sedentary and it’s not good. I’ve tried specific exercise goals in the past and they never work for me, so this year I’m starting smaller and I’m just going to try to move more, in whatever manner I can.

9) Eat out less.

This is as much a money thing as it is a portion control thing (see goal #7). I need to start saving more efficiently. I used to be really good about it – but when I had a few unexpected financial catastrophes last year, it set me back like, six years worth of work in the matter of a week. And that was… discouraging? Demoralizing? Dispiriting? Motivation killing? Gutting, really. But anyway, it’s super stressful not to have an emergency fund. To know that the next unexpected financial stress could mean ruin. And I’ve gotta get back on track with some SERIOUS belt tightening.

10) Make progress with language studies.

I’ve been trying to learn another language on and off for probably six years. My biggest problem is consistency. I’ll make a lot of progress for like a month, and then by the time I get back to it a month and a half later it would all be gone. I want to see concrete progress this year. Which means consistency.

11) Take better care of myself.

In many ways these last two goals seem to be the underlying theme of this whole list. Bottom line is that I’ve let my own wellbeing, both physically and mentally, fall to the wayside as I juggle four jobs. And it’s not good. It’s not healthy. I have to fix it.

12) Advocate for me.

I’ve become super super bad at prioritizing myself, and prioritizing my own wellbeing. And it’s begun impacting my ability to enjoy things. So I’ve gotta cut that out and start being my own best advocate.

What are your goals for 2017?

Take Back What’s Yours!

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I’m taking back my CONTROL.

An appropriate post for my return to the blogosphere after an almost three month absence, to be sure. Because really, that’s what this absence has been all about. My loss of control.

Or at least the feeling that I’ve lost control taking control of me.

I just really lost my grip on things the last few months, and honestly, I’m not entirely sure why. Trying to look at it objectively, I don’t think the end of this semester has been any more stressful than usual… There were a few hiccups in the road due to health problems within my family, but quite honestly after the last few years, that’s kind of par for the course – and what happened this semester pales in comparison to my life two years ago anyway.

So I don’t know. I don’t know why it happened. But the last few months have left me perpetually feeling like I’m grasping desperately at straws to keep things together. A constant feeling of “I’m forgetting something important. I must be forgetting something important.” And when that anxiety takes the wheel, I draw into myself. And the more I draw into myself, the less in control of my own life I feel.

So now that the semester is over, and I have a chance to sort of “hit the reset button,” it seems like the perfect time to finally make my #TakeBackWhatsYours post that’s been in the works since Emma from Blu Chicken Ninja posted hers alllllllll the way back in February.

The Take Back What’s Yours Campaign is a blogging initiative started by Chloe from Chloe’s Concept to help spur bloggers to come together and make positive changes in their lives and the lives of others by, well, taking back what’s yours. What exactly that is could be anything from your happiness, your confidence, your dreams, your freedom, and so on and so forth. If you want to read more about the campaign, or get involved yourself, head on over to the campaign website.

For me, the thing I need to work on taking back the most is my control.

Now, that doesn’t sound entirely healthy, you may say. You can’t after all control every aspect of your life, after all… There needs to be SOME flexibility there. Life is full of the unexpected, and if your goal is total control, you’re going to find yourself losing it pretty fast.

And right you would be.

Let me explain. My problem is not necessarily needing to feel in control of every aspect of my life. I’m actually pretty decent at taking things as they come when life throws me a curveball. I’m usually pretty decent in a crisis and generally work well under pressure. My biggest problem is continuing to keep a handle on the thing when I’m either NOT functioning in crisis mode, or when crisis mode simply gets too overwhelming. I need to keep enough of a handle on the smaller, more controllable aspects of my life so that I no longer constantly have that “you’re forgetting something” feeling hanging over me.

So essentially I need to find a balance, so that even when the unexpected hits, I still feel like I’ve mostly got my shit together. Bills paid, apartment clean, schedule under control, To Do list mostly checked off, etc… So that whether I’m in a relatively low stress period, or functioning in what my officemate and I have taken to calling “Navy SEAL Mode*,” I still have the feeling of having a grip on the general direction my life is going, and that “you’re forgetting something important” anxiety is kept at bay.

Now, a lot of this may not make sense to you. I’ve never been terribly good at explaining the way I think/feel/handle my anxiety to others. But I figured I should probably put it out there anyway. Putting things down in writing always helps me feel like I’ve officially STARTED something, and frankly this is something I desperately need to start.

So, control. I’m taking back my control.

What would you all take back?

* Focus only on the immediate task at hand. Do not think about the big picture. Do not think about what’s next. Do not think about everything else you have to do after this. Just take it one thing at a time and get through the day that way. This is the way several SEALs have described how they had to function mentally to make it through BUD/S (SEAL training). This “mode” has served me well the last few years in terms of keeping my anxiety under control and helping me tank through periods of high stress without it taking over.

Filling Empty Wall Space

I’ve been on a home-dec kick lately. Or rather, I’ve been on a home-dec kick on PINTEREST lately. Because actually decorating the apartment requires money – at least a little – and money is exactly what I should not – no, CAN’T – spend right now.

But anyway, I’ve been specifically concerned lately about our surplus of empty wall space. There’s just a lot of white, blank walls in our apartment, and it’s starting to get to me a little bit. So I’ve been looking for ideas about how to decorate using as little money as humanly possible, and Pinterest (of course) came through in spades. I figured I’d share some of my favorites with you too! Links and images will take you to the original site – if that wasn’t available the links will take you to my pin.

clothes pin picture hanging via voyanges of the creative variety
A lovely photo display using twine and clothespins via Voyages of the Creative Variety

crochet potholder collection via maker mama craft blog
A great use for crocheted potholders – vintage or newly made – as seen on Maker Mama’s 7 Thrifty Collections Post

embroidery hoop photo frames via country living
Turning embroidery hoops into picture frames with this tutorial by Jessica Marquez on Country Living.com

embroidery hoop pinboards
More embroidery hoop cleverness by turning them into pinboards – the literal kind!

framed coins
Framing foreign coins would be great way to display all those extra yuan I have from my trip to China in college, and all the various pocket change my dad always saved me from his work trips abroad when I was little.

framed scrapbook paper
Framing some favorite scrapbook paper as art might work well – maybe adding some stenciled silhouettes to some of them might work too?

shopping bags as art on Ladolcevitablog
Framing designer shopping bags as art might also be kind of cool – although it’s not like I have a surplus of these… I do still have my little Tiffany bag from a high school graduation present though, so maybe as part of a larger framed gallery collage?

skirt hanger art via Mad in Crafts
Using wooden skirt/pants hangers as art hangers as seen on Mad in Crafts might work well above my bed – bonus, you can swap out the art whenever you want!

yarn scrap art via easy makes me happy
And last but not least: using up that big bag of yarn scraps I have by making a wall hanging like this one on Easy Makes Me Happy might be just the ticket, and would certainly free up some space in my yarn box.

Do you have any cheap, easy, but cool wall decoration ideas? If so, please do share!

Mid-year New Years’ Resolution Check-in

Well, we’re officially in July. Six months have passed; I’m not really sure where the time went. It feels like it was only yesterday when I was making my New Years’ Resolutions, and already we’re halfway to new ones. So I guess it’s about time to check in and see how I’ve been doing.

Let’s start with #1:

(I’m going to do this from least successful to most, so ignore the numbers in the images.)

Read More

So far, not so good. I did a great job in January, but as soon as the semester hit, that was the end of that. That said, I’ve decided to be realistic and just accept the fact that reading for pleasure during the semester is simply impossible, and now that the semester and the last of my summer work responsibilities have ended (I work for about 3 weeks after my paychecks end for my music job emptying folders, filing music, and whatnot), I’ve been a bit better. I can’t say what I’ve read has been terribly important reading, but hey, I deserve a little fun mindless reading sometimes too.

Savor The Little Things

Again, I’ve admittedly been not-so-good about this one. The stress of having the classes cut and the financial uncertainty that comes with it really distracted me from this whole quest for positivity thing… Adding to that mess, it’s also sort of brought up a bit of an existential crisis for me about what the best path for me going forward is. I don’t want to get too into it here — at least until I’ve formulated a little bit more of a solid opinion on it — but the more I think about it the more I feel like I’m really in a lose/lose situation, and having that at the back of my mind hasn’t really left space for savoring the little things. So I really need to try to actively improve this one in the coming months.

Better Food Choices

This one I’ve actually been decent about. The abrupt financial fast brought on by the class cuts actually very much helped me make better food choices, as take-out was pretty much out of the question. I’ve been eating a lot of baby spinach, a lot of frozen veggies, and in general just less crap like potato chips, cookies, and chocolate. That shit’s expensive.

Although admittedly the last two weeks have been a biiiiigggg step back on this – my brother has been home for a while to relax post-graduation (PS – my bro is now officially a graduate! Yay!), and so our parents have been giving us money to hit up as many of his favorite restaurants as we can before he has to go back… and a lot of those places happen to be things like pizza and wings. Additionally one of our good friends came in to visit this weekend, and, well, same deal there only minus the parental donations. But as of today I’m back on track.

Work More Efficiently

This one has been very hit-or-miss. Sometimes I’m great about it, sometimes not so much. I’ll have to work on consistency for this once the semester starts again, and for now this is almost completely out the window due to the temperature of our apartment. We’re on the top floor of an old building with no air conditioning, and, well, heat rises. We’ve been trying to avoid putting in our window air conditioners for as long as possible for the sake of our electricity bill, but it’s beginning to get pretty unbearable… basically the only thing you can do without sweating your ass off is sit with a fan blowing directly at you. And that doesn’t really bode well for productivity. We may have to bite the financial bullet on this one soon for the sake of getting-shit-done.

Sleep

I was pretty good about this during the semester, but now that the summer has hit I’ve backtracked on this a bit. The temperature of our apartment hasn’t helped. But it matters much less during the summer anyway, since I don’t have a set schedule the way I do during the year. Although if I sleep in too much, I end up missing out on keeping up on the next resolution due to weather limitations.

Walk More

Another relative success. Once the weather warmed up I started walking to work as much as possible. Unfortunately the weather has now switched to the other extreme, and what with work not starting again until August, it’s gotten a bit harder to make sure I get my walking time in. But the last few weeks I’ve been good about getting up earlier, before it gets to hot, and forcing myself out the door to just roam the neighborhood a while.

Spending Diet

And then last but not least: the biggest success of them all. Although admittedly this happened out of necessity more than my own strong self-discipline. I have in the last few weeks received good news that one of the two classes that got cut has been re-added, so now I’m only down one. That’s taken some financial pressure off, but bottom line is I managed to really stick to this anyway. For the first time in, well, ever it’s looking like I might actually have some savings left once the paychecks start again because of how efficiently I’ve stuck to this one and how much I hustled during the semester, and that’s an amazing feeling.

A Test of a Pinterest DIY Cleaner

Header vinegar cleaner

So bathtub cleaner is expensive. Cleaners in general are expensive. This is not news to anyone I’m sure, and it certainly wasn’t news to me. But with my financial situation set to become what it will at the end of this semester* it has gradually become more and more soul sucking to have to purchase these kinds of products. Not only are they expensive, but they smell totally noxious, and using them is a massive pain in the rump that leaves me with a headache from the odor every time. The idea that I was paying what I was for the “privilege” of cleaning just started to drive me bonkers.

My bathtub cleaner, despite being the best one I’ve been able to find over the years, was by far the biggest offender – expensive, horrible smelling, and still for some reason requiring massive amounts of scrubbing despite the guarantees on the bottle that it wouldn’t. None of this is helped by the fact that our bathroom is an interior room with no window or ventilation beyond the exhaust fan (which really only serves to de-steam the room, not fully ventilate).

Before

So one day two weeks ago I got fed up. I was done. The tub had been let go a little longer than usual at that point due to an extra busy few weeks (see photo above for grossness – notice that I have NOT watermarked that photo…), and I was just NOT in the mood to spend an hour + on my knees scrubbing this thing out while the cleaner slowly gassed me. To Pinterest I went, where I found a recipe for a DIY cleaner that I had all the ingredients for.

Now this cleaner recipe has been done a thousand and one times – there are hundreds of pins on Pinterest from hundreds of blogs, many of which have the instructions directly in the pin description, and many of which didn’t even lead back to anything. And I have to admit – I simply did not have the time or the patience that day to try to track the recipe back to an original source. I did a search on Pinterest for “DIY bathtub cleaner,” read the first recipe that had ingredients I had on hand out of the pin description, shut the laptop and went. So if you happen to know who the “originating” blogger was (or the closest we can come to the originating blogger when something’s gone this viral) – please let me know so I can link to them.

But bottom line is, there’s a reason this recipe has been done a thousand times on a thousand blogs: it’s easy, and it works. Simply mix equal parts dish soap (most of these recipes call for original blue Dawn, but I used what I had here and it worked just fine) and white vinegar that’s been heated in the microwave, stick it in a spray bottle and you’re good to go.

Notched Bottle

The spray bottle I had on hand was actually purchased at Sally Beauty for about $2 – originally intended to test a DIY “Dry” Shampoo recipe I had stumbled upon. But I never quite got around to that, so cleaner bottle it became. And it conveniently has these little notches on the side to measure things. So I just dumped in the dish soap until I felt like stopping, and then looked to see how much that was (it was 8 oz).

I then measured out that same amount of white vinegar and stuck it in the microwave for three minutes. Can I just tell you how much I love my Pyrex liquid measuring cup? Because I love it. And it made this process soooooo easy.

Pour the vinegar into the bottle with the dish soap, shake it a little to mix (really, just a little – it will suds up pretty good), and done.

Vinegar measured out

I sprayed it all over the tub and let it sit for about half an hour and work its magic. It did make the bathroom smell like orange vinegar, but that’s sooooo totally preferable to whatever chemically awfulness normal cleaners have. I didn’t feel light-headed or like I was going to suffocate while using this product at all.

Now, I must admit I did do a super quick 5 second pass on the particularly icky parts with a scrub brush just to loosen some of the grime up – but in general this cleaner worked like a charm. A quick rinse and my tub was shiny again.

Well, except for the drain, which is old and has lost some of the lacquer finish in places so never really looks shiny and perfect. But the rest of the tub was clean as a whistle. Just look for yourself!

After

Overall, I give this DIY recipe a 9/10. The only way this could be better is if I could figure out how to get rid of the vinegar smell while it worked and make it smell like cookies or cake or something equally appetizing. Maybe I’ll work on that in the future. But for now, you can definitely call me a DIY cleaner convert. This cleaner apparently works just as well once it cools – but we’ll have to wait for next time to find that out for sure!

*I know, I know. This has been mentioned almost every single post for the last couple weeks and I’m sure it’s getting tiresome, but bottom line is that Magpie Making Do is a reflection of my reality – and lately my reality is consumed by this issue!