A year behind me and another ahead.

When the year begins to draw to a close, I start to get a little introspective.  It’s natural to look back at what has happened over the past twelve months, and this year when I peer in the review mirror at my life it’s hard to believe that so much could have happened in just twelve short months.

 

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Here’s a very short run-down of some of the big things that happened to me this past year:

  • I started a new job in January.  It’s been very challenging and different to any job I’ve had before.  But I’ve learned so much and I’m loving my work.  I work with a fantastic group of people and I feel so pleased with the progress I’ve made this year.
  • I came out as bisexual to my family and friends.  While I’ve known for a long time that I was bi, I had never felt the need to bring it up.  However, when I began dating more widely this year I felt like it was time to tell people.  The reactions I’ve received have been a bit of a mixed bag, and some have been hard to swallow.  But I’m so glad that I’ve been open about my sexuality as I feel that it’s given me more scope to explore it and I’m happy that I’m living more authentically.
  • I had my first (and probably only) polyamorous relationship.  While it was fun and I still care about my ex boyfriend and girlfriend, it simply wasn’t built to last.
  • I was present when a co-worker had a stroke at work and it was one of the scariest moments of my life.  Amazingly, she has now recovered completely and is back at work.  The whole experience made me feel extremely grateful for all that I have, and also showed me how strong I can be when needed.  I always expected that I would be a wreck in an emergency, but when the time came I was frighteningly calm and capable.  I’m proud of how I managed that day and so darn relieved to have my colleague safe and sound.
  • I started online dating and met loads of awesome people (and a few not so awesome ones)
  • I met and began dating my lovely girlfriend, Jac.  It’s been so wonderful getting to know her and I’m excited for all that’s yet to come.
  • I began attending classes at my local gym and met loads of great people.
  • I got an article published in Wellbeing Magazine which touched on two of my favourite topics: yoga and depression.
  • I ran my first craft fair stall in April and then did it again in August.
  • I shaved the side of my head into a sidecut, and I’m still so chuffed with this style.

As you can see, it’s been a massive year for me.  It’s also been a year with not a whole lot of blogging.  I’ve been debating lately whether I want to continue with my blog.  When I first started blogging, I was diligent about posting daily.  Then as my schedule became more hectic, I started posting only on weekdays.  And this year it was my goal to post three articles a week.  But that just hasn’t happened.  My life has gotten so big and so full that there isn’t always time to do all the things I want to.  I sometimes feel guilty when I don’t have a chance to blog regularly and I wondered whether it would be better to just shut down my blog.

 

But I really don’t want to do that.  Blogging has brought so much joy into my life.  I adore sitting down to put together a post and I have met some of the most amazing people through my blog.  So instead of trying to work to a blog schedule and posting a certain number of times a week, I’m going to be a bit more relaxed with my writing.  I’m hoping that this year I’ll be able to put up lots of great posts, but I’m not sure how frequent my posting will be.  But rest assured that I’m not going to bail on this space or the amazing people who continue to visit regularly.  I’ll still be about, living and loving, and I’m going to make a big effort to fill this space with tales of my adventures, funny stories, fashion, advice and geekery.

 

I hope your year has been as full and challenging as mine has.  What did you get up to?

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5 Fandom Friday: Favorite snacks to consume while blogging.

Food is one of the awesomest things on the planet.  I love eating it, I love cooking it and I love growing it.  Although meals are lovely and satisfying, snacks are the sweet little something-extras that punctuate my day. I will often have something to nibble on or sip at while I’m blogging.  Today I’m going to run through my five favourite blogging snacks.

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1. Tea

I’m a voracious tea-drinker.  I usually have a cup by my side while I’m tapping away on my keyboard.  There’s nothing quite like having a hot beverage to sip at while you’re writing.  I have a massive collection of teas, but my favourite blends are Earl Grey and Oolong.

2.  Apple and pear slices

Fruit is a great snack, particularly in the afternoon when my energy is lagging and I’m craving something sweet.  I like to make myself a little plate of cut fruit, usually apples and pears, which I can munch on while I’m blogging.  They aren’t too sticky, so it’s easy to eat them without getting juice all over my computer.

3. Jellybeans

I have a real sweet tooth, and without a doubt my favourite lollies are jelly beans.  I particularly enjoy the big fat glucose ones that you get from the pharmacy.

4. Nuts

Nuts have become my go-to between meals snack.  I keep a little jar of cashews, almonds and macadamias in my desk drawer for when the afternoon munchies hit.  They are full of protein and good fats and keep you feeling full.  Plus they taste great and have a satisfying crunch.

5. Cheese

I’m a big-time cheese lover, and I like preparing myself a little platter of cheese and crackers to snack on as I blog.  I like to buy a good variety of cheeses, from cheddar to Camembert, gouda to gorgonzola.  I will mix and match my cheeses with some thin crackers and maybe some grapes or dried apricots for a seriously delicious snack.

 

What do you much on while you’re blogging?  Or if you don’t have a blog, do you have any work-time snacks that you particularly enjoy?

Interview with Jessica from Chronically Vintage.

Although there are so many vintage bloggers, few have captured my attention as firmly as Jessica Cangiano.  Jessica’s blog, Chronically Vintage, is a visual delight of gorgeous photographs and excellent treasures from yesteryear.  Each post is accompanied by a lyrical write-up that is always a pleasure to read.

1940s vintage navy blue dress and hat, cranberry tights, at the Penticton Rose Garden_6

In addition to her stunning blog, Jessica also runs an etsy store, also named Chronically Vintage,  which stocks a wide array of vintage goodies.  Many of the items from this store have been on my wish-list for ages.

Jessica kindly allowed me to interview her about blogging, running an online store and, of course, vintage clothing!

What prompted you to begin blogging? 
My blog, Chronically Vintage, sprang to life in April 2009 at a time when I was going through an especially rough spell on the health front (I’ve been severely chronically ill and partially disabled since I was 18 years old with more than a dozen different chronic medical conditions) and was strongly feeling at the time like folks, and as well as even myself sometimes, were just defining me by my health problems and not seeing me for the full, vibrant person with a plethora of different interests that I was/am. One of those interests that had always been especially near and dear to my heart was vintage fashion and really anything to do with history (especially mid-twentieth century history).
I’d been wearing vintage clothing since I was 15 (I’m 30 now) and studying topics pertaining to vintage for as far back as I could remember, so it seemed like a natural topic to launch a blog about. I’d already been following and commenting on some other early vintage blogs that proceeded mine and I knew that, at the time, it was a niche was a rapid following, that helped to encourage me as well.
I named my blog as I did because I decided it was high time I was defined by my love of vintage, not my medical issues and you know what, it worked! I’ve been “chronically vintage” ever since and the positive changes it’s made in my life have truly been too numerous to ever count. I wrote my first post late one evening in mid-April 2009 and haven’t looked back since! 🙂

– What is your favourite thing about blogging?
There are so very many things that I adore about blogging, but I would say that two of the very top contenders for me are: The challenge and reward of blogging. There have been many times when I came dangerously close to throwing in the proverbial towel on blogging because of my health, but ultimately I each time I decided to hang in there and am so glad that I persevered. I adore writing and the cathartic, creative outlet that blogging gives me, so I hope that I’m able to keep doing so, no matter what challenges (health or otherwise) life throws my way for a very long time to come. The second thing is the friendships that I have made over the years with many amazing, inspiring, caring, and thoroughly lovely bloggers around the world that have come into my life as a direct result of my blog. Some of these folks, even though I haven’t met most of them in person yet, have become best friends and people that I care about deeply. This side of blogging is such a blessing, as well as being a very encouraging reason to keep at ‘er (writing new posts, I mean) year after year.

Black and pink 1950s floral circle skirt, Grey Freddies of Pinewood cardigan in Kelowna (5)
– Earlier this year, you opened your own etsy store.  What motivated you to open Chronically Vintage?
Wonderful question, Vanessa, thank you for asking me about my eponymously named Etsy shop. Having loved vintage for my whole life and been a regular customer of it for more than half that time, the desire to open my own vintage shop was one that sprang to life fairly early on. Unfortunately I live in a small town that – while awesome in many ways – seriously lacks a vintage scene or the customer base needed to, in all likelihood, keep a physical shop in business, so I after several years of toying with the idea of opening an online store, I decided to do so at the start of 2014. Once I set the ball in motion there, I worked like a madwoman, burning the candle at both ends for five months straight so that I could launch in May of this year. I wanted to get my shop up before the sweltering summer heat hit, so that’s why opening in May was quite important to me.
I’m motivated by many things, including my own passion for all things vintage, that of other members of the vintage community, and a desire to see vintage items – which I view as absolute treasures of the past no matter if we’re talking a $10 plastic necklace or a $10,000 ruby ring – hopefully go to great hopes where they’ll continue to be loved, appreciated and preserved for many more years to come.

– Where do you source the items for your shop?  
Though vintage items, especially clothing, is fairly hard to come by around these Canadian small town parts, between local finds (particularly at auctions and from antique dealers), working with a small number of very trusted consignees throughout the province, and traveling to larger cities across Western Canada on buying trips every now and then, I’m able to keep my virtual shelves stocked and absolutely adore the process of sourcing items for my Etsy shop.

– What is the most challenging thing about running your own online store?
For me this a single answer with two equal parts: not having enough energy/positive days on the health front and hours in the day to get to everything in a given day/week/month that I would ideally like to. I put a lot of time into my listings, including using a professional photography set up to shot the images for my listings (I take all the snaps for them myself, which thankfully I can pull on my background as a commercial/product photographer to help me with), and I know that I don’t technically have to do that (and that I could list more items in the same time frame if I didn’t), but it’s of the utmost importance to me that I’m detailed and professional in all that I do with my shop, so I doubt I’ll ever change there.
I try to list new items multiple times a month and have gradually building up my inventory numbers there since opening my shop. I’ve been averaging in the range of 230 – 270 items in stock at any given moment in recent months and look forward to bringing that number up to 300, then 350, then 400, and beyond, hopefully all in 2015.

Edwardian inspired outfit featuring a 1980s does 40s dress
– If you had to pick a favourite decade for vintage clothing and decor, which would you choose?

Always and forever, this will be a two-way tie for me between the 1940s and the 50s. These are the decades that have spoken to me most strongly since I was a very small child and which my own vintage wardrobe is based around. Though I never sugar coat those decades, I do love to celebrate their positive points, which very much includes the gorgeous, feminine, and very elegant fashions that were prevalent throughout both.

– What is your most prized item in your vintage collection?

 

Without a doubt, the most prized vintage items that I own are the very small number of garments and accessories that a dear relative blessed me with that belonged to some of our family members (including her own mom), all of whom lived in Dawson City, Yukon, where my maternal grandma and her family hailed from (my great-grandpa went north for the Klondike gold rush and though he didn’t strike it rich, he loved life in the Yukon so much that he stayed put, raised a large family, and was a pillar of the community until his passing in the mid-1940s). Very, very few people on either side of my family held onto any antique or vintage items, so that makes these pieces all the more special and poignant to me. I will treasure them for my whole life and truly hope I have a child/children or nieces/nephews of my own to pass them along to one day.

 


 

 

I want to extend a sincere “thank you” to Jessica for taking the time to answer these questions.  She’s a very busy woman, so I truly appreciate that she was able to give such thoughtful answers.  It’s been wonderful to have this opportunity to give you all such a warm introduction to one of my favourite bloggers, and I do hope that you’ll pop on over to Jessica’s blog and esty store to take a peep.

My digital detox

Last weekend, I decided to do a digital detox.  I’d read an article in Dumbo Feather about how their entire staff had gone without screens for 48 hours, and I thought it would be a fun challenge.  It was a fascinating experiment that taught me a lot about my relationship with technology.  Today, I want to share my experience with you.

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The challange

I decided to go 48 hours without using anything with a screen.  That meant no T.V and no computer.  I decided that I would leave my mobile phone turned on, because without it nobody would be able to contact me at all and I didn’t want to panic anyone or miss any vital calls.  But I made a pact that I wouldn’t use my phone for texting, only calls.

How I spent the weekend

I had loads of fun things planned for the weekend.  I took a long walk down the lake.  I visited my grandmother.  I had a cup of tea with a friend at home.  I hung out with my brother.  I finished reading a book that I’ve been working on for a month, and started another one.  I did a buttload of yoga.  I journalled.  I knitted and crocheted. I cleaned my flat and cooked. I played with my cats.

Pitfalls

By the first evening of my detox, I was tired of reading.  I almost never eat a meal without a book in front of me or something playing on the television.  I hadn’t noticed this habit until I did my digital detox.  And I realised that the reason I do this is to stave off loneliness.  I live by myself and I eat the majority of meals alone.  Although I’m comfortable in my own company, I felt incredibly lonely without the television on while I ate my dinner.  So I relented and let myself watch one episode of That 70’s Show while I munched on my dinner. Then I turned it off for the rest of the weekend.

I usually start the morning by checking my social media to see what my friends are up to and find out what’s going on in  the world.  On the first morning of my detox, I skipped this step of my morning routine.  But by lunch time I was itching to jump on Facebook to find out what my friends were up to.  I had this burning fear that I was missing out on a bunch of excitement. I worried that there would be a pile of emails that needed my attention and I really should check them immediately.  But I resisted this urge.  And by the second day, I wasn’t nearly as anxious to find out what was going on in the online world.  And when I finally did check my inbox and social media when the detox was over, I really hadn’t missed anything vital.

Another thing I noticed was how much I missed my online friends.  I’m a pretty social creature, and most of my friends live out of town or overseas, and we communicate primarily using online tools.  While I didn’t miss the constant chatter of my inbox or social media feeds, I did miss the connections I have with those wonderful people that I care about.  While it was nice to have some time to myself, I did feel quite lonely and a bit isolated.  A few times those feelings were quite overwhelming.  It was a relief to reconnect with my friends at the end of the experiment.

What I learned

I learned quite a bit during this little experiment, so I’m going to break down the lessons into bullet points for you:

– I use social media and television to deal with loneliness.  While this in itself isn’t a bad thing, I’d like to work on being more comfortable in my own presence so I’m less reliant on this technology.

 

– I find some tasks incredibly boring without the television blaring in the background.  I struggled to get through my ironing without a movie to watch, and even crafting became a bit mundane after a while.  I really have become used to distraction and multi tasking.  I’d like to become more present, but at the same time if a movie helps me to get through a boring chore, then I don’t see the harm in it.

 

– I spend A LOT of time procrastinating online.  I got a lot more done when I didn’t have Facebook and Twitter to distract me.  I’d really like to work on limiting my social media time to help me get more out of my days.

 

– It’s perfectly OK to go without the constant chatter of online interaction for a while.  In fact, it was pretty darn refreshing.  You’re unlikely to miss anything vital if you stay away from Facebook or Twitter for 48 hours.

 

– Social media isn’t all bad.  My online presence has allowed me to meet some awesome people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and gives me a whole new outlet to communicate with people.  While some of these relationships are pretty superficial, others have grown into intimate friendships with people that I adore and support.  And I truly missed these people when I was away from the internet for the weekend.  I think I would be a much lonelier person were it not for my online friendships.

 

Have you ever done a digital detox?  Would you ever take the challenge?  What are your thoughts on your use of digital media and do you think a detox would help you evaluate your habits and feelings?

How I maintain a work-life balance.

When I got news that I had secured a full-time job, I was seriously anxious.  I was concerned about how I was going to manage to find time for all my hobbies and still get to see my family and friends.  I was also nervous about my mental health.  I manage my mental illness with a combination of CBT strategies, diet, exercise and self-care activities.  I was extremely worried that when I began working my mental health would suffer if I didn’t have time to nurture myself.

But three months have passed and I feel pretty good about where I’m at.  I haven’t had a nervous breakdown, I’ve managed to foster my most important relationships, my blog and shop are still going strong and my home isn’t falling to bits.  I’ve learned a few things about maintaining that ever-elusive work-life balance that I’d love to share with you.

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Prioritize

I often find myself overwhelmed when I’ve got spare time up my sleeve.  There are so many ways that I want to fill that time and I end up procrastinating while I decide what to do.  Before I know it, I’ve frittered away the time and accomplished nothing.

I’ve gotten into the habit of making a list of five things I want to accomplish each day.  This list usually comprises both big and small tasks, such as making an important phone call or writing a blog post or tidying my room.  I try to make sure that these tasks are ticked off before I add anything else to my to-do list.  That way I make sure that I’m using my time wisely and not wasting it by fretting about all the things I could be doing.

Let it go

 There are a finite number of hours in every day.  And many of those hours are filled with non-negotiable tasks like working, sleeping and eating. That leaves only a limited amount of time to spread between socializing, cleaning, self care and hobbies.

If you try to do All The Things perfectly All The Time you’re setting yourself up for failure.  In order to maintain your sanity you need to let go of some things.  You have to relinquish the need to have a perfectly clean house or a regularly-updated blog or nightly chats with your bestie.  You have to make sacrifices and it will mean that you don’t always get to do things as often or as perfectly as you’d like.  It was hard for me to do this because I’m a perfectionist, but I’m slowly learning to ease up and let things go.

Make time for friends and family

It’s so easy to let your favourite people fall through the cracks when you’re time-poor.  I struggle to find time to spend with my friends and family when I’m busy.  My solution?  Make time to be with them.  Carve out a block of time each day to call your mum, or email your friends.  Book in dinner dates with your lover.  Plan weekend family outings.  Don’t assume that you’ll just magically find time for your friends and family, make the effort and dedicate some time to these important people.

Set boundaries at work

One thing I’ve found vital to my sanity is creating boundaries between my work life and my personal life.  I make sure that I get all my work done during the work day and I always aim to leave the office on time.  I’ve asked my workmates to only call me outside of office hours if it’s truly urgent.  I don’t check my work email at home and I don’t come into the office on days when I’m not working.

 

It can be very hard to do this.  I don’t like to disappoint people, and I’m always worried that I’ll be perceived as lazy.  When I was in high school I got this idea in my head that in order to be successful, you had to be working hard all the time.  That busy = important and worthy.  I don’t like feeling as though I’m letting my boss down.  Especially when so many other people in the office are happy to work late into the evening and call into the office on their days off.

 

But  if I don’t set those boundaries, nobody will.  My boss isn’t going to tell me not to stay late  or discourage me from doing office work in my own time.  I have to stick up for myself and set realistic boundaries.  I work very hard during office hours and I don’t actually NEED to be at work outside of my scheduled roster.  It’s not lazy to take time for myself.  It’s just a job, and it’s only one part of my life.

 

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Embrace lazy days

Full time work can be exhausting.  While it can be tempting to cram your free time with as many activities as possible, it’s not always a great idea.  Your brain and body need time to relax and unwind.  For this reason, I make sure that I have one “lazy day” each week.  On my lazy days I don’t do any work.  I spend the day reading, exercising, crafting and chilling out with my favourite people.  I can’t stress the importance of having dedicated “do nothing” days to help your body and mind to recharge.

 

How do you maintain a work-life balance?  I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.

Getting back on track after a break

Hello gorgeous! I’ve been away from my blog for an entire week because Miss Fairchild and her gaggle of gorgeous girls have been staying with me.  Rather than try to carve out time for blogging, I scheduled a bunch of posts and stepped away from the computer.  I had an awesome time chilling out with the Fairchild clan and recharging a bit.  But now they’ve headed back to the city and it’s time for me to get back into blogging.  And cleaning.  And dealing with the pile-up of etsy orders that have accumulated.

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It can be mighty overwhelming to try to get back into work after a break.  Here’s how I do it.

Clean like a mad woman

When I’ve gotten a bit behind with work, the first thing I like to do is clean my house from top to bottom.  The physical activity energizes me and gives my brain a bit of a rest.  I find it really hard to work on blogging or crafting when my house is messy, so getting the whole place shiny and fresh is my first order of business.

Do a brain dump

After a while away from work, my mind tends to start swirling with all the tasks that need to be done.  I start feeling overwhelmed with the load of emails to be replied to, packages to be sent, blog posts to write and bills to be paid.  It’s enough to drive a girl into paralysis!

My solution is to have a ‘brain dump”.  I take a clean sheet of paper and a pen and I start writing down everything that I need to do.  Every. Single. Thing.  Big tasks and small tasks.  Don’t try to prioritize them, just get them all down on paper.  Doing this exercise really helps to clear my mind and gives me a bit more focus.

Schedule like your life depends on it.

After your brain dump, you’ll have a pieces of paper covered in scribbled notes.  Rather than use this as a demented to-do list, take out your planner or calendar and start scheduling those tasks.  Break them down and figure out when you’ll have time to complete each one.  Take note of any deadlines and prioritize your tasks accordingly.

Set three major goals a day

Rather than trying to do All The Things at once, I like to set three major goals each day.  These are the three things that I must do before the day is over.  Three is a do-able number for me, but you might only want to set a single task each day, or you may feel up to doing four or five.  I try to do those three tasks first, if possible.  That way they’re done and dusted and I can consider any additional work I get done a bonus.

Recognize your limits.

Go easy on yourself.  You won’t be able to catch up on your work all at once.  It might take a few days or even a couple of weeks until you feel like you’re totally back on track.  If you try to push yourself too hard, you’ll feel exhausted and your break will have been pointless.

 

It’s so important to give yourself a rest each day and don’t try to over-extend yourself.  Be kind to yourself and feel confident in the fact that you’ve got a plan, and you’ll be back on track in no time if you stick to it.

 

How do you get back on track after a break?

New year’s resolutions update: October

This month I’d resolved to branch out with my writing.  This isn’t a resolution that I’d expected to accomplish all in one month, but rather one that I’d work on throughout the year and then reflect on when October rolled around.

My aim was to stretch myself outside my comfort zone a little and write more about things that are personal or controversial.  I wanted to practice putting my opinions out there more often and publishing posts that touched on issues that are more sensitive.  I have a lot to say on topics such as mental illness, self care and body image and these in particular were areas that I wanted to write about.

DSCF8548I think I’ve done pretty well so far.  At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post about what it’s like to suffer from emetophobia, and I got a huge response from my readers.  This really encouraged me to write more challenging and deeper posts.

An email from a diet company asking me to promote their products on my blog prompted me to write about my feelings about diet products and the diet industry in general.  I also wrote a post about learning to love my crooked smile.

When my nine-year relationship ended this year, I went through a huge amount of turmoil and pain.  I had to move out of the home that we’d been making for ourselves and into a flat on my own.  I went through a real self-esteem crisis.  I also had to learn to romance myself. And each of those experiences prompted me to write a blog post.  Each of those posts got a great response from my readers, and so I feel heartened that I can write about difficult and personal things without experiencing a backlash.

One of the most rewarding things about writing these posts have been the emails from people all around the world telling me how much I’ve helped them.  Sometimes, when you’re going through a rough time it helps so much just to know that there is someone else who is going through a similar situation.  I feel truly happy to know that my writing has brought a little sparkle of hope into a couple of lives.

So I think I’ve done pretty well with this resolution.  I’m interested in continuing to push the boundaries of my comfort zone and write about some of the other things that are important to me, but which are tricky to put out there into the world.