Month: August 2017

Painting – With a Twist!

Painting – With a Twist!

This past weekend, I went to a pet portraiture class with a dear friend of mine. While I certainly did not miss my calling in the world of art (see previous post – I am not artistic!), I had a lot of fun in the class and came home with a decent painting of my sweet little Dot nugget, who passed back in December 2016. We had to submit in photos of the pets we wanted to paint beforehand, and when we got to the studio, they had set out charcoal sketches of all our pups (which, of course, I didn’t snap a good photo of).

The first step we were given was to paint in the background and the paint the shadows on the pets – the teacher called this the “underpainting.” I have another painting of our pup, Mac, who passed in June 2016, that was given to me by the same sweet friend I went to the class with, and it has the green-red-yellow-blue primary colors thing going on. It’s on display in our living room, so I was trying to match this color scheme to that one, although the green ended up being waaaay darker and my colors are all patchy and the yellow/orange/blanket wrinkles thing is questionable.

See my reference photo down at the bottom on the table?

After we finished up the shadows, we added in the highlights and the base color. It was tough mixing the right color for Dot’s fur – it was made even tougher when you consider the fact that I’m colorblind! My friend, bless her, was helping me determine which colors on my palette were the correct ones to use.

“I’m ready to go out on patrol, sergeant – I’ve got my camo face paint on and everything!”

At this point, Dot had started looking a little like she was in the military – she had a camo face paint thing going on, so the sweet teachers came over to hep me correct the color and lighten her up a little bit.

Ahhhh that’s better.

I got to start adding in her fluffy puppy fur on her sweet little head and ears, and that was super fun and turned out really cute.

Eyes before highlighting

Once we started adding the eyes and nose, it all really started to come together and look like my sweet little Dot Dot.

Eyes after highlighting!

This is the finished product that I brought home, and I’m pretty proud of it given my considerable lack of artistic talent! The teacher said, “For a single color dog, she definitely has a lot of colors!” The photo I had brought for reference had a lot of play of shadow and light, and even though at first glance, Dot was predominately the lighter tan color, when you really started to look you could see the black and darker brown places, especially on her face and ears. To be completely honest, I didn’t even realize she had a little ‘stache until I was painting this picture.

But, here it is! The whole class was a ton of fun. They do pet portraiture classes on the last Sunday of each month, so we’re going back again in September!

Bullet Journaling Shouldn’t be a Chore

Bullet Journaling Shouldn’t be a Chore

So here’s the thing the Internet doesn’t want you to know: bullet journaling was created to be a *~*~*~productivity tool~*~*~*. It’s sole purpose was to help people get more shit done during the day in the simplest way possible. Of course, as soon as it became “mainstream”, it also became commoditized, and now bullet journaling is one of the most popular and seemingly most expensive hobbies to jump into (yes, I said hobby). If you hop on to any of the bullet journal Facebook groups, you’ll see one hundred and one posts from people who are new to the system saying, “I finally got all my supplies in! Now I’m scared to start because I don’t want to mess it up!”

They’ve got four $20 Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, a 300 pack of Staedtlers, every color brush marker under the sun, watercolor palettes, three dozen mildliners, a gel pen in every color known to man, stencils, stamps, stickers, markers… the list goes on and on.

And they’ve got no idea where to start, because they look at all those things and think, “How is this supposed to make me MORE productive?!” And other people look at it thinking they couldn’t ever start a bullet journal because they don’t have $300 to spend on supplies!

(Disclaimer: not saying there’s anything wrong if this is your planning style. Just saying this is not the ONLY way to bullet journal, because I couldn’t do it if my life depended on it and I bet there’s other people out there like me, too.)

A page from my first ever bullet journal

I started out with the same kind of mindset. I went out and bought a Moleskine square-grid notebook ($20), a fountain pen and ink cartridges ($20), a calligraphy pen and ink cartridges ($15), a 4-pack of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners ($10), a pack of Papermate InkJoy gel pens ($8), and a ton of washi tape (probably between $20-$30 total). I thought those things were essential to having a bullet journal, because that’s all I saw on the internet.

When I was still trying to figure out that damn calligraphy pen

It took me maybe about six months to realize that I am just not a creative planner. I had been hunting for a productivity system for so long that I was glad to have found something that worked (rapid-logging), but I was still fighting with myself internally about the need to make it ~*~*~*~decorative~*~*~*~.

Still with the calligraphy pen

I obviously had no clue how to write with a calligraphy pen, but I kept at it thinking this was how I had to make my headers to be a true bullet journalist. I was constantly comparing my pages to others’ pages and coming up short, thinking I was doing something wrong and trying to figure out how to be more creative to be “competitive” with other bullet journalers!

Finally gave up the calligraphy pen

Towards the end of my first bullet journal, I finally realized that what worked for other people didn’t necessarily have to work for me. As someone with a full-time job who’s also enrolled in grad school three-quarters time, I simply didn’t have the time to sit down for 30-45 minutes every day working on my bullet journal (yes, that’s how long it took for me to do those sad, simple little pages). This is why I get frustrated when I see people who say they get “too busy” to work on their bullet journal. That’s a sign you need to make a change to your system!

In my magenta Leuchtturm1917 dot-grid notebook, the HOLY GRAIL of bullet journals

I filled up the Moleskine in November 2016 and moved right in to the Leuchtturm1917 I had bought. Everyone knows this is THE notebook to have for a bullet journal, and I thought for sure that it was going to revolutionize my bullet journaling style (spoiler: it didn’t).

Still trying to be creative drawing out my weekly spreads

The problem was that I was still spending too much time doing monthly and weekly spreads. I hated having to sit down with a ruler and a bunch of different pens and draw a bunch of straight lines that were never perfectly straight, and I was still trying to do decorative headers on those pages and I am just not a decorative person, and the washi tape was still making an appearance for no damn good reason. I kept thinking to myself, “There has got to be a way to make this more productive for myself!”

Dailies from my no8 Foxy Fix

That was when I found out about the Bullet Journal in a Traveler’s Notebook community. It seemed like the perfect hack! I could have pre-printed inserts for monthly and weekly spreads, and still be able to do my daily rapid-logging, as well! By this point, I had finally got hold of my dailies so that they made sense to me and utilized as much of each page as possible (see above). Any semblance of fancy headers are gone, replaced with my simply writing the day, date, and a little two-second drawing of the weather, and then highlighting it as a page break.

While I was still on the fence about making the switch from my LT1917 into a TN system, The Foxy Fix had one of their famous mystery sales! I thought, “This is it! A sign from the gods! Make the switch!” So, I snagged a no.8/A5 FN, bought a bunch of inserts for it, and went to town. I made the mistake (for me) that so many people make when switching from a single notebook into a TN system, and wanted to stick with the same size (A5). I had originally intended to keep my LT in the TN and have other inserts for other things, but quickly realized that was just too bulky and not practical for taking to work with me every day. Then I realized that I just wasn’t a fan of the A5 size in general for a TN. Having four or five inserts in it just made it really heavy. If it weren’t something I had to tote back and forth to work, it probably would have been fine, but I just wasn’t in love with it.

Ahhhhhh… planner peace in the B6 Foxy Fix

The bujo gods heard my laments, though, and offered me redemption in the form of a no.5/B6 FN. As soon as I got that size in my hot little hands, I knew I had found it: the elusive planner peace. I have finally got everything set up in a way that works for me. I no longer feel like I’ve got to be a creative bullet journalist. You’ll never see watercolors or tombows as part of my planning style. I have a four fountain pens that I switch out on a daily basis. My ink color is never the same from day-to-day. The most creative I get is still with the mildliner swipe across the date. I’ve got undated monthly and weekly inserts for future-planning and assignments – the undated bit is a great feature, because if I don’t need to use a week I can just skip it and not even feel bad about wasting pages.

The point of this whole spiel is to emphasize that you shouldn’t feel pressured to make your bullet journal fancy or pretty or artistic (unless that’s what you got it for in the first place). All you really need to start a bullet journal is a notebook (any notebook will do) and a pen (or a pencil, if that’s your thing). My best recommendation is going to be to start simple. If you want to add the fancy stuff later, do it! But odds are, you’ll get burned out on the system quick if you try to incorporate every single feature you see on Pinterest within your first month of bullet journaling, and then you’ll get discouraged when you have a bunch of half-empty spreads because you realized you really didn’t need a TV show tracker because netflix does that for you just fine (guilty). Be kind to yourself and to your planning style! Let it grow into something that works for you, instead of trying to force your style to be something it’s not (guilty again).

Plan With Me: Foxy Fix No. 5/B6 Bay Blackout

Plan With Me: Foxy Fix No. 5/B6 Bay Blackout

So here’s the thing. I’ve made some major changes to my planning system over the past week. I thought I had found the elusive *~*~*~planner peace~*~*~* with my no8/no4 set-up but then I got my hands on this no5 Bay Blackout from a BST board on Facebook (I traded my no8 Sugar Cookie for it) and it was literally love at first sight. SO, I’ve had to make some modifications to the way it all works (and I’m still tweaking things like my monthly habit tracker and gratitude log – looks like they may turn into weekly trackers instead) but as of yesterday I have officially moved into the no5 Blackout 100%.

Look at the way it shines in the sun OMG

I had been toying around with the idea of trying a no5 for a while, but I never wanted to actually make the jump because I had finally got all my inserts together for the no8 and had also just gotten the no4 in and set up, as well. But when my trade partner contacted me on Facebook and said she had a no5 setup complete with inserts and dashboards that she could trade me for my no8 Sugar Cookie, I jumped all over that!

That structure tho

The Bay Blackout leather is considered a “vintage” Foxy Fix leather, as it was only in production for a short time in 2016. The entire Bay line has since been discontinued (although DID YOU SEE THE NEW SANTA FE LINE OMG I AM OBSESSED). Out of all the leather types I’ve had from Foxy (original Rowena, Sugar, Boss Babe, and Bay) the Bay leather is absolutely my favorite. It is supple and pliable but soooo structured. It holds it’s form like a dream and stands up to abuse (E.G. being tossed in my bag and taken everywhere I go) beautifully.

I had been on #baywatch for a while on the BST, so when my trade partner contacted me with an offer for a no5 AND a Bay leather (especially the Blackout, which is one of the hardest variations of their Bay leather to come by, given its extremely small production window), I literally couldn’t say yes fast enough. Because she was kind enough to include a ton of inserts and even dashboards (which I had never used before but OMG I am sold now), she has revolutionized my entire planning system! THANK YOU!

Look at that contrast between the dyed outer leather and the natural inside cover

The inside of the Blackout is set up with left horizontal card pockets and right secretarial pockets with added card pocket and pen loop (aka my ideal set-up, as it always has been). I especially love that sparkly dashboard insert included from my trade partner – it adds a little something special for me to see when I first open up my notebook, and makes me smile every time I see it!

My little Dot Nugget, Dot the WonderPup, tucked inside the pocket of the dashboard
Monthly planning

This is where the changes really begin. I have always been a traditional monthly calendar layout kind of future planning gal but I LOVE these undated monthly inserts from PristinePaperie on Etsy. I can color-code all my events with my mildliners, and it has space to reflect on what I want to focus on for the month and what’s on my mind in just a few words. Monthly tasks, birthdays, and events all have spots to be logged, and there’s still a traditional calendar layout for my visual future planning needs.

Weekly planning

Another change that came with the inserts from my trade is this undated weekly planner. I don’t need in-depth near-future planning every week, so I love that this is undated and I can only use it on the weeks that I absolutely need to, and skip others without feeling like I’m wasting pages because it’s undated! I’m using the little dot grid portion to try out a weekly habit tracker, and am toying around with the idea of writing my daily gratitudes in the daily boxes, but I haven’t 100% committed to that yet because I want to finish out my August gratitude and habit trackers that are still in my no8 (I hate the idea of unfinished or incomplete spreads!). Unfortunately, I don’t know which shop this insert came from so if anyone has seen it before LET ME KNOW Y’ALL!

Back cover of the first dashboard w more sparkly paper, front cover of the second dashboard featuring Dot the WonderPup again
Rapid-logging for daily planning will always be my go-to

The third insert is a square-grid insert from Muji and is where I still do my daily rapid-logging. This is the heart and soul of the bullet journal system and will forever be how I handle daily tasks, appointments, and notes. I searched for years to find a daily planning system that would work for me, and once I stumbled upon bullet journaling I knew this is where I would stay. Obviously, some things have been modified from the true, original bullet journal system because I’m not one for drawing up spreads and stuff (anything to be less artistic – more on that later) but rapid-logging has been the greatest planning discovery I’ve ever made.

This insert is also where I keep long-term collections (gift ideas, lists and dates of USPSA matches my husband competes in, online order tracking, etc.). They are working back-to-front, but since I don’t have a ton of long-term collections and since I can usually fit about a week of daily rapid-logging on two pages, I should be able to get several months worth of use out of each insert.

The fourth insert is a 31 day health tracker from AOR Journals , which is a really neat company that I’ve never heard of before I got this insert that allows you to pick the cover you want and then has literally a TON of different insert options to choose from, also. This is a company I’m definitely going to be going back to for inserts in the future, once my current ones run out, because they have everything I would need for about $5 apiece!

On this insert I can track my water intake, what exactly I’m eating on a daily basis, exercise, a spot for a daily quote (or possibly a daily gratitude? I haven’t decided yet), and then a space for writing a few lines a day about how the day went/how I felt. This is a really fun insert that I’m enjoying, so I will definitely be purchasing another!

My final two inserts are from YellowPaperHouse on Etsy and are technically sized to fit the no4/personal TN instead of the no5/B6 TN, but since I already had them I wanted to use them, so they’re just a smidge shorter than my other inserts but it still works. This is a plain square-grid insert that I’m using for my grocery lists and to keep ideas for posts I can make on the blog. Basically it’s so I can keep all my non-date-specific, non-task-specific lists in one place, without having to flip back through all my dailies looking for something specific.

Last but not least is my book review insert. This is where I can collect my thoughts about a book in short form before I expand upon it all here on the blog. Once this is full, I’ll buy another in B6 size so it actually fits!

Back of the last dashboard featuring my tiny precious Gidgimon

So, that’s how I plan in my no5 EDC Bay Blackout! Not pictured is a transaction register that I keep tucked in the back pocket to track my finances. If you’ve been considering the no5/B6 size but were on the fence about it, let this be a sign that you should JUST GO FOR IT! This is truly the perfect size for everything. Not so big that it isn’t portable (which is my main issue with the no8) and not so small that it isn’t functional (which is my main issue with the no4). B6 FOR LIFE!


***Also, the no4 Boss Babe Madison Ave featured previously on the blog is for sale. Let me know if you’re interested!



A Spoiler-Free Book Review: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas

A Spoiler-Free Book Review: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas

It isn’t every book that captures my attention so hard that I’m able to read all 400+ pages, cover to cover, in a matter of days, but when a book does do that, it’s probably been written by Sarah J. Maas.

Crown of Midnight is the second book in the Throne of Glass series that was Maas’ first foray into the world of full-length novels. I’m going to be honest with you when I say it took me a looooong while to get into the idea of reading Maas’ books. I had heard nothing but good things about them, and I am consistently reading similar YA high fantasy fiction novels, but I just felt like it would be too “mainstream” of me to start reading her books so far after so many other people had already read them – I felt like I would just be a bandwagoner. LET ME JUST SAY I have quickly been making up for lost time. I read the entire A Court of Thorns and Roses series (three books that have currently been released) in less than a week. I read Throne of Glass in less than a week while I was in school. Crown of Midnight was finished in two and a half days. I AM OBSESSED.

Crown of Midnight was everything you could possible hope a sequel to be. Maas is a wordsmith of the highest order; there are several passages throughout the text that gave me goosebumps all across my body. She is able to paint a picture with her words so clearly that I know exactly how each character and location in the story is meant to look. Her writing style is phenomenal and the book is fast-paced and breathless for nearly the full 420 pages. This is where the reader really starts to learn about who Celaena Sardothien really is and what and who formed her into the person she has become. Maas really begins to set the stage in this novel for what’s to come in the series as a whole, and does a fantastic job of laying all the groundwork without dragging along.

From the blurb on the back of my copy of the book:

Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become the King’s Champion. But she is far from loyal to the crown. Though she hides her secret vigilantly, her deadly charade becomes difficult when she realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. No one is above questioning her allegiance – not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemiah, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then, one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to decide once and for all where her true royalties lie . . . and whom she is willing to fight for.

What I love the most about Maas’ books and the worlds she creates within them is probably how they all center around incredibly strong, fierce, independent female central characters. Growing up, I was drawn to novels that featured strong women in the central roles. The Gemma Doyle series (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing) by Libba Bray was my favorite series in junior high and high school, and continues to be a series I re-read every year as an adult, because it was one of the first set of novels I can remember reading that featured a strong female character around whose adventures the books were centered. Celaena Sardothein appeals to that same place inside of me as do Gemma Doyle, Alanna the Lioness (which, if we’re being honest, is really the first fictional heroine with whom I fell in love as a middle-schooler, OMG I can’t believe I almost forgot about The Song of the Lioness series I read every single one of those books as a child I wanted to be Alanna when I grew up – thanks for giving me ridiculous expectations of my female characters, Tamora Pierce!), Hermione Granger, Mare Barrow, Mara Dyer, Feyre Archeron, and Princess Jezelia.

Overall, I give Crown of Midnight a resounding 5/5 stars: enthusiastically recommended! Now, on to Heir of Fire – review to come probably by the end of the week! HA!


A Spoiler-Free Book Review: Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien (edited by Christopher Tolkien)

A Spoiler-Free Book Review: Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien (edited by Christopher Tolkien)

Looking back, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t enamored with the Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit while I was relatively young, and the film versions were released in my middle school and junior high years. I distinctly remember my dad, my brother, and myself having The Lord of the Rings movie marathons multiple times, because we were all equally obsessed with the stories.

With that being said, I am ashamed to admit I still have yet to read The Silmarillion in its entirety. I started it when I was in high school, but never completed it, and I have yet to pick it back up. I also haven’t read many (read: any) of Tolkien’s posthumously published works – that is, until now.

My copy of Beren and Lúthein

I had pre-ordered Beren and Lúthien on Amazon, and the book was delivered to my door the same day it was released for sale in stores (Amazon Prime da real MVP here, y’all). As is my usual style, though, it took me about a million years before I was finally able to finish the book in its entirety. This is due in large part to my school schedule, and also because I was not prepared to be reading in verse again. Full disclosure: a sizable chunk of this book is written in Tolkien’s epic poetry style of verse, which is a format I hadn’t read since my days in AP English in high school and something that I definitely had to adjust back to reading so that my mind would actually process what my eyes were taking in.

The front cover illustration: Beren, Lúthien, and Huan the Dog

The story itself is broken down into several parts, interspersed throughout with commentary by Tolkien senior’s son, Christopher (who is now 92 years old, and admits in the foreword that this will be the last edited version of his father’s works that he will be releasing). The text shows the progression of the story from the time Tolkien first started writing it in 1917 until he abandoned it as a separate entity sometime in the 1930s. To be completely honest, I was expecting just the story itself, and so when I realized this book had multiple versions of the story in their various stages of development and revision, I was equal parts thrilled and irritated – thrilled, because I loved seeing how the writer’s mind changed aspects of the story within the realm of the greater overall history of Middle Earth, which was being developed simultaneously at that time; and irritated, because I truly was expecting a start-to-finish story without all the (seemingly) superfluous details.

The back cover illustration, Lúthien dancing in the woods

The main tale of Beren and Lúthien is broken down into two main sections in this book – “The Tale of Tinúviel,” which is the prose version of the story, and The Lay of Leithian, which is written entirely in verse. Both versions tell the same basic tale, although The Lay of Leithian is significantly longer, more detailed, and much closer to what the final version of the story may have looked like, had Tolkien finished it to his satisfaction (alas, he did not).

An Alan Lee line drawing found in the book – this depicts the tree house where Lúthien Tinúviel’s father had her kept to keep her from running off after Beren on a fool’s errand

As you would expect from any Tolkien narrative, the story even in its incomplete state is richly detailed and beautifully written. Beren and Lúthien’s story in many ways parallels the story of Aragorn and Arwen, which is seen much later on in the history of Middle Earth. Even though a final version was never completed, Tolkien still leaves little to be desired as far as details go, and the book offers the reader several different endings to the tale of Beren and Lúthien, which really allows you to pick the one you like best. Christopher Tolkien does a lovely job of compiling all the separate versions of the story into one readable text, and gives the reader enough background information and details about changes in names and histories about the characters that even someone who has never read The Silmarillion (like me), which is where the story of Beren and Lúthien originally appeared, is able to keep relatively well with the story’s progression and development.

Probably one of my favorite sections of verse from “The Lay of Leithian”

Overall, I give the book 4/5 stars. I truly enjoyed the different versions of the story and how I was able to watch the progression and development of the characters and their histories within the context of the greater history of Middle Earth. Once I got used to reading epic poetry again, I also was thoroughly pleased with the “The Lay of Leithian” and its grand poetic style, although this may be a sticking point for some readers who neither enjoy nor desire to read verse in any manner, shape, or form. If nothing else, the book reminds me that I really need to delve more into Tolkien’s other works in Middle Earth, because I just love the world and the characters who live in it as much now as I did when I was twelve.


Dog Days

Dog Days

So here’s the thing about having dogs, if you’re anything like me. You kind of get obsessed with them. You follow them around the house trying to snap adorable photos. You want them to snuggle you and you want to hug them (even though dogs don’t like hugs) because you just love them so much. 

Gidget playing fox in the woods.

Thanks to my school schedule, my dogs are on a “school schedule,” too. They get up around the same time every day (usually between 4:30 and 5:30 AM), because that’s what time I get up when classes are in session (I do the bulk of my schoolwork and studying in the wee hours of the morning, when the house is quiet and I can think).

Sweet Louby Lou. He is the main perpetrator of the early wake up calls.

Lou is the main one who will get up. He sleeps in a dog bed right next to my side of the bed (I know *heart melting*), and his thing is to wake up early AF and shake his big head so that his ears flop around very loudly. It’s better than any alarm, but still irritating when it’s a Sunday and all you want is to sleep for just like two more hours.

Charlie, who will wake up and go pee on things in the house if I don’t let him outside quick enough

Lou’s head-shaking, ear-flapping, lip-smacking early morning stretching will wake up Charlie, who sleeps in bed with us. He has no qualms whatsoever about getting out of bed and going to pee on things in the living room if I don’t get up and let him out. I mean, he has no qualms whatsoever about peeing on things in the living room on a regular day, too, but he’s much more likely to do it in the wee hours of the morning because he’s been sleeping all night and now he’s awake and he’s got to go right now.

Gidget, who will also wake up and pee on the rug in the living room. In her defense, she’s still a puppy.

Once Charlie is awake, six times out of ten Gidget will also wake up (the other four times I’ve got to literally push her out of bed – she also sleeps in bed with us on my side, between me and the edge of the bed, and she is sometimes not a morning dog at all).

Aww, so sleepy.

So if Gidget wakes up and gets out of bed, that is 100% a wake-up call, because there is a 100% chance if she is out of bed and I don’t let her out that she’s going to pee on the rug by the back door. In her defense, she is still a puppy and doesn’t have quite as much bladder control as the other dogs. So, I know at that point that I have to get up no matter what. And once I’m up, I’m up.

Abel, as we say, is “just happy to be here.”

Abel is always, 100% of the time, the last one awake. He prefers to sleep on the couch in the living room (he likes to sprawl and also he doesn’t like dog beds), and it will sometimes be hours after the rest of the dogs and I get up before Abel will finally come moseying into my office. He is totally unbothered by the sound of us all being awake, by the other dogs coming in and out the back door, by lights being turned on…

He makes a terrible guard dog.

Abel doesn’t wake up for anything except for Abel things. If we have people come in the door, Abel will barely raise his head to acknowledge the change in capacity in the house. Gidget and Charlie are going nuts, barking and racing to the door and thoroughly investigating the new people. Abel, however, will always be totally unconcerned. Someone could break into our house in the middle of the night and rob us blind, and Abel would be sleeping on the couch and wouldn’t even utter a single bork.

Abel getting ready to nap in his favorite spot

But, Lou is the same way. Aside from his early-morning potty wake ups, he’s not going to be bothered with intruders, either. Some people get pitbull-type dogs as guard dogs or watch dogs, but let me be the first to tell you, they make terrible guard dogs.

Louby is not a guard dog. Don’t be fooled by his big block head and 80+ lbs of muscle. He is only a threat to bumblebees.

Gidget and Charlie make much more appropriate guard-and-watch dogs than do the pibbles. As small dogs with a complex, they feel like they’ve got a lot to prove to the world, so they’re not afraid to back down. They are the first ones at the door anytime someone is coming in.

This is a guard dog. She will attack with a tiny-dog rage that burns with the fire of a thousand suns.

Of course, they won’t actually attack (Charlie does bite hands but that’s because he’s excited to see you and not because he wants to eat you). But they (especially Gidget) are the only ones that will bork at little noises and alert us to the presence of possible intruders, ghosts, or suspicious-looking pillows.

This is also a guard dog. He will have an attitude about it but he’ll still kick some intruder ass.

It is so good to know we are protected-ish in the event of a break-in. Unless the thief has food. Then all bets are off.


Setting Up September

Setting Up September

I don’t do much in the form of collections and spreads in my bullet journal. I know lots of people have spreads for books they’ve read, books they want to read, TV shows they are watching, trackers for their pets, trackers for their significant others, trackers to remind them to track things in their trackers…… You get the point. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, I just don’t have time to keep up with all of that in an analog form when all of it is already tracked in digital form somewhere (thanks, Goodreads and Netflix!).

There are, however, three spreads that have been a staple in my bullet journal since the very first month I started bullet journaling: an expense and spending tracker, a habit tracker, and a gratitude log. All of these have become absolutely essential, and updating them is an integral part of my daily planning routine. Here’s how I set them up:

First up is always the expense and spending tracker. I know that my bank account obviously tracks this stuff as well, but I find I’m much more accountable to where and how and when I’m spending my money if I have to write it down and color code it each day. To set up this spread, I just used a single Zebra Mildliner and a single black Staedtler Triplus Fineliner, although really any single pen would do. In the past I’ve used just the fineliner for the whole thing.

This is a two-page spread at its completion. On the left page, I have columns for deposits, transfers, and bills. On the right page are two columns for tracking purchases/debits from my account. I track deposit amounts and dates, and write down my bills, the date they are scheduled to be paid, and the amount they are scheduled for. Once the funds have cleared my account, I go back and highlight the line with a Mildliner, so I can keep a running account of my balance and what’s still left to clear out of the account. On the purchases side, I log every debit from my account and color-code the purchases with Mildliners. My spending categories are:

  • Household/pets (pet supplies, anything purchased for home maintenance)
  • Groceries (weekly trips to the grocery store)
  • Food/alcohol (outside of groceries – things like eating out, picking up snacks at the gas station, running by the liquor store on my way home, etc.)
  • Medical/personal (doctor’s copays, medical bills outside of my normal expenses, anything we purchase for personal or physical advancement, etc., clothes/shoes)
  • Miscellaneous/hobbies (bullet journal purchases, books, anything that doesn’t fit into one of the above categories)

Tracking my bills and expenses keeps me honest, on time, and accountable to my bank account. It requires me to review the bank account every day, that way I always know how much money we have and what is still pending.

Next up: the habit tracker. Now, I don’t know many people who keep a bullet journal and don’t also keep a habit tracker. It’s such a fantastic tool to have to hold myself accountable to my personal health-and-well-being goals, like making sure I’m drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, staying on a consistent sleep cycle, etc. I also have an autoimmune disease, so I use my habit tracker to keep up with any symptoms I may be having that would signal whether I’m in a flare or whether I need to change something in my diet/may have eaten something I shouldn’t have. My habit tracker layout is about as simple as it gets. It’s just a series of straight lines with a Mildliner label and a column of dates and days down the far side of the page. At the top is where I’ll write in the habits and symptoms I want to track, but I won’t do that till later in the month. I usually track about the same thing each month, with some minor variations depending on my goals for the month. This has been an especially useful tool in my bullet journal arsenal, and if you haven’t tried a habit tracker, you should give it a shot in September!

Last, but certainly not least, is the gratitude log. There are tons of articles touting the benefits of living a grateful life, not the least of which being it makes you a generally happier and healthier person! So, each day for the past year I’ve written down a single line detailing something I’m grateful for from that day. Some days have been bad, and it’s been hard to find something to be grateful for, but if you look hard enough it’s always there, even if it’s just as simple as the sun shining, having a soft bed to go to sleep early in, or having your dog greet you at the door when you come home from an exceptionally shitty day at work. I can’t recommend a gratitude log enough, and it is literally the simplest layout I have. Write your numbers down the side of the page, write gratitude across the top, and you’re done!

Have you tried any of these spreads? What are the staples in your bullet journal monthly spread collection? Let me know what you think in the comments! 

A Spoiler-Free Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

A Spoiler-Free Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I remember being given a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was nine or ten. I took it with me to my grandmother’s house one day and she told me I shouldn’t read books about witches because witches are from the devil. (As an adult, all I hear is Bobby Boucher’s mama telling him, “Girls are the devil, Bobby Boucher!”) I grew up with Harry Potter. I went to the midnight book releases and the movie premieres, and I am the proud owner of first editions of all seven Harry Potter books and a first edition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I am now, have always been, and always will be a die-hard Potterhead.

With that being said, I know that J.K. Rowling had released other, non-Harry books, but I had never bothered to read them. That is, until I found a copy of The Casual Vacancy in the local Winn Dixie for $3, and thought, “Why not?”

Now, don’t be fooled. This is not a Harry Potter book. It is not even close to being a Harry Potter book. It is the exact opposite of a Harry Potter book. In fact, if there were a book written about the Muggle residents of Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey (no, I did not have to look that up), The Casual Vacancy would probably be similar to that book. The Casual Vacancy details the minutiae of life in a small, quaint, seemingly innocent English village that has had a sudden and unexpected vacancy on the village council. One soon realizes, though, that the pretty potted plants and cobblestone roads cover up a dark, gossiping, occasionally hateful and spiteful interior. The blurb on the back of my copy of the book reads as follows:

“In the election for [the] successor that follows, it is clear that behind the pretty surface this is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, wives at war with husbands, teachers at war with pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.”

As usual, Rowling does a fantastic job of developing her characters. I actually began to think of them as real people as I progressed through the book. The unfortunate side of this is that, unlike with Harry Potter, in The Casual Vacancy Rowling does not have seven books and thousands of pages to reveal to us the intricate nature of her characters’ personalities. Rather, she manages to condense an entire story, beginning-middle-end, into just over 500 pages, which causes the book to seem to drag along for the first 300 pages or so.

It took me just under four months to read this one from start to finish. Granted, I was in school for much of that time, and therefore had little time to devote to reading, but I think it’s important to note that I did manage to finish five other books in that same timeframe. I just couldn’t find myself involved in the story until about halfway through. After perusing Goodreads once I finished the book, I realized that was the case for a lot of people. Character development is great for a story but can be quite dry reading at times, even from a wonderful author like Rowling.

The story starts to pick up shortly after the halfway point, though. It took me three and a half months to get through the first 300 pages, and two weeks to get through the last 200, if that gives you any indicator of how rapidly it all begins to move once the framework has been laid. If you’re already reading this book and are wondering how you’ll ever finish it, stick it out – trust me, it will be worth it! I was so impressed with how the last 200 pages progressed that I still rate the book 4/5 stars, even though it was a chore to read at first.

My favorite character in the book (and it’s difficult to pick one, as Rowling does an excellent job of creating and developing over 20 characters!) is likely Fats Wall, son of Deputy Headmaster Colin “Cubby” Wall and school counselor Tessa Wall. His desire for authenticity is something that most teenagers find themselves wishing for at some point in their youth, and he went about his quest for authenticity so shamelessly that it became admirable, if foolhardy and reckless at times.




How I Bullet Journal – Foxy Fox Boss Babe Madison Ave #4

How I Bullet Journal – Foxy Fox Boss Babe Madison Ave #4

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an organizational fiend. In high school, I had a pocket calendar that I used to keep up with assignments, homework, projects, and test dates. It was never anything complicated, but it got the job done. In college, I moved on to writing weekly to-do lists and monitoring each class’ syllabus on a regular basis to keep myself on-track and on-task. In January of last year I discovered the “world of planners” that exists on the internet and quickly invested in a Day Designer planner that saw about four months of consistent use. The problem that I had with it was that I have a lot of daily tasks that need to be accomplished, and not a lot of time-relevant tasks, so there was never enough space for me to write down everything that I needed to do. In August 2016 I discovered the bullet journal concept on Instagram and immediately fell in love. I started out in a square-grid Moleskine that I picked up on sale at the local book store – it was filled up by December. I moved into the ever-popular Leuchtturm1917 after the Moleskine was full, and about halfway through the LT is when I found the “bullet journal in a traveler’s notebook” concept.

I was immediately intrigued. My chief complaint about the traditional bullet journal system was that I didn’t like having to draw weekly and monthly layouts regularly – I’m not a creative or artistic person, and my bullet journal is purely an organizational tool and not a creative outlet like it is for many others. When I realized with a TN setup I could have pre-printed monthly and weekly inserts and still have dot-grid inserts for rapid-logging and long-term collections, I knew I had to make the switch.

What sent me over the edge was a Foxy Fix mystery sale. I bought a #8 golden envelope and had my fingers and toes crossed that I would love it (spoiler alert: I did!). From there, I ordered a couture #8 (future post on this to come) that is still where I do the bulk of my planning. I work full time in a fast-paced and challenging environment, and I’m also in school for my MBA, so the size of a #8/A5 traveler’s notebook allows me sufficient room to plan everything I need.

The #4 comes in for on-the-go planning. It’s main use is for when classes aren’t in session. I’ve got no need during these times to carry around an A5 sized planner just for my quick rapid-logging and minimal future planning, so I snagged a #4 off a Foxy Fix Buy/Sell/Trade board on Facebook.

This color is called Madison Avenue, from Foxy Fix’s Boss Babe leather collection. I can’t say enough good things about the Boss Babe leather – it’s glossy, structured, and has an absolutely gorgeous finish.

The first insert in my #4 Madison is a simply monthly calendar. It allows me to see upcoming events and appointments at a glance, and to future plan on-the-go. The only time I need to utilize a weekly calendar is when classes are in session and I have weekly assignments that are due, so this insert’s lack of a weekly calendar is no hindrance for me.

The second insert is a basic dot-grid insert. This is purely for rapid-logging my daily tasks and responsibilities. If necessary, I can refer back to my master planner in the #8, but most of the time I already know offhand what needs to get done each day.

My third insert is a square-grid notebook, which houses grocery lists, quotes I like, and other miscellaneous notes that aren’t necessarily task- or appointment-related.

My fourth and final insert is a book reviews notebook. It allows me to keep up with what books I’m currently reading and what I’ve finished. It has spaces for a summary, quotes, and my thoughts on the book as a whole, and allows me to rate each book on a scale of one to five.


This is a quick and easy setup to take with me when I’m running out the door. The personal-sized #4 is small enough to fit in my hand and is not too heavy to carry around without a bag.


All inserts featured in this post can be found on the YellowPaperHouse Etsy page!