An Ode to Spreadsheets and Scribbles

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I have a spreadsheet that organizes my spreadsheets. If that doesn’t horrify you, you’re my kind of person. My lists have lists. Nothing makes me happier than taking organized notes that get placed into organized spreadsheets that get organized on my computer. I am a freak. 

This is a real thing I use

This is a real thing I use

Recently, a few weekends went by where I felt like I had wasted my time, and though I got some much-needed sleep, I felt unrested and unsettled. Those were the weekends without To Do lists. In the past couple of weeks I have come to embrace the fact that my life just runs more smoothly with lists. I can go with the flow, change my plans, and like to think I’m not an insane control freak (maybe..). But I just work better when I can write something down on paper and then run a ball point pen right through it. 

And yet, I also have a sketchbook with me full of wildly unorganized, sprawling thoughts. If you picked it up and read through it you’d probably recoil at my illegible handwriting, slightly terrifying doodles, and garishly colored highlighter reminders. Not to mention the organized chaos that is my room: endless stacks of papers and books and crumpled old mail that would horrify any sane person.

Lists

It’s taken me 24 years to realize that the reason I need lists and spreadsheets is the same reason I need a messy room and a sketchbook of unorganized thoughts—I cause chaos just to reign it in. Throw every idea at the wall and then carefully sweep up all the ones that don’t stick, placing them into their proper excel cell. Let yourself sink into a messy room for the joy of finally organizing a pile of important papers and alphebatizing old books. Make a mess of a life… and then find the pieces worth cleaning up and keeping. 

And so it’s with joy, and spreadsheets, and sketchbooks that I sit at a coffee shop today enjoying my organized mess of a life. 

And in case you’re wondering, my go to’s for organizing chaos:

  • Wunderlist: a basic but wildly helpful to do list app. You can make recurring to do’s (my Thursday spreadsheet update for work), set reminders (shit, it’s Sunday I’ve got an email to send), and satisfyingly check off your done tasks to watch your list get shorter. 
  • Google Drive: I’m a pen and paper kind of person, but I’ve learned to embrace the power of Drive. When my recipes are all logged in a perfectly organized Google Sheet, I can access them from my phone at the grocery store and quickly see what ingredients I need. Oh, and I guess it helps with real work too. 
  • Sketchbook: Contrary to how it may seem, a blank page is my best friend. Leave your lined pages and gridded sheets for a more strictly organized person. I need expansive blank space to scrawl, scribble and doodle every thought out of my head before I loose it, something that a computer won’t let me do. 
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Busy Life and Simple Meals

I’ve been shirking my blog duties. They may be self-defined, made up duties, but I’ve been shirking them nonetheless. The reason for the shirkage is that I’ve been feeling weirdly busy the last week or so. I leave tomorrow for San Francisco for an undetermined amount of time, so I’ve been packing, running errands, and doing all those things that never seem important until suddenly you’re leaving town. I’ve also been doing some job-related activity, hanging out with my cats (they’re gonna miss me!) and getting in some last minute cooking and baking.

Feeling busy in September is particularly weird this year since this is the time of year when I would be busy with school. Except I’m not going back to school, a fact which I was reminded of when I pulled out my planner and noticed that sometime earlier this year I wrote “Not First Day of School” on September 5th. Oh the wit of a younger less-burdened me.

Because I’ve been feeling slightly busy (but let’s not confuse my activity level with that of someone who, say, has a job), I’ve been making some low-key, easy meals. And you better believe I have a whole stockpile of super easy recipes for when I’m feeling less than inspired. In case you should need some back-to-school inspiration in the easy meal department, these are some of my go to options:

  • Crepes: What’s so great about crepes is you can literally put anything in them, and if you make the batter ahead of time they take all of 5 minutes to make. I use a variation of Alton Brown’s recipe (all milk, throw in some cayenne or curry for savory crepes). This weekend I had crepes with chicken, roasted peppers, spinach and goat cheese one day, and used the leftovers for a lunch of ham and gouda crepes. The options for what you put in them are literally endless, and making crepes a great option for using whatever you have on hand.
  • Stir fry: The other go “use whatever’s in the fridge” option is stir fry. I grew up eating chicken & broccoli stir fry pretty much every week or every other week for at least 10 years. It is to this day one of my favorite meals, and even though it’s incredible easy to make (soy sauce, honey, ginger & garlic) I’m still convinced my mom makes it way better than I ever could. Point is this is such an easy dish to make, and great for using the veggies/meat you have on hand. All you need on the side is a little rice.
  • Pizza: Trader Joe’s pizza dough is a dollar, so naturally it became a staple in our house in college. The best part about making your own pizza is it winds up being super cheap, and the leftovers taste just as good cold as they do warm. Plus, again, you can put on any toppings you happen to have (you sense the trend in my cooking, right?). If you don’t know when you’ll use the dough, just buy some, freeze it, and then take it out the morning of the day think you’ll make it.
  • Kitchen-sink pasta salad: For a long time I’d always have pasta on hand so when I was busy and didn’t know what to make it’d be elbows with butter and cheese. Obviously that got old very quickly, so a better way to use that pasta is to make a “pasta salad.” I put it in quotations because I’m not sure what I made ever resembled traditional pasta salad. But all you need is pasta (tortellini works really well for this) and you can throw in frozen veggies (peas, corn), cooked chicken or ham, celery, peppers, nuts, etc. Then just put a little dressing or olive oil on top and it’s good to go. If you’re more of a purist and want a recipe this tortellini salad became one of my favorites this summer.
  • Brunch: Brunch food (eggs, french toast, bacon) has been scientifically proven to be the best easy dinner ever. Just ask the boyf, who is pretty much only able to cook eggs. Obviously this doesn’t always fall into the category of healthy (I like my bacon with a side of bacon). It does, however, fall into the category of lip smacking heavenly goodness.

So just because you’re too busy to catch up on your favorite TV shows (Revenge, September 30th, it’s on), doesn’t mean you should have to eat frozen food. And if you do eat frozen food it should definitely be from Trader Joe’s ’cause man does Joe make a mean channa masala.

In the spirit of not-back-to-school September changes, I took time this weekend to organize the planner that’s been sitting in a box all summer. Nothing makes me quite as happy as a planner, some to-do lists and a set of nice pens. I also dyed my hair from the blonder color I’d been rocking for the past year in favor of a darker shade. Riveting, I know. Now it’s time to tackle some of those slightly bigger life changes. Ya know, job, apartment. Those little things.

Mess Conquered, and Weekend Essentials

Mess organized!

I conquered the mess!! My boxes have found a home, my clothes have drawers and hangers and I organized my nail polish by color. So the essentials are taken care of. It feels nice to be settled into my room, and gave me time to focus on things like GRE flashcards and working on my current sketchbook.

Look Ma, folded and everything!

I did, however, notice one thing when I was going through my closet: when I like a color I really like it. There’s a difference between realizing you like certain styles (bright colors and vibrant prints mixed with black) and realizing your wardrobe is shockingly dominated by two color schemes.

I may need to stop buying clothes in the same shade of blue…

Smurf city bitch, smurf smurf city bitch

…and I may need to branch out of the pink/magenta family for dresses.

Pink on pink on pink

Erm, yeah, I’ll work on that.

Now that my life feels a bit more organized, I’m heading to Maine for the weekend to relax, swim, canoe, kayak and undoubtedly eat my face off. I leave you with my weekend essentials.

Kick off your weekend

Watch:

Trailer Park Boys. It’s a Canadian mockumentary TV show about a group of people living in a trailer park. I watched most of the series one weekend visiting Patrick and laughed my ass off. I just now finished the rest of the series since it’s all on Netflix.

Read:

This fem-tastic article about the heartbreak of a 10-year-old girl thinking she’s fat.

Also, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. I picked it up to reread today and it tugged (as it always does) at my animal-loving heartstrings. If you’ve ever loved a dog with all your heart you must read this very, very short book. If you’ve never loved a dog with all your heart then that’s a real bummer.

Eat:

Another warm weekend calls for very little cooking and this SkinnyTaste.com recipe for Asian Ginger Carrot Dressing would make for an easy, cool salad.

Listen:

De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising. It’s impossible to listen to this CD and not enjoy yourself while you’re listening. I have a particular weakness for Eye Know and Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin’s Revenge).

Lust:

I’ve jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon and fallen in love with this turquoise necklace from J Crew. Fun for summer, plus you can tell your friends you’re so on trend.

Things That Are A Mess: Everything I Own

‘Cause instagram makes everything look better..

I wanted mess? I got it. What started as a simple quest to find my colored pencils ended in the realization that my life is, quite literally, a mess. Not that this is a surprise to those who know me, but the mess has reached an unbearable level. My clothes are all in garbage bags, my things are in boxes and bags, and I’m living out of a suitcase. Half my stuff is still in the garage and I just found out some of my boxes are soaking wet. I keep picturing bugs making their way into the bags of clothes and then having to put my entire wardrobe in the laundry. I hate laundry.

So I set out on a mission: today, I will conquer the mess.

Clothes mid-organization

My hope is this can be a “before” post, and that by tomorrow I’ll have all my summer clothes sorted from my winter clothes (packed back in bags and boxes), and that I’ll have some sort of system for finding my things. This is complicated by the fact that I don’t want to completely unpack everything, but I’m a resourceful girl. I will find a place for all my books! I will find a spot for my banjo and my art supplies! I miiiight find a place for my shoes (I’m a realist–I got a lot of shoes).

Updates on my progress to come. I know you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat.

On the cleaning playlist? 

  • Gossip – Heavy Cross (love Beth Ditto’s voice)
  • Black Keys – Run Right Back
  • Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks
  • Deer Tick – Diamond Rings 2007 (I’m feeling sorry for myself that I wont be going to the Newport Folk Festival this year, and therefore will be missing seeing Deer Tick and a lot of other great artists)