Thursday, May 31, 2012

Home and Habit

Summer should be a time for re-energizing, but so far this season I have felt weighed down and tired.  Not having a regular routine is certainly not helping.  How can I be so busy all day but still feel like I've gotten nothing done by the end of it?  Why is my sleep so poor?  Why can't I get up early, no matter how hard I try?  A routine is definitely in order, even if it serves no purpose other than to make me feel like a somewhat normal person again.

Figuring out a routine that will make us feel good is often difficult, especially for those of us who work from home.  Other people tend to think they can interrupt whenever they want or they don't realize that they're distracting you from work because home is usually where we relax.  It's hard to remember to get up and stretch every so often and you pay for that at night with muscle stiffness, if not worse.  You have a tendency to either snack too much or not eat at all, because there's no schedule for your meals (except for, maybe, dinner).  It's easy to lose track of time when you're working on a project and other things end up getting lost in the shuffle.  And, if you make the mistake of turning on your computer before working out, you either end up exercising late at night (making it harder to then get to sleep) or convincing yourself that you should put it off till tomorrow (which can turn into not exercising for weeks, if you're not careful).

When I worked a full-time office job, I had certain days that I would set aside for errands or chores or the like. These days, I can technically do errands and chores in the same day or any time I like, but these things are still not always getting done.  It is just too easy to sit down at my computer, start working and forget to do everything else.  Time passes in odd ways when you're all by yourself all day, more so if you're in the same room, concentrating on a small screen for hours on end.

If you have a home office, you can just close the door and most people will know not to disturb you.  In my case, I have a nice open area to work in, but there's no door and it's right next to the kitchen, so on weekdays I have until my housemate gets home to work in peace and on weekends I either hope he'll go out with friends or I use headphones (my lord, I'm becoming more anti-social than I already was).  At this point in time, there is just no way for me to have an area all my own to work in, so I have to be creative about my solutions.  One of the things I'd like to do, since I'm creating this new routine from scratch, is to make sure I'm done with most of the day's work before 5pm.  This means, of course, that I need to get up earlier.

So, first thing on the schedule is, of course, to go to bed earlier.  My plan is to try to be in bed by 10pm.  I'm going to use Melatonin to adjust to my new schedule (I have a hard time sleeping when other people are up late, I can hear everything in this house) and try to be up between 6 and 7 in the morning.  The other perk to being up early is that I can get some gardening (read: weeding) done before the heat and humidity set in.  

Morning Schedule:

  • Up between 6 and 7am
  • Light breakfast with lemon water while writing morning pages
  • Small amount of weeding the yard
  • Stretching and Pilates (at last 20 minutes, to start)
  • Shower and dress for going out into the world, even if I don't end up doing so.

Preliminaries over and done with, it will then be time to get to work.  This means sitting at a computer for many hours, which is problematic in many ways.  We all forget to get up and stretch every so often and everyone seems to have different rules on how often it should be done.  NPR's Fresh Air has been tweeting about this a lot lately (they have a bunch of Twitter followers who are in on it, too), after Terry Gross interviewed New York Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds, who just wrote a book about combating the effects of the lifestyle too many of us are leading - an all too sedentary one.

Getting up to stretch every twenty minutes (which is what Fresh Air is doing) sounds about right.  Even if it's just standing up and walking around the room, you'll be loosening the muscles you keep tense while you're working and get a little more blood flowing to the brain (always good).  I could just set a kitchen timer or the one on my phone, but putting an app on my computer is my preferred method (all the little clocks you see below will take you to  various timer apps on

As a blogger, there are a few things I need to check to start my day.  In an ideal world, I would do this first thing every day and be very careful not to get too distracted by any of them, but everything still needs to be looked over - it's a way of taking stock of the day.  And, given how much there is to look through, I'll probably need to bring a cup of coffee and a small snack (piece of fruit, handful nuts or the like) to keep me company.  I also need to remember to set my interval timer so that I get up and stretch or walk around every 20 minutes!

Late Morning/Blog Schedule:

Gmail - Always have to check my email first, as well as looking to see if my mom's online (hey, Italy is far away!).

Blogger - Check analytics, check for drafts from the day before (incomplete posts) and get set up for the day.

Tweet Deck - My tool of choice for reading my Twitter feed, Tweet Deck organizes everything by the lists I created on Twitter, in addition to tweets that mention me and direct messages.  I check for any tweets I need to respond to, then see if there is anything going on that I'd like to write about or just retweet because I want to share it with others.

Facebook - I check this every morning to make sure the LostGirls page is updating correctly and to see what all my far away friends are doing.  When I lived near them, I was never on Facebook, but being so far away, FB actually does help me keep track.

Google Reader - I'm pretty horrible about checking this, so adding it to my routine is a must.  I follow the blogs I do on Reader because I truly enjoy them and I make an effort to comment on posts because I want them to know how much I like them (comments = love).  It is also very important in this field to keep up on what other people are writing about.

Pinterest - Another thing I'm horrible about checking lately, only because I spent so much time putting the LostGirls pinboards together (Meg and Mary, thank you for partaking in that adventure!) that I actually needed a break from Pinterest (gasp! no!).  Of course, I couldn't stay away too long, but how much time I get to spend on Pinterest entirely depends on how I manage my time with everything else.

Midday Schedule:
By the time I'm done looking through all my blog-related stuff, it'll be close to lunchtime, but I have got to get some more exercise in here.  I've been eating my lunches and dinners in front of the computer for weeks now and that habit has got to change.  What I've been thinking of doing for this time period is eating a small snack, then either going for a walk or doing my weights/elliptical workout.  If I start with a 15-minute commitment, I can finish with a decent size lunch (involving protein, carbs and veggies).  

It almost sounds like I'm healthy, but I only think healthy most of the time.  Truly having a healthy diet does take planning and a lot of thought.  It's important not to allow yourself to get too hungry - that's when I always reach for the more fattening snacks.

Afternoon Schedule:
Here is where things become touch and go.  If I manage all the other stuff I have to get done, just to stay on top of everything well enough to get to my afternoon without wanting to lie down on the floor and cry, then my afternoon should be completely devoted to researching and writing the day's post.  I would love to get organized to the point where I can write more than one post per day.  As it stands, I write 6-7 posts per week for the five LostGirls blogs.  I would love to be able to sit down and hash out a well-written, well-researched post for each blog every day, but that isn't realistic.  If I can get to the point where I'm writing more than 10 posts a week, then I'll be quite happy.  But I don't want to sacrifice what social life I have and I don't want to feel like I'm being spread too thin.  Organization is just so key.

Part of making that happen is making sure I get enough sleep, enough exercise, eat regular meals and take my stretch breaks.  The question is: Can I do all that and still have ME-time?  

Evening Schedule:

Lately, the only time I get to read for entertainment is at night, when I'm in bed.  Since I started taking Melatonin (I started 1.5 mg, a small dose, a few days ago), I barely get through a few pages before I'm ready to pass out.  It's great, but I'm not willing to completely give up reading as a hobby.  This is where the evening comes in.  If I can manage my afternoon well and get my daily post completed (to my satisfaction, which is really the hard part these days, since I am basically starting over as a writer), I should be able to cook myself a nice meal and sit down at the dining table with a good book (or my Kindle).  Ideally, my evening/night schedule would consist of eating dinner, reading or watching some TV, then getting ready for bed and going to sleep early.  

If nothing else, getting organized will help me get ready to have (cross your fingers) a full-time job, on top of the blogs, and maybe even a social life.  A girl can dream.

How do you maintain a day to day routine to keep your sanity?  Or, if you don't have a routine right now, what are the things that keep getting put aside?  Comments = Love and we need some lovin!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Catching Rays on The Thinnest Skin

I have the kind of skin that almost never tans.  I'm either pasty white or lobster red and it doesn't take long to go from one to the other.  I had a few too many painful sunburns as a kid, back before I started taking sunscreen more seriously.  I used Bullfrog Sunblock for a long time, among other strong sun protection, but the problems I ran into were my own laziness (you have to reapply every two hours!), the gels that my oily skin didn't completely reject were often kind of sticky and the creams I eventually decided to stick with are fine for general skin protection, but irritate the skin on my face and neck.  [read more...]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's Hot, Go See a Movie

I decided to spend this past Sunday watching movie trailers and trying to figure out what I'm willing to pay to see in an actual movie theater.  I've only seen two movies in the theater in the last six months, though I imagine I would have seen more if it wasn't so damn expensive.  I highly recommend the two I saw, which are both doing well in theaters and which, really, you've probably already seen:

The Hunger Games:  Still in theaters, won't be on DVD until mid-August and well worth the money, in my opinion (even to see it twice).  Based on a truly fantastic YA series by Suzanne Collins (which you should read, whether or not you go see this), the screenplay may not follow every aspect of the first book, but it has an excellent cast and the storyline is recognizable to say the least (which you don't always get with movies based on books).  Woody Harrelson, in particular, fully becomes his character (Haymitch) and, considering that I've been watching him since Cheers, it impressed me to momentarily forget the actor and just see the character.  I think Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant (and after seeing her in Winter's Bone, I immediately understood why she was cast as Katniss), but I do agree with this NY Times review that the character of Katniss has a much stronger will and a duller sense of femininity in the books - which is something I liked about her and that made sense, given her history and circumstances.  Still, it is a good movie and I will go see the next one, as well.

Marvel's The Avengers:  There was never a chance that I was not going to go see this, but even I could not have foreseen just how good it was going to be.  I've been a Joss Whedon fan for a long time and I'm a geek, so I've seen almost all the Marvel films that came before this, but I was not prepared to be as impressed as I was.  This is one of those movies that brings the whole audience together - everyone is not sure what to expect at first, but there is a coming together...over the awesomeness...that happens.  Having not been super excited about Thor, I was a little nervous at his world (from the comic books) being such a large part of the film, but it works.  Yes, the big action scenes are all...ya know...big 'n action-y, but Whedon's talent has always been bring out the characters, their relationships and having a hell of a lot of fun with them (Firefly being my favorite example).  And I know you've heard it before, but casting Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner (The Hulk) was oddly genius.

Now for the newly released films that I haven't seen:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:  Aside from a stellar cast, I'll watch just about any film that deals with reinvention and especially the fear that comes along with a major change (one that you work past, that is).  This film is brimming with talented actors and amazing cinematography, but I get the feeling it will not be a soul-changing event to see it - I will see it anyway.

Dark Shadows:  This hasn't been getting the best reviews, but I'll go see it because it's a Tim Burton film and I think it'll be fun.   I'll see if for the cast, the director and because Seth Grahame-Smith was on the writing team.  If you're wondering why that name should be familiar to you, read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I know that not everything he writes is wonderful, but I can't help but read it anyway.  

Moonrise Kingdom:  I'm not a diehard Wes Anderson fan, but I do admire his style and I keep watching his films - made completely uncomfortable by the dysfunctional characters and awkward moments that eventually, and completely against my will, endear them to me. I know, I sound like a fan, but I know true Wes Anderson fans and I'm not at their level.  But I do like the eye for detail and the wonderful music that is always a part of his films and I admit to liking what he does with the talented actors who play along with him.  The moment I watched the preview for Moonrise Kingdom, I knew I'd go see it, even if I have to go by myself to a matinee (considering the heat and humidity here, an air-conditioned theater might be just the place to be).  I like that the central characters are kids who fall in love - I like the hopefulness and innocence and awkwardness of it.  And I like the odd and overreacting troupe of adults who get involved.  The two words I see over and over again in reviews about this movie are "whimsy" and "precious."  The former is meant in a good way, the latter is not.  But I know I'll love it, and here's why: "Dear Suzy, walk four hundred yards due north from your house to the dirt path which has not got any name on it. Turn right and follow to the end. I will meet you in the meadow."

Other movies to consider this summer:

6.01.12: Snow White and the Hunstman (or not, see the review Linda Holmes wrote for NPR)

6.08.12: PrometheusSafety Not Guaranteed

6.22.12: BraveAbraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterTo Rome with LoveSeeking a Friend for the End of the World

6.29.12: People Like Us

7.06.12: The Amazing Spider-Man

7.20.12: The Dark Knight Rises

8.17.12: The Odd Life of Timothy Green

In Post-Production, Squeeze Your Thumbs: A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Note to Self

A quick note to myself on getting a job:

When filling out online applications, don't hurry through.  Check to make sure that you have marked the NO box when they ask you if you've been convicted of a felony.  It seems like such a small detail, but really...

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Lack of Dressmaking on Uncrafty

Castello di Vincigliata

While I generally encourage people to try their hand at any craft that captures their imagination, I have to admit there is a downside to craftiness.  That is, sometimes you get ahead of yourself...way ahead of yourself.  Case in point:  Several months ago, my husband and I were invited to a party to celebrate the first communion of the daughter of a good friend of mine.  Now this isn't an ordinary party, this is an Italian party.  And not just an Italian party, but an Italian party in Florence.  We're talking serious party here.  Did I tell you it was in a castle?  [read more...]

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I wrote a post recently in which I admitted that I'd finally given in to Twitter and what my fears about this particular type of social media were.  Today I want to take a moment to show you why I'm glad that I'm a part of it now.  Other than the obvious bit about getting a little more exposure for LostGirls and the other sites, of course.

Thanks to following BeautyReport (thanks to Adrianna), I got to read about some fabulous skincare products that I want, but can't afford.  I know that sounds snarky, so let me clearly state that I was happy to read this post at House of Lavande.  The Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic sounds dreamy and I'm a big fan of all the Fresh Sugar lip products. 

If it weren't for following Mashable, I wouldn't have come across this lovely parody of Fifty Shades of Grey from Funny or Die, featuring Selena Gomez.  

I also wouldn't know that Tegan from Tegan and Sara loved The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I really want to see and will probably see alone since everyone here has mocked me for thinking it looks good.  

And following NPR Music not only got me thinking more about the way I listen to music, but led me to this Fresh Air interview with Randall Poster, the music supervisor for all Wes Anderson films and many others (so I have him to thank for my love of Elliott Smith, whose music I first heard when I went to see The Royal Tenenbaums).  Which reminds me of how excited I am to see Moonrise Kingdom.  

This is a very small sample of the tweets I'm glad to come across every day.  Yes, there are more that I don't care about than not, but I'm still figuring out who I really want to follow.  I will say this, I have no regrets whatsoever about following Simon Pegg.  If that was the only good thing that came out of Twitter, I'd take it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

DC ZooFari Followup on Lost in DC

This ZooFari followup sponsored by Jessie (not the same as Admin Jess).

This is one of those times when I'm grateful that people are willing to collaborate with me on posts.  My friend Jessie, who took me to ZooFari, brought along her fancy camera and took some really great pictures.  All the photos in this particular post are by her (though covered by the LostGirls Creative Commons license) and published here with her permission.  [read more...]

Herbal Update Wk 10 on The Black Thumb

Herbal Update - Week 10 and Some Demands Not Yet Met
First off, because I'm so proud of myself, I want to show you how my herbs are doing.  Look how big they're getting! I'm having to remove ton of pre-flowers (as I like to call them) from the basil.  Probably needs more pruning, though. Looks a little lanky.  Coulda done without the stink bugs (not pictured, thankfully).  It's seriously magical how well these guys are doing.  Of course, it's not me.  We've had a lot of rain, the humidity has fully set in, and occasionally I actually remember to give them some Miracle Gro.  This is where we head off into other territory...  [read more...]

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Heart CapFABB on The Thinnest Skin


The Thinnest Skin now has the honor of being a member of CapFABB (Capital Area Fashion and Beauty Bloggers).  CapFABB is an organization/community for DC area bloggers, like me, to get to know each other, get supportmeet up and possibly collaborate.  [read more...]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Beauty Balms on The Thinnest Skin

I discovered BB Creams at Sephora several months ago by accident.  I had been looking for a good tinted moisturizer with some sun protection, but I couldn't find anything that was just right.  When I saw the Boscia B.B. Cream with SPF 27, I was immediately pulled the packaging.  There were only four brands (Dr. Jart had two of them) at Sephora with a BB or "beauty balm" product at the time: [read more...]