Latest Posts

What’s a Spice Witch?

As a kid, I was really obsessed with scents. I have a pretty strong nose and scent is really powerful for me. I picked up books from the library about making your own perfume and even dabbled in making some of my own from empty perfume bottles I’d find at the thrift store or these cute apothecary-style bottles I found at Michaels, some rubbing alcohol, and a variety of essential oils. I’d make my scents to suit the individual I was making it for.

My interest in making these homemade perfumes (which tended to dissipate much too quickly in the rubbing alcohol solution) dwindled over time. But I was still really attached to scent and the thought of being able to make beautiful perfumes. I just wasn’t entirely sure how to go about making those scents stick. I started focusing less on making gifts for others and more on creating a scent profile for myself. Jasmine was my favorite for a long time. All of my products would have that scent. I would wash my hair with jasmine-scented shampoo and conditioner, use jasmine-scented body washes and lotions, and put a few drops of jasmine essential oil on my pulse points and in my hair each morning.

Eventually, I realized that this regimen was a bit overwhelming and all the chemically-scented products were not exactly great for my eczema-prone skin. I relaxed a little and settled for reading Jitterbug Perfume rather than making my own for a while.

Then came college and being simultaneously broke as hell and also sensitive to every product known to man. I couldn’t find a deodorant that didn’t make me itch and burn like crazy and that also didn’t make it seem like I was neglecting my personal hygiene. I tried tons of different products and none of them worked. So, I returned to my crafty, kitchen-focused DIY roots and started digging through different recipes for homemade deodorant. I ended up using this one. It was great. I felt like I’d finally figured out a solution.

Then, a light bulb went off. I had all of this stuff to make this deodorant. Wouldn’t it make sense for me to make extra and try and sell it? After all, I was a broke college kid and every bit of extra cash would make a difference. I could sell deodorant, and maybe even solid perfume! I could get back to my perfume-obsessed roots! I could finally take the time to learn how to make bath bombs and candles and all kinds of fun, naturally-scented things!

It didn’t take long for me to start setting up an Etsy store. But I needed a name.

I needed a name that would describe me and my product. I needed something that was cute, simple, earthy, and memorable. I don’t remember what the first thing I thought of was, but it obviously didn’t check off the “memorable” category. After a few months selling my product, I felt like I needed a new name. My boyfriend and I were discussing the idea of there being different types of witches. I said I thought if I were to be a witch at all, I would be a kitchen witch, focused on bringing in good things into my home and life through food and cooking, working charms into soups and bread dough for good luck, happiness, health and the like. There would also be lots of gardening involved. He said that while that fit okay, there was something missing. After a few moments of thinking about it, he said, “You’re a spice witch.”

“A spice witch?” I was very skeptical.

He explained that a spice witch was someone who worked their magic by combining different scents into specific objects, like bath bombs and perfumes. Spice witches use scents to shape the world around them.

I loved this idea, and ended up changing my shop name to Spice Witch. I felt like it was fitting, and like the Spice Witch moniker could also encompass many of the parts of my identity that I would have categorized as falling under the “kitchen witch” umbrella.

My Etsy shop is closed indefinitely at this point and has been for a while, but I still consider myself a spice witch, and I feel like I probably always will.

Advertisements

How to Edit Your Own Writing Like a Pro, Part 2: Know Thyself

green-chameleon-21532-unsplash

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

For part one of this series, “The Basics,” click here.

We all have quirks in the way we write. For some of us (*cough* me), those quirks include long sentences, overuse of commas, and overuse of em dashes. One of my best friends always used to mistype “minute” as “minuet,” not because she didn’t know how to spell the word, but because her fingers tended to jumble up the E and the T. Other people tend to mistype certain phrases – “all of a sudden” becomes “all the sudden,” for example.

Quirks like these are perfectly normal, and sometimes they can even be endearing. Unfortunately, a lot of people’s written quirks are pretty grating and can affect their audience’s experience negatively. Luckily, with some extra attention to detail, most of your more annoying quirks/repeated misspellings/regularly broken grammar rules will disappear.

So, how do you fix things?

The first step to fixing these issues is really analyzing both your own writing and other people’s writing. If you’re a novelist, read some high-quality novels and really take time to look at how they word things. If you’re a blogger, read some blogs written by professionals that have a really strong grasp of English and see how they put things together. Once you’ve done that, go back and look at your own writing. Older pieces will be better for this, as you’ve had some time away from them and they’ll feel a bit more like they were written by someone else. This will help you see your writing with new eyes.

Once you’re looking at your own writing, get really nitpicky about it. Are you using that word correctly? Are your paragraphs and sentences too long? Too short? Are they all one length with little variation? Are you using extra words you don’t need? (“Just” and “suddenly” are often used unnecessarily.)

Identifying these shortcomings can be difficult if you haven’t practiced it or if English isn’t your first language, but it’s a vital part of becoming a better writer and self-editor. Finding out what mistakes you make most often in your writing will help in two important ways. First, it will make your existing writing higher-quality and easier to read. Secondly, it will keep you from making those same mistakes in the future. This will allow you to update old posts and make them easier to read and increase audience engagement in the future by ensuring readers aren’t turned off by easily-avoided errors. With a little editing, everyone’s happier!

How To edit your writing

2017 Wrap-Up and Looking Ahead to 2018

It has now been nine months since I started this blog. My inaugural post was about the beer trap I put together to try and fight off the snails in my community garden plot. Over the course of the next few months, I wrote more about gardening, body positivity, and minimalism. I’m proud of all of the writing I did over the course of 2017. I was more consistent than I expected that I would be and found a way to discuss a broad range of topics. Every time I was running out of ideas, my gajillion lists of possible blogging topics I had squirreled away and my partner helped me figure out something to say. 2017 was a good year for this blog.

I am hoping to improve some things on this blog in 2018. I want to post more regularly and increase the quality of each post. As far as specific ideas I’d like to cover, I would love to make more posts about:

  • cooking!
  • San Francisco hiking, history, and cool places to visit
  • running a small business/flipping
  • financial health posts

I have a lot more ideas, but those four topics are parts of my daily life that I haven’t really tapped into and would like to discuss a bit more.

On a personal, non-blog-related note, I’d like to take a moment to say I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished this year. I finished up my last semester of school, graduated summa cum laude, and was offered a full-time position at a company I really like working for pretty soon after that. I’ve learned a lot of new things at work and am getting better at what I do all the time. I’ve become a better editor and a stronger communicator.

Outside of work, I’ve worked on strengthening my relationship with my partner and also becoming more comfortable being independent. Without school in the picture for the moment, my life looks a lot different and I’m still working on figuring out exactly who I am and what I want to prioritize in my life. 2017 has been the year of having enough space in my life to figure all that out.

I am hoping 2018 will be a year of finding my groove and generating a lot of forward momentum. There’s lots to do and learn and I’m ready for it.

Selfies and Self Esteem

It feels like just as a bunch of things start working out in my life, one thing has to start falling apart to make up for it. Gotta have something to challenge me in life, I guess!

Lately, I’ve been in a complete funk when it comes to my self-image. On a logical level, I know I’m a perfectly competent, intelligent human being who does her best and is not so horrendously ugly as to repulse people. But on an emotional level, where logic has little to no bearing, I… do not know any of the things that Logical Me knows. Emotional Me has been feeling terribly inadequate lately, and it’s hard to know whether to coddle her and give her the crutches she wants until she’s healthy again or to tell her to suck it up and then deal with the lovely variety of ways that she lashes out at me.

To be honest, I don’t particularly want to do either. My throat has been sore for weeks now (a doctor’s visit is forthcoming, since I know it’s not strep, but at this point I’m guessing. Is it tonsilitis? Tonsil stones? Mono? Some random, annoying viral infection?) with varying degrees of pain, limiting both my ability and desire to do most things. It’s cold outside and gets dark early. Work has gotten busier and I have needed to bring it home more often. So a lot of the things Emotional Me requires for coddling are just… not in the cards right now. I dearly wish they were, but there’s just no room at the moment. And telling Emotional Me to suck it up only results in a deteriorated mental state that I absolutely can’t afford right now. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, this girl decided to take selfies. At least one every day.

A few years ago, I used to take lots of selfies. I would take ones that were just for me, to celebrate good hair days. (I am lucky in that I have many good hair days.) I would take ones to show my friends and family my makeup before I went to an interview. I would take selfies before dates to show my mom what outfit I’d chosen. I’d take selfies where I looked absolutely gorgeous (yay, awesome natural lighting in my apartment!) or absolutely hideous and send them to my boyfriend to brighten his day. I wasn’t taking them every day, but I was taking them when I felt good about myself. Which, happily, was often.

But at some point, I just kind of… stopped. I now go months without taking selfies. Which is not all that astonishing considering the fact that I don’t take many pictures to begin with and never have. But it’s quite strange to look at a history of my photos and see that at some point, I apparently got really uncomfortable taking photos of myself. This is extra hard to face now because I had to work really hard on my insecurities to get to the point where I didn’t balk at every photo of myself and ask for it to be deleted. This is not to say that I don’t still feel like I take bad photos. I am deeply unphotogenic, as numerous pictures of me at work functions and family events will attest to. But at a certain point, I decided it didn’t matter. Who cared if the photo didn’t look good? I wanted a record that I was there. I wanted my family and friends to have pictures of me if they wanted them. I wanted to feel comfortable taking a picture of my face, dammit.

And I got there!

And then fell off the wagon again into the pit of self-loathing that always seems to be waiting for me, even though I’m always so sure that I’ve left it miles behind me.

So I’m trying to get back on the wagon again. I’m doing it by promising to take a picture of myself every day. I even did it today, even though I spent my day working in bed because a raging sore throat seems to be my constant companion now. They’re not good photos. But they help me see myself again, and help me realize that it doesn’t matter whether I look good in them or not. They’re a gift to my future self, when at some inevitable point I wonder how I was doing when I was 22. What did I look like? What was I wearing? How was I feeling? Now, I’ll have photographic proof. Emotional Me is dissatisfied with this solution, as it does not assuage any of her fears that I am actually some kind of horrid troll being. Logical Me is rolling her eyes because it seems ridiculous. But I’m forcing myself to get comfy with looking at me again. Because that’s important. It matters.

It’s silly and self-indulgent, but if I’m being entirely honest, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a bit self-indulgent sometimes. And if taking a selfie every day gets me even a little bit back toward equilibrium, it’s worth it.

A Little Progress Goes a Long Way!

I finally got rid of all of the stuff I marked as clutter in October! I am still not done with my decluttering challenge technically (340-odd items to get through still!) but the pile of stuff in my living room has finally been either donated or properly organized while it waits to be sold on eBay. There’s still a lot more work to do, but having the space in my living room that had been swallowed up by my clutter over the last month has been really nice.

I also managed to get my act together and take care of holiday plans with both sides of the family, which was nice. This is the first year since I moved out that I haven’t had to worry about needing to work on the holidays or try and juggle both families in the handful of days I could get off and I am extremely grateful.

And, best of all, I FINALLY managed to go fishing with my partner. No joke, we have been talking about going fishing together for a year, maybe longer. He loves it and I know nothing about it. But it’s Dungeness crab season and it was beautiful out on a Saturday, so we finally went.

The view from Pacifica Pier

We ended up losing the crabber we had just bought a few minutes earlier because the waves were way too strong and our line broke, and then his line ended up snapping, too. But it was great to be near the ocean and out in the sunshine.

All in all, not a bad few days!

October Recap

 

yulia-chinato-155237

Photo by @yuliachinato on Unsplash

 

October was definitely not the strongest month I’ve had this year. Everything felt a little too much, a little too overwhelming.

I started off by watching To Walk Invisible, then talking about it. And also crying about it. Something about the Brontë sisters and their simultaneous fantastic success and their incredibly short lives really gets to me.

Then, I jumped on the minimalism and decluttering wagon with my mom. I even made a cute graphic about the declutter challenge for this blog post! I was really pumped about it at the beginning of the month, and I still am. I am extremely behind – I need to get rid of 343 things, now which is no small feat now that I’ve already gotten rid of a lot of the obvious stuff like clothes I don’t wear and books I’m not all that attached to – but planning on sticking with it. I’m taking the next few days off, and I have a feeling that by the time I get back to work next Monday, I’ll have gotten rid of those 343 things and then some. I still have a bunch more books to tackle, plus my underwear and sock drawer, the kitchen, and under the bed. I’m going to do a post on what’s changed for me over the course of this month in terms of how I view my stuff. It hasn’t been long enough for me to know if this mindset shift is permanent, but I really am on board with not having more stuff than you actually use and need as of right now. That sounds really simple and obvious, but until you start purging your home of all that stuff you look at every day and think of as yours but that doesn’t really hold meaning to you and just kinda sits there, it doesn’t quite hit home. Or, at least, it didn’t for me.

I got super sick last week with something I thought was strep, but now seems like it might’ve been some particularly nasty virus. Fortunately, that virus did not come with any coughing or congestion, so I suffered a sore throat for a week and then it was gone. Germs are weird. And kind of good for me. Being sick is the one time that I feel like I can chill and not worry about consequences. Most of the time I relax with the knowledge that I have 349283742 things to do and am ignoring them because I need time to decompress. But when I’m sick I actually get to let go a little bit. I think it was important for me to get that rest in.

I also participated in #Preptober for the first time. I wrote a couple posts about that. I did not finish the outline I spent the month talking about, but I did start it, which is more planning than I’ve ever done for NaNoWriMo. My word count is currently sitting at 199 at 11 AM on Day 1. I have a feeling that NaNo is absolutely going to wallop me this month, so I’m going to try and utilize the next few days to get a little ahead and try and pad my word count so November 16th Me, who is overwhelmed and struggling to get 500 words in, will know that November 1st Me has her back.

Overall, October was not exactly what I wanted to be, but I did the best I could with it. I’m hoping November will be better and more productive and that I’ll get caught up on all my challenges and projects.

Still Overwhelmed

College is hard.

I just wanted to validate that. If college feels difficult and overwhelming to you, you’re not alone. Anyone who brushes you off when you say you’re feeling burnt out by saying something like “You’re young, you can live without sleep!” or “Just wait until you get into the real world!” (as if universities are part of some mysterious “fake world”) is not a person you need to worry about.

I just graduated earlier this year. I was lucky enough to land a full-time position in my field almost immediately, which felt like a miracle. I really enjoy my job and generally feel really lucky.

I am also still recovering the aftershocks of burnout from school.

It’s weird to say that five months after graduation. I feel like I should be at the point where I can relax and enjoy my free time more. I thought by now I’d have more energy to tackle stuff like housecleaning and general life improvement stuff. I thought I’d get to feel like a normal human who wasn’t working 55 hours a week and going to school full-time.

But I’m just not there yet. Which is not to say that I’m not glad to be done or would rather still be in school. I’m grateful to finally be reading for fun and on my own time again. Knowing that I can come home and not have to worry about schoolwork on top of chores is nice. But I still can’t seem to get to the point where my energy levels feel anything like “normal.” Instead I feel like there’s a hundred things that need to get done every day, and if I’m lucky I might have the energy to get one or two done.

I’m not saying this to freak anyone out. I feel like if I’d read a post like this in the months leading up to graduation I wouldn’t have taken this very well. Mostly I just wanted to share my experience because I don’t really have anyone to talk about this kind of stuff with, and I’m sure there’s more than a few recent and soon-to-be grads who are experiencing or about to experience something similar. Most of my friends are still waiting to graduate, and I’m not entirely sure that family members who have gotten their degrees would understand. How do you explain that the thing you’re most passionate about drained you in ways you can’t entirely put into words?

For those of you who are still struggling while you’re in school of just after leaving: it’s not just you. I’m right there with you. We’re gonna get through this.

30 Things and an Outline for #Preptober

As you can see from the picture above, I am hanging on to my October decluttering challenge by the skin of my teeth. Last night, I took a few minutes to pick out 30 things to get rid of. I’m still way behind, but something in me just does not wanna let this challenge slip away unfinished. I’m sick and in a metric ton of pain graciously provided by an ill-timed strep throat infection, so just plain existing is hard enough. But I’m trying not to let being sick have me completely incapacitated. I still have goals I want to achieve this month! Even though the wind has kinda been taken out of my sails, I still need to get to where I’m going.

Aside from decluttering, my main goal for October was to get prepared for NaNo. I’m also pretty behind on that, but I do have the very beginnings of an outline started. That’s honestly a whole lot further than I assumed I would get this month. And I still have a week to go before my planning time runs out, so all is not lost.

For anyone else planning on taking NaNoWriMo on next month, I am going to be hosting some NaNo writing events for work. If you’re interested, feel free to join us in our Discord chat room. I have 3 events planned over the course of the month (on the 1st, 15th, and 30th), but I’ll be doing my best to keep things lively throughout the month. Feel free to drop in!

I’m Not Behind for No Reason!

So, when I made my last post on Friday I was exhausted and my throat was scratchy and I was generally not feeling all that great. I made it through work (including an awesome talk someone gave to our company who worked for a major tech company up until recently – because working at a tech startup sometimes is a stereotype in the best way possible)  and felt okay, but the throat scratchiness wasn’t abating. By the time my commute home was over, all I was really able to do was collapse into bed.

Cue a largely sleepless night because every time I swallowed it felt like I had nails in my throat. Around 3AM, frustrated that drinking copious amounts of water wasn’t working, I used the light from my phone to check my throat in the mirror. Sure enough, I had all these big, gross white spots just chillin’ back there, looking bacterial and painful. So I made an appointment at the local urgent care and just tried to wait it out until I could get some antibiotics in me.

Not exactly the way I wanted to spend my weekend…

But now that I’m not either sleeping like the dead, lying awake in pain, or snuggled up in bed watching Mindhunter (which, sidenote, is SO GOOD. It’s definitely creepy and definitely gory, but as a true crime fan I am eating it up. I just finished the last episode, and that last scene is a doozy.), I feel a lot better about the fact that I’ve fallen behind a bit in some of the stuff I’ve been trying to accomplish. My body is telling me to rest, so I am. Sucks that I feel like I keep needing to rest, but to me, that’s saying that my processes of life are inefficient and I need to keep working on making my own life easier and more efficient.

I’ve been taking on more at work and have been trying to help out more at home. I haven’t been the most successful on the home front, unfortunately, because honestly once I get home I mostly just want to be a lump tucked under blankets. Some days I have the energy to do one or two of the things on my to-do list, but either they get sidelined for stuff that’s more pressing like helping with dinner or meal planning or running errands or cleaning the kitchen. But those days feel like miracles because I feel like I’m always The Tiredest Person Alive, regardless of how much sleep I’ve gotten (though I’m pretty sure I haven’t been getting enough the last few weeks). I wish that giving the toilet a proper cleaning didn’t feel like climbing Everest, but it does, and I’m just not completely sure why.

The main thing I’ve been trying to tackle is being more efficient with meal planning. I’ve been trying to use more nonperishables that we already have, as well as make meals in an order so that if there are leftovers, we can try and use them in later meals. Example: we made a roasted chicken, ate the chicken with rice and veggies, then saved the bones in the freezer for when we get some time to make chicken broth, and then saved the meat we didn’t eat for a sorta-keto BBQ chicken pizza. Super simple, but it takes a few extra minutes of planning and thinking the week through. It also makes it harder for us to come up with excuses to just have PB&J for dinner.

But that only does so much. I need to figure out how to better use my time while I’m commuting. I have about an hour each way on public transit, and with a smartphone in hand, there’s a whole lot I can do. I also want to try and get rid of more of the clutter and some of the furniture in the house, because all it does is get in the way and stress me out. It just takes time to take care of that and I haven’t had days off besides weekends, which are already all booked up with other errands and chores. I’m also trying to get back in the mindset that if it takes less than two minutes, I should probably just take care of it. Also trying to deal with the fact that a lot of the time, I can’t do The Whole Thing At Once. I have to do things in parts, because that is what I have time and energy for. Would I like to spend an hour scrubbing down the whole bathroom and get it to my ideal level of cleanliness? Of course. But sometimes, I just need to clean the dirty mirror because it’s gross and bothering me and if I take care of that one thing for 5 minutes, it will improve my life.

Anyway, in summation, I’m tired of always being tired and sick, and now that the smoke has finally cleared over San Francisco and I won’t be horribly sick in a few days, I can finally get back into a proper routine that includes exercise, spending some time outside, and generally being better at doing life. Just gotta stick to it.

99 Things…

I messed up with my decluttering challenge and got behind. Really, really behind. Yesterday, I made a list in my notebook for the 99 things I would end up tossing in the evening once I got home…

…it’s still blank.

Now I have to add 20 more slots to this list so I can finish it tonight and get back on track – 119 items in total. Ugh. I definitely have 119 items I don’t want, but it seems like such a daunting task. It’ll probably only take me 45 minutes, but I just… don’t wanna.

As you can tell from my post history, October has been a really exhausting month for me, particularly the past couple weeks. I haven’t had the mental energy to sit down and write or do anything more productive than making sure dinner is made and then trying to decompress before I go to sleep. It might be the seasonal shift and the fact that when I get home it’s getting dark now, new responsibilities at work, or just overall fatigue catching up to me.

Regardless of whatever’s got me so tired, it has seriously affected my ability to declutter. I’m hoping I’ll be able to catch up this weekend and maybe get a little ahead. I’m also going to start working on the process of actually getting the non-trash items out of my house rather than having them stacked in the living room waiting for me to do more than designate them as unwanted.

For now, I’m just trying to think of all the things that need to go so it’s a no-brained once I get home…