balance, favorite things, gratitude

Turning 10 During the 2020 Pandemic

There’s something both highly obsessive and therapeutic about packaging up my daughter’s birthday favors and treats every year. For the 9th time, I stayed up late on one of the last days of September long after she and everyone else in the house had gone to bed. Even in  the state of the world in the year 2020, with no in-person birthday parties and no pressure to make a class set of 25 (non-edible) treats, the tradition lived on, just in a slightly different way. I still found myself at the annual 11:38 p.m. Friday Night Crafting Party for One.

In my opinion, a 10th birthday during a global pandemic was all the more reason to NOT break tradition. We went with mask-friendly headbands and teeny tiny stuffed animal heads, both items Amazon purchases. I also sprung for pre-packaged international snacks from Cost Plus World Market.  

The motherly micromanagement of putting together birthday swag is most definitely why I do this every year. The placement of the little presents on a bed of multi-colored decorative shredded gift wrap paper really makes me happy. Simply folding down the tops of flowery paper bags with a satisfyingly crisp crease and sealing it with a sticker brings special meaning to my life.  My daughter has over 5 years of legible handwriting under her belt and although I always intend on having her hand write most of the tags and little messages, I ended up taking over. In her preschool and primary grade years, it was a great opportunity for her to practice fine motor, counting, and 1:1 correspondence skills by letting her fill the bags. Now that she is a decade old, I officially reclaimed  that job too, because she had other things to tend to (sleeping?) and I needed the feeling of having control over SOMETHING, especially in these times. 

The favor bags held a little more purpose this year, as the birthday celebration itself was obviously super different. We opted to drive around the neighborhood and hand deliver the packages so she could have quick socially distant visits with friends. No big production of a drive thru birthday parade (our street is way too busy for that anyway), and no awkward invitations for anything that resembled a party or gathering.

It was the most low key and controlled birthday celebration we had ever experienced in the history of her 10 birthday parties. We enjoyed it. We had mother daughter time, she had friend time, and there was no post-party mess to clean up or any disappointment of a big celebration being over. She claims that she never wants to have another party again. Sounds a bit extreme, but it will definitely work for now.  

You would think that by now I would have realized that birthday goodie bags and handmade party decor aren’t the most important part of the celebration. This year however, they served as one small reason to reconnect with other humans  in person, even just for a few minutes since it had been such a long time.

Therefore, the decision is final. I will continue this crafty birthday bag ritual until she’s 50.  

declutter, family, favorite things

The Great Grandma Collection

My grandma on my Dad’s side lived in San Francisco during my early childhood. For many years, she was a hairdresser at Emporium Capwell who enjoyed recreational shopping trips that were powered by a generous employee discount. She was a saver and a  shopper and a collector of many things. I loved visiting her house in the city because it was a unique and visually interesting experience. She lived on the second floor flat of a 3 unit building on Duboce Street. It was filled with an eclectic and colorful archive of items that she proudly displayed. I distinctly remember a large piece of wall art that had two blue peacocks adorned in rhinestones standing face to face in front of some ornate building. It was funky and fuzzy and very fun to stare at. In the living room she had mannequin heads that wore wigs of various styles. I assumed that they served as references to her in-home haircut and styling appointments. No table was left without a cloth or doily, many of which were of the crochet and bright-colored nature. She had other things stacked and organized according to systems that only she could understand. 

When I was about 11 years old, a little while after she officially retired from Emporium, she moved out of the city and moved in with my parents and me. She became an official member of suburbia. I was excited to welcome her into our home. She was warm, funny, and kind. I learned more about her quirky collecting nature and witnessed how she managed her belongings within a living space that was definitely more limiting than her place in San Francisco. She scaled back, but she still utilized various types of containers to store her many beloved treasures. She took the city bus around Vallejo so that she could bargain-hunt while everyone else in the house was at school or work. She tucked things away into the compact spaces in her little bedroom (formerly my childhood bedroom), and catalogued scraps of paper mementos into envelopes and perfume boxes.      

An envelope that was packed away. Glad she saved them for another day.

Grandma was also a social butterfly in her close knit circle of friends within the Filipino community. She regularly attended many gatherings and events and I loved seeing her get dressed up for dances and celebrations. She owned traditional formal Filipino dresses, ternos with high butterfly sleeves, and Maria Clara gowns with beautiful coordinating skirts and shawls. She also had other endless outfit options for whatever the specific occasion called for, whether it was a big outdoor picnic luncheon at a park, or a formal holiday party fundraiser event. 

The costume jewelry and accessories that went with all of her looks were truly something special too. She owned hundreds of necklaces and earrings. Bracelets and watches were endless. A couple years after Grandma passed away, my husband and I held a garage sale and we sold a good amount of her accessories (after I hand-picked and held on to my favorites). Yet, I’m STILL currently discovering MORE hidden collections today in and around my childhood home. 

Uncovering the Great Grandma Collection has recharged my motivation and goals of buying less fast fashion or mass-produced clothing and accessories. It’s much more interesting to imagine the stories behind someone’s previously loved items. It’s also fun to know that I can sustain the life of that object for at least a little while longer and add another bit of history to it. If I could meet Grandma again, our shopping philosophies and ideas of home decor and organization wouldn’t match up. But I’m glad that I can enjoy the outcomes of some of her past shopping trips (at the most thrifty price; $Free.99). I’m thankful and honored that I can unlock a new layer of excitement for some of the items that sparked her interest and self-expression decades ago.

She was quirky. She was chic. She wanted to archive the small moments and big milestones of her life, so she labeled the envelopes of her mementos with short descriptions that were scrawled in grandma cursive. What better way to learn even more about her and honor her by incorporating some grandma flair into my own life, and document it the way that she would have wanted to? Thank you for shopping and saving, Grandma. Your style and your stories will come back again, and they will live beyond the collection of envelopes, bags, and containers that I love to rediscover.

declutter, family, favorite things, travel

Temporary Treasures: Midwest Thrifty Wardrobe Challenge

 I will be traveling to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan soon. It’s time for our annual summer trip to visit my husband’s side of the family. 

Packing for this trip used to be a bit stressful. However, I’ve figured out a different approach that allows for packing light (aside from the kids’ items).

Two summers ago, my husband and I took on the challenge of traveling with just the essentials (underwear, swimwear, footwear), and the outfit that we wore on the first day of travel. Then we purchased all  of the rest of our clothing at St. Vincent’s De Paul and Goodwill. To make it even more fun and interesting, we set a budget of $20 each. 

We did pretty well. I found some fun items that I thought were cute and fit my style. Some were worthy enough to keep and bring back home to California. Other pieces were stored at the in-law’s house for the next summer, and the rest of it was donated back to the thrift stores before leaving town.  

This year I would like to level up the challenge. I plan on sticking to the $20 budget. However, at the end of the trip, I intend on donating all of the items back to the thrift stores before we leave, passing on my temporary treasures to someone else who may enjoy them next. This is also a preventative effort to not add new items to my closet back home.

The fabulous new (and temporary) wardrobe for my Midwest vacation is waiting for me in the thrift shops of Menominee, Michigan, and Marinette, Wisconsin. I’m beyond excited.

I must choose wisely. I have to feel comfortable enough to wear the clothing, but not get too attached. I will let go of my personal style expectations, and perhaps take on a new style for a week or so.

As stated in my previous post, anything is possible within nine or ten days. Photo gallery to follow. Obviously.

Until Then,

Enjoy some photos of the last two rounds of my Midwest Thrift Challenge



family, favorite things, thailand, travel

Always Travel with Unicorn Glue

It’s a good feeling when the first “real day” of travel adventure begins during an international vacation. Roughly 24 hours after our arrival in Bangkok, the family was ready for our first outing beyond the resort hotel property lines. Our mission was to locate unicorns.

Unicorn Cafe was our destination. My cousin’s wife Anne spearheaded the endeavor, and I was all for it. We were vacationing with four young ladies ranging in age from 5 months to 8 years. The quest to find a place that had cute, unnaturally colored desserts, sparkly unicorn decor, and toys and gifts galore was a fun tourist goal for us. It was a quest for buried treasure to locate this establishment in the busy city of Bangkok by means of multiple modes of transportation.

We rode the complimentary hotel shuttle boat that took us along the Chao Phraya river to the nearest BTS Skystation. Here, we accessed the city’s rapid transit rail system. The trains were crowded, but very clean, and easy enough to maneuver through.

After we disembarked, we spent about half an hour learning the lay of the land on foot. I was thankful for Anne, the leader of the pack, who kept us motivated and on track with our route. Along the way, we stopped in a McDonald’s for a restroom break and GPS calibration. Then we pushed on and passed by various street vendors, powered through the thick heat and humidity, and walked up and down flights of stairs on pedestrian bridge walkways.

Finally, after walking down a few more narrow alleys as scooters and tuk-tuks zoomed by, we rounded one last corner and arrived. The storefront had department store style glass windows from floor to ceiling that really featured the over the top unicorn theme. It visually welcomed the weary tourist with energizing tones of pink fluff, pastel baby blues, and mixed patterns of plush and pleather. A white unicorn statue was on display by the front door. It was a life-sized version of some toy that I may have owned in the 1980s.

The family took over the Unicorn Cafe for a good hour or so. Desserts were consumed. Toys were purchased. Ice cold water was chugged. The all important photos were taken to document the experience and post online. I definitely discovered a new travel tip. Sometimes unicorns and sugar are the glue that holds families together during international travel. It makes for good photos too.

How do you keep family vacations enjoyable when you travel with extended family?   

Check out Unicorn Cafe on Facebook

balance, favorite things, gratitude, health and wellness, mindful

Morning Routine

During the school year, the first 53 minutes of my morning are filled to the max with a whirlwind of must dos that begin right from the moment I exit the bed.

  • I must make myself look presentable so that everyone who I interact with at work today, including my 26 students take me seriously, but also appreciate the elements of a good outfit of the day.
  • I must make sure my own two children are awake and allow time for that process in itself.
  • I must load up the lunch bags, nuke the veggie bacon, and toast the waffles.
  • I must haul the daily “baggage claim” collection of items out the car, which feels like we are taking a week long road trip to somewhere.
  • Above all, I MUST get the hot coffee into the vessel, then it has to be safely placed in the vehicle with the same care that I give to the children when they get buckled in.

The continuous action of opening and closing doors, drawers, containers, and bags puts me in a bit of a tizzy. I also have to factor in the additional flights up and down the stairs well after shoes have been put on for those forgotten items that are either game-changers for the day or completely unnecessary. The scarf that I went back up to get which ended up making me overheat and literally start sweating during Writer’s Workshop probably wasn’t worth the extra minutes.

My brain is already working overtime well before 6:50 a.m. That is the target goal time in which the kids and I bid my husband farewell and get into the car to drive 10 miles in the opposite direction to drop off my two-year-old son to my mom and dad’s house for the day.

Upon arrival to my childhood home, both of my kids in tow, the morning mental reset begins. I get to breathe for a bit, about 15-20 minutes to be exact. Mom and Dad’s house is familiar and comforting. I enjoy the sights and sounds and reminders of my upbringing. The kids get to play together for a few minutes. I get to sit and chat with my parents and catch up on breaking news regarding family or other topics. I sit and sip my beloved coffee. Sometimes I find treasures that are perfect for a Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday post.

I cherish this window of time each morning despite the angst and grumpiness that may have occurred an hour or so before. I’m truly grateful for my parents taking on the full time job of watching my little one, (again for a second time), but also for the blessing of a few moments to just enjoy the company, the moment, the Now.

The morning rush inevitably starts up again, when I usher my daughter out the door so we can head back toward school. We say our goodbyes and hit the road. Even though the angst of the day starts creeping back, I feel good knowing that my favorite morning must do always helps me to recallibrate the stress to gratitude ratios of the daily grind. I have a lot to pack, plan, and do every morning, but I have a lot more to be happy about and to be thankful for.

Until then,

What are your favorite or least favorite parts of your morning routine?

Thanks for reading!

Jenn


favorite things

The Keep Pile: Winter Things

I decided to see what all the buzz is about lately regarding Marie Kondo and her tidy KonMari Method of organizing. I admit, this influencer influenced me a bit. I folded some of my clothes into neat little rectangles that stand up beautifully in dresser drawers. I also rotated some of my food containers so that they are now resting on one side, file folder style in the kitchen drawer. The Kool-Aid was successfully sipped. Oddly satisfying feelings were achieved.  

I’m still trying to live by the words of my favorite ironic piece of junk wall decor, “The best things in life are not things”. It’s definitely what I believe in, but I’m just kind of distracted at the moment.

So instead of going on another donation and trash pile rampage, chucking things at breakneck speed, I reflected upon some personal belongings in my life that currently “Spark Joy”, as Marie Kondo proudly promotes in KonMari. Material possessions and happiness. I’m still not sure about the connection. Nevertheless, I do currently own a few favorite things that I plan on keeping for a while. I have no affiliation with any of these brands or companies, and receive no benefits or payment from posting information about them. I wouldn’t even know how to go about doing so, and apparently I missed the train on that one.


favorites

Against Me! Hoodie It is a souvenir from the best punk rock show that my husband and I ever attended. It represents amazing music, a crazy date night on the evening before Back To School Night, and the hero of it all, Laura Jane Grace. I’ve owned a lot of random band merch over the years, but this one is the keeper. It fits perfectly, and I have goals of wearing it until I’m an old lady.

Lululemon leggings They were on sale years ago, so I purchased two pairs. They have lasted me at least 4 years, ever since I started taking barre classes. They are durable, hug all the right places, and they still have a lot of mileage left. At the risk of being basic or bougie, I invested in a pair (or two) of  Lulus. I don’t regret it.

Hydro Flask Coffee Tumbler It keeps my coffee or tea boiling hot. The liquid stays so hot that I’m always scared to take a sip during the first half hour or so out of fear of burning my tongue and lips, and it does end up happening sometimes. It’s all part of the morning wake-up routine. The beverage stays warm well into the late afternoon/evening hours.

Burton DryRide Snowboard Jacket This is my FAVORITE JACKET of all time. Again, I happened upon this item on a sale rack. Thank you, Any Mountain! It keeps me warm and dry. I love the print pattern of punctuation, and it’s a great inner layer for snowboard days. It’s a the perfect jacket for school, especially on rainy days.

Ride Hellcat 2017 Snowboard My snowboarding life started when I was about 21. When I turned 36, I decided it was time to upgrade my gear because I had been riding on the same gear since 2001. I have thoroughly enjoyed the rides on this current upgraded setup. Amazing feelings of joy and happy place thoughts live on this board, even when it’s out of commission during the off-season.

Although I appreciate the functionality of these items and some of the memories attached to them, I could probably continue living a great life without them. They’ll stay in the keep pile a bit longer.


Until then,

What kinds of items end up in your keep pile?

Thanks for reading!