2016 Goals: April Update

See January, February, and March

Again, I’m not doing so great. But I made some progress!

1. Go to bed/wake up earlier.

2. Make dinner 3x/week
Again… Next. I made dinner once since I last updated this. But I’m really hoping to do better this month, I swear!

3. Keep living space clean.
My major issue is that I really just don’t have the space for all my things. But I’m planning on purchasing this soon, and it should help.

4. Live off salary and save freelance income.
This just wasn’t humanly possible in March, but it seems doable in April.

5. Save $1000.
If I can do the above, I should be able to do this fairly quickly.

6. Then get a secured credit card.
One I can actually check off! Capital One’s card requires only a $50 deposit, so I did that and I should be getting the card any day now. Once I get it, I’ll use it for things that I’m automatically paying out of my checking account anyway, like Apple Music and Netflix.

7. Finish dissertation by end of July/Finish draft of middle-grade novel by December.
I’ve made some progress on this, but I’m going to try to start spending one day/week on it, as I mentioned last month. But I did find out that the page-length requirement has been slashed in half since I was enrolled in the program. That is something I can knock out in a weekend, easy, if I really had to. But I’m not going to do that! (Right?) This month I do need to get in contact with a certain professor for an “expert interview,” though.

I did not accomplish my March-specific goal, which was to eat more fruits and vegetables and workout with my Pilates bar once a day. I did eat them a few times, though! I do want to keep trying to do that, and I really should just start my day with the Pilates workout, even though my cats look at me funny.

My April goal is to not eat fast food, and then also to bribe myself–If I go a week without fast food, I can buy myself a piece of (cheap) jewelry. I’m really lacking in the jewelry department, so this should help with that, too.

2016 Goals: March Update

See January and February

How am I doing at these goals?


1. Go to bed/wake up earlier.
This is perhaps the most difficult one of all for me. It hasn’t really materialized. I know I need to, especially to get more freelance work during the day when it’s quiet. I certainly didn’t do this one today, but I’m hoping that by the end of this month, some more self discipline will have magically appeared in my life.

2. Make dinner 3x/week
I’ve cooked a few times, but not 3x a week. I need to keep this goal at the forefront of my mind. Cooking is just not something I enjoy doing, and we don’t have the stores with the ingredients I would like to use.

3. Keep living space clean.
My room is small, but I would say that it’s not a disaster area at the moment, more like vaguely messy. Once we get everything organized from the latest move, I think I should be okay on this one. I just need to remember to clean off the shelf on the headboard on a daily basis.

4. Live off salary and save freelance income.
For tax reasons, this was just not possible this month. But I think it will be extremely possible starting in May.

5. Save $1000.
I actually had a good freelance month, so I just need to dedicate more time to gathering gigs and I should be able to do this.

6. Then get a secured credit card.
See above.

7. Finish dissertation by end of July/Finish draft of middle-grade novel by December.
This month I am really planning to get the dissertation into gear. Starting next week, I hope to spend 1 day/week at the university library.

My special goal for last month was “giving up soda.” I didn’t give it up altogether, but I made a lot of progress in minimizing my intake. I no longer have bottles of soda at home. I now maybe drink a can of sprite a day and have some when I go out. Compared to the liter-and-a-half-plus habit I had before, this is a huge improvement.

My special goal for this month is to eat more fruits and vegetables and do one workout with my pilates bar a day.

Giving Up Soda

I used to be the kid who could eat six mini bags of potato chips and still remain skinny. This did not carry into adulthood, and my consumption of around 1.5 liters of coke a day? That wasn’t helping matters any.

But I’m truly addicted to soda. I never got addicted to something like cigarettes, but the powerful combination of sugar and caffeine has really done me in. Plus there’s the mental factor. I’m simply used to drinking soda with every meal–even breakfast.

Obviously, this is seriously unhealthy. And it’s caused me to gain around 50 pounds since I graduated from college eight years ago. This is secondary to health stuff, obviously, but if I’m drinking an extra 1000 calories every day, that’s definitely not good. I should actually be able to lose all 50 pounds by the end of July just from cutting those 1000 calories out of my diet.

So this month, I’ve decided to tack on an extra goal for the month. I’m cutting out coke and fast food completely. February is the shortest month, so somehow that made it seem more manageable. I’ll check in periodically to talk about how it’s going.

I tried to quit soda once before, about a year ago. I didn’t last very long. I was at my mother’s house, so soda was around, and so were my favorite foods that go so well with soda. I don’t have any of these things in my own house, so it should be easier for me. I’m pretty much going to stick to tea, seltzer, and plain water. I don’t feel as sluggish and my headache isn’t as bad as it was last time, but I’m only on day 2. I did survive a full day at work, though. My friend/coworker provided moral support while I poured the bottle of coke I had in the fridge down the sink.

So we’ll see how it goes. There’s also an economic component, and now that I’ve announced it to everyone, it should help me to stick with it. Plus, now that I’ve really sat down and understood just how much I was consuming every day in calories in soda alone, there’s a real sticker-shock factor.

If you’ve ever quit soda, let me know how it went for you and any tricks or tips you have.

2016 Goals: February Update

Now that the first month of 2016 is over, how have I been doing? Not the best, I can admit–but January has felt like a bit of a transitional month for me. We moved at the very end of the month, so there hasn’t been as much progress in these areas as I’d like.

Let’s go through them one by one.

1. Go to bed/wake up earlier.
I have been doing a lot better in this arena. There were a few days where I did get up at a reasonable hour, like nine in the morning. Once we’re settled in, I will definitely be making an effort to get to bed by midnight (sans iPhone!) and wake up by eight. I need this time to be able to work during the day, since we’re moving in with family members and once everyone else gets home from work, it’s too distracting for me to get anything done. If I can take the work day for myself on the days when I don’t go into the office, I should be able to get a lot done.

2. Make dinner 3x a week.
I have definitely NOT been doing this. But my February Goal is to eat all my meals at home–no fast food, no grabbing something on the run. This isn’t really something I was expecting to accomplish in January anyway.

3. Keep living space clean.
My boyfriend breaking his arm really threw a wrench in this idea, since right now, I have to clean up after him and he can’t do much of it on his own. But I think once he’s out of his cast, it will become easier.

4. Live off salary and save freelance income.
Again, due to my boyfriend breaking his arm and being unable to work, this wasn’t really possible in January. But now that we are living with family and not paying rent, this should be absolutely doable. My ultimate goal would be saving $50,000. At $2,084/month, that number seems a lot less daunting. I’ve raised my freelance rates, and I hope to put more effort into getting new clients instead of just relying on people to find me through my employer.

5. Save $1000.
See above. I plan to put this one in action once I pay my taxes for 2015.

6. Then get a secured credit card.
Obviously, no progress has been made on this.

7. Complete draft of a children’s/middle-grade novel.
I think I’m going to change this one a bit. I have an unfinished master’s dissertation, and I’ve made steps with the university to finish it. I have until the end of summer, so my plan is to finish the dissertation (my goal is my birthday in July) and then start work on a novel when that’s done.

So that’s been my January. There have been a lot of setbacks, but they weren’t exactly unexpected, since the events such as moving and my boyfriend breaking his arm are things that had been set in motion in December. My goals in my life right now are mainly financial. I’m farther along than I thought I would be a few years ago (no credit card debt is a major one), but I’m still not where I would like to be as I’m facing down thirty. The years go by fast once you get past 25, and suddenly, you’re a legit adult, no question about it. And with that comes adult desires, and the understanding that living above a night club is not what you want for your life.

I’ve always hated dealing with landlords and I find it stressful, plus you’re basically throwing away your money each month. So my ultimate goals are all currently focused on the idea of buying property. I want the equity and the feeling that a space is truly mine.

Pinterest Fantasy Friday: Modern Cottages

The major theme of this blog is “getting my shit together,” and Pinterest Fantasy Fridays will serve as a reminder, I suppose, of the things and life you want when your shit is actually together. One of the major signs to me that “I am an adult and everything is under control” would be to own my own home. My major house fantasy has always been a cottage. I bought this book in middle school, and one of my major destressers is to pull it out and imagine I live in one of those perfect and adorable homes.


Now my Pinterest board serves the same purpose. Here are my top fantasy houses:

1. Black House

This house recently sold for 2,998,000 CAD (around 2,200,000 USD), but Vancouver is the most expensive city in North America for real estate, beating even Silicon Valley. So I’m going to let myself be comforted by the fact that it’d be way more affordable elsewhere, even with its awesome hidden rooftop deck:
I love how it’s cottagey without being too old-fashioned, and the black color is a daring choice that makes the house stand out.

2. Arkansas Little House

This house probably gets repinned from my board at least five times a day, and it was Hooked on Houses’ most popular house of 2015. It’s easy to see why. The house is cute as hell. It has great touches, too, like the wallpaper in the ceiling in the entryway. You can watch a video tour:

I think I would actually want something a little bigger–I want room for an office and future children–but this house is perfect for one or two people.

3. Bigger on the Inside

Like the other houses in this post, this Craftsman-inspired house straddles the line between traditional and modern. You can go either way with how you’d decorate it. Unlike the last house, I think it has just a little too much space. I don’t believe that kids’ bedrooms should have their own bathrooms, and the kitchen is absolutely humongous. But with a few tweaks, it’d be my dream house.

Post your own house porn in the comments!

Wednesday Book: My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary

For my first Wednesday Book, I’m going to talk about My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary, which I bought when it was published and have probably read once a year ever since. It is one of those books where its personal significance for me has changed over the years. This book is the second half of her autobiography, covering her college years and early adulthood in California and Washington.


When I was younger, I think I just liked how vividly Cleary painted life for a young woman in her social and economic position in the 1930s and 1940s. I’ve always liked books with a clearly painted world, from the lands in the Oz books to Harriet the Spy’s Manhattan/Water Mill to Stoneybrook in the Baby-Sitters Club. It makes me feel like I understand what average life was like at the time.

But reading it as an adult/aspiring author, I see how it is the autobiography of a writer, and a late-blooming one at that. The book ends with the publication of Henry Huggins in 1950, when Cleary was 34, four years older than I was now. She didn’t have reams of unpublished novels when she sent it off. She didn’t really write at all until she wrote that book. She simply gained life experience until she was ready–even though, like me, she felt always felt like she was going to become a writer, and had been encouraged along the way by her teachers.

What I gain from this book is: You sit down ready to write. You take all of your life experience up until that point, and write the book you would have wanted to read, and you write it honestly. That is why I think Beverly Cleary’s books have been resonating with children for 66 years.

Reading her autobiographies–A Girl in Yamhill covers her childhood and high school years–also makes it interesting to go back and reread her books, because so many situations and details in her books were lifted from her life. The house and family in The Luckiest Girl, for example, mirror the relatives she lived with during her first year of college and their home. And you get all of the little details of the era that make it seem real. All of my grandparents were born in the same general timeframe as Cleary, and I was never able to hear their stories. In a way, I feel like I’ve absorbed her story as I would a grandparent’s. I’ve even gone on Google Earth to try to find her aunt and uncle’s house to see if it’s still there and what it looks like now.

If you have any recommendations for similar author autobiographies, let me know. I’d love to find more that could mean as much to me and be as inspiring to me as this one.

Finding Your Decorating Style

I’ve spent the past two years nailing down my personal style, and have tracked my progress at my other blog, Style Syntax. Now that I’m in a good place with that, my thoughts turned to my environment.

My decorating style in my adult life has been, well, no style. But now that I’m spending more time at home, and my self is taken care of, I want my environment to be pretty too. I just didn’t know what my style was. I found this blog post with a bunch of quizzes, and took them all. My result was pretty consistent.

The HomeGoods Styloscope quiz, where you choose five pictures you like, gave me “Urban Funk” with a little bit of “Spa Life.”


Urban Funk has undeniable funk and soul. She’s at home in a place where industrial meets comfort, where over-the-top meets laid-back chill, and where retro art meets graphic simplicity. And she does all this in a way that feels totally effortless.

Spa Life would add a little more minimalism and toned-down colors, which is true. I like the aesthetic, but the colors are too in your face and there is too much crap.

Lonny’s MyStyleFinder quiz gives me “Midcentury Classic.”


You can spot an Eames reproduction from a mile away—and instantly know the difference between Case Study House 20A and 21B. A well-stocked wooden bar cart is the stuff of your dreams. You lust after Sottsass for his way with angles and favor cacti to chrysanthemums. You were made for midcentury, and for that we raise a (lowball) glass to you.

Your Design Inspirations: Christopher Kennedy; Mad Men.

Make It Work: Stick with pared-down pieces in woods or warm and neutral hues; look for brass hardware and minimal shine.

I’ve always loved Mid-century Modern and have wanted an Eames chair for close 20 years and would definitely enjoy it if my house were decorated like a Mad Men set.

My Domaine’s What’s Your Décor Style? quiz gives me “California Eclectic.”

You love the combination of midcentury modern lines with organic pieces, ethnic textiles, and plenty of plant life. An expert at layering, you never met a brass accent piece or large-scale photograph you didn’t like.

My true style probably is a combination of all these types. I want a little less “noise” than “Urban Funk,” but a little more warmth than going full, period Mid-century. “California Eclectic” probably suits me best.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve been seriously exploring my clothing style for the past two years, and one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of women have issues regarding their mother in this area. Either she gave them body image issues, or she tried to make them look like her… I never experienced any of that. My mom has always been cool with recognizing that I’m going to do my own thing, even if she didn’t like. But where I do have a weird complex is with decor. My mom is very steadfastly Traditional/Country, and strongly believes that your decor should match your house’s architecture and the traditional local style. She thinks modern stuff is ugly and hates modern art. And naturally, it’s what I like best. So it makes me discount my own taste, in a way.

When I was seven, I was allowed to redecorate my room with things selected from the Laura Ashley catalog. There is nothing Laura Ashley about me, and when I was a teenager, I moved into the guest room, which was a repository for stuff from the 70s. If I didn’t decorate my house to suit my tastes, it’d be the same situation and I’d end up in the garage or something. So yes, I just have to accept that the aesthetic I like best is stuff that was considered contemporary from the 1920s-1970s. And even if I lived in a 150-year-old farmhouse, I’d have to decorate my house that way.

2016 Goals

I downloaded a Year Goals sheet from Philofaxy, which has space for yearly goals, monthly goals, and weekly goals. I used it to plot out my New Year’s Resolutions, and will add the monthly and weekly goals as they come up.

I have seven major goals for the year.

1. Go to bed/wake up earlier.
My sleeping schedule gets messed up. Like, really messed up. Right now, I’m going to bed around 9am and waking up around 5pm–I’m off from work at the moment and when we rented this place, we had no idea that our landlord’s son runs a night club right below us. So I won’t be able to really work on this goal until next month, when we move. When I go to bed so late, I end up spending a lot of time doing nothing–like playing on my phone–that could be spent doing productive things.

Susan Branch realized that all she was doing in the evenings was watching TV, so now she goes to bed super early and wakes up at some ungodly hour, like 3 or 4am. But she manages to finish a calendar and a book every year, so she’s onto something. I’m not going that crazy with it–I’m shooting for in bed by midnight and up by 8 or 9. That still gives me a ton more time to get stuff done, even though it will be hard with my night owl biorhythms.

2. Make dinner 3x a week.
This is a good amount for us to have leftovers. I work until pretty late two nights a week, and I don’t usually want to cook then. If I cook every other weeknight, I’ll have enough to just throw something together for myself, and then I won’t end up wasting money and calories on fast food.

3. Keep living space clean.
My plan of attack is vaguely based on Alejandra.tv’s free video series. Every night before bed, I’ll do all the dishes and wipe down surfaces in the kitchen, deal with the main “gathering areas” for junk, and put away clothes and anything that isn’t where it’s supposed to be. This should help me stay on top of clutter and general grossness. The whole thing is making it a habit, instead of seeing something in the wrong place and letting it linger there for months.

4. Live off salary and save freelance income.
I should be able to do this, especially after this month. If I’m eating at home and have done the necessary expenses cutting after this month, there’s no reason why I can’t let my freelance income stack up. Which should help me accomplish my next goal…

5. Save $1000.
Most of Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps don’t apply to me, since I don’t have debt, a house, or kids. But the ones about getting things on track to start saving and have a cushion do.

6. Then get a secured credit card.
I messed up my credit big time in my 20s, and now it’s time to build it back up again.

7. Complete draft of a children’s/middle-grade novel.
This is a big one, and maybe it seems to be coming out of nowhere, since all of my other goals are pretty mundane. But it’s what I’ve always wanted to do with my life, and it’s time I sat down and did it.

I’ll write an update the beginning of every month to update you on how I’m doing.

New Year, New You

…At least that’s what many of us try to accomplish. And, in a way, what this blog is about.

I’ve always been a slob. Even as a child, getting me to keep my room clean was an eternal struggle. As an adult, with no one to actually tell me what to do, this situation has not improved.

Me, currently

In fact, it is quite appropriate that my parents named me “Vanessa,” because how many other names possess a potential nicknames that rhyme with “messy”? “Messy Nessy” is just who I’ve always been. I don’t remember a time that I was able to stay organized and keep my living area/desk at school/locker clean for more than few days.

This doesn’t mean that I am not fascinated by how the other half lives. I’ve always loved going to places like The Container Store, thinking that the perfect storage system is all that is separating me from neatness. I own a Filofax. Like everyone else in 2015, I made a halfhearted attempt at KonMari. I look at people like Marie Kondo and Alejandra Costello and see just how much they revel in organization. I feel like it’s just not my personality. I don’t really “see” mess, and I feel like it doesn’t affect me.

But then I started cleaning up my kitchen every night, and I realized that having a neater, cleaner space does improve my mood. I feel happier and more productive. And maybe all it takes is changing your habits to stop being so messy.

Future me

I’ve always felt like some people are just born neat, and I wished I was one of them. But just because you’re not wired this way doesn’t mean you can’t make it something you do consciously in your daily life. It just takes a little more effort for you.

So basically, I’m going to writing about my journey from an Oscar to a Felix, or something approaching Unger Level, anyway.