Friday, January 29, 2016


We've been together eight years, lived in four places together (Argentina, DC, DC, DC), traveled to five countries together (Canada, Egypt, Spain, Argentina, Chile) and many more separately, held 14 jobs and internships between the two of us. We've navigated choosing majors, finding jobs, studying and living abroad, having quarter-life crises, and dealing with illnesses, injuries, and disasters major and minor. And I have to say, so far we've come out the other side looking better than ever.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My word for 2016

"Find a place you trust and try trusting it for a while."
- Sister Corita Kent's rules for creativity

For the past few years, I have joined many other women on the Internet in picking a word for the year. This year that word is Trust. Trust that the work I put in in 2015 will lead to wonderful things. Trust the process. Trust my gut. Trust myself. Most of all, trust in the life that I have built. Lean in to the goodness of life right now and trust that whatever is coming next will be even better. Resolutions are often about spurring yourself to bigger, better things - right now I want to trust that what I already have going is great. To doubt and second-guess myself a little less.

And relevant to my creative plans in 2016, it is also about trusting that my year of creative habits has built my creative muscle enough that I'll continue to make creativity a regular part of my life, without the obligation of doing it every single day, or creating a finished product before my bedtime. To be honest, I felt a bit guilty about not making anything on January 1, especially with so many inspiring art journallers on Instagram launching new daily projects for 2016. It felt like watching the boat leave and knowing it was too late to get on. But I know this is the right call for me.

And about the photo: last December we celebrated Christmas in southern California with runs and bike rides along the Pacific; this December I got to go on a few long walks along the Atlantic after workdays full of political party trainings in Mauritania. I hope next December will find me on a beach somewhere too. There's nowhere better to reflect back on the old year and set intentions for the new.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Favorites of 2015

I am taking advantage of snowstorm Jonas to catch up on some of my year-end blogging. (As I write this, we are snowed in - at least as much as you can be when you live in a walkable neighborhood in an urban area. I trudged over to the Giant earlier and it was pretty well-stocked and pretty well-staffed, and half as crowded as usual, so that's a net win.)

The first couple weeks of January were busy for me, so I decided that January 13, the first day of the new year in the Julian calendar, would mark the beginning of my personal new year. (Sort of a joke and sort of not.) Since then, I have been enjoying the slower pace and the chance to reflect on what's happened and what's next. So to celebrate, I present you with a few of the highlights of 2015.

Favorite place to travel to for fun, international edition: Central America, especially Guatemala and Belize. (I never did sort through my hundreds of photos to put a post together, so this is perhaps the least blogged-about highlight of 2015, but trust me on this one.) It was a super easy, super fun trip with a great mix of culture, food, adventure, and relaxation, and I can't recommend it enough.

Favorite place to travel to for fun, US edition: California. It is probably news to exactly no one that California is a great place to travel. But I seriously cannot wait to go back.

Favorite place to travel to for work: Mauritania. In 2013, I traveled to five African countries for the first time, including Tunisia and Mauritania for work and Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya for fun. 2014 was the year of Tunisia (three trips) and 2015 was the year of Mauritania (two).

It is such a cool place, even when it's 90 degrees at midnight and the forecast is "dust." If you ever have a chance to go, I highly recommend it. I'm still hoping I'll get to venture to Parc National Banc d'Arguin for incredible birdwatching, to the former caravan town and current UNESCO World Heritage Site at Chinguetty, and across the river to St. Louis in Senegal. I am excited to see what kind of personal and professional adventures 2016 will hold.

Favorite place to not move away from: our apartment in Columbia Heights. It's been the first time in three years I haven't moved and I am so glad for the chance to nest a bit, to get to go month-to-month on our lease, and to get what feels like an extra month of my life back. (Sorry if I have mentioned this ten times already but I cannot overemphasize how big an impact it had on my year to not have to deal with apartment-hunting in DC.)

Favorite distance to run: 10k. I ran my first 10k in May with my friends (I'm the one derping around on the left) and then a solo 10k in November. The first 10k gave me some major jitters but was packaged in a fun girls' weekend, and I finished feeling accomplished at having done something new. The second 10k was the race I didn't knew I needed, one I tackled despite not having exercised in months due to some surprisingly intense lower back pain. It was a gorgeous day during a stressful time, and I finished with the reminder that I can dig deep and do hard things.

Favorite leisure activities: listening to podcasts, going on walks, and managing my holds at the library. Extra points for walks to the library while listening to podcasts.

Favorite get-togethers: monthly dinner club parties. This was the brainchild of my BFF, or technically of her mom when she was a twenty-something new to DC. Loved having a standing date to get together with girlfriends and to come up with new stuff in the kitchen.

Favorite regular craft project: the daily card project. I have written more about this than I'm sure anyone needs or wants to read, but it still amazes me that something I did on a whim on January 1, 2015 turned into such a big part of my year. This will be something I remember about 2015 for sure.

Best intentions: Get Messy. I love the six weeks of art journaling I stuck with and I'm going to try again in 2016.

Favorite TV shows, friend edition: The Bachelor. Preferably accompanied by brackets and yelling at the TV.

Favorite TV show, couple's edition: True Detective (the first season). Delightfully spooky, atmospheric, and thought-provoking. We actually haven't finished yet so I'm looking forward to that. And depending on how long we're snowed in it may happen sooner rather than later.

Favorite listening: Hamilton. The obsession traveled from Austin to me to my parents and I am so excited about our plans to see the musical this spring. I think the soundtrack will always remind me of this phase in my life.

Overall, this has been a year of digging in deep, putting in the work, trying new things, asking for what I want, taking on new responsibilities, expanding my creativity, and thinking and talking and figuring out the future. It has fewer flashy accomplishments than some other years might, but I felt like I laid some groundwork for my future self. I am heading into the new year feeling more confident in who I am and in where I am going - or at least more confident that I will figure it out as I go along. And that is a very good feeling. I am so excited to see what this year will bring.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A year of miniature art

As you are well aware if you have spent any time here, I decorated a playing card every day in 2015. I started this project on something of a lark - but it ended up being one of the things that most shaped my year. Which says to me that, as with a lot of things, it's not so much the decision to start but the decision to keep going that matters. I kept it up through quiet winter nights, through adventures in Mauritania and Central America, and through the last busy months of the year.

Over the course of the year, I celebrated my favorite board games.

I enjoyed (more than) a few strong drinks.

And some nights, I got lazy. (See above - there is a pretty robust correlation between "strong drinks" and "phoning it in" in the card department.)
But I also found my way to new mantras and ideas - ones that will stick with me long after this year of creative habits is over.
And while I am a writer at heart, some days didn't need words.

So what did I learn? I won't rehash too many thoughts on daily creativity (since I have shared plenty over the year) but wanted to share some overall reflections.

Basically, I am so glad I did this. While I didn't do much scrapbooking this year, I love that I have a full year captured through this unique documentation method. (On some cards, I wrote a bit on the back about whatever had inspired the front - I need to go back and do that for more of them before I forget.) I have only pulled out my binder a couple times since December 31, but it's already so cool to flip through and see a year of thoughts and feeeeeelings at a glance.

Most of all, this project has shown me the value of working at something every day or nearly every day- a lesson I am trying to apply to my other pursuits, like writing and running. It has proven to me Gretchen Rubin's axiom that things you do every day matter more than things you do once in a while. For all the goals I set for 2015, this daily habit felt the most significant.

Two weeks into the new year, I wish I could say that this project inculcated in me a creative urge so strong that I am still going nonstop. But truth be told, I haven't really done much creating so far in 2016. I could say that's because I've been busy, and that would be true. But I was also busy for much of 2015, with plenty of late nights, long task lists, and jam-packed travel days. That commitment to carving out the time and making it happen is key - and, as Gretchen Rubin also says, finish lines can be dangerous.

I have to say though, I have enjoyed being able to shut down my laptop and go to sleep in 2016 instead of first making a card. And I am excited to wrap this up to have more time for larger-scale art journaling projects.

But the plus side is, this project has made me into - or shown me that I already was - a creative person, if I can only give myself the time and space for it. I'm looking forward to exploring that creativity, giving it some room to breathe, and seeing where it takes me in 2016.

And that's it for the daily card project! Thanks so much for following along and, as always, you can see all past card posts here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The daily card, weeks 50-52: Twelve days of Christmas

Inspired by Crystal Moody, who drew twelve days of Christmas at the end of 2014, I decided to end this project with twelve days of Christmas in December. I got a great start with a partridge in a pear tree... and then realized that four out of the twelve gifts are birds, birds are hard to draw, and that I particularly don't have the drawing skills to make a turtle dove look different from a calling bird. 

So that idea quickly got shelved and I decided instead to make my own twelve days of Christmas based on what was going on that day. I took a break for a few days around Christmas but then finished out the end of the year. My twelve days of Christmas look like: twelve months of creativity, eleven hours of writing, nine train tickets (from playing Ticket to Ride), eight family members, seven layers of tiramisu, six high school friends, five pairs of grippy socks, four hours of crafting, three sheep boats (from playing Settlers of Catan), two cold old-fashioneds, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Here are the full twelve days:
...and that's it for my year of creative habits! I am so glad to have stuck with it to the end and to have finished strong. More thoughts on the project as a whole coming next week.

As a creative challenge, I am decorating a playing card every day in 2015. More context on this project is here and you can see all past card posts here.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The daily card, week 49: Mauritania

Happy New Year! In real life, I am so excited to have wrapped up this project. In blog life, I am a bit behind in posting the cards so I'm going to power through sharing the final ones this week, and then pop in next week with some thoughts on the project as a whole.

In December, I traveled to Mauritania for work for ten days. (More on that here and here.) Similar to what I did on my last trip to Mauritania in May, I assembled a little travel kit and got to work.

These traveling cards end up being some of my favorites - the map backgrounds can feel a little repetitive, but I love the creative challenge that comes with working within additional restraints. December 12 and 13 are based on patterns from cloth I bought at the market and the pattern on the couches in the guest apartment where I stay. Hilariously, the "desert magic" card on December 9 is supposed to be bougainvillea... but every time I start to get cocky, this project reminds me that I still have a ways to go on my fine art skills. I think it makes for a cool pattern nonetheless.

And since the trip covered a few calendar weeks, here are the Mauritania cards together:

As a creative challenge, I am decorating a playing card every day in 2015. More context on this project is here and you can see all past card posts here.