Usage for Decorative Boxes

You may often come across these types of decorative storage boxes that are sold when you go into a store. And I personally have become quite fond of finding different uses for them so I would like to share:

1. Wine Boxes for flowers

I first did this for my mother’s birthday when I had bought some tulips for her at the farmers market and brought them into a restaurant with me. At the time, I had double layered plastic bags and filled it with a bit of water for the flowers, securing the hem of the bags onto the edge of the box opening with a rubber band. But as you can see above, you can also place a glass bottle en lieu of that as well.

2. Photo boxes for toiletries 

The bathroom sink I have does not come with drawers so this is how I store my toiletry items. Since I have an nautical anchor theme going on in this room, I keep decorative boxes on shelves that go well with the theme.  I also prefer keeping the tissue box design to also look oceanic for that reason!

3. Parties and Special Occasions 

Parties too often have some sort of theme to them and I recently helped chip in for a friend’s baby shower by providing party favors that coincidentally also went well with my ongoing anchor and nautical theme I had going on in my bathroom. So I went and got another larger photo box that had the nautical look to it and customized the lid with the baby’s name in hopes of it becoming useful for the nursery since I kept with the look the parents-to-be came up with for the room. I stuffed it with heating/cryotherapy pads I had made to go with the “relaxing” beach theme that was requested for the shower (for which I also used nautical anchor printed fabric to stay consistent).

4. Hat storage 

When people discover my love for hats and gloves and realize how much of it I own, one of the questions that usually come up is how/where I store them. Since most of my clothing shopping is done online, my hats do not come with a hat box like they might if I were to purchase them at a fancy hat store. The deeper rectangular shaped ones are great for storing some stacked sideways (this works for hats that do not have wide brims) and the smaller, rounder shaped ones make for great use in traveling with relatively compact-sized fascinators and hats that you don’t want to have be crushed inside your suitcase by the rest of your items.

These decorative boxes are typically categorized as nesting boxes. Though the wine boxes might be a bit more difficult to find online they can also be called nesting boxes.

Though there’s the phrase “think outside the box”  —- I would like to think that I am thinking about what to put inside the box.

-M

Journaling with Self Kindness

I journal every night without fail before going to bed.

This past week I had a very emotional moment as I kept going back and forth in my journal entry that night between how I was really feeling vs how I thought I “should” be feeling. I think in the self-improvement/self-motivating culture that sort of mentality is common. You want to remain positive and grateful so you try to shut down your negative feelings and emotions.

I finally couldn’t take it anymore, driving myself insane, and Skyped with a very good friend in Germany. She then proceeded to make me a gift that I have since then printed out to paste on my journal cover:

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I want to be that kind of friend/person who is there for someone when they really need me, the one that makes you feel like you matter. So that is why I choose to be kind and thoughtful as much as possible —- Because one person can make the difference.

And as I refer to myself as my “twin bestie” in my book, my friend in Germany gifted this book cover to remind me to be kind to my twin bestie too.

-M

On Figuring Out What We Really Want When You Feel “Stuck”

In about a week we will be welcoming a new year again and it’s that time of the year when a lot of people start to think of New Year’s resolutions and goals. If you’re reading this you might sometimes feel like you’re the only person in the world who doesn’t seem to know what your calling is, whether you ever want to get married or have kids, or just that feeling of being “stuck.”

Your rational side knows that you are not the only one who feels these things, as alone as you may feel in the moment. That thought alone was enough to comfort me recently when I was having a moment.

I was having a conversation with a girlfriend who decided to make the very brave decision of temporarily living in a foreign country where she knows no one and does not speak the language in order to take time to figure out what she would like to do with her career upon returning to her home country. Understandably, she too was feeling very “alone” and needed someone to talk to.

In talking to my friend, it related back to all these other things in life that often seem uncertain. I said that I agreed with Steve Jobs’ school of thought on how people don’t know what they really want until they are shown what they want. I think a lot of us – even many of those who claim they know what they want – have ideas of what we want/don’t want.

Like when we make lists of qualities we look for in a mate – I’ve done it too, and I’ve written a whole book on lists! And when we do meet someone we end up falling in love with, that person may possess some of or many of the qualities we thought we would like. But then he/she may have all these other things about them that we didn’t even think to put on our list. Or if we thought we never wanted a mate – but then someone wonderful came along and changed our mind about the whole thing …

You might have to  go through several career changes before we find something we truly love to do. Or date and kiss a lot of frogs before we find a prince. Or move thirty times before we find a place where we truly feel at home. Even then, some people never get there. But I think the important thing is that we keep trying and believing that we just might get there at some point. At the end of our lives, isn’t better to know we at least did something or anything about it?

So if you feel stuck even after all the trying, give yourself a break. Giving yourself a break doesn’t mean to stop trying. But things often take time and patience which can be trying. Even if you’re feeling frustrated because you feel like you’re not getting any solutions as you’re thinking about what you should do, you’re still doing something. There are many people in this world who never even stop to think or question these things, ignoring their gut feelings or not even acknowledge them.

One of the reasons why I am a prolific journal writer is because it is one of the ways I process my emotions and thoughts. So if you haven’t tried it yet perhaps write it all out, whatever it is that is on your mind and see how your thoughts flow out. I believe sometimes solutions become more evident when you write out the problems because you are also able to examine things like the cause(s) of the problem(s) and organize your thoughts. This is why some people go the route of writing a love letter to profess their feelings to someone because it gives them a chance to think about how they want to say what during the process of scribing it.

If it’s of any consolation, I have many times over written about the same darn things over and over in my journals. You don’t have to show anyone else what you have written so don’t be so judgmental of yourself. Just let yourself write, cry, laugh, smile, and then write some more.

As Ellen DeGeneres would say, “Be kind to one another.” And if I may add, be kind to yourself too.

-M

 

Whole Foods Market vs Sprouts Farmers Market

Up until recently I was primarily a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s gal when it came to grocery shopping for items that I did not get at the farmers market. However, I had begun to go to Sprouts Farmers Market in the last few months ever since I started making my own protein bars as I was told that the ingredient I was interested in purchasing was sold at that store. It turns out that Whole Foods sells the item too for the same price.

However, I started looking at and comparing price tags between Whole Foods and Sprouts and here were my findings:

1.) Water  refill

Winner: Sprouts (hands down)

I used to go to Whole Foods so frequently because I would go there to go refill my water jugs at the refilling station. Consequently, this is now the reason why I go to Sprouts so often now. Sprouts costs only $0.25/gallon vs Whole Foods is nearly twice as much at $0.49 per gallon

2.) Laundry detergent

Winner: Whole Foods

The laundry detergent I use was on sale at both stores the same week. And even with the sale price Whole Foods beat out Sprouts by $2 (the non-sale price difference was $3).

3.) Oatmeal (in bulk)

Winner: Sprouts

This is another item I used to get primarily at Whole Foods but have now switched over to getting at Sprouts. Like Whole Foods, Sprouts does carry all 3 varieties of oats (steel cut, regular, quick) and even with sale prices, the price tag at Whole Foods is over $1 vs the regular non-sales price at Sprouts is $0.99 per pound.

4.) Facial care products

Winner: Sprouts

I’ve been using the brand Andalou for my facial care. Again, they were on sale the same week at both stores and the sales price tag at Sprouts was slightly lower than Whole Foods. And I did also find that at Sprouts the store clerks were less particular about which coupon you were using for applying towards getting a discount on the product.

5.) Alternative fat spreads

Winner: It’s a tie

At both stores, the regular price for these Earth Balance coconut butter spreads is at $4.99 and was on sale for $4.49.

6.) Paper Products

Winner: It depends

I do a lot of baking so this is a section I would go to for aluminum foil, parchment paper and cupcake tin liner paper.

With the cupcake tin liner paper, Whole Foods wins for the same exact brand I get as their non-sale prices are at $1.79 vs the $1.99 at Sprouts (note: in the photo taken below Whole Foods has it on sale for $1.39.

Sprouts won for better aluminum foil price and parchment paper for the same brand with the If You Care brand of parchment paper priced at $5.49 vs $5.99 at Whole Foods. BUT Sprouts did not carry the parchment paper in the brand Paper Chef, which I tried for the first time today after seeing it on sale at Whole Foods and the quality was superior to what I’ve been using.

7.) Tea

Winner: Whole Foods 

Again, both stores had a sale on the Yogi Tea brand. If you were to compare the prices of the sale prices of this particular popular brand, then Whole Foods won as each box was $3 compared to the sale price $4.49 at Sprouts.

However, both stores have tea brands that the other store does not carry. So in that situation, you can’t really compare. I previously did a blog entry on chocolate rooibos tea and at Whole Foods they have it in the Numi brand whereas at Sprouts they have it in Zhena’s Gypsytea brand.

With the exception of the water refilling stations and the oats in the bulk stations, these comparisons are juxtapositions of prices on the same brand items. So when it comes to other items such as deli, bakery, meat or produce items the quality can obviously differ. In terms of quality and variety, I would say that Whole Foods definitely ranks superior when it comes to their bakery, hot food bar, and selection of cheeses.

It might seem exhausting to some to go to different stores for different items. Luckily, I’ve become better about decreasing the frequency in which I go to all the stores with better planning. And when it comes to clothing and I am still primarily an online shopper. If you do go to either of these stores and shop for these items, I hope I was able to provide some helpful insight.

One thing I will note is that depending on the store location, things vary and I am basing my comparison notes on stores that were local to me.

-M

My Take on Meditation Without Meditation

In my book, I have a chapter called “Ten Things That Seem to Always Surprise People.” I list “I am not vegetarian” as the first item. People also assume I’m a yogi and all the other stereotypes associated with someone who strives to live a healthy lifestyle.

Contrary to what people think, I am not a meditation expert or a yogi. Like yoga, there are so many different methods of meditation out there now that are booming into the mainstream. And twice a week I do sit cross legged to partake in a more traditional/formal meditation as part of my martial arts training.img_1106

However, my personal take on meditation is more subtle. I meditate when I walk to the gym every morning, asking myself how my body is feeling that day so that I can decide what type of workout I should do. I meditate when I drive and listen to songs playing on the radio asking myself how they make me feel. I meditate every night when I journal away, asking myself how my day was.

The popular conception of meditation is to empty your mind so that you think of nothing. The way I see it, thinking of absolutely nothing is difficult for most people because they haven’t had a chance to acknowledge the existence of all their thoughts and feelings. By denying that they exist, they push through the gates and eat away at you.

Meditation is often about being in tune with your breathing and to focus on that so that you take yourself away from interrupting/distractive thoughts. Asking yourself how something tastes or sounds or feels is that pause button you push on in order to savor that zen moment when you are in the now.

So if no-talking for a week or two at a silent retreat sounds a bit too drastic of a measure to achieve zen for you, perhaps starting off with the occasional pause button might be a small start to becoming increasingly more aware of the now. Because as Dan Harris makes it evident in his book 10% Happier, a so-called complete state of zen is actually very difficult to achieve. It doesn’t mean we can’t make improvements here and there to become more zen.

There is then zen and now.

-M

 

Halloween Costume-Worthy Shoes

A few years ago, I dressed up as Lady Gaga and made my very first ModCloth purchase where I splurged on a pair of black heels that had unicorn horn-shaped heels to wear as part of the costume.

I went to my second meetup for shoe lovers over the weekend and spotted several pairs that reminded me of that time I purchased my black unicorn heels and other Halloween costumes I’ve had.

The Sexy Lingerie Shoe

I’m not one to purposely wear a Halloween costume that’s sexy. But if you wanted to opt for a sexy outfit these are the shoes to wear, especially if you’re going to wear a sheer black top. I think the tassles add a touch of elegance to the look.

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The Zebra

I was in fact a zebra for Halloween a few years ago too and would have loved to had these shoes to match my costume back then:

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Fit for the Evil Queen

I was Maleficent for Halloween two years ago and would have loved having these to go with the costume:

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Per tradition, we did also take a group shoe shot:

img_5618-jpgI was not really dressed in a costume per say, but I did dress for another outing I had earlier that day watching the film Sully with a different group of ladies in another meetup group and decided to emulate my flight look with my Wizard of Oz-esque shoes.

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I of course am a firm believer that it doesn’t have to be Halloween for one to have an excuse to have fun dressing up. Like the little girls you see in grocery stores dressed up in their princess costumes just because, I am still a grown woman who lives by the motto that I can look like a princess but not act like one.

-M

 

My Friend Leilani

I’ve been friends with Leilani since the first day of fifth grade. I saw that she was a new girl at the school and decided to sit next to her in class so that she would have a friend that first day of school. That’s how we always introduce each other to people.

Unfortunately, Leilani and I weren’t able to see each other on a daily basis anymore after I moved and went to a different high school.

But over the years, even when months or years would go by before we got a chance to catch up again in person we would find that somehow we ended up living lives with paralleling interests. One of these moments happened when we met up last year before Leilani moved to Seattle.

We showed up to the meeting spot we agreed on and discovered that we both coincidentally came wearing fascinators and discovered that it was something we both have become into:

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Needless to say, we both started screaming together in excitement (like the time we went to the Maroon 5 concert a decade ago) when we saw that once again we showed up to her sister’s wedding in Sausalito last weekend sporting our looks. I even managed to match my shoes to the color of her fascinator that she was wearing that day:

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While my love life has been pretty dry, I have recently been very proud of how much progress I feel like I have made in developing great female friendships new and old.

Like romance, I think movies and tv shows sometimes paint a false notion of what friendships are like in real life. I used to fantasize about having a core group of friends like the ones you see on screen where you would see them getting together every single day at the same special meeting spot.

While we give common labels to people like “friends” or “significant other” every relationship is unique. And I realize that it’s a shame for me to compare my own special friendships I have to a fake one portrayed on a tv or movie screen (even if the actors become friends in real life).

In fact, the day of the wedding I managed to attend my book club meeting with the ladies in the morning and had dinner at my friend Jackie’s after the wedding. And I also got a chance to catch up with my sister now living on the east coast over the phone during my drive up to the wedding. At the end of the day I felt blessed to have had a day spending time with different girlfriends. The girlfriend time has been more spread out on weekdays and such but I’ve noticed that it’s definitely there.

It also never ceases to put a smile on my face whenever I come home to see a letter from Canada, where my ever-so-faithful friend Ming writes to me from regularly. We can sometimes hardly wait for each other’s responses and will often have multiple chains of letters going on simultaneously! And I don’t think too many people out there can say that they have that in their lives (partially because most people don’t write to each other via postal letters).

So to all of my uniquely wonderful girlfriends out there – thank you

-M