How to Beat the January Blues

I am completely bewildered that we are almost halfway through January. I wanted to come on here to see how everybody is doing. To tell the truth, I, myself, am feeling lethargic this morning. I could barely wake up to the cat’s meowls. The thing is, January blues are quite real. So I wanted to write a post on how to beat the January blues.

Did you know that the third Monday of January is deemed Blue Monday? It is supposedly the saddest day of the year and was dubbed so by the press in 2005. The combination of gloomy weather and tight purse strings, lack of holidays and, well, MONDAY resulted in the name. After the excitement from holiday festivities subside and the expectations from New Year become more difficult to reach, of course a more depressed feeling settles in. But we can battle it in healthy ways. (Anyone else doing Dry January?).

A note on Sadness:

Sadness is not a bad thing. Rather, it is a natural human emotion that we should allow ourselves to feel. It is not something to extinguish. We watched the movie “Don’t Look Up” recently and I couldn’t resonate more with their message. There is a difference. Today, the tips I am sharing are not to rid our lives of sadness. I am sharing them to get over the hump. When the blues prevent us from normal function or motivation, sometimes it is helpful to have a few tactics in your back pocket.

How to Beat the January Blues

+ Exercise

The best times to get a workout in are early mornings as soon as you wake and late afternoons about four hours before bed. Exercise increases dopamine (boosts mood) and anandamide (joy, bliss) hormone. It will also make you tired enough for bed, giving you more reason to sleep early.

+ Get outdoors

The Japanese word shinrin-yoku means to forest bathe. Forest bathing refers to the activity of getting outdoors, surrounding yourself with trees and going for a walk in the woods. Now California is a desert and we are short on forests here but getting on a trail is much the same thing. There are restorative as well as energetic benefits from being outdoors. It can really boost the spirits and give you a new perspective.

+ Let the Sunlight In

I always open all the curtains and blinds in the morning to let as much sunlight into our home during the day. Natural sunlight and plenty of windows is actually my number one requirement for buying homes. That’s how much it affects my life! Sunlight increases the hormone serotonin, which boosts mood, calms emotions, and helps with focus. I guess you can say sunlight feeds my soul and sets me up for creative success.

+ Hydrate

Hydration is another frugal life hack that I discovered. People love to spend money on all sorts of formulas and supplements, yet most people fail to drink enough water! Our bodies, having evolved from oceans, are highly receptive to water. Whenever I am low in energy, I pour myself an entire glass of water and drink the whole thing. I make it a point to drink at least 12 glasses of water a day. My co-workers make fun of me for being always at the water refill station (we have one of those high-pH filters) filling up my Kinto water bottle. I am there so much, they’ve nicknamed me the camel!

+ Take a cold shower.

“But isn’t it already cold enough?”, you might say. As counter-intuitive as this sounds, this is a great one. This will activate the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for your stress response. Doing so will cause a spike in nor-adrenaline which boosts mood. Just have a hot cup of coffee brewing in the meantime.

+ Boost Mood with Food

One of my favorites! Certain foods will make our bodies lethargic and lower our moods. I recommend a gut-friendly diet, filled with nuts, greens, fruits, and legumes. My favorite book about nourishing our bodies with food is called Eat to Beat Disease by William Li. I haven’t gotten sick in five years and my body stays in pretty good shape. People ask my all the time how I do it. I eat well, has always been my answer. And trust me, when your body feels good, so do you.

+ Eat Chocolate.

This is coming from a dentist! Eating nutritious food doesn’t have to be bland or boring. If you read the aforementioned book, you will find that it includes some of my favorite things, such as coffee and chocolate! Chocolate contains flavonoids which reduce stress-hormones in your body. Just make sure it is over 80% dark chocolate and not that milk chocolate stuff that is swimming with dairy products and sugar. I go to Whole Foods and buy Chocolove’s Extreme Dark Chocolate (88%) or Endangered Species’s Strong and Velvety (88%). I can eat a whole row of these in one sitting with no remorse.

+ Give Up Alcohol

I gave up alcohol for frugal reasons once and the benefits far exceeded my expectations. Some people use alcohol to cope with depression, but the crash will make it worse. Instead, do the opposite and you might find better results.

+ Avoid the News

The news is there to make you feel bad. As a business model, it is the only way they can keep you coming back for more. Remember 2020 when everyone kept checking the news? Didn’t that feel awful? Didn’t we spiral into something terrible? Avoid the news to feel a smidge lighter. Personally, I never follow the news.

+ Avoid Social Media

As a species built on comparison, social media can both inspire us and bring us down. Depending on the type of people you follow, Instagram may be causing some of your misery and pain. Seeing others thrive all the time can sub-consciously negatively affect your personal perception. I’ve done one month hiatuses from social media before and they have been stellar!

+ Get Plenty of Sleep

Humans are like cell phones in that they need to recharge. Sleep is their power source. Without good sleep, I am a real monster. I feel terrible, my body is tired, my brain in a fog … I mean, utterly useless! Luckily, sleep has always been my forte. As a baby, as a child, as a teenager – my parents have endless stories about me sleeping. Even when my husband and I met, we would literally spend hours in the afternoons napping in college. It was the best! Nowadays, I have a habit of drinking coffee which negates the nap hours needed in the afternoon. But I do still have a strict sleep schedule. You might be shocked to learn that my ideal number of hours of sleep is nine!

+ Re-evaluate Resolutions

You know how some people have bigger eyes than their stomach? Well I have bigger dreams than the universe. When it comes to resolutions and goal setting, I can go a bit overboard. But when you go overboard, you could sometimes drown. So I make it a point to constantly re-evaluate my goals and resolutions. At the end of each day, week, and month, I write down where I struggled. Then I ask myself, “Why was there unrest? Is the goal not aligned with my dharma? Was it too difficult or stressful? Did I not prioritize it enough or set aside enough time to get it done? Does it cause me more stress than good?” Re-evaluate your resolutions to avoid feeling burnout. As a rule of thumb, get rid of every task or goal that is not necessary to making you 1% better. It could honestly be making you 1% worse.

+ Create a Future Reward or Motivation

I am very bad at rewarding myself when I do well. That’s because I never think I deserve it. As someone who experiences self-woe firsthand, let me just nip that in the bud for you now. You deserve rewards, especially if they motivate you. We can’t expect ourselves to always produce. Create something good to look forward to in the future and think of that every time you hit a hump. Plan a trip after a really long stint at work. Take a few days off after a stressful life. Even buy yourself something nice after an achievement. Yeah, I said it.

+ Write affirmations

I used to have a great planner called Mal Paper that required me to write an affirmation about myself every morning. It was really difficult for me. Words of praise are not my thing. But the practice really improved my life. I actually became a better person because of it. When we have low moods or energy, we have trouble finding the good. By starting with an affirmation, you find the good in you, which gives you an idea on how you can give good to the world around you. That’s mood boosting on its own!

+ Reframe

Sometimes, reframing the situation is all you need to do in order to get out of a rut. For example, if work has been extremely difficult, you could tell yourself the following things:

  • I am so lucky to have a job when so many others do not.
  • I am grateful to have co-workers who have my back and who make my day better (list co-workers).
  • It may be difficult now, but I know that these moments are helping me grow in my career and as a person.
  • I am having difficulty at work because my expectations are too high.
  • I am a strong, capable individual who can overcome these difficulties and help my teammates out.

+ Try Something New

If reframing doesn’t help, then pivot onto something new. Humans thrive with new experiences because the novelty gives our brains that dopamine hit. That’s why when you purchase something or do something for the very first time, you experience that short-term high. While it isn’t everlasting, that boost may be just what you need when you’re blue. To continue the previous example:

  • Talk to someone about your difficulties.
  • Try to change your role at work.
  • Switch tasks with someone else.

+ Take a Break

When trying something new doesn’t help either, then just stop and take a break. We don’t allow enough breaks in our lives. I think that doing nothing is one of the most rejuvenating things a person can do. Don’t worry about everyone else. At this point, the focus is on you. Everyone else will be fine.

+ Ask for Help

Lastly, ask for help. If none of these tips on how to beat the January blues helps you, then maybe another person can. When I quit my job and focused on self-improvement, I hired a life and wellness coach for three months. It was amazing. Her name was Michaela Puterbaugh and you can learn about her here.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

Why I Chose to Live a Frugal Life

Prior to the pandemic, I had made student loans my identity, hence the name of this blog. That is the reason why I initially started to live a frugal life. I figured, accepting my surmounting student debt, face-on instead of running away from it, would make it easier. I was commended many times over for being courageous and sharing my story. The truth of the matter was, I was just hoping I could reign it in and control it before it did me.

Sometimes though, when you take a part of your life and make it the definition of yourself, it could make you forget the other bits of you. I was fiery, yes, but so was it. I was fighting fire with fire, and I can’t be sure who was winning.

That’s what the pandemic gifted me. It deferred student loan repayment (it’s been almost a two year stint now) and thereby took away the identity that was eating me alive from the inside. These past two years have been a blessing. I’ve not only rediscovered the “old me” but I also was able to shed negative bits of the “new me”. It gave me the space to be able to step back (from everything) and to re-evaluate which parts I wanted to keep. It gave me options.

But the student loans gave me good things, too. And those, I chose to keep. It taught me how to live a frugal life. There are things a frugal life affords you that rich people will never find.

As Soetsu Yanagi wrote in his book, The Beauty of Everyday Things,

“Some day in the future the West will undoubtedly welcome this magnificent gift. Muji can alternatively be called simplicity. In religious terms it might be liked to the virtue of honest poverty, a poverty that is replete with riches. The beatuy of muji is the beauty of poverty. Roughness and quiet appreciation characterize this beauty.”

Soetsu Yanagi

I discovered the art of mindful living and the perks of simplicity. I learned the skill of decluttering and giving gratitude. These parts of frugal living I did not abandon.

So one of the negative things about the student loan deferral is this stagnant limbo I’ve been in these past two years. With the space I have now, it’s quite easy to forgo frugality. The pressure to pinch pennies has slackened. The success rate isn’t as high. But that’s the thing about frugal living. It has room for grace.

Frugal living does not mean deprivation. Neither is it black or white. It is a practice in reigning in it, just a bit, to make room for what matters more. Frugal living is another aspect of mindfulness, intentionality, simplicity, and minimalism. Those things go hand-in-hand and compliment one another, without the need to be extreme.

For those who are on the fence about trying it, why not take a it a step at a time? I find that Marie Kondo was on to something. The easiest thing to start with is clothes. Try to declutter your entire clothing closet, then set a challenge to not add anything back for 6 months. Trust me, after all that hard work, you won’t want to anyway! It’s a great place to start, because we all have too much clothes. It’s not something you would miss. Then challenge yourself little by little, day by day. Frugal living actually ends up being fun.

Read this for a list of frugal ideas!

10 Things I Do Daily That Make Me 1% Better

I can always tell when there are clouds in the sky even before the sun rises over the mountains behind my home. On those days, the sky appears bubblegum pink during pre-dawn hours. When the sky is clear, it remains jet black until it isn’t. An early sign for birds like me of another crisp California day in store.

It has been a week now since I’ve adopted the habit of waking up when my cat mews for food. That’s 6:15am to be exact. I don’t do it out of joy, let me tell you. Just this past Sunday, I was quite sore about it. I wanted to sleep in, cuddled next to my husband in the warmth of the sheets because it was the weekend. I remembered the slow mornings of 2020 and 2021, where we had nothing to do and my habits were “Sleep 10 hours each night” or “Wake up when you feel like it”. Sitting at the dining table, I was feeling quite sorry for a moment there, wondering why it is that I kept making myself do this.

But at the end of a writing session, I felt 100% better. I always do. It is the same feeling you get when you work out, and you hate yourself for it as you’re getting ready. But afterwards, you get that good-sore, the one that reminds you of the progress that was achieved, and it really does boost you. That is why I am forcing myself to get out of bed. It makes me 1% better.

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If I could make any club in the world, it would be called: 1% Better Every Day Club. I am a firm believer in tiny changes having a great impact. I am also a firm believer in making the most out of every day. Now more than ever, I am reminded that each day is a gift. For the past four years, I have been living under the mantra of making myself 1% better every day.

What does 1% Better Look Like?

It doesn’t always have to be about progress or achievement. In 2018 I decluttered a lot of my stuff. In 2020, I quit a lot of my work. Last year, 1% better involved doing nothing, sleeping in, and relaxing as much as I can. I decided for 2022 that 1% better meant making the most out of life. Every body has their own goals, needs, and wants. I would recommend starting with jotting down what 1% better would look like. Feel free to use these list of questions to get your brainstorm going!

How to Be 1% Better Every Day?

After figuring out what 1% better would look like, I would begin by writing down things you can do to become the person you want to be. Let’s say you want to be in better physical shape. A few examples of 1% better include working out a certain number of days a week, getting in nature to absorb more vitamin D, taking supplements that your diet is missing out on, practicing better posture at work, eating less sugar and more fruits and vegetables, avoiding alcohol, and staying hydrated by drinking a lot of water.

Once you have a list of action items, I would start incorporating them into your daily schedule. Make them habits. Repetition is key. Hold yourself accountable by keeping a habit tracker. I use my Unbound Planner to track all my habits. You can just as easily track your habits on an Excel sheet. It doesn’t have to be expensive!

Lastly, set yourself up for success with rewards and motivations. For example, I had to get an outfit that made me feel and look good in order to establish my work out routine. And every morning when I get up to feed the cat, flipping that lever on the Balmuda kettle is the first thing I do. A mindful cup of pour over coffee is my motivation to stay awake! There should be no guilt attached to rewards and motivations. It is completely okay to make them part of the process, as long as you truly deserve it!

10 Things I Do Daily That Make Me 1% Better

There are many things I do daily to make myself 1% better. Here are my top ten!

+ Wake up early to write. Motivation: A mindful cup of pour-over coffee in a favorite mug (mine is made by RexDesign). I use the Balmuda kettle and a Hario V60. I have found over the years that writing goes on the back-burner whenever life got busy. Yet writing is really important to me. It is my outlet for both stress and creativity. It keeps me nourished the same way a good diet does. Therefore, I needed to make the space for it. Unfortunately, writing requires uninterrupted flow, which is difficult to do when my husband is awake.

Since the pandemic, he has been working remotely, which has positive and negative sides to it. One of the downsides is that I don’t have a designated space like I used to. Gone are the days of having the house to myself a few days a week. So I decided to carve that time in when he is still fast asleep. If I give to myself first thing in the morning, I am more open to sharing my time with him when he wakes up for breakfast.

+ Gratitude Journal. Each morning, I gratitude journal. I write 3 things I am thankful for. By instilling a sense of gratitude, I am reinforced to give to others as well. Plus, it’s a healthy reminder that life is never as bad as it seems. Gratitude journaling helps me think positively, and by doing so, allows me to have a positive impact.

+ Get exercise. Motivation: A favorite outfit, being outdoors, and a membership to classes. Before my thirties, I never got any exercise. My parents did not emphasize the importance of working out to their two daughters. Looking back on it, I think my personality would have been really good at sports. I started exercising in my thirties when I began experiencing back pain. Caused by a mix of my dental career, bad posture, and poor ab strength, I realized that I needed to start. I don’t want to be in pain for the rest of my life.

+ Plan ahead. Motivation: A planner that works for me. Planning ahead helps me organize my thoughts and prioritize my actions. Dedicating time to do this really helps me schedule important tasks as well as moments of rest. The latter is arguably the priority.

+ Stay hydrated. Motivation: An Ikea carafe that’s easy to have around, while fun to pour from. Occasionally, slices of fruit livens the cup. I have a daily habit of drinking a cup of water the minute I rise. That’s right! Even before coffee. I also have water with me at all times. I am constantly refilling my Kinto bottle at work, so much so that my co-workers call me a camel.

+ Read books and Listen to Podcasts. Motivation: Relaxation time and idea generation. I try to dedicate 30 minutes each day to take in information. That could involve reading or listening to podcasts. I have always loved reading (fiction in my youth, non-fiction as of late), and learning new things. I do this because I never want to stop learning something new.

+ Reflect on how I can improve tomorrow. Motivation: The hope of progress. In the evenings, I reflect on how I can improve tomorrow. Reflection is key! It is easy to go off course if one never stops to look back. I ask myself when I was at my best and when I felt unrest. Based on those answers, I find ways to make tomorrow better.

+ Get enough sleep. Motivation: I can wake up early the next morning to write. I am a monster without sleep. I can’t function. And I am a real grouch. Aside from that, I also understand that good sleep helps our bodies in so many ways. Everyone has a different definition of ‘enough sleep’. My ideal number of hours is nine, which means in order to wake up with the cat, I have to sleep shortly after dinner. Sometimes, I’ll take a cat nap if I need to catch up on hours.

+ Dedicate my life to experiments. Motivation: Sharing with others what I discover. I love to experiment and try new things. I change up my environment, my style of writing, my hobbies… heck, even my routines! Not only are new experiences exciting for me, they also help me to grow. They teach me who I am and who I want to become. Experimentation fills my life with joy.

+ Declutter. Motivation: More space – for thought, for action, for laying out on our Nordic rug. My husband once told me that he thinks I have an unhealthy relationship with decluttering. I disagree. Constant evaluation is necessary work. I get rid of things so that better ones can take their place. If I did not do that, I would have never experienced all that I have. It is arguable my number one tool for becoming 1% better every day.

I hope this post serves as inspiration for you to be the person you want to be tomorrow. Curious as to what you do to become 1% better?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

My 6 Favorite Winter Skincare Products

About two years ago, I started to experience skin rashes. The first time it happened, it was on the back of my neck after wearing a newly bought vintage sweater that was as itchy as hay, but cute as can be. At the time, I knew nothing about the importance of using skincare products in the winter. I had barely turned thirty and I remember thinking to myself, “Is this it? The downfall everybody has been telling me about?”

For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out exactly what was causing the phenomenon. I had never taken care of my skin before, heard no such thing as specialized lotions. And I used bars of soap for both body and face. Apparently, that was blasphemous. I still remember my dermatologist’s face after my confession. It was then that I started to learn about skincare products.

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It turns out that the cause of my skin rashes was a combination of stress and eating certain foods. Particularly, unhealthy foods heavy in sugar. I found that the only skin cream that worked to treat the rash is a corticosteroid, which I learned in dental school has terrible side effects is used long term. I did not want to use the cream every day. So instead, I turned to my lifestyle and tried to mitigate the effects by reducing stress and eating foods that better support my body. Meanwhile, I learned a lot about skin companies that use natural ingredients.

My two favorite skin companies are True Botanicals and Aesop. Together, they make up my winter skincare product line. Since my skin issue tended to flare up in the winter and the summer, I thought I’d spend a few moments sharing my tried-and-true arsenal for battling skin issues in the winter.

My Favorite 6 Winter Skincare Products

+ TB Eye Cream – This eye cream really works! It reduces wrinkles and dark circles, resulting in smoother, brighter eyes. Unlike most eye creams that fake results using waxes, shimmer or silicone (ew!), this one features a bioactive moisture retention complex from the Resurrection Plant. The eye cream is infused with Tree Bark Extract which addresses the root cause of dark circles. Additionally, antioxidant-rich Turmeric, Coffee and Licorice Extracts depuff and brighten the 360° eye area to deliver youthful-looking, radiant eyes. This product is hypoallergenic and pregnancy safe. Best of all, it lasts a long time!

+ TB Face Cleanser – True Botanical’s face wash is my favorite. I never used to use a different soap for my face! Little did I know that the soap for our bodies are harsh for the delicate skin on our faces. TB has two face washes – Renew and Clear. I like the Renew facewash, which is better for dryer skin types such as mine. It really improves the dullness and dryness! It is also great for aging skin, as it reduces wrinkles. The key ingredients are green and white tea, aloe vera, and green tea seed oil. It also has a beautiful subtle smell that makes face-washing a luxurious joy. The wash is naturally scented with grapefruit, lavender, vetiver and jasmine. Lastly, my sister-in-law tried the Clear version and said it was great for acne-prone, oilier skin. She loved it as much as I did!

+ TB Hydrating Spray – TB’s nutrient mist is a god-send. I carried this product around with me all summer. I still remember it rolling down the aisles of a Southwest flight because it fell out of my purse during take off. A kind lady in the back must have realized my loss, as it was returned to me mid-flight. My roomie knew how much I loved this product and gifted it to me for Christmas. I can’t wait to have it all winter too! It really helps to quench my skin with antioxidants. It also sets makeup, in case you need a natural alternative. The product is hypoallergenic and surprisingly uses kombucha and algae extract as two of its main ingredients.

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+ Aesop Parsley Seed Anti Oxidant Hydrator – I have tried a decent number of Aesop’s facial moisturizers, but this one is the best for me. This light-weight, year-round moisturizer really hydrates my skin! It is rapidly absorbed and leaves the skin feeling as supple as a baby’s bottom. It is particularly good for winter, cold environments, air-conditioned environments, or simply chronically dry skin. If you prefer a heavier hydrator, the Camellia Nut also has wonderful results. I recommend it for right before bed. However, the Parsley Seed if just so great at any time of day. And alas, it lasts much longer.

+ Aesop Masque – I love anything that brightens and hydrates the skin. This overnight masque does just that! Most masques feel itchy to me while on. It pulls my skin taught and makes me feel very uncomfortable. But this masque by Aesop feels as cool as a cucumber upon first application. I sleep with it at night and wash it off in the morning. I can really tell the difference in my skin when I use it.

+ Aesop Hand Balm – We were first gifted an Aesop hand balm for hosting a Thanksgiving event in 2018. It changed our lives. My husband loved it so much that he actually bought his own tube of lotion. And when we are away from home, he can be caught snooping in my bag in search of mine. “To borrow some.” This hand balm is thick, creamy, and hydrating. It isn’t anything like other lotions. Gone are the signs of hard-working hands. Mine used to be riddles with calluses and skin tags, dry as the desert heat and as wrinkly as a well-bathed child. The texture could take a while to get used to, but I swear by it. Plus the scent is heavenly, and there’s a matching beaded hand soap that I’ve converted multiple friends to.

These products are by far my favorite winter skincare items in my medicine cabinet. Winter can be tough on our bodies. Keeping the skin hydrated and happy is very important.

Other things to do this winter:

+ Stretch to loosen up the joints

+ Be active to get the blood flow going

+ Get outdoors to seep in as much sunlight

+ Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated

+ Eat foods rich in anti-oxidants to boost your immune system

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

For January 2022

The sun is skimming over the surface of the mountains, just about to rise. The cat has been fed, and is sidled next to my husband in bed. After waking me up at a god awful hour, he has decided to go back to sleep. Lucky cat. I should be grateful, though. Because of him, I won’t miss this sunrise.

I have made a resolution to wake up earlier and write. It’s a homage to how important writing is for me. Unfortunately, I am five days into the New Year and this is the first time I’ve braved the cold. I have poured myself a coffee in my favorite mug and threw a blanket over my shoulders. I am making a mental note: Lay out socks and a sweater by the bed to help me get by. The rug under my feet helps, though.

The first few days of the year were spent honoring our five years of marriage. Time, it flies by so fast! I mean, didn’t I say we were already five days into the new year? It was a good reminder to not let anything go to waste. The celebration was also a practice in staying still. This time, we didn’t go anywhere, which is highly unusual. I guess these past few years have been unusual anyway.

Instead, we stayed put, at home. We idled the hours away, trading in productivity for good ole quality time. I already had the chance to practice saying no, so that I could say bigger yeses these last few days. No to work and money, yes to us and the things that matter.

We walked around the ranch and picked oranges from the trees. Then we squeezed them to make orange juice, which we sipped on for days. In the mornings, we tested our nose and palate with Le Nez du Cafe kit. In the afternoons, we sunbathed in the living room and finished reading a Drift magazine we bought last summer. We closed out our days with dips in the jaccuzzi and boardgame nights. Somewhere in there, my husband made pizza and I, bread.

I have spent the last two years waiting to get back to ‘normal’. I was expecting to start the New Year with plans to live extremely frugally with the return of student loan repayment. Only to have it extended another few months. I guess it isn’t time yet to go back to ‘normal’. But if I’m being frank…

I abhorred the normal. The normal was abnormally bad for me and my health. Before the abnormal, I didn’t make my own decisions. Instead of gratitude journaling, I prayed for change. I was lost and looking for myself under all the social expectations and pressures. Young me never had the courage to say no. Exhaustion was a daily thing, and I was so up in the clouds chasing dreams, I never had my feet on the ground. Any gust of wind could blow me away.

Today, I put myself first. My mornings are dedicated to me. Before anything and anyone else (except that darn cat!), I follow rituals that will support me. This includes making a mindful cup of coffee, having a writing session, reading books, and learning new things such as piano or how to make the perfect croissant.

On top of that, I exercise all the time, and I actually LOVE it. I look out for my body and its health. In gratitude for what my body is able to do for me throughout the day, I return the favor by eating healthy foods. These past few years have taught me how to listen to my body. When it is tired, I protect it by saying no to others. Not to be selfish, but with the understanding that little no’s can lead to very big yeses.

Golden yellow sunlight is seeping through our plantation shutters now. In a few moments, I’ll get up to throw back the curtains so that natural light can warm the home. I hear my husband’s feet shuffling in the bedroom. He’s about to get ready for his day. But before I do:

Things For January:

  • Create a dog sitting website and business cards
  • Go on a road trip up the California coast with Texino
  • Try Blood Orange Meringue Pie Recipe
  • Complete Bucket List Bake Club’s January Challenge: Milk Bar Birthday Cake
  • Learn one heritage recipe from my mom: Chicken Tinola
  • Talk to my plants, beg them to grow
  • Read the books on my queue
  • Declutter desk and filing cabinet
  • Offer kindness proactively. Pay attention to people around me and what I can do to make their lives easier.
  • Frugal Challenge: Lower the Electricity Bill
  • Install Tesla Solar Panels
  • Moisturize my feet
  • Allow for an hour of doing nothing
  • Start writing the courses I never got around to writing in 2021
  • Sign up to work at the Ranch community farm

My 2022 Winter Capsule Wardrobe

I started using capsule wardrobes back in 2018 when I decluttered my closet. A capsule wardrobe is a small curated collection of clothing to support daily living. At the time, I wanted to simplify my life, completely. This included making dressing up every day an easy task. By choosing to use a capsule wardrobe, I only need to own a few, well-loved items of clothing. It makes getting ready for the day stress-free, because I look good and love everything I choose to wear. I also avoid decision fatigue by having less options. And I spend less money shopping! This saves me from having to work more, to earn more, only to spend more. Gone are those days!

I am quite lucky in that I either work from home or at the dental office. I can employ a wardrobe made up of scrubs and athleisure wear. Both are very comfortable. I like to choose clothes that are first and foremost both comfortable and functional. I also hone in on clothes that look good on me. If ever I think an article of clothing doesn’t look good, it gets decluttered right away. Lastly, I stick to neutral colors that I like. My favorite colors are black, grey, and green.

A note on sustainability. The word gets thrown around willy nilly these days which lessens its meaning. But the intent still stands. I make a strong effort to ensure that items are made using good materials by people who are paid fair wages. That is important. I like companies that uses natural materials, meaning they will biodegrade. I favor companies who treat people as people. And the most sustainable thing of all, I keep my clothes for as long as possible and purchase very few. When they end their life in my hands, I pass it on to someone in want or need. Half the time, that is how I receive them anyway. From someone else. My capsule wardrobe isn’t perfect, but I still try.

Either way, every season is different, and I change out my capsule every three months or so. I wanted to spend a few moments today jotting down my 2022 winter favorites!

My 2022 Winter Capsule Wardrobe

  • Eddie Bauer Puffer Jacket. California doesn’t get crazy cold, but we do live in the mountains. Therefore it still reaches snowy temperatures at night, even though it never rains. I got a black puffer jacket one year ago and I wear it almost every day. It doesn’t matter if I am going to work or to the gym. I hardly need to layer sweaters underneath it as it insulates very well! It was one of the best winter purchases I have ever made!
  • Patagonia Rain Jacket. My parents gifted me a black Torrentshell for Christmas one year ago because they knew I loved to be outdoors and would do so rain or shine. I love this jacket. It is my second worn jacket after the puffer. It keeps me dry when it rains, and is a great windbreaker and shield from the sun when hiking. I bring it every time I travel.
  • Patagonia Fleece Jacket. I bought this fleece jacket more than 5 years ago when my husband and I were planning our honeymoon in New Zealand. It looks absolutely brand new! This jacket has seen it all. I have taken it on a 3-day-hike through a storm in the mountains of New Zealand. I have taken it to Banff the day my husband fell into an ice cold lake. It has been with me to my waterfall hikes in Iceland, to Oktoberfest in Germany, and to a rainy New Year’s Eve in Sydney, Australia. This jacket has weathered the storm, so to speak, but looks as stunning as when I bought it. I love this jacket. This is a casual jacket that I throw on underneath the puffer or rain jacket.
  • Prana Sweater. I have been living in this Prana sweater since the day I got it. It’s perfect to throw on my yoga attire, before and after my workouts! It has enough appeal to wear out with boots and look completely put together, as long as I swap my leggings for a pair of jeans.
  • Beyond Yoga Attire. I wear athleisure wear every day I am not at the dental office. I am a pretty active person and do multiple things in one day and I just find that athleisure wear really supports me in all those tasks. Beyond Yoga’s Spacedye 7/8 Leggings and Spacedye Slim Racerback Crop Tank is my current favorite outfit. The fabric is so soft! And very flexible. The leggings fit like a full-length legging on petite me. And the crop top actually hugs my body without squeezing! I spend all day in these! I can do yoga at home, write a blog post while drinking coffee, go to pilates or spin class, bake up a storm in the kitchen, or read a book while cuddling with the cat. I pretty much wear it all day long and if my entire capsule wardrobe was made up of 7 of these, I wouldn’t be mad about it! (PS: Another brand I’ve had my eye on is Vuori. They have a similar legging and crop top duo that I might put on my Christmas list next winter).
  • Girlfriend Collective Leggings. Since I only own one Beyond Yoga Attire, I resort to wearing my Girlfriend collective leggings the rest of my days off.
  • Lululemon Tank Tops. I pair my Lululemon Tanks with my Girlfriend Collective leggings for a very comfortable work day from home.
  • A pair of jeans. I gravitate towards one pair every 4-6 months. Currently, it’s a pair of high-rise, wide-leg crop jeans similar to these from Etica.
  • Eileen Fisher Silk Shell Box Top. When I am stepping out anywhere nicer than the gym, I put on one of my two go-to Eileen Fisher silk tanks. I have owned these for years and they have never failed me. These tanks are such a great investment and can be dressed up or down. They are part of the company’s “System” which is it’s own curated capsule wardrobe of essentials.
  • Figs Scrubs. I wear Figs Scrubs every day I go to the dental office. Believe it or not, Figs Scrubs changed my life! They are stretchy, comfortable, AND cute! I can do yoga in them in the morning before work, or lounge and read a book during my lunch break. I can go out to happy hour with co-workers and still look decent! This innovative company really improved the medical field’s lifestyle, and for that I am thankful. I currently go into the office three days a week. Figs is my ‘uniform’, along with my Clove shoes.
  • Nisolo’s Chelsea Boot. By far the best boot I have ever worn! I just recently got Nisolo’s Carmen Chelsea Boots and they are all the hype. I am NOT taking these off this winter. Unlike a majority of leather shoes, these were comfortable right out of the box. They fit like a glove, but I did size up a half size because I wanted to wear thick woolly socks. I could have ordered my usual size and it still would have fit really nicely either way. Usually, boots make my short legs seem shorter but this was not the case. The shape of the boot is really flattering. And the bottom has nice traction (yes, I tested it on rainy pavement!). If you buy one pair of boots this winter, this is it. I got the Tobacco color, but am already looking at the black ones too for next year. PS: These would look great with short dresses in the other seasons!
  • Mizuno Wave Riders. My parents bought me these running shoes for Christmas. I first wore Mizuno wave riders back in dental school, when my runner roommate Katie took me to a running store to test out my gait. I got into running for a bit and it turned out that Mizuno wave riders best fit my running style and step. I like to be comfortable so these shoes will definitely be used for more than just running.
  • Lo and Son’s OG2 Bag. This bag is a great option for a winter capsule wardrobe. This bag is highly functional and serves many purposes. You can say that it carries me through my daily activities. I use this bag to go to work. It carries my laptop, my lunch, and my planner. I can use this as a weekender bag, and it travels well as it has the strap that attaches it on my overhead carrier handle. Additionally, this bag works as a gym bag. It has a water bottle pocket, a pocket for my spare clothes and yoga towel, and the yoga mat fits between the handles. It seriously does it all! The material travels well, and looks professional. I got it in black (of course!) and it matches every outfit. This is my number one purse choice for a capsule wardrobe.

There you have it! My winter 2022 capsule wardrobe. I do own other clothes but they mostly just sit in the back of my closet until the season shifts or I cycle these guys out. To be honest, this is mostly what I wear. Below, I give you an idea of how I use my wardrobe.

A Week of Styling My Winter Capsule Wardrobe

Monday – Beyond Yoga Activewear, Prana Sweater, Nisolo Boot

Tuesday – Lululemon Tank, Girlfriend Collective Legging, Patagonia Fleece Jacket, Mizuni Rider

Wednesday – Figs Scrub #1, Puffer Jacket, Clove Shoes, Og2 Bag

Thursday – Figs Scrub #2, Puffer Jacket, Clove Shoes, Og2 Bag

Friday– Figs Scrub #3, Puffer Jacket, Clove Shoes, Og2 Bag

Saturday – Eileen Fisher Tank #1, Etica Jeans, Nisolo Boot

Sunday – Eileen Fisher Tank #2, Etica Jeans, Nisolo Boot

And then I repeat next week. It’s amazing because I hardly have to think what to wear. It’s pretty much a uniform that supports everything I do and gets up and doing the things I love, faster and sooner.

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful to some of you who wish to declutter, simplify, and be productive in 2022.

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

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How to Lower the Electricity Bill

At our household, we are always looking for ways to save money. One of the things we do is lower the electricity bill. There are many ways to cut down on the electricity bill without having to sacrifice comfort. It just takes a little planning, a little compromise, and a little mindfulness. Simple changes in daily habits really make a big difference, so never assume that one action makes too small a difference. Per usual, I would recommend setting this one up as a month-long frugal challenge. Try to adopt as many of these tips and see how low you can get your electricity bill!

Ways to Lower the Electricity Bill

Lighting

  • Turn off unnecessary lights.
  • When the house has holiday lights on, we keep the rest of the lights off. The soft glow of the Christmas tree is enough to read a book by.
  • Use natural light whenever possible. I throw open the blinds the minute I wake up to allow natural light in. During the day, all doors are kept open to dissipate light into areas of the home with less windows.
  • Use task lighting as much as possible. Task lights use up less electricity than turning on the ceiling lights in a room. (This one is a favorite). I also really love under-counter lights in the kitchen. You can rig a set easily under your kitchen cupboards.
  • Install dimmers on your lights. We have a dimmer on all the important lights, including the bedroom, living room, and guest room.
  • Opt for better bulbs. LED is great!
  • Use candles. I love writing and reading by candlelight. One birthday, Mike gifted me a handful of candlesticks. I love using them with this Notary Ceramics candle holder.

Temperature

  • Invest in good insulation in the doorways and windows.
  • Turn off AC/the heater when not at home.
  • Use a fan instead of an AC.
  • Layer up instead of turning on the heat.
  • Lower the thermostat. Lowering the thermostat by 2 degrees Fahrenheit can lower the electricity bill by 5%!
  • Allow daylight to warm up the house during the day. We see a difference in temperature as big as 10 degrees Fahrenheit! This is especially useful in the winter.
  • Close the drapes and blinds to prevent heat from escaping in the evenings. This will keep the house warmer during the day.
  • Keep up with replacing air filters for AC.
  • Use a programmable thermostat.

Water

  • Take a quick shower. If possible, take a shower in cold water. We have an electric water heater so any hot water uses up electricity.
  • Avoid baths.
  • Turn off the water when shaving, brushing your teeth, or lathering with soap in the shower.
  • Fix any leaky faucets.

Electronics

  • Unplug unused electronics. Use a power strip to plug in all electronics in the same area. Turn off the power strip when they are not in use. For example, we have a power strip in our media console, as well as in Mike’s office. This one is pretty AND affordable!
  • Don’t run the TV in the background. Some people love background noise. Luckily, I absolutely abhor it. I find it too distracting. While I can’t speak for the value of having a TV on in the background (some swear by it!), I can definitely say you’ll save more money if you turn the TV off.
  • The same tip goes for keeping the TV on for aesthetics. We own Samsung’s 65″ Frame TV and I love that it looks like a picture frame when you keep a still image on it. But we do NOT leave it on ALL day long. In fact, our Frame TV automatically turns off within a few minutes of not sensing movement in the room. I will turn it on to photograph the space, but even with guests around, most of the time the TV is actually off!
  • Opt for doing analog activities over digital ones. Save electricity by playing outside instead of playing video games, reading a book instead of reading on the laptop, or playing a boardgame instead of watching TV.

Cooking

  • Reduce heat in the kitchen in the summer months by grilling outdoors. This will reduce your need to use AC. Mike gifted me an Ooni Koda 16 Pizza Oven for Christmas. I will be using it on our balcony for more than just pizza all summer long. It can grill meats and veggies on a cast iron, as well as bake sourdough bread. We chose the Koda 16 because it is gas powered and for its larger size. The Koda 12 can do the same thing for cheaper, as well as take up less real estate, but the pizzas are tiny!
  • When heating up food on the stove, add a lid which will help heat it up faster.
  • Keep the oven doors closed until the last minute.
  • Avoid broiling food. Broiling is the most energy inefficient cooking method. If there is an alternative, do that instead.
  • Use the toaster oven instead of the oven. My Balmuda toaster oven pretty does everything my oven could. Since it is a smaller space, there is no need to waste time pre-heating. I use it to make individual servings of garlic bread, when I bake cookies, small servings of casserole, and more. This toaster is seriously amazing! My review on why I love the Balmuda toaster can be read here.
  • Declutter the fridge. This might sound like an odd one, but the efficiency of your fridge depends on the ability of the air inside to circulate. It may be impeded when the fridge is very full!
  • Meal prep and cook all the meals in one day. By doing so, you will have to preheat appliances less. It also makes the week way easier!

Washers

  • Wash laundry with cold water. It will be just as clean, promise!
  • Hang dry the laundry. We first came across this on our trip to New Zealand, and then again in Australia, Spain, and Mexico. The rest of the world does it, why don’t we? By the way, the California Energy Commission says that a dryer uses up 6% of a home’s electricity bill. WOW!
  • Wash full loads of laundry. I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t? Do the same with the dishwasher.
  • Skip the heat dry function on the dishwasher. I just run ours on wash, and then open the door afterward to allow the dishes to air dry.

Other

  • Install solar panels. We just moved into our new home in November and thankfully own our own roof! We are installing Tesla panels early 2021 to reduce our electricity bill as well as become more environmentally friendly.
  • Know your electric company’s Residential T.O.U. (Time of Use). Our electric company is SDG&E. They have different TOUs and charge different rates for each time period. The cheapest rate per kWh is between 12pm to 6am, when electricity use is “Super-Off Peak”. The most expensive rates occur between 4pm and 9pm, when electricity usage is “On-Peak”. Lastly, the middle ground, or “Off-Peak” Hours are from 6am to 4pm, and from 9pm to 12pm. This means that we are better off running the heat at night between 12pm and 6pm. We do our laundry and take showers during the day, between 6am and 4pm. We cook meals and meal prep before 4pm if possible. And we run the dishwasher after 9pm.
  • Participate in OhmConnect.
  • Opt for a tiny home!

This barely grazes the surface but I hope you find ideas in this post. I hope it helps you in your frugal challenge to reduce your energy bill. If you have other ideas, please share with the community!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Self-Reflection Questions to Guide the New Year

Every year, I spend a day on self-reflection (or rather, a few days) before planning for the year ahead. Asking self-reflection questions is an important step because it tells me where I’m at, which ultimately guides where I want to go. When self-reflecting, I use my Unbound Planner to start this practice, but my brainstorming bubbles over to its own thing after only a few minutes.

The main questions I ask myself starts with the word “Why”. Why do I think this goal is important? Why do I place value on this idea? Or why do I feel this way about certain things? And so on. Of course, there are a multitude of questions to ask oneself. But after every answer, I always go back to ‘Why’.

I decided to round up a few self-reflection questions worth pondering over this morning. Even if you’ve already opened your planner and started preparing for the New Year, these are still good to think about. Sometimes, after asking myself these questions, I find that I planned for things that aren’t aligned with my true goals. This is because we may do things because other people expect us to do them or because we think other people would want us to do them. But in reality, we ourselves don’t want to.

A good example of this is last year’s goal of running 6 miles under one hour. I never got around to accomplishing it. I realize that I wanted to do it because it would be ‘an achievement’. But achievements are only important to the people around us. Achievements are status symbols. Achievements do nothing for our well-being, except add a psyche boost when other people recognize them.

I do not actually love running, and when I do go for a run, I like doing it because I am out in nature and nature relaxes me. The parts I like most about running are the wind in my hair, the sun warming my skin, the sound of birds, and the smell of grass; not the time it took for me or the number of miles.

Realizing that my motivation for running was all wrong, I now know that my goal should be changed. Instead of ‘Run 6 miles in under an hour’, my new goal is to ‘Get outdoors more often by running, hiking, or taking a walk a few times a week.’ That goal is more aligned with who I am as a person, which means I am more likely to do it!

2022 could be the year of balance. It could be the year you embrace your genuine self. But it needs to start with understanding who you are. I hope you enjoy going through these questions. I recommend writing down the answers like I did! My newly acquired Surface Pro Pen has been a godsend for brainstorming! I scribble down all my ideas, erase them, cross them out, circle them, etc. I absolutely love the Surface Pen and aim to use it to help me with my goal of going digital and reducing paper clutter. Without further ado, here are the questions!

Self-Reflection Questions To Guide the New Year

  • If someone close to you was to give a speech about you, what would they say? What don’t they say that you wish they would?
  • What are your core values? Do you feel they are well integrated in your daily life? What changes can you make to better build a life around your values?
  • What are you most proud of in the year before? It could be a favorite memory or a big accomplishment.
  • What do you love to do? What brings you peace? Joy? How can you make more time for these things?
  • What drains your energy? What makes you feel anxious or worried? How can you address these things?
  • What are your talents and strengths? How can you share these with others?
  • What do you struggle with? Why?
  • What challenges or distractions hold you back? How can you move past them?
  • What does being successful mean to you?
  • How do you want to grow this year?
  • What motivates you to take action?
  • What are you feeling called toward or inspired by?
  • Name one positive habit you want to establish this year.
  • Name one skill you want to master this year.
  • What is one fear you want to overcome in the new year? Why do you fear this thing?
  • What is one dream you want to act on in the new year? Why do you have this dream?
  • What are your most important relationships? How can you nurture them better?
  • What does your typical week look like? What is your ideal week?
  • How do you experience energy levels during the day? How can you structure your day so that your body best supports you? I suggest reading this blog post from Canyon Coffee.
  • Are there daily routines (morning and evening) that help establish a sense of peace, productivity, and well-being?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • Name one change you can make that will have the biggest impact?
  • What is one question I want to answer this year?
  • When am I at my best?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t forget to ask yourself ‘Why’ when answering these self-reflection questions. You may realize something about yourself that you never knew before. These little discoveries can better align your life to your truth. And once you’ve gotten a bit of insight, go ahead and start planning! I made a list of favorite planners in this post here. I hope you have a wonderful year!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.