When Good Design Means Saying Goodbye

My first ever job was as a barista at a beautiful family-owned coffee shop, and I learned to love the rich smell and satisfyingly bitter, yet creamy taste of hand-tamped espresso. Mmmmm. When we moved into our place in Germany, I shopped around and found a cute little home-use, hand-tamp espresso machine. It seemed like a perfect choice, and it even made decent espresso! So… why am I saying goodbye?

When Good Design Means Saying Goodbye

 

There’s a reason that hand-tamp espresso machines are usually only found in specialty shops. First you have to grind the coffee beans, then dose and tamp the espresso. After each use, each piece of the machine needs cleaned out. Coffee shops usually have a streamlined way of performing all of these tasks built into their design, but my house does not. My thought process:

But the machine makes good coffee! I just need to figure out how to optimize the process. Maybe then I’ll finally start making coffee more often.

After months of this little guy sitting on the counter, unused, I had to face the facts. Although I thought at first that this coffee machine was a perfect fit for me, it just wasn’t working out.

 

Good Design Only Works… When It Works

Yeah, that sounds really obvious… but I’d been trying for months to convince myself that since the product was good, there was no reason to get rid of it. Wrong! The fact that I hadn’t been using the coffee machine was clear evidence that it was time for it to go.

If you find that you’re not using a product that’s meant to be used regularly (like clothes, or, hello, coffee machine!), there’s a good chance that it’s not a good fit for your lifestyle, even if the product itself is good.

But I already paid for it!

I hear you, and I feel your pain! The problem is, that doesn’t matter for two reasons:

  1. Whether you’re using the item or not, the money you spent on it is gone. Making yourself feel guilty isn’t going to bring the money back. This is an example of the Sunk Cost Fallacy, a surprisingly common logical pitfall that usually leads us to making crappy decisions.
  2. Even if you’re not using the item, it’s still taking up space in your house, mental energy, or both. This coffee machine sitting unplugged on my counter was worse than useless. It was keeping me from buying a coffee machine I would actually use!

 

Saying Goodbye

Eventually I headed to a local classifieds site and found a new home for my coffee machine, which, though sad, was probably better for both of us. Now I have an automatic capsule coffee machine sitting on the counter. Even though the coffee isn’t quite of the same caliber, I consider it a much more successful contribution to my overall kitchen design. Why? Because I actually use it!

 

It’s hard to let go of those items in our lives that seem like they should be useful, but that we don’t actually use. If we want to design our best life, we need to be honest with ourselves. What’s working well, and more importantly, what do we need to change?

What extra baggage have you held off on saying goodbye to?

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Résumé Design – 10 Not-So-Obvious Tips

You’ve been doing your homework and using all the standard top tips to refine your résumé, but that doesn’t mean your résumé design is ready to go out into the world and work for you! Use these nine advanced tips to dig a little deeper, tighten your design, and make sure your résumé gets to the top of the Interview Pile.

Objective Specific to Job Posting.

Hiring managers don’t care that you want a job, they want to know why you want this job and how it fits into your overall career plan. What are your goals within the field, and more importantly, what can you do for them?

To many employers, a generic objective at the top of a résumé is much worse than none at all because it shows a missed opportunity to connect with the business you’re applying to.

List Concrete & Specific Skills.

Skills specific to electrical engineering. You completed the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam. What does that mean? What important functions can you carry out? What technical or industry programs can you use? Even if it seems obvious or implied, show what you know!

I once listed proficiency in both PC and Mac use on a résumé, even though I thought that knowing both was a really obvious technical skill. It turned out to be one thing that made me stand out from other applicants and I ended up getting the job.

Experience vs. Relevant Experience.

If it’s been more than five years since you graduated high school, it’s probably time to stop listing it on your résumé, especially if you’ve since completed a higher degree. Put that current and relevant experience and education at the top of the page so it’s hard to miss.

No experience in your career field yet? Find skills and responsibilities in your work history that could translate into useful skills in your field. Maybe the strict organizational responsibilities in your last administrative assistant job are crucial to the accountant position you’re going for. Leadership skills are vital in every industry across the board. Highlight your experiences in manager and supervisor positions.

References Available on Request?

If you have references available on request, you might as well list them! There’s no reason not to, and it saves the hiring manager an extra step. If they’re looking through 150 résumés and your résumé doesn’t include all the information they want, it’s an easy way for your résumé to end up in the No Thanks pile.

Organized Information.

If your résumé is confusing or hard to read, it’s probably due to poor organization in your résumé design. Pay attention to the visual hierarchy. Is like information grouped together and easy to find? Do section titles stand out? Is the most important or relevant information displayed first? Have someone else look over your résumé and see if they have any difficulties navigating it at a glance.

Let Your Personality Show Through!

Even though you’re using formal language in a job application, try to let your voice come through in your cover letter and résumé. If an employer can get a glimpse of your shining personality, it makes you more memorable and more like a real person rather than a bunch of words on a paper.

Explain Gaps in Your Résumé.

If your résumé shows a large gap in employment, it’s obviously helpful to explain it somewhere in your cover letter or in your experience section, but other gaps can cause confusion to hiring managers too. If it’s been a few years since you graduated with a degree but you don’t have any professional experience in your field, they might wonder why you chose to stick with a non-related job instead of moving into your new career field.

Have you been looking, but found the job market in your field too limited? Or did you make an agreement to stay at your current job for a specific period of time? Whatever the case, let the hiring manager know how eager and excited you are to transition into your new career field at their business.

Relocating?

If you’re applying to jobs in a different city from your current location, you’ve got extra challenges to deal with. Make it clear that you’re relocating and mention when you’re anticipating being in the area. Are you able to visit town for an interview? Say so. If not, use the cover letter to show them how easy it is to conduct the interview long distance! Offer to meet via Skype, Google Hangouts, or phone call for an interview.

Be Brief.

I know it’s hard, but try to keep your résumé to one page if possible. It’s cleaner, it’s easier to read, and it almost certainly means that you’ve cut down on the fluffy crap and tightened your résumé design and content down to the essentials. Use your cover letter to deliver extra information and let your personality shine, but do be aware that not every hiring manager will accept a cover letter. Make sure the meat of your message fits into your résumé itself.

Ask for Help.

When in doubt, reach out. Actually, always reach out. It never hurts to have an extra set of eyes on your résumé, and I bet you know someone in art, design, or writing who would love to help make your résumé stand out from the crowd. They might even work for cookies or beer. Win – win!

Need an extra set of eyes on your résumé, or want to take your résumé design up a notch? Send it my way! I’m happy to look over your current résumé and return it with notes and suggestions, free of charge.

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IKEA Hack – Fiskbo Frames to Book Souvenir

You never know when a design idea can be helped along with a simple IKEA hack!

This weekend we had the final performances and cast party for the play that Brian’s been directing over the last two months! The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon was a success and a blast for all involved, and we wanted to send the crew away with a personal and meaningful cast gift. We thought a photo of the cast and crew would be nice, but we also wanted the gift to reflect the play itself. After a few rounds of brainstorming, we came up with these beauties:

IKEA Hack - Fiskbo Frames to Book Souvenir

Here’s the front.

Front cover of a DIY craft to create a personalized Book Souvenir out of an IKEA Fiskbo frame!

Looks kind of like a book, right? Then you open this bad boy up… and boom!

Inside of a DIY craft to create a personalized Book Souvenir out of an IKEA Fiskbo frame!

Inside is your cast and crew photo, plus a space for souvenir signatures and messages on the inside!

Though it probably seems like a lot of work (especially if you’re making 20 of them), these are simple to make and turned out to be a hit among our group of thespians.

Materials

  • a 10 x 15 cm IKEA Fiskbo picture frame
  • a 14 x 18 cm piece of material for the cover – thin MDF, wood, or even cork
  • paint
  • small hinges & tiny nails
  • super glue
  • washi tape
  • a printed image for the front cover
  • a printed photo to put inside
  • ModPodge or other clear sealant

Materials for creating a personalized Book Souvenir out of an IKEA Fiskbo frame!

Instructions

Buy extra materials! You’ll want to experiment in order to find out what works best with the materials you’re using.

  1. First, paint your cover material to complement the color of your frame, then use nails or super glue to attach the front cover to the front of the frame.
  2. Use the washi tape to line the “bound” edge of the cover to create the appearance of a book binding. Glue down the edges of the washi tape, as it’s not made to stick permanently.
  3. Next glue your “book cover” design onto the front. You’ll want to seal the entire cover with ModPodge or another sealant to protect your work.
  4. Finally, install your photo into the frame, and you have a finished product! In our case, Metallic Sharpie stands out nicely against the black paint on the signatures page.

 

That’s it! I designed this IKEA hack to

  • be constructed with readily available materials, and
  • hold meaningful personal value for the gift’s recipients.

 

How else could you adapt this book-related craft to meet your own needs and ideas?

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So Many Sheep! 12-Day Ireland Roadtrip Highlights

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If you’ve ever wanted to visit Ireland, a roadtrip is the way to go! The flexibility of having your own transportation makes it easy to go at your own pace, spending more time in areas that speak to you and skipping whatever you’re not feeling. Read on for tips to get the most out of your trip. Warning! Long post.

Also, IRELAND IS SO FULL OF SHEEP.

 

Ireland Roadtrip Day One: Arrival and Brú na Bóinne

brian-map

 

We arrived in Dublin in the middle of the day, picked up our rental car, and headed straight for Brú na Bóinne. Operation Ireland Roadtrip had begun!

 

Brian fearlessly offered to helm the backwards-car, and it was a group effort making sure we were always driving on the left side of the street. Many of the roads were extremely narrow compared to North America standards, but I think starting on the northeastern side of the island may have been advantageous. It seemed like the further southwest we went, the narrower the roads became, so it was helpful that we were already used to the car (a European Ford Fiesta) by that point.

 

  • PRO TIP: Double check your insurance before you rent a car, as many plans do not cover driving in Ireland. We purchased an extra hefty, all-inclusive daily insurance package with the rental place, which doubled the cost of the rental, but gave us a lot more peace of mind as we were whizzing within a meter of passing vehicles.

knowth

Brú na Bóinne is an archaeological site famous for its passage tombs, particularly at Knowth and Newgrange. The anthropology nerd in me loved seeing the earthworks and speculating about the significance of these impressive structures. I can’t even be bothered to put on pants every day, and these Neolithic people hauled massive stones into sacred mounds before the invention of the wheel?!

You’re allowed to enter the passage tomb at Newgrange, which is carefully aligned to allow in the light of the rising sun during winter solstice. They even simulate the effect of the solstice light entering the shaft, which I can only imagine must have been an unearthly and mystical experience for the Neolithic people who used the tomb.

 

 

 Day Two: Carlingford and Titanic Belfast

flagstaff-viewpoint-co-carlingford

On our way north, we stopped for a walk around a small, charming town called Carlingford before hitting Flagstaff Viewpoint, “the most beautiful view in eastern Ireland“. The glacial fjord below, Carlingford Lough, separates County Louth in the Republic of Ireland from County Down in Northern Ireland. The bright yellow gorse was in abundant bloom in the hills all around us, but don’t be tempted to stick your face in it. Brian braved its sharp spines to pluck a flower for me to smell, which promptly blew away in the fierce winds whipping us at the top of the viewpoint. I love that guy.

 

flagstaff-viewpoint-gorse

Belfast probably deserved a day all on its own, but we were in a hurry to put some miles under us. We stopped at Titanic Belfast for what we thought would be a reasonably quick and pleasant museum experience, but were blown away by the size and quality of the exhibits. There’s a reason it’s £17.50 per ticket, and that reason is big. fancy. museum. I suppose that’s appropriate for the big fancy boat that was a point of Belfast pride over a century ago. They purposely leave out gory details about the sinking, but answer every question you never had about industrial Belfast, building the Titanic, and the aftermath.

 

dark-hedges

Heading inland and north, we hit the Dark Hedges around sunset. This beech tree-lined road is famous for being beautifully spooky and was apparently recently used for scenes in Game of Thrones. We didn’t see any ghosts, but the area was definitely haunted by other tourists.

 

Day Three: Antrim Coast and Giant’s Causeway

antrim-coast-kinbane-castle

Move over, Ring of Kerry! The Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland was one of the most beautiful drives of the whole trip. Our B&B host directed us to a small castle ruin on an outcropping of rocks. We were the only people there for most of the visit, and the drama of the sea crashing against the rocks was just dizzying. I can only imagine waking up there every morning in the small Kinbane Castle, safe within its defensive walls, isolated in your tiny community, surrounded by one of the most stunning views in the world. Dreaming of the day that you can leave the rock to pursue your own destiny, on the other side of the cliffs that protect you from the onslaught of the constantly invading English…

antrim-coast-kinbane2

Anyway, neither of us fell to our deaths walking along the narrow path to the tip of the outcropping, so that’s great. The climb back up the side of the cliff was a nice workout too (read: definitely not wheelchair accessible!).

antrim-coast-kinbane

The Giant’s Causeway was not the most breathtaking stop, but it was really fascinating seeing the neatly stacked hexagonal basalt columns jutting out into the sea. It’s easy to imagine why the formation, caused by an ancient volcanic eruption, was interpreted as the remnants of a bridge built by legendary giant, Fionn mac Cumhaill. The best part? Mac Cumhaill supposedly built the causeway just to kick a Scottish giant’s ass. METAL.

  • PRO TIP: Avoid the expensive Giant’s Causeway parking fees by parking at the Causeway Hotel next door and grabbing an affordable lunch in their restaurant. The brown bread or “wheaten bread” alone is worth the stop! Keep your receipt as validation and walk around the visitors center to access the Causeway.

 

co-antrim-giants-causeway

Bonus: we were surrounded by a bunch of Irish kids on a school trip, and hearing all these kids speaking with an Irish accent was adorbs.

We slipped into the city of Derry for a quick walking tour on our way through, though we weren’t extremely charmed by the city, whose history spoke of hundreds of years of Catholic and Protestant warfare. Just between you and me, we were happy to arrive again in the Republic of Ireland later that night. I guess there’s just something in the American spirit that resents British rule.

 

 

Day Four: Rathcroghan, Sligo, and Galway

co-roscommon-rathcroghan-medb-throneThe Rathcroghan Royal Site offered us quite an impressive museum experience in County Roscommon. We ate a tasty and inexpensive lunch at the attached cafe before viewing the interpretive exhibits. For a relatively tiny visitors center, I was surprised at how modern and engaging the materials were. A large timeline showcasing Irish archaeology and a life-size figure of an Iron Age warrior greeted us at the front, and there were supplemental videos and model artifacts from the neolithic and medieval times. I was for some reason irritated with Brian during this visit, and found it easy to channel the ferocity of the legendary Queen Medb (of Cattle Raid of Cooley fame). Brian took the opportunity to rock a Norman-style helmet that made him look like a cross between Darth Vader, a basset hound, and a unicorn. HIGH FASHION.

 

rathcroghan-brian-norman-helmet

 

 

At Sligo Abbey in County Sligo you can walk through the ruins of a 13th century friary. It’s a great way to learn a little history and step back in time to when this small set of well-preserved ruins in the middle of the city were a majorly significant part of daily life in the area. Walking through the corridors and gazing into the small cemetery in the center, you can almost hear the whispers of past worshipers, long lost to history.

co-sligo-sligo-abbey

  • PRO TIP: If archaeology and history are your jams, consider getting an OPW card at the first national monument you visit. The Office of Public Works offers a one-year membership card that gets you into dozens of sites for just 25 euro. Admission for most sites is between 4 and 10 euro, so if you’re planning on visiting lots of ruins and museums, this can easily pay for itself. Check out this site for more info. Do note that this is only for use in the Republic of Ireland, as sites in Northern Ireland are often maintained by the UK’s National Trust.

galway-streets

We spent the evening in Galway, one of the country’s larger cities, and a college town with a very lively vibe. In the Latin quarter we probably passed three different groups of street musicians, ate dinner at a funky hole-in-the-wall pie place, and took in a local comedy showcase at a bar. I could definitely spend more time in this town.

 

 

Day Five: The Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle

cliffs-moher

The first thing we did today was drive through the Burren, an area of Ireland known for its unusual ability to support plant life from a surprising range of ecological environments. Its rolling hills and giant veins of limestone offer a strange, barren loveliness to the area. You might tour the blackness of the Ailwee Cave on your way through to get a little geology fix, but for us that was secondary to the Burren Birds of Prey Center. I’m such a sucker for birds the closest living relatives to dinosaurs, and seeing so many of these gorgeous creatures up close, plus a flying demonstration, was a highlight of my day. A local chocolatier, Hazel Mountain Chocolate, was well worth the short and decadent stop.

selfie-cliffs-moherThe Cliffs of Moher are one of the most famous sights in Ireland, and for good reason. Their height and drama can’t be fully appreciated from photographs, and no matter the weather it’s hard to ignore their magnetic draw. The sky was cloudy and growing dark when we visited, lending a brooding aspect to the jagged cliff face. As it started to rain, the more distant outcroppings of cliff were slowly masked by layers of pale mist. Yes, it’s a highly touristy area. No, don’t miss it.

  • PRO TIP: Dress warm for the Cliffs of Moher. Or any other windy stretch of stunning coast. I was wearing thin tights under my jeans and multiple layers of sweater and jacket, which really allowed me to comfortably enjoy the cliffs. We saw a few chicks without jackets (haha, because teenagers are like that) who looked absolutely miserable. This was April. Ireland is cold, y’all.

 

double-rainbow

Driving away from the wet coast, we were treated to not just ONE rainbow, but a sick DOUBLE RAINBOW ALL ACROSS THE SKY. We didn’t have time to hunt for the pot of gold at the end, so somewhere out there is a very lucky leprechaun.

co-clare-bunratty-exteriorOur last event of the day was a trip to Bunratty Castle for the famous castle banquet dinner. I hate to say it, but this was easily our biggest regret of the trip! We booked two tickets last minute after reading absolutely amazing reviews on Tripadvisor and other blog sites. I won’t go into detail on why this evening was so regretful, but if you’d like more information you can read my Tripadvisor review here. Bottom line, it was insanely expensive for the mediocre quality of the experience. The upswing was getting to spend the evening in a castle built by my distant ancestors, the MacNamara clan. I imagine that visiting the site during the day would be much more enjoyable.

 

 

Day Six: Tralee, Conor Pass, and Peddlers Lake

co-kerry-conor-pass

Tralee is the largest town in County Kerry, and home to the extremely informative Kerry County Museum, which walks you through Ireland’s history from prehistoric to modern times. A breath of fresh air for us history-lovers after the crappy experience at Bunratty! Did I mention that the downstairs features a “medieval experience” in the form of a reconstruction of 1450s life in Tralee? Populated with dozens of creepy life-sized figures? Awesome. Nearby Quinlan’s Seafood Bar is a local chain serving fresh tasty fish options. So much more than fish and chips!

 

co-kerry-conor-pass2

On our way to the Dingle Peninsula we decided to take the scenic route through Conor Pass. This is a route the tour buses aren’t allowed to take, and for good reason. The road narrows at times to one vehicle’s width, and a misnavigation of the blind turns could send you plummeting down the steep side of the hill into the valley below. The view from the top is stunning in every direction, and at one point we watched the thick fog of a cloud roll over the hilltop beside us.

co-kerry-peddlers-lake

There’s a pulloff and picnic table next to a small waterfall halfway through Conor Pass. If the weather is nice, climb the rocky hillside next to the waterfall. After five or ten minutes of playing mountain goat you’ll find the hill flattens out into a large open area. You’ve arrived at Peddlers Lake. We spent probably half an hour? an hour? wandering around up here, stepping around puddles, inspecting the purple and greenish stones underfoot, watching sheep lazily climb the rocky cliffsides, and enjoying the full still and quiet of the deserted heights. I could easily spend all day up there.

sheep-skeletonIt started to rain, and we paid respects to the bones of a decayed sheep before scrambling back down the slippery stone hillside. On to the Dingle Peninsula!

So finishes the first half of our Ireland roadtrip! Next week I’ll share the second half of our journey. Have you ever visited Ireland? Or is it on your bucket list?

Tips for a Successful Public Art Project

Hey lovelies! If you’re reading this, I would already bet you’re a person gifted with some degree of creative energy. The real question is, do your ideas ever see the light of day? Do they have the opportunity to bring joy to other humans? If you’re shy about publishing your own art into the world but have a desire to make the world a more beautiful place, you might consider organizing a public art project!

 

Tips for a Successful Public Art Project Feature

 

There are lots of situations where a public art project might be appropriate. Any event with a focus on community or art brings potential participants! Music festivals, college campuses, classrooms, and special interest conventions are all possible venues. I recently attended a small Burning Man-inspired festival in Switzerland, and a week before the event they sent out a last minute email looking for more art grant proposals. In the Burning spirit of participation I decided to bring a public art project of my own, and learned a lot in the process:

 

Plans for a public art project.

Planning It Out:

  • Plan your project with priorities in mind! If you’re shooting for maximum participation from the public, then make sure you’re offering people an activity that’s fun, easy, and fast. Does the event you’re attending have a theme? People are more willing to get involved when your project has a thematic link or deeper meaning connected to the event.

    My priorities for this project: high rate of audience participation, easy maintenance and clean-up, and low cost of materials. I also wanted to incorporate the snow and ice theme of the festival. I settled on stitching together a simple “snowflake quilt”, inviting participants to decorate scraps of fabric with snowflake designs, then attaching them together into a wall of snowflakes.

  • Do your research! Ask the event coordinators for approximate attendance numbers. Think critically about the logistics of your project: Will you have access to water? Will spray paint work at that temperature? Are these materials able to be burned without exposing everyone to carcinogens? You know, important stuff. Once you have the logistics worked out, shop around for materials early. You’ll want to test out your methods and make sure you’re able to achieve the effect you’re looking for.

    By the time I presented my project to other people, I’d already played around with the dilution ratio of the paint and done a handful of test snowflakes. I was lucky enough to have one of my bestest friends working with me on this project, and he pointed out that no one was going to take the time to actually sew their snowflakes to the quilt. Chase, you were right. Thank goodness we brought staples and safety pins!

  • Keep organized. If you’re receiving any sort of grant or reimbursement, it’s especially important to save your receipts. Even if you’re not being repaid, looking back at financial records can be useful in planning future projects.  Write notes where something might need explanation.

    Keeping my receipts in order not only helped me to stay within my budget, but ensured that I was promptly reimbursed for my expenses. Ka-ching!

 

Public art project in progress!

Once you get to the event and get set up, you might feel like your work is almost finished. It might be! But it’s probably not…

Executing Your Public Art Project:

  • Advertise and engage. If you want a high rate of artist participation, you have to attract people to it! Hang signs in high traffic locations directing people toward your project area. See if there’s a publicly posted schedule of events that you can be added to. Drag people kicking and screaming to come do arts and crafts! Because it’s fun, damnit.

    I spent a good part of the festival intermittently maintaining my art station and coercing strangers into making snowflakes. It was awesome. Random passersby were suddenly targets potential artists, and in the course of their artistic expression we chatted and got to know each other. Five minutes later when they left, I had another snowflake and a new friend.

  • Give people a reason to care! Your enthusiasm is going to be a big selling point here. Make your project enjoyable, and give participants something to feel good about. Explain the thought process behind your idea, and ask others for their interpretation of it. Praise and thank your artists for contributing.

    If all else fails, announcing that the project will be set on fire upon completion can really inspire people to be creative! Many of the attendees at this event were die-hard Burning Man enthusiasts, so the fact that we were going to set the whole thing ablaze really sparked some public interest.

  • Do it for your own reasons. As hard as it is to hear, not everyone is going to be as excited about your project as you are. Don’t get discouraged! Remind yourself of why this is worth it to you, and focus on the people who do decide to participate and join in the fun.

    I would have loved to have twice as many snowflakes as we ended up with, but I’m really pleased with the results of this art project. It was a great way to bring a little art and lightheartedness into people’s weekend, and I have fond memories of the poetic interpretations and appreciative comments people shared with me. Hearing the cheers when the whole snowflake quilt went up in flames was pretty badass too.

  • Take pictures, damnit! This one is obvious, but don’t get so caught up in the moment that you forget to document your success!

    I was so busy tending to my project that before I knew it, it was all over! And I had only taken one picture of the snowflake quilt… When it was only about a quarter done. D’oh! In any case, this gives you a glimpse of the final product, but since it was all burned anyway, maybe it’s appropriate that there aren’t more photos. It’s as if the quilt just melted out of existence. In a giant fireball.

Snowflake Quilt public art project in progress.

Well, there was my first public art project! Now what are you going to do to make the world a more artistic place? Or maybe you’ve organized your own project like this? Tell me about it in the comments.

xo- Kat

Changing Habits & Losing Weight Without Trying

Changing Habits & Losing Weight Without Trying

Note: This post isn’t intended to endorse body-shaming in myself or in others. It’s meant as an honest look
at the role habits play in the formation and dissolution of fat tissue in my own body.

 

Holy crap, I’ve lost some weight!
That’s the good news.

Holy crap, I’ve eaten half of a chocolate Easter bunny in one day!
That’s the bad news… but it’s also a perfect jumping off point for us to take a look at the way habits can cause changes in your life without you even noticing.

lemons in water

And THAT’S how you make lemons into lemonade.

 

When I left Alaska at the end of July 2015, I was in pretty decent shape and happily following a relatively structured and successful health regimen, which included regular pole classes and thoughtful eating habits. I probably weighed around 130 lbs and was in the process of building muscle due to hauling myself up the pole.

Then we moved.

A mountain of fried German food from a local restaurant. How to GAIN weight without trying!

An extreme, but totally real example of some of the local food in the area! We haven’t been back since, but we might keep it in mind as a way to impress/horrify our next houseguests.

 

 

Gaining Weight Without Realizing

When we first arrived in Germany, I was overwhelmed at the changes: language, lifestyle, food, routine. We were living in a guesthouse and spending all our free time searching for a place to live and vehicles to purchase, and I spent some lonely days obsessing over classifieds sites while Brian was at work, only to end up frustrated and frazzled. We ate out often and I kept mostly to myself.

It was a seriously surreal period in my life, and by the time I realized it WAS my life, and not some strange vacation or dream to wake up from, over six weeks had passed, and I’d gained about twenty pounds thanks (probably) to:

  • high cortisol levels,
  • constant restaurant visits, and
  • a complete lack of deliberately balanced food choices. Oops. And ugh.

 

Losing Weight Without Trying!

I was recently lucky enough to spend the last month or so with one of my bestest friends from home, and during this time we did a good bit of traveling together. We visited Berlin for almost a week, and spent time in Switzerland for a long weekend of camping with some lovely hippies (awesome!). By the time my friend was on a plane, I was weighing in at ten pounds lighter than I was when he got there. This prompted me to really think about what I was doing differently in those four weeks, which boils down to:

  • my friend having really healthy eating habits,
  • me not wanting to eat junkfood in front of him,
  • us both being on a tight budget, and
  • lots and lots of walking!
Crosswalk Light Ampellman in Berlin

Who is that, protecting us from traffic on our walk? Why, it’s Berlin’s own cheerful Ampellman!

 

My friend is one of those lucky, lucky freaks who either has amazing willpower or must have grown up with a really healthy diet. He’s naturally fit, and very rarely eats junkfood. He rarely even wants it, and I have to admit being embarrassed to eat crap food in front of him. Hooray for positive peer pressure! Us both being on a tight budget during our travels led to us being picky about our consumables, and we wound up splitting meals, skipping that last round of drinks, and deciding against buying food when we weren’t actually hungry. It may not be the most luxurious way to travel, but we never starved and I liked seeing the number on the scale at home.

Lastly, when we were on the road (or rather, after the lengthy driving parts), we were staying very active. We traipsed all around downtown Amsterdam, we wandered around all day and danced all night while camping in Switzerland, and we walked through the whole city of Berlin – after the two and a half hour walking tour. Walking through an unfamiliar city is both my favorite way to explore a new place, and THE least painful way to exercise. Bonus points for that!

 

Now that we’ve identified some of the ways external stimuli can affect weight change, there’s got to be a way to use this info to our advantage in the everyday. Check back for the followup post soon!

Have any of you noticed patterns that cause your weight to fluctuate? How have you taken control of your eating habits when life throws a curveball? Am I the only one who thinks Ampellman up there is super cute?

Do You Prefer Male or Female Leads in Film? Why It Matters

Do you prefer male or female leads in film? Why it matters.

This is the question posed by my cousin Joey, looking for info to support his freshman-level university English paper. His request, posted on Facebook, boiled down to, “I need a simple favor from all of you, please comment below on whether you prefer movies with a male or female lead, and why.”

I thought a lot about this, and as much as I wanted to answer that I didn’t care about the gender of a movie’s main character, I realize that I do.

It feels like script writers are told to start their stories with a default character: Conventionally Attractive White Heteronormative Male (CAWHM). They then proceed to write this character into the same adventures over and over again, Curious George style: CAWHM Gets the Girl, CAWHM Battles the Foreigners.

CAWHM and the sports match

Now if we accept Christopher Booker’s thesis that every story falls into one of seven archetypal plots, we can’t blame Hollywood for cranking out so many similar movies, BUT why not at least change up the main characters to make the movie a little different?

Tarantino’s the Hateful Eight did this successfully in writing one main female character, the criminal Daisy Domergue. This character easily could have been written as a male, or as a stereotypically fragile female, but instead we’re treated to an uncomfortably rough and vicious female who’s handled with none of the special treatment usually reserved for the gentler sex. It’s a gruesome pleasure to behold.

Daisy Domergue as strong female lead, image courtesy of HighSnobiety
Daisy Domergue, a stunning female lead character.

Surprisingly, even films with a female lead can perform questionably well on the feminist front, as evidenced by conversations as to whether films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens or” Jurassic World pass the shockingly simple Bechdel-Wallace test (worth looking into if you’re interested in gender in film). With an eye on Jurassic World in particular, it’s obvious that having a female lead isn’t enough to give a film a gold star for championing equality in gender representation. The hope is that the more women are written into lead roles, the better chances we have at achieving strong and healthy female characters in mainstream popular culture.

My fingers are crossed that western culture could be heading in the right direction in representing females and ethnic minorities in the entertainment industry (anyone else excited to see Hermione cast as a black woman?). We’re finally seeing a rise in gender and ethnic diversity in television shows, but for some reason, tokenism is still the order of the day in the film industry. In a country where millions of Americans do not fit the CAWHM archetype, many films still present a paradoxical universe where every main character knows multiple minorities, but never actually IS a minority.

I don’t know which is more insulting, the idea that millions of people aren’t having their point of view acknowledged and represented, or the fact that Hollywood doesn’t think that we, as viewers, are capable of enjoying a film about someone who doesn’t look like Chris Pratt. In any case, Hollywood is clearly happy to keep cranking out movies with the same style of protagonist if it’s all the same to us. In light of this, I have to say I prefer films with female leads.

TL;DR: Girls.

How about you? Do you prefer male or female leads in your films? Did people judge Jurassic World too harshly for its lukewarm heroine? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Fit & Flexy – Fitness & Measurements Baseline

Baseline Weight Loss Feature Image, Fit & Flexy Hey guys! Finally saw my first snow in Germany! In January! I had been operating under the mistaken assumption that since there was no snow at all in December, there would be no snow all year. Despite Brian’s repeated insistence to the contrary.

Anyway.

 

I know “fitness” or “weight loss” is at the top of a lot of people’s 2016 resolution list. Two weeks into the new year, memories of New Year’s festivities are starting to fade (assuming they weren’t already blacked out). Now is about the time of year when people start to give up on their New Year’s resolutions! Huzzah. What does that mean for your fitness goals?

Nothing. As a beast, you didn’t set “fitness” as a 2016 resolution, made to be broken like so many champagne flutes set on the edge of a table. As a beast, you realize that a successful relationship with your body is an ongoing, ever-adapting process. You’re in it for the long haul, and you’re looking for ways to make sustainable changes and set achievable goals.

But before we start kicking ass and taking names, we need to make sure we document our starting point. Changes in our body usually happen so slowly that we don’t realize they’re happening. Recording where we are at the start gives us something to compare our “now” to, which is crucial in both making sure we’re on the right track and keeping us motivated by making it easier to notice improvements.

Important!

If you’re looking to scale down or tone up, you might not be thrilled at the thought of taking photos of your “now” body. I completely understand the sentiment! The first step in the art of being a beast is being brave enough to face the world as it really is. These photos are just for you – you don’t actually have to share these photos with anyone unless you want to wave your “before and after” pictures in their face.

So take a minute to grab your camera and put on your best “I’m awesome” face.

 

Since I started this blog in part as a way to document my progress and keep myself accountable to my goals, without further ado, here are my “before” photos, along with current relevant measurements. The worst that can come from this is I embarrass myself in front of the whole internet:

  • Waist measurement, at the narrowest point: 29 inches
  • Thigh measurement, at the voluptuous-est point: 24 inches
  • Weight: 150 pounds

Front and side views:

Baseline Weight Loss Front, Fit & Flexy Before
Boom.
Baseline Weight Loss Side View, Fit & Flexy Before
And boom.

I’ll be sharing my flexibility baseline images and personal fitness goals soon, along with my plan for making sustainable changes to help me reach those goals.

Has anyone else made a commitment to taking better care of their bodies? What tools do you use to keep yourself accountable? Do you have “before” pictures you want to share? Let me know in the comments and I’ll check it out!

Lurve,

Kat

Baseline Weight Loss, Fit & Flexy
Remember- don’t take yourself too seriously! That’s how you start dying.

No Sew Straptastic Exercise Top DIY

Straptastic Tank Feature ImageHey ladies! Looking for a quick way to spice up your normal workout gear or add some drama to your summerwear? This project is super quick and easy, not to mention totally customizable. What’s not to love?

Side note- sorry for the lousy quality of the pictures! Does anyone else decide to start projects in the middle of the night when it’s dark out?

Materials:
T-shirt or tank, mostly cotton (mine was 95% cotton)
Sharp, decent-quality scissors
Straight edge, like a ruler or piece of cardboard

That’s it! Let’s begin.

 

1. Lay your shirt out flat to plan out your design. Think about the shapes you want to create before you start. Trying on the shirt at this stage will help you figure out where you want to cut your straps. In my case, I knew I was planning to wear a sports bra under the shirt, so that influenced where I decided to cut it. Think about how revealing or conservative you’d like the shirt to be and whether it bothers you to have bra straps showing when you’re planning your cuts!

2. Fold your shirt from front to back, so the side seam is in the center of the front and back. Line up the front and back of the shirt as best as you can for a symmetrical design.

Step One
Tank folded in half.

3. Cut even strips across the fold on the back. Here I chose to strap the whole back of the shirt at the same width. You can use your straight edge to guide your cuts or you can eyeball it like I did.

Step Two
Eyeballing. Half the time it works perfectly!

4. When you’re done with that, reorient the shirt so that you’re looking at the back, and gently stretch each cut strap from one side to the other. This will cause the fabric to roll up and become thin, creating the desired gaps in the fabric.

Step Three
After pulling the straps width-wise to cause them to curl up.

5. Stop here if you’d like, or move on to the shirt’s front. Put on the shirt again to plan where you’d like to create the straps. You can see in the picture where I used a neodymium magnet on the inside and outside of the shirt to mark how far up I planned to cut!

Step Four
Top highlight: the text from the printed tag rolled outward and is visible on the back! Left highlight: I used neodymium magnets to mark where to cut to for my front design.

6. You can also use your straight edge to guide your cuts into a diagonal shape. Follow the same process you did before to cut and stretch your straps.

Step Five
Using a straight edge to guide my cuts on the front.

From here you can either use your shirt as is, or weave the straps to achieve a different look. There are tons of cool ideas online to modify this project! You can even cut straps into your sleeves and leggings if you so desire. One thing to watch out for when planning your cuts is the clothing’s labels. You can see in the photos above where I cut through the printed label on the top. The fabric decided to roll outward so that the print is visible on the back of the shirt. Once you’re wearing the shirt the print isn’t extremely obvious, so it’s not a deal breaker for me, just definitely something to think about for future projects.

 

shredded-tank-frontshredded-tank-sideshredded-tank-back

 

I love the edgy feeling that the straps give to this shirt. Anything that helps me feel ferocious and powerful gives me a boost during pole! Have any of you cut saucy straps into your clothes before? Or have you tried a no-sew DIY project to spice up something else around the house?

-Kat

Waking the Sleeping Beast – DreamyBeast & Life Design

Hey! Welcome to DreamyBeast, where we discover together how to design the life we want. I’m Kat, and…

 

Five months ago I did the riskiest thing I’ve ever done.

Five months ago I gave up the life I’d always known in interior Alaska to follow a boy to Germany. For keeps. Ish. This was a risky decision because:

  1. my family and all my friends are on the other side of the world,
  2. my job prospects here are, upon first glance, extremely grim,
  3. I speak German like a very young and confused child, and
  4. at the moment, I don’t have the safety net of a university to guide me through the seasons and tell me I’m working toward something worthwhile.

So why did I say bis später to everything I’ve ever known? I think it ultimately boils down to:

I’m more curious than I am smart.

“I bet everything will go great!” she vaguely guessed, right before the move.

 

My move to the other side of the world has been rougher sailing than I expected, for a multitude of reasons. Luckily, I’m absolutely determined to adapt to my unique situation!

Adapting to my new situation will require exploration, understanding, and real discipline if I want to design and live a life I’m proud of. I don’t have the same infrastructure of responsibilities to cling to that I had at home. I have a chance to build a new version of my life from the ground up.

Clean slate.

Fresh start.

Start thriving.

No pressure. Right?

 

But here’s the thing:

You don’t have to move to the other side of the world to give yourself a fresh start.

Join me in exploring how to use prioritization and goal setting to design badass lives that bring us what we want most out of life. Let’s bring our dreams out of the clouds and into reality. Let’s make the most of today, while focusing on make tomorrow even better.

Check out the links at the top for a breakdown of my current priorities and projects:
design
travel
fitness
learning

Stick around for tips on mastering the transition from floating through life… to being a proactive beast of a human. It’s going to be fun, and it’s going to be personal. Also probably weird. And I’ll probably curse. Again.

This adventure is more fun with you!

Have you ever undergone a massive, crazy life change, or taken a leap of faith without knowing what would come next? How have you started to design the life you want to live? Do we have any priorities in common? Let me know in the comments!

-Kat