Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Small Peek Back at 2013

Facebook has been offering a review of the highlights of your life in 2013. I took a look back at these so-called highlights and among them were these few triumphs...

I looked through these apparent highlights - granted, leaving my job after 3 and a half years, graduating college, and starting 3 new jobs were all highlighted as well - and felt like they didn't really do much justice to 2013. Yeah, straight hair is exciting. My sarcasm, though obviously brilliant, isn't really anything new. Me being mistaken for about 8 years younger than I am is whatever. People do that everyday, I just don't usually get it to my face. Graduating college was a big highlight, but not really one that I have much to say about (other than YIPPEEEE). My jobs have been great experience and I could write a novel about them all, but I won't. That would be boring. And those experiences are really deeply personal - it's not really something that I would consider a "highlight", but rather a profoundly beautiful and life changing experience. Leaving my job - my work family - after nearly three and a half years was difficult. (I blogged about it here.) I still look back on that and wonder if I made the right decision. Instead, I want to share a few highlights that I have something to say about - something that when I think of 2013, this is what I will remember.

I studied abroad in Paris for May Term. I will not pretend that I loved the experience or anything. In fact, it was dreadful. I spent all of my savings on it and the program was terrible. The professor was awful. The place where we lived was out in the suburbs and inconvenient. Half of the girls on the trip turned on me like high school-ers over a boy that I wasn't even trying to get (I had a perfect boyfriend at home, thanks). I hated it. But, that being said, it isn't something that I would retract if I could. I made friends with two girls (one of them being the girl who actually was trying to get the boy) who I still hang out with back in America (not as much as I'd like to) and who are both really, truly amazing. It's strange that three people fit together that perfectly.

While in Paris I got to meet up with my old friend Alexandre, an exchange student that we hosted back in '09. It was surreal. We hadn't seen each other in 4 years, but we met up and it was like nothing had changed. We were both exactly the same and it was like being 16 again. After Paris, I went to Geneva and hung out with my friend Jojo for a few days. My family also hosted JoJo as an exchange student, back in '10. I had been able to see him when I backpacked Europe in '11, and it was great to see him again. He was so much more mature. With him, things were different. But we still acted like fools, exploring the mountains, whizzing around Geneva on his scooter, eating way too much ice cream.

After Geneva, I flew into London where I got to meet up with the lovely, beautiful Tori. She started commenting on my blog several months ago and when I mentioned that I was off to London, we joked about meeting up. And, in the end, it happened! We spent the day checking out flea markets, drinking tea, missing buses, and talking about, well, pretty much everything. Tori blogged about it here. (I'm the bad blogger who didn't blog about it or take photos.)

While I was in London, I bused out to the Norfolk to spend a few days in the countryside with my aunt and two of my cousins. I stayed up late watching bad British television shows with my cousin Dodie, I went shopping and to the movies with my cousin Millie, I took vodka shots at some bad house party with the both of them, I went to an old workhouse museum with my aunt and had elderberry pop (weird!). It was 4 days of bonding with family who I know very little of, who I've only met a few times before. It made me feel like the absolute luckiest girl in the world.

In March, I lost my best friend of the past 10 years. This was the hardest part of 2013, and it's not something that I look back on happily, but rather with heartbreak. I was in the park a couple of nights ago and a pug named Oscar was out for a walk with his owner. As I was talking to the owner and petting Oscar, I was overcome with this huge feeling of home. I realised it was because petting Oscar felt just like petting Moses. It felt like home. Home just isn't the same without Moses trotting around in the kitchen, huffing and puffing, licking everything up, falling over with excitement every time someone came through the door. I miss the little guy everyday. I blogged about him here.

I'll look back on 2013 as the year that I met Jesse, my boyfriend. Although he's very sick right now and I'm not sure how much longer he'll be in my life, I will look at 2013 and remember his love. This was the first time in my life that I was loved properly and the first time that I realised what it was like to be with someone who treats you with respect and cherishes all of your qualities, even the bad ones. I love him very much and I hope that 2014 will give him good health so that we can spend it together, going on more adventures and laughing together like we used to.

2013 has had its ups and its downs, maybe more so than other years. Usually I can look back on years and remember them as very happy times in my life, or very bad times in my life. 2013 is different. I look back on it and I have known the most heartbreak I've felt in years, but I also have known the deepest love that I've felt ever. I have high hopes of 2014 as being a year of firsts: my first real job, my first very own apartment, my first car, my first very own dog. I have no regrets in 2013, and hope that 2014 brings very few, also.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

After Christmas

After Christmas is always such a weird time. It's like this in-between, let down period of time where everything is very surreal. The Christmas tree is still up, along with all the other decorations, but the day you've been waiting for is over. All of the parties and festivities and special Christmas exhibits at the museums are finishing up. People will have lights on their houses until April when it finally gets warm enough to take them down. All the ugly Christmas sweaters at thrift stores and vintage stores are put back into storage. Window displays of Santas are taken down. All of this pent up excitement and anticipation just kind of combusts into nothing. It's such a weird feeling. I don't really remember it as a child. Perhaps Christmas day was more fulfilling when I was younger - a day of endless sweets, fattening food, and piles of bows and wrapping paper. These days, Christmas day is hardly exciting. I prefer advent, and Christmas Eve is probably the most exciting part of the season. So when you are no longer counting down to anything, and when Christmas Day lacks the grandeur that it once did, the whole thing finishes in, well, nothing.

That being said, Christmas wasn't bad. There were my usual favourite dishes, like cheesy potatoes. I made fudge - and this time included peppermint marshmallows. I watched It's a Wonderful Life (my favourite Christmas movie). I gave presents and received presents - and they were all good. My dad gave me a lava lamp and a tea infuser. My mom gave me snowman socks and some bath salts (like the kind you put in a tub, not the synthetic drug - what kind of people do you think my parents are?). It was a good day. I was surrounded by my usual, small family. This year, my sister was missing because she moved across country, as well as my boyfriend because he's been very sick for the past few months. But even so, it didn't really feel like anyone was missing. Christmas day just wasn't magical like I always remember it to be as a child. Instead, the leading up to Christmas is magical, something that wasn't when I was younger. It's a trade-off. It's a trade-off with an unsettling ending.

I'm transitioning back into my work wardrobe. After a couple of weeks of wearing old jeans and sweaters and my Doc Martens, I'll be heading back to my internship. I've been trying to wear dresses and proper boots and carry my briefcase and things like that - things that a young professional would do. Today I wore this dress that an old friend's mom gave me. It's from Forever 21, where I wouldn't normally shop (overwhelming!), but it's very beautiful and has a very nice fit. I'm not much for florals, but it's professional. It's like, you know, young hip creative professional. Not stodgy old boring professional. I wear this all the time with my cardigan from The Loft (well, from the second hand store, technically), but I'm thinking I might put a blazer with it and see how that dresses it up more.

p.s. These boots have pretty much been my best friend this winter.

My day today was supposed to be spent tailoring my resume, writing cover letters, following up on jobs I've already applied for. It's surreal to think that I'm graduated and have no more homework, but trying to find a job is possibly even worse than homework. My entire future hangs on this, rather than just some grade that might affect my overall grade, which may affect my haggard and hopeless GPA.

I wish that I could go to all of these potential employers and just talk to them. I don't want a sheet of paper to represent me. It's hard to express my enthusiasm for a job without sounding fake. I worry that my lack of experience will overshadow any enthusiasm I might have - enthusiasm which they won't really capture unless they call me in for an interview, an interview that I probably won't even get based upon my experience. I've been reading so many self-help books and columns and chapters about how to get a job, but none of them are curbing my anxiety. And, furthermore, I don't even want to sit down and pound out cover letter after cover letter because they all sound so inauthentic and strange.

Obviously I am going to need to go to the coffee shop, get a chai, sit down, and make myself do them. I need cover-letter-writing discipline.

I'm off to bed before a long day of work tomorrow, and then play with my best friend! She's back from studying in Glasgow, but only for a few days before heading back - and boy, I've missed her! My best friend since the age of 4, and the person who knows me better than anyone else. It'll feel like home at last. Keep warm, my friends xx

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Decorating

I've been busy decorating the house for Christmas. Over the years, my family has built up a lot of Christmas decorations, many because of me, as you might imagine. One of my favourite parts of Christmas is decorating the tree - something that my mother assigns me to do as it's tedious and we have so many decorations - because it's like greeting all these tiny little memories year after year, displaying them and recounting them annually, then packing them away until the next merry December when you can take them back out and hold them like precious pieces of your life. A lot of the ornaments on the tree are hand made by my mother, aunt, grandmother, great aunts, and yes, even a few that my sister and I crafted. A tree wouldn't be complete without those glittery stars with pre-k photos pasted on them haphazardly.

I wanted to share some of my favourite ornaments and decorations on the blog. It's Christmas Eve and a good time to remember some of those little memories and take delight at the ornaments hung with care for a few weeks of the year. My family has collected some classic ornaments, some delightful ones, some pretty tacky ornaments, some that are only beautiful if you know the story behind them. I have several favourites that I hang each year - the tin man, the deer on the iced over pond, the Play-doh boy decorating his Play-doh tree, all of the Snoopy & Woodstock ones (we have 3!) - and it's nice to share those - and others - on the blog.

Okay okay okay, Gogo isn't a Christmas decoration, but he was a good little helper to have around!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Crafting

I've been busy getting ready for Christmas. I've spent the last three days in the kitchen, making candles (which, if you follow me on Twitter, you got live tweets of the exciting process) and assembling these water-less snow globes that have been all over Pinterest because Anthropologie was trying to sell them for way too much money and they're actually super easy (and cheap!) to DIY.

I don't have a lot of money (being an unpaid intern generally doesn't make you very rich) and so I decided to make presents this year instead of buying them. My aunt brought over a whole bunch of candle making goods for me and I bought some inexpensive wicks from Amazon. I bought inexpensive tins and jars from the thrift store and Michael's (which I am in absolutely no way endorsing considering that I hate hate HATE that store), so it was a very cheap project. I hadn't made candles since I was about 5 years old (isn't it funny that 15 years later, I'm still broke and making candles as gifts for Christmas?), and I had no recollection of how tedious of a process it really is. It takes forever to melt the wax, and then after you pour it it has to cool and settle for like 5 hours before you can do a second layer. I had to have a constant rotation of Christmas movies playing to keep me sane.

I made 4 different scents and colours. I started with blue (one of which I've already wrapped up and mailed off), which is supposed to be vanilla-sugar cookie scent, but I personally think it smells a bit berry-ish. I was melting down all different chunks of leftover wax, some of which may have been scented and thus tampered with the scent. The next day I made pink-red bayberry scented candles. I used two different brands of bayberry scent and so these ones are very strong and smell wonderful! Yesterday I tackled Christmas tree/pine scent, which was maybe not as powerful as I would have liked. The scent in the jar was very strong, but when I put it in the wax, it didn't really smell. Granted, I was trying to cover up the scent of Crayola crayons for all of these candles, so that might have had something to do with it. After my foray into pine scented candles, I still had a few more tins left, so I decided to make coffee-vanilla scent, which turned out pink and not very coffee-like.

While the long process of melting and cooling candle wax was under way, I was busy assembling some water-less snow globes! They're really easy to make and tutorials are all over Pinterest (shameless plug of my Christmas Cheer pin board, but I swear, I've pinned these babies like 20 times). I used jars that I picked up at the thrift store and my mum's cupboard (free!) and bought fake snow and little fake trees/bushes on Amazon.

I almost had a heart attack after hours of searching for tiny deer figurines on Amazon and having no luck, dreading that I'd have to make a trip to one of those horrid craft stores that make me want to become very angry and violent (yes, even at Christmastime), but when I mentioned the project to my mum she scurried to her closet and pulled out boxes and boxes of little deer. Some of them were these really sweet little wooden ones, and others were these horribly tacky plastic ones from the '60s. I painted those gold, which made them 100% less terrifying and tacky. In my mum's Christmas craft box, she also had loads of little ornaments and even a Santa and an elf which I glued to make it look like it was climbing up a tree. I stuck some little pine cones in there and some extra glitter and voila! Tiny winter wonderlands held captive in old canning jars. I used E6000 which is a crafter's delight and hopefully will keep all the little pieces glued down, even if they're being shipped cross-country.

These are super enjoyable to make and I am going to make a few more in the next couple of days. I'm feeling very crafty! I'm definitely going to keep my eyes peeled at garage sales this summer - people are always trying to sell old crafting bits and silly Christmas ornaments. I definitely want to make some wacky ones next year!

I have loads of photos of my Christmas tree/other Christmas decorating that I've been doing that I will share tomorrow - on Christmas Eve! In the meantime, I'd love to see what Christmas crafts you guys have been doing. Send me links to your blog or photos of your DIYs! Keep warm and keep crafting xx