Café Roundup #1


First Roundup! Instead of spamming social media with things I find, I’ll do a weekly post with some of the things that get tangled up in my brain. Or hair. Really, it has a mind of its own.

I’ve included in parentheses what kind of media the link takes you: articles or videos.

Need to kill some time? Enjoy!

Just” putting this up here. What we do and say is important in how we present ourselves to others.  How do you feel about this?(article)

A stationery vending machine. I would have a crazy little geeky breakdown there. If you live in Chicago, you must go there and tell me all about it so I can experience it from a distance (video).

One Book July 2015. Started in 2014, it’s a ‘test’ of your planner/journal/notebook setup. Can you use it for one month at its most basic? I’m trying this year (video). My setup is explained here.

Sherlock Holmes in info graphics (article).

The Circuit Marker, wow! I can’t wait to see what people do with these things (video).

Online paranoia about your pictures and data. Is it really paranoia? I for one, don’t like sharing images of my child outside of family and close friends. We live in an era of oversharing and we need to find where to draw our line. Because the Internet happens. When you least expect it.

When librarians went to war. Out of all my jobs, I’ve been a librarian longer than any other (10 years combined). Books are a vital part of my life and once EB  has started school I will find a way to be one again.
Have a great week everyone!

Caldo de Pollo

Do you remember that scene from “Kung Fu Panda” where the Goose says that they’re “noodle people. Broth runs in our veins”?

Growing up, we weren’t noodle people, but broth did indeed run through our veins. We…are Soup People. 

If you type “Caldo de pollo” in a search engine, you will get many variations on this dish.  It’s a popular comfort food, and as such, there are as many ways of making this as there are people who love eating it. The one I’m sharing here is the one I grew up with and there are not enough words to describe how much I love a bowl of Caldo. I make it when it’s cold, when its snowy, when any of us is feeling sick. It’s a permanent addition to our menu planning. 

I apologize for the lack of measurements in this recipe, but the amounts really depend on what you want to put in your bowl. Usually, I chop everything up and put it on the table, then let everybody mix their own and ladle on the broth. Also, after the initial bowl, I leave the pot of broth on a low simmer so it stays nice and hot for those who want seconds. 

I would recommend using a soup bowl that is slightly larger than the average.

  
THE BITS AND PIECES

  • Chicken broth (homemade, store-bought, your choice. Sometimes you’re in a rush). 
  • Cooked rice (white or brown, your pick).
  • Cooked chicken, shredded (a rotisserie chicken will do on busy nights). 

All of the following are optional garnishes. Mix and match to your heart’s content:

  • Tomato, finely diced.
  • Onions, finely chopped. 
  • Cilantro, chopped.
  • Lime juice.
  • Avocado. 
  • Chile piquín or diced chiles. 
  • Salsa. 

HOW TO

  1. Bring broth up to a boil.
  2. In a large soup bowl, add about two scoops of rice.
  3. Add shredded chicken, plus your garnishes.
  4. Pour hot broth on top of the whole thing.
  5. Season to taste.
  6. ENJOY!!

NOTES

  • Because the garnish ingredients are cooler, your broth should be really hot, almost boiling when you pour it on top. Be careful with that first spoonful!
  • I have a friend who is allergic to chicken. This soup will work with turkey too (holiday leftovers! Yay!). 

One Book July 2015

I found out about it while watching a video by Mylifemitts

The challenge: one book, one pen, one month. There are addendums, but those are the basics. You can follow the links above for more in depth information. 

So I’ll be doing a month-long test of my Hobodori to see how it runs. 

The Book: as described in my previous post, a Hobonichi and Midori mix composed of three sections. 

  
The Avec for a planner, sketchbook, journal, etc. 

A Moleskine cahier as a food log. I keep it separate from my journal, because while dealing with gestational diabetes, I had to keep a very strict log of everything I ate and the log would be reviewed and photocopied every appointment. I’m trying to get my health in check, so I’m starting a log in the same fashion I used then.  

One more Moleskine cahier for writing. I need to get back into storytelling and this will be my tool for the month. In my previous post, I was using the notebook that came with my cover, and while it’s a nice notebook, I really like the Moleskines. 

The Pen: Jetstream included with the Hobonichi. It has three colors: red, blue and black. 

  

And that’s about it! I’ll post any progress shots on Instagram (@cafenox). 

Have a great day!

The Hobodori 1.0

Disclaimer: None of the companies mentioned in this post are sponsoring me. They don’t even know who I am. The views and blunders are my own. Thank you. 

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If you’re in the planner universe, you’ll be used to all the funky names for planner combinations. The KikkiCondren, the Fauxdori, the Fauxbonichi, etc.

Meet the Hobodori. What in tarnation am I talking about?

A Hobonichi-Midori Travelers’ Notebook mashup (someone out there has a Midorichi).

My mind jumps around a lot, so bear with me.
It all started with this picture:

I’d decided not to buy materials to make a Fauxdori for the time being,  but I kept looking around at what other people where making, because I obsess about researching.

Thus, I found the Filodori (Filofax+Midori), clicked on the hashtag and my brain flipped a little. People where removing the binder rings from their Filofax covers, making holes on he cover (some adding eyelets), threading elastic string and voilá ….Midori cover.

It attracted me immediately for one very important reason: I’m very rough on the items I carry around. It just happens.
While the idea of a Fauxdori seemed interesting, I wasn’t sure how well the basic cover would hold up to me being me. But the idea of spending that much on a ring-bound planner, to then make holes in it wasn’t very exciting.

Much clicking of links took me to the Flexdori and it seemed a better solution. A basic notebook cover turned Midori cover using a plastic insert and elastic bands.
So, I looked up the Flex line at Filofax and boy is it expensive. Specially since the Flex are very limited in the U.S. store, so it would imply international shipping prices. Not to mention that their cheapest offering was in Magenta, which is happily tap dancing in my “oh, hell no” color list.

Back to the drawing board!

I started looking for other notebook covers, which could be sourced locally or nationally and in colors/designs that didn’t make me cringe.

I did think of Oberon designsI have bought two of their electronic covers in past years and not only are they gorgeous, they’ve put up with an awful lot of mistreatment from me and are still shining. I found a video where someone used an Oberon journal cover for their Hobonichi. I asked them about it and they were spot on with their answer: the cover button would get in the way. So, I moved on.
[Oberon designs does make some amazing covers in general and I heartily recommend them. I love mine. They just didn’t work for my purposes in this case. I did email them about Midori covers a while back and they seemed interested, so fingers crossed. How many times do you think I can type the word cover in a sentence?].

The search continued. And it somehow landed me on this post by Patrick Ng. The Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover looked like a promising idea. They have a new ‘model’ for this product, but I liked the original better.

I’ve enjoyed Kokuyo Campus products before. I own B5 and A5 binders by them and their filler paper is very good quality.

I wasn’t aware they sold a notebook cover, so I went looking for info on it, and I ordered one from JetPens. You can also purchase it through Amazon and other vendors.

The cover is offered in black/grey and red/grey in both A5 and B5. It is made of canvas, comes with one notebook (fits two Kokuyo Campus notebooks) and features two bookmarks, elastic closesure and the fabric layering on the outside creates pockets to store pens, papers, etc. on both sides.
I do have to warn you, that there is a bit of a smell to the cover and notebook when you pull them out of the wrapper. Plastic-y. I set them out on the counter overnight to air and it’s pretty much gone.


[Planner charm by LittleWitchHandmade]

The Kokuyo fits the Hobonichi like a glove. Right now I have the Avec, the included Campus notebook (for writing) and a Moleskine (food log) in it.

I tried doing a Flexdori type insert, but I think I need a sturdier material for it to be successful.  I will be trying again, once I can figure out what to use (I have a few ideas in the works). I don’t mind leaving the Moleskine loose for the time being. The notebook cover keeps everything tightly together once it’s closed. I’m not posting a picture of it, because I’m still playing with the design.

The cover does fit about four Moleskine if you’re thinking down the Midori road.


Have I considered making a Hobodori out of a Hobonichi cover? Yeeeees @_@

It will require saving many many pennies and waiting  until next year. If you try it out, do let me know how it works for you.

I haven’t worked too much with the Avec, because it isn’t July yet. I’ve entered birthdays, anniversaries, etc. So far I’m liking the paper and I think it’s going to work well for me. I have come to notice, though, just from writing things here and there, that grid paper is my friend and my next Moleskine cahier purchase will be in grids.

I tested out the multicolor pen that came with it on a sticky note. I’d forgotten how much I love Uni fine points and ink.


I also found some nice stickers at Michaels and couldn’t help myself. All planners need a sense of humor and what better way to decorate the inside cover of your planner, haha.


The Hobodori keeps on trucking and I’ll keep on working with it. Hopefully, version 1.0 will give way to a greater 2.0. I can tell you this…..planner peace is settling in.

Thanks for reading!

From the Archives – “Life in cooking”

I wrote this about ten years ago, while still single. It’s funny, reading it now, that I pondered children at the end. And now I have a bouncing Energizer Baby. 

  
I can’t exactly remember when I became interested in cooking. In one of her books, Stephanie Pearl-Mcphee says that she knit constantly around her daughters and one day they just picked up needles and gave it a try.

I think something like that must’ve happened while I was growing up. Cooking was a very important part of my family. Not to mention that in some cases, you were expected to cook, no choice about it. But more on that later.

There’s a very cute picture of me as a little girl sitting on the kitchen counter, in a cute little dress, stirring something in a bowl with a spoon. My guess….cookie dough. Or something yummy like that. I will be forever grateful for the fact that my mother got me involved in her daily cooking. I never had any fancy formal training for the kitchen. I just watched, practiced and learned.

One of the earliest memories of cooking I have comes from my Abuelita Tere, my paternal grandmother. Mom dropped me and big bro at her house so she could go work and we spent the morning being children, running around like crazy and all. I think I was around 7. At some point, Abuelita asked me to slice up some olives for her, as she started her afternoon cooking. She handed me a jar of olives and a sharp knife. No explanation whatsoever, just the need to have the olives sliced. I nicked myself so many times while slicing them that I lost count. Abuelita never took the knife away from me, just told me to “quit playing” and get the job done. Over the years, she would have other chores for me that involved me sticking my hands into near-boiling water, using sharp knives, etc. I’m sure that many people would consider that cruel nowadays. Personally, I loved it. Yeah, I might have complained, but man, those were good days.

She even taught me to bake bread. I can still picture her, measuring the ingredients – always by weight – the care with which she did everything. Her hands kneading the dough. To this day, I love the feel of my hands after I’m done kneading the dough. They remind me of her hands. The smell of bread rising. Of bread baking. That first bite into bread fresh out of the oven. I think anyone who was around her when she kneaded her dough can remember the sound. She also had a special wooden board she kneaded her dough on – made by my Abuelito -. That board is now cured with decades of oil. I love it.

As time went by, my mother started trusting me with more things around the kitchen. I went from mixing things in bowls, to decorating food, to preparing salads, to taking on the task of making the daily meal. As a teenage girl, it was a matter of infinite pride, being asked to make a meal to feed the whole family. I still love cooking with my mother. No matter how far away we are, or how many years have gone by. There’s nothing like being in the kitchen with my mother. Moving around, preparing ingredients, seasonings, the sounds and smells, the conversation, the bond between mother and daughter.

It is happening a lot that people don’t allow their children into the kitchen because “it’s dangerous”. I think this is sad.

Yes…..the kitchen can be dangerous. Heck, I once sliced the very tip of my left index finger off. It was left hanging and after the shock of it, I just flipped it back, waited until the bleeding stopped, iced it and bandaged it. I got a lime popsicle and sat in the kitchen, watching my mother cook. I was back in the kitchen the next day – would’ve been back the same day, but any pressure on my finger would re-open the wound).

ANYWAY…..yes. It can be dangerous. But dang it…….IT’S SO MUCH FUN. You’ll get your knicks, burns, etc. You’ll learn from your mistakes and keep at it. You’ll burn food, cook things that not even the family dog would eat, and learn from that as well. The art of cooking should not be lost. Not just because of how amazing it is to create something from scratch – probably the same reason I like knitting and crocheting -, but also for the pride of knowing you’ve created something to feed yourself and your loved ones. For the joy of knowing that what you’re putting into your body is nourishing and good.

It can also result in some very interesting moments when you’re teaching others to cook. I cook by intuition most of the time. I got my brother frustrated when he asked me how much salt to put in the picadillo and I just poured some in my hand and said “this much”.

I’ll never be a professional cook. I wouldn’t know the difference between haute cuisine ingredients even if they stared me in the eye and introduced themselves. But I like to think that I can cook well enough to feed my loved ones.

Someday, I’ll have children. And they’ll be more than welcome into the kitchen. The day my children leave home, they will receive a copy of the family recipes. By gosh, they’ll know how to feed themselves, even if all they have for a stove is a toaster oven or a microwave. 

Hobonichi Avec – unboxing and first impressions. 

Disclaimer: this is going to be an image heavy post. Also, the companies mentioned in this post are not sponsoring me. They don’t even know who I am. The views and blunders are my own. Thank you. 

All photos are © 2015, DianaQ/www.cafenox.org. The products are Hobonichi’s.

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After listening to customer feedback, the Hobonichi people released a split version of their planner for those who like the idea, but don’t want to carry a full sized planner/notebook around. It first came out for the 2015 edition.

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The Avec is split in two: January-June in one volume, July-December in another. The volumes have different color covers, and are printed with the year and the month range they contain. They are meant to be sold together, but for the rest of this year, they are allowing people to buy the second volume on its own.

This single volume was released on June 1st (evening of May 31st in the U.S.), is half the price of a full Hobonichi and if you’ve been interested in the full planner, but aren’t sure yet – like me – it’s a good way of testing the waters without committing full price.

I placed my order on May 31st and it arrived on June 9th – with a weekend in the middle – in case you’re wondering about travel times.

Now, let’s get onto the fun stuff.

UNBOXING

The Avec arrives in a sturdy box inside a mailing bag. There isn’t any padding inside the box, but everything is individually wrapped.


 

I ordered the Avec and the green template. The pen and tissue holder were added for free. From what I’ve seen in other reviews, these two seem to be often added to purchases. I wish I still had Japanese tissue, haha. I love their holders.

The pen is a tricolor (blue/black/red) fine point Uni and it has Hobonichi imprinted on the clip.

The template has useful checklist, numbers, arrows, etc to help plan. It also has a faint imprint of a grid that matches up with the grid paper in the book. This way, you can line everything up when using the template.

The package also contains a folded flyer with information about the Hobonichi. It’s in Japanese, so I can’t tell you what it says, but the reverse side has illustrations on a variety of daily activities to highlight the many things you can chronicle in your notebook. My son tried to help me with the flyer, hehe.

I’m a book sniffer. I couldn’t help myself. Smells good.

>_>
<_<

The full Hobonichi has monthly, weekly and daily sections. The Avec, however, doesn’t have the weekly section.

Now, let’s crack this open.

After the cover sheet, you have the current year on one page for quick reference and the previous and next year on the opposite page.

The next four pages are months at a glance. The first two have Jul-Dec 2015 and the next Jan-Jun 2016, so you can do  quick planning ahead. Saturdays are coded in grey, Sundays in red and Japanese holidays in pink. Each month has a 3 item checklist above and extra space below.

The month on two pages section follows right after. Same color coding for easy reference. Month number on the top left corner and in English just below. The layout also has a quick 5 item checklist for monthly goals on the left, plus blank space on the side and below for extra notes. Same color coding for weekends and holidays.

After the month sections, the daily pages come right up. Starting July 1st, all the way to December 31st. These are followed by blank grid pages for any subject you wish.

The following pages have specific subjects. If you live in Japan, you’ll find uses to all of the information. If you live elsewhere, they might be hit or miss.

First off, Anniversaries and Favorites.

Followed by Graph Paper and a Time Table.

Then a Gifts checklist and a Kanji writing primer.

I……don’t reay know about these. My Japanese is rusty at best.

Followed by Country codes and Conversion tables.

Followed by a breakdown on holidays and information about the notebook.

The holiday page includes a breakdown of the daily pages legend. Month/Day/moon phase. Under the moon phase is a day count for the year.

A memo page with address information for four people. Not sure about the opposite page.

Then personal information, plus the company’s information. All Hobonichi are number stamped on the inside back cover.

Let’s get a closer look at the daily page.

The daily pages are color coded by month. Everything on the daily page – grid, numbers, etc – for that month will be the same color.

Under the date, there is a column that goes from 6 am to 3 am, for you to log appointments (the English version of the Hobonichi only has noon printed along the column). Then, there’s a subtle solid line dividing the schedule from the rest of the page.

Next to the date, there’s a 5 item checklist, then all blank grid.

You can see how all the daily pages group nicely by month from the side.

FIRST IMPRESSION

I’m so used to how some popular planners are organized (monthly, weekly and daily layouts together), that it was odd to see the monthly and daily layouts grouped separately.

In many planners,keeping the layouts for each month together, results in wasted space when the last day(s) of a month fall midweek. Then you have a weekly spread that belongs to two months and usually ends up printed twice: one at the end of the previous month, then again at the beginning of the next month.

By keeping the layouts separately, space is well used, allowing the months and days to flow naturally. I haven’t seen the weekly layout, but I’m going to go out on a random limb and say that they flow as well (correct me if I’m wrong, please).

I’m not sure yet if I’ll miss the two page weekly layout, because I don’t have many appointments/meetings these days.   If you need this kind of layout to do your planning,  you’ll have to take that into consideration before purchasing. They do sell a weekly layout booklet you can carry along.

A few reviewers of the Avec combo make the point that if you put the regular Hobonichi next to the stacked Avec volumes, the split notebooks are thicker.  It’s not surprising, considering that there’s two extra cardboard covers in the middle to contend with.

I ordered the A5 Avec. If you’re unfamiliar with the A class paper sizes, an A5 is 5 3/4 in x 8 1/4 in, roughly half of a letter sized page. It is also offered in an A6 size, which is half of the A5.

I fell in love with both A5 and B5 (yet another class) paper sizes in Japan and I think this will be the perfect planner size for me. It is large enough for me to draw/plan, but not so large that it’ll be bulky in my purse.

I didn’t order a cover for the notebook because I wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not and I wanted to stay within my spending limit. I do have some version of a cover coming in the mail and I’ll do a post on it when it arrives about why I chose it instead. If I do end up loving the Hobonichi, I might go for an official cover when I order the 2016 planner.

The Hobonichi is renowned for its Tomoe River paper. It can take  almost any kind of ink, plus watercolors, markers and their cousins. I’m a ballpoint pen, Sharpie pen and colored pencil user and I’ll be putting the Tomoe to the test. I can tell you, that the paper feels good and smooth. I haven’t had much of a chance to doodle on it, so I can’t tell you more than this yet. I will continue playing around with it and once the cover arrives I will make an update post with all the information.

If you’re not sure what you’d use this notebook for, the Hobonichi website can help you with some ideas. You can also search #hobonichi on Intagram.

How much is the expense?  The notebook + green template + shipping and fees came up to 3943円. With the exchange rate for the day I placed the order, it was $31.89.

HOW CAN YOU ORDER AN AVEC?

First, go to the Hobonichi store and scroll to the bottom. The Avec is currently only available in Japanese. You will see both the single volume and the double volume listed. However, the double volume is the 2015 edition and the first half would be useless to you by now. New planners get listed in September, and you’d be able to buy the 2016 volume then.

Click on the Avec of your choice A6 (1188円) or A5 (2052円)

hobonichi avec 01

Once inside the product page, add your planner to the cart. When I ordered mine, there was a prompt, and I simply clicked OK.

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Once in your cart, you can click under English to change the language. If you’re done shopping, you can just keep going from here and finish. If you have more purchases to make (covers, accessories, etc), you can click in ‘continue shopping’.

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Now….I’ve had two things happen here: once it went into the English store and once it went into the Japanese store again. If the later happens, you can just change the language by clicking on the top left choice.

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And now I will go play with this planner. I’ll hopefully have an update for you soon!!

An edible sideline

I WAS going to try and make a Fauxdori, take pictures and do a post on the experience.

But then I saw this post by the Hobonichi People. It’s almost as if they’d read the previous blog about me wanting to hold and test one of their books, but not wanting to pay the whole price without being sure.
So a half of a Hobonichi, for roughly half the price of a full one is on its way to me and since I limit how much I spend per pay period, the Fauxdori will have to wait until another time.

So instead, a food sideline. But it’s related, I promise. In a very odd roundabout way.

When we were stationed in Okinawa, everybody and their brother told us to taste sushi. Good grief, it got annoying.
We’re not that big on fish, and while I did enjoy the occasional vegetarian roll, the truth is, we fell in love with other aspects of Japanese cuisine (noodles and Yakiniku being our favorite). We also enjoyed the foods that came to Japan from other countries, married into the local flavors and spun their own varieties. Like Japanese curry. So see, this post is related to the planners. The Hobonichi is a Japanese planner/notebook and here I am talking about Japanese food, you see? Right? right? No?….

Anyway. Food! Okinawa is considered the Hawaii of Japan, so not only do they get a lot of tourists from the main island, but also from other Asian countries. Add to that the thousands of American military, missionaries and other people who call Okinawa their home. We were actually introduced to Indian curry by a Hindu-owned curry restaurant on island. It’s no surprise, that so many food combinations have originated on that small piece of land floating in the sea.

Legend has it (a.k.a Wikipedia), that a chef at a local eatery wanted to add dishes to attract the Americans at nearby Camp Hansen in the 50s. So he played with the types of food they ate and came up with his own take on a Tex-Mex favorite. It has since been embraced by the entire island, the main island of Japan, the locals, military, and many more worldwide. It is present in Japanese school lunches, festivals, and homes. I still make it often. Ask any American military who has been there about it and we’ll get a happy little smile.

I’m talking about Taco Rice. It is extremely simple, extremely easy and extremely enjoyable.

What did the chef do? He took the Tex-Mex crunchy taco, took the crunchy tortilla out and substituted it with rice. Really. That’s it at its most basic form. And, while I cannot stand the crunchy taco, taco rice gets high marks in my book.

So, how do you make this Okinawan favorite?

THE BITS AND PIECES

  • Cooked rice.
  • 1-2 lbs. ground beef.
  • Shredded lettuce.
  • Diced tomato.
  • Chopped onions.
  • Shredded cheese (I like crumbled Queso Fresco).
  • Salsa (optional).
  • Sour Cream (optional).
  • Avocado (optional).
  • Your favorite seasonings (see Notes).

HOW TO

  1. Brown beef in skillet. Drain the fat and add your seasonings. Set aside.
  2. On a plate, spread about 1/2 to 1 cup of rice. Top with seasoned beef.
  3. Add your  favorite taco toppings.
  4. Enjoy!… you thought it was going to be harder than this? Sorry to disappoint you ~_^

NOTES:

  • I grew up in Mexico. I never heard about a “taco seasoning” until I came to the US. If you want to use a package of it, go right ahead. I usually go with salt and pepper, plus whatever strikes my fancy at the moment (though I admit to having used the red package from time to time when I’m short on time, always low sodium varieties and then add some extra spice).
  • Fish or chicken can be used instead of beef.
  • It is traditionally eaten with a spoon. I like to layer it out on a big ramen bowl, mix it up and dig in.
  • In some Japanese varieties, you can add a fried egg on top.

   

 

Planning, plotting and possibly scheming

…name the series and episode I’m paraphrasing in the title so I know you’re a geek too. Misery loves company. Shiny?

Disclaimer: None of the companies mentioned in this post are sponsoring me. They don’t even know who I am. The views and blunders are my own. Thank you. 

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Anyway…this is going to be a series of posts. Because I keep thinking of new things and shipping times vary.

I love paper. For years, I wrote everything longhand. Notes, letters, planner entries, stories, etc.

Then about ten years ago I got a Palm Zire and started doing all my planning there. A progression of portable electronics and the need to save space (we were living in Japan at the time) turned me into an electronic user almost 100%, with the exception of artwork.

But…I missed paper. So I’ve slowly started inviting it back into my life.

One of the things I wanted to try doing again, is using a paper planner. And the possibilities are endless.

My husband will be the first to tell you that I research things to exhaustion. Usually by the time I buy something I’ve investigated it for weeks.

But having a baby has removed some of my mental…shall we say, sharpness (a.k.a. I’m a walking zombie). So, to my surprise I found myself at the end of 2014 with three planners on the way via snail mail without my usual in-depth research: the Erin Condren life planner, the Passion Planner and the Plum Paper planner (links follow).

The Erin Condren arrived and the best way I can describe it is: pretty. It’s cute, colorful and has pre-printed inspiring quotes.
I disliked it immediately. I have no problem with color on a planner, per se. Color makes life fun. But if you throw too many colors on a page, it’s almost like typing a text message conversation ON ALL CAPS. It’s  pretty much yelling and after a while, you get fed up with it. You can’t wait until that month/color scheme is over because you’re so saturated with it.
So, for me, the colors were too much and I’ve never liked pre-printed quotes. While they aim to be inspiring, designers forget that they never apply to everyone. Plus, at a base price of $50, pricey.
So I turned around and sold it on the same day.
They have announced a June release with many redesigns. The colors have been toned down and it doesn’t look as crazy (to me) as it once did. Some of the accessories look interesting.
Here’s a link to it. It will take you to a free account sign up page. When you sign up you get a discount code and because you clicked my link, I get some credit (creating your account gives you your own referral link). ERIN CONDREN LIFE PLANNERS.

The Passion Planner arrived and it was a sad moment. I really, really wanted to love it. The compact version had made so much sense during the Kickstarter. But unfortunately. the compact nature of the planner itself hinders its use. The weekly space just wasn’t large enough to be useful (at least for me). On top of that, since I became a stay-at-home Mom, I don’t really need an hourly breakdown of my day to keep track of everyday. I pondered many uses for it, but with little time to think about anything other than wether I was wearing clean socks or not….it just didn’t work.
The planner went bye-bye as well.
But it might work for you (and they have a larger version that people love). PASSION PLANNER.

The Plum Paper Planner rings in 20 bucks cheaper than the Erin Condren and offers many layouts. There are no pre-printed quotes, and the colors are a lot less in your face. I made the mistake of ordering one that had a similar layout to EC, which I hadn’t yet realized I didn’t like.
I started using it, then lost track of it and it ended up sitting alone on a table. I wish I had researched the other layouts better. They also have a Monthly notebook layout that would’ve worked great as a Bullet Journal (more on that later), but it wasnt out then.
PLUM PAPER PLANNER.

Alas…the famed, oft seeked, elusive “Planner peace” slipped through my fingertips three times in a row.

So I finally sat down and did what I should’ve done in the beginning. And if you’re looking for a planner,you should do it too: plan.

It sounds silly, really. To plan for a planner. But allow me to explain.

You have to ask yourself: “what do I want out of a planner?”

– track activities hourly?
– flexible tracking?
– planner+journal capabilities?
– do you want a lot of color?
– does a lot of color on a page distract you?
– do you want to decorate it yourself?
– do you want a planner system that grows and evolves with you?
– how do you feel about freestyle/DIY approaches?
– do you want to keep track of stickers, washi, colored pens and stamps?
– can you find or make the time to plan?
– how big/small would you like a planner to be?
– if it’s too big and you have to carry it around, will you get fed up with it pretty fast or be ok?
– etc, etc…

The more questions you ask yourself, the easier will it be to discard all the planners that wouldn’t work for you. There’s a staggering amount of planning systems out there and narrowing them down helps out a lot. Specially if you’re going to spend money on it.

My needs were:

– I like to write and I like to draw. So I knew I needed something that would let me do that.
– I’m always short on time (and attention span) these days. So no fancy decoration or plotting needed.
– I needed something flexible.
– Because I already carry a diaper bag plus a purse (and a baby!) around, I need something small to carry in my purse. Having two planners (a home/desktop and a purse version) just wouldn’t work for me.

Three contenders rose up to the challenge: the Bullet Journal, the Midori (specifically the Fauxdori varieties) and the Hobonichi.

The Bullet Journal is the cheapest of them all. All you need is a notebook you like. And although the entire system can be explained in a short video, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want. If you Pinterest/Instagram/Goodle Bullet journals, you’ll spend an entire day finding different versions of it.

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook is basically just a leather cover into which you carry notebook inserts. You can have a variety of inserts on a variety of subjects/tasks. But they come in two sizes that are a bit awkward for me. The Fauxdori (DIY faux Midoris) versions can be any size you want. Like the Bullet Journal, the Midori system can range in level of customization. Some Fauxdoris are very decorated and some are kept nice and minimalist. I like the later version.

The Hobonichi is a Japanese notebook/journal/planner. It’s available in A6 and A5 sizes and there’s an English version of the A6. It’s bound and broken down in a variety of sections: yearly, monthly, weekly and daily spreads. The paper it’s printed on is thin, but high quality, which makes the book compact despite the number of pages included. I would love to get my hands on one to feel the paper and decide if I really want one. I love the look of them and the layouts are very workable. Next year’s edition hasn’t come out yet, so I have time to ponder.

The Bullet Journal and the Midori are a match made in planner heaven. They complement each other beautifully.
I love the Moleskine Cahiers and my first few attempts at a Bullet Journal/type layout seem promising. I’m going to hit the craft stores next week and get the material to fashion myself a Fauxdori/Bullet Journal. I will post about this next week.

I’m also playing with designing my own planner templates. Which will probably be yet another blog post.

Have I achieved Planner Peace? Not yet. But I think I’m on the way.

See ya next week with – hopefully – my adventures in Fauxdori making.

Xalos Mexican Grill – a review

Disclaimer: The restaurant mentioned in this post is not sponsoring me. They don’t even know who I am. The views and blunders are my own. Thank you.

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Having been born and raised in Mexico, I have a tendency to be picky about Mexican restaurants outside of the country. Some are Mexican, some are “mexican” and some I’ve yet to figure it out.
But on the rare ocasion that I find one, happiness ensues.

  
Meet Xalos Mexican Grill in Anchorage, AK. Here’s some reasons why you should love it too:

First: I love their carne asada tacos, but on my latest visit, they had a special I had been missing for a long time: tacos al pastor.
My only complaints was that tacos al pastor have a very specific look since the pork is sliced off meat roasting on a vertical spit. But the flavors were there and I really hope their special becomes a permanent addition to the menu.

  
Second: Beans. Most “mexican” restaurants will give you a plate with a pool of slowly expanding greasy bean lava, next to very old, dry, reddish-colored rice.
People don’t seem to realize that beans are eaten whole as often as they’re eaten ground in Mexico. Xalos gives you three bean options: black, pintos and refried. And I love them for that.

Thirdly: the salsa bar. No half-assed weird chile concoctions at this place. Your options are great and varied on heat level. You can fill up little containers with them for your table or take out. It’s beautiful. As a lady said the other day: “You can’t just send someone to get these for you. It’s a very personal experience”. Yes, it is. The avocado salsa  is gooood.

  
Fourthly: Drinks! There’s the array of Mexican sodas, but what always draws me in is the aguas frescas (“fresh waters”, a large variety of freshly prepared drinks ranging from fresh fruit to teas, served chilled). Xalos pours both Jamaica (Hibiscus) and Horchata (sweet rice). The cup in the taco picture above is ice cold Horchata.

Finally, if you need further proof that the food is worth it, every time we’ve been there, we’ve seen firefighters buying food. If people who are short on time will take some of that time to drop by for food, you know it’s good.

So head over to Xalos if you’re in Anchorage. You’ll have a great meal.

Now…..if someone would start selling Escuis de Hierro up here, I’d be a very happy camper.

Where can you find Xalos Mexican Grill?
If you know where the Bass Pro is, you can find Xalos. They’re on the same lot.

Bag o’ bones….

© Diana C. Quaintance, 2015.

He’d been walking all morning. A bag of bones with yellowish hair, green eyes and a cocky yet graceful, spring in his step. How could such a haggard creature be graceful was beyond anybody’s imagination, but he pulled it off like a pro.

Slowly, he made his way through the street maze, among the never-ending murmur of life; it was close to noon, and he hadn’t eaten for days. His stomach was so empty that its insides were sticking together and deciding that the other side looked appetizing. One more day without food and he was going to eat himself up for sure.

Vendors along the street looked at him, unsure. Some yelled at him, some even attempted to kick him out of their way, but he was too quick for their feet. One of the advantages of being so thin, was that it made him fast.

He’s called names; he’s an outcast, a paria, something to be shuffled out of everybody’s lives.

The butcher caught him sniffing at his table and had thrown a bucketful of water at him. He’d shaken it off with ease and moved on, used to such treatment. All the food vendors had seen him before, prowling the sidewalks in search of something to quench his maddening hunger. Some of them had fallen prey to his stealth and cunning in the past, but today they were being careful. They knew him already, knew at what times he went out to hunt.

He gave up on the little market place for that day and decided to try his luck on the other side of the street.

A car almost ran him over as he crossed. It honked at him and he got out of the way as fast as he could manage. He stood by the gutter, breathing heavily, staring at the car speed away with wild, untamed eyes. He would die someday, he knew and it didn’t worry him. He lived alone, with no one or nothing to care about. He lived for the day, for the moment, for himself.

He breathed in and out, recovering, and then started walking through the busy sidewalk. There were no food vendors here, only shops and shoe shiners and…….

The man at the newspaper stand looked at him for a second and chuckled at the sight of him…….seemingly frail, wet and distrustful. What a pitiful thing he was.

He shook his head and went back to his work. One of his stockers had arrived late and delivered a few tabloids and magazines for the day. He had finished putting the tabloids on the racks and was now sorting out the magazines. One of them caught his attention and he browsed through it carefully, paying special attention to an advertisement for fishing poles. He had enough money to buy one. His brother was in town and he could use a vacation. A fishing trip to the mountains, how wonderful. Get away from the noisy streets, fish some mosquitoes and drink a few beers.

So lost was he in his planning, that he didn’t notice that his golden-haired observer was still there. His eyes were locked on the counter, where the man had left his lunch: a half-eaten sandwich.

The thin creature looked at the man and then the food and his stomach growled. He would go for it. He took his time, taking few steps with practiced and well-honed skill. He waited for the right moment, grabbed the morsel and ran to the alley. He didn’t know if the man had noticed, nor did he care. He was finally going to eat.

Turkey on rye with a lot of mayonnaise and pickles. He wasn’t too fond of the last, but he was in no position to be picky. He licked his lips and ate the whole thing with almost religious care. Afterwards, with a full stomach, he laid down among the trash cans for a nap.

The golden cat stretched out and licked its paws contentedly. He would survive another day.