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?

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.

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


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.

Well, hello there….

How are my four readers?

For those of you who are new to the madness that is whatever I attempt to do online, I maintain that there are only four people who ever read my ramblings.

So, if you’re one of them, hi! Glad to see you’re still around.

If you’re new, hi! I’m still going to count you as a member of the four.
Because I’m weird like that.


Anyway……sit back and enjoy. I’ll be putting up some old writing and plotting something to involve you four. I’m aiming to update this site at least once a week.
Until the hamster that runs my brain gets the wheel turning again, visit the links page and check out some really entertaining websites.

Bon appetit!

– Diana Q.