Category Archives: Chit Chat

Announcing a New(ish) Project

I have been hinting at this news for a couple of days but I wanted to take some time to make a formal announcement:

Nicole (of The Bookbandit Blog) and I are relaunching out short story blog!

This has been an on again off again project for us since 2012 and we are both very excited to reignite our love for writing and sharing short stories.

You can find us over at Little Women Stories (littlewomenstories.wordpress.com)

Here’s what you can expect from Little Women Stories as we gear up for our May relaunch:

  • Two stories a month from Emma and Nicole
  • Each month we will share one free write story each
  • Each month we will each write a story based on a predetermined prompt

Nicole and I are both really excited to get back to short stories, this blog, and writing. If you like any of those things I hope you’ll join us on this journey and read some of our stories.

You can head over to the short story blog now for a preview of some of the prompts we’ll be using.

 

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Did You Know?: Blog Feature Rundown

Hey everyone! I wanted to do a quick roundup post with some of the things I do here on the blog. I also wanted to share an important update: I have changed my blog email. The new email can be found on my contact page and my arc adoption page. If you had previously saved my email address please update your address book.

Not that that’s out of the way, did you know that I offer:

  • ARC Adoption: If you are a US blogger I often put ARCs of recently published or soon-to-be published titles up for adoption to any blogger who can cover shipping and promises to write a review by my deadline. The program has a few loyal participants right now but if you’re a newer/smaller and want to start reading ARCs this is a great first step. I will check if you are a consistent blogger though so keep that in mind. Full details here: missprint.wordpress.com/adopt
  • ARC Tips: If you want to start requesting ARCs yourself I also have a page with all of my tips. Currently it has contact information too but I’m not sure all of it is up to date. You can find the page here: missprint.wordpress.com/tips

Post Features:

When I’m not blogging you can find me here:

If you ever want to know more about me and the blog I have a few pages to cover that as well:

Support:

If you’re in the position where you would like to and are able to show monetary support for this blog there are a couple of options:

  • Ko-fi: ko-fi.com/missprint (You can “buy me” a coffee)
  • Amazon Affiliate link: http://amzn.to/2uIW8bp; (When you shop through this amazon link I get a tiny commission on all sales. Alternately you can always buy a book I’m reviewing through the Amazon link in each of my reviews.)

Here’s what happened when I KonMari-d my life: Part 3

To get the full story be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 first!

If you aren’t familiar with the KonMari method, it boils down to a few basic ideas:

  1. Finish discarding everything before you start tidying. Do it all at once, intensely and completely.
  2. Keep only those things which spark joy. Visualize the life you want after you tidy and instead of focusing on what to get rid of, focus on what you want to keep.
  3. Tidy by category, not by location. Go in order: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous, sentimental.
  4. Treasure who you are now and thank the possessions you are discarding for getting out there. I didin’t thank everything individually but as I let go of certain items I am trying to thank them for the purpose they served before moving on.
  5. Store like with like. This should be obvious but it’s been a game changer as I’ve started moving all of my clothing, shoes, etc. into designated spaces.
  6. Vertical storage is key. You can find things at a glance and everything is easier to get to.
  7. Appreciate your possessions. This goes back to thanking that which you discard and also treating items with respect.
  8. Follow your intuition. There’s no right answer for how much to keep or discard, focus on what you love and when you hit that sweet spot you’ll know you have enough.

It’s been a couple of months since I tackled my clothes and books. In that time I’ve been working sporadically on papers, miscellaneous, and sentimental items. I still should probably loop back to more sentimental items (and books, always books) but I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made. As Konmari promises I also haven’t had any rebounds.

For papers Konmari recommends to discard everything. I’m not sure what personal records are like in Japan but this is a little overzealous and there are some things I just like to hold onto (like my college acceptance letters) for my own reasons. My main takeaway here was to consolidate my papers. Instead of separating everything into different folders I now have a larger envelope with important documents (bills, tax records, etc.) and one with more sentimental items (diplomas, college awards, etc.). In going through them I also was able to get rid of some things I would never use and no longer needed so everything is consolidated, neater, and clearly labeled (thank you washi tape!).

 

As its name suggests, the miscellaneous category is a bit vague. I’ve tackled a lot of it including CDs, makeup, electronics, stationary, and valuables. Some Konmari tenets: keep things because you love them rather than just because, a gift can serve its purpose the moment it’s given, keep only things that have an intended use (not for someday). I think there’s still some stuff I’m missing but again the big thing here has been that I’m consolidating and can find everything at a glance. I also only have stationary and postcards I really like now and know exactly what kind of pens I want to buy when I need new ones.

Sentimental is the hardest KonMari category which is why it’s all the way at the end. KonMari urges people to focus on the now rather than the past and, as with all categories, to handle items to evaluate them and also to process the past.This category has involved a lot of curating again ending with me only having things that I love and which bring joy.

After really knuckling down and KonMari-ing my desk area I have finally been able to keep it pretty tidy during the week. I have a big space to do instagram photos, minimal book piles (more need to go but since they’re here I want to read them first–hubris I know), and a place to easily use my laptop or update my planner.

It’s not directly related to KonMari but I’m also keeping up with my lofty planner goals for the year and am starting to make more time for writing and other hobbies. It’s not a total lifestyle change but it’s a good start.

Have you tried KonMari before or do you have another organization strategy you use? How has it been working for you?

Here’s what happened when I KonMari-d my life: Part 2

Get the whole story by reading part one first!

If you aren’t familiar with the KonMari method, it boils down to a few basic ideas which I’m sharing again:

  1. Finish discarding everything before you start tidying. Do it all at once, intensely and completely.
  2. Keep only those things which spark joy. Visualize the life you want after you tidy and instead of focusing on what to get rid of, focus on what you want to keep.
  3. Tidy by category, not by location. Go in order: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous, sentimental.
  4. Treasure who you are now and thank the possessions you are discarding for getting out there. I didin’t thank everything individually but as I let go of certain items I am trying to thank them for the purpose they served before moving on.
  5. Store like with like. This should be obvious but it’s been a game changer as I’ve started moving all of my clothing, shoes, etc. into designated spaces. In this vein I’d also add: put things back where they belong the moment you finish with them.
  6. Vertical storage is key. You can find things at a glance and everything is easier to get to.
  7. Follow your intuition. There’s no right answer for how much to keep or discard, focus on what you love and when you hit that sweet spot that’s “just right” you’ll know you have enough.
  8. Appreciate your possessions. This goes back to thanking that which you discard and also treating items with respect.

Last weekend I tackled part two in my KonMari project. It wasn’t easy . . .


Books:

KonMari has a couple of specific pieces of advice for dealing with books. Like everything else Kondo recommends putting everything on the floor in a pile and working from there so you can touch everything and really make the most of your joy meter.

I hate doing this for books because a couple of my shelves are incredibly precarious and I don’t like going up and down the step stool while watching the shelf wobble around. I was going to still try this method but wound up getting sidetracked when my mom decided to keep my company. (That was partly my own fault because I am still tweaking my jewelry storage and was in the middle of that when she came in.) I think the process still worked even without everything ending up off the shelves all at once.

Obviously the main factor is still finding the books that spark joy. Again, as I was being more attentive to the process it was fascinating to realize that I really could tell when a book did or did not spark joy. It was especially clear while going through my old picture books and classic editions I received from relatives. It turns out I don’t need every book Chris Van Allsburg wrote nor do I need a giant phonebook sized edition of A Little Princess. In talking through some of the books Mom and I both realized we don’t particularly like Andersen’s or Grimm’s fairy tales. Yet I had three copies of them on my shelves.

All told I sorted out about forty books to give away including some picture books, novels, and duplicate copies. I was able to move a lot books so that they authors and genres were grouped together. As with everything except my clothes (speaking of which I still have to tackle my sweaters) I am still tweaking the exact storage method. But I’m feeling a lot better about how many books I’m keeping.

I am also happy to say I didn’t have any issues except for a low moment when I went and rescued five books I had already set aside to give away. It happens.

According to KonMari, “sometime” can mean never when it comes to rereading books. I’m trying to keep this in mind but a lot of my books are from signings and author events so they also have sentimental value attached. I think the solution might be to go back and look at them again when it’s time for my sentimental item sweep.

Another KonMari tenet is that the best time to read a book is when you first encounter it. I didn’t always think this was true but I’m starting to see the light. I’m working on a multi-pronged system to read through the books I have in a timely manner and especially to read advance copies I have before the books come out. I used to be better at that, but I also used to receive fewer ARCs so I’m not going to stress too much.

Regardless of if you are going to read the books again or when you encounter them, you should only keep those which you truly love. I’ve realized part of this ties directly to having easy access to books (to remove them or not) which I don’t have because all of my shelves are in ridiculous spots. I don’t want to dedicate another weekend to the process (I have to start taking down Christmas decorations) but with a day’s distance I’m realizing there are still some books on my read shelves that I don’t truly love and can definitely part with. As for the books to read–I’m trying to search my heart and only keep those which I truly want to read for myself and not for the hype.

I will be blogging about the rest of my KonMari process as I get to it, so stay tuned!

Here’s what happened when I KonMari-d my life: Part 1

I’m a big fan of Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of organization. In December I re-read all of Marie Kondo’s books and I am in the process of using the KonMari method to get my life in order. If you are a longtime reader, you might know that I did this once already. You are right. It didn’t stick as well as I had hoped.

If you aren’t familiar with the KonMari method, it boils down to a few basic ideas:

  1. Finish discarding everything before you start tidying. Do it all at once, intensely and completely.
  2. Keep only those things which spark joy. Visualize the life you want after you tidy and instead of focusing on what to get rid of, focus on what you want to keep.
  3. Tidy by category, not by location. Go in order: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous, sentimental.
  4. Treasure who you are now and thank the possessions you are discarding for getting out there. I didin’t thank everything individually but as I let go of certain items I am trying to thank them for the purpose they served before moving on.
  5. Store like with like. This should be obvious but it’s been a game changer as I’ve started moving all of my clothing, shoes, etc. into designated spaces. In this vein I’d also add: put things back where they belong the moment you finish with them.
  6. Vertical storage is key. You can find things at a glance and everything is easier to get to.
  7. Follow your intuition. There’s no right answer for how much to keep or discard, focus on what you love and when you hit that sweet spot that’s “just right” you’ll know you have enough.
  8. Appreciate your possessions. This goes back to thanking that which you discard and also treating items with respect.

In re-reading her books (I’d recommend starting with the original The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or the manga adaptation rather than going for Spark Joy which feels very superfluous.) I realized I had been doing KonMari completely wrong in my previous attempts. I stopped midway through. I never finished discarding. I didn’t think about who I wanted to be once I was tidier. These were my mistakes.

So now I’m doing it all again.


The lifestyle I want:

My goal is pretty simple. I want to have more space in my storage areas in the apartment. I want to be able to find everything in one go. I want to think less about finding things and more about if I want to start yoga or sitting down to write or craft.

Clothes:

Last weekend in a fit of hubris I got the process started and KonMari’d all of my clothes, shoes, and handbags. It was a lot.

But something amazing happened as I started with my shirts. I got to one and realized I felt nothing. It did not, in fact, spark joy. It sparked no emotion at all. It went right into a bag of things to donate along with a lot of other stuff. All told I donated four bags of clothes and one suitcase that I knew in my heart I didn’t need anymore.

When I started sorting my dresses I found two that I had bought spares of to save because I knew they’d wear out quickly. I let go of the older, worn dresses and was shocked when I realized how much happier the new dresses felt as hung them in my closet. I even made a subtle change to store my shoes and they all actually fit in one place now.

KonMari recommends waiting to figure out storage, but my options are pretty set since I’m not buying new furniture or anything so i decided to finish up clothing storage before moving on. KonMari recommends arranging a closet from light to dark with things moving up (in length and lightness of color) and to the right. I never thought this mattered and instead arranged my closet according to the ROYGBIV color spectrum because I am that person. This time, since I am all in, I followed Kondo’s advice.

I still hang more than she recommends because I hate folding and am very bad at it (and don’t have storage space for it) but I arranged my hanging tops, dress and skirts with an up and to the right mindset. I can’t believe how well it’s working. I am finding things more easily and I am actually happier every time I reach into my closet now. Also, even though I felt like I hadn’t made a ton of progress after I reorganized and hanged everything I realized I had reduced the space I was using by half.

I had a few things that I wanted to wait and try on but as if the clothing sensed what was coming, these decisions have become very easy. The boots I kept because they were so warm hurt my feet, the pants I saved for the dead of winter ripped when I went to put them on. It’s as if my wardrobe is helping me to finish these last decisions.

Things I still have to do: My sweater storage is a mess. Vertical folding storage (KonMari approved) is hard with bulky sweaters and I’m still figuring out how to deal with that. I think my next step is making one drawer in my dress for pullovers and lighter things I can actually fold and then leaving the heavier button downs elsewhere. I have been wearing so many of my sweaters lately (it’s freezing here) that this has become low priority for now especially while I decide what to do.

I have covered all aspects of clothing now except for jewelry and hair accessories. I’m hoping to tackle both of those this weekend–maybe even as you’re reading this post–with the help of a new jewelry box and some freshly acquired insight in the form of my joy radar.

My plan is to try and tackle one area every weekend until I’m done (sentimental might be quick because I’m just not discarding photos–it’s not who I am) but this might end up running a little longer with having to take down holiday decorations and some other family obligations.

I will be blogging about the entire process though so stay tuned!

 

This One Time My Tweet Went Viral . . .

If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed something interesting happen on August 9. I like hearing about what books people love and one night when I was not sleeping, I figured out the best way to ask would be for a top five (because honestly, what bookish person can pick only one?) After forgetting for most of the day, I remembered to post the tweet on Wednesday during a break at work. I also happened to post it on National Book Lovers Day which may be part of what happened next.

Here’s the original tweet and one of the first replies (so many props to some of the earlier respondents because they got so many comments as the tweet moved around):

From there I started seeing a few replies from twitter friends, book blogger types, and some authors who saw the tweet early either from me or friends of friends.

Here are some of the earliest replies. If these authors aren’t on your to read list yet, be sure to check out their books!

Then it kept going.

Replies trickled in for the rest of the afternoon and into that evening. I RTd as they came in, commented, and got on with the rest of my day.

Around nine o’clock, I noticed I was getting a lot more notifications than usual. A lot more.

While I was still able to sort through comments, I realized some authors with a significant reach on Twitter were also sharing their top five books.

As far as I can tell, it was Sam Sykes sharing that really set things off.

From there the replies started coming in faster and faster.

Then my phone started to break down under the sheer volume of notifications as people quoted my original tweet to share their faves, replied to me or to others on the tweet thread, and started other quote conversations talking about books. Twitter froze up and my phone started to overheat every time I checked what was happening.

It got so intense that Twitter prompted me to set up filters for my notifications.

Even now, months later, I haven’t been able to sift through all of the replies, shares, and comments. There are just too many.

Here’s look at some of the analytics when it started blowing up:

As I started writing up this post at the beginning of October, people were still sharing and RTing their favorite books. Since August the total impressions have jumped to 389,408 with 73,862 engagements. I gained almost 1000 new followers in the first couple of days.

Some people, including a favorite author, thought picking just five books was asking too much.

As with most sudden moments of fame, things quieted down after that first week and I was able to go back and catch a couple of the more surprising replies that didn’t register in the initial haze of going viral.

I’m not going to lie, I felt like had to lay down when I saw some of the people who had shared or replied. It was a very “is this real life?” moment for me.

In the thick of the initial madness some people were even doing other variants based on “my” top 5 books idea.

I’ll be the first to admit having anything go viral is not the same as fame. But for a week or so, it felt very similar. The support and love for this tweet was overwhelming and I got so many wonderful thank yous and compliments from people who found me because of it. (I only got one creepy message from a male identifying account but honestly, I get those without doing anything online so hardly shocking.) Still, I was hyper aware of the act of being followed on Twitter and people seeing my content. Was I being witty enough? Was I staying on brand? Was I expected to keep up this level of engagement moving forward? Just considering all of the questions was exhausting.

Things have settled down now and minus a few more followers and new replies here and there, things seem to have gone back to normal.I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to really sort through the data–Twitter isn’t kind to older tweets or tweets with thousands of replies–and this is both. If you have any ideas on digging into the data (or even finding it at this point) let me know in the comments

If you’re on Twitter and you haven’t yet, I’d love to see your own top five favorite books of all time. If you don’t feel like tweeting, let me know in the comments or just talk to me about what it means to have five minutes of Twitter fame.

Here are some of my own favorite books:

  1. All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin
  2. Ella, Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  3. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  5. Sabriel by Garth Nix
  6. Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery
  7. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
  8. The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton
  9. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
  10. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  11. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  12. Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
  13. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
  14. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Hosting a Cookie Swap (with help from Paperless Post e-vites)

A table setting from Tiffany’s miniature holiday windows. Also: table setting goals.

When Paperless Post approached me to write a post about the services they have to offer, I knew it was the perfect time to share some tips for hosting my favorite type of party: a cookie swap. It’s still too warm here to really maximize my baking time but while I wait for the weather to cool, here’s my step-by-step guide to hosting a cookie swap of your own.

  • WHAT: A cookie swap is exactly what it sounds like. Guests come with a large stock of cookies and before the party ends everyone samples cookies and shares what they have brought. Everyone leaves with different kinds of cookies to try and share.
  • WHEN: Any time is a good time for cookies! While I host my cookie swap near the holidays but you can really host a cookie swap any time of year as long as it’s cool enough for baking.
  • WHO: Because there’s so much baking involved, I usually keep the cookie swap invitation list small. If I invite five people that means everyone is making five to six dozen cookies so that there are cookies to taste and for people to take home. I also give wiggle room saying people will leave with as many cookies as they bring. Because everyone has to make time to bake in addition to usual party planning I always try to send invitations out roughly a month in advance. I always send out e-invites because they make it so easy to send and to track RSVPs. Paperless Post has tons of invitation options whether you want to go with an e-invite or send physical invitations. I’ve got my eye on one from Kate Spade or one from Peppermint Patio for this year’s invites. But don’t tell anyone, it’s a surprise!
  • You can check out all of Paperless Post’s invitations here: https://www.paperlesspost.com/cards/section/invitations 

Now that you know what a cookie swap is and have some options for invitations, here’s what I always have on hand to put my party together:

  • Food: While everyone arrives expecting cookies, I serve some light food too. Since I usually have my party start in the early afternoon I like to go with brunch options like bagels or rolls with cream cheese, butter, or jam. Egg salad, tuna salad, and chicken salad are also good options. Just be sure to check if your guests have any allergies or dietary restrictions (if this is the case you should let everyone know ahead of time and be mindful of that with cookies as well).
  • Tableware: I host my party near Christmas so my holiday decorations always serve as part of the decor. I also spruce up the dining table with tablecloth and matching place mats. (I’ve never met a print I didn’t like so you’ll note that these are all red plaid designs.)
  • Utensils: I try to keep this party low key and simple so I go with plastic silverware and paper plates to serve everything. I also have plastic trays and serving utensils that I pull out every year to serve sandwiches and condiments during the party.
  • Storage: I always pre-package my cookies for friends. It makes it easier to keep track of how many I need to bake and it helps keep the cookies fresh if I decide to bake them a few days ahead of time. My favorite packaging method has been cellophane food bags. The standard size is perfect to hold 12-24 cookies and they can be found with cute designs or decorated with curling ribbon to tie them closed. Plastic bowls with lids are also great to store any cookies you receive.

I hope these tips inspire you to host your own cookie swap soon.

To get you started I will also give you one of the simplest and tastiest cookie recipes I’ve found: Easy Oreo Truffles (as seen on AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) package OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, divided
  • 1 (8 ounce) package PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted

Directions

Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. (Cookies can also be finely crushed in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin.) Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.

Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.

Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.

You can also buy a cookie press to make simple but stunning spritz cookies. (This link goes to the model I have–I use the butter cookie recipe on the box, add food coloring, and stamp out the cookies using different dies to up my cookie game.)

heart shaped spritz cookies

If you’re looking for more recipes, be sure to check out my Pinterest boards for more recipes.

*This post was created in cooperation with Paperless Post to review and publicize their services*