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How to Scramble in Style

How to Scramble in StyleNo matter how well I plan ahead, I tend to scramble at the last minute before weekends away. Or even just a day away. I was going to write about “how to avoid the scramble”, but let’s be honest: it happens anyway.

So I say, scramble in style.

My usual, tamed to do list seems to go out the window in the mad rush before going out the door. As I hurry to pick up one thing, I think of two more things. 

When my mind goes into overdrive like this, I take a moment to stop, get out a sheet of dinosaur notepaper, a sparkly gel pen, and write those tasks down. Off my mind, onto the page.

Sure, jotting things down on the back of a used envelope works too, but I like using paper that makes me smile. It reminds me to calm down.

miss xandra bee

Feng Shui for Bookworms

Feng Shui for Bookworms

It took me a while to realize that a physical book can greatly affect my mood – even if I don’t open its cover.

At my desk, I kept glancing at my favorite titles, wishing I could just lie down and read instead of doing work.

I needed a change. So I gave my room a Book Arrangement Makeover. The YA and favorite fiction went to the more relaxing area by my bed, and the Malcolm Gladwell, philosophy, and theatre books came to my desk.

Feng Shui for BookwormsNow my workspace has a more academic feel. Do I ever reach for these books to use while I’m working? No. But something about them being there, containing their wisdom, puts me in the right state of mind. Weird, right?

Feng Shui for BookwormsThe bookshelf by my bed is more practical. The two cubbies closest to my bed include books that I do leaf through before drifting off. “Anthropologie” books, like these favorites, that I love to read over and over.

To the left, is the children’s section. Something about having familiar titles helps lull me into a safe sleep.

Do books shape your mood? How do your organize your shelves? Maybe it’s time for a rearrange!

miss xandra bee 

Travel Light: Keeping My Passport Safe in Style

Travel Light: Keeping My Passport Safe in Style

Travel can be so stressful. A major way to stay in control is to keep your important documents together. 

I have long lusted over compact and beautiful cases that hug passports in style, but they always make you take off the case at customs anyway. Then I saw this one, which includes adorably organized pockets for documents, tickets, and currency as well. It still wasn’t quite right, but it made me realize that I wanted one case for all of my documents in one.

Then I found this case while browsing at Indigo, my go-to chic ethical boutique in Oxford. When I travel I put everything important in here: passport, boarding pass, travel docs, bus tickets for leaving the airport. 

Travel Light: Keeping My Passport Safe in Style

 

Also, a treat for you…

This week Caroline and I talk “Flying with Flair” in our latest episode of FabulosiTEA. She’s a frequent quick-flight flyer, while I’m used to long haul, so we pool our knowledge and give our best advice for whatever flight you may be on.

Also, be sure to subscribe to our brand new newsletter, in which we suggest tea and cake pairings for each episode!



miss xandra bee

P.S. The boarding pass above was my first ever ticket to the UK. One of the things I did not de-clutter in my 496-item minimalist challenge last month!

14 Films that Inspire Minimalism and Mindfulness

I get my best lifestyle inspiration from stories. Show me a cool character with style and I’m sold. Here are some awesome films that get me thinking about minimalism and mindfulness.

Films that Inspire Minimalism and Mindfulness

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki the minimalist witch flies to a new city with just one outfit, one bag, one radio, and one cat companion.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy

The smallest steps, taken by the smallest of beings can still go a long way.

Moonrise Kingdom

If you ran away from home, what would you bring in your suitcase? Boy scout skillz and books are a pretty good combination.

Bambi

Watching animals is a great way to calm down, and this Disney classic really captures of the magic of a forest’s serenity. Slow-paced with a great nature-y soundtrack.

Cast Away

Limitation fosters creativity. If you need inspo for making do with what you’ve got, this is it.

Her

The tech-obsessed future is hands-free and clutter-free. More good news: befriending computers make people more mindful and appreciative of the of the physical world around them.

Midnight in Paris

While his fiancé dreams of a mansion in Malibu, Gil just wants to write, dream, and wander through Paris. Frustrating shopping scenes (“Cheap is cheap!”) contrasted with glitzy nostalgia. But despite gorgeous 1920s fashion, what’s really attractive is the content of artful conversation.

127 Hours

A film about a dude stuck in a rock that is so much more than just a dude stuck in a rock. A reminder that even if we’re off adventuring, it’s worth nothing without mindful awareness of our surroundings and the people in our lives.

The Bling Ring

We can all agree that stealing is bad, right? But what this film questions is our materialistic society, by luring us in with dazzling visuals.

Shi (“Poetry”)

A Korean film about an older lady whose life takes several devastating turns. But it’s really a film about hope, which she finds in a simple poetry class.

Amélie

All about the details from the very beginning, Amélie reminds us of the joys and quirks of day-to-day things.

Labor Day

Includes an excellent mindful pie-baking sequence. 

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The most fabulous yet nearly-empty apartment, including the Bathtub Sofa.

Much Ado About Nothing

In a summer jam-packed with flashy superhero films, Joss Whedon took a step back to make a black and white Shakespeare film over the period of a week. In his own house. 

What are your favorite films for minimalist inspiration? Let’s grow the list in the comments!

miss xandra bee

 

Why I Force Myself to Visit Art Galleries

Why I Force Myself to Visit Art Galleries

I’m rarely in the mood to visit art galleries.

But every time I make myself go, I end up feeling refreshed, inspired, refined, and very glad that I went.

Mama and I have a tradition of visiting the MFA when I’m home. We tour a new exhibit and one other room. That’s enough to take in without feeling too overwhelmed. 

I love the calm of gazing at paintings. In London I learn about modern art movements from Sara, and construct stories about the characters with Ania.

Just wander into a room and see what draws you in. Art speaks to what is on my mind and reminds me of parts of myself I have forgotten. It inspires my future, bringing clarity to such desires as designing my own studio.

Each visit I pick one favorite painting.

I used to be camera-happy, taking pictures of everything that inspired me. But when everybody is special, no one is. Picking just one favorite means that I focus more on the experience in front of me. A picture of a painting does not do it justice – obvious, but worth remembering.

I display my favorite paintings in my digital salon. This visit, I chose Degas’s Ballet Dancer With Arms Crossed. I love the colors, and its unfinished rawness. 

Art is best appreciated over lunch.

Why I Force Myself to Visit Art Galleries

Art galleries tend to have delicious counterparts, and finally, I sampled MFA’s in-house restaurant Bravo. The atmosphere balances plush and simple, with beautifully crafted dessert.

Also, I love browsing museum shops – they tend to have beautiful books and an eclectic assortment of interesting things.

And of course, I dress the part.

an eclectic assortment of interesting things, and

 Sometimes I even match the art.

What are your gallery traditions?

miss xandra bee 

Capsule Workwear: 5 Fabulous Looks

Workwear can actually be fabulous.

Being your own heroine is all about dressing confidently and for the occasion. That means adding a bit of personal flair. Here are five examples of my colorful capsule work outfits!

1. Just Add TweedCapsule Workwear: 5 Fabulous Looks

BLAZER RALPH LAUREN RUGBY  | DRESS [HONG KONG BOUTIQUE] | TIGHTS AMERICAN APPAREL | SHOES SHOE EMBASSY

2. The Statement Necklace FactorCapsule Workwear: 5 Fabulous Looks

DRESS MODCLOTH | NECKLACE CHARM GEORGETOWN | CARDIGAN ANTHRO | TIGHTS AMERICAN APPAREL | BOOTS REIKE NEN 

3. A Little DressierCapsule Workwear: 5 Fabulous Looks

DRESS FCUK | JACKET [VINTAGE - FROM HALMONI] | TIGHTS AMERICAN APPAREL | CROWN CROWN & GLORY | BOOTS REIKE NEN

4. The Vintage LookCapsule Workwear: 5 Fabulous Looks

BLAZER RALPH LAUREN RUGBY | DRESS [VINTAGE - FROM RADIO DAYS] | NECKLACE I AM ACRYLIC | SHOES SHOE EMBASSY

5. In TrousersCapsule Workwear: 5 Fabulous Looks

BLAZER [VINTAGE - FROM MAMA] | SHIRT COTON DOUX | JEANS RAG & BONE | BELT ANN TAYLOR LOFT | NECKLACE BETSEY JOHNSON | BOOTS REIKE NEN

Looking for more workwear inspo?

Caroline and I just recorded Episode 12 of FabulosiTEA: In Which We Discuss Making Workwear Wonderful!

What do you wear to work? Does it make you feel fabulous?

 miss xandra bee 

April’s Tiny Tweak: Learning Meditation

April's Tiny Tweak: Learning Meditation

Each month, I tackle a new habit.

I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I’m running out of habits that I want to try. But I realized this: when I skip a month, all of my habits become rusty. 

Focus on one habit. No more, no less.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Accomplishing one tiny task each day puts me on a roll: suddenly, all my other habits are falling into place too.

Why I’m Meditating this Month

Lately, I’ve been starting my mornings by reading a new ZenHabits article. I set the browser to full screen and devote my attention to the article.

It has been really effective, so I’m taking it a step further. I signed up the the Sea Change Program, Leo’s habit-building course. April’s focus is meditation, which is the one minimalist game-changer I have yet to try. [Yoga, running, and vegetarianism have transformed my life in the best way. Am I leaving any out? Oh yeah, writing! That has too.].

In the beginning, I will be meditating for two minutes a day. The time will increase over the month. I hope that it will help me to be more calm, mindful, and patient, and less frantic and stressed. 

Are you working on a habit this month? Let’s be accountability buddies. If you sign up for the Sea Change Program, you can join my Minimalist accountability team! [No affiliate links; Leo doesn't do stuff like that. I just like having minimalist buddies!].

miss xandra bee

I Won the Minimalist Game!

At the beginning of March I joined the Minimalist Game.

By the end of it, I got rid of over 496 things. [No joke!]. Years into calling myself a minimalist, I still find things to de-clutter and I still learn lessons along the way. 

I even got paid. I found a $50 gift card, and some free stamps:

I Won the Minimalist Game!

An example that represents my whole process:

I have a bag full of “sentimental England stuff” from my first trip to the UK. I was afraid to touch it at first, because it’s “sentimental”, but I realized that a lot of stuff was actually just rubbish:

I Won the Minimalist Game!

  • empty Walkers crisp packets
  • Caffé Nero napkins and takeaway bags
  • pamphlets and flyers for events I never attended
  • A sticker that says “I had a Bodleian tour today”, which is less special after spending hours in that building doing work.

I did keep and equally large pile of stuff that is not rubbish:

I Won the Minimalist Game!

  • my first ever plane ticket to the UK (the only ticket I’m keeping. All the others went in the other pile)
  • my illustrated map of Oxford
  • a Creation Theatre pamphlet for the best production of Midsummer I’ve seen
  • my graduation certificate from Oxford Prep
  • drawings from my friends
  • my notebook, handouts, and final project from my Literature and the Fantastic course

That stuff does not deserve to share the same container as the random stuff I recycled. Now it has its own space!

More insights from my MinsGame:

My main takeaway was this: The only thing stopping me from living my ideal, clutter-free life is clutter. And getting rid of it is free.

It isn’t too late to start for April!  Find a team, or start your own with the friendly folks at #minsgame on Twitter.

miss xandra bee

P.S. See my daily de-clutter photos (yup, all 496 items) here!

Minimal Kitchen: Cookbooks and Recipes

Minimal Kitchen: Cookbooks and Recipes

Is it just me, or is the Cooking section at bookstores getting increasingly tempting?

The pictures are gorgeous, the concepts are quirky, and well, it all just looks so yummy.

To avoid getting sucked in, I decided to own just one cookbook.

It’s kind of a Julie and Julia thing. I want to work my way through the whole thing before getting a new one. I also like checking them off.

At first I chose to do this because I wanted to get as much out of one book as I could before moving on. Another plus is getting used to the format and style of the author. I now know what to expect: the way the steps are written, what kinds of ingredients are used, how the cooking time will compare with my oven. This is a brilliant advantage to the printed word verses the Google search [unless you're always cooking from the same author, obvs].

Which Cookbook?

At university I used Vegetarian Nosh 4 Students. It was a good intro cookbook for a new vegetarian, and suited my student kitchen facilities [despite the author's hip numerical replacement for a perfectly fine preposition].

I graduated to my current cookbook, Kris Carr‘s Crazy Sexy Kitchen, which features FAQs and articles about healthy eating. When I try a new recipe I read a new section from the beginning too.

I also just bought Angela Liddon‘s Oh She Glows cookbook, because I’ve been snagging recipes off her site for years and they are some of my faves. When I get through Crazy Sexy Kitchen I shall crack the spine.

My advice? Choose a versatile cookbook that will work for you, your diet, and your preferences. I bought books from bloggers I have long loved and continue to trust. Remember that you can check out cookbooks at the library to test out before buying.

Be wary of those beautiful baking books: are you really going to make a book’s worth of cake pops or macaroons? Hey, maybe you will. Setting a monthly “macaroon-making” date with a friend and working your way through the book could be really fun – but only if it’s actually going to happen. 

As for Online Recipes…

My favorite go-to sites are:

  •  The Stonesoup Blog: 5 ingredient recipes with easy alterations for different diets!
  • Feastie:  Search for recipes by ingredient. A great way to find creative ways to use up what’s in your fridge.
  • Oh She Glows: Just to reiterate. The best for vegan comfort food, including my favorite Vegan Mac and Cheese.

My Own Personal Menu [I'm pretty proud of this one].

I have a binder. It includes printouts of my favorite online recipes, but also “menus” for breakfast, main courses, and side dishes. Yup. I list out all the things I can make, and sometimes “order” what I’m going to cook next.

I find the decision process at a restaurant to be way simpler than it is in a kitchen. Surely this is silly. I can cook whatever I want, while I can order only what is on the menu. But a little limitation can be a very good thing.

My “menus” include everything I count as a meal, even “beans on toast”. It includes things I can make from memory (such as “beans on toast”) as well as recipes from the Crazy Sexy Kitchen cookbook, or from the printouts later in the binder. 

This method makes battling my own decision way easier, and is also a useful aid in finding overlap with my family, since we all have different preferences. 

Do you have any minimal cooking advice? What is your favorite source for recipes?

miss xandra bee

P.S. Tomorrow the price for Becoming My Own Heroine will be set. Please cast your final votes today; the price will be the average of all downloads.

Ways to Find Calm in a Busy Girl’s Day

Ways to Find Calm in a Busy Girl's Day

Have you ever felt so busy you couldn’t find time to take a break? Here are some ways to keep calm and carry on that don’t take long at all:

Make your breakfast the night before.

I used to rush to make my smoothie in the morning before realizing I could spend the same amount of time – but at a different time – to make all the difference. No more stressy mornings, and I gain a feeling of accomplishment before bed. If you’re cooking breakfast, get all the ingredients ready. Sometimes I leave a custom mix of porridge in a pot on the stove. Just add milk.

Make your to do list the night before – and keep it short.

“Planning tomorrow the night before” has been one of my most effective Tiny Tweak habits. As for the to do list itself, Ned Hallowell suggests focusing on just three tasks per day, per week, per month, and per year. I have adopted the day and week versions, and I’ve gotta say – it works. It’s similar to Leo Babauta’s Most Important Tasks. Keep it simple. My new favorite thing is removing – not completing – things from my to do list.

Exercise a little.

I feel so much better with just a bit of movement. Do yoga for just three minutes when you wake up. [You can even do yoga before you get out of bed in the morning!]. Go running for ten minutes before you take a shower. At the very least, take the stairs, or the scenic route. When I get busy, my mind jumps to “I don’t have time” mode, even if it’s thirty seconds of walking downstairs to get a cup of water. Embrace the extra opportunity to move around, especially in fresh air. We have time.

Separate work and play.

This is a big one that I talk about more in my ebook. When you’re working, work. When you’re taking a break, take a break. Try not to think about work. Set a time when you’ll get back to it, and stop worrying. 

Choose the right tasks for the right time.

Just yesterday I had a 15 minute window and a long to do list, and I found myself tempted to crack on with the list even though 15 minutes would not be enough time to get started on any of the tasks. Be realistic – if it’s not going to work in a slice of time, relax instead.

I used to take work on climbing trip bus rides before realizing that it never got done. I just can’t focus through motion sickness and social distractions. Instead, I brought only five minutes’ worth of work. It was way more achievable, and I felt accomplished enough to allow myself a rest. Something about physically leaving books at home and making it impossible to do work allows me to enjoy breaks more effectively.

Unplug.

On public transportation, for instance: turn off your phone, take out the earbuds, and just sit with yourself. Give your thoughts some space to breathe.

Listen to music.

On the other hand, music can transform my mood. Without getting addicted to reaching for headphones every time you go for a walk, turn to the pleasure of tunes to feel better. I have a bedtime playlist of Maja Vidal, News of Your Departure, and Charlene Kaye, and during the day turn to 8tracks and search for a certain mood. [My favorite is a Dancing in the Kitchen playlist].

Choose your pleasure reading carefully.

Get distracted by the right book. Choose wisely – are you the type of person who will be motivated or overwhelmed by reading a book like 7 Habits for Highly Effective People? When I’m busy I love to reread reliable favorites and children’s and YA lit.

Hang out with a puppy.

I mean, they’re so happy.

Alternatively, bring a cuddly toy.

[Sorry to bring up the puppy if you don't have one on hand; that's rough]. On a stressy day in high school, I carried around a cuddly penguin to great effect. [And if you think you're too cool for stuffed animals, read Brideshead Revisited].

Remember that the little things count.

Even if you don’t have time to make huge changes, remember that lots of little ones add up.

miss xandra bee

P.S. Thank you to Holly for requesting today’s articles. If you want me to write about a certain topic, just ask :)




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