Evening Walks With Minjay

Winter days are just so short. Actually, my sister would tell me that’s inaccurate. “Days are the same duration of time, there are no short or long days,” she has said to me several times. And she’s right, of course.

Over the last few weeks, evening walks with Minjay have turned around my idea of winter days.

Ever since the beginning of November, it’s been painful to sit at my desk and watch the beautiful sunset colors in the distance through a window, if I tilt my head in a certain way. It was more than just getting a glimpse of what I’m missing out on. What really bothered me was the feeling that my entire day was being spent at work. Where’s the balance in that?

(Shouldn’t winter work days be reset anyway, from 8 to 4, so people can leave in daylight? This goes to a bigger conversation currently being catapulted by women like Anne-Marie Slaughter and Kim Azzarelli about how ridiculous certain workday and workplace practices are when you really think about them.)

In the past, during winter days, I would customarily get home and collapse indoors, and that usually involved the TV. I love a good TV show, don’t get me wrong, but it would take up an entire evening. It would be either that, or doing more work at home. This winter, due to my schedule, I’ve had to give Minjay a long walk every evening as soon as I get home.

At first, I would just slug through the walks, but then the fresh air and crisp night smells got to me. Slowly, I began to embrace them. I got an idea. For months and months, I had wanted to listen to a few podcasts I’d heard of. It’s one of those thing we put off for no good reason, usually using the excuse of not having enough time. So I spent less than 5 minutes one night downloading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons, Gretchen Rubin’s Happier, and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk. I started with Magic Lessons, and after a couple of evenings walks listening to them, I couldn’t wait to get home for my new routine. It became my “Podcast Time.” Instead of a chore, those thirty-minute walks became free time I could do something I had perviously felt I didn’t have enough time for. Thanks to Minjay, instead of the normal winter blues and restlessness, nighttime walks became a special treat.

Slowly, they began to expand. Some nights I’d listen up on favorite albums I missed. Or we’d walk to nearby shops instead of sticking to the same few blocks. A frequent stop has become Barnes & Noble, which I love even more now because they let Minjay in with me. There we roam around. I browse new books (Minjay seems to love the smell) and get inspired. Last night while there, I found this great journal by Knock Knock, which made me pause and think about how we could each see every day, choosing to see the good or the bad. Just like we could choose to approach something as a chore, or make the most of it and turn it into time we look forward to. (Yes, I am a stubborn, eternal optimist).

Knock Knock Journal Optimist

The back of the journal even has clear instructions:

Record your observations about the world and its bright side. Watch, document, and report. 

This brought to mind the idea that people find what they look for.

On the way back home from Barnes & Noble, I did indeed find what I looked for: an exceptionally beautiful night. The stars were so clear. I just didn’t want to go back inside. I was inspired to go up to the building’s communal roof deck with Minjay and just sit for 20 minutes on the dewey couch with my head back, staring straight up at the sky, listening to music. Yes it was cold. Yes it was even a bit uncomfortable. But it was so peaceful. I felt so happy to be breaking out of routine, to be out in nature staring at the night sky, and getting out of the usual rush, rush, rush of weekdays.

While I sat on the wet couch looking up, ‘Tripping Billies’ by Dave Mathews Band came on Pandora randomly. The chorus ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry…” was the perfect soundtrack for stargazing.

I began to wonder why I didn’t do that every single night, even if just for 5 minutes. All it takes is walking up the stairs. In my three years in this building, I’ve done that just twice.

The thing is, we have to remind ourselves, actively, not to get stuck in our ruts, and to make the most of every day–even if it’s dark outside.

No matter how busy we are, is it really impossible to find 5 minutes every night after all is done, (or even 20 minutes if possible) to step out for a walk around the block and look up at the stars?


5 Simple Steps to Create Your Own Gallery Wall

How to Create a Gallery Wall Simple Easy Home Improvement Decor

A big part of work-life balance, to me, is taking the time to take care of your living space. N and I recently embarked on several small projects to reenergize our apartment and play up more of a beach theme, since that’s where we live. We added some new shelves, new decoration and tried to get rid of stuff we’ve accumulated over the past 3 years that we don’t really need. And it has made a big difference in how comfortable (and pretty) our space is.

One thing I’ve wanted to do for a while is put up a Gallery Wall. In fact, it’s been over 6 months that the project has been on my mind. The main reason I kept putting it off was the time it would require to wade through all the photographs on my home computer (more than 30,000!) and choose the right ones.

But after a recent trip to the San Diego Comic Con in mid-July, where I came across and bought some beautiful art by Pascal Campion, I was inspired to really give it a go. And one quote kept popping up in my mind:

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good Gretchen Rubin

..one of Gretchen Rubin’s “Secrets of Adulthood” from her book, The Happiness Project. (See my previous post about this book, one of my all-time favorites, which I highly recommend! And her second book: Happier at Home).

This idea is also one of Sheryl Sandberg’s favorite mottos, which always comes to my mind when I’m putting something off because of the excuse of not having enough time:

“Done is better than perfect.”

Sandberg writes in Lean In: “I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.”

So, I gave myself 2 evenings to select some photographs. I reminded myself that I could change them at any time. They didn’t have to be the best, most absolutely perfect pictures for my perfect Gallery Wall. They just had to be beautiful photographs I’d enjoy looking at every day and would, within the set of the gallery, bring me joy every evening when I walked into the house. After narrowing it down to about 50 images, I then got real about what image would work in what frame, and how they work together.

After months of putting it off because “I didn’t have enough time,” it was done in around 4 and a half hours spread across 3 evenings. I finally put it up, entirely on my own from start to finish and learned a big lesson about just doing it.

Here are the 5 simple steps that I followed:

1. Collect a variety of frames. They should definitely be of different sizes, some average 4×6 or 5×7, at least one tiny and one huge, to have a variety in the display. To be honest, I did this gradually over a year, but it can also be done with a more concerted effort over a couple of weeks. You don’t have to spend a lot. Pottery Barn (my brown frames) always seems to have sales on their frame collection. Aaron Brothers has many affordable options (the white frames), and there is always IKEA.

2. Choose images to frame, preferably a combination of art, prints and photographs. I loved the ideas of using my own photos since photography is one of my hobbies. But if you prefer to purchase professional ones, that works too. There are also several great websites like Unsplash and Picjumbo where you can download some beautiful high resolution photographs for free.

How to Create a Gallery Wall

3. Map out the layout of your wall using parchment or boarding paper (I got a big roll with plenty leftover for 4$ from Home Depot) and blue wall-safe Painter’s Tape. Pottery Barn has a small manual on creating Gallery Walls that I had saved in January when the idea of putting one up first game to mind. They suggest that instead of trying to imagine it, you can use parchment paper to put up the frames and…

How to Create a Gallery Wall Simple Easy

4. Print your images cheaply, either at a home printer or somewhere like Staples, as I did. Put them up on your parchment paper frames and play around with the different colors to choose your final selection.

5. Hammer in those nails and get the frames up. Once you’re happy with how the images look, you can print them out properly.

How to Create a Gallery Wall Simple Easy

The next step for me is going to be finding a couple of non-frame objects to add. I’m hoping I’ll come across great pieces during travels in the next three of months– and a few new photographs or prints too. The best part is: once it’s up, you can play with changing images around every few months. (More on this soon.)

Every time I look at my new Gallery Wall I smile, and it was well worth the wait and effort. So, what are you waiting for? Make this your project for one week, using your evenings after work for this fun effort to brighten up your space.