miscellany : totem

April 6, 2016

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Inspired by blogger and Radical Self Love guru, Gala Darling, last year I created what I refer to as my Totem. As part of her Radical Self Love teachings, Gala suggests creating a ‘bible’ which is essentially a notebook full of things that inspire and encourage you. It sounds like an amazing project, at least, it does for me fifteen years ago but I knew I’d never get around to following through on something like that – who has the time? That’s where Pinterest came in for me: as any Pinterest user knows, you’ll come across pins that really speak to you but you don’t really have any boards that they make sense to pin to. Remembering Gala’s suggestion to start a ‘bible’, I created a board for all the motivational quotes that resonated, pictures of adorable animals that made me smile, gifs of glitter storms, etc. etc. etc.

I admit, the term ‘bible’ felt off to me so I decided to use ‘Totem’ as my descriptor – another tool Gala recommends in her Radical Self Love practice. The way Gala describes a totem is a personal object that speaks to you on a deep level and instills a sense of security and/or power on which to draw during challenging times. Not feeling that sort of affinity with any one possession in particular, I found that as I built my board with the same sentiment in mind it was becoming a virtual totem for me. Whenever I’m feeling down, overwhelmed, or uninspired I find myself scrolling through my board, remembering helpful sayings, cheering up at photos of capybaras in a lemon bath & drawings of Pikachu eating Pocky, and feeling strength from pictures of gorgeous emerald clusters. In fact, it’s been so helpful for me that I decided to share my previously secret board in hopes that it might inspire you to create your own totem board. It’s been such a useful tool for me I can’t help but want to share.

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It’s pretty simple: after you organically come across something that truly speaks to you, start a board and continue to pin items that ring true. Mainly, I pin things I come across on Pinterest but sometimes a post from Instagram or Tumblr grabs me and I pin from there. The trick is to carefully curate this board so that it achieves it’s purpose of cheering and encouraging you. Real talk: watching gif’s of Pikachu making goofy faces is enough to put a damper on even my worst moods while as a Taurus, I feel a strong resonance with emeralds and bulls so I love to pin them all when I come across them. As for motivational quotes, I am pretty picky when it comes to those as most feel a bit cheesy to me, but when I come across one that really hits home, I’ll be sure to add it to my board because chances are I’ll need to see it over and over again to reinforce the message.

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Whatever you choose to pin, make sure to review your board at least once a week but preferably when you’ve had a rough day and need encouragement. Anything that sticks out oddly or loses it’s power to fill you with joy should be deleted. My Totem is always a work in process and I love to scroll all the way to the bottom to see how my life has changed over the last year, which is reflected in which quotes I’ve chosen to pin and any patterns in picture types. Right now I’m posting tons of kawaii type stuff but just a few months ago I was obsessing over Einstruzende Neubauten vocalist Blixa Bargeld, an old crush from my late teens. Who knows what I’ll move on to next but whatever it is, it will be something I truly love or want to attract to me (like Pikachu!).

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You can check out my Totem board here. While you’re at it, you can check out all of my pins here.

I’d love to see your Totems too, leave a link to your board in the comments below!

miscellany : why i don’t like clothing swaps

March 21, 2016


Every day it seems, I receive an invite to a clothing swap party. I have a secret though, and it’s a doozy: I don’t like clothing swap parties. I’ve been to my share, I was even roped into hosting one years ago, but try as I might I just don’t get it. Sure, in theory it sounds awesome: trade things you no longer wear for the things your friends no longer wear. Win-win, right? Wrong-wrong. At least, that’s the case for me.

When it comes to discarding clothing I no longer want, I’ve had a system in place for my entire adult life. It goes something like this: buy expensive clothing, wear expensive clothing a few times, sell expensive clothing for a huge loss. In my early twenties I had a very bad habit of buying frilly Betsey Johnson party dresses for upwards of $250, only to wear them around my room a few times before deciding I’d never have an appropriate occasion for actually wearing them and then I’d haul them off to Buffalo Exchange, tags and all, and sell them for $60. Stupid, right? Totally. I stopped doing that quite a while ago but now when I’m sick of my perfect condition Paul & Joe jeans, whimsical Anthropologie blouses, and rainbow hued J Crew cardigans, I know full well that I can turn that bag of discards into $80 cash.

Which leads me to clothing swap parties. As mentioned, I’ve been to my share. First lesson learned, I don’t want my friend’s pilled sweaters and cheap festival tunics any more than they do. Second lesson learned, to trade my viable clothing for an itchy sweater or beat up pair of vintage boots that need $60 worth of rehabbing is just dumb. Usually, when I leave said parties I scoop up my items that haven’t been picked and take them away to confused stares, thinking ‘I guess I’m going to Buffalo after all’. Third lesson learned, the crazy crush that ensues with some of the larger clothing swap parties leaves me paralyzed with social anxiety and I don’t end up finding anything cool anyway since I’m too scared to move, and god forbid, be in someone’s way. Some of these larger parties can be bananas! Fourth lesson learned, clothing swap parties aren’t called Naked Lady parties for nothing. Sure, pro’s will tell you to wear leggings and a tank top under your clothing to make stripping down and trying things on easy sans dressing rooms and it is good advice … except if you’re like me and you don’t even like changing in private dressing rooms. I’ve ended up with lots of clothing that didn’t work for me just because I hate dressing rooms so much – I’ll just buy something and try it on at home and then kick myself when I decide to take it back and suddenly notice that the receipt shows a ‘no returns’ policy. I suppose in the case of a swap this method isn’t so bad since you’re not out any money but you will be up on clutter until you haul your crappy swaps off to Goodwill. Still, that is if you manage to find anything at all. I’ve definitely grabbed things before in a desperate attempt to “enjoy” said parties and ended up getting home only to realize I grabbed some spandex monstrosity that was originally sold at Walgreens.

In the end, the one and only clothing swap party I enjoyed was one where pretty much no one showed up. A good friend hosted, a few friends that couldn’t make it dropped stuff off earlier and I got an awesome dress that I’ve lived in the past two summers and a comfy sweater that’s great for sitting around the house in. Since there were only a handful of us, I was able to peruse the clothing without pressure and when I left, collecting all my stuff for a future Buffalo trip, there were only a few confused stares to contend with. Success!

I know, I know: haters gonna hate and doers gonna do. I just felt like it was time I put it out there that no, I really don’t want to come to your clothing swap party – it’s not personal. Instead, I’ll be standing in line at Buffalo and blowing my cash on fancy smoothies and a new pair of earrings afterwards.

dj big booty judy gets personal

March 11, 2016

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Our very own DJ Big Booty Judy shared some exciting news with me a little while back – she’s expanding her empire with a wee DJ due in July! I’m quite honored today to share her first musical love note to her baking bun …

The blushing mama-to-be says: I apologize in advance, but things are about to get intimate. If you don’t like gushy lovely dovey stuff, skip the blurb and hop straight to the play button (by “hop” I mean run right this minute) … Are you here if you want to be here? Cool. On a very personal note, I ‘m growing a human. At 4 months and counting, this tiny human just established the ability to hear, and is refining this skill everyday. This made me think about my top ten songs that I would play for someone hearing music for the first time (a feat, and a challenge). My best go, but baby this one is for you … and YOU too, of course!

Dear Baby…a musical love note from DJBigBootyJudy on 8tracks Radio.

Congratulations, BBJ! We can’t wait to meet your new addition this summer!

dj big booty judy does valentines

February 12, 2016

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Here at VGS Valentine’s Day is one of our favorites: pink + red hearts, glitter, flowers, candy, declarations of love – I mean, who among us doesn’t love those things? And during the dreary month of February, they resonate that much more. Still, not everyone has a special someone and that’s ok! Personally, some of my best Valentine days happened along while I was single. There’s nothing wrong with being your own Valentine, just remember the number one rule: Treat Yo’ Self!

With that in mind, VGS mix master DJ Big Booty Judy put together a lovely and loving compilation about missed connections, unrequited love, and yes, even a little heart break. Light some candles, snuggle up in your snuggie and let the tunes take you away. Says Judy: I’m a huge fan of love songs, and an even bigger fan of love! The loveliest love bug that ever did love. I thought I would take a stab at a mix for the broken hearted, the songs stand!

Lonely Teardrops from DJBigBootyJudy on 8tracks Radio


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Thanks for reading VGS! We wish you the happiest of Valentine’s Days!!

dj big booty judy resets

January 18, 2016

With a new year comes new opportunities to refresh and reset. With that in mind, VGS resident mix master DJ Big Booty Judy has got a new playlist to help you on your way to renewal and rejuvenation.

Says Judy: Enjoy these songs to start the year to, and pick your pace.

Renew from DJBigBootyJudy on 8tracks Radio.

it’s a sad sad day

January 11, 2016

les-visages-de-david-bowie-en-un-gif-anime,M189939Illustrations by Helen Green

Mere days after his 69th birthday, David Bowie has died after a year and a half long battle with cancer. At least, that’s what woke me up on the radio this morning. At first I scoffed: No, no, no … they’ve got it all wrong! What a cock up! They’ve confused his just past birthday with his death?! Then I broke out into a sweat: Wait, I’m so confused …  could he really be dead?! Then I started crying, because it was true.

As a small child one of my favorite ways to spend the day was listening to records with my mom. She had loads of Bowie albums (all of which live with me now) and I became a fan right away; I couldn’t have been more than two or three when I first became aware of his music so I feel confident saying I didn’t become a music fan until I heard him. He was also my first crush and I watched any film he acted in with equal measures of lust, reverence, fascination and awe. I saw him live once and even though I was miles up in the nosebleeds I felt a connection to him over that immense distance and left that stadium walking on air because for just a few hours, he and I shared the same space, breathed the same air, and saw the same sights.

I feel completely silly crying over the death of a celebrity but it’s been a tough morning. I have cried. A lot. Just when I think I’m done crying, I start all over again. His music, his art, his relentless pursuit of living his life on his terms were so inspirational and I’m seeing that was the case for so many others and not just myself. I’ve held David in a little part of my heart since I was a tiny girl, and as silly as it sounds, that part of me didn’t really think he would ever not be a part of my world. I feel like I lost a family member today. There will never be another David Bowie. Long live David Bowie.

miscellany : intentions

January 4, 2016

Stuffs (7 of 13)The final hour of my traditional Swedish Grenljus candle. After singeing a rabbit pelt with it’s drippings and later completely crumpling into masses of hot wax and huge flames, this candle is lovely but dangerous. That said, you should totally get one!

Happy New Year! I’m not a fan of the holidays, or this time of year, but I survived (thus far anyway) and hope you had a great time with friends and family. As we enter the new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about my action plan for the next 12 months. It may sound silly but one of the things that helps me with this bleak time of year is the warm glow of candles and I meditated (aka spaced out) on them a lot over the holidays, especially when thinking about my intentions for the upcoming year. I’ve already seen people on social media who claim to have failed their resolutions which is why I have decided to forgo resolutions in favor of intentions. I know, is there difference? The definition of Resolution is ‘a firm decision to do or not do something’ while the definition of Intention is ‘a thing intended; an aim or plan’. I feel like most people fail at their resolutions because it’s too hard to break old habits overnight but having a plan and allowing yourself to work towards it over time is probably going to have better results. Even though I have had success on multiple occasions with quitting things cold turkey (cigarette smoking and eating potato chips being my two biggest examples), I’ve found cold turkey only works when a perfect storm brews and the truth is that rarely happens, and almost never when you want it to. With all that in mind, I wanted to share a few of the intentions I’ve set to comprise my larger plan. They are:

  • No sugar (again). I was pretty good with this one for the majority of last year, but I fell off the wagon hard a few weeks ago when I gave into my instincts to ‘squirrel up’ for winter. It’s been all cookies, cake, and donuts since and I’m feeling it.
  • Exercise daily (again). This is another one that I have been good about in the past despite my lack of athleticism and strong natural inclination to live my life from the couch. I know from experience that regular exercise helps keep my anxiety in check, increases my energy levels, and makes me feel more comfortable in my body. The problem is whenever there is a break in my routine, even for just a day or two, it’s like starting back at square one so my goal is to work on fixing that – once I actually start exercising again, heh.
  • Try harder, work harder, avoid procrastination at all times. This one is pretty self explanatory, and if anyone knows the cure for procrastination please hit me up.
  • Build and stick to routines but do not be ruled by routines. I function best when I have routines in place but as I mentioned about exercise, once my routine is inevitably switched up I feel like I might as well have been propelled into outer space – totally lost and untethered. Since leaving my bank job last summer I’ve struggled to create new routines but I’m determined to get that sorted asap and hopefully to learn to be more flexible with them.
  • Write every day including keeping a daily journal. The two skills I utilize most as a blogger are photography and writing and I’m always looking to improve those skills. The year before last I decided to work toward improving my writing and last year I focused on improving my photography. I felt like I made good progress in both areas but lately I’ve had ideas for articles, think pieces, etc. and have found myself putting them off indefinitely for fear of not being able to write about those topics at the level I want to. Well, practice makes perfect so I’ve decided to spend time each day working on writing, especially those things that pop into my head. Anything that turns out well will make it to the blog, so expect some new content this year. As for journaling, I’ve done it in the past and found it to be helpful in a lot of ways and it feels like a good time to work this practice into my day again.
  • Start a stress log. Different from a journal, I’ve designated a notebook just for logging my stressors. As someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, I overwhelm easily. The idea is to log each stressor as it pops up to help diffuse it and possibly even see patterns in my stress and anxiety to help me avoid getting to that place of overwhelm.
  • Limit TV and read more. Working from home most days means I’m all alone which gets difficult, even for an introvert like me. By the time Nat gets home from work it’s like he’s the first person I’ve seen in a year and I follow him around the house talking non-stop. Enter TV: last September I was sick for over two weeks and I started watching Grimm to kill time. At first it was terrible and I barely watched it except to yell at the TV about how the poison dart frogs they kept calling toads were, in fact, not toads and that no, the B&B I grew up by in Irvington is not in a rural locale and you definitely can’t walk there from Nob Hill in ten minutes or less. Then something crazy happened, by season three I was HOOKED. I started actually watching it and I watched it while putting on makeup, while making and eating lunch, while cooking dinner … and then I had somehow watched all the episodes. So I started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Then I finished all those episodes and I … well, I started watching Teen Wolf. You just shoosh now because Teen Wolf is actually SUPER good (for a cheesy show about teenage werewolves anyway) but damn it, now I’ve watched all those episodes too. It finally dawned on me that TV is not a substitute for actual human interaction and I could be spending all that time more productively. So, no more daytime tv and less evening tv are what’s in the cards for me. I read A LOT as a kid, sometimes two full novels in one day, and I can only help but feel my time will be better spent reading over time spent watching TV. (Seriously though: TEEN WOLF.)
  • Create a business plan for really reals. This was a goal of mine last year but the thought intimidated me so much I never got around to it, which I blame for how aimless I feel despite the fact that my freelance career is off to a good start. I figure it can only get better, especially if I map out an actual plan with actual goals to focus on. If you have any good resources related to this, please share.
  • Love yourself. I feel like I’ve made good progress in this over the past few years but I can always use the reminder, especially in the winter months when I suffer from seasonal affective disorder and things feel bleak. As RuPaul says, If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else? Amen, Ru!

As I type this post, the city has been plagued by snow and ice and Mercury enters retrograde tomorrow so I’m vowing now to be gentle with myself this month, and not put too much pressure on myself to bust out of the gates and accomplish all of these things right away. Instead I’ll be working out ideas and being nice to myself via fancy baths, healthy snacks and meditation (aka spacing out) with the idea that I’ll be ready to bust out of the gates and get stuff done come February.

Back to candles, I joked with Nat while watching Scream Queens last fall that I’m on course to become Candle Vlogger. Not really, but here’s another shot of candles anyway …

Stuffs (11 of 13)I love the Ink Shop wood wick candle in Coffee + Tobacco because it smells just like Joe Brown’s Carmel Corn in Lloyd Center and because I love the sweet crackle that comes with wood wicks. Wary Meyers Mainely Manly is another favorite with it’s warm notes of balsam, pine and musk. I’ve been burning it off and on since I got it for my birthday last May and it’s just now below the half way mark. Looking on are my Great Aunt Mildred and Great Uncle Dutch and a bird from my grandparents’ Xmas ornament collection, it’s seen better days but I still love it.

brb : happy solstice

December 22, 2015

Moomin_Solstice‘Preparing for Winter’ from the Moomin Troll series by Tove Jansson

Happy Solstice! Winter is officially upon us but the good news is that the days will slowly begin to get longer again. I don’t know about you, but it’s all I can do to not completely shut down this time of the year. No fan of Xmas, I do my best to continue on with life while burning candles and eating baked goods like theres no tomorrow – my attempts at hygge, the Danish concept of enduring these long dark months with fun and warmth. Though I won’t say it actually works, I admit I’d be completely lost without it. So while I wrap my poor head around the fact that summer is a long, long ways off yet and I try to figure out how to survive winter yet again, I figured now is a good time to recount the past year …

After fifteen long years of slogging along in the real estate industry, I’m happy to say I finally left it all behind at the end of June. Freelance life is a real trip, especially when you come from structured office environments but I’m settling in and working with my amazing clients Honey Kennedy, Alexa Stark, and Juju Papers. Currently, I’m working for all three as a blogging contributor and I’m also working with Alexa and Juju on social media and marketing. I’ve also been doing the retail thing occasionally at Backtalk on Mississippi which has been a lot of fun. Overall, leaving behind what I’ve been doing for what seems like forever was scary as hell but so totally necessary. Here I am, barely six months into my new career and I’m worlds happier and things are looking bright and sparkly. In 2016 I’ll be looking to take on a few more clients, and I’ll be launching a business!! More on that soon …

As for the blog, it’s still my first love. Though I haven’t had as much time for it as I began to navigate my new career, I’m working on fixing that and taking VGS to an all new level in 2016. Despite my reduced activity here, I’m really happy with where VGS is at content-wise. As I always strive to improve my blogging skills, namely writing and photography, I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress this year; I think my interviews are more interesting than ever and I’ve learned a lot about lighting in photography. Related, I also learned (once again) that I am very stubborn when I think I know how to do something and that letting go and working even harder at something always results in a great improvement.

With that, I’m bidding you and 2015 a fond adieu … see you again next year!


peace out

dj big booty judy welcomes a new year

December 15, 2015

The holidays are upon us and instead of rehashing all the same tired old holiday songs, DJ Big Booty Judy is ready to party like it’s 1999 … or you know, nearly the end of 2015. Push play, doll up your face, put on something sparkly, throw back a glass of rosé, and make the last few days of the year count.

Says Judy: ‘Just a few songs for getting ready, for dancing to … and don’t forget to slow dance with your boo at the end of the night.’

Coming Soon…2016 from DJBigBootyJudy on 8tracks Radio.

miscellany : pipsticks

December 14, 2015

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As a child of the 80’s, I learned to appreciate stickers at a very early age. Be they scratch n’ sniff, puffy or glitter, they all ended up in my sticker book. Even decades later, I still recall some of the stickers I collected in exact detail and man, what I wouldn’t give to have them still! Despite my getting older, my love of stickers hasn’t seemed to wane any and though I don’t have a sticker book any more I still collect them in my own way; though I haven’t had time for snail mail recently I used to be big on pen pals, letters to whom just beg for awesome stickers, and now I add them to just about anything and everything: water bottles, notebooks, or you know, my refrigerator.

It was with all that in mind that I found myself giddy at the chance to preview a sticker subscription service called Pipsticks. Highly curated and internationally sourced, I was guaranteed ‘the coolest’ stickers. Given my oh-so-high standards I was slightly dubious at first, but when my Pipsticks Pro-Pack arrived I immediately developed a serious case of heart eyes. Neon arrows, little critters, glittery rain drops, emojis … be still my beating heart –

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I’ve never been more convinced of my need for a sticker subscription service. Good thing Pipsticks was kind enough to provide a discount just for VGS readers: Save 15% off your first month with code GRANDE15. Choose from Pipsticks’ Kid’s Club Classic or Petite for your littles or the Pro Club Classic or Petite for yourself or a well deserving sticker-loving friend.

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