Between the Covers – March 2019

As of this writing, I am 41% into my reading goal for 2019. That’s 12 of 29 books, seven of which I finished in the months of March and April.

Here are my March books:

THE APPEAL – JOHN GRISHAM

In this novel, rated 3.59 stars on Goodreads, a giant chemical company was found guilty of dumping toxic waste that caused the worst cancer cluster that had ever been known. The verdict was a victory for the small town that had wasted away, and a much-needed win for the small husband-and-wife lawfirm that took the fight to the courts. The fight was far from over though – there was still an appeal to overcome.

I was a John Grisham fan in high school but I haven’t read much of his work in recent years. Some of the more memorable legal thrillers I’ve read had to do with torts cases like this book was focused on: Grisham’s own King of Torts, and A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr. I loved them because they were about righting wrongs, and making big companies pay for cutting corners and doing damage to life and the environment. Think Erin Brockovich, the Julia Roberts movie.

But, I have to say I am disappointed with this one. For me, it reads too much as a news story or maybe a legal transcript. It was not very compelling and not so much the legal thriller I remember Grisham writes. I was not even sure I would finish it, but I did – because I was hoping for a different ending.

It does make quite a statement though. That the legal system could be quite the sham.

A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS – KEITH STUART

Stitches & Words | Between the Covers March/April 2019 - A Boy Made of Blocks
Stitches & Words | Between the Covers March 2019 – A Boy Made of Blocks

Now here was a book, with a 4.3 star rating on Goodreads, that was quite heartwarming.

This is from my 2018 Big Bad Wolk Booksale haul. I saw it among the piles of books at the World Trade Center, and was intrigued by the title. I initially thought it was somehow LEGO related, but it turns out to be about a Dad who found a way to connect with his young son through the game Minecraft.

Something I takeaway from the book is the need to have a shift in perspective (in case one is needed) from seeing a person with disability as a problem that needed to be dealt with to seeing them as A PERSON, and treating them just like another human being, albeit with special needs.

LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS – CHARLAINE HARRIS

Stitches & Words | Between Covers March 2019 - Living Dead in Dallas
Stitches & Words | Between Covers March 2019 – Living Dead in Dallas

Many years ago, around 2013 if I’m not mistaken, I took two trips to the National Bookstore Warehouse sale at their Panay Ave/Quezon Ave branch, and brought home boxes of books. This, along with many other Charlaine Harris titles, was in one of those. I never got to watch the True Blood series on HBO but knew that it was based on these Sookie Stackhouse novels.

Truth is, I wasn’t interested in reading the books, but the husband (then still the boyfriend) saw the books, and at 50 pesos each, I couldn’t let it go. So we picked up all the titles we could find (and one or two dupes with a different cover), and they’d been sitting on my shelves ever since.

When it was time to get started on these books (I just decided it was time) I realized that I didn’t have Book One. I resolved to live on the edge and just start with Book Two and it wasn’t so bad. I figured I’d give it a shot and then decide if I’d read the rest, or get of rid of it. Book 2 is 3.98 starts on Goodreads.

The verdict? I wouldn’t call this one a keeper, but I think I’ll keep reading. It’s easy to read, not complicated, even shallow (?). And sometimes you need books like this one.

WRITE HERE WRITE NOW – AA PATAWARAN

Stitches & Words | Between Covers March 2019 - Write Here Write Now
Stitches & Words | Between Covers March 2019 – Write Here Write Now

Now this has got to be one of my newest favorites! It’s a book about writing and it was written so beautifully. I don’t think I can ever be as great a writer, and I don’t even mean in the sense of getting published or becoming well known – but just in terms of quality of writing.

Let’s just say that after reading, I wished I had continued to write or maybe took up writing electives while at the UP. I wish I had a writing mentor. Because I missed out on that, and years and years of no practice – I’ll just do the next best thing: continue my attempts at writing, and re-read this gem of a book every once in a while.

There goes my March books. Did you read any of these? I’d love to know what you thought about either one. What are you reading next?

Week 1 of #VeraDocumentsLife

It’s Day 9 of #the100dayproject and Hallelujah! I am still on track.

What I’m Liking

  • Printing photos – I’ve decided that I actually love my Canon Selphy printer. It’s not the best quality, but it definitely gets the job done.
  • Recalling stories – Thanks to my Passion Planner for making this task a bit easier.
  • Alphabet stickers! – Really, letter stickers are all the embellishment I need. But I am loving chipboard elements and vinyl stickers too.
  • The Project Life App
    • This is where I check if the photos I have are good to print (the app alerts you if the resolution is too low for a 4×6 print (or a 12×12 if that’s the template you’re using)).
    • I also use this to collage two photos into a 4×6 print, to be cut after printing and inserted in the 3×4 pockets of my pages.
    • The free form text tool for adding words to my photos. The app allows the addition of .ttf font files and already I am thinking of downloading other font types for future use (that can easily go crazy).
  • This daily creative activity inspires even more creativity.
    • I organized my small stash of alphabet stickers and other embellishments!
    • I am also already wondering about the other albums I want to work on – what form they will be in (printing pages or bound photo albums).
    • Coming up with ways I can add more stories into my pages even when I don’t have the photos to go with them.

What I Don’t Like So Much

  • Some days I spend more than an hour working on this project – I love every second of it and wish I could do it all day – ha! But I am trying to be more conscious of NOT spending TOO MUCH TIME on this. The only way to sustain this for the full 100 days (and beyond – for future projects) is to NOT think it requires much effort and time (and money).

Finding Joy

I can’t think of anything else, really, that I don’t like about doing this project. The truth is, I am enjoying it. And I am finding joy. It also inspires me to live a life worthy of those pages I make.

Last weekend, the husband and I explored the streets of Binondo to sample good food. We made new memories. It would have been easier to stay at home the entire weekend – eat, sleep, Netflix, repeat – and that would have been okay too. But actively documenting our lives through photos and stories moved us to do more.

I have yet to be caught up with this year’s book, when I do, it will only take once a week to stay current. I will then have the rest of the 100 days to work on my other albums. Can’t wait.

#the100dayproject – Vera Documents Life!

For the third year in a row, I am signed up for The 100 Day Project. Check out the link to find out more, I hope you decide to join in or follow along.

Beginning April 2, I shall be embarking on a journey of a hundred days of memory keeping.

Memory what? Memory Keeping!

Are you familiar with Timehop? Or the Memories app on Facebook? It shows you something from your feed from the same day of each year in the past, for as far back as when you joined Facebook. It could be one of your own posts, or one you were tagged in. Honestly, love that feature!

It’s an automated way of showing us what we were doing, thinking, or even found interesting in the past. We have no control over what shows up though; sometimes even stuff we didn’t mean to memorialize just come up. Truly, it digs up stuff we forgot we ever posted about.

Still, it’s a pretty nifty app, don’t you think? There are times when it shows a past aspiration, a dream project, or even just something I said wanted to do or a place I wanted to visit. Sometimes that reminder is enough to push me into action (in case I didn’t take action before). Sometimes it’s a strong reminder of what I had already forgotten.

What if the app is discontinued? What if Facebook shuts down or you lose access to your account?

I have just been notified of my 10 years on Facebook. If I get locked out of my account, how will I get back those 10 years’ worth of posts, albums, memories?

Memory Keeping is anything you do to document your current life or past experiences, so it can later on be reviewed and/or enjoyed. It could be your way of telling your story and making your mark. It can be a piece of family history that gets passed on from generation to generation.

Many of us treat our social media feeds as the sole avenue for memory keeping. We setup albums of our most memorable occasions and experiences. When we’ve reached milestones, we mark the occasion by posting about it.

That’s all good, but if it’s the only way we preserve our memories, what happens when those sites go away? Have we learned anything from the demise of Multiply and Friendster? Is there another way we’re documenting our lives?

We take loads of photos everyday but apart from uploading to social media, most of the time those photos are just left sitting in your phone albums, or on computed hard drives. Who sees them? Don’t wait for first-hand experience when technology fails. I have lost plenty of photos due to computers crashing or hard drives failing. Sayang naman those photos.

This project is my way of preserving those memories and turning them into something tangible that we can enjoy now, and for years and years to come.

Project Goals

For many years I told myself I will be printing my photos and creating Project Life albums to record our life. I’ve amassed a lot of supplies and spent a lot of money towards this intention. So far though, I have one photobook for a day tour of a local museum, another one documenting my first ever 5k run with my girlfriends, and a 30 Days of Thankful album. I’ve got a few weeks’ documented for 2015, maybe 2 or 3 spreads from other years.

Here are some of my Memory Keeping goals:

  • Make a photobook of our Bangkok 2017 trip.
  • Make a photobook of our Taiwan 2018 trip.
  • Do a 2018 Yearbook.
  • Start and get caught up on our 2019 Yearbook.
  • Do something with our Wedding photos
  • Make a photobook of our Palawan 2018 trip, or include pages of it in our 2018 yearbook.
  • Track older photos and figure out a central storage (could be cloud-based) that will allow me to easily get them into books and printed.

I have no illusions of completing ALL of this in 100 days, but if I do, wouldn’t that be ever so SPECTACULAR? My goals for these hundred days though, would be:

  • To get started!
  • To do SOMETHING Memory Keeping related each and every day
    • Go through course/s in the BH CLassroom (I purchased the Photo Tips + Workflow class while it was on sale, but it’s still available on full price right now. Also thinking about getting the Yearbook class, on its final 20% off sale TODAY!)
    • Select + edit photos
    • Print photos
    • Work on Journalling
    • Put pages together
  • Use my existing supplies!
  • Share my progress.

#the100DayProject Inspiration

On Instagram, I follow the #the100dayproject to be inspired by others who are creating something every single day. When you do that it can be easy to feel intimidated about how beautiful others’ work can be, or how much progress they are making. Instead, I choose the inspiration that comes out of their accomplishments.

Here are some accounts or hashtags to checkout, and hopefully they move you to do your own #100dayproject:

#the100dayproject

Amanda of mooandboohandmade

Elise Joy (she’s so amazing, really a creativity/productivity peg!)

I’ll re-share others also on my Instagram in the coming days. 🙂

You can do any of the following to follow and support me as I document life:

  • Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/verabear
  • Follow #veradocumentslife
  • I will figure out a way to share the URL of my blog’s Facebook page, haha 🙂

I hope you follow along and tag us if you decide to do your own 100 day project!

The Sleep Revolution

This is a combined Fit 2019 (March) and Between the Covers (February Books) Update

February went by like a blur. I am thankful for all the blessings and learnings the month brought into my life, but, most of all I am happy it is over. I feel like I breezed through the month only half-awake.

There was only one book for me in the 28 days of February: Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution. It spoke to me about my challenges with sleep. And it seemed as if I was really supposed to read it around this time because it was when I struggled most with sleep.

Stitches & Words | The Sleep Revolution

After collapsing and waking up in the Emergency Room because of chronic sleep deprivation, Arianna Huffington now dedicates her life to spreading the importance of sleep and what needs to be done to ensure that we get enough of it. Sleep deprivation has serious repercussions not only to our health, but on everything! It affects our job (or academic) performance, our personal relationships (ever notice how short-fused people with less than 7 hours of sleep can get?), even our bank accounts.

In this book she shares scientific studies on sleep and sleep deprivation, and compelling arguments, along with a few remedies, to get everyone to sleep better. And I’m convinced. Okay, I’ve been convinced even before reading the book, but I read it anyway and don’t think it was a waste of my time.

I’ve shared a bit about my quest for good sleep and my sleep apnea diagnosis here before. I’m still very much a work in progress, meaning I am still basically sleep deprived. And in the last four weeks or so I’ve been feeling a little more more crappy than usual. I won’t be surprised if I gained a few pounds (although I certainly hope not), because I’ve not been able to exercise properly. I stayed away from doing my workouts because I haven’t been sleeping well. From past experience, forcing myself to workout without proper sleep results to more stress and eventually getting sick. Here’s hoping that my attempts at keeping a generally healthy plate for most of my meals, and not over-indulging on any of my off-days, has been enough.

And I’m not giving up on sleep! I sure will be tapping on some of these tips for better sleep:

The Sleep Revolution is a call to action – to prioritise sleep and to recognize the ill effects of sleep deprivation. One more thing that’s part of its advocacy that hits me too close is drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is yet another side effect of sleep deprivation and is tied to 1.2 million crashes per year. Much awareness has been raised about avoiding drunk driving but I doubt if people have really thought much about driving without enough rest.

Two years ago I crashed onto another vehicle after falling asleep on the wheel. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Since then, I have tried to be aware of my level of awakeness before I have to go anywhere. Whenever I get into the driver’s seat, I am armed with little snacks (nuts, Chocnut, and chocolate), and music to sing-along to. Recently, I’ve also started listening to podcasts (Cultivate A Good Life, Behind the Scenes, Marie Forleo, Health Unveiled, and The Good Life Project) to keep me alert. Whoever rides shotgun has to be ready to stay awake, and chat a lot! But when preventive measures fail, we pull over and take a nap for as long as it takes.

If you live by the mantra “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” and have convinced yourself that you only need 4 hours of sleep to refuel and recharge, think again. Get yourself a copy of this book!

Amazon National Bookstore Book Xcess

How I Survived A NO-SPEND Month

Stitches & Words | How I Survived a No-Spend Month

I started my year with a shopping detox, and I survived!

What is a NO-SPEND month?

A no-spend challenge is an undertaking to spend only on necessities, or to refrain from spending on specific categories, for a specified amount of time. The intention is generally to cut-back on specific types of expenses, but it could also be a means to evaluate and reframe spending habits, or taken as an opportunity to look at one’s attitude towards shopping.

In my case, I decided the whole month of January 2019 to be my no-spend month. In part, I feel like it may not have been the best time to do it because so many brands go on Clearance Sale after the holidays. On the other hand, it could also have been the ideal season to do it, because I saved a 100% on the stuff I didn’t buy – and we most likely didn’t really need them.

Having said that, perhaps it was all the sales happening online and in-stores that made me think for a second that I wasn’t going to be able to pull through. But I did!

How I Survived A Whole Month Without Shopping

To say I didn’t spend anything in the month of January 2019 would be a lie. But I can definitely state for the record that any spending I did were for our day-to-day necessities or were pre-planned expenses (like me pairs of flip-flops). For someone who does a lot of online shopping (me!) that is really tough. If you would like to do a similar challenge, here are my tips for success:

Set your WHY

This has to be the most important step – set your intentions for taking on a no-spend challenge. You must be very clear of your goals, and why you want to do it. Without the Y, you are likely going to fail.

Why I did No-Spend January – My husband and I earn a decent income. It definitely affords us a comfortable (for us) lifestyle, and funds our hobbies and interests. But believe it or not, we don’t have a lot saved up. I was not hoping to “save money” through this exercise (I had already decided to reduce my shopping budget for the year) but I did want to stand back and re-evaluate my spending habits. I want to do all the things, but I also want to be more intentional with what I spend money on, and what I make space for in my life. Staying away from any unnecessary spending for a whole month was a way for me to reflect on that.

Identify Triggers, and Stay Away

It is important to dig deep (okay, maybe not even) and find out your triggers for unnecessary, and/or impulsive shopping. For me, it’s Instagram. And I don’t mean those influencers with curated feeds, but actual online sellers with IG as their platform.

Thanks to my favorite Plus-Size seller on Instagram, I have quite a lot of clothes that fit, and that spark joy. 🙂 I ordered a lot from her last year, even when I had no plans to. My shopping style was this:

  • Seller posts new clothes up for sale
    • Is it my size? Yes. Mine!
    • Refresh feed.
    • Is it in my size? Yes. Mine!

And I follow more than one plus-size seller – so that could happen multiple times a month! And I also have a favorite book seller, a few local bag-makers, and then those lovely accessories too. If I surrounded myself with those triggers, it would be a little more difficult to say no to spending. I didn’t unfollow them but I did turn off notifications. I also stopped myself from visiting their profiles when they start popping-up on my feed with new stuff on sale.

It’s also a good idea to stay away from the mall. Out of sight, out of mind.

The hubby was due to get some new clothes and we decided to hit SM North’s 3-day sale last month and take advantage of the discounts. I didn’t think I could walk away without a personal purchase, but we made it happen. We had also done a few trips to Greenhills (his errands), and I am proud to say that I was satisfied with just looking, and not buying.

Make A List, Check It Twice

It is not uncommon to suddenly realize or remember that there is actually something that you just absolutely must have. I’d say, make a list and sleep on it. Check your list and evaluate if it’s a need or a want. Ask yourself why you need it. Sleep on it some more.

If you still feel that you neeed it after checking it twice, go ahead and buy it. No-spend month or not, if you need it, then you must have it. But be honest with yourself here.

Let The World Know

Okay, maybe the whole world doesn’t need to know, but at least let significant people in your circle know about your challenge. I didn’t tell anyone right away that I was doing this, but it helps to let people know so you could have help to keep yourself accountable.

If I didn’t tell my husband I was doing a no-spend month, he would have enabled my shopping. For sure.

My Takeaways

Just Because I Can, Doesn’t Mean I Should

Shopping definitely makes me happy. And we tend to do more of the stuff that fills us with joy.

I have always been plus-sized and, unfortunately, there hasn’t always been a good source of nice and affordable clothes that fit me. So when I find pieces I like in my size – I grab them and take them to the counter! I end up buying so much because I fear of missing out. Sayang naman kasi. But now there’s a lot of options out there! I can shop online, and at the mall.

But just because they’re available, and I can afford to buy stuff, it doesn’t mean that I should. Specially not when I don’t need them.

As much joy buying stuff gives me, I have to remind myself that there are also other things that do – like having an emergency fund, getting to use up my stash of scrapbooking supplies, seeing our space cleaned up and organised (no matter how brief it stays that way), traveling, hanging out with family and friends. I must keep in mind that seeing stuff pile up and not being used does not make me feel good at all.

Shopping List

I’ve done a bit of destashing prior to January, so I have a good idea of what’s in my closet. This also gave me an idea of what else I really need, like a really good pair of jeans. That goes on my running shopping list. This is a hand-written list of things I have on the back pages of my Passion Planner, and these are stuff I will allow myself to shop for, for the rest of the year. Not everything on that list will necessarily be purchased. See tip #3 above. I will check that list more than twice, and evaluate the need for each item, and set aside funds for it.

This is true also for any gadgets and items for hobbies, or for the home. It’s easy to succumb to impulse buying but if I tell myself I’d put it on the list for later consideration, it helps avoid the wasteful spending.

We already know the value of having a shopping list helps when doing groceries, there’s no reason why it won’t be a good idea for everything else.

Stop the FOMO

When you don’t hit the weekend markets, the bazaars, the sales, and even the latest zero-waste or sustainable fair, you’re not missing out.

I skipped The Good Trade fair last month despite looking forward to it for weeks, because I realized that I don’t want to turn my zero-waste efforts into just another reason to go shopping. After all, to keep amassing stuff you don’t need completely contradicts the concept of zero-waste living.

Prompted by a reminder from the good folks of The Good Trade, I looked at my list of things I thought I needed to get at the Fair and realized I didn’t really have to go.  

If course, if I were going there with friends and we can make a day of it, why not! It would have been a great way to encourage others in my circle to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. But it wasn’t the case for that weekend. So I missed it, and I was okay.

Be More Intentional

Perhaps my biggest takeaway is this: being intentional in every way, including spending money, is key to a fuller life. Splurging on a few priced things every once in a while, may be a better reward than buying a few little things too often.

Of course I have done some shopping since the month ended (we’re almost through February now) but I have no guilt feelings about those purchases. I know there will be a lot less shopping in the next two to three months, at least. The best feeling though, is knowing you say no to buying something not out of budgetary considerations (that’s good too, though) but more because you know you don’t really need or want it.

Thanks for reading!

Would you consider doing a no-spend month? Or is there a specific expense category you’d like to cut-back on? I would love to hear about it!



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