nerdy girl dates: valentine’s day

In case you’ve been living under a rock and not watching any TV or reading anything online or going to any store, Valentine’s Day is in a few days, people. While I’m generally not a Valentine’s Day fan, I am a romance fan (last year’s faves) and a marketer’s dream, in that I love anything pink, red, heart-shaped, sparkly, and generally over-the-top cute. You make a mini heart-shaped ramekin? I want four. You put hearts all over…well, anything? GIMME. I love celebrating love, but I’m totally not into the roses-chocolate-overpriced-dinner-and-lava-cake thing. I am especially not into enduring any more “Every kiss begins with Kay” commercials. We don’t usually do gifts besides maybe a bag of “thinking of you” candy, but my goal each year is to make our celebration just a little unique. Recently, and I’ll be honest here, it’s been the same old dinner-and-watch-a-movie-on-the-couch kind of night. Nice, and sadly very reflective of me and the husband as a couple, but we pretty much do that every weekend. Not so special.

We are, of course, always last minute about these kinds of things, meaning we can never get a reservation at a restaurant or get tickets to a concert or movie. No biggie, we don’t really want to deal with the crowds anyway, but it means we’re in the aforementioned Valentine’s Day rut. This year V-Day is on a Saturday, meaning there’s a WHOLE DAY to do romantic, mushy, love-y stuff! Here are a few of the fun and nerdy date ideas I’ve been planting in the husband’s mind all week:

-Go to a bookstore and pick out a book or two to exchange. It can be one you’ve loved in the past or one you think they’d love (that of course is also on your reading list…two birds, one book). I know there are also cute bookstore scavenger hunt ideas all over the internets if you’re feeling especially ambitious and cutesy. Finish up with a yummy coffee and start reading!

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-Along the same lines, go to a record store (or a CD store? Was that ever a thing?) together and pick out a few inexpensive oldie-but-goodie selections or some random albums just because you like the art. Spend the night giving them a spin with a bottle of wine.

-A staple: find a fancy new recipe and try to cook it together. Bonus points if you wear aprons and silly hats to make each other laugh. Extra bonus points if it involves the crème brulee torch and cute heart-shaped ramekins.

-And if that gives you a heart attack: order carryout from a nice restaurant and plate it like you made it yourself. Be sure to wear your fancy clothes! (We may or may not do this every year. I hate cooking.)

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-Host a blind beer, wine, or bourbon tasting. Take notes and compete to see who can guess what they’re tasting. This one is especially fun if you’d rather hang in a group, and you get to eat lots of snacks in between tastings!

-Three words: Board game tournament. You can decide the stakes. Wink wink!

-Enjoy a nice meal out…just not dinner. We’ve got the whole day! Use it! Bypass the typical dinner date and go out for breakfast or lunch. I personally LOVE lunch dates. Somehow it feels so like such a treat to enjoy a glass of wine and a slow, relaxing meal with good conversation in the middle of the day. Or stay up late and go out for a nightcap and dessert. What could be more romantic?

-Go on a first date. It’s probably impossible to get dinner reservations at this point, but the bar in a swanky restaurant might just be the best place to have some fun together. Plan to meet separately at a bar and pretend you’re strangers. Have fun deciding who gets to creatively ask, “want to go back to my place?”! (Anyone see when they did this on Modern Family? I love Clive Bixby.)

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Whatever they are, I hope you feel loved!

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nerdy gift guide: 2013

Well, well, well. Christmastime is here. I have to admit, even though the late Thanksgiving compresses the yuletide season, it was fun to wake up the next day and have it be so suddenly Christmas. It’s my fave. And with the impending snow-and-ice storm heading my way today, it’s going to feel like a winter wonderland – as long as I stay snuggled up inside with some hot cocoa, a pomegranate cocktail, some cookies, Love Actually, and my BFF, who’s plane is still landing in a few hours. Trust me, I’m checking updates compulsively. Please Delta, don’t let me down!

Everyone and their mother is doing a gift guide. I know. I’m so un-original. But I figure, sometimes nerdy girls can be hard to shop for and if I can give one person a kick-ass idea, then I’ll do it.

Plus, I really like pretty things!

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1. Drop Caps Book Set
Naturally, my first gift idea is books. But not just any, normal book set! Penguin worked with designer and illustrator Jessica Hische to create a series of classics with gorgeous covers featuring specially illustrated letters. She’s only up to “P” right now, but eventually the whole set will be a rainbow and it will look incredible on any nerd’s bookshelf. If you’ve got the funds, you can buy a set of the first 12 letters (A to L) at Juniper Books, but it’ll set you back a pretty penny at $250. However, you now can buy the individual books several places online (that link goes to Barnes and Noble who seems to have the best price), which allows you to build the collection a little at a time. I won’t lie, I’m really hoping Santa slips a few of these under the tree for me.

2. Library Candle
One of the things I think is difficult in gift-giving is hostess gifts or co-worker gifts. You know what I mean, right? Gifts for people you are close with, but not gifts that are super personal like what you’d get your family or close friends. Usually in those instances, I just give a bottle of wine or some homemade treats like peppermint bark (can’t wait to make! and eat!). But this year, I’ve got my eye on these adorable “library collection” candles! The candles are soy-based and their fragrances are themed around literary giants like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Jane Austen, Mark Twain and more. They also have diffusers if that’s more of your thing. But anyway, the candles are lovely to look at, the scents sound divine, and they look like a library. You can’t go wrong with any of that.

Shop the entire collection at Paddywax.

3. Gatsby Sweatshirt
Clothes are always a gamble (what size? what style? what color?) and I tend to stay away unless it’s something I’m absolutely sure the gift-ee will love. But Gatsby sweatshirt, I can’t quit you. You had me at hello. I’m sure you’ve seen these floating around the interwebs, so I’ll keep the description short, mmmkay? The sweatshirt (also comes in other book covers, btw) is awesome, unisex, and Out of Print gives books to needy kids if you buy one.

4. Pantone Full Spectra Eyeshadow Palette
I know, makeup might be a weird gift for a nerd. But hey, a lot of us like to look good. And if your nerd is a designer, she obviously loves anything Pantone. Sephora and Pantone have some amazing palettes and gift sets available. I know I hate to spend money on things like this because in college (when I had much more disposable income it seems- stupid house) I bought sooooo much fancy makeup. But that’s a story for another day. Point is, every girl likes to feel pampered and likes to get pretty things. And if they make her feel like a cool designer, even better.

5. Gift Cards
I know what you’re thinking. Gift cards feel like a cop out and frankly, lame. Plus, maybe this is just me, but I feel uncomfortable with people knowing exactly how much I spent on them. Anyone else? I’m going to call bullsh*t on this though, because I freaking LOVE to get gift cards to bookstores. It’s free money to buy my favorite things in the whole world! What could be better? Plus you don’t run the risk of buying someone a book they’ve already read or something they are completely uninterested in. There are the obvious choices like Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and iTunes/Audible (if your nerd like audiobooks), but if you can, give your support to your local bookshop. They’re important parts of our communities and we need to keep them around. (If you’re local in Cincinnati, Joseph-Beth Booksellers is fantastic.)

Fellow nerdy girls, what’s on your Christmas list?

nerdy girl guide: banishing the blahs

I’ve been stuck in bad mood for a few weeks. Down-in-the-dumps, pessimistic, full-on grumpy pants. I don’t know when I shifted from a shiny, happy, unicorns-and-rainbows kind of person to this personification of Eeyore (though I can take a guess – I’m looking at you design school), but it’s not something I’m proud of or happy with. No one likes to be grumpy and, well, no one likes a grumpy person.

Looking back over the last few weeks, I can see I was letting things that were way beyond my control affect how I was feeling about my life, my work, myself. I was stressing myself out over a new situation instead of accepting it as the “new normal” and recognizing that I can only do what I can do. But as I said, this is after a week or so of feeling better and reflecting. When I was in the dumps, it was hard to feel anything other than overwhelmed.

Listen to Music
My first job out of college was a bit of a nightmare. I will just put it nicely and say I was unhappy and the office environment wan’t healthy. I made a playlist of all my favorite songs – the ones that you hear the first few chords of and you immediately start smiling – and songs with happy, positive lyrics. I know, I know. It sounds so totally lame, but it was such a sanity saver! That playlist would immediately help me tune out what was going around me and focus on what I can do to make the situation better, even if it was just literally tuning out and getting my shit done and getting out of there.

On a related note: dance parties work great too. The sillier the dancing, the better.

Reach Out
I will be the first to admit I am an internalizer. I will hoard my feelings and stress inside until they all come bursting out and I’ve given myself a migraine. It’s so dumb. Last week I was feeling at the end of my rope and a simple phone call to my mother-in-law to meet up and walk our dogs helped so much. Give someone a call, go to happy hour, meet up with a friend for lunch, go to a yoga class – whatever. Simply being social in anyway takes us out of ourselves and helps to put our stress in perspective and talking it out with people you care about can get your out of a bod mood.

Reconnect with One of Your Big-Scary Goals and Take One Small Step
When I’m feeling blah or stuck in a rut, I often feel like I’m simply treading water and not making any forward progress. It’s really debilitating because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t feel like you are doing anything so you don’t care enough to do anything so you don’t actually do anything and then you’re back to the beginning and feeling lousy. It helps me to pick one of my big goals and do something small. Once something is accomplished, I feel so great about myself and the snowball effect begins.

So, want to run a marathon? Run a mile after work. Want to grow your blog? Write out a content calendar for the next month or two. Want to redecorate your house? Hang a mirror. Hell, even sitting down and organizing the mail is enough for me on somedays!

Watch Something Super Silly
Enough said. This was my pick last week:

Read Something Inspiring
Again, enough said. My pick last week: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-bartolotta/happiness-tips_b_3956114.html

Such a FANTASTIC article.

Treat Yourself
Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle got it right. When you’re feeling blah, go buy yourself a pumpkin spice latte in the afternoon or get a quick mani for no other reason but to treat yourself to something you want. You feel a little spoiled and for a few moments are taken out of the doldrums of everyday life. If you’re really adventurous, go for a whole day of treating yourself like our Parks & Rec friends…but from personal experience, the latte does the trick for less than $5.

Rewrite the Script
If you’ve tried all the distractions and you’ve talked it out, but are still feeling in a rut, then it’s time to flip the switch and rewrite what your brain is telling you. I know, again I sound so lame. But hear me out. I was getting all stressed out and completely worn down and frustrated with the changes in my job recently. We’ve reorganized our department which means that two designers are now doing the work that three (plus a full-time printer) used to do. I was feeling frantic at the new workload and frankly thought it was unfair that they should dare to do this to me and to a vital department. (Side note: God, how “millenial” do I sound right now? SO entitled. And embarrassing.) But as soon as I realized that me being stressed out and annoyed was only annoying other people and making it harder for me to do my job, I just stopped.

I just accepted that it’s the way it is and I can only do what I can do everyday. I can either work hard and be ok with it, or do something else. I love the work I do, so right now doing something else is not an option I want to explore. If you’re constantly telling yourself that something is wrong or you feel bad about something, it’s completely your choice to either deal with it and move on, or change your situation. When you recognize that and start telling yourself a new mental story, it’s really powerful and definitely gets rid of the blahs.

Share with me! How do you banish your blahs?

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nerdy girl reads: summer reading list

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Remember summer reading? How great was that? NOT. Even for the nerdiest of us all, homework over the summer sucked. No one wants to read Machiavelli or Tom Sawyer or a biology textbook at the pool, am I right? Super lame. Reading at the pool or a beach if you can get to one, however, is not super lame. It’s pretty much the best thing in the world (especially if there’s a beer or two close by). My family knows, if we’re on the beach and I have a book or my Nook, they best stay away. I am busy. Luckily, as adults, we can pick our own summer reading. One of the few perks, ha.

Because I work in the library and my office just so happens to be right next to Acquisitions and Cataloging departments, I have to walk by all the new books several times a day on my way to the bathroom or the printer. Oh darn. I see all the new books before they are released, which is both a blessing and a curse. I see tons of new books I want to read daily…but I also see tons of new books I want to read daily. Half the time I’m at work I walk around thinking, “too many books, too little time.” When there are SO MANY books out there in the universe, how do you pick which ones to spend your time with?

Truthfully, I don’t know But you have to pick sometime or else you’ll be stuck not reading anything. And that’s just too sad. Here are the six books at the top of my Summer Reading List this year. Trust me, this is just the tip of the very large, Titanic-sinking iceberg that is my reading list

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1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
I am literally trying to ration myself from this book because I am that excited to read it. My aunt said it made her laugh out loud and my bestie described it as “Arrested Development meets Carmen Sandiego.” Umm, sign me up! I have the feeling I am going to fly through this book and seeing as it’s my July book club book, I need to wait just a little longer! The Amazon synopsis can explain the plot better than I can, but I will say that I am most looking forward to reading this this summer for its humor and (I hope) sense of adventure. Plus, I just love the idea of a little girl wanting to go to Antarctica of all places!

2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I will admit, I am judging this book hardcore by its cover. In person, the cover is amazing. It stopped me dead in my tracks. You can’t tell it from the screen (duh Katie) but the yellow books on the cover are embossed and have a super cool, almost furry varnish. In non-designer speak that means the yellow parts are bumpy and have a cool texture. It’s sweet. The actual novel itself sounds great too! It’s a magic bookstore! Aaahhhh it makes me giddy and I haven’t even read it yet! I’m loving this for summer because, well, magic, and a little lighthearted mystery! {Amazon link}

3. The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio
No summer is complete without a little romance, right? I won’t lie, I love me some Nora Roberts on the beach, but when I can, I’d like to have maybe a little bit more sophistication. I devoured Jio’s other works The Bungalow and Blackberry Winter. They are pretty great romances/mysteries and definitely hook you. I think I read all three of hers over Thanksgiving weekend. Yeah. I have no idea what The Last Camellia is even about, I just know I want to read it immediately (but I’ll probably save it for vacation)! I highly recommend this one for anyone who is looking for a light read with a little romance! {Amazon link}

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4. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Anyone out there a fan of The Paris Wife or American Wife? Well, I am. It’s no secret that I love historical fiction. It’s my default literary genre. And the 20s are my default time period (as in, I think I should have been in Paris in the 20s a la Midnight in Paris). I really don’t know much about dear Zelda, and though I know this is a work of fiction, I am looking forward to learning more about her story and her life with F. Scott. Also, the cover is beautiful. {Amazon link}

5. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Alright, I guess I gotta include a classic on my list. It is Summer Reading after all. But this time let’s leave Dickens and Hardy and even Fitzgerald for some more serious times (see: winter). Let’s have a little fun and follow the antics of Sherlock and Dr. Watson! I won’t lie, the main reason I want to read the Holmes stories is to know what’s happening on the BBC show Sherlock. I also won’t lie, I will be picturing Benedict Cumberbatch the entire time, despite the fact that it’s obviously not set in modern times like the show.

6. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
I really tried to include a “learning book,” you guys. I really tried. I just…don’t want to. I’d rather just escape to Paris. That sounds nice right? Memoirs are great summer reads! Ok, not all of them. I’m sure Jaycee Dugard’s isn’t exactly sunny reading material. But one about a pastry chef living in Paris? Yeah, sounds like a tough life to me, mister. {Amazon link}

What are you packing in your beach bag this summer?

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nerdy girl dresses up: spring uniforms

I’ve said it before, but I love clothes. I think about clothes a lot during any given day. What I’m wearing, what I’ll wear tomorrow, what other people are wearing (yes, I’m a judger), what I should’ve worn, what I want to wear, what I want to buy…it goes on and on. To me, the clothes you wear are another creative way of expressing yourself to the world. I’m pretty lucky that the Library has a pretty relaxed dress code when it comes to those of us who don’t work with the public, and can wear pretty much whatever I want to (as long as I look appropriate, of course). However, when the rules are so relaxed, coming up with creative and interesting outfits becomes less and less of a priority. Couple that with the fact that I see the 5 people in my department…and that’s it…you get the picture. I’ve been getting a little lazy.

Luckily spring is here (though you wouldn’t believe it if you lived in Ohio with me right now – seriously, go home Ohio, you’re drunk) and that means it’s time to pull out all the warm weather clothes and start making new uniforms! Do you have “uniforms?” I can’t remember when I first heard this concept, but it’s something I hold very near and dear to my fashion-loving heart now. Essentially, your uniforms are the outfit combos you love that make getting dressed in the morning quick and easy and fun. Example: One of my winter uniforms was long sweater + leggings + boots + scarf. Comfy, easy, cute. Maybe pushing the limits of business casual, but somedays you just can’t do real pants, am I right? Another example: cute top/tank + basic cardi + skinny jeans + colored flats. Again, comfy and cute and out the door in minutes. Say you have 5 cardigans and 5 tops/tanks, you have SO many variations on this basic combination (i.e., uniform) and no one will even know that you follow such a simple formula because you always look chic.

Due to an unfortunate run in with the tax man this year (seriously IRS, we already make close to nothing, don’t take even more!) I have zero dollars for new additions to my spring wardrobe. Zero. Which means I’ve really got to get my creative-outfit juices flowing so I don’t start boring everyone I see to tears. No matter that a significant percentage of my wardrobe doesn’t fit and won’t work for the season. I got this covered thanks to my spring uniform inspiration, courtesy of Pinterest.

So what will I be wearing this spring?

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Oh stripes. I don’t think I have the words to adequately describe my love for stripes. If something is striped, it’s guaranteed that not only will I immediately pick it out at the store, I will love it. Seriously, it’s like I have an innate stripe radar that automatically guides me to anything striped. I buy everything striped. Even my favorite workout stuff is striped (thanks Lululemon for fueling my addiction!) It’s gotten so bad that E has cut me off from buying any more striped things. It’s horrible. So yes, I love stripes so, so much.

So how do I mix in stripes? A striped dress (of which I have…several) is super easy to style. On cooler days, layer it under a cardi with some boots or belt it with some heels for a fun evening look like above. And a striped top (again, of which I have an embarrassing amount) makes dressing in the morning practically mindless when you throw it on over some bright colored skinnies (love red!) or jeans or tuck it in to any skirt you have. I say practically mindless because some people have to use a little brain power to remember if they’ve already worn stripes everyday this week…

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Ok, how great is that chambray shirt tucked into the black skirt. Totally gorgeous! I would wear that every single day of my life if I could (except you know, the days I’m wearing stripes). I have to admit, I’m a recent chambray-addict. I have no idea why I waited until last fall to start working this amazingly versatile piece of denim into my wardrobe. It goes with everything. Every. Thing. Chambray looks great with (darker) skinny jeans. It looks great with bright skinny jeans. Or black skinny jeans. Or a black skirt. Or a floral skirt. Or EVERYTHING. I swear you can do no wrong. I plan to wear mine as much as possible in all the combinations you see above, plus with some fab shorts as it gets warmer because that is just the ultimate casual-weekend-running-to-the-farmers’-market look (because I go to the farmers’ market so often…).

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If you look into my closet right now (please don’t, it’s messy) you’d see a lot of black. And gray. And navy. I can’t help it, I love me some neutrals. But over the years I’ve been working hard to embrace the colorful side of life and add in some punchy tops and pants to the rotation. As you can see by my inspiration pics, I really love coral and red and yellow and bright blues of any shade. Of course, I mostly pair my brights with neutrals (like those red pants with that divine trench), but I really love the yellow cardi and pink and navy shorts look together. I see some color mixing and blocking in the forecast for my spring!

Oh, and if you’re not ready to give up on your blacks and grays yet (I get it, some days I just want to be basic too!) try a bright shoe. I LOVE my red patent heels with a black dress or my aqua loafers with a navy and jeans combo. The shoes add just enough of a bright to add some spiciness into your look. Also good for some spice color? Statement jewelry if that’s your thing.

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And now for the opposite end of the spectrum…white! Again, if you were to look in the aforementioned messy closet, you wouldn’t see much white. Having always been taught that dark colors=slimming, this girl stayed away from all things light. But these outfits are so fresh, don’t you think? It all looks so preppy and clean and I want it all! Luckily, I won’t have to break my (zero dollar) budget because over the past few seasons, white pieces have crept their way in (thanks peplum top! thanks eyelet blouse with amazing rhinestone Peter Pan collar!) and I know they will look great paired with crisp denim and leather accessories. Ok and maybe that red lip too. So stunning!

The one thing I am so sad I won’t be able to pick up this season is a white or cream blazer. I think it looks amazing in the inspiration pic above with the preppy oxford and all that leather and gold, but would look equally amazing over a (striped) dress to make it a little fancier for day. I have wanted one for years and have never pulled the trigger. This one is especially fab – it glitters! – and is really the only thing this season I’d want to spend money on if I could. Sniff sniff. Well, and these shoes too. What? A girl needs some pretty leather sandals! And sadly, I do walk a lot during the day now so wedges are just about the only heels I can tolerate at work. (Do you see what’s happening here? I’m trying to justify a quick trip to the mall…)

Someone stop me!

(At least until summer when we’ve hopefully recovered from the horrible check we have to send the IRS!)

What trends are you loving for spring? How will you spend your (hopefully more than zero dollar) spring fashion budget?

{All source images can be found on my fashion pin board. Follow me!}

nerdy guide: sick day soothers

Last week the husband and I were hit by a terrible cold/flu/plague that left us both feeling pretty pitiful. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like spending NYE shivering from a fever (especially when you’re the one hosting!). Luckily (unluckily?) we were hit at the same time so we got to spend a sick day wallowing in misery together. The flu is quickly making its rounds all over the country, and while OTC drugs go a long way in making you feel almost-human, there are other household items that seriously help too. The “comfort food” items of a home, if you will. Here’s what soothed us on our sick day:ngw_sickday

throw | tea | humidifier | trashy books and movies | slippers | chicken noodle soup recipe (even better if someone else make it!)

Here’s hoping that the flu passes you by!