Aug 15

How I fell down the Midori notebook rabbit hole

I knew before the school year started that I had to get my planner game straight. I’ve used many different planners over the years. From the simple ones you get at office supply stores or Barnes and Noble, to even the coveted Erin Condren planner. But none of them satisfied my needs.


I need a planner that l can modify depending upon the day because I teach at different times every day, and I need the weekend days to be given as much space as the weekdays. I need a planner that gives me space to put in the appointments and meetings I have, plus room to create to do lists for freelance and Dominion House stuff. And if it could allow me to track how I use my time throughout the day, that would be great. Oh, and it needs to be sturdy. The planner will be thrown in a bag of doom with textbooks and a laptop, as well as a Nalgene water bottle and whatever else I choose to carry with me that day.

Obviously, none of the planners from Office Max/Office Depot/Staples could handle this challenge. Though, they tried. And the Erin Condren planner is designed in such a way that you aren’t given enough space to make multi-tier to do lists on every day, and it honestly made me more disorganized than I was before I used it. I’m not saying it’s a bad planner. I’m just saying that I have very specific needs, and a way that I like for things to be done, and the Erin Condren planner does not accommodate that. Also? The cover of that planner is made of laminated card stock. I remember opening mine when it finally came in and thinking to myself “I paid $50 for this?” (Side note: I’m pretty sure Chris paid $50 for it because it was a Christmas present. Seriously, find yourself a lover that will buy you a planner. That lover is a keeper.)

I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea of making my own planner for this upcoming semester. I created a rudimentary design using free calendar page downloads so I could do all my forward planning in a monthly view. Then, I created daily pages based on this prioritizing list from Kim Graff. Only, I made a 6-tier system of to dos to cover all areas of my life. Because, again, I have very specific needs when it comes to a planner.

Then, one day, as I was scrolling through popular posts on Bloglovin’, I somehow came across this video from Vasseur Beauty. And thus was a Midori notebook obsession born.

I searched Etsy options for Midori notebooks for a while, but nothing really struck my fancy. I wasn’t convinced yet. Google brought me to My Life All in One Place and Ray Blake made me believe that I needed to get into the Midori notebook game. I have seriously watched this video of him making Midori inserts 4 times. It’s a total ASMR experience. I love it.

Then I decided to search through Pinterest and YouTube. That’s how I found Carie Harling, Robyn Lott, and John Rush (he’s a fellow Oklahoman!). I can now say that I’ve watched all their videos pertaining to Midori-style notebooks. (Psst. If you’re interested in making some inserts, I recommend this video from John, this one from Robyn, and this one from Carie.)

I began to obsess. I knew I had to have a Midori notebook. Carie Harling (who hopefully wants to be my friend because I love her videos and how she organizes her life) convinced me to go with Chic Sparrow.

I chose the Distressed Creme Brulee Deluxe in the narrow size, which is the equivalent size of a Midori notebook.

midori planner

And for the inserts, I’m using these from Ray Blake’s site. But, I had Chris put a DIYFish-style hyperdex on the PDFs. I believe he used the watermarking function in Adobe Illustrator to make this happen. This is one of the perks of dating a graphic designer. He knows how to use Adobe products without ruining everything, which is what I do when I open Photoshop.

These pages allow me to mark appointments at the proper time, list tasks that are necessary for the day, track how I actually use my time, and also make further lists beneath my faux hyperdex.

I’ve also had fun making different inserts for this Midori notebook so I can have a notebook, all my page markers and Post-Its, and a folder to keep bits of paper.

Post-Its for Midori notebook

Homemade Midori folder

So, let’s talk cost. I can’t very well call out Erin Condren for charging for laminated card stock without disclosing what I paid for my new set up. The inserts themselves were free. I just printed them out and made covers out of old file folders. (Sure, I paid for the ream of paper when I bought it, and the file folders too, though I bought them in packs of six from the dollar store.) I did go to Michael’s to purchase a rotary cutter and a sliding paper cutter thingy, as well as some glue. So, there was about $20.

engraved chic sparrow notebook

Then, of course, there’s the luscious leather cover from Chic Sparrow. It was expensive. I won’t lie. Approximately $100. But I don’t mind paying for leather. Or for things that I’m allowed to personalize with the phrase “stay gold.” Or for things that last. Just ask my pair of Doc Martens I’ve had since the sixth grade.

Plus, the simple and durable style is my jam. And it will work well with my Duluth Trading Company leather bag that I will be lugging around campus. Or, with my multiple brown leather Fossil purses for non-campus schlepping.

Now, it’s time for some disclosure. Every time I’ve linked to Chic Sparrow in this post, I’ve used my referral link. If you decide to purchase something from Chic Sparrow and use my link, you’ll get 10% off a purchase of $50 or more, and I’ll get some more rewards points. And I need them, because I really want this brown pen roll. I have a lot of Sharpies and highlighters that I need to carry around.

And I apologize if you now have an obsession with the Midori notebook. But know that you’re in good company, and if you ever want to hang out, I’m totally down to make some inserts with you.

And just try and tell me that once you fall down the planner rabbit hole, that you don’t want to use a Midori notebook as a wallet…

Aug 15

About that time I accidentally grew weeds on purpose

I hate doing things I’m not good at. I’m incapable of enjoying “the journey” because I think in terms of the reward for the end product. And any activity I’ve done to just to say I’ve done it has been awful. Like the half marathon that was literally the worst day of my life.

Even so, I have a tendency to take on new things without thinking about how much I will hate them.

green cherry tomatoes

This year I thought I’d take up gardening. I thought it would be relaxing. I thought I would really like spending time outside while tomatoes sprouted up out of nothing. And I have to say, the idea is still pretty attractive. Not in the self-sufficient farmer sort of way, but in the I really like homemade salsa sort of way.

So Chris and I planted a garden. We spent a Saturday cleaning up the backyard, clearing out fallen branches, picking up trash, filling the raised beds with dirt, and planting seeds. And when we were done, we were so incredibly sore, but we sat on the patio sipping grapefruit margaritas with friends, marveling at all we did that day.

And then we waited.

We knew it would take a long time. When you plant okra, spinach, beets, kale, carrots, watermelon, jalapeños, cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans in late April, you have to wait for a long time for the seeds to become plants.

But May brought record amounts of rainfall–almost 20 inches in one month. In fact, a drought that was 5 years in the making was wiped out in less than 30 days. And so too were a lot of the seeds I planted. When it rains, it pours. And that meant that our yard flooded several times. Every time it flooded, new seeds were deposited in the raised beds, and I’m talking seeds from just out in the yard washed up into the garden, not the sort of seeds you want growing. I suppose I could’ve done something to prevent the good seeds from washing away and bad seeds washing in every time the rain fell in thick sheets, but we were more concerned with unclogging the French drain in the backyard so the driveway and garage wouldn’t flood.

(Side note: We figured out what was clogging the French drain. It was a drowned bunny. Rosie was the one that helped us on that one, because she ate part of said bunny while playing around the drain, and then puked up said bunny in the living room. Dog ownership is a real treat sometimes.)

By the end of June, we were finally getting some tomatoes. And we’ve had a few jalapeños too. The cucumbers are finally coming in, which is great because I thought all my Persian cucumber seeds had washed away. I’ve diligently watered the garden on days that it hasn’t rained, and it appears that my labors have paid off.

But, well, I need to admit something.

I’ve been diligently watering things that I shouldn’t have been watering. I’m a novice gardener, and I couldn’t remember what I planted where. So as things seemed to sprout up in rows, I just kept watering them, assuming that time would reveal to me the fruits (or vegetables) of my labors. And it has. Only it wasn’t so much time as it was Chris doing a reverse Google image search of pictures of our plants.

Here’s a look at some of the finer weeds I’ve grown this summer.


And here’s El Generalisimo.

El Generalisimo

He’s a big ‘un. He was taller than me, until Chris uprooted him last night, along with his little friends from above.

Is my garden a failure? Mostly. But, perhaps this can be an exercise in philosophy. Or if not philosophy, perhaps an exercise in a pretty weak parable. Maybe it means that while we’re busy making plans for the future of our gardens, we should pay more attention to what we’re cultivating. (That would also make great parenting advice, I guess, if I knew anything about children and the ownership thereof.)

Anyway, at least I have tomatoes, jalapeños, and cucumbers. Those are all totally edible.

Jul 15

What I learned in the Mobile Blogging and Scholarship class

When I began this class, I felt I had a pretty solid foundation in blogging. I have been using WordPress for the past 5 years, and other platforms like Blogger before that. But that’s not why I signed up for this class.

For me, I’ve been strugging with integrating my academic life with my blogging life. And while I had read the blogs of many of my former professors, I felt like a lot of them weren’t really integrating a lot of the potential a blog possesses with their academic career. For me, blogs will always be a way of displaying your personal brand. It is a way to market yourself to potential employers, students, and literary agents. It’s also a way to sort of prove your own relevance (even though the marketers will tell you that blogging is dead).

So, in taking this class, I’m happy to report that I’ve not only learned ways to utilize blogs in an academic context, but I think I’m also ready to integrate the marketing and branding aspects with the academic side. Of course, I suppose we’ll have to wait and see how well I do. But, when I begin work on my Ph.D. in the next couple of years, I fully intend to blog about my research, what I’m reading, and what I’m working on as I go through the program.

And, while I had the WordPress app on my personal iPad for years, I never really figured out the proper way to use it. I think through using it with this class that I now have a handle on it, and I feel very comfortable using the app and all it’s capabilities. I may even start using it for other blogs I write for.

Jul 15

Teaching cover letters

cover lettersThis upcoming semester, my colleagues and I have a plan to implement a new assignment that will require students to write a cover letter for an actual job posting, and turn it in with their resume. 

One of the goals of the Business Communication Department is to ensure that our students learn the necessary writing skills that will not only get them the job, but to help them excel throughout their career. We hope that this assignment gives students a taste of what life after college is like, while also testing the skills we teach in the class. This assignment will give students an opportunity to attempt a real life scenario in an environment with a safety net. And maybe this assignment will convince them to keep their textbook after the class is over since it has some great cover letter examples.

Jul 15

The very best spot on OU’s campus to read and write

When I was an undergrad, there was only one place you could find me on campus if I didn’t happen to be in class at the time, and that was on the Ralph Ellison bench outside of Carpenter Hall.

The bench faces a fountain that is made from rocks from all 77 counties in the state. Admittedly, they are primarily rose rocks, but there are definitely some fossils and other stones mixed in as well. Beyond the fountain, there is the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden and a plaque honoring her. Beyond the garden is a large open green space where students play frisbee or lay on blankets while cars on Boyd Street whizz by.

Carpenter Hall also happens to be where a lot of the music and dance majors take classes. So, on any given day, you can hear tap dancing, opera singing, piano playing, or pretty much any other form of performance you can think of. That, mixed with the gentle sounds of the fountain, has always been supremely relaxing for me. Couple that with the shade directly over the bench, and you have yoruself a little paradise right on campus.

But, admittedly, the thing that drew me to the bench was Ralph Ellison’s name on a plaque. I used to sit there as a student and write terribly “profound” things in a Moleskine that I would later regurgitate in either my fiction or poetry classes, only to have the instructor helpfully inform me that perhaps they weren’t quite so profound. But still, I like to think that was a spot where I could channel Ellison’s genius, even if I will never write something like Invisible Man.

Now, as an instructor at OU, I don’t do much Moleskine writing. It’s 2015 and I always have some electronic way of capturing ideas. But I do still enjoy the bench, and soaking up the shade, sounds, and Ellison energy when I get the chance.