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Non-traditional life list.


Most of the time I love my job as a freelance writer – the freedom to work from home, the flexibility to set my own hours, the variety of projects, the great clients.

Problem is, all that freedom and flexibility means my business — and busy-ness – can fluctuate wildly so when work comes in I tend to take it.

Perhaps that explains why I took on nine major new client projects last month.

But, like a bad infomercial, that’s not all!

In the same time span, my only child graduated from high school, I hosted house guests for 15 days, and I dealt with the deaths of three people I loved. Between funerals and commencement ceremonies, there were times I wasn’t sure I would get through it.

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DIY 100-Calorie Packs


Image © 2011 Christopher Halloran Photography

About four years ago I did a stint at Weight Watchers. What I liked about the program was that it worked – it forced me to think about every single thing I put in my mouth and I dropped the weight in about three months.

What I didn’t like so much was attending the weekly weigh-in meetings. They were long. They were rah rah. And they mostly seemed to be about hawking goods or services rather than providing genuinely useful suggestions.

Somewhat ironically, nearly every meeting would end with a free sample and coupon for some new diet snack.

Since this was the beginning of the 100-calorie pack phenomenon, they were frequently the snack sample du jour. Most of them tasted fine — I even bought a couple boxes — but I didn’t like getting so little for my money, even with a coupon.

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How’s your ensō today?


Imperfect Ensō #32 by J. Halloran

I had a very short-lived career as an interior designer — it was great until I discovered that making it my job sucked all the fun out of it for me.

But I still love design, and I’ve amassed hundreds of magazine tear sheets over the years. I store them in plastic sheet protectors and file them by category into three-ring binders. Call me OCD, but they’ve been a great resource – not just for me, but for friends, relatives and even the occasional client.

About a year ago I was leafing through a binder to find a paint color for a friend when I stopped, mesmerized by a painting in a room I’d clipped nearly five years ago:

Art: Drip Circle by Mario Uribe; Designer: Kelly Wearstler; Source: Western Interiors Sept/Oct 2006

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Got $3? Get this sweater.


Images from L-R: In Style mag (Aug. 2005); Michael Kors for Nordstrom ad (c. 2002);

It’s going to hit 95° later this week in Phoenix, so the last thing I’d intended to be writing about today is a sweater. Or anything fashion-related, really. But a bargain this good simply must be shared.

Yesterday I went to Old Navy — the plan was to exchange something there, then head to the In-N-Out drive-thru across the street for a cheeseburger. But when I saw the stacks and stacks of sweaters on the clearance table, the plan changed.

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15-Minute White Bean Chicken Chili


Image ©2011 Christopher Halloran Photography

I was in Virginia earlier this year to lend a hand after my father’s heart surgery. I wanted to prepare a simple but nourishing meal for his first night home from the hospital, so my mom suggested I make his favorite white bean chili with chicken.

I glanced over the recipe she handed me — noting the extensive use of cans — and said somewhat skeptically, “hmmm, this looks … easy. Who gave it to you?”

My mom looked at me oddly. “You did.”

So despite my wariness and complete lack of recall, I followed “my” chili recipe. It was surprisingly good. And it occurred to me that at some point along the way, I’d become a recipe snob. I’d abandoned many easy, low-cost, delicious meals simply because they didn’t include exotic ingredients, or require sufficient chopping, or called for (gasp!) something from a can.

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What to Wear to the Beach: A Copycat’s Guide


(Image sources L to R: Photo by Bauer Griffin via,,

For 15 years, my beach ‘uniform’ has not changed: Swimsuit, board shorts, t-shirt, baseball cap and flip-flops.

This has suited me just fine – in my experience (which doesn’t include Miami Beach, btw) most people don’t seem overly concerned with what they wear to the beach.

But with a couple beach trips looming this summer – trips on which I will likely be with fashion-conscious people I actually know — I decided it might be time to step up my game.

Truth is the baseball cap neither keeps out much sun nor sufficiently contains my crazy, exploding beach hair; the board shorts and t-shirt tend to get wet – then sandy – then heavy; and the flip-flops fling sand everywhere.

So while admittedly this is not a blog about fashion — nor am I any kind of fashionista — it is a blog about simplifying my life. And coming up with something to wear to the beach this summer does simplify my life in a big way, especially since I’m likely to wear it for another 15 years. At least.

The Mission.
Find travel-friendly, affordable beachwear that offers sun protection, dries quickly and has a modicum of style.

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Origami rabbit cards for every occasion.


While living in Japan in the late ‘80s, I got really sick. Go-to-the-hospital sick.

When the doctor came in to review my x-rays, his expression was grave but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. (Even though I spoke Japanese, my medical vocabulary was, um, sparse.)

The one part I could make out was “gan mitai.” I knew that “mitai” roughly meant “looks like,” so I frantically paged through my Japanese–English Dictionary to find out what my illness ‘looked like.’

As is common with Japanese kanji characters, there were a bunch of different definitions for gan – wish, duck, alcove … even gun. But I was fairly certain which kanji he meant.


So I did what anyone in their early 20s would do when they’ve just been told they have cancer: I got a second opinion.

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