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It’s a little scary, my tiny new air plant, isn’t it? I hung it by the window in my office, and I keep glancing back over my shoulder to see if it’s creeping any closer while I’m not looking.

I have some kind of weird phobia that’s sort of like trypophobia, but not really. I feel sick when I look at clusters of things like certain kinds of plant roots (leeks are horrifying!) or rice stuck in a sink strainer. It’s impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t feel the same way, but trust me, it’s real—and my air plant is doing weird things to my mind. I can’t stop looking at it, but I also want to look away…

My air plant comes from Air Plant Supply Co., and it’s held in place by its roots and doesn’t need any soil. Every week, I have to give it a bath. In other words, I’ll probably kill it in no time! Heh. No, I’m really going to try to keep this thing alive.

The hanging pod it’s in comes from ceramacist Michael McDowell’s company Mudpuppy, who I wrote about previously in relation to one of my other nightmares, the one where all of my teeth fall out. This guy has quite a knack for honing right in on the things that make me feel uncomfortable, and I like it!


Photos from Mudpuppy

I can’t decide if putting the air plant in a ceramic baby head makes it more or less terrifying! Displaying it alongside a ceramic skull definitely adds something, but then you know how I feel about decorative skulls. The more the merrier!

OH, HEY! I just noticed that the Mudpuppy plant pods are actually on sale at Fab.com right now for 30% off regular price. Full disclosure: If you use this link to sign up for a Fab.com account, I will get a credit if you buy something within a month of joining. Ordinarily that’s not something I’d put here on the blog, but there’s no way to buy stuff from Fab.com without making an account first. It’s an invitation-based, design-focused shopping site, and quite honestly I’m a little addicted.

My love for neon-hot pink continues to abound. I’ve noticed it creeping into my Instagram photos a lot over the past couple of weeks.

ONE I finally ordered a THERE IS THUNDER IN OUR HEARTS tote bag from Fieldguided, and of course I opted for the fluoro pink version. I lovelovelove Kate Bush, by the way. Her new album, 50 Words For Snow, is out next week—but it’s streaming now on NPR.

TWO Why exactly did I buy neon pink duct tape? You got me, but I was at Target and there it was, so home with me it went. I’m presently hoping for something to require duct-taping in the near future. I keep thinking about Bertjan Pot’s duct tape rug, too…

THREE I used neon orange ink for the hardcover edition of this book, but for the paperback (out next June), I went with Pantone 806—my favorite chip in the book, and the hottest neon pink imaginable. It’s not a color I get to use often in printed work, so I seized the opportunity!

FOUR I’ve been working my way through the same bulk package of neon pink highlighters for about 10 years now, and as of yesterday, I’m down to my last one. As Charlie pointed out, the classic Sanford Pocket Accent doesn’t even look like this anymore—in fact, they’ve dropped the Sanford name completely, and are now just branded as Sharpies. Apparently I’ve been doing a highlighter time-warp for the past decade.

FIVE Is there anything that doesn’t look better with neon pink washi tape on it? If there is, I haven’t discovered it yet. Lately I’ve been using it to wrap around packages in lieu of ribbon or string, and as decoration on top of utilitarian packing tape when putting something wrapped in brown paper in the mail.

SIX Despite the fact that my iPhone is basically glued to my side at all times, I still can’t give up my neon Post-it Notes. I always use the pink ones first and hope someone else will take the others! I write everything on Post-Its. I even stick them to my iPhone! And to my wallet. And to the cash inside my wallet. And all over my computer monitor. Like I’ve said before, I’ve gotta write stuff down.

Oh, hello there! Remember me? I’m Anna. I used to have a blog—this one right here that you’re reading, in fact! I also used to have time to do things like tile bathrooms, vacuum, go outdoors, shower, cook, think, and sleep.

I’ve written plenty here about what I do for a living, and I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I like working in-house for a publishing company. I love it, in fact. I’ve been at my job for nearly 14 years now, and I have no desire say goodbye to my 9–5 job (which is really more like 9:30–6:30, but you know what I mean). There are times, though, when I like to design something that’s not a book cover. And sometimes I also think it might be nice to have a little extra cash. More than both of those things, though, I really like to help people and make stuff look nice.

So I started taking on some freelance design work. Which turned into lots of freelance design work. Which then became lots and lots of freelance design work. Before I knew it, I was working about 100 hours a week between my full-time job and my “night shift.” My freelance hours started to outnumber my full-time hours, leaving me with the equivalent of about 2½ full-time jobs.

And that’s not alright.

If you follow me on Twitter, then you are probably well aware of ever-increasing stress levels and ever-decreasing sleeping hours, since that’s all I really talk about anymore. I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m drinking coffee, I’m still awake, I’m busy, I’m going to have another coffee…and holy mackerel, I’m so tired. Ad nauseum.

After this weekend, I’m taking a break from doing freelance work for a while. I’m not sure how long, but I need to stop, step back, and think about what I really want to be getting out of the work that I’m electing to do in my free time. I’ve learned some lessons over the past few months:

1. It is okay to say no. I know that seems obvious, and I’m sure we all think we know already, but it’s hard for me to say no to people. I think this is especially true of those of use who truly LOVE what do for a living, either because we tend to see our work as an extension of our everyday lives, or because we honestly just like to make someone happy by saying YES. Also—and I know my fellow designers with sympathize—sometimes you don’t want to say no to a project because you worry that it will wind up in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and then there will just be one more piece of bad design in the world. Yes, that is a completely self-important attitude loaded to the brim with ridiculousness, but it’s the truth.

2. Money doesn’t really motivate me. Yes, it’s great to not have to struggle to make ends meet and to be able to buy nice things every now and then, but really—I don’t care much about money. I never think about potential income in relation to the work that I do. Book publishing is a notoriously low-paying field of design, and I’m okay with that. I always have been, because I love books and I love designing the packages that contain them. The same goes for the non-book freelance work that I do. I really have to care about the project (and the person or people behind it) in order with it to be worth my time. After all, if it’s not about the money, the reason take on a job has to be a little more meaningful than “because it’s there.”

3. I am always going to be one person, and there are always going to be 24 hours in a day. Again, I know that’s obvious, but I’ve had some moments of delirium lately in which I am fully convinced that if I could only clone myself or hit my head on the bathroom sink and invent a flux capacitor, then maybe I’d be able to get my work done. This is crazy-talk. No one should elect to live their life this way just because they don’t know how to say no (see item #1).

4. There’s more to life than coffee, you know (but not much more). I make no secret about my love of coffee, but that love should really be based more on enjoying the taste, the aroma, and the ritual of the brewing process—not on a desperate need to consume as much as possible in order to avoid drooling on my keyboard at 3AM. I mean…really now.

5. I am totally in the right field of work. I love being a designer. I love taking on challenges that require me to think about structure, organization, space and hierarchy. I love making grids. I love doing font research. I love showing something I’ve done to a client and having them get excited (and sometimes even cry—you know who you are!) about seeing their words or product or music wrapped up and presented in a way that perfectly represents exactly who they are and what they do. I love finishing a project and feeling like it looks like me, too. I like making stuff look good. I love that putting two colors together can make someone feel happy. I like pretty things that work well.

I’m really looking forward to getting normal amounts of sleep, though, and having time to just be a human every now and then.

I’ve been under the weather for the past couple of days and I didn’t really have the mental energy to do real work, so I used the opportunity to freshen up my portfolio site a bit. I have very little patience for or interest in designing stuff for myself, so I’ve been putting this off for ages.

I think I might actually get around to having some real business cards printed up, too. Can you believe I’ve never* had business cards? I’m forever scrawling my name and URL on the backs of receipts and cocktail napkins. Part of me feels like being able to say, “Here, take my card” will be a true certification of grown-up-ness, and that freaks me out a little. Okay, a lot. The only thing left after business cards are nude pantyhose, and I’m definitely not going down that road.

*That’s a lie. Last year I printed a sheet of 12 cards in a fit of panic before an “industry” party I went to. Then, as I was frantically trimming them down, I sliced off a huge hunk of my left thumb with an X-Acto knife. I then proceeded to bleed all over the cards. It was all very Cheese Monkeys.

So…I’m pretty tired. Exhausted, actually. I’m doing WAY too many things at once, and while there is an end to this madness in sight, I’ve been feeling more than slightly crazed lately.

I was just in the kitchen refilling my iced coffee glass at 12:32AM (Mommy, if you’re reading this, I swear I really am alright—and don’t pretend like you don’t get the late-night work crazies just like I do!) when a single thought ran across my brain:

Oh my god, this is all JUST LIKE that episode of “Ren & Stimpy” where Ren goes insane and eats soap.

Now, I realize that even just thinking that is kind of nuts, but I immediately had to go and watch the clip to see if, in fact, I am becoming a deformed cartoon Chihuahua with SPACE MADNESS.

And yes. Yes I am.

I love my job a whole lot. Designing stuff is what I do for a living, but it’s also what I do because I love to do it. Lately I’ve had the opportunity to do my job alongside a few friends who also love what they do, which makes work extra-fun.

Earlier today, I flicked the switch on the redesign of sfgirlbybay that I’ve been working on for the past couple of months. Victoria is not only one of my favorite bloggers, but she’s also one of my favorite people. Having the opportunity to work on her blog was a dream come true! Making the project even sweeter was getting to design a site around the new logo artist Shanna Murray created for Victoria. I hope you’ll stop over and take a look if you haven’t already. I think what we came up with just suits Victoria’s style and personality so well.

This was a very, very special project for me. I’m just so happy Victoria trusted her amazing blog in my hands!

I’ve known Nubby Twiglet for years, and during that time I’ve watched her grow into an incredible designer with a style that’s unmistakably her own. Nubby has a clear vision when it comes to fashion and photography as well, and as soon as I found out I’d be designing the cover for Rev Jen’s new book, Elf Girl (previously titled Elf Like Me), I knew she was the person to go to for the right cover shot. I’m pretty sure the first question I asked her was, “Hey, do you have any elf shoes?”

Nubby was a perfect collaborator—she took my art direction perfectly, and understood exactly what I needed. Her shots and styling were so perfect that I was able to come up with 10 cover concepts in a single afternoon! Very satisfying. The final cover is on the left (the book is out in October), and you can see some of the unused designs in the right.

This poster marked the second time I’ve worked with musician Roger O’Donnell. The first was about six years ago on a CD jacket, and it was really quite nice to do it again. I’ve known Roger since I was just starting out as a designer in my early 20s, so to know that he respects my work well enough to ask me to create something for him—this time a poster announcing a performance of his work—is a truly great feeling.

Last year, Roger musically recreated the David Hockney painting Bigger Trees Near Warter Or/Ou Peinture Sur Le Motif Pour Le Nouvel Age Post-Photographique, and in July of this year, the piece was performed by an orchestra of young musicians at the Guildhall School of Music. You can read about the entire process as well as watch video diaries and download demos here.

Thank you, friends. It’s been a pleasure.

For the past couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with superhero vegan cookbook author (remember this review?) and Post Punk Kitchen founder Isa Chandra Moskowitz on the illustration and design work for a really awesome new endeavor she launched today, the Teal Cat Project.

The Teal Cat Project works like this: You donate $25, and in return, you get a Teal Cat tchotchke. 100% of your $25 then goes toward funding a cat rescue program. The first affiliated group is the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, who train and educate rescuers about trap-neuter-return (TNR) practices to keep feral cat populations in New York City under control.

The Teal Cats are really cute, and they’re upcycled from thrift-store finds that were donated to the cause. The current campaign will only last until the current batch of Teal Cats is all gone! When the ceramic kitty supply has been replenished, a new campaign to support a group in a different city will start up.

Check out the Teal Cat Project website, poke around a bit, and, if you’re able, buy a Teal Cat! There’s even an option to donate a bit of money without buying a tchotchke (or if you want to give a little extra). This is a great way to support a great kitty rescue group, and I hope you’ll consider chipping in.

You can follow the Teal Cat Project on Twitter and Facebook, too! Anything you can do to help spread the word is greatly appreciated. Meow!

I’m working on an awesome freelance project—which you’ll get to see very soon!—at home for the next few days, and that means I’m camped out on the sofa with an iced coffee (and a couple of cute puppies) at my side. Here are the four views I have from my “desk”. I like the last one best, of course.

Hey! Look what I got! Crazy, right? Thanks to all of the amazing comments on this post, I came to (at least) two conclusions: (1) iPhones are great, and (2) I should just go ahead and buy that planner.

I feel a little weird about the iPhone, honestly. I was very late in even owning a regular cell phone, and phones in general make me uneasy. I find it hard to have verbal conversations with people when I can’t see their faces or get a read of their body language. I also really don’t want to fall into a “gadget cycle”—you know, where you start feeling like the thing you own is obsolete and you’re behind the times so you’d better throw your thing in the landfill and buy a newer, better thing. You know I love me some Apple goods, but our friend Stevie J (yeah, he lets me call him that) is really good at releasing NEWER! BETTER! FASTER! products at just the right pace that you never really feel like you’re caught up. I already feel like that about my desktop computers, my laptop, and my MP3 player. Do I really need to feel like that about my phone, too?

Apparently, the answer is now a resounding yes. I love my new white iPhone! I still kinda feel like a 3-year-old trying to handle chubby crayons, but it’s great. (And yes, of course I joined Instagram. You can find me under an unexpected username…doorsixteen.) I’m particularly excited about having constant access to maps, since I have the sense of direction of a dizzy earthworm (head for the light!).

And the planner! I’m doing this! Yes! Okay, so I just got it on Friday, but the first thing I did was write down my plans for the night—dinner and an Echo & the Bunnymen concert* (yes, they were awesome) with Jenna. And then I did both things, so it must be working already! Plans! In a planner! With dates!

No, seriously. I’m excited about this. Tonight before I go to bed I’m going to make some loose notes for things I need to do this week and appointments I have to remember. Then I’m going to put the planner in my bag (with a pen!), and remember to look at it tomorrow. And the next day. Because that’s how it works, right?

*EDIT: Want to know how the Bunnymen concert was? Jenna wrote a funny synopsis that says it better than I could!


Subway station at Dyckman Street. This photo has nothing to do with the post. At least I don’t think it does.

I know, I know…posts here are few and far between. I wish that weren’t the case, but lately life has been busy. And yeah, I keep saying that, but it’s true. I know there are plenty of people (like, say, people with kids or President Obama, for example) who are busier than I am, but I guess they’re all just better at handling it. I am really bad with budgeting my time, and I’m one of those weird procrastinators who manages to mentally rearrange priorities in a way that neglects the stuff that actually matters and has a deadline attached to it but make me feel like it’s super important that I rearrange my canned goods RIGHT NOW OR ELSE.

I other words, I’m ridiculous.

I need to figure all of this out. I want to learn how to plan a schedule and get organized. I want to know how to use a calendar. I don’t want to always be feeling like nothing is done and that I have a million obligations looming over my head. For whatever reason, I wound up with one of those brains that needs to physically write something down with a pen on paper before I can remember it. Taking notes on a computer (I don’t own a smart phone) doesn’t work—I need to actually make the words with my hand in order for them to connect with my brain, it seems.

I really like these Tomorrow Planners from Poketo. I’ve kind of decided that if I buy one, it will change my life. I haven’t bought one yet, though. Maybe I’m afraid it won’t work. Or maybe I’m just horrified by the shipping fee. Whatever it is that’s stopping me, I’m still writing everything down on Post-It notes and the backs of receipts.

This is the least cohesive post I’ve ever written, but also one of the most honest. I’m not the get-it girl you think I am, you know. I’m kind of a mess.

My fellow write-it-downers: How do you keep track? Do you have a magical notebook? A special pen? Extra coffee? How can I make this happen? Help.