Tuesday, February 13, 2018

books lately: 2018 so far

I've read a string of great books so I want to talk about them. I read at least one that was so-so but I don't even feel like talking about it.

What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen: Loved this book so much that it inspired its own post. I keep thinking about it. While there was so much I couldn't relate to, I loved the way the info was presented and the themes throughout.

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination: This was a college commencement speech that JK Rowling gave some time ago in book form. If you need a graduation gift, grab it. Really compact, uplifting book for someone standing on the edge of adulthood. You can read it in less than a half hour.

Sourdough: I've never read a Robin Sloan book before, so I had no idea that magical realism was waiting for me. It was realistic enough to keep me interested but the fantasy element made it kind of weird and fun. Basically, a woman who works in the technology industry gets a magical sourdough starter and baking bread takes over her life. It's a fun world with a smart, female character who had no romance that was completely unlike anything I've ever read. I want to read more by the author.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: I saw a preview for a movie called Love, Simon that just seemed like it stemmed from a book I would enjoy and here we are. It was a cute YA book whose characters I liked and a world I enjoyed spending time in - kind of the way I felt when I read Dumplin'. If you like young love and pen pals and teenagers worth rooting for, add this one to your list. I'll probably even watch the movie.

Little Fires Everywhere: Everyone seems to love this book and so did I. Everything I Never Told You (same author) was my first-ever audiobook, so this author holds a special place to me. I waited forever to get this from the library and it was worth it. I like reading books set in the recent past (1997) so that some things that technology would alleviate today aren't options. I like twisty family stories and the omniscient way that Celeste Ng's stories are written. I loved how people's intentions were examined, but I wanted more about Moody and all four kids' upbringing. It was also one of those stories where I would have loved more of an epilogue. But, overall, I loved the many directions it went, the writing, the setting, and the way it all unfolded. If you don't mind a book where there isn't a lot of action, it's a great one.

That's it. If you loved any of these, let's chat!

Linking up with Steph and Jana because these books are worth having a conversation about.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

on my mind

I made a goal for myself to write two posts per week for the month of January and only missed my last one last week, so not too bad. I like making writing a habit, and getting outside of my head and forcing myself to really think through what I feel and why. Even if it's as simple as recommending a TV show, isn't it nice to consider the why, at least sometimes?

Between twitter and instagram stories and one-on-one communication, I can never remember who knows what anymore. If you know me in real life, you know I have a tendency to repeat myself (sorry - my memory is just that bad) so for all of my virtual friends, consider any repeats in this post part of the "knowing me in real life" experience.

I'm going to Vegas tomorrow for a bachelorette party. I'm excited to eat at Lotus of Siam (called the best Thai place in the U.S. Andrew and I went over the summer and it was great), see the Michael Jackson ONE Cirque du Soleil, and of course visit my beloved Bellagio Fountains (it's where Andrew and I got engaged). Of course, I'm stressed about what to wear even though my rational side knows that anything goes. I bought this $20 dress on Amazon and thanks to instagram stories, it was determined to be Vegas appropriate. It has thick material, I think I can wear a regular bra with it (paperclipped in the back to be racerback), and it's super flattering.

Andrew and I are celebrating a dozen years together this month! Our first date was February 11th (right?) and we went to a sports bar. The Olympics were on in the background. This year, we are both pretty busy on weekends so we celebrated this past weekend with dinner at Nancy's Hustle. It's a really unassuming restaurant - more hipster than casual - but some of the dishes we have tried are going to make my personal Houston must-have list. The burger is so good, we nearly ordered two - something we never do. It's got the textures and flavors down perfectly. They serve Nancy cakes, which are small, savory pancakes with whipped butter and trout roe. I was weirded out about the trout roe but I decided to just try it and honestly... it was totally fine. We have also gotten the chocolate souffle on both visits and it's perfectly rich yet still tastes like chocolate. I love a good meal in an unfussy place where I can just show up and chat with my husband.

I've been working on feeling better about me, and this has meant using My Fitness Pal and going to the gym. My Fitness Pal hasn't been too bad - I give myself a cheat meal once a week and some grace on the weekends (like, I did not count every tortilla chip I ate during the Super Bowl but I know that a serving size was 12 and I think I stayed in that area). I ate spaghetti squash for the first time and it was really good! The gym is still terrible. My neighborhood has a nice facility I already pay for, so I have been going there and reading on the treadmill. Probably not the best workout, but it has been getting me there. I think next week, I'll try a trial of Aaptiv (anyone tried it?) and if that still doesn't work, look into some class options. But those are expensive and I'm a quitter.

The Super Bowl happened. I didn't care who won this year as long as Andrew's fantasy football team did well since it's for money. The ads were meh, but this NY Giants fan house l-o-v-e-d the Eli/Beckham Dirty Dancing commercial. I was pretty excited for Justin Timberlake's halftime show but thought it was overall underwhelming. Then again, I feel like as a collective, our expectations for what a 15 minute performance should be are pretty sky high and I don't know what would have made it better or I expected to see. That said, I kind of give Justin a pass. However, this popped up in my twitter feed about "why Justin Timberlake is trash" and I gotta say.... a lot of it has print/video to back it up and he kind of seems like a garbage human when you look at all of that together. Now that we see so many men in the media are awful, where do we draw the line? When will we look the other way, and when do we say no more? Do we ever accept the "yeah, but he's changed" argument? How do we accept that we are all different and able to have our own set of values while only supporting things that mostly align with what we hold dear? Who knew Justin Timberlake would cause me this level of self-examination?

And now I need to make the long commute upstairs to get to work. I love working from home.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

add it to my list: january 2018

I feel like I haven't recommended things in forever and I constantly have things in my head I want to suggest, but when it comes to physically type them out? It's like I haven't tried anything new in 18 years. Such is life.

I should have attempted to write this post on Monday, but I got sucked into four straight episodes of The Office and then cooked dinner and started to catch up on DVR so laziness won. Laziness always wins. Especially when Jim is proposing to Pam. I really didn't like seasons 4-5 as they aired, so I never really rewatched many of them but I was far too critical. They definitely have their moments.

Anyway, time for add it to my list, otherwise known as recommendations I am making to people in real life. Bre and I will probably be back with this next month as an actual link-up on its regular day (the last Tuesday of the month) but it will be a loosey-goosey easy link-up with no expectations.

Add it to your shopping list

Activated Charcoal Coconut Toothpaste - I drink coffee and red wine. My teeth are far from perfect. I figured this was a minor investment ($14) to try to get them whiter. This product had great reviews, and it's really working for me. I am SO not into natural fixes or anything like that, so I was shocked that this worked. I use it daily and started seeing a difference in about a week. It does make your sink look black, but keep a Clorox wipe nearby and you will be good to go.

It Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Neutralizing Corrector - My skin has what George Constanza once called "a pinkish hue." I thought I would grow out of it - I haven't - and it's something I wish I could control. I don't want to always be so rosy! I happened to be at Ulta during an It Cosmetics demo day, the lady put this on me, and I needed it. It's $32 for a fairly small jar, but a little goes a long way. This covers my redness nicely without feeling like face paint. I think I'm going to add the powder to my collection next.

This Blanket at Target - One of my coworkers randomly suggested this blanket, and then a week later, I needed a blanket, so I went and bought it. My entire household (including the cat) loves it. It is so cozy, warm but not too thick, and washes well (though there is tons of lint the first time). And it's under $30 for a queen!

Lenny & Larry's Complete Cookies - This is so not me. I went bridesmaids dress shopping, had a minor meltdown, and decided I needed to take some action (also? I ordered the dress a size smaller than recommended, so motivation). I normally hate "fake" desserts, but I don't think I get enough protein and I love sugar, so after seeing these on twitter, I grabbed one at Kroger. It saved my sanity during one of Andrew's pop-ups when I couldn't eat. I've now tried the chocolate chip and the double chocolate and they are actually really good! I know, I didn't believe it either, but if you see one, it's worth the $1 to try!

Add it to your watch list

The Good Place - Have I already told you to add this? Maybe, but I'm telling you again. I thought the first season of this show was great, but the second is even better. Characters who grow are rare on TV - it seems that finding a formula with a stereotype is more common - but these characters change, adapt, and stay funny. The season finale is this week and I'm already a little sad about it.

Ladybird - I LOVED this movie. I want to watch it again. It summed up the feeling of 2002 perfectly and I adored how none of the characters were perfect. I also loved how Ladybird was embarrassed of her love of Dave Matthews. Sometimes, I encounter a pop culture world that I don't want to leave, and this was one of them.

Okay, I'm going to work on music and podcasts and things to read to share with you next month. Have anything I need to check out? Let me know!


Thursday, January 25, 2018

showing up for ladies

One of the things I want to do this year is be intentional with my time and attention, and I worked on that this weekend.

Saturday was the second annual Women's March. In 2017, I went on a whim - I was passing through downtown anyway, on the way to my grandma's birthday lunch - and just attended the rally. The speakers were focused on how we were going to be the change, there were tons of kids and families, and I left completely inspired. I didn't do anything with that inspiration besides tweet about a lot more political stuff, but it was a great experience.

I went this year, armed with my Leslie Knope-inspired sign. I was going to go alone but Bre was guilted into going by celebrity twitter so we met up and both agreed that things were... different. The crowd was still big and there was still energy but it was unfocused. We are all still mad but I'm personally in disbelief that this circus goes on daily and there is seemingly nothing that can stop it. The signs were good, and the people watching was great, but the call to action I was looking for, the optimism and faith in humanity I had when I left last year... well, they didn't quite happen. Too many objectives without any focus. But I'm glad I showed up. I think it's still important for 20,000 people to come together, even in an unclear solidarity, and show their kids what democracy looks like. I can tweet all day but actually being there felt like a tangible commitment to caring.

Instagram embedding because I'm lazy...

And then there was Sunday: showing up on a different level. My grandma turned 80. One of my aunts, the oldest in the family, is the default family event coordinator for things like this - she will call everyone and tell them where and when to show up for lunch. But, my cousin just had a baby so she was out of town with her. I kept asking my mom what was going on and we decided to plan a little party. I was trying to think of a good theme (I love themes) and I kept coming back to Facebook. My grandma is always the first person to comment on someone's post, or re-post an "I love my <fill in the blank family member>" gif and she reposts recipes all the time. So I told my mom we should get the rest of the family to help bring her Facebook wall to life by making a recipe she has posted before. My family is super easy to please, so they were all good with the plan.

The party ended up being really cheap and fun! Since emojis are really in right now, that was an easy decor choice. I made a version of these using construction paper (it looked like an 8 year old crafted them, but oh well). I used a dollar store emoji tablecloth as a photo booth background, got some "teacher letters" from the dollar store to make it read "Friend Request Station," and added some emoji props. I got little flags to stick in all of the food that said "<dish> added to your wall by <name>" and used streamers and things I had on hand to decorate the table. You guys, it was SO easy. It took minimal planning, a minimal expense, but it was time spent on someone important to me and she could tell. I was intentional. I thought ahead. I showed up and put in some time.

If you haven't already seen this and you don't swipe to the second pic, you're missing out.

I don't think any of this makes me special, but I want to remember how it made me feel. It was fun to be busy looking for a punch recipe and thinking of party details. It was fun to be in charge of something for my family when I have always been treated as a kid. And it meant something to someone else. Twenty four days into the new year, and so far, being intentional is paying off.

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Like, two people have asked me about the Add It To My List link-up. I am going to write a post in that vein on Tuesday and we will likely bring the link-up back in February! I'll post info when we fully commit.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

ordinary

When was the last time someone gave you permission to just be... okay?

I feel like for as long as I can remember, someone or something encouraged me to excel. I wanted to get the best grades, be first chair clarinet (laughable), have a starring part in the high school musical (even more laughable, since I can't sing) and as an adult, you want to be the healthiest, prettiest, richest, always-striving-to-be-better version of you. I mean, right?

Improvement is exhausting. I mean money is great, but the effort it takes to "side hustle" or go back to school to get another degree or sell a kidney is hard. Why can't we celebrate being here, and just being... comfortable? I'd love to have invisible pores and long shiny hair and the ideal BMI. Am I not worthy of love and appreciation regardless of my appearance and size and the amount of effort I put into it? Doesn't every pinterest graphic encourage us to be ourselves? Well friends, my self is just... ordinary. I like the status quo. My house is always messy, my photography skills are awful, I don't know how to correctly apply make-up, and I don't really want to work to change any of those (though if you would like to volunteer to clean my house, I'll take you up on it).

I just want to share the ordinary. I don't want to find a life lesson in it all. I don't want to give you tips on how or why you need to be better. I just want to share with you the normal things that happen, without prettying them up, because really? 95% of most of our lives are probably ordinary, and I just want us all to be okay with that. To be more okay with being okay and having little desire to improve. Aren't we enough as we are?

I'm nearly done with reading What Made Maddy Run, which I think Carly had on her best of 2017 list. While the story of a college athlete committing suicide sounded intriguing, this book is more than I thought. While telling Maddy's story, the author, Kate Fagan, takes a detailed look into an athlete's mind - never giving up, qutting being unacceptable, always striving for greatness - and also Maddy's outward appearance. Every instagram photo was perfect, her texts were full of emojis that minimized her true feelings, she still did things with her friends that teenagers did, but inside, there was something completely different. She points out that that has become the case for all of us - we spend so much time curating our lives, putting our best selves forward, and portraying the prettiest parts of our lives - and we forget that everyone else is doing the same thing. We feel alone when we are ordinary or imperfect because we assume that everyone else's lives are naturally the way they portray them on instagram and that we are the only ones working, editing, filtering, and selecting to make ours feel that way. In reality, so much of what we are surrounded by is fabricated that we start to forget what real life looks like and then we start to forget what it feels like. How many times have you seen a moment through the lens of how you're going to caption it on instagram?

So, I want to make an effort to show more of my ordinary. The mundane things that don't make me special and the area that I am neither an expert in nor striving to improve. Places where I'm perfectly happy just being fine. My everyday circumstances that you might be feeling, too. Why can't we feel good about getting by?

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Also, you should read this book. Sharing my two favorite nuggets because they are too good not to.

"Instead of having one or two true friends that we can sit and talk to for three hours at a time, we have 968 "friends" that we never actually talk to; instead we just bounce one-line messages off them a hundred times a day. That is not friendship, this is distraction." (This is so convicting and SO TRUE for me - how can I make sure my friendships are more than that?)

"Comparing your everyday existence to someone else's highlight reel is dangerous for both of you."