Monday, September 10, 2018

check in

The whole summer has happened and I have not posted a thing, but I have used my trusty bullet journal to document some memories and I make a conscious effort to check in with IRL friends (even if they are friends I have never met IRL but have a real life text/gchat relationship with) daily, so the needs I created my blog for - friendship and remembering my life - are still being met. And I think that's important.

I like to do my day-to-day life updating via Instagram story and I feel like most people I interacted with regularly here are there, too. If you want to know what I have added to my list lately, chances are, it's there. I like the challenge of brevity, the imperfection, being able to make faces, and how it's so much easier to respond. As someone who normally hates every photo of myself, only wants to take photos when my hair is a certain way, and has historically only seen the negative in her own image, it's also a great mental exercise for me to just put something out there. Chances are, in the ten seconds I'm sharing, you are listening to me (probably only halfway) and can't tell if I'm wearing mascara or if I have a pimple or whatever.

The world is a dumpster fire and I have created my own online echo chamber, and in a way, a web of IRL friends who are all like-minded. It's safe to talk about politics at work because even though it isn't a political org, it is an inclusive one and the current administration isn't. Like if I am going to go see friends on the more conservative side of the spectrum, I have to remind myself not to talk about all things political or at least to do so kindly. I explained white privilege to someone the other day and maybe made her understand, at least a little.

We got a new (to us) car a few months ago and I realized it came with a Sirius trial. I played with it this weekend (Andrew was driving, don't worry) and fell in love with the Yacht Rock station. This Spotify playlist has been getting me through this dreary, icky Monday. I'm tempted to make some tea and burn a fall-ish candle because the lack of sun has the temps at a humid, mosquito-y 77 degrees which means I'm not forced to move downstairs to work in the afternoon. We have central AC, but the upstairs gets warm and I don't have a ceiling fan.

I miss book talk and new books recs so maybe I will be back tomorrow to join Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books. I have yet to find anything I absolutely adored lately, so even when I don't play along, I do creep for recs.

Monday, May 14, 2018

rambles

At this moment, I miss blogging and as it is the end of my workday, I'm gonna seize the opportunity.

I think with all of the different forms of social media, it's really easy to know where people are and what they are doing. I doubt there is a single person reading this who doesn't "know" me elsewhere. But, as I have been lazy about even bullet journaling, some reflection via typing just felt right.

So this weekend I was in a wedding and you have likely heard about the dress fiasco. What no one complains about loudly enough when it comes to weddings is how expensive and almost ridiculous it is but then how seeing your friend that happy and glowing makes it worth it. Almost. It was damn expensive. Glad I could put my event planning skills to good use and diffuse crises while wearing a long dress. Being in a wedding also highlighted how little make-up I wear on a daily basis. How does one teach herself to use an eyelash curler at the age of 33?

We went on a vacation. I think being in your 30s is the height of needing a vacation from your vacation. But really, getting life in line and figuring out how to be a solid adult is hard. I went to the grocery store at 6:30 a.m. so I could feel somewhat together this week.

My cat woke me up on Mother's Day by puking twice. True love, am I right?

Still reading a lot, still scrolling too much. Read The Wedding Date in one sitting (on a plane, but still) and it was easy and delightful. Highly recommend if you need something for the beach or pool.

We are going to the ATX Festival for the fourth year in a row and TIM RIGGINS will be there and I am psyched. And also an Americans reunion/reflection on the series. That show is worthy of a rewatch.

I want to be better at sharing. I see so many things shared, or going viral, and I am like ME TOOOO, why didn't I think to say that?! How do you train your brain to realize where you are unique, and where you bring value? I have the same issue at work - it's hard for me to realize where I am an expert. I feel like so many things I know are common knowledge, but they aren't.

I need to make an agreement with one of my friends that I will be their Jonathan Van Ness and they should be mine. I love how every pronoun is "her" and he doesn't allow negativity and I want to be that bright light but I think my DNA is just too sullen. It's always funnier to point out the ridiculousness of something, but it's much more satisfying to pick out the good stuff.

(Responding to comments is my kryptonite...)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

add it to my list: march 2018

This month flew by for no good reason. I did get to go to Phoenix for a combo work/family visit last week and I have eaten some good food but have otherwise been pretty low-key. However, that doesn't mean I don't have some things to share with you, since sharing things is something I love to do.

Link up with me and Bre below if you are so inclined! Since you got no notice, the link-up is live for a month, so take your time...

Add it to your shopping list:

Ulta Lip Oil: the past few times Ulta has had a free gift with purchase, I haven't been able to help myself - I spend the $20 and feel like I get SO MUCH stuff to try. This month, my favorite thing in the bag was their lip oil. Despite the fact that it is coconut (not a favorite), it is SO hydrating that I can overlook the flavor. I also paid for a tinted one, and for someone like me who doesn't love a lot of color, it's a perfect attempt at trying without feeling made up.

Mrs. Meyer's Cleaner Concentrate: I just like the way Mrs. Meyer's products smell, honestly. I love the option to buy the concentrate as it's more eco-friendly and it takes forever to go through a bottle of it. Sure, you spend $7 up front but I'm not even halfway through the concentrate and I have refilled my spray bottle at least three times.

Add it to your watch list:

Queer Eye on Netflix: Allison and everyone else who said this was great, I'm sorry I doubted you. I watched the original and it was fine, so I thought I could skip the reboot, but when I travel, I like something I can download that Andrew won't want to watch. I thought I would give an episode a try and I was laughing out loud on the plane. The show is light, upbeat, teaches you a few tips to pass to the guys in your life, and just makes you want to be a better, more supportive friend. There are only eight episodes so I am trying to reward myself with them on trips to the gym. I feel like Karamo would approve.

Add it to your dinner list:

Easy Shredded Harissa Chicken: This is the easiest thing ever - a jar of harissa (a Moroccan condiment made from bell peppers) and chicken in the crock pot or instant pot. Take it out, let it cool a little, shred, and eat. It makes two meals for us, so I will have it with couscous, tzatziki, marinated chickpeas, and veggies one night and then on a Greek salad another night. Andrew loves it, and he could take or leave most chicken dishes. I have done the same thing with a jar of salsa and it made perfect enchilada or southwest salad chicken.

Add it to your podcast list:

Order 9066: After reading Dan Rather's book, I realized this was a huge part of American history that I knew embarrassingly little about, so when I heard about this podcast, I had to try it. Our country rounded up citizens, put them in tiny rooms, and barely fed them because they thought they might join sides with Japan in a war. Oh, and there was no evidence pointing to that. If you need a history lesson, check this out.

Tales from the Pits: Okay fine, I'm biased, but my husband and his business partner started a podcast about Texas BBQ and if that is a thing you (or someone in your life) is into, then check it out! They have gone all over Texas interviewing pitmasters, pit makers, and fellow BBQ fans and their research, curiosity, and genuine appreciation is obvious in every episode - it isn't just two fools with microphones. They're also giving out a Yeti cooler starting today so if you're in Texas, listen in and find out how you can win (and I think it will be hand delivered.... so maybe I will make that trip!). If you listen and like, please rate (with stars) and review (with words) - it helps!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

add it to my list: february 2018

Add it to my list is back with me and Bre. If you want to link up, you can do it below. This is just a chance to post your monthly favorite things that you are recommending to people in real life.

Anyway, onto my list:

Add it to your podcast list -

Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd: Dax Shepherd just seems like a cool guy and his podcast is just a conversation with him and one of his famous friends on anything from vacations gone awry to race relations. The first episode is with his wife, Kristen Bell, and as much as I do not want to perpetuate that they are relationship goals, they basically are. And she wanted to stop the interview so she could go to Michael's. I also loved the Jimmy Kimmel episode. The episodes are super long (nearly two hours) but they are really interesting!

Add it to your people to follow list - 

Comments by Celebs: such a good instagram account that screenshots comments celebrities leave on social media accounts, especially those of other celebrities. There is a strong John Mayer influence here and I love it.

Add it to your things to buy list - 

A hairbrush cleaner: I had no idea these even existed. I use dry shampoo, and my brushes get really gross. It's also hard at times to get all of the hair out, and I do get oddly paranoid about how icky it looks on the off chance someone sees my brush. I was at a fancy shop in Brenham, Texas of all places and saw a brush cleaner like this and even though I normally don't buy things like this, I had never seen one before and I didn't google on the spot and it came home with me. I regret nothing. It pulls everything out and is also good for fine-toothed combs.

Annie's Organic Fruit Snacks - one of my friends brought these to Vegas as snacks. I probably haven't had a fruit snack in twenty years but I tried them because they were there and they are so good! They taste fruity, not weirdly sweet. Costco has a 42 pack on sale for like $12 right now which is insane and they are only 70 calories a bag so the giant box will probably only last a month... ish.

This striped, ruffle-sleeved shirt from Walmart: This is a repeat if you follow me on instagram stories, but both Sarah and Kristen bought it after I posted so it's worth sharing again. It looks super unflattering on the hanger but is really cute on and for only $10, worth grabbing if you're near a Walmart anytime soon.

Now it's your turn - link up your list below or let me know something you have loved lately.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

thursday list

A list because that is what I could come up with.

1) I have come to realize that I love local coffee shops a possibly unnatural amount. But, if you are going to put me in a new city (and give me a per diem if I'm working) and um, I need coffee daily anyway, why should I settle for crappy hotel coffee or Starbucks? Over the weekend I took a quick trip to Austin with Andrew and had lots of time to myself so I checked out two. Fleet Coffee Co. is a tiny place in East Austin that thinks really highly of itself - they had a gingersnap drink with gingersnap-infused milk that sounded amazing for a whopping $6.50 - but I still enjoyed my slightly lower-priced vanilla juniper latte (housemade syrup is my favorite). On Sunday, I went to Mazama Coffee Co. in Dripping Springs and basically fell in love - it was insanely cheap, had homemade baked goods with three lemon-blueberry options (heart eyes), and my lavender latte was delightful. And, it had a kid-free zone and as the person who always has a play date park next to her when she is trying to get work done, I loved that. (No offense, moms. Y'all have as much of a right as I do, but sometimes when the coffee shop is large and seating is plentiful, it's just like, Really?)

2) I have nothing new to add to the Parkland conversation but it has taken my attention and thoughts over the past week. The students are incredible and the NRA is the literal worst. If a teacher is willing to take a bullet for their students, then more power to them and they are amazing human beings; however, this should not be an expectation placed on them. They have families and lives, too, and are humans who might run. Forcing guns into classrooms is about the worst idea I have ever heard.

3) On a similar note, it's time to early vote in Texas. Houstonians, get your guide here and remember that your polling place is determined by your registered party, so do your homework!

4) I deactivated facebook last week. I don't feel that I have gotten time back from doing so - I just find other distractions instead - but it has saved me the headache of misguided gun conversations this week. I was tempted to re-activate tonight but realized that my sanity is worth more than creeping on people I must not like enough to keep up with any other way.

5) I think our first Brunch and Bujo was in August and we have had one every month since, with one coming up on Sunday. I really do look forward to them, especially when they force me to be an extrovert. And I say our but really Bre does all the work and has all the friends. I mostly just remind her that the end of the month is coming and commit to showing up.

6) I've really been trying to up my dinner game. I get tired of the same foods on repeat and want to be healthy-ish. I also love making a meal that will last for two nights so I only have to cook half the time. This week, I made spinach and ricotta stuffed shells (after a weekend of BBQ, a vegetarian meal sounded great, even if it wasn't low-fat) and shredded harissa chicken. The first night with the chicken, we had it with couscous (from a box), cucumber, tzatziki (pre-made), and marinated chickpeas (used this recipe as a guide but subbed in a lot of dry spices because lazy) and for the second night, I got stuff for a Greek salad but we have leftovers of nearly everything so I'm not sure what we'll do. What is it about seeing what other people are eating that is always interesting?

7) I should have saved the above for Add It To My List, which we are bringing back because we like it and a few others do, too. It will be the most un-linkup ever in the case that I will not promise to comment anywhere as that is my blogging downfall, but I do like to see what people want to share. It will be on the last Tuesday of the month which is this Tuesday, the 27th. And now you know.

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."

Thursday, January 18, 2018

ten on thursday

Bulleted lists and things I want to share because why not?

1) Houston got a Warby Parker store and I am so excited. I went on Friday night and my glasses are already on the way. I'll be sure to post a pic in my instagram stories. I love that there is one cost, one potential upcharge ($30 for thinner lenses), tax is included, and delivery is free. It was so easy - in and out in 15 minutes.

2) The Women's March is this weekend. I really want to go, but I also have to go bridesmaids' dress shopping for a wedding I'm in. I'm so bummed and still looking for a way to do both, but this city is just so spread out that I'm not sure I can and I am SO disappointed.

3) Slightly related to the above, there is a bachelorette party in Vegas next month and I went to the juniors section to find a dress to wear. What does one wear in Vegas in her 30s? No club (at least, I hope not...) but there will be bars and dinner. And it will be cold. Pinterest is no help - ideas?

4) In case you hadn't heard, it snowed in Houston this week for the third time this season. This was the strongest so far and it actually stuck to the ground! There were two snow days where the city basically shut down, but when you work from home, you don't get that - huge bummer. It was really cold and kind of inconvenient. I always say I wish I got snow, but I definitely see why northerners complain. At least I had a reason to drink coffee, hot tea, and cocoa all in the same day. And, I took my first snowball to the face courtesy of my husband (I ducked into it. I'm fine.)

5) The Fake News Awards listing being hosted on the GOP website, which legitimizes this crazy administration even more. I also saw that nearly every "winner" corrected their story soon after it came out. I mean I totally agree that all sides of the media are rushing to publish ideas that further their agenda and may not be doing the level of fact checking they should, but COME ON. Mistakes that were corrected don't warrant a pretend awards show or the title of fake news.

6) Also, did you see the thread on twitter of Andy Richter asking for photos of men who are 6' 3" and 239 lbs (45's alleged height and weight?). The differences in these guys and him are hilarious... if you can't even tell the truth about something we can all see, what else are you hiding?

7) I've been Yelp Elite for the past two years, something that I often make fun of, but for whatever reason, am no longer elite this year. I feel like I've failed the online reviewing community. This bothers me more than it should.

8) Chamillionaire identifies himself as both a musician and a tech investor and wants to help the family of a man deported after 30 years in the U.S. I think this is wonderful, but am weirdly amused that he still goes by Chamillionaire - but hey, whatever works.

9) Media I've consumed lately: The Post (loved the TV-star-studded cast, story was fine, but not a must-see); The End of the Fxxxing World (on Netflix; British and teenagery with the darkness of Dexter); and This American Life: Our Town, Parts 1 & 2 (you have to listen to these via the website now, but DO IT. Are illegal immigrants really costing us a fortune and taking American jobs? TAL investigates using an Alabama town Jeff Sessions uses as a prime example).

10) My coworker introduced me to HQ Trivia. I had heard about it but wondered if it was legit. You guys, it is, and it's frustrating but fun! Basically, you download the app (use my code laurenm10 if you start to play, please!) and every day at 9pm ET and weekdays at 3pm ET, you log on and play live trivia with people across the country. There are 12 questions and a $2000 pot. Everyone who makes it to the end splits the $2000 and you get money via Paypal. The only info you enter is your name and phone number - I haven't found it invasive so far. It does tend to start late, the host's banter is SUPER cheesy, and sometimes the app lags, but if you have time in the evenings and like trivia, I recommend it!

I didn't think I would get to ten things, and I don't think I'll do this weekly (because I'm aiming low at two posts a week, y'all....) but I like to share things that interest me or are going on. It's fun to get back in the swing of writing again.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

create the things you wish existed

I mean, that subject alone should be enough to make you think today, so really I shouldn't stare at this blank cursor anymore and I can go back to watching The Office on Comedy Central. Right?

(This marathon is the best thing that has happened to me in so long. Catching a favorite episode of a favorite show never gets old. But I digress...)

I ran across this Instagram post that said the title of this blog post, and it stopped me. I couldn't stop thinking about it and I had to comment to a stranger on the internet just to thank her.

(That's something I want to do more this year. Engage with "strangers" because after all, if I don't, how will they ever become friends, or at least people who know me on the internet.)

But anyway, it stayed with me. I'm not a cerebral person, so I guess that makes me a creative, but what do I create? I like to bullet journal and I like to write in this blog, sometimes, which I guess is a creative outlet. I used to exercise my creative muscle by planning events but that has taken a different direction so the question became what can I create that I wish existed?

I can create a twitter feed that is observational, sometimes informative, interactive, about TV, and not full of automatic tweets.

I can create an instagram account with my imperfect yet still functional bullet journal to show that you don't have to be an artist or spend a lot of time to make this planning system work. I can create a regular one with food and cats and instagram stories about nothing in particular when I feel like I need to share something or get an opinion. I don't have to stage things unless I want to and I don't have to learn how to use the portrait mode on my iPhone (though really, I should). I can just be a normal person who sometimes takes photos of cool things. Or mundane things. But things that I like and want to share.

I can create a blog about life. I feel like that's hard - I mean, I often have to stop and ask myself what I'm doing that's interesting and worth my time to write coherent sentences about. But I can share myself on the internet, which in a world of knowing what your friends do as they do them isn't really all that special, but it's what I have to offer. I can talk about the things that I love - I really think my ideal job is sharing things that get me excited in some way or another - and I can work harder to talk about deeper things and things that matter. I often worry that I'll sound cliche, or put too much stock in certain people or experiences, but is it really a thing to like someone or something too much? Maybe I'll test that.

So, on that note, and in the name of blogs everywhere - what are some things you wish existed in blogland? What's worth your time to at least read in the middle of twitter scrolling, dumpster fire-following, and incessant instagram stories? What are the things you wish existed?

I feel like it's only fair that I answer, so here goes: talk about real relationships (friend, family, romantic - all interesting), non-sponsored recommendations of anything, weird insecurities, a day in the life or other seemingly boring life things, giving me a new perspective on things going on in the world - your experience with them, bringing them to my attention, or just ruminating on them, and anything you would talk about with your friends in real life. I say these things, but when I try to write them myself, I'm at a loss. But at least now I can try.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

intention

It's 11 days into the new year which to me is still fair game to set resolutions. After all, if you follow me on Instagram stories, you know that my Christmas tree is still up. I'm not proud of it. I've been cooking a lot more than usual (three hours in the kitchen on Sunday, y'all!) so by the time I get done working, walking the dog, and making dinner, the Christmas mess is too much. It will be gone by Sunday evening, though. I'm tired of it.

Anyway, back to resolutions. 2017 was a year of adjustment. I want 2018 to be a year of marked growth and improvement. I'm not one for resolutions, but I do like an overarching idea to guide me, and this year's is to be intentional. I like words that are nice and broad, and open to interpretation.

So, more for me than for you, ways I want to be intentional in 2018:

- With my words. I say "like" far too often. It's something I developed in college, stopped doing in a professional setting, and have gotten back to again. I say it in place of "um" and also as a synonym for "said" and when combined, I sound like a bad 1985 Valley girl stereotype.

  • As a sub-point to this, I also want to be better at showing and telling people that they are important to me, whether it's spending time with them, leaving a genuine comment on social media (especially to people whose online presence I enjoy but don't have a relationship with), or spending time with them, which isn't really words, but related.
- With my time. Spending it with friends, as noted above, is high on the list. But, I spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling. I need to set a 10-15 minute limit at a time and then move on to something else, whether it's writing a blog post, reading, straightening up the house, or getting up on weekends and going to do one of the things I always think I should do. I should also add working out to this list, but baby steps. 

- I want to be intentional with the things I have. I tend to hoard things rather than using them, as is intended. I have tons of beauty samples, so I'm trying to use one a week. I keep buying bullet journal supplies, so I need to make sure to use them (or be generous to my friends and de-stash when we have brunch and bujo). It feels good to try new things. I'm using eye cream for the first time ever and it's life changing. And when my bullet journal is pretty, I get excited to document and plan, so wins all around.

- I want to think things through more. Seeing the end while I'm still in an early stage has never been my strong suit, and I don't often think about how an outcome will have a ripple effect, whether that is positive or negative. I've noticed this more in work situations than in real life - I'm happy to go along with what feels right and move on - but it's something I'm definitely conscious of and can improve upon.

I'm sure there are more. I created a bullet journal spread about what being intentional meant to me and it has little things like listening to more records and having more dance parties. OH and trying not to do things because I feel like I have to. Do you really want me at your birthday dinner if I'm going to hate it? Do you want a half-assed blog comment because I felt obligated? If you're still reading this post, the answer is probably no. I'm interested to see how my list changes and I reapply things over the year.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

books lately: january 2018

I haven't linked up with Steph and Jana since September, so there are some books that didn't make it to my best of 2017 list that I still want to talk about. I'll spare you from all of them - these are just the ones that elicited a reaction in me.

All the Lovely and Wonderful Things - Okay you guys, I need to discuss this one with someone. I get that it's beautifully written and I guess that we're supposed to feel that these characters belonged together, but it was a bit pedophile-adjacent for me. If this was real life and someone I knew, I couldn't support it at all, so reading a book that made a relationship with this big of an age difference while one character was still far too young to decide that just felt... icky. I gave it three stars on Goodreads because it sucked me in, but I don't know that I can really recommend it.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Other Four Letter Words - My love of TV started long ago; I remember reading Michael Ausiello's column in TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly years ago. I follow him on twitter now and he talked about writing a memoir about his partner's cancer diagnosis and ultimate death. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I cried, empathized, laughed, and enjoyed the way the story was told - neither character was perfect during this time in their lives. Even though it was heavy subject matter, I completely enjoyed this one. I always love a story where even the deceased is painted with the same messy strokes as the living.

Young Jane Young - Eh. It was one of those books that just... ended. I wanted more resolution. I liked it, but it was no AJ Firky. Since it's the same author, I was hoping for similar magic. It was fine, and I liked the perspective it gave, but I wouldn't run out to read it.

Just some things you should know about books lately. I just got Sourdough from the library and have been making my way through You Will Know Me. Still waiting to fall in love with a good novel so I'll be looking to see what others are reading today!

Not relevant to anything, but I'm not linking up with Steph and Jana solely because it's sometimes hard to comment on book posts since tastes vary so widely and I feel bad for linking up and not being a good participant. And if you are reading here then you already blog-know them so I don't need to tell you that that's where you go to talk books on the internet...


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 in review

I honestly wanted to do this in my bullet journal, but writing by hand takes a long time, so blogging will have to do. I was going to include photos, but now that Picmonkey makes you pay (and we all know I am inconsistent with blogging, let alone using photos), I didn't. If there's an alternative I should know about, let me know.

I started 2017 with a new job offer in the works, so I knew it was be a year of change. I put in my two weeks' notice in January and never felt more love from my old job. Doubleback BBQ helped the Hop Stop celebrate their first anniversary with a busy, day-long party and so many of our friends came to support the guys - it was great to see them, but I was so busy, I couldn't really enjoy them! I went to the Women's March and felt empowered and saw Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds in concert, which was wonderful.

The Super Bowl came to Houston the first week in February and took over downtown. My sister-in-law and her husband, his mom, and a friend came to stay with us and they went to the game. I started working from home and I chopped off a lot of hair. I went to NYC for work and visited Harlem for the first time.

In March, I settled into my new role a little more. I went to Lindy West's book event (my most liked IG pic of 2017, which is weird) and went a little crazy at my neighborhood's garage sale.

Our annual BBQ and Bluebonnets trip kicked off April and we found a great field this year. And had Truth BBQ (Cake. So much cake.). I also worked my first event at my new job, which was luckily in Houston. It was a learning experience for sure, but so nice to be in a place I knew.

May brought another work trip to NYC. This time, I stayed in Midtown and took a walk through Times Square solo (so many people, so not for me). I saw cute pigs and stopped eating pork for like, three weeks. I went to New Orleans for the first time (again, for work) and fell in love with a bar where you put your card in a machine to dispense however much wine you want and then pay at the end. I left early so I could come home to go to the U2 concert, a huge one off of my concert bucket list. We had an incredible spot in front of the stage and I loved that it was The Joshua Tree tour. We experienced our first Sunday Supper at State of Grace, which was among my favorite meals of the year.

For the past three years, June has meant a trip to Austin for the ATX Television Festival. We passed Damon Lindelof crossing the street, I relived my childhood via Pete and Pete, completely enjoyed the cast of Younger, and saw Adam Scott in real life. I also had a work conference in Vegas full of great swag and good parties. Andrew joined me for the last few days and despite the awful heat, we watched my beloved Bellagio fountains, finally tried Lotus of Siam, and saw the Beatles Love yet again (I think this was the fifth time?). We also celebrated one of my best friends' engagements and went to our only Astros game of the year (in which they lost miserably...).

In July, I got a new niece! Technically, she was born in late June, but I met her in Atlanta on July 1st. Newborns are cute, but they sleep so much. We had a relaxing few days with Andrew's family, and then I stayed in town an extra day for a work event. We tried to go to an Astros game for Andrew's birthday, but it was a disaster so we left for tacos instead. We celebrated a few days late with a great dinner at Xochi. I had brunch with Bre which turned into a trip to Michael's which turned into starting a bullet journal.

My nieces came to town in August for their annual summer trip. The oldest one is a senior in high school this year, so I don't know how many of these we have left. We got pedicures, took photos at the water wall, did mud masks, and went to the science museum. Andrew and I went to the Avett Brothers concert and had great, free seats (thanks, twitter). I went with him to a few BBQ stops as he worked to get through the Texas Monthly Top 50 and was a good BBQ wife. I got together with friends to Brunch and Bujo and made it into an instagram account and now a thing we have done every month since. At the end of the month, the city started to prepare for Hurricane Harvey, which we didn't think was going to really be a thing, but we were so wrong.

September was a bad month. Parts of the city were shut down due to the hurricane, but there was also an incredible amount of humanity visible all around. People were off work and kids didn't go back to school right away - everything felt a little off. Amidst all of that, Andrew's sister passed away. She had been fighting cancer for 18 months. We had one last, good, funny visit with her, and shortly after, she was gone. I don't want to sound blasé and gloss over this, but I don't feel like I want to go into it on the internet, either. But there was a week in September spent in a hospital and then helping our 20 year old niece plan a funeral so it was emotional and hard and busy.

Needless to say, I was happy to see the calendar flip to October and loved having Astros playoff baseball as a distraction. Working from home was a huge perk for daytime games and plans were made to be home in the evenings to see each one. I went to Philly for a work trip, got to meet Steph in real life, volunteered at Broad Street Ministry (such a cool org), and saw a little historic architecture. Andrew and I had a trip planned for my birthday weekend to the Texas Hill Country to stay in a cute Air BnB in Wimberley. We went to a very cool winery, a bourbondistillery, shopped in the town square, and watched baseball on my iPad from the house's fire pit on the first cold Texas night of the year.

The Astros won the World Series on November 1st and the next day, I went to Rapid City, SD for work. I was bummed to miss the citywide celebration but had a great experience learning about Native culture - attending a pow wow, putting up a tipi, and seeing the Badlands were all incredible. And it snowed a little, and I got to see Mount Rushmore. It was a cool place that I don't know I would ever visit otherwise. We had our annual Friendsgiving (Andrew smoked a turkey) and Thanksgiving with my family and then spent Black Friday getting a new Christmas tree, going crazy buying new ornaments, and having a nice lunch. I think lunch and ornament shopping may be new Black Friday traditions for us.

The year ended in a bit of a blur, but December is nearly always that way. It was nice to have fewer work commitments than I used to, but I did spend a night in San Antonio. Houston had its first snow in nine years and it was magic, but it melted way too soon. I spent weekends Christmas shopping and weekdays working from the couch so I could enjoy the tree. We traveled to Delaware to spend Christmas with Andrew's family and got to see our now six-month-old niece (way cuter now, but she still sleeps a lot). It was cold, but no snow, and it was a nice, relaxing trip. We came home and had Christmas with both of my sets of parents, and my nieces came down, which is always a treat. We kept New Years low key, going to dinner at Nancy's Hustle, which is new and casual and had an incredible burger, and were home by 9:30 to watch awful NYE specials on TV in our PJs.

... and that's about it. I feel like I grew professionally, learned a lot, and also did a lot of nothing. My friends are no longer ready-made coworkers, so I worked harder on maintaining friendships all around. My hope for 2018 is that my recap is twice as long due to the number of things I did and accomplished. We'll see if I can keep that in mind for the next 12 months.


Monday, January 1, 2018

best books 2017

My reading habits changed pretty dramatically in 2017. Since I no longer commute, I no longer have time for audiobooks, so my volume was definitely lower than it has been before. And, for whatever reason, I had a hard time getting into novels - something I definitely hope changes in 2018.

Keep in mind that I have an awful memory, so in reviewing the 41 books I read last year, these are the ones that stuck out to me; therefore, they are the best of the best for me in 2017. Honestly, now that I look at the fiction books, I almost feel I could have left them off, but while reading both, I really did like them.

Non-Fiction:
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie: I read this on the way to and shortly after attending an event for Native people in Rapid City, SD. I had no idea how much I didn't know about the Native experience in the U.S. and what troubles Native people still face - like reading about any other group different from you, you will see similarities and also learn a lot. I also really liked Alexie's voice. If you want to know more about modern, Native culture in the U.S., pick this one up.

What Unites Us by Dan Rather: This is the sole audiobook on the list due to a solo trip to San Antonio for work. He reads it, so it's even better. This is like a collection of Rather's Facebook statuses, only more detailed. He is knowledgable but not preachy. He clearly has feelings about the current administration but never names names. He talks about being a decent human, a patriot, and how the past should inform our present. I liked this one so much I gifted it for Christmas. If you like him on social media, read this.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond: I love sociology and I found this topic SO fascinating. Housing is something we all seem to take for granted, but what if we didn't have it? What if we were landlords whose livelihood depended on people paying rent or kicking them out? This book tells several people's stories, both tenant and landlord, and goes into detail about situations I hope to never be in, really humanizing the plight of so many working poor in the country.

It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort: After listening to Nora's podcast and deciding that I wish I could be her friend in real life, I had to read her book and it was better than I had even anticipated. She talks about her own life and insecurities and there were so many parts where I thought she was in my head. The heart of the book is about loving and losing her first husband and how she got through it, but not over it. It's sad and funny and I loved it so much, I had to buy it.

Fiction:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: This was a book whose world I liked being in. It wasn't earth-shattering but it was enjoyable and when the book was done, I wanted more time with the characters.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: Given our current climate, I thought this book was very well done. The story was intriguing, I can see how it would make a person think about how they function in society around people of other races, and it wasn't a preachy morality tale.

I currently have Imagine Me Gone (eh) and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (on SO MANY LISTS but I haven't started it yet) from the library so here's to 2018's books getting off to a great start!