Wednesday, June 7, 2017

2017 Summer Reading List

As I mentioned previously, one of my goals for this summer is to read through a stack of books that I have checked out from the library (and a few of my own). It's incredibly easy for me to fall into a Netflix (or lately, Britbox) marathon and waste hours upon hours in front of the tv. Even though there's nothing wrong with that every once in awhile, I want to balance out my downtime with something maybe a bit more productive. Here are the ones in my lineup:

1) BurnTown by Jennifer McMahon: Jennifer McMahon really sucked me back into the world of mystery novels and fiction in general a couple years ago, and I quickly read through all of her books.  When I saw that she had a new book coming out, I pre-ordered it immediately, and I'm really excited to dig into it.

2) Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan: I snagged this one through Blogging for Books a couple weeks ago; it's really hit or miss for me in terms of finding books that sound interesting to me on there, but this one definitely fits the bill. Deep dark, potentially life-ruining secrets? I'm in.

3) The Good Girl by Mary Kubica:  I've actually started reading this one already, and it completely sucked me in. It's told in a before/after of the kidnapping of a woman in Chicago, through her perspective and that of her kidnapper, mother, and a detective assigned to her case. It's a bit weird knowing part of the ending (due to the "after" chapters), but it's managing to keep me captivated regardless.

4) The Plantagenets by Dan Jones: I'm actually about halfway through this one already. I've been taking my time working through it, and really soaking up the information, rather than just powering though; retention is the goal here. I've loved all of Dan Jones' documentaries (I actually have two of those checked out from the library right now too), and so far this book hasn't disappointed either.

5) The Passenger by Lisa Lutz: This was a book I saw on the shelf at Target and decided I needed to read. It's another mystery/thriller (which is apparently my genre lately) about a woman who finds her husband dead at the bottom of the stairs one morning and goes on the run, assuming new identities along the way. Who she really is and what really happened to make her leave are big questions that I'm excited to find the answers to.

6) The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell: This was recommended to me by a friend, and I don't think I have ever heard a plot synopsis so relevant to me and my interests--mystery, heirs, British setting, and the Bronte sisters? Sold. Now to schedule some pool time.

7) You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott: The library just came through for me on this one, so I need to go pick it up and bump it up the list. It's another mystery (surprise surprise) about an elite gymnast and the depths that she and her family will go to get her to the Olympics. I did gymnastics competitively for several years when I was younger, so this is definitely a must-read for me.

8) The Widow by Fiona Barton: It's not often that I read a mystery that doesn't directly involve the main character (and maybe it does and I just haven't gotten that far yet). This one, though, seems to be more a question of what the protagonist's husband may or may not have done (and whether or not she knows about it). It's definitely a different spin on a typical mystery, and I'm ready to see where it ends up.

9) The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris: Earlier this year, I listened to a lecture on 1066, and I've been trying to read as much as I can about the Norman Conquest ever since. When I was trying to find some more British historians to read through, Marc Morris' name came up, and I was excited to see this book in his collection.

10) The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell Not going to lie, I initially picked this one up because the cover was gorgeous. Judge me. Turns out, though, when I read the synopsis, it sounded perfect. A mystery novel set in London? I'm not sure it gets better than that for me.

11) Those Girls by Chevy Stevens. I haven't ready any of Chevy Stevens books before, but I'm always looking for new mystery/thriller authors. I've discovered that I tend to prefer female writers in this genre, and I'm not sure why, but I'm happy to read as many books as I can to see if my preference holds. :)

12) The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware: Confession--I haven't gotten around to reading In a Dark, Dark Wood yet, but it's also on my list. The Woman in Cabin 10 might have to come first, though, because it just sounds soooooo good. I've had a couple people recommend this one, so it's definitely a priority for this summer.

Are you reading anything good this summer? Any more recommendations for me? I keep a constant list of upcoming reads and I'm always looking for more suggestions!

Friday, May 19, 2017

School's Out

Today's the last day of school, and I couldn't be happier. Not that I don't love my job--I definitely do--but part of the reason I love it so much is that the schedule allows me to have a break before I hit burnout, and I've been so close to burnout the past few weeks. I do have an extended contract and I'm working summer school, but it feels good to have the year wrapped up and to move on to the next challenge. Summer school is also only half days, so I'll have lots of time to work on non-work related things in the afternoons--which is good, because my to-do list keeps growing: finalizing and booking my trip to England for next summer (I've already started on this one!), reorganizing my library of books, cataloging my records, scanning and organizing old family photos, sorting through my closet and taking donations to Goodwill are all toward the top, not to mention reading the pile of books that I checked out from the library this week.  Throw in a trip to the PNW, Alaska, and British Columbia, and I think my summer is pretty well packed. You know I'll find some time to wander our local art museums and camp out at some coffee shops, too, though.  What about you--any fun things planned for summer? You might have an idea that I need to add to my list. :)








Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Learning To Grieve Again




She died a month ago today. It seems like an eternity, but it's only been 30 days. I didn't know if I'd ever be ready to write about it, but here I am.

By "she, " I mean our cat, Eleanor. I guess I should count myself lucky that this is the first time I've had to experience the death of a pet as an adult, but it has been weirdly harder than I ever thought. I didn't expect it to be easy, obviously, but it seems much more difficult this time than I remember it being as a child. In some ways, it's been harder than the deaths of friends and family members, and I think for the same reason: I was responsible for her. She was mine. I was supposed to keep her healthy, keep her safe, keep her alive...but I couldn't. 

I second-guess every decision we made in the weeks leading up to her death. She had always been more reclusive than her brothers, so I wonder if it took us longer than it should have to realize she was sick and take her to the vet; it seemed to happen so fast, but how does a cat lose three pounds so quickly?  I wonder if we should have taken her for a second opinion when our vet didn't seem certain of what was causing her illness, or even after she did--pancreatitis-- but the steroids and antibiotics didn't seem to make her well. I wonder if we had done exploratory surgery if she would still be alive. I wonder if my seeing her getting "better" at times was more hope and blind optimism than reality.  I wonder if my force-feeding her every few hours to help her gain weight caused her pain. I wonder if she was happy with us and if she felt loved. 

I really didn't think she was going to die. 

The vet didn't either. We had taken her back for a check-up (one in a series of many) on a Tuesday, and she had gained more weight back--likely due mostly to the frequent force-feedings. The vet told us she was headed in the right direction and that we should wait to decide on exploratory surgery. I asked if waiting would be putting her in danger; I didn't want to put her through unnecessary pain, but if waiting was doing further damage to her body, I didn't want that either. I didn't want to risk her life, and I asked if I was. The vet said no. 

Five days later, on Easter Sunday, we woke up to find her laying under the kitchen table, and when I reached down to pet her, she was cold and stiff. That moment is burned into my brain. It has replayed over and over the past 30 days, forward and backward, in slow motion. 

I'm not good at grieving. I know what I should do, but in the moment, going through it myself, all of that seems to go out the window. I'm really good at compartmentalizing during the crisis phase, but when I try to process it afterward, I get easily overwhelmed by emotions. For me, grieving is a slow process, and one that I have to re-learn each time--and this is part of that. It won't do to stuff everything down and pretend I'm not hurt, or try not to think about her. She deserves better than that; she deserves to be remembered as much in death as she was loved in life. Even though I'm sitting here finishing this post with tears running down my face, I know it's necessary, and healthy, and a good start to learning to grieve again.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

7 Tips for Keeping it Together When Life is Hectic (+ a Giveaway with JORD Watches!)

The following post is sponsored by JORD Watches. All opinions, tips, and thoughts are my own. 



Doesn't it seem like, just when you think life is about to slow down a bit, it always gets busier? Typically the last few weeks before summer vacation is when things slow down a lot for me at work, but that hasn't really been the case this year; if anything, I've been feeling more and more overwhelmed. Thankfully, I have a few tried and true tricks to keep myself on track and sane--and you too, if you're in the same boat.


1.Write it all down. I am a big believer in the to-do list. If it's not on paper (or at least in my phone), it won't get done. I tend to get tunnel vision when I'm working on a project, so seeing everything that I need to accomplish really helps me allocate my time and energy appropriately. Bonus points if you write down "due dates" next to your projects.

2. Prioritize. I like to break my to-do list into three categories: must-dos, should-dos, and could-dos. Must-dos are pretty self-explanatory--your life is going to be pretty rough if you don't get these done. That thing that your boss will fire you if you don't get it done? Must do. Getting groceries? Must do--starving yourself isn't an option. Should-dos are those things that aren't going away any time soon, but they aren't vital to your immediate functioning; things like laundry, cleaning your kitchen, or getting your oil changed might fall into this category (unless you've put them off and you're down to your last pair of clean underwear). Could-dos are those projects that you'd like to get around to, like alphabetizing your books, cataloging your vinyl, or scanning boxes of family photos. You "could do" them if you had extra time, but they're okay on the back burner for now. Once you have everything divided into these categories, it makes it a lot easier to figure out what to tackle first (especially if you included those due dates I mentioned in #1).


3. Say no. I'm a people pleaser, so I find it hard to say no sometimes. During really busy periods, though, it becomes a necessity. If someone is trying to add something else to your plate, it's okay to say "I really can't" or "not right now." Having boundaries is healthy! Saying no goes for yourself, too--it's easy to get overwhelmed and decide to just watch TV instead, or go out for a coffee break, but you'll end up even more behind and overwhelmed in the end. But that said, you also need to......

4. Schedule time for self-care.  Yep, I went there. I know when you're feeling overwhelmed, the last thing on your mind is making time for baths, or reading a new novel, or watching this week's SVU. I get it. This is the hardest thing for me too. When I'm stressed, self-care is usually the first thing to go out the window, but it's also when I need it the most. The thing about self-care is that it doesn't have to be huge or time-consuming; it just needs to be effective. During peak busy times, I still allocate 30 minutes before bed to read something non-work-related. The thing is, 30 minutes is not going to make-or-break my to-do list, but it might make-or-break my mental health that day.  




5. Be flexible in how you accomplish tasks.  My grandma used to say, "There's more than one way to skin a cat" and while--as a cat mama--I'm entirely put off by that saying, the sentiment rings true. For some people, this may look like working from home one day so you can do your laundry on your lunch break; for others it may look like delegating (I'm the worst at delegating!), or accepting less-than-perfect in some of your "should-dos"--but do you REALLY need to scrub your baseboards to consider your kitchen clean enough? So be creative--maybe you'll find a great life hack!

6. Keep yourself on schedule. Hourly planners, alarms, and watches are a godsend for me, because it's easy for me to get wrapped up in a project and lose track of time. I put everything (literally) into my paper and phone planner, and select that I want a 15-minute warning. That gives me enough time to get to a good stopping place with a project, and move on to what's next. You'll notice, too, that when I'm busy, I'm almost always wearing a watch (lately a gorgeous wood one from JORD); if I'm working at home, or moving from place to place in a single building, I have a tendency to set my phone down and forget where I put it, leave it at my desk, or plug it in to charge, so having a watch is a necessary backup for me. When time's up, it's up, and I move on to the next thing in my planner; if I need to re-evaluate based on how much progress I've made with a project, I can do that, but I have to reference my prioritized to-do list and determined where I can make adjustments (and not, ahem, from the self-care section).

7. Reward yourself.  Tackled your to-do list? TREAT YO SELF. Listen, I'm a behavior analyst by trade, so if there's one thing I know, it's the power of reinforcement. If your to-do list is super long (or if you keep adding to it like I do), maybe that reward comes mid-way, or after three projects......or hell, after one, if it's a doozy. We all need respite and something to encourage us to keep going, and much like self-care, it looks different for everyone. A new book, a massage, a new watch to keep you on schedule? After I survive the summer school madness, I'm planning to pierce my nose like I've wanted to for the past 5+ years. This, like all things, requires a bit of self-control, though--because honestly, I'm a grown-ass adult and I could get my nose pierced this afternoon if I wanted to. So I've been holding out for the end of the year, so that I have a light at the end of this very busy tunnel to work toward. Find your light.





To help you power through your week when life gets busy, I've teamed up with JORD watches to offer these tips and a contest to win $100 toward the watch of your choice--because like I said, you need to reward yourself for your hard work! There's only one grand prize winner, but everyone who enters will receive a code for $25 off once the contest ends, so it's really a win either way!


Monday, May 8, 2017

8 Gift Ideas for Mother's Day


1. Fictions Eau de Parfum. Book-themed perfume? What could be more heavenly? (And yes, my mom has almost as many books as I do!) I might have to pick up two!

2. Sole Society Joliie Travel Tote I think it's a magic mom skill to be able to pack for an entire vacation in just a carry-on, so why not make it a stylish skill too? No more tiny black wheely suitcases.

3. The Women in the Castle My mom is a huge reader, and I've heard great things about this novel--maybe I'm biased, but I think books in general are always a great gift. :)

4. Cedarwood & Lavender Candle I LOVE the candles from Noon--the Christmas one is the best smelling candle I have ever owned. Lavender is really relaxing, though, and doesn't mom deserve a bit of relaxation on Mother's Day? I thought so.

5. Nashelle Initial Necklace I love the simplicity of this necklace. It would also be great for layering, which would be perfect if you have siblings--you could snag one with each of your initials!

6. JORD Frankie Watch I just got a JORD watch last week, and I'm obsessed with it. My mom wears a watch every single day, and who wouldn't love the gorgeous colors on this one?

7. Thou Mayest Equinox Spring Seasonal Coffee If your mom is a coffee drinker, you cannot go wrong with this roast from Thou Mayest. Every single thing I've had from TM has been amazing (it's my favorite coffee shop!), and the packaging is perfect for Mother's Day.

8. French Girl Organics Rose/Verviene Sea Polish I have heard SUCH amazing things about French Girl Organics, and what gal doesn't love a good scrub? I might need to order one for myself too--you know, just to test it first. ;)

















This post contains some affiliate links.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

KC Spring

Spring has finally, truly arrived in Kansas City! There's something about spring every year that's just so motivating--except those rainy days when my idea of productivity is reading through a couple novels before dinner time. We've definitely had a few of those days recently, but it's honestly been really nice. This time of year is so crazy hectic at work that being forced to slow down in the evenings and on weekends is a nice balance. And the Libra in me is all about balance, you know. :)

Somewhere in the craziness of the past couple weeks, when the weather was especially gorgeous,  I managed to drag my mister out into the sunshine for some park adventures and a few photos.  I chopped my hair off over spring break, and finally figured out what to do with it, so naturally I had to document the occasion, right? It was a great idea in theory, but didn't exactly account for the crazy wind that day. Hey, that's life, I guess. :) Hopefully there will be many more sunny days in the near future.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring Playlist



Spring is here! It's crazy to think that I only have a little over 5 weeks left before summer break, but my schedule can definitely tell--it's one of the busiest times of year at work by far. I've been spending a lot more time out in buildings, and less time at my desk, but I've still managed to find time to pick out some favorite new songs for this season. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

5 Faves: Commodity Goods Recipes

I've never been super into beauty products; I don't tend to wear a ton of makeup, and my routine is pretty basic and inexpensive. Even though I think it's fun to branch out and try something new every once in a while, for the most part I stick with my tried-and-true favorites. (I'll also never be able to master winged eyeliner, but that's another issue entirely.) The one exception to that, however, is scents. I may look like I rolled out of bed 30 seconds ago, but at the very least, I will smell good. Lotions, body sprays, and perfumes take up more space than all of my other beauty products combined, and they really always have. So late last year, when I won a giveaway from Commodity Goods, I was f.r.e.a.k.i.n.g. o.u.t. I have been obsessed with CG since my very first cocktail kit, and had prioritized which scents I was going to buy first, when I got an email from them telling me I would be receiving one of everything they make--just for filling out a survey (!). 

What I love most about CG is that, not only are literally all of their perfumes amazing, but they also are formulated to compliment each other, and you can create combinations to make your own scent. I thought it would be fun to post about some of my favorite perfume "recipes" that I wear regularly,  now that I've had time to try them all out. I tend to combine one of their black collection (which are a bit heavier) with a scent from their white collection (which are lighter), but the possibilities are endless. The cocktail kit is a good place to start if you want to experiment and find which combo is your favorite. Here are mine: 

The Brit (Wool + Rain):  Warm and cozy, yet fresh and even a little bit sweet, this is one of the coziest combos, and maybe even my very favorite of all. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: Roanoke Girls

Note: post may contain spoilers

I'll say this for The Roanoke Girls: it had me hooked. The day it arrived in the mail, I sat down to read it and didn't put it down again until I turned the last page a few hours later. That was a few days ago, and I'm still trying to sort out exactly how I felt about it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Importance of Taking Time

It's been quiet around here for the past few weeks. I've been really struggling with finding balance lately--particularly the balance between being informed about the things happening in our country and letting it consume my every waking moment. I was having a hard time turning off the television and putting my phone down--it felt almost irresponsible, and everything seemed so important. It was hard to look away from, as St. Vincent put it, the "daily litany of horrifying things." You know when something crazy happens and it just throws you completely off kilter for a few days? It was like that every single day. And this space--everything that I could write seemed so pointless. Who cares about British television and my favorite LUSH bath bombs when the world is going to hell around us?

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Word of the Year: Focus


I've always been a New Year's Resolution kinda gal. I know that's not really cool anymore, but old habits die hard, I guess. I will admit that a lot of my past goals have fallen into the stereotypical lose weight/get healthy/save money/generic personal growth category, and so last year I set out to change that with A Year of Creative Habits. Essentially I tried a new creative hobby every month and then (most months) interviewed someone I knew who was particularly talented at that type of creative expression. (You can look back through the interview archives here.)

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