Five Things Friday (#49)

Friday? Again? Well, hello. Here are five things that flew past my face over the course of this week:

1. Emilia Clarke’s personal essay in the New Yorker

This is taking over the internet right now for very good reason. Her raw and confessional essay about her health and experiences throughout the Game of Thrones years is extremely moving. She is the very picture of strength and vulnerability, and I hope we get to hear from her for years to come.

In the very first episode, I appeared naked, and, from that first press junket onward, I always got the same question: some variation of “You play such a strong woman, and yet you take off your clothes. Why?” In my head, I’d respond, “How many men do I need to kill to prove myself?”

2. Five07 in Thousand Oaks

I want to take a second to shout out a new favorite local business – Five07. Since Marshall can’t drive right now, I have to pick him up from his night classes a couple nights a week, and instead of backtracking home, I usually just go to the gym and then hang out at a coffee shop until it’s time to pick him up. Five07 has become my favorite spot to sit, eat, and get work done. Their coffee is phenomenal, the food is fresh and tasty, and the atmosphere is collaborative and creative in a way I really appreciate. The staff is welcoming and friendly, and best of all, it’s open late–a big deal for Thousand Oaks, where everything closes at 9. This place has been a lifesaver to me recently, and if you’re in the area, I highly recommend it!

A bad phone picture of my usual half-caf lavender latte at Five07

3. Roasted Garlic Couscous Breakfast Bowl recipe from Our Balanced Bowl

This is a great recipe, and roasting the garlic makes your whole house smell DELICIOUS. 10/10, will absolutely make again.


Confession: I’m immediately drawn to any piece of jewelry that reminds me of the flower ring Robin Hood makes for Marian in the Disney cartoon.

The freesia ring above immediately made me think of that, and I was delighted by the rest of the shop’s offerings as well. They’re great statement pieces that don’t look like anything else I’ve ever seen!

5. American Mammoth Donkey

Guys. I didn’t know these existed until earlier this week and now I want a giant donkey so badly. Look at his ears!!! Look at his sweet face!!!

Podcast of the Week: Lexicon Valley

“I want to do one of those shows where we see that so much in this language that we speak–in any language that we speak–is just full of implications, full of fun facts, full of maybes and history, practically every syllable you utter.”

Lexicon Valley combines linguistics, history, culture, and humor to make a truly magical experience, one that makes you lean in with fascination as the hosts dive into the history of words we take for granted. John McWhorter is a wonderful host with a conversational tone and frequently groan-worthy sense of humor that manages to be as endearing as it is silly. He often draws on music and lyrics (show tunes especially) as examples of the linguistic phenomena he discusses, which break up the long stretches of involved explanation and keep you interested and understanding.

One of the things I love most about Lexicon Valley is that it never relies on the elitism or snobbery that are often inherent in discussions of grammar and vocabulary. It fully embraces the changing nature of language and words, and gives every variation and vernacular its due. It reminds you that language is functional and that people adjusting it to their needs isn’t a crime.

Anyone who is interested in words or language should absolutely listen to this podcast. They’re short episodes that don’t need to be listened to in any particular order, so they’re great for a short car trip or an edifying time-killer.

Listen if you like: Decoder Ring, linguistics, being able to answer rhetorical questions and annoy everyone at your dinner party

Recommended Episodes: Precious Little, When Ain’t Was Alright

10 Books I Read in 2019 – Part 2

The saga continues! Here is the latter half of the ten books I’ve read in 2019 thus far. Missed the first half? Click here.

6. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

The first time I read the Lord of the Rings series, I think I was too young to appreciate it. I was probably 11 or 12, and these are dense books with a lot of old-fashioned language and seriously involved world-building. However, my love for Tolkien and Middle Earth is strong, and I am enjoying the books much more as an adult reader. Much of the humor that was lost on my then is delighting me now, and I find that I’m much more invested in all the characters. Reading these is still a major undertaking, and I’m taking a breather before I dive into Return of the King, but it has been a worthwhile journey.

7. The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Have you ever read something that’s so utterly on-brand for you that you feel like you’re being spied on? That’s how I felt about The Alienist. Psychology! Serial killers! Historical setting! Sharp-shooting feminists! Teddy Roosevelt! This book really does have it all and culminates in a fast-paced thrilling read. I have the sequel on my to-read list, but am curious if anyone has read it and if it lives up to the first, because the first wrapped up so nicely.

8. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

A couple notes on this book:

  1. The cover, and the blurb on said cover, really misrepresent the book in my opinion
  2. This is NOT a young adult novel. I REPEAT, this is NOT a young adult novel!!!!
  3. This novel is a marvel.

I have never read anything like The Poppy War. In spite of my previously mentioned LOTR love, I don’t read a ton of fantasy, so keep that in mind, but I truly have never experienced anything quite as dark, ambiguous, well-researched and beautifully built as this book. Based on the real history of the Sino-Japanese War, it is graphic and intensely realistic, but if you can stomach it, I highly recommend this book to fans of fantasy and/or history. Oh, did I mention that the author was only 19 when she wrote this? Mark me down as scared and impressed.

9. Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

After the heaviness of The Alienist and The Poppy War, I was in the mood for something a little lighter. In 2018, DC Comics commissioned some popular Young Adult authors to write a series of books called “DC Icons” that explore the young adult lives of beloved superheroes. Marie Lu, whose books are on my to-read list, wrote this one about an 18-year-old Bruce Wayne who has just inherited his sizable trust fund. This was a fun and fast-paced read, with all the atmosphere I expected from a Batman story as well as some modern updates that made it feel fresh.

10. Agorafabulous: Dispatches from my Bedroom by Sara Benincasa

I’ve been following Sara Benincasa on Twitter, where she is witty, clever, and often vulnerable, but I still wasn’t prepared for just how wonderful this book would be. She has incisive observations about mental illness while also treating her past with a very comforting kindness and self-forgiveness. She manages to balance humor with vulnerability and searing honesty in a way that makes you feel like you’re getting a big hug from a beloved aunt or older sister. I cannot recommend this book enough if you need a reminder that there is a light at the end of the dark mental illness tunnel. Sara is living proof that you can come out the other side with a sense of humor.

So, what’s next? I’m currently reading All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, but I’m always accepting recommendations. I want to know what you’re reading, or what you’ve read that really affected you. Send it on over!

Five Things Friday (#48)

We’ve made it to yet another Friday. As my friend Brenna so eloquently put it earlier today: “then I have to go through NEXT WEEK and the WEEK AFTER like @ time bruh wtf.” It’s a mood. But, since we can’t avoid the constant racing of time, let’s talk about things we like!

1. This artist’s illustration of what to do if you’re witnessing hate speech or harassment.

This has been floating around the internet for a couple of years, but considering the recent attack in New Zealand, it feels important to share again. Silence is complicity. Be proactive in making the world a less welcoming place to people looking to spread hate and division. Also, please be sure to support the artist who created this much-shared piece of work.

2. Vsocks on Etsy

These self-proclaimed “unpractical ceramics” are hygge as heck. I need to get my hands on that cactus mug IMMEDIATELY.

3. The Gyllenhaal Experiment

The Gyllenhaal Experiment is where a spelling test that meets data collection and creates some beautiful infographics about what names people have trouble spelling and exactly how they’re screwing up. Try it! It’s beautiful!

4. Sleepy shower gel from Lush

It’s no secret that I adore Lush products, along with every other basic white girl in America. But Marshall just bought me this shower gel and I am in. love. The smell is divine and it really is so relaxing. It left my skin nice and soft with no residue and listen, I know nothing about skincare, but I like it and recommend it.

5. The Regrettes covering Don’t Stop Me Now

A) How great is that cover art?
B) I’m obsessed with the Regrettes
C) They sound like they’re having such a good time!!!!
D) My 4-y/o cousin loves Queen and this song in particular, and his aunt told him that the lyrics are “I’m a fax machine ready to reload” and if that ain’t the best thing you’ve heard all day then I don’t know what to tell you.

I hope you all have good, safe weekends. Talk to you next week!

10 Books I’ve Read in 2019 – Part 1

Let me attempt to breeze through the personal stuff first: Yes, I’ve been absent from this blog and most of the internet. In the first days of February, my husband Marshall was in an accident while out with our local Search and Rescue team. He sustained two fractures to his pelvis and one to his neck. One of his team members was sent to intensive care, and another was killed. It was a horrific accident that no one could have anticipated, and it’s obviously affected our lives in myriad ways.

Taking care of Marshall, managing the aftermath of the incident, and working full-time has left me bereft of time and creativity. I’ve been experiencing a sort of emotional writer’s block that paralyzes me when I attempt to write so much as a tweet. But there is always a silver lining to be found – even a few, if you look hard enough. One of those is that I’ve been reading, a lot. I feel like, in the face of a very scary experience, I’m reverting to my childhood comforts and consuming as many books as I can get my hands on, starting one as soon as I finish another.

I’m bone-tired, and I don’t want to push myself to write an entire review for each of these books, but I do want to share them with you! So, I’ve put together a list and some short blurbs about the ten books I’ve read in 2019. Here are the first five, and the second five will come next week!

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Perhaps it was telling that I kicked off the new year with some classic horror – The Haunting of Hill House. I haven’t watched the Netflix series yet, but many people I know did and enjoyed it, and as is my wont, I decided to read the book before watching it (Surprise! I still haven’t.). I really didn’t know anything about The Haunting of Hill House before I read it, but it completely subverted my expectations and ended up being a chilling tale about trauma and the female experience that’s going to stick with me for a long time.

2. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler

I love reading historical fiction, but generally I don’t like fictionalized accounts of real people’s lives – it feels sort of disrespectful to me. Out of curiosity and based on great reviews, I pushed past that dislike to read Z, and I’m so glad I did. Beautifully written, intensely researched, and profoundly moving, this novel gives Zelda Fitzgerald the story she’s always deserved. It was inspiring to me as I continue to work on my novel set in the same time period, and inspiring to me as a woman and storyteller.

3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne was the first book I read after the accident, and I couldn’t have picked something more perfect. I read the Anne of Green Gables series as a kid, but they’re really foggy in my memory; more of a mood than anything. I picked up the whole series on iBooks for less than $5, and it’s been worth every penny. Reading Anne soothes my anxieties, makes me laugh, gives me good dreams, and has been an essential comfort over the past few months. When I can’t sleep or I don’t feel like reading anything heavy, I pick up Anne.

4. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Y’all. Dumplin’ is sweeter than sweet tea and an absolute delight to read. I adored the main character and the whole cast around her. It’s a really beautiful book about coming into one’s self, managing relationships, and taking risks, and I finished it in a day. And no, I haven’t watched the movie yet.

5. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

See above for my thoughts on Anne. I was happy to discover that the magic continues through the second book. Watching Anne grow up is fun and satisfying as she stays very much herself and continues to bring sunshine into the lives of the people she meets through hardships and the “scrapes” she never fails to get herself into. Also, I’m trying to convince Marshall that we should move to Prince Edward Island… think it will work?

I’ll be back next week with the latter half of the list, but in the meantime, let me know what you’re reading and what you think I should read next!

Five Things Friday (#46 – New Year Edition)

It’s the first Five Things Friday of 2019! I haven’t been spending much time on the internet over the past couple weeks due to holidays and travel, so I didn’t compile my usual five things. Instead, I’m going to share 5 things I’d like to do or change in 2019.

1. Stop using my snooze button.

I’ve been oversleeping more often lately and it adds a lot of stress to my life. I think setting one wake-up time and sticking to it might make a big difference, so I want to try to stop snoozing. Will it work? I guess we’ll see!

2. Read more.

I slid into my 2018 Goodreads Challenge of 25 books at the last minute on a forgotten audiobook technicality, so naturally, I’ve decided to up my challenge for 2019 to 30 books. There is so much time I spend scrolling through Twitter or watching TV that could be spent reading — I just need to get motivated!

3. Write more.

I took a lot of time off from writing this year due to trauma and transition, but I’d like to make up for that this year and really hit the ground running. More blogs, more novels, more everything. Let’s do this!

4. Spend more time and energy promoting my book.

Hey!!! I wrote a book!!!

In all seriousness, I want to up my online presence and be more active about marketing and promoting my book and my brand, especially because I’d really like to release the sequel at the end of 2019…….. stay tuned.

5. Get active!

I was a lot better about this year than in 2017: I started going to yoga again, and I got into a pretty regular swimming routine. The end of my year wasn’t so great though, and I’d like to do even better in 2019. More yoga, more swimming, more hiking, more biking.

So there they are — 5 sort of general goals for what I want my year to look like. I’ll try to keep you updated on how it goes! What are you hoping to accomplish in 2019?

Five Things Friday (#47)

Another week has passed, and now it is time for another Five Things Friday! I’m so tired, you guys. Between work and draft revisions for the ATFS sequel I just really want to take a nap so I’m feeling extra grateful for the long weekend. Here are five things you can enjoy during yours!

1. This Ask a Manager thread about how to stop being late.

You guys know I love Ask a Manager, and I think Alison Green gives great advice, but her “Ask the Readers” posts also tend to be treasure troves. There are a lot of great, non-judgmental comments here about how to increase one’s punctuality, which is something I know I could benefit from!

2. This Profile on Samin Nosrat

First of all, if you haven’t watched Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix, you really should. Whether you like to cook or not, Samin’s zest for life is contagious and the show is so beautifully shot that it’s worth a watch regardless. I really enjoyed this piece in the Guardian where she discusses her recent rise in popularity (and notoriety) and her history as a chef. She seems like such a delight, and she’s very much an inspiration to me.

3. Into the Spider-Verse

Into the Spider-Verse is so. good. The animation is stunning and worth seeing in the theater, and the story is compelling with great messages for kids and adults alike. I left the theater feeling so uplifted and optimistic, and I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

4. These photos of fables from the Republic of Congoh

These photos are technically stunning as well as fascinating from a cultural perspective. I loved reading about the fables that the people of Mbomo have grown up with and shared through generations, and the lessons woven into them.

5. New York Public Library’s “Which Dewey Decimal Number Are You” Quiz

Here’s my result:

What was yours?

Wishing you a fantastic weekend from my home to yours! See you next week!

Five Things Friday (#45)

It’s the last Friday before Christmas, y’all!!! I’m so excited! My shopping done, my wrapping is close to it, and I’m looking forward to a cozy and celebratory 4-day weekend with my friends and family.

1. Charlie Mackesy Art

I absolutely love his style and the moods his creations evoke. I saw that first one, the girl smoking, on Pinterest and immediately thought of my Sarah from Across the Formidable SeaI was surprised to find that Mackesy is a contemporary artist because his work is so timeless. Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford to have him design a cover for one of my books… a girl can dream, right?

2. This Vanity Fair Article about the Making of Angels with Filthy Souls

This is a cheery little vignette about the making of a beloved movie-within-a-movie, the iconic gangster film that 8-year-old Kevin watches in Home Alone. It seems like no one involved knew what a Christmas touchstone their make-believe movie would be come, and it’s very charming to read about.

3. Trader Joe’s Cheesy Trees

You guys… we have to talk about Cheesy Trees. They’re one of Trader Joe’s best snacks and they’re only available ONCE A YEAR, which I think is a crime. These crackers are SO GOOD. They’re SO CHEESY and BUTTERY and DELICIOUS. Go to your nearest TJ’S NOW and stock up, because I sure am.

4. Laura Crow on Etsy

I bought a little print of the Christmas Hobbit Hole for myself because it’s so darn cute, but all of her art is so witty, geeky, and unique that I had a hard time stopping myself from buying more. How amazing is that Pride and Prejudice reading journal?! Laura is also on Instagram @itslauracrow.

5. All the Gifts I Need by JD McPherson

Today’s anything but the same-old-thing
I can almost hear those sleigh bells ring
Singin’ all those happy songs
While the little ones all dance along
Take a real quick look around and suddenly I see
It’s not even Christmas yet, I got all the gifts I need

Merry Christmas, everybody. Hope your days are merry and bright.❤️

Podcast of the Week: The Bechdel Cast

The patriarchy’s effing vast, start changing it with The Bechdel Cast. 

Credit for this week’s PotW goes to my cousin (and friend) Kaity. Around Thanksgiving she asked me if I wanted to go to a live recording of this podcast in December because it seemed like something I would like. I agreed to go and started listening to the podcast to familiarize myself with it, and before I could stop myself I was laughing out loud at my desk during work.

The Bechdel Cast was created by two Los Angeles based comedians, Jamie Loftus and Caitlin Durante. Every week they bring in a guest and discuss a movie–any movie–as it relates to the Bechdel test and beyond.

If you’re not familiar with the Bechdel test, it’s a test developed by writer/cartoonist Alison Bechdel that helps assess how well women are represented in a movie by asking three questions:

  1. Are there at least two named women in this movie?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

If a movie meets all three criteria, it passes the Bechdel test. Obviously, this is the lowest possible bar for female representation, but once you know it you’ll be surprised how many movies don’t pass.

Jamie and Caitlin are hilarious, insightful, and incisive as they cut into your most beloved films with a feminist razor and tear it to pieces. They’re never preachy or sanctimonious, but they do make important observations about the media we’re consuming and the messaging inherent in it.

At the live show I attended with Kaity, they discussed Elf and had Mara Wilson as a guest, which was an absolute delight. I’m pleased to report that both Jamie and Caitlin were sweet, funny, and kind in person, and that their combination of ridiculousness and whip-smart analysis was just as enjoyable in person as it is on their podcast. I’m looking forward to attending more shows and to listening to their podcast as long as they deign to bless us with it.

Recommended Episode: Because it’s almost Christmas, I’m going to recommend Love Actually with Debra DiGiovanni, but be prepared to kind of hate the movie when they’re done with it. DiGiovanni is a fantastically funny guest and their commentary on this movie had me rolling with laughter.

Listen if you like: My Favorite Murder, Broad City, drinking Smirnoff Ice and talking about feminism

Podcast of the Week: Bear Brook

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After a brief venture into advice podcasts, I am, as the kids say, back on my bullshit and listening to true crime again. And man, oh man, is this a good one to dive back into.

Bear Brook delves into the long-unsolved mystery of the Bear Brook murders. In 1985, two bodies were found decomposing in a barrel in Bear Brook State Park near Allenstown, New Hampshire. In 2000 another barrel was found containing 2 more victims. Not only were the police unable to identify the killer, they couldn’t identify the victims — 3 young girls and a woman who didn’t match any missing persons reports, who weren’t being searched for by their friends, families, or neighbors.

Over the past thirty years a few dogged investigators have refused to let this mystery go, and as a result the world of forensic science was changed forever and a serial killer with many identities was unmasked. Bear Brook covers all of this in a thrilling, well-researched and impeccably produced 6-part podcast. There are so many twists and turns to this story I couldn’t believe it wasn’t fiction.

As educational as it is exciting, Bear Brook is a true crime podcast for the modern age that considers the ethics of the growing science of forensics with thoughtfulness and care, all while respecting the victims of a horrendous crime and doing its best to keep their memory alive. This is Josh Moon’s first venture into true crime, but he handles it with aplomb.

Listen if you like: Someone Knows Something, your dad ranting about 23 and Me, true crime threads on Reddit