2018: Summer Favorites

Here are the books, music, films, and more that I’ve been enjoying this spring, roughly between April and now, early September:

Books:

  • Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
    I bought this book solely because of the cover and I ended up really enjoyed it. It’s about a guy who works at a confectionery shop in Japan (making dorayaki, which is sweet bean paste spread between two pancakes) and an elderly woman who requests to work there to teach him how to make the perfect sweet bean paste. It’s a good read.
  • Corpses, Coffins, & Crypts: A History of Burial by Penny Colman
    I usually don’t read non-fiction, but I’ve been wanting to do some more learning now that I’m done with school. I have a whole plan and maybe I’ll do a post about it someday. Anyway, I read this book about death and it was fascinating. Penny Colman takes you on a journey that’s both personal and historical about what it means to die, to be buried, cremated, or entombed. It talks about different cultures and how they go about honoring their dead. It’s truly fascinating – though, a bit dark and morbid, so if that’s not your thing, skip it. But I think there’s plenty of lighter, uplifting messages within the book, too, to balance it out. It’s an interesting read.
  • The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
    I read The Nest during BookTube-A-Thon and it was such a great read. It’s about a wealthy family of siblings from New York City who are all awaiting their trust fund – the Nest – to be given to them after the money was needed to take care of an accident caused by the eldest, drug-addicted brother. As they wait to be paid back by him, the siblings all deal with their own financial and family issues. It’s told from multiple perspectives (more than just the siblings) and it’s honestly a book I didn’t want to put down – which rarely happens. I don’t know if it’s because of the time frame of the readathon, but I definitely flew through it and loved it.
  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
    Another BookTube-A-Thon book, Annihilation was a weird, weird science fiction book about an all-female team entering into Area X, a mysterious alien-like landscape of creatures with devastating effects, mentally and physically, to those who enter. It’s a bit of a trip. It definitely didn’t follow a traditional plot structure, the storytelling was unique and it was nothing like anything I’ve ever read before. It was such a good read and I can’t wait to read the whole trilogy. And see the film with Natalie Portman that just recently came out – though I think I want to read all the books first, because I think they changed a lot for the film, so I want them to be completely separate in my head.

Films:

  • Jurassic World: Fallen Empire
    As summer is always the most busy time of year for me, I was only able to see one new film – and I even saw it in the theater! For my 25th birthday, as I was born in the same year as the original Jurassic Park movie’s release, I kind of had to celebrate our 25th anniversary together. I wasn’t too big of a fan of Jurassic World, although I liked it, it just wasn’t fantastic. However, Fallen Empire far surpassed my expectations…well, for the first half anyway. The first half of the movie is, by far, my favorite part of the entire franchise – maybe just under the original movie. But it’s so close. I wish the first half of Fallen Kingdom had been the whole movie because it was literally so so so good. The second half parred just about the same as the first Jurassic World, so good but not great. But that first half, y’all. THAT FIRST HALF. I want to watch it again and again just for that.

Music:

  • Mean Girls
    I’m not someone who is known as a musical theater person. But even saying that, I feel like it’s slightly wrong to say about myself. Even when I told my sister that I was currently obsessed with the Mean Girls musical, she was like “Yeah, that checks out.” I guess I grew up with musicals as a kid (all movies: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, West Side Story, Wizard of Oz just to name a few) and in high school/early college, I loved the movie Chicago and I was thrilled to see the touring production of Beauty & the Beast in my senior year of high school. I think I’m the type of person who would have joined my school’s musical theater program if we were to have on, but we didn’t, so musicals were kept as a dormant hobby of mine that crept up here and there, but took FULL BLOWN CONTROL of my life the moment I heard about the Mean Girls musical. Mean Girls is my favorite teen comedy. Everything Tina Fey does is perfection, so when I knew she was writing the musical too, I was in. What I didn’t expect was to love it so much. I listened to the few songs released as “singles” over and over again, then repeated the whole cast album probably six times in a single weekend. I definitely didn’t watch the full bootleg of the show that someone uploaded to YouTube and loved it, though. That didn’t happen. But seriously, the songs are great, the show’s hilarious, and Taylor Louderman is just BEYOND EXCEPTIONAL as Regina. Her voice is insane.
  • High as Hope by Florence + the Machine
    If you didn’t know, Florence + the Machine is my favorite band (band? singer? duo?) in the history of the universe. A new album has been released and its just so so so good. My favorites on the album include: Hunger, Sky Full of Song, South London Forever, and Patricia. It’s just so good. I believe, possibly, this might be my second favorite album of Florence’s. Ceremonials is still my favorite – and will probably stay that way – but High as Hope is so close to it.
  • ‘Sila’ (feat. Tanya Tagaq) by A Tribe Called Red
    I first heard this song in the trailer for the film Thoroughbreds and I became obsessed with it. I’m always looking for lyric-less songs to listen to while writing, and this one is an intense, sort of terrifying, rad jam that’s just perfect for scenes that are intense, rad, and sort of terrifying. Which I happen to write a lot of. It’s a good fight scene song.
  • ‘Issues’ by Julia Michaels
    First heard this song during the trailer for the show Killing Eve (more about that later) and fell in love with it. Julia Michaels’ voice is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard (watching her perform and getting to hear the way her voice sounds live is great). It’s a really great song that’s almost addicting to listen to.
  • ‘no tears left to cry’ by Ariana Grande
    I was LATE to the party, but this song by Ariana Grande is addicting to listen to. I mean her vocals are always incredible but there’s just something about this song that I love. It’s simultaneously mellow and kind of sad but it’s also a banger and I love it.
  • ‘Crush’ by Tessa Violet
    Tessa’s been one of my favorites for a long time – I’ve watched her on YouTube for years and I love her style of music. This song is killin’ it and it’s so catchy and I love it and can’t stop listening to it.

Television:

  • Killing Eve
    THIS IS MY FAVORITE SHOW OMG. Okay, calm down. It’s just so good. Sandra Oh has been a favorite forever and she’s incredible in this show as Eve. This weird ass, comedic spy thriller is the greatest show I’ve ever watched. The performances. The writing. Everything is so spot on. There wasn’t a single episode I didn’t like. Not a single scene! Everything about it is so good!
  • Station 19
    I’m an avid watcher of the Shonda Rhime’s produced/created shows on ABC during the TGIT line-up. Grey’s Anatomy has been one of my favorite shows for years, How to Get Away with Murder is addicting, and I love Scandal, and now that Scandal is over, in its place is a Grey’s spin-off about firefighters that is soooo great. I was hesitant when first hearing about it, not really thinking I would like it, but it’s managed to grip me as much as Grey’s Anatomy had the first time I watched it.

Other:

  • RX Bars
    I’ve been eating more healthy lately (well, not lately lately, but in general) and Larabars have been my go-to because my local grocery store has them on sale for 10 single bars for $10. But they’re not my favorite. Because now I’ve discovered the more-than-twice-as-expensive-but-also-twice-as-delicious RX Bars. They have the same idea of being made with whole foods, but they do it so much better. The flavors are stronger, the dates are less prominent, and the egg whites make them more chewy. THEY’RE SO GOOD. BUT SO EXPENSIVE. GAHHHH.
  • Spirits Podcast
    This isn’t new to me, nor is it new to one of my favorites lists here on the blog. I’ve written about it in the past, but Spirits Podcast is just the best. I wasn’t listening to many podcasts for a while, mostly because I wasn’t going for my walks as often. Podcasts just sort of fell out of my routine. But now that it’s nicer outside, I’ve been walking almost everyday, and I’ve rediscovered my favorite podcast and catching up on the episodes I’ve missed. Spirits talks about some of my favorite things: myths, legends, monsters, ghosts. It’s such a good podcast with two incredible hosts, tipsily talking about my favorite things – literally so funny and interesting and awesome.
  • Hit the Bricks
    Speaking of podcasts, I’ve been getting into audio dramas lately and this one couldn’t have come at a better time. My friend PJ created Hit the Bricks, which is set in the universe of the Wizard of Oz books. The pilot – which is fantastic – is out now and I can’t wait for there to be more. I’m already hooked into this story and I want to know what happens.
  • 23andMe
    I did the thing. I spit in the tube. Which was gross. But then I got my ancestry results in two weeks. Which was not gross. It was so cool. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time but didn’t have the money and then my parents gifted me a kit for my birthday. What were my results? I’m very white. Like, 97% white. But what KIND of white am I? 22% French and German (Netherlands), 15% Finnish, 8% Scandinavian (Sweden), 12% English and Iris (UK), 3% Eastern European, 2.5% Iberian, .5% Southern European (Italian; was expecting more since my great grandfather literally immigrated from there so…haha) and like 30% just BROAD European/Northern European. Which is a big percentage that isn’t accounted for (maybe all my Italian hiding???). I really want my parents to also do this so I can connect them and mine will be more accurate. And then! I’m also 2.5% East Asian and Native American (.3% Northern Asian/Native American and 2.3% Native American) and .1% South East African (it originally told me I was North African/Arabian, but that has since become more accurate, which is odd.) Several things were surprising (like not having much Italian and having that small bit of African) but some things weren’t (I knew I was Native American on both sides of my family and I knew that I was Swedish, but I didn’t know I was Finnish at all; this has been a debate in our family but apparently we are from the Swedish part of Finland, which makes sense that my great grandparents came from Finland but spoke and were culturally “Swedish”.) I’ve always wanted to know my ancestry (and still want more info when my parents do it!) and now I do! I want so badly to be able to meet the people in my lineage, to hear the story of every ancestor I have. It’s just such a cool thing we can do, it truly is.
  • Duolingo
    So there was a strong possibility that I was going to go live in Madrid, Spain (yeah yeah 2.5% Iberian!) for about 8 months but it isn’t going to work out, unfortunately. I’ve been very bummed about it. But anyway, during the weeks that I thought I was going, I started Duolingo to learn a bit of Spanish to help me while I was over there. It’s such a great app, especially if just to learn the basics like greetings and dining out and useful tourist stuff. I don’t know how accurate it would be to become fluent, but it’s a fun app that makes it easy to learn a new language.
  • Venmo
    I’ve heard of Venmo a million times but never cared about it until one day, my cousin asked me to do some work for her editing her college essays and papers. She told me she’d pay me for it, which was awesome because I needed the money, and I loved getting back into that collegiate frame of mind. It made me miss my days of writing essays and papers (which, weirdly, I loved). Anyway, she had me get Venmo to make it easier and it totally was. Venmo rocks. Also, every time someone gives you money, the little notification sound is a ding and a cash-register sound. It’s adorable.
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2017 Favorites: May

May was SO FULL of favorites, y’all, I can’t even believe I discovered all these things this month. I actually cut two out because it has to stop somewhere, otherwise I’ll be just listing things I’ve done or used all month. There’s basically two categories to this month’s favorites: apps and podcasts, with a TV show thrown in accidentally. Here are my May favorites:

Trial & Error

This show was supposed to be one of my April favorites, but I completely forgot to add it. The mockumentary comedy stars John Lithgow as an eccentric and oblivious man accused of killing his wife in a small, Southern town, accompanied by a ridiculous set of characters. It’s hilariously written and outrageously, ridiculously silly. It’s a fun time.

MyFitnessPal

Eating healthy is hard. Losing weight is hard. Keeping track of calories and protein and fat and blah blah blah, you lost me, get me another burger—it’s hard. I’ve struggled with my weight and staying healthy a long time. And thanks to starting to use MyFitnessPal app on my phone, I’ve been able to keep track of what I’m eating, the calories, fat, sugar—not just trying to keep it under a certain number (which has been a struggle in the past) but keep in a healthy “zone.” I want to post about my new dietary changes in another post, but since using the app, I’ve lost 13 pounds. The app makes it easy to enter what I’ve eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and it breaks everything down for me, so I know if I’m getting enough protein, having too much sugar, everything. It’s one of the coolest apps ever, and the best part for me, it syncs with my Fitbit, so it accounts for the steps I’m getting and automatically logs my calories into my Fitbit app, so it’s all together and organized to help me stay on target.

Scapple

I’ve had this on my computer for a while as a 30 day free trial, losing a day every time I open it. After a year or so of wanting to use it more, I finally paid for it, and have loved it even more than I thought I would. It’s a program (by the same company who created Scrivener, my favorite writing program) that makes it easy to brainstorm digitally. You can write notes, connect them to each other with lines, use arrows, pin images. It’s amazing. I’ve been using it for writing books, creating family trees and diagrams and outlines. It’s such a great tool that now allows me to be free of wasting pages and pages and pages of paper in a notebook. Let’s be real, I’ll still do that anyway, but Scapple makes it easy to save to Scrivener, so I have everything I need right in my file for referencing. It’s awesome.

Evernote

And, the nerdiest thing on this favorites list goes to…Evernote. The best app I’ve ever found (sorry, Scapple, you work for one thing, this works for another) that I can use on my phone, as a Google Chrome extension, and as a program on my computer, all syncing perfectly together in harmony. Evernote is basically for note taking, but it can be used for anything. You can have folders with references, images, and notes at the ready. The Chrome extension is awesome for saving sites as simplified versions, which is great for articles you want to read later (though I also use Pocket for this) and recipes you find online (I do this a lot), quickly clipping the site from online and saving it to your notes in a folder you choose that can be accessed from your phone. The app for iPhone can take a picture of a document and essentially scan it, making an image you can save and reference back to. It would be great for receipts and important documents. You can make to do lists. Everything syncs perfectly, so you can work while on the go, at your desk, whatever. It’s incredible and I’ve been using it everyday for at least one thing since I downloaded it, and I haven’t even begun to start really diving in.

Recently, I’ve been getting into podcasts a lot. I’ve been listening to one every day while on my morning walk. Here are the few I’ve been listening to and loving this month:

Portrait of a Freelancer

One of my favorite YouTubers, Ariel Bissett, recently started a podcast about becoming a freelancer, documenting the journey and talking about the struggles and successes starting something new. The podcast is really great, especially because I’m also getting started with freelancing, so it came at the perfect time for me to be inspired and listen to someone else’s perspective on a similar path.

Spirits

I don’t remember if I’ve ever talked about Spirits before, but it’s honestly my favorite podcast right now. I absolutely love mythology and legends, and hosts Amanda and Julia are hilarious, making the drunken storytelling podcast both highly entertaining and informative in my favorite area of history.

Story Not Story

Hosted by YouTuber Craig (WheezyWaiter) and his wife Chyna, the two tell bedtime stories, off the top of their heads while in bed, and record it for the podcast. They’re both funny and the stories vary, from the planets reacting to Pluto’s demotion to a story about the first water slide, ridden by micro-organisms, all ridiculous and hilarious.

Monthly Selections: December 2015

I don’t understand how it’s already December. Okay, I do. Time moves fast when you’re moving so quick. It’s been such a busy month—no, year. I started a business, had two part-time jobs (caring for my nephew—no longer because of time; working at a restaurant—summer only), began the start of another design-related business on my own, and attempted to keep up with writing my book. And I balanced school all in there, too. The fall semester is over and I can finally take a nice long breath until schools picks back up in February.

This post will also be my last post of the year! I started this blog in March for school and kept it going because I really started to enjoy it—a lot. This is the longest I’ve ever kept up with a blog, after many attempts, and I think it has something to do with the content I’m making here, being a great interest of mine. I have many plans and ideas for 2016 here on the blog.

Anyway—the point of this post is what I’ve been loving this month. I have THREE great things to share. Two podcasts and a song.

I’ve recently been getting into podcasts, a still very new medium to me. I hadn’t liked them before because I never had free time to just sit and listen to something. While writing, I can’t import information and export different information at the same time. I’m not a computer. But I’ve been having a lot of menial, low-thought tasks and decided to give them a try. Man, I made a great decision.

Here are two of my new faves:

The first is called Design Life. Its hosts are designers Charli and Femke, who talk about design and their obsession with side projects. Obviously, a perfect fit for me. I found out about it because I watch Charli’s videos on YouTube (so good, check them out through the link above). Their incredibly smart and informative, and it’s a great listen. Best part: they just started recently, and you could catch up real easy. Find it on iTunes, every Monday. Trust me on this, it’s good stuff.

Second is more of a conversational, comedic podcast called People Watcher. It’s hosted by CJ Bisset, who takes questions/topic suggestions from the podcasts email (I should probably send something in, but I always forget—maybe now that I have more time I will) and just talks. He tells stories, asks questions, is very funny. His YouTube videos are great too—he’s a musician and all-around hilarious guy. I suggest the 10 Minutes at a Time videos (the birthplace of the podcast, really) because his sister Ariel (also great videos about books and things!) makes some hilarious cameos. Listening to his podcast just makes me happy, it puts a smile on my face and I look forward to it every Tuesday(ish and sometimes Fridays).

Next up: a modern Christmas song.

Karmin is a fantastic duo that started on YouTube (this post is VERY YouTube heavy. Can you tell I watch a lot?) and are incredible. This modern take on the classic Christmas song Baby It’s Cold Outside. It’s song not as a duet, but as a singlet (is that a word? there’s no red squiggle under it, so it’s staying) with backing vocals by lead singer Amy.

Basically it’s amazing and after the first 10 seconds (those DRUMS) I paused it, searched for it on iTunes, bought it, then continued listening. I just love new takes on old Christmas songs.

And that’s all for 2015! I hope you have a great holiday season and a happy new year!