Hello!! Long time, no talk. I’m mostly continuing the no-talking thing for right now–just popping in to share a recipe (in part so that I remember it myself).
This recipe was inspired by/adapted from From My Bowl (Caitlin Shoemaker)’s Hummus Pasta. I love that one because it combines two of my favorite foods: hummus and…you guessed it…pasta. Those also happen to be two of the ingredients I’m most likely to have in my kitchen at any given time.
The other day, I was scavenging my empty fridge after coming back from a trip and remembered I could make this, but I only had a bit of hummus left. So, I added in some marinara sauce to flesh it out, and a whole new world of hummus pasta was revealed! Here’s my new favorite version. It’s super eyeball-y and adaptable, so use whatever you have on hand. Hope you enjoy!
Super-quick hummus pasta
Time: 20 minutes
(all ingredients are adjustable/”to taste”)
8 oz. pasta
1/3-1/2 cup marinara sauce*
1/2-2/3 cup garlic hummus*
2-4 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
2-4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2-3 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
A few handfuls of baby spinach, chopped (optional)
Cook the pasta according to package instructions. When about a minute of cook time is left, scoop out and reserve a cup of the pasta water. Then, add the chopped spinach to cook with the pasta for the final minute. Drain the cooked pasta and spinach and set aside.
Add the marinara, hummus, and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the now-empty pot. Stir to combine, and add more pasta water as needed until your desired sauce consistency is reached.
Add in the sun-dried tomatoes, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and olive oil to the sauce. Stir again to combine, and cook on low heat for a minute or two to heat through.
Mix the pasta and spinach back into the sauce. Heat for another minute if needed, then enjoy!
*You want about a cup of sauce in total, so the amounts of marinara and hummus within that are adjustable based on what you’ve got and how tomato-y you want your sauce to be.
I’m back to blogging with a bunch of books! Yay, alliteration! OK, I last did a post like this last January, and I have read several books in the intervening year. But here’s what’s on my mind, reading-wise, right now!
Just finished: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
One of my most enjoyable reading experiences last year was discovering Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, so I was excited to check out her latest work, the first in a new (and pretty different) series. I loved her optimistic, character-driven approach to a classic sci-fi yarn in Wayfarers; this book takes on both of those adjectives even more, as it reads at times like a coffeeshop AU fanfiction. And I don’t mean that in a bad way! OK, I will admit I was a little bored by the lengthy exposition of this book, but in all it’s a pretty quick read, so I didn’t have too long to feel impatient before the plot kicked in.
The basic premise is that in a future Earth-like planet, robots have collectively decided to stop working for humans and do their own thing in nature instead. This reckoning happened in the book’s distant past, and its implications shape the story’s serene world, and the meandering journey of a nonbinary monk trying to find their place in it. Although I grumbled a bit about the lack of plot, this ended up being a fun, feel-good read that got into some pretty profound territory about the meaning of life by its conclusion. Would recommend reading along with a good cup of tea.
Just finished: The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery
I continued my streak of cozy, feel-good reads with this warm and funny story from L. M. Montgomery, the author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables books. Unlike Anne, we meet our protagonist Valancy as an adult, fed up with her overbearing family and uneventful life in small-town Canada. (This family in particular is the source of most of the jokes.) A revelation leads Valancy to make some big changes, and both romance and hilarity ensue. It was initially recommended to me on the basis of its descriptive writing about the natural world, which is admittedly beautiful, but it makes up a much smaller portion of the book than I expected based on that recommendation.
The Blue Castle‘s pacing felt uneven—it cycles between not much happening for many chapters, and a LOT happening at once—but I enjoyed it a lot anyway. I would have preferred to spend a bit less time on Valancy’s initial miserable circumstances, and more on the rather delightful situation she finds herself in towards the end of the book, but regardless, I’ll definitely be reading this one again in the future. Despite The Blue Castle‘s shared lineage with Anne, it reminded me most of The Secret Garden. Late bloomers and rogue-loving romantics, this one’s for you!
Just finished: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Like, I’m pretty sure, every single other person who read it, I LOVED this book. Definitely my favorite of the year so far (although I also really enjoyed the other two!). Zauner beautifully and heartbreakingly portrays her journey through grief and quest to reconnect with her family and culture. I laughed, I cried (a LOT), I learned, I related. What more can you ask from a book? Truly an amazing memoir, and I remain astonished that one person (Zauner is also known as the indie artist Japanese Breakfast) can be so talented at writing AND at other things! I would be jealous, if my dominant emotion wasn’t just gratitude to be able to read her writing. I cannot rave enough! (And apparently, I can’t formulate anything to say about this book aside from pure raving!) If you haven’t already, please read it!
Currently reading: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell
The subtitles of each of these books—”Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” and “Resisting the Attention Economy”—might give the impression that they are similar in mission and scope. In some ways, they do have a lot of similarities, but in many others, they couldn’t be more different. Odell is certainly more radical, questioning the very foundation of our capitalist society, while Newport’s approach is more individual, seeking meaning while remaining within the system. In a nutshell (and with the caveat that I haven’t finished either of them!), Newport’s Digital Minimalism is a practical guide to minimizing and optimizing the role of digital distractions in your life, while Odell’s How to do Nothing is more akin to a manifesto for collective action (or inaction?), with the goal of opting out of society’s productivity obsession in favor of a more meaningful life. However, both contain a good mix of practical and theoretical sections, drawing on a range of sources to promote their points.
Despite the fact that I don’t read much nonfiction, I’m steadily making my way through both of these books, and really enjoying the parallel reading experience and parallel insights that are coming along with it. I’m maybe getting too repetitive here, but it’s hard to overstate just how different these books are, while seemingly sharing a common goal. They’re less like two sides of the same coin, and more like two completely different coins, both of which are coming up “heads.” Regardless, I’m getting a lot out of both of them. Digital Minimalism is the one I’ll recommend to my dad, and How to do Nothing is the one I’ll recommend to my friends. OK, I’m done now; I think you get the picture!
On deck: How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams and Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
I know next to nothing about either of these books. (The former, a fizzy rom-com? The latter, an adventure/thriller/heroine’s journey? OK, now you know as much as I do.) I picked them both up at the library recently and am definitely looking forward to delving back into the world of fiction!
Have you read any of these books? If so, I’d love to know what you think! If not, I’d love to hear about what you’re reading anyway! Feel free to drop a comment below, and I’ll talk to you soon(er or later).
I don’t know about you, but where I live, we’re in a heat wave. It’s so hot right now that I have no desire to do anything but lie in front of the fan sipping an ice-cold beverage. Luckily, the (non-alcoholic, though you could easily add your liquor of choice) drink recipe I’m sharing with you today is pretty much the BEST summer drink ever. It’s also great to drink after you work out (or, at this point in the summer, anytime you go outside) and replenish some electrolytes! It’s cold, sweet, creamy, coconutty, and oh-so-refreshing.
I have to give all the credit for this drink to Bombay Food Junkies, an incredible vegan Indian-fusion restaurant and food truck in my former home of St. Louis, Missouri. I have thought more than once about going back to St. Louis for the food, and Bombay Food Junkies is one of the city’s best. If you’re ever in the area, you have to check it out!
BFJ used to serve this drink, or their version of it, and I have fond memories of sipping it on similarly sweltering St. Louis summer days. I don’t know their exact recipe, but if memory serves, they used the same simple ingredients of coconut water, coconut milk, and lime juice, and it all comes together into a beautiful beverage. I couldn’t find any information online about the origin of this drink, other than maybe a lighter variation of a coconut lassi (which is traditionally made with yogurt), but if you know anything about it I would love to hear from you in the comments.
Please let me know if you make this coconut-lime drink to cool down on a hot day, and I hope you enjoy it!
Time: 5 minutes
2 cups coconut water
1/4-1/2 cup canned coconut milk/cream
1-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (~ 1 lime)
Ice (for serving)
In a blender, add the coconut water, coconut milk, and lime juice and blend to combine. Start with the lesser amounts of coconut milk and lime juice; you can always add more to enhance the flavor.
Taste the mixture and adjust as needed, adding more coconut water for sweetness, more coconut milk for creaminess, or more lime juice for tanginess.
Pour into ice-filled glasses, garnish with an additional lime wedge if you wish, and enjoy!
Depending on the brand of coconut milk and type of lime you use, the “intensity” of these ingredients may vary, which is why I include a range of measurements. For example, my coconut milk ended up being mostly cream, so I could get away with using less of it in this drink; another brand of coconut milk might take more to get the same level of creaminess. Of course, you can adjust based on your personal preferences for the flavors, too.
I think this would also be DELICIOUS with some fresh mint—I haven’t tried it that way, but please let me know if you do! And, as I mentioned above, it could be a great cocktail, too—maybe with some rum?
If you don’t have a blender, you can simply shake up the ingredients in a closed mason jar, making sure the coconut milk (if solidified) gets fully combined. Or, you can melt the hardened coconut milk/cream in the microwave to make it even easier to mix together by hand. I am too warm already to put in the effort of shaking, so I used a blender; plus, I like how it makes the drink frothy.
Long time, no blog! I hope you’re doing well. I’ve been trucking along with grad school for the past few months, and realized I hadn’t written here in a minute after posting pretty consistently for awhile. At first thought I didn’t feel like anything major has changed in my life recently, but looking back on the first (almost) half of 2021, I’ve done quite a bit. Here are some highlights…and lowlights:
I dyed my hair green! Well, it was supposed to be dark green, and it turned out more of a teal-blue color. Hazards of a DIY dye job, I guess? I loved it while I had it, though (I’ve since chopped off the dyed bottom half), and I’ve been planning to write a blog post about the whole process for, well, months now. Hopefully I’ll actually get around to it soon!
I broke my arms. This was definitely a defining event of my winter, for better or for worse—in early February, I fell while ice skating and fractured a bone in the wrist of one arm and near the elbow of the other. It was actually the first time I’d been ice skating in over 10 years, after another semi-traumatic fall happened the last time. So, unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be ice skating again any time soon (though I may try to brave the ice again next winter, provided I’m decked out in full hockey pads). I was pretty immobile for about a week and then slowly recovered over the course of the following month. Although this experience undoubtedly sucked, the silver lining was all the care, love, and delicious food I received from my local friends while I was out of commission—it definitely made me grateful to have such a strong community here.
I started a style-tracking Instagram account. I’ve been following, learning from, and engaging with the sustainable fashion community on Instagram for a long while now, and I finally decided to join in on the fun myself! I post outfits, occasional makeup looks, and lots of thoughts about fashion, sustainability, and my relationship to my closet in the captions. Going forward, I plan to better integrate my Instagram & blog content, delving deeper into the topics I thumb-type in my captions and maybe even sharing some outfit roundups or styling ideas. For now, if you’d like to follow along on this Insta-venture, you can find me here.
I road-tripped down South. I tagged along with my friends Kae and Katie to dogsit in rural South Carolina for a few weeks, and we had a lovely time. We didn’t do too much venturing out into the world because of COVID, but we walked the dogs a bunch and hiked and watched multiple Shrek movies together and it was great. Also, I was able to get vaccinated while I was there; definitely another highlight!
I was diagnosed with ADHD. This is a very recent development and something I’m still processing, learning about, and figuring out how to live my life with. I’ll dedicate at least one post to talking about this in the future, because it’s been a long journey to even get diagnosed and I’m sure an even longer path of learning, changing, and fitting this diagnosis into my life lies ahead. So for now, let me know if you have any specific questions and I’ll try to answer them in a separate post.
That about brings you up to speed on my major life events so far this year. As summer has begun in earnest (if not yet in astronomical time), I’ve relished being outside, seeing friends in-person now that we’re fully vaccinated, traveling a bit, and having more time and brainpower to devote to my actual thesis work now that the semester is over. I hope you have a great summer, and I’ll see you back on the blog soon.
Today I’m trying a new style of blog post: Rapid-fire reviews. Rather than talk about one product in-depth, I’ll cover a whole bunch from the same line: Versed.
An offshoot of the highly successful Who What Wear blog-turned-fashion line, Versed hit the shelves of Target stores across the country in 2018 and caught my interest from the jump. Affordable, effective skincare that’s vegan, cruelty-free, “sustainable” (in some sense of the word—in this case, recycled and recyclable packaging), and pretty to look at is still not very common. Over the past few years I’ve tried quite a few products from Versed’s line; read on for my thoughts on each.
Disclaimer that skincare, like skin, is really personal, and what works for me may or may not work for you! So, take my opinions with a big pinch of salt; I hope they’re useful to you regardless.
As cleansing balms go, Day Dissolve is solid. I’d put it on par with Farmacy’s Green Clean balm, as it does pretty much the same job (at a fraction of the price). Both balms successfully took off my makeup, although both unfortunately stung my eyes. I’ve realized that I prefer a liquid makeup remover, like a cleansing oil or a more liquid balm instead of one that you scoop from a jar, so I didn’t repurchase Day Dissolve. But if you like Farmacy’s balm or one of its even more expensive counterparts, check out this product for an option that feels similar on the face and lighter on the wallet.
As with the cleansing balm, this toner is a decent product that I don’t dislike; I’ve just outgrown it. In comparison to other chemically exfoliating/brightening toners I’ve tried, it doesn’t quite match the superstar (in my opinion) Pixi Glow Tonic, or the similar-but-more-expensive REN Ready Steady Glow. But it does its job just fine. I’ve just decided to, in the words of beauty podcast Gloss Angeles, “Obey Renee” (a.k.a. esthetician and brand founder Renee Rouleau) and take my chemical exfoliation via serum, not daily toner. So I currently have a half-used bottle of Weekend Glow sitting on my vanity—I’m saving it for emergencies, I guess? Side note: Are brands contractually obligated to put the word “glow” in the name of any brightening toner?
Not to show all my cards or whatever (I don’t play poker so I don’t know even know if I’m using this analogy correctly), but this is my favorite product from Versed. As the name suggests, it’s a hydrating toner instead of an exfoliating one, and it’s become a crucial step in my skincare routine—I’ve gone through at least three or four bottles of the stuff already.
The product description is a bit confusing on where to use this product in your routine; personally, I use it in the mornings as a sometimes alternative to fully washing my face, and in the evenings as a step between cleanser and serum to keep my skin hydrated and prevent it from getting that tight, squeaky-clean feeling. For the record, Versed recommends this product for dry skin, but I have pretty oily skin and still love it. (This was also a product recommendation from Gloss Angeles — fun!)
The best way to describe how I feel about this serum is “meh.” I used it up, and it didn’t break me out, but it didn’t seem to do much of anything for my skin, either. I bought this serum because one of its main active ingredients is niacinamide, which I’ve found helpful for my skin in the past, but I’ve seen much better results from The Ordinary (cheap) and Blissoma (expensive) niacinamide serums, both of which I’ve repurchased multiple times. Investigating for the sake of this blog post, the percentage of niacinamide in Just Breathe is the lowest of the three by quite a bit, so that’s likely why it didn’t wow me. If you’re looking for a gentle introduction to niacinamide, it might be more up your alley, but I’d probably just recommend you try The Ordinary’s instead.
I’ll be honest: I have yet to see a result from any Vitamin C skincare product I’ve tried, and this one is no exception. So in that sense, I can’t single it out for underwhelming me.
The idea behind this product seems good: Offered in powder form, Vitamin C (a.k.a. ascorbic acid) is much more stable and has a longer shelf life than its liquid-integrated or encapsulated counterparts. You’re instructed to mix the powder as needed into your serum or cream. In practice, though, I’m wary of leaving the amount of active ingredient to apply up to the consumer. This product caters to the growing trend of skincare enthusiasts moonlighting as amateur cosmetic chemists, and while I’m all for more women in STEM, having only partial, incorrect, or misleading information about your ingredients, without the scientific training to understand them, can be a dangerous state. Also, “two shakes” of powder as prescribed by Versed’s website is not a measurement that instills confidence in me that consumers will use this product properly.
I don’t think the brand has any malicious intent in offering this product, but I do think skincare formulation is better left to the experts. Also, the product just didn’t do anything for me.
I feel somewhat conflicted about this lip balm (or lip oil, technically, I guess), but ultimately I don’t like it. It doesn’t actually make my lips feel hydrated or moisturized. What it does succeed at is sealing in the moisture, so I will sometimes apply it over another lip product that is actually hydrating. So it’s kind of like Vaseline in that way. But it does not do what I’m looking for in a lip product.
This sunscreen is the most contentious Versed product for me. The first tube of it I bought, I loved. It’s a great, lightweight, relatively affordable mineral sunscreen that doesn’t feel greasy or heavy, and the slight tint keeps it from leaving a noticeable white cast on my skin. But the second tube…was gritty! Each time I used it, there were noticeably gritty bits when I tried rubbing it into my skin, and that’s just a no-go. Aside from making the application experience unpleasant, it could be a sign of a faulty product. I actually sent the faulty tube back to Versed so they could investigate. In the meantime, I’m holding off from repurchasing this sunscreen until the issue is resolved.
In the spirit of March Madness, I decided to distill my thoughts on the Versed products in my lineup into sports metaphors.
The MVP: Baby Cheeks
The Varsity Squad: Day Dissolve, Weekend Glow
The Benchwarmers: Just Breathe, Found the Light
The Flops (this may not be a sports metaphor but if you have a better equivalent I’m all ears): Silk Slip, Look Alive
The Disgraced Former Pro: Guards Up
The Prospect: Gentle Cycle cleanser (I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my list)
Have you tried any Versed products? What are your thoughts on the brand?
Grapefruit with brown sugar was one of my favorite snacks growing up. I remember watching my my prepare it for me with love, then later emulating the steps myself: Slicing the grapefruit in half, carefully sawing around the outer edge of the flesh and loosening the wedges between each segment, and finally, sprinkling on a thick layer of brown sugar that instantly became a delicious sludge as it half-dissolved into the grapefruit juice. Looking back, I’m not sure why it was always brown sugar, specifically, or why we even had a collection of tiny, pointy, serrated grapefruit spoons in our otherwise standard cutlery drawer. But this flavor combination always brings back the memories for me; plus, it’s just delicious.
A few grapefruits recently came into my possession, and I wanted to recreate my nostalgic snack in a new format. I looked around online at recipes for grapefruit pound cakes (drawing the most from this one) and swapped out white sugar for brown and a confectioners-sugar icing for a crispy glaze. The grapefruit flavor is delicate, the cake itself heartier and darker than it might be otherwise due to the extra molasses in the sugar. Olive oil makes itself known flavor-wise in the batter, but mellows out once it’s baked. There’s no egg or egg substitute, so this cake can be a bit delicate; just handle with care and you’ll be golden. I hope you enjoy it!
Vegan Grapefruit Brown Sugar Pound Cake
¾ cup nondairy milk
150 grams (¾ cup) brown sugar, + 2 Tbsp for topping
½ cup olive oil
½ cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, strained, + 1 Tbsp. for topping (about 1 grapefruit’s worth of juice)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease a loaf pan with neutral oil.
To a large mixing bowl, add milk, 150 g brown sugar, olive oil, 1/2 cup grapefruit juice, 2 tsp grapefruit zest, and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined, then add the rest of the ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda and powder) and mix again until combined.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes.
While cake is baking, prepare brown sugar glaze topping: mix together remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp grapefruit juice, 1 tsp grapefruit zest, and a tiny sprinkle of salt, until sugar is mostly dissolved.
Remove cake from oven and use a pastry brush to apply the glaze to the the top of the cake, then return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.
Remove cake from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Then, carefully take it out of the loaf pan and allow to cool completely before slicing (if you can be patient enough).
Recipe adapted from this one by Short Girl, Tall Order.
A few months ago, I got to try shampoo and conditioner bars from Superzero, a new zero-waste haircare line. I was sent mini versions of the products to test out, but this review is not compensated and contains solely my own opinions.
Thoughts on sustainability + “clean” claims
I’ve used shampoo bars before from Lush, but I never liked that their first ingredient was sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)—a surfactant (e.g. cleansing agent) that is very effective, but a little too harsh for my hair. (Aside from the potential skin irritation this ingredient can cause, it feels extremely out of step to me for a “natural” brand like Lush to include it—but that’s a whole other blog post I could write.)
To be clear, I don’t want to demonize SLS or synthetic ingredients in general; they all have their place! I just personally prefer to use gentler, sulfate-free hair products.
Sustainability has always been a priority in my life, and personal care products may be my biggest weakness in that arena. I love products! But I don’t love all the packaging that surrounds them. And aside from their plastic bottles, traditional shampoos and conditioners are especially egregious for being made up mostly of water, which makes them heavier and less compact than their solid counterparts. (More weight and volume = less efficient to transport. For example, it would take more fossil fuel energy to ship 100 bottles of shampoo than 100 shampoo bars the same distance.)
So I was excited to try Superzero, a gentle, vegan, plastic-free line of solid shampoos and conditioners.
Each bar arrived in a cardboard box, which can presumably be recycled (depending on your local municipality’s recycling program). I was initially worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell the bars apart in the shower, but the shampoo bar is round and the conditioner bar is a square-ish shape, alleviating that concern. Besides, their textures are pretty different: The shampoo has a rougher texture while the conditioner is smooth and creamy.
I used these bars for several months, washing my hair about once a week as I usually do these days. Overall, I liked how they made my hair feel, but I didn’t like the process of using them. I’ll get more detailed with this below, starting with the positives.
Superzero says their products will give you “your lightest hair yet,” and I would agree that “light” is the best way to describe how my hair felt after using the shampoo and conditioner bars. It felt clean, but not overly stripped, and smooth, but not greasy or heavy. My (naturally wavy/curly) hair could probably use a bit more moisture than the conditioner bar provided; I believe they sent me samples of the “Normal/Oily Hair” line, so I bet I would have better success with the “Dry/Colored/Frizzy Hair” options.
I took photos of my hair on wash day and each day afterward during one hair-washing cycle to show how my hair looked over the course of a week. I took each photo in the morning and didn’t brush my hair or put in any other products (admittedly mostly out of laziness, but also out of dedication to this review, of course!), so you can see what just the bars are doing.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the performance of this shampoo and conditioner. They kept my hair looking nice for three days, and I could stretch beyond that with dry shampoo or styling. The bars also lasted longer than I expected them to—granted, I was only using them once a week, but the majority of each bar was still intact after a few months of use.
This longevity may be due in part to the fact that, as I mentioned above, I struggled with the actual experience of using the bars. The shampoo bar was not too bad: One, I was familiar with the process; two, it lathered up to an extent where I could be confident I was getting the product into my hair; three, since I was putting it on my scalp, I had a hard surface (my head) to rub the bar against to apply the product. But the conditioner bar was difficult for me: It took a long time to get enough product on my hair and I was never quite sure my hair was being conditioned properly. In addition, trying to rub the bar against the length of my hair, which obviously moves around quite a bit, was awkward and not very effective. Ultimately, it was a time-consuming and frustrating process, and the reason why I stopped using the Superzero bars after a few months of effort.
Would I recommend?
With all that said, I think the Superzero products are worth a try if you a) have shorter hair, b) have prior experience using shampoo/conditioner bars, and/or c) don’t mind putting in a bit of extra time and effort to make your haircare routine more sustainable. If you think the application process would overly frustrate you like it did me, then these may not be the products for you.
Price-wise, the minis (the size I tried) are $6 per bar, and the full-size bars are $18 each. Given how long even the sample bars lasted me, I think this is a pretty good value. While they are more expensive than your typical drugstore shampoo or conditioner, they are not exorbitant and I’d expect the bars to last you quite awhile (especially the full-sized ones).
Also, I have to give a shout-out for the brand for pricing their sample sizes at the same rate, e.g. 1/3 of the price for 1/3 of the product compared to the full-size bars. (Most brands don’t do this—they’ll charge half the price for 1/5 the amount of a full-sized product, just for the convenience of a sample size!) So, I would definitely recommend trying out the mini sizes first.
Let me know if you have any other questions about these products. Have you tried shampoo and conditioner bars? What do you think of them? (Personally, I have my eye on Ethique’s concentrates—I might be trying those next.)
I’ve been bullet journaling for several years now and have blogged about my practice a coupletimes. But I’ve never discussed my materials, because really, all you need to start a bullet journal is a notebook and a writing utensil. (This is probably a good time to mention that if you aren’t familiar with the Bullet Journal method, the rest of this post probably won’t make much sense to you. But I encourage you to check it out, if you’re interested!)
When (Bullet Journal creator) Ryder Carroll unveiled the official Bullet Journal Edition 2 late last year, I knew I had to try it. I managed to snag a blush pink notebook and I’ve been using it for a little over a month now.
This notebook is currently sold out, but it’s set to restock soon, so I hope this review is helpful to anyone thinking about buying it!
In the past, I’ve used the regular Leuchtturm1917 A5 dot grid notebook as my bullet journal, so that’s my point of reference. The official Bullet Journal is a modification of this style.
Below, I’ll break down the features of the official Bullet Journal and how I feel about them (“Good,” “Meh,” or “Bad”), comparing them to the regular Leuchtturm A5 if relevant. Note: These ratings are just my opinion, shared to hopefully give you some insight into whether you might like this notebook. What I see as a not-so-great feature might be a plus for you!
Bullet Journal branding: Good
I love the simply embossed “BULLET JOURNAL” on the cover of this notebook. It’s subtle enough to avoid drawing attention to itself, but present enough to remind me of the meaning behind this practice each time I open my notebook. The paper jacket that explains the new features is well-designed, and it’s clear a lot of care went into this presentation.
Grid Guide: Meh
I love the idea of a grid guide—basically, a “cheat sheet” page that marks where to separate a page into halves, thirds, quarters, et cetera—but I don’t feel like it does much stuck inside the front cover. I’d much rather have a removable grid guide on a transparent sheet that I can lay over any page of my notebook to quickly divide it up into rows or columns. In fact, I might make something like that for myself.
Key, Intentions, Index, and Future Log: Meh
I believe these are features of the Bullet Journal Edition 1, too, and I imagine they’re helpful for anyone starting out. Personally, I don’t need a key, and I usually use only two pages for each my Index and Future Log (which are each allocated 4 pages in this notebook), so I’m not sure if I will be taking full advantage of these pages. I did appreciate the dedicated space for intentions, though, and I will carry that practice forward with me.
Smart Grid: Good
This is one of my favorite features in Edition 2. Subtle dots at the inner and bottom edge of each page’s grid allow you to quickly divide a page into halves or thirds (or quarters, or sixths…). It’s drastically cut down on my time spent counting dots and is intuitive to use once I identified the extra dots. The Smart Grid might be the single most compelling reason to choose this notebook over another one, in my opinion.
Page Status bullet: Good
I am still figuring out how I want to use this feature, but I love the idea of a single bullet that you can use to determine, at a glance, whether a page requires your attention in the moment or what it’s for. Although I don’t do my Daily Reflection/Monthly Migration exactly like the original Bullet Journal method, I’ve still found it useful to X out this bullet on my Daily Log pages when I’ve completed all my tasks. For my other Collections, I want to color-code this bullet somehow, I just haven’t nailed down my system yet. Also, the page numbers are now centered above this bullet, which is a nice touch.
Larger Margins: Meh
This isn’t a bad feature, it just doesn’t make much difference to me. I tend to write from the top to the bottom of the page without much regard for the margins, anyway. It does mean there are two fewer squares in the grid in each vertical and horizontal direction, if that matters to you.
Lighter Dots: Bad
Alas, the only bad feature of the Bullet Journal Edition 2, in my opinion! The dots in this notebook are significantly lighter than those in the regular Leuchtturm A5. In bright light, it’s not too much of an issue. But in low-light conditions I really struggle to see the dots, and then they’re not really serving their purpose as a guide for writing neatly or drawing straight lines. I imagine the intention of this change was to make the dots less prominent under drawings and other artistic creations, but since I primarily write and create simple collections in my journal, I’d much rather the dots stand out than fade into the background.
120 GSM paper (and fewer pages): Meh
I’m torn on this feature. One one hand, the thicker pages in Edition 2—120 GSM (grams per square meter, a measure of paper weight) as opposed to 80 GSM in a regular Leuchtturm—feel very nice, and I do notice less ghosting (writing visible through the back side of a page), although that never bothered me much in the first place. The tradeoff, though, is that there are only 204 numbered pages in this journal, a significant decrease from 251 pages in a standard Leuchtturm notebook.
I imagine the thicker pages were added to appeal more to the artistic bullet journalers who use heavier inks and paints in their notebooks, but most of that community (in my experience) prefers even thicker 160 GSM pages. And for me, someone who’s just writing in my journal 95% of the time, I’d rather have more, thinner pages than fewer, thicker pages.
One more good thing, though: This new paper is “sustainably sourced.” I don’t know exactly what is meant by that, but if it’s true then I’m glad to hear it.
Three Bookmark Ribbons: Good
Before I got this notebook, I didn’t think having three built-in bookmarks instead of two would drastically alter my bullet journaling practice, but it’s actually been great. I use one bookmark for my Monthly Log and one for my Daily Log, as before, but now I have an extra one for whichever other spread I want to quickly reference. Sometimes this is a weekly log, or it’s another collection I update often, like the books I’m reading. (This is also a feature of Edition 1, but not of the regular Leuchtturm notebook.)
Sticker Sheet: Good
Now, this is a feature that fits perfectly with the Bullet Journal ethos. If you use the original vertical Monthly Log layout like me, the rose gold-printed stickers with dates and days of the week are the perfect time-saving efficiency—and they look lovely, too. Ditto for the names of each month, though I use those a bit differently than originally intended. I haven’t much used the lightning bolt and bullet icon stickers yet, but I’m excited to incorporate them.
Pocket Guide: Good
Edition 2 comes with a removeable booklet in the back cover laying out the basics of the Bullet Journal Method. I’ve been bullet journaling for a few years, so I don’t need to read it, but I think it’s a great introduction for any new journaler without taking up precious page space for anyone who doesn’t need it.
Here are the features I rated as Good, Bad, and Meh:
Page Status bullet
Key, Index, etc.
120 GSM paper / fewer pages
Overall, I’ve enjoyed using my Bullet Journal Edition 2 for a fresh start to the new year. Right now, the good features (especially the Smart Grid and stickers) outweigh the meh/bad (those pale dots!!) for me, so I’ll probably keep using this notebook unless I find another one that better suits me needs.
This is purely speculative, but I feel like some of these changes—especially the thicker pages, Grid Guide, and lighter dots—are designed to appeal to the more artistic members of the Bullet Journal community, while still retaining the system’s simple utility (page numbers, and dedicated pages for some core elements of the method) that attracts its more minimalist users. To me, it seems like splitting the difference. As I mentioned above, I think artsier BuJo-ers will still gravitate toward notebooks without page numbers and with even heavier pages, while those who tend toward a simpler style, like me, would appreciate having more pages instead of thicker ones. So if more changes are in the pipeline for a future Edition 3, I’d love to combine some of the excellent features of this edition, like the Smart Grid, with the classic specs of the blueprint.
I hope this review was helpful in determining if the Bullet Journal Edition 2 is a good choice for you! If you have thoughts of your own about this notebook, I’d love to hear them.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a bookshelf post! Today I’d like to share with you what I’ve been reading this month and what I’ll be picking up soon. (Technicality: several of these are not physically on my bookshelf because I had to return them to the library, but you know. We can pretend they are.)
Just finished: Untamed by Glennon Doyle
This was going to be a book-club book for me, but our book club sort of took a holiday hiatus and when the audiobook showed up in my Libby app a few weeks ago, I decided to read it anyway. I have mixed feelings about this book. The personal-narrative parts were compelling to me, and the broader generalizations about ~why women are the way we are~ were less so. I enjoyed hearing about Glennon’s big life changes (I don’t want to spoil things for you so I’m keeping it vague) and how she approached them, but I found myself tuning out during the sections that went on about her more abstract ideas. At several points I was genuinely moved and I even cried a couple times. If you are a fan of Glennon’s past work or generally like books of the self-help and female empowerment variety, I think you’d like this one too.
Just finished: The Stone Skyby N. K. Jemisin
This finale of Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy was as engrossing as the last iteration and brought the story to a satisfying conclusion. Like the other two books in the series, it takes work to read; you have to pay attention to the details and mechanics of this fantasy (or is it?) world to get the most out of it. In my opinion, that work is worth it. Although the first book (The Fifth Season) still stands out to me as the best, and its unique structure sets up some incredible twists, Jemisin had plenty of reveals left up her sleeve for the second and third installments as she expanded our understanding of her world and introduced a secondary protagonist. Jemisin is a talented storyteller and I look forward to reading more of her work.
Just finished: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Uprooted is a fairytale that takes pleasure in subverting the typical fairytale tropes. It presents an enchanting world with a likeable protagonist (although her best friend, despite driving a lot of the plot, has no character development or personality). I was especially endeared to the Eastern European-inflected setting due to my own family background (although a sovereign Ukraine doesn’t exist in this fantasy world between the Poland and Russia stand-ins, I….pretended it does). For this and other reasons, it reminded me a lot of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, so if you liked that book I bet you’d enjoy Uprooted as well (and vice versa). The last quarter or so of the book was lackluster for me, as all seemed hopeless and the story wallowed in the bad parts a bit too long for my taste. But of course, like any self-respecting fairytale, there is a happy ending.
Just finished: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
I…don’t know how to feel about this book. Let me rephrase that: I don’t know how I feel about this book. Actually, it’s more that I feel several conflicting feelings about this book and am trying to figure out how to talk about them. First of all, Morgenstern’s prose, overflowing with description and lavish with details, annoys and compels me in equal measure. “That’s not how you’re supposed to write!” I grumble, reading page after page describing a party that amounts to a bookish, daydreamy, Tumblr-scrolling teen’s fever dream. And yet, I keep reading. And there’s still a part of that uncool teen within me that genuinely loves it and wishes I, too, could stand on the shores of the Starless Sea. Morgenstern gives voice to that impulse for fantasy and extravagance that I suspect still lies dormant within a lot of us cynical adults, and I have to grudgingly respect her for it.
One part of this book I liked unreservedly was Morgenstern’s lack of concern for justifying or explaining her fantasy world. How, exactly, did there come to be a mystical story-flanked sea under the Earth’s crust? Who cares; it just is. Some people may hate this lack of explanation, and I get that too. But for me, a story is always more exciting when there’s still an element of mystery to the phenomenon or danger present. For example: When a dreadful monster is finally revealed, it always lets me down, because the fun and horror and uncertainty of imagining what it could be is more compelling than its actual form. (See: Stranger Things.) There are no monsters in The Starless Sea (okay, maybe a few, but they’re not really important), but the effect is the same. By refusing to explain how or why (beyond a certain extent of revelations to move the characters along), Morgenstern keeps the magic and the mystery intact.
A few final thoughts about this book (I read it the most recently, so I have a lot of reactions fresh in my brain!): Its structure is ambitious, interweaving tales that exist in the world of the main characters (I know there’s a word for this, but I don’t know what it is!) between each chapter of the main story, and I think it really works. That said, the main thread of the story and the main character are both kind of passive. Zachary Ezra Rawlins (whose full name is stated far too many times, IMO) is sort of swept along by the ambiance and the mystery of this whole deal, and as the reader I found myself swept along in those currents, too. The Starless Sea frustrated me at times, but it was certainly an enjoyable and atmospheric read. If you love fantasy and/or describe yourself as a “reader,” I’d recommend at least giving this one a try.
Currently reading: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
I’ve had this book recommended to me countless times and I’ve been meaning to read it for over a year. (I’ve actually had it checked out from my university’s library for a about the same amount of time…I have to return it next week, though, so I’m really motivated to finish now!) A few chapters in, I already love it and feel like it’s going to become one of those favorite-status books for me. I want to highlight something on every other page and I think I’ll just need to buy my own copy so I can. If you aren’t familiar, ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer blends the Western science she was trained on and the Indigenous knowledge she was raised with to talk about the natural world and humanity’s place in it. The result is absolutely captivating and if you, too, love nature, I would highly recommend it.
Up next: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
A creator I recently came across who is quickly becoming one of my favorite people to follow, Elizabeth Turn (AKA Plant Based Bride on YouTube), recommended this book so I decided to check it out! I’ve been getting more into reading sci-fi in the past couple years, so I’m looking forward to giving this one a try. I don’t know much about the plot…but it’s the first in a trilogy so hopefully I’ll have plenty more to read from Becky Chambers.
Up next: The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
I’ve been using the bullet journal method for several years now and it’s the best way I’ve found to organize my thoughts, events, and to-dos (and have a bit of fun with doodling along the way). I discovered this practice through Ryder Carroll’s blog, but I never picked up the book he came out with a few years ago because I figured I already had the method down and didn’t need to read about it again. It was recently recommended to get more insight into the mindfulness aspect of bullet journaling, so now I’m giving it a go!
What are you reading these days? Any thoughts on these books or recommendations for others? I’d love to hear about it!
Happy New Year, everyone. It’s sure been a year, and though not much has materially changed since yesterday, I for one am grateful for this fresh start (even if it’s all in my head). I just spent some time writing out my intentions for this year in my new Bullet Journal (speaking of fresh starts, starting a new journal/notebook is such a PRISITINE feeling), and thought I’d like to share them here, too. In previous years I’ve made resolutions or goals; these intentions are much more unstructured. At some point I’d like to reflect on last year’s goals too, but those are written down in an older journal I don’t have access to at the moment. Regardless, here are my intentions for 2021, mostly in no particular order. If any of them resonate with you, or if you’d like to share your own intentions for this year, I’d love to hear about it.
Spend more time doing what brings me true joy. Looking back on 2020, that means travel (if/when possible), being outdoors/in nature, and spending time with friends & family.
Always have a book I’m excited to read around so when I need to take a break, reading is my go-to.
Cherish & nurture my friendships. In the words of SZA, “I want better friendships 2021 so imma be a better friend.”
Disengage from social media…in a real & meaningful way. Figure out better boundaries. Does this mean quitting Facebook & Twitter for awhile? (Probably.) Further limiting Instagram?
Lean into creative pursuits with less fear, more hope& belief in myself.
Find discovery & excitement in my research. I can do it!
Cultivate a healthier relationship with shopping/spending, makeup & fashion, and self-image. Somehow I feel like they’re all connected…groundbreaking…
Establish a better work-life balance, on both sides of the scale-the constant goal!
Love myself, love others, find & cherish the words & actions that do that.
Thank you for reading this. I wish you a year of joy and fulfillment, whatever that means to you.