Coconut-lime refresher drink: a recipe

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!

Coconut-lime refresher

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 5 minutes
The drink in question with its three ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups coconut water
  • 1/4-1/2 cup canned coconut milk/cream
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (~ 1 lime)
  • Ice (for serving)

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Taste the mixture and adjust as needed, adding more coconut water for sweetness, more coconut milk for creaminess, or more lime juice for tanginess.
  3. Pour into ice-filled glasses, garnish with an additional lime wedge if you wish, and enjoy!

Notes

  • 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.

Life update: the year (so far) in review

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.

The initial splint situation (plus a sling I had to take off to drive home from the urgent care).

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.

My latest style ‘gram!

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.

Unrelated to the ADHD thing, I got to see this cool orchid a few weeks ago—the yellow lady’s slipper, Cypripedium parviflorum.

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.

Best & worst of Versed (skincare review)

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.

Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm (cleanser)

Versed | Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm
All photos in this post are from Versed’s site.

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.

Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution (toner)

Versed | Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution

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?

Baby Cheeks Hydrating Milk (toner)

Versed | Baby Cheeks All-In-One Hydrating Milk

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!)

Just Breathe Clarifying Serum (serum—shocking, I know!)

Versed | Just Breath Clarifying Serum

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.

Found the Light Vitamin C Powder (serum-adjacent)

Versed | Found the Light Vitamin C Powder

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.

Look Alive Hydrating Plumping Mask (self-explanatory)

Versed | Look Alive Hydrating Plumping Mask

I’ve used this mask several times and it truly just does nothing for me. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend spending your money on it.

Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil (lip balm)

Versed | Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil

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.

Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35

Versed | Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen

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.

Final Thoughts

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 brown sugar pound cake: a recipe

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

Ingredients

  • 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)
  • 2 tsp grapefruit zest, + 1 tsp for topping
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 212 grams (about 2 scant cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt, + a sprinkle for topping
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease a loaf pan with neutral oil.
  2. 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.
  3. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).

Notes

Recipe adapted from this one by Short Girl, Tall Order.

Superzero shampoo and conditioner review: Zero-waste haircare?

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.

The good

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.

Wash day: My hair looks nice and wavy (not as curly as it used to be, but that has been an issue for me before and after I used the Superzero products, so I’m not blaming them). I may have put in a styling product this day, but I’m not 100% sure.

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.

The bad

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.)

Review: Bullet Journal Edition 2

I’ve been bullet journaling for several years now and have blogged about my practice a couple times. 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!

Photo from the Bullet Journal website.

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.

Photo from the Bullet Journal website.

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.

Photo from the Bullet Journal website.

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.

Photo from the Bullet Journal website.

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.

The Leuchtturm1917 A5 dot grid notebook (left) vs. the Bullet Journal Edition 2 (right). See how much lighter the dots are?! (You can also see the Page Status Bullet and Smart Grid in this photo, though, which are nice.)

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.)

Photo from the Bullet Journal website.

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.

Photo from the Bullet Journal website.

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.

Summary

Here are the features I rated as Good, Bad, and Meh:

Good

BuJo branding

Smart Grid

Page Status bullet

three bookmarks

sticker sheet

Pocket Guide

Meh

Grid Guide

Key, Index, etc.

larger margins

120 GSM paper / fewer pages

Bad

lighter dots

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.

What’s on my bookshelf? Jan. 2021

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

Is Glennon Doyle's new memoir 'Untamed' inspirational or heavy-handed? |  The Seattle Times

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 Sky by N. K. Jemisin

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3) by 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: A Novel: Novik, Naomi: 9780804179058: Amazon.com: Books

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

The Starless Sea: A Novel: Morgenstern, Erin: 9780385541213: Amazon.com:  Books

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

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the  Teachings of Plants: Kimmerer, Robin Wall: 9781571313560: Amazon.com: Books

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

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Los Angeles Public Library -  OverDrive

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

The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the  Future: Carroll, Ryder: 9780525533337: Amazon.com: Books

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!

My intentions for 2021

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.

The field station in Costa Rica where I spent the first few days of 2020…I have no photos yet of 2021. I wonder what the first one will be? Honestly, probably food.

What I got from the Sephora holiday savings event (vegan + cruelty-free affordable gift ideas)

Ho, ho, ho, ’tis the season for retailers to bombard us with near-constant sales! It’s absolutely exhausting, but it also gives us consumers a chance to score some major deals, including on brands that are rarely discounted.

This Black Friday, I exercised uncharacteristic restraint in the beauty department (though I sadly can’t say the same for…other categories of spending). Why? Because, my friends, I knew that this annual sale from Sephora was coming very soon. And now it’s here (until next Wednesday, Dec. 9)!

In years past, the deal was X dollars off a $50 purchase; recently, the minimum spend has increased to $75, which is a bit of a bummer but seems to be about on par for the way everything at Sephora is going these days. Because I’m just a lowly Beauty Insider, my discount (and yours, if you have or get a Beauty Insider account [it’s free!]) was $15 off of $75 with the code 2020SAVE. Assuming you put exactly $75 worth of products in your cart, that’s a 20% discount. Definitely not as steep as some other sites were offering on Black Friday, but for Sephora, that’s about the best a Beauty Insider can get — the few other discounts throughout the year are usually 10% or maybe 15% off, at most. And you can combine that with the seasonally inflated cash-back percentages from Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to sweeten the deal. (BTW, if you don’t have Rakuten yet, sign up now and thank me later! If you sign up through this link we both get $20 cash back the first time you use it — pretty cool.)

The first two products on this list, I was planning to purchase from other sources last weekend because they were more deeply discounted. But in both cases, I’d have to add items to spend $50 and unlock free shipping. Obviously, paying for shipping was just not an option — especially on this, the holiest of shopping holidays. So I was poised to drop over $100 on a bunch of things that I would have enjoyed, I’m sure, but they weren’t what I was really after, and I am trying to be more mindful in my consumption habits this year (though these delightful holiday sets make it HARD, as you’ll see below). So instead, I waited for this Sephora sale to combine my most coveted items in a single $15-off purchase — with free shipping to boot.

As someone who avidly seeks out vegan and cruelty-free beauty products, I think any of these items would make great gifts for a similarly environmentally-inclined beauty lover (or any beauty lover, honestly) on your gift list. Let’s get to it!

Herbivore Cloud Nine 5 Piece Favorites Collection

$54 $43.20

Cloud Nine 5-Piece Favorites Collection
Photo source: Herbivore Botanicals

Herbivore is one of those lines whose branding realllly draws me in. It strikes the surprisingly difficult perfect balance between the eco-friendly, plant-based nature I always love and the genuinely chic and sleek aesthetic I have come to appreciate. This set combines a product I’ve used and enjoyed before (the Blue Tansy Mask, from this very affordable mini-set) with several I have been jonesing to try (the Pink Cloud Cleanser and Lapis Oil). The other two products — an AHA + BHA exfoliating serum and a luxe body scrub — are things that I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to buy, but I will certainly use and hopefully enjoy them. The cleanser is full-sized and $34 on its own, so at full price, this set gives you 4 decent-sized minis of pretty fancy products for an extra $20. Even better, the set is currently on sale at Sephora for only $43.20! If you, like me, are intrigued by Herbivore, this is a great way to try several of their products without breaking the bank. And if you’re looking for a gift for a skincare lover in your life, I think this would really do the trick.

Bite Beauty Creamy Matte Lip Crayon in Pavlova

$24

Power Move Creamy Matte Lip Crayon,
Photo source: Bite Beauty. And, okay, technically the full name of this product is “Power Move Creamy Matte Lip Crayon,” but that just feels way too long to write in a header.

Bite Beauty was my first introduction to higher-end (as in, anything not from the drugstore) lip products, back in high school when I was a zitty teen obsessed with YouTube beauty gurus. Now a zitty adult, I’ve sadly had to throw those six-plus-year-old lipsticks away, but my love for Bite’s makeup remains. In fact, it’s increased exponentially, as a couple years ago Bite announced they were reformulating their whole line to be vegan (it had previously included animal derivatives like beeswax and carmine). To my knowledge, this move was pretty unprecedented in the beauty industry at that time, and it definitely impressed me — even if it was informed less by morals than by increasing consumer demand for vegan products (there are dozens of us!).

Anyway, all this is to say that I purchased a freshly-vegan lip crayon in this very shade from Bite last winter, only to lose it after a few weeks. I know, I know, an American tragedy! A full year later, it still hasn’t resurfaced, so I have accepted its loss and cheerfully bought its replacement. This shade, Pavlova, is a yummy bright-but-not-too-bold pinkish berry. It’s perfect for when you want to wear something like a red lip, but not exactly red, and it’s a great shade for winter in my humble opinion. I look forward to welcoming Pavlova back into my home very soon. Bite also has some great mini sets for the holidays — this one is on sale at Sephora for only $12.50.

Sephora Favorites POP Set

$15

Photo courtesy of Sephora.

Full disclosure: I picked up this mini set because it was the closest I could get to achieving the $75 coupon threshold without going too far over, while containing something I actually wanted to buy. That something would be the Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector, a beauty industry staple. I’m planning to bleach & dye my hair in a couple weeks (!!), so I wanted to try out a smaller size of Olaplex since it’s supposed to be a miracle worker for bleached or otherwise damaged hair. We’ll see how it goes!

The rest of this set, though, is not too shabby either. I’m curious to try the primer and liquid lipstick minis from Rare Beauty and Melt Cosmetics, respectively, neither of which are brands I’ve tried before. I’m sure I’ll use or (more likely) gift the Peace Out peel pads at some point, and having a mini moisturizer like this one from MILK on hand is always useful for when I inevitably run out. I got this set for the Olaplex + the coupon, but I’m not mad about the rest of it, either!

Plus, can we talk about the price? $15 is a great deal for all this stuff! This is a super-affordable grab bag that would make a great gift for any adventurous beauty lover. And even more impressive to me, each product in this set is vegan and cruelty free (or else I wouldn’t have bought it, of course). That’s unusual for these multi-brand Sephora trial sets; usually at least one product ruins the bunch in terms of veganism. I should say: I’m definitely not an expert in these certifications, although I do my homework. I am personally satisfied with each brand’s commitment to being cruelty-free and (at least in the case of these specific products) vegan. But of course, I encourage you to do your own research if you’re curious what the deal is. (Let me know if you’d like to see a post on that topic!)

That was my haul at this December’s Sephora sale! If we trust the “valued at” statements on Sephora’s website — which I usually prefer to double-check by doing the math myself, but honestly I’m far too tired for that right now — I got $144 worth of products for $67, plus tax. Not too shabby! (And that’s not including the couple of free samples and rewards bazaar items I picked up.)

I hope you enjoyed this post and found some inspiration from it! I compiled a few more items I’d gladly gift or receive below.

Other products I’d pick up as gifts from Sephora

(to give and/or treat yourself)

Fenty Beauty Lil Fly Stunna Mini Eye + Lip Set, $24

Fenty’s liquid eyeliner is one of the best I’ve used, and the Stunna Lip Paint is a truly stunning shade of red. I’ll be honest, it’s a little intense for me and my life. But if you need to slay any holiday Zoom calls, put on this liner and lipstick and go forth, queen. Plus….Rihanna. Enough said.

Tower 28 Mini Juicy All The Way Lip Jelly Set, $20 $15

I’m so curious about Tower 28, I just don’t need any more lip glosses right now!

Ilia The Necessary Eyeshadow Palette, $38

I have this six-pan palette in Cool Nudes and I absolutely love it. It’s versatile enough for a range of netural eye looks, from barely-there to smoky, and it’s great for travel. (Oh, god, I miss traveling!) The Warm Nudes shades also look lovely.

Mentioned in passing in this post — in case you missed ’em:

Herbivore Mini True Blue Skin Clarifying Duo, $24

Bite Beauty Mini nude Lipstick Crayon Duo Set, $20

Fighting climate change is a campaign, not a term paper

I recently got a text from a friend that said, “I just can’t bring myself to care about climate change.” This friend is very politically active and plugged-in, but their brain isn’t framing climate change as a pressing, need-to-act-now issue—and I think I might understand why.

As a chronic procrastinator, I have some sense of what is procrastinate-able and what is not. Some tasks, like filling out a form, are not going to suffer much in quality if you leave them until the last minute; the only real downside is the unnecessary stress you put yourself under.

Others, like writing a paper, certainly should be started ahead of time, but it’s still technically possible to get them done under a tight deadline.

I think my friend, and many other people who aren’t taking climate change as seriously as they could be, see fighting climate change as the equivalent of a 10-page term paper: Yes, the paper would be better if you wrote an outline, a first draft, got feedback, days (or weeks, or months) before it’s due. It would benefit both the paper and the paper-writer—and the teacher, for that matter—to turn it in with plenty of time to spare before the deadline in case anything goes unexpectedly wrong, like a printer jam or a technical difficulty with online submission.

But when life gets in the way, and procrastination kicks in, you can still write a 10-page paper in the three hours before midnight when it’s due. It won’t be pretty, it probably won’t get an A, and those three hours will be miserable, but you can technically get it done.

Because the effects of climate change aren’t impacting our day-to-day life in the inland U.S. as much as they are other countries, and even the coastal regions of our own country, putting off decisive climate action can feel much like procrastinating a term paper. We’re all living with the constant low-level stress of knowing we should be doing things that we’re not. But many of us may be under the impression that we can pull out a last-minute turnaround in the last few hours before the paper is due, and with climate change, that’s just not the case.

Although we may not truly feel or comprehend its effects for several decades, the time to act on climate change is now. Renowned climate scientist Bill McKibben has reiterated this call to action, with increasing urgency, for over a decade; his most recent treatise in the New Yorker highlights the drastic and immediate actions we need to take to steer our future onto a non-apocalyptic course. Elizabeth Kolbert, an award-winning science journalist, paints a picture of three potential futures that await us. We’re in a choose-your-own-adventure book, but we can’t flip back to the previous page once we’ve gone too far down a path of bad choices.

So, if climate change can’t be addressed by furiously writing a last-minute term paper, what can we compare it to? Something that simply can’t be completed last minute, that will take days and weeks and months to achieve. Depending on your frame of reference, I’ve come up with a few examples: Writing a novel. Building a robot. Launching a presidential campaign.

A novel differs from a term paper most obviously in its length, which means it’s much more daunting and time-consuming to complete. Even the fastest typer in the world couldn’t write a novel in three hours. You must start long before your concrete deadline to avoid the negative consequences of not finishing your book.

Building a robot is a similarly formidable task, especially if you’re handicapped by a lack of tools or resources or knowledge. Or if someone keeps coming into your robot-building room and taking away essential pieces to use for their own benefit. Throwing together your remaining screws and bolts and bits of scrap metal won’t result in a functional robot, no matter how badly you want those incomplete pieces to add up.

Finally, running a presidential campaign, as we’ve seen over the past two years, is no quick or easy feat. It requires momentum, money, dedication, inspiration, public outreach, and delivering on promises. No one running for president could announce their candidacy in the fall, or even summer or spring, preceding an election and hope to win. Building a successful campaign is the result of the concentrated effort and resources of thousands, if not millions, of people over several years. Scale that effort up from a political race to the issue of our entire planet’s fate, and I hope you’ll see the momentous business we must take on. We must begin that campaign in earnest now—all of our futures depend on it. As Bill McKibben wrote three days ago, “on climate change, we’re entirely out of margin.”

I wrote this blog post in a stream-of-consciousness fashion and didn’t edit it very much, but I hope you enjoyed and got something out of it. Please let me know if you’d like to read more on this topic.