Sunrise on top of the world

Hello! I’m currently at Las Cruces Biological Station in Costa Rica and supposed to be working on my research project here. But I took a break to share this, an account of a couple mornings ago when my friends and I climbed up the observation tower at 5:30 a.m. to watch the sun rise above the rainforest canopy. It’s so beautiful here, I can’t stand it. This is a creative writing exercise inspired both by the observation tower and very much by Delia Owens’ incredible figurative language about nature (I just finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing). I didn’t edit it much, but wanted to share it anyway. Happy 2020.

We emerge from the stairs on the top of the world. Ahead in the east, light brightens the dusky sky. Next door to us, a Cecropia tree bends and waves, its long whorled branches mirroring the dizzying spiral we ascended to get here. My eyes search its leaves for a sloth, but if there is one, it doesn’t reveal itself.

Lollipop palms puncture the horizon. Their naked giraffe-neck trunks stretch vulnerably far above the canopy. I wonder why they grow so tall. Isn’t it enough to be the best by only a little bit? Isn’t it lonely at the top?

As light creeps across the cloud-streaked canvas overhead, birds fill the sky with song. A jewel-like tanager zooms by, feet from my face, crystal-clearly visible for only an instant before blurring away.

In the west I see the glinting buildings of Las Cruces nestled in the rippling mountains. Sunlight oozes down the forested slopes in an inexorable wave, gilding each tree it touches, as if they occupied a latitude 30 degrees north. Here is an elevation gradient that resets each morning. The seasons here don’t hold the same meaning; this forest never bares its branches to a stark winter sky.

My vision pitches downward to the rich brown earth. I feel my center of gravity press against the railing and wobble slightly, dangerously close to the edge. Along the peeling metal rail, dozens of sunlit visitors have scratched their names in rust, making their indelible mark on this place. But I will become a part of the forest in another way. A long reddish hair has come away in my hand, and I extend my fingers to let it go, floating down to the forest where I know its carbon will be endlessly cycled through the world below.

What’s on my bookshelf? December edition

Hello, friends! Long time, no blog (again). This time I don’t have as good of a reason as NaNoWriMo to have fallen off the blogging wagon (blog-gon?), but it has been finals week. So that’s probably reason enough.

I did a post like this a couple months ago, highlighting what I’m reading in the past, present, and (hopefully) future, and I’m glad to say I’ve kept up the habit of reading for pleasure! Read on for my thoughts on what I’ve read lately and what I’m looking forward to.

Just finished: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Image result for parable of the sower octavia butler

I read this book on my friend Catie’s recommendation. It’s a science fiction novel set in a dystopian future California where climate change has made food prices skyrocket, gasoline an inaccessible luxury, and water a scarce and precious resource. Sound familiar? Butler published this book in 1993, and it’s set in the mid-2020s. The future of this book is now uncomfortably near, and the picture it paints is uncomfortably realistic. It took me awhile to get into the book, but once a catalyzing event happened about a third of the way through, I was fully hooked. I would recommend it if you enjoy dystopian novels and/or feeling panicked about the future of our planet.

Just finished: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Image result for little fires everywhere

I read this novel for a recent book club. It was a quick read, and I think it’s considered a quintessential “book-club book.” I enjoyed reading it, but after it was done, I’m not sure if I actually liked the book or its characters. I wish that Ng had delved deeper into certain themes and characters and left others to the imagination. But if you like suburban dramas like Big Little Lies, you’ll probably enjoy this one, too.

Just finished: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Image result for catch and kill

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book for months and finally got a chance to read it, then I tore through it in two nights. Catch and Kill tells the story of Farrow’s struggle to report on Harvey Weinstein’s serial predation and other stories that launched the #MeToo movement, through the lens of his own experiences with fame and fear and the behind-the-scenes industry politics at NBC. As a reader, I found it engrossing, and as a maybe-aspiring future journalist, I found it inspiring. (But also scary.) I was almost put off on the first page by his characterization of two spies’ identities of Russian and Ukrainian as a “distinction without a difference,” but once I moved past that the rest was great. And sometimes sickening, in the non-Drag Race sense. I’m planning to listen to the podcast next.

Currently reading: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Image result for the secret commonwealth

Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is probably my favorite book series ever (sorry, Stephenie Meyer!), and I was so excited to read about grown-up Lyra in this second book in his new trilogy, The Book of Dust. I’m in the thick of it right now (in fact, I tore myself away from reading it to write this blog post and accomplish at least one productive thing today) and really enjoying it so far. The newer books have a different tenor than the original trilogy, which helps to make them distinct, and it’s so wonderful to be back in Pullman’s world.

Currently reading: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Image result for ninth house by leigh bardugo

Earlier this year, I devoured several of Bardugo’s other books and was utterly sucked into her fantasy world in the best way. I was intrigued by the prospect of this novel, which takes place at real-world Yale, but I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that it also contains some fantastical elements. So far, it’s interesting, but I don’t think I like it as much as her other work. Part of that is the dearth of characters to root for in Ninth House, whereas her beloved novel Six of Crows had plenty. Since I haven’t bought this book and it’s still on hold at the library, I’ve been reading a few chapters each time I pass by a bookstore and have an hour to kill, so it still might take me awhile to finish it. I’ll reserve final judgement until then.

On deck: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Image result for the testaments margaret atwood

Like everyone else I know, I read The Handmaid’s Tale a few years ago when the Hulu series was first making a splash and loved it. I still haven’t watched more than a few episodes of the series, but I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up.

On deck: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Image result for where the crawdads sing

This book is the next one for my book club, so I need to start reading it soon. I know almost nothing about it, only that everyone who’s mentioned it to me says it’s great. It seems like I will enjoy it, so I’m looking forward to digging in during my travels this winter break!

On deck: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019

Image result for best science and nature writing of 2019

I read this anthology a few years ago and it was wonderful. It gave me the chance to read some incredible works that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise and that I still cherish to this day, like “The Big Kill” by Elizabeth Kolbert and “The Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison. I picked this year’s edition up on impulse because I’ll be traveling soon and need some good airplane/airport/remote field station reading material.

Hope you enjoyed this updated list of what I’ve been procrastinating my real work for! What’re you reading lately?

Something old, something new

Hello, friends! Long time, no blog. It’s been a busy month so far—I was traveling for a week, and then I jumped right back into classes, work, and NaNoWriMo(!). Balancing all of these commitments has been no easy feat, but this weekend I have a bit more time to relax and decided to get a blog post up.

I’ve bought some new things recently, as I am wont to do, and have been getting a lot of use and enjoyment out of them, both out of town and in. But I didn’t want to do a post dedicated solely to new stuff, so I am mixing them in with three “old” belongings that I’ve been using and enjoying just as much. I’ve had each of the “old” things for at least a year, and bought each of the “new” things within the past month or so. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Old: Doc Martens Vegan 1460

Photo from Dr. Martens website

I’ve always loved the look of classic Doc Martens patent boots, but I don’t love the leather they are traditionally made of. Luckily, Dr. M has us vegans covered with a whole range of animal-free boots and accessories. I bought this classic style, the 1460, in black vegan leather over 2 years ago and they show no signs of wear so far. I wear these boots at least a few times a week through the fall and winter, and I look forward to keeping them for many more years.

New: Rifle Paper Co x Corkcicle water bottle

Photo from Rifle Paper Co website

Over the years, I’ve collected a number of water bottles (and lost a fair amount of them). But somehow, I found myself at the beginning of this school year with several bottles, but none that didn’t leak in my backpack. I put off getting a new bottle because I already had a few, but the leaking was getting to me. Then I stumbled upon this beautiful bottle in Birdfolk Collective, a delightful gift shop near me that I will definitely be returning to for my holiday card purchases. The bottle is by Corkcicle, and it’s designed by Rifle Paper Co, a company that can take my money all day, every day with everything they make. (What can I say, I love well-designed, whimsical floral prints!!!) I have had a bit of an aversion to the color pink for most of my life (internalized misogyny, anyone?), but I liked this bottle so much that I decided to go for it. And I love it! It’s so pretty, the shape is easy to hold, and it DOES. NOT. LEAK. If you’re in the market for a new water bottle that’s a bit more elegant than the tried and true Hydro Flask or Nalgene (no shade—I still love those brands, too), check out this collection!

Old: My makeup bags

The first makeup bag I ever used was a gift-with-purchase one from the Clinique counter at Boscov’s when I first started wearing makeup. It was a loud pink-and-orange floral print, and not exactly my style. It served me well for years, but I’ve since acquired a few makeup bags that are much more personal and that I love to use. One is from a gift shop in St. Louis (it’s on the Delmar Loop, but I don’t remember the name!), and it is made of a fabric with animals and cacti all over it. Delightful! (Upon recent, closer examination, the brand seems to be called Danica Studios.) The other was a Christmas gift from a friend while she was in the UK, and it features…wait for it…the periodic table of elements. It’s an unexpected combination, and it tickles me every time I use it! This bigger bag is primarily for toiletries, and I use the smaller, printed fabric one for makeup. They’re the best travel companions.

New: Ilia Beauty Necessary Palette in Cool Nudes

Photo from Beauty Rebel

I’ve been eyeing this Ilia palette for months and months, and I finally ordered it a few weeks ago. It’s a wonderfully compact range of shades that I will actually use, and the cool tones are perfect for winter (and for making brown eyes pop!). I appreciate Ilia’s commitment to ethical, cruelty-free beauty, and I am really loving this palette so far. It’s perfect for travel and everyday use. And if warm shades are more your speed, they have a “Warm Nudes” palette, too.

Old: girlfriend collective leggings

Photo from girlfriend collective

Girlfriend makes amazing activewear out of recycled plastic water bottles. How neat is that?! Not only is it a great, sustainable concept, the pieces are wonderful (and come in a size-inclusive size range, too). I’ve acquired three pairs of girlfriend leggings in the past several years—the first I tore a hole in during an overly enthusiastic game of volleyball at the Y, so I bought an identical pair of the standard black leggings to replace them. (I still have that first pair with a hole in them, but I might be sending them in soon to take advantage of the reGirlfriend program. This company puts their money where their mouth is when it comes to sustainability. Oh, and speaking of sustainability, I got both of those leggings gently used on thredUp for a fraction of the retail cost. Score!) The classic black leggings are probably my most-worn bottoms; I wear them at least a couple times a week and they are durable, stretchy, comfy, flattering…truly, what more can you ask for in a legging?

New: Everlane Cheeky Straight Jeans

Like the Cool Nudes palette, I’ve been eyeing these jeans for months. For the past year or so I’ve only had a pair of dark-wash skinnies and a stained, distressed pair of boyfriend jeans in the denim department, and I’ve been craving a middle ground—something that’s not skinny, but still fitted and flattering, but also comfy. These Cheeky Straight jeans from Everlane fit the bill perfectly, and I loved my first pair so much that I got them in another color, too (Washed Black and Sky Blue). I was compulsively checking PoshMark multiple times a day to see if a pair had popped up in my size and preferred color, and luckily, they did! These jeans are versatile; I wear them from the office to the field to a night out with friends, and they handle it all with style and ease.

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my “old and new” favorite things! What have you been loving lately, whether it’s a new find, a rediscovered treasure, or a tried-and-true standby? Let me know!

Going batty

Happy (almost) Halloween, friends! In this spooky season, several of my friends learned about “Bat Week” (according to the National Park Service, it is Oct. 24-Oct. 31 this year). It’s like Shark Week…but for bats, the only mammals capable of continuous flight!

One of the suggestions for how to celebrate Bat Week was to “Host a bat-centric party.” Well, my friends decided to do so, and it was a b(l)a(s)t. I got really invested, and wanted to share with you the ways I got into the batty spirit this week.

Photo: National Park Service

Monday: When it was time to re-paint my nails for the week, I tried to do some bat-themed nail art. Subsequently, I remembered how difficult nail art is and how bad I am at it. Regardless, this is my bat-accented manicure. It’s……not great, but I think you can at least tell the shapes are bats, which is about as good as I could have hoped for.

That’s a box of maple creme cookies in the background of this nail shot. I was really getting into the fall spirit!

Moving on!

Thursday: I had promised my friend Tessa that I would make bat cookies for the party. What exactly constitutes a “bat cookie” is up for interpretation, but for my purposes, I decided that it was a cookie shaped like a bat. Accordingly, I searched for a bat-shaped cookie cutter all week. I didn’t want to order one on Amazon for multiple dollars and waste the resources for shipping and packaging a single item, and I was sure there would be a cheapo Halloween-themed cookie cutter at some grocery store in town. Alas, no dice.

By Thursday night, I was down to cookie crunch time with no cutter. I decided to go for it and cut out each cookie by hand. It couldn’t be too hard, right? Two hours and two episodes of Queer Eye later, I had 24 chocolate cookies that were recognizably bat-shaped, although each bat had its own personal quirks. This process was pretty time-consuming, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but in the end I think the cookies turned out pretty well.

Bat cookies take flight!

Did I spend a lot of time that I should have been working on other tasks cutting out bat cookies? Yes. Do I regret it? No.

Friday: Finally, it was party time! I brought my cookies, along with a bag of powdered sugar that people sprinkled onto them to represent white-nose syndrome. I dressed all in black. My friends who were hosting the party were fully dressed up as bats—species-specific, of course.

I did bat-wing eyeliner on my friend, and as seems to be the theme for this week/post, it was a bit of a struggle but turned out better than I expected.

As for the long-awaited bat party itself, it was great. People brought bat-pollinated snacks (dates, plantain chips, banana bread, chocolate, tequila-based drinks). A custom song about bats was written for the party, and it’s still stuck in my head. Batty videos like the one below were projected on the living room wall.

Three words: BABY. BAT. BURRITOS.

All in all, it was a great party and a very fitting celebration of bat week!

Since there are a few days left, how are you going to celebrate Bat Week? Perhaps by making a donation to the Vermont Bat Center, or another worthy cause? Let me know in the comments!

Quick + easy fall makeup look

Normally, I’m an eye makeup fiend. Shadow, liner, you name it—the more, the better! Lately, though, I’ve been drawn to this simple look that’s easy on the eyes (literally!), focusing instead on flushed cheeks and a bold lip. Keep reading to hear about the six products I used to get the look.

BareMinerals Original Foundation in Fairly Light: An oldie but a goodie! BareMinerals is still an excellent powder foundation, and one I’ve been reaching for more often lately in the morning rush. It’s pretty foolproof —no dreaded foundation lines—and gives better coverage than you might expect. I also find that it’s more forgiving of the flaky skin patches I have been getting from both acne and drying skincare products. It does a nice job of evening out my skin tone; my spots aren’t completely covered with this product, but that’s quite alright with me.

Pure Anada Pressed Cheek Colour in Sweet Pea: This lovely mauve is my go-to everyday cheek color. I applied it a bit more heavy-handedly than I might if I was wearing eye makeup. Plus, I love a flushed cheek in the fall and winter. Pure Anada is a really awesome, cruelty-free, affordable brand, and they have a great sample program if you want to try out any of their products.

Wet n Wild Color Icon Bronzer in Reserve Your Cabana: This shade has been my go-to subtle highlighting powder for years, and I’m so bummed that Wet n Wild is no longer cruelty-free. 😦 Still, I’ll use this up while I have it! I applied this highlighter along the tops of my cheekbones, under my eyes, and along the bridge of my nose for a subtle warm glow.

Essence Lash & Brow Gel Mascara: Being blessed/cursed with dark, bushy eyebrows, I rarely use more than a clear gel to tame and shape them. Essence’s offering is a relatively new one for me, but it’s quickly become a staple! I have used the e.l.f. Clear Brow & Lash Mascara for years, but a new tube would always give my brows an over-gelled, crunchy look. Definitely not ideal. Essence’s clear gel is a bit of a softer hold, so it avoids the crunchiness. It’s a dollar more, but the tube seems to be lasting me longer than e.l.f.’s usually did, so I’ll take it!

SheaMoisture 100% Pure Jamaican Black Castor Oil: I combed this castor oil through my lashes to give them a bit of shine and nourish them, too. Normally, I wouldn’t apply this heavy oil during the daytime because it could interfere with the rest of my eye makeup, opting instead to use it as a nighttime treatment. But today, I don’t have on any other eye makeup, so my lashes get a treat! It’s quite nice not to worry about mascara flaking or smudging throughout the day.

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Budapest: Another tried-and-true classic product! I’ve been switching up my lip color the past few days, but today I spotted this one in my drawer and felt drawn to it. It’s a great fall color—a rich, warm berry that’s still appropriate for pretty much any occasion. Unfortunately, this product isn’t vegan because it contains beeswax. Otherwise, though, I love it.

That’s it for my simple fall makeup look! Six products is wayyyy fewer than what I usually use, and it feels nice to do this look in just 5 minutes during a busy month. Clean, groomed brows and lashes, flushed cheeks, and a dark lip make for a great combo. What colors or products are you loving this season? Would you like to see more makeup looks? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Monthly goals, as told by my Bullet Journal

Ah, October. The proper start of fall, and more specifically, of ~spooky season~. Fittingly, I have a couple of spooky goals for this month, and I’d like to share them with you.

Getting in the spooky spirit.
Image: Giphy.

I set goals at the beginning of each month in my Bullet Journal. If you’re not familiar with the Bullet Journal, or BuJo for short, you can read allllllll about it here. Basically, it’s a freehand, paper system for keeping track of anything and everything in your life. (The creator, Ryder Carroll, describes it as “The Analog Method for the Digital Age.” It’s a succinct description, but I don’t love its “not like other girls” energy. No shade, Ryder—I would be lost without you!)

My bullet journal.
Fun fact: yellow is my favorite color!

The “Monthly Log” is one of the main tenets of the Bullet Journal system, and that’s all I’ll say about that because I could easily go down a wormhole of Bullet Journal content. (If that’s something you want to read more about, please let me know!) Anyway, my monthly log is pretty utilitarian (except for the festive little pumpkin), and it has three major components: my calendar, my goals, and my activity tracker.

My monthly log for October.

My calendar is set up Ryder’s way, in a vertical list of each day of the month. Here, I’ve jotted down any events, appointments, meetings, etc. that I know I have. I’ll add to this throughout the month as I continue to fill out my schedule. This area is more of a complement to Google Calendar, which is my main scheduling tool. Still, I like to have a paper version handy so I don’t always have to whip out my phone to double-check a date or deadline.

My activity tracker is parallel to the calendar, on the rightmost edge of my monthly spread. Here, I log any kind of physical activity I had during the day, whether it’s fieldwork, a fitness class, or a particularly strenuous bike ride. As you can see, there’s nothing here so far…But it’s still very early in the month, so I’m cutting myself a break.

Bonus pic: My journal is Max-the-cat approved!

Finally, my monthly goals take up most of the right-hand page. I thought it would be fun to go through these with you. Let’s take a look!

Goal 1: Read 4 books

This is a goal I set every month, for the average rate of a book a week. I am a pretty fast reader, so as long as I have started a book, I can almost always finish it within a week. However, life sometimes gets in the way, and I don’t often meet this goal. I also have a separate page in my BuJo to keep track of all the books I’ve been reading—get a taste of that in my last post.

Goal 2: Plan a Gilman event

This year, I’m serving as an Alumni Ambassador for the Gilman International Scholarship. Part of my duties as an Alumni Ambassador include planning a couple of events for prospective, current, or former Gilman Scholars, and I want to make that happen this month.

Goal 3: Start writing research proposal

My master’s program is research-based, and since I’m in my first semester, I am not doing much fieldwork yet. However, I do need to dive into some background research for my proposal, and I should start working on it soon.

Goal 4: Write at least four blog posts

Hey, it’s a blog-related goal! This is already my second post by the third day of October, so I’m doing pretty good on this one. 🙂

Goal 5: Publicize my blog on social media

By “publicize,” I just mean to post the link so that people in my life actually know I’m doing this. It’s a way to hold myself accountable for posting as often as I can! And hopefully so that anyone who’s interested can keep up with my life in this format.

Goal 6: Be active 3x/week

This is another recurring monthly goal that I try to stick to. I monitor this via the adjacent activity tracker.

Goal 7: Prep for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo! Image: Florida Writers Association.

I decided a few days ago to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. And it’s in the Bullet Journal now, so…it’s official!! If you’re not familiar, NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month. It is a “competition” to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. This month, of course, is October, so I’m dedicating it to preparing for this writing challenge. My sub-goals include: reading a book about writing; outlining my story/plot; and completing “NaNo 101,” a crash-course prep guide to make sure I’m in a good position to start writing on Nov. 1st. I’ve never written a novel before, much less one in 30 days, so I’m excited but nervous for this task! I’m hoping that continuing to post on this blog will warm up my writing muscles.

I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year after learning that Erin Morgenstern wrote her debut novel “The Night Circus” over the course of a couple NaNoWriMos! Her journey to authorship is seriously inspiring.

Goal 8: Look into tarot

My tarot deck and some sweet old books.

A few months back, my lovely friend Robin gave me a tarot deck after I expressed interest in one of his readings. I’m not really a superstitious person, but I’m intrigued by the history and mythology behind tarot and the level of interpretation it allows. To that end, I’ve vowed this month to get serious about it! I’m going to read a book about tarot (I checked out some cool-looking old ones from the school library) and do my first reading.

Funnily enough, this goal was also inspired by “The Night Circus,” a book in which tarot plays a significant role. Who knew that reading novels could lead to reading the future?

So, those are my goals for October. I’ll check back this time next month to update you all on my progress, and share the new goals for November. Hopefully, I’ll be a few thousand words deep in NaNoWriMo by then!

What are your goals for this month? Have you ever done NaNoWriMo, and if so, do you have any tips for me? Let me know!

What am I reading? Happy October!

Hello, friends! Can you believe it’s October already?! I can’t! But I’m pretty pumped. It’s shaping up to be a good month, in part because I have some great books to read.

For the past year or so, I’ve been trying to get back into reading for pleasure. As an undergrad, I didn’t really feel like I had time—and if I ever did read a novel, it would usually suck me in and I would ignore my schoolwork for the next 36-48 hours while I finished it. Also, to be honest (and I imagine this is pretty common), watching Netflix and scrolling mindlessly through social media has taken up a lot of the leisure time that I used to spend on reading. But since graduating last year, I’ve read a lot more books than I have in awhile. I’m trying to keep this up now that I’m back in (grad) school, and so far, pretty good!

Today, I’m sharing some books I have read lately, what I’m reading now, and what’s sitting on my bookshelf, waiting patiently…

Just finished: The Overstory by Richard Powers

Photo from Amazon

People have been recommending this book to me for months, so I finally picked it up a couple weeks ago! It’s a book about trees, people, and how they interact—so, VERY much up my alley. As you can see from the cover, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year. Pretty neat!

I enjoyed this book a lot. It tells interweaving stories across generations, with a hefty dose of wonder at the amazing and underappreciated things that trees do. I can get behind that! I must confess, though, this book was hyped up to me SO much before I read it that it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations. There were also a few moments of the author’s writing about women that made me raise an eyebrow. I still enjoyed it quite a lot, and I liked most of the characters (especially Patty. I love you, Patty!!), but it wasn’t favorite-book-status for me. If you like people, trees, and/or stories spanning decades, I would definitely recommend it!

(One final note: I went into this book and read about the first quarter of it thinking it was nonfiction. Yes, I know it says “A Novel” right there on the cover, front and center. Somehow I missed that the first dozen times I opened it. I kept wondering, “How did this guy get these random people across America to give him incredibly detailed accounts of their childhoods and family history?” Finally, the words “A Novel” permeated my brain. I was so impressed with Richard Powers’ journalistic prowess, but the book makes a LOT more sense as a work of fiction.)

(Okay, I lied. I have another, more final note. I keep accidentally referring to this book as “The Understory” instead of The Overstory. Similarly to how I sometimes mix up cellulose and cellulite. Yikes.)

Just finished: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Photo from Wikipedia

Apparently, I missed the media circus around The Night Circus when it was published in 2011. My friend Shelby recommended it to me awhile ago, and I checked it out from the library several times, but never got around to reading it until this past weekend. Well, now I get what all the fuss is about! Despite initially throwing me off with its unique writing style, this book sucked me in to a delightful fantasy-grounded-in-reality world that I haven’t yet stopped thinking about.

The Night Circus‘ central premise is its title—a circus that is only open at night—but it’s also a love story, a fairy tale, and a story about telling stories. To me, it was pure wish fulfillment, in the best way possible. The book was filled with gratuitous, detailed descriptions of the circus itself, as well as the beautiful gowns worn by the main character and an ornate clock that plays a surprisingly significant role in the story. The star-crossed-lovers dynamic was both familiar and fresh. It’s a story that reminded me why I fell in love with reading in the first place. It also inspired some of my goals for the upcoming months, oddly enough—I’ll elaborate on that in an upcoming post. 🙂

Overall, I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would! If you (like me, apparently) were living under a rock in 2011 and haven’t read it yet, and you enjoy a splash of fantasy, I would recommend it.

Currently reading: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Photo from Amazon

Murakami is my friend Cate’s favorite author, so I’ve been meaning to read one of his books for awhile now. When I saw that this one was on Barack Obama’s list of recommended reads for the year, I put it at the top of my library checkout list. Thanks, Obama!

Men Without Women is a book of short stories. Again, the title does a lot of work here in explaining the premise. As of writing this post, I’ve only read the first of seven stories, and I’m enjoying it so far. Translated from Japanese, Murakami’s writing has a deceptively simple yet direct and powerful quality. It reminds me a bit of Therese Marie Mailhot, whose memoir Heart Berries I read earlier this year. (Shoutout to the ACPC book club!) I’m looking forward to finishing this one.

On deck: A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Photo from Goodreads

I decided to go all in on the Murakami (thanks, Cate!) and checked out another one of his books for later. A Wild Sheep Chase is a novel, not a short story collection, so I’m excited to mix it up and read that one soon.

On deck: Educated by Tara Westover

Photo from Amazon

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book this year, and I intend to check it out of the library soon! As far as I know, it’s a memoir about a woman who comes from a Kimmy Schmidt-like upbringing and becomes, well, educated. Looking forward to switching it up with some creative nonfiction.

That’s what’s on my bookshelf for now! (Well…not entirely, but I have some details to save for the upcoming post I hinted at above.) Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What’s on your bookshelf? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know, and see you next time!

Blogging about blogs

For my first real post, I’m going to talk about some of the blogs I love to follow. They have collectively inspired me to get back into it! Blogging about blogs—how very meta.

(Quick tangent—does anyone know how to easily put an em dash into WordPress? Right now I’m just copying and pasting from Google. The disrespect to em dashes on computer keyboards could be the subject of a whole separate post. Hmm…Stay tuned!)

Anyway. By category and in no particular order, here are my favorite blogs!

Recipe/Food blogs

hot for food: Lauren Toyota is an incredible chef, and all of her delicious, deep-fried concoctions happen to be vegan! She is also tons of fun on YouTube. Check out one of her videos, like the RECIPE?! series, and prepare to be sucked in. One series she recently started on the blog is “hot for food approved,” which breaks down her favorite vegan restaurants in each city she visits for future travelers to reference.

One of Lauren Toyota’s impressively off-the-cuff RECIPE?! creations.

Minimalist Baker: If you’re not following Minimalist Baker yet, honestly, what are you doing with your life? I’m just kidding (not really). MB is hands-down my most-used resource for vegan cooking and baking. SO many of my go-to, staple recipes come from her! For a long time, all MB recipes were vegan, and a lot of them still are, but not all, so be aware of that. She’s also great for accommodating other dietary needs, like gluten-free, oil-free, etc. in her recipes.

Sweet Simple Vegan: Jasmine and Chris are two of my favorite people to follow on Instagram, and their blog is just as delightful. Simple, approachable, often healthy recipes grace the site. If you’re intimidated by obscure ingredients or mile-long shopping lists, Sweet Simple Vegan is the refreshingly easy gateway into making vegan food at home.

From My Bowl: Caitlin Shoemaker is another simple recipe connoisseur who I love to follow. Plus, she’s friends with Jasmine and Chris, and I love their friendship!

Oh She Glows: Anglea Liddon’s cookbook is the first one I ever bought, and on her blog you get her wonderful content…for free! Her delicious recipes and thoughtful reflections on life and family are virtual comfort food.

My first cookbook!

Fashion blogs

Style Bee: Lee “the Bee” Vosburgh is my absolute favorite blogger as of late. Her content is always so thoughtful, detailed, and beautifully designed. Lee writes primarily about minimal/ethical/sustainable fashion, but also about a range of other topics. She has inspired me to consider my personal style more carefully (even though it’s quite different from hers), and I love following along with the bits of her life she shares, too (she has a corgi named Dobby!). I reread this post of hers every time I pack for a trip.

In addition to all of her lovely style content, Lee periodically shares her gorgeous floral photographs for readers to use as phone wallpapers. I have this one as my lock screen right now. (Photo: Lee Vosburgh)

Un-Fancy: Caroline is another minimalist-ish fashion blogger whose style is quite unlike my own. She inspires me with both outfit ideas and honest reflections about her ever-evolving relationship to her personal style. Plus, she has the best low-key playlists.

Beauty blogs

Temptalia: All hail the Queen. I get a lot of my beauty product recommendations from social media, but when I want to know more about a specific eyeshadow palette or lipstick shade, I always turn to Christine. Her encyclopedic collection of reviews and resources is unparalleled. Recently, she’s also been sharing more personal thoughts about beauty industry controversies, and I am so here for it.

Logical Harmony: Tashina Combs is my go-to cruelty-free beauty guide. She puts in the work to contact brands about their animal testing policies and vegan products so the rest of us don’t have to. Use her resources to simplify your life, like the one below listing tons of cruelty-free brands you can find in the drugstore.

Phyrra: Courtney is an indie beauty aficionado, cruelty-free connoisseur, and glam goth. Plus, her hair color is always amazing.

Fitness blogs

Blogilates: Cassey Ho is an entrepreneur and fitness instructor whose YouTube videos and (free!) monthly workout calendars are my go-to at-home work out. She makes me feel strong, empowered, and very, very sweaty. Recently, Cassey’s been blogging every day as part of her 90 Day Challenge, wherein she shares the good, bad, and ugly of her quest for personal transformation. I’ve been reading her daily posts religiously.

One of Cassey’s workout videos. You can get a full-body workout for the day in 28 MINUTES! Efficiency queen!

Ecology blogs

Dynamic Ecology: This blog by ecologists Jeremy Fox, Meghan Duffy, and Brian McGill is my go-to whenever I have a big question, like: Should I go to grad school? It’s less about popular science (although there are links to that, too!) and more about the field of ecology itself and the humans who populate it. Plus, cute fox photos.

In Memoriam (inactive or defunct favorites)

Paris To Go: Ariana of Paris To Go is no longer actively posting, but her blog is still an incredible wealth of information about sustainability and “zero”-waste living. Her singularly snarky, direct, dry, self-deprecating voice is my favorite on the web. (And she still keeps the dream alive on Instagram, at least.)

Ariana in her natural habitat: the bulk aisle.

Van City Allie: RIP VanCityAllie, a Them of mid-2000s blogs! She was (is? I don’t know what she’s up to now) an amazing photographer, outdoors enthusiast, and Twilight fan living her best life in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC. She was lifestyle inspiration in a real, wonderful way. I hope she’s doing well.

Brightest Bulb in the Box: Robyn blogged about makeup from a scientific point of view, combining two of my favorite things with a delightful writing style. Her beauty breakdowns, explaining why certain products or ingredients work the way they do, were some of my favorite web content. The blog is gone now, but it will live on forever in my heart.

Hope Jahren Sure Can Write: Scientist Hope Jahren is the author of one of my favorite books, “Lab Girl.” Before that, she was convincing publishers to publish her book via her subtly-named blog, Hope Jahren Sure Can Write. She wrote about “interactions between women and men and Academia.” All her posts are gone now, but the home page says there is more to come (plus a new book in 2020!!), so…fingers crossed!

Me @ Hope Jahren.

Well, that’s it for my favorite blogs! I hope you find this list…Useful? Fun? Informative? All of the above? Let me know what you think, and see you next time!

Welcome to my blog!

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.

— John Muir
Me, circa 2009, sitting on the world’s largest spruce tree in Quinault, WA. Wearing an Aeropostale T-shirt with the words “One Love” superimposed on an illustration of Earth. On a pit stop from a “Twi-Tour” to visit Forks, WA and various filming locations from the movie Twilight, based on the book by Stephenie Meyer. I contain ~multitudes~.

For months I’ve been wanting to start blogging again, but I couldn’t decide which topic to focus on. Veganism? Makeup? Forest ecology? My indecision pushed this project onto the back burner. (And full disclosure: I just started grad school, so this is definitely still a back burner kind of deal.) Finally, I decided to let this be a space for all my interests — that’s who I am as a person, so why not bring the mishmash to the blog-o-sphere? Let’s see how it goes!