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.
Somehow, it’s been a full year since I last shared my monthly goals and their accompanying spread in my bullet journal. Does anyone else feel like the past 6 months of pandemic-life have made time fly by?
I finally cleaned my home office/desk space after letting it become a mess of a storage area all summer. I had justified that with the fact that I was doing fieldwork and needed all my equipment easily accessible, which was technically true, but summer crept into fall and my desk was still piled high with unnecessary papers. Last night, I finally dragged myself out of my election season-induced funk and put my space in order. It feels awesome, and I’ve used the accompanying burst of inspiration to create what might be my most “artistic” bullet journal spread ever.
I’m usually pretty by-the-book with the standard bullet journal method—on a normal day, the most I’ll go beyond to-do lists and notes is slightly fancy lettering for the day of the week—but this time, I took inspiration from some monthly spreads I found online to add some fall cheer to my journal’s pages.
On the left side, I’ve listed the days of the month with dates and events to keep track of, and near the center, I’ve added an activity tracker to cross off the days when I’ve made an effort to move my body.
On the right, in addition to some fun tree stickers and pumpkin doodles, I’ve written out my monthly goals. I’ll likely add to these as October goes on, but I like to start the month with a few specific goals. Let’s take a look!
Read 4 books.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory! It’s a goal I usually set every month, and last month was the first time in awhile that I achieved it.
Complete basic data analysis.
I finally wrapped my my master’s fieldwork last month, and now it’s time to delve into all that data I collected. I need to do some self-guided learning about multivariate statistics, but for now, I want to make sense of the data with the methods I already know—quantifying it with descriptive stats and ANOVAs.
(By the way, I know “data” is technically a plural noun, and I’m usually a total stickler about grammar, but in this case…I have just always referred to it as singular. Maybe it’s a generational thing? Is it really that bad? Language evolves with the people who speak it, so maybe this is a case of evolution in action. I’m probably not going to “correct” myself, but I’d love to hear what you think about this topic in the comments.)
Write 4 blog posts.
Again—this one’s pretty obvious. I’m on track to publish this on the first of the month, so hopefully it bodes well for the rest of them!
Be active 15 times.
This is how I’ll use the “activity tracker” on the left page of my monthly spread. Especially now that I’m not out in the forest 4 days a week (which feels very bittersweet), I need to break up the desk-sitting monotony and move my body. As the weather turns colder, it can be easy for me to get into a routine that doesn’t include exercise, but I always remember how much better it makes me feel when I get back into it.
Pitch a story.
Since my life doesn’t *entirely* revolve around grad school, I’m trying to pursue my interest in journalism (and specifically science writing) in my free time. That means pitching stories! I’m pretty rusty, but that’s no reason not to try.
Gather all landscape variables for LANDIS initialization.
This is a pretty technical one. If any of you readers are familiar with the LANDIS-II forest model, please let me know if you have any tips!
Looking at this list, I am realizing that it’s pretty self development-focused, whether that growth is personal or professional. I should make some goals that reflect outward, too. I do volunteer weekly with a local organization, but I would love to do more…actually, this realization just prompted me to sign up for a volunteer shift tomorrow. Exciting!
Let me know what your goals are for this month in the comments below. Also, if you have any ideas of blog posts you’d like to see, I would love to hear them. Happy fall!
Then, as a Gilman Alumni Ambassador for the 2019-2020 academic year, I wrote a couple of posts for the Gilman Global Experience blog reflecting on my study abroad experience (I spent a semester in Madagascar in 2017):
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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!)
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 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.
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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!