july book report + august list

July books

You guys…I finished books this month! I'm actually reading books from beginning to end again and it feels great! I've found a nice shaded spot in the park across from work, and I read through lunch. I make sure I read an hour on Saturday and Sunday. I try to read at home after work some nights too.

I gave myself three options for July. I finished two of those books, and I also devoured three other books that weren't on the list. What can I say? I'm easily distracted by new and shiny.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
I don't know why it took me so long to get through this book. I really did enjoy it. Maybe I just wanted to savor it. Barbara Kingsolver does what I would love to do: eat locally (very locally, as in backyard locally) for a year. She grows seasonal vegetables, she raises chickens and turkeys, and she tries her best to sustain her family with food that doesn't have to cross many state lines. Thanks to my (very limited) gardening experience, I would love to have a vegetable farm that size in a state where you can actually grow seasonal foods. This book did inspire me to get a CSA membership for this winter to support one of our local farms. Yay local! 

Station Eleven
Oh man, I LOVED this book! I loved that everyone had flaws. I love that it was about survival and not love. I loved seeing how the world was *just* after the collapse, and then seeing what it had become years later. I thought I was done with fiction, but this book was such a great read. Now I understand why everyone was raving about it a couple of months ago. I wish I had trusted everyone then, because this book would have kept me occupied during that painful flight to Portland.

It Starts With Food
This book is the science behind the Whole30 method, and it's been sitting on my shelf for almost a year now. I'm not the best at blindly following rules; I usually need some reasoning behind why I'm doing something, and this book provides all the reasoning behind the Whole30. If you've been thinking about doing one of these but are afraid of the fat content (I'm looking at a few people I know IRL) this book will provide the science behind why eating fat isn't going to make you fat, along with why certain foods cause systemic inflammation and a whole ton of other information. Despite being heavy on the science, I flew through this book in a couple of days. It's really easy to read and understand.

The Whole30
This follow-up to It Starts With Food came out in April, and I wanted to get it for the cookbook aspect of it. It ended up being so much more, though. The first half of the book highlights so much information and answers almost any question that could come up during your Whole30. Some of the information is available on the website, but I don't want to rely on a website all the time. It's nice to have a sturdy physical copy of the information ready to go on my bookshelf.

Show Your Work
This was blog research, and the tiny book was finished in an afternoon. I almost didn't count it, but I did read a book at home that I haven't read before. A lot of the information Austin Kleon goes over makes sense, but sometimes you don't think of it when you're feeling stuck.

For the August list, you'll see a familiar choice and a couple new ones.

  1. Yes, Please. I know, I know. I just need to finish it and stop getting distracted by shiny things.
  2. All of the Light We Cannot See. This is a longer book, so we'll see how much I can get through.
  3. Go Set a Watchman. Everyone else is reading this, so I guess I will too.

To make it even more fun, I'm not allowing myself to buy a new book, even a cookbook, until I've finished two of these. I need to stop being distracted by new things.

finding your creative streak

Finding your creative streak

So, this is a post I never thought I would write. Until the last year, I considered myself the absolute least creative person in the world. Give me numbers in excel! Give me line graphs! Give me anything that doesn't require me to be "creative." I'd love reading about other people's creative endeavors, but I'd be the last person to say I was working on something creative.

In Spring 2014 I took a creativity class for my MBA. Electives were slim pickings that semester, and I had the option of the creativity class or a class with a professor I didn't get along with. For the first time since elementary school, creativity won. And let me say, I am so happy I took that class.

Creativity fair entry

I'm not going to lie, I did spend most of those 12 weeks mocking our assignments. I wasn't able to appreciate what the class did for me until later. One of our assignments was entering something into a creativity fair (basically the class showed off what they tried to do). This assignment was pass/fail; either you did it or you didn't. Some people chose to take the fail, and I almost did too. This was a classic example of my perfectionism getting in the way of just doing the damn assignment. If I couldn't submit something perfect, I didn't want to try. After a pretty heartfelt talk with Johnny, I bought some acrylic paint, canvas, and paintbrushes and just went for it. It took a few tries before I created something I felt comfortable enough calling my entry into the fair, but I had something to submit. I had actually tried. That painting is still hanging in my bedroom. 

Morning coffee creativity

Another assignment was to submit a week's worth of morning pages. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of morning pages, you basically write down three pages worth of stream-of-consciousness thoughts every single morning, no matter how long it takes. As a preface to this, I wake up at 6am and leave for work around 7am; finding time to write a week's worth of morning pages was a pain for school. I didn't want to do it, but I made myself wake up 15 minutes earlier every morning to get it done. I hated it at the time, but I still use morning pages…on weekends. Some of my best ideas come to me before I've had my morning coffee.

The point of these two stories is to show you two different ways to find your creative streak. The first way is to keep trying new things. I don't think I held a paintbrush for a decade (or longer) before the creativity fair. Now it's something I do often, even if all I can paint are lines and blobs of color. Never be ashamed of what you create when you try something new. It's great to keep learning, and you never know when you'll find something that clicks with you.

The second way you can find your creative streak is to write it down. I like morning pages because I never really limit what I write. I'm just trying to hit my three page goal, and I'll put down anything that comes into my brain. Stretching your brain right when you wake up really does give you some good ideas. Sometimes I get grocery lists and to-do lists, but there are some good thoughts hiding in between all of those lists.

When I'm stuck in a rut, I turn to these two processes to help spark my creative streak again. What do you do to help you find your creativity? Let me know in the comments!

weekend links | 2

Weekend links 2

This is a collection of fun articles I found this week.

This is exactly the kind of meditation guide I need.

I'm a HUUUUUUGE X-Men fan, so I'm kind of geeking out over this.

This article convinced me to give Go Set a Watchman a chance.

A book unfolding on Instagram? Such a brilliant idea!

We went to see Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson play last night, and in honor of that here is a fun video of the two playing Ava Adore.

Finding drinks outside of water and La Croix is a challenge for me on this Whole30. I might have to pick up some TeaPop and try the recipes on ABM.

I'm a big fan of food delivery, but I don't know if I could ever give up my Sunday morning grocery shopping routine.

What will happen to online publishers with the rise in ad-blocking?

Johnny and I are following along with this 30 days of yoga we found on youtube. It's been…interesting. Good, but different (for me, at least).

Image source: Death to Stock Photo

reader answers: growing as a blogger

Growing and learning as a blogger

I've been playing around with this post for a while, and I just couldn't get the words out. I've touched on some of the more practical things I've learned during my 11 years of on-and-off blogging before, but I feel like I've learned so much more in the last six months. I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, probably too many to wrangle right now, so I decided to ask fellow bloggers: "What is the number one thing you've learned while blogging?"

These are their answers, in their own words.

Alice @ The Geeky Burrow: "The number one thing I've learned while blogging is: do not rush. Sometimes we fall in the comparison trap and we want a full website, people who wants to buy ad spots on our sidebar, write and sell an ebook, and so on. Everything needs time and if we try to rush to have or do all the things, we'll easily feel burned out with a blog that goes nowhere. A blog it's like a baby, it needs experience to grow up!"

Kellie @ Princess and the Yard Ape: "The number one thing I've learned is that I show up everyday with this question in mind: 'What can I do to help?' It's not about me, it's about what I can do to make someone else's day, give them helpful info, etc."

Deborah @ Blog Observer: "Most recently, the number one thing I've learned while blogging has come from a business coach – "do it, then do it right." Waiting for perfection or trying not to embarrass yourself causes your blog and your business not to progress. This advice totally grates against my "measure twice, cut once" childhood training, but I needed to hear it. A big boost from the "do it, then do it right" mentality is that you are psychologically ready to rebound if something does not move as planned. There is always another route to take, another decision to make; your entire identity is not bound up in one win-or-lose idea. In my perfection mode, I can spend all day tweaking design, reading one more post from a blog expert and other behind-the-scenes blogging tasks, but never get around to creating useful content for the reader. This is why I launched my blog without fanfare, just to get it out there, make myself accountable to people sooner, so that I can get their feedback sooner and share the information they need."

Learning callout quote 1

Melinda @ Melinda Isaacs Studio: "The number one thing that I have learned about blogging is that you need to find your voice and tailor your content towards your target audience. I struggled with this when I first started because I had a lot of different topics that were tailored to a lot of groups. Rather than creating content that was great in quality and targeted a small group of people with whom I share interests and dreams with, I created content that only lightly brushed on the target audience's problems but expanded across multiple audiences. In other words, I learned to take my time and focus."

Lana @ The Joy Blog: "I think for me, I've learned to have patience, work hard, and be real. Whenever I tried to do posts that weren't really what I wanted to do, because everyone else was doing them, they ended up bothering me, having very few readers, and just feeling so off. Be yourself, it always shines through more when you believe what you're blogging, and readers connect with that."

Jen @ Organized Babble: "Even in the moments that I'm terrified that I'm being too real, too raw, too much….there are always people out there who can relate. And ultimately, I've learned that I blog for me above anything else. So I can say how I feel or what I think, and if people disagree, that's okay."

Learning pullout quote 2

Samantha @ The Crafty Paralegal: "I have learned that consistency is key. I know every other blog about blogging says so, but it really is true. You can write about almost anything and get a reader. But to keep interest (and stats) up, blogging frequently is essential. I have noticed this with my own stats even in my few brief months of blogging!"

And my personal favorite, who has asked to remain anonymous: "I always thought I was smart until I started blogging – everything confuses me."

I had so many responses to this question, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. It's so fascinating to read what everyone else has learned along the way. I'm now posing the same question to you. What is the biggest thing you've learned while being a blogger? Let me know in the comments!

Image source: Death to Stock Photo

my natural skincare routine

My natural skincare routine

Confession time: I had terrible acne as a teenager. Nothing really seemed to work. I tried prescription creams, systems like Proactive, and every single wash and medicine available in the skincare aisle. One day I ran across a tomato soap in a Burt’s Bees trial kit. That made my skin feel better than it every had. I was hooked from then. My acne cleared up (probably as I grew up, but the soap helped I’m sure), and my skin became less oily and softer. Unfortunately, Burt’s Bees discontinued the tomato soap (boo), but that led to me experimenting and finding my go-to products today.

These days I rely on tomato and charcoal to help keep my oily skin in check.

1. Yes to Tomatoes Daily Clarifying Cleanser: I didn’t leave the tomato behind. This is my almost every day wash because it helps keep pimples and redness under control thanks to tomato and watermelon extract. I love this cleanser because it’s 96% natural, paraben-free, and cruelty-free.

2. Lush Dark Angels Charcoal Scrub: I use this one about twice a week, sometimes more in the summer when my face is unusually oily. It has a funky smell, kind of like licorice, and it can be messy. It’s also a little expensive, which is why I don’t use it every day.

3. Lush Ocean Salt Scrub: I can’t get enough of this scrub! I would use it everyday if it wasn’t so expensive. It’s amazing at smoothing my skin, but the salt and vodka doesn’t dry out my skin. I thank the avocado butter and coconut oil for that.

4. Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask: I use this almost every Sunday to help deep clean my pores and refresh my face from the week. It’s amazing how fresh my face feels after using this. It’s another product that also helps keep my redness at bay.

5. Body Shop Shower Gel: We actually have a few different scents, but I always go back to the olive shower gel. It’s a very light scent that’s different from everything out there, and I always feel squeaky clean after using it. This is soap-free, but I feel cleaner than I ever did using a body wash from one of the cheap brands at Wal-Mart or Target.

I’m still on the hunt for a natural moisturizer for oily skin. It seems to be the one thing I’m missing in my go-to product lineup. I’m also thinking about trying natural makeup, but I really only use eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara.

Transitioning to natural products has been amazing for my skin, and I highly recommend trying out products from the brands I mentioned.