Ding, dong, the blog is dead.


This day has been coming for a while. Posts have been obviously dwindling. And I've always said I would call it quits if and when it stopped being fun for me.

This is—and has always been—a personal blog, a place for me to talk about whatever is on my mind. Blogging through much of my twenties meant airing my doubts in a way that was hungry for answers and eager to find something good and positive in each day. Bad jobs, rocky relationships, and questioning your purpose will do that to a person.

Over this time, my posts have grown less personal. It’s admittedly easier to talk about capsule wardrobes, creative projects, and my favorite teas than my inner world. Recently, I’ve realized that the desire to write and share is still there, but I want to do it in a slightly more purposeful, intimate setting—a "safe space" if you will—where my words aren’t declarations but explore just who and where I am in a given moment.

So, I’d like to introduce you to Wandering Thoughts, my TinyLetter newsletter. While my blog may be now dead (and my domain is set to expire at the end of the month), my newsletter will carry on the essence of some of my favorite posts, in a monthly(ish) digest that I hope will feel like a mini-magazine to give you a short, restorative pause in your day.

Each issue will contain a personal letter from me, a curated list of links to articles and items that I’ve been enjoying, and “grab-bag” section that will change depending on the month—things like a recipe, quote, listicle, or photo. These newsletters will be emailed out to your inbox once a month, and I would love if you subscribed so that we can keep in touch. Sure, these posts could continue on my blog, but I'm currently loving the idea of email newsletters for both their intimacy and temporality.

I’m also not disappearing from anywhere else on the internet—at least not yet ;) I still have Twitter and Instagram and appreciate that it allows for a low-pressure way to share my occasional observations and snippets of things I love, as well as the ability to step away when I feel I need to (which is often). I plan to re-start my bookish YouTube channel soon, since I’ve found it a great way to expand my love of good literature into a creative, productive project and connect with a like-minded community—and I hope to expand my video topics to some other issues I am passionate about.

If you’ve been a blog friend for a long time or are a more recent visitor, I want to thank you for joining me here. I’ve made some lovely blog friends over the years and I hope we can stay in touch through other avenues. Wishing you well. XOXO, Caiti.

TinyLetter: Wandering Thoughts
YouTube: caitlindsey (aka, The Book Wanderer)
Instagram: @cait_lindsey
Twitter: @cait_lindsey (if my Twitter account is ever set to private I will still gladly add blog friends, particularly if you tweet me hello first!)
Goodreads: cait_lindsey
Pinterest: cait_lindsey

May Recap + June Goals

Mark on the trail. Lewis River, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington

May was a mostly pleasant month, aside from a few overly emotional days (thanks, hormones). Spring really is a special time in the Portland area; I've never seen so many flowering trees and roses and lush greens in one place. We took advantage of the bright days and did everything from reading in the park to squeezing in a pre-sunset walk in the woods to visiting new neighborhoods to stopping at the farmer's market to going to a vineyard in wine country for a tasting.


The two things I’m most proud of from May are:
1. Attending the events I'd committed to and making the effort to connect and chat with some new people. I'll say it again: making friends as an adult is hard (for me), but simply committing to showing up is a good first step. I volunteered at a farm animal sanctuary with a group of women, and also attended a book club that's a part of a larger social group for women who are interested in making friends but are beyond the drinking and bars stage of life (*points to self emphatically*). I really like this group so far, and I especially appreciated that it draws together women from a wide range of ages and life experiences.
2. Finishing our longest hike to date, about 10 miles. We mostly did it by mistake, since we initially went down the wrong path at the trailhead. But it wasn't too strenuous of a trail, so pushing the distance didn't feel too painful (aside from one big blister on my toe and a bloody knee from scrambling up some rocks when we went down to see a waterfall).

The two things I’m most grateful for from May are:
1. Some beautiful spring weather in Portland—upper 60's and 70's and mostly sunny with a few rainy days mixed in (I do still love those gray and rainy days).
2. Getting to explore some new areas of Portland. We're going to be looking for a new rental pretty soon and we're hoping for a house in one of the neighborhoods, so we've been driving around and scoping different areas out. The rental market is pretty competitive, so I don't know if we'll really have much choice in where we end up, but it's been fun to get a feel for some of the neighborhoods I hadn't yet spent much time in.

The lesson I learned and am carrying forward with me from May is:
When you're feeling stressed about rent and real estate prices where you live, don't look up house listings in the Midwest "just for fun." (Kill me now.) On a more serious note, I'm learning that asking for help—asking for what you need—is a life skill. And it's one that I'm not particularly good; I too often feel like I don't want to bother or burden someone else.


My intention for June is:
Stay calm. I'm obviously nervous about the process of finding a new place to live in a competitive rental market, particularly because we want a house. And after owning our last condo for almost eight years, it's been a long time since I've had to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing where I'm going to be living in just a few months' time. It'll likely be closer to July before we're able to begin viewing places, but that's not going to stop me from thinking about the process and stalking Craigslist and my rental apps. But for my own sanity, I need to recognize when I'm getting too stressed out about it all and take a step back. And that stress needs an outlet, so I plan to be a little more proactive about regular exercise, yoga and breathing/meditation breaks.  

One thing I aim to do every day in June is:
Read something and write something. Preferably books/journaling, respectively. I'm not going to put quotas on this, but if I'm doing a little bit of each everyday, I'll be satisfied.

Because I am brave, here are two new/scary things I will do in June:
1. Go somewhere/do something fun on my own once a week. I feel like I used to be much more independent without thinking much of it, but over the past few years I've found myself "saving" fun activities until I have company, Mark or otherwise. And, let's be honest, Mark's not always game for doing things like thrift store shopping or craft fairs, and while I would like to make more local friends for these kinds of situations, I do want to get back in the habit of hanging with myself and doing what I want to do.
2. Get back to the gym.

The one book I definitely want to read in June is:
The Likeness by Tana French. I started this a few months ago, and I've been strangely unable to find my groove with it. This morning I realized it's largely due to the small font size and tight line spacing, funny enough. It's just throwing me off. My solution: I requested a Kindle copy from my library so that I can adjust the font size, lol. (Is this what aging is?)
Then I'll also be reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen for book club. This is not my typical type of book, but I'm willing to give it a try!

Something I want to experiment with in June is:
Refining my diet a bit. I added several new cookbooks to my collection recently (thanks to my local used bookstore and some killer Book Outlet deals)—Whole Bowls, Joyous Health, Sprouted Kitchen, True Food, and Hemsley and Hemsley's The Art of Eating Well. They all reflect my preference for whole food, veggie-heavy meals, and I'm hoping to peruse them and find a few staple recipes to add to my meal planning rotation.

Just for fun, I will:
Travel someplace new. I'm thinking either a coastal hike (which we haven't done yet) or possibly an overnight in Bend, Oregon.

As an act of intentional kindness, I will:
Work on treating myself like I would a dear friend. (I'm not always good at this.)

{This monthly planning template comes from Nicole Antoinette's email list, Notes of Grit & Grace.}

What I Read : April + May


After hitting a bit of a slump in the first quarter of the year, my reading has been much more enjoyable over the last two months. In April and May, I finished eight books—the six pictured above and two poetry collections pictured below. The winner was definitely Redefining Realness, and I'm happy that there weren't any regrettable reads in the bunch.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

In Redefining Realness, Janet Mock shares her story of growing up as a poor, multiracial trans woman in Hawaii and explores the varied and nuanced parts of her identity and history. I appreciated how she balances memoir with educational/informational context, so this book would be a great introduction for people who don't have much experience with issues affecting the transgender community. Intersectionality is stressed throughout the book, and she acknowledges the challenges she faced as a poor trans woman of color while also explaining how lucky she was to have things like an accepting family, some institutional support at school, and doctors to advocate on her behalf—many trans youth do not have that privilege. The writing was slightly clunky in parts, but her honesty and the value of her story make up for that. I also loved all the literary references throughout: Toni Morrison, bell hooks, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, etc. Overall I found it compelling, brave, important, and affirming, and I would highly recommend it, especially given this country's often explicit transphobia and recent surge of discriminatory legislation (North Carolina being the focus at the moment, but these kinds of bills exist across the country).


And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed is hard to sum up in one sentence. The story explores the complexity of relationships and how the choices we make affect one another. A brother and sister duo provide the overarching narrative to the book, but a number of other characters and story lines are woven together. I didn't like this book nearly as much as The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns (but I did read those a long time ago and my memory of them is fuzzy).  I mostly appreciated Hosseini's writing, which is beautiful and lyrical, and he has a masterful ability to render relationships complexly. It's much more of a character-driven novel than plot-driven, and at times while reading, it felt like a collection of vignettes more so than a cohesive story, though it does all come together in the end. However, with so many side characters, I sometimes felt overwhelmed with all the different stories and I was constantly trying to figure out how they fit into the main narrative arc. I felt myself rushing my reading trying to get to the point of some sections. Throughout the book, there were many interesting themes to ponder, such as the ripple effect of our choices (and how those choices sometimes have the power to hurt our loved ones), familial bonds, dealing with aging parents, and how geography affects our opportunities in life.


Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I really appreciated this honest and personal account of anxiety and depression. Reasons to Stay Alive is a mix of genres—a little bit memoir, a little self-help, and somewhat of a microhistory on the topic of mental illness. It was an extremely quick read with short chapters and some listicles. I came away from it feeling surprisingly affirmed despite the heavy subject matter, and I attribute that to Matt Haig's honesty and empathy. I think this book would be beneficial to friends/family/loved ones of depressives who might need insight into what the experience is like, as well as people who have experienced depression and want to feel less alone. This book felt like an understanding friend.

Rating: ☆ 

Wellth: How I Learned to Build a Life, Not a Resume by Jason Wachob

Wellth is a fairly typical self-help book from the founder of the website MindBodyGreen encouraging people to pursue different areas of "wellth"—in regards to health, career, relationships, exploring the world, connecting with nature, etc.—instead of chasing monetary wealth and other standard markers for success that will likely not truly fulfill us. It was an okay book, but certainly not revolutionary nor particularly memorable. Wachob takes concepts that are common staples in the health and wellness world and just puts his "wellth" spin on them. I did read it at the same time as Matt Haig's Reasons to Stay Alive, which was a better book by far, but I did appreciate the levity and positivity that Wellth gave me while reading the weightier subject matter of mental illness in Haig's book. But I wouldn't recommend anyone go out of their way to read this book. Just read MindBodyGreen (or any other wellness website).

Rating: ☆ 

The Yoga of Max's Discontent by Karan Bajaj

An ARC (advanced readers copy) of The Yoga of Max's Discontent was sent to me by the author. This was the first time I've ever accepted a book from an author! This book tracks the journey of Max, a man overwhelmed by the suffering around him, from his childhood growing up in the slums of the Bronx to the recent loss of his mother to cancer to his disillusionment with his Wall Street career. In an encounter with an Indian street vendor, Max learns about the cave-dwelling yogis deep in the Himalayas who are on the path to enlightenment and truth, and it inspires Max to pursue his own journey to India to seek inner peace and clarity for the questions life presents.  Overall, this was a compelling book and I was sucked into Max's journey. I am someone who has been interested in the philosophy of yoga, so I appreciated the book for putting some of these concepts into a (sort of) true-life context. While it read very quickly, I found the writing style overly simplistic and straightforward. I did appreciate a few passages that took on a slightly satirical tone, especially in regards to the cliche of Westerners traveling to India to "find themselves."

In the end, I didn't end up connecting with the story. Max was a bit of a difficult character for me to sympathize with. I 100% get the general dissatisfaction with life and the deeper knowing that jobs, money, relationships, the "American Dream," etc. will never truly satisfy you or bring you happiness. Yet I still felt like I needed more context for the suffering that inspires his journey—the "why" behind it all. As he goes deeper and deeper into his meditative journey, I found myself disconnected from him and his ascetic lifestyle to the point where I found him so selfish for leaving his sister and friends behind. I cannot wrap my head around how living in a Himalayan cave in solitude can bring inner peace; that level of non-attachment has to have consequences on other people, especially since Max's own yogic principles acknowledge that everything is connected. (I'd be far more inspired by a story of someone finding truth and enlightenment in the context of modern day life!) But it did make me think about my own priorities, and I suppose that's a good thing. I think I'd only recommend this if you already have an interest in yoga, yogic philosophy and meditation. Otherwise, I suspect many people won't connect with Max and his journey. 

Rating: ☆ 1/2

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Dare Me felt like Bring It On meets Fight Club—a dark thriller set in the cut-throat world of high school cheerleading.  The writing is fresh, sharp, and biting, although the metaphors were a bit contrived at times and I felt like Abbott's focus on style and tone came at the expense of developing the setting, plot, and even character descriptions. I enjoyed the beginning and end of the book, but the plot in the middle dragged. While it was a unique read, it didn't really do it for me as a whole, though I really did enjoy the physicality and sensuality of the prose and thought it was refreshing to see girls being depicted as cunning and in-control. Despite it being categorized as YA, I will say that I'm glad I read it as an adult, because I'm not sure how teenage-me would have interpreted the bodily harm, eating disorders, casual drug use, and girl-on-girl viciousness that is depicted. (Also, if you're annoyed by the lack of parental presence in YA books, this one has ZERO parents.)


If you'd have told past-me that I'd someday be willingly reading poetry collections, I probably would have laughed at you. I've tried poetry in the past (anyone remember Jewel's poetry collection?!) but I think carrying that book around in high school was more for appearances than enjoyment or understanding. However, I've more recently been semi-sucked into the world of Tumblr poetry and found my way to these two poets.

Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine von Radics

Clementine von Radics's poems definitely have that certain Tumblr-like quality to them (and that's not necessarily meant as a criticism; that's how I found her after all!). In Mouthful of Forevers, I was drawn to her emotional and tumultuous portrayals of love and relationships, and many lines and stanzas will stick with me, like: "I’m scared you will realize I’m just bones and questions and leave me for something solid" and "I mean you ask me / not to fall in love with you / and then you go write poems / with your tongue / and draw constellations / in my freckles." However, maturity and a 13-years-and-counting relationship have dulled a lot of the intensity in my own experiences of love, so I found myself enjoying this collection more once I was able to put myself in the shoes of my 20-year-old self with the passion and confusion of that time. So, while something about this collection felt *slightly* immature, I do think it was earnest, eloquent, and worth the quick read. 


Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

I picked up this short collection after learning about Warsan Shire through Beyoncé's Lemonade film, and I'm really glad I read it. The poems in Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth are raw, visceral, and piercing. She writes of relationships (romantic and familial), sex, the body, religion, and homelands, and the violence that is often accompanies them. I think I would have gotten even more out of the collection if I understood poetry more deeply, but even with my limited knowledge I admire how masterfully Shire uses imagery and language. 


Meal Planning Staples : Salads


I love one bowl meals, and come spring/summer time that means lots and lots of salads. I hear people say all the time that salads are not real meals, or that they get hungry an hour after eating one. To that I say, you're doing salads wrong! Load them up with greens, protein, veg (and sometimes fruit), nuts, healthy fats, and a rad homemade dressing and it's so good and filling. And I'm not afraid to go big with salads; I've been known to prepare and eat them out of a big mixing bowl, no shame.

In lieu of the 7-day meal plans I've shared in the past, I put together a list of my go-to salad recipes, with the most frequently eaten salads at the top of the list. In most cases where lettuce is the base, I use romaine hearts. Romaine is the most nutritious of the basic salad greens in terms of vitamins, minerals, and water content, but if you really want to amp up the nutrition, choose spinach, kale, arugula, Napa cabbage, or a blend of greens. A quick note on dressings, since I've had people question why I'd bother taking the time to make my own: It's SO easy to make your own—just add everything to a small mason/jelly jar and give it a quick shake. The recipes below all give instructions for specific dressings, but my general guideline is acid + oil + sweetener + emulsifier: 1 part vinegar (or tart citrus) to 2 parts oil, with 1/2 teaspoon of sweetener (honey or maple syrup) and 1/2 teaspoon of an emulsifier (Dijon mustard or mayo) per 1/2 cup, salt and pepper to taste.

Favorite Salad Recipes

Balsamic Chicken Salad with Grapes: (Pictured above, right). My favorite salad, hands down. I do make a few changes to the original recipe, so I should really write up a separate blog post for it. But the Cliff's Notes version is that I make my own balsamic vinaigrette and sub Israeli/pearl couscous for the wheat berries.

Avocado Chickpea Lime Salad: (Pictured above, left). Really simple and refreshing salad. I wouldn't recommend omitting anything since each ingredient is necessary, but I do add toasted cashews and use feta instead of the Cotija cheese. Sometimes we toast the chickpeas to make them chewy/crunchy if we're feeling ambitious, but it's not entirely necessary.

Orzo Super Salad: This is probably technically a pasta salad and not a salad salad, but it is chocked full of spring vegetables. I've been making this one for years, pretty much exactly per the recipe, except for never having sprouts on hand.

Power Green Salad: The kale base of the salad makes it quite hardy, so it would transport well to a potluck or picnic, or hold up well in the fridge if you have any leftovers. I sometimes use toasted cashews instead of pepitas. Also, Trader Joe's pre-cooked lentils come in handy for this dish if you're crunched for time.

Fiesta Chicken Salad: I used to be obsessed with this salad at Chili's called the Quesadilla Explosion Salad. I haven't been to a Chili's in years, nor would it be my first choice of restaurants, but I was sort of thrilled to see How Sweet Eats re-create a version of this salad. I don't bother with the quesadillas (they're delicious, but unnecessary) and I add black beans and/or chopped red pepper if I have 'em. I'd recommend adding the chips right before serving so they don't get soggy (especially important if you have any leftover salad).

Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Miso Dressing: This one is good with edamame added, if you have it. Sometimes I use pre-cooked shrimp, and in that case I just melt the garlic/chili/butter together and toss/rub it on the thawed shrimp. 

Ginger Sesame Chicken Salad: I've tried a few different Thai-inspired salads, and this is the one I come back to. Feel free to add any veggies typically found in Asian recipes like strips of red pepper or shredded purple cabbage. The base works equally well with Napa Cabbage and romaine.

Greek Chicken Gyro Salad: This is a newer recipe find, and I use it mainly for the dressing (which was delish) and the "base salad" per the recipe. In addition to that, I add kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes, and diced cucumber. I really liked it with the pita chips as well.

Fattoush: This uses similar ingredients to the salad above, including leftover pita chips, so it's nice to make them in the same week to use up the veggies. I added kalamata olives again and some feta cheese. I don't have sumac in my spice cabinet, but I do have some za'atar that Mark brought me home from Israel and it worked perfectly in the dressing (since za'atar is a spice blend often containing sumac; however, I did leave out the dried parsley and mint from the recipe since za'atar had enough flavor on its own).

Side Salads 
I also wanted to include these two links because I really liked both the recipes, but they're not quite substantial enough to be a stand-alone meal.

Bacon & Brussel Sprouts Salad: You're basically making a dressing out of the bacon fat, so it's bound to be good. I add some chopped onion or shallots to the hot bacon grease before mixing in the other dressing ingredients. I think fresh diced apples would be a nice addition to the final salad to add some crispness. We served this alongside pan-seared fish, though I think it would also be good with rotisserie-style chicken.

Carrot & Sunflower Seed Salad: This is such a summery salad that I liked much more than I was expecting to. Just toast the nuts in a pan; no need to turn on the oven. It makes a good side salad for burgers, sandwiches or meat-and-veggie kebobs.


Let me know if you have any favorite salad recipes and I'll give them a try! 

Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival

For better or worse, I rely on Instagram to give me about 90% of my ideas for places to visit (and eat) in Oregon. That was absolutely the case with the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival. Tulips galore started popping up in my feed, and there was no way I could miss out on seeing it for myself. I even pulled out my "big camera" for the occasion, which felt sadly foreign and strange after relying on my iPhone as a camera for so long. We attended the festival on a hot, sunny Sunday afternoon in mid-April, which meant the crowds were out in full-force, the tulips were a bit gangly and wind-whipped, and the lighting was a little harsh—I vastly prefer overcast days, like the good Oregonian that I am ;) But I still had fun wandering the grounds and snapping photos, while trying to avoid photobombing anyone else. Honestly, I've never seen so many people selfie-ing in one place—no judgement, I did it too!

My favorite moment was walking next to a little girl who complimented literally everyone she passed. "You have the prettiest hair!" she said to a purple-haired woman on a picnic blanket. "I like your shoes!" "Have a beautiful day!" We should all aspire to the type of kindness that little girl radiated. In fact, I'm actually kicking myself for not going up to the couple in the last photo to offer to email them a copy; I bet that would have been a nice surprise for them. So instead I'm sending gratitude to them from afar for the sweet photo.

April Recap & May Goals.

A view of the Columbia River Gorge from Rowena Crest, taken during my parents' visit

I'm sneaking this post in at the last minute before the first week of May is over! I decided to switch up the format of my monthly goals and reflections, for no particular reason other than I wasn't feeling particularly inspired by my previous format. Here I'm using Nicole's end-of-month review template, available to her email subscribers; I've long enjoyed her emails but I have to give a shoutout to my blog friend Kristen for the inspiration to turn the monthly review template into a blog post—I hadn't thought of that! I like that it builds in a little more reflection and positivity than my previous method of simply checking to see whether I achieved my goals or not.

The two things I’m most proud of from April are:
1. I made some progress on putting together a new portfolio website. It's nowhere near done yet, but I put some work into assessing my goals for the site, listing what exactly I want to showcase in my portfolio, and how I want to organize the information. Also, since my HTML skills aren't very advanced, I looked for a few templates that could fit my needs with a few tweaks.
2. I made strides in regards to my health-focused goals of waking up earlier and continuing my PT/stretch routine. I was far from perfect, as expected, but there was progress. Conveniently, my favorite yoga Youtuber Adriene came out with a Yoga for Sciatica video this month that was a nice starting point and did help ease some of the pain.

The two things I’m most grateful for from April are:
1. I got to spend time with my mom and step-dad when they came for a visit in the first half of April! I went a little crazy trying to cram a lot into four days, but I just really wanted to show them our new city and state and why we like it here so much. I'm pretty sure they enjoyed their visit. 
2. Mark and I took two awesome hikes, the first in an area I had not yet explored along the Clackamas River. It was one of the prettiest and varied hikes that I've done so far, though it was also one of the longest I've done at 7-ish miles. The second hike we took was Horsetail Falls to Triple Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. The coolest part of this one was where the trail carved into the cliffside, allowing you to walk behind the waterfall. I'm super grateful that we had a safe hike; literally the day after we were there a woman fell to her death while she was trying to save her young son who tripped and fell off the trail. I can't even imagine, and my heart goes out to her family. 

The lesson I learned and am carrying forward with me from April is:
Change can feel so slow, and that can be frustrating on a day-to-day basis, but those little steps DO add up.

My intention for May is: 
First and foremost is to connect. I have some social events coming up with people I don't really know, and I want to focus on being present and to connect with the women around me instead of letting social anxiety take over. Secondly, I'd also like to embrace the now and get out of the habit of putting things off until "later"—which too frequently turns into never.  

One thing I aim to do every day in May is: 
Floss my teeth. I unfortunately do not have dental insurance, and I've recently started to get paranoid about something going wrong. I want to put a little more effort into my dental routine in hopes that I can prevent future troubles. 

Because I am brave, here are two new/scary things I will do in May:
1. Go to the two Meetups I have scheduled.
2. Attend at least one Unitarian Universalist service (this is scary for me given my prior experience with organized religion, and not knowing anyone). 

The one book I definitely want to read in May is: 
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, which is for a bookclub I'm attending next weekend. Aside from that, I also like to start American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis. 

Something I want to experiment with in May is: 
What it might look like for me to return to video-making if I didn't talk exclusively about books. It's time for me to decide whether I'm going to continue making YouTube videos or leave that project behind, and I feel like I have to expand beyond the book niche if I'm going to remain interested in it.

Just for fun, I will: 
Take at least two hikes. Visit the farmer's market. Go to a winery (I'm cheating by including that because we did that already on May 1st ;) 

As an act of intentional kindness, I will: 
Reach out to my family a little bit more. I can be terrible about staying in touch and returning voicemails and the like, and being so far away now I really have to put in a little more effort into showing people that they're important to me. I sometimes forget that it's good for me and my well-being, too.

April Favorites


April was a pretty fun month—a visit from my mom and step-dad, discovering a gem of a used bookstore, and taking two really good hikes. It was also a good month for favorites. I mean, I always love the things I share in these posts, but I SUPER love everything that made the list this month.


Odacite Beautiful Day Moisturizer : I hate that I love this moisturizer as much as I do. It came in the green beauty box from The Detox Market that I bought myself for my birthday, so I didn't pay retail price for it, which is great about because it's $75. *CRIES.* But it is super lightweight and absorbent, so it goes on the skin so smooth without the tacky feeling that a lot of moisturizers leave behind. It also has ingredients to stimulate collagen production, which helps firm up the skin (which is a thing I have to care about at age 33, *cries again*) and I am seeing a difference in my skin texture while using it. I don't know if I can stomach the price to replace it once I'm done with this bottle, but for now I'll savor it.

Gaycation : This is Ellen Page's documentary-style TV show in which she and her best friend Ian Daniel travel around the world to explore LGBTQ culture in various countries. If you know me at all you're already aware that I love travel shows, but I also care a great deal about social issues and supporting the LGBTQ community. This show was so well done; it was informative, insightful and at times infuriating and heartbreaking. I admire Ellen Page so much for having some really difficult conversations, and for continuing to speak up even when her voice would shake. Season 1 has four episodes—Japan, Brazil, Jamaica, and USA—and I believe they're filming a second season right now. Please watch it if you can.

Clue app : What would we do without period tracking apps?! I'd been using another app (that shall remain nameless) since probably 2011 or so, but I've always thought the interface was total garbage. It got to the point where I just had so much data in there that I continued to use it out of habit. But enough people recommended Clue recently that I downloaded it just to try it out, and OMG the interface is so much better. You can choose what you want to track along with your monthly cycle (ex: exercise, skin, energy levels, sex, mood, etc.). And the more you use it, the more it is able to predict about your cycle, down to exactly when you'll get a zit. And it's free! The only downside is that my previous app won't let me import my data into Clue, so it looks like I'll have to do it manually (but that's the fault of my previous app, not Clue, which does allow data importing through the native iPhone health app).

La Croix Cúrate : I've always been sort of indifferent towards the sparkling water trend. I'd almost always rather drink plain tap water (which is literally my favorite thing to drink, how boring does that make me?) and I've never felt like I needed it as a soda replacement because I don't like soda. I'd rather reach for a kombucha if I want something different. But I saw La Croix Curate on sale at Target recently, and decided to try the Melon-Pomelo flavor (cantaloupe and pink grapefruit). It's really refreshing and not too sweet or fake tasting, and I sort of get the hype now! I'm curious to try their other flavors, especially Cherry Lime and Apple Berry.

Lemonade by Beyoncé : I bought my first ever Beyoncé album! I caught pieces of the visual album when it aired a few weekends ago and just had to see the whole thing in its entirety. Such power and vulnerability. It's been incredible to witness and learn how this album has affected fans and what it represents to black women specifically. I'll leave you with some links to insightful pieces from women of color—A Call and Response with Melissa Harris-Perry: The Pain and the Power of 'Lemonade'Beyoncé's Lemonade is Made for ReadersLemonade is Beyoncé's Body and Blood, and Beyoncé's 'Lemonade' is What Happens When Black Women Control Their Art.

Hot For Food / Lauren Toyota on YouTube : I've mentioned these channels in a favorites video before but I don't think I've blogged about them yet. Hot For Food is a vegan cooking channel on YouTube run by Lauren Toyota and her boyfriend John. Their cooking videos are so well-produced and I love the variety from sharable 1-minute recipes, to cooking challenges between Lauren and John, to Recipe?! videos where Lauren uses what she has in the fridge to come up with a recipe on the spot. I also like Lauren's personal channel for Q&As, What I Ate in a Day, and vlog videos. Lauren has a fun and sassy personality, but she seems really grounded in herself and is not at all preachy about vegan issues. It's much more about good food that happens to be vegan than pushing an agenda. (I tried their artichoke "crab" cakes and cauliflower buffalo wings, and both came out tasty!)

2 Dope Queens podcast : This podcast is SO GREAT and SO FUNNY. It's hosted by my fantasy BFF Jessica Williams of The Daily Show and her friend, writer-comedian Phoebe Robinson. It's a mix of BFF chatter (which has become one of my favorite types of podcast conversation) and storytelling/stand-up comedy featuring many women and people of color. I enjoy comedy podcasts and stand-up comedy in general, but it's a field largely dominated by straight white men. I love these ladies for focusing on diverse comedians, and the stories they share are often hilarious (though, as with most stand-up comedy, you should go in expecting a certain level of inappropriateness).

Thayer's Rose Petal Witch Hazel : To counter-balance the expensive moisturizer I mentioned above, I also want to rave about Thayer's Witch Hazel, which I think is a great budget beauty buy at $7.99 for a large bottle. I've used it as a toner and a face-mist, and it's as good or even better than the pricey bottle of Herbivore Botanicals rose face mist that I won in a giveaway recently. They smell almost the same, and both contain aloe, witch hazel, and rose water. And if rose is not your jam, it also comes in various other scents.

Link Love : April


Laura Gibson - Empire Builder

♥ Saveur's Spring Produce Guide is a good resource for seasonal eating, with buying/storing/prepping tips and recipes for everything from artichokes to rhubarb.

♥ A lovely interview with Susannah Conway, a long-time blog favorite of mine, covering everything from her unique approach to business to her creative process. 

♥ I was excited to learn that On Being podcast host Krista Tippett released a book this month, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. It was immediately added to my library hold list.

♥ Is Instagram and the quest for the perfect travel photo taking away from our ability to be present while on vacation? I think about this a lot, both as a photography lover and someone who values being in the moment, especially in new places. 

♥ On the other hand: I do love this vacation video montage created with the app 1 Second Everyday, and I think it would make a great keepsake to look back on years later. 

♥ Forbes is launching a series of podcasts aimed at entrepreneurial millennial women. I like the concept of "Uncommon Ground," "The Limit Does Not Exist," and "And/And" (though I admit I have yet to listen to any).

♥ 10 famous authors on the importance of keeping a journal.

♥ I've mentioned before that Evernote is an app that overwhelms me, so I enjoyed a peek at how Caylee Gray makes Evernote work for her creative process

♥ Tumeric milk seems to be having a moment in the healthy living world, and this combo of cold brew coffee with spiced milk sounds pretty intriguing! (My attempts at avoiding coffee are going v well, clearly.)

♥ In music: Besides Laura Gibson (above), I've also been listening to new albums from The Lumineers (Cleopatra) and Birdy (Beautiful Lies), and these singles: Forest Fires by Axel Flovent, Elephant by Hannah Georgas, and Brother by Mighty Oaks (love the PNW vibes in the video and shots of Mt. Hood and the Gorge!).  

What I Read : January to March

This year so far has mostly been one giant reading slump. I'm not reading as much as I used to, I'm currently not making book videos, and I've been striking out with a lot of the books I've been picking up. But we still have almost 3/4 of the year to go, so hopefully I'll find myself falling back in love with reading in the upcoming months. Here's what I've read so far this year; despite my slump, there ARE a few gems in there!

The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum

The Unspeakable is a collection of autobiographical essays that center around the thoughts and topics of conversation that many people avoid speaking about—things like fraught relationships, illness, death, and the choice to have children or not. Not surprisingly, the collection was candid and insightful in a way that I really enjoyed, and I could find something relatable (or at least understandable) in a majority of the essays. There was only one essay that was a complete miss for me, called "Honorary Dyke." While I see no issue with Daum exploring her sexuality, this essay veered into problematic cliches and stereotypes, and I found it severely lacked the self-awareness that gave the rest of the collection its strength.


And Again by Jessica Chiarella

And Again is a literary science fiction novel that focuses on four terminally ill/disabled patients—an artist, a Congressman, a mother, and an actress—who take part in an experimental medical program that grants them a perfect and disease-free clone of their body—and therefore a second chance at life. Through multiple points of view, we get to see how each of them adjusts to their new bodies and the issues that arise along the way. It was an extremely thought-provoking book, raising questions about the mind/body connection and how our identities are shaped and expressed through our bodies. It's much more of a character study than a plot-driven novel, but I quite enjoyed it. While I thought that each of the characters had a well-developed and unique voice, there is somewhat of an imbalance among the four characters and I was left wishing for clearer resolution for two of them.

Rating: ☆ 1/2

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

My first book of the year was Fourth of July Creek, which is a grit lit novel set in Montana in the late 1980's. It focuses on a social worker trying to help children and families in the rural Northwest while also facing his own problems of alcoholism, a crumbling family, and a teen daughter that runs away from home. I found the flawed characters and the rural setting to be the best parts of the book, but the plot really dragged—it took me until I was about 70% through the book to have any idea where it was going, and that felt like far too long. Smith Henderson has been championed as a new writer to watch, and he is sometimes compared to Cormac McCarthy, but I found his style to swing between overly verbose and short and choppy. I would only check it out if you're curious about the grit lit genre or if the premise sounds interesting because otherwise it'd probably be a drag.


The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans is a historical fiction novel in which a lighthouse keeper and his wife live on a remote island off the coast of Australia in the 1920s. After suffering through a number of miscarriages, the couple finds a boat washed ashore with a living baby inside, and the wife convinces her husband to keep the baby and raise her as their own under the assumption that the baby's parents died at sea. Unpopular opinion: I hated this book. It's Jodi Piccoult meets historical fiction. I thought the moral dilemma was far too obvious and handled very explicitly instead of letting the reader grapple with the issues presented. Instead of sympathizing with the characters' struggles, I found them insufferable and thought that they each made their situations infinitely more complicated. Additionally, the oceanic setting was beautifully depicted, but it was conveniently and intentionally constructed to isolate the characters and incite the drama. To me it is lazy writing to create a world in which only the main characters exist; the main conflict literally would not have occurred if even ONE OTHER person was present besides the husband and wife. But people seem to love this book, and I suppose it makes for good book club discussions. MEH.


Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Year of Yes is Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes' half-memoir, half-self-help book about how she transformed herself from a person who said "no" out of fear to someone who embraces life and says "yes" wholeheartedly, particularly to the things that scare her. In some tangental ways it reminded me a bit of both My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, but Year of Yes felt more self-reflective and honest. (I go into more detail comparing these books in this review video if you'd like to hear more.) I enjoyed the anecdotes about Shonda's life and could relate to a lot of her fears, and I was inspired by her desire to engage with her life more fully. If anything, I wish that she would have dug further into some parts of her story instead of glossing over them with humor. I also felt she too easily flipped from "Old Shonda" to "New Shonda," which suggests that the process of change is as easy as flipping a switch. Perhaps I'm overly stubborn, but change is much harder for me. But I also don't have the eyes of Hollywood on me, expecting me to step up! ;)


In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

In Order to Live is a powerful book about a part of the world that remains a mystery to most of us. Yeonmi describes what it was like to grow up in North Korea, how she escaped to China and was sold into a slave marriage at 13, and finally how she became a refugee in South Korea and was eventually able to access the education and opportunities she so desired while making a name for herself as an activist. It was a difficult read, but Yeonmi tells her tale in an almost detached tone that doesn't elaborate on explicit details, so I would recommend it to even those people who are sensitive to human rights abuses. It's one of those books that feels like required reading, both to be awed by Yeonmi's remarkable strength as well as appreciating our own freedoms.



I'd love to hear about the best book you've read lately! I'm definitely looking for recommendations—I have yet to read a 5-star book this year and I want to be blown away!

March Recap & April Goals.

I almost ignored this post this month; the goal setting process can sometimes bring out the perfectionist AND the rebel in me, which can be a recipe for disaster—something along the lines of "well, if I can't do exactly what I set out to do 100% perfectly, then I'M NOT GOING TO DO ANNNYTHING." And on top of that, the prospect of recounting my "failures" publicly on this blog (to my 4 readers, lol) made me want to forget about it altogether and just go to bed with a pint of ice cream instead. 

But when I sit down to think about my month and work through these posts, what I'm reminded of again and again is that the point is not perfection. Getting where I want to go in terms of my health, creative life, or in my relationships is about a series of small choices each better than the last. It's the grit to keep trying and the grace when I inevitably trip and fall (or just sit down on a park bench for a momentary breather). Even when my goals aren't achieved 100% perfectly—which is the vast majority of the time, let's be honest—I am always learning more about myself and my needs and motivations. 


BODY | Daily physical therapy stretch routine, a minimum of 5 times a week. 
This continues to be a work-in-progress and not without its setbacks, mostly in the form of other discomforts and pains that pop up along the way. But I will continue to work at it. I did learn that what really helps me is giving myself something to look forward to in regards to my exercises and stretches—especially prior to it becoming a habit where the activity is its own reward. For me, uninterrupted podcast listening time is enough to make me look forward to doing my routine, and it is also a convenient distraction during the more painful moments ;)

MIND | Cut back on social media. 
Aside from engaging with/lurking on social media less frequently, I went forward with my plan to cut who I was following by about 50%, although I did add some new accounts to the mix that are more pertinent to my current interests. For example, started following a small handful of new-to-me hand-letterers and illustrators on Instagram, and found a few YouTubers making well-edited and thought-provoking content. For me, social media "balance" is partially about quantity, since I'm easily overwhelmed and overstimulated by too much content, but it's also about quality and variety. It's been good to cut back because it's helped me to see what direction I want to go in creatively, and not just blindly following the trends of the communities I'm a part of. 

SOUL | Find a tutoring placement.
I finished up my literacy tutor training, received my certificate, and filled out an availability form, but I learned that I now have to wait to hear from the tutoring coordinator before I can jump into a placement. Hopefully my availability corresponds with their needs and we'll be able to work something out, perhaps for summer or fall semesters. 

LIGHT | Where did I find "Light" in March?
To be honest, March felt heavy. It was not a happy month for me personally; I felt a bit lost and rootless in my life and out-of-touch with myself, which are feelings I'm no stranger to. And when this happens, it can feel like trying to climb out of quicksand. My daily gratitude practice remained, but the things I was able to notice and record were obvious or simple, like a rare good night's sleep and remembering to take my vitamins. But looking back on the month now, I can see a few other bright spots: the rainy weather beginning to break, buying some outdoor furniture so that we can take better advantage of our balcony this spring and summer, returning to a way of eating that feels fresh and lighter (and mostly avoiding the coffee drinks that make me feel gross), and being able to have dinner outside. When my anxiety flared up, I was able to handle it a little bit better than in the past, mostly by facing the damn things without giving myself too much time to worry about them. Baby steps.


BODY | Daily physical therapy exercises/stretches AND start getting up earlier in the morning.
Keep doing those PT exercises! They will get easier and they will eventually help reduce the persistent physical pain I feel. Aside from that I want to gradually wake up earlier. While I am a morning(-ish) person, I have found it difficult to actually get out of bed (I have a feeling this has more to do with my mental health than, say, the amount of sleep I'm getting). I'd like the early morning hours to eventually be a time to write and/or meditate, before the day's to-do's demand attention.

MIND | Work on developing a new portfolio website.
It really bothers me that I don't have one central place online that acts as a portfolio for my diverse work, mostly because I've never been entirely comfortable with identifying as a renaissance woman—in my case a hybrid graphic artist/writer/content creator. I think I saw my jack-of-all trades skill set as a detriment, and it was easier for me to communicate what I do to employers, potential clients, or acquaintances when I only focused on one compartmentalized part of myself. Only recently have I begun to embrace a more holistic approach to my creative pursuits. While I don't know where it will lead me in the future, it feels more true to myself, and I'd like to  re-vamp my sites and portfolio accordingly. 

SOUL | Socialize!
First up will be a visit from my mom and step-dad next week! They will be our second visitors in Portland, and I'm excited to show them the gorgeous nature spots and to just hang out with them for the first time since Mark and I were in Illinois for Christmas. Aside from that, it's *really* time for me to focus on growing my community in Portland. A few ideas: I have an online acquaintance I'd like to meet for coffee, there are two bookclub Meetups I could attend, I should probably find a yoga/pilates/barre class, I want to go to at least one Unitarian Universalist service, etc. I'd like to stay away from situations where socializing is based on drinking, but I think I'll be able to find at least a few things that are more my speed. I'm not expecting fast friends—that's not my style anyways—but more so I just want to get in the habit of talking to new people, and any new friendships will evolve from there.