BEST OF 2014: Books

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It’s that time of year again, the time of year when we all look back upon the last year of our lives and assess what we accomplished and what we learned and what mistakes we made. While sitting on my floor and looking at my bookshelves, I immediately knew which books I had to include in this Best of 2014: Books post. These are all books that consumed me at one point or another over the past year, books that took a bullet right to my heart and inspired me in one way or another. Let’s get started.

  1. Graduates In Wonderland by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale: Two best friends who make a pact the night before their college graduation that they will keep in touch after they graduate no matter what. That means weekly emails that span across countries as Rachel moves to New York City and then Paris and as Jess moves from Beijing and then to Melbourne. When I finished this book, I quite honestly felt like I should just call them up for coffee because I legitimately felt like we were friends. They are two of the most entertaining and captivating writers I have come across, and their story is a memorable look at friendship and entering the real world.
  2. City Of Glass by Cassandra Clare: In 2014, I discovered the author that is Cassandra Clare and quickly proceeded to read every single book she’s ever published. City Of Glass, Book 3 of The Mortal Instruments series, was my favorite book of hers as it felt like I was living in a TV series and each chapter was a different episode. (And what do you know, the series is actually going to be a TV show!) It’s entirely too complicated to explain the plot line in this post, but I seriously recommend that you pick yourself up a copy of one of Clare’s masterpieces.
  3. Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman: You’ve probably heard of the Netflix show, but you probably haven’t heard that it is based on a book. Orange Is The New Black is Kerman’s real life recollection of her time in a women’s prison in Connecticut, and it is pretty much guaranteed that you will end up as her number one cheerleader, rooting her on from the sidelines as she stumbles her way through a 15-month sentence.
  4. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: Attachments is told through a string of emails between two best friends, Beth and Jennifer, who work for the same newspaper. (A string of emails that is illegal according to company policy.) In fact, Lincoln O’Neill was just hired to read through everyone’s emails to make sure that nobody is sending personal emails on the clock. But when Lincoln starts reading their overly detailed emails about their lives, he can’t help but be drawn in to their story and ends up not reporting them for misconduct. I can’t find the proper way to explain just how captivating Rowell’s words are. She seriously knows how to write, and this office romance novel will capture your heart from the very first page.
  5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: I really had no idea what to expect when I opened this book, but I was immediately drawn in to Lockhart’s poetic prose and quickly fell in love with the storyline and the characters. The marketing ploy is “If anybody asks you how it ends, just lie.” So of course, there I was thinking how immature it was to assume that the ending could really be that spectacular, and how it really couldn’t set the book that far apart from other YA novels…… And then I read the ending. And it shattered me into a million little pieces. You’ve been warned.
  6. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris: If you’re in a looking for happy-go-lucky book, this is it. If you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh, this is it. If you’re looking for a book that will take you to opposite sides of the globe and into the mind of (in my opinion) one of the best writers of this generation, this is it. I actually bought this book last year but I recently re-read it and fell in love all over again with David Sedaris.

What were your favorite books this year? Let me know below!

Recent Relevations

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Does this post need an intro? Yeah, I guess all posts need intros…. So basically these are thoughts that have been swarming my brain recently and I thought I would share them because that’s what blogs are for, right?

  • People who straight-up wear pajamas on red eye flights are people who are living life right.
  • I have started drinking soda again because life’s too short to skip out on those kinds of things.
  • I would like to bundle up my SoulCycle teacher in New York and take him back to California with me. I was in New York this week and the 45 minutes I spent in his class were the best 45 minutes of my entire trip. Seriously though. I miss him already.
  • Just because you have not felt certain emotions before does not mean that they do not exist. This week I have felt more emotions than I know how to fit into my brain. And sometimes it’s emotions that you wish you never knew existed. (The vaguest bullet point of all time? Yep.)
  • My favorite coffee shop in New York plays movies on a projection screen behind the the coffee machines and the other day there was somebody giving birth on screen and I was revolted before I realized that it was Star Trek.
  • The Spiced Chai tea from Trader Joe’s is top notch.
  • Not everybody likes In N’ Out, even when you specifically offer to bring it to them. (I KNOW?!? I WAS JUST AS FLABBERGASTED AS YOU ARE?!?)

Happy Saturday!

6 Tips For Writing

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Just as a subtle disclaimer, I am definitely not an expert in this field, these are just some writing tips that have really helped me along the way. Let’s get started!

  1. Just write: Just start typing and don’t stop. Eventually, you will find something worthwhile to talk about, and when that happens, it is even more crucial that you do not stop. Don’t go back and edit out the beginning or fix your grammar mistakes once you get in a groove because you will lose your train of thought and that douse of brilliance that was ever-so-briefly networked into your mind.
  2. Pretend you are describing things to somebody who is arriving onto Earth for the first time but who knows the basic lay of the land/vocabulary. Describe things beyond just saying them in order to evoke emotion into the words. The grass wasn’t just green, it was a particular shade of green that you only see in the color-corrected intros of television shows, and the main character wasn’t just embarrassed, she was facing the overwhelming realization that she could in fact never be friends with Felicia ever again and that she would have to convince her parents to let her change schools because her level of embarrassment was something that her 13-year-old self could never recover from. You know? I hope that makes sense.
  3. People like stories: This one is specifically for bloggers (because if you’re writing a book, then obviously you should be telling a story). In order for your readers to gain a level of trust with you, they have to feel like they know you. And if you tell them the right stories, they probably will end up knowing you. Think about it this way.. Tell your readers what you tell your dog. About the good days and the bad days. Because your dog loves you, and your readers love a good story. And you know what? They are people too and they are might be going through the same thing right now.
  4. Set aside time for writing: Specifically, set a schedule for when you write and stick to it. It can be the same time every day, the same time every Saturday, the same time every weekday, etc. But make sure it’s consistent and that you stay consistent because your brain will eventually rewire to write during that time and it will start coming more naturally. It doesn’t even have to be a specific time, it can also be a specific environment where you are most productive. But regardless, stay consistent.
  5. Read: Everyone always says that in order to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. And just to get this out, because it was something that stumped me for so long…. it doesn’t matter what you read. I have a friend who writes YA (Young Adult) and I told her that I felt extremely under-read compared to my peers and she said laughed and said that it didn’t matter how much I read as long as I read the right things. She reads a lot of YA because that’s the genre she wants to publish in. You don’t have to read historical nonfiction if you don’t want to write historical nonfiction. That being said, you can absolutely read out-of-genre and that will give you a larger viewpoint of the writing world, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t.
  6. Take writing classes: You can take writing classes about quite honestly anything: developing dialogue, short stories, composing a novel, general creative writing, etc. If anything, writing classes will give you writing prompts which will help develop your skills. A good writing teacher can make or break you. Hopefully the first option. Robyn Schneider, the author of The Beginning Of Everything, is actually teaching an online class this January if you are interested! Check it out here.

Hope those tips helped! Happy Wednesday!

THE BEST THINGS ABOUT WINTER

happyholidaysI am currently sitting on the couch watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and I have decided that I want to be Bilbo Baggins when I grow up.  I am also drinking a Cherry Cola Zevia. A guy I sat next to on a plane once told me about Zevia sodas but I never actually believed him that they tasted the same as regular soda except without any sugar. But hey…. I guess he was right. Sorry I doubted you, Nick. Anyways, here’s ten things that make me happy about this time of year:

  1. Christmas sweaters, obviously. (Of which I own a whopping 0.)
  2. RAIN. Oh gosh I love the rain. And it’s actually raining right now! Can you believe it?! (I would say snow, but this California girl has not seen snow since approximately 2009.)
  3. VLOGMAS. Oh, you don’t watch YouTube? Nevermind…
  4. Holiday gift sets! (Gift guide for these coming ASAP.)
  5. Red cups at Starbucks.
  6. The smell of Christmas trees.
  7. Buying Christmas presents for people that you already know they will love because you know them so well. My sister is the easiest person ever to shop for so I’ve ended up buying her way too many presents and have to figure out how to regift them to other people because or else she will have fifteen gifts under the tree all from me. (That is a major exaggeration but you get the point.)
  8. Making/decorating Christmas cookies. I say this as if it is something that I do all the time, but in reality my attention span for things like this only allows me to do this once this month before I get distracted and burn everything.
  9. HOLIDAY PARTIES. Obviously? There is nothing better than a good holiday party.
  10. Dogs who wear festive sweaters.

What are your favorite parts about this time of year?

Things I’ve Learned in 2014

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On the real, I have a very specific memory of my 7-year-old self sitting in the computer lab of my school and telling my friend, “I can’t believe it’s going to be 2000! It’s gonna be so weird to write 0’s in the date instead of 9’s!” And here we are…. On the brink of 2015 and could somebody please explain to me WHERE THE TIME HAS GONE?!?! Honestly, I demand a refund. Anyways, here’s the top ten things I learned this year:

  1. In your greatest time of need, your real friends will step forward and the ones who never really cared will step backwards.
  2. And on that note, you need your friends more than you will ever be able to comprehend.
  3. New York City is the greatest city in the world. (Well, one of them.)
  4. Red lipstick fixes everything.
  5. There is a tangible difference between good coffee and Starbucks coffee.
  6. IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS ARE NEVER REALLY THAT FAR OUT OF REACH. Seriously though.
  7. Cats are just as cute as dogs.
  8. If you don’t like a book, you shouldn’t waste your time finishing it.
  9. You can try to fight it, but there is nothing better than keeping up with the Kardashians. (P.S. Kourtney just had her baby today!)
  10. Your life is a privilege, not a guarantee.

Anything in particular that you learned this year? Lemme know!

Holiday Gift Guide: The Blogger

bloggerguideGiven that this is a blog, I’m guessing that there are a lot of people who read this blog (or who read blogs in general) who have blogs themselves? Correct? So today I shall be doing a gift guide for the blogger in your life (or for yourself!). Let’s get started.

  1. A Beautiful Mess 2015 Planner: Not only are these planners insanely adorable, they are made by a blogger duo (and their team!). The planners are all-inclusive with a storage pocket, two sticker sheets, a place-marking ribbon, monthly divider tabs, and an elastic band closure!
  2. HeartAndArrowDesign Blog Weekly Planner: The. Most. Ingenious. Thing. You. Have. Ever. Seen? Seriously, I might just keep up this “post every day” thing I this was in my possession.
  3. Jac Vanek ‘Full Of Secrets’ Canvas Pouch: Because a blogger’s makeup bag is obviously full of secrets. Well.. full of secrets that they spill on their blog on a daily basis…
  4. CharmAndGumption Bloggers Gonna Blog Print: Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.. and the BLOGGERS GONNA BLOG, BLOG, BLOG, BLOG, BLOG.
  5. CharmAndGumption Blogs & Coffee Heart Mug: The perfect addition to your morning blogging session. This design also comes in a print to hang on your wall!
  6. FOTOSTRAP Custom Canvas Camera Strap: Get your favorite blogger’s initials or name engraved on one of these adorable camera straps! Sooo much better than those default camera brand black straps.
  7. BlogShop: On the real, this is the class that taught me everything I know about Photoshop. Within two hours of the beginning of the first day, I had already learned how to resize photos, create grids, and adjust saturation levels. If there’s not a class happening in your region, they also offer the course online!
  8. Photography Lighting Equipment: After going back and forth on what a blogger would actually NEED, it came to me that most bloggers are also photography nuts. Blog photography is a big part of how your blog looks, and it’s hard to find the perfect natural lighting to grab that perfect shot. So why not get them some professional backdrops or reflectors? I found this amazing post about all of the lighting equipment you could ever need for your blog, and all of the links to products can be found over there.

Do you have a blog? Do any of these items pop out at you as something you desperately need?

Ravioli Talk

My brother is the kind of person who can eat an abnormally large portion of food in one sitting (without ever gaining any weight for that matter…). Whenever we are out for dinner and the waiter mentions their abnormally large combo meal (or the seafood soup), we always look at my brother because 95% of the time, that is what he will end up ordering. At home, he always eats an abnormally large bowl of raviolis whenever my mom makes it. Like, his bowl of raviolis could probably feed a small village of people.

So there I am, thinking that i will be a nice sister and get him his bowl of raviolis and his large glass of orange juice (also a staple in his diet), and bring it to him while he is busy studying for finals. So I make this abnormally large bowl of raviolis that could feed a small village and I walk to the back room where he is studying and it turns out that he is not studying there. It turns out that he has gone to the library to study and I am stuck here with this abnormally large bowl of ravioli. And what in the world am I supposed to do with it?

Well.

I do what any rational human being would do with an abnormally large bowl of raviolis and I eat it.

I ate the whole thing and drank the entire glass of orange juice and now I am just sitting starting at the TV (the TV is not actually on because I cannot find the remote). And all of these thoughts about this ravioli are streaming through my head like a broken video cassette.

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Why did you eat so much ravioli?

Are you aware that you only went to SoulCycle once this week?

Are you aware that that was an abnormally large bowl of ravioli?

What are you going to do now?

WHERE IS THE REMOTE?

Did you really have to eat that much ravioli?

NO SERIOUSLY WHERE IS IT.

How are you going to break it to your mid-finals-studying-and-stressed-out brother that you ate all of his ravioli?

Remember that cup of tea you made yourself before you drank your brother’s orange juice? Yeah that’s cold now.

DID THIS REMOTE DISAPPEAR OUT OF THIN AIR.

Why is the cat staring at me?

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So you know… just a typical Thursday night. How’s your Thursday night going?

December Playlist

It’s pretty common knowledge that you can tell a lot about a person by what kind of music they listen to. So the question, “who are your favorite artists?” is a very stressful situation to face depending on who you are talking to. For example, if it’s somebody you just met, you may name-drop famous musicians and rockstars. But if you’re talking to your high school friends, you may actually just force them to listen to Selena Gomez’s new song with you when you pick them up to drive to your high school reunion. The beats that stream through your headphones as your feet hit the pavement and the music that floats through your car while you’re driving down the freeway and the harmonies that simmer through your noise-canceling headphones on the Subway all collide to form your lyrical view of the world.

I always wonder how to put together playlists of songs because I know if I just list them, nobody will actually listen to them, soooooo I’m putting videos of the songs so that they are at your disposal.

Megan & Liz – “Happy Birthday”

 

Vance Joy – “Mess Is Mine”

 

One Direction – “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”

 

Mary Lambert – “Secrets”

 

Colbie Caillat – “Live It Up”

 

Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

 

Dan + Shay – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

 

What songs are you listening to this month? Have you gotten your holiday music out yet? Let me know!

 

 

A Selection of Sweaters

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Is there anything better than a good ol’ sweater to throw on to make you feel like you’re sitting around a fireplace roasting marshmallows and wrapping Christmas presents? The answer is no. I just made this neat-o little collage of my favorite sweaters I’ve found on the interwebs and I just realized that it is organized into cropped sweaters and sweater dresses. COOL! Also, the first three are from MINKPINK and I didn’t realize that until I finished, soooooo that just show you how obsessed I am with MINKPINK at the moment. And then we’ve got some DailyLook options as well as TopShop and H&M. Let’s get started!

  1. MINKPINK Chalet Girl Cable Knit Sweater: Cropped sweaters go well with high-waisted pants & midi skirts and can also be worn over a dress. This also comes in a divine mustard yellow color. It also comes in a sweater dress version!
  2. MINKPINK Never Enough Stripe Knit Top: This striped crop sweater also has a hood. Party!!
  3. MINKPINK Crop Cable Sweater: Soooo Meghan Rienks was wearing this in the beginning of day 2 of her #Vlogmas videos and I immediately scoured the web for it because.. I mean…  HELLOOOO GORGEOUS. My excellent internet stalking skills led me to it. And I basically just open up the link daily and wish that I could snap my fingers and have it appear in my closet.
  4. Three Of Something Solstice Cable Knit Sweater: I had to include this because it’s so gorgeous but it’s sold out right now so you will have to get on the waitlist if you want to get it! SO SORRY BUT I JUST HAD TO INCLUDE IT.
  5. TopShop Team Rudolph Sweater: All you need is a red nose and you’re all set for your Christmas sweater party this season!
  6. H&M Knit Turtleneck Sweater: I haven’t really seen a lot of green sweaters this season, and this one completely makes up for that. It’s a deep forrest green that would make everyone look twice when you walk by.
  7. H&M Turtleneck Sweater: I love slit-side sweaters because I think it makes them all the more flowy & flattering. This one is gor-geous.

Would you wear any of these sweaters? Let me know below!

 

Three Years

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On December 5th, five days ago, I hit the three-year anniversary of my blog! And so today, I am writing a love letter to this platform and all that it has done for me.

To get straight to the point, blogging calms my mind. Writing out my emotions or perfecting a photo edit or piecing together the opening hook of a blog post that came to me out of nowhere makes me feel an unmatched sense of accomplishment. And these days, finding something that I can feel accomplished about in my life seems to be a rare flower that only blooms once a year so to have something that I can feel accomplished about every single day has probably saved my sanity.

To be perfectly honest, a lot of my life is spent under the harsh reality that I haven’t made something of myself. That I’m behind in the time schedule that has been set out for me for my entire life. I judge myself harsher than other people judge me, and I picture other people creating this persona out me that they are disappointed in, and there’s nothing I can do to stop that. Sometimes I don’t return phone calls or text messages because confronting those feelings makes me crumble up inside. Having a blog gives me something to work towards and to create content and to feel a tiny shred of success.

Over the past three years, a lot has happened. And I’m so thankful that I can always look back on certain moments to remember that magic is real and that seemingly impossible things are entirely possible. Thanks for sticking around for so long, I can’t wait to see what the next year will hold!