How I Spent My Christmas

A couple of days ago, I posted a list of alternative activities to the traditional Christmas, geared towards loners (like myself this year), and also people of other faiths (as my friend Nicole pointed out in the comments). So, I thought I'd check back in and share which things I actually did!

I wish I could say I slept in, but this little girl wouldn't let me. Oh well.

I tried to put a bow on Olive's head so that I could get a good Christmas picture of her. Instead, this happened.

I'm going to make a "real" Christmas dinner when my mom and brother are in town, so I decided a big breakfast would be the best way to celebrate on the day of. Banana whole wheat buttermilk waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon, too much coffee. The best.

Olive chilled, I watched You've Got Mail. I decided I wanted to watch some old favorites, and I hadn't seen this one is so long! Plus, I think it's done on Netflix at the end of the month, so the timing was perfect.

It was a seriously gorgeous day. I was so happy because of the weather and the holiday, and Olive's gift to me was that she was on such good behavior.

Olive and I haven't played fetch in a while because it's been cold and, depending on the day, rainy, snowy, wintery mix-y, muddy, or generically gross, plus I've been busy. All the things aligned and we played fetch for so long and soaked up some vitamin D.

After fetch I had this feeling like I wanted to run, which I haven't done since early November because of the weather and crazy schedule. We drove through our trafficless town to the track and did a few laps.

Olive doesn't seem to love being in the car (or, at least, she doesn't ever want to get into it and she jumps out asap), so I rewarded her for good behavior with a quick walk around the neighborhood when we got back home.

Then it was Meg & Tom part two with Sleepless in Seattle. Seriously, those two. Perfection.

Later, Olive chilled out with me while I drank wine and watched Good Will Hunting. Because you just can't see that movie too many times. First Robin Williams movie I've watched since he passed. Bittersweet.

Not pictured: dishes, floor sweeping, lounging in bed, photo printing and displaying (been meaning to work on this forever!), Christmas light hanging (for the family when they arrive), face mask, late holiday card writing, thanks giving.

Christmas Day this year was like a really great day off, a good mix of relaxing and productive, but I was in a super good mood because of the holiday and felt totally justified in allowing myself little indulgences, like three movies in one day. I was the happiest I can remember being in a long time, and I am grateful for it.

I hope you all had lovely whatever you celebrate days, and I'd love to hear about how you spent them!

Yours Truly, Jen

Merry Christmas! (Plus Some Things To Do If You're Flying Solo This Year)

Christmas has been kind of weird in my family since my parents divorced when I was in college, and my little brother (my only sibling still at home) goes back and forth between my parents. But, this year is my first year ever not being home to celebrate Christmas with my family, and that feels really weird. Since I'm working in retail right now, driving home this year didn't seem feasible. Since I'm not religious, Christmas is really a secular holiday for me; it's all about tradition and being with my family on a special day. And since that wasn't possible for me this year, I'm keeping this holiday low key and staying at home and celebrating with my pup.

Merry Christmas from Jen & Olive!
If you're flying solo this year, here are some ideas for how to make this holiday special:
-Make yourself an awesome meal
-Gift yourself something you really want but would usually never buy yourself
-Send out holiday cards/email/e-cards
-Call--or better yet, facetime/skype--family and friends
-Use this extra day off of work to do a small project. Check your to-do lists, or browse through your Pinterest board for inspiration!
-Make some mulled wine or cider or eggnog (these recipes are everywhere!), drink too much, and dance
-Start writing up your New Year's resolutions
-Watch Christmas movies, or not-so-traditional Christmas movies (You've Got Mail is on my docket for the day!)
-Spend extra quality time with your pets
-Order chinese take-out
-Look at photos from Christmases past
-Get everything clean and organized so you can have an awesome, stress-free work week and NYE
-hone your snowflake-cutting skills
-write something
-binge read your favorite book, or pick up a new favorite
-download some new music (hint: All Songs Considered's favorites lists are up!)
-Pamper yourself. Light a candle, have a long bath, do a face mask, drink a hot toddy or tea, slather on moisturizer from head to toe
-Meditate (Headspace Take 10 is awesome for getting into it. If you haven't already, you need to try it. I promise it's worth it).
-Go to bed early
-Drink hot cocoa
-Make some cookies and bring them to work the next day
-Meet up with other loners for a drink
-Do some volunteer work

Thankfully, my mom and little brother will be visiting me next week and two of my sisters and my nephew were here for Thanksgiving, so I will have seen most of my family this year. Hoping to see more of them next year! What are your plans for the holiday?

Yours Truly, Jen

Meet Olive!

Hey! Here's a story for you.

It's Spring 2013. I suddenly get an irrepressible urge to get a dog. I find out about some beagles that are being re-homed for free by my school's vet school. I make an appointment to go look at the dogs. Then Andy says, we should find out how much it's going to cost us (from our rental company) to have a dog in the house before we go. I check into it. My jaw hits the floor. I cry. I scream. I make plans to get a dog without telling said rental company. Andy says no. I have all of the feelings.

Fast forward to Summer 2014, and I'm moving into my new place, a basement apartment in a house owned by my friends Dan and Amanda. Amanda asks me if I'm going to get a dog now that I live in a pet friendly home. I say no, because I know I'm going to have to move to other rentals in the future, and it doesn't seem practical. Plus, I have debt to pay off, and I shouldn't be taking on anything as expensive as a dog.

Then I get lonely, and that urge to have a dog comes back, and it comes back hard. I started talking to my coworker Heather, who has lived in the area her whole life and has the lowdown on the animal rescue situation. Because duh, obviously I'm going to get a rescue. I look around. I tell myself I am not going to get a puppy, because a puppy is going to be too much work. I drive all around, looking at dogs for weeks. I'm looking for a young dog, 1-2 years old, still trainable, still healthy and active, but not with all of that crazy puppy energy. It's hard to find dogs in this age range, because everyone wants one. I start to get frustrated, and start feeling like I have to have a dog NOW.

I had seen Olive in my local humane society before, earlier in my search, but she was a baby and I told myself no. I saw her again a second time, on a return trip to see if they'd gotten any new dogs, and I went into her kennel and played with her a bit. I almost filed paperwork on her then, but the workers said to be sure before they put her on hold, so I waited. I couldn't stop thinking about her. I went back a couple of days later and told myself that if she was still there, I would get her. She was. I put in the paperwork, and on Halloween, I picked her up.

Olive is a German Shepherd/Lab mix, which means she's smart and friendly and energetic and headstrong and food-motivated. She was a little less than four months old when I got her, and now she's 5 and a half months old. It's crazy how much she's grown up, and crazy how far we have left to go. Raising a puppy is hard, y'all! More about that later.

That's my getting my first pet (as an adult) story. I love her so much!

If you've got dog rearing/training tips or stories, lay em on me!

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. For plenty of puppy cuteness, make sure to follow me on Instagram!

What I'm Reading | I Am Having So Much Fun Without You, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, & Naked

In my hiatus from here, I've been doing lots of reading, and TV watching, and thinking, and missing writing, but also not being able to write for some reason. And now today, all of the sudden, I'm ready to come back. Except that it isn't all of the sudden, because I've been thinking about you constantly, and about all of the things I want to share with you.

Confession: I gave up on Sloane Crosley's second book. Remember how I said I wasn't that into it? Yeah, I really wasn't into it. I kept trying to be and wasn't. So oh well. I'm sure I'll return to it at some point. But since then, I've picked up some awesome books.

According to my calculations, I've finished four books since last week spoke. Which isn't a whole heck of a lot, or at least not as much as it could be. But I've half read some others, and I've been watching some good TV (share that with you soon!), so I'm okay with it.

The Essays

Naked, by David Sedaris.
Classic. Funny. Answers the question of what being at a nudist colony is really like. What more could you ask for? Plus, as always, if you listen to the audiobook he reads it, which makes everything better.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling.
True story: I started reading this I forget why. Probably someone in my news feed was talking about it or something, and I just got it on a whim. I read like half of the first story and immediately decided that I needed to start watching the Mindy Project. Which I did, and if you follow me on Instagram (which you maybe should?), you might have noticed that I lovee it. I also loved the book. I wholly recommend doing both together, show and book. Then you understand why Mindy chose to be an OBGYN on her TV show, and you can compare Danny to her list of what a man should be like (I love her list so much, btw. Can I please just delete my OK Cupid profile and put her list on there instead?). I'll be honest, sometimes Mindy can be a bit annoying. I find that at times she over does the fat jokes, and if you've read the book and watched the show, you do get some repeat jokes. But, the book feels really honest, and you get a real sense of her as a person, which I appreciate from a celebrity book.

The Fiction

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You: A Novel, by Courney Maum (is this title in answer to Mindy Kaling's? I never realized this until now!). I try to avoid describing what books are about at all costs, because generally I find summaries to ruin things. I try, instead, to give you a sense of what you might like about it. This book gives you one man's perspective on what it's like to be a lying cheater, and what it feels like to see your marriage fall apart and what it feels like when you try to put it back together. There's a lot of internal dialogue, which might bother some people, but I think it works here. There's art, there's French mother-in-law's, the setting jumps between America, England, and France, and you get a sense of what Western Europeans felt about the Iraq War. I wanted to see where everyone landed, and I wanted everyone to be okay.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple. This book was super fun to read. If you like books with multiple points of view and/or books comprised of interesting forms, this is for you. The world of these characters felt super real and super fleshed out and tangible and the characters had interesting histories and why we read everything we read all made sense in the end. Just read it.

What have you read and loved lately?

Yours Truly, Jen

Me, Lately (3)

Pardon my French, but holy shit, I haven't posted here in over a month. I've thought about it a lot, but it hasn't happened. But don't take it personally. It's not you, it's me. I haven't even been reading my favorite blogs. I actually was scared to open Bloglovin because I thought my computer would explode while trying to load the millions of posts I've fallen behind on. I haven't even been on the computer hardly at all. But, now that things have settled down a bit, I'm trying to get things together. So yeah, here's what's been going on with me lately.

1. I mentioned in my last life update post that I was working in a local jewelry store. I'm still doing that, and really liking it. I moved up to full time and getting my first commission check soon! Having a full time job that puts me on my feet and away from home so much is a lot of the reason I haven't been keeping up with things lately, because I'm exhausted when I get home and I was having to come home and unpack and get things settled and also get some other important things done, so for a while there I basically had zero free time. Oh yeah, and I'm all moved and settled. I guess I didn't really say that.

2. I actually started writing a whole post about this move, but I felt like it got way too long and way too personal. So, we'll see if I can wrangle that into something appropriate to publish on the internet. If not and we're personal friends, call me and I'll tell you all about it.

3. Two of my best Blacksburg friends just moved away and I am so sad about it. Long story short, we were going to live together and it was going to be awesome, and then one of them was offered a post-Doc at MIT and they moved to Boston. Boo. I mean, obviously I'm really happy for them and proud of them and blah blah, but how sad is my life now.

4. In the midst of serious rain and post-friends-moving-away heartache, I got myself a library card. This has been the highlight of my life lately. Wow, I'm the coolest.

5. Mindy Kaling is my favorite celebrity at the moment. I will talk more about this in another post soon.

6. I am in the process of re-training myself to read for fun instead of just watching television, see number four. While in school for English, I had to read a lot of required material, especially after starting to teach. I read very little for fun during the school year because my eyes (and schedule) could only take so much. Now, I get to read whatever I want, and I do very little of it for my job. So it's time to start catching up, pronto.

7. Are you guys watching the Bridge? What do you think of this season? I felt like the first season was overall really good (I mean, I kept watching, didn't I?) but was really hit or miss episode to episode. This season has been so good!

8. I made this for a friend's birthday cake and it turned out heavenly. Highly recommend for chocolate lovers. Just make sure not to overfill the cake pans, and put a baking sheet under the cake pans to catch any drips. I did not follow that sage advice and almost burned down my kitchen, which is why I am passing that knowledge onto you. Yet the cake still turned out amazing, so all is forgiven (P.S. if you want to see what recipes I'm using, you should totes follow me on Pinterest).

9.  I really want to invest in some artwork. Like not expensive stuff, just original artwork from talented but not famous artists. Sadly, this is not at all in my budget right now. I'm trying to pinch my pennies and pay down my credit cards like woah.

10. If you email me your address, I will send a piece of mail. I really want to get back into putting writing in the mail, but I don't have very many people's addresses. Plus, in a time of relative friendlessness (or at least, not terribly many friends who are geographically close to me), written correspondence sounds really appealing. Plus, who doesn't like getting real stuff in the mail?

11. I'm pretty sad that this summer is ending. I feel like between graduating and going directly to work, being totally broke, and having the rainiest weather ever, this summer just didn't feel like summer to me, especially the second half. But alas. Hopefully I'll have a more heartwarming and productive Fall.

I would love to hear what's been going on with you in my absence, friends.

Yours Truly, Jen

New Digs Wish List

I'm moving in one week, which naturally means I've been window shopping up a storm. New digs = new stuff needed to nicely fill out the space, plus between living with Andy and living with a roommate before that, there's some essential stuff that I've never had to buy before now. A lot of these babies will probably be coming home with me soon!

1. Food Processor - I'm pretty sure this has appeared on some wish list on this blog before, and here it is again. I had a budget food processor for a while, but after the motor burning out on me twice, I gave up on it and decided I needed to spend some real bucks the next go around.

2. Spice rack- Every renter who cooks knows that with each new place comes a new spice solution. This is supposed to hold around 18 bottles, and I'm thinking I'll probably get two of them and that should cover most of my regular use spices. There's some wall space right next to my oven, so I'm thinking this will be a good fit!

3. Dish Drainer- Is is weird that I'm kind of excited to get a pretty new dish drainer? When it's just you it takes too long to fill up the dishwasher, so I see myself handwashing a lot, and this drainer looks like it would look nice on the counter as well as being functional.

4. Kitchen cart- There's a space between where the kitchen counter ends and the stove starts that I need a nice little cart for, and I'm leaning toward something like this. I would love to thrift something more affordable, but if I have to splurge, I think this is versatile enough that it will serve me well in future homes as well.

5. Knife Set- This one is really well reviewed on Amazon, and seems like a good, mid-priced set. I don't want to throw away money on knives that can't be sharpened (serrated) or that will get rusty too quickly, but I also don't have the big bucks for a professional set. This one should serve me nicely!

6. Anti-Fatigue Mat - Once, years ago, Andy and I were in a local kitchen store and we went up to the cash register and they had an anti-fatigue mat there and we both instantly noticed a difference in how we felt as soon as we stepped onto it. I remember my back stopped hurting and my body just felt less heavy. That one is like one hundred and fifty bucks, which I would gladly pump into my local economy if I could, but this just isn't a "necessity" that I can spend that kind of money on. I found some cheaper versions online, so I'm hoping one of those will give a similar effect. I'd love one for in front of my kitchen sink and one for in front of my bathroom vanity!

7. Streaming Entertainment Device - It's finally time to stop watching TV on my laptop. I'm trying to decide between the Roku, the new Amazon Fire device, or a Blueray with streaming capabilities. Tell me what you have and whether you'd recommend it!

8. Air Mattress - Because I'm moving into a one bedroom and I don't feel like my couch is good for sleeping on. Every apartment needs an air mattress for guests, right?

9. Tool Kit- Because I have very few tools. I don't even own a hammer!

10. Bathroom storage- My bathroom is nicely sized, but doesn't have a ton of built-in storage. Right now I'm thinking something like this (and it's for a great price at Bed, Bath, and Beyond right now!), though I may end up thrifting a wood piece instead. Just want some good shelving for toiletries and towels.

These are the top ten needs I'm looking to address right now, but I'm also in the market for low-light plants, new artwork, and a couple of other little things. What's on your household wishlist?

Yours Truly, Jen

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day, fair readers! I have spent the week working way too much, so I'm appreciating my day off. Plus, I found out this morning that I won this awesome giveaway, so the day is off to a great start!

Since my house is full of boxes and some of my best Blacksburg friends are out of town this week, I'm keeping this Fourth of July low-key this year. There will be mimosas and ham steaks and home fries and fried eggs and toast for brunch and so many grilled hot dogs and potato chips and beers for dinner. Hopefully there will be fireworks tonight, and between brunch and dinner I might finally get to finish watching this season of Orange is the New Black.

Independence is always something to be celebrated. Let me know how you plan to spend the day!

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. I'll be back next week with some more Friday Favorites. Blogger decided not to save most of mine this week, so we'll take a break from the regular schedule for the holiday.

Friday Favorites

Packing is in full swing, and I'm hosting my very first ever yard sale tomorrow! I have a couple of friends who are getting in on the action, so between us it should be a pretty sweet (and fun) yard sale. I'll post deets later on! For now, here are some of my favorite links this week.

This video reminding women that we shouldn't apologize when there's nothing to apologize for.

How to pronounce designer names. Because, you know, just because something is out of your price range doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to pronounce it correctly. Or maybe that makes it even more important?

35 practical steps men can take to support feminism. I had to share this immediately after reading on my personal Facebook page because I feel like I know so many people who really need to read this, and I have to say, reading this also made me so much more comfortable with my own ideas about what I can/should expect and deserve out of a healthy relationship. I feel like before I thought things like sharing household chores and parenting equally were fair and right, but we probably weren't there yet and I couldn't really expect it to happen, whereas now I definitely feel like I don't want to be in a relationship with anyone who isn't willing to at least put thoughtful action towards this. Dating had caused me to really start thinking about what I want and need in a relationship and a partner, and this list helped me add a few things for sure. In some places I think the author goes a little overboard, and I definitely don't support the idea that men should be put in second place after women, but I think people need to be more thoughtful about evening out time and fiscal responsibilities.

This article debunking stereotypes about fat people is everything.

I am so glad more stuff is coming out about the influence the things you say as a parent can have on your kid, like in this video. Being a parent is hard, and anything and everything you say has the potential to shape your child's future. Being thoughtful about how the things you say makes your kid see him or herself is so important. The same video could (and should) be made for boys being pushed towards the sciences and away from things like theatre and art.

The Daily Show on sexual assault. Jessica Williams knows what's up.

Yours Truly, Jen

Friday Favorites

I took a little break there, even from the Friday Favorites posts, so some of these I've been saving for a couple of weeks. Still worth sharing, I think! Check out some of my favorite links from around the web below!

Finnish designers have created a stunning range of swimsuits specifically for women who have lost a breast through breast cancer.
5 Truths About Body Love. Yes!

This fat girl dancing. I don't care what you think when you hear that phrase, just click on it.

Swimsuits designed specifically for breast cancer survivors. Most brilliant thing ever.

This Then & Now video. With blogging and Youtube and the internet, people often only see people at their best, most confident, most beautiful (and that translates to homes, jobs, etc.) and they don't get a good sense of what your life is really like, and they compare themselves to where they are to where you are. That's so tough, so I think this conversation is really important to have about the falseness of being on camera (not that you're being fake, but that it is a purposeful, edited entity) and developing as a person.

Alexa Chung doing her own eyeliner. I'm just going to watch this over and over again until I can get mine to look just like hers. Which of course it impossible, because her eyes are shaped much differently than mine. But a girl can dream.

This makeup look. So perfect for summer.

This site for affordable, print at home art. Plus they have a new free piece each week!

What are your favorite things from the web this week?

Yours Truly, Jen

What I'm Reading | One More Thing & How Did You Get This Number

So of course I'm done with grad school and the first two books I pick up during the summer are totally things I would have read while I was in grad school. And by "pick up" I mean purchased on Audible, and by "read" I mean listen to. But whatever. I have real plans to get a public library card (gasp! So retro!) and actually browse through the library and get shushed for giggling or what have you and come home with a stack of books that I can't possibly read in the alotted time and get late fees and continually keep re-checking out the same books all summer. And by that I mean I have real plans to actually bring home a book and lay my eyeballs on it and actually read it. Not physically lay my eyeballs on the book like physically, like taking them out of my head and just laying there like some corny horror film, but...we understand each other, right?

True story: when you go to grad school for an MFA in English, you read a whole heck of a lot. Student papers and the work of your peers and your advisors and feedback on your work and the feedback you've written for others and it's a lot of writing and reading and reading for pleasure becomes not so much a thing. Because these eyeballs can only take so much strain in one day. So all of the pleasure reading. Recommendations please!

B.J. Novak has a book, and it's surprisingly delightful. Joanna had lovely things to say about it, so I was like okay, I'ma give this a go, but I honestly didn't have high expectations for it. The audiobook is great because the author actually narrates most of the book, and he has great guest readers like Katy Perry and Mindy Kaling. There are really short microfictions, there are longer stories; all of the stories are a little funny, smart, somewhat ridiculous, and at the end of each story, I had to think, did I like that? What conclusions can I come to? Is this a story? And I loved that it was fun and also made me think. When you pick up this book, you can expect to read about a rematch race between the tortoise and the hare, what kind of music people listen to in heaven, how to get over an ex, the greatest advice in the world, the best way to utilize missed connections, and much more. Also, check out the book trailer.

I'm about halfway through this book by Sloane Crosley and so far I definitely feel like I liked I Was Told There'd Be Cake better. Did anyone else feel this way? I like this book, but I was definitely more taken with the other one. This is an interesting problem/question for personal essay writers: do you inevitably use up your best stories in your first book? But shouldn't you also be better at writing a book of essays, since you've already done it before? Are subsequent books less interesting because the style of writing is no longer new and fresh and exciting and we start to recognize all of the ticks in your writing and how weird your metaphors are? When I finish this book, I'll check back in. But this is how I'm feeling now.

What's on your summer reading list? And/or what have you read lately that's super good? I have a pretty long reading list, but I'm actively searching for recommendations to add to it. Tell me everything I'm missing!

Yours Truly, Jen

Drugstore Waterproof Makeup Haul

I had some rewards bucks for CVS to spend, so I decided to try out some new waterproof makeup. Mostly because the two things I had gone in to buy (NYX waterproof concealer, which I already love, and Milani brow wax, which I've been hearing good things about, primarily from Tati's videos) were mysteriously not available. Oh well. I did, however, find some cool products I hadn't tried before.

I have some similar chubby shadow sticks from Sephora that I love, but I wanted some in more neutral shades and decided to give these a try since I already love the Rimmel liners. Bulletproof Beige is a little lighter than I had wanted it to be (like blends into my lid too much) but it makes a great base and I think it would look lovely on darker skin, so I might like it more after I have more of a tan. Bad Girl Bronze is a great medium brown that can be swept all over the lid or blended in the crease. These are so quick and easy to use. If you are too heavy handed these creams will crease, but if you keep it light and blended, they last all day.

It's really difficult to find waterproof lipstick, but there are actually a lot of waterproof lip liner options out there. I grabbed Nude Pink from NYX, which is a great, muted pink that defines the lips really nicely, and Red Diva from Rimmel, which is a really bold red. With both of these I started out by outlining the lips and then filled in the center. With both of these I found that the tip was a little soft, so you have to be careful about not pressing too hard or the tip will break off. These both wore pretty well throughout the day, but definitely did need touched up by evening.

I'm a big fan of the Scandal Eyes liners from Rimmel (I actually like these better than the Urban Decay 24/7 liners). Essie Button has been talking about loving using a navy liner instead of black lately, so when I saw this Deep Blue liner, I decided to give it a try. I've been loving blending out Bad Girl Bronze all of my lid, tightlining a waterproof black liner, and then doing this blue liner close to the lashline for a fun, quick, summer eye. Finish with waterproof mascara and you have an eye look that will last through sweat, tears, and pools.

This is an old favorite from last year. I actually still had some of the powder, but I was getting low and have long been out of the wax. For waterproof brows, you can dip your brush in the wax, then in the color, and that brow tint isn't going anywhere. My favorite drugstore brow product!

What are your favorite waterproof, meltproof makeup products for summer?

Yours Truly, Jen

Me, Lately (2)

I was totally going to jump right in with a makeup haul today, and then I was like wait a hot minute Jennifer. It's been a bit since you blogged, and you should probably update the patient readers on what's been going on. Right? So, if you're reading this, thanks so much for sticking around. You are a much better reader than I could ever ask for. Onto the goods.

1. I'm presently working at a jewelry store, which is a really great, non-intellectual grad school detox job, and I'm learning tons and tons about jewelry and stones and metals and all kinds of stuff. The pay isn't stellar, but it's okay for now. I love the people I work with, and I'm having a lot of fun learning new skills. I can help you pick out a gift, engagement ring, or change your watch battery. Serious life skills, people!

2. I'm getting ready to move in a month (just a local move), but I'm so anxious to be all done with packing. I might have already started packing up my office yesterday. I'm trying to get the stuff I really don't think I'll need much in the next month out of the way and save the bedroom for last.

3. I bought the cutest bikini this year. I'm so in love with it. And since I've been all aboard the body image and self love train this year, I don't feel very self conscious in it. Cute bathing suits are wasted on the self conscious, don't you think?

4. I have been super addicted to playing games on my phone lately. Need to share some new finds soon! Plus I share sneak peeks at what I'm playing on Instagram.

5. I've been running twice a week or so in the evenings, usually with a friend. Having a friend to go with has turned out to be a great motivator, because you get to socialize and exercise all in one turn. So when I'm like I don't really want to workout right now, I can be like well I do really want to see so and so, and I want to tell them about x. So then I don't cancel. And my body thanks me. I actually look forward to running for the most part. Who am I?

6. Amazon Prime just added a ton of new music that you can stream for free, which is especially great if you have the app. Seriously loving it. Listening to so much new music right now, and revisiting childhood favorites with their 90s playlists. Definitely see a What I'm Listening To post in the near future!

7. Does anyone have a Kindle Fire? Amazon keeps running deals on them and I keep thinking well maybe...not that I should be spending money on that right now, but if you have one, let me know what you think of it.

8. I'm trying out the online dating thing and have mixed feelings about it. It's so different from just organically meeting people in life, and I'm not sure if I like having so much power to choose and so much knowledge about people before ever meeting them. People can be so great or not great on paper and so not great or great in person. It's so hard to tell which way it will go!

9. I'm actually growing out my bangs. Like for real real. I've tried and failed before, but I think it's really happening this time! Does this mean I'm all grown up?

10. I am the absolute laziest about doing laundry. Why? I love wearing cute clothes, and I have stopped minding putting them away because I get to listen to a podcast or audiobook then, but the whole bother of running them through the washer and dryer is the absolute worst. Since I'm actually working out now, I need to start doing laundry more frequently so I have clean exercise clothes. Or just buy more exercise clothes. Maybe that actually isn't the worst idea...

Between the new job, new work schedule, post graduation laziness, and summer fun, I just haven't been able to get a post schedule down. Apologies! But, new content coming soon. Promise.

Yours Truly, Jen

New Projects!

I have been so busy starting new projects left and right I just have to find a good schedule for myself to maintain them all. Anyway, I wanted to let you know about two new blog projects that I'm currently working on in addition to Yours Truly. These are two writing projects in two very different veins, so maybe one (or both) will be of interest to you!

I got the idea for this site because I wanted to have a place with great resources that I could point my creative writing student to so that those of them that want to keep writing can have a good place to go to keep learning about writing on their own. I ended up taking that idea and developing it for a Digital Humanities course I took this spring, and now I'm working on trying to expand it and get as many new resources up as I can. Basically, this is a repository of free, online resources available to creative writers and teachers of creative writing. So if you fall into one or both of those categories, follow on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Bloglovin, and please submit any resources you love that you don't already see up there! This site is still really new, so I appreciate any and all feedback and, of course, resources to add.

Feminists Watching TV

I started this project with my friend Jasmine because I watch and wanted a space to write about just that. I thought it would make a fun collaborative project and knew the perfect gal to co-write. I watch a lot of trashy TV that I love but that can be problematic to me as a feminist, and there are also a lot of shows that are doing it right that I want to highlight. So yeah, if you want to see me and my friend(s) (we may be inviting some new people to write soon!) talk about our favorite television shows, check that out and follows us on Twitter.

I realized the other day that right now I have three blogging projects going on three different platforms (Blogger, Wordpress, and Tumblr), but since I already bought up some server space for Want to Write because it really needed to be a project, I think I'm going to be transitions Yours Truly over to Wordpress as well, once I figure out how to do that and all. What new projects have you been working on lately?

Yours Truly, Jen

Friday Favorites

Hey, it's my graduation weekend. Can you believe it? I really kinda don't. Well anyway, popping in real quick to share a few really good links from around the web this week, and then I'm going to go to bed and hope I don't suffocate in my sleep (I got real ratchet allergies right now, ya'll). Enjoy!

That face is seriously perfection. Also, WTF creep?

This woman and her mission to help women embrace their bodies. I just can't talk about this topic enough.

This "film about plus-sized models fighting to reshape the world of fashion and the standards of society." The ladies speak some TRUTH in this video, and you should definitely follow all of them on Twitter and Instagram.

A humorous take on the body image conversation.

80 might be my new favorite picture on the internet (I seriously LOL'd at a bunch of these. Because I was grading all day Thursday and NEEDED it).

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. Looking for some new people to follow on Twitter and Instagram. Help!

Let's Talk Body Changes & Body Shapes

I had a really hard time titling this post, because it was really inspired by this article, but I feel like there are a lot of related topics that I want to talk about here. I've seen several stories now about photography series chronically different body shapes and women after childbirth, and most of those have focused on us seeing larger bodies or less culturally traditionally beautiful bodies as beautiful, which I think is really important. What sets this series apart for me is the fact that so many different types of bodies are shown--there are big women, thin women, athletic women, women with stretch marks, women with c-section scars, women with loose skin, women with firm skin, women with cellulite and women without, women with tattoos and women without, women of various races, ethnicities, sizes, levels of fitness, and ages.

I realize that our society already puts a premium on thin and/or fit bodies, but I think in some projects there is so much of an emphasis on showing types of bodies that tend to not be shown that women who do fall into more traditional beauty categories are almost shamed, like they can't join the club, and I think that's counterproductive because what we really should be teaching and learning is that bodies of all shapes and sizes are good and healthy and beautiful, and I think these photographs really show that. Alexa Chung spoke really smartly about it when she said:
"I think it’s about time people stopped judging women on their appearance and more on their intellect. Like you can appreciate my style without having to appreciate my weight. It’s not actually mutually inclusive. I just get frustrated because, just because I exist in this shape, doesn’t mean that I’m like advocating it and being like, ‘I look great.’ How do you know I’m not looking in the mirror and going ‘I wish I could gain ten pounds?’ Which is actually quite often the case. But if you say that you sound like you’re bragging that you’re naturally thin, and you’re not allowed to do that because even though it’s not the ideal weight, it kind of is as well. So it’s really fucked up. And how people that are bigger can be on the front covers of magazines being like ‘I’m really happy with my shape.’ But if I was to do that, I’d be completely criticized and ridiculed. But why can’t I be happy with how I look?"
I think sometimes thinner women are told that they don't get to complain about wanting to lose weight or being insecure about their bodies because that shames or hurts their bigger friends, or that thinner women or more athletic women shame bigger women just by existing in their shapes, and that's working backwards and empowering fat women and taking away the power from thin women. We don't want to do that, we want to redistribute that power so that all women can feel accepted and beautiful and strong.

As a woman who is overweight but maybe not considered fat by a lot of people, who has many friends who are much heavier and many friends who are much lighter, it can feel difficult to navigate the waters of size identity and who I'm "allowed" to relate to or empathize with. Which of course I recognize is a completely false and shaming dichotomy in and of itself, so I try to dismiss those anxieties when I fall prey to them. But that doesn't mean they don't exist.

The other super relevant issue here is that fact that our bodies change over time, and some of our bodies change more than others. Motherhood is a wonderful example, because the bodies of some of the women in these pictures have changed significantly in the process of changing a life, and some of their bodies are the same, similar, or even stronger than they were before childbirth. For mothers, there is this stigma out there that because some women can quickly lose the weight or get back into shape in X amount of time after childbirth, everyone should be able to, which of course isn't true. All of our bodies are different. They all have different tendencies, different capabilities, different natural shapes, different idiosyncrasies. That is normal. That is life. And so too this idea translates to women who are not mothers. Many women gain weight in their early to mid twenties, because our bodies are still developing and shifting. Some women stay the size they were in high school their whole lives. Some people take longer to lose their baby fat than others. Some bodies require more activity to stay fit or to lose weight than others. Some bodies have difficulty keeping on weight, or gaining weight. These are all valid and real struggles/personalities/identities we and our bodies have, and it's important to recognize that.

Our bodies have so many ways of changing on us--freckles and moles appear and disappear, we gain pounds, we lose pounds, our skin darkens or lightens, wrinkles and unwrinkles, stretches and scars, our nails grow, our hair grows, our teeth yellow and whiten and decay, our bodies are invaded with bacteria and disease, our bodies eradicate bacteria and disease, we retain and shed water, we learn new aches and pains, we grow stronger, we become weaker, our hair changes colors, we age--so it's important to remember that while our bodies can influence who we are, they aren't what we are. We have minds and hearts and souls, too. People just can't see them immediately.

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. Let's Talk Weight Loss, Let's Talk About Bikini Bodies, Let's Talk Body Image & Self Love,

Friday Favorites

-You guys, I am actually graduating! I keep waiting for someone in the graduate school to be like nope, you never turned in X paperwork so we're holding you back, but I got an email asking me to double check my spelling for the graduation program, so I feel like it's real now. Still finishing up a final project and grading, but this semester is wrapping up real fast.
-This list on finding affordable art. I haven't really had time yet, but I can definitely see myself getting lost in online shopping real soon on this sites.
-This list of budget-friendly jewelry brands. I had never shopped at any of these sites before, and I've really been blown away with the variety and the reasonable prices on most of these sites.
-Perfect summer cocktail. Cannot wait to make this. Maybe to celebrate final grades being put in?
-This looks like a lovely way to stay caffeinated over the summer. I did the Pioneer Woman's iced coffee last year and it was fabulous, so I might try these gals' variation this year. Love how iced coffee is just ready to go in the morning, no effort required.
-This list of grammar mistakes that make you look bad. I already know all of these (largely because I've taught them to my freshman students in the past), but it's always good for a refresher, and I love that people are putting out these lists. I know that for most people grammar is boring and unimportant, but it has more of an effect on the way people perceive you than you know, especially now that so much of our lives is online (you can now proceed to find every grammar mistake in the post).
-This online magazine. They are publishing such amazing, important stories, stories that are often hard to tell and hard to read, but both need to happen. A good friend of mine published this article there not long ago. If you have an extra moment in your day, please read.
-I have two new projects to share with you soon! I'm seriously excited about both of them, and I can't wait to tell you more about them. Now that I'm wrapping up the MFA program, I'm really excited to be able to dedicate more time to my independent projects. I'm also excited to get back into writing mode (I've mostly been editing for the past year).

What are your favorite moments/things around the web this week?

Yours Truly, Jen

App Love | Health & Fitness

I swear, lately I've gotten more attached to my phone than ever. It's kind of out of control. But I have discovered some really great health and fitness apps, which I use at home and also throughout the day wherever I am. Living a more healthy lifestyle was one of my New Year's Resolutions (see my recent check-in here), so I thought I'd share some of the resources I've been using!


Breeze- I've tried a few of these pedometer-type apps, most recently Argus and Human, and Breeze is the one I've liked the best out of the three. I like that it's easy to see a snapshot of your week, you can see where your most activity took place geographically, and it gives you a smart step goal based on your activity from the last seven days, so the longer you use it, the better it gets. This is only available for the iPhone 5s (previous models don't have the necessary technology).

Runkeeper- The people who make Runkeeper are actually the same people who make Breeze, and I've discovered both recently. There are a bunch of apps that do similar things to this app, but this is the one I'm using to keep track of my runs in conjunction with the next app. This lets me know how long, far, and fast I ran, an estimation of how many calories I burned, the route I took, and allows me to record some notes.

Get running- I started using this app ages ago and never got through the whole program for various reasons, but I recently started back up again. This is a great app for beginner runners--the running schedule is super manageable, the voice is encouraging and gives you time benchmarks, you can listen to your own music while you're using it, and the app records your runs and keeps track of your progress. This app does not include maps or pace data or anything like that; that's not what it's designed for. So I use this and Runkeeper at the same time so I can have this running the program and Runkeeper keeping track of all of my stats. That info isn't important to the couch to 5k program, but I'm thinking ahead to after I'm finished with it. Cannot recommend enough if you want to start running. 

7 minute workout- There are a bunch of these apps in the app store; I think I had two different ones at one point and chose this one between them. All you need to do the workout is some floor space, a little bit of blank wall, and a chair. In seven minutes you do a high intensity workout (it wears me out!), and then you get to move on with your day feeling good about yourself for having gotten a workout in. 

Calm- One of my birthday goals was to try meditation, and this app has been helping me do it. The 7 steps of calm series is such a great introduction to what meditation is, what it can do for you, and how to do it, and it only takes a few minutes a day. The app store has some not great reviews (apparently this app used to be cooler, maybe?), but I've been really enjoying it. Note though that you only get a couple of free meditations, and you have to upgrade to get the rest.

Happier- This may not really seem like a health app, but focusing and remembering the positive things in your life is so important for mental health and well-being. I've been using this app to track the things that make me smile throughout the day, and one of the things I like about this that I couldn't do in a paper journal is categorize my happy moments, so that when I go and look back I can see how many entries I have in each category (so what types of things make me smile the most), and also just re-visit moments in certain categories or look at my happy moment in reverse chronological order. Some of my categories are getting stuff done, watching tv, work, cooking, chilling out, eating healthy.

Youtube- Okay, so obviously this is not health-specific, but I've been doing Tara Stiles' morning and evening in bed yoga every day just to help me stretch out and feel good, and I've been doing the videos on my phone rather than my laptop because I do the morning one first thing and the evening one last thing. This is also a great resource if you want to do a mini workout while you're at work or in a hotel or just away from home for whatever reason. There are so many great health and fitness channels on Youtube (maybe I should share some favorites in a separate post?).

What are your favorite health and fitness apps? Please share!

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. Check out my Healthy Living Inspiration board, my Fitness board, and my Health & Weight Loss board if you're interested.

Let's Talk Bikini Bodies

I am so happy about this warmer weather. Winter hung around so long around these parts, and I was so over it so fast. But then there's this thing that happens every year when I get over the joy of putting away my winter sweaters and think wait, am I really ready to bare my arms and legs? Once I stop wearing the heavier clothing, I tend to take a hard look at myself and notice how my body has changed over the winter. And then I get scared about wearing skimpier clothing, and heaven forbid the idea of putting on a bathing suit. I think a lot of women have this moment.

The other day I was reading an article that a friend had shared with me on the Women's Health website and a pop-up came on my screen saying X steps to your summer bikini body. And this is the time of year where we see this a lot, right? Eat this (or don't eat this) to get a bikini body, do this detox, do this cleanse, do this exercise routine, take this miracle pill, sprinkle this product on your food, everything for the bikini body.

The thing is, people and magazines and companies throw around this term "bikini body" like it's a definitive thing, like there is one right answer for what that looks like. And I take offense to that. These people who are throwing around this term mean thinner. They want to help you lose weight so you can wear a bikini out in public. Maybe they say they want to help give you the confidence to wear a bikini. Maybe they say the bikini is the motivation you need to shed those last few pounds you've been wanting to get rid of. Maybe they say that they want to help you feel good in a bikini, that you're going to wear one all summer long. Regardless of their claim (or really, their intentions), they're telling you that you need to be thinner or maybe even more toned to look good/feel good/wear a bikini.

And I'm here to tell you that isn't true.

Look, I'm not trying to peer-pressure you into buying a bikini this year. If you like one pieces, wear one pieces. If you are rocking that tankini, rock that tankini. If board shorts are your thing, do your thing. Girl, wear whatever you want. I'm just saying that if wearing a bikini didn't feel like an option to you, or that you had do something special to make that an option, you, my dear, dear friend, were mistaken.

Last summer I was a nanny for two kids and we spent a lot of time by the pool. I don't remember many people I saw by the pool that summer, but I do remember this fat girl wearing a bikini, and it was a revelation. I only saw her once, and I still remember her. She was probably in high school, maybe college, and all of her friends were skinny by anyone's standards. And she was wearing a bikini and she did not care. She was laughing, eating french fries, sitting in a chair without covering her stomach with a towel. She was rocking that swimsuit. It fit her, it was appropriately sized for her boobs, and it was obvious that she felt good in it. And I had some serious envy for her.

This story is not here to say that you, my fair readers, are fat. Some of you ladies are thin, some of you are curvy, some of you are pregnant, and yes, some of you, I'm sure, are fat. Many of you, I'm sure, do not feel confident in a bikini, or would never ever consider wearing one in public. Regardless of your weight or size or shape, you are fabulous, and you get to wear whatever bathing suit you want. You are a grown up, you shop for yourself, and you wear whatever makes you feel like you. There's no "getting away with it." There's no social stigma. Anyone who tells you that you can't wear something is someone you shouldn't listen to. I want you to know that you can and should wear a bikini if you are so inclined, if you want to give it a try, if you find one so cute you just can't walk away from it, and size or shape or whatever shouldn't enter into that equation. And to help you out with that, I've rounded up a few of my favorite bikinis around the interwebs this year.

1 / 2 top bottom / 3 top bottom / 4 / 5 / 6

You just cannot go wrong with a classic black swimsuit. I love the cobalt blue and that color is going to look good on pale skin and look better and better as you tan. I'm mildly obsessed with floral prints this year, so of course that's going to translate to bathing suits. I'm not sure if a high-waisted bikini bottom would be flattering on me or not, but I love the classic look, especially two-toned in polka dots. And that sporty pink bathing suit is so sporty and fun. Which would you choose? And what kind of bathing suit are you planning to wear this year?

Yours Truly, Jen

Saturday Mornings are for Boogying

Every time I hear this song I start moving. There's something about the soul and the beat and the sound. Be lazy this Saturday morning. Eat pancakes. Watch TV and drink too much coffee. Catch up on your blog reading for the week. Watch some Youtube videos. Do yoga in bed. But, you know, where you're good and ready, put on this song and dance. Have a little joy in your life. You deserve it!

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. You can listen to Chet Faker's full album online here.

Do Yourself a Favor & Re-invigorate Your New Year's Goals

Yo! Have you completely forgotten about your New Year's goals? If you're guiltily like hey, I'm going to close this tab and pretend like this confrontation never happened, don't do it! I don't judge, and I've definitely forgotten about some of mine a little bit. But you know, it's April now....can you believe we're like a third of the way through the year already? I can't. And yet, I can, because in some ways I've already come so far this year.

I feel like a lot of people set their goals, work toward them for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, and then slowly forget about them or give up on them. I mean, if you really tried to reach those goals and then realized that they were ridiculous or unrealistic or you no longer wanted those things, that's fine. But, you know, if you still want to reach those goals, let's try, try again. You can re-invigorate/re-jigger your goals at any time. No one's watching you and saying hey, you dropped the ball on that goal for six weeks, so you don't get to have that goal anymore. Right? It's silly to tie self-improvement to a time of year. So what are you waiting for?

If you missed my New Year's goals or want a refresher, you can find my post about them here. I titled that post the way I did because I really wanted to focus on being happier, healthier, and more productive this year. I thought this would be a good time to check in on my resolutions, and encourage you to do the same!

1. Live a more active lifestyle-While I'm definitely not where I was hoping to be fitness-wise, I've really improved my healthy eating habits and am continuing to improve on that front. I have a small group of ladies on Facebook that I talk to online pretty much every day--we have a private group page where we post what we ate, what exercise we did, what health-related questions/problems/concerns we have, good resources and recipes that we come across, and all kinds of other stuff. This has seriously been the best thing for me. I've gotten turned onto some really great free exercise resources (I'll be sharing these with you soon!), and am generally much more conscious of what I eat because I know I'm reporting it to this group of ladies who are also focusing on their health (makes me so much less likely to scarf down a whole box of Girl Scout cookies or have Taco Bell for lunch while I'm running errands). I seriously cannot encourage you enough to get with even just one or two other people to work on a similar goal together. Having that support system (and also accountability) makes all the difference. Another thing I've done is create a healthy living inspiration board on Pinterest with some inspiring words and images and little items I can purchase as rewards when I reach certain goals.

2. Be smarter with money-This is one that I haven't been as great at. I've been really working to hone in my kind of random spending (you know, like walking around Target when you're bored and just buying a bunch of stuff in the dollar spot), but with my healthier eating has also come negotiating a healthier grocery cart and keeping my spending down, so that's something I'm still figuring out. I'm also starting to take stock of what stuff I'll need to buy when I move out on my own, so that's been encouraging ot help keep me from buying stuff I don't need because I know I'd rather spend that money later on a nice blender and set of knives.

3. Reach out to people more-This is one that I was doing really well at earlier in the year and have slacked on, so it definitely needs re-invogorated. I've gotten sick and busy and tired and in weird lonely funks and spent a lot of time alone. For my part I have rarely turned down invitations to go out, but I haven't been good at inviting people I want to hang out with to hang.

4. Write every day-Epic fail. I've been in revising mode this semester with my thesis and just haven't been writing new stuff, not creatively, not here on the blog, not anywhere. So need to really kick this one up.

5. Read for fun more-This one has been a bit of a fail as well. I've been reading a good bit about fitness and health, but I haven't really been reading much creative writing beyond what I'm teaching in my class or even magazines. I honestly think part of this is being in the last semester of my program and just needing a break, but I've had it now, so I need to get back into it. I love reading, but sometimes I seem to forget that. I guess spending six years where reading and writing is your job will do that to you.

6. Have some time away from screens and just relax and wind at the end of the day-I've been doing part two. I've gotten really into candles this year and have started lighting a candle at the end of the night and really relaxing while I do my evening routine, but I haven't been good about keeping away from screens before bed. I think doing a better job of this will help with my reading goal as well!

So that's where I'm at right now. How about you?

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. I'm starting a new post series: do yourself a favor. This might sound bossy, maybe, I don't know; my goal is never to be bossy in this space. But, you know. Anyway, I wanted to do this series to inspire you to do little and big things that are good for you, or at least I think they will be. Mostly, these are things that I've done that are good for me, and I assume would translate well to others. So sue me if I want to encourage you to live a happier life. So, that's this series.