september 2018 book club

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Like last month, September was a slower month of reading. I didn’t read as many books, but I think the page length evened out as I read some longer books this month. It also featured a re-read, which maybe shouldn’t even count! As the year starts to end, I’m assessing the holes in the reading challenge I still need to fill, while also keeping up with my library requests which are coming in fast and furious now.

My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should let lay!

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry: Neil deGrasse Tyson is such a gift. He narrates the audiobook (which I listened to in one sitting on the way to and wandering around Riot Fest) and presents these huge concepts in really relatable, digestable bites. It’s also short enough that anyone could read (or listen to) really quickly, so it’s definitely worth picking up!

Broad Band: The Untold Story of Women Who Made the InternetThis book was amazing. I can’t say enough how highly I recommend it. I’ve heard Grace Hopper’s name, but I never knew she was essentially responsible for modern programming. I didn’t know that “computers” were actually a job at first, all computations done manually, and usually by women. I had never heard of the ENIAC 6, or about so many other things in this book, and so many women who kind of blazed a path and a place for women on the internet, in computer science, and technology.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Night Moves: Hoooo boy, did I have feelings about this book. I really wanted to like it. I wanted to let go of some of my recent opinions about Jessica Hopper. Some backstory: I was a really big fan of hers in college, and basically up until last year. And then during a run of shows I attended by my favorite band, she wrote some not-so-nice tweets about girls in the front row of those shows (saying she wanted to write a “fanzine” about us, and insinuating we were victims of the patriarchy and brought to these shows by men rather than attending on our own volition.) So I really wanted to put all that aside and go back to liking her and her writing again… but I just couldn’t. That band is featured in this book (really the only one that is name dropped at all, which feels out of place) including incorrect facts about what band member plays what instrument. We get it, you know the band. No one is impressed. Ugh. There was also a real absence of women, and I get that it’s supposed to be a journal based around that time in her life and that maybe she only had one friend of a friend who was a girl, but it felt lacking to me. Maybe someone else would like it, but it didn’t work for me.

I do agree with her on one thing, though – Chicago truly is the city that doesn’t give a shit.

The Year of Less: I put off reading this for a long time. It’s written by Cait Flanders, a PF blogger I used to follow religiously (she was formerly Blonde on a Budget, then later rebranded to her own name once she was no longer writing anonymously.) This is another book I was skeptical of, and I’lll totally cop to why – I was jealous of her. I’ve been jealous of a long time. Her blog was wildly successful, she was able to become a super successful freelance writer, and she’s a minimalism dream. So I didn’t want to read the book because I didn’t want my nose to feel “rubbed” in it. I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla (Cait narrates it) and ended up loving it. She likens consumerism to other kinds of addictions, talks about skeptical family members, and even the emotional connection to stuff and things. I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to my own six-month non-essential shopping ban starting next year.

@dessa is as always funny, smart, charming, inspiring, and a lot of other superlatives, idk. #MyOwnDevices is such a good book, go get it and read it and post about it and buy it for everyone you know so she can write me another one.
and also so she can buy me a bobby pin to replace the one I let her borrow in LA.

My Own Devices: This is a re-read, and I normally wouldn’t include that here, but this book came out recently so I wanted to hype it again. Dessa’s creative non-fiction book of essays is well-written, touching, and thought-provoking. She strings one story thread throughout the book – through different essays and sections, the story of her long-term relationship and how she finally used science to get over him. She gave a talk here a few weeks ago and I got to ask her some questions. If you’re anywhere near the book tour, I definitely recommend going – Dessa is super intelligent and I felt so inspired throughout. (And if you check out the next Chicago event, you’ll see me there!)

The Book of Essie: This YA book has been getting a lot of buzz and was a Book of the Month club pick, so I was pretty excited about it. The family in it seems to be based loosely on the Duggars, and it’s a story about their baby girl who gets pregnant and appears to not have a say in the choice that’s made for it. It’s an interesting perspective, and I liked how the manipulation in it wasn’t necessarily negative.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Evan suggested this to me months ago, but I just got around to it. I’ve never read comics before (except the Archie comics when I was younger) so it was a little hard for me to adjust to. It took awhile to get into the flow of not only reading it, but piecing out how the story started. I did really love it though, and definitely recommend!

An American Marriage: I read this to fill our prompt for “An Oprah book club pick” and because there’s just been so much buzz about it being the book of the year. I found it to be… just okay. The story itself is of course infuriating – a black man accused by a white woman, then prosecuted without evidence – but I found one of the main narrators so unlikeable for the start that I almost quit reading. I powered through and I did like the ending, but it was a challenge to get there since I disliked one of them so much.

What else should I read next?

October 1, 2018
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august 2018 book club

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august book club

August was a bit of a slow reading month for me. I thought I would get more in – my mom’s surgery was this month, which meant some time hanging out and “relaxing” in the hospital, and I was also spending some quality solo time while I was back up north. It didn’t work out quite that way, which is okay – some of the library books came and went without even being cracked open. Whoops.

My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should let lay!

Tangerine: I have some mixed feelings about this book, in the same way I had mixed feelings about The Wife Between Us. Maybe these types of psychological mysteries aren’t for me. I did like it, but I got more and more frustrated at the gaslighting of the main character (which she’d been victim to for years) and there were a few holes in the story, but overall, I’d recommend it. Especially if you’re okay with the “hero” not having the happiest ending.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: Is it weird to say that I really enjoyed this book? Is it weirder to say that I read the bulk of it in the hospital during my mom’s surgery? The author writes gently, includes cute illustrations, and talks about her own reconciliation with her advancing age. It really helped me get focused on my own purge and wardrobe clean, and I definitely recommend this.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Fury: True Tales of a Good Girl Gone Ballistic: I love Koren’s first novel Smashed because it resonates so much with me and the way I drank in college… and for a bit after. This book was… fine. I didn’t relate to this one the way I did Smashed, nor did I expect to, but she did raise some points that resonated: fury and anger, both my own and of others, has always been portrayed as “bad” to me. I did really enjoy how this story was essentially a catalog of a broken relationship – told under the influence of anger. It’s a nice study of who and what can cause extreme emotions in us and others.

As I Lay Dying: This took me a long time to get through, and to be honest – I didn’t get it. I found it hard to get into the dialect, and then ended up missing out on a lot of the humor. It’s one of Evan’s favorite books, though, so I read it on his recommendation for our reading challenge “A Classic” prompt. I’m glad I read it, but it wasn’t for me.

Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: Spoiler alert, I’m really into wrestling. I don’t actually have a lot of backstory about how it originated beyond the carnivals, and even less about the history of women’s wrestling in particular. This book explores the history, some of the more problematic figures and how they essentially controlled entire generations of female wrestlers, and mostly stays away from the condescending language around the ~evolution~ of women’s wrestling… mostly. I enjoyed it, and if you like wrestling, it’s a good, engaging read.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer: I loved this book. I’m late on the Twin Peaks train and though we haven’t finished season two yet, I knew this book came out between seasons so it was safe to read. I thought it was really well written from Laura’s perspective – you see and understand the things that happened that made her become who she became, and get even more backstory on her relationship with the town’s other residents. (Spoiler alert – there’s another main character that she slept with that’s never addressed in the show.) If you like Twin Peaks and haven’t read this yet, I highly, highly recommend!

What were you reading this month?

August 31, 2018
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7 companies hiring remote employees this month: August 2018

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Customer Service Representative at Tumblebooks: Tumblebooks is a new app to me, but I’m super excited about it. Similar to Hoopla or Libby, they provide children’s and middle grade books to libraries for lending on mobile devices. I popped it on my iPad the other day and set it up with my library card, and there’s a really deep variety of books there. They’re looking for a CSR to field support inquiries by email and phone and help set up new member accounts. This would be an amazing entry to a growing company for anyone who loves books!

Taco Unicorn at HeyTaco!: HeyTaco is a Slack integration for teams to build each other up and motivate them, which I think is such a great idea. Especially in remote companies, often teams might not know what great work other parts of the company are up to. HeyTaco helps recognize company-wide, so the whole team can heap kudos (aka “tacos”) on each other. Since it’s a growing company, they’re looking for someone in customer service to set their own job description. This could be a great part-time remote job for establishing your niche.

Looking for an empowering community of women in technology? Check out Tech Ladies for networking opportunities, exclusive job openings, and fun local events!

Senior Event Operations Coordinator at InVision: InVision is a graphic design app, and they’re expanding their event services team. This person will serve as a concierge for event attendees as well as the rest of the traveling marketing staff. InVision is a fully distributed company, but being on a traveling marketing team is one of the best ways to interface often with fellow staff members!

Social Media Engagement Coordinator at MeetEdgar: MeetEdgar is one of the dream remote companies to work for – they offer a housekeeping reimbursement to their teams! This part-time role is ideal for someone looking to transition to remote work, or even for a college student. You’ll be creating and sharing social content, and sticking to a collaborative content calendar!

Community Manager at Thinkful: Thinkful is a pretty cool new-ish company in the education sector. The Community Manager will help the marketing team raise brand awareness, organize free coding classes and events, and schedule and coordinate staff. Benefits include free tuition for Thinkful, so if you’re in marketing or event operations and looking to pivot to more hands-on code, this is an awesome opportunity.

Associate Product Manager at USA Today/Gannett: If you’re a technical writer, this job sounds awesome (and sounds especially exciting to me.) You’ll be user testing, writing a high volume of content, working with and finding brand partners, and consistently review and evaluate performance. This would be a great starter remote job for a blogger – it involves a lot of things we do anyway, and if you add those things to your resume, it can help you get ins with positions like this.

Freelance Writer at LitCharts: This would be a great side gig for an English or lit major. If you know classic literature really well and want to help others understand it better, check out this opportunity for LitChats. It’s flexible, so you can write as much or as little as you want, on their approval!

If you work remotely, do you tend to work from home, from a coffee shop or co-working space, or do you travel often?

August 22, 2018
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july 2018 book club

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Even though I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months, this month I fell off a bit. After killing something like 50 books in the first five months of the year, I was just feeling burned out or overwhelmed by my list of books to read. There were several books that I utterly loved, though, so it wasn’t a total loss of a reading month! (Are they ever, though?)

My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. This month was even more excessive than normal – a flight to California allowed for some dedicated reading time, and (finally) having really nice weather and setting up the patio office meant I just wanted to camp out with coffee and a book at all times!

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should let lay!

Under the Harrow: This was the book Dani picked for me for our reading challenge, and I was so engrossed. I’m a little late to the mystery/thriller genre, but this was such a great pick. I’m typically pretty good at picking up on twists or surprises beforehand, but for the first time in this book I had absolutely no idea who did it. I read it in two days, so it’s definitely an engaging read.

We’re Going to Need More Wine: I like to listen to audiobooks while I’m working to keep me from getting completely sucked into my computer during testing, and I’d heard great things about this book, so I grabbed it from Libby when it came available. Gabrielle Union is a fantastic narrator, and it’s really lovely to hear about her life. She pulls no punches and the book begins with the racism she experienced growing up in school, continues to her experience hiding a friend who shot a cop, failed relationships and marriages, and even more. It’s no wonder this was on so many must-read lists.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Tonight I’m Someone Else: A friend recommended this to me, and I really enjoyed it. A collection of essays from throughout the author’s life, there’s a lot of diversity. It’s pretty heavy and took me quite a few reads to get through, but if you like creative non-fiction, this is a great one to pick up.

Goodbye, Vitamin: I really really liked this book. The main character moves back home to take care of her dad whose Alzheimer’s is getting worse, which I can relate to. She’s fresh off a breakup, feels lost, and leaves her job to help her mom out and try to keep her dad’s life as normal as possible. Definitely recommend.

Big Magic: This book has been on my TBR list for awhile, and I grabbed the audiobook a few weeks ago. It’s a short book, and Elizabeth Gilbert narrates, and it hit upon a lot of beliefs around creativity that I didn’t even realize I have, like guilt and shame and esteem. Who knew? This is another one of the rare books I’m going to hunt a physical copy down to reinforce the concepts.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

#GIRLBOSS: I’m about seventy years behind on this one. I finally found a copy at Open Books during their 50% off sale and after sitting on multiple library wait lists for months, I grabbed the $3.50 copy. I really enjoyed this for a lot of the same reasons I liked Big Magic, like it’s okay to be a weirdo and creative and your message will still resonate with people! Some parts came off as a bit preachy to me, but not enough to make me stop reading.

Hey Ladies!!!: This book was hilarious. I read it on Scribd using my iPad, and pretty much read it in one day. It’s an easy read and even if you haven’t been included on an inane email chain about bachelorettes or weddings, you’ll still find it super funny. The illustrations are really good too. A fun one to flip through.

What are you reading this summer?

July 31, 2018
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beginning keto: how to start a high-fat, low-carb way of eating

Posted in Food by

keto for beginners

I’m not a really big fan of fad or overly popular diets – even the long-lasting ones like Atkins have always felt too restrictive to me. I always preferred to work out, and then eat whatever I wanted because I “deserved” it. But lately, I haven’t had the time or temperament to work out as frequently, and it showed in a 20-pound weight gain over the last six months or so. I’d heard often about the keto diet and the science behind it and started doing some research. The same day I started reading up on it, both my boss and a close friend mentioned that they were doing it, so I took it as a sign.

(Let it also be said that this meal plan includes a lot of things that are not “diet” foods, like bacon, cheese, and a shitload of eggs. So when I say “diet,” don’t think “weight loss plan,” think “way of eating.)

While we aren’t too far into it, I’m really enjoying it and not struggling too badly with it! I thought I’d talk a bit about my experience so far and mention a few tips for anyone else who might be considering starting on it as well.

What is ketosis?

In short, ketosis is when your body burns fat for fuel instead of glucose. Your body learns to do this on a high fat, low carbohydrate diet.

I’m not going to go on too long about this because there are smarter people who have studied this much more extensively, but the basic answer is: science.

But like… why though?

Why, though? Because a lot of people have seen really awesome results – for inspiration before starting, I frequented r/keto almost non-stop in order to convince myself that I could do it and be successful. It’s full of progress pics, sure, but it’s also full of meal inspiration – photos of things that made me feel like I could not only make them, but be happy and satisfied with the meals. It helped me start thinking about food as fuel rather than something to do because it would make me happy or cheer me up. After all the reading and prep, and knowing that I’d have support from my friendos and boyfriend, we decided to start the week after my (EXTREMELY GLUTTONOUS) work trip. I wasn’t going to give up maple crepes.

Beyond that, one of the biggest concerns I had was how easy it would be to cook. I rely on a lot of pre-made meals when I’m not with my chef boyfriend, so I didn’t think there would be freezer meals available in a pinch, but I was super wrong – Trader Joe’s and Aldi, once again, for the wins.

What’s a net carb?

Total Carbohydrates – Fiber – Sugar Alcohols = Net Carbs. It’s pretty easy to calculate once you get used to it.

lou malnati's crustless pizza

Crustless pizza. Oh yes.

But like, where’s the crunch?

Honestly, I haven’t been missing the texture of crunchy things really, but it does seem like there are a lot of mostly “mushy” textured meals. In a pinch, pork rinds are a great snack and super crunchy (they’re also pretty much the MVP of keto,) super crispy bacon, baked cheese, kale chips… there are really a lot of ways to mix up the texture of meals.

Ummmm… where are my sweets?

God gave us sugar alcohols so that we can continue to enjoy our sweet things. “Fat bombs” are little nuggets of pure joy that are often just a bite of something sweet. (There are a lot of balls, which opens an excellent opportunity for a lot of dirty jokes. These are my favorite balls.) Depending on your net carbs for the day, you can also make up a cute, fatty little dessert like whipped cream with berries or cream cheese and jelly (which tastes like cheesecake) or dump some Stevia into your iced coffee. Not that I have to put packets and packets into my coffees because I miss Dunkin’ Donuts, but whatever. There’s probably a substitution or keto version of anything, including bread.

Can you drink?

You can – really dry wines and straight spirits are recommended, or super low-carb beers. This was the hardest thing for me to give up because I really, really love beer. I’ve learned to love Michelob Ultra, and my old favorite, tequila and soda water. Whiskey, gin, vodka – these are all still fair game at zero net carbs.

keto restaurant meal

Keto restaurant meals: bunless bacon cheeseburger with guacamole and side salad with olive oil, and a bleu cheese steak salad in the background

I can’t cook so how do I keto?

Still possible! I don’t love cooking either because it feels like it takes so much time out of your day, but there are a lot of shortcuts. A lot of them do involve some level of meal prep, but cooking and preparing have started to feel quite meditative to me, so maybe you’ll start to enjoy it too. I’m planning to do a post on my favorite quick and easy keto meals, but if you really prefer to eat out, it’s easy to do that too.

Gadgets? Do I need gadgets?

Nah. After you start out, you might find that some things will make your life easier – I’ve found that I want a kitchen scale to be more precise with portions, and boyfriend wants to get a spiralizer for nights we want zoodles but didn’t pick any up at the store – but truly, the only things you need to start eating keto is a good tracking method. I use the app Carb Manager, but Lose It and MyFitnessPal also track macros. I do also sometimes sketch it out by hand in my bullet journal because that makes it easier to look back on for future meal planning.

I did grab a pack of meal prep Rubbermaid food storage to make lunches easier since my lunches are usually leftovers that are eaten in a rush, and these are a nice way to help feel a bit more organized, but it’s totally optional.

How do I start?

We started by using Diet Doctor’s 2-week intro plan. It’s nice because it provides an interactive weekly shopping list that will update the quantities based on the number of people you’re shopping for, and it has you duplicating every dinner for an easy lunch the next day. From there we felt prepared enough to start planning out our own meals, but there are certainly other meal plans you could continue using, or even longer-term options for sale through Diet Doctor’s website.

One thing that I found the most helpful was that I made a spread in my bullet journal of good, keto-friendly snacks that I have stocked in my house so I don’t eat something sugary or carby. Apparently “perfect keto” means eating enough fat that you don’t want to snack, and some days I hit that, but I’m still finding myself hungry between lunch and dinner. (My next move is to color code it depending on which of my nutrients or macros is low, but, ya know, that’s not for everyone.)

Anything else I need?

I’m not being funny here or joking around, but here’s a list of things I desperately needed that no one told me about:

And just as a note… tuck away a book or something in any bathroom you use often.

If you travel a lot, it’s easy to keep keto, but it can require more preparation. Grab some keto snacks to keep in your bag (things like low-carb nut butters, low-carb jerky, almonds, and coconut oil are really good to keep with you). Hard boiled eggs are fairly easy to find (even at gas stations) and can be easily batch made and kept in the fridge wherever you’re staying. Salad bars at grocery stores, hospital cafeterias, and even restaurants are good choices as long as you stick to the low-carb choices.

Honestly, it’s not as hard or intimidating as it sounds. I’ve really enjoyed it, and every day I find a new recipe or food that I want to try out. I lost five pounds in the first week, and I’ve continued to lose 2-3 pounds every week since we started.

Have you ever tried a “non-traditional” way of eating? What was your experience? Any suggestions for bathroom reading materials?

July 21, 2018
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