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Desi

july 2018 book club

Posted in Entertainment by

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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june 2018 book club

Posted in Entertainment by

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!

Buffering: Other than scrolling past her show on the Food Network app, I knew very little about Hannah Hart before listening to her memoir. I really liked this book – she talks openly and honestly about her struggles as the daughter of a mentally ill mother and how that has shaped her life, both in childhood and as an adult. As someone who has gotten to caretake for older relatives, I related to parts of her story, and enjoyed the humor she infused throughout.

Back Talk: When Julie Buntin, author of one of my favorite books (Marlena), posted one of the shorts from this book to Electric Literature earlier this year, I knew I had to grab the book. The title short is phenomenal, and the stories range from two to 20 pages. Danielle is a fantastic writer, and though this took me awhile to get through, I definitely recommend it.

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

Sharp Objects: I had never read anything by Gillian Flynn before – I know, I know, I’m behind the times. I picked her for one of our book challenge prompts (a local Chicago writer) but couldn’t hammer down which of her books to read. Dani helped me pick this one out, and it has everything I love – mystery, crime, mental health, Chicago, travel… you get the picture. It’s being turned into a TV series, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

The Hot One: Remember when Ashton Kutcher’s girlfriend died? I knew a bit of the story and was excited to read this when it first came out. It was…. not what I expected. The book is written by Ashley’s childhood “best friend,” and it becomes pretty clear pretty early on that the writer had some seriously jealous feelings about her. It’s full of victim blame, shame, and doesn’t put much onus on the actual murderer – really disappointing read, and I only finished it as a hate-read.

Natural Disaster: To say that I devoured this book is a gross understatement. Ginger Zee is from the same area of Michigan as me, and we had similar stories growing up. It was cool to watch her move from local stations to the Chicago market to finally Good Morning America, but her story proves that you never know what’s really going on behind a red lipsticked-smile. She opens the book talking about her depression – something brave and totally inspiring, and goes on to confess about a manipulative relationship that saw her calling the cops and an inpatient psychiatric stay before starting her dream job at ABC. I heavily recommend this book – it’s not a weather book at all, it’s a totally relatable memoir of what it’s like and how hard it is to work for your dreams while being unable to get out of bed for weeks at a time.

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

Love Songs & Other Lies*: Between this book and August and Everything After, I’m not sure where the current girl musician trope in YA came from, but I’m here for it. I liked this book and it was an easy read to break my dry spell. There’s a small mystery in it, which adds some dimension, but I wish it was explored more – maybe an opening for a sequel!

Tell Me Lies: Tina said in her review of this book that fans of it would fall into a specific niche, but that people who love it would love it – and I loved it. It’s told from alternating viewpoints of two people in a relationship over several years of being together and not. The male is an entirely irredeemable character, and as someone who was in some pretty crappy relationships, I saw a lot of parallels (hence being the target for this book.) There’s a twist in I even I didn’t expect, and I really liked the full circle storytelling – I normally don’t like happily ever afters, but they worked for me here. I totally loved this book and I can’t wait to read more by Carola Lovering.

June 30, 2018
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7 companies hiring remote employees this month: June 2018

Posted in Career by

June is almost over, which hardly seems believable. Though summers can be packed full of fun activities, it’s also a great time to network or search for a new job! Happy hours are a great time to hit the patios and network with new people – you never know where your next connection will come from. It might just open the door to your next career move! In light of that, here are a few open positions now – many of which don’t require any prior experience!

Community Support Associate at Khan Academy: Khan Academy is an online education non-profit, with resources for learners of all ages. They’re looking for a community support associate to interface between employees and students. The job description reads a lot like the duties I have at work, and I love working with people in a tech environment and making things more accessible! It’s a full-time position and while Khan is based in Mountain View, CA, they are remote-friendly!

Senior Writer at Aha!: If you have experience as a product manager, Aha has quite a few available positions. The Senior Writer works with the rest of the marketing team to create high-quality content for their road mapping software. B2B and SaaS enthusiasts would really dig this company, who is working to create a distributed team.

Customer Support Executive at Close.io: This sales software is looking to add to their customer success team. The remote company is looking for someone to work with customers via email, phone, chat, and screen sharing to resolve issues. Glassdoor features high reviews from current and past employees, and they offer excellent benefits, including two retreats every year!

Tech Ladies is one of my favorite networking groups, and they have a really great job board as well! Join now to get access to networking events, webinars, and excellent job postings.

People Operations Specialist at Plex: Plex is one of my favorite discoveries of the year – it’s a remote media server you can set up, so you can access things like your music, TV shows, movies, or other media wherever you are. They’re hiring now for an HR specialist, so if you have a background in hiring and managing staff, this could be a great opportunity to move to a remote tech company.

Customer Advocate at Buffer: Buffer is one of the leading social media management software programs, and seems like a hugely popular company to work for. They’re looking worldwide for someone who fits with their company values to work with customers to get the most out of their Buffer membership. It looks like a pretty long application process, but it looks like they’re very communicative about the process!

General Night News Writer at Elite Daily: If you like breaking news, this after-hours position could be for you. Elite Daily is growing their news team, and they’re owned by the Bustle Media Group now. Since the acquisition, the quality of content has really gone up, and they aren’t just a content mill anymore – this is a great opportunity to join a well-established publication as a staff writer.

Event Manager at InVision: InVision is a UX design software, and they’re looking for an Event Manager to represent them at conventions and conferences, as well as design and execute InVision events. If you have a background in event management, are willing to travel, and want to work with an exciting virtual UX company, check this position out today!

June 13, 2018
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best audiobooks ever

Posted in Entertainment by

best audiobooks

June is National Audiobook Month, which is great – I love audiobooks. Podcasts can be a fun way to pass time at work or on a commute, but audiobooks are just as great and educational. A few years ago when I was driving from Nashville back to my hometown in Michigan, I popped on Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid on Scribd, and it started two love affairs: one with audiobooks, the other with TJR. They can also be meditative – when I’m doing really repetitive tasks, or cleaning the house, it can be nice to have a narrative rather than back-and-forth gossip of a podcast or music. To celebrate this month, I’m sharing some of my favorite audiobooks!

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

Non-Fiction

For audiobooks, I tend toward non-fiction, especially memoirs. It’s a fun way to hear someone’s story in their own voice, in a way that’s a little different than just text on a page. Here are some faves:

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling: I listened to this last week in one workday and totally loved it. It’s Mindy’s second book, and in it, she dispenses lots of advice – from dating, self-confidence, the pressure on women to be thin, and the value of working hard. “Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse TysonWhat is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote (and narrates!) this book with quick answers to broad, big topics. It’s clever, it’s easy to understand, and it’s easy to turn on and off – he presents a lot of the information in easily digestible bites to fit into any schedule. I really liked this a lot, and it made me think a lot about the world and the universe.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler: Another memoir by a female comedian, this audiobook is awesome. Amy invites Seth Meyers to read a chapter, as well as Carol Burnett, and both are exceedingly funny. Plus, my friendo Craig Finn gets a shoutout – they went to college together in Boston. Small world. She dispenses a lot of advice about what it’s like to be a powerful woman, especially in male-dominated fields, and how she overcame the stigma of being too assertive.

Good Clean Fun by Nick Offerman: Seeing a pattern of specific non-fiction books I like? This was a random pick for work one day – I don’t have a particular interest in woodworking or construction, outside four years of high school theatre – it just seemed like a good workday listen. His voice is almost meditative – very calm, soothing, and would be a really great bedtime story, or even to pop on to calm anxiety.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore: I learned about “the radium girls” a few years ago from a Buzzfeed long read. In the 1910’s, many women in New Jersey took great jobs painting on watch faces – without any knowledge that they were being poisoned by radium, not knowing what consequences they would all eventually face. This book chronicles their story as well as the worker’s rights and labor laws their experience changed.

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

Fiction

When listening to fiction, I look for books with multiple actors – it really helps me picture the action, and helps keep things straight! Plus, it’s more like listening to a fiction podcast, which is something I’m exploring more and more lately.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor: I’ve wanted to get into the Welcome to Night Vale podcast for quite awhile, but was never sure where to start – when I saw their first book on Libby, it seemed like a great way to jump in. It’s a really unique story, and I loved the way it built and resolved. The narrator is excellent – he also hosts the podcast – and it’s plenty long, if that’s something you’re looking for!

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: To be fair, I haven’t actually finished this one yet. But I absolutely love the large and varied cast of voice actors, including Nick Offerman, Carrie Brownstein, Ben Stiller, Rainn Wilson, Kat Dennings, and even more – it makes it feel almost like an old-time radio show, with each character having their own voice. This was also the 2017 Audie winner, and it’s easy to understand why! Historical fiction is a very difficult genre for me to get into, and the way this audiobook is done, even I am enjoying it.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus: This is a bit of a long listen, which could be a good thing if you really want to get invested in the characters. The story of a high school murder mystery, someone dies during after-school detention, and the search to reveal who was really behind the death. This book also features multiple voice actors, so it’s easy to keep the characters straight – important for listeners who might otherwise get confused by dialog in fiction audiobooks.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: Admittedly, this book hasn’t come through my library holds yet, but I can’t wait to listen. Another nominee for the 2017 Audie Awards, the preview sounds great, and the book has widely gotten great reviews. Queue this one up on your phone for poolside listening and skip squinting at a book or eReader!

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I can’t finish the list off without a nod to what made this such a compelling listen for me. Voiced by actress Julia Whelan, the story is wonderful, but Whelan’s performance adds a lot to the story. It’s told in a dual timeline, from the point of view of Hannah Martin. Whelan changes her voice for each timeline to accurately reflect the person Hannah is, and what she’s going through, in each. If this book doesn’t sound up your alley, keep your eye out for anything narrated by her – she’s really wonderful and narrates the best audiobooks!

What do you think are the best audiobooks? What ones are your favorites? I’m always looking for new things to listen to during work or on the road!

June 11, 2018
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