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monthly roundup no. 5: august 2017

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It’s August. Are we serious?! How did this happen? I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.

Meanwhile, Dani has been planning our autumn hygge for months. Frankly, I find it rude… but I’m a little ready for some PSL in my life. And those Michigan autumn leaves. Yes, please.

The last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle – dealing with some mental health stuff, trying to date (it’s awful, and I’m not going to do it again), and planning out the next few months of almost non-stop travel saw me needing some serious down time. Things that landed in my queue this month mostly revolve around travel, tech, mental health, and pizza… like that’s any surprise.

Strategies for Coping With Anxiety: Full disclosure: little self-promotion here, but I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t think it was relevant. I started working with If Me, an app that helps people share their stories with trusted allies, contributing to their blog. This was a very popular post on my own blog, so I thought it might be useful to share even more tips.

The Best Places for Females to Travel Solo: It turns out I had a whole pile of extra overtime to use up, so I’ve been thinking for the last two weeks about how I can use it up and where I can travel. Pile that on top of having recently read What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman, and once again, travel is the only thing on my brain. I’ve really wanted to go on a solo trip for a long time, but I do worry about safety. I tucked this article away to consult in the future!

The Mighty Ducks Filming Locations: This might not be useful to anyone but me, but I booked a trip to Minneapolis in a few months, and you can bet I’ll be hitting up as many locations on this list as are still standing.

I Got Ghosted On by a Woman I Was Into. Do I Have to Move On?: I saw a dude, and I really liked him! A lot! And then we made plans to meet up, and he dipped out. So for a few days, naturally, I wallowed and read articles like this. But this did help me determine that he needed to be called out

Dress Code: A few weeks ago, I went to a meetup of Chicago-based bloggers. One girl was wearing bracelets she designed which have codes engraved in that unlock coding lessons online. I love the concept, and I want one badly – maybe as a reward for myself when I finally do go off to dev school.

Feels Like the Weekend: One of my Nashville buddies moved out to LA to act (he’s amazing!) and he’s in this Funny or Die sketch. It’s funny and almost too real… especially the family political views thing.

Quit Your Job And Live Abroad: 8 Places So Cheap You Might Not Need To Work: I’m not necessarily itching to dive into that ex-pat life just yet, but if there’s a place cheap enough to live without working, it’s probably a pretty inexpensive place to visit as well!

August 25, 2017

using Best Self Journal to reach your goals & giveaway

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Best Self Co. provided a sample for review and giveaway, but all opinions are my own.

If you’re like me, you have some big goals. Whether it’s running a marathon, going back to school, starting a company, or even starting a blog, it can be really hard and intimidating finding a way to make those dreams a reality. A few months ago, I discovered Best Self. Their planner/journal is created specifically to help users reach their dreams by breaking them down into smaller goals and actionable steps. That way, your big dreams feel more attainable (and you’ll be more likely to work toward them!) I thought I’d give a preview of what my Best Self journal looks like as well as a look at my routine and how I use it.

best self review

The package itself comes with the journal, as well as a pen loop and Wall Roadmap to mount so you can always keep your eyes on the prize. By putting your goals and steps up on your wall, preferably in a place where you see it most often, you’ll stay even more motivated to work hard every day. It’s dry erase, so you can even use it over and over.

Inside the journal, it’s packed with resources and advice on how to create goals. It can be harder than you think if you’ve never really set them before! You’ll learn about the 20-Mile March, and how Best Self’s 13-Week roadmap helps you achieve these goals. They’ll also point you to online resources for even more support, like a Facebook group of other users, and a guide on how to create good goals. In your journal, you’ll establish three main “result goals” which you’ll break down further. Best Self has you note the reasons that achieving these goals will improve your life, and you’ll also sign a commitment to achieve your goals. These are powerful psychological methods to motivate yourself.

The actual daily layouts are built to plan your day in a way that help you learn how to schedule your tasks in ways that work toward your goals. They also include places for morning and evening gratitudes. Practicing gratitude has many scientifically proven benefits, and it will put you in the right mindset to kill your goals. Sometimes it’s harder than others to find things to be grateful for, but if I can find six things every day, so can you. Even if it’s something as simple as the choice to take a shower every day (#RemoteWorkPerks.)

best self journal

Now that I’ve gotten into a routine after about a month of use, I’ve finally settled into a routine that works for me. I spend about thirty minutes a day with my journal. In the morning, I’ll wake up and write down my gratitudes. I’ll also write down my targets for the day. I’ve color coded each of my three result goals, so I try to have one target a day for each goal. At night, I reflect on the day, update my lessons learned and wins, and lay out my planned tasks and activities for the next day. That way, when I wake up, I don’t have to think – I’m already set up for success.

best self daily planner

During the day, I check off my progress, add things to my to-do list, and track my food (since that’s one of my action goals.) Tracking wins is fun too, and sometimes I run out of space. When you really focus on positivity and gratitude, you start to realize how great things are.

Since my goals are all color coded, that’s how I try to break down my day. You’ll see three to four colors (sometimes I’ll track work tasks in a fourth color here) in my daily spreads, and I try to add a reminder of what I’m working hard for in the My Goal section. Plus, one of my favorite parts of the journal are the inspirational quotes throughout. On each page, there’s a bit of inspiration and advice from people who are successful in their own rights. It’s helpful to have reminders on the bad days. Going forward, I’m also going to include a self-care line here. Planning in self-care is a great way to ensure that you’re going to do something for yourself every day.

best self weekly tracker

Best Self Co. was also generous enough to send over a journal for a giveaway, and I’m really excited to share this amazing productivity tool with you! Enter below, and share with us in the comments what your goals for the year are, or how you use your journal or planner.

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August 2, 2017

monthly roundup no. 4: july 2017

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I refuse to accept that this is the last Friday in July. Summer is slipping through my fingers and I’m not here for it! It’s been so busy around here that I haven’t even made it to the beach once, which is a great tragedy. (Even more so considering that Dani and I stumbled upon a small beach in the middle of the park near our apartment.) As we start to lean in to the last month of summer, a lot of the articles I’ve tucked away for this month focus on relaxing, focusing on the moment, and enjoying the warmth of the sun!

I Can’t Hide What Stress Does to My Body: As another person who suffers from RBF (resting bitch face,) I feel her pain. Most of the time, there’s nothing wrong – it’s just how my face is. But beyond that, I’m grateful to hear someone else’s story of how their stress and anxiety takes a toll on their body. A fun new symptom that I’ve developed over the last year is that in times of high stress, I break out in hives all over my body. Most of the time, it’s not that noticeable, as long as I’m not giving in to the screaming itchiness. But a lot of people who don’t suffer from anxiety might argue that it’s all mental, and Meredith and I (and, apparently, Demi Moore) are here to tell you that that’s most certainly not the case.

6 Easy Things to Do On Sunday to Improve Your Week: I’m really trying to make Sundays a day of intention and preparation for the week ahead. Even things as small as looking ahead at my weekly calendar have been escaping me, which means deadlines and appointments are coming up more quickly than I’m used to. Making a list for Monday is also a great task – as an ISTJ, I thrive on checking things off a to-do, so this will help my morning feel more controlled.

I Skeptically Tried Practicing Gratitude and it Completely Changed My Life: Over the years, I’ve tried off and on to focus on gratitude to help with my mental health. Since starting to use the Best Self journal (which includes morning and evening reflections on gratitude), it’s even easier to add this to my daily routine. This article is interesting because I always love to hear the science and psychology behind why these seemingly “new-agey” philosophies pay off.

7 Ways to Relieve Stress That Every 20-Something Should Try: I mean, I’m going to ignore the elephant here and pretend I’m still the target for this post. Obviously, I’m always looking for ways to cut down on stress and anxiety, and there are some new strategies here I look forward to trying.

Summertime Hygge (How to Achieve a New Kind of Cozy): I love hygge, so any excuse to practice it year-round works for me. We started by picking up some flowers on our grocery shop the other day, and I constantly have candles flickering everywhere. Summer is also a great time to purge and clean out your closets – our poor office looks like it’s been hit by a hurricane since I’m categorizing and organizing in there.

30 Day Summer Self-Love Challenge: Haley has a lot of great tips to put yourself first here, which will even help you continue to make time to enjoy the summer. Turning your phone off 30 minutes (or more) before bed not only helps you sleep better but even helps create more time in your day for things like reading or journaling. If you need a suggestion, pulling from another of her challenges, the poetry book milk & honey was my favorite book of 2016.

How to Create a Personal Development Plan: This post from Natalie Bacon couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been feeling a bit lost, unfocused, and distracted lately. I’m booking out some time this weekend to work through this and use it to help work toward my 13-week goals in the Best Self journal.

July 28, 2017

ANG book club: spring 2017

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 This post contains affiliate links.

what book to read next

It’s been quite awhile since the last reading check in! I’ve been reading a lot these past few months – even more than normal. Something that was a bit different is that I found myself reading a lot of books that I ended up not really liking, or feeling like they were worth the time. I don’t actually read series very often because if I find halfway through the first book that I’m hating it, I’d feel obligated to finish anyway, and I started a series as well.

Anyway, there are enough words to share about the books – let’s get on with it!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Rainbow Rowell and I have a complicated relationship. On one hand, she wrote one of my all-time favorite books. On the other, I couldn’t get through the book that everyone seemingly loved. Fangirl had been on my TBR list for years, and it was worth the wait. I liked that the main character had a complicated relationship with her sister and had a lot of responsibility in caring for her dad, and that she had a lot of growth throughout the novel.

I Am Here Now a creative mindfulness journal: I checked this out of the library and thought it was just okay. I took some of the exercises and set them up in my bullet journal, and I’d suggest doing the same. You save money and make it easier to redo them over and over.

Slice Harvester by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf: I read this book after having it recommended by a friend of the author. Colin started a blog called the Slice Harvester a few years ago in which he set out to eat a slice at each pizzeria in Manhattan. His memoir talks about how the blog helped him get sober and meet the love of his life, so it serves as motivation too. I thought he was a little too uppity about New York City pizza, but it’s a fun concept for a book.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz: After seeing this book on Tone It Up Karena’s morning routine post, and it sounded like something I would really get a lot out of. I did, and it’s one I’ll revisit often to help recenter myself and my thoughts. I even got the companion book to use for extra mindfulness exercises.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven: I loved her previous book All the Bright Places, so I had equally high hopes for this book as well, since it’s gotten better reviews. I didn’t feel the same – I kept waiting for a payoff that never came. I did really like the opening section where she talks about her anxiety because it felt very true to the race your brain runs during an anxious bent.

We Are Okay by Nina Lacour: I loved this book and read it in one day. It’s very true to only child-dom, and the bits where she’s having to talk herself into staying present in other people’s happiness is something I relate to too hard. There’s a big reveal, a shift you don’t expect, and it’s another great book about how complicated family can be.

Dirty Rush by Taylor Bell: This was an impulse read when I saw the cover on Hoopla and liked it, but I don’t recommend reading it. Admittedly, I’m probably not the target audience for a sorority book, but I have a pretty tough skin and dirty sense of humor, and even I thought this book went a bit too far. There were a lot of crass words, and it was generally unbelievable.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han: Another book that’s been on my TBR list, I’m not a big series reader, so kept putting it off. I’m starting to see a trend in the types of YA books I’ve been drawn to – loner girls with complicated family structures and responsibilities. Go figure. These are nice, easy reads – great for your summer list.

Hold Still by Nina LacourHold Still is Lacour’s first novel, and while I didn’t find it as gripping as We Are Okay, it’s still very good. It tells the story of a best friend left behind after suicide and gives a really accurate glimpse into what someone might be thinking about before their death. I did try to read another book by Lacour, and I don’t know if it was because it was an eBook, but it didn’t hold my attention at all and I couldn’t get through it.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: A couple years ago, this was on every summer “must read” list, and it’s languished in my queue since then. It was charming enough: I didn’t always love how the male protagonist was written with his abrupt mood changes, and it felt like it could have ended a few times before it actually did, but it was a fine, fast read.

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp: Part of me felt like I had read this before, but as I got into it, it didn’t seem familiar. The way she talks about drinking is something I don’t think a lot of people realize. When alcoholics quit drinking (no matter how low their bottom is) there’s more than just the physical withdrawal symptoms. They’ll also go through a certain mourning too – similar to the end of a fiery relationship.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler: Amy went to college with the lead singer of my favorite band, who gets a shoutout in her memoir. I listened to the audiobook and it was really charming, plus it included a great cast of characters.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan: This book had lots of hot press when it was released a few years ago, and the first portion of the book (her fiction) was much better than the back half. I wish they’d opted for just fiction because her stories were fantastic, but I just didn’t care about the life and politics of going to an Ivy League school.

Take Your Life Back by Leah Davis: I did a full review of this book on how to begin transitioning into your location independent lifestyle. There’s a lot of value here including actionable steps to start your own remote career!

Crazy Is My Super Power by AJ Mendez Brooks: Former WWE Superstar AJ Lee competed and left wrestling before I got very interested in it, so I knew nothing about her going into the book (except that she loves dogs and lives in Chicago too.) This book is super motivational and if you’re the kind of person who makes excuses, her story will make you realize there’s no excuse not to fulfill your dreams. Plus, she’s a badass – being a woman in a male-dominated industry is tough, and she’s had no time for misogyny. Highly recommend.

Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins: This was impossible to get through. It started off well and the first few stories were definitely the bright spots. I’ll read the companion book this winter because I’ve heard it’s much better, but don’t pick this up expecting it will be an easy read.

A lot of these books are available on Audible and Kindle Unlimited, and listening to audiobooks is a great way to read more than ever! You can multitask (a friend of mine read a book while running an ultramarathon) so even if you think you don’t have time, you can still get through your “to read” list!

What are you reading this summer? I’m always looking for more suggestions!

July 3, 2017

monthly roundup no. 3: june 2017

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I can’t even believe that June is over so fast. It’s usually my favorite month – the heat is starting to ramp up, there’s a lot of time for beach trips and sunscreen, and the excitement of road trips and travel is fresh. I’m on the way to Memphis now, which is one of my favorite cities in the world. If you’re ever heading that way, be sure to visit the Stax Museum and Central BBQ – they’re both must-sees. Between distributing snacks around the car and getting excited about all the barbeque I’m going to stuff into my face, here are some of my favorite links from the month!

I love blogging and I’ve spent quite a bit of my life doing it! But sometimes it’s hard to find the authenticity in it anymore – things feel so curated between influencer networks and affiliate marketing and monthly income posts. I’ve been reading Venus Trapped In Mars for years, and she wrote about the same thing this month, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

I’ve spent the last couple of years barking about The Hold Steady and how great they are. This month, they took over Chicago for a weekend and I finally got to partake in one of their greatest traditions: the show-ending stage invasion. Check out this video for a great shot of my awkward dancing, and Dani, I’m sorry that the confetti will never leave our house.

Behind the scenes, I’ve been working on rebranding my blog – eek! None of the content will change, but I’ve never felt super connected to the blog name. Sure, I am a northern girl, and I love the north, but it was sort of just a throwaway I picked years ago when I first started. To work on new graphics and themes, I’ve been raiding CreativeMarketthese shapes are a sneak peek of the new feel!

I love being a digital nomad and things are becoming easier and easier all the time for people like us. Estonia wants to make things even easier. They have a system that allows you to become an “e-Resident” – this is a great article with more information on what the process is like, and what it means to become an e-Resident of a country. You don’t even have to visit (but that’s part of the beauty of being a nomad!) If you’re a digital nomad, or want to become one someday, I definitely recommend checking this out.

Zubaz hooked me up with a package of amazing legwear a few weeks ago, and I have always loved them. The more I wear them, the more I want to wear them. I’ll do a full post soon (including maybe a giveaway!) but they’re what I’m rocking in the car today. The comfiest travel pants ever.

Last week, I discovered slam poetry. I mean, I’ve always known what it is, of course, but I never sought it out. Amazon had recommended a book for me (Depression & Other Magic Tricks, do they know me or what?) which saw me going off to YouTube to find that author’s “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” poem. At first, I rolled my eyes a bit like “ugh, spoken word, woof…” and then I found myself in a vortex of amazing performances. The cadence similar to much of the rap and hip hop I love. Another favorite: “Ode to My Bitch Face.”

Zenfulie’s website isn’t updated regularly, but it’s one of the few mailing list emails that I read every week. Written by Sesame Street’s lead UX designer, it features great creative writing, short stories, and zodiac horoscopes. I highly recommend subscribing and reading every Sunday.

I’ve been reading voraciously lately – you’ll get a pretty full rundown on Monday of what I’ve been reading since the last update. Right now I’m reading You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. I’m a bit late to the party on it, but halfway through, I’m loving it. In addition to the book, I’m also using the Best Self journal in an attempt to continue shifting my negative thoughts. A week into using it, I do like it a lot. Even though I might struggle on some days to think of three things I’m grateful for as soon as my 5:30 alarm goes off, it’s pushing me to think more positively. (I did receive a Best Self journal for review, but I truly do love it.)

You’ll Be More Successful Once You Stop Believing Anything Is Permanent, and that’s something I keep having to remind myself. It’s a principle in both The Four Agreements as well as cognitive behavioral therapy, and this post from Jessica Moorhouse is a great reminder that even if your life doesn’t look like what you expected, you can still have a great life.


What are you reading around the web this holiday weekend? I’m all ears!

June 30, 2017