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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

block island organics natural sunscreen review

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I received a sample from Block Island Organics to review through Tomoson, but all opinions are my own. 

block island organics review

Moving to Chicago and finding an apartment with a gorgeous patio has meant that I’m lucky to have two offices. I picked out a patio set and now Dani and I spend hours and hours sitting outside. Whether we’re working, blogging, reading, or sipping on gin and Polar Seltzer, it’s hard to get us to head inside.

That means protecting our skin is super important. Your skin is at risk of burning even after only ten minutes, and just five bad sunburns can contribute to skin cancer in your future.

I was offered the chance to try Block Island Organics’ Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30. Though I don’t have particularly sensitive skin, I do like to use a different SPF on my face. Their sunscreens are organic, vegan, and paraben, sulfate, and gluten-free. They’re also environmentally friendly and created with ingredients that are safe for reefs (which are commonly used in sunscreens.) Block Island Organics is also award-winning: this sunscreen has been voted the Best Beach & Sport Sunscreen by Environmental Working Group for 2017.

I like this sunscreen a lot. It’s made with zinc, which I’ve always found to be the most effective sun safety product for my face. It’s lightweight, not greasy at all, and looks great under makeup. I found that it gave me a matte finish, similar to Clinique’s pep-start moisturizer.

We haven’t had a ton of sunny days since I got my sample, but I’ve used it a few times and it’s really effective. It’s so lightweight and comfortable on my face and even has some moisturizing benefits as well. The bottle is 3.3 oz, so it’s TSA friendly for travel. I keep my bottle in my “outdoor work bag” so it’s always there when I head outside (and don’t forget to reapply often.)

The full list of ingredients is available on their website. They also have a section with information on smart suncare with resources on staying safe in the sun. If you can’t find the answer there, they’re happy to answer via email!

Block Island Organics SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen is also available on Amazon.

June 18, 2017

help for hormonal acne from curology

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Curology provided me with a sample for this review, but all opinions are my own.

My whole life, I’d been lucky to have perfect skin. I often got compliments on it which always made me feel great, but last winter after a birth control change, I started getting terrible hormonal breakouts all over my face. It didn’t matter what I did – being extra careful and mindful of taking off my makeup, drinking extra water, trying out different charcoal face washes – nothing was making it better. I thought I would try out Curology to see if a prescription might help out.

Curology is a skincare solution that pairs you with a dermatologist who analyzes photos of your skin along with your own feedback about it, then customizes a three-ingredient medication for your specific skin problems. The first step is to post selfies of your skin, and Curology makes it really easy to upload from your computer or directly from your phone.

Throughout my experience, I tried to keep a little journal to review my experience. Let’s check it out!

Week 1: On March 13, I got my first box and started using it every night before bed. I am a greaseball, and the greaseball is me. Apparently, this is normal and it’s called “purging” – Curology sends emails along the journey to touch base and educate you about the process. My face feels like an oil slick and I can’t really tell if the acne is getting any better just yet, but I’m going to keep chugging along.

Week 3: I contacted my provider and asked for any tips she had that might help the purge since my skin has been so oily. She recommended a cleanser, and it has been helping. She also suggested using the medication every other day and making sure I’m not going too overboard with it (which I definitely was.)

Curology Progress Photo

Week 6: The texture of my skin has gotten way better, and a lot of the acne on my cheeks has cleared up. I’m still getting breakouts around my mouth, but they aren’t nearly as severe as they were.

Week 10: There’s no acne on my cheeks or neck anymore, and most of it along my jawline is gone too.

Week 12: Still having breakouts here and there, but again, nowhere near my original photos when I started using Curology. They aren’t as painful either – I used to be barely able to touch my chin without a wince, and that discomfort is gone now.

One thing to note: since the first shipment I got, they’ve changed their frequency. Now, instead of sending 3-month supplies, they have a variety of plan levels to fit your needs:

  • Pricing plan details:
    • 30-Day Bottle (14 ml): Shipment Every Month $19.95 (+ $4.95 Shipping & Handling)
    • 60-Day Bottle (27 ml): Shipment Every Two Months $39.90 (Free Shipping & Handling)

You can get a smaller bottle now, which is great – if the formula needs to be changed up, you don’t have to wait as long. When I got the reminder that my new shipment was due, I contacted my provider with a new set of selfies and feedback on how it was working, and she updated my prescription accordingly. (Plus the new bottles are TSA-friendly, so you can take it on plane trips.)

curology delivery

The new formula I’m on seems to be working much better. I saw a little improvement off and on with my first bottle (mostly around my chin and neck, which didn’t feel like hormonal acne to begin with) and in the week since I’ve had the different medication, the texture has gotten even more clear and hormonal acne has been more manageable. It was impossible to cover with makeup before, but now I can use tinted moisturizer and it’s not noticeable.

On the Curology website, there are a lot of success stories – many people who have been using it for over a year are continuing to use it because their skin has cleared up completely! You can also upload your own progress pictures (this is important so your provider can review them to evaluate progress and changes) and check out guides with tips on how lifestyle factors can affect your skin. In addition to that, you can contact your provider anytime with questions. During the purge when I started using the product, I was miserable with grease. My provider Rachel suggested a drugstore cleanser to try, and it worked really great. I’m still using it as my daily facewash because it makes my skin feel so dewy and fresh.

Another really cool thing about Curology is that their website teaches you what each medication in your formula does. There are no “filler” products – they just put in what you need to keep your skin clear.

Curology medicines

I’m obviously a big proponent of health care from home – I would never have made a trip to a dermatologist office for a lot of reasons. Curology makes it so easy to talk to your provider about what is and isn’t working, get suggestions, and an affordable medication that can be customized monthly based on your skin care.

My experience has been really great, and though I am still having a few breakouts here and there, they aren’t nearly as bad and are easily covered by light makeup (in this photo, I’m just using Laura Mercier moisturizer!)

curology update photo

If you struggle with acne, I highly recommend Curology. It’s super affordable, and you can even get a free month by using my referral link here!

June 12, 2017

19 unique ideas for father’s day

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This post contains affiliate links. Dollar Shave Club and TRTL provided samples for review, but all opinions are my own.

19 unique father's day gift ideas

“Desi, why are your gift guides always 19 items,” you ask? 19 is my favorite number. Always has been – probably because it’s my birthdate. Even though I consider myself a great gift giver, I’ve always had trouble shopping for my dad. Despite that, I still have some great gift ideas! Here are 19 creative and unique ideas for your dad – no matter what his interests are!

Zubaz tie: Zubaz is one of my favorite things. They aren’t just for the 90’s throwback anymore – they have a ton of great sports gear, sandals, and more. If he’s a suit wearer, this tie is a great way to add some fun and color to his wardrobe!

Hangry Kit: This one would be a hit in our house since emotions run high when blood sugar levels run low. A snack box full of sweet and salty snacks would be perfect for the garage, the office, a road trip, or even tucked next to his favorite chair when he needs a little treat.

Beer of the Month Club: After all those snacks, he’s sure to be thirsty. If he likes to try new things, deliver 12 new bottles of beer to his doorstep. He might find his new favorite brew, and you become the new favorite child.

Dollar Shave Club: I love this company, and they aren’t just razors and shower products anymore! Gift your dad the Big Cloud line – the daily face moisturizer and lip balm have SPF to keep him sun safe when he heads out for a day of golf, fishing on the boat, or mowing the lawn! (You could keep the hand lotion for yourself – it’s super creamy and luxe. I keep mine in my carry-on to help with plane dryness.)

pCloud: Similar to Dropbox, pCloud is a cloud storage system. If your dad works from a lot of different locations, this kind of digital storage can be super helpful so he can always access what he needs, no matter where he is. Or maybe he has a huge music or photo collection – no matter what it is, you (or he) will get an extra gig of storage when signing up with this referral link.

Yellow Submarine Mug: Heat-activated mugs are my favorite. If your dad is into music, grab this mug!

19 gift ideas for father's day

TRTL Travel Pillow: This has quickly become something I can’t live without, and it’s perfect for a guy who travels a lot. Much less intrusive than the normal u-shaped travel pillows, the TRTL pillow tucks away easily and provides the perfect amount of support to grab a few zzz’s on planes or trains.

May Designs Notebook: I love May Designs, and I know this doesn’t seem like the manliest gift, but hear me out. They recently added a whiskey notes insert set. If your dad likes whiskey, this would make an awesome (and super unique) gift basket with a tasting set of different whiskeys to try!

Sumojerky: Lots of food related ideas on this list – I guess it’s pretty obvious what the preferred gifts in my family are! Monthly jerky shipments from a variety of makers right to his door so he’ll always have something to look forward to.

Classy Playing Cards: Cards are such a “dad” thing, aren’t they? Up his game (literally) with these black on black cards – then spend some time with him and don’t hustle him too hard.

Lapel Torch: My dad is outdoorsy in a “non-traditional” way – he spends a lot of time in the garage working on cars, often late into the night. In a rural or under-lit area, a Lapel Torch would be a great way to shed some light on the situation! Perfect for camping too (its intended use.)

That Wrestling Club: I’ve slowly been revealing myself to be a wrestling fan – the athleticism is unmatched in any other sport. If your dad is into it, gift him a subscription – he’ll get both current and classic memorabilia (and you can bond with him over that Savage/Steamboat match from the 80’s.)

Watch: Keep him in style and on time with a fashionable and affordable watch. If he’s a chronic watch loser, Amazon even has a ton of inexpensive options so he won’t feel bad if he loses track!

Amazon Kindle Unlimited: It’s no surprise that I’m an avid reader, and the dads in my family like to read as well. Our tastes differ so much that I’d have no idea what books to pick out for them. A Kindle Unlimited subscription lets him pick his own books as often as he wants – win/win/win, to be honest.

Nice Pen: Bourbon & Boots is one of my favorite spots for unique gifts. Class up dad’s desk with a Bourbon & Boots wooden pen. The steampunk one is super cool, and would be a great conversation piece for the office! If he’s not a pen guy, check out their creative bourbon gifts!

Skin Hero balm: This hemp balm works great on a ton of ailments – bug bites, sunburns, cuts & burns, eczema and dry skin, and the list goes on. Since it’s unscented, it’s great for guys (or anyone else who is scent-sensitive.) Its small size makes it easy to tuck away in the car, desk drawer, or work bench – anywhere he might need a little bit of skin relief.

father's day gift ideas

Bag Organizer: This is definitely a product that any dude on the go doesn’t know he needs. Let’s be honest – work bags or briefcases get super messy and disorganized. A bag organizer like this will give everything its own place so he’ll always look like a pro when reaching for his phone, pen, or files!

Cheese BBQ Utensil: If he’s a grillmaster, he’s probably always looking for new and unique utensils for his domain. This is something I didn’t know I needed until I saw it: it lets you barbecue a layer of cheese. I’ll take three.

Sunglasses: These floating sunglasses mean he’ll never lose a pair on the lake again. If they fly off on a wave or while he’s pulling in The Big One, they’ll bob back up to the surface. Save his eyes from squinting for the rest of the day, and saves his wallet from replacing yet another pair!

Fitbit: I just upgraded to the Charge 2 model, and it’s really revved up my desire to get active again. Fitbits are a great way to challenge friends and family, so this could be a fun way to feel connected even if you’re far apart!

June 5, 2017