Weekend Thoughts / 21

What a butt
Somebody found a new favorite hang-out spot.

 

How was your week? It rained SO much this week, and it broke all kind of records for Texas — we got 21 inches of rain in our part of Houston. There were also some pretty intense flash floods. It makes you really appreciate the first responders, who were working overtime this week!

 

This week is supposed to be sunny, which is really great because I don’t think Texas could take much more rain!

 

Here are some of my favorite things from online this week:

 

Writing & Reading:

 

I really like Amber and and Rachel’s Collaboreads idea — instead of a standard book club, where you all have to read the same book (and hope it’s something you like), they give a random criteria (published the year you were born, mentions your home state, etc.) and then you get to pick a book and review it. I really like this idea, because all of the digital book clubs I’ve seen tend to pick books that I’m not really into.

 

Art:

 

Joy’s Career Day visit with Kim West is so fun! I love how colorful Kim’s artwork is, and Joy’s little girl Ruby is too cute. Little kids always seem to have the most fun when they’re painting on the walls or doing anything that’s usually off limits.

 

Around the House:

 

Love these ideas for creating a fun outdoor space for this summer.

 

In the Kitchen:

 

I made a half batch of Joy’s Snickerdoodle Strawberry Shortcakes for Memorial Day, and holy crap guys, they were delicious! I used a little cinnamon sugar (left over from topping the shortcakes) to macerate the strawberries and I don’t think I can do it with just plain sugar now — it’s too good!

 

Sarah’s Buttermilk Cake with Strawberry Frosting looks DIVINE. I’m a little obsessed with her photos because pink cake + pink flowers = the best thing ever, obviously.

 

I hope you have a great week! June 1 is tomorrow, and I can’t even believe it!

Continue Reading

On Getting Started

Insecurity quote
Photo via Noel Shiveley and Alex McDonell

 

Last week I mentioned that I reached a milestone in my novel and I was honestly shocked. It took me soo long to get the nerve up to take the plunge and start writing, and when I finally started it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be.

 

I feel kind of weird about giving advice for starting a novel/ big creative project — like a college freshman trying to advise the wee high school students — but I was too scared to start for a really long time, which is a little different than the stories you usually hear.

 

I’ve read several authors who talk about the failed novel(s) moldering on an external hard drive somewhere, and how they had to write a bunch of crappy novels before they wrote a good one. I… didn’t do that. I have notebooks full of character descriptions, plot outlines, and even some snippets of writing, but they were all abandoned before I really wrote anything. (They were all terrible, so it isn’t really a bad thing.) But it was super intimidating to start a novel knowing that I had tried and failed (abysmally) so many times before.

 

So I waited. I changed my plot outline about 5,000 times. (Seriously, anyone who was in my creative writing class where I wrote the first scene would hardly recognize it now.) I read blog posts about world building. I made a ton of secret Pinterest boards, with everything from characters to setting ideas. But by far the thing that helped me the most was reading different authors’ blogs.

 

No matter what kind of project you’re working on, there’s probably a blogger who’s doing it too. Which is great. Gradually I found a bunch of blogs that would give sort-of pep talks: Just go ahead and start. Don’t listen to your inner critic. It’s ok if the first draft is terrible — as long as it’s on the page. At the time I felt overwhelmed by the call to arms, but I really needed every single kick in the pants I read to get me up and moving.

 

Some links that were helpful when I needed a push to start writing:

 

Cassandra’s 12 Ways to Start Writing Again

 

If you haven’t read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, you need to beg/borrow/steal a copy today. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, take Abbigail’s.

 

Chuck Wendig’s:

 

Ashley Brooks’:

Do you draw/ paint/ sculpt/ scrapbook? A Beautiful Mess is always an encouraging place to look for new project ideas, and Elsie Larson’s 10 Reasons to Give Scrapbooking a Chance is particularly encouraging

 

One of my favorite places for writing advice is newsletters — Ashley Brooks’, Austin Kleon’s, Amber from Mr. Thomas & Me are some of my favorites. I look forward to the days they’ll show up in my inbox.

Continue Reading

Weekend Thoughts / 20

Yes Way Rose!

 

Hey friends! Are you excited for the three day weekend? I know I am!

 

This week was a pretty good one for me. I realized that in just over two months, I’ve written over 20,000 words for my novel. I was SO surprised and excited that I tweeted about it, and later I felt a little embarrassed. 20,000 words is maybe ⅓ of the amount of words I need for a novel. Was it silly to be so excited when I really hadn’t gotten very far?

 

Luckily I remembered Amber’s favorite ways to reward herself for reaching goals in her creative work, so I read it again. It was the perfect reminder that the Negative Nancy voice in my head is not cool and totally not fair to myself. I’m sure there are plenty of authors who can write better, faster first drafts than I can, but for me, 20,000 words is a big deal that deserves chocolate. So Teddy and I made a Wednesday night Target run to get chocolate (and kitty litter). And it was so great!

 

Writing & Reading:

 

Amber’s list of 5 ways we rob ourselves is sooo accurate for me. I’m particularly bad at dismissing compliments (and minimizing my own successes) and pretending those 5 minutes I spend on Instagram here and there don’t add up. Reading her post made me notice just how many times I check Twitter or Instagram when I’m feeling “stuck,” when I really should just keep pushing forward.

 

I never knew I needed a Star Wars and Princess Bride mashup until I read it. Someone please make this a video.

 

Around the House:

 

I feel like it’s pretty obvious that I love looking at pretty houses online, but thinking about decorating my own apartment is super intimidating. I’m really intrigued by Emily’s newest book, Cupcakes and Cashmere at Home and hoping it’ll give me some ideas for the new apartment.

 

Did you see Jacquelyn’s photo of the miniature pony foal? I’ve officially decided that I want a miniature pony farm when I grow up.

 

In the Kitchen:

 

I’ve never been to a Shake Shack, but I’m faking it with Deb’s Fake Shack Burger on Monday. Who else is excited for Memorial Day?

 

Molly always throws the cutest parties, and this macaron party looks so fun! Making macarons is pretty intimidating, so doing it in a big group would take the pressure off (because if you ruin yours you can always steal share someone else’s).

 

I always want to send care packages for my friends back home, but I’m the worst about going to the post office. It’s a problem. But I’m thinking if I make Melissa’s big batch of apricot muesli I’ll have no choice but to send it to friends. Would it be weird to send granola in the mail?

 

How was your week? I hope you have a great long weekend to recharge for next week!

Continue Reading

The Cookbook Project

 

Mimi Thorisson's Roast Chicken with Creme Fraiche from A Kitchen In France
Mimi Thorisson’s Roast Chicken with Creme Fraiche from A Kitchen In France

 

Yesterday, I realized I have a problem. I have too many cookbooks.

 

I was reading Sarah’s blog post about the twangy blueberry sauce from Tara O’Brady’s new cookbook Seven Spoons, and by the end of the post she had me convinced that I needed that cookbook. Because I obviously need another one, right?

 

Last night I counted all the books on my cookbook shelf (yes I have a shelf just for cookbooks) and realized — I have 18 cookbooks. 18! And I’m sure I have at least one or two more floating around on my bookshelves that I forgot to include.

 

Continue Reading

Dealing with Creative Burnout

Erica Cook quote

It was kind of quiet around these parts last week because I took an unplanned blog hiatus last week. I had written a post — this one, actually — and I kept thinking, oh I’ll post it tomorrow. Or oh, I’ll post it on Thursday. And then it just didn’t happen.

 

And honestly, it was exactly what I needed. I’ve been feeling burned out lately, and my brain desperately needed a rest. Earlier this year I was feeling bored and uninspired with the blog, so I decided to push myself to blog more. I started posting three times a week, planning out my editorial calendar a month ahead, and reading all sorts of articles about how to blog better, write better, and how to create a brand. I was really inspired, and it seemed to be working for me. Until it didn’t.

 

Little by little, I started feeling burned out. If I got busy with creative writing or reading and missed a blog post, I’d feel like a failure and beat myself up about it. I worried I wasn’t good enough. I noticed that I changed the editorial calendars so much throughout the month that I was lucky if more than two blog posts I had planned actually made it to the blog. Suddenly my process wasn’t working for me anymore, and I couldn’t figure out why.

 

I started thinking about summer plans for the blog. I didn’t want to stop blogging entirely, but trying to keep a strict blogging schedule in the middle of moving and traveling (a lot!) didn’t seem feasible. I considered going on a semi-hiatus and was so excited about the idea (and was honestly tempted to start it a month early) that I thought Maybe this should tell me something.

 

Continue Reading

Weekend Thoughts / 19

Saturday Sunset

 

This week I unintentionally took a break from the blog, and it was unexpectedly great and exactly what I needed. But I missed writing here, so (hopefully) next week everything will be back to normal.

 

I’ve been reading a TON lately, and really pushing myself out of my reading comfort zone, which I’ve enjoyed (for the most part — there have been a few duds). But I’ve noticed that reading so much makes it harder for me to actually write. Maybe because I have other people’s words and stories buzzing around in my head? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try to slow down on the reading a little bit so I don’t get totally behind on my writing.

 

Here are some of my favorite things from the web this week;

 

Writing & Reading:

 

The story about Sandra sticking it to her jerkish boss from Some Kitchen Stories was really entertaining, but what really stood out to me was Judi’s question at the end — “Did you take care of your own heart?” Oof. Really needed to think about that one!

 

I loved Amber’s idea of a writing shelf, and I think I’m going to have to try that idea out for myself soon.

 

This Emojic 8 Ball from xkcd is pretty hilarious.

 

Around the House:

 

I’m on the hunt for a cute bookshelf for our new apartment, and I love seeing how Emily + her team can make one bookshelf blend in with so many different styles. I love this monochromatic/ eclectic style, but I also really like how colorful the Southwestern style is. Can you tell I know nothing about interior design?

 

Since I’ll have my own little balcony (!!!) in a couple months, I’m planning on having lots of window boxes with herbs and flowers. I’m totally inspired by Toshiko’s balcony garden. Her whole apartment is super cute, and I’m kind of obsessed with her cow print (I think?) chairs and pillows.

 

In the Kitchen:

 

Emma’s Vanilla Cream Pie with Marbled Meringue looks IN.SANE. Plus, I love that she also daydreams about owning a pie shop. I daydream about that way too much.

 

Here are 10 cake decorating tips from Molly of My Name is Yeh! Frosting layer cakes is my baking Achilles Heel, so I’m trying to read all the tips I can before I try again.

 

What have you been up to this weekend? The past couple weekends Teddy and I have both had unexpected plans come up, and while they were really fun I’ve been craving a day to just rest. So yesterday we made plans to not have plans — except for going to Torchy’s Tacos, because their queso is the best I’ve ever had. No joke.
I hope you have a great Sunday and a great week. We’re only one week away from Memorial Day!

Continue Reading

Weekend Thoughts / 18

OMG

 

Happy Mother’s Day!! Do you have any fun plans — for your Mom or yourself if you are a Mom? I’m still in Texas, so I’m definitely going to call my Mom today. My Mom is Type A — and I’m sooo not, so that led to some big fights when I was in high school. But the older I get, the more I realize that I’m a lot more like my Mom than I thought I was. We’re both stubborn, practical, no-nonsense, and we both tend to make recipes for the very first time when we have guests over. (I don’t necessarily recommend that, although we definitely have some funny stories!) I love you, Mom! Sorry for all the dumb arguments we had when  I was in high school– like the time we argued because I forgot to tell you I needed razors before a trip and I wanted to borrow one of yours? Ooops! I’m (a tiny bit) better about planning now!

 

Here are some cool things from around the Internets for you this Mother’s Day:

 

Writing + Blogging:

 

I love reimagined stories with iconic characters, so reading about Gwenda Bond’s process for writing Lois Lane: Fallout, about Lois’ high school years is super interesting. I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for this book!

 

Reading:

 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to read Gemma Correll’s new book, The Worrier’s Guide to Life. It looks cute, funny, and totally relatable since I come from a family of worrywarts.

 

Ashley Brooks’ take on reading as a way to step out of time when you’re stressed and tired is so great — I love those moments!

 

I loved Trina’s post where she wonders what she would have been like if Starbucks and Instagram and cell phones were around when she was a teenager. Those things were around when I was a teenager, but it seems like they’re even more omnipresent nowadays. Even though I don’t have kids yet, it made me think about how I’ll react to the new gadgets and apps that my kids will inevitably love, while I’m the “old person” trying to figure out how to log in.

 

Style:

 

Since I work in an office setting my day-to-day outfits are always business casual (except on the weekends, when I’m usually in sweatpants and my favorite polar bear socks). But sometimes it’s fun to imagine having a job where I could wear jeans — with holes in them! — to work. This outfit is a super cute fantasy work outfit.

 

It’s almost swimsuit season — oi. Luckily Kelly Purkey and Camille Styles have some great swimsuit picks that are cute but still have enough coverage so you don’t accidentally flash anyone after a huge wave comes by. (Been there!)

 

Fun & Random:

 

How fun is it to follow along on Molly’s tractor adventure with Eggboy?

 

I love this flower arrangement with lilacs and purple artichokes. So pretty!
Totally in love with Melanie’s TV show in a box idea. I think this would be a great birthday present (I love giving several small things instead of one big thing) and I think it would work for other shows and movies too — Star Wars, Dr. Who, The Princess Bride… so many options!

 

I hope you guys have a great week! Go call or hug your Mom today!

Continue Reading

Four New & Upcoming Books I’m Excited About

 

Nimona cover

 

I discovered Noelle Stevenson (also known as Gingerhaze) through her Tumblr. (I can’t remember if it was through her Modern Scooby Doo series or Modern Lord of the Rings? Both were great though.) Then I totally fell in love with her webcomic Nimona, which if you haven’t read, is full of anti-heroes, shapeshifters, and medieval knights with mad scientist gadgets. In other words, it’s awesome! You can read it online, or buy it in book form on May 12. Apparently there will be some extra scenes that weren’t included online, so I’m really excited to get it! You can pre-order Nimona here. (photo found here)

 

Voracious

 

I first stumbled on Cara Nicoletti’s blog Yummy Books while I was doing research for my senior thesis on food in Jane Austen’s novels. If you want to cure a ham like Emma or cook your way through The Goldfinch or make Miss Maudie’s Lane Cake from To Kill a Mockingbird, this blog is for you. Voracious is coming out on August 18, and I’m so excited! I heard a rumor that it has a chapter about fat-shaming in the Nancy Drew series, and while I loved Nancy Drew, I never liked how they treated Bess. So I’m really looking forward to it! You can pre-order Voracious here. (Photo found here)

 

Milk Bar Life

 

I’ve seen Christina Tosi as a guest judge on Chopped and on Unique Sweets, and she seems to know a lot about pastry without being snobby or overly fussy about it. I didn’t realize she was the pastry chef for Momofuku Milk Bar until I read Bethany’s review of Milk Bar Life: Recipes and Stories. I would probably pick this book up for the cover photo alone, but after reading Bethany’s review I’m really excited to read some behind-the-scenes stories about one of the most well known bakeries in NYC. You can order Milk Bar Life: Recipes & Stories here (Photo found here.)

 

Oh Joy!

 

I got the chance to flip through the new Oh Joy! book yesterday, and it is so beautiful and inspiring! I love how colorful it is, and how many templates she has in the back. I’m definitely not very crafty, bu this book seems so accessible that even I could do the crafts. You can order Oh Joy!: 60 Ways to Create and Give Joy here. (Photo found here.)

 

Bonus: If you follow The Vanilla Bean Blog, you probably know that she’s working on a cookbook  as we speak. I’m really excited, but since it’s coming in 2016, there’s no pre-order info yet.

 

I’d love to know — what new and upcoming books are you excited to read? (New-to-you books totally count!)

Continue Reading

Weekend Thoughts / 17

Luisa Brimble's Girls Holding Flowers series, via Oh Joy!
Luisa Brimble’s Girls Holding Flowers series, via Oh Joy!

 

Happy Sunday, friends! There was a lot going on this weekend — from the Kentucky Derby to the Mayweather/ Pacqiao fight to Avengers: Age of Ultron premier. Teddy and I went to dinner and a movie with friends, and the restaurant was playing the Kentucky Derby. Although whoever was in charge of the remote turned on the guide 30 seconds before the end of the race, but after protests from everyone in the restaurant made them wait to change the channel until after the race. Ooops.

 

Here are some of my favorite reads from this week:

 

Writing + Blogging:

 

Amber’s post about seeing writing + other creative work as work and not a reward for working and living blew my mind. Seriously. I think it’s going to change a lot about my writing process.

 

This “Smattering of Stupid Writer Tricks” from Chuck Wendig is really helpful. I especially like the questions he gives to ask yourself after your writing day is done. “Where was the conflict? Does my character have agency? What happens tomorrow? Why do I care?”

 

Reading:

 

I just found Sarah’s series of “favorite literary heroines circa 2015,” and it is one of my new favorite things! So far she’s written about Scout Finch, Anne Shirley, and Elizabeth Bennet. Can’t express how much I love them.

 

Style:

 

I’ve been looking for potential wedding-guest-dresses to wear this summer, and I am head-over-heels for Kendi’s Garden Party Dress. I would just be a little worried that the dress has too much white to wear to a wedding.

 

I haven’t gotten into House of Cards (I know, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who hasn’t!), but I really enjoyed this interview with Johanna Argan, the show’s costume designer. I haven’t done any costume work in 3 years, but I love reading about the costumes.

 

Fun & Random:

 

I love Luisa Brimble’s photo series of girls holding flowers.
Did you watch the Kentucky Derby? I think this DIY Flower Derby Hat would be the perfect thing to wear to a party Although this flamingo hat is INSANE!.

Continue Reading