The 6 Productivity Apps I Can’t Live Without

6 Productivity Apps I Can't Life Without

Ok, so “can’t live without” is a little dramatic, but both as a business owner and a remote worker, these 6 productivity apps are very important for making sure I GET IT DONE.

1. Duolingo

There is a ton of research out there that studying languages is very beneficial for a variety of reasons. Everything from memory, to not looking like a goob when you travel. (I made that one up, but it’s true)

As a reader and traveler I really really love studying languages. So far on Duolingo I’ve studied Spanish, Italian, and French. I hope to add German once I work through the whole Spanish course! Apparently for maximum retention it’s best to learn new material right before bed, then refresh it in the morning. I’m still working on adding it to my morning routine, but even just doing it at night has helped me be more intellectually curious and a better writer and reader.

 

2. Dropbox

Being able to securely access photos, work documents, and other important materials on the phone is incredibly important for many remote jobs. Right now I pay $99/yr for 1TB of space through Dropbox, and because I’m not a videographer or anything, it’s plenty of space. There have been countless times I’ve needed to look at something on the fly, and used my phone to pull it up through my phone. 

3. Google Drive/Docs/Sheets

More people use Gmail (21% of users) for their email servicer than any other service. ALL of my email accounts are hosted through Gmail, and I bet at least one of yours is too. Being able to use Google Drive/Docs/Sheets on my phone is just as important as being able to use Dropbox, if not more so. I also use a Google Doc to keep my to-do list. Being able to access it on my computer’s web browser and through my phone makes it one of my favorite productivity apps!

4. Gmail App and Google Calendar

Speaking of Gmail…. Listen, I’m (still, for some reason) an Apple loyalist. I’m on my 5th iPhone, 2nd Macbook, 3rd iPad, and I have an Apple Watch, for goodness sakes. 

BUT compared to Google’s offerings, Apple’s email, calendar, and maps apps are utter garbage. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and switch over to Google’s apps, even if you also have an iPhone. They’re cleaner, smoother, and work together much better. 

5. QuickBooks Self Employed

This is not an ad or anything, I just love QuickBooks. It tracks my mileage, tells me how much to save for taxes (don’t get me started on quarterly estimates and self-employment taxes), categorizes business expenses, and generally makes life as a small business owner much easier. 

6. Shipt

Again, not an ad. Also, full disclosure, my husband works for Shipt HQ here in Birmingham. But the ability to order groceries through an app and schedule delivery for a time convenient to me is INCREDIBLE. There is SO MUCH to be said about outsourcing domestic chores like grocery shopping, and how that helps sustain more equitable marriages. We both work hard. Shipt gets the groceries, helps save us money by cutting down on impulse buys, and is encouraging us to be better about building menus and planning our week ahead! 

Couple all that with the fact that Shipt is an incredible place to work, and it’s one of the best apps on my phone 🙂

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Canva

I used Canva to make the graphics for this post. It’s no substitute for Photoshop or Illustrator, but since I can’t really use those on my phone, it’s great for making quick social media graphics!

Those are the 6 productivity apps I can’t live without… What are your favorite apps for staying on task?

6 Productivity Apps I Can't Live Without

Wilted Kale with Bacon and Butternut Squash

Wilted Kale with Bacon and Butternut Squash is a wonderful winter side that will fill you up without weighing you down! Top it with an egg to make it a meal. Only 6 Freestyle Smart Points by Weight Watchers!

 

Wilted Kale with Bacon and Butternut Squash is a wonderful winter side that will fill you up without weighing you down! Top it with an egg to make it a meal. Only 6 Freestyle Smart Points by Weight Watchers!

Wilted Kale with Bacon and Butternut Squash is a wonderful winter side that will fill you up without weighing you down!

But first, this is my first recipe in quite a while!

Let me tell you, grief is a BEAST. It takes things away from you that you don’t expect. One of the things it robbed me of for the last year or so was any desire to cook or be creative in the kitchen.

The good news is that the excitement is coming back, slowly but surely. I’ve also been following a plan to eat more healthfully in a sustainable way, and that’s also inspiring me to do more in the kitchen! 

This Wilted Kale with Bacon and Butternut Squash is an incredible side, or just pile it on your plate, top it with a sunny side up egg or two, and make a meal of it.

Wilted Kale with Bacon and Butternut Squash is a wonderful winter side that will fill you up without weighing you down! Top it with an egg to make it a meal. Only 6 Freestyle Smart Points by Weight Watchers!

If you follow Weight Watchers (more on that another day!) it’s only 6 Freestyle Smart Points for the entire pan, or 2 points per serving (I don’t understand the math, I just report what the recipe builder says).

Make Wilted Kale with Bacon and Butternut Squash ASAP, it’s so good!

Wilted Kale with Bacon and Butternut Squash
Serves 4
Wilted Kale with Bacon and roasted Butternut Squash, topped with a fried egg makes an excellent side, or pile up a plate for a full meal!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Butternut Squash
  2. 1 T Olive Oil
  3. 1/2t Salt
  4. 1/2t Red Curry Spice
  5. 8 C Bagged Kale
  6. 2 Strips of Bacon
  7. 2T Minced Shallot
  8. 1 Clove Minced Garlic
  9. Juice of 1/4 lemon
Instructions
  1. Preheat Oven to 450f
  2. Cut squash in half lengthwise and de-seed
  3. Peel and cut squash into 1/2 inch cubes
  4. Toss with olive oil, salt, and curry powder
  5. Spread evenly on a aluminum lined sheet pan
  6. Roast squash 30-45 minutes. We'll only use about 1/4 of this squash per batch of wilted kale, so feel free to use the rest for another recipe!
  7. Slice bacon into small pieces and cook in a large pan until crispy.
  8. Remove bacon, leaving grease in the pan.
  9. Cook shallots and garlic in the pan until they are caramelized.
  10. Add in kale, using tongs to coat with grease and shallots/garlic.
  11. Once the kale is wilted and tender add the bacon and squash back in, tossing to evenly distribute.
  12. Squeeze Lemon over entire thing.
  13. Serve warm.
  14. Top with a fried egg (or two!) to make it a meal!
http://www.lizzyisdizzy.com/
Wilted Kale with Bacon and Butternut Squash is a wonderful winter side that will fill you up without weighing you down! Top it with an egg to make it a meal. Only 6 Freestyle Smart Points by Weight Watchers!

My favorite books of 2017

What I read in October

My Favorite Books of 2017

For maybe the first time in my life I legitimately crushed one of my Resolutions! Last year I made the goal of reading 60 books in 2017… and I ended the year having read 72!!!

This of course means  that I had to bump up the goal for this year, which I’ve set at 80 books, or almost 7 every month. Sheesh. 

But something about knowing I conquered my goal last year gives me the confidence that I’ll do it again this year!

Anyway, here are my favorite books of 2017:

1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


Completed: 9/4/17 
Format: eBook through Overdrive

Y’all, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Told in the narrative non-fiction style, it documents the illness of the African American woman Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells have been used to test develop scores of cures and treatments to other diseases. HeLa cells, as they are known, are used every day all over the world, and are famous for their ability to continue multiplying, despite the fact that their “donor” died 66 years ago.

In fact, the slice of Henrietta’s cervical tumor that birthed the cells was taken from her without her permission, and her family has never seen a penny of the proceeds from all the medicines they enabled. Instead, the Lacks family continues (at least at the time of the book’s writing) to live in poverty in rural Maryland. This book was heartbreaking and inspiring, and really made me think. 
Recommended for: Everyone. Just read it.

2. Shoe Dog

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/13/17
Format: Hardback borrowed from a friend

Shoe Dog was recommended to me by my friend Blake who is one of the biggest sports fans I know. It’s a memoir by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike about the beginnings of the company. The dude is now worth $24.1 BILLION, but for years the company struggled to make a profit. 

We kind of take Nike for granted now, but it almost didn’t happen… about 50 times. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but mostly I enjoyed Knight’s palpable love of his company and the small team who willed it into being.

Recommended for: if you have an entrepreneurial bone in your body you should read this book.

3. Truly, Madly, Guilty

Completed 2/21/17
Format: Hardback borrowed from the Library

Holy wow. This was SO good. I’ve been seeing it pop up on recommended lists pretty much since it was published last year, and now I’m bummed I hadn’t started reading more by Liane Moriarty sooner. The lady knows how to turn a somewhat ordinary event with ordinary people into something absolutely enthralling. 

Just wow. It was so well written and exciting. More of her books are on my to read list now!
Recommended for lovers of thrillers and mysteries. 

4. All the Light We Cannot See

Completed: 4/7/17
Format: Hardback from the Library

There’s a reason this Pulitzer Prize winner has been on top of everyone’s to-read list for the last year. 

This beautiful story follows two young people during WWII, a blind French girl whose father leaves her with an incredible secret, and a brilliant German boy forced to work for the Nazis. They are destined to meet near the very end of the war. 

Very beautifully written, heart breaking, and just wonderful. Exceptional historical fiction that made me want to put Anthony Doerr’s other novel on my reading list.
Recommended for: everyone. 

5. The Nightingale

What I read in November and December

Completed: 11/21/2017
Format: Audiobook through OverDrive

Speaking of excellent WWII stories… WOW! This one is one of my favorite books of 2017. Thanks to my sister-in-law Anna for recommending it! This novel set in France follows two sisters as they brave German occupation in their own ways. Heartbreaking and inspiring, this novel should definitely be on your list to read. The audiobook
Recommended for: everyone.

6. Forty Autumns

Completed 6/29/17
Format: Hardback from the library

Something thing we don’t really talk about anymore in the US is just how shut off East Germany was for forty years. This is the true story a young woman who escaped from the communist regime and made a life in the West, as well as the story of the family she left behind. Two sisters and their daughters separated by an oppressive government. Heartbreaking, but with a happy ending, and so well written!
Recommended for: Cold War history buffs and lovers of narrative non-fiction.

7. Between the World and Me

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/11/17
Format: Audiobook borrowed through Overdrive

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s long letter to his son is a heart-wrenching look into the realities of being a black man in America today. It wasn’t an easy read, but it was a good one, and an important one. Our nation needs real healing, and I don’t think we can get there without a real understanding of what it is that needs to be healed. 

To get to that understanding, I believe white people (or like Coates would say, “people who who believe they are white”) need to sit, listen, and learn. 

Recommended for: all Americans praying for racial understanding and reconciliation.

8. Ready Player One

Completed: 5/24/2017
Format: eBook through Overdrive

SO. NERDY. But very very good! This was 100% my favorite read of May. Set in 2044 when the world has gone to crap and everyone takes refuge in the OASIS (think virtual reality on steroids), a billionaire’s death leads the whole world on a massive digital treasure hunt. The designer of the hunt was raised in the 1980s, and the book is riddled with 80’s trivia and memorabilia. 

There were several things that were a tad over my head, but over all it was fantastic, and made all the more fun by a TWO AND A HALF HOUR LONG EPISODE OF MY FAVORITE PODCAST!!!

No Dumb Questions is hosted by Smarter Every Day’s Destin Sandlin (who happens to be from Huntsville, AL) and Matt Whittman who runs an excellent YouTube channel called The 10 Minute Bible Hour.

They are where I originally heard about the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed their chapter-by-chapter analysis.
Recommended for fans of geeky dystopian novels. Make sure you read it before the movie comes out 🙂 

9. The View from the Cheap Seats

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/6/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This and the Graveyard Book have me eager to read lots more by Neil Gaiman. This collection of speeches, introductions, and essays gave a great look into Gaiman’s personality and values. I also found it immensely encouraging as a writer and aspiring novelist (shhh, it’s a secret!). His Newbery acceptance speech and his speech on why libraries are important (daughter of a librarian here!) were some of the most inspirational pieces I’ve read/listened to in a long time. Reading and writing are a huge part of who I am.

(I’ve rolled my full thoughts on this into a separate post, because this one is already too long and I have a lot to say.) 
Recommended for: writers, readers, humans.

10. Native Speaker 

Completed 1/11/17
Format: Paperback previously owned

Wow. This is my favorite book I’ve read in quite a while. It is beautifully written, and a compelling look into the experience of a first generation American, with a little bit of mystery mixed in. James bought it several years ago for a class in college he ended up dropping and it’s been sitting on our bookshelf ever since. I picked it up the weekend of the ice storm when we were stuck up on the mountain and I couldn’t get to the library to swap out my books from the previous week. So glad I did!
Recommended for everyone, but especially those who are interested in reading about the perspective of first generation Americans.

Those were my favorite books of 2017! Keep checking back to see what I’m reading this year and how it stacks up 🙂 Have a recommendation for me? Leave it in the comments!

What I Read in November and December 2017

What I read in November and December

Phew! The last couple of months of last year really got away from me. Between work and the holidays, there was a lot going on, but I still got a lot of reading done 🙂

Here’s what I read in November and December of 2017:

Into the Water

What I read in November and December

Completed: 11/10/2017
Format: eBook via Overdrive

Thrillers with female protagonists/antagonists are having a major moment right now, and this novel by Paula Hawkins really hit the mark. It was a little dark, but not too dark (I have nightmares like a child), and had several twists. I waited for MONTHS to get this one from the library, and it was 100% worth the wait!
Recommended for: Fans of Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), Liane Moriarty, and thrillers with female main characters

The Zookeeper’s Wife

What I Read in November and December

Completed: 11/20/2017
eBook free through Prime Reading 

Going into this book I only knew two things about it: it was set during WWII, and the movie looked good. I had absolutely NO idea it was a true story, or that it was really about a Zookeeper’s family. I’ve read lots and lots of novels about people doing brave things, but there is nothing like reading about the heroism of real people during WWII. It really puts into perspective how strong humans can be, and how important it is for us to do the right thing now. If Antonina and Jan Zabinski can save over 200 Jewish people in Nazi occupied Warsaw, I can speak out when I see injustice. 

I watched the movie the other day and it was… ok… Not bad, but nowhere near as emotionally powerful as the book!
Recommended for: Lovers of WWII stories, people who need a shot of bravery.

The Nightingale

What I read in November and December

Completed: 11/21/2017
Format: Audiobook through OverDrive

Speaking of excellent WWII stories… WOW! This one is one of my favorite books of 2017. Thanks to my sister-in-law Anna for recommending it! This novel set in France follows two sisters as they brave German occupation in their own ways. Heartbreaking and inspiring, this novel should definitely be on your list to read. The audiobook
Recommended for: everyone.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

What I read in November and December

Completed 11/25/2017
Format: eBook through OverDrive

There were a lot of things to take from this book, and it was definitely a good read for around the start/end of the year… BUT the author (being Japanese) talks a lot about the super tiny homes of people in Japanese cities, which wasn’t always applicable. That being said, I got some good tips and it inspired me to do a good closet and under sink cleanse to pare down without feeling guilty for giving/throwing things away. 
Recommended for: People whose resolutions include keeping a tidier house.

Hillbilly Elegy

What I read in November and December

Completed 11/28/2017
Format: eBook via OverDrive

This memoir was a quick read, and as someone who grew up in the foothills of Appalachia, frequently visiting very rural areas of Appalachian Tennessee and North Carolina, there was a lot to identify with. Author JD Vance has become a little bit of a star in some circles, and I get why… He tells the truth about some of the issues plaguing these areas in a relatable, but not denigrating way. That being said, while I know it was a memoir, I wish it had included more data and analysis to back up some of his assertions. 
Recommended for: folks wondering how President Trump won the Rust Belt.

Origin

What I read in November and December

Completed 12/1/2017
Format: Hardback bought at Barnes and Noble

Ok, I’m a shameless Dan Brown fan. I loved The DaVinci Code, and Angels & Demons, as well as his relatively lesser known novels Deception Point and Digital Fortress (Dan Brown was ringing the alarm about the NSA way back in 1998, y’all!). They’re FUN. Fast-paced, surprising, engaging, educational(ish), fun. Origin was no exception… BUT I found the “earth-shattering” conclusion of Origin less convincing than some of his previous books. 
Recommended for: Dan Brown fans. 

In the Garden of Beasts

What I read in November and December

Completed: 12/11/2017 
Format: Audiobook via OverDrive

I really enjoyed the other Erik Larsen book I read this year, Devil in the White City, and this one was good too… but not as good. I think I would have enjoyed it more in another format. The man who read this one for the audiobook had a nice voice, but he read the entire book like it was a newscast, which I found dull and distracting. Otherwise, it was an interesting look into some of the build up to WWII through the experience of the American ambassador to Germany in the 1930s.

Something many people really try to forget is how many prominent Americans gave Hitler and the Nazi party the benefit of the doubt while he was accruing power, and even initially saw no problem with his promises of racial cleansing. Turns out, looooots of elected officials and influential people (including folks some see as “heroes” today) thought eugenics were A-OK. Thankfully, once the natural conclusion of such ways of thinking was revealed, most of those people changed their views, but it was still a good reminder that sometimes the accepted “truths” of today are tomorrow’s horrifying heresies. 
Recommended for: Fans of WWII non-fiction, Erik Larsen

A Court of Mist and Fury

What I read in November and December

Completed: 12/21/2017
Format: eBook through OverDrive

I am a firm believer in reading what my mom calls “fluff” literature every once in a while. There are a lot of heavy reads out there (including the next couple on this list), so sometimes it’s fun to indulge! My dear friend Gina recommended this series to me, and I’ve enjoyed the first two installments! Fair warning, there are some, erm…. adult fun time scenes… in this book, and if your husband starts reading it over your shoulder on the plane to Disney World HE WILL MAKE FUN OF YOU RELENTLESSLY. 
But that’s ok. Whatever. A Court of Mist and Fury was better written than A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the love story is a good one. 

This series is essentially a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with lots of original elements and twists. 
Recommended for: Fans of fantasy romance. 

Option B

What I read in November and December

Completed 12/22/2017
Format: eBook through OverDrive

This one is another one I’ve anticipated for months while I waited for it to become available through my library. SO GOOD. As a fan of Lean In, and someone who has recently lost several close loved ones, this book really hit the mark. 

It was very comforting to me to read about someone who had been through similar grief, and experienced the same emotions I did. Losing a close loved one unexpectedly is earth-shattering, and it affected me and my family in ways I haven’t been able to describe. Sheryl Sandburg put words to some of those feelings and experiences, while making me so thankful for the ways my family has been surrounded by love and help through the last year and a half.

I read this in just a few hours, most of them on the plane home from Disney World, where I shamelessly cried. 
Recommended for: everyone, because you will lose someone or something you love one day, and you will need help getting through it. 

Water for Elephants

What I read in November and December

Completed: 12/24/2017
Format: eBook free through Prime Reading

I really enjoyed this book! It took me a while (several months, actually) to really get into it, but I’m glad I went back and finished it. Man, it makes me glad circuses are going extinct, though. I know it depicts a pretty seedy circus, but the treatment of the humans and animals made me sad. 
Recommended for: people who like Depression era novels.

White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America

What I read in November and December

Completed: 12/31/2017
Format: Audiobook through OverDrive

This one was pretty dense, but incredibly interesting. It was like Hillbilly Elegy on steroids, in terms of being an in-depth look into the working class in America. From the early early days of colonization to today, it follows the formation of and mythos surrounding “white trash” in America. It was a little bit too smug at times, but overall it was highly informative and brutally honest look into the classism that really does exist in our society. 
Recommended for: budding sociologists. 

5 Ways to Embrace the Plaid Trend this Fall + a GIVEAWAY!

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

I’m so excited to team up with some lovely fellow bloggers to explore this fall’s hottest fashion trends, and don’t forget to take a peek at the bottom for a really fun giveaway! 

I really hesitate to call plaid/tartan a “trend,” because to me it’s one of those classics that never really goes out of style!

I’m not sure if it’s completely due to the wonderful phenomenon that is Outlander or not, but I don’t care. My closet is stocked with lots of items to embrace the plaid trend in several different ways! 

Work Wear 

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

Dress (Similar options here, here, here)//Sunglasses//Shirt//Shoes (similar)//Pochette (similar)//Earrings//Brooch (similar)

This shift from Brooks Brothers Factory is technically a windowpane check, but in my opinion that still fits in the plaid trend. It’s wool, so I’d definitely only wear it during the fall, either styled like this with some fun accents or with a black blazer 

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

 

As a Wrap

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

Wrap (Similar)//Book//Sunglasses//Bracelets

There are a billion blanket scarf tutorials out there, and they’re all fantastic so I’m not going to try to write another one here, but rest assured that the plaid trend is still going strong when it comes to oversized tartan wraps! I keep this light one in my work tote to wrap up if it gets a little chilly. 

With Stripes

One Preppy Dress Styled 4 Ways!

Dress (Similar)//Scarf//Leggings//Sunglasses//Vest (Similar)

Ok, so this is technically still a blanket scarf, but I listed it separately, because as someone who is severely challenged when it comes to pattern mixing. 

But this is the EASIEST pattern to mix… plaid+stripes are cute, easy, and preppy. 

A Bold Skirt Fit for Blair Waldorf

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

Skirt (similar)//Tights//Shoes//Top//Lipstick

I absolutely LOVE this wool plaid skirt from Brooks Brothers, it’s pretty loud, so I kept the other parts of the outfit pretty simple. But nature is anything if not bold this fall! My sister and I had to travel to Asheville, NC, for a little bit of a family emergency this week, and we were treated to some of the prettiest colors I’ve ever seen. Something about a kilt-esque skirt feels like Blair Waldorf to me, so I topped off the outfit with literally the only headband I own and some glossy lip color 😀

A Black Watch Blazer

How to embrace the plaid trend this fall

Blazer//Jeans//Boots (similar)//Top//Earrings//Sunglasses

I bought this Black Watch tartan blazer last year from JCrew Factory, wore it like crazy, and plan on wearing it like crazy this fall and winter (as soon as if finally gets cold and stays cold! Black Watch is one of the tartans anyone can wear… it isn’t reserved for members of a certain family, so it’s one of the most popular patterns out there! I love it because it is completely timeless (my mom has a very similar blazer that’s decades old) and because of the darker colors, it’s a little more subtle than other plaid items. This wool blazer is the perfect way to embrace the plaid trend if you’re a little nervous about letting your tartan flag fly.

I’ll get to the giveaway in a minute, but first, let me introduce you to the other fabulous women I’m collaborating with on this fun fall trend watch:

9 Fall Outfits To Copy Now (1)

From left to right, top to bottom:

Summer of Coffee With Summer//Kristen of A Classy Fashionista//Stephanie of She Saw Style//Kirsten of The Wandering Brunette//Jasmine of Jasmine Maria Blog//Molly of Miss Molly Moon//Liz (ME!) of Lizzy Is Dizzy//Anna of Five Foot and Fabulous//Elizabeth of Life of me, Queen B.

The Giveaway!

Ok, now to the really fun part! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Collaboration and giveaway!

We’re giving away an awesome beauty bundle of goodies that any lady would love, LOVE to have. Here’s the good stuff:

  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eye Palette
  • IT Cosmetics Sunshine In A Compact (bronzer, blush, & highlight)
  • UD All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray
  • Eco Tools Daily Defined Eye Brushes
  • The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Liquid Peel
  • Burnt Orange Bucket Bag from Ruche (sold out)
  • (Not pictured) A Surprise Gift Card

To enter, complete as many tasks in the Rafflecopter as you’d like. The more you complete, the higher your chances! The giveaway runs from 11/8 – 11/15 at midnight. This is U.S. only. The giveaway is not affiliated with any of the brands in the giveaway. Enter fairly! All entries will be verified before the winner is announced on the Rafflecopter form on November, 15th. Best of luck!

How Neil Gaiman Gave Me the Courage to Call Myself a Writer

Like I mentioned in What I read in October, Neil Gaiman’s collection of speeches, introductions, and essays gave a great look into Gaiman’s personality and values. I also found it immensely encouraging as a writer and aspiring novelist (shhh, it’s a secret!). His Newbery acceptance speech and his speech on why libraries are important (daughter of a librarian here!) were some of the most inspirational pieces I’ve read/listened to in a long time. Reading and writing are a huge part of who I am. I’ve been both for nearly as long as I can remember. My mom taught me to read when I was 4, and encouraged me to start writing when I was 5 or 6. 

I have a stack journals filled with the dramatic overly-wordy musings of pre-teen, teenaged, and young adult Lizzy, and I’ve now been to write more than a million words professionally. But until the last year or so I’ve been hesitant, and maybe at little embarrassed to call myself a writer. 

Writers are tortured people who spill the darkest parts of their souls into 400 page books. Writers are well-regarded people whose works are published in newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Writers are people like Stephen King who, despite being one of the most prolific published authors in history, has dozens of stories sitting around because his publishers are afraid to put more than two of his books on the shelves every year. 

But Gaiman showed me something different. Writers are people who write. You don’t have to be tortured, you can be happy! You can enjoy writing! It is difficult, but you can take pleasure in the struggle. 

Maybe the most important lesson he taught me was that when sitting down to write a novel (shhhh…) you don’t have to know its ending. In fact, sometimes the only way to learn the ending is by writing it. 

Stepping out and calling oneself a writer takes courage–courage I’ve always had a hard time finding. Gaiman’s words helped me find that courage, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Back on the Bookshelf: What I Read in October

What I read in October

It’s official! I smashed my reading goal of 60  for 2017 by more than 2 months! 

I read a ridiculous 12 books in October, which is insane for even me. 

So buckle up, because here’s what I read in October:

(Side note: I’m participating in #BlogLikeCrazy this month, so I hope you’re ready to hear from me a lot!)

The Graveyard Book

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/3/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This was my first Neil Gaiman book. There’s a reason this book about a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard won the Newbery AND Carnegie Medals for outstanding children’s literature. Though it is technically a children’s book, it was SO well written and SO different from other books I read as a child that I really enjoyed it. Reading it at the same time I was reading/listening to Neil Gaiman’s “A View from the Cheap Seats” (see below), made it all the richer to me. I have lots more by Gaiman on my to-read list now!

Recommended for: lovers of rich, original stories.

The View from the Cheap Seats

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/6/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Like I mentioned above, this and the Graveyard Book have me eager to read lots more by Neil Gaiman. This collection of speeches, introductions, and essays gave a great look into Gaiman’s personality and values. I also found it immensely encouraging as a writer and aspiring novelist (shhh, it’s a secret!). His Newbery acceptance speech and his speech on why libraries are important (daughter of a librarian here!) were some of the most inspirational pieces I’ve read/listened to in a long time. Reading and writing are a huge part of who I am.

(I’ve rolled my full thoughts on this into a separate post, because this one is already too long and I have a lot to say.) 

Recommended for: writers, readers, humans.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/8/17
Format: eBook borrowed through Overdrive

This book/series was recommended to me by my dear friend Gina Luttrell. It was a light and easy read with a dash of smuttiness that I actually found refreshing to read. There’s a lot of heaviness in the world, and I spend a lot of time reading some heavy books. So I think it’s important to sprinkle some of what my mom would call “fluff” into my reading list.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is essentially a retelling of Beauty and The Beast set in an imaginary world of fantastically powerful faeries. The last two books in this trilogy are on my list, but I may or may not get to them this year. 

Recommended for: I feel like Twilight fans would really love this series. 

The Smear

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/8/2017
Format: Hardback bought on Amazon

I’m going to be honest, this book took me several months to read. I started it back in June when one of my clients was coming under attack, read the first half, then relegated it to the book pile on my bedside table until this month. The first half was very balanced, but the second half was a little more apologetic of Trump than I was comfortable with. All told, it really as an excellent look into the professionalization of smear politics through PR companies and complicit members of the medial. Next time you read something in the news about people you disagree with, remember that there’s almost certainly more to it. 

Recommended for: political animals, and those trying to decipher the news cycle.

Between the World and Me

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/11/17
Format: Audiobook borrowed through Overdrive

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s long letter to his son is a heart-wrenching look into the realities of being a black man in America today. It wasn’t an easy read, but it was a good one, and an important one. Our nation needs real healing, and I don’t think we can get there without a real understanding of what it is that needs to be healed. 

To get to that understanding, I believe white people (or like Coates would say, “people who who believe they are white”) need to sit, listen, and learn. 

Recommended for: all Americans praying for racial understanding and reconciliation.

Shoe Dog

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/13/17
Format: Hardback borrowed from a friend

Shoe Dog was recommended to me by my friend Blake who is one of the biggest sports fans I know. It’s a memoir by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike about the beginnings of the company. The dude is now worth $24.1 BILLION, but for years the company struggled to make a profit. 

We kind of take Nike for granted now, but it almost didn’t happen… about 50 times. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but mostly I enjoyed Knight’s palpable love of his company and the small team who willed it into being.

Recommended for: if you have an entrepreneurial bone in your body you should read this book. 

Gods in Alabama

What I read in October 2017

Completed: 10/15/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

Gods in Alabama is about a young woman hiding a dark secret who flees Alabama after graduating high school. This book grew on me, honestly. I didn’t like it at first, it started too simple, too Alabama-hatey. But then it became more complex, so I kept chugging along. The author, Joshilyn Jackson, was born and raised in Georgia, and it really shows that she truly knows the deep south. You can’t fake being southern 😉 

Recommended for: fans of Gillian Flynn and other dark stories with a female protagonist/antagonist at the center.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/19/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This book was recommended to me by my sister-in-law and her husband, and was my first experience reading anything by David Sedaris. He was hilarious and dark and uncomfortable and un-PC and lots of things that I like. Not for the easily offended or squeamish, but a funny set of essays, nonetheless. 

Recommended for: people with a slightly warped sense of humor.

Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/20/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This book was recommended to me by a friend who is a writer himself. People love to use both Churchill and Orwell like they like to point to out-of-context Bible verses to prove an argument. Both men were highly complex riddles wrapped in mysteries (if you’ll forgive the ripping off of ole Winston himself), and projecting our own contexts and beliefs to them is often a mistake. Yes, Churchill’s rhetoric and strategies were a big part of the Allies winning WWII… BUT… and Yes, Orwell was a socialist who fought against fascism… BUT… 

This compare/contrast book was an excellent look into the two men, what they believed, and how the first half of the 20th century made them into the historical figures they are. 

Recommended for: Wannabe WWII history buffs. 

The 100 Lies of Lizzie Lovett

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/26/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

I wasn’t crazy about this book. I only checked it out because it was part of last month’s Library-wide reading program. The main character is awful (by design), the plot is weird, there are completely unbelievable elements, and the resolution was awkward. It’s supposed to be a coming-of-age story, but the protagonist only barely grows. It’s only redemption was the message at the very end, but it was about all I could do to get to that point. 

Recommended for: not gonna recommend this one.

Leia: Princess of Alderaan 

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/18/17
Format: Hardback bought at B&N

I initially purchased this book because it is 1. considered canon, and 2. labeled “path to the Last Jedi” so I hoped it would give me some clues into what’s coming in the next movie. While I’m glad those are the reasons I picked it up, I’m glad I read it for a much more important one… It gives a really important look into why Leia is the strong, badass woman she is. 

A problem I’ve always had with Star Wars: A New Hope, is how Leia’s entire effing planet jut got blown up, and we skip right over it. She shows such little emotion, even though her parents and lots of the people she knew and loved just got annihilated. In the Original Trilogy she wasn’t the main character, and female characters in general weren’t given the depth they deserve. That is changing in the reboot, and I couldn’t be more glad. 

BTW Last year after Carrie Fisher died I wrote this column about Carrie/Leia. 

Recommended for: Star Wars fans of all genders and ages!

The Celestine Prophesy

What I Read in October 2017

Completed: 10/31/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This book was recommended to me by badass mom Sara White. This book was a little more “woo-woo” than I would normally enjoy, but I ended up actually learning some good things from it! It’s a Dan Brown-esque adventure novel in which the author reveals 9 “insights” about how mankind can ascend to a higher state of being. It talks a lot about vibration and that kind of thing, but at the core there’s still a lot for a skeptic to take from it. 

Recommended for: Religious folks who are open-minded about how to become a better person.

Phew! That’s what I read in October. Any suggestions for November? 

Leopard Print Tall T-Shirt Dress: I’m Seeing Spots!

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

T-Shirt Dress // Vest (similar) // Shoes // Necklace (Similar)

I love a comfy t-shirt dress, especially when it is actually long enough to cover my 6-foot frame! 

As such a tall lady, it’s often hard for me to wear dresses that are supposed to hit average height people above the knee. Above the knee on a 5’4 woman is halfway up the booty on me! 

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

So when brands like Old Navy sell cute clothes in Talls (or longs… some brands name them differently!), I always do a little cheer. 

I have this exact dress in several other colors (grey, black, navy+polka dots, and flame red stripe) and they make up a significant portion of my mid-week semi-casual wardrobe. 

Bonus: I think I only paid about $15 for each of these dresses. For real.

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

I also love this outfit as a “transition” look. 

But let’s be real, transition outfits are code for “I really want it to be fall, but I live in the deep south and it’s still hot as blue blazes here.” 

This sleeveless blazer/long vest thing I got last summer at Marshall’s is just the ticket for adding a layer of dimension, breaking up the wall of Leopard print, and providing pockets! 

Leopard Print T-Shirt Dress

Back on the Bookshelf: What I read in September

What I read in September

What I read in September

Work slowed back down a little bit, particularly in the second half of September, and that’s definitely reflected in my reading pace. 

This month I was able to read 7 (!) books, to bring my total for the year so far to 49 (!)!!!

Now I’m only 11 books away from my goal for 2017 🙂 

So, here’s what I read in September:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Completed: 9/4/17 
Format: eBook through Overdrive

Y’all, this is one of the best books I’ve read all year. Told in the narrative non-fiction style, it documents the illness of the African American woman Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells have been used to test develop scores of cures and treatments to other diseases. HeLa cells, as they are known, are used every day all over the world, and are famous for their ability to continue multiplying, despite the fact that their “donor” died 66 years ago.

In fact, the slice of Henrietta’s cervical tumor that birthed the cells was taken from her without her permission, and her family has never seen a penny of the proceeds from all the medicines they enabled. Instead, the Lacks family continues (at least at the time of the book’s writing) to live in poverty in rural Maryland. This book was heartbreaking and inspiring, and really made me think. 
Recommended for: Everyone. Just read it.

The Space Between

Completed: 9/7/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This Outlander Novella (because it’s a novella if Gabaldon only writes 200 pages!) follows  Michael Murray, the second son of Ian and Jenny Murray, and Joan MacKimmie, Jamie’s step daughter, through a journey to France.  Oh, and the infamous Comte St. Germain makes a significant appearance. We learn a lot more about his… powers… It was good! Well, at least it got me through the last few days of #Droughtlander!
Recommended for: Outlander fans

The Girl who Played With Fire

Completed: 9/9/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This is the second book in the Millennium Series (the first is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I read last month). It continued in the tradition of its dark thriller predecessor. We learn a lot more about Lisbeth Salander’s history, and why she became the damaged genius she is today. The book ends dead in the middle of the plot, so you definitely have to read the third book in the series! 

Recommended for: those who enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Mapmaker’s Daughter

Completed: 9/12/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

Oh wow, another great one! This novel follows a young Jewish girl living under persecution in 15th century Spain (the birthplace of the inquisition, which tried thousands of Jewish families). I will never cease to be amazed and humbled by the resilience of the Jewish people and faith. I also loved the reminder of how important women really are in Judaism! In a day when tolerance is waning on every side of the aisle, it was a stark reminder of what oppression looks like and why we must fight it. 

Recommended for: Lovers of historical fiction with strong female characters.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Completed: 9/20/17
Format: Audiobook through Overdrive

This is the last book in the Millennium Series that was actually written by Stieg Larsson, who passed away suddenly in 2004. There have been others written after the original trilogy, but I’m not sure I’m going to read those. This continues to be dark and action packed. A necessary read if you made it through the 2nd book!

Recommended for: people who read books 1 & 2!

Devil in the White City

Completed: 9/23/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

This was another interesting narrative non-fiction book! I put it on my list because my favorite podcast, No Dumb Questions, is discussing it in an upcoming episode, and I didn’t want to miss out on the fun! These two side-by-side stories follow the creators of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. It was a good reminder that there’s a lot more history in our nation than we learn in school, and lots of it isn’t pretty!

Recommended for: people who enjoy narrative non-fiction and really interesting American history. 

Tuesdays with Morrie

Completed 9/25/17
Format: eBook through Overdrive

I really enjoyed this short but emotional read about a college professor who reunites with a former student while he is (spoiler alert) dying from ALS. Having lost several significant people in my life over the last year and a half, several of Morrie’s aphorisms really resonated with me. Parts were a little trite, but at the end of the day so many people say the same things about the end of life not because it’s easy to say, but because it’s true. 

Recommended for anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one.

Hot as Blue Blazers

Blue Blazers Red Lipstick

Blue Blazers//Jeans//Clutch (Similar)//Shoes (Similar)//Earrings//Sunglasses//Lipstick

It’s officially that time of year where I am willing it to be cooler via my fashion choices. 

Is it working yet? 

I tell you what, I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life, and somehow every year I get fooled into thinking September is fall. Silly me! 

I love this Blue Blazer from J.Crew Factory. I believe I got it for about $60 after keeping my eyes on their sales. It’s light enough to wear now with a silk or cotton top underneath, but later when it’s cooler I’ll layer it over a cashmere sweater or with a cozy blanket scarf. 

I’ve been wearing A LOT of navy and white with pops of red lately. It’s such a classic color pairing, and I feel like I can easily adopt it into one of those “uniforms” you read about bosses wearing to make their mornings easier. 

Blue Blazers Red Lipstick

Maybe my favorite pop of red is this Chanel Double Intensité in Daring Red. It’s long lasting formula that I have in four different colors (Check out my review of their Milky Blueberry color from last year). 

 

I’ve been searching for both the perfect blue blazers and the perfect red lip for quite a while, and I’m glad I’ve found them both just in time for my favorite season!