First Quarter Check-In: New Year’s Resolutions

First Quarter Check-In: New Year’s Resolutions

The first quarter of 2018 has flown by! I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about how to stay motivated and accountable for my goals. I want 2018 to be the year I accomplish a lot, so I thought I would take this time to share an update on how my New Year’s Resolutions are going so far, and talk about what I could improve.

The Successes

Travel to at least 3 new places

I’m on my way to success in this resolution. A week from today, I will be arriving in Costa Rica! My mom and I are going on vacation for a week, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve never been to Costa Rica, so this will mark #1 on my goal of 3 new places this year. I don’t have the other two trips booked or planned, but I will keep you all posted.

Try new restaurants in Austin

I have a list of restaurants I still want to try, but so far I would say this has been a success. I tried Picnik the other night, which is a restaurant I’ve wanted to try for a while now. I actually went alone, which is something I’m always nervous to do, but it was a great experience and the food and drink were delicious!

I posted about the idea of being nervous to go to dinner alone on my Instagram and Twitter, and it was really interesting to see what people had to say! Let me know in the comments your thoughts on going to dinner alone.

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Berry Basil Smash Cocktail
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Orange Chicken & Broccoli

Learn an instrument

This was honestly one of the resolutions I wasn’t sure I would succeed at, so shoutout to my parents for helping it come to fruition! For my birthday in March, my parents got me a piano keyboard, and I’ve loved playing around on it and teaching myself some songs. It’s harder than it seems to learn even simple songs, but YouTube tutorials really help. Plus, it’s fun to have a musical outlet! If I get brave enough I might share some videos in the future of me playing the piano and even singing…

Needs Improvement

Write the first draft of my book

This resolution was possibly the tallest order, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself for failing so far. I’m going to be honest – I have not written a single sentence of my book. I’m going to need to be more determined to write in the next 9 months if I’m going to complete this goal.

My plan is to write something every single day, whether that is a sentence, a paragraph, or an entire chapter. I think making small steps like that will really help to get started.

Find a workout routine

This one hasn’t been a total failure, but has also not been a total success, so I’m categorizing it under “needs improvement.” My mom and I try to go on walks 3-4 times a week before I go to work, which is a good start. I also enjoy taking yoga classes, but I have not been very consistent about it. I would like to start doing more cardio, but I still just need to figure out a good schedule and motivate myself to actually work out!

Find a blogging/YouTube routine

Although I would love to be able to report back that I have been uploading YouTube videos and posting on my blog consistently, that is unfortunately not the case. However, I do want to acknowledge the strides I’ve made. I FINALLY uploaded a YouTube video yesterday, and I think just uploading a new video has helped boost my confidence and makes me more likely to continue uploading. Just need to find that steady cadence! I actually touched on the topic of staying motivated in my video, so check it out and leave me a comment with your suggestions if you get the chance.

 

Thanks for reading (and watching)! Let me know in the comments how your resolutions/goals have been going so far this year. I think it’s important to keep ourselves accountable, and also to help encourage others to do the same.

Book Review: Mrs. Poe

Book Review: Mrs. Poe

“I find that the thoughts spoken between the lines are the most important parts of a poem or story.”

Welcome to my latest book review. Today I will be talking about a novel called Mrs. Poe, by Lynn Cullen. As always, I like to recommend another book review for you all to read in case you want to get another opinion on the novel. Book Riot wrote a good one, which you can check out here. But first, read on for my take on the book below.

One of the quotes on the cover reads “Vivid…Atmospheric….Don’t miss it.” I think those first two words are the perfect description of the book. Lynn Cullen does a great job of writing in a way that lets us imagine the places and people in the story, as if we are there ourselves. Set in New York City in the 1840’s, there are plenty of beautiful dresses and lavish dinner parties filling the pages, which I think would make this story into a great play or movie.

Mrs. Poe follows the life of Frances Osgood, a poet trying to make a name for herself, and her forbidden romance with one Edgar Allen Poe (maybe you’ve heard of him?) Throughout the novel you hear about other well-known writers from that era, as well as fun facts about them which was interesting to read. I felt like I learned a lot while still enjoying the story, which is difficult to accomplish in a work of fiction.

While it took some time to pick up, the plot definitely thickens towards the middle of the book when suspense and intrigue starts to build due to Poe’s wife, who appears to have caught on to the affair between Poe and Osgood. Without giving anything away, small details and coincidences start to appear which makes the reader wonder if Mrs. Poe is plotting something terrible, or just a crazy, jealous wife.

Lynn Cullen clearly did a lot of research to make sure everything that happens in this fictional story could have happened in real life, even if we have no way of knowing if any of it actually did. She combed through all of the letters and poems written by Poe and Osgood, and about them, to get inspiration and find historical facts she could use for her book. I think all of this hard work paid off, as the story feels extremely realistic while still giving us the excitement that is often lacking in true stories.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys period pieces, as well as stories that offer a lot of detail and descriptions with which to let your imagination run wild. I would also recommend it to any literary enthusiasts out there, as you will likely learn a thing or two about some of your favorite writers from that time.

Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, or what the last book you read was. I am always on the lookout for something to add to my must-read list!

 

 

 

Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

I had the pleasure of interviewing another travel blogger, who has a unique perspective on travel as an expat in Canada, a freelance travel writer and full-time travel blogger. Check out her travel blog and get to know her in my interview below.

When and why did you decide to become a travel blogger?

I initially set up my blog five years ago to provide a journal for myself of living in Hawaii, and to show readers the reality of living in paradise. I wrote a post on the things I learned after living in Hawaii, and readers and my friends in Hawaii told me they loved my post and could totally relate to what I wrote about.  This inspired me to share more of my island life.

In the About Me section of your blog, you say: For me, living abroad is the best way to get to know a country. What do you think you learn from living abroad that a tourist cant learn during shorter travel? 

Living abroad has given me an extended period of time to explore my host city and country, and get to know some aspects of a place other travelers are not aware of. For example, after living in Hawaii for a few years, I realized it was not all paradise. It also has many negative sides – too expensive to live, very limited job opportunities, island fever, and has the second worst traffic in the USA (behind Los Angeles). One cannot notice these parts by just going there on vacation. 

Hawaii Kai

Youre a full-time travel blogger and freelance travel writer. How did you transition your passion for writing into your full-time job?

I did not think much, I just decided to do it full-time because it would be the best to combine my profession with my passion for travel and sharing stories. When I just started out, I had no experience in travel writing. I joined the MatadorU travel writing program to hone my writing skills and get myself exposed to the travel journalism industry. There are support groups, valuable resources and work opportunities in the program that helped me transition as well.

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

One of my favorite parts of blogging is being a part of the supportive travel blogging community. I have met many bloggers and we have been very supportive of each other. You know the feeling when you get to know someone and totally understand what you are doing?

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I still want to finish the MatadorU travel writing program. I signed up for the course three years ago and I am still only halfway through it. It is a huge commitment and it’s easy to get distracted, but I am determined to finish this course so I can step up my career.

What has been your favorite place youve visited, and where do you still want to visit? 

Alaska. It is the best place to visit in the USA if you love natural beauty. I have been to Alaska five times and I still want to return. 

I also wish to visit Churchill Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world with 300 days Aurora Borealis every year and only 3,000 residents. 

North Douglas Island

What is the biggest lesson travel blogging has taught you?

Always be kind and generous. The world is very small and the travel blogging community is no exception. Everyone loves working with those who are nice and easy to work with. 

What are some of the things you are most grateful for in your life right now?

Having the opportunity to live abroad and travel around the world. I have seen poverty and people struggle with daily life and it makes me feel privileged to live the life I want in a developed country and be able to travel.

Who are some of the women (both in your personal life and famous people) who inspire you the most and why?

Julia Dimon, co-host of Word Travel, gave me the idea for travel writing in the first place. Her travel show revealed that it is possible to travel around the world full-time. She is quirky and practical, and you can tell she is very intuitive and smart.

I am also grateful to have met my travel blogger friend, Emily Luxton, when I just started out. We collaborated with each other and she invited me to her Facebook group where I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other travel bloggers. She offered me valuable advice on blogging and encouraged me to work with tourism boards when my blog was just five months old. Thanks to her, I was then offered a self-organized press trip to Winnipeg early this year despite my blog being so new.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a travel blog?

Focus on creating high-quality content, and try not to look at the numbers and your blog statistics. I used to obsess over social media, blog statistics and comment pods, but I found it very time-consuming and can only get me so far. If you offer something readers really need and write from your heart, followers will come and ask for more.

What is one thing most people dont know about you? 

I do not like most sweet foods and desserts, but chocolate and ice-cream are exceptions.

 

Make sure to follow Julie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to follow along with her exciting travels.

 

Book Review: Why Not Me?

Book Review: Why Not Me?

MindyReviewHeader

I can’t believe it’s been three months since my last book review! I definitely want to write more this year, I’ve just been really busy lately, and I haven’t had a regular reading schedule for myself. But I finally got around to reading this book, and I’m excited to share my thoughts.

Mindy Kaling has been one of my celebrity idols for a while now. From writing and acting in my favorite show of all time, The Office, to creating her own show, The Mindy Project, I have been following Mindy’s career for a long time and have been impressed with everything she’s accomplished. She also happens to be hilarious, and very inspiration when she wants to be. Not to mention she is an amazing writer. Mindy, if you’re reading this, I’m basically in love with you. No big deal.

I read Mindy’s first book and loved it, so I knew I would like this one if it was anything like the first. And it was, in all the best ways, while still bringing fresh topics and jokes to the table. It’s also full of great quotes, both inspirational and comical, so I thought I would try writing this review a bit differently. I will be sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book, along with a bit of context. Hopefully this will give you enough of a sneak peek to make you want to read the book yourself.

“If you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you don’t got it, flaunt it. ‘Cause what are we doing here if we’re not flaunting it?” 

This quote is from the chapter Unlikely Leading Lady, where Mindy tackles the topic of body image. She talks candidly about her relationship with her body, and the way the media tends to focus on her appearance since, as she puts it “women who are my size are so rarely seen on TV and film.” She also talks about how, although she has had her fair share of body image issues, in general her brain is filled with more important thoughts than what she weighs or whether or not she should eat dessert.

Mindy'sBrain

“As calm as I might be, still, about once a month, I wake up at 4 a.m. and lie in the dark worrying about the same handful of things.” 

This was from a short chapter at the end of the book, aptly titled 4 a.m. Worries. I liked this quote (and this chapter) because Mindy shared some of the real worries that keep her up at night. It made me feel better to know even someone as successful as Mindy still has fears in life. Some of the fears she listed included: what if I have nothing to say? What if I have too much to say and not enough time? 

“Confidence is like respect. You have to earn it.”

In the final chapter of the book, Mindy explains the connection between hard work and confidence. She states confidence must be earned, just like respect. And it must be earned after a lot of hard work. She fights against the idea shown in many movies and TV shows, that working too much is a bad thing. “I have never, ever, met a highly confident and successful person who is not what a movie would call a ‘workaholic.”

“People get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you’re succeeding. People do not get scared when you’re failing. It calms them.” 

I loved this quote because I think it is so inherently true, no matter where you live or who you interact with in life. As Mindy mentions, “That’s why the show Intervention is a hit, and everyone loves ‘worrying about’ Amanda Bynes.” People don’t like seeing others succeed, because it reminds them of everything they haven’t been able to do yet. Mindy goes on to say it perfectly: “When you’re winning it makes them feel like they’re losing, or worse yet, that maybe they should’ve tried to do something too, but now it’s too late.”

 

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Mindy Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me. There were so many other hilarious and inspirational parts of the book, but you’ll have to read it yourself to find out what they were! Comment below which quote was your favorite, and if you have already read this book or plan to in the future.