Month in review: December 2019

Happy New Year!!! The celebration of a new year can feel like an artificial way to mark the passing of time…but that being said I truly wish everybody reading this the best in 2020. December moved very quickly for me: wrapping up the last quarter at work and celebrating the holidays with friends, families, and coworkers. I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked (do I ever?) but it was a rewarding month, and 2019 was a rewarding year.

Books read:

This month, I finished reading The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. Although dense at times, this biography provided a riveting account of the life of Prussian scientist Alexander von Humboldt, who essentially came up with the concept of ecology. Humboldt was centuries ahead of his time in his hypotheses about nature and the world, and it was amazing to learn just how many famous thinkers and scientists he influenced.

I also read The Wall by John Lanchester, a dystopian fiction novel that imagines what life might be like if serious actions aren’t taken against climate change soon. I personally loved this book, but I understand that it’s not for everyone.

Bakes inspired by the books:

I am still so back-logged on bakes. I read a ton of books in November, and my baking never caught up. Early in December, I baked cupcakes inspired by Little Fires Everywhere (a book that I read in early November) – they were chocolate flavored with passionfruit buttercream frosting, and they were delicious!

I also baked chocolate shortbread cookies with chocolate glaze last month, inspired by Ali Wong’s nonfiction book Dear Girls. These cookies were decadent and delicious, and a lot of fun to decorate.

Books in progress/up next:

I am currently reading Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham. The book is a detailed, nonfiction account of the now-infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster. I didn’t know much about Chernobyl prior to reading this book – other than the fact that it happened – and the book provides fascinating historical context for it.

I would also like to read Circe, Mobituaries, and Girl, Woman, Other this month. I hadn’t planned on reading Circe this year – not even this spring/summer when the book was hot – but it ended up on a lot of peoples’ “top 3 books of 2019” list, so I’m curious to read it and see if it lives up to the hype. Mobituaries is a nonfiction book about people or things that are no longer with us, but who should be remembered. The author hosts an excellent podcast by the same name, so I’m really excited to read the book. And I’m interested in Girl, Woman, Other because I’ve heard very good things about it (including the fact that it won the Booker Prize).

Shout-outs to some great blog posts:

  • Chaz wrote about his experience participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) – if this is something you are considering, I highly recommend his post which detailed the time and planning that goes into it
  • Ashely explained the science of herd immunity, and why it makes anti-vaxxer logic so harmful to society
  • And Aho wrote a lovely piece about the Polish mushroom dumplings known as Uszka (and the preparation that goes into making them)

Photos!

Month in review: November 2019

Happy December, everyone! Thanksgiving has passed, and it is starting to snow where I live…it really feels like winter! The first two weeks of November were relaxing, then the second half was a bit crazier. My husband and I went to an impromptu one-week-early Thanksgiving dinner (driving 6 hours each way) the third weekend of November. And we spent the last week of the month in London and Amsterdam!

Books read:

This was my best month of reading in a while! Little Fires Everywhere is a fictional novel about a mother and daughter that move into a wealthy, hyper-planned community in Ohio. I absolutely adored this book and will be posting about it soon. Dear Girls is a memoir by Ali Wong in which she writes about her memorable life experiences, and draws advice from them. This book was okay – it taught me that I don’t really like reading books written by celebrities. Ashley Peterson’s books (Psych Meds Made Simple and Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis) take highly stigmatized and misunderstood mental health issues and provide nuanced, accurate information about these topics. Both books were great, and I can think of many people in my life that I wish would read them.

Bakes inspired by the books?

I baked something for Little Fires Everywhere over two weeks ago, but I still haven’t gotten around to posting it! That post is coming very soon. Still, I am a bit back-logged, with three books completed but no bakes for them yet. I have several bakes in mind, though, so get ready for lots of posting in December!

Books in progress/December reading goals:

I am currently reading The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. This is a biography of the Prussian scientist Alexander von Humboldt, who came up with the foundations for the science of ecology and inspired many great thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries (from writer Goethe, to revolutionary Simon Bolívar, to famous evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin). I’m about two-thirds through this book, and find it quite enjoyable.

I also plan to read The Wall by John Lanchester and Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham. If I get through all of these with time to spare, I’ll probably try to read more books from the Booker prize longlist (yes – I know that the winner was already announced).

Some (out of many) posts I enjoyed this month:

  • Jan Flynn wrote about how smart people can do stupid things, and why there is nothing wrong with this!
  • Ashley wrote an informative piece laying out the facts about how the influenza vaccine works (and importantly, debunking the myth that the flu vaccine will make you sick)
  • Rachel at pace, amore, libri shared a list of anticipated 2020 book releases – many of which I am excited about too!

(a few good) November photos:

Sunshine Blogger Award #2

Thank you to Sarah for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award (over a month ago, but I’ve been behind on blogging lately). Sarah is an avid reader who talks about books spanning diverse genres. One of my favorite reads this year was Red, White & Royal Blue – a book that I first heard about through Sarah’s blog!

Rules of the award:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated them and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated them.
  • Nominate 11 other blogs and give them 11 new questions to answer.
  • Notify your nominees and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post.

Sarah’s questions (and my answers):

  1. Do you listen to any podcasts? If so, what are your favorites? YES, I love podcasts! My top two favorites are Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (a funny news-based quiz show from NPR) and By The Book (where hosts Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer live by self-help books and reflect on whether or not they actually helped).
  2. Do you genre hop when you read or do you tend to stick to the same genres? I try to genre hop!
  3. What’s the best movie you’ve watched so far this year? I have only watched like two movies this year, but I really enjoyed Always Be My Maybe!
  4. 2019 release you’re most excited about reading? Hmmmm…maybe Frankly in Love by David Yoon.
  5. What’s your favorite way to treat yourself? Once a week or so, I like to treat myself by getting a fancy coffee (such as a malted cold brew or latte) before work. Once a month or so, I like to get my nails done. And I try to sleep in a bit on weekends.
  6. Describe your ideal home in as much or as little detail as you’d like! Big kitchen with lots of counter space; enough room for four cats.
  7. Favorite snack? So…the snacks I most commonly eat are: toast, vanilla oat milk, olives, and cheese. But my absolute favorite snacks are the ones that I don’t actually buy (because I know that it would be disastrous for my health to have them in my apartment). Those are hot cheetos, dark chocolate cookie butter cups, white cheddar popcorn, and dried mangos (If you are thinking “but dried mangos are healthy” – not the way that I eat them).
  8. What’s your favorite kind of weather? I love a sunny, crisp day in the 40’s or 50’s (Fahrenheit).
  9. Favorite book you read as a child? I absolutely loved Harry Potter, and read certain books in the series over 5 times.
  10. What’s your favorite thing about yourself? My favorite thing about myself is that I am kind (or at least try really hard to be as much as possible).
  11. Are you a pumpkin person? In desserts – yes. In my coffee – absolutely not.

My questions for you:

  1. Do you find it easy to advocate for yourself?
  2. Do you consider yourself to be a risk-taker?
  3. What do you want to do before the end of 2019?
  4. Do you enjoy the winter holiday season? Why or why not?
  5. If you could pick up any new hobby or habit in 2020 (and it would definitely stick) – what would you choose?
  6. What is your favorite dessert?
  7. Describe a time when you faced a fear.
  8. Do you prefer text, phone calls, emails, or face-to-face communication? Or something else?
  9. Are you easily embarrassed? What types of situations embarrass you?
  10. How do you think you have changed over the past five years?
  11. What is your favorite quote?

Tagging:

Okay, so I know this is kind of a cop-out…but I nominate anybody who is reading this and wants to participate! If you decide to participate, please let me know so I can see your answers! Or, if you want to participate but don’t want to publish your answers as a post – let me know some of your answers in the comments!

Month in review: October 2019

Happy November! While most of 2019 has flown by, October actually seemed to pass at a good pace. It was still a busy month though! Mostly because…I got married! Given that wedding planning is insane and all-consuming in the weeks leading up to the wedding, I am honestly shocked that I managed to get anything else done at all. Let’s reflect back on October:

Books read:

I finished two books this month (which is honestly two more books than I expected to finish). Lab Girl is a memoir by academic researcher and university professor, Hope Jahren. As a young scientist myself, I loved this book for its honesty about the stress of trying to “make it” as an academic researcher, and also for its beautifully written passages about how trees grow. Frankissstein is a novel that ponders how technology will change life for humankind, and particularly how it will change how we relate to our bodies. Frankissstein was an interesting philosophical read, but at the same time I didn’t particularly care for most of the characters or their “love stories.”

Bakes inspired by the books:

For Lab Girl, I attempted to bake meringues with a lime curd swirl on top. As you might be able to tell from the picture, these meringues were a baking fail. But I posted about them anyway because I wanted to review Lab Girl, and I wanted to own the fact that sometimes my bakes aren’t successful on the first try.

For Frankissstein, I made chocolate linzer cookies with cherry jam and lime curd. These were delicious and made me feel much better about the Lab Girl meringue fails. I also got to use the rest of the lime curd that I had made for the meringues.

Books in progress/plans for November:

I’m currently reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I resisted this book for a long time – I’m not sure why – but someone recently gifted it to me, and I immediately got sucked in. I already know what I want to bake for this book, and I can’t wait to post.

I also want to read The Invention of Nature and Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis – two books that I had initially planned (unrealistically) to read in October. Also, the comedian Ali Wong recently published a memoir and I might want to read that, too.

Great blog posts of the month:

I read so many great blog posts this month…but my brain was so fried that I forgot to bookmark my favorite posts. So here is ONE post that stuck with me so much, I remember it even without having bookmarked it: a heartwarming story called “Pizza it Forward” from Vee at Millenial Life Crisis.

Photos:

BLOG-tober #4: perspectives worth sharing.

For as long as I can remember, I have been incredibly reserved. As a kid, even when I wanted to “put myself out there” and tried to be outgoing, I was still quite reserved in what information I did share. This habit has never really faded; if anything, it has intensified to the point where it feels impossible in some situations for me to share my perspective. Even when I do have an opinion, I am so unused to speaking up that I’m not very good at articulating or expanding upon my thoughts.

This post is a baby step toward confidently sharing my thoughts with others: I am sharing five random opinions of mine. They are only opinions – I understand that others will not necessarily agree with them. If I were better at articulating my thoughts, each opinion could be its own essay/blog post. But I’m not yet at that point, so we’re going with a short paragraph for each opinion.

Millennials need to stop hating on Gen-Z

Source: medium.com

Millennials have received a lot of flak over the years from older generations, especially Baby Boomers. So much to the point that we are accused of “killing” certain industries, including golf, cereal, and diamonds (to name a few). This type of criticism is ridiculous, but we are good at defending ourselves. It is surprising to me, then, that some millennials then go and criticize the younger generation (Gen Z). Just like us millennials, Gen Z-ers experiences their own unique set of generational challenges that no previous generation had to face. Just because we do not understand their challenges, that doesn’t mean we should trash them as a generation. This is the exact same type of behavior that we detest in Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers.

There is a such thing as being too helpful

Clippy is an example of being “too helpful.” Source: office-watch.com

I have always considered myself to be a helpful person, and I still do. However, I am slowly letting go of my belief that being helpful is the most important thing a person can be. When you are overly helpful you risk burning yourself out to help other, neglecting your own basic needs, and being taken advantage of. Being helpful is important, but so is setting boundaries and making sure that your own needs are met.

The problem is rarely “everybody else”

Source: hrdailyadvisor.blr.com

Some people like to blame every other person in the world for their problems. It is human to feel annoyed at others, and it is also easier to blame other people than to look internally and try to change. But when I hear people blame everybody else for their problems, it takes all the self-restraint I can possibly muster to stop my eyes from rolling into the back of my head. The most common example of this is people who complain that everybody else they work with is incompetent. This is narcissistic and also statistically unlikely. Instead of getting mad at others for not reading their mind, these “blame-everybody-else-ers” should figure out 1) why the problem is “everybody else” and 2) what they can do to make things better. In general, when a problem you are experiencing appears to be everybody else, that is when it’s most important to look internally and examine how your own biases might be affecting your perception.

Anti-depressants help people way more than they hurt people

Source: futurity.org

Any drug that is commercially available under a brand name has undergone extensive testing and is generally safe. Corporations want to make money (whether you take this to be a good thing or not is an entirely differently subject), and this means that it’s probably not in their interest to put out a drug that is going to hurt people. There are examples of peoples’ mental health symptoms worsening under anti-depressants…but if these were the majority of cases, there is no way that these drugs would be as widely prescribed as they are. I also think that when people cherry-pick the most extreme examples of anti-depressants having adverse effects, in order to claim that anti-depressants are unsafe, this is unscientific and irresponsible. Anti-inflammatory pain medicine (like ibuprofen) can be dangerous in some cases and people can even die from drinking water. But these examples are not the majority of cases, and that is why we (as a society) generally accept pain medicine (and of course water). We have so much more work to do on stopping the stigma against taking anti-depressants.

Most people are overconfident in their “knowledge” and “expertise”

Source: wittyfeed.com

I went to graduate school to study the biology of a plant pathogenic fungus. It sounds fancy, but the truth is that I gained a lot of knowledge on a very narrow topic. I know a lot about one particular fungus, but I am absolutely NOT an expert on fungi, broadly speaking. It bothers me, then, when people with even less experience and knowledge in fungal biology try to pose as experts, or make broader claims than they should based on their experience. More generally, it bothers me when people claim to “know that GMOs are unsafe” or that “anti-depressants make people homicidal” because of ONE article that they skimmed online. There is a famous quote by Socrates: “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” If more people would set aside their ego and admit what they don’t know, I think that we could learn and potentially achieve a lot more as a society.

BLOG-tober #3: weird things about me.

A couple weeks ago, Ashley at Mental Health at Home posted her answers to an “eleven weird things about me” challenge. I loved this post, because I feel that it’s important to embrace and be open about our weirdness. I also thought that this topic fit in perfectly with “BLOG-tober,” since October is the month of Halloween (AKA all things weird). Here is the link to the original post, if you are interested! My weird things are:

1. Talking in my sleep

Sometimes, if I have a dream where I am saying or yelling something, I will say or yell that thing out loud in real life. It has woken my partner up many times before, and I often wake myself up that way too. In college, I had a dream where I couldn’t move and needed to call for help. Apparently, I screamed “HELP!” out loud, because I woke up to my housemate pounding on my door to check if I was okay.

2. Crazy cat lady

I love cats! I only have two cats, but I love them and talk to them as though they are actual babies. I also own some cat-themed clothes and accessories including but not limited to: flats in the shape of a cat’s face, rhinestone cat ears, and two pairs of cat-print pajama pants.

3. Lover of fungi

I also love fungi. This is weird to some people, but I just think they’re so cool! I get really excited when I encounter interesting mushrooms and slime molds in nature, and I’ve gone on several hikes for the sole purpose of finding interesting fungi.

4. Falling asleep on the couch

Nearly every night, I end up dozing off on the living room couch in my apartment. Since it happens without fail, I should know by now to avoid this situation and go straight to bed. And yet…zzzzzzzzzz.

5. Cautious (teetering on paranoid) about food-borne illness

I took a food microbiology course in college where we learned about the most common agents of food-borne illness and what foods they are found in. Ever since then, I have become more cautious (excessively so, according to my partner) about food poisoning.

6. “Once I’m out, I’m out”

Once I leave my apartment in the morning, I do not return (unless I have forgotten something ESSENTIAL, such as my work badge or public transit pass). This mentality has backfired on me many times, such as last week when I made the decision to go to work without an umbrella.

7. Perfectionist AND procrastinator

I am somehow both a perfectionist and a procrastinator. Being a grad student only accentuated this tendency of mine, because I worked with MANY other perfectionist-procrastinators at my old institution. I’m probably like this because I thrive under intense pressure…but sometimes these contradictory tendencies set me up for failure.

8. Cold brew queen

I enjoy a “malted cold brew” while my partner drinks a regular coffee.

I have started to become *that* person that drinks cold brew year round. I started drinking cold brew pretty regularly this summer, because both my office and my neighborhood café serve really good cold brew. Now, I am physically dependent on cold brew, because it has a higher caffeine content than regular coffee. I will probably continue to drink cold brew even when it is snowing and icy in the winter.

9. Keeping my opinions to myself

From an early age I have been very reserved, and hesitant to share my opinions with others. I’m afraid of being judged for having “bad taste” or stupid ideas. Luckily, this blog is helping me a lot to overcome my fear of expressing myself.

10. Using men’s deodorant

Ever since college, I have used men’s deodorant. (I think that) it works better than any women’s deodorant I’ve ever used before, and there is one particular brand/scent of men’s deodorant that I absolutely love.

11. Spooky story time!

I can’t think of any other weird facts, so here is a “weird” story in the spirit of Halloween. Around this time last year, I noticed a couple wasps buzzing around my door as I was trying to leave for work. I was so scared that I didn’t lock my door – I just slammed it shut and ran off to work. When I got back home at the end of the day, though, the door was locked. I (again) freaked out, and asked my male neighbor to help me check out the apartment. We opened the door and checked every room – nobody was there and nothing was missing. When we got to the kitchen, I saw a slip of paper saying that pest control (a normal thing in the South) had visited my apartment that day – they must have locked their door on the way out.

What are your “weird” things? If you have eleven that you’re comfortable sharing, please feel free to post your own answers to this prompt!

Sunshine Blogger Award

Thank you to Mathew at Blog of the Wolf Boy for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! Mathew consistently posts interesting and thought-provoking content, including poetry and motivational writing. Recently, he posted a letter from the perspective from his 13-year-old self to his present-day self; it was really moving!

The rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to him/her.
  • Answer the 11 questions provided by the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.
  • Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post.

The questions (complete-the-sentence style):

  1. I love it when…a challenging bake turns out well!
  2. If I could, I would…move into a completely different field of work in the next 1-3 years.
  3. Not too many people know that…I love dancing, and I met my (soon-to-be) husband through swing dancing!
  4. What really gets to my nerves…is when people lack awareness of their surroundings in public spaces, especially public transit.
  5. I can’t comprehend why…people still listen to Fox News.
  6. My fantasy job would be…something creative.
  7. If I were a color, I’d be…a purplish-blue shade.
  8. Sometimes when I’m by myself…I think about what my life would be like if I had made completely different choices earlier on.
  9. This may sound crazy but…here’s my number, so call me maybe. Just kidding! I don’t know how to answer this.
  10. The funniest thing about me…(according to my partner) is the way that I talk to our cats. I use a lot of baby-talk, but then other times I try to lecture them earnestly as though they are humans.
  11. It doesn’t really matter if…people follow a rigid “path” to their career or lifestyle (or what career or lifestyle people have, as long as they are not hurting anyone).

Questions for the next round:

  1. What food could you not live without?
  2. How frequently do you remember your dreams?
  3. Do you prefer warmer or cooler weather?
  4. What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
  5. What grosses you out?
  6. What book has influenced you the most, and how?
  7. Do you consider yourself a creative person? Why or why not?
  8. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
  9. Describe a quirky trait about yourself!
  10. What relaxes you when you’re feeling tense or stressed out?
  11. What is your favorite game?

Nominees:

I am breaking the “rules” of this award and nominating anybody who wants to participate! Or if you don’t want to do a full post, feel free to share your answers with me in the comments!