The Listening List: The Audiobooks and Podcasts of My 2016

When I finished graduate school in 2012, I realized that I hadn’t read anything for the joy of reading in about 4-5 years. Yikes, school reading had taken over my life. I wanted to start reading more, but I was reading so much every day as part of my job that I found myself falling asleep every time I cracked open a book. Enter Audible to the rescue. I signed up for a monthly subscription ($14 a month for 1 book token), and I started reading during my commutes to work. At first I kept it to the car, but now I listen to audiobooks while I cook, clean, and sit in bed playing the “Mexican Train” game on my phone before falling asleep. I started in 2013 with 11 titles in my Audible library. Now I have 95!  I’ve spent some serious time getting back into books, and I love it. I still won’t crack open a book, but I will definitely press play, and I’ve even added podcasts to my weekly listening.

Below is a list of all the books I read through Audible during 2016 (with the exception of some I started but never finished). I also included three podcasts that I listened to throughout the year. If you click on the image, a gallery will appear with some notes about each piece, so if you want to hear my thoughts on each, just click through the gallery below.

What books and/or podcasts have you enjoyed this year that I should add to my list?

Any thoughts about the ones I’ve included?

Trip in Review: Los Angeles

Hi everyone! I have to laugh at my last post — June 27th. Just a week before I started teaching again, and then once I was teaching…well I fell back down the black hole of a work-consumed life. Going to try to reach a better state of balance, but we’ll see how that goes one my new semester starts next week.

On to stuff I’ve been doing! At the end of July, my entire immediate family flew out to Los Angeles to attend an event honoring my dad. He was being inducted into the Hall of Fame for his his industry’s major association. My dad is a hard-working person, and I think most people see him this way, but it’s not often to get to hear “We see you and recognize you”, especially on such a big forum. The event meant a lot to him, and it meant a lot for all of his kids to come and celebrate with him. Let’s get on to the trip:

When I say my “entire immediate family” I mean “all 9 of us”. Yes, 9 full grown adults all flying in for a trip together. (We are an odd number because I’m the only single person – wahhhh :-p.) Sometimes it’s hard to make it through a family meal with all 9 of us in good spirits, so I was a little nervous. Luckily everyone was in a great mood the entire time, so it was kinda magical. Because there were so many of us, we all flew in on different flights and only planned to have dinner all together that evening. We went to an Italian restaurant called Tutti Mangia, and I had the most delicious ribeye with truffle butter (yes, it was awesome).

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Day One

We had one full day of doing whatever we liked before my dad’s main event, so we decided to be full on tourists. We headed down to Hollywood to visit the main street there and go on a tour of the area.

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Here is my family exhibiting tourist-y behaviors. Siblings in the back getting photos, and my brother posing up front. Gotta love a pose that gives the knees a time to shine.

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We walked down to the main street there where they had the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I only took a couple shots of the stars, one being Daniel Radcliffe.

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Later I found the Harry Potter trio’s handprints in front of the TCL Chinese Theater. More exciting was seeing Shirley Temple’s and Bing Crosby’s. I have to imagine that putting your handprints down back then was a little more exciting than it is now.

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We only had a little time before our tour of Hollywood/Beverly Hills, so we headed into a candy store where we’d meet our tour guides. The store had exciting features like an M&M Eminem:

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It also had guys making candy. I had seen a video circulating on Facebook a month prior of how people make this candy (layering and then rolling into thin/reduced pieces), so it was fun to watch them in person.

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The tour we went on was for stars’ homes in Hollywood/Beverly Hills. There were a lot of things I wanted to do while on the trip, but I didn’t get a chance to (Disneyland, studio tour, Santa Monica Pier), but this was one thing we could easily fit into our schedule and many of us could do at the same time. It ended up being an interesting tour with some limited views of homes and good views of neighborhoods in this part of CA.

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I wasn’t good at taking pictures during the tour, and eventually I gave up. I also might have spilled Sprite on myself at the very beginning of the tour and was slowly crystalizing into sugar. I did get this picture of Nicholas Cage’s home – You’re welcome for this insider look into his life!

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I was more so fascinated by the various things people had to do to perch a house in the limited space available. These houses below would give me anxiety-filled dreams of beams breaking and the house sledding down the hill.

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Afterwards, my sister Katie, her husband Brandon, and I made a side trip to go see Jen at The Plus Bus Boutique (owned by Jen and Marcy, I believe). I met Jen a few years ago at Full Figured Fashion Week, and I had kept in touch with her and her business venture online. I really wanted to stop by the store itself. This is the kind of business that I wish was available around me. I love that her shop also has community events where women are encouraged to come in together and shop but also just have fun, hang out, and meet other plus size women. I shopped with friends growing up, but never had a friend around my size that shopped plus size alongside me. I think it’s really great to have these social events for women and to have a meeting place where people “get it”.

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My sister Katie, Jen, and me

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My favorite piece in my size: A Joe Browns dress perfect for fall

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Katie’s favorite was a Jessica Simpson dress

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So many colors and prints!

After talking visiting the boutique, we headed back toward the hotel. We were about 45 minutes from just about everything in LA due to traffic, so it was dark by the time we got in. We went for a quick dinner and In-N-Out, which I had heard of before. I’m sorry to report that the food was most definitely “Meh”, though maybe we just got a bad batch!

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I finished the night out with a swim in the pool with my brother and his wife Brittany (who I traveled with to FFFWeek the second time around). I wore this Lane Bryant two piece (top can be found here and bottoms were purchased last year). This is actually the first time I’ve ever worn a two piece in public. I’ll admit that sometimes doing so feels very radical in the moment of wearing it, walking around the pool, going from pool to hot tub, etc. I felt good, so it worked for me.

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Day Two

On day two we all went out to breakfast together again. My dad and mom had events all day related to his Hall of Fame induction, and we really only had about half a day to do things. We decided to head to a local mall that had a City Chic. I was really interested in seeing what their store would be like. They had a gorgeous display and set up.

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PicMonkey Collage

I thought everything was displayed really well, and it made me want to look at various pieces. The sales associate was really nice and fun. She immediately keyed in on my brother-in-law who read as “Southern” quickly. The changing room was nicely decorated as well and had a chic seating area. As nice as the store and sales associate were, I was so incredibly disappointed in the visit. I knew that City Chic carried up to a 24 (their “XXL”), but in this store they only received items up to their XL/22. I’ve worn their pieces before and know a 24 can work for me depending on shape/fabric. What a disappointment. I want to love brands. I really do. But when I enter into their stores and cannot shop, when they actually DO have clothes that fit me but do not stock them, I leave disappointed and unimpressed. This isn’t just City Chic. I went to Torrid right after, and while some Torrids carry up to 5 in shirts/dresses, I couldn’t hardly find any 4s in the store. Really, I just wanted to try on jeans, but they only carried up to a 26 (they carry up to a 30 online). Their sales associates were also super friendly, and I could tell they felt uncomfortable with not being able to provide things for me to try on, but ah.. it wasn’t meant to be. Note: EVERYONE I met who worked in CA was super friendly to the point where we all commented on it. North Carolina is supposedly known for “southern manners”, but the people in California were much more friendly and helpful everywhere we went.

That night was the big event. I headed back to my room to hurry and get ready. I went with simple make up (the only thing I really know how to do) and wavy hair. My dress is Kiyonna and earrings are Aldo Accessories (similar).

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My mom and dad in front of his display.

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My sister Katie in ASOS, Brittany in City Chic, and me in Kiyonna

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Katie, my brother Danny, and me

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My dad and me

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All 9 of us

Day Three

On the last day in LA, I wanted to make sure to spend time with my parents. They had been busy with things from my dad’s event, so we hadn’t done much more than eat together. My mom wanted to go to a miniature train show, so there we went. Yes, I went to a miniature train show during my trip to LA. Yes, it made me think of the Borrowers. Yes, it kinda made me want to shove everything off my kitchen table and start creating some random scene for an electric train to run through.

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That afternoon I headed back out with Katie and Brandon to visit Laguna Beach. Danny and Brittany had gone on a previous day, and the pictures they took were gorgeous. I also wanted to live out my high school fantasies of running into Stephen Colletti while walking along the shore.

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Stephen Colletti was no where to be seen, but it really was a gorgeous beach. It was crowded, so it took us awhile to find a place to park and to venture out to the beach itself. We found a small beach with a community walk down and garden.

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All of the houses and cliffs were eye candy. Every where you looked there was something beautiful.  I loved that the part of the beach that we went to had rocks coming out of the ocean. NC beaches (the ones I go to) are very flat, so it was exciting to see the waves against cliffs and rocks.

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Day Four

Day four was spent flying back to North Carolina on two delayed flights. I did manage to read all of The Cursed Child during the flight and got home safe and sound. My suitcase on the other hand…

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End of the Joke

In the last few weeks, I’ve had a similar experience happen maybe 3-4 times. I’m engaging in someone’s words, media, and art. I’m thinking alongside them and interested in what they have to say. Then, BAM! They make fun of fat people or make stereotypical or false comments about fat people—basically they make me realize that they are not my kind of people. They believe “truths” about fatness that I disagree with wholeheartedly. They see fat bodies, fat bodies like mine, as worthy of ridicule, shame, or pity.

At what point do we decide to disengage with people we like because they make it apparent that they can’t stand our bodies? This is something I’ve asked myself multiple times, ranging from people with whom I have a relationship to people I just find interesting.

Continue reading “End of the Joke”

My Favorite Make Up Products for an Every Day Look

I started wearing make up in middle school, just simple things like lip balm and blue eyeshadow :-p. About 15 years later, I finally feel like I’m starting to get a hang of this make up game, mostly due to finding the right products for my face and a little help from youtube. I thought I’d post my favorite products for you to see, and risk never having someone love me again because of the faces I’m making here.

Step One: Starting a base

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My biggest issue with achieving a look I want is the dark circles under my eyes (which always lead people to ask me if I’m sick or tired), and blue-ish tones under various parts of my skin (yay for being Italian). The blue-ish tones are an issue for people who have PCOS as well. I always start my make up process with a CC cream, which is a color corrector product. I have blue, yellow, red tone — all over! Almay’s CC cream is very light, and while it does even out my tones slightly, I mostly use it because it has the right amount of moisture for my skin and sets a good base. I love the way my skin feels after using it. I apply this with a wedge sponge.

Step Two: Concealing dark spots

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The CC cream does not, however, cover the blue tones on my face. I have tried so many concealers. Read that very slowly because my search for a good concealer really was a multi-year struggle. But I found one!! That I LOVE! I finally broke down and went into Sephora and explained my issues with my blue tones. The person who helped me let me take a sample of Benefit’s Erase Paste in Fair and their brand’s color correcting product. As soon as I started using the Erase Paste, I knew it was what I was looking for. The consistency is kind of pastey. It’s a little sticky, and that works well for getting it to not just come right off as you apply it. I put it under my eyes, above my upper lip, and chin, and then I use a cheap beauty blender to even it out. You can put this on heavier or lighter depending on your need. Again, LOVE this product. It’s awesome!

Step Three: Applying foundation

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I’ve used different kinds of foundation. I’ve tried Bare Minerals powder foundation, and then their liquid foundation. I saw that a good number of youtube vloggers were using Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Foundation Stick, and I was looking for more coverage and decided to go for it. I had someone in Sephora color match for me, which worked in my favor because I would have bought one that was too light. I like that this product can be applied lighter or heavier. Right now I put a swipe on both cheeks, chin, and forehead, and then I use a brush to blend it all over.

Step Four: Warming up

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I used to just want to cover blemishes. I would only use concealers and foundations, completely washing out any color from my face. I learned that when you make a base (foundation), you have to add back color, which is why so many women do contouring. I don’t often use the Mary Kay Bronzer because it is pretty strong, but sometime I will use it for slight contouring. I mostly use this Physician’s Formula Bronzer in “Healthy Glow” (almost out in my pic!), and it just adds a little warmth back to my face without it being too strong.

Step Five: Blush

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Blush is the product that I have the hardest time with in determining what is too much or too little. I remember my mom telling me that I needed to wear it (again, I used to wash myself out with just foundation), and so I started wearing it. It surprised me that this Sephora blush in a pink-orange color looked most “natural” for me when wearing it (Color 05). It matched my own natural blush. I sometimes apply this and then need more or need to rub a little off. Hmm.. make up is hard sometimes :).

Step Six: Eye focus

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I don’t often wear eye shadow or eyeliner, but if I do want eye shadow, I reach for this really easy bronze color from Mary Kay. I’ll admit that I was skeptical of Mary Kay (I am about most companies who have this seller model for some reason), but I really like some of their products–this being one! It’s their cream eye shadow in iced cocoa, and I really like the consistency as well as the pigmented color. I also really like their mascara. Mascara was also a hard thing for me to find. I used Bare Minerals for a long time, but their version started clumping really easily and didn’t make my eyelashes pop. I now use Mary Kay’s Ultimate Mascara, and I don’t plan on finding a new mascara any time soon.

Step Seven: Final touches

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I don’t really do lipsticks or lip glosses. I get annoyed with them or the color looks off on me. Lip balm is my go to, though. I really like Burt’s Bee’s Tinted Lip Balm. I’m wearing Red Dahlia here, which is their darkest color. I also like their Rose color (brighter red) and their Zinnia color (orange/coral). I also included images of two other products I sometimes use: NYX highlighter and Make Up For Ever Microfinish Powder.

I am in no way a make up expert, but I am happy to say that I have found things that work for me — a make up look that makes me feel good and matches how I like to look. I am still open to finding good eyeliners and blush tips or any other great finds you’ve come across, so if you have any, please leave them in the comments!

P.S. Please say you still love me after seeing these pictures 🙂

A Week of Travels

The past month of my life has been a whirlwind of activities. Between finishing up the semester, having a heap of grading to complete, attending a bunch of events, and trying to make time for sleep, I was exhausted and a little concerned about my long week of traveling. I was looking forward to these trips for awhile, but I hadn’t considered that I would have been so busy leading up to the trips. My apartment was a mess, I was having to stay up late at night to pack — yikes! Luckily, I did make it on the road, got through some storms on the way, and ended up having a good time.

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Continue reading “A Week of Travels”

What I Learned from My First Romantic Relationship at 27

Content warning: In this post I discuss my history with dating, mine and other’s ways of seeing fat bodies, and assumptions and beliefs I held and hold about dating. My narrative here implies relationships are heterosexual and monogamous, which is just the way I envision and have my personal romantic relationships. I know that romantic relationships can be structured and experienced in multiple ways, so I wanted to warn about my limited discussion here.

 

Most people have entered the dating world long before 27, and I suppose I had my few experiences talking to and “dating” a few people throughout my late teens and early twenties. It wasn’t until late into my 27th year, though, that I met someone that I actually dated, someone who I talked to every day, saw multiple times a week, and formed a relationship with.

Continue reading “What I Learned from My First Romantic Relationship at 27”

A little fashion, a little reading, and a little teaching.

A little fashion…

I’m not on Twitter as much as I used to be, so sometimes I’m not as clued into the plus size fashion happenings as I used to be, but thankfully I follow lots of “in the know” bloggers who share great content, especially The Curvy Fashionista’s Facebook page. I saw on her page a link to a blogger/brand collaboration between P.S. It’s Fashion and Fame and Partners. The collection spans sizes 16-26 and offers special occasion wear. I’m really loving some of the designs, and I think the price point is on par with quality special occasion wear. My favorite is the Maya dress, but you can check out the full collection here.

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Maya Dress


Another interesting thing I saw this week was DearKates.com‘s feature of women in the tech field in their Ada collection lookbook. One of the women featured is Sarah Conley of Styleitonline.com (see her post here), and I absolutely loved seeing someone near my size/shape featured in such an intimate setting. I’ve admired Sarah as a blogger for awhile, so it is also just really cool when you see someone you kinda know in these things. Apparently some people feel that the lookbook sexualizes women in the tech field, and I guess that means that sexual women in that field can’t also be seen as great workers (?!), but I found the lookbook fresh and exciting. As I said to Sarah, my read of it was that women can be powerful, confident, smart, intimate, and vulnerable. We can be all of those together, at the same time, and one doesn’t take away from the other.

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By the way, I own their Rosa brief in a 3x, and it is a great product (fits up to a 26/28).


A little reading…

I’ve also been reading a lot of things to potentially use in my class, especially writing that comes out of personally-motivated inquiry. “The Strange and Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit” was a really interesting read. My class looks at identity and how we use language to form the self, manage the self, etc. We also consider who we are recognized as and probe at how that recognition forms identity. So much of my life is connecting to others that I have a hard time thinking about going 2+ days alone, let alone decades alone. It made me think about my class subject in a new way.

“I did examine myself,” he said. “Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.”


A little teaching…

This week my classes are also thinking about the stories we associate with ourselves (those we tell or are told) and how places are connected to identity. We read this piece about how places are connected to our sense of self. It reminded me of the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon. It’s a poem that is often imitated, and I had a chance to go back and look over the version I wrote in 2008. It’s fun to think about how my sense of place has changed over the years. How now at 26 I associate “Where I’m From” with other things (now probably more things that have happened in my adult years rather than only my childhood).

Here’s the version I wrote in 2008:

I am from rubber,

From weather-stripping and classic cars,

I am from the wooden dock,

(splintery, worn

it creaked beneath my feet.)

I am from the daffodils,

the paper tree

whose bark I peeled off

to become

secret notes for my sister.

I’m from skip-bo and the Droulliard nose,

from Evelyn and Giuseppa.

I’m from the laugh-too-louds,

and the speak-up-to-be-heard,

from the good old days and quit picking on your brother.

I’m from Mass on Christmas,

then never again

waiting for answers, but afraid to search.

I’m from Lincolnton and the Grammaticos,

lasagna and no-bake cookies.

From the years of my mother being

a caretaker

my grandma’s stroke that started it all.

In the basement is my plastic box

birthday cards, letters

old school yearbooks,

news articles of my deceased dear friend.

Each piece makes up my limbs-

A medley of people who’ve changed me-

Supporting me as I walk on.

What have you been reading and thinking about this week?

In Search of Clarity

So this photo and its humity-induced soft focus is pretty representative of how I am feeling about my blog. Ever since I graduated from my grad program, I’ve been hobbling along and only posting here or there. I know enough people who blogged two years ago who still do now to not feel completely isolated in the blogosphere, but I also feel out of touch, and it’s of my own doing.

Being a teacher isn’t an easy thing for me. It’s something I have to work at, and I really, really, really want to be the kind of teacher that I loved and wanted, so I put a lot of time and thought into it. Lots of people have time or energy consuming jobs, but I’m still trying to figure out the balance for me. I also am still, 2 years in, trying to find my style in the work world, and sometimes it’s just not as fun as when I was a student.

All of this leads me to ask myself what to do. I love this blog and what I have learned about myself and others throughout my time writing it, but I also don’t like how half-assed it seems to have been these past 2 years compared to before. I’m searching for clarity. What will this blog be now? How will it reflect the ways that I have changed?

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I’m not planning to stop writing/posting here any time soon. I’m just wondering…how do I make my personal fashion blog feel, well, personal again? Hmmm.. still thinking.