The Best Books I’ve Read This Year (So Far)

As I’m sure many readers will agree, this year (while tumultuous in many ways) has been great for knocking some books off of our “to-read” lists! I wanted to share some of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year with all of you today:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson- I have had this on my “to-read” list for YEARS. I should have read it a long time ago. Bryan Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative which aims to defend many vulnerable populations. This book centers around his work fighting for people (mainly Black people) who have been wrongly or unfairly imprisoned. It made me angry and sad to read about just how unjust our “justice” system is, but it gives me a glimmer of hope knowing people like Mr. Stevenson are out there using their knowledge and power to fight for what’s right. This was a hard read, but one everyone should journey through.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin- Greg and I finished watching GoT this year and we absolutely loved it (I think I am in a very small minority when I say that I didn’t hate the ending). I decided to read the first book at the beginning of this year and it was really fun! I would read a chapter or two before bed each night because it is so long. I have to say I’m really glad I watched the show before I read the book- it made it a lot easier to keep track of the characters since I was able to visualize them in my head. I am excited to read the next installment (even though I’ll know exactly what happens since the show did such a good job keeping up with the books that have been written).

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens- This is a beautifully written book, one deserving of all the hype I think. It’s a story about Kya, a girl who grows up in the low country of South Carolina in the marsh, pretty much raising herself. I think Owens was successful in weaving together several genres (suspense, coming-of-age, and romance) to create something unique and fresh. This has been a very popular book over the past year for good reason!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman- We read this for my work book club and I absolutely loved it. It seems like it’s going to be really quirky and off-the-wall, which it partly is, but it’s also a very emotional novel about depression, trauma, and friendship. Eleanor is one of my favorite characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading about this year. I think this is a book for everyone.

Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller- Brock Turner raped Chanel Miller in 2015 behind a dumpster in Palo Alto, CA. This is Chanel’s story. While most of the book centers around her rape and the trial that followed, Chanel provides such beautiful detail about her personality, her accomplishments, and her life. She is a complex human being, just like every other human being that is raped or assaulted. I wish every single rape survivor could get an opportunity to share their story like Chanel has- I wonder if it would make rape culture any different than it is now.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles- It’s hard to say what my absolute #1 favorite book I’ve read so far this year is, but this book is definitely vying for that spot. I have always been in love with New York City and Rules of Civility is a perfect snapshot in time of the city in the 1930s. Towles is one of the most talented contemporary authors I’ve read- his descriptions of setting are beautiful and breathtaking. I don’t even know what else to say about this book except that I love it.

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore- This book has such a unique premise. Oona’s birthday is New Years Day, and starting from the year she turns 19, she wakes up at a different age of her life each year at the stroke of midnight. So instead of going from 18-19, she goes from 18 to 51…and so on and so forth. It’s so fun to jump back and forth in time with Oona. Even though she is physically a different age each year, she is mentally still very young and she has to figure out each year of her life with the help of her mom and some other supporting characters. While you definitely have to suspend your disbelief on this one, it’s a really fun read.

What are some of your favorite books you’ve read this year?

Until next time,

Zoe

Monthly Goal Recap: May 2020

As if 2020 couldn’t get any crazier or worse, it seems like shit really hit the fan in May. The coronavirus is still going strong and now we add some very sobering and heartbreaking moments of police brutality against BIPOC to that mix. It feels almost wrong to think of anything else during this time and I’ll definitely be incorporating awareness and action to my goals this month.

Fitness

  • Continue to run: I did okay on this goal- having the treadmill has definitely helped. I completed 10 runs this month and also added in a little HIIT so I feel good about my fitness right now.

Personal/Hobbies

  • Write one song: Another month gone by with no new full songs written 😦 I have been getting up early in the mornings to write, though, and I think that is helping me get my creative juices flowing at least.
  • Bake 2 new things: This month I baked garlic bread and blueberry muffins from scratch- so I did good here!
  • Work on my “Curated Closet”: I actually bit the bullet and decided to hire a personal stylist! I really just want someone to come take a look at my closet and help me figure out how to style pieces I already have. She’s coming in a couple of weeks and I am so excited! I’ll update how that goes next month.
  • Keep reading books: I’m a little behind on my reading goal for the year because the book I read at the beginning of the month took me awhile to finish. Here’s what I read this month:
    • Β A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (4/5)
    • Ghosted by Rosie Walsh (3/5)
    • Once and For All by Sarah Dessen (3/5)
    • Followers by Megan Angelo (2/5)
  • Go on a monthly date with Greg:Β We decided to get up early one Sunday morning and ride bikes around Southtown. It was really fun!

Here are my goals for June along with a couple of exciting life updates at the end!

Fitness:

  • Continue to run
  • Attend 3 yoga classes per week- My studio has opened back up and I could not be more excited!

Personal/Hobbies

  • Get up early on weekdays to do something creative: Instead of trying to keep up with the goal of writing one new song per month, I think just trying to stick with a creative routine will be more fruitful. I’ve been doing it for the past week and it’s been great!
  • Bake one new thing: 2 would be the ideal but 1 is good enough for me!
  • Keep reading books
  • Date night with GregΒ 
  • Be intentionally anti-racist: I have a lot of work to do in this area- everyone does. You don’t just get to decide you’re not a racist and move on with your life in the way you’ve always lived it. I plan to start reading the book “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo this month with my friend Andrew as well as digesting some of the resources on this list. Additionally, I will sign petitions if I haven’t already, donate what I can, and educate myself on who plans to run for various offices this fall so that I can be prepared to vote for someone who is willing to enact change.

A couple new updates…

One- we are moving! We just signed a lease on an apartment in Southtown (aka a sort of hipster part of San Antonio). It’s within walking distance to several restaurants, breweries, and bars as well as the river walk! It’s a super cute place and I am literally counting down the days til we move.

Two- I launched a podcast last month with my friend Andrew! We started recording in April but finally got our shit together and published everything in May. It’s called “From A to Z” and each week we pick 2 albums to discuss- an older one and a newer one- and give our ratings for. It’s been SO much fun! Click to listen on Apple Music or Spotify.

Until next time,

Zoe

Monthly Goal Recap: April

Weirdly enough, April felt like it flew by to me even though we spent pretty much every day at the house, only leaving to run essential errands. I think it’s because work was SUPER busy this month (April is always a crazy month in admissions). I’m interested to see what May is like. Here is an update on my April goals.

Fitness

  • Continue to run: I think I’ve done pretty well with this! I went on 8 indoor runs and 2 indoor walks this month. Not as many as usual but I’d say for coming off of my half-marathon it feels pretty good to me. I did take an entire week off of working out this month- no running, no yoga, nothing. I was so exhausted for some reason and I just needed a full week of rest. It was definitely worth it. I feel like the treadmill is helping me quicken my running pace a little bit which is nice. I don’t know if I’ll ever go on a run longer than 30 minutes on the treadmill but it’s all good. I’m excited for the world to open back up so I can do my long outdoor runs again but the treadmill will suffice for now.
  • Attend 15 yoga classes: I actually did not reach this goal. 😦 I did 8 yoga classes during the month of April. I really haven’t done any yoga at all for 2 weeks and I’m not sure why. I think I just really miss doing it at in person classes- I don’t feel like I get as much out of it at home. I’ll probably continue to do some one-off classes here and there but I’m not sure I’ll set any more yoga goals until the studio opens back up.

Personal/Hobbies

  • Write one song:Β I unfortunately did not write one full song this month. However, I did come up with some little ditties on my piano and was able to play around with some Garage Band preloaded tunes on my new Macbook. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent exploring the new features this month. So yeah- didn’t meet the goal but I feel like I’ll start having some ideas soon.
  • Bake 2 new things:Β I don’t think I baked two new things, but I do know I baked muffins twice this month so I’ll count it! I need to get back on track next month.
  • Work on my “Curated Closet”: I spent an evening trying on clothes and putting together outfit combos this month which was so fun! I’m going to try not to spend a whole lot of money on clothes in the next few months now that I have some outfits to turn to.
  • Keep reading books: I was thinking about it and I’m not sure where the whole “7 books per month” thing came from so I’m not going to hold myself to that goal. My overall goal is to read 65 books this year and according to Goodreads, I’m on track. Here are the books I read this month (full reviews on Goodreads and shortened reviews in the previous post I made):
    • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (3/5)
    • Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2/5)- am I the only one who just isn’t a fan of this author?
    • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (4/5)
    • Know My Name by Chanel Miller (5/5)
  • Spend less time on my phone: I downloaded TikTok this month. That probably tells you all you need to know about how this goal went.
  • Go on a monthly date with Greg:Β We ordered takeout several times this month and called it a date πŸ™‚

I have a few small, soft goals for May but I’m trying to give myself grace considering the state of the world. Here’s what I would like to do:

Fitness:

  • Continue to run

Personal/Hobbies

  • Write one song:Β 
  • Bake one new thing: Keeping it small πŸ™‚
  • Work on my “Curated Closet”:Β I barely got through a tenth of my wardrobe when I put together outfit combos last weekend, so it would be fun to keep working on this and seeing what I can put together with what I already own.
  • Keep reading books
  • Work on our to-do list with Greg:Β Greg just finished a grad school class and has a few weeks off so last night we made a list of things we’d like to do together in our spare time. It’ll be fun to work through this!

Until next time,

Zoe

What I’ve Been Watching/Reading/Listening To During Quarantine

Even though work has been busier than ever lately (more to do with the time of year it is in Admissions than anything else), I of course have had a ton of extra free time these days because I can’t go anywhere on the evenings or weekends. To be honest…I’m not complaining at all. I feel like I’ve been going, going, going nonstop for months and it’s been nice to have some free time at home. Also, I just feel grateful that I get the privilege to stay home at all. There are millions of people out there who do not have that luxury and are risking their health to go to their jobs so I try to remind myself of that when I start feeling a little antsy.

One perk of getting to stay at home is that I’m now able to catch up on all the books, music, movies, TV shows, and Youtube videos that I didn’t get around to before. I wanted to share with you all the things I’ve indulged in. So without further adieu…

BOOKS (you can read my full reviews on Goodreads):

Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark:Β I’ve been listening to the My Favorite Murder podcast for about a year now and I enjoy it (to an extent- listening to stories about murder for hours on end takes its toll). I liked this book because it was more about their lives and experiences vs. their passion for true crime. It was a fun, quick read!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: This book has rave reviews and I think they’re well deserved! It’s the perfect mix of romance, mystery, and coming-of-age. There’s also some great courtroom drama at the end which I’m a sucker for. I loved this one!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman:Β This has been my favorite book I’ve read in awhile. It seems kind of quirky and offbeat at the beginning but ends up tackling some very real issues such as abuse, mental illness, and loneliness. I think the writer did an excellent job at creating a very real character. I highly recommend this one!!

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: This is a historical fiction book about a group of female spies in German-occupied France during WWI. It’s based on true events and while parts of it certainly were interesting, it was not my favorite book. It felt way too long and some of the writing just wasn’t great in my opinion. It took me a long time to read because there were days that I just didn’t feel like picking it up.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney: I am just not a fan of Sally Rooney, I’ve decided. Her books can best be described as “tepid”. And this one in particular had characters that really got on my nerves. I know a lot of people love her books but they are not for me!

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: This was a really raw, honest portrayal of grief. Joan Didion is a fantastic writer and she provides insights in this book that are so perfectly worded, I don’t know if anyone else could say them any better. Not the lightest book ever but a good one.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller:Β Any review I can give this book wouldn’t do it justice. The author is the woman who was raped by the Stanford student in 2016 (you know the news story I’m talking about). Just read it, please.

MOVIES- These are all pretty random, but they’re what I’ve watched! I’ve been watching a lot more TV than movies so there aren’t many on this list.

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse: This was so surprising and delightful! I don’t have kids of my own so I’m not really up to date with the latest kids movies and kind of let this one fall by the wayside despite all the rave reviews. Greg recommended it to me so we watched it and it was SO good! First of all, the animation is so unique and fun to watch. I can’t really describe it- it’s almost like comic book style on acid? Also, the story was super cute and wholesome. Even though this is marketed as a kids’ movie, I definitely think it’s enjoyable for adults as well.

Road to Perdition: This is a super random one but Greg picked it one night and we went with it. It’s from the early 2000s and it stars Tom Hanks, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, and Paul Newman (yeah, it definitely doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, lol). It’s kind of a gangster movie and not something I’d ever pick on my own but I actually enjoyed it. The cinematography and music really elevated it, in my opinion. Not like my favorite movie ever but enjoyable enough for a Friday night!

Midsommar: I LOVED Florence Pugh in Little Women (unpopular opinion: I liked her even more than Saoirse Ronan) and heard some good things about this movie so Greg and I decided to check it out. Ummm….it was not good. I’m not super squeamish in movies (like, I legit enjoyed the first couple Saw movies) but there was one scene in this movie that I could not stomach. Really there’s no plot here- it’s about a group of college kids who go to Sweden for a festival that turns really dark. There’s a lot of weird, shock factor stuff in here which I really just cannot stand in movies. In a way it reminded me of “Spring Breakers” because there was no plot but lots of shock to keep people interested. Some people call this art- I call it a gimmick. Not my cup of tea. I would NEVER watch this again and I really can’t recommend it. Not even the cinematography could save it.

TV SHOWS

Tiger King: I mean, at this point who HASN’T watched this? It’s wild and it’s crazy. I totally think Carole killed her husband. But even if that’s true, she’s still one of the most tame, moral people on the show and if that doesn’t tell you what kind of people are on it, then I don’t know what will!

This is Us:Β I kept up with This is Us pretty diligently during the first 2-3 seasons and then kind of stopped watching during the middle of season 3 because I got so busy with grad school. I decided to re-watch the series from the beginning and catch up completely. I lost a lot of hours of my life doing this but it was soooo worth it. This is such a great show, probably one of my favorites of all time. All of the actors are incredible, the writing is so creative, and the whole thing is just a great watch from start to finish. I can’t wait for season 5!

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Greg and I have been watching a couple of episodes of this before bed each night for a good laugh. It’s like Seinfeld on steroids. The people on this show are horrible, horrible people. We’re only on season 3 and I’m interested to see how the scripts and storylines evolve as time goes on. The show is still running today but there’s no way that they’re still saying and doing some of the things they said and did back then, even with the premise of them being horrible people- some of the stuff they used to do would NOT fly now. This is the TV version of Cards Against Humanity so if you are easily offended, I’d proceed with caution!

Good Girls: Greg and I have been keeping up with this each week. It’s a fun show about 3 female friends who get into the money laundering business- NBD. The hijinks they get themselves up to are oftentimes really hilarious and outlandish. I think the 3 female leads (Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman) play off of each other so well and that’s really what makes this show shine.

Little Fires Everywhere: I read this book by Celeste Ng a couple years ago and absolutely adored it. She has a gift for creating really complex characters and showing you enough of them that you can sympathize with all of them, even if you don’t agree with them. I know Reese Witherspoon played a huge part in making this miniseries a reality (aside from her starring as one of the lead characters) and as much as I love her, I don’t think the show is working. The characters in the book are so nuanced and written in a way that you empathize with all of them. The characters in the show are very one-dimensional. I stuck with it til the end because it was kind of like watching a trainwreck- in my opinion, the whole thing was not done well at all but I know a lot of people really like it.

The Bold Type: I just started watching this and am only on season one, but so far I’m enjoying it! It’s about 3 best friends who all work for a Cosmo-like magazine together. It’s perfect for anyone who likes The Devil Wears Prada, Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, etc (*raises hand for all of those*). I do think the storylines wrap themselves up way too nicely and quickly and as much as I love Melora Hardin as Jacquelyn, the editor-in-chief-, I also think her character is unrealistically nice (she’s no Miranda Priestly). But overall, it’s a fun show to watch.

Never Have I Ever: I just started watching this last night and so far it’s really cute! It’s about an Indian girl growing up in Sherman Oaks California with her mom and cousin (her dad unfortunately passed away about a year before where the show starts). Mindy Kaling is the executive producer and apparently it was inspired by her own adolescence.

MUSIC

Here are some fun albums/playlists I’ve been turning to during quarantine:

I Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Like This Playlist: A nod to the iconic song by Carly Rae Jepsen. This is my “indie/alternative pop” playlist that I’ve been working on for months and I listen to constantly.

After Hours- The Weeknd: Loving this new album from the Weeknd! It’s been said that this album embodies all the sounds he’s experimented with in the past and I have to agree!

Manic- Halsey: It took me a really long time to warm up to Halsey but I actually really love this new album by her! It could do without a few of its tracks (mainly the interludes) but otherwise this is very solid.

YOUTUBE

I’ve gotten way more into Youtube this past month (and TikTok, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole today- I could write a whole thinkpiece on it!). Here are some channels I’ve been enjoying:

Natacha Oceane: I LOVE this girl! She is a health/fitness youtuber and she is just so cute and real. She has a killer bod but she does a great job at explaining the realistic things she has to do to maintain that bod. She is all about moderation in diet and doing the things you love as workouts. I’ve watched many of her videos and I just adore her! Her videos where she does fitness/health challenges are especially entertaining.

Bon Appetit: This is a very popular Youtube account and for good reason! The videos are just so much fun. I love the “All the Ways You Can Cook a ______” videos (they’ve done chicken breast, salmon, steak, burgers, etc). I’ve actually learned quite a few things from these videos!

The Running Channel: I will watch anything related to running! This is just a great channel with some really lively personalities.

Vogue: Who doesn’t love 73 Questions? I could watch these all day. Obviously I love Taylor Swift’s, but Saoirse Ronan, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Daniel Radcliffe, and Daisy Ridley are favorites, too!’

Well, if that doesn’t give you recommendations then I don’t know what will! I hope you enjoyed reading this! Let me know what you’ve been reading/watching/listening to in the comments!

Until next time,

Zoe

Monthly Goal Recap: March 2020

Well, well, well…March ended up taking a turn for the unexpected, didn’t it? It is crazy to think that 3 weeks ago I was getting ready for a bachelorette weekend with some of my best friends (which thankfully I was still able to squeeze in) and 2.5 weeks ago I was relegating myself to staying at home all day, every day for the near future. Needless to say, COVID-19 has altered a lot of people’s plans and so much more. My goals are pretty minuscule in the grand scheme of everything that’s going on, but I figured I’d recap them anyway just to keep track of them for March. So without further adieu…

Fitness

  • Run a half marathon: Definitely one of the highlights of March (and it literally feels like a lifetime ago that I did this even though it was less than a month ago). It actually went better than I expected on every single level. I ran the whole thing without stopping (except for quick power walking at the water stations), I set a new PR (2 hours, 36 minutes, 34 seconds) and I was only sore for a day or two afterwards (and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I walked around a lot at the rodeo the night of the race- I think I set a new personal record for most steps taken in a day!). The day was beautiful and the course was pretty flat. It was honestly so amazing and I’ve looked back on it fondly several times over the past few weeks.
  • Quicken my 5k pace:Β I set this goal because I was supposed to run a 5k in April (this weekend, actually, on April 4). Sadly that got cancelled, but I still tried to run a little in March just to keep up with my fitness. I’m not sure I’ve been very successful in quickening my pace (and I technically have just been going on 3 mile runs, not full 5k runs). My fastest 3 mile run this month was actually the first run I went on after my half marathon and it was a 34:04 pace. My fastest 5k ever was the one I ran in January (31:19) so I still have a ways to go. I do think my fastest times will always be at actual, official races because my adrenaline is so high at them due to the fun atmosphere.
  • Attend 10 yoga classes:Β Another goal that was made much more difficult by the fact that BSY had to temporarily close halfway through this month 😦 However, I subscribed to their on demand video service and their instructors have been live streaming classes on Instagram every day! So I try to take those classes several times a week and I’m absolutely counting them towards this goal. Therefore, I’ve done 17 yoga classes this month and more than exceeded my goal!

Personal/Hobbies

  • Continue paying off student loans: We were able to put a really big chunk of cash towards my balance at the beginning of the month which is nice. We are extremely lucky in that both of our jobs are pretty secure during this time, but we’ve decided to kind of halt paying off more than the minimum payment going forward and put money we’d normally allocate to our student loans in our emergency fund until the COVID-19 situation gets better. Our hope is that we never need to use it and that once this is over we can take it and put it back towards student loans!
  • Write one song: Unfortunately I did not fully meet this goal this month. I did come up with a new concept for a song and wrote a first and second verse and chorus but the song isn’t fully finished. I am really vibing with what I have written though, and hope to finish it this month and write something else new, too (since I have a lot more time now).
  • Bake 2 new thing: This month I baked banana strawberry chocolate chip muffins (which were delicious) and I tried my hand at making Everything Bagels since I can’t really find them in stores right now. The muffins weren’t too far out of my comfort zone (I make muffins all the time!) but I’d never made this particular recipe so I’m counting it as a new thing, haha. And the bagels turned out surprisingly good! Not quite as good as TJ’s but I’ll be flexible for now πŸ™‚
  • Work on my “Curated Closet”: I bought a few new things to add to my wardrobe this month- a cute mini dress from American Eagle, a super comfy snake print dress from Stitch Fix, and a beautiful floral midi dress from Cotton On. I just ordered a pair of high waisted denim shorts from AE a few days ago but now I am really trying to put a hold on spending and ordering for the time being. I think this will be a fun month to start playing around in my closet and experimenting with new outfits!
  • Keep reading books: I came so close to finishing 7 books this month- I finished 6 instead. Here they are:
    • A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (5/5)
    • The Farm by Joanne Ramos (3/5)
    • Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark (4/5)
    • Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (3/5)
    • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (5/5)
    • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (5/5)
  • Spend less time on my phone: Haha…epic fail. During quarantine, my phone has been practically attached to me.
  • Go on a monthly date with Greg: Like I mentioned before, Greg and I went to the rodeo the night of my half marathon. We saw Maren Morris and she was freakin’ PHENOMENAL. Not only did she sing and play guitar flawlessly, she was 9 months pregnant and in a beautiful sequined bodysuit the whole time. Her voice is so strong. She’s definitely and inspiration for me! It was a fun date overall- Greg’s first (and my probably 20th, haha) at the rodeo.

I am still setting goals for April, even with everything going on. Here they are:

Fitness:

  • Continue to run: Greg and I are hoping to purchase a treadmill this weekend because the trails have unfortunately just gotten way too crowded (which kind of defeats the purpose of quarantine/social distancing). My only goal here is to run on it- no distance/speed expectations for me. I usually HATE running on a treadmill but I know I need to keep up with my running, so I’m willing to be flexible.
  • Attend 15 yoga classes: It would be great to do yoga at least every other day this month, if not more!

Personal/Hobbies

  • Write one song: Hoping to finish my March song and write a new April song!
  • Bake two new things: Technically I’ve already baked one thing this month (espresso chocolate chip cookies- they are yummy!). I think it would be fun to try my hand at cheesecake this month. I’ve never baked one before!
  • Work on my “Curated Closet”
  • Keep reading books: I think I can attempt 7 this month since I’ll be stuck inside!
  • Spend less time on my phone: I am slowly phasing out apps on my phone a) for my own mental health and b) so that when I pick it up out of boredom I don’t find as much to keep me entertained on there. I’ve already deleted reddit and imgur. Haven’t pulled the plug on Pinterest yet (it is handy to have on there for recipes and such). Not sure if I’ll ever delete Instagram, although I have culled down who I follow. I’ve tried the screen time function for a long time but it just doesn’t work for me (I mean, the ability to ignore the limits you set for yourself is just way too easy) so I’m hoping getting rid of apps will be more effective. There are soooo many other things I could be doing during quarantine than scrolling through my phone.
  • Go on our monthly date: Tomorrow Paesano’s (a restaurant I’ve always wanted to try in San Antonio) is doing a pop up deal- 2 pasta dinners, garlic bread, dessert, and a bottle of wine for $50 that can be picked up curbside. Our plan is to order that, get dressed up a little, and do our April date night inside. Super low key but that’s about all we can do during quarantine (and I think it’ll definitely be a date to remember!).

Until next time,

Zoe

Monthly Goal Recap: February 2020

I’ve seen so many memes lately about how January dragged on but February flew by and I have to say….I TOTALLY AGREE. I mean I get that February is a tad shorter in general but it is insane how quickly it went by and now we’re already in March! I’m using that as an excuse for why this blog has been a barren land for an entire month. That’s okay, right….right? πŸ˜‰

Here is my goal recap for February!

Fitness

  • Attend 15 yoga classes: Well I’m glad I made this a soft goal because I did not achieve it! I only went to 9 classes this month 😦 However, with half marathon training and some travel I feel pretty good about that. I went 2-3 times per week each week which I’m okay with.
  • Half marathon training: This was the toughest month of training because my runs just kept getting longer and longer with my longest capping out at 10 miles. For the most part my runs went really well. I did slog through a few of them but I had to remind myself that not every run is going to be my best one ever. I run my half marathon on Saturday and overall I’m feeling pretty zen about it.
  • Sober January: I went almost the entire month without drinking any alcohol. I slipped up one day when I had a work event out of town. I didn’t have a run or yoga class on the calendar for the next day so I think that’s okay! I will say that there’s no way I could have met my fitness goals (especially my runs) if I drank like I typically do this month. I also lost 5 pounds and I’m sure not drinking empty calories from alcohol contributed to this! I won’t be giving up drinking forever of course (in fact, I have plans to go out with friends tomorrow) but I will think twice about how often I drink, especially if I know I have a workout the next day.
  • Run an official race: This month I ran a 5k at a brewery. It was a very casual event (it wasn’t even timed). I probably ran 75% of it and walked the other 25% which I feel good about considering it’s the first ever race I’ve done where I’ve actually consumed beer DURING the race.

Personal/Hobbies

  • Pay off my student loans: We paid off quite a bit of our loans this month! They’re almost halfway paid off from our starting point so I am really beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Write one song per month: Done! Like last month, I spent this month finishing a song that I’ve been working on for the good part of a year. I’m starting to run out of unfinished songs so I guess I’ll have to come up with a new one from scratch this month!
  • Bake something new twice per month: This month I made Texas shaped sugar cookies and, for the first time ever, I made croissants! The Texas shaped sugar cookies turned out super cute (duh) but didn’t taste the greatest. They were just kind of bland, but tbh, most sugar cookies like that are. Making the croissants was an interesting process. They take a long time- pretty much a whole day to make with overnight chilling. I was really worried that I didn’t get the dough to be thin enough so at the end of the entire process I put them in the oven and prayed for the best. While they turned out a *tiny* bit thick, that didn’t end up being the issue. The issue was that they baked for too long and all of the bottoms ended up entirely burnt 😦 We’ve been cutting off the bottoms and just eating the rest and they taste amazing! So next time I’ll know not to bake them for so long (and also I’ll be putting chocolate in them next time, haha).
  • Curate my closet: Last month I finally got to go shopping and incorporate new things into my wardrobe which has been so fun! I purchased some snakeskin boots, white tennis shoes, wide leg crop jeans, a wrap top, and a midi skirt in February. I actually have a few items on their way to me in the mail right now. It felt really good to purge my wardobe and subsequently add some things to it. I’m not sure if I’ll continue doing posts about this process, though. It’s been hard to write about and I haven’t taken many pictures. Perhaps I’ll do a “before” and “after” type post when I’m through with the entire process.
  • Read 65 books/Complete the PopSugar Reading Challenge: My goal this month was to read 7 books but sadly that did not happen. I completed 4 books instead. Almost all of them were not exactly my cup of tea and they took me awhile to read because I just didn’t care to pick them up. Also, I’m in the process of reading the first “A Song of Ice and Fire” book and while it’s really good, it’s also super long (like 800 pages) so that’s taking awhile, too. Here are the books I completed:
    • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (5/5- so good, would highly recommend, definitely one of the best books I will read this year)
    • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (3/5)
    • 20-Something, 20-Everything by Christine Hassler (3/5)
    • Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes (3/5)
  • Travel to 2 new places: Again, that didn’t happen this month and probably won’t until May, when Greg and I go to Minneapolis.
  • Spend less time on my phone: Much like last month, I didn’t do great at this. Still really trying to figure out what will work for me when it comes to less screen time.
  • Work on my “30 Before 30” list: Again, didn’t accomplish anything on this list this past month but I still have time.
  • Go on a date for each successful month: Since Greg and I both were able to complete most of our goals for February, we are going to the Houston Rodeo together for our date on Saturday! We’re seeing Maren Morris and I’m super excited. I just hope I’ll be in okay condition after having run the half marathon that morning πŸ™‚

Here are my March goals:

Fitness:

  • Run a half marathon!: Enough said!
  • Quicken my 5k pace: I’m going to take a break from running for one week after my half marathon but for the rest of the month, I am training for a 5k that I’m running on April 4. My goal is to focus on my pace and try to quicken it!
  • Attend 10 yoga classes: Since I’ll be traveling a little more this month I think 10 is a realistic goal for me.

Personal/Hobbies

  • Continue paying off student loans
  • Write one song
  • Bake two new things
  • Work on my “Curated Closet”
  • Keep reading books: I’d like to get back on track for my goal of reading 7 more months
  • Spend less time on my phone
  • Go on a date to celebrate our success: Not sure what our date will be in April yet! Any suggestions?

Aside from reaching my goals, I spent a lot of time this month watching Good Girls on Netflix with Greg. It’s really entertaining! Also we’ve gotten sucked into Love is Blind. So stupid…but so addictive. I recommend for a rainy afternoon with your favorite snacks and a bottle of wine!

Until next time,

Zoe

Monthly Goal Recap- January 2020

If you read my first post of 2020, you know I have a lot of goals for the year. I feel like this blog is going to be a great place to keep my progress organized, regardless of if people read these posts or not! Without further adieu, here’s how I did with my goals this month:

Fitness

  • Complete 30 yoga classes in January: I did it! I completed my 30th and last class on Friday morning, January 31st. This was such an incredible experience, one that really pushed me to my limits. I have so many things I could say about my relationship with yoga, but I will save them for their own blog post.
  • Half marathon training: I did pretty well at meeting this goal! There were days that I’d get really tired this month, days that I had a run AND a yoga class planned and I’d force myself to pick at least one of them. Yoga won every time in the spirit of the 30 day challenge! Overall I skipped 3 runs this month and went on 9 runs so I think I did okay- I didn’t skip any long runs and those are the most important ones, in my book!
  • Sober January: I went almost the entire month without drinking any alcohol. I slipped up one day when I had a work event out of town. I didn’t have a run or yoga class on the calendar for the next day so I think that’s okay! I will say that there’s no way I could have met my fitness goals (especially my runs) if I drank like I typically do this month. I also lost 5 pounds and I’m sure not drinking empty calories from alcohol contributed to this! I won’t be giving up drinking forever of course (in fact, I have plans to go out with friends tomorrow) but I will think twice about how often I drink, especially if I know I have a workout the next day.
  • Run an official race every month: Done! I ran my fastest 5k ever on Sunday, January 19.

Personal/Hobbies

  • Pay off my student loans: We had to take a bit of a detour from this in January due to us having to buy a new (to us) car for Greg unexpectedly this month. However, we still paid our minimum payment and we only were set back by a month, so we should still be able to pay them off entirely by the end of the year!
  • Write one song per month: Done! I finished a song I started working on last month. I’m not sure I want to share it with people or not. I’m trying to become more okay with the idea that I don’t have to share every single song I write. Maybe I will later, maybe I won’t. Hopefully February’s song will be more share-able πŸ™‚
  • Bake something new twice per month: This month I made shortbread and banana bread from my new cookbooks. I’ve made banana bread before but not the recipe in Mary Berry’s book and honestly I can’t say it was my favorite recipe. It wasn’t as moist as I like my banana bread. The shortbread had the potential to be very good but I baked it for too long so it was a bit more crispy than I anticipated. Fortunately we had some Trader Joe’s cookie butter on hand and putting it on top of the crispy shortbread really elevated it (it almost made it taste like the Biscoff cookies they give you on airplanes!). I think I’ll try that shortbread recipe again in the future to see if I can get it right.
  • Curate my closet: I’ve slowly but surely been working on this! I actually wrote a post about the first step. I didn’t make as much progress on it as I would have liked because I felt like I literally spent the entire month wearing workout clothes! Maybe I’ll feel a little more inspired and motivated next month.
  • Read 65 books/Complete the PopSugar Reading Challenge: I made some great progress on this goal by reading 7 books! Here are the books I’ve read and my ratings for each of them (You can read my full reviews on my Goodreads page!):
    • Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham- 4/5 (Adorable book from an actress I so admire!)
    • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai- 4/5 (Really great fiction about the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in the 80s)
    • Modern Love edited by Daniel Jones- 4/5 (If you liked the Amazon series, you will like this compilation!)
    • Normal People by Sally Rooney- 3/5 (Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it)
    • The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe- 4/5 (A really sweet, thought-provoking memoir)
    • All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood- 1/5 (I doubt I’ll read a worse book than this one this year)
    • Social Creature by Tara Burton- 3.5 (Easy, enjoyable psychological thriller)
  • Travel to two new places: This is a yearly goal so I didn’t have to do it this month. Sadly I did not travel anywhere new this month but I officially booked my flight to Minneapolis so at the very least I’ll be going there in May!
  • Spend less time on my phone: I did okay at this goal. According to my Screen Time app, I’m spending a little less time on my phone every week but I’m still averaging about 2 hours and 45 minutes per day which just sounds ridiculous to me. I’m going to keep working on this!
  • Work on my “30 Before 30” list: I didn’t accomplish anything on this list this month but that’s okay. I’m not anywhere near 30…yet πŸ™‚
  • Go on a date for each successful month: While Greg and I can’t say that we were 100% perfect this entire month with our goals, we are taking on a “progress, not perfection” mentality. I’d definitely say I’m better off now than I was a month ago! So we are celebrating by going to The Melting Pot next Friday πŸ™‚

 

Here are some goals I’m setting for myself for February:

Fitness:

  • Continue training for my half marathon: This is going to be a tough month- I have my longest runs still ahead of me! But I am so excited for them. Sidenote: yoga has really helped my breathing while I run! There is a noticeable difference and that of course makes the runs just a bit easier.
  • Attend 15 yoga classes: I don’t want to fall off the wagon just because January is over! This is really a soft goal, as I don’t know how many classes I’ll realistically be able to attend with all the half marathon training but I would really love to attend 15 if I can!
  • Run an official race: I’ve signed up for the Freetail Beer Run which is next Saturday! It’s not a timed race (you’re supposed to stop every kilometer for a beer sample, haha!) but I consider it official all the same.

Personal/Hobbies

  • Continue paying off student loans: Excited to put a big chunk of change towards my payments this month!
  • Write one song
  • Bake two new things
  • Work on my “Curated Closet”
  • Keep reading books: I’m currently reading “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson and “A Song of Fire and Ice” by George R. R. Martin, and I have a feeling they will both be 5 star reads when it’s all said and done.
  • Spend less time on my phone
  • Go on a date to celebrate our success: If we make more progress this month, we are planning to go to the Houston Rodeo to see Maren Morris in March (the night after my half marathon!).

One more thing I just have to mention because it took up a significant chunk of my January: Greg and I finished watching Game of Thrones for the first time ever this month (we actually finished the last episode last night). I just have to say…wow. It was as amazing as everyone told me it would be. I put off watching it for years because it just didn’t seem like my type of show. Besides Harry Potter, I’m not really into the fantasy genre or medieval stuff. And it admittedly took me awhile to get into it once we did start watching it (a friend of mine recommended using subtitles and once I started doing that it made a world of difference). By season 3 I was pretty interested and by season 5 I was hooked. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I would put it in my top 10 TV shows of all time (and maybe even my top 5). It is just that good. And I didn’t hate the ending like everyone told me I would πŸ™‚ Having said that, it’s fun to be reading the first book right now. The TV show follows the book pretty faithfully!

Anyway, that’s all I have for today! How did you do with your January goals? Do you have any goals for February?

Until next time,

Zoe

Curating My Closet Part 1: Outfit Pics and Style Goals

I mentioned in my previous post about 2020 goals that one of the things I hope to do this year is curate my wardrobe. While I’ve been wanting to do this for years now, I never had the mindset, tools, or organizational methods in my back pocket until I read the book “The Curated Closet” by Anuschka Rees. This book has really shifted my mindset a lot! I used to get bored/frustrated with my wardrobe, donate and sell clothes, go out and buy new things on a whim, and then realize they didn’t fit in with much else I owned- rinse and repeat. This book has really given me a game plan for how I will move forward and build a wardrobe that I truly love and can keep for years to come (hopefully).

Over the next several months, I hope to document my own personal Curated Closet process on my blog! Here is an outline of the steps:

  1. Take pictures of every outfit you wear for 2 weeks and assess how you feel about them after you’re done. Create style goals based on this.
  2. Create a mood board and identify patterns.
  3. Go shopping and try things on- but don’t buy anything!
  4. Create a new mood board and written summary based on your shopping.
  5. Closet Detox
  6. Lifestyle Analysis + Key Pieces, Statement Pieces, and Basics
  7. Color Palette + Outfit Formulas
  8. Wardrobe Overhaul
  9. At-home Fitting

During the month of December, I worked on steps 1 and 2. This post will be all about Step 1!

I have to say that for years before I even picked up this book, I tried to pay attention to what I wore. I’ve been using the app “Stylebook” for about 3 years. Basically, you take a photo of every article of clothing you own, upload it to the app, and log it each day to kind of keep track of what you wear. It’s a bit time consuming at first but I honestly love it because I can really see what I wear often and what I never wear and adjust my closet accordingly. Earlier this summer, I started taking pictures of my outfits each day and logging them to Stylebook as well to not only see what I’m wearing but how I’m styling it. You would think that doing all of these things for an extended period of time would help give me more of an eye for fashion but I still feel like I’m in a rut. Granted, I hadn’t *really* thought about how un-cohesive my wardrobe is until about a year ago so I was kind of just going through the motions for awhile.

Since I’ve started working from home, my wardrobe has gotten pretty stale. I have some nice things in my closet but I just never wear them because I hardly ever leave the house during the week! Step 1 of the Curated Closet process was to take photos of my outfits for 2 solid weeks. I wasn’t supposed to go out of my way to dress up- it was recommended that I dress as I normally would. So I did just that and let’s just say the results were…underwhelming. Here are some pictures from those 2 weeks:

 

 

I mean…clearly I have a uniform. And it’s not a very interesting one at that! I do have to say that I really value comfort (especially since I’m not leaving my house a lot) but wow, these photos just bore me to tears.

Part of the reason I’m doing this entire project is because I’ve always prided myself on having an interesting and fun wardrobe. Somewhere in the past few years I’ve really lost that. It probably started when I entered the professional world and began buying work clothes. Now I’ve just regressed into wearing sweaters, jeans, and leggings all the time!

So after reality sunk in, I realized I needed to spruce things up. I answered some questions about my current style and used these to think about what I wanted my future style to look like. Here are the questions the book asks with my answers:

  1. What was your favorite outfit that you wore during the last 2 weeks? Why? How did it make you feel? I liked the outfit I wore the first Saturday. It was a pair of light wash, high waisted “mom” jeans, a navy and white polka dot sweater, and my black faux-suede booties. I like it because it was sort of half feminine and half edgy, two looks I really like. It made me feel a bit trendy but the polka dot sweater brought me back to my personality and made me feel like that was being reflected in the look as well.
  2. What was your least favorite outfit? Why? How did it make you feel? I don’t really have a “least favorite” but the sweater + jeans combo was a major recurring theme and I wish there was more variety.
  3. On a scale of 1-10 how happy were you overall with your outfits during the past 2 weeks? 5. I like the little uniform I have going on but I’m also super bored with it.
  4. Describe your current style in 3 adjectives. Cozy, plain, uninteresting.
  5. List your 5 most worn colors during these 2 weeks. How well do you feel that these represent your individual preference for colors? Blue (navy + denim), brown (esp. animal print), olive green. Every other color was only worn once! I do like these colors. I’m surprised I didn’t incorporate more maroon into my look as it is my favorite color to wear. I do prefer deeper colors like the ones I’ve been wearing vs. more lighter pastels but I would like some more variety.
  6. What types of silhouettes and fits did you wear most often? Why? Sweater tucked into either skinny jeans or mom jeans. Or a long sleeve top with leggings. I wasn’t thinking too much about the silhouettes but I would say I wore all of these outfits because they were comfortable.
  7. Do you tend to follow a specific formula for putting together outfits? Do you have a uniform? If you had asked me before this little experiment I would have said no, but I sort of do I suppose! Again I like the sweater + jeans formula but I’d like to mix it up.
  8. How much variety do you need? Do you enjoy wearing a wide range of colors, silhouettes, details, etc.? Or do you have a signature look that you repeat with only minor variations? I would like more variety than I currently have. I don’t need to look completely different every day but to wear the same type of outfit every day for 2 weeks seems boring to me.
  9. Do you prefer being overdressed or underdressed? Definitely overdressed if I’ll be leaving the house!
  10. Do you want people to notice your clothes? Yes!
  11. How do you usually style your outfits? Do you often tuck in your tops or roll up your sleeves? What types of accessories do you wear most often? I do a lot of tucking. Other than that, I don’t have a ton of styling tricks. For accessories, I always try to wear earrings, sometimes a necklace. I haven’t worn scarves in a long time. I wear the same rings every day and I very rarely wear bracelets since I wear my Apple Watch every day. Every now and then I’ll wear a black hat that I have if I really want to elevate my look.
  12. Overall how comfortable were you in your outfits? What qualities distinguished the most comfortable from the least comfortable materials in your wardrobe in terms of fit, material or details? I was pretty comfortable which I do like. I like high waisted jeans and I’ve really started to move towards “mom” jeans vs. skinny jeans because they’re more comfortable. I love sweaters and leggings. However, I know there are ways to deviate from these 3 articles of clothing and still stay comfortable!
  13. Looking at the pictures of your outfits, how well fitting are your clothes? Pretty decent. I could stand to get some jeans tailored.
  14. What message does your current look send? What would you like it to send? I think it says that I really value comfort. I will always value it, but I also want my look to send the message that I’m a savvy dresser!
  15. Imagine you had total confidence (and unlimited funds to overhaul your wardrobe). Would you keep wearing the same outfits you do now? If not, what would you change? I think I would keep wearing some of the same articles of clothing but not the same combinations. I would add more. I would like more variety in my shoes and bottoms, specifically.
  16. How easy is it for you to choose an outfit in the morning? Mostly easy, especially since in the wintertime I have so many options. However I do find myself recycling looks/items over and over again.
  17. What percentage of your closet did you wear in the past 2 weeks? Maybe 10%? MAYBE. Even saying that would be a stretch!
  18. How many different seasons do you have to dress for? I would say 3. Hot weather is the main season, cooler weather (65-80 degrees) happens a few months out of the year and cold weather (below 65 degrees) happens maybe 1-2 months out of the year (if we’re lucky!).
  19. How well equipped is your wardrobe for each of these seasons? I have way more cold weather clothes than hot weather clothes. I really struggle to dress cute in the summer.
  20. What is your stance on repeating outfits? Are you okay with wearing the same head-to-toe look twice in two weeks? What about individual pieces? I don’t mind repeating individual pieces in that span but prefer not to wear the same identical look. If I have occasion to leave the house I try to mix it up as best as I can.
  21. What is your typical shopping strategy? Do you prefer to spend your budget on fewer, more expensive clothes or do you tend to spread it across lots of cheaper items? I don’t really have a strategy! I go and look without a goal in mind and get frustrated because I can’t find things I like. I’ve always preferred to make my dollar stretch and get lots of items vs. 1 or 2 expensive items.
  22. What is your typical decision making process when it comes to buying clothes? Do you often buy things on a whim or do you make sure you have compared all your options first? I tend to buy things on a whim.
  23. What is your main motivation for spending time on your style? Do you use fashion as a creative outlet or an expression of your values/personality? Does dressing well give you confidence? I like people to notice my clothes, it makes me feel creative, and it gives me confidence!
  24. Which emotions have the biggest impact on how you dress? Do you dress differently when you are very happy or very sad? I probably have less motivation to dress up when I’m feeling down but overall I wouldn’t say my emotions dictate my outfit choices too much.
  25. How much does a lack of confidence prevent you from wearing what you like? Not a whole lot. It’s more like just being clueless when it comes to putting together outfits.
  26. To what extent is what you wear influenced by the people in your life? Do people you are closer to have a stronger influence? Or is it the opposite? People I’m closer to have an influence but not in the way one might think- I actually don’t have a similar style at all to my closest friends and I find myself wanting to stand out from them. I’m more influenced by outfits I see online or on Instagram.
  27. What do you like about your style and current wardrobe? The level of comfort and variety of colors.
  28. What aspects of your style and wardrobe need work? More summer clothes/options and more interesting silhouettes.
  29. What new skills do you want to learn? How to put together interesting, unique outfits and get out of my rut! How to become a more patient and intentional shopper. How to create a more cohesive wardrobe.

 

It’s interesting because I answered these questions about a month ago and I am sitting here basically re-typing out my answers, but I was able to think a little deeper about these things this time and come up with more solid answers to the questions.

Next time I write about this, I’ll share my mood board (which so far has been my favorite step of the process!).

Until next time,

Zoe

2020 Goals

Well…it’s been a hot minute since I’ve written anything, hasn’t it? I have a lot of half-written posts in my drafts folder- a long-promised post about my European vacation, a post about my favorite books of 2019, and just general ramblings and half-baked ideas. The problem is, I haven’t really felt inspired to finish any of them. And I decided today that I’m not just going to write them out of a sense of obligation (to whom, exactly, I’m not sure). So I decided in the spirit of a new year (a new decade, really) I would start fresh.

Greg and I sit always down at the end of the year and come up with goals for the new year. Some of them are couple goals and some of them are individual goals. Today I will share my individual goals with you. I’m going to break these up into two categories:

Fitness

  • Complete 30 yoga classes in January: My yoga studio, Black Swan Yoga, is challenging its members to complete 30 yoga classes in the month of January. I will receive my next month’s membership free if I do this which is amazing, but I have a feeling that perk will come only second to the physical and mental transformation with which this challenge will reward me. Side note: Joining Black Swan Yoga is one of the best things to happen to me in the past few years. If you live in a major Texas city, ask me about it because I wish everyone could reap the rewards that BSY has given me! (I know it sounds like I’ve joined a cult but just trust me on this!)
  • Half marathon training: I signed up to run a half marathon on March 7 and let me tell ya, there’s nothing that scares me into getting my butt in shape like a looming race. It’s going to be hard to maintain a training schedule with 30 days of yoga on top of it but I think I can do it. Especially since I am participating in…
  • Sober January: Like a lot of other people, I had a little too much fun during the holiday season. I did sober January a couple years ago and it was a nice reset. I think it will help me achieve my fitness goals better this month.
  • Continue to engage in fitness well past January: Isn’t this everyone’s problem? We all do really well at the start of the new year and then kind of go back to our old habits as the months progress. I say this every year…but I’m going to try really, really hard not to do that this time and I think the following goal will help me stay on track…
  • Run an official race every month: I looooooove races! I always achieve my best times at races because the positive energy is so motivating. I’ve already officially registered for a race in January (an MLK Day 5k), March (my half-marathon) and April (the Confetti 5k at Our Lady of the Lake). I think if I can get a February one on my calendar officially, it’s going to give me the momentum to complete this goal for the rest of the year!

Personal/Hobbies

  • Pay off my student loans: This is more of a couple goal than a personal one since Greg and I are both working towards this, but they are my student loans so I thought I’d include it here. We are projected to have them fully paid off by November- WOOHOO! πŸ™‚
  • Write one song per month: I could write for paragraphs about my journey with songwriting. Let’s just say some years are much better than others. I’m hoping this is a better year and I think the reasonable goal of one song per month will help me make it one. Maybe if I like the songs enough I’ll even post them here πŸ™‚
  • Bake something new twice per month: Like many people, I have become obsessed with The Great British Baking Show! For Christmas, I received Paul Hollywood’s book “How to Bake” and Mary Berry’s book “Mary Berry’s Baking Bible”. I have enjoyed baking a lot over the past several years but my skills are limited and basic. I’m challenging myself to not only bake twice a month, but to find something new to bake instead of just my old “go-to”s and these books will help with that!
  • Curate my closet: I think I’ll probably do an entire series of posts on this. Long story short: I recently read “The Curated Closet” by Anuschka Rees and it’s been life-changing. I’ve been stuck in a fashion rut for years and I’m finally climbing my way out of it thanks to Rees’ book!
  • Read 65 books/Complete the PopSugar Reading Challenge: This will be my third year doing the PopSugar Reading Challenge (if you like to read, I’d encourage you to check it out!). It’s 50 books total, but since I’m not in grad school anymore and have more time to read my overall goal is to read 65 books this year!
  • Travel to two new places: Greg and I are already planning a trip to Vegas in October so that’s one new place. I’d like to add another place, too (we’re contemplating Minneapolis or a few New England states…we’ll see where the year takes us!).
  • Spend less time on my phone: The screen time feature on my iPhone will be great for this. I’m also going to start keeping my phone in another room during the workday so I don’t get distracted by it. I have a lot of goals for this year, clearly, and having my phone attached to me likely won’t help me reach them!
  • Work on my “30 Before 30” list: I officially have less than 2 years until I turn 30. So I need to start marking things off this list!
  • Go on a date for each successful month: Greg and I came up with 12 dates for each month this year. As long as we are mostly successful in sticking with our couple and individual goals for each month, we will celebrate by going on a date! I’m excited because we have some fun ideas on our list that will help us get out of our “dinner and Netflix” rut.

I will say that this year is the first year in a very long time that I do not have any specific work/professional goals beyond “always strive for your best”. This is because I’m actually really content with where I am in my professional life right now. During the two years I was in grad school, I was uber focused on what I wanted to get out of my career to the point where it took up the majority of my brain space. Right now I have a flexible job that I love (for the most part- every job has its ups and downs!). My job allows me to feel very fulfilled professionally. It also allows me a lot of time and energy to focus on my personal goals and life. Since I’m committed to staying at my job for at least the next year, I would like to take advantage of all the free time I have to lay the foundation for building my best personal life possible. So that’s my main focus this year!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my 2020 goals, and I hope you’ve set some good goals for yourself! Let me know what yours are in the comments!

Until next time,

Zoe

In Love with Lover

So it should not be a secret to anyone in my life that I am a diehard Taylor Swift fan. I heard the song “Teardrops on My Guitar” when I was 15 and the rest was history. The last 13 years with Taylor’s music have been a journey, leading up to the release of her latest album Lover which came out on Friday.

I will admit, I’ve been a bit annoyed with Taylor’s past couple album rollouts because she tends to release underwhelming (to me) singles in order to get attention from the general public (an audience I don’t think she really cared about until her wildly successful album 1989). The first single from Lover (ME!) straight up annoyed me while the second single (You Need to Calm Down) was cute but didn’t necessarily show off the writing she is capable of. Needless to say, I was a little nervous for Lover but fortunately the album exceeded my expectations! And now just for fun I’m going to do a track-by-track review of what may be my favorite album of hers ever.

  1. I Forgot That You Existed– While not a masterpeice by any means, this is a cute and fun way to begin the album. I think anyone who has gone through a bad breakup can relate to this song about waking up one day and just being over it. This is a catchy one- I find myself getting it stuck in my head often.
  2. Cruel Summer-Β I really don’t understand why this wasn’t a single. I think it would have been really successful on the radio! This isn’t my absolutely favorite song on the album but it is really fun and I can see it growing on me.
  3. Lover– I was a little disappointed when Taylor released this as the third single. It’s a cute love song but I dunno…it almost feels like a parody of one? Or something that someone who has never been in love wrote about what it feels like? I know that Taylor intended neither of those things. However, I bought the deluxe version of the CD from Target and the very last track is Taylor explaining about how she wrote the song and letting us hear the recording from when she initially played it for Jack Antonoff. She plays it for him on the piano instead of the guitar and let me tell you, it changes the entire vibe of the song. It sounds so much more sincere and I like it 10 times more. However, in the recording she explains to him that she definitely doesn’t want it to be on piano- she wants it to have a retro guitar sound. I think that was a bad choice overall and much would have preferred the piano version. Too bad I’m not one of Taylor’s producers. I would recommend buying the deluxe version just for that recording alone.
  4. The Man– Damn, this is a power anthem. I also think that Taylor totally could have released this as the first or second single. It’s catchy and well-produced but also has a strong message that would have resonated with a lot of people.
  5. The Archer– This is really the only song that Taylor released before the album that I liked. Simple production and melody, classic Taylor lyrics, and it gets stuck in my head ALL the time. Very self-aware and reflective.
  6. I Think He Knows– This song is the CUTEST. It’s so coy, sexy, and playful. Another song that totally could have been released as a single. I feel like once this song starts, it’s kind of a good intro to some sounds you hear throughout the rest of the album.
  7. Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince– I feel like from what I’ve read on Reddit and fan sites, this seems to be a big fan favorite. I’m not completely sold on it yet. It definitely has a political meaning behind it and the lyrics are very layered but sonically it’s just a little boring, especially with so many upbeat and fun songs on the album. Another one that will have to grow on me.
  8. Paper Rings– This reminds me of old school Avril and I LOVE IT. I’ve always been a big pop-rock girl and I could totally see Taylor delivering a whole album with this sound in the future. Most specifically, this song reminds me of “If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To)” by Weezer both sound and lyric-wise. Such a cute little bop.
  9. Cornelia Street– This is a such a mature, beautiful song and a testament to my strong belief that Taylor delivers her best output when she works alone as a writer. Someone said that this is the grown up version of “All Too Well” (from RED) and I can kinda see it! Except I interpret it to have a much happier ending.
  10. Death by a Thousand Cuts– I’m still figuring out how I feel about this song. I would definitely say that it’s one of the more experimental songs that Taylor has ever written sound-wise. I think I mainly feel like it’s out of place in an album that’s all about finding true love! To have a breakup song right in the middle just feels weird. I think this could have been better on Reputation.
  11. London Boy– Cheesy as it sounds, this has been my favorite song on the album since first listen. It is not groundbreaking or insightful at all but it is soooo fun to listen to. And it really feels like she’s coming out and saying, “This is who I officially love- take it or leave it.” It has great sing along quality and I look forward to shouting out the lyrics when she goes on tour.
  12. Soon You’ll Get Better– Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Maybe the most sincerely sad and melancholy song Taylor has ever written? I love the simplicity of this one. She relays so much fear and uncertainty in so few words. I have teared up a few times listening to it.
  13. False God– This song is REALLY sexy and has such a unique sound for Taylor. It’s definitely a “bedroom jam”. I’m just not really sure I understand what False God means in the context of the song?? I like the religion metaphor but I’m not certain that it works completely.
  14. You Need to Calm Down– Again, a cute song. I understand the controversy around it from the left but I do think Taylor made it with the utmost sincerity and the fact that she got so many big names around her to participate in the music video speaks volumes too. Not the most well-written song ever but a certified bop.
  15. Afterglow– This is not my favorite song off the album but it’s definitely good and relate-able as someone in a long term relationship. I think Taylor’s message here is really mature- “Sometimes I start the arguments we get into and I own that. It’s completely my fault. But I’m invested in you and I want to work through it.”
  16. ME!– The only song on the album I really do not like. I don’t understand why it exists. I don’t understand why it was recorded. I don’t understand why Taylor and her team were like, “Hey, not only should we create this song but let’s make it the lead single from the new album and annoy people to death with it!”. I just do not think this song did Taylor any favors in getting the GP to like her and I know it let down a huge portion of her fans. Not the best career move and it doesn’t even really fit in with the album in my opinion.
  17. It’s Nice to Have a Friend– Another really experimental sound for Taylor. It kinda serves as a cute little interlude. It’s 3 verses- the first is about having a friend as a kid, the second is about having a friend as a young adult, and the third is basically about eventually marrying that friend. However, I kind of interpret it as each verse representing 3 different friends throughout life (because let’s be real- how often do you marry someone you knew from childhood?). This song is peaceful and calming. I really like it.
  18. Daylight– More proof that Taylor writes best alone. I think this is probably my favorite album closer of hers. The lyric, “I once believed love would be burning red but it’s golden in daylight”- whoa. I love Taylor’s callbacks to her previous work. This is so cleansing, reflective, and well-produced. Just a truly lovely song.

I hope this peaked your interest and will make you listen to the new album (no I do not work for Taylor or get a kickback for this- I wish! I just love her and her music). Off to listen to the album for the 10th time…

Until next time,

Zoe