Bubble Water Bracket 2020: Seeding

Normally this is the week when I’d be finalizing my bubble bracket and making some last-minute purchases from the grocery store. For obvious reasons, that won’t be possible this year. With that in mind, I’ve had to cut this year’s bracket in half from 16 to 8.

Instead of arranging each corner of the bracket based on flavor profiles, I’m asking you to help me seed the eight contenders.

I’ll be leaving this form open until Friday. Bubble bracket posts will start next Monday. I’ll release the bracket on Saturday afternoon so you can fill it out and compete next week.

A Look Back at Old Resolutions

We’re just over a month into a new year but I feel like I’m still wrapping up 2019. Blame spending the first two weeks of January on the couch with a bum knee or my scramble to catch up with life once I became mobile again, but the outcome is the same: 2020 just started and I already feel like I’ve fallen behind.

One thing I’m not worried about? Keeping up with my 2020 resolutions. Why? Because after giving up on my 2019 resolutions last fall, I decided to go into 2020 without making any new ones. What helped me in 2018 turned into a chore in 2019, and I wanted to start the 2020s with a clean slate.

Comparing my 2018 and 2019 resolutions

2018 was the first year I made resolutions and tracked my progress over the course of a whole year. As a reminder, these were my 2018 resolutions:

  • Do fewer things, better
  • Keep a regular workout schedule
  • Try to focus on the positive

As a comparison, these are the three things I tried to do in 2019:

  • Protect my time
  • Listen to my body
  • Declutter my life

Looking at last year’s resolutions now, the first two look like watered down versions of their 2018 predecessors. I got better at doing fewer things, which gave me more time to myself. I started to overcome my bad habit of needing to urgently responding to everything, urgent or otherwise. There was some initial guilt and feeling like I was leaving people hanging, but I ultimately felt less burdened and no one seemed to notice the change.

While my top resolution of 2019 was a success, the second and third were hit or miss. As I mentioned before, I’m still injury-prone, so I have a lot of work to do in listening to my body. Decluttering my life was something that happened in fits and starts, not something I thought about over the whole year. Honestly, I only really thought about it when I had a resolution update to write.

2020: A Year Without Resolutions

2020 is going to be a big year for me. I’m turning 35. I’m getting married. I’m moving to a new place. I have plenty on my plate already. Giving myself a break to enjoy those things is exactly what I need to start the new decade.

However, I won’t be completely slacking off. As I mentioned in a post last month, I set a goal of finishing one book per month. Well, I’m happy to inform you that January went off to a running start. Being stuck on the couch for weeks means that I already finished three!

Maybe I’ll set some new resolutions in 2021. Truly new resolutions, not just reworded things from previous years. But for now, I’m just planning on trying to be a little better each day.

Liz’s Lisbon To Do List

I didn’t need the American press to tell me that Lisbon was this year’s trendy travel destination. I’ve had a surprising number of friends this year ask me what to do during their visits. So, rather than keep it hidden in the Google doc I’ve cobbled together from conversations I’ve had over the course of 2019, I’ve decided to publish it it for public consumption.

But first, some caveats. This list is heavily based on the month I spent in the city as a poor student studying abroad in the summer of 2014. Lisbon has changed in the more than five years since then, so I wouldn’t call this the most up to date or complete travel guide. Call it an incomplete work in constant progress instead.

It is, however, what I’ve sent all my friends and what I’m using to start building my honeymoon itinerary. If I’m missing anything, please let me know!

First, Belém, my favorite Lisbon neighborhood for sightseeing. I’d spend a day just there if you can. Your first stop should be Pastéis de Belém because they’re the original and the best. Worth the wait. That being said: try all the pastéis you can so you can form your own opinion.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is one of the crown jewels of Manueline architecture, Portugal’s unique style. Think Baroque with a bunch of maritime motifs. Vasco da Gama is buried there, and so are many of the greats of Portuguese literature like Luís de Camões, João de Deus, and Almeida Garrett. The literature student in me loves that Portugal honors their great writers like this.

The Torre de Belém & Padrão dos Descobrimentos are nearby (everything within Belém is walkable) and cool to visit if you have time and the lines aren’t too long. But don’t feel like you have to enter if you’re not as big a Portuguese history nerd as I am; they’re nice just to see.

The Tower of Belém is from the Age of Discovery but the Monument to the Discoveries was built during the dictatorship, along with the beautiful compass rose and map mosaic at its base. Pretty propaganda in action!

If you’re looking for something less historical, definitely check out Museu Bernardo. If you like modern art, don’t miss this. Or even if you don’t, it’s still a great collection.

Sintra is worth another day trip. Pena Palace is ridiculous fantasy Disneylandesque architecture long before Disney was even a thing. The Castle of the Moors is right next to it, and much older. The contrast is cool. The Quinta da Regaleira is a crazy fantasy garden with lots of esoteric symbols and mystic references. The nobility had a lot of money and weird interests. I didn’t get to visit when I was there in 2014 because I was on crutches, so I’ve been itching to finally see it for myself.

Everyone will tell you to listen to fado over dinner. They’re right. The Alfama is the best neighborhood to do it. It’s winding and makes no sense but it’s worth exploring. The Castle of São Jorge is at the top (the neighborhood is a hill) and has great views of the city.

Take the 28 tram from start to finish. Great views of the city. A better trolley ride than anything in San Francisco.

The Chiado neighborhood is home to Livraria Bertrand, the world’s oldest continuously operating bookstore. Also in the neighborhood is A Brasileira, the favorite cafe of my favorite writer, Fernando Pessoa. There’s a statue of him there at his own table that I liked to visit when I was living nearby.

The cafes in the Rossio are great for people watching. Also pretty cheap but good quality food. My dorm was nearby and I ate like a queen at random cafes. The calçada (the mosaic tiles you’ll see on most sidewalks) are especially beautiful in the main square. They ripple like the ocean.

The Carmo Convent is the most aesthetically pleasing ruin I have ever seen.

Things I haven’t done but want to when I go back: LXFactory and Timeout Market opened after I left but I have only heard good things. Manteigaria does pastéis people say are as good as the ones in Belem.

If you’re there for the holidays, Christmas lights in the Rossio are insane and I’m jealous of anyone able to see them in person. The Elevador de Santa Justa was being repaired while I was there, and the other funiculars are pretty neat, too.

Every Book I Finished in 2019

Forgive me fellow English majors and bibliophiles, for I have sinned. I’ve tried rereading old favorites, I tried reading a book a week, but nothing stuck. Maybe I’m still coping with post-English major burnout, or just burnout in general, but 2019 is the year I finished reading the fewest books in my life.

I have a handful of half finished book reviews sitting in my drafts, and rather than try to crank them all out weeks or even months after I read the books to do a proper review of each book (you can look up plot summaries for most of these if you’re feeling lazy), I’ll be going into why these books hooked me into finishing them instead of letting them drift into my incomplete pile. I’ll be rating them on a mostly subjective 1-5 scale that’s more about my gut feelings and love of emojis than anything else.

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

I’ve been a Bitch Media subscriber for a while — and you should consider being one too, because we need media representation that isn’t led by startup bros trying to capitalize on and profit off of feminism (side eying you, Bustle). So when they started BitchReads, a monthly book club with a built in Slack discussion group, I was interested.

Before you read on, note that this book comes with a pile of trigger warnings: mental illness, suicide, sexual abuse.

But if you can handle that, the essays contained within reveal what it’s like to live with serious mental illness. Wang was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, but not without years of bouncing between doctors, diagnoses, and being check into mental hospitals. While my own struggles with mental health haven’t been nearly as extreme, I felt a kinship with this Bay Area writer’s tales of fighting to appear high-functioning with the specter of mental illness hovering just out of sight, waiting to make a liar of you.

Rating: 📚📚📚

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Internet fame — or infamy — is a strange thing. Going viral is not something you can plan. What you can control, however, is what happens afterward. That, more than the strange appearance of Gundam looking robots around the world, is what I took away from reading this book that came highly recommended by my friend Sequoia and was gifted to us for Christmas by my sister-in-law Chelsey.

April May, our plucky social media savvy protagonist, puts forward this taxonomy of fame that I think is spot on. Months after finishing the book, it’s still on my mind.

Tier 1: Popularity. You are a big deal in your high school or neighborhood. You have a peculiar vehicle that people around town recognize, you are a pastor at a medium-to-large church, you were once the star of the high school football team.

Tier 2: Notoriety. You are recognized and/or well-known within certain circles. Maybe you’re a preeminent lepidopterist whom all the other lepidopterists idolize. Or you could be the mayor or meteorologist in a medium-sized city. You might be one of the 1.1 million living people who has a Wikipedia page.

Tier 3: Working-Class Fame. A lot of people know who you are and they are distributed around the world. There’s a good chance that a stranger will approach you to say hi at the grocery store. You are a professional sports player, musician, author, actor, television host, or internet personality. You might still have to hustle to make a living, but your fame is your job. You’ll probably trend on Twitter if you die.

Tier 4: True Fame. You get recognized by fans enough that it is a legitimate burden. People take pictures of you without your permission, and no one would scoff if you called yourself a celebrity. When you start dating someone, you wouldn’t be surprised to read about it in magazines. You are a performer, politician, host, or actor whom the majority of people in your country would recognize. Your humanity is so degraded that people are legitimately surprised when they find out that you’re “just like them” because, sometimes, you buy food. You never have to worry about money again, but you do need a gate with an intercom on your driveway.

Tier 5: Divinity. You are known by every person in your world, and you are such a big deal that they no longer consider you a person. Your story is much larger than can be contained within any human lifetime, and your memory will continue long after your earthly form wastes away. You are a founding father of a nation, a creator of a religion, an emperor, or an idea. You are not currently alive.

Even if you don’t have the mixed blessing/curse of falling into May’s Taxonomy (I think I’m a Tier 2 quidditch person), if you’re reading this, you have some form of social media. You’ll start sorting all the people you see in your feed, whether or not you know them in real life, into these categories.

Now, I’m not here to decry social media as some sort of evil ruining us all — social media is literally my job and I’d like to keep earning my paycheck, thanks. But when April talks about herself and the April May™ that her followers expect, I think we can all relate to that. My Twitter self is ranty because that’s what works on the platform, my Instagram self is aspirational because Insta is a contest to see whose life is the coolest, my Facebook self is pretty bland because too many of my relatives follow me there, etc etc.

I’m not faking it on any of those platforms. I drink as much (and more) coffee and craft beer as you’ll see on my Instagram, I am that much of a Sharks fan in real life as I am on Twitter, and I am definitely more of a left wing feminist killjoy offline as I am on Twitter.

This is turning more into a rant about social media than the book itself, so I’ll rein myself in. If you’re looking for a mystery and the intersection of real life and social media fascinate you, you’ll love this book. It’s a bit twee at times, but Hank isn’t nearly as bad as his brother in that respect.

Rating: 📚📚📚📚

Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana Schwartz

I bought this for the title and for the cute cover way back during January’s trip to Seattle, but only got around to reading it in August.

Honestly, I was disappointed. That’s no necessarily the fault of the author. Choose Your Own Disaster is way more “a. a memoir” than “b. a personality quiz,” which is what I bought it for. I couldn’t relate much to the author, either.

She’s funny and the choose your own adventure format is cute, but I earned my English degree from a state school with an secondary education emphasis. My experience is nothing like the glamorous (to me, anyway) life and misadventures of budding writer attending a university with stronger name brand recognition than mine.

Rating: 📚

Fire & Blood and The World of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

These books fueled by brief audiobook phase earlier this year. I was enticed into joining Audible with a free book credit and used it to get Fire & Blood. I’ve been reading the Song of Ice and Fire books since I was a freshman in high school back in 2000. I’ve grown bitter and doubtful that GRRM will ever finish the series, but I’ll take what scraps of content I can get.

Don’t get me started in the final season of Game of Thrones, though.

The book is a more in depth history of the first 300 years of the Targaryen dynasty than was previously known. Some of it is retreads of The World of Ice and Fire

So was reading (or listening to, whatever) The World of Ice and Fire after Fire and Blood a mistake? Not at all. It reads more like a history book, with all the biases you’d expect. Picking those apart was a feature for me, not a bug. It also covers a far vaster period of time, allowing you to take in the whole history of GRRM’s world.

But when I moved onto the audiobooks of the regular series, I wasn’t nearly as engaged.I also unsubscribed from Audible as part of my decision not to use Amazon anymore. I still “own” those books, but I don’t even have the app on my phone anymore, so accessing them is borderline impossible.

Rating: 📚📚📚📚📚

The Joy of Doing Just Enough by Jennifer McCartney

I bought this book in Richmond when I was there for the IQA Pan-American Games. I picked it up for some light plane reading… only to spend the flight back to California sleeping or on my phone.

Because it’s a sturdy little hardback, I tucked it into my purse this month so that I could read it on the go instead of defaulting to my phone. I started reading it to get through an afternoon at the DMV and wound up finishing it in 24 hours.

In a world full of self-help books that peddle ways to maximize your time, urge you to tap into your inner badass, and other #girlboss adjacent advice, this was a witty and necessary breath of fresh air for me. I tie my self-worth to my productivity and The Joy of Doing Just Enough countered that with humor instead of shaming.

Rating: 📚📚📚📚

Goals for next year

If I catch myself listlessly scrolling on the couch, my bookshelf is right there. I have quite the pile of unread books and a slightly smaller stack of incomplete reads. All but one of the books I read this year and most that I have yet to read are small enough to fit in my purse, so having one book in my bag will be another way to push myself to read more.

With those small changes to my routine in mind, my goal is to read 12 books next year. I know one book a month doesn’t sound like much, but I’m a big believer in setting small goals. Besides, it is double what I did in 2019. And if I can get another blog post each month reviewing what I’ve read, even better.

Winter Morning + Evening Skincare Routine

Winter has finally come to San Jose, which means that the rainy season has come and the average temperature has consistently dipped into the 50s and below. With that change in the weather comes a change in my skincare routine.

But before we begin, here’s a few caveats. Everyone’s skin is different and mine is more well behaved than most. I never struggled with acne growing up and I’ve only gotten occasional hormonal acne (aka my advanced period warning system) in my 30s. I have pretty normal skin that leans towards the dry side come winter. My routine is more about maintenance than combating any skin issues.

Also: I’m not a dermatologist, just a skincare junkie who likes writing about herself. With that in mind, let’s open up my bathroom cabinet.

Morning

I’m not all there before my morning coffee (which I’m usually drinking as I’m getting ready) so I like to keep things simple and straightforward as I get my skin ready to face the day.

Step 1: Get clean

Glossier is indeed milkier in color, but both feel just as good first thing in the morning.

I don’t like frothy face washes. I prefer something with a gel texture that I can massage into my face and then wash off.

I used Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18) for most of the year, but it’s since been replaced with e.l.f. Bounce Back Jelly Cleanser ($6)

It has has almost the same texture, it’s much cheaper, and I can buy it at Target instead of being forced to order it online or drive 5+ hours to the Glossier store in LA. It smells like coconut instead of rosewater like the Glossier version, but I like both scents so I’m fine with the change.

Step 2: Hydrate or diedrate

This bottle of Rainfall make look empty, but I know I still have a week or two left in the bottom!

During the warmer months of the year, this would be I’d be using the Pixi Glow Tonic as an exfoliating toner. But in the winter, my skin tends to be drier. So I skip that and go straight to something hydrating. Right now, that’s a combination of hyaluronic acid serum and a hydrating spritz.

HA can hold up to 1000x its own weight in water, so I use it immediately after cleansing and before doing the rest of my routine to help my skin absorb everything. I’ve been using the Fourth Ray Beauty Rainfall 2% HA serum pretty consistently over the past year because the $15 price tag is a pretty good deal.

As for facial sprays, I’m not very loyal. I’m finishing up a Yes To Coconut Milk Mistified Moisturizer ($13) now and I have a Grace & Stella Rose Water Facial Mist ($25, but I got it in a fabfitfun box and would never pay that much for facial spray) waiting to replace it.

Other favorites of mine in this category include the Pixi Hydrating Milky Mist ($15) and the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Chamomile and Lavender ($7). Not a fan of the scent of rosewater version of the latter, though. I think it smells like a grandma’s rose perfume.

Step 3: Vitamin C

Using Vitamin C serum in the morning is like a glass of orange juice, but for your face. (This metaphor sounded good in my head, but we’ll see if I don’t edit it out.) The reason I use it in the morning is that, among other benefits like brightening and evening out your skin tone, it helps protect against UV rays. But not enough to replace sunscreen, which we’ll get to eventually.

Spoiler alert: don’t skip sunscreen.

Anyway, I have tried a lot of Vitamin C serums. It all started when I tried a mini of the Drunk Elephant C-Tango but didn’t want to pay eighty dollars for a full size.

I got a mini Ole Henriksen Truth Serum ($22) in a Sephora Play! box and repurchased that a few times, but the mini size I was purchasing was only half an ounce and I wanted better value for my money.

The Target beauty aisles led to me to the Pixi Vitamin-C Serum ($25), Versed Stroke of Brilliance Serum ($20), and the Derma-E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum ($20). These were a better value since they cost about as much as the Truth Serum but were a full ounce, or two ounces in the case of the Derma-E.

However, if you don’t mind ordering online, I’m really enjoying Fourth Ray Beauty’s Raydiate Vitamin C Elixir ($15) right now. The brand goes on sale pretty often, so I usually wait for one of those to stock up on skincare things I’m running low on to get an even better deal.

As in all things, pick a serum that fits in your budget and has the active ingredient pretty high up in the ingredients list. If it’s too low, you might be paying less but not getting as much of the good stuff.

Step 4: Moisturizer

Keep it simple, stupid.

During most of the year, I prefer a lighter water cream. I just finished my second tub of the Bliss Drench & Quench Moisturizer ($18) and I found it indistinguishable from pricier versions by Tatcha ($68) or belif ($34).

But in the winter, the wind and the cold call for something a little more thick and nourishing. Currently, I’m using the No BS Day + Night Hyaluronic Cream because I got it in my last fabfitfun box. However, I wouldn’t pay the full $45 price tag and neither should you. Save the complicated stuff for your serums. Moisturizer should be simple.

Constantly getting samples of basic moisturizers in my Ipsy bags means I almost never have to go out to buy one. Find one you like that doesn’t cost too much and doesn’t irritate your skin.

If we’re talking about thicker moisturizers for winter, I enjoyed using the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream ($30), the Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($25), and Bliss Rose Gold Rescue ($19) in winters past.

Step 4.5: Eye cream

Eye cream: a mystery for the ages.

Does it actually do anything? Is it just expensive moisturizer in a smaller container? The world may never know.

I like to use something lightweight here, which means that I’ll often just use my moisturizer here in the summer. But once winter hits, the thicker moisturizers I switch to feel uncomfortable under my eyes and they don’t sit well under concealer.

I picked up Glossier Bubblewrap ($26) back in Seattle because I’m a sucker for their aesthetic. It’s everything I like in an eye cream: a lightweight texture and a hygienic dispenser. Dipping my grubby fingers into a tub of eye cream every day? Kinda gross when you think about how long they last. Tubs of moisturizer don’t thrill me either, but at least I go through them quickly before they can incubate anything gross.

I just… don’t know if I can keep justify playing more than twenty bucks plus shipping for something I get in my Ipsy bag relatively often. On the other hand, as a Woman of A Certain Age, society dictates I have to at least make an attempt at keeping my crows feet (punishment for laughter!) in check.

Step 5: SPF

Invisible Shield may be translucent fresh out of the tube, but it rubs in just as clear as Unseen Sunscreen.

If you do nothing else for your skin, wash your face and wear sunscreen every day. All the work you put into caring for for your skin means nothing if you don’t protect it.

I like clear sunscreens because I don’t like anything that gives me a white cast. My two favorites are Glossier’s Invisible Shield ($25) and Supergoop’s Unseen Sunscreen ($32). Invisible Shield has a quick absorbing serum sort of texture while Unseen Sunscreen’s silicone texture has smoothing effect on the skin that makes it double as a primer. It really depends on what I’m in the mood for.

But I repeat: WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY.

Evening

While my morning routine is the same day in and day out, my evening routine is where I’m more likely to change things up.

Step 1: Double cleanse

I use oil based cleansers first because they makes getting even waterproof makeup off easy.

Since I wear makeup most days, I wash my face twice. The first time is to get the makeup off and the second is to wash my face.

For my first cleanse, I like something balmy and oily that will melt my makeup off. The solid oil half of Pixi’s Double Cleanse ($24) used to be my favorite, but I only really loved that half. The Versed Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm ($18) has a very similar texture and you get a whole tub of it instead of half for less. I scoop a bit out and rub it all over my face. I love the eucalypus scent of it at the end of a long day, but it may be a bit much for some people. Consider yourself warned.

Say hello (or good night?) to my evening face massage combo.

However, if I didn’t wear much makeup that day, I’ll go for a liquid. I’m finishing up a Skin & Co Truffle Therapy Cleansing Oil ($30) that I got in a fabfitfun box, with Fourth Ray Beauty’s BFD Cleansing Oil ($14) waiting in the wings as its more wallet friendly replacement. Squirt a bit into a cotton pad, gently wipe off my makeup, nothing complicated.

For my second cleanse, it’s back to what I used to wash my face in the morning. But this time, I use this e.l.f tool ($20) to give myself a face massage + deep cleansing combo. Is it a knockoff of other devices that cost several times as much? Certainly. But it works well enough for me.

Step 2: Acid or retinol

At night I tend to use two active ingredients: acids and retinol. They don’t play nicely together and do slightly different things. I use them on different nights, usually alternating between one and the other with the occasional night of skipping both to give my skin a break.

Acid night

Using one of these means baby soft skin the next morning.

Once upon a time, I fell in love with a sample of Sunday Riley’s Good Genes. It left my skin feeling incredibly smooth, polished, and clean. Beyond my pores and all the day down to my soul clean. Then, I saw the $105 price tag (hard yikes, my dudes) and went on the hunt for something more reasonably priced.

Lactic acid is the star ingredient of Good Genes, so I’ve looked for that in other products. I used The Ordinary’s 10% Lactic Acid + HA for a while and it did a decent job. I’m currently using Fourth Ray Beauty’s Reveal 10% Alpha Hydroxy Acid Serum ($15) and really enjoying it. Its exfoliating ingredients are lactic and glycolic acids, which means my skin’s not missing the fact that I retired by Pixi Glow Tonic for the winter.

Or, if I’m super lazy (aka I stayed up late and want to go to sleep), I’ll slap on The Shortcut Overnight Facial Peel by Versed ($20) and go straight to bed.

Retinol night

I started using retinol as I entered my 30s because it’s supposed to help with fine lines and wrinkles by telling your skin to produce more collagen. It can be harsh for some people, so I built up my tolerance to it over time.

Right now, I’m using use the Pixi Retinol Tonic ($15) first (though the active ingredient is pretty low on the list so I’ll probably move on after I finish it) followed by the Overnight Retinol Oil ($24).

Step 3: Moisturizer

Sleeping masks are just rebranded moisturizers. Prove me wrong.

You can repeat the same moisturizer you used during the day, which I typically do in the winter because I always prefer something thicker at night.

However, because I am just that extra, I picked up the Laneige Lavender Water Sleeping Mask ($25). I had a Sephora gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and I was in a #treatyoself mood.

I know some people are sensitive to lavender or other scents in the skincare, but my skin’s never had a problem with it and the scent of lavender helps me sleep.

Step 4: Oil

One last step and then it’s off to bed…

Finally, I seal in all this juiciness in with an oil. Another fancypants favorite of mine is the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate ($49) I picked it up last year during a Sephora sale and it’s still going strong. It has lavender and evening primrose oils in it, among other things. Basically, it smells like a grown up version of the Bath and Body Works Moonight Path scent that I was obsessed with in high school.

More budget friendly favorites I’ve used in the past include the Pacifica Super Flower Oil ($16) and the Fourth Ray Beauty Marula Oil ($8) — which is nearly as good as the infinitely more pricey version ($72) from Drunk Elephant.

But what about face masks?

While I do love a good face mask, I wouldn’t consider them part of my daily or nightly routines. They’re more for when I have a specific skin issue or when I’m in a #treatyoself mood. Also, you’ve gotten though over two thousand words on my skincare routine already. Let’s save that topic for another winter’s day.

What about your winter routines? Are you just a wash your face and go (at least add sunscreen!) kind of person, do you have a full blown 10-step ritual, or you somewhere in between like me? Let me know!

5 Things I’ve Been Doing Instead of Blogging

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted to my blog. Let’s get caught up, shall we?

#1 Quidditching, obviously

Since my last blog post, I’ve live streamed one weekend of quidditch and ran my two tournaments of my own in two different states. I’m going into my second season on the sidelines, and while I love what I do, it sucks up a lot of bandwidth.

Processing such a high volume of games and then breaking them down has been especially difficult this year… which is why I’ve been slacking on West Coast Bias. I do have an article in the works that will hopefully do some catch up work for me, but whew, this was a busy fall for west coast quidditch.

#2 Throwing my resolutions out the window

My backslide into not blogging started when my October resolution update was coming up and I had no fucks to give about any of them. I don’t know why, but my 2018 resolutions were far more helpful than this year’s version. This year’s resolution updates felt like a chore to write instead of a welcome check in with myself.

For 2020, I’m weighing whether I want to have resolutions at all.

#3 Taking it easy

“Taking it easy” is a nicer way of saying “trying not to die of pneumonia,” which itself is probably another way of saying “maybe stop trying to wring every drop of possible productivity out of every moment of your life.”

But yeah, I spent a good chunk of the last month home sick, and another chunk of that time feeling guilty about not doing things more productive than lying on the couch and playing Stardew Valley while trying not to cough my lungs up and die.

#4 Wedding things

Wedding dress? Acquired. With that, the big three things are done. We have a place to get married, we have a place to have a party, and we have something to wear. Everything else is just details.

Ugh, but there are so many details.

#5 Battling writer’s block and a lack of inspiration

While we might be at the bottom of the list, this is really the #1 reason for my absence here. I’ve been blogging on and off since my super senior semester at SJSU back in fall of 2015. In those four years, there have been months where I’ve been prolific and months when I’ve done nothing at all.

As much as I’d love to have a regular schedule, sometimes I’m inspired and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I have ideas but not enough spoons to make them happen. I’m swinging out of a writing funk, but I can’t pretend that I’ll never swing back into a phase of writer’s block.

I’m doing my best not to beat myself up for not constantly churning out content. Whether you read every post when it goes live or just the things that interest you when you feel like it, I’m glad you’re here.

We Have a Wedding Date!

In case you missed it — doubtful, considering that I blasted it across all my social media — this month marked the one year countdown to our wedding.

Did we pick Mean Girls Day on purpose? No, it was a happy accident. October 10 was our first choice, but we weren’t the first people to think that 10/10/2020 would be a cute date. My church was booked for the time we wanted, so we moved it up a week.

Everyone I’ve spoken to since has made me happy with that choice. So many vendors and venues are already booked for that day. Better to pick a slightly less in demand date.

Weighing our options

If you’ve been around here long enough, you know that I love planning things. After the church was locked down, we started looking at specific venues and vendors so that I could plan the whole wedding by myself.

How different would it be from a tournament, right? I do those all the time.

But like… what if I didn’t? What if I didn’t make another thing that should be fun into into a capital-p Project? After my first two venue choices didn’t look so hot in person, we decided to look into more all-inclusive venues and finally found one this week.

Not weighing myself

Behold, what might be my most liked tweet ever:

The way I see it, if I didn’t weigh too much to be proposed to, I don’t weigh too much to get married. Losing weight for the pictures? We all have cameras in our pockets so there’s photos taken of me all the time. I know what I look like. I don’t hate it.

And I’m not going to start hating myself now.

Trying not to let the world weigh me down

Okay, this is more stream of consciousness than proper wedding content, but bear with me. The world doesn’t stop just because your favorite person puts a ring on your finger. I’m not writing this blog post or planning this wedding in a vacuum. Here’s a brief list of things weighing me down in the past 48 hours:

  • PG&E cutting the power and leaving my parents in the dark
    • Fire season in general, really
      • Realizing we’re getting married during the peak of fire season, shit!
    • Also, how is PG&E allowed to exist? That “probation” from the 2010 San Bruno explosion has done jack shit. The state should just take them over already.
      • Oh, and I definitely got into a fight with someone I care about over this. (I stand by what I said but it got personal and that’s never fun.)
  • Planning NorCal by Northwest 2 and Bread Bowl
    • Why did I get talked into running NCxNW on two sites?
    • Planning is hard when all my free mental bandwidth is sucked up with the first bullet point
  • The President
    • Impeachment
      • No one caring about student loans (my current work project) because impeachment is sucking all the air out of the political room
      • I can’t even keep up anymore. Am I an uninformed citizen?
    • The Kurds are dying because of a phone call but here I am with my first world problems
    • Seriously, how is he still president?
  • It is petty to be this upset about the Sharks being terrible but I am petty and they are terrible, even if having Marleau back is sentimental.
  • Oh dear God, we planned the wedding for the month before the election and fire season? Brilliant.
  • Shit, my gas tank is empty, gas is over $4 a gallon, and I’m driving to LA this weekend.

It’s so easy to get lost in the details and forget that I’m less than a year away from one of the best days of my life. It’s going to be great. I know it.

I just have to get through the next 359 days.

Things I’ve Done Lately That Aren’t Quite Blogging

In an ideal world, I’d be posting to my blog on Tuesdays and Fridays. Since the world is not ideal and my blog isn’t my only creative outlet, instead of bringing you some fresh Original Content, here’s a look at some of the not quite blogging stuff I’ve done lately.

Archive 408: San Jose Time Capsule

Archive 408 is a project by local writers October Montoya and Li Patron that I’ve been eating up lately. When they put out a call for submissions for a San Jose time capsule, my contribution to this project will surprise absolutely no one. I wrote about Little Portugal.

Working under the constraint of such a tiny word count was surprisingly liberating. On the other hand, I want to write more about how my community is changing and the mixed blessings of assimilation and gentrification.

Submissions are currently open for Volume 2 of Archive 408’s Living Histories project. This time around, Queer Stories of San Jose is the prompt. That means I’m sitting this one out, but if you have a story to share, I highly recommend submitting.

Submissions are open until October 15.

Season 3 of West Coast Bias

Once upon a time, two beaters in red and black that liked hearing themselves talk started a podcast. Because really, what else are two smart asses with liberal arts degrees and a very niche hobby going to do with their spare time?

While Ryan and I had recorded a handful of podcasts together before, West Coast Bias was the beginning of something I’ve believed in for a long time: regional coverage.

High level stuff is great and has a broader audience, but people want to hear about what’s going on in their communities. (Can you tell that I’ve been a local reporter on and off for the last few years?)

I wish there was more of it in quidditch… but having done this for a few years now, I know just how hard it is to have an opinion in public. Sometimes you’re going to be too busy. Sometimes you’re going to be wrong. Sometimes people are going to roast you for it. And sometimes they’ll roast you for no reason at all.

I didn’t always know what I was doing and I was often woefully unprepared when we first started out, but I’m so grateful to have had Ryan with me. Splitting the load of editing, outlining, researching, learning (eventually) how to pronounce names, and keeping the other sane and feeling valid is how we’ve managed to keep at this as long as we’ve had.

Here’s to at least sixteen more episodes. It’s not always easy, but Ryan’s always been able to keep it fun for me. I hope our listeners (we love you!) feel the same.

2019 Resolution Update: September

Three resolutions for 2019.

To everyone who thinks it’s fall just because school’s back in session and PSLs are back:

  1. Temperatures are still firmly in the mid 80s and San Jose summer can stretch into October at the latest.
  2. The Salted Caramel Mocha is the superior fall Starbucks drink.

Still, there’s no denying we’re falling into the last quarter of the year.

Resolution #1: Protect my time

The last few weeks were not great for my mental health. I’m not going to delve too much into that here, but I didn’t spend last month protecting my time as much as I was incapable of doing more than the bare minimum I needed to do with my time to remain functional.

I’m bouncing back but I’m still making sure not to completely fill my calendar. I’m my own biggest project, after all. Protecting that time for myself is my best form of self care.

Resolution #2: Listen to my body

I went hiking last month and did not die.

The view of San Jose from Alum Rock Park's Eagle Rock, with an exhausted and relieved Liz in her Shame Nun jersey in the foreground.
Not pictured: the gust of breeze that stole my hat not long after this photo was taken.

On the other hand, I felt like dying. The last time I went for a hike at Alum Rock Park, my age started with the number 2. What I remembered as an easy hike back when I was swimming at least three days a week kicked my sedentary 30-something ass.

Yoga/barre has been a bit of a bust for me for two reasons. One: it’s just far away enough to be convenient. Two: the studio itself is lovely and inclusive but I don’t feel comfortable doing that kind of exercise.

On the other hand, getting an aquatics membership at SJSU’s new rec center is cheaper, closer, and swimming is my preferred form of exercise. I think that’s my next move.

Resolution #3: Declutter my life

I spent last month organizing my office (aka my desk’s corner of the living room) in fits and starts. Has anyone else experienced making an even bigger mess in the pursuit of organization? Because that’s been my problem with this corner.

I was going to share photos of my progress for this month’s update, but things hit a snag when the shelving unit I was supposed to inherit from Jim this weekend proved to be harder to separate from his desk than we thought.

While last month wasn’t the best for my resolutions, I’m still glad that I’m being mindful of them. Not every month is a win, but even setbacks can be part of a greater arc of improvement. Or so I hope.

Currently Reading

One of the things I love about reading is disconnection. Sticking my nose in a book is nice way to cut myself off and insulate myself from the rest of the world, even if it’s only for a little while. (She says as she posts this on the internet for the world to read.)

Lately, I’ve been pretty promiscuous in my reading. I’ll pick something up, stick with it for a bit, and then set it aside and forget about it. Not necessarily because it’s bad — though not every book is a winner — but because I’m busy or because that particular book is one that you can pick up and put down whenever you want.

In no particular order, here’s a peek at what’s in my TBFR (to be finished reading) pile:

The Book of Disquiet – Fernando Pessoa

Yes, I have been reading this thing on and off since I bought in back in the summer of 2014. I even wrote a mini blog post about it back in February 2018 about not being done with it and why.

In my defense, this is a book meant to be read in fits and starts. It’s not a linear story, or even really a story at all. It’s an unfinished collection of fragments that Pessoa called as “factless autobiography.” Honestly, it reads like a blog written before the internet was a twinkling in Al Gore’s eye.

Would you read every post on a blog all in one go? No. (But by all means, go binge mine.)

I used to be afraid to finish it because I didn’t want it to be over. However, I picked up another translation — I’m currently reading Richard Zenith’s version — so when I do finally finish this, I get to read another arrangement of Pessoa’s fragments.

This book is a kaleidoscope that I never want to be finished with.

An Edited Life – Anna Newton

I bought this for advice on getting my shit together. Specifically, I wanted to channel a little but of my favorite minimalist blogger/YouTuber into my apartment and my wardrobe. After I bought it, I spent most of this year not having the time to do either and not wanting to read about it and feel guilty that I wasn’t doing it.

But now that I’ve finally made some headway in editing my life, I’ve gotten back into this again. It’s pretty straightforward and has a lot of advice you’d find elsewhere, but I like Anna’s voice. It sounds like her, not a ghost writer.

A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

Okay, I’m actually listening to the audiobook of this. I’ve read this series more times than I can count. My first time was back in 2000 when I was a freshman in high school, a sweet summer child who knew nothing.

Since then, my last re-read was in preparation for the publication of A Dance With Dragons… all the way back in the idyllic past of 2011. The show has taken over the books in my memory, so I decided it was time for a refresh.

I devoured Fire & Blood and A World of Ice and Fire as audiobooks, so why have I stalled out on this one? It comes down to one thing: pronunciation. Since the audiobooks came out before the show, the pronunciations don’t always match.

The biggest offender? Petyr Baelish isn’t pronounced “Peter,” but “peh-TIRE.” It takes me out of the story every. single. time.

26 Stories – Machado de Assis

This is a classic case of a book Liz buys on vacation, dives into while she’s gone, and then forgets to finish when she gets home. I picked up this collection of short stories when Jim and I were on vacation in Seattle. The Elliott Bay Book Company is my favorite Seattle bookstore and I always get excited when I see a Portuguese-language work in translation.

Because it’s a collection of short stories, it’s easy to pick up, read a bit, and put it down again. I started reading it in June while were were up north and I even took it to the beach with me in July… and it’s sat in my beach bag ever since.

It’s not the first vacation book to fall to this fate, nor can I promise it will be the last.