4 stars · Book Reviews · Reading · Uncategorized · young adult

Review | With the Fire on High

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With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Quill Tree Books, 2019
Young Adult
400 pages
4/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis:

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Review:

So, this was a hard book for me to rate. I went between four and five stars no less than three times, I swear. I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was incredible, and the imagery and descriptions really transported me. I loved the story. I loved the characters.

But. The ending disappointed me. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, it’s a fine ending!

I just felt like something was missing. It left me really wanting more in terms of Emoni’s journey, and not in a good way.

Besides that, though, I really enjoyed the book. I loved Pretty Leslie’s redemption arc, and when Emoni was cooking, I could truly feel her love and passion for expressing herself through food and creating food that moves people.

Perfect for aspiring chefs, foodies, and fans of ‘Waitress’ the musical.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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7 Ways to Be Social While Social Distancing

When I started this blog, the idea of “Social Distancing” was still novel and felt crazy. Now, it feels like a normal part of life, at least for me. While I have broken my quarantine, I’m still social distancing, and socializing in person much less.

Something I learned in quarantine (and… well, have kind of always known) is that humans are not made to live in isolation. No matter how introverted you are, (and believe me, I am one!) the relationships we have with one another are vital to our well being.

So, even during this strange time, when many of us are unable to physically be with many of our loved ones, there are many ways to still spend time together.

1. Share a Meal Over Facetime

Decide on a meal time, and what you’ll eat (maybe even follow the same recipe!), and then enjoy the good conversation that always accompanies good food.

2. Virtual Movie Nights

This is something that I’ve been doing almost weekly throughout the pandemic with various friends and family members. My cousins and I watched a few movies over Zoom, I’ve watched other movies over WhatsApp with my mom and sister, and my friend Gianna and I have been trying to watch a different animated Disney movie every week (Although, the past two weeks we did take a break to watch some of our favorite Disney Channel Original Movies.). It’s so fun to watch a movie with people you care about, especially if it’s one with sentimental value.

3. Socially Distanced Meal Out

This is really only possible with friends who live in the same area with you. Choose a restaurant, do curbside pickup, and then enjoy your meal and eachother’s company from the safety and comfort of your own vehicle!

4. Interactive Virtual Games

Something my dad and I did at the beginning of Quarantine was download the Yahtzee app from the App Store and started games. Yahtzee is one of my dad’s favorite games, and during my hospital stay in 2017, during his visits, he and I would play. It’s fun to have that with someone. I know my mom also plays Words with Friends, and I have friends who have play JackBox games.

5. Virtual Book Club

This is something that I’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t gotten to… yet. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally make it happen! Pick a book, read it, and then meet with your book club once a month (or whatever works for you) over videochat, and discuss it like you would with a normal book club! Don’t know what to read? *insert link* Reese Witherspoon chooses a different book every month for her book club, and maybe following in the footsteps of Elle Woods herself will be perfect for you and your book club!

6. Virtual Board Game Nights

On Mother’s Day, my sister organized a few games of *insert link* Scattergories for her, my mom, and myself to play while videochatting. It was so much fun and so funny to guess who answered what. I also know that you can play *insert link* Cards Against Humanity online, although that’s a little less family friendly. A non-licensed version of *insert link* Catan is also an option.

7. Zoom Trivia

I haven’t done this myself, but I know people who had a standing Trivia night every week/month. They would take turns being the “trivia-master” and asking the questions, and then everyone would answer. There are so many different ways to do trivia, with everybody who gets the question correct getting a point, or the person who answers first only getting the point, there are so many ways that you can personalize this experience. Another fun, but optional, addition is maybe having everyone chip in a few dollars (if it’s possible), and buying gift cards as prizes! Everyone loves prizes. 😛

I hope that these seven ways to be social while social distancing inspire you to find something (or things!) that works for you. Now you know that maintaining the relationships with the people most important to you while not physically together is not as hard as it may seem. This is also a great time to reconnect with those who live farther away, and I hope that we continue to do so long after the pandemic has passed.

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Why I Am Not Ashamed to Take Medication or Go to Therapy for My Mental Illnesses

When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with my first mental health disorders. I don’t remember what my first diagnoses were, but whatever they were, they were serious enough that I was prescribed medication and had to go to therapy at least once a week.

And that’s still true almost 15 years later.

I go to therapy every, single week. I also go to a DBT support group once a week. I’m on 3 medications for my depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is what the rest of my life looks like.

And that’s okay. You see, I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes me more apt to be depressed and anxious, as well as have a difficult time focusing. The same symptoms I have can be seen in several family members in different generations. Some of them are on medication, and some aren’t.

But this is the truth of the matter: I do not want to be mentally ill.

Photo by Riccardo Bresciani on Pexels.com

I do not want to feel overwhelmed at everything. I don’t want to be chronically exhausted and sad. I don’t want to have suicidal or impulsive thoughts. I don’t want to overanalyze everything in my life. My mom used to say I would cut off a limb to not feel the way that my mental illnesses make me feel, and that’s still true.

So why should I feel ashamed that I need medication and therapy? I did not choose this. But if there’s something that can make living a little less impossible, why shouldn’t I grab onto that? You would never shame someone who needs glasses or insulin for taking the easy way out, or being lazy, you would encourage them to use the tools available at their disposal to help themselves.

The stigma surrounding mental health treatment is unfounded, and needs to stop. Going to therapy and taking medication for mental health needs to be as normal as going to physical therapy and taking medication for physical health.

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An acquaintance reached out to me earlier this year. She’s around the same age as me, and was expecting a baby. She shared with me that she was extremely depressed and anxious with everything going on, in addition to her husband being in the military. She was thinking about going on medication, but didn’t just want to put a “band-aid” on her issues.

I think this mindset of taking medication for mental health reasons being a band-aid is extremely common. But it’s interesting that this is seen as a bad thing. In physical health, band-aids aren’t seen as useless or used to avoid problems. Rather they protect physical wounds from infection and help them heal. People with severe physical wounds are expected to dress their wounds daily to help with the healing process, and putting band-aids on scrapes or cuts is encouraged. So why is taking medication any different? Sometimes, you need to cover the wound in order for it to heal.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

I explained this to my friend, and how, without medication, I wouldn’t be able to hold down a job, get out of bed most days, or take care of myself. She did end up going on medication, and while I recognize that not everyone who struggles with their mental health needs medication, it shouldn’t be looked down on if you do. And it’s okay if you need more during certain times of your life, or only need to take it during certain times of your life.

If you take medication and/or go to therapy, you are not weak. You are strong and brave for taking action against something that is wrong. Try not to judge yourself unfairly for it.

COVID-19 · Current Events · Entertainment · Lifestyle · podcasts · politics · Uncategorized

Top 5 Daily Podcasts to Keep Up to Date with What’s Going On.

One thing that has consistently kept me going through this time of social isolation is podcasts. I listen to them when I exercise, or am cooking, or am just doing things around my apartment. Listening to podcasts is also how I keep up to date with our crazy world. Here’s a list of informative daily podcasts that will keep you up to date with everything that’s going on, with links to the shows on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. *Disclaimer* I am left-leaning, so my podcast listening habits may reflect that.

  1. Consider This from NPR

2. The Daily

3. Up First

4. Start Here

5. What a Day

Book Reviews · Entertainment · Feminism · Lifestyle · Reading · Social Justice · Uncategorized

Book Review: “Persepolis”

When I first read Persepolis, a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, I was a junior in college, sitting through a required core class. The class was Modernity in Literature, and I was taking a particular section because a few of my friends were in it, and also because I had the professor before. She was a hard grader, and I wasn’t even sure that she liked me, but I appreciated her perspective on non-Western literature.

Image from Amazon.com

Persepolis was the first graphic novel I really ever read. I kind of had always looked down on graphic novels and comics and anime, not for any real reason besides my own superiority complex. But when I read Persepolis, my opinion changed.

Persepolis opened my eyes to so much. Taking place in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, Persepolis introduced me to a time and place in history that I, as a privileged white women, knew virtually nothing about, intersectional feminism, and the depth and creativity that goes into graphic novels. It is an autobiographical work telling the story of the author’s childhood in Iran during a time of unrest and violence. I remember reading it and reading more than I had to, just because I was that captivated for the story. I told every one of my feminist friends, “You have to read this.” and held on to my copy long after finishing the class.

Image from TwoDollRadio.com

I finally decided to reread it in quarantine, and I was happy to find that it was just as compelling as it had been when it was assigned reading. It is a difficult read, but an important one. I had no knowledge of this time in history, or really about Iran in general, beyond America’s involvement in the 21st century, before reading the book, and it opened my eyes to the horrors the Iranian people experienced.

There is a second half to the story, which I still haven’t gotten my hands on, but plan on buying it or borrowing it from the library soon.

Overall Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.
COVID-19 · Entertainment · Lifestyle · Uncategorized

4 Movies that I Streamed on Netflix During Quarantine.

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Recently, I shared 8 TV series that I watched on Netflix during my time of social distancing (Read here). Today, I’m sharing the movies I watched. I’m definitely much more of a TV show person than a movie person (though I do love movies!), so the list of movies that I’ve watched is literally half the size of the TV shows I’ve watched. Granted, these are just the movies I’ve watched on Netflix, so that’s another variable.

  1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (no longer available)

Although I was born in the early 90s, I did not grow up loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Maybe I’m too young (I definitely grew up more in the early 2000s), maybe it’s because it was just my sister and I growing up. I definitely remember my boy cousins who were a few years or more older than me loving the turtles, but it just wasn’t a part of my childhood beyond that.

A few of my cousins organized a cousin movie night over Zoom at the beginning of quarantine, and this was the choice. It was super fun to see my cousins, most of them in their 30s and with kids of their own now, geek out over the movie. I did enjoy the movie as well, though some of the sexist and racist undertones definitely didn’t hold up. Unfortunately, it is no longer available to stream on Netflix.

2. Back to the Future

For our second virtual cousin movie night, we were originally going to watch the second TMNT movie, but we unfortunately had to postpone it, and when we finally were able to all reconvene, Netflix had taken all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies from the 90s off its platform.

So, the organizers decided we’d watch Back to the Future. I had seen this before during my childhood, but to be completely honest… I knew it best from John Mulaney’s standup set. So the entire time we were watching the movie, I had John Mulaney’s voice commentating on the absurdity of the film in the back of my head.

But beyond the weird… incesty and fat shamey and rapey undertones of the movie (YIKES), it is a fun movie with a lot of nostalgia. It brings you… back to the… past.

3. The Reputation Stadium Tour

I have a confession to make. I. Love. Taylor Swift. Like a lot. I have since the first time I heard her sweet, fake little southern voice singing about Tim McGraw 10+ years ago. And while when she made the switch from country, I was initially upset, and felt like I wasn’t able to relate to her music the same, I eventually (took 4ish years) came around and recognized the genius of her newer music. When Lover was released last year, I was so excited that it felt like I was back in high school, giddy and excited about my favorite singer again. What a time.

One of my best friends is another Taylor Swift fan, and we’ve had countless deep discussions about Taylor’s music and legacy. So a few weeks ago, we decided to watch the Reputation Tour together over FaceTime. Before that, Reputation was probably my least favorite of Taylor’s albums. I just didn’t feel like I could relate, and it felt darker, and Reputation era Taylor felt so different from the Taylor I fell in love with ten years ago.

That all changed when I watched the Reputation Tour. Oh. My. Gosh. I can’t count the times my jaw dropped out of amazement. The outfits. The stage presence. The sets. The dancing. The lyrics. It felt like such an immersive experience. It changed my life and I will now defend Taylor to the death even more.

4. The Wrong Missy

I’m pretty picky about comedy. I feel like my taste in it is very specific. My favorite stand-up comedian is John Mulaney, and the first “adult” comedy movie I truly enjoyed was 21 Jump Street (Forever a classic). When The Wrong Missy was recommended to me, I figured I’d give it a try, because I liked the cast, and hey, why not?

It was fine. It’s not something I was like “OMG I have to tell everybody to watch it” about, but it is something I’d recommend if you’re looking for something light hearted and silly.

What movies have you been watching during quarantine? Did you get to watch TMNT before Netflix pulled it? What are your thoughts on The Other Missy? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll talk to you next time!

beauty · body positivity · Lifestyle · mental health · Uncategorized

How I’m Learning to Love My Body… by Changing Things About It?

Okay, so maybe that title is a little click-baity. I’m not trying to change my body by surgery or a diet, or even exercising. Nothing exciting, really.

I’ve just started to do some things that, when I look in the mirror, make me go, “Oooh, girl you fine!” I’ve always had a very complicated relationship with my body. I grew up fatter than most of my friends, and was very aware of that in my pre-teen years. This year, I discovered Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size, and honestly, it changed my life. I know it’s easy for some people to switch their mindset and eat intuitively, but for me, it’s like I’m rewriting a very long, very well known book. And in a way, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

But it’s a long and difficult process for me, personally. So when I was furloughed in March, I decided it was the perfect time to dye my hair pink. And when I looked into the mirror after rinsing into the dye, I was so excited to see my reflection. I don’t know the last time I felt that way.

So since the, I’ve continued to dye my hair pink. I bought big chunky earrings that usually aren’t my style. I even bought clip on nose rings. And even though I’m fat, and I’m re-learning that fat is not bad, I also am embracing myself, and I feel like my personality is shining through.

I look into the mirror, and I don’t see bad. I don’t see worthless. I see a girl with a nose ring and pink hair and rainbow earrings and I feel excited. I love the way I look.

Obviously there are still days that I don’t wear the earrings or nose ring or do my makeup (that’s another big one for me. I feel unstoppable in a full face of makeup.) and my hair is gross and I feel gross, but by reflecting my inner self to my outside, I know that it’s okay to have those days. That Katie with the clip on nose ring will be back.

And she’s ready for a revolution.