Travelling alone, or NZ 2018 pt. 2.

I’m not sure if this will be an interesting post or not, but I will describe for you the process of planning and booking my trip. I felt like since I was travelling alone, it was important for me to be a bit more pre-planned and pre-booked than I might normally be to save myself from getting lost or stranded somewhere along the way. I would definitely say that I was way more prepared for this trip than for any other trip I have taken. Last time I was in NZ I think we booked our car rental in advance, but literally nothing else. So this trip was much different. I’m glad I took the time to plan it out well, I think I used my time far more efficiently and saw and did a lot more because of it. I also had very little stress while I was on the trip because I did not have to worry about any of my accommodation or transportation.

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Okay, so I should start out by saying that New Zealand is very likely one of the safest places in the world to travel alone. I am kind of a big chicken and also have never travelled completely alone before, so it seemed like a good fit. It would have been too intimidating to try and plan my first solo trip to a place that (1) wasn’t particularly safe, (2) I had never been before, or (3) where I didn’t speak the language.

Even still, the lead up to the trip was accompanied by, I guess not really a fear of something happening to me, but more just fears that I would be lonely, get lost, or just not enjoy the trip as much as I would if I was a friend. See, I’m not really a do things completely by myself person. Up to this point I was only ever interested in travelling with a friend. But that was not an option for this trip; it was either go alone or don’t go. I am getting better at doing things alone. Something about getting older, having more life experience, and generally liking myself/having confidence in my own abilities made it so that I was willing to consider a solo trip as an option. Also my heart has been literally burning to get back to NZ the last few years. And it all turned out very well. Turns out travelling by yourself is great.

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FLIGHTS

The first thing I did was obviously to decide where in NZ I wanted to visit most. I knew I wanted to spend a full week in Wellington. I also knew I really wanted to go to Wanaka. It quickly followed that it would make sense to fly in to Wellington then work my way down the south island and fly out of Queenstown. Wellington to Queenstown is a short enough distance that it would give me the chance to move kind of slowly and stop for a few days in a few places on the way. I started looking up things that were going on in Wellington during my trip and realized that The Killers were playing there during the last week of my trip. So I very quickly decided to flip the trip around and fly into Queenstown and out of Wellington.

The next obvious step was plane tickets. There is no sense in planning anything until you know for sure that you are going and what the exact dates are going to be. This meant waiting until my vacation request was finalized at work and then monitoring flight prices for a month or two. I actually really lucked out and got some pretty cheap flights. What happened is that I had kind of forgotten about checking flight prices for a few weeks. Then one morning after a night shift in January I remembered and opened the Kayak app on my phone to do a quick search on the bus ride home from work. And what do you know, flights were $500-$800 cheaper than I had ever seen them. So when we got back into town, I got in my car, went directly to a travel agent, showed her the flights and asked her to BOOK THEM RIGHT NOW.

I have booked flights through a travel agent before. I have also just booked my own flights on the internet before. I decided to book with a travel agent this time for a few reasons, the biggest one being that when you book and insure your flights through a travel agency they give you a toll free number and then if anything goes wrong (i.e. you miss a flight, lose your luggage, etc) you just call the number and THEY FIX IT FOR YOU. I mean, I’m sure it’s not a flawless system. But knowing that I had someone who would rebook my flights, arrange hotels, etc should something go wrong was a nice assurance. The only difference in price between booking yourself and booking with a travel agent is a booking fee (at least at the travel agency I have used). In my experience this fee is between $30-$40. Then you have access to 24/7 assistance throughout your trip.

Also travel agents understand how airlines work better than me so I can just say “please try to get me a window seat on my long flight” or “could you see if you could get me on an earlier flight to cut down this layover?” and they know what to check and how to do it. I know I could probably do those same things myself if I wanted to. But $40 to have someone who knows what they are doing do it and ensure that it is all done correctly is worth it to me. Travel agencies often have deals set up with airlines and travel companies, so sometimes they have access to cheaper fares. In this case, she was able to find the exact flights I wanted and give me the same super cheap price I had found online. I literally took in my phone, showed her the flights I had found on Kayak and she went and found the same ones for the same price.

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TRANSPORTATION

Last time I was in New Zealand there were three of us travelling together. We rented a car and split it three ways and it was pretty affordable. I looked up how much it would cost me to rent a car on my own and very quickly decided I needed to find a different option. I had heard the buses are pretty good in New Zealand so I did some research and quickly landed on the InterCity bus company. With InterCity you could book single trips or buy passes. They sell their bus passes not by length of time (ex. a month long pass) but by time spent on the bus (ex. a 30 hour pass). This meant that since I already knew the places I was going to need to travel between, I could buy a pass for almost the exact amount of time I would spend on the bus.

The pass I got was called a Flexipass. You decide how many hours you want to buy and the pass is valid for a year from the time you purchase it (obviously the more hours you buy, they better deal you get on those hours). You can pre-book all of your trips online and you can log on and make changes up to two hours before a trip. You can add more hours to your pass at any time. Also you can book Interislander Ferry tickets with your pass. Buying a walk-on ferry ticket from the ferry company costs $65. If you book your ferry ticket through InterCity, you just pay for the ride with hours same as you would if you were on the bus. The ferry trip is about three hours. A three hour top up to your Flexipass costs $35.

InterCity buses also have wifi. Which was a huge selling point for me. Pretty much all my Instagram photos and stories were uploaded from either a hostel or a bus. It was so very convenient to be able to use bus rides to check emails, upload photos, and catch up with any messages I had.

Lastly, every driver I had was great. They were kind and helpful and most of them would sort of tour guide a bit as they were driving. Not talking constantly or anything like that, but they would point out things of interest as we passed and would sometimes give you a bit of the history of an area. As a tourist it was great. Also if I wasn’t feeling it I could just stick in my headphones and browse Instagram.

It was fairly easily plan out my route online. The only hiccup I encountered was when I wanted to go from Wanaka to Kaikoura. If I had a car, I could have easily done that trip in a day but it spanned three different buses so it was a bit more complicated to coordinate and I had to break the trip up over two days and take a stop in the middle in Christchurch. That was a relatively small issue though. Booking ahead of time with this pass gave me the peace of mind of knowing that I definitely had a seat on the buses I wanted but also the peace of mind of knowing I could change and adjust my trip at any time.

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ACCOMODATION

Before I went on my first Australia/New Zealand trip I had a friend recommend YHA hostels to me. Take this now as my recommendation to you. I have stayed at quite a few YHA hostels in New Zealand (Wellington, Queenstown Lakefront, Wanaka, National Park, Picton, Hamner Springs, Christchurch Rolleston House, Taupo) and I have had only good experiences. I know that when I stay at a YHA hostel I can expect it to be clean and safe. Every YHA I have stayed in has had a kitchen, laundry facilities, and secure storage. (Not all have secure storage in the rooms, which is best, but they all had somewhere secure you could keep valuables). YHAs also all have free wifi. Sometimes it is not the fastest connection (especially in the evenings when everyone is trying to use it) but you get 2gb per device per day and that is pretty great.

Once I knew where I was going and  how many days I would be in each place, I started booking hostels. I felt a bit nervous booking and paying ahead of time. My brain was saying things like “are you sure you want to tie yourself down to such a rigid schedule” and “what if something happens and you get delayed.” But YHAs have a reasonable cancellation policy and I knew that if I did end up changing my plans I could get most of my money back. Also I would rather lose $30 than show up and have them tell me they have no rooms.

YHAs (and most hostels, I assume) have a number of different room options. You can book anything from a private room to an eight bed dorm room. Obviously, the more people in a room the cheaper the bed. Last time we stayed in a few hostels and since there were three of us we usually just booked out a three bed private room and split the cost. It ended up not being too much more than a bed in a share room. This trip that was obviously not an option and I was going for cheap, so I usually booked into the bigger share rooms. I stayed in four, six, and eight bed rooms.

The hostels that had storage lockers in their dorm rooms were my favourite. There is a locker for each bed, you bring your own lock, and voila! no more lugging all your stuff around so that it doesn’t get stolen.

I imagine that if you are a very light sleeper shared rooms might be a terrible option, but I didn’t really have too many issues. I did make sure that I brought a sleep mask and ear plugs. I never ended up wearing ear plugs, but I did use the sleep mask every night. Also, there was a snorer in almost every shared room I was in. Usually I got to sleep before them so it didn’t bother me too much. (If I can fall asleep initially, nothing can really bother me too much).

Staying in share rooms means being a bit more organized. If you are getting up early to leave for the day, you have to pack the night before. You do not have the luxury of waking up, throwing on the light, and figuring out what you need for the day. Technically you could do that, but I’m guessing that if you did, the other people in your room would physically pick you up and throw you out the window. If you are leaving in the morning, you need to have as much of your stuff as possible packed the night before and then do your last minute packing and bed stripping silently in the dark. Basically you just need to take some extra steps to be respectful and accommodating to the other people in your room.

I had very good experiences in all my rooms. I met some nice people and usually had the option to engage and chat with other travellers or just sort of keep to myself. Nothing of mine was stolen (I was pretty diligent about locking up my camera and laptop, but often left clothes, shoes, etc laying on my bed).

Staying in hostels also allows you to save even more money because you have a place to both store and cook food. Sometimes hostel fridges smell a bit funky, but YHAs have a pretty thorough kitchen cleaning schedule. The staff clean the kitchens every day and most seemed to clean out the fridges and storage areas weekly. They provide labels you were required to use that included your check out date. Any food that was not labelled or was past the check out date is thrown out. YHAs are also pretty environmentally conscious and all had extensive recycling facilities.

I bought a YHA membership. It costs about $25 for a year and it gets you a cheaper rate at any YHA hostel as well as discounts on some other tours and activities.

I basically just booked into YHAs in every town I was visiting. The only time that wasn’t an option was Kaikoura. Even over a month in advance, there were no hostel rooms available at the YHA in Kaikoura for the nights I wanted to spend there. I broadened my search, but it turned out there were no rooms in any hostel for those two nights. I realized I was going to have to either skip Kaikoura or book into a BnB of some sort. I love Kaikoura and skipping it wasn’t going to happen so I started looking on AirBnb. I decided I could handle the higher price of an AirBnb for one night, but not two. So I changed my bus trip and increased my stay in Christchurch from one night to two (thank goodness for this or I never would have gotten to hold that lemur’s hand). Then I found a nice little BnB on the point. It actually ended up being so perfect. I was the only person booked into the BnB that night so I got the entire guesthouse to myself. Kaikoura was about half way through my trip and I didn’t realize until I got there how much I had missed having my own sleeping space. I lounged around, turned the light on and off when I wanted to, and played music while I fell asleep. It was so so restful and refreshing.

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So at this point I had flights, transportation, and accommodation booked. Before I started booking I was worried that by doing so I would lock myself in too tightly to a schedule. I thought that I should leave more of my time open so I could decide in the moment where to go and where to stay. But honestly, so much peace of mind came from having these things booked. It was calming to know where I was going to go and that I had a place to stay. Also, at this point, everything I had booked could be cancelled or rebooked with very little loss to me.

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ACTIVITIES

By this time I had known I was going to NZ for months. As a result I had sort of gotten my heart set on a few activities in the places I knew I would be. Some of them (i.e. climbing Roy’s Peak) required nothing more than simply showing up in the areas and doing the thing. But some required booking a spot on a tour. Again, I was a bit worried about locking myself in too rigidly to a schedule and not leaving days open to do things as they came to me. I figured out what I needed to book ahead of time by looking at each activity and asking myself how devastated I would be if I showed up to try and book it on the day and they said it was full.

I had printed out a calendar page for April and had all my flights, bus trips, and accommodation drawn on to it. It was easy to see which days I had available in each place. This helped me figure out which activities would be more time sensitive (like there would be only one day where I would be able to do a certain thing) and which ones could fit into a variety of places.

Things I pre-booked:

  • The Killers concert: by the time I had flights, this concert was already sold out. Once I knew I was going to be in Wellington on the night of the concert, I started obsessively checking the certified ticket resales on the ticketmaster site. A few months later a general admission ticket came up and I jumped on it. I paid almost double the initial ticket price, but you know what, it was 100% worth it.
  • Hurricanes game: when I planned my time in Wellington, I made sure to schedule it so that a rugby game fell on one of the days I was there. Turns out that this game did not sell out and I could have bought a ticket on the day, but still, I knew I would be crushed if I had missed out.
  • Milford Sound: we didn’t do Milford Sound last time and it is kind of a NZ classic. I booked this tour from Queenstown. I picked this company because they had a backpacker rate and therefore ended up being cheaper than anything else. The bus portion of my tour was on an InterCity bus (wifi and charging stations!) and the cruise was through Jucy.
  • Wine Tour: I decided I really wanted to do a wine tour this trip and I found this company. They offer a full day wine tour for significantly cheaper than any other company I found. They also had good reviews. I only had one full day in Picton and I quickly realized I would be very disappointed if the tour on that day filled before I got there, so I booked.
  • Glenorchy: I knew I wanted to try and get to Paradise and I found this small family run company that offered tours. I put off booking this one for a long time because it wasn’t quite as burning “I need to do this” activity. But since it was out of Queenstown and within a few days of the the start of my trip, I did end up booking it in advance.

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Everything else that I did I just booked while I was there or walked up on the day. Really, the only other thing I booked at all in advance at all was the lemur/meerkat experiences at the Wellington Zoo. I think I booked those a week or so in advance. I often had a vague idea of things I wanted to do in a place and just sort of played it by ear once I got there. Like I knew I wanted to go to Te Papa and to a play at Circa, so once I was in Wellington I sort of felt it out and picked a day and went and did them. When I was in Christchurch I knew that there were some museums and galleries around my hostel. So when I woke up I wandered around to a few of them. Then when I didn’t have anything to do in the afternoon, I wandered down to the iSite to browse through some activities and ended up at Willowbank feeding grapes to lemurs.

I feel like I had a good mix of pre-planned and spur of the moment activities. The part of my trip on the south island, when I was moving around every few days, was more strictly planned. This allowed me to ensure I would see the things I wanted to see and not waste any more time than necessary in moving from place to place. My time in Wellington I left almost completely open (I just had concert tickets and rugby tickets). This allowed me to settle in to Wellington and tackle all the things I wanted to do in an order that made sense once I was there and let me take things like weather and how I was feeling into the equation each day. When you only have one day in a place, you will do an activity (i.e. Milford Sound tour) rain or shine, sick or well. But when you have a whole week you then have the option to wake up and say, it’s really cold today, perhaps I will hold off on the outside activity and go to the museum instead. It worked very well.

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I’m sure there is much more I could talk about but that feels like a good summary. If you ever have any questions about things I did or how I planned them, or if you are ever looking for New Zealand recommendations, seriously come talk to me. I will never get tired of talking about travelling there.

 

A brief look at NZ 2018.

I have been meaning to write a post or two about my trip. But I keep putting it off because it feels too daunting. If I write a post, I should post pictures, and if I’m posting pictures, I need to go through all my photos and edit them. And then that feels like too much work and I just go to sleep instead. But I am here to do it now. I may not have photos for everything and some of them might not be edited and beautiful, but it will be okay.

Here is (briefly) where I went and what I did:

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QUEENSTOWN

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I flew into Queenstown and it was beautiful. The mountains felt so close you could almost touch them.

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I went on a day trip to Milford Sound. This was a 5 hour bus trip into Fiordland, and 2 hour boat tour, and then 5 hours on the bus back to Queenstown. Fiordland was unspeakably beautiful. It was kind of overcast, not too cold, and kind of windy. I got to stand on the front of the boat while they sailed under a waterfall and dolphins appeared right underneath where I was standing on the deck on the way back to the harbour. There was a really great girl named Bri on the bus with me and we took photos for each other at some of the stops and it was great. She took some amazing photos of me on her phone and I have still not quite given up hope that she might still email them to me. (I’m guessing not though due to the fact that it has been almost two months. Note to self: next time make sure that in addition to giving my email, get their email too).

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I went to Paradise. Last time I was in NZ, we got stranded just outside of Paradise and spent the entire day on the side of a tiny back road waiting for a tow truck. This time I made it.

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WANAKA

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I climbed Roy’s Peak for sunrise. This was something I decided weeks before I went that I HAD to do. So despite the fact that I had come down with a pretty significant chest cold/sore throat, I woke myself up at 3 am, walked the 6.7 kilometres from my hostel to the trailhead, and then slogged up the mountain in the dark. Honestly, I was miserable. But you know that because I sent you a constant string of texts that said “I AM MISERABLE,” “MY FEET HURT,” and “I WISH I WAS DEAD.” (Very early in the morning NZ time was late morning/early afternoon Canada time – which was very convenient and allowed me to talk to someone while I was alone and miserable in the dark). I also did not bring hiking shoes with me. I figured one day of hiking was not worth it for the amount of space they would take up. This was a mistake. I have never had so many blisters on my feet at one time. I did make it to the lookout for sunrise, which kind of made it all worth it. Before the sun came all the way up it was windy and FREEZING, but beautiful. Then I walked all the way back. The first hour or so of the downward climb was the only part of the hike I enjoyed. By the time I got to the parking lot and started the walk back to Wanaka I was in some severe blister/foot pain. The last couple kilometres were honestly agony. Like when all you can think about is how much you hurt. But you have no choice but to keep walking. By that time I was also very much feeling the sore throat and chest cold. It was all around bad. However, now that I am fully past all the pain I am glad I went.

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CHRISTCHURCH

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The hostel I was staying at was right in the heart of the CBD, which was awesome. The Canterbury Museum and the Botanical Gardens were literally across the street. I went to both of those places in the morning of my day there. I was also just down the street from the Art Gallery, which I stopped in at in the afternoon.

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I went to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and fed grapes to ring-tailed lemurs. It was kind of a spur of the moment decision to go and involved me figuring out the buses and busing out to the edge of the city, but oh man, was it ever worth it. It was a very magical time. I didn’t know how much I loved lemurs until there was one sitting on my lap holding my hand. If I am ever back in Christchurch I am doing this again. Like, even before I do something I haven’t done before.

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KAIKOURA

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I arrived on the bus, booked on a whale watching trip, and then ran across town on my blistered feet to make it for the sailing. I was super nervous that I was going to get seasick because they were so many warnings about seasickness and I sort of tend towards motion sickness, but it was all good. We only saw one whale. It was a bit disappointing if I’m being honest. But that whale was still cool. His name was Tiaki and we saw him surface twice. We also very briefly saw some dolphins.

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I stayed at a lovely little BnB up on the point because even more than a month in advance there were literally no hostel rooms available anywhere in town. But it was so wonderful to have my own space for the the first time on my trip. I walked down into town and bought a bunch of jewellery. I have a soft spot for things made out of Cat’s Eye Shell (or Shiva Shell) and Kaikoura always has the goods.

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PICTON

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I decided I really wanted to do a wine tour this trip and the Marlborough region just seemed like the right place to do it. I went on a full day tour and we visited six wineries and a chocolate factory. I now know a reasonable amount about Sauvignon Blancs and could probably pick one out of a line up of white wines (although I apparently still do NOT know how to spell it – you should have just seen the number of attempts I made at sauvignon where spell check told me it had no suggestions before I gave up and googled it).

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WELLINGTON

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I went to The Killers. It was the best concert I have ever been to, I loved it so much.

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I went to the Wellington Zoo, which is kind of in the city, and is basically a hill on top of a hill overlooking the city (my feet were still not feeling super great après Roy’s Peak). I fed meerkats and black and white ruffed lemurs. It was wonderful. The meerkats were especially entertaining and gosh do I love lemurs.

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I went to Te Papa. Te Papa is a really great (and free!) museum down on the waterfront. I was there right before Anzac day which meant that the Gallipoli exhibit was packed and had massive lines. I went to Te Papa last time I was in NZ and the colossal squid was my favourite part by far, so you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the exhibit that holds the giant squid is being rebuilt and is closed until next year.

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I walked through Mt Victoria, went to the lookout, and found the spot where they filmed the “get off the road” scene in LOTR.

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I saw a play at Circa Theatre. This is the theatre where I first saw Equivocation, which is still the best play I have ever seen. The play I saw was called “The Lie” and two of the actors in the play were also in Equivocation, which was quite nice.

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I took the Cable Car up to the Botanical Gardens, went to Zealandia, and saw a show at the Planetarium.

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I went to the Wellington Museum and the New Zealand Portrait museum.

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I went to see a rugby game. The Hurricanes were playing the Sun Wolves and can I just say that rugby is so much more interesting national sport than hockey and if I lived in a place that had a rugby team (like Wellington) I would buy season tickets.

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I have many many more photos, quite a few videos, and a lots stories that didn’t make it into this post because I know it gets tedious when people talk about their vacations for too long. Also it would be far too daunting to write a post that long. But I am always happy to talk about New Zealand, so if you want to see or hear more, you know where to find me. Also I will probably post pictures from the trip on my Instagram for the next year. Also all the videos I posted to my stories while I was away are saved in my highlights and categorized by city. I am probably going to write another post about my trip where I will talk about what it was like travelling alone and how I planned for it. I’ll probably sneak some more photos in that one too.

I rejoice to see my children walking in the truth

I can feel myself slowly recovering since finishing school, and it’s finally time to write to you here.

This past weekend was the last frost date, and I have been outside in the garden every day this week. Yesterday I forgot to wear sunscreen and so now I’m sporting an extremely ridiculous sunburn, and I’m the one constantly raving about SPF and sun safety. Oops. Well, I got my peas in the ground, so sunburn or no, I’m calling it a win. And now: some projects I’m working on/have completed.

My main goal for the growing season was to get our veg bed in order, dug over, and planted up. First, I had to clear it of the weeds that I neglected to pull last year before they set seed, which means that I also had to keep on top of ten zillion weedy seedlings as I was digging the bed over, and that Josh had to reassure me that no, I’m not a horrible gardener or a failure, I was just busy last summer.

The first picture doesn’t look like much, but it’s what I started with, and I knew that I had a bed of good soil beneath it. It took several days to dig it out, and after I overworked my shoulders and made my recurring inflammation flare up, I hied to Canadian Tire and bought a garden fork which, omg, is amazing. It works so much better than a shovel for digging a bed over and getting the weeds out. This particular patch was on the verge of becoming absolutely choked with quack grass (a curse which haunts my life) and had a lot of half-rotted wood in it, and the fork was the perfect tool for getting it all out. The second picture is partway through the process (along with the beautiful fork), and the third is the prepared bed complete with little path. The paving stones came from our old firepit setup, which was located right beneath a tree (????) directly next to the fence (???) below the power line (??????) and in general not in an ideal spot so we’re moving it.

Now I’ve planted things out BUT we’re in a bit of a heatwave (or maybe this is just what summer is like now?) so it’s all looking somewhat droopy and sad BUT I care about you so here’s a couple pictures.

I planted three pumpkin plants (overkill? tell that to my sixteen tomatoes, wow) and the two in the back veg plot are probably the happiest of all the plants in there right now. Everything is a bit small at the moment so it’s looking a little sparse, but I’ve actually crowded everything in and am hoping for a edible jungle a few weeks down the line. It’s nice to finally have the plant outside rather than indoors where they were taking up more and more space as they grew and I potted things on. Most of the tomatoes are now happily situated by the back door, where I initially moved all the plants outside to harden off. I love plants.

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In the veg bed I’ve planted sunflowers, pumpkins, a goji berry bush (suffering), peas, tomatoes, turnips, carrots, two kinds of radishes, tomatillos, and cucumbers (or maybe they’re zucchini, I don’t actually remember), and put in a little border of marigold seedlings in the hopes that they’ll grow up strong and keep unwanted visitors away. Near the strawberries by the garage (which I don’t have a pic of but which already have one tiny berry) I planted more sunflowers and a bunch of ornamental gourds which may or may not germinate, they are old seeds. What will I do with ornamental gourds?? Hell if I know.

I’ve also seeded three hanging baskets, and have to keep reminding myself that it is perfectly fine that they aren’t super filled out yet and just have small plants or seedlings in them; it is May, after all. In (many) pots by the back door I have the wealth of tomatoes, a cucumelon (grape-sized melons that taste limey/cucumbery and look like wee lil watermelons), tomatillos, and a pumpkin. I’ve got two electric daisies by the front door which kind of zap and then numb your mouth when you eat them. I’m going to hang two more baskets, I need to get one more and fill it, and we need to put up the rest of the hooks on the side of the carport. And this is mostly all just the edible stuff. I’ve done heaps of weeding and digging and planning and plant-adding for the rest of the garden as well.

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The birds have finally found the birdfeeder I’ve had up since the beginning of winter, and last night we hung up the hummingbird feeder in a new spot. I haven’t seen hummingbirds in the neighbourhood yet, but I’m hoping that they come around. This year we’re going to plant a tree and drastically extend the front garden bed (as you can see the lawn is not great, nor do we really like lawns, so more proper garden it is), and I’m planning on adding another feeder and a birdbath and then maybe a couple bird houses. I love birds. We also picked up a bee hotel and attached it to the fence at the back of the side garden, and are thinking about putting in a pond, so really we’ve just gone buck wild for wildlife in the yard.

I love working in the garden, and I love planning out new things to change or add or takeaway, and every time Josh and I look outside and say things like “let’s put the fireplace over there instead” or “hanging baskets would be nice” or “let’s change the look of the front yard” the house feels more like home. I’m a big fan of this house. Today I submitted  ticket to Call Before You Dig, and I’m going to mark out a place for a tree, a pond, and a firepit. I’m going to water the veg bed, and then not do too much else outside because of this sunburn.

Of course, Barney has been visiting again, and I love it. He’s a great cat, and gets more comfortable and friendly with us all the time. I’ll leave you with a picture of my favourite neighbour:

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Book Shelves

This is going to be a a bit rambly, and about a kind of niche, specific thing, which has, possibly, been eclipsed on the internet by newer or more important things. Here’s what I want to say: people can shelve their books however they please. This #hot #take is brought to you by the virulent reaction to the “shelve your books spine in” decor suggestion that swept the internet a month-ish ago. If you haven’t heard of this backlash, honestly that’s probably for the best. Basically, there was a large reaction on twitter that boils down to “it is morally vacant to shelve your books with the spines facing in” or “if you have books shelved spine in, it means you never actually read”.

I’m going to be a full-fledged Master Librarian in  few short weeks (God help me), so I have some expertise in the world of books, and I want to tell the world that there is no morally superior way to shelve your personal book collection. I’ve been thinking too much a lot about this lately, and I have some thoughts around my larger “shelve your books however you please” admonition.

Book shelves are performative. Choosing where to shelve what books and how they are displayed is a performance of all of the things we associate with books. This goes beyond performing “well-read” to include how knowledgeable and wise a person is and beyond that to all the stuff you see in those “date a reader”-esque memes. Readers are empathetic! Readers have an active inner life! Readers love to curl up with a book on a rainy day! While this is a monolithic view of what reading “is”, it still has an impact on how we choose to shelve our books. Along with this, interior decoration in general is performative, and taken in combination with book-performance, it can easily become a sensitive and value-laden subject.

Considering the ideas that are attached to book-performance, it makes sense that seeing books shelved in a way I consider “bad” or “wrong” would cause a reaction. I feel like – and this is especially applicable on twitter – there is often not time on the internet to take an intervening meta-thinking (you thinking about your thinking) step in between an initial reaction and a contribution to the conversation. Here’s an example of what I mean: for a very long time I was vocally opposed to people shelving their books by colour. I would say that it was a bad way to shelve books, which implies that I thought the shelver wasn’t a “serious reader”. Of course, I shelved my books in a different way, and so I was “better” than the by-colour shelver. It took literally years for me to take a step back, examine the deeper implications of what I was saying, and realize that a) it is none of my business how people shelve their books, b) if books are findable, the shelving system is working, even if I don’t like it, and c) the way I shelve my books is just as much of a performance as shelving them by colour is. I needed to think about my thinking before I could realize that I was in the wrong.

It is important to question everything and hold on to the good, and I don’t think the idea that shelving books a certain way is morally better than shelving them another way is a good thing to hold on to. When my books were shelved basically willy-nilly with no discernible order, I could still find the book I wanted. If I shelved books spine-in, I’m sure I could adapt and be able to find the book I wanted without too much trouble.

I’ve been talking about shelving as a finding strategy, but there’s a pretty obvious other use of shelving, which is decoration. I have two bookshelves, one in the guest room and one in the living room. The guest room shelf has the bulk of my books on it, and they are shelved alphabetically by author last name because that’s the way that makes the most sense to me for finding the book I want. The shelf in the living room has my pretty books and pretty bookends on it, arranged for their looks rather than function. I’m performing literacy in different ways on each shelf, just like I’m performing it differently through the books scattered around my nightstand. What’s the difference between me choosing fancy cloth-bound books for my living room shelf and another person choosing spine-in shelving for their display area?

Basically, for a personal collection, the Dewey Decimal system is not better than shelving your books spine-in, and vice versa. And I should know. I’m a Librarian.

One before I go.

As you know, I am a week away from leaving on my NZ trip and therefore am elbows deep in online bookings and piles of clothes and toiletries. I am hoping to blog a few times while I am away and keep you updated on the cool things I get up to. So for this blog post I will not really bother talking about the trip. Besides, blog post about getting ready to leave on a trip seem about the most boring thing ever. “Will she pack the vest and the jacket? Or just the jacket?” Riveting stuff.

I figured I’d give you an update on my last couple months. I have talked very little about what has been going on with me the last little while on this blog.

Just under two months ago I hurt my knee at work. I’ve hardly posted anything about it because it is a WCB claim and if you have any experience dealing with the WCB system you probably know that it is always a good idea to keep claim information as private as you can. That it is not outside of WCB’s practice to investigate people making claims and use social media posts against them. This makes it sound like I had something to hide. I didn’t. It was a very open and shut “she smacked her knee at work and then it swelled up really big” type of thing. I had witnesses and same day first aid and emergency room reports and I diligently followed all of my doctor’s orders. Which meant sitting with my knee up for weeks and weeks. Very boring. Nothing out of the ordinary or questionable in any way. But still, it is good practice to keep the details between the doctor, physiotherapist, employer, and WCB case worker. You know.

I will, however, share with you this one picture of what it looked like the day I hurt it.

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Crazy, right? I did no actual damage to my knee (that we are aware of). No torn ligaments, broken bones, or damaged cartilage. But it has taken two months for this swelling to go down and it is still not all the way gone.

This has meant that for the last two months I have been on modified duties at work. No stairs, no ladders, no kneeling, and only very limited standing and walking. Which means desk work. I have been re-writing the planer mill’s JSAs (job safety analysis) and training manuals. At first it was a really great break and I felt really good about the job. It really needed to be done and I had the skill set to do it. I still feel good about it, but now it feels more like I am back in school and being forced to write papers all day.

Working all day in a quiet office got a bit boring, so I started listening to music while I worked. I pretty quickly go bored of music and moved on to podcasts. I found this new podcast that I love. It is called Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. If you don’t know, Dax Shepard is Kristen Bell’s husband. He has guests come and he has very real and genuine conversations with them. I was not expecting to love it as much as I do.

I realized I should save up some episodes so that I had something I loved listening to while I was sitting in airports and riding on buses on my trip. He does one episode a week that is around two hours long. So about a month ago I stopped listening to them and now have about four saved up for my trip.

So then I was again without something to listen to. But the podcast made me realize that I really liked listening to people telling stories about their lives. So I made the understandable jump to autobiographical audiobooks.

I should take a quick time out to talk about my position on audiobooks. I am NOT against audiobooks. I think they are great. But I have never been able to listen to them. I can’t. I have tried and it is too different. I feel like I am cheating somehow by not actually reading? Even though I know that I am not and I don’t think that about other people when they listen to audiobooks. And that is not really even the problem, its more that it feels different. It feels like I am experiencing the story in an entirely different way and I don’t like it. Apparently I am very attached to my own inner voice and having someone else read it changes the entire experience for me in a way that prevents me from enjoying the story at all. I once found this quote which maybe sort of explains it:

“I’ve never listened to an audiobook before, and I have to say, its a totally different experience. When you read a book, the story definitely happens inside your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes.” (Robin Sloan, Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore)

I have, of course, not read the actual book that comes from, just the quote. But it felt true when I read it and maybe explains the difference between reading and listening and why I like one and dislike the other.

BUT. I found that listening to an author read a book they wrote about their own life felt more like listening to a podcast. So I was totally okay with it.

So over the last few weeks I have been ripping through audiobooks. Here are the ones I have listened to.

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Bossypants by Tina Fey

I’ve been sort of kind of meaning to read this one for a while. It was good! I must say I sit slight more on the Amy Poehler side of this friendship, but I love them both and this book was enjoyable and Tina is badass and awesome.

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I have this book and have read it before but it was wonderful to have Amy read it to me. Amy is amazing and Leslie Knope is maybe the greatest character there has ever been on TV.

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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

I did not really know anything about Anna Kendrick except that she was in Pitch Perfect. Did you know she started out on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony when she was 12? I did not. This book was really good and I really enjoyed it.

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

I have read Mindy’s books before. But just like with Amy’s book, it is great to have the author read it to you. It feels like a podcast. Mindy is great. This book was written before The Mindy Project began and is focused more on her time in college and writing for The Office.

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

It just seemed right to follow it up with this one. This one is more about her time working on The Mindy Project. She is still great.

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The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I am almost done this one. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I do have to say I did not love this one as much as some of the others. I guess I just didn’t like the style of the reading as much. I did find it to be very relatable at some points. It was also kind of depressing at other points. I have a hold on Wishful Drinking at the library.

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One More Thing by BJ Novak

I am part way through this one. So the jury’s still out on my conclusion. I LOVED the first story. Some of the others have been a bit meh. We’ll see how it finishes.

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I mostly just went to the library website and tried to find as many of these types of audiobooks as I could. It turns out that I am a lot more interested in autobiographies written by females. I did try to listen to Rob Lowe’s autobiography. But I got a couple chapters in and was bored. Turns out it was going to be mostly about his childhood, family, and his time on the show The West Wing. I wanted it to be an entire book about playing Chris Traeger on Parks and Rec. I did’t really give it too much of a shot.

I have a couple on hold I am waiting to listen to (Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking and Tiffany Hadish’s The Last Black Unicorn). But if you have a recommendation within this narrow niche of audiobooks, let me know.

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So that’s it. My last few months have almost entirely been either sitting in an office writing manuals or sitting at home with an ice pack tensored on my knee. Luckily, however, my knee has progressed enough that it should not interfere with my trip and everyone involved in my claim has given me the a-okay to go.

I hope you are excited to see NZ blog posts and hella photos. I will be posting a LOT on my Instagram and I will try to get a few posts up here too.

How to never take a compliment, a crash course.

Step 1: care very much about what people think about you. This step is not necessary, but will really help to enforce the idea that you need the compliment, which will make it so much worse when you are never able to accept it. If possible, have one of your love languages be ‘words of affirmation.’ That way you can simultaneous crave the affirmation of people in your life while also ensuring you never receive it.

Step 2: disregard any compliments given to a group you are a part of. They were obviously not meant for you. They were for the other more talented and/or prettier members of the group. They just addressed it to the group because it would be very awkward for everyone if they didn’t. If they really meant it they would have come talk to you away from the group and addressed their compliments to you specifically.

Step 3: any nice words spoken to you at a time when it is normal or expected to compliment someone also don’t count. They are obviously only saying that nice thing because it is the convention and social politeness dictates they do. You’re supposed to tell girls they look pretty at weddings. You’re supposed to tell someone they’re great when they’re having a bad day. Therefore you must assume all nice things said to you in those situations are only said because it would be more awkward to not say them.

Step 4: if someone says a nice thing in response to something you asked them, you were fishing for a compliment and it doesn’t count either. What were they supposed to do? Tell you that the dress looks terrible? Tell you your idea is terrible? You put them in an awkward position and they said the nice thing to try and make you feel better. It is insincere and you brought it upon yourself. If they really liked the dress, they would have told you without you asking.

Step 5: did someone compliment you after a performance, presentation, or some other public appearance? They could be sincere, but make sure you remember how when you were a kid at camp people would clap louder for the terrible acts in the talent show so as to not make the child feel bad. It is probably safe to assume they are doing this to you. The more enthusiastically they congratulate you, the more sure you can be they don’t mean it. And if they offer a generic, unenthusiastic compliment, they don’t mean it either since a public performance of any kind clearly falls into the category of ‘time when you are expected to compliment’ (see step 3).

Step 6: is the compliment you received generic? If so, throw that out too. Things like “you look nice” have no meaning anymore. They are the generic platitudes that have been repeated so many times they have lost their meaning entirely. Like when someone asks how you are and you reply with, “I’m good, how are you?” without even thinking. They come out of people’s mouths without even thinking and serve as no more than generic niceties and conversation filler. If they really thought something about you looked nice, they would have been more specific.

Step 7: was someone earnest and forceful in their compliments? If so, see the “people clap louder for the bad acts out of pity” part of step 5.

Step 8: if someone offers you a unexpected, specific, relaxed compliment at time when no social convention dictates they should, and with no prompting, assume they have read this post and are just giving it to prove they can. You can safely assume they don’t mean it either.

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I think that about covers it. There should now be no situation in which a compliment will strike you as sincere and you can live your life in the quiet misery of knowing that no matter how hard others try to make themselves seem sincere and like they admire you, you can see through it. You’re welcome.

What I Read in February

This last semester of my degree is in full swing, and so, clearly, other projects are falling by the wayside. It’s an unfortunate side effect, and I’m very Very excited for school to be over so I can relearn how to prioritize things in a non-school-focused life. What will it be like???? I’ve been doing school pretty much full-time going on six years now, and good gracious I am so close to the end. My classes will be over mid-April, and convocation is in June, and I’m not sure how my brain will react to the prospect of not having school to do or prepare for. Last summer I wasn’t working and I was between semesters, and I still would wake up thinking “I need to work on that paper today and get it submitted” only to remember I didn’t have any papers to write; I have a feeling that this residual school impetus will stick around for awhile after I graduate.

In January I read 14 books, mostly due to being stricken with the head cold of the century in the week before classes started, and I knew that I wouldn’t read nearly that many in February once under the influence of academia. I finished reading four books in February, and I’m quite pleased with the total. Here they are:

PaperGirls

Paper Girls, vol. 1 / Brain K. Vaughan et al.

Someone described this book as “Stranger Things, but with girls” and we all know I love Stranger Things, so how could I resist? It follows a group of paper delivery girls as a time-travel and alien threat descends on their town. People are disappearing, there are giant dinosaurs flying around, and thieves stealing radios. The colours and art are perfect, and the girls rely on loyal friendships and grit. It’s very good.

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The Rules Do Not Apply / Ariel Levy

I read this for book club. It’s a memoir, and tells the story of Ariel Levy’s marriage and pregnancy, and the loss of both over a short period of time. It’s a fast and heavy read, and while it left me feeling tired and sad, it was still a very good book. Ariel Levy has some trouble identifying and confronting her own privilege in many ways, but that, of course, doesn’t diminish her grief or make the things that happened to her less terrible. It’s a good book.

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Book of a Thousand Days / Shannon Hale

This is probably my number one comfort read. I’ve listened to the audiobook I don’t know how many times, and I have no doubt that I’ll continue to get it from the library and listen to it over and over. It’s a retelling of a fairy tale, and follows Dashti and Lady Saren as they are locked in a tower for seven years, and what happens once they get out of the tower. Sometimes when Josh is out of town for work, I’ll set this to play for 45 minutes when I go to bed, and I’ll fall asleep to the story. The book is written as a journal, which I love.

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Attachments / Rainbow Rowell

This is the only Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read, and it’s another comfort read. Listen: school and anxiety have been rough in the last bit and so I fall back on familiar, comfortable stories. This story is set in 1999, and has a premise which sounds weird when I try to explain it. Lincoln is hired to patrol inter-office email at a newsroom, ends up reading emails sent between Beth and Jennifer, two friends who work there, and develops feelings for Beth. It’s a nice book with a cute story, what more can I say.

THERE YOU GO, the four books I read in Feb, half of which were re-reads. It was a pretty light and unchallenging reading month, but it suited me just fine. I’m currently in the middle of listening to another comfort read, World War Z, and I just want to add an extra recommendation here at the end of this post: read World War Z at your soonest opportunity. It is waaaaaay better than you think it is, I promise. I know we all got tired of zombies around the same time we got tired of bacon-reverence, but TRUST ME, World War Z is 100% worth your time.

2018.

I have high hopes for 2018. There is potential for some big changes to take place, but I am not going to publicly broadcast them at this time. I have learned my lesson on that front. When final decisions are made and plans are officially set, then I will happily share them. But there is one particularly exciting thing that is already confirmed, so I am very happy to announce it here and now.

It has kind of been a weirdly, sort of kept but not really, secret for the last month or two. What I mean by that is that I have not posted anything about it or contacted anyone to tell the about it. The only way you would know is if you have seen me or talked to me recently in person. It also involves time off from work, and my work is an insane gossip factory, so pretty much everyone I work with knows about it. Which is a bit weird when a lot of my friends don’t know.

ANYWAYS! The news: I AM GOING TO NEW ZEALAND!

I am going in April, for three weeks. Three weeks is the maximum amount of vacation I am allowed for this year, so I booked all three weeks back to back and then I will not get anymore time off for the rest of the year. But it will be worth it!

I am going by myself because all of my friends are in school or can’t justify paying the flight fees for just a few weeks. I really only asked a couple people to come, and they couldn’t so I’m doing my best to embrace the idea of going solo. I’m actually pretty alright with it and I think it will be good for me.

I have a vague outline of the trip:

I am flying in to Queenstown. I will, over the course of approximately two weeks, work my way from Queenstown up to Picton. I am hoping to definitely hit/spend a few days in Wanaka, Tekapo, and Kaikoura. I would love to spend a day at Castle Hill (our time there last time was cut pretty short). But exactly how it will all work out depends on the transportation mode I choose. I am kind of leaning towards busing at this point because rental cars are stupid expensive when you are by yourself. But busing probably removes the option to go to Castle Hill. So I haven’t fully decided yet. Then I will ferry across to Wellington and spend an entire glorious week in my favourite city of all time before flying home.

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I am very excited. I also probably need to really sit down and do some planning. I have my plane tickets booked, but that is all. I feel like solo travel requires a bit more preparation ahead of time. But I am still stuck in the “its still a long way away, I don’t have to worry yet” stage. And I know this month is going to fly by and it will come so quickly.

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If you, or anyone who might be reading this, has any solo travel tips, any NZ travel tips, or any must see places along my general route, hit me up! I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to see, but it is mostly based on going back to the places I saw and loved last time. So it would be super awesome to mix some new things in.

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I have been trying again to make it all the way through editing my photos from my last trip. This time I am actually doing it systematically and thoroughly. Not just jumping from place to place and photo to photo whimsically. It is making me more excited and reminding me of things that we did and places we went last time. I feel like a a thread of freshly edited NZ photos is a good way to end this post.

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Skincare

Let’s take a break from talking about big life events to talk about how I changed my skincare routine this past year. I moved from a pretty simple routine (Lush face wash, Aveeno baby lotion with tea tree oil mixed in, charcoal sugar scrub, occasional sheet mask) to a “10 Step” Asian skincare regime. I think for many people, myself included, the “10 Step” part of this is mostly just a gimmick. It’s more like “more steps than you used to have, with more specific goals, and products tailored to those goals”. And today I am going to tell you all about it, here we go.

Keep in mind throughout this post: I am not a dermatologist. I’m also still figuring out my skin!

OKAY SO the first thing to know is you cannot introduce a million new products all at once and think that your skin is going to be pleased about it. NO, you must be so patient, and bring in one new thing, use it for a couple weeks to see if your skin reacts badly, and then add the next thing. If I went ahead and tossed all my new, exciting things on my face all at once then I would have had no way of knowing that my vitamin C serum was truly detrimental to my poor face and probably would have scrapped the whole project. As it is, there have only been a couple of products that haven’t worked for me and I was able to identify and stop using them pretty quickly.

The second thing to know is that you have to wear sunscreen every single day on your face. Listen, you know about my struggle with the sun and the sunscreen and let me tell you: I have tried a LOT of different brands and formulas and all of them felt gross on my face UNTIL:

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Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++

This stuff is an absolute life saver. I’ve heard rave reviews for Shiseido Senka Aging Care UV Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++, but it doesn’t feel as nice on my face as the Biore sunscreen does. Try to think of a sunscreen that is the absolute opposite of the weirdly chalky goopy white ooze that we’ve had to smother our faces in for our whole lives and you’ll have a pretty close idea of what these sunscreens are like. They absorb quickly! They don’t leave a ghostly impression! They don’t feel like you just covered your face in gravy that makes your eyes sting! If there’s one thing people take away from this post I hope it is this: if you get better sunscreen you are more likely to wear it and prevent sun damage and skin cancer.

Sunscreen goes on your face last; I am getting ahead of myself here. Let’s get down to business.

The things I want to focus on for my skincare are acne prevention, hydration/dryness, smooth/uniform texture (think “plump”), and general health. Edmonton is VERY DRY, and the winter is EVEN DRYER, so keeping my skin moisturized and hydrated is a Daily Struggle. Turns out the answer to this specific trouble is Literally Goop From Snails, but we’ll get into that in a moment. I’m gonna go through the steps I take when I’m washing my face, and it’s going to seem excessive, but stick with me and we’ll get through this together. I’ll link the products I’m currently using.

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1. First Cleanse – DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with over the years is finding a good cleanser. I have quite a few acne-fighting cleansers in my bathroom which I’ve tried and ended up not using because they stripped everything good out of my poor skin and left my face dry and tight, sometimes to the point where my nose was constantly peeling. Here’s the key words you want for cleansers: 1) mild, 2) gentle, 3) MILD, and 4) GENTLE. Oil cleansers gently wash your makeup and other products off without stripping any moisture out of your skin. This specific cleanser is made primarily from olive oil, and I want to take this opportunity to urge everyone to avoid putting coconut oil on their faces. It doesn’t emulsify and it’s comedogenic, it’s a good-for-body-not-for-face item. Also, I only use this cleanser when I’ve worn makeup or have reapplied sunscreen a few times throughout the day.

EggCleanser2. Second Cleanse – Skinfood Egg White Perfect Pore Cleansing Foam
Listen. I double cleanse my face. Oil first, then water-soluble foaming cleanser. UNLESS I didn’t wear any makeup that day, or don’t feel like I have a lot of stuff on my face, in which case I skip the oil cleanse and head straight to the (gentle and mild) foam cleanser. You’re supposed to wash your face against the grain of your skin and wtf, skin has a grain??? I use an egg-based product, and omgosh, it has worked wonders upon my countenance. I just replaced a used-up tube of this, which is significant in that there are So Many Options in Asian skincare, and it’s so fun to try new ones, but this one has worked so well for me that I’m gonna be loyal for at least a little bit longer. I’m getting to the bottom of my oil cleanser, and I’m gonna replace with a different kind of oil cleanser and LISTEN, I love skincare. Also I cannot emphasize enough that this cleanser DOES NOT smell like eggs. I use a Norwex cloth to pat not wipe my face dry but I also kinda feel like Norwex is a scam, so. At this point I sometimes use the Skinfood Egg White Pore Mask, if I have some extra time. Also I just want to point out here that part of washing your face is regularly washing your makeup brushes. Those things get grimy.

 

3. Exfoliation – Missha Super Aqua Mild Peeling Gel, Supracor Spacells Facial Sponge

First off: you can’t scrub away acne. I wish you could. If that were the case I would go back to using my teenage fave St Ives apricot scrub with its little jagged pieces of apricot shell and I would scour the acne from my face. Second, omg let me TELL you about this peeling gel I recently started using; it is a miracle. It’s a clear gel and it chemically exfoliates your face, but not in a burny way, because the old adage “if it hurts it’s working” is UNTRUE. You rub it around on your face and voila: you get these little balls of stuff and it’s your dead skin cells coming off your face. I don’t know how it works, but it’s some kind of acid – a good acid, don’t worry. I use the gel once a week or two, and then use the sponge (it’s made of silicone and is very gentle) on my face when I wash it in the shower. As a fun bonus I have also basically eradicated ingrown hairs from my pits with the coarser side of the facial sponge. Soft side on the face, rough side on the pits, can’t lose. I also sometimes use a konjac sponge on my face.

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4. Toner – Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater

Toners in Asian skincare are not the same as toners you can buy in drugstores here, in that they are not alcohol based. Alcohol dries your skin out and we are all about MOISTURE now, so we use toners that will prep our freshly cleaned faces for all the stuff we are about to apply to them, because we are only getting STARTED. I’m currently using the Mario Badescu spray and it’s fine but I think when I’m done I’ll switch it up, it’s artificially coloured pink and very frangranced and I’m not super pumped on that. I used to use CosRX Centella Water Alcohol Free Toner, which tbh was so mild and gentle that I didn’t feel like it did much of anything for my skin. Oh also! Spray toner is key: no more dragging cotton pads across my face. And also again: there’s a lot of stuff about pH balancing in Asian skincare that makes my eyes glaze over because numbers are witchcraft.

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5. Actives (BHA/AHA) – CosRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol

This is an area that I am still working out. I went through a bottle of the linked CosRX BHA, and it was good but also I think I’ll try a different one. CosRX makes an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid)and a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) which both get consistently good reviews, so I’ll probably add them to my routine at some point. T&T Supermarket has Asian skincare products, I’m going to see if they have any AHAs and BHAs in stock soon. This is where I would use any prescription products if I had them. Also!! AHAs are photo-sensitive and you must wear sunscreen. This is also the point in this whole thing where vitamin C serum goes; I had a vitamin C serum which absolutely did not work for me, and I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to include a different one. Probably, because I luv 2 care 4 my skin, but not yet.

 

6. Serums, Ampoules, Sheet Masks – linked below

THE FUN STUFF, AT LAST. Let’s get INTO IT. All of these go on in order of thinnest-to-thickest consistency, and sometimes I give each one a little bit of time to sink in, otherwise I just tap tap tap them into my face one after another.

  • I have one serum which is an absolute Holy Grail product for me, and it is ArtNaturals Anti-Acne Serum. I found this by literally searching “acne serum” on amazon and it’s made a giant difference in my face. My skin is clearer and smoother, it’s amazing. I’m on my second bottle and let’s be honest, I might just subscribe to it on prime and keep it coming.
  • Nature Republic Real Nature Rose Ampoule not only smells amazing but also makes my face feel like it has been pumped full of moisture. I used up the last of my bottle a couple days ago, but fear not, I have a replacement lined up that is by the same company but is slightly different. I’ve moved from the rose ampoule to the Real Nature Lotus Ampoule and I’ll let you know how my face skin fares once I get it into my routine.
  • I got Tosowoong Propolis Sparkle Ampoule in the mail a bit ago, and I am excited to use it on my face, partially because propolis was used by Ancient Egyptians to embalm mummies and what a wild ride. This stuff goes on my face??? I GUESS SO. It’s antibacterial! It’s in such a pretty bottle! I’ve been using it for a couple weeks now and last week someone complimented me on my skin, so I’m calling this one a WIN. And it smells so nice!
  • I have a set of Babor purifying ampoules, which are ampoules proper in that they are those little glass bottle things that you have to snap open, that are supposed to be *hella potent* and guess what: they totes are. I once used them three days in a row and my skin was like “what the fresh hell are you doing” (and, potential tmi here, it made Josh’s lips a lil numb, which was, to be entirely honest, concerning) so now I only bust (literally) one of these out a day or so before my period starts just to give me a leg up on the ol’ hormonal acne. I didn’t get this online, hence the non-linking. I may or may not restock my supply of these, I haven’t decided yet.
  • I sometimes use a sheet mask at this point and tbh I just use whatever I got at Winners most recently. Winners sells a ton of sheet masks these days, and it’s like seven dollars for five of them. The sheet mask will hold in all the stuff you just put on and help it absorb! Or something! I’m not a skin scientist! I also sometimes use a sheet mask directly after the washing portion of this whole thing and THEN move on to the rest of the various goops and glops I put on my face, because I am no bird and no net ensnares me.

 

7. Emulsions, Creams – 3W Clinic Snail Mucus Moisture Lotion, CosRX Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, and a heavier cream that I haven’t settled on yet get off my CASE

IT’S SNAIL TIME. Listen, if you’ve made it this far you know I put all kinds of stuff on my face including stuff used by The Ancients in mummification, so should snail goop really be that surprising? At the same time, Josh for sure laughed out loud at my giant bottle of lotion that says “SNAIL MUCUS” on it in all caps, so maybe I’m the one living in a skincare fever dream. I think the CosRX snail essence technically falls into the category above this one, but I wanted to put the snails together. At this point I cannot emphasize enough how little I know about snails and how little science-ish reading I have done about them. All I know is they have been actually studied and it’s not a snake oil, and the goop is ethically harvested (??) from the snails. AND I know that it works FREAKING WONDERS on my face. Snails! Snails! Snails! Snails! Oh also. Once again you work from thinnest to thickest, and apply things by tapping or with gentle swiping motions, not by vigorously dragging your fingers all over your face. Awhile ago I ran out of CosRX’s Ceramide (this is not a type of snail, alas) Full Moisture Cream and wanted to try something new even though it was good, and found a dud, and am still in the process of returning it to Amazon, and I’m on the hunt for a good final cream. I’m thinking it’s gonna be another snail lotion because damn I love snails. I ordered Mizon Black Snail All-In-One Cream, and I think it’s gonna do the trick nicely.

 

 

8. Eye Cream and Lip Care – Etude House Moistfull Collagen Eye Cream, TonyMoly Kiss Kiss Lip Balm SPF15, Skinfood Avocado & Sugar Lip Scrub

Okay, yes, this is possibly getting out of hand, but we are almost done and this step Is So Worth It. Eye cream! My eye skin has benefited so much from applying eye cream every day, I can’t even tell you how much. I use my middle or ring finger to tap this into my under eye area and then from my crease to my brow bone. It’s made a difference in the tone and texture of the skin around my eyes, and now eyeshadow goes on and stays on so much better. The Tonymoly lip balm has the cutest packaging and I love it, AND it makes my lips feel soft and moisturized and delightful. I don’t use the lip scrub very often, because it leaves a kind of film? on my lips? but when my lips are so dry they’re flaky (ew) I give them a nice gentle scrub and then Load Up on the balm. At this point you may be asking yourself “does Glynis sometimes buy products because they have cute packaging?” and the answer is: OF COURSE, what do you think I am, an emotionless automaton?

9. LAST BUT NOT LEAST

SUNSCREEN. Sometimes I use a BB cream that has SPF 50 (and more snail goop) in place of sunscreen proper. Obviously you needn’t use sunscreen at night. If it’s bedtime and I’ve got a particularly annoying zit I’ll put a Nexcare Acne Absorbing Cover on it and it’ll usually be flat by morning, which reminds me, I am down to my last two pimple patches. Gotta order more.

Okay, that’s the conclusion of the steps, and I know this post is extremely long, and this routine may seem overwhelming or excessive but I promise it’s not. In the morning I cleanse, tone, apply serums, snail goop x2, sunscreen, and makeup when I feel like wearing makeup. I don’t always use eye cream in the morning, just because it’s pretty thick. In the evening I oil cleanse, foam cleanse, maybe exfoliate, tone, serums, snail goop x2, other lotion, eye cream. It takes like 15/20 minutes, and it’s a really nice evening wind down/day preparation activity. If I don’t have a ton of time I do a truncated routine which is foam cleanse, acne serum, snail lotion. When I go to bed my face feels happy and hydrated instead of dry and tight. My face doesn’t peel anymore (praise God) and my acne has been calming down and I can’t express how good this feels. It is also just fun to look at skincare, you can ask Josh for confirmation on my skincare browsing ways. I have a long wishlist on Amazon of skincare stuff I want to try sometime, and I get packages of skincare from Korea every so often, and my face is so much better off for the attention I’m pouring into it. Now if only I can get myself to stop picking at my face all the time; the final boss battle of my skincare life will be resisting the temptation to constantly pick at my acne.

If you’re intrigued by this kind of skincare regimen/routine/system/whatever, here is the advice I will offer on getting into it: start by adding a good sunscreen into your routine, and next add a gentle cleanser. I feel like it would be fine to entirely scrap a drying/unhelpful skincare routine and replace it with a pair of gentle cleansers and a sunscreen and then go from there. Once again! I am not any kind of doctor. If you want to add something new to your skincare routine and aren’t sure where in the routine it should go: here is a handy guide. I will openly admit here that I am often guilty of just following my heart for when to apply what, and sometimes when I look at guides like the one I just posted I say in my heart “this is all pure malarky” BUT my skin posits otherwise Good GRACIOUs this post is long.

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BOOKS

It is with great sadness that I announce that my reading list for 2017 is abysmal. I finished only five books. Where’d You Go, Bernadette was charming and a quick read. Dracula was fantastic as long as you overlook a few small “the lady is too weak hearted to fight vampires and would probably faint even though she has spent the whole book proving she is smarter, braver, and more level-headed than most of the men” parts.

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Part of the reason I didn’t read too much this year is just that I tend to go through highs and lulls in my reading volume and in 2016 I read a lot of books. But I think another reason is that I read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and I needed some time to recover.

It was a long book and it was an absolute emotional punch to the gut. Like it punched you in the gut until you collapsed and then it started kicking you while you were down and somehow instead of PUTTING THE BOOK DOWN you kept reading it and it kept kicking you. It deals with some heavy subject matter; one of the characters has a outrageously traumatic and abusive childhood that you slowly learn about over the course of the book.

It also has some extremely beautiful characters and relationships. I read this book almost a full year ago but I can still remember the way that I felt about the characters and I can still see them and feel them in my head. I also read this book at work and I cried at work about it at least twice. I think that the horror you feel at the bad parts of the book makes the beauty in the good parts so much more vivid. And it seemed to go back and forth between the two often enough that you were never really sure if it would end happily or tragically. It is beautifully written. It is uncommon for a story to stick with me in such a visceral way. While I can’t remember anymore all the small details of the plot, when I think about the characters I can still actually feel the feelings I felt about them. Not in like a “oh I remember that I liked that part” way, but in a visceral “I can physically still feel how beautiful it was in the pit of my stomach” way. If that makes sense. It makes you feel a lot about what is fair and what is unfair and how our upbringing affects the way that we view our future and the things that we think we deserve. It was intense and I don’t know your tolerance so I’m not sure I can recommend it or suggest you read it, but I think I’m glad I read it.

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MOVIES

I also did not see a lot of movies this year. I can think of maybe four movies that I saw in theatres this year. There was maybe a couple more, but I just can’t really remember. So obviously they weren’t that impactful. Here are the ones I liked.

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Wonder Woman.

I am 100% over superhero movies. I would not have seen this one in theatres had it not been for your bachelorette party. You wrote a whole post on this movie so I don’t think I need to say much about it other than it was a very beautiful thing to see a female superhero who was not made a superhero by being made into a one dimensional character who displays stereotypical male qualities. It was weirdly overwhelming and beautiful to feel like I was seeing an actual woman in a role like this. I guess that is what you get when the majority of superhero movies are written and directed by men. It was still a superhero movie and parts of it were pretty cheesy. But I liked more than I’ve liked most superhero movies. I’m pretty sure the No Man’s Land scene will always make me cry.

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Beauty and the Beast.

Emma Watson is pretty much Belle in real life in my mind so when I heard she was going to play Belle I was very excited and also very nervous. What if they screwed it all up? What if it was one of those terrible remakes? But my fears were not realized. It was very good. Emma Watson came on screen and started singing the first song and I started crying. Now I did see this during my couple months of night shift last winter, so that may have had something to do with it, but I basically cried every time she did anything Belle-like. So the whole movie pretty much. Emma is such a good person and a strong and outspoken woman who stands up for what she believes in. She is the perfect person to play Belle and I was so happy she did.

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Blade Runner 2049.

I did not cry in this movie! It was directed by the Denis Villeneuve, the same guy who directed Arrival, and we all know how much I loved that movie. I can say a lot of the same things I said about Arrival: the colours! the lighting! the cinematography! It is all so beautiful. I appreciated the subtle ways it tied back to the original movie. The way some of the scenes were filmed and the little details. The story was beautiful. It felt profoundly human in a profoundly unhuman way.

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MUSIC

This was also not a big year for me in terms of new music. But here are a few things I found and enjoyed:

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Stranger in the Alps – Phoebe Bridgers

This album is beautiful and I love the whole thing. There are maybe one or two songs I might skip sometimes, but really I usually just listen to it front to back. Her voice is beautiful and her songwriting is amazing. I particularly like Smoke Signals, Funeral, and Would You Rather.

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Melodrama – Lorde

I wasn’t really on the Lorde train before this year. I think it is because I didn’t really care for Royals and that was the only song that ever seemed to get played from her first album. But I love this album. Again, it’s good all the way through. I particularly love Liability, Sober II (Melodrama), and Green Light.

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White Noise – Noah Gundersen

This album was very different from his other albums. I like it in a different way than I like his older stuff. This album I find that there are a few songs I feel pretty meh about and a few that I absolutely love. So it is the same amount of love I usually have for a Noah G album, just distributed differently. Instead of being spread evenly over the whole thing like it was for Carry the Ghost it is slightly more concentrated on certain tracks. My absolute favourites are SEND THE RAIN (TO EVERYONE) and HEAVY METALS. But I also really like BAD ACTORS, THE SOUND, NEW RELIGION, and WAKE ME UP, I’M DROWING.

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One More Light – Linkin Park

This album is not on my list because Chester died. I genuinely love it. It is a very different sound for Linkin Park. Now I love classic old school Linkin Park. I grew up on it. This was the first band I ever loved and the first cds I ever bought. I used to listen to Hybrid Theory and Meteora exclusively and on repeat while I delivered newspapers for the bulk of my childhood/teenage years. But I have to say that I might like their new sound even better. My favourites are One More Light, Invisible, Good Goodbye, and Heavy.

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TELEVISION

I watched A LOT of tv this year. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. But I haven’t been reading much or watching very many movies, so it makes sense. I also tend to watch tv while I’m knitting and I’ve been knitting a bunch this fall. So here’s my (long) list of tv I watched this year.

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Survivor: Game Changers (season 34)

Of course I watched this season. Returning players! Ozzy! Malcolm! Cirie! Sandra! JT! Andrea! Aubry! Did I say Ozzy already?!

I knew Ozzy wouldn’t win. He didn’t. Cirie came pretty darn close AGAIN. And Malcolm went out early in an absolute freak tribal council. It was a good season, even if the winner was not someone I was rooting for. It was also an absolute crazy season. There were a lot of game twists and blindsides (i.e. the insane tribal where Malcolm went home) and then there was the tribal council where Jeff Varner outed Zeke as transgender. It was insane. Zeke handled it with incredible grace and composure. He wrote this article which was published right after the episode aired.

In general, seasons like this are almost always a bit of a let down. They bring back all of these amazing people, and most of them get voted out right away. So you end up spending most of the season watching the people you really weren’t that excited about and you kind assume are sort of filler because you can’t really figure out how they were a “game changer” in their past seasons. But that’s the way the game goes. At least Ozzy was there for a while so that they could break up the insane game tension with peaceful spear fishing interludes.

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The OA (season 1)

I had no idea what to expect from this. It was extremely original. Sometimes it was very heavy, sometimes it felt a touch silly, mostly it was serious. I had no idea what was going to happen AT ALL. I like it even more now that I know Brit Marling wrote it as well as starred in it; she is fantastic. I will definitely watch the second season when it comes.

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No Tomorrow (season 1)

I have not heard a single person talk about this show. I found it on Netflix. It was good! It is the classic “type A perfectionist lady meets free-spirited, ‘live life to the fullest’ man” story. Only you quickly find out that this free-spirited man is seizing the day because he is convinced the world is going to end because a meteor is heading towards the earth. He claims to know this for certain. It is super cute and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

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Girlboss (season 1)

This show had a lot of hype. I loved the best friend character. But honestly, I found the main character so profoundly unlikeable that I struggled to make it through the season. I actually gave up on it for a while but ended up coming back to finish the season. Netflix cancelled the show; I wasn’t upset.

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The Good Place (season 1)

I have only seen one season so far because that is all that is on Netflix. But it is charming and funny and Kristen Bell is a delight as always. Love it.

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Master of None (season 1/2)

The first time I tried to watch this show I watched maybe the first five minutes of the first episode, got bored, and shut it off. But I kept hearing good things so I went back to it. I liked it. It felt like a very real show. Kind of like an independent movie, stuff happens but the plot doesn’t feel contrived or over the top. I know there is some controversy around this now due to the whole Aziz Ansari #metoo story. I’m not going to get into that except to say that I have read good and bad arguments and read some poorly written articles on both sides. Because of all this, however, I did find out that apparently Aziz wrote the Chef Jeff character in a way that you were supposed to think he as a great guy and then be surprised to find out he was a sexual harasser. Which is absolutely bonkers. But he says it in an interview, you can read it for yourself.

I thought you were supposed to know from the first moment you met him that something was off. Like crazy foreshadowing. I was surprised it didn’t come out sooner. And it wasn’t just like a “oh wow, I wasn’t expecting that but now that you say it yeah I guess I see how it was coming.” I had clearly formed the full thought in my head already, “this guy is a total creep and he is going to do something inappropriate.” I thought he was going to make a pass at Francesca or something much earlier. So to hear that that was Aziz’s portrayal of an awesome dude is a little troubling. This is his actual quote from the interview: “Okay, what if this is one of those types of guys and we just get the audience to love him? And then pull the rug out from under them at the end and reveal that he’s actually not a good dude?” I did not love that character. From the moment he came onscreen he made me uncomfortable and I strongly disliked him. I was annoyed at Dev for not seeing what a douche he was from the start.

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Orange is the New Black (seasons 1-5)

I watched all five seasons this year. It is a good show. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it is full of diverse, well-written female characters. I love that even though the show starts out fairly centred on Piper, it widens significantly to the point where her story is just one of many. Also the way the characters are developed is fantastic. There were multiple times during the series where I found myself rooting for a character I hated two seasons ago, or discovering I was completely wrong about who a character really was. The writers do a good job of allowing you to make assumptions about characters and then slowly revealing their backstories.

There was one season that I thought was a bit boring in regards to the overall season story, but the characters were still great so I stayed. And I certainly did not love every character (Piper in particular is pretty annoying actually), but there are some absolute gems that I felt made it worthwhile. Poussey is easily my favourite character. And one of my favourite characters from any show, not just OITNB. She is fantastic and Samira Wiley is amazing. Also Danielle Brooks! I couldn’t watch her in Master of None without picturing that character as Taystee, like she got out of prison, became an agent, and then started representing Dev.

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That 70’s Show

I started watching this because I wanted a fluffy sitcom to put on in the background while I knitted my sweater. It is on the same level as Friends, or How I Met Your Mother, or Big Bang Theory. Not that good, but somehow you keep watching it cause its a bit funny and it requires no emotional investment. I didn’t make it all the way through. The Danny Masterton rape allegations kind of killed it for me. Steven was my favourite character and the Jackie/Steven relationship was the only one I liked. So when I found out that the actor playing Steven was (allegedly) raping people and having the church of Scientology protect him it kind of made it hard to keep watching.

Here are some other reasons I probably should have stopped watching sooner:

(1) Eric is the classic “nice guy” in a sitcom who is kind of an entitled jerk but we’re supposed to root for him because he’s “nice.” Just think Ross Gellar or Ted Mosby. Same character. You’re not being friend zoned, thats not a thing. Shut up.

(2) Kelso consistently cheats on his Jackie to the point where he is straight up dating another girl on the side. Everyone in the friend group knows and no one tells Jackie. This goes on for more than a full season. What is it with tv shows and the whole, “I know he’s cheating on my other friend, but I’ve been friends with him longer so I won’t tell her cause that would be a betrayal.” It is garbage. Especially when:

(3) Jackie kisses another boy while dating Kelso and Eric finds out. He blackmails her into doing things for him to keep him from telling. He ends up forcing her into telling Kelso herself within one episode of finding out. Kelso throws a fit when he finds out.

(4) There is a very real idea that it is normal for guys to cheat because “boys will be boys” and they can’t help it. But they get outraged if a girl cheats. It is absolute bananas.

(5) Eric’s mom goes through menopause and it is used as comic relief. I’m assuming all the writers are men who think that menopause turns you into a wildly crazy and emotional train wreck and they thought continually make her look unhinged would be good for laughs.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine (season 4/5)

This show is amazing and if you aren’t already watching it you should be. It is very funny while also being diverse, inclusive, and tackling real issues (race, gender, sexuality, etc) in a sensitive and positive way. It is a slam dunk of a show and everyone should be watching it.

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Sherlock (season 4)

I’m a bit late on this one. But I finally got around to watching the newest season. It is darker and different from the older ones. Maybe it is just that I really miss Andrew Scott’s Moriarty and am sad he is gone. He makes a few little cameos in this season, just enough to remind you of how great he was and make you sad he’s gone. The Christmas special they did between season 3 and 4, The Abominable Bride, is fantastic. I watched it for the first time way back when it came out, but I watched it again before I got into season 4 and was reminded of how good it was.

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Outlander (season 1/2)

I am not quite done this one yet. I’m about half way through season two. There are only two seasons on Netflix right now, but I believe the third season came out in the fall. I avoided this show for a long time because I had heard it was based on a romance novel and I wasn’t into that. But I finally gave it a shot after hearing a lot of good stuff. I actually just looked it up, and I don’t even know that it was based on a romance novel at all, so I don’t know where I heard that. It is based on a novel though. Anyways. Some parts of the show feel a bit romance novel-y, but it is a really good story with interesting characters and original ideas. I have also learned a reasonable amount about Scottish, British, and French history (assuming of course it is mostly accurate in its portrayal of the countries and times it takes place).

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Big Little Lies

This show is absolutely fantastic. I managed to watch it without seeing any spoilers and it was crazy. They introduce that someone has been murdered at the very start of the first episode and then flash back and show how it all happened. I had no idea who died or who killed them until it actually happened in the finale. The acting is fantastic. The story is layered and well written. The cinematography is amazing, it is an absolutely beautiful show. At times it is unsettling and hard to watch, but the story feels important and worth watching. The acting is also amazing. Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard are winning award after award for their roles. It definitely one of the best shows I have seen all year and I highly recommend it.

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So there you have it. It is another marathon post, I know. But once I got going it just kept going. You were interested in hearing about every tv show I watched this year, right?