What to read, watch and listen to this month

I always have a long list of books to read, podcasts to listen to and movies or shows to watch. My lists seem to get longer and longer-—but it’s not the worst problem in the world to have.

Read “The Broken Girls” by Simone St. James

Genre: Mystery

Broken GirlsJournalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop thinking about her sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found at Idlewild Hall and now there are plans to restore the grounds. Fiona-—who may too personally invested in the story for her own good—plans to cover the story despite the opposition she faces.

The chapters go back-and-forth to focus on Fiona in present day Vermont in 2014 to when Idlewild Hall was an active school for girls in 1950. The school is attended by girls who no one wants such as troublemakers, illegitimate or considered a shame to society. Four roommates bond over trying to survive mean teachers and a haunted school when one friend goes missing.

As Fiona digs deeper into her sister’s death, the story begins to overlap with the four friends at Idlewild Hall for a twist readers won’t see coming. The ghost story aspect wasn’t the strongest part of the book but added to the mystery and intrigue. “The Broken Girls” was a creepy, page-turner—especially reading it right before I went to sleep. The author St. James is known for her ghost stories and I plan to try out more of her books in the future.

Listen to the “Hysteria” podcast by Crooked Media

Genre: Political

HysteriaCrooked Media aims to provide a no-bullshit conversation about politics to its listeners. Since 2016, they have launched many popular podcasts like “Pod Save America” and “Lovett or Leave It.” On June 28, they released “Hysteria,” hosted by Erin Ryan and her six co-hosts. There’s the NY squad (Blair Imani, Alyssa Mastromonaco and Ziwe Fumudoh) and the LA squad (Kiran Deol, Megan Gailey and Grace Parra.)

The podcast is 100 percent women from the hosts to production to the cover art. The hosts are from widely diverse backgrounds to give fresh perspectives and cover all the angles. While it may sound like a podcast for women, there are many men listening as well. One of their segments, “Dude You Asked,” features the ladies answering questions from male listeners.

Another popular segment is “The Week in Sorry.” Women often apologize too much and when unnecessary, so the hosts say that as women, they have some expertise in the area. They look at people, corporations and celebrities who apologized for something this week—or should have—and if we should forgive them or not. In episode one, they covered Roseann’s apology for her racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett and the woman who called the police on the eight-year-old girl selling water.

As I listen, I nod my head in agreement, learn new viewpoints, laugh along with the hosts and are angry at the same topics they are. They’ve been covering great topics so far like Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, reproductive rights and the drama at the border. I’ll definitely be tuning in to new episodes every week.

Watch “Set It Up” on Netflix

Genre: Romantic comedy

Set it upNetflix movies are often hit or miss—usually in the latter category to be honest—but they finally produced a pretty good one.

“Set It Up” is a romantic-comedy about two overworked assistants, Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) who hatch a plan to make work easier, less hectic and have a better shot of moving up in their careers. They secretly set up their bosses (Lucy Liu and Tase Diggs) with each other and make them fall in love by planning dates and sending gifts.

Meanwhile, Harper and Charlie are actually the ones falling in love and I loved their back and forth banter on screen. The movie also features a couple of short scenes with the beloved Tituss Burgess from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Overall, the movie was a bit predictable but aren’t most rom-coms? It was funny, cute and light, and that’s exactly what I was looking for.


A year after graduation: Compare yourself to you, not classmates

We’re told to not compare ourselves to others but it’s almost impossible. “Comparison is the death of joy,” as Mark Twain once said, and he’s right.

After graduating a year ago, it’s hard to not reflect on graduation and compare myself to where my classmates are in their lives. However, it’s dangerous to compare ourselves to others when we can’t see the whole picture. People choose what they want their followers to see of their lives on social media. They put their best selves and accomplishments forward, but no one knows the whole story behind an Instagram photo or Snapchat story, and the struggles that person may be facing.

And remember that while you compare your life to others, people are also comparing their lives to yours. You are that shiny, gold standard for someone else.

Ultimately, the only person you should be comparing yourself to is you. You should be a better person than you were yesterday and aim for new personal bests even if the achievements are small.

A year ago when I graduated, I was proud of all my accomplishments but was stressed out about all the unknowns of my future. I had no idea where my first job would be or how long it would take to get one.

A the end of June, I’ll celebrate my one-year anniversary at the Reading Eagle. It’s crazy to think how fast the time has gone and I’ve enjoyed my role as an obituary writer much more than I thought I would. There are definitely days when I feel “less than” other people because I’m only part-time but I’m thankful my foot is in the door in the industry. I’m definitely ready for a role that will challenge me more whether that is in a new position at the Eagle or somewhere else.

I can also tell you I’m still no expert at adulting. I thought without papers, exams, the newspaper and a part-time job that my life would be less stressful after college and I’d have everything figured out. But it’s still stressful and I don’t think anyone has adulthood figured out.

Like last year, it’s still both scary and exciting not knowing what I’ll be up to in a year. For now, I’m going to do my best to be grateful of where I’m at in life and not compare myself to others.

Lows & highs

Your eyelids flutter open
from a dream.
Good or bad,
sleep was an escape.
And now you’re forced
back into reality.

A dark, sinking feeling
already sits in your gut.
You’re not quite…
you today.
And the day just started.

It will be one of those days.
One of those
low days
where you don’t really feel like
talking to anyone
or doing anything.

But you need the lows
to appreciate all the highs.
Those days when you grin
ear to ear.
You feel unstoppable,
ready for anything.

But that is not today.
So you look out the window
and daydream
about feeling those highs
once more.

High schools split on cellphone policies

This morning I read an article on The Morning Call about school’s easing up on their cellphone policies. Schools in the Lehigh Valley are split on the issue with some districts like Easton Area and Catasauqua Area mandating that cellphones must stay in students’ lockers. On the other hand, Northampton and Saucon Valley allow students to use their cellphones during lunch and study hall.

This is the first year that my alma mater, Parkland, is allowing cellphone use during lunch. Some schools found that lenient cellphone policies increased cheating and texting during class while other schools discovered that discipline levels decreased by allowing more freedom.

I graduated from Parkland in 2013 and we were not allowed to use cellphones during any periods of the day. Students learned which teachers were more lenient about cellphones than others. Certain teachers told students to put them away while others took cellphones away for the rest of the class period or even the whole day. This didn’t stop texting from happening though. We would text with our hands in our backpacks so the phone was technically “put away” or text under desks and behind books. No matter the policy, students will find a way around it. If they want to use their phone, they will.

Schools should have more lenient policies because if students are allowed the freedom to text in lunch and study hall, it should be easier for them to stay off their phones during class time. Keeping cellphones in lockers doesn’t solve the problem either. The real world is full of technology and students have to learn to balance their time spent on their phones and being productive on school work.

There were some similiaries when I went to DeSales University with some professors having strict rules on cellphone and laptop usage while others didn’t mind. I think cellphone usage in classes decreased when I went to college though because students were more mature and respectful of their professors. Students are also in classrooms for shorter amounts of time making it easier to stay off their phones for an hour lecture than an eight-hour day in high school.

No one can deny that technology is rapidly evolving and cellphones are here to stay. It’s best to embrace the changes and culture around technology than to fight against them.

Hand lettering alphabet techniques and tips

Over the summer, my friend and I took a beginner’s hand-lettering course on a whim—we signed up the same day of the class. Taught by Sarah from Story By Design, we learned the brush alphabet and created two small projects (below) using the first technique that I’m going to talk about.

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Lettering: Technique one

The secret to this technique is to have a heavy hand on the down stroke to create thicker lines and a light hand for the up stroke to create thin lines. The class provided us with a dual-brush Tombow marker; however, it’s always a good idea to write the word in pencil first. Use the thicker end of the marker to create the letters and the thinner end to fill in any white space and smooth out the lines.



Like most things, hand-lettering skills improve with practice. After the class, I needed more, more, more. A couple months ago, I purchased “Hand Lettering 101: An Introduction to the Art of Creative Lettering” by Chalkfulloflove. (I purchased this at Hobby Lobby since they usually have sales. Chalkfulloflove also has a second book “Hand Lettering 201: Intermediate Lettering + Design Basics, which I plan to purchase soon!) Similar to the class I took, “Hand Lettering 101” has a large focus on the alphabet; however, it taught me a different technique of writing the letters.

Lettering: Technique two

“Hand Lettering 101” teaches you to draw the letters using the same pressure for all the strokes. After the letters are drawn with pencil and retraced in marker, hand draw the down strokes and color them in. (I use the thin end of the Tombow to draw the letters and either end to fill in the down stroke depending on how big my letters are.) This technique seemed like cheating compared to what I learned in the hand-lettering class but it is definitely easier and creates a more dramatic look on the letters.

Tips & tricks

  • IMG_3415

    One of my recent projects from “Hand Lettering 101.”

    No matter which technique you use, start with pencil and use the lines as a guide. Draw letters quickly for smooth lines, going too slow can make them shaky.

  • In the beginning, it’s easier to pick up your pencil between letters than write out the whole thing in one shot. For example, with the word, “laugh,” I picked up my marker to start the “a” and “g.”
  • Combine fonts that are complete opposites for a unique contrast.
  • Add embellishments to emphasize words and small drawings. Flowers, leafs and other objects look great and give projects a finished look.

Global warming is definitely a bad thing Scott Pruitt

A couple of weeks ago, a news alert from the Washington Post popped up on my phone. “EPA’s Scott Pruitt asks whether global warming ‘necessarily is a bad thing,’” it read.

I decided to ignore the alert and read it later when I was ready to face the ignorance of the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt.

In a 2016 opinion piece for the National Review, Pruitt said global warming is a debate that is “far from settled” and questioned the legality of the Clean Power Plan, which Pruitt has plans to repeal.

How someone with these beliefs is head of the EPA is a mystery to me.

In Washington Post’s article, Pruitt seems to finally acknowledge that global warming is occurring and offers up a new tactic by asking if a warmer atmosphere is bad for the Earth. It’s unclear why he thinks this exactly, but in multiple interviews he repeats the idea that no one knows the ideal temperature in 2100 and the focus should be on what is happening today, not in one hundred years.

If Pruitt focused on today, he would see the numerous detriments of global warming including the severity of wildfires. Higher temperatures in spring and summer combined with earlier snow melting in the winter results in hotter and drier forests, prime conditions for a wildfire to start and spread. This is evident in California and according to their state fire protection agency, Cal Fire, wildfires burned an average of 202,751 acres each year. That number nearly doubled in 2017 to 505,900 acres.

Global warming is also causing a faster acceleration of rising sea levels, more destructive hurricanes and heavier flooding in some areas with severe droughts in others, which can disrupt food production and supply.

With ample evidence that global warming is definitely a bad thing, Pruitt needs to focus on how to stop global warming today, tomorrow and in 2100.

Modern dating for millennials: Takeaways from “U Up?” podcast

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I decided to give my blog some love and talk about my takeaways from the “U Up?” dating podcast. Whether you’re single, in a relationship or in a “it’s complicated” situation, everyone can benefit from listening to “U Up?” Hosted by Jordana Abraham of Betches Media and comedian Jared Freid, “U Up?” tackles dating for millennials in a humorous yet serious way as they give advice from female and male perspectives.

It’s easier than ever to go on dates, but harder than ever to keep a relationship

Thanks to Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, other dating apps and social media, there are so many ways to connect with people online and plan dates. However, as easy as it is to do this, it’s harder than ever to keep a relationship. Before the Internet, no one knew what a significant other was doing in his or her spare time. Now boyfriends and girlfriends can see what their significant other is liking and who they are following on Instagram and other apps, which can lead to jealousy and create tension in the relationship.

It’s not you, it’s ME…literally

The dreaded phrase, “It’s not you, it’s me,” actually has some truth in it. Society has taken a valid reason to stop dating and turned it into a cliché. Sometimes a person has their own reasons for not wanting to date you and those reasons have nothing to do with you. You’re great. Maybe this person isn’t over their ex, or is swamped with work and doesn’t have the time to be the boyfriend or girlfriend you deserve. Stop looking for reasons to blame yourself.

Self-reflect and work on yourself

While you shouldn’t blame yourself every time a relationship ends, you should also be able to self-reflect and see where you may need to work on yourself. A relationship is never going to be perfect, but if you both put in effort to be your best selves, it’ll be pretty close to it.

Don’t make rules for dates

First dates should be about having fun. Giving yourself rules to follow like time limits and amount of drinks you should have can hinder a date. Live in the moment and focus on the date, not the rules.

It’s not a race to your wedding day

Even if you’re the last of your friend group to get married, it doesn’t mean you lose the wedding race. Engagements, weddings and babies should not be viewed as a competition between women. Some of your friends may be married before you but that doesn’t mean their marriages will be happier than yours. You’re looking for the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with, so it may take a while do find them. Don’t settle and enjoy where you’re at in life, even if that is by yourself for now.

Read my full review of “U Up?” in the Reading Eagle here.

2017 year in review & 2018 goals

2017 will be best known as the year I graduated from DeSales UniversityIMG_3094 2

It was a lot of hard work and finally graduating with a B.A. in communication was bittersweet. I was sad to leave my friends, my professors, who were such big influences in my life, and the college newspaper, The Minstrel. I was also excited to be finally done and a couple of weeks later, I had an interview with the Reading Eagle, which led to my first job in journalism.

To learn more about my year, read: Missing the back-to-school vibe this year, My new job as an obituary writer is the opposite of depressing, Saying goodbye to my role as editor-in-chief. 

I bought my first car, a 2017 Chevy Sonic in July

Before this car, I co-owned a car with my dad that I paid him back for, so it was exciting to be the sole owner of the car and finance it myself.

Five months later, the car was totaled

Read about the impaired driver that caused the accident in the Reading Eagle here.

Chad and I got back together

After being apart for a year, dating other people and learning about ourselves, Chad and I reconnected and started dating again. We needed the time apart and have learned a lot, and now our relationship is stronger than ever.

I experienced a lot of firsts

I went to my first Eagles game and NASCAR race, ran in 5Ks, visited wineries, went hiking in new places and finally got a Netflix account. I visited Washington, D.C., for the first time and completely geeked out at the Newseum. I took a hand-lettering class, which created a fun, relaxing pastime for me. And I also tried new food like Moe’s and Duck Donuts, and ate an overwhelming amount of ice cream. Thanks to all my friends and family for making these experiences memorable and being there for me.

I was disgusted by the news

Despite what was occuring in my life, the news was hard to ignore, especially when I want to be a news reporter. Of course there is too much to cover, but 2017 seemed to be full of more shootings, terrorist attacks and violence than ever before. Although devastating hurricanes and earthquakes rocked the world, the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord and it is clear President Trump has no concern about climate change or the environment. This makes it even more important for everyone to do their part for the Earth. Lastly, all the sexual assault allegations were disturbing, but the #MeToo movement was the silver lining by inspiring women to stand up for themselves and speak out. I hope this leads to actual change in 2018 and doesn’t just get pushed under the rug.

2018 career goals

I actually never made a resolution last year because I was focused on graduating and finding a job, and thankfully I accomplished that. This year I don’t exactly have a resolution either, but I have a lot goals for my career in 2018. I would like to leave Marshalls and find something more fulfilling to supplement my part-time job at the Reading Eagle; however, the longterm goal is to obtain a full-time job as a reporter.

2018 personal goals

When college ended and I had more free time, I started exercising more by running, lifting weights and doing core workouts. I just got an ab wheel for Christmas and plan to continue exercising and staying fit in the New Year. I also want to work on not letting the little things bother me so much and enjoying what I have.

How to combat dry, itchy winter skin

As the first day of winter nears, temperatures in Pennsylvania are dropping, drying out my skin and making it itch. I’m going to share with you the products I use to help relieve these symptoms. All products are under $15 and I usually purchase them at my local Giant or Target. Feel free to comment below and let me know what works for you.

AmLactin Alpha-Hydroxy Therapy

About six years ago now when I was in high school, I saw a dermatologist for red patches of skin. She told me I have extremely dry skin and gave me a prescription for two different cremes, which helped clear up the red stops, and also recommended AmLactin moisturizing body lotion. It is 12 percent lactic acid and is pH-balanced for the skin, encouraging skin cell renewal through exfoliation. I only use this lotion when my skin is feeling especially dry and itchy. While effective, it leaves a heavy lotion feeling and doesn’t have the most pleasant smell for claiming to be “fragrance free.”

Tip: Another suggestion from the dermatologist was to switch to gentle laundry detergent. I use Ultra Downey Free & Gentle, it’s free of perfumes and dyes and dermatologist tested for sensitve skin. $8.99, Target

Vaseline Intensive Care Spray Moisturizer

This is my go-to lotion that I use every morning and night. The spray bottle makes it super easy to apply and it absorbs quickly. Unlike AmLactin, I do not notice I even have the Vaseline lotion on. It leaves a non-greasy, clean feeling. I’ve used the original and the cocoa radiant, both smell great, and it also comes in aloe.

Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer

This dual action moisturizer moisturizes dry skin while also treating and preventing acne. I’m not sure how well it works for acne, but it does a great job of moisturizing my face. I apply this to my face every morning and night or as needed in the winter.

Curél Itch Defense Body Wash

I started using this a couple of summers ago when my legs were extremely itchy. My skin wasn’t dry and I didn’t have bug bites so I had no idea what was causing the irritation. I really don’t know what was going on but this worked so well and I continue to use it as my regular body wash. It’s dermatologist recommended and accepted by the National Eczema Association. Jojoba oil and olive oil act as hydrating agents. It also says it’s fragrance free, but has a pleasant lemon scent.

Gold Bond Intensive Healing Cream

I have tried a lot of itch cremes for quick, fast itch relief and Gold Bond Anti-Itch Skin Protectant Cream has worked the best for me so far. It is full of healing moisturizers for skin and also vitamins A, C and E. It helps soothe dry, itchy patches of skin and I have also used it to soothe mosquito bites.

Fun-run 5Ks reviewed: Color Me Rad, Warrior Dash, Insane Inflatable, The Great Pumpkin Run

Color Me Rad 5K


An old photo of me from 2014 after my first ever 5K.

Throughout this bright and happy 5K, there are numerous color stations where volunteers throw colored powder on you or douse you in liquid color. The end of the run is even more fun though. There is lively music and the MC invites guests on stage to compete in games and other activities. For my first Color Me Rad 5K, a group of people and myself went on stage while the whole crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to us, so that was a cool experience.

The MC and his helpers also throw color packets into the crowd. You are encouraged to open the packet and share the powder with those around you by dumping some into your neighbors’ hands. Then there is a countdown and everyone throws the powder into the air making a huge rainbow cloud. This is where you will get the most color on you and sometimes it’s a little hard to breathe with the powder flying around, but the color is safe and non-toxic. It’s corn starch-based with food-grade dyes.

Tip: Most of the color will wash out of your clothes. To make clean up easier, cover your car seats with old towels or bed sheets.

Score: A  I ran in three of these so far so I don’t have much to critique. They could possibly add more color stations to the run but the after party makes up for this as well.


Warrior Dash 5K

A much harder clean up than Color Me Rad, Warrior Dash will leave you full of dirt (and in my case, mulch.) The Warrior Dash is full of obstacles that will having you crawling in dirt and mud, climbing up and down structures, and also getting wet. I ran the Warrior Dash this past August and my favorite was the Goliath, one of the featured obstacles. You climb up a rope net and reach the top of a 30-foot slide. The slide is super fast and fun and you land in cold, refreshing (dirty) water.

You really don’t get that dirty until the final obstacle, Muddy Mayhem. You can skip any obstacle, but my friends and I wanted to complete them all. In Muddy Mayhem, you army-crawl under barbed wire through a 100-foot long mud pit. In this case though, it wasn’t so much mud as it was water and mulch. I think the mud would have been better than having mulch pieces sticking all over my body when I was finished.


Skye and I jumping over the Warrior Roast obstacle. (Yes, we are rewearing our Pumpkin Run 5K shirts, see below.) Photo courtesy of Warrior Dash.

Tip: There are volunteers stationed at each obstacle but there is nothing to help break your fall between an obstacle and the ground. Most obstacles aren’t that high though and I was able to complete them all. Fingerless gloves helped me keep my grip while climbing especially on structures like Bridge the Gap that was wet with water and mud.

Tip: There are hoses to rinse off and changing areas. Bring trash bags for your dirty clothes and extra towels.

Score: A-  I would definitely run in the Warrior Dash again. It would be nice if they keep changing up the obstacles and have actual mud, not dirty water and mulch.

warriordash.com (Click each obstacle to view tips on how to train for them.)

Insane Inflatable 5K


Don’t be fooled by the high expectations that this cool looking start line will give you.

I was extremely excited for the Insane Inflatable 5K because I love blow-up obstacle courses and racing my friends on them. (For some reason, a lot of events at DeSales University had inflatables). Going into this 5K, I think my expectations were too high. The video on their website also portrays the 5K as more fun than it actually is. Overall, the obstacles are so similar you can’t differentiate between a lot of them. Most of them involve climbing up the obstacle and then ending with a slide. (Like the Warrior Dash, the slides were my favorite parts.) I guess there are only so many variations of inflatable obstacles but I was also picturing them to be longer than they were as well. With that being said, the obstacles do give your legs a work out though.

All-in-all, this 5K seemed to be hastily put together. We were running on rocky terrain one minute and then grass the next. There were large rocks that seemed hazardous and I think should have been removed for safety purposes and easier running. Most runs also have signs when you hit mile marks and this 5K did not. My boyfriend, Chad, and I felt the run wasn’t even spaced out to a 5K, it felt much shorter.

Score: C+  I probably won’t be running this one again. I was disappointed by the obstacles and would only consider running again if they added more of a variety.


The Great Pumpkin Run


Skye and I wearing our matching shirts. (Together we are known as Skellie.) Our team name was Pumpkin Bread Heads after first meeting through working together at Panera.

The Great Pumpkin Run is you guessed it, held in the fall, and is always at a fall-themed farm or orchard. Because of the location the run is filled with pretty scenery. The 5K I participated in was at Savidge Farms in Mertztown, Pa., and we ran through the pumpkin patch and even part of the corn maze. There is also a Tough Pumpkin option where runners can hold a pumpkin up to 10 pounds during their run but that sounded more like hassle to me.

After the run, you are given complimentary apple cider and may enjoy the attractions of the farm. Since we already ran through most of the farm, my friends and I visited with the farm animals and left shortly after. This run is less exciting to me than others because if I’m paying money to run a 5K I want obstacles or color or at least money supporting a good cause; I can run a normal 5K on my own for free. This run is a fun way to celebrate the fall though. My friends and I also had a blast making our pumpkin-themed shirts to wear.

Score: B+  For being a fall-themed run, The Great Pumpkin Run succeeds; however, I’m not dying to run this one again. I think one experience is sufficient. I already have all the gear and see no reason for another pumpkin tech-jacket.


Read my most recent column in the Reading Eagle about how I got started running and my review of audio-guided runs on the Nike+ Club Run App.