7 lessons from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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This post contains affiliate links. I received an advance galley of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors – that’s no secret since I’ve raved about her over and over since discovering her about a year ago. Her next book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, comes out this June on Atria Books. I’ll be honest: I was not excited about this book. After all these years I know that I shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but one of my favorite things about TJR’s books is the cover art. The minimalism and the symbolism are gorgeous (and they look beautiful on the bookshelf) so when EW debuted the cover, I was really disappointed. I was lucky enough to get a galley, and soon enough I was so sucked in that I had forgotten all about my cover woes. Instead of writing a traditional book review, I thought I’d instead share some of the different lessons the book’s characters taught me.

Potential spoilers are ahead, so if you want to read the book knowing nothing, bookmark this post and come back later!

  1. Poor Ernie Diaz: Career goals can tear relationships apart. There’s nothing wrong with Evelyn’s first husband – an unassuming electrician who helps her move across the country. But sometimes working for your own career goals can take a toll on your relationship (for more than one reason.)
  2. Goddamn Don Adler: What goes around comes around. Don Adler is not a good dude. At all. So even though their relationship looks absolutely perfect from the outside, it’s impossible for anyone to see what’s really happening. Rather than risking her status and outing him for who he is, she instead suffers a career loss, getting blackballed in Hollywood after leaving him. (He seems to get his in the end.)
  3. Gullible Mick RivaSometimes other people get caught in the crossfire when keeping yourself safe. One of the most relatable parts of the books to me was the reality of how the characters behave. Though it’s set on a Hollywood stage, Evelyn doesn’t really seem to make any different choices than many of the people around me (or even myself) would make. Mick Riva plays an integral part in protecting Evelyn and the love of her life and even though he doesn’t seem too hurt or guilty in the end, it’s a good study of how we sometimes have to use each other to stay safe. I especially liked this chapter because it has some second person language, which I always really enjoy.
  4. Clever Rex North: There’s power in pairs. Possibly one of the only other characters in the book with the same drive to succeed as Evelyn, Rex North is her co-star in a smash movie – such a successful movie that the studio orders several other movies starring the couple. To make themselves even more marketable, they marry with an understanding and just like their relationship, the breakup is staged just as well.
  5. Brilliant, Kind-Hearted, Tortured Harry Cameron: The best partnerships might not be what we expect. Potential spoiler alert, sorry! Harry is present throughout the novel as one of the first people Evelyn meets when she moves to Hollywood. From the first description, they don’t seem like they’d be a great match, but he is a great example that soulmates look different than we paint them in our heads.
  6. Disappointing Max Girard: Sometimes when you get what you want, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. Max was Evelyn’s director early in her career, casting her in a role that helped make her an international movie star. Throughout her entire life, they continued to be in contact here and there, and he had idealized her and put her on such a pedestal that he thought he was marrying the perfect Evelyn Hugo, not Evelyn, the person. He helps us learn that you can’t idealize everything – you’ll only be disappointed.
  7. Agreeable Robert Jamison: What’s meant to be will always find a way. Probably Evelyn’s most successful marriage (aside from that with Harry,) she and Robert are together until his death. They go through one of the worst tragedies possible together, and Taylor Jenkins Reid again introduces words for feelings I’ve had, but could never label: the devastating luxury of panic.

I loved the format of the book – some parts are Evelyn telling her story to Monique, some parts are her actual memoir – and I really liked the character of Evelyn (even though she says time and time again that she is not likable, and she knows it.) Vintage Hollywood isn’t usually interesting to me, but I really enjoyed this book a lot, and it never felt “old timey” since they stuck to her life story rather than her actual career. The most empowering point of the book for me was seeing a woman in charge, getting what she wanted, and protecting herself and the people she loves.

Usually, I’m very good at predicting twists but in this book, I didn’t see the major plot turn coming at all, which was fun. I read this book in one day, just walking around my house, staring intently at my Kindle app, stubbing my toes on doorframes and running into chairs. It’s not a traditional “beach read,” but it’s certainly one you must put on your list for this summer.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo comes out on Atria Books on June 13!

May 15, 2017
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19 gift ideas for high school and college graduates

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This post contains affiliate links.

gift guide for graduates

It’s that time of year again – every May, high school seniors and college graduates prepare to head off on their next great adventure, and the people who love them try to navigate the best gift ideas for them. I’m a little further away from my graduations than I’d like to admit, but I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of what “the youth” need 😉 here are some ideas for both high school and college grads!

Both

Packing up was always my least favorite part of college, whether it was packing to go to or leave from the dorm. Lighten your grad’s load with a virtual gift – Amazon Prime Student offers their Prime features plus special offers for students (and you can sign up for a free 30-day trial, just like regular Prime services) or gift an Audible subscription – whether they’re walking to class or driving to a new job, audiobooks are a great way to find time to read more.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had their phone die at the most inconvenient time. Whether the battery is draining while sitting in the library late at night or while exploring her new city, a Mophie phone case or external battery can be an absolute lifesaver.

Grammarly premium is a great gift idea for anyone (and it’s no secret that I love it). The free version corrects your spelling and grammar, but the premium version makes suggestions on formatting, word choice, and even more – it will make his writing much stronger, whether it’s in Freshman English or the boardroom!

A first aid kit is probably not on your grad’s list – which makes it an even better gift idea. I love this one from Amazon – it’s packed full of stuff and the fabric storage bag means it’s going to be durable no matter where it’s stored. It’s also great to toss in a car trunk or weekend bag.

You can never have too many throw pillows – the more whimsical, the better. I’m a huge fan of this one from Look Human (much to my roommate’s chagrin.) Get something playful for their dorm or new living room, or opt for something a little more discreet.

No matter if they’re leaving their parents house or the dorms, they’re sure to have walls that need decorating. Head over to Etsy and find some artwork inspired by their college to keep their days on campus close to their heart, or show their burgeoning pride!

I never thought that I would lust for a backpack as an adult, but here I am. Quality backpacks are pricey, but totally worth the investment. High school grads might like something whimsical by Vera Bradley, or consider a Tortuga backpack for college grads (perfect for travel or the daily city commute.)

High School

Subscription boxes are super fun, and there’s one that’s curated just for college students. Campuscube lets you send themed care packages – maybe he’s stressed about exams coming up, or her first birthday away from home is coming. Or maybe you just want to send an unthemed box her way – there are options for both boys and girls. (I’m especially into the Sunshine box for her – that Flamingo cup holder though!)

If your grad is anything like me, I just guzzled down coffee in college (so really, nothing different than a normal day now.) I love these “long distance” mugs, and they can be customized so no matter how far from home she is, she’ll always have a reminder.

Sunscreen is super important. Your grad might be spending more time outside than ever, especially living on campus and walking to classes and anywhere else. Gift her some SPF – it’s something most people out on their own for the first time might not think to put on their list. My favorite is Sun Bum (and not just because of the fun name and great packaging!)

Another thing that newly independent grads might overlook is toothbrush and toothpaste – help them out with a subscription service like BOKA, which will send a dental care package every few months!

Dorm rooms can feel so stale and institutional. Using cute lighting can help tint the walls to make them feel less dull, and introduce some warmth to the room. I’ve had a sea salt lamp for a few years and love the added health benefits they tout, but no first year dorm room is complete without twinkle lights.

Bullet journaling can be a great way to organize your life, but it can also be pricey to get started. Set her up with a notebook and some pens – or if she’s not the crafty type herself, the Passion Planner will help map out her classes and stay on track with homework and social activities.

College

It’s really easy to get down on yourself after graduation during the seemingly never-ending job hunt. You Are Doing a Freaking Great Job from Workman Publishing is something she can turn to on those days when she’s not feeling so optimistic.

Get a four-piece coffee pourover set: it includes everything your grad needs to make a great cup of coffee, like a coffee maker, grinder, kettle and matching travel mug!

Whether she’s working in an office setting, living the remote life, or even navigating the part-time world, a crossbody bag like this from Free People will carry all her essentials, whether it’s her laptop, change of clothes, or padfolios.

I love candles – they’re so calming, and they give off a great ambiance. No matter what kind of scent your grad likes, it’s easy to find something that fits (even if it’s a candle that gets tucked away in a dude’s bathroom. In that case, PLEASE HEED THIS GIFT SUGGESTION!)

In theory, graduating from college should also mean moving on from red solo cups, so upgrade their cocktail game with some fancy rocks glasses. Sisters of Los Angeles has the cutest stuff, and you can mix and match cities to pay homage to a hometown, college town, and brand new city!

Graduation should mean a skincare upgrade as well, and Glossier is a line I’d love to try splurging on. Their packaging is even so cute you won’t want to hide it away in a medicine cabinet, and the reviews are consistently great.

May 12, 2017
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where to find beautiful stock photos for your blog

Posted in Blogging by
This post contains affiliate links.

stock photos for bloggers

Blogging is primarily a written medium, but it’s important to make your posts interactive and pretty – that’s what attracts readers! Paid stock photography websites have been around forever, but not only are they expensive, a lot of the images they have feel very rigid. Smaller, more boutique styled photography sites have been popping up more and more lately, and many of them even offer free photos or assets.

An important note is to always track your permissions when downloading and using stock photography so you a) don’t get sued or b) have proof that you obtained the image from a stock photo site legally and didn’t steal it from somewhere. I do this by taking a screenshot of the photo as well as the uploader (usually the photographer) on the screen, and saving those in a folder on my computer. I also save photos with the photographer’s name as the file name – that way, if I ever need it, I’ll easily be able to find it.

stock photography permissions stock photography permissions

Here’s one case of a blogger being sued for using an image improperly and here’s a story of a blogger obtaining the image and using it properly, but an unsavory photographer claiming otherwise. (If it seems like a lot, that’s why photography subscription sites are becoming so popular – or, even better, shoot your own photos!) Whatever you do, don’t just go to Google Images and save the first photo without a watermark that you like!

Be familiar with the terms of service for the photo site you’re using as well. Maybe the image you fell in love with is free to use as long as you don’t edit it in any way (like adding text for a featured or Pinterest image.) It should be fairly easy to find this kind of information on the website you’re using in the Terms of Service or Privacy Policy on the page.

Here are a few of my favorite resources for high-quality free stock photos for bloggers!

Death to the Stock Photo: I’ve subscribed to Death to the Stock Photo for almost four years, so I have a huge library of images just from them! Every month they email photo packs around a specific theme, but most of them are outdoorsy/travel-inspired. They have a paid subscription service as well that allows you access to a larger library, as well as the past photo packs only current subscribers could access. DTTSP also has a “plain English” license that might help you get comfortable interpreting all that fancy legalese!

stock photos

Creative Market: Though it’s not explicitly for stock photos, this design resource website does have a photos section with lots of different topics for your blog. Many of the images are paid, but if you sign up for their mailing list, every week you’ll get 6-9 free assets – sometimes it’s fonts or Photoshop brushes, and sometimes it’s a set of photos. It’s worth signing up – it’s one of my favorite ways to get free design resources for my blogs!

Independent Blogger Photography Services: One of the best ways to find unique styled photography is from bloggers who provide stock photo subscription services on their websites. These might seem harder to find, but since they’re smaller, not as many people will be using the same images. They’re often built on a subscription model, but offer free photos – sometimes even multiple packs per month! Here are a few of my favorite sites – sign up for their mailing lists to get access to their free stock libraries!

Unsplash: Another website with a huge library of photos, Unsplash has become really popular in the past few years, and even powers stock photo libraries for other websites. Thoughtfully composed and really pretty, their collections are for a wide variety of different subjects and topics. You can sign up for your own account and create collections to organize photos you like, or browse collections created by other users (like me!). Since Unsplash is very popular and one of the biggest stock photography resources, you may see the same photos over and over – so if you want to be really unique, I might stay away from this website.

The Hungry JPEG: Similar to Creative Market, the Hungry JPEG is another marketplace for design assets. They offer one free freebie every week, and sometimes they’ll have stock photo sets! They have a $1 deal section too for really affordable ways to expand your own photo (and design) library.

Canva: Though Canva is primarily a design editing software, they do also have stock photography available in their interface. This is even more helpful as they keep a record of stock permissions for you, so if you’re a total novice at design, check out Canva and try out their templates!

Be sure to sign up for the mailing list for stock photo websites and more blog resources!

May 10, 2017
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non-traditional ways to cope with anxiety

Posted in Mental Health by

It’s no secret that I live with anxiety and depression – I’ve blogged about it extensively. Though I’m on a better regimen of drugs that help me cope better with things I’m learning in therapy, I still struggle with anxiety every day. There are plenty of resources with tips on how to better manage panic or racing thoughts, and they all work for everyone differently. In my 15+ years of living with this, I’ve worked up some less common methods of coping on my own.

If you have a moment before diving in, please take a minute to fill out my reader survey!

The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross: When I was a little kid, I was raised by PBS. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Today’s Special, Zoobilee – and to be honest, I do go back and put some of those on from time to time. (When you’re sick and just want your mom to take care of you, there’s nothing like the comfort of Ben Vereen’s voice.) A few weeks ago I was struggling to fall asleep, a relatively new symptom of anxiety for me. I was trying everything I could think of – counting down backwards from 100 (my go-to sleep trick for years), listening to Sleep With Me, and even trying this YouTube video I’d seen people talking about. Nothing was working to quiet down my brain. Then the YouTube video ended and a suggested video was The Joy of Painting. I popped one on and as he painted quiet streams and happy little trees, his assuring voice eventually overrode my inner monologue, letting me fall asleep.

ASMR: That YouTuber I’d been seeing a lot of was GentleWhispering, a girl who does relaxing videos in – you guessed it – a whisper. Some of the videos are roleplaying exercises, as though she’s washing your hair, and some are more in the “calming empowerment” realm. ASMR is autonomous sensory meridian response – you can read more about it on Wikipedia, but it’s basically a tingly sensation that many people get throughout their bodies that seems to be very relaxing and soothing.

Don’t Assume or Personalize: This one seems pretty obvious to most people, but for me, it isn’t. I’ve always taken everything very personally (how can you not?) so even the slightest twinge of emotion from someone else is very taxing for me (the joys of being a highly sensitive person.) I recently discovered Tanya Hennessey thanks to her hilarious true makeup tutorial, and started digging in to her older videos. “Ways to know you’re an overthinker” hit very close to home and at the end, she shares this advice: “don’t expect, and don’t assume things.” Assumptions have always been a big source that fuels my anxiety fire, so hearing that (as simple as it is) is helping me begin to reframe things in a different way. I’m also reading the book The Four Agreements after seeing one of the Tone It Up girls recommend it, and I’m really liking it a lot as well. The second agreement is “don’t take anything personally” – if someone feels a particular way, it’s because of them, not because of you. This has helped change how I internalize other people’s emotions a lot.

Calligraphy: Writing things down in a planner can be a huge help for anxiety sufferers, as can things like journaling and coloring. I’m also starting to get into calligraphy as another outlet. Things like printable worksheets to trace for practice can be really relaxing – since you can simply trace over the letters, it’s a good way to relax without having to exert a lot of focus or brainpower.

Moodica: A new-to-me app, Moodica plays videos based on your “mood,” and they even have apps for Apple TV and Amazon Firestick. I really like this endless galaxy to sort of zone out and feel like I’m floating (in a good way.)

Compression Sleeves: One of the anti-depressants I tried at the beginning of the year gave me terrible restless leg syndrome. Getting off the med helped a bit, but I’m still feeling many of the symptoms. Sleeping in my Zensah leg compression sleeves has helped out a lot, and there’s research that supports compression as anxiety relief.

Weighted Blankets: Similar to compression sleeves, the feeling of having weight draped over some part of your body can help you feel safe and maybe relieve some of your stress.

Penguin Watch: If you’re a person who finds calm in doing work (like me), this might be the thing for you. Penguin Watch is a project of scientists that you can help out with by looking at pictures, and clicking if there’s a penguin in the photo. That’s it. Super simple, and you’re helping out with important research. Plus, you’ll occasionally get to see photos of other animals, like elephants!

Go to the Water: I grew up in Michigan, so I feel most at ease when near a large body of water. When I moved to landlocked cities, I really struggled. Finding a pool to swim laps in or a lake to go hiking at helped to clear my head.

Audiobooks: Sometimes I know that getting engrossed in a story will help me stop my racing thoughts, but I can’t suppress them long enough to get through even one page of a book. I love audiobooks in these times – I put in my earbuds so no other sound can sneak in and fire up an app like Hoopla or Overdrive to check out a book from the library. (Audible also has two free books right now) This way it’s a little easier to get involved in someone else’s story and get out of my own.

Noise: This one doesn’t always work for me because sometimes extra sound can just exacerbate my panic, but I’ve found having constant background noise to (usually) be really helpful. Whether it’s having some TV on in the background while I work through the day or as I fall asleep, or listening to podcasts in the car or at the gym, having something else to shift my focus to if I want can help to stave off the thoughts. Sometimes when those kinds of sound seems too much, Rainymood is my best friend. They have mobile apps as well as a desktop website with the quiet, soothing sounds of a thunderstorm. I’ve been using Rain Rain as well – I like that they have different sounds. Their ocean bonfire is my favorite thing to fall asleep to.

Do you use any non-traditional methods to cope with your anxiety? What have you found works best for you?

May 8, 2017
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7 companies hiring work from home employees right now

Posted in Career by

7 companies hiring work from home employees

Happy Cinco de Mayo! There are a wide variety of job types that can be done remotely, and lots of companies are hiring work from home employees! It’s not just for web developers and designers anymore – there are positions in every industry, including marketing and content writing, customer service and tech support, and even human resources. Here are seven positions you can apply to now – some of them even without any experience on your resume yet!

Customer Support Specialist at Formstack: Customer service can be one of the easiest ways to move into a remote position, if you’re not technically inclined. This position with Formstack will let you work with customers and start building your technical skills, like troubleshooting and hosting webinars!

Customer Experience at HotelTonight: HotelTonight is a great resource for budget travelers, and I’ve personally used it a few times in my life. They hire remote customer service agents from specific states – currently Tennessee, Texas, Florid and Oregon – with different multilingual skills. (And if you need to grab a hotel, use my discount code DESIR2 for $20 off!)

Search Wrangler at Automattic: Automattic are the people who power WordPress and some of the most popular plugins: Jetpack and Woocommerce, for example. The Search Wrangler will use systems to connect related content so readers are finding the most relevant posts for whatever they’re reading. Automattic has week-long meetups each year, so their worldwide workforce can connect and build relationships to brainstorm new projects. See all available positions here!

Sales Representatives at HSN: Oh, how my family would love for someone to work in this position. HSN’s phone representatives work from home, so in addition to a computer and high-speed internet, you’ll need a landline as well. They’ve also recently moved their customer service department from Florida to Ohio, so you’ll need to live in a few specific counties in mid-Ohio – it’s an area I know well, though, and really love!

Growth Product Manager at Zapier: If you’re into setting and achieving business goals and helping people automate tasks, this role could be for you. Zapier is a service that lets people automate tasks between many different Saas programs (with more being added every day.) For this role, they’re looking for a tech-minded team player so if that’s you, apply today! Zapier seems like a really great company, and they have other positions open as well.

Production Services Systems Engineer at Basecamp: Basecamp is one of my favorite tools for remote work, so of course their team is distributed. They’re hiring two new team members for their Operations department for developers with lots of experience working with cloud-based applications.

Contract Technical Recruiter at GitHub: GitHub is built for coding, but it’s not just made up of developers. Right now, there are several HR positions open, like this remote Sourcer position. They’ll attract and recruit new staffers for the entire organization. It’s not just their HR team that’s hiring – their support, marketing, and engineering departments are looking as well!

I’m going to make this a monthly series here on the blog, and I send out even more jobs to my mailing list subscribers (not to mention the fun freebies I’m working on.) Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!

May 5, 2017
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