2018 Girl Power Summer Reading List

Though I’m constantly reading for my degree, I like to take the summer to catch up on the books that I hear about throughout the year. I’m excited to get started on this year’s list and to absorb all the wisdom, creativity, and inspiration from some well known women authors.

Here’s my list so far:

1. Little Black Book – Otegha Uwagba

2. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

3. Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood

4. Flannery O’Connor’s Short Stories

5. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

6. Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple

7. Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler

8. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

What else should I add?

I’ll update the post with my thoughts on each book as I read them!

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Easy Strawberry and Cream Puff Pastry

I’m not a chef, just a kid who plays in the kitchen with efficient objects. That being said, sometimes I’m hit with inspiration or a craving that pushes me to come up with something from scratch and actually delicious.

Saturday was one of those days. I had a great, big batch of beautiful red strawberries and some puff pastry in the freezer. With the sun barely peaking through the clouds, I decided what I needed was a little taste of spring: then came forth the strawberry and cream pastry!

This dessert is inspired by cream puffs and napoleons (both of which I adore). I had never really worked with puff pastry before, but I was surprised with how easy the baking process was. It’s easier to screw up a cake than puff pastry! It’s super easy and very fun to make, and so satisfying to eat! Here’s the recipe:

Roll the pastry out relatively thin, to the point it was almost the exact size of my sheet pan. I did this twice so I had 2 sheets of rolled pastry to bake.

Use a fork to poke the pastry in several areas before you bake it.

Bake according to instructions (mine was about 10 minutes).

Cool on rack before slicing.

Whipped Cream:

Combine ingredients and whisk until the cream is think and has peaks. It needs to be stiff enough to spread without being runny.

Strawberries:

Slice 8-10 strawberries width wise. Sprinkle with a tsp lemon juice and a tsp of powdered sugar and mix together.

Assembly:

Laying your pastry “hotdog style” Slice 4 columns. Then cut each column in half.

Layer one slice of pastry with whipped cream and strawberries. Lightly layer cream on the bottom of a second slice and place it on top. Repeat for a second layer and top with a final slice of pastry.

Top with powdered sugar or a drizzle of chocolate.

Tip: use as much whipped cream as you want!

Tip: if your pastry ends up really thick, feel free to cut in half for the middle and top layer to get a better balance of texture and flavor.

Curated Instagram Feeds & Why I’m Not Completely Sold On Them

A few weeks ago I was asked what I preferred to see on an Instagram feed by a blogger. I immediately reacted with the following statement:

“I don’t look for a curated feed.”

As I was standing in a circle of bloggers and grammers, I immediately wanted to suck the words right back up into my mouth and swallow them into the depths of my coffee filled stomach. I recounted…. “I mean, I don’t like a curated feed without content.” I do stand by that second statement, though I did find myself embarrassingly wishing I could have the rest of the afternoon to fully explain in order to not offend anyone around me.

What I have been thinking about since that initial conversation is how I relate to the people that I follow on social media and how to get the most out of that strange relationship. While I do follow and engage with my friends on Instagram, I do like to follow bloggers and youtubers, photographers, and b-list celebs from the Bachelor franchise (no shame). Many of these people I only know through their media presence and will more than likely never meet in real life. So why do I click the follow button? What makes me want to invest a tiny moment of my day looking at their perspective?

It turns out that I do in fact like to see a rows and columns of pictures that are thematic and organized — curated — and it’s even something I try to do myself. However, what I really find engaging are the captions or the ways in which these accounts engage with their followers beyond ad campaigns. I’ve become aware that by being attuned to content creation that I am also giving myself more respect as a consumer of images, as well as respect towards true content creation/creators in a world of media and influencer over-saturation.

My attempt at a theme

I’ve started to unfollow many feeds that are gorgeous, well designed, and super thematic that are void of relatable content. Though these images prove the hard work of the individual in realizing their vision, if it does not come with depth of content then I’m less likely to be engaged and feel connected. Seeing a fantastic view of the Coachella stage with the caption of a single word, “lit,” is just not for me anymore. While the visual is nice, I feel as if the connection is between follower and followed is lost, if not at a state of toxicity. 

I’ve realized that there are several bloggers and influencers who see their social media presence as much more than the “swipe up to buy” approach. Their feeds are breath taking and also accompanied by the humanistic core that I crave to see. Many of my favourite accounts on Instagram talk about what brings them joy; they share their passions and their struggles; and they share their banal and fantastic adventures by finding beauty in them both; they are able to continually spread their values through their media presence and also through explaining their ad partnerships/sponsorships thoroughly. In essence, I like to feel as if somehow they are aware that I care what they have to say and that I’m more than amorphous wallet on the other side of the screen. In some ways, I follow along because I like being included in the story they have to tell as a person.

So yes, in my opinion curated visuals must be weighed with content of depth for a more empathetic and respectful relationship on social media. There’s nothing wrong in putting effort into designing the way you want your account to look — its a skill! But, I’m hoping that more and more people will begin to see the real value of social media is really in the desire to connect to others.

Dress for the Job You Want?

This past year I learned a major lesson as a woman in the work force…

The aphorism, “dress for the job you want and not for the job you have,” is not only true, but it is remarkably difficult to calculate into a feminist mindset. At what point can an outfit damage or enhance job opportunity based on external assessment by your peers and superiors? Entering into the world of professional dress, I found that there is this profound and unspoken pressure to conform to the formula that being good at your job also means that you dress only in the standard professional dress code.

Where does my personality go when I must stifle it under shoulder pads? Must I wear heels to be considered a titan of my field? How can I negotiate this in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m only dressing to impress other people?

I love fashion as expression of personality and I think that people (women and men), can utilize fashion in ways to promote self confidence, self-discovery, and experimentation. I think the professional wardrobe confuses this function of fashion, but it doesn’t have to end it. Now that I’m seriously building my young professional wear section of my closet, I am realizing that I will only feel comfortable doing my job if I look and feel like myself.

Therefore, my clothing needs to be intentional, right?

I made a short list of the qualities I want my wardrobe to reflect about me (the qualities I find important):

Elegant

Clean

Comfort

Simple

If I am ever stuck on whether or not an item is what I want to wear or what I think people want me to wear, I ask if the item reflects these qualities. Does it make me feel like me?

I also made a vision board on Pinterest to find what styles I was most likely to gravitate toward. I noticed that my board slowly became a collection of cinched pants, a-line skirts, sheath dresses, and kitten heels. I noticed I was attracted to pops of color and structured blazers for outfits with skinny jeans. Overall, it took about 15 minutes to make my board and to realize my vision and begin searching for particular clothing prices to buy under a narrower approach.

Overall, does it really matter how you dress at work?

After a two years with the same job, I can say that it makes a difference. I am a teacher, and the first year teaching I was very casual. The next, I decided to dress slightly more put together than my students, and I got an instant response of respect. So… I would say that for me it does matter. I guess what I am trying to say is that you can make your style matter for yourself just as much as it matters to other people. Fashion should still be about you! So why not curate your professional wardrobe to show the boss you really are!? Being intentional about clothing does not make it a matter of ego or passively submitting to conformed notions of what a woman is and how she should dress. It is about taking the power of fashion as a symbol of yourself and making that power your own

The Poor Grad Student’s International Conference Experience

I recently attended NeMLA 2018 in Pittsburgh, PA. As a graduate student, I did a bit of research ahead of time to find out other graduate student experiences at international conferences (what to do, wear, expect, etc.) and found very little information that was relatable. So I’m here to share my experience for other young scholars out there.

I have three main take-aways from this conference experience:

1. Academic Opportunity and funding; 2. Planning; 3. In-Conference Obstacles

1. Opportunity and Funding: 

I am a third year Ph.D. student in Humanities. Most of us under the liberal arts umbrella are encouraged to present our work (or related subjects) at conferences every year. This sounds both wonderful and horrifying to me. I’m not at all shy speaking in front of crowds, but I am a penny pincher and hate to spend money that I don’t have to. There is always a tension between wanting to further my CV for future jobs by attending conferences and saving money to pay off my student loans (yeesh). Sometimes programs will give money for conference travel. My university allows for applications, but no guarantee of funds to cover the full cost. It is precarious.

In any case, I attend one international conference a year. I choose NeMLA because it is a friendly conference that usually has multiple opportunities for graduate students. This is they key for me: more opportunity to be involved means that the money I spend to attend the conference can go farther. Instead of getting one presentation per year, I could possibly have two presentations and be a chair for two other sessions. I’m know that I’m in the humanities, but that math looks good to me! Four different things to add to my CV rather than one. Taking advantage of multiple opportunities at one conference helps to alleviate the issue of funding (at least for me). For this conference, I was accepted into 3 different areas ( 2 chair positions and 1 roundtable). Triple Check!

Second, this particular conference had funding for graduate students. It was a competitive process that was not based on a statement of need. I made the mistake of explaining why I needed money (hello Canadian exchange rate), rather than explaining my academic development through the conference (hence, I did not receive any funding). Sometimes it can be confusing on whether or not to talk money when you are asking for it. If there is a bursary for you to apply, you can email the committee beforehand to clarify what sort of reasoning they are looking for in the application process.

The final note on academic opportunity: Network like crazy. Though conferences can lead to extended days, participating in panels and events other than your own is a good chance to meet other scholars in your field from various locations. This year I did a job clinic that provided a mock interview, which went very well. It was an insightful learning process and the professor who interviewed me gave his card to me at the end of it for future contact. I also attended a Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus breakfast and met so many inspiring women scholars. I’m not going to lie, I usually expect for scholars to be cold and haughty…. but that IS NOT THE CASE 99 percent of the time.

Also, Business cards are essential. 

2. Planning

I had two big questions going into the conference:

Where am I going to stay?

What should I wear?

I ended up rooming with two other friends from my program, which did help with the cost of the room. I have stayed in air bnbs to help with the cost too. This conference also had a forum for graduate students to connect and plan on rooming together. Staying at the hotel that the conference was held at was a huge convenience. You are floors away from the sessions, and I found that I did not need to carry my backpack around all day since I could go back to my room to exchange items if I needed to.

The fashion is always interesting to see at conferences. From business casual to full suits, there is not really a firm rule on what to wear. I like to dress up a little, but still have comfort for walking and sitting. Here is one of my outfits from this year:

The next day I wore blue jeans and a structured top. The day after that I wore a skirt, white tee, and denim jacket. I never felt under dressed, and I imagine that if I had worn the blazer that I packed that I would not have felt over dressed either. The rooms were very cold, so I am glad that I brought cardigans.

One final note on clothing: I rarely saw anyone in heels. Everyone wore flats, sneakers, or mules. I think that heels would work out great if you were dedicated to them, but I did notice a general lack of women choosing them as an option. It was like a consensus for comfort, which may alleviate your anxiety on whether or not to pack them for your next conference.

I also found that I became the ibuprofen distributor to my friends, and even strangers. Make sure to pack that head-ache medicine! Another item that I needed more than I thought was a reusable water bottle.

 3. In-Conference Obstacles

I bet you can guess the biggest obstacle at a conference…. technology. Wi-fi can be spotty, flash drives can become corrupted, and cables can be incompatible with your device. Ask about technology beforehand if you do need it, and always show up early if you plan on using it in your presentation. This year, I brought a flash drive, my computer, and also emailed my powerpoint to my chair beforehand. I also went by the registration table to see if they could bring a Mac adapter to the room. Going through the motions of having back-ups for back-ups was the best thing I could have done. Once I met my co-presenters, I realized that I was the only one who needed to use technology. I felt more competent having taken care of the situation myself beforehand, rather than assuming there would be someone to take care of it for me.

Another “obstacle” is low attendance. Don’t let this throw you off your game! If you have only one person in the audience, that person came to hear what  you have to say. So give ’em your best shot! If you can walk out of that room feeling like a rockstar, do it. Your best presentation is dependent upon your strategy of relating information, not how many people are listening. Also, it would be nice if anyone from your university came to see your talk; however, it may not always work out. Don’t take it personally.

The final obstacle that I noticed this time around was a lack of affordable food in the immediate area of the hotel. This is something that I could have planned for by packing a few granola bars for breakfast and snacks. Getting lunch was a hassle each day if I wanted to make it to the sessions I had planned on seeing. I ended up going a little over budget on food because I chose to stick near by rather than going out of my way to save money on food.

So that’s it. I had a great experience, met some new friends, and I’m already planning on returning for next year’s conference. Do you have tips or tricks for conferences? Ways to save money? How to make the most of it? Leave a comment!

Forrest

New Fitness and Pushing the Comfort Zone

I do not remember learning what “comfort zone” means. It has been a part of my generation’s upbringing, and a phrase that was naturally ingratiated into our vocabulary at young ages. Rather than being a one-trick toddlers and teen, I have always been pushed to get out of that zone of complacency and comfort.

As an adult, I had to realize what my comfort zone actually was. Though I was taught to always push myself and try new things, I was also keen to accept praise whenever the endeavour was successful and even more eager to avoid complete failure. I am 25 years old, and I realized that I generally reject what I am not good at. My comfort zone is built on feeling accomplished, and failure is perhaps the most scary thing to me.

This mind set has been detrimental to my fitness. I realize that now. I have avoided gym memberships and classes, marathon training, going solo to a yoga studio, etc. because I do not want to be a failure in front of others. I don’t want to display my physical weakness, the fact I can’t touch my toes, or the way I sweat like a giant man. The thought of it is NOT COMFORTABLE.

Enter Rock Climbing.

I have always been a “finesse” fitness person. I have done yoga, tennis, ballet, and generally avoided the high impact sports (especially with teams). I have considered myself weak and incapable of things like rock climbing… even though I have always wanted to try it. My chance came this February, when my husband was invited to go by his school’s departmental secretary (who is the nicest person you will ever meet). I wanted to go and see what it was like, but I was so nervous to be an amateur in a room of experienced climbers. My hands were sweaty from the moment we left our apartment to the moment I stood in front of the wall ready to climb. I was shaking and scared that I had made a mistake. Negative thoughts ran through my head faster than I could process them. Then I started to climb.

I was not very good. I had a hard time positioning my legs on the wall and using my fingers to grip the rocks. I forgot I had muscles anywhere else but my arms, and I awkwardly made it to the top of the wall in about 5 minutes. When I got to the top though, I did not feel like a failure in comparison to others. I felt a high of accomplishment. THIS is what getting out of your comfort zone feels like. It was not a perfect climb, nor was it my ideal way exercise, but getting to the top of that wall was a feeling of triumph. For that moment, I did not care what others thought.

We have continued to go to the same facility to climb nearly every week. I started at the lowest level of climb, and I have managed to go up one level since then. I’m still the worst climber out there, but I can’t get enough of that feeling of pushing myself further. It has also inspired me to try other things that I usually avoid because of the fear that I will not be comfortable (like going solo to a yoga class).

What has pushed you out of your comfort zone as an adult? What piece of your fitness routine drives you the most? What have you learned about yourself through trying new things? These are all questions that I hope to answer POSITIVELY by the end of 2018.

Friday Favourites – Amazon

Anyone else a serial Amazon window shopper? I find the cutest things and add them to a list of things that I think I will eventually buy. Here are the things I fell in love with this week, all of which I would spend my paycheck on (if I had one…. I’m currently on strike and not getting paid). I’ll keep you updated on what I buy and try out!

 

  1. More Coffee Tumbler
  2. Herbivore Bathsalts
  3. Herschel Pack
  4. Daniel Wellington Watch
  5. Yoga Socks
  6. Plant Lamp
  7. I Did My Best Yoga Mat