Friday, May 30, 2014

In the Name of the Moon!: Strong Female Characters and Magical Girl Role Models

Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon is no book (although technically, I guess we could consider the manga a book, so I'm off the hook here), but is a story nonetheless. When I sat down to write this post, I did not intend to touch on the hot-button topic of "strong female characters" (which, the word itself is problematic, but that's not what I want to dwell on today), but rather geek out over my favorite anime returning to television this summer. Sailor Moon was a huge part of my childhood, and its very real characters left quite an impact on me, whether I realized it at the time or not.

Who could blame little me, coming home from school everyday to tune into my favorite show about baddie-battling magical girl super-heroines, who still liked to frequent the arcade and had a snazzy hidden headquarters? A girl who isn't afraid to show that she's scared of a giant, otherworldly monster that's 8 feet tall and has a tail (because let's face it, you would be too!). A magical girl who still has to explain the 'F' on her latest test to her mother. A girl who eats donuts, gets mad when she loses video games, and giggles at the prospect of using her magic pen to transform herself into an undercover princess. And that's not even touching on the other characters in the show, who are just as round and developed.

There's a lot of debate about the term "strong female" character. Personally, I've never bought into the term so literally, but rather just looked for interesting, relatable characters in books, film, and narratives. Stereotypes and archetypes of both genders exist, and narratives often rely on archetypes for a reason. But that doesn't mean that new archetypes can't be created, or that archetypes can't be broken. In life, some women are physically strong. Some are not. Some are graceful, some klutzy. Some immature, some serious. One archetype cannot cover all of the human beings out there.

And the great thing about women, about people? They don't have to be one thing or another, they can be some of both, they can fall on a spectrum in between the black and the white.

No character in a story will ever be exactly like me, but that doesn't mean I can't relate to the characters I read about (male or female). And largely, there's at least one trait of most characters that I can latch on to as a reader or a viewer. But Sailor Moon stands out in my mind because of its diverse cast (and I'm talking about diverse in character traits; diversity is a whole other topic of conversation) and realistic spectrum of personalities. Sure, Usagi is a klutz who happens to be our beloved protagonist, but she's far from perfect, and gets under the skin of others quite frequently. Ami is studious to the point of severing relationships because she is too focused on her academics. Who says Makoto can't kick your butt in karate and then go home and bake a cake?

And don't even get me started on female friendships. There may be love interests for some of the characters throughout the series, but it's the girls' friendship that comes first.

So for the last two weeks I've been reminiscing over my childhood spent perfecting my magical girl transformation sequence, and thrusting my hand skyward while shouting "Jupiter Star Power!" after painting my nails. And while yes, I've been searching for a talking black cat for longer than I've been waiting for my lost Hogwarts acceptance letter, what's stuck with me is ensemble of realistic heroines (who are "strong" in their own regard) that have served as my role models. Not to mention some pretty inspiring 90s fashion choices (this or this, anyone?).

The moral of the story is this: Sailor Moon is streaming on Hulu (for free! With two new episodes every Monday!) and it's worth the watch!

Who was your favorite Sailor Scout and why? Tweet me or tell me in the comments below!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

Where did spring go? After a week of nice weather, it's suddenly shot up into the 80s and I'm starting to get sick of feeling sweaty and gross already. Is a few weeks of temperate weather too much to ask? In truth, I'd prefer it be winter over summer, but I am looking forward to all of the adventures that summer will bring.

♥ Why choose between enjoying a walk in the park and eating ice cream? The summer adventures began when Stevie B and I realized we don't have to choose! Thus the Ice Cream walk was born. And I have a feeling this summer's going to be great!

♥ Spring cleaning is at the top of my list these days. I'm in the midst of a closet clean-out (it's slow-going; for some reason, I can't go through many items in a day without getting burnout and making poor clothing decisions), going through file folders, my computer, my phone, blog posts, you name it.   I just feel like I need to spring clean my life (which, I'm feeling like is a manageable task, thanks to Kam's Spark e-course).

♥ It feels good to be excited for video games again. It's been quite some time since I remember getting excited and misty-eyed over a game's release, but with reviews of Transistor around the internet in the past week, I can't hep but want to rush out and buy a PS4. Part of me is still living in a Bioshock Infinite hangover, and I'm just not sure if any other game can top that. At least for now.

little loves
 cupcakes ♥ So You Think You Can Dance? is back on for the summer! Prepare yourself for my general bewilderment, tears, and posting of videos galore! ♥ playing through Batman: Arkham Asylum ♥ thunderstorms ♥ whipping up meals with various things in the fridge (hooray fresh veggies and this tortellini primavera!) ♥ finding a hidden oasis in the park ♥ Ben & Jerry's Salted Caramel Core ice cream ♥ reportedly free summer fitness passes (to work of aforementioned ice cream) ♥ yoga

What are you loving this week?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

4 Features to Consider When Buying a Tablet

I have a confession: I've been avoiding confronting tablet technology since the iPad came out. I was even offered a tablet as a gift (I opted for a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter instead; priorities), but still couldn't bring myself to part with a system that had worked so well for me this far, and I knew adopting this new technology was a big step that I had to mentally prepare myself for.

From drafting papers in college, to having a reliable web browser that allowed me to blog from (without the crummy interface), I was a dedicated laptop user. No full keyboard? Wonky-looking mobile sites? No word processing? Psht. Why would I want to give up a good thing for those?

But then my needs changed. Post-grad school I've found myself writing papers significantly less. I'm not on campus all day with a giant bag for my school supplies, so portability is something I take into consideration a tad more. Oh, and Google Docs has become a thing. Times are a-changin', and I figured it was time I give this whole tablet thing a try.

While you may have specific needs tailored to your lifestyle, I've found it beneficial to keep these four main categories in mind when choosing a tablet:

To some it may not matter, as a tablet is already winning the size battle between it and a laptop. Yet it's still important to keep in mind where you'll be using your tablet, and how you will be carrying it with you.

I'm always on the go, and not always with access to a secure storage location, so I keep my gadgets on my person (aka in my purse). Therefore, it's important that my tablet not be too bulky; I don't want to wear out my shoulder halfway through the day! If you're primarily at a desk, or the walking part of your day consists of going from your car to your desk, size may not be as much of a concern.

Another piece of the size puzzle is the multiple screen size offerings of a single model. I tend to play it safe and go with the middle option. My eyesight isn't so bad to warrant a giant screen (and again, portability), and frankly, I want my tablet to feel like a tablet - not like phone, and not like a laptop. You may need more screen size if you're planning on doing graphic work, etc., so plan accordingly.

Which leads me to the next factor: function. What do you plan on doing with your tablet?

Using a tablet primarily for blogging means different factors to consider versus if you plan on just having a Facebook-machine, or using your tablet as an aid to your business. If you're a photographer planning on bringing your tablet along to show potential clients your digital portfolio, you may want to look into that larger screen, or a higher resolution. A tablet that supports credit card transactions may help you decide between two models.

You get my drift. Different uses call for different functionality, and you should look for a tablet that fits your primary purpose.

I'd be lying if I said accessories weren't a key player in my deciding which tablet to buy. Now, yes, I am talking about what fun cases are available for certain brands and models (hello-o Kate Spade!). But I'm also talking about gadgets for your gadget.

With Apple at the forefront of tablet technology, many accessories like stylus(es? Pluralizing modern tech terms is surprisingly difficult!) may have limited functionality with certain devices. If you've got your eye on a particular gadget, make sure it's compatible with the tablet you're looking to buy!

(That goes for fun cases too, like these: 1, 2, 3)

Now that the omnipotent cloud exists, it's more important than ever to have easily synchronization across all of your apps and devices. Speaking from experience, having to manually sync and reorganize files across platforms is a time-draining, soul-sucking process. Granted, I'm sure it's become easier and more manageable over the years, but I prefer to make it as easy a process as possible.

After my search, I ended up going with an Apple iPad. Not only do I trust the brand to provide support when I need it (and not freeze and/or crap out on me in the middle of an important task), all of my other main technological devices are Apple products as well. I like knowing that, with minimal effort, all of my devices are in tune with one another, making syncing a breeze.

I still use my laptop on a regular basis. Nothing beats the efficient system I have down, that perfectly fits my needs. But my iPad can be easily tossed in my purse, and I do so quite frequently. It may be a gradual process, but I'm slowly finding myself incorporating my tablet into little aspects of my digital life. New habits will form, I'm sure, but for now, I'm just feeling things out!

Do you have a tablet? Or still prefer a laptop computer with full functionality? Leave me a comment or tweet me the top features you look for when buying new tech - ready, go!

Monday, May 26, 2014

For the Love of a Linguaphile v.105 (+ a giveaway w/The Modern Austen!)

French Flappers, Parisian Cafe 1920's
Vintage Lulu ) 

evocative adj. [i-ˈvä-kə-tiv]: evoking an especially emotional response (via)

The fringed dress was evocative of the 1920's.

For the Love of a Linguaphile is a weekly series celebrating the snazzy words we encounter, from those found in great literary works, to those pesky words that keep popping up in everyday life. Hopefully you can incorporate a new word into your vocabulary, or even share one of your favorite words!

Marissa is one of the most inspiring and motivating bloggers/human beings I know, and she's celebrating the two-year blogiversary of her site, The Modern Austen, with a gift card to LOFT for $250 for one lucky reader! (only open to continental U.S. residents)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 25, 2014

link love

10 Amazing International Instagrammers
♥ It's been a while since I've been excited about new video game releases, and good things about Transistor might just cause me to buy a PS4...
♥ Who knew there was so much data collection surrounding if you're a cat person or a dog person. Though I like dogs, I'm a cat person, for sure.
Compliments That Aren't About Physical Appearance 
♥ An adorable comic that answers your most pressing question: how does Nick Fury put the Avengers to bed?
Famous authors who hated each other's writing (thanks, Amy!)
♥ I'm kind of in love with the color combination of light grey + purple, too!
Kotodama: the multi-faceted Japanese myth of the spirit of language

What fun links have you found this week?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Why It's Hard to Read Graphic Novels

Frequent readers of My Life as a Teacup will know that I had never picked up a comic book or graphic novel before last year, thanks to my personal Batman supplier. It's not that I was never interested - believe me, I was - but there seemed to be so many barriers for a new reader to overcome. With backstories so extensive, reboots that rewrite the laws of the universe, and a plethora of characters and iterations of the same mantle, I was drowning in information. But information isn't the only thing newcomers to graphic novels are drowning in.

Reading a book is simple: you read the words, neatly printed on the page. In English, this means starting at the top and working your way left to right, line by line, until you reach the bottom. Aside from a few experimental texts, most prose (i.e. what you normally think of when you think of a book versus, say, a poem) does not vary much in layout or textual elements; the font is uniform throughout (usually of a boring, standard design), and aside from the arrangement of chapter titles, displayed rather basically on the page.

Enter the comic panel.

All of a sudden there are boxes. Sometimes not the most symmetrical and easy to follow, order-wise. And if that wasn't hard enough, some boxes bleed into the next. Some "panels" take up a whole page. There are speech bubbles and thought bubbles, boxes with narration, some with backgrounds that are meant to designate a character. Bubbles that are vaguely pointing to a person's mouth (but which person? They're standing so close to one another, I can't tell!) 

And fonts - oh, the fonts! Some are squiggly, some italic. Onomatopoeia galore! 

It's easy to get lost amidst everything that is going on in a graphic novel. Not only are you, the reader, juggling a myriad of textual elements, most of which aren't something encountered in a regular ol' prose book, but readers not used to looking at illustrations and words in tandem might find the multitasking difficult. Or just forget about elements altogether. I know I've been guilty of this.

So how exactly does one read a graphic novel?
  • Basic organization remains the same. Graphic novels aren't organized at random. Just as a prose book is read top to bottom, left to right, so are graphic novels (as a general rule of thumb).
  • Bubbles, bubbles, everywhere! Text bubbles, surely, give us a clue, just as much as who they're physically coming from do, but other types of bubbles exist too. Thought bubbles let a character internally monologue, and more rigid, structured boxes are usually narration. A background or color combination might provide the key to who is speaking, and the design of the box may emit emotion just as much as its accompanying picture does (starburst-like bubbles may indicate shock, and a speech bubble with words that barely fit its constraints may indicate yelling).
  • Fonts provide a clue to character emotions. Just as you can use caps lock in a text to express anger or yelling, so can the font size in a graphic novel. The font style an author chooses for each character may reflect their personalities, or, at the least, might vary to eliminate confusion when more than one person enters a conversation.
  • Actions speak louder than words. Unless the character is literally yelling across the page. Graphic novels are illustrated for a reason. What a prose writer has to paint with words, a graphic novel can illustrate with actual pictures. Don't neglect the details of a picture, or what is happening in the background. A narrator may not be able to tell us how Barbara Gordon is feeling, but I'm willing to bet that the look on her face says a lot.
I experienced these struggles myself, and even now, still am working to master the multitasking behind reading a graphic novel. My brain needs to adapt; it's a different way of processing a story. And now I have an outside perspective to witness some of the challenges at work.

As some of my students work on an exploratory graphic novel unit, many struggle with following the format of pictures plus text. It's easy to get lost in the childishness of a "picture book" and not considered all of the complicated layers at work. 

So the next time you crack open Zero Year, take a moment, slow your pace, put your Keen Observer/Literature Nerd glasses on, and appreciate all that goes in to reading a graphic novel.

If you're primarily a reader of prose, do you find it hard to transition to reading graphic novels?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

Batman! Sailor Moon! The ice cream truck! Papers to grade! Books that I either have to read or return to the library and I don't want to do either!

My brain is a puddle of goo.

But I can at least take a moment and be thankful.

♥ Friends and I are starting to make summer plans, and even if our plans are vague, like just driving out to the lake or grabbing chips and queso one evening or more involved, like visiting abandoned places around Pittsburgh (I'm sure these will be complete with eerie soundtracks, as well), I'm quite looking forward to spending the summer somewhat spontaneously.

♥ I've learned a lot of stuff! Stuff, just things, in general. Have you ever really stopped to think about how much information, theories, tricks, and thoughts are buried in your brain? And not just buried, but that you can recall and elaborate upon? I think of weird facts I've retained, teachings about plate tectonics I still recall vividly from college, and bizarre rules of grammar that now seem innate and it's truly an amazing thing.

♥ Appreciating the little things, even when others don't seem to see them. I like knowing little details about myself. Noticing the pink flowers hiding on the tree in the cemetery that I pass on my way home. The crunchy bits in the Butterfinger ice cream. The way the light shines through the staircase and creates a rainbow on the carpet.

little loves
Sailor Moon is back! Hulu is airing old episodes, apparently through Stars! I'm nostalgic, its still a great show, and I get to brush up on my Japanese - すごい!♥ the return of some of my favorite dishes that use fresh herbs from my garden (brie & basil pasta, please!) ♥ simple, handwritten lists ♥ the beautifully inspiring backgrounds on the Momentum extension ♥ snarky tees from Look Human ♥ dark, swirling skies before a rainstorm ♥ neon sneakers ♥ the first froyo of the season ♥ #tiaratuesday ♥ side ponytails ♥ cheap movie Tuesdays ♥ seeing friends at super double-event parties ♥ continuing my comic book education ♥ seeing family ♥ pints of ice cream all to myself ♥ the scent of fresh lilacs

What are you loving this week?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Importance of Saying No

The Blogcademy
This is the story of how I visited the same frozen yogurt shop twice in a matter of 3 hours.

What does an embarrassing froyo addiction have to do with saying no, you ask? Allow me to explain:

At one point in my not so distant past, I stepped down from a position that, by all accounts, I should have been madly in love with. On paper, it was the social media job of my dreams, but over time, I realized it was not helping me achieve my goals - in the office, in my career, or in my intellectual life - like I had thought. After many anxiety-filled nights, a bit of re-strategizing in the office, and some heart-to-hearts, I realized that the position was not taking me in the direction I wanted to go.

I was left with a decision: I could wait it out and hope for the best, or I could take action and step down.

Now, I am not the world's most assertive person. Let me paint you a picture: I could never pick a favorite color as a girl because I didn't want to hurt the other colors' feelings (true story). Same thing with my impressive stuffed animal collection. I'm quiet and what you'd call an introvert. I am slow to anger, and am told I have the patience of a saint (working retail, you better believe I can withstand some pretty vicious yelling). Ask anyone who knows me, and I'd be willing to bet they'd remark on how I'm too nice.

But here I was, faced with a reality that made me miserable and actually took away from what I wanted to achieve and an alternative that made me feel like a failure. And then I did something that terrified me: I said no.

When you reach that last precipice, where you've tried everything in your power to find a solution, to make the situation work, to compromise, only to realize things just aren't working out, what do you do? How do you gracefully step down without offending anyone, or burning bridges? How does one even begin to say "no"?
  1. Map out your goals. Walking into your boss's office, calmly stating, "I resign", about-facing and walking out the door may not be a full-scale ungraceful attack, but it's far from classy. Have in mind what you want to say beforehand, so that you can calmly express your concerns to your higher-ups. What exactly is the issue at hand? What is your ultimate goal? Are you resigning? Are you willing to compromise? What needs to change for that to happen?
  2. Leave emotion out of it. It's easy to get caught up in your frustration, but venting to your boss isn't going to leave a good impression, nor is it likely to get you the results you're looking for. That's not to say you shouldn't be honest about your feelings, but there's a big difference between saying "I don't feel that we are on the same page" and verbally attacking someone and putting them down. It never hurts to practice your spiel with a close friend, or even to yourself so that you're not taken by surprise and turn into a crying/yelling/word-vomit-y mess.
  3. Be assertive. Remember, there's a difference between being aggressive and being assertive. Discuss the matter at hand calmly, and don't point fingers. However, you made a plan for a reason, so stand up for yourself and stick to it. If you don't feel the proposed solutions are in your best interest or align with your goals, don't feel pressured to compromise and instead, stick to your plan.
  4. Don't burn bridges. I'm sure you've heard the saying before, but it couldn't be more true/truer. No matter what the situation, be polite and levelheaded. You never know when those connections might come in handy in the future.
  5. Acceptance. Saying no does not equal failure. Let me quote a real gem of Dad-wisdom here: "A quitter never wins, but only an idiot never quits". Will you come across challenges throughout your life? Yes. Will you persevere through difficult situations? Sure you will. But there comes a time when the stress you are under is not positive, motivation, or even healthy. Pouring energy into something that's only draining yours, is not worth it in the end.
Let me tell you a little secret: It's okay to say no. Saying no doesn't mean you've given up, or haven't tried your hardest. It certainly doesn't mean that you're a failure. Often, it takes more courage to stand up and say "No, this isn't what I'm looking for", than to suffer through something that is of no benefit to you. That's not to say it's okay to throw in the towel in any challenging situation, but if it's causing you more stress than happiness, it might be time to step back and re-evaluate what's best for you and your goals.

Little ol' me - the too nice Kristin who still can't really pick a favorite color - said no. I did something that still terrifies me when I think back on it; I stood up for myself. Not in a mean way or an aggressive way, but I took a good, hard look at what was best for me at the time, and stood by my decision.

The next logical thing to do? Stop for frozen yogurt, duh. I took a page out of Kam's book and grabbed a fruit-and-brownie-topped tart froyo to celebrate my little victory. Shy and soft-spoken me stood up for myself, said no, and kept it classy in the process. If that's not a victory worth celebrating, I don't know what is. So much so that I went back a few hours later and had some more.

And I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm now doing something that makes me happy. What makes me even happier is knowing that I chose to take the steps that led me to this point.

Do you know someone who could use a little pep talk? Tweet this post to them or send them an email of encouragement!

Monday, May 19, 2014

For the Love of a Linguaphile v.104


undulate v. [ˈən-jə-lət]: to move in a wavy or flowing manner (via)

From our boat, we could see the ocean waves undulate as the warm breeze whispered across its surface.

For the Love of a Linguaphile is a weekly series celebrating the snazzy words we encounter, from those found in great literary works, to those pesky words that keep popping up in everyday life. Hopefully you can incorporate a new word into your vocabulary, or even share one of your favorite words!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

link love

♥ Important news: Sailor Moon starts streaming tomorrow on hulu! Even Stars! Cue the flailing!
How to Be Sharp, Eloquent + Witty - On Command!
Different things inspire different people, and while I inherently know what I look to, it's nice to hear about where others, like In-Aeternum, draw their inspiration from.
Star Wars & the Commodification of Nostalgia. Is it any surprise that 80s cartoon-turned-movies and reboots are aplenty?
♥ Neil Gaiman's stories are some of my favorites, especially when read aloud. Hear Neil himself read The Graveyard Book, chapter by chapter!
Superheroes in nature
♥ You may have heard of a capsule wardrobe, but what about capsule loungewear? I'm all for it!
Can't tell if you're reading a Gothic novel? Well, now you know, in infographic form, of course.
The Ulysses Bucket List is an amazing story and amazing challenge. Will you give it a go?
2,000 Years of London's Historical Development Animated in 7 Minutes
Dracula's castle is for sale. If I hit the lottery...
♥ I grew up being told to never complain that I was "bored". There was always something to do, and if not, I was encouraged to create it! If you're having some trouble, here are 25 Things to Do When You're "Bored"
♥ A Timeline of the Batmobile
The greatest quotes from action movies, grammatically diagrammed
What To Do With Your Life (a guide for anyone, really)

What fun links have you found this week?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Win an Urban Decay 'Electric' Palette!


My closet consists largely of three basic colors: black, grey, and burgundy. So by the time spring rolls around and the weather warms up, I'm pulling my hair out trying to find something to wear that a) doesn't leave me sweltering in long-sleeved, dark fabrics and b) is a bit more cheery.

I'm still working on perking up my spring/summer wardrobe, but how colorful and bright is Urban Decay's 'Electric' palette? Who knows, maybe I'll embrace the neon this year in my quest for brightness!

I may not have this whole bright-color thing down yet, but you don't have to wait around for me! Enter to win the 'Electric' palette from Urban Decay below!

good luck!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Recommendations for Middle Schoolers (from Middle Schoolers!)

When I student taught, I had my 7th graders nominate one book that they enjoyed reading to include in our class newsletter that got sent home to their families. On their own, the students in all of my classes were voracious readers, and having the luxury of a 20 minute silent reading period at the beginning of our block class was something they all looked forward to. I kid you not; on the rare days where silent reading didn't happen, I was met with a chorus of "Awww!"s.

Already ones to recommend books to their peers, or pick up a book they saw someone else reading, students were eager to include their own book recommendations. Who better for middle grade readers to get recommendations from than from their peers? I know I myself am stumped sometimes when my students ask me for ideas on what to read next, as I just don't have the extensive personal experience that some, more seasoned middle school teachers have.

In an effort to broaden my reading list, and have some more recommendations for future students, I though I might tackle some of the books that I've spied my kids reading this past year...

Among the Hidden // I Heart You, You Haunt Me // Tears of a Tiger // Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod #1) // Skinny // A Living Nightmare (Cirque du Freak #1) // My Life in Pink and Green // Fablehaven (Fablehaven #1)  // The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles #1) // City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1) // Simon Bloom, The Gravity Keeper //// The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1)
Vampires, series, and realistic fiction all seem to be a trend. Surprised? I don't know if I am or not!

What books did you read in middle school?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

I am the reigning queen of procrastination this week. There have been moments when I know I have to empty the dishwasher, or do laundry, or write a post, and all I do is stare off into the distance. Or play Candy Crush. Really, what's the difference?

♥ I'm convinced that breakfast foods are the greatest foods ever created, and could never understand how some people can forego eating breakfast altogether. Not only do I feel sluggish sans a morning meal (even a simple cup of Greek yogurt gives me more energy than twelve cups of coffee!), but the ritual of breakfast itself (note: itself is an intensive pronoun, if you want a mini part-two to our pronoun lesson from the other week) starts me on a good foot.

♥ Each month, Mia of Mia Moore puts together to-do list, and her latest May Activities list kicked me into gear to actually do the items on the monthly list rather than just read them, smile, and stare off into the distance. I've already completed a few, and though some are just small or personal acts, I already feel like I've made a huge difference in my life and the lives of others.

little loves
peach iced tea - a totally different ballgame from hot peach tea, but equally delicious ♥ the Momentum plug-in for Chrome (thanks, Mia!) ♥ Who's on First and audible laughs ♥ walking outside ♥ Taco Bell's breakfast menu - in retrospect, Taco Bell seems like the most logical fast food place to serve breakfast. Also: the A.M. Crunch Wrap is a whole lotta yes ♥ rehearsals for the upcoming Poor Yorick's Players' show ♥ goofy little cousins ♥ beach-ready hair ♥ getting my package of scrapbooking supplies from Rukristin Papercrafts (nevermind that I forgot that one needs photo paper to print photos for a scrapbook) ♥

What are you loving this week?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Easy Curly Hair for Straight-haired Gals + The Gnarly Whale Giveaway

5-minute Curls
My hair is notoriously stick straight. Getting it to hold any sort of curl required me to come to play rehearsal two hours early for my then-English teacher to curl my hair and dump an entire bottle of AquaNet on my head and hope for the best. Needless to say, if I want to curl my hair for the day, I've got a long morning ahead of myself.

But then something magical happened: I was introduced to the magical combination of beach waves and fabric scraps, and have since curled my hair on a pretty regular basis. The bonus? It takes only 5 minutes at night, and 5 minutes for a quick touch up in the morning before I'm out the door and ready to go.

I promise, this isn't as crazy as it sounds.

If you want stupidly easy curls (and usually burn yourself with your curling iron more than curl your hair, like I do), look no further!

The Gnarly Whale
Easy 5-Minute Curls
You will need:
  • 6-10 strips of fabric, cut from fabric scraps 
  • Beach Waves spray
The key to this hairstyle is damp hair. I like to take a shower in the evenings before bed and let it air dry most of the way before curling it this way. You could always spray your hair down with a water bottle too.
  1. Start with damp hair. Generously spritz Beach Waves spray throughout. I like to use The Gnarly Whale's because it doesn't leave my hair feeling crunchy and makes my curls last all day long. And their scents smell divine!
  2. Separate hair into equal sections. The more sections you have, the tighter the curls.
  3. Take one fabric strip and, starting at the bottom of a section of hair, begin rolling hair around the fabric until you reach the top of your head. Tie a sturdy knot (but not too tight - you need to get these out eventually!)
  4. Repeat with the remaining sections of hair.
  5. Give another generous spritz all around the rolled & tied sections of hair
  6. Go to bed.
  7. No really, go to bed.
  8. Good morning!
  9. Optional step: if your hair is still fairly damp, blow-dry your hair while it's still tied up before you untie the knots.
  10. Start untying those knots and let down your curls!
I like to give my hair another spritz of beach waves once I untie all of the knots and take a moment to scrunch up and mess around my hair a bit for a looser curl and more natural look.

I love that these curls look easy, natural, and wind-blown and wild. Only taking an extra ten minutes is a plus, too. And did I mention how heavenly The Gnarly Whale's Beach Waves smell? I spent all winter being surrounded by the scent of sugar plums (and got loads of compliments/confused looks about "Who smells so good?". Score!) For summer, I'm eagerly eyeing up the Coconut Milk & Peaches, myself.

Want to get your own beach-worthy waves? Ashley & Nathan (the masterminds behind this magical concoction) are generously offering one Teacup reader a chance to win a bottle of Thai Coconut Beach Waves and Coconut Lip Balm from The Gnarly Whale!

This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*This is not a sponsored post - I just really dig The Gnarly Whale!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Currently Journaling Challenge | Guest Post on ruKristin

I'm sure you've seen my weekly Currently Journaling Challenge card make its rounds here on Things I Love Thursday or on Instagram. And you very well might be scratching your head thinking "What the heck is this #currentlylist thing?".

Lucky for you, ruKristin is explaining it all on her blog, and sharing the stories and crafty approaches of some of the community's members, myself included! Pop by ruKristin to see how I document my life in just a few minutes with the Currently journaling cards.

Monday, May 12, 2014

For the Love of a Linguaphile v.103


pungent adj. [ˈpən-jənt]: having a strong, sharp taste or smell (via)

The pungent scent of the woman's perfume lingered on my clothing even after she had hugged me.

For the Love of a Linguaphile is a weekly series celebrating the snazzy words we encounter, from those found in great literary works, to those pesky words that keep popping up in everyday life. Hopefully you can incorporate a new word into your vocabulary, or even share one of your favorite words!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

link love

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers out there!

♥ This article on What I'm (Trying To) Teach My Kids compiles a lot of great advice that parents are teaching their kids right now to prepare them for the future.
♥ 5 Tips for Staying On Top of Finals
♥ This past week I talked about where I like to write. If you're still looking for your perfect writing spot, check out these 5 Places to Write (and how they can boost your creative process)
Rappers, ranked by the size of their vocabulary
♥ 6 Degrees of (Literary) Separation - what a cool idea!
♥ A Tale of Two Schools
A Mother's Day reading list from Oxford World's Classics; they may not all be model mothers, but they certainly are memorable!
♥ Batman's traumatic origins
♥ I always enjoy Jack White's musical endeavors, and his latest LP has some pretty interesting surprises!

I have some reservations about "Gotham" still, but I'm kind of excited for it...

What fun links have you found this week?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Where I Write

Coffee Break
Writing is a difficult thing. Whether it's the focus of writing an organize and concise article, or a creative, soul-filled expression of your internal thoughts, writing is hard.

Really, that's as eloquent as I can be with it, the most descriptive, vivid word that I can come up with: hard.

Both organizing your thoughts and piecing your words together take a mental toll on your brain, and that's not including the soul-sucking, emotional abuse that writing can leave you with after composing a more personal piece.

It used to be that I could only write creatively (think poems, as my brooding, Sylvia Plath-idolizing high school self often did) when I was in a melancholy place. Something about being in a more somber headspace allowed my thoughts and feelings to flow more easily. Looking back metacognitively, I think I was more reflective when I wasn't having the best of days; when the sun was shining and emotions were running high, I was swept up in my feelings of happiness and would rather enjoy them than write about them.

Which isn't to say that I wrote to escape sadness, though I certainly believe that transcribing your thoughts onto a page can help you mull them over a bit better, a bit more efficiently, as opposed to letting them stew about in your brain, emotionally-charged and in a state of alphabet soup.

Writing requires a mental place to write, as well as a physical. To be honest, I'm not the greatest at sitting down to write, not at home anyway. For me, there are too many temptations, to many ways in which I can get distracted. Which is why I often grab my laptop or a notebook and head to the park or the local coffee shop (in this case, there is a Starbucks across the street, which means I am also on an IV of caffeine while I write, which helps somewhat). Being in a physical other space helps me to focus and get things done.

There's something about the white noise of background music and chatter, the low hum of coffee beans grinding, that motivates me to just write. There's nothing on my "desk" except a cup of coffee. No toys to play with, no other "tasks" in the other room that are tempting me to procrastinate.

How I write has changed over the years, as has what I write, and my reasons for writing, just as I myself have changed in my thought processes and routines. I'm sure I won't hole up in coffee shops forever to write (though who knows). Maybe a cottage by a lake is in my authorial future...

What does your writing space look like, physically and mentally?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

It is possible to cram this much excitement and happiness into just seven days? Sure, there have been low-points in the week (mainly, where things didn't go as planned, and playoff losses, and days where I ate too many cookies. But also heavier topics, like jealously and comparison, technology not cooperating, and pushing myself too hard), but if that's all the negative in my life, I have to say, I'm pretty blessed. I look at all of the things I've been able to enjoy this week, and the simplest of things bring a smile to my face.

♥ Last weekend I spent the evening having a dinner of warm pita and fresh caprese with my mother, and celebrating my little cousin's Sweet Sixteen with a small shindig on top of Mt. Washington. For those non-Pittsburghers, Mt. Washington overlooks the entire city, with sprawls of restaurants and lookout points to take in the view (not to mention the incline that whisks you up the scenic hillside!). As picturesque as it was, the attention was on my cousin, and I have to say that I'm so very proud of the amazing person she is turning into.

♥ I'm not quite sure why or how I took to Barbara Gordon's Batgirl, and while I've still got loads to catch up on and stories to go, she is a character that speaks to me with such intensity. Smart, resourceful, Barbara Gordon, who, at least in the latest Gail Simone telling, has fear and setbacks and moments of doubt, just like any other human being would. I may be heading towards my mid-twenties, but man, it feels good to have a strong, realistic (for a crime-fighter-by-night) role model.

♥ Nothing says Pittsburgh like overcast, drizzly days, finished off with a view of the skyline, bridges, and the Point. Just being up on top of Mt. Washington for my cousin's dinner brought back memories of my senior year of high school, and our cruise down the river to see that very same skyline, on a similarly classic Pittsburgh day. I can't possibly describe the splendor of that view, that feeling, but it's one of my favorites.

little loves
good hair days (and mastering - sort of - blowdrying my hair with a round brush without getting it stuck) ♥ streaming Batman Beyond on Netflix ♥ Free Comic Book Day, complete with free cookies ♥ rainy days ♥ fresh ingredients for the perfect caprese ♥ intense games of playoff hockey ♥ said playoff games not going into overtime so I can go to bed on time! ♥ nostalgic Japanese candies ♥ when students actually read the directions ♥ sleeping with the windows open ♥  solo dance parties to The Eagles in my car ♥ not having to buy gas twice a week due to a shorter commute! ♥ the appearance of leaves on the trees, that look like someone gently daubed a paintbrush over the branches

What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Digital Detox: Sprucing Up Your Social Media

Social media can easily spiral out of control when it comes to organizing your brand image, keeping things cohesive, and maintaining your online presence. Between Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and more, social media can be a bit of a hodgepodge of links and information, and if you're anything like me you probably don't think to organize as you go (I'm looking at you, Pinterest).

Every now and then I like to go through a do a cleanup, whether I'm just taking an audit of my brand across tweets and posts, or fixing up broken links on my Pinterest boards.

Be consistent. Especially if you're a blogger or maintain a specific online presence. Your profile picture and name should be consistent across your social media. Example time: imagine if I were @mylifeasateacup on Twitter, but @teacupprincess on Instagram - it might get confusing if you wanted to tag me in both places, no? I know some people by their online personalities, and if their "name" isn't the same, I have a harder time finding them!

Same goes for your profile picture - if you don't look like you, it's easier for your readers to pass you by!

 Pretend you're a reader. You may do all of your posting from HootSuite, but if someone is searching for your social media feed, they're going to see the front end. If you don't have a cover photo on Facebook or your Twitter profile completed, it's going to look unfinished and not very inviting to the outside eye.

Update your profile blurb. I'm sure you've heard of an "elevator speech", where you describe your blog/yourself/what you do in a spiel concise enough to be uttered in the time it takes to take the elevator to your destination. Most social media has a limited-character "about me" section for you to fill out, and it might be time to revisit what you wrote there, especially if your blog has changed focus over the past few years. Entice your visitors to follow you by succinctly and creatively describing what you do. And again, make it consistent.

♥ Organize your Pinterest boards. Create categories that reflect you and your blog's interests. And don't forget to create a board for your blog too! I've recently reorganized mine so that I can find pinned items more easily. I've even gone through and deleted duplicate pins, and am working to update descriptions and properly credit broken sources. This can be tedious, but overall will help followers better find your posts and articles!

♥ Declutter your feeds. At one point in time I followed a looooot of people on various social media sites. I've since developed my own way of keeping up with different sites and people, so I don't necessarily need to follow the same person on 15 different sites anymore. Likewise, a lot of accounts I followed in undergrad that were Pitt-specific are no longer beneficial for me to follow (as I don't go to Pitt any longer!). Declutter your feed by getting rid of those you no longer need to follow.

♥ Create a cohesive aesthetic. This is a more advanced tactic, but I bet you can think of an Instagram feed right that has a certain "type" of image that they post; maybe it's the filter they use, or the way they format their photos, but you can already picture what their feed looks like, can't you? Their cohesive style helps to reinforce their brand, and their consistency helps to make them memorable. You don't have to go back and delete all of your Instagram photos that have a variety of borders, but you might want to think about your presence going forward (there was this horrendous time when I used 50 different filters and my photos looked like a hot mess!)

How do you manage your social media? Tweet your tips with the tag #digitaldetox!

Monday, May 5, 2014

For the Love of a Linguaphile v.102


dearth n. [ˈdərth]: a scarcity or lack of something (via)

The dearth of water meant a hot, dry summer for most of the area.

For the Love of a Linguaphile is a weekly series celebrating the snazzy words we encounter, from those found in great literary works, to those pesky words that keep popping up in everyday life. Hopefully you can incorporate a new word into your vocabulary, or even share one of your favorite words!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

link love

May the Fourth be with you! I'm drinking my morning coffee from my Star Wars mug today, in honor of the holiday!

♥ I've always preferred taking notes for class by hand versus on a laptop, but it's been shown that students actually do better on tests when they take notes by hand. Having to be selective in what I write down has its perks when it comes time to study later.
The Periodic Table of Story Tropes
♥ In honor of Free Comic Book Day this weekend, here are 21 Comic Book Challenges You Won't Believe
♥ 6 Bookstore Sections That Should Exist
♥ Would you go to a cafe with no laptops, and no wi-fi?
Why PA is the most linguistically rich state in the country
♥ Alexis offered up a nice consideration of Oyster, the new subscription book service. I'm still on the fence about my feelings for it (ultimately, I think there are still some major things that need addressed, but that's just me). Will you be signing up for Oyster? On that note, you can enter to win a year subscription to Oyster here.
Permission to fail
♥ Kaylanaut has compiled some of her favorite Mac OS X apps and I think I'll be doing some downloading today...
Why you should love yourself now
♥ A live stream of Earth from the International Space Station.
6 Great Middle Grade Books By Authors You Already Love. You're right Barnes & Noble; I do already love these authors. And now need to read these books. So I can recommend them to my middle schoolers!
Do women undermine themselves with punctuation?
♥ 10 Skills to Develop Your Senior Year of College. I would argue that these are skills you should strive to develop, no matter your age or position in life.
♥ If you missed Lemon and Raspberry's webinar on developing pillar content, never fear! You can catch it again on May 15th.
How to learn a language (when you're an adult)
♥ Ever wish you could just call mulligan on your day? Here are some tips on how to restart a bad/annoying/unproductive day.
♥ 30 Conversation Topics to Kickstart Your Speaking Confidence, because sometimes, figuring out what to say amidst new situations and new people is hard.
♥ 10 Simple Networking Commandments

Emma Stone may be my favorite person ever. She is killing it, lately!

Oh ketchup, who knew you were so complicated!

What fun links have you found this week?

Friday, May 2, 2014

On My Bookshelf: May

Last month I stocked up on books from the library, thinking that, in a spare prep period or some down time I could grab a few minutes of reading time. Daily substitute soon turned long-term, and so my planning periods became necessary and those "spare moments" quickly vanished, leaving my latest library haul more or less sitting on my nightstand.

Looking for Alaska by John Green // Luckily, I was able to breeze through this John Green read. As poignant as The Fault in Our Stars is, I think I prefer the different melancholy of Looking for Alaska, though I feel the former gets more acclaim. Favorite book ever? No. But John Green may well be one of my favorite authors; his prose is memorable yet easy to read, and this book in particular feels like an update Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon // A bit more hefty of a novel, I'm currently on chapter three. I've heard stunning praise for this novel and am already enjoying it just a few chapters into the book. I don't feel that my two-cents here can do it justice. So I'm just not going to butcher it and let Goodreads do the talking for me on this one...

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell // Written by another favorite contemporary author of mine, I might crack this open early, since I think I can breeze through it a little more quickly than Kavalier and Clay. I'm eager to read her quirky spin of inter-office emails and a strange budding romance.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman // I had to return this book to the library before I got a chance to read it, but feel like the Harry Potter vibes from this book will be right up my alley. I'm still waiting for my letter in the mail, Hogwarts...(and maybe living a little bit in denial still).

*This post does use affiliate links

What are you currently reading?