end of the month review: june

st louis arch(Scenes from on the road to vacation.)

Summer is flying by–but I say that every year, don’t I? June was a blast. I turned 27, went on vacation and practiced figure drawing. July is going to start off with a bang when we have company for the Fourth and I am so excited! The top viewed posts of the month were:

I hope everyone has a great (and hopefully short) week!




chips and dip

star wars #raesdrawing

I have been doing a lot of drawing/painting practice (follow along with #raesdrawings), hanging out with #fatcat, watching the original Star Wars movies, and a little bit of exploring around Lake Michigan and Chicago. It’s been a busy summer already and summer just officially started.

We’re going on our annual family vacation this week and I’m very excited. I’m still reading Mr. Mercedes, and I’m pretty into it, though I’m only about a third of the way through. I’m hoping to get some more reading and a lot of playing done on vacation this week!

to rise again at a decent hour

to rise again at a decent hour by joshua ferris

There is something wrong with Paul C. O’Rourke.

It’s not just his frenetic need to tape (on VHS) and watch (except for the sixth inning) every single Red Sox game. And it’s not just in the way he talks about his relationships–always a little too in love, a little too obsessed.

The way he set up his dental practice without a personal, private office probably doesn’t help. (Wouldn’t anyone go crazy helping patients who hate going to the dentist without a second on your own to breathe?)

He’s a total Monet. He seems ok from far away, but on getting a little closer to Paul, his splattering emotions come into view. His despair seeps out, his desire for love can’t be contained, and the messy parts of him don’t quite add up to a whole man.

Paul’s desperation for family and a sense of self leaves him vulnerable, and when an anonymous person on the internet starts to impersonate him, the decay in Paul’s life pushes through his not-so-well-crafted veneer. Paul’s internet impersonator introduces him to a new religion called the “Ulms,” and Paul can’t help but think this might be his salvation. The Ulms prey on Paul, like so many cults do, but he is in too deep and already too lost to see it.

It’s painful to watch Paul flounder as someone takes better control of his life on the internet than he ever could in real life, but it’s also darkly funny, and real, and hopeful. As terrible as Paul can be, he is the best part of Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Kindle here).

Ferris has always excelled at creating human characters. Paul is not one-note; he is a symphony of problems, desires, callousness, desperation, love, wonder, and wanderlust.

Paul is the narrator of this story, and an unreliable one at that. Ferris trusts that we’ll see when Paul is a little off, and those moments are some of the funniest. Ferris trusts the reader, too, to fill in Paul’s side of the conversation. When Ferris only showed others’ responses to Paul–a fun and interesting structure–it revealed just as much as if we had a tape recording of the conversation. It is a delight to be in Ferris’ world again and hear his sharp wit and honest storytelling.

Some of the people in Paul’s life may be worse for knowing him, but I am better for having read about him. Paul is a dentist, a boss, an ex-boyfriend, but above all he is someone searching for a truth that will fill his heart. He is human and he is lost, just like the rest of us.

Just a few of many great quotes:

  • Watching her strip was like receiving an inexpert massage from a blind lady.
  • You’re mortal, and it’s ugly.
  • Paint forgets within the hour what it learns in an instant
  • A man is full of things you simply cannot tweet.

to do lists of the semi-adult: episode 3

to do lists of the semi-adult

In the third episode of the To Do Lists of the Semi-Adult podcast, Jewels and I talk about our summer plans. On her blog this summer, Jewels is hosting a craft summer camp and book club, and you can participate on her blog, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m taking a fashion illustration class, and I’ve been sharing my drawings on Instagram. In our daydreams, we are going on summer vacation to this floating hotel room in Sweden. In reality, we are going to Pittsburgh’s movies in the park and spending time at the lakefront in Chicago at Montrose Beach. Our summer reads include local magazines like Edible Allegheny, Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, and Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. We’ve also talk about fun restaurants like Chicago’s Fork and Pittsburgh’s Meat and Potatoes, and making Joy the Baker’s black bean and sweet potato tacos (they are delicious).

You can find us on iTunesStitcher, and our feed, and you can always find episodes on my podcast page. Thanks for listening!


It’s my birthday today. I’m having a hard time with 27–it just sounds so much *older* than 26. It has been a very eventful year, to say the least. I’m in a new apartment in a new city. I had new challenges, like telling #fatcat we were moving and knitting a new stitch for a baby blanket. Just like last year and the year before, here’s some things I’ve learned.

  1. how to reupholster
  2. I apparently have a thing for scary/gruesome/horror everything. One of my favorite books this year was NOS4A2 and TV shows was Hannibal (what I haven’t learned is what this means about my psyche)
  3. how to move halfway across the country (though Lord knows I’m no expert)
  4. a little bit of effort (or a lot!) to improve your space is totally worth it
  5. be open to everything. I have a lot more fun when I try to like something instead of try to hate it
  6. how to draw the human figure
  7. #fatcat can bounce back from a big, scary event like a champ (for instance, a very long time trapped in a U-Haul)
  8. how to knit a baby blanket
  9. balancing your time is really, really hard, and I’m afraid this struggle is just beginning
  10. it apparently takes me a while to get my bearings in a new place–I am still lost in Chicago most of the time
  11. how to make a podcast
  12. that I still completely and totally love connecting with new and interesting people on Twitter, who I may never meet in real life
  13. comic books are awesome (especially Sandman and Saga)
  14. I like pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie and probably all pies of that texture (you know what I mean, right?), but I’m not really crazy about other kinds of pie. I know, life is a mystery
  15. I’m a gossip, and I’m not sorry about it (celebrities, the royal family, and regular people are all up for discussion at any time)
  16. I love being an editor and have a long list of grammar pet peeves–but when I’m off the clock I couldn’t care less
  17. sometimes doing small things makes you feel better about the big things

Apparently this was a year of doing things, big and small. It’s been a fantastic year, and I had a great time celebrating with some friends over the weekend. Here’s to the next one!

authority (embroidery no. 22)

embroidery from jeff vandermeer's authority

Earlier this year, I read Jeff VanderMeer’s creepy and haunting Annihilation, about an expedition into a terrifying and mysterious wilderness known as Area X. Authority (kindle here) continues the story, but from the perspective of Control, a government official recently transferred to clean up the mess at the Southern Reach after the expedition in Annihilation.

Control dives in, but he is never sure of what he sees or hears at the Southern Reach. Its shifting hallways and antagonistic employees don’t provide much help or comfort. But Control latches on to one idea that could help him grasp this puzzle: Terroir.

Terroir indicates a sense of place, and how that place can influence and produce a certain product. Typically a term that refers to the climate and region of certain vintages of wine, Control uses it to analyze Area X.

Why is Area X the way that it is? What, even, is it? Who made it that way, and how?

There aren’t many answers yet, but Authority peels back a few layers of the puzzle. What’s underneath is raw and scary, and there’s no sign of what can heal it.

The next book in this trilogy, Acceptance (kindle here) comes out Sept. 2 of this year.

embroidery from jeff vandermeer's authority

I am working on a project to sew some of my favorite quotes and images. You can see the other pieces of my embroidery project here:

(I picked this book out on my own and was not being paid to write about it. But if you buy through my links, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it.)

fashion illustration class

fashion sketch

I am taking a drawing class. A fashion illustration class, if you want to be specific. I’m really enjoying it!

I feel like drawing is a great way to communicate, especially when I’m thinking of clothes people could wear or rooms they could live in. I’m really excited to get some classes in and practice, practice, practice. We are focusing on figure drawing and we’ll get to use all different kinds of mediums. Right now I’m mostly practicing just the body, and we’ll have lessons on drawing different materials for clothes and learning how to do hands, faces, and accessories.

My goal is just to get better at drawing and communicating what I see in my head onto a page. Hopefully I’ll get to share some cool drawings over the next few weeks!

fashion illustration