Friday Favs -Middle of May



Happy Friday, friends! I’m finishing this post up in between a busy morning of writing work and a trip to Target. (YAY!).  It’s supposed to be **92** tomorrow, so I’m REALLY happy that I’ll be working at the thrift store, since I don’t have air conditioning at home. #WillWorkToAvoidHeatStroke. If that kind of weather continues, I’m going to have to go back to writing at the library, which is kind of the worst because I have to put on pants and they frown upon bringing a cat for company.

Anyway, here’s what I’m digging right now!


1. I go in phases when it comes to food. I spent the last coupe of weeks eating way too much Tasty Bite, now I’m back on Morning Star black bean burgers. Sometimes I’ll put those big pickle slices from the refrigerated section on them, but mostly it’s just burger, cheese, bun, BBQ sauce. Given that it’s less than $4 for a four pack of black bean burgers and buns and cheese are super cheap, you’ve gotta love a meal that comes out at like $1.25!


I always seem to get on a burger kick this time of year. Anyone else? Are there any other good black bean ones I should know about? (Most veggie burgers seem to be mushroom-based, which… NO THANKS.)


2. I’ve only got about 10 pages left in my Morning Pages notebook, so I’ve been looking out for a new one. I was so excited to find this one at Walmart!

(I love that you can see cat food & coffee in the cart… I feel like I buy those two things every time I shop!)

I LOVE dragonflies, and I’m totally into this pattern & colors, so I’m looking forward to writing in this. They come in 3 different colors/patters, and there are also full-size one subject notebooks in similar prints.

One of the other options


3. I’ve been decluttering and yesterday that involved finally flipping through some free newspapers I picked up on my last trip down to Eureka Springs. I’m SO GLAD I DID, because I found these gems.

First, I discovered that the Eureka Springs Independent has a “Constables On Patrol” section. The one about the lamb is my favorite:



Second, I came across this amazing typo:


4. Y’all know I loooooove Chris Hayes:


Well, he has a new podcast! I finally found time to listen to the first episode, and as expected, it’s really good.


5.  This last one is kind of a favorite, kind of not. I’d been looking for a really pale purple nail polish with glitter, and found this one. It looks awesome for the first day or two, but then it starts looking REALLY bad.


Important question to end on: What’s on your summer/beachy playlist? I need new music!


Friday blog linkup


Show Us Your Books – May



Happy “Show Us Your Books” link-up day! I missed last month’s, so I’ve got some catching up to do! To be honest, I’ve spent most of this month re-reading Harry Potter yet again. (I’m like 2/3 through OOTP right now and just overwhelmed by how hard that year was for Molly Weasley. And also by the fact that this book says Lucius Malfory is 41, which means he was barely older than me when Draco started Hogwarts. WUT.)



ANYWAY… book review time!

(BTW – shout-out to whoever bought a bunch of stuff via one of my Amazon affiliate links recently. The commission credit got my cats a 12-pack of cat food, so you’re a VIP here at Casa Crystal.)


30 Before 30 by Marina Shifrin

Goodreads * Amazon

This book of essays explores the author’s escapades completing her list of 30 things to do before turning 30. I’ve always loved making to-do type lists (101 in 1001, bucket lists, etc etc) but I really suck at actually completing them. This was a fun read – fairly quick and packed with humor. It’s one of those books that was enjoyable but that I don’t have much commentary on. Would make a great airplane book.



How To Stop Feeling Like Shit by Andrea Owen

Goodreads * Amazon

This book was worth reading entirely for a quote that I highlighted:

“Life is hard. Not because we’re doing it wrong, but because life is hard.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had plenty of “WTF am I doing so wrong that this is my life?” moments. I really needed this quote as a reminder that sometimes it’s nothing I did – life just throws random things at you.

To be honest, I picked this up from NetGalley because I recognized the author’s name from some podcasts and was pretty sure I liked her. (I may have read her previous book? Probably not a great sign that I’m not sure?) This is one of those books that I had to read slowly because I needed time to digest it.

One kind of nit picky thing that bothered me – the book has a chapter on “catastrophizing”, but the author uses the term incorrectly. She uses it to describe the phenomenon of not being able to experience joy because you just keep thinking about all of the ways things could go wrong. Catastrophizing actually describes a thing people with anxiety disorders tend to do, where they take a fairly simple thing and blow it up to overwhelming proportions. (It’s kind of a subtle difference, not sure how to explain it better.) I learned the term back when I worked for Disney and had missed several weeks due to overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks, and I had to visit the company’s health services building to get clearance to return to work. (Standard procedure if you miss more than like a week.) I ended up missing an entire additional week of work because that appointment seemed SO SCARY. I would lie awake at night practicing answers to all of the probing questions I was sure they’d ask. I’d freak out about every possible detail. And finally, of course, when I did bring myself to go, the appointment was nothing – it took less than five minutes. Funny enough, that experience of catastrophizing vs reality was a huge help in dealing with anxiety, because it was such a clear example of how much my brain could blow something up that was truly going to be fine. A total tangent that’s barely related to the book, but I wanted to share in case anyone else might benefit from having a term to describe a thing they know they’re doing!

I liked that this was a bit of a different format than the usual “self improvement” genre book. Each chapter focuses on a fairly common thing that people tend to do without realizing how destructive it is. From isolating yourself during tough times to imposter syndrome to people pleasing, you’re likely to see yourself in some, if not most, of the chapters.


In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Amazon * Goodreads 

I picked this up at my thrift shop and read it one morning when I was home sick and couldn’t deal with the glow of a screen. Judging by the reviews, you’re either going to love this or hate it, and expectations seem to play into that quite a bit. Despite cover blurbs about it being scary, it’s… not. There’s definitely a tense feeling for at least the latter half of the book, but not that “omg this is so suspenseful I’m going to throw up” feeling and definitely not spooky or horror-y. That said, really thrilling thrillers leave me wanting an entire bucket of Xanax to eat like popcorn, so I liked the more mellow mystery of it. (It’s the same author as The Woman in Cabin 10, which also gets mixed reviews, but I haven’t read that one yet.)

It worked out perfectly as a sick day book, just don’t think TOO hard about the plot or the characters, or you’re likely to start poking all kinds of holes in the story.


Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

Goodreads * Amazon

This book is mostly filled with Sarah’s comics, which I adore and find infinitely relaetable:


She also has a few sections on what it was like to be an artist on the internet back in the day vs. now, and tips for aspiring artists. You can find most of her work on her Instagram, so the actual book is probably best as a gift for someone who is either a big fan of her comics or that not-very-internetty friend who you know would love them but will never get around to clicking the link you sent her.


All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

Goodreads * Amazon

I’ve enjoyed most of Emily Giffin’s books, so I requested this from Netgalley as soon as it popped up, but when I started reading it I worried it would be a DNF (did not finish) after the first page because I instantly disliked the narrator so much. I considered setting the book aside quite a few times during the first 1/3 or so because everyone was so unlikeable and I wasn’t that into the plot, but it got better about halfway through and I liked the last 10% or so quite a bit.

The book switches between three different narrators, offering both adult and teen points of view, and this is one of few books I’ve read that actually handles multiple narrators well. They’re distinct enough that you don’t get confused about whose chapter you’re reading, and it’s interesting to watch the story unfold from different angles.

This novel is VERY 2018, covering things like how smartphones have changed teenage culture so much, current politics, the definition of rape (as in “well, I said yes to kissing” not making anything else that happened okay by defaut), etc. Can’t decide if it being so full of current hot topics is a good or bad thing, but I do have a feeling that means it won’t age as well as books set in a less specific time frame.

Overall, I’m kind of “meh” on this one, if you average out my dislike of the first section and enjoyment of the latter part. Okay, but not up to the level of the author’s first few books by far. (This book will be published in June – I received an advance review copy via NetGalley.)


Amsterdam Exposed

Goodreads * Amazon

This book is supposed to be a look into Amsterdam’s Red Light District, one that goes deeper than the quick walk through that most tourists experience to satisfy their curiosity. I feel like I’m being super harsh, but given how things went when the author tried to collect info, there’s just not a book here.

I almost quit this on my second night of reading it because I could not deal with the author. For instance, he refuses to spend money to talk to the Red Light District prostitutes for the book because that would cloud things (?), yet buys the one woman who agrees to talk to him an expensive necklace as a gift. Because that’s totally different. So much of it comes off as a college boy who has taken Philosophy 101 trying to explain sex work to you. He approaches his research in a way that someone who studied law should know better than – by approaching the women while they’re trying to work in hopes they’ll give him material for his book. I don’t care what your line of work is – if some random stranger approaches you while you’re working and wants you to meet up to help him with a project with no benefit to you except “the chance to tell your story”, you’re going to be annoyed. Surely there were better ways of scoring interviews, especially since he was there for months. You probably wouldn’t have to befriend many locals before finding someone who was a friend of a friend of someone who worked in the Red Light District, thus opening the opportunity for an interview that doesn’t involve approaching them at work.

The other issue is that the story takes place in 1999 when the author temporarily moved to Amsterdam to study law and research the book. So much has changed since then, but from the introduction it seems like he’s been working on the book on and off ever since, so it was surprising to see some things pop up that should have been edited in that process (countless culturally insensitive remarks and terms like “transvestite”). If he’d prefaced the book with “Look, I realize that I sound like an absolute douchebag in this, but it was a long time ago and I was young.  I chose to preserve my original opinions in the book, though, because that’s what I was thinking at the time.”, I’d feel a little better about the awful things he spouts, but there doesn’t seem to be any self awareness regarding how it comes across now.

And on a weird note, he says he lost contact with one of the first people he met there because email wasn’t a popular thing yet. IN 1999??? I had a BLOG by then. Everyone I knew had been using email for at least 3 years at that point. There’s no way you didn’t have email, dude.

The whole “I’m an American man who was here for a few months, so I’m now going to totally explain the culture to you” is cringe-worthy enough, but then not even getting a diverse array of accounts from the women who work there makes it feel pointless. I wanted to hear from women who are there for different reasons, the one who has been there for a decade’s experience vs. that of the newbie, etc, not just from the one girl you were attracted to. Paint a more vibrant picture of the men who partake of the services. Talk to locals who work there in other ways, like bartenders or security. If you really want to get a story, there are so many ways, but half-heartedly wandering through the district after the woman you wanted to talk to stands you up just isn’t one of them. Maybe consider paying the women for their time? (gasp!)

The whole book leads up to getting one woman (who, of course, he wishes he could “save”) to share her story for the book, but when she finally does, it’s not that remarkable, just the average story of a person who has had a rough life. Despite the author’s infatuation with her, she doesn’t come across as likeable,  but the few pages that include her perspective on working in the Red Light District are fairly interesting, even if they’re basically what you’d expect.

Maybe he’s actually a good guy who just comes across horribly in his own book, but ugh, it was so frustrating to read. The sad thing is that the parts where he’s just describing the city aren’t bad. If he’d focused on writing about the city as a whole, in a kind of Bill Bryson “young man experiences foreign culture” way and just included a chapter on his fascination with the women behind the Red Light windows, it could’ve been good. Instead, we’re treated to the wisdom that you shouldn’t stick your finger in a prostitute’s butt without permission… not because that’s an awful thing to do to a person without consent, but because they’ll charge you triple. Thank goodness this dude is here to explain women to us, am I right?

(Complimentary review copy via NetGalley.)


Be sure to visit Steph & Jana to check out the link-up of book reviews from dozens of other bloggers.

Friday Favs – May the 4th Be With You


1. Okay, first things first:


2. Okay, now that we have that important note taken care of…

I used to spend a LOT of time entering giveaways and sweepstakes and such online. A few year ago when blog giveaways were at their heyday, I won things pretty often – some cute flip-flops, my beloved hiking shoes, several gift cards, jeans, etc. I still enter a few when they pop up in my email or blog feed, but  I don’t devote anywhere near as much time to it as I used to.

So I was pretty surprised to get an email a couple of weeks ago that I’d won the grand prize in a recent giveaway – any pair of Christian Louboutin shoes of my choice under $700.



The challenge was that there aren’t a lot of shoes on the Louboutin site that are under $700, except for the flats, which I never wear in general, but in the case of this particular brand seem like a waste since you can’t see the red bottoms. I finally picked the Miss Gena slingbacks pictured below, which come in at a mere $675. 😲


So, here’s my conundrum: Having super fancy designer shoes is freaking cool. I can’t think of any time I’ve ever spent more than like… $60? on a pair of shoes. (And that was a pair of Kenneth Cole heels I’d been lusting after for ages that I got on ebay. They got destroyed two years ago when my sister left my apartment windows open while I was in Florida and molded everything.) And I can’t imagine ever spending this kind of money on shoes – even if I had way more than I needed, I’m pretty sure it would still go towards practical things, travel, or charity before I’d feel comfortable blowing almost a month’s rent on shoes. So winning fancy shoes is basically the only way I’m ever going to own them.

THAT said… I need to get some super expensive dental work done ASAP, and let’s be honest – how many occasions am I going to have to wear these? I picked a pretty sensible heel height (about 3.4 inches), but still, $700 shoes don’t really fit my lifestyle – especially my current life in middle of nowhere Missouri. If I was back in Orlando I could imagine a few occasions each year where these would be great, but here? Nada.

So… do I keep the shoes, since when am I going to get such expensive shoes ever again? Or do I sell them on ebay or Poshmark or something and get several hundred dollars to put towards much more needed things? There’s the practical choice and the fun, indulgent choice. I know which one I’m leaning towards, but I don’t think I’ll be sure until my shoes actually show up. What would you do? (And hey, maybe I’ll win a ton of money in the meantime and not have to decide!)



These are so good. That is all.




4. When this cat food came up as an option for this month’s Chewy Influencer review items, I was intrigued because I’d never heard of the brand before. It ended up being a perfect choice, and not just because my cats absolutely loved it. The meat is in tiny (minced) pieces with a fair amount of gravy. My cat Remy had managed to hurt his mouth fighting with his brother the day before this arrived (nothing serious, but it was definitely uncomfortable for him), and I’d been trying out different foods to see what was the easiest for him to eat. Big chunks and shreds seemed tough for him to chew, but he wasn’t interested in pate or liquidy things… but this worked *perfectly*. Probably not a situation that’s likely to pop up in your life, but if you do have a kitty who is having trouble chewing bigger pieces (maybe a senior cat or kitten who is new to solids?) this cold come in handy.

Even without the weird situation that made it perfect for that week, the other cats loved this food so much that I’d definitely recommend it. We got the Poultry & Seafood variety pack, btw, and Chewy currently has a promotion going where you can get your first case for half price!

I was just looking at their products on and now I really want to try the dry food, too. Look how cute the package is!


5. This is kind of a two for one, but I picked up this acai flavored lip balm and oatmeal soap on my last trip to Lcky’s Market, and I’m loving both. The soap isn’t entirely fragrance free (fragrances are my arch enemy most of the time), but the scent is so soft it’s not a problem, and the built-in oats offer some exfoliating action. $2 for the soap and 99 cents (on sale) for the organic, fair trade store brand lip balm = a lot of good stuff for three bucks! I’d recommend both if you have a Lucky’s near you.


I’m getting ready to run to the DMV (ugh) and Target (yay!), then work all weekend. Hope your weekend is full of adventure or relaxation, as your mood dictates!


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Friday Favs – Nevertheless, April.


Happy Friday, friends! I’ve been super sick the past couple of days, so I’m just finishing this up on Friday evening. As soon as it’s posted, I’m going back to reading Harry Potter and resting!

Here are my highlights from this week:


1. Almost two months after I donated to Liz Warren’s re-election campaign (that’s a normal thing to do when you live like 1,500 miles from the state she’s senator for, right?), I finally got my bumper sticker in the mail!! SO EXCITED.

Speaking of which…



I actually gasped out loud when I was looking through the graphic tee section of my local Target and spotted this!!  I’d suggest checking your local store before buying online, because the ones I saw were varying degrees of what I think was supposed to be purposely distressed? (Mostly ragged collars). Target’s site currently only has XL and XXL, and they run big. (Wearing a medium in the photo and I’m usually L or XL in juniors sizes, which this is supposed to be.)

I didn’t end up buying this one from Target, because although I’d like to give them the feedback (aka money!) that carrying something so awesome is appreciated, I’ve seen several on Etsy that I REALLY love and would  like to support an independent artist even more.


3. I went down to Eureka Springs on Wednesday to enjoy the beautiful weather (it was in the mid 70s!). I did my usual wandering around downtown, but I think I’ve hit the point where I’ve been there so many times in the past couple of years that the novelty is wearing off. I need to see if I can find a new tour or something to do on my next trip! (I’ve written about the Downtown n Underground tour, which is such a fun way to learn the city’s history, and the Crescent Hotel ghost tour, which taught me so much about the hotel’s crazy history. I think the Basin Park Hotel has a ghost tour, too, so maybe that will be next? I wish there were more history tours!)

A few pics from this week’s trip:

Butter infused olive oil at Fresh Harvest tasting room in Eureka Springs

Fresh Harvest Tasting Room is almost always my first stop because I’m addicted to their amazing olive oils. They had almond and pumpkin seed oils, too, this time, but I only had enough $ budgeted for olive oil, so those are definitely on my list for next time!


One of the parking lots downtown is always lined with works by local artists. Loved the juxtaposition of these two, especially against the wooded backdrop!


Spotted in another parking lot.


This staircase is allllll over Instagram, but most people bump the saturation up to crazy levels.

There are tons of staircases downtown (each street is on a totally different elevation), I’d love to see at least one more become a work of art!

Amusing thing that comes with the staircases – addresses that look like they came straight from a Harry Potter book.


I made a friend! This is to illustrate the down side of the staircases; I had to just stand and wait for a few minutes until this guy got tired of sunbathing because he was blocking the way to Main Street. (I didn’t want to go all the way back up the stairs and down a different staircase, and trying to jump over him seemed like it might end in disaster!)


Just random downtown awesomeness.


4. My original plan was to go hike the 4 mile trail around Lake Leatherwood, but I ran into a few obstacles. First, my kitten knocked a space heater on my big toe right before I left the house, creating a huge bruise. Second, I’d planned to start by going counter-clockwise around the lake since I haven’t been that way before (I’ve done the first mile or so going the other direction), but it was flooded in several places and although my hiking shoes are water resistant, the water was deeper than just my feet so I didn’t want to get my socks and jeans soaked. (I almost face planted trying to use a log as a bridge, too, which sealed the deal on not going that direction!)


Started at the green, went down to where that red line ends before giving up on going that way, turned around and went back the other direction to reach the dam that runs across the top (according to the pic) of the lake.

A few pics that I instagrammed (Hover over the first one to get the arrows to appear): the 4th one is taken near the red dot and I’m pointing to the dam that was my destination. I’m not in great shape for this kind of thing, so I was pretty proud of myself for making it out there and back, which wound up being almost 4 miles!


A post shared by Crystal Ward (@crystalward11) on

5. .0000000000000000000……………

^ One of my cats typed that for you guys while I was out of the room, so I’m just going to leave it.

But also, let’s finish the list with my favorite tweet this week:


Happy weekend!

Friday blog linkup



Friday Favs – Happy April

A super late in the day Friday post, but better late than never, right??


1) I use Padmapper and Hotpads to browse Orlando houses for rent, but this week I randomly decided to see what the most expensive rentals in Savannah, GA looked like, and I was not disappointed. (Looking at the most expensive Orlando rentals isn’t fun because they’re all boring McMansions.)

First, this feels like the most Savannah-y house to ever exist, and b) I need to live in it. (A mere $3,200 per month!)

Looooooook at those floors and that light and the fireplace! I need dis.



A post shared by Crystal Ward (@crystalward11) on

Last week I had to cancel riding due to non-stop rain, but yesterday’s riding lesson was perfect. I wanted to work on really strengthening my position so we did a lunge line lesson where I did things like go over trot poles in jumping position with one hand behind my back to help my posture.


There’s nothing better than this.

After the lesson, I took Folklore out for a walk along the driveway to cool down and then let him graze for almost an hour. He was a happy horse!



3. I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter yet again, and it’s a struggle to not just do that all day every day.


4. Ruby summarizes my entire life.

5. I’ve mentioned that I’ve started working at a thrift shop on the weekends as a break from writing. I keep meaning to share photos of amusing items I come across, but today I found one so great that it MUST be shared. I pulled this out of a donation box like “Who would want an old dog trophy?”


…but then I saw the inscription.

Who WOULDN’T want this??


I’ve been considering sharing links to cool giveaways I’ve found around the ol’ internets lately. Is that a thing you guys would be into? One I came across this week: Win a trip to Santorini (ends 5/1)

The forecast is calling for an inch of SNOW tonight. Go home April, you are drunk. May you guys have an awesome (and frost-free) weekend!



Friday blog linkup