Doodle Drop

Here are some things I’ve doodled in the past year.

Blooming Takes Time… because it does.

I made these two when working on a neuroscience course called Brain & Behavior, because afferent vs efferent is one of those things I always mix up.

Just a flower doodle. These are loosely based on columbines.

I made this one for my sister’s birthday in May.

Lukas Graham’s Mama Said is one of my favorite songs of all time. I liked it before I recently became cool because of a tiktok trend. I drew this one in the Spring.

TFIOS on a background of Amsterdam’s Spring snow.

Fall Girls’ Clothes

Target and Old Navy have the best fall colors this year, I’m basically drooling.

Let me level with you: I’m not good with introductions. I’m full of cool ideas and things I want to share with you, but selling myself is not my forte. Having said that, I want to post more about the things I buy and that we use and wear. So here goes nothing.

This past week, I went shopping for fall clothes and shoes for my daughter. She already has some things in her size (hand-me-downs, things from Spring) but since I take approximately 30 billion pictures, I tend to like buying her pieces that will look nice for the season and photograph well.

I found some really, really cute pieces that I want to share with you, in case you’re in the market for some girls clothes, too.

This ribbed long sleeve shirt with a cutesy yellow floral pattern.
And this shirt in the same style with muted cheetah/leopard print.
This thermal long sleeve shirt with a knot in the front, which comes in my favorite fall color this year.
The cutest ribbed jogger/leggings I’ve ever seen.
This dusty rose long sleeve with cheetah/leopard print.
This adorable matching set (which is actually sold in two separate pieces in store, the top of which doesn’t have the OLD NAVY logo on it…) of tie dyed sweats.
These turquoise flowery leggings with a kind of “lazy brush strokes” vibe.
This adorable long sleeve shirt with the sweetest encouraging print.
These cute dream chaser leggings, with gold lettering on the side.
These adorable lattice hem leggings, also in my favorite fall color this year.
This ribbed long sleeve shirt with fun yellow, blue, and cream-colored stripes.
This yellow striped tee with flutter sleeves.
This heart pattern tee with flutter sleeves.
These sweet daisy-covered leggings.

These pieces make sort-of a capsule wardrobe- a lot of the pieces can mix and match. The colors coordinate really, really well.

I also couldn’t find a lot of sweaters/cardigans in stores for girls, which I think is pretty odd, but I got this ridiculously cute one from Target. They didn’t have it in her size in-store, but they did have it online.

I also snagged these two cute pairs of shoes. The pink corduroy-style are from Target, and I grabbed the leopard print Converse from Kohl’s.

Weekend (at home) Festivities


This weekend there are fairs in every state. There’s a festival/fair less than a mile from my house, right now, as we speak. I can hear the music blaring from my own back yard, and I am taunted by posts on the city forums about the food, art, and rides.

This year, going to a fair or festival is not an option for us. The CDC, WHO, and AAP are pretty clear on this issue: we should be staying home, social distancing, wearing masks, getting vaccinated, etc. We’re doing what we can to stay safe and to be part of the solution, not part of the spread.

But the constant exposure to the sounds and sights of the fair were eating at me just a little bit. I wanted to ride a rollercoaster. I wanted to eat fair food. Most importantly, I wanted to eat fried Oreos.

The cool thing is, we have all the necessities for deep frying, and my dad has perfected his frying technique in the past decade or so. So with the fair in mind, we had our own “Just Eats” festival. Maybe a more accurate name would’ve been “Just Eats and also that warbled sound from the bands downtown that sound like someone is singing with a mouth full of marbles,” but that’s a bit of a- forgive me– mouthful.

We already had frozen corn dogs, french fries, and mozzarella sticks on hand. We had fresh zucchini and green tomatoes from the garden, too. I placed a grocery order on Saturday, so I added a package of Oreos and a jar of pickle spears to my cart. We made a pitcher of strawberry lemonade Kool-Aid.

While I waited for the groceries to arrive, I prepared the vegetables.

I made a bowl of Old Bay seasoned flour, a bowl of egg/milk wash, and a bowl of crumb mixture (with salt, pepper, and onion powder) to coat everything. I followed(ish) a recipe for fried green tomatoes, and used it for everything. Why not?

Unfortunately, I can’t relocate the recipe.

I sliced the green tomatoes and cut some of the zucchini into slices, and the rest into fries. I patted everything dry (and the pickles, once they arrived). I dipped and breaded everything, then set it on a plate to rest.

I also made a very disappointing pancake batter for the fried Oreos, because all of the recipes online call for Bisquick mix, which we don’t keep on hand. We make pancakes from scratch, but I didn’t have the time and ingredients for that recipe at the last minute. I improvised.

My dad got the fry set-up ready and we fried everything in order:

  • Corn dogs
  • Fries
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • Pickles
  • Green tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Oreos

The first attempt at the Oreos was a total bust. The batter was too thick and applied too early, so it fell off. The Oreos basically just disintegrated in the fry oil. Believe me, this is a mistake a person won’t make twice. We tossed the hollow scraps and quickly mixed more liquid into the batter.

The new batch turned out great.

Everything was delicious and it definitely made it easier to stomach marble-mouth music that sounded too loud and too quiet at the same time.


On Sunday, we had a different kind of fun. My mom had collected a few cute floral/butterfly party supplies from Michael’s when they went on Clearance in the Spring (ironic, actually, because butterflies are always associated with Spring, but here in Michigan, they don’t really hang around much until mid-Summer…)

We made a last-minute plan to have a small garden dinner party.

We had DIY nachos for dinner, which is a classic and an always favorite at our house. My daughter is obsessed with avocados, they have been her favorite food since she first tried them 7 years ago. I made pico de gallo, which is my favorite thing to make.

I’d give you a recipe, but I can’t. I just eyeball it all. This time, I used about 1 small yellow onion, 2 medium sized green tomatoes (this is the secret to making the best pico, seriously), two medium sized red tomatoes, a bunch of cilantro, about 3/4 of a jalapeno, and the juice of 1 lime. Results may vary.

We made brownies for dessert, using a box mix. (But not just any box mix, Ghiradelli box mix. It makes the best brownies.)

I gathered flowers from the garden to fill three vases, going for a sort-of eclectic, boho look.

We put on pretty dresses and ate nachos, watermelon, and brownies.

After dinner, we gathered more flowers from the garden (and some straight out of the vases) to thread into flower crowns. My mother made the bases of the crowns by weaving wisteria vines into thick, intertwined circles, and then let them dry.

We ended our night with songs around a bonfire.


On Monday, we tie dyed. I bought a bulk order of tie dye supplies a few years ago, so I always have dye and chemicals on hand. The only things I need to replace frequently are white fabrics, rubber bands for tying, plastic bags for batching, and blue Dawn dish soap for washing.

I wrote up and printed this set of instructions, which are meant to be laminated so they can be handled during the dyeing process. You can find and download this little graphic and other information in this post about tie-dying.

I started by gathering all of my supplies and figuring out what blanks I had on hand to work with. Then, I washed everything I wanted to dye in blue Dawn soap to get rid of any oils that might resist dyes. While those were in the wash, I prepared the soda ash soaking mixture and the dye bottles. This process is extremely. Freaking. Tedious.

Next, I set up the area we were going to be tying, and the area for dyeing.

After that, we spent a few hours tying, soaking (in soda ash), waiting, dyeing, bagging, and batching. Batching takes a total of 24-48 hours. Last year, I made it 48 hours before washing out, but I’m already kind of itching to see the results. We’ll see how long until I cave.

Stay tuned for a post with our tie dye results!

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

I’m going to be real with you, Paper Towns is not my favorite book. I’ve read it two and a half times (half because I started reading it to my partner in Spring but just kind of lost steam and never finished it) and I just don’t love it. I will say that having read it a few times, it’s growing on me a little bit as I notice more things that I didn’t necessarily notice before.

Paper Towns is the story of the night Quentin “Q” Jacobsen is accosted by his frenzied next door neighbor who has climbed through his bedroom window after roughly a decade of no communication, the escapades she drags him along to participate in, and the weeks that follow.

Margo Roth Spiegelman is the greatest irritation of my life. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Life is full of irritations. But I really just don’t like her.

I’m not the only one; John Green has been asked (evidently a number of times) whether Margo was meant to be likeable and in his response on his FAQ about Paper Towns, he basically skirts the question by saying things like “I don’t really think characters need to be likable for stories to be worth reading.” and “I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books a supposed to be likable.” and even “Did I intend Margo to be likable? I intended her to be complex. I wanted her to be someone the reader could learn to empathize with, someone who makes very different decisions from most of us but whose decisions have a kind of internal consistency and integrity that makes them morally defensible.”

So basically, he says she’s intentionally garbage, but he doesn’t actually outright say it.

Q, on the other hand, is actually quite likeable, albeit a little wrapped up in his own little world. His biggest character flaw by far is his relentless fascination with Margo.

The gist of the book is that Margo and Q were best pals when they were children, but then made a traumatic discovery together that sparked some kind of twisted thought process in Margo while Q’s parents (both therapists by trade) sought to help him process what he saw. For reasons that are never fully explained (because the book is in Q’s limited point of view) Margo has gone, well, off the deep end.

Her boyfriend had been cheating on her with her best friend and when she learned about this (on top of her multiple previous runaway attempts and intense desire to leave Orlando), she suckered Q into a night of pranking, payback, and general absurdity.

And then she disappeared.

Q, reeling from the night of absurdities, becomes totally preoccupied with hunting down Margo’s whereabouts with clues she left behind. He goes alone at times and his friends accompany him at other times, and he is simultaneously tormented by the fear of Margo’s death and obsessed with the possibility that she left a breadcrumb trail to lead him to her.

My personal favorite part of the book is near the end, when four teenagers skip their high school graduation and pile in a van to (hopefully) bring the witch hunt to a close. I’ve always been a sucker for a good tale of teens traveling alone. John Green must be, too, since it’s a recurring theme in a few of his novels.

The actual ending of the novel is not just anticlimactic, but in my opinion, a major letdown. I’m sorry, but it is.

The ending solidifies for me that Margo is an unlikeable, terrible jerk.

Although honestly, if I really put some thought into it, she comes across very much like the stereotyped manic pixie dream girl but also very much like a traumatized child who grew up to become reckless because she wasn’t treated like a traumatized child when she should have been.

I spent a lot of time this year thinking about how trauma and fear impact humans, largely because of my current psychology course and the state of the world, and I find myself examining the motives behind the behavior of everyone- including characters in novels. When I think about Margo Roth Spiegelman, I mean really think about her, I just see a broken kid whose parents failed to help her heal.

As I said (not very eloquently) in my goodreads review:

Paper Towns is not my favorite John Green novel. Margo Roth Spiegelman makes me want to pull out all of my hair. Q is a likeable character who gets wrapped up in all kinds of things he shouldn’t. This book is almost like a mystery, but not quite. It is also a testimony to how trauma can effect people, especially when it isn’t adequately addressed. I’d say I wouldn’t read it again, but I’ve read it 2.5 times at this point, so maybe I would.

Book Review: Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry, and Tobias Iaconis

A copy of Five Feet Apart is held up in front of a wreath of pussy willow and berries on a teal door.

If you’re reading a YA novel, you’re probably looking for an emotional journey. That’s one of the conventions of the genre. It’s easily the best convention of the genre.

If you’re reading a YA novel about sick kids, you’re probably looking for an emotional journey that will obliterate you and crush your heart into a thousand pieces. I mean, if you aren’t looking for it, it will find you anyways. It always does.

Five Feet Apart is told in alternating chapters by Stella Grant and Will Newman, two cystic fibrosis patients. Stella is in the hospital for a tune up/treatment of an infection. Will is in the hospital or a clinical trial to treat B. Cepacia, a bacterial infection that is considered lethal and incurable when contracted by CFers (the colloquial term used by most folks with CF).

A finger holds open a copy of Five Feet Apart. Another finger on the same hand has a pulse oximeter on it. A Hostess cupcake can also be seen.
A pulse oximeter is a device used to track the heart rate and SpO2. Here it is being used by a person with tachycardia, as is shown by the number 104.

Stella is organized, prepared, cautious, and logical. In the wake of her sister’s death and her parent’s subsequent divorce, she is careful and calculating. She designed an app to track her medication and treatments and she obsesses over her regimen of pills, breathing treatments, and g-tube feeds. She’s a YouTube sensation, making videos about her experiences with CF and providing a little bit of information to the masses.

Will, on the other hand, is messy. He resents and rejects his treatments. He feels that his mother- desperately enrolling him in any clinical trial that might help him, moving him around the world to any hospital that offers a better prognosis to extend his short life- is forcing him to live a miserable life only for the purpose of delaying his inevitable death.

When they meet, Will is crass and crude and harsh. Stella is immediately frustrated by his attitude and his choices. Being the “control freak” (for lack of better phrasing) that she is, Stella cannot get Will and his noncompliance out of her head. She convinces him to adhere to his regimen in exchange for an opportunity to draw her, but it takes a little bit of extra coaching on her part to get him to actually follow his treatment plan.

Five Feet Apart is held in front of a monochrome turquoise rainbow.

Stella and Will grow closer as they video chat for their treatments, but because of safety guidelines and vigilant hospital staff, their friendship (or perhaps budding relationship? Flirtation?) seems doomed. When Stella has an emergent surgery to replace her infected g-tube, a dedicated respiratory therapist named Barb catches Will escaping from her pre-op room and manages to scare him into staying away from Stella.

When Will tries to distance himself from Stella, she is angry and hurt. Poe, her best friend since childhood (also a CFer, also inpatient in the hospital for treatment of bronchitis) tries to remind her of the reality she’s facing, but it just tears a rip in the fabric of their friendship.

After time passes, Poe and Stella reconcile over milkshakes and their shared fear of leaving people they love reeling when they meet their inevitable end.

Rainbows reflect off of a prism onto the pages of Five Feet Apart.

As Will discovers his will to live (no pun intended), Stella’s thinking becomes more radical- she realizes that she wants to live, not just live. She took all of the right steps and she still needed surgery that put her in harm’s way. It’s like each of their personal pendulums swung the other direction, paths crossing only briefly as they barreled into a new frame of mind.

Throughout the novel there is an emphasis on the importance of staying six feet apart- this is because it has been studied and proven time and time again (and boy, is the average person suddenly aware of how important those six feet are for infection prevention…) that six feet is the “magic number” at which the risk of contracting an infection is reduced significantly. And if you’re at all like me, you’ll wonder the entire book why it is called “Five Feet Apart” when CFers are supposed to stay six feet apart to prevent cross-contamination. But after Stella’s big “break through,” she reclaims one of those six feet and decides that she will spend her time with Will five feet apart.

A copy of the book held up beside a window.

Unfortunately, unspeakable tragedy strikes. When Stella realizes that her best friend went his entire life without touching her to protect himself, yet still died and left his loved ones broken and devastated, it is the push she needs (or maybe would have been better off without…) to make a change in her life. She finds Will who is struggling to grasp his own mortality in the face of loss, and they set off to see the lights in the distance.

They break all of the rules an escape into closeness, reveling in the freedom of the outdoors and each other’s presence.

Life is almost taken from them, and as a continuation of the series of realizations the characters have had throughout the novel propels them forward, Will saves Stella’s life. Twice, in two very different ways.

The end of this book took my heart from my chest and stomped all over it. The idea of losing the person you love in that way makes my heart ache.

An open copy of Five Feet Apart.

Five Feet Apart is an intriguing tale about disability, mortality, love, and loss. (And yes, I know exactly how cliché that is. If you’re not into clichés, this book may not be for you.)

There’s something poetic about the loss of love in this novel, something that makes it almost bearable to read words that would ordinarily be unbearable. And perhaps that’s this book’s greatest strength.

I gave Five Feet Apart five stars on goodreads:

Five Feet Apart is a compelling and lovely story that applies an emotional journey (ala YA novel) to some of the more cliché tropes of romance genre, and it does so successfully and wonderfully. This book will tear your heart from your very chest, but you probably expected that when you heard it was YA novel about Cystic Fibrosis. There’s love and loss, but also a lot of realizations.

A copy of the book with a paper snowflake resting on top.

Goals for 2021

I really, really don’t want to get ahead of myself. After everything 2020 brought, I desperately hope that I won’t jinx it.

Having said that, I think most of these goals are fairly simple and attainable, nothing is reaching too terribly high. Some of them are a bit more abstract or holistic, while others are a little more pointed and specific.

write more

In 2020, I published 3 book reviews. This year I hope to post at least six, which is double what I did from June-December, but also feels extremely conservative. I read at least six books this past year.

I spent a significant amount of time working on my three YA novel WIPs. I have over 19,600 words for one of them, 4,000 toward another, and only a few hundred toward the third. I fleshed out the outlines for all three, but of course they still need a little tweaking (and in the case of the 3rd, a tremendous amount of work). I hope to make some progress on all of those, and I’d like to add a minimum of 2,000 words to any of those pieces this year.

take more pictures / create more art

This year I want to take a minimum of one picture every day.

As much as I have learned from other photographers and from classes I have taken, I still have almost zero confidence with indoor lifestyle photography. In March I took a crack at this before the summer brought warmth and sunshine, and I did take some photos I really love. But then summer came and I took photos mostly outside. When the cold and darkness settled back in for the late fall and winter, I never brought my camera back out.

I want to learn to harness the natural light from windows and bend the artificial light from my home (and maybe some help from studio lights…) to my will to create beautiful pieces like I have seen so many other photographers do.

To allow myself a very small amount of flexibility with this, I won’t beat myself up if I skip a day. I’ll just make sure to spend more time behind the camera the next day.

I’d also like to take a few more self (+child) portraits this year.

support the endeavors of people I care about

Honestly, I try to do this all the time. But I haven’t always had the means. I haven’t always had money, or a (very small) platform by which to share things. And I haven’t always remembered to keep supporting people in their endeavors.

This year, I want to support the poets, bakers, hat-makers, book-writers, and everything in between. I want to share their art, buy their goods, review their work, and spread the word.

I don’t want to underestimate the power of “word of mouth” this year.

My 2020 Most Listened on Spotify

One of my first posts here was my 2019 Most Listened playlist, so this only seems fitting.

  1. Memories – Maroon Five
  2. What a Man Gotta Do – The Jonas Brothers
  3. Daylight – Maroon Five
  4. Back to You- From 13 Reasons Why – Selena Gomez
  5. Golden – Brandon Beal (feat. Lukas Graham)
  6. Rhythm of Love – Plain White T’s
  7. July – Noah Cyrus
  8. Father and Daughter – Paul Simon
  9. Mama Said – Lukas Graham
  10. Step Off – Kacey Musgraves
  11. No Other Way – Jack Johnson
  12. Nancy Mulligan – Ed Sheeran
  13. Jane the Virgin- Jane’s Love Song – Geek Music
  14. Wamkelekile – Hot Water
  15. Do You Remember – Jack Johnson
  16. Breathe (2 AM) – Anna Nalick
  17. Build it Better – Aron Wright
  18. The Longest Time – Billy Joel
  19. Better Together – Jack Johnson
  20. Good News – Ocean Park Standoff
  21. The Giving Tree – Plain White T’s
  22. Supermarket Flowers – Ed Sheeran
  23. Losing Keys – Jack Johnson
  24. Play that Song -Train
  25. Hotel Song – Regina Spektor
  26. It’s Your Life – Francesca Battistelli
  27. Go On – Jack Johnson
  28. Boom Clap – Charli XCX
  29. Happy Home – Lukas Graham
  30. I Won’t Give Up – Jason Mraz
  31. Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson
  32. Keep Your Head Up – Andy Grammer
  33. Tell the World – Eric Hutchinson
  34. I Love You Will Still Sound The Same – Oh Honey
  35. We’re Going To Be Friends – Jack Johnson
  36. Surrender – Natalie Taylor
  37. Where Does the Good Go – Tegan and Sara
  38. Stay With Me – Sam Smith
  39. My Own Two Hands – Jack Johnson, Ben Harper
  40. Love Yourself – Justin Bieber
  41. Honey, I’m Good – Andy Grammer
  42. Black Velvet Band – The Irish Rovers
  43. Lullaby – Jack Johnson, Matt Costa
  44. Night Falls (from Disney’s Descendants)
  45. Rivers and Roads – The Head and the Heart
  46. Best Day Of My Life – American Authors
  47. Supposed To Be – Jack Johnson
  48. Moonshadow – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  49. Good to Be Bad (from Disney’s Descendants)
  50. Queen of Mean (from Disney’s Descendants)
  51. East Northumberland High – Miley Cyrus
  52. Wild World – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  53. Do What You Gotta Do (from Disney’s Descendants)
  54. Alex’s Song – Grayson Kessenich
  55. What You Wish For – Guster
  56. The First Cut Is The Deepest – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  57. One Kiss (from Disney’s Descendants)
  58. Lie – Lukas Graham
  59. Again Today / Hiding My Heart – Brandi Carlile
  60. Peace Train – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  61. Break This Down (from Disney’s Descendants)
  62. Fight Song – Rachel Platten
  63. Queen of Mean / What’s My Name CLOUDxCITY Mashup (from Disney’s Descendants)
  64. Father and Son – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  65. Ways to Be Wicked (from Disney’s Descendants)
  66. Never Gonna Leave This Bed – Maroon 5
  67. Galway Girl – Ed Sheeran
  68. Morning Has Broken – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  69. Rotten to the Core (from Disney’s Descendants)
  70. You’re Not There – Lukas Graham
  71. The Night We Met (feat. Phoebe Bridgers) – Lord Huron, Phoebe Bridgers
  72. The Wind – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  73. My Once Upon a Time (from Disney’s Descendants)
  74. I’m Just a Kid – Simple Plan
  75. The Orange and the Green – The Irish Rovers
  76. Lady D’Arbanville – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  77. If Only (from Disney’s Descendants)
  78. September Grass – James Taylor
  79. The Night We Met – Lord Huron
  80. Where Do The Children Play? – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  81. It’s Going Down (from Disney’s Descendants)
  82. Chelsea Morning – Joni Mitchell
  83. Love Someone – Lukas Graham
  84. Oh Very Young – Cat Stevens
  85. Evil Like Me (from Disney’s Descendants)
  86. Chillin’ Like a Villain (from Disney’s Descendants)
  87. What’s My Name (from Disney’s Descendants)
  88. If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  89. You’re Not the Only One (Redemption Song) – Lukas Graham
  90. Space Between (from Disney’s Descendants)
  91. Rock on Rockall – The Wolfe Tones
  92. Cheer Up! – A Great Big World
  93. Say You Won’t Let Go – James Arthur
  94. You and Me (from Disney’s Descendants)
  95. Mad World (feat. Michel Andrews) – Gary Jules, Michael Andrews
  96. How Far I’ll Go (from Moana)
  97. Some Things Never Change (from Frozen 2)
  98. Amigas Cheetahs (from The Cheetah Girls)
  99. Dance With Me (from The Cheetah Girls)
  100. Promise – Lukas Graham


  • My mother listens to my Spotify on the TV, and loves Cat Stevens (I do, too, but not this much).
  • On Saint Patrick’s Day we listened to a lot of songs on repeat- this is largely where “Nancy Mulligan” came from, and it’s also why “Black Velvet Band” (childhood favorite St Paddy’s day song), “Galway Girl,” “Rockon Rockall,” and “The Orange and the Green” made the list.
  • My kid was obsessed with Cheetah Girls and Descendants this year. Last year it was Aladdin and Frozen 2.
  • Although I still love Lukas Graham, I listened to his/their music much less this year.
  • I listened to my YA WIP playlist on repeat an alarming amount of times while trying to write, and admittedly I made a good chunk of progress.
  • I am surprised that This Is The Stuff didn’t pop up, given how much I played, listened, and sang this song in Spring.
  • I listened to a lot of Jack Johnson as background music this year because it’s calm and child-appropriate and reminds me of teaching 3-year-old preschool. The playlist I use now is the same as the playlist we played at naptime in our classroom back then. It reminds me of twinkle lights and sweet, sleepy kids.
  • I still listen to a lot of the same old crap.
    • Golden by Brandon Beal feat. Lukas Graham was my #5 this year, and my #6 in 2019
    • Rhythm of Love by the Plain White T’s was my #6 this year, and my #13 last year
    • Father and Daughter by Paul Simon was my #8 this year, and my #53 in 2019
    • Mama Said by Lukas Graham (my favorite song) was my #9 this year, and my #2 last year
    • Nancy Mulligan by Ed Sheeran was my #12 this year, and my #3 in 2019
    • Wamkelekile by Hot Water was my #14 this year, and my #50 last year
    • Good News by Ocean Park Standoff (also one of my favorites) was my #20 this year, and my #17 in 2019
    • It’s Your Life by Francesca Battistelli was my #26 this year, and my #30 last year
    • Boom Clap by Charli XCX was my #28 this year, and my #57 in 2019
    • Happy Home by Lukas Graham was my #29 this year, and my #7 last year
    • Love Yourself by Justin Bieber was my #40 this year, and my #49 in 2019
    • Rivers and Roads by The Head and the Heart was my #45 this year, and my #69 last year
    • Lie by Lukas Graham was my #58 this year, and my #60 in 2019
    • Fight Song by Rachel Platten was my #62 this year, and my #25 last year
    • You’re Not There by Lukas Graham was my #70 this year, and my #16 in 2019
    • September Grass by James Taylor was my #78 this year, and my #11 last year
    • Love Someone by Lukas Graham was my #83 this year, and my #8 in 2019
    • Cheer Up! by A Great Big World was my #92 this year, and my #70 last year
    • Promise by Lukas Graham was my #100 this year, and my #32 in 2019

My List of Safe Movies

A bubble timer distorts a computer screen that plays Five Feet Apart

A friend of mine asked me for recommendations on “safe” movies, and as I began to compile this list, I thought that other people might like it, too.

The movies here are all low-action, safe-feeling, and romantic comedies. There’s no horror, gore, intense action, etc.

When I find a good, safe movie that feels like it has the right “vibe,” I will watch it repeatedly for days on end. It’s not just about the actual content or genre, but the feeling that it gives me. It’s a combination of the subject, the characters, the setting, the soundtrack.

Movie poster for Five Feet Apart

1. Five Feet Apart

This movie tops my list right now because I only recently discovered it and have been religiously watching it every night for a few days.

It’s based on a YA novel, so it’s a “teen” movie. Like most others of the genre, it features complex, witty, traumatized characters who are struggling to cope with various things they encounter. This movie is about Stella, Will, and Poe who all have Cystic Fibrosis and are all inpatient in the hospital at the same time. It’s a love story but it’s also a tragedy.

What makes it safe:

  • The setting is a hospital setting, which my brain unequivocally registers as safe.
  • The characters are funny.
  • The soundtrack is lovely.
  • It’s a love story.
  • The narration is appealing.

Things to watch out for:

  • The characters are traumatized teenagers, which means that sometimes they hurt each other.
  • There is a death in the movie.
  • There are two terribly tense moments where you fear the worst but it does not come to fruition- the first time I watched this film my heart legitimately dropped for both of these scenes, but it is quickly resolved.
  • There is a near-death incident.
  • The end is very sad (but not in a catastrophic way).
  • There is one particularly gross coughing scene featuring mucous.

Watch the trailer here.

Movie poster for The Fault In Our Stars

2. The Fault In Our Stars

This movie maintains a permanent “close to the top” status in my mind. I adore it. What can I say? I’m a sucker for this trope.

This one is also based on a YA novel by the same name. It’s about two teenagers with cancer, Hazel and Augustus, and features a third cancer patient, Isaac. Again, a love story that is also a tragedy.

What makes it safe:

  • The setting is immaculate. There are scenes in the hospital and in a public park, but many of the scenes are in Hazel or Gus’ homes, a church basement, and throughout Amsterdam. The Amsterdam scenes are stunning, but the scenes in Hazel’s bedroom are also lovely.
  • The characters are funny.
  • The soundtrack is lovely.
  • It’s a love story.
  • Hazel’s narration is some of my favorite narration ever in a movie (although I will say, Jude Law’s narration of the movie version of A Series of Unfortunate Events gets 1st place).
  • The only “sex scene” is tasteful. There is nothing remotely explicit.

Things to watch out for:

  • There is a death of a lead character.
  • There is a funeral.
  • There is a hostile alcoholic man who causes distress to the lead characters.
  • Death is discussed at great length throughout.
  • There is one sort-of flippant mention of suicide.

Watch the trailer here.

Movie trailer for Just Go With It

3. Just Go With It

I realize that Adam Sandler movies are among those generally hated by people who think they have good taste, but I love them. I think his sense of humor is clever, the movies are usually safe, and I genuinely enjoy the predictability.

Just Go With It is about a plastic surgeon who meets a girl and ends up entangled in a ridiculous web of lies with his assistant, her kids, and his cousin. They go to Hawaii to uphold these lies and in the end, two characters fall in love and get married. It is riddled with incredible humor.

What makes it safe:

  • The setting. The beginning of the movie is mostly scenes in a doctor’s office, but almost all of the movie takes place in Hawaii. The setting is gorgeous.
  • It’s hilarious. Each character brings a different brand of humor and collectively you end up laughing the entire time.
  • The soundtrack is nice.
  • It’s a love story.
  • There is no tragedy, action, or scary moments.
  • There’s a happy ending.

Things to watch out for:

  • There’s cheating in the first scene.
  • There are genital and breast references in relation to plastic surgery.
  • Some of the humor is pretty crude.
  • There are references to a deadbeat parent and to child abuse.

Watch the trailer here.

Movie poster for Blended

4. Blended

Another Adam Sandler movie that I have watched at least a dozen times.

This one is about a single dad and a single mom who bump into each other a few times and can’t stand each other, but end up on a vacation together and fall in love.

What makes it safe:

  • It’s a love story.
  • The setting- this film primarily takes place at a resort in South Africa.
  • The soundtrack is great.
  • It’s funny.
  • There’s also a teenage romance.
  • There is no tragedy, action, or scary moments.
  • There’s a happy ending.

Things to watch out for:

  • Some of the humor is pretty crude.
  • It deals with sexuality in young teenagers, some of which is pretty bizarre.

Watch the trailer here.

Movie poster for Soul Surfer

5. Soul Surfer

Soul Surfer is the true story of Bethany Hamilton, adapted from her book about her experiences.

It’s about a girl who experienced a trauma, lost a limb, and learned about life and how to move forward from a tragedy.

What makes it safe:

  • The setting (I’m sure you are noticing a theme here). It takes place in Kauai, with a few scenes on Oahu and in Thailand.
  • The story is about growth and strength.
  • The family unit and friendships featured are very secure.
  • Surfing is continually shown throughout which is very visually and mentally appealing.
  • The soundtrack is fantastic.
  • There’s a happy ending.

Things to watch out for:

  • There are a lot of scenes where you anticipate the tragedy to happen which are anxiety-inducing the first time around.
  • There is a shark attack. It features a lot of blood and the panic that ensued thereafter.
  • Bethany grapples with becoming disabled in a way that is sometimes hurtful if you’re disabled.
  • The scenes in Thailand might be overwhelming because of the nature of the disaster that lead to it.

Watch the trailer here.

Movie poster for Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List

6. Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List

This is another recent obsession of mine.

Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List is also based off of a YA novel, this one featuring a pair of teenagers who are best friends. The characters deal with a lot of hard things ranging from absent parents to dismantled friendships. There are two love stories nested inside the bigger friendship story.

What makes it safe:

  • The setting- New York City, New York University, an apartment building, Central Park.
  • The characters are likeable and feel authentic.
  • It’s two love stories (one of which is LGTBQIA+) wrapped up inside of a friendship story.
  • There’s a happy ending.
  • The soundtrack is cool.

Things to watch out for:

  • Several mentions of cheating, both involving parents and involving friends.
  • An absentee parent.
  • A character has a mental breakdown of some sort, which involves taking a sledgehammer to a wall.
  • There is abundant heartbreak and a friend breakup.

Watch the trailer here.

Movie poster for Valentine’s Day

7. Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is one of my all-time favorites. This movie follows roughly a dozen Californians through the day on Valentine’s Day, most of whose stories intertwine.

What makes it safe:

  • It’s at least half a dozen love stories.
  • The setting is pleasant- in and around Los Angeles with a few airplane scenes.
  • The soundtrack is fabulous.
  • The characters are loveable and nuanced.
  • The intertwining plot is fascinating.
  • There is no tragedy, action, or scary moments.
  • There’s a happy ending.

Things to watch out for:

  • An engagement is broken off.
  • There’s cheating.

Watch the trailer here.

Movie poster for New Year’s Eve

8. New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is the same premise as Valentine’s Day, but it takes place in New York City on New Year’s Eve.

What makes it safe:

  • It’s at least half a dozen love stories.
  • The setting is pleasant- in and around New York City.
  • The soundtrack is great.
  • The characters are loveable and nuanced.
  • The intertwining plot is fascinating.
  • There is no tragedy, action, or scary moments.
  • There’s a happy ending.

Things to watch out for:

  • There is a death of an elderly person.
  • A teenager sneaks out of their home.
  • A teenager flashes their bra briefly.
  • There are scenes in a hospital setting.
  • There is a character who video chats from a war zone.

Watch the trailer here.

Movie trailer for This is 40

9. This Is 40

It’s a sort-of spin-off of Knocked Up, focused on a couple/family navigating the mundanity of ordinary life.

What makes it safe:

  • The setting.
  • The premise of mundane daily life.
  • It’s funny.
  • There is no tragedy, action, or scary moments.
  • There’s a happy ending.

Things to watch out for:

  • It’s crude.
  • There are sexual references/scenes.

Watch the trailer here.

Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup

This is one of my favorite, go-to recipes. I’ve been branching out and trying new soup recipes lately, but for a few years I pretty much just made this every couple of weeks through fall and winter- and no other soups.

I looked around for a slow cooker loaded potato soup recipe but I never found one that I loved, so I took this recipe and adapted it. I wanted something that was delicious, used golden or red skin potatoes, and was easy. This ends up being super simple.

Let me also level with you: I didn’t feel like using my DSLR and dealing with temperamental midday/evening lighting yesterday when I cooked this, so I took these photos on my phone. I usually take my food photos on my DSLR.

First, chop the potatoes. This time I’ve got some small gold potatoes from the Farmer’s Market. (Russet potatoes are vile, so I don’t use those). I used approximately 9 of them.

Next, chop the onions. These sweet onions also came from the Farmer’s Market, and I used 1 medium/small onion (although by Farmer’s Market standards, this onion was huge).

Toss the chopped potatoes and chopped onion in the crock pot.

Then cover with 1 full quart of chicken broth. You can use vegetable broth if you want the recipe to be vegetarian, since there’s no reason not to, but I happened to have chicken broth on hand. I haven’t personally tried it with veggie broth, so I cannot attest to it’s flavor.

These potatoes and onions sit in the crock pot for about 3.5hrs before you get to the next step, which is perfect if you’re busy with online classes (like me).

When the potatoes are almost fully cooked, it’s time to add 1&1/2 cup of heavy cream, 2/3 of a cup of flour, 5 tablespoons of butter, and 1/4 cup (ish) of sour cream. The recipe I sort-of followed calls for you to make a roux, but I’ll be honest, I think it’s just extra work and dishes. I just dump it all in the soup. I actually made a roux once for this recipe, but realized it makes absolutely no difference, and never have again.

Cook for another 30mins on high while you bake (or pan fry, if you prefer the laborious version…) some bacon for crumbling.

When it’s all done, ladle some soup into your bowl and top with cheddar, bacon crumbles, and chives or green onion!

Book Review: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

I have to start this review by saying that this one is a bit lighter-hearted that the previous two books I’ve reviewed- Unstoppable Moses and Everything, Everything both tackle some bigger issues than this novel. That is not to say, necessarily, that it is less profound.

Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List is the story of two 18-year-old college students, Naomi and Ely, who have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They live in the same apartment building, attend the same school, and spend every waking moment together.

To ensure the preservation of their decades long friendship, Naomi (interested in men) and Ely (also interested in men) maintain a “No Kiss List” which details all of the people that are off-limits for them to date, kiss, or show interest in.

Their friendship doesn’t even waiver when their parents (Naomi’s dad and one of Ely’s moms) have an affair that implodes Naomi’s life and demolishes her mother.

Until Ely kisses Naomi’s boyfriend, Bruce (the second; there are two Bruces in this book, referred to affectionately as Bruce the First and Bruce the Second).

All hell breaks loose and Naomi & Ely’s friendship comes crashing down. Only, Naomi isn’t upset about Bruce. She’s upset that her friend betrayed her and more importantly, she’s been in love with Ely all along. Naomi has to accept that Ely is gay and will never pine for her the way she has pined for him.

From this point until the end of the book, the revelations pour in for Naomi and for Ely, while Bruce (the Second) grapples with some of his insecurities. The novel comes to a close when Naomi & Ely find solace in a satisfying resolve.

Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List is written in numerous points of view- Naomi, Ely, Bruce the First, Bruce the Second, Kelly (Bruce the First’s twin sister), Robin (girl), and Robin (boy).

Admittedly, Bruce (the First), Kelly, and both Robins seem like extraneous points of view when you consider the story as a whole, but I digress. Maybe when I re-read this novel I’ll understand their pertinence. I’m a sucker for multiple POV’s anyway.

What I like most about this novel is not the plot or the lighter vibe that it emulates compared to some books that deal with more substantial life issues, but the familiarity of the character’s voices when they talk about their feelings. So much so that I’m actually working on a post that is a compilation of my favorite Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List quotes.

Sometimes I actually feel like the authors are inside my brain. The thought processes can sometimes feel so identical to things I have thought that it’s almost jarring how in-tune Levithan and/or Cohn is with the experience of being a teenager or young adult with emotions you can’t quite process.