Sunday, March 24, 2013

10 Books Every 20-Something Female Should Read

I hate to get all gender-happy with this post, but as a young woman in my 20s myself, I feel I can best speak to this demographic. I'd like to note that this isn't (by any means) a comprehensive or perfect list. These selections are solely based on my favorite female-oriented texts. Sorry, Jane Austen lovers; I have no love for the distinguished lady. Here we go. . .

 10 Books Every 20-Something Female Should Read 

(in no particular order)

  1. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1847): No woman's list would be complete without this Bronte novel, in my opinion. Every time I've read it, I discover something new about myself, depending on where I am in life and what's going on at the time. It's truly a work that transcends time and place, and it has the ability to speak to anyone at any time.
  2. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985): To me, this novel isn't one of Atwood's best in terms of writing style, but it is her most famous. A dystopian/speculative fiction novel, it will appeal to those who love 1984 and other such texts. What it really explorers, however, is what happens when a person loses her selfhood- and how she gains it back. It's a discovery of how we come to realize who we really are as people and how society is a part of that picture. Warning: contains adult themes. Not sure why high school kids read this? I saw the word "fucking" while reading it in jr. high and lost it.
  3. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf: Never has such a novel full of dull details been so interesting. The book details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post-World War I England while exploring themes of mental illness, feminism, existentialism, and homosexuality. What stands out the most, however, is how beautifully it's written.
  4. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934): I couldn't construct any type of book list without my favorite author! Though you may have been forced to read the Great Gatsby in high school (a.k.a most wonderful book ever written), you may not have ever been exposed to this novel. Best paired with an account of the Fitzgeralds' life, Tender is the Night is largely autobiographical and hints at the mental illness that F. Scott's wife Zelda was facing. A gorgeous piece of prose itself, it's even better with an in-depth exploration of the female mind of the "original flapper," Zelda Fitzgerald.
  5. The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood(1969): Like all of Atwood's novels, The Edible Woman deals with gender stereotypes, but this time, there's a large focus on body image. Atwood's biting wit is apparent, as is her dedication to an exploration of her self for her female protagonists (for more information, see my MA thesis :) ). As the protagonist Marian slowly detaches from reality, the reader must also examine how he/she fits into our narcissistic world.
  6. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (1966): If you've read and enjoyed (or plan to read) Jane Eyre, adding this book to your list is a no-brainer. Rhys writes a novel that acts as a prequel to Jane Eyre, with a focus on Mr. Rochester's "mad woman in the attic," known in the earlier text as his wife, Bertha Mason. A post-colonial novel, it deals with themes of race, displacement, and assimilation into a new culture. If you've ever wanted to know more about Rochester's first wife, here's your chance. It might make you detest Rochester and Jane though. Just saying.
  7. The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (2003): A book that's arguably much better than the movie in my opinion, though it's excellent, The Time Traveler's Wife is a beautifully written conglomeration of science and romance. It focuses on a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to spontaneously travel in time and his life-long romance with his steadfast love. I'm not gonna lie, it can get a bit uncomfortable sometimes. Would you like to make out with your current lover at age 14(ish) if you were your current age? Didn't think so..
  8. Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood (1995): One of my favorite books of all time, Alias Grace shifts between a servant girl who is jailed for murder named Grace and her psychiatric doctor. As the reader, it can be difficult to know when Grace is speaking or thinking due to Atwood's stream of consciousness-type style (no punctuation), but it's fascinating to see how she thinks of herself, her doctor's observations, and how she's viewed by the public.
  9. A Song of Ice and Fire (series), George R. R. Martin (1996-2011): The television adaptation of this series is often lauded for its powerful female characters, and the book certainly follows this model as well. Though I've only read the first two books so far (they're huge, so it's slow-going), I definitely consider it to be a fascinating experience. Though the world Martin has built is a sexist one, several key women and young ladies rise to the occasion of harnessing their own power and being self-reliant. Some even lead armies. Note: If you've seen the series on television so far, I can tell you that the first two books are relatively identical. At this point, I'm reading for more details. You could easily skip ahead to the third and not miss too much.
  10. Evelina:or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World, Francis Burney (1778): I may find Jane Austen rather dull, but her literary predecessor Francis Burney is another matter. In one of the longest "books" I've ever conquered, Burney builds an 16th century world around the protagonist Evelina in this three-part epistolary novel, in which she is the legitimate, but unacknowledged daughter of the upper-class society. The "book" has plenty of twists and turns, though they're a bit further spaced than we see today. I like to think of Burney as a more scandalous Jane Austen, with a more interesting writing style to boot. But, to each his/her own. You may prefer Pride and Prejudice.
What do you think? What books/texts would you add to the list? I'd love to know!

-KT <3

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How to Get Your Macklemore On: Thrift Shopping for Dummies

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So, you're in the car and Macklemore's Thrift Shop comes on. Yeah, you know, that song that's been blowing up the radio lately. Ok, maybe you've been living in a hole, so here it is: 

Alright, you get the point. These days, it's cool to be thrifty- even if you don't like wearing your grandpa's clothes. Well, I'll tell you one thing; I've been thrifty for long before it became the "it" thing to do. You know, cause I'm an English major and a writer, and I usually only have $20 in my pocket (if that).

So, I've put together a list of some tips and tricks as a sort of thrift/bargain shopping guide for those who are a bit . . . misguided. After all, thrifting can be beneficial for everyone (and the environment!)

Before I begin, here are some of my most recent acquisitions: 

From top:  
-I <3 Nerds Sweatshirt $3.99- Kmart 
- Dress (new from local mall store, found at Goodwill)- $4.99, Cat Shirt (Forever 21, Goodwill)- $4.99, Yellow Shirt (Forever 21, Goodwill)- $3.99, Summer Floral Dress- $5.99
-Yellow Swimsuit- $13- Marshall's 
- Shorty Shorts- $12.99 (T.J. Maxx) 
- Stripe Dress- $15 (T.J. Maxx)
- Jessica Simpson White Summer Dress - $30 (T.J. Maxx) 

WHEW. . . .  

I've been pretty busy lately with my week-long trip to Cancun coming up soon! I didn't  have a large stock of summer dresses and swimsuits (well, I guess that depends on what you consider "a lot" but. . . ) since I live in VT now, so I certainly got to work shopping! But, on to the tips and tricks. As you can see, lately I've purchased new and used clothing, so I'll include tips for both. 

5 Thrifty Tricks for Bargain/Thrift Shopping

  1.  Get Over Yourself. I'm not kidding on this one, people. Have you ever considered how overpriced brand name clothing is? Although there's a time and a place to purchase quality items, there's no sense in spending money on an item you'll only wear a couple of times or basic clothing items. Spending less doesn't make you any less "cool" or make you seem poor. Rich people thrift too, y'all. It's called vintage. If you do by used, just make sure you wash before wearing (which you should do with new clothing as well!)
  2. Know When to Go for Quality. There are some clothing items that just aren't the same used or cheap. Shoes, for example- especially heels and winter boots, are best when new. You want your heels to be free of scuffs and your boots to last you a few winters, right? Dole out some cash and buy some boots that won't fall apart after two weeks in the snow and salt and heels that will make you look like the classy broad you are. Another item you'll want to spend a bit more on is outerwear. Though light jackets are fine to find cheap, you're going to want a thick, quality winter coat if your climate demands it.
  3. Set a Budget. If you're really tight on cash, it's important to set a budget when thrifting/bargain shopping. Even though it may feel like you're getting a ton for your money (and you probably are), you still don't want to blow your rent money. #20dollasinmypocket
  4. Shop Mid-Season. Shopping mid-season is so much smarter than waiting for the end of the season deals. Why? Because you're likely to get a few "wears" out of your items before next year, and, if you're like me, you just aren't going to be that jazzed about the $3 sweater you bought last year when next season rolls around. 
  5. Keep it Classy, Bitches: Not just true for bargain shopping/thrifting. Try to buy items that are classic enough to last through the trendy seasons. This will definitely save you money in the long run. If you do decide to get uber-trendy (Put down those parachute pants!), don't blow too much of your budget.


 So, what's new in my life, you ask? Not that you actually care, but I"m going to tell you anyway. 

1. I got my belly button re-pierced today. I've had it out for 2ish years, and it didn't hurt at all when the tat guy stretched it out. I still had the hole so, why not fill it.. amIright? 

2. As stated, I'm going to Cancun. April 9th. 6 night stay. Epicness. LivingSocial is basically the best. We got everything for the amount of my tax refund. Coincidence? I think not. 
3. I now take spin classes. Right now, I'm doing the ones that are combined with yoga or strength training at my workplace. Not sure if I can do a whole 60 mins yet. I never thought I'd like spin. I was wrong. Apparently, someone yelling at me really gets me moving!
4. I took a GRIT class to help a friend out, and that shit was CRAY. 
5. I did the Dr. OZ 48-hour cleanse. It was not fun. My body hated me.#OverIt. 

There are more things to share, but I wouldn't want my next blog post to be too short. ;)

Until next time! 


Saturday, March 9, 2013

What's in a Name?

The Escapades of an Escaped Southern Belle. . . if you don't know my story, the title may strike you as a little odd. So, let me explain myself. For those of you who do know me, maybe you'll learn a little more.

This is a story I've wanted to tell for a long time and one that isn't an easy one to write. I guess it really all started when I studied in London in July 2008. It was the summer before my senior year, and I had started to think about where I would be applying for grad school the next year. Well, "think" is really the wrong word, I guess. I always assumed I would stay at my undergrad university (Southern MS), graduate with my MA or higher, and begin teaching English at a community college in Mississippi. Considering that idea now, it seems completely foreign to me. The decision was a huge factor in the person I am today.

So, although I traveled with a group from Southern Miss to attend British Studies, I didn't really know anyone because I only transferred from community college the year before and had a close group of friends left over from those days. Though I had been to Europe before when I was younger, I was surrounded (and shepherded) by family members the entire time. Besides, I was too young to really experience the sense of losing oneself in a place where no one knows you, you're unfamiliar with the public transportation, and you have to learn to like Indian food because hamburgers are grey instead of brown. In 2008, it was completely different. I learned that I had the ability to make friends anywhere, to get around any city alone, and to rely only on myself.

Needless to say, this feeling was incredibly empowering. When I returned to MS, I craved more adventure, more new places. People always ask me "how in the world" I chose Vermont of all places, and I always make a joke about looking appealing on the internet (which is true), but really, I believe that it's simply where I am supposed to be. The next year, after applying to my undergrad university, Penn State, and CUNY, I changed my spring break plans quickly from a trip to Austin, TX (where I still need to visit), and flew with my parents and two brothers into Burlington with my UVM acceptance letter in hand.

It was cold and windy and grey, but I knew as soon as I saw the central campus (which held architecture styles I imagined would sit on campuses like Harvard) that it was the place for me. Though my mom told me I should wait longer to make a decision, I had already made up my mind; UVM was my top choice.

To say that Mississippi and Vermont and complete opposites is almost an understatement. From political and social attitudes to religious views and general approaches to life, it was like jumping into a foreign country all over again. I had to learn to recycle (yes, I'm serious), went for my first hikes, and (more recently) went sledding, snoweshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding.

Most importantly, though, I learned a lot about my self. Moving from one of the most conservative places in the United States to one of the most liberal, I learned that I fall in-between. I learned that, sadly, homophobia and racism still run rampant in the South, and I learned how to get that voice out of my head that tells me to judge others because of their beliefs, what they're wearing, or what their backgrounds are. I also learned it's important not to adopt everything about my new environment and that there are some beliefs I grew up with that are worth keeping. In short, I learned about tolerance and acceptance, even though I thought I was way ahead of the game in MS. I felt like I went from being somewhat liberal-minded in the South to being ultra-conservative in Vermont, though nothing really changed.

There are many things I love and miss about the South. For one, it's a heck of a lot warmer. Then, of course, there's that Southern hospitality (which, sometimes, forced or not), is pleasant to be around. It took me quite a while to realize that some of the northerners who I thought were a bit too curt were simply more honest, and now I prefer to have real honesty above fake geniality.Of course, it's also hard to be away from my family and old friends- especially my younger brothers, whom I miss terribly. Those feelings improved a bit when one of my best friends from home (Caroline) moved up for about eight months, and when my brother Kevin came to stay for several months this past summer as well. It was nice to have ties to home so far away,  and I feel very blessed to have had both of them as roommates- even if my brother is very untidy.

Speaking of the South, let's address my southern accent and the fact that I tried so hard to lose it when I first moved up north. Being in a MA program for English Literature, I felt so uncomfortable at first because I knew that there's a stigma around Southerners that we simply aren't as intelligent. Granted, I learned that my English program at USM was really nothing like the VERY theory-based program I entered at the University of Vermont, and I wished that I had actually ever been required to taking a psychology class instead of substituting Biblical Studies. I suppressed my accent to the point where I have to actually think about speaking that way today. I've been clinging tight to my "y'alls" for a while now, but other than that, it doesn't come out a lot, and I have mixed feelings about that. 

Today, I'm patiently waiting for the reason that everyone lives in Vermont (don't let them tell you otherwise)- the gorgeous, perfect summers. Really, they're the only reason even some life-long residents can make it through the winter, and I'm feeling the urge to sit in the warm VT sun as well. Last summer, in fact, was the time that I realized that Vermont had a true hold on me. I wanted to stick around for a while, and if I move, it will always have a huge place in my heart. I can't promise I won't grow old here, but I am on constant watch for new adventures, places, and experiences with good friends.

I'll always be a southern girl at heart, but Vermont is the place that I'm happy. It's a place where anyone can be who she wants. It's a place where hippies, farmers, politicians, musicians, and business people are one. We all work together to support our community, our health, and our happiness. There's a general feeling of open-mindedness that ties us all together, and I don't know how many places you can really find that these days. 

 So, there's my rambling first post. Though I have to admit I did spare you some of the details, I'm sure they'll all come out at some point. In the future, my blog will be an assortment of different topics. From fashion and fitness to healthy living, traveling, and everyday life, I hope it provides you with some knowledge and laughs along the way. 

I leave you with a photo of the beautiful state I live in: