Things I Love Right Now: Podcasts

I’ve been a fan of podcasts for awhile now. Storytelling, listening to people have conversations (friendly and/or intellectual), and learning something new have always been appealing. When my family moved to the States from London, my parents discovered public radio, and constantly listened to it. I’ve found comfort in public radio in my adult life. Not only is it often interesting, it reminds me of my childhood.

With podcasts, this allows me to listen to a lot of my favorite public radio offerings at my own pace. Of course, there are so many other podcast options out there aside from public radio offerings. I have a huge collection of podcasts in my Overcast library. Variety definitely is the spice of life! I must say, I have a couple hundred episodes to listen to at this point, and I am totally okay with that.

A few of my favorites are somewhat popular and probably don’t need too much of an introduction. Others might be completely new to you.

Dear Sugar
Everyone is gaga over Cheryl Strayed, and rightfully so. She’s insightful, caring, honest, and witty. This podcast was born from the Dear Sugar column in The Rumpus. Basically, both the column and the podcast are akin to Dear Abby. The difference is that Dear Sugar is raw, a bit brutal, honest, and incredibly helpful. I love hearing Cheryl and Steve Almond offer sage advice to people who write in. The letters that they get are exceptional, and the responses are equally amazing.

Ladies Who Lunch
This is a weekly podcast done by two YouTubers, Cat Valdez and Ingrid Nilsen. I stumbled across it, as I occasionally watch Ingrid’s YouTube channel. Sure, I’m a few years older than both ladies, and the content is definitely geared towards Millenials (I stick to my guns when I say I am Gen X). The content is still great, and it’s wonderful to hear two women have an intelligent conversation about a multitude of topics, including the election, our bodies, and dating.

I love this podcast simply because offers such a positive insight on Islam. This is a podcast everyone should listen to, Muslim or not. Taz and Zahra are hilarious, well spoken, and downright awesome. I downloaded the first episode soon after it was published, and did so out of sheer curiosity and with the hope to enrich my own life. We all should expose ourselves to ideas and cultures that are different from our own. This podcast allows me to learn a little about Islam and Muslim culture, and hear from intelligent, thoughtful women.

2 Dope Queens
If you aren’t listening to this podcast already, please do. Seriously, stop reading this post right now, and download as many episodes as you can or want. For those of you who are unaware, this is an awesome comedy podcast lead by Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams. In this podcast, comedians of all genders, ethnicities, and sexualities are featured. I absolutely love and need this podcast. This is absolutely necessary on bad days, as I know that I’ll get a giggle. I mean, if you want free stand-up, this is right up your alley. And, I think we should be supporting women of color.

Not By Accident
The first episode of this podcast was featured on another podcast, Strangers (which I love, for the most part). I love the format of this podcast. It is a audio documentary of a single woman, who happens to be gay, getting pregnant and having a child. Sophie Harper’s story is very touching and inspiring. With every episode, I am reminded that I can do many things I put my heart and mind to. Also, I am reminded that it never hurts to ask for help. Sure, this podcast caters to a specific audience, but it really is worthwhile.

Stuff Mom Never Told You
There is one huge reason why I listen to this podcast: learning. There is a never ending slew of topics Caroline and Cristen talk about, some of which I know and understand. However, this is a basic jumping off point for getting inspired to research a multitude of topics that are female (cis- or not) related. My one gripe is that the two women hosting this podcast are cis-gendered and Caucasian. With that said, they do their best to be impartial and educated with the information they are talking about. They cite their reputable sources, which is incredibly important.

These are the ones I listen to the most frequently. If I am all caught up, there are a few other podcasts I’ll listen to, which I often reserve for commutes, cooking, or moments I need a giggle.

What are your favorite podcasts? What are you obsessively listening to? I love recommendations!

Get Motivated

As someone who has struggled with procrastination and motivation most of my life, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way(s) to get excited about each day. I work well under pressure, as do, I feel, many people. But, daily productivity makes life just a little easier.

The first thing is to create a clean & functional living environment. When your living space is clean and clutter free, it is easier to relax and enjoy downtime. Also, it allows one to designate different areas for different activities.

I’m currently in the middle of decluttering & deep cleaning my bedroom. I admit that is totally chaotic. And, the older I get, the less I can tolerate controlled chaos. So, I am sorting through clothes, cosmetics, books, etc., and compartmentalizing everything. Hopefully, by the end of the week my bedroom will be a million times better.

[Let’s be real for a moment, this blog post is a distraction from the decluttering process.]

Decluttering my room is a daunting task, as I am known for letting things pile up/collect. I’m not a hoarder; never have been, never will be. The thing is, when it comes to my stuff/my bedroom, I don’t clean as I go. It’s a bad habit, one that I am trying to break.

In order to get me pumped to reorganize, I’ll choose a Genius Mix on my iPod, and let the music guide me. If I am able to hear things that make me happy, I find myself feeling much more productive and willing to work. Some people need silence to be productive. I’m the opposite. While I am very sensitive to loud sounds (slamming doors, screaming babies, trains, etc. all stress me out), if I am in control of my auditory environment, I am a happy & motivated person. If you are like me, I suggest you make a few different playlists to cater to any mood, setting, or goal. I’ve got countless hours of music in my iTunes library, so it’s not very difficult to create a plethora of playlists.

Next, I make sure I am well fed and hydrated. I don’t focus well if I’m not hydrated. And, I hate feeling hungry. If it means having a bowl of berries and/or cashews within reach, that’s perfect. If the project is longer than a few hours, I take into consideration meal breaks. It’s always good to step away from something if you’ve been at it for a few hours.

Lastly, I set a goal time and/or date. I’ll post it on my mirror, my calendar, next to my bed – whatever reminds me to get stuff done. Within that scope, I make sure to factor in all other aspects of life: work, school, rest, exercise, and socializing. And, I definitely make sure I do take breaks. I’ll go at it for a few hours, take a break, then get back to the grind if there is more to do.

With that said, the most important thing to remember is to remind yourself that even if the task at hand is extremely daunting, there is a purpose to it, and the end result will be worth it. So, do what makes you most motivated. Music, the chance to see a movie you’ve always wanted, a yummy snack or dessert, a friend you’ve been dying to catch up with. Give yourself an attainable reward to look forward to and be reasonable with your expectations and timeframe.

Free Stuff! Giveaway…

Hi dears!! Everyone loves the opportunity to get free stuff, right? I know I do. Free hugs, free food, free petrol, free love…

So, I’ve been formulating a giveaway to do. I’ve been collecting things over the last few months that I’m happy to pass on to others. Why not make it interesting?

Here are the rules:
1. Follow or subscribe to me me on at least one of the social media sites I am on
This blog, or
DJ ToasterBiscuit, or
A Life In Paperback, or
FaceBook, or
Twitter, or
Bloglovin’, and
2. Leave a comment here telling me your favorite thing about winter and your current music/movie/literature/art obsession. If you can hit the like button, even better! Also, please share which form of social media you have chosen to connect with me if it is not directly here.
3. This step is optional. If you could give me a shout out on your favorite social media site, I’ll be forever grateful! If you do, email me a screen capture or leave a link in your comment. Who knows, if you do this optional step, you might get two chances to win!?
4. The deadline is 11.59pm PST, December 30th, 2013.

What am I giving away? I’m putting together a box of treat yourself goodies. Included will be a pear scented candle, some dry body oil, a face exfoliator, a face serum or two, a moisturizer, and possibly even a $20 gift card of your choosing (within reason). I will definitely include more, I promise. Guys, check this out: the exfoliator is a cult favorite in the GQ/Esquire/Entourage watching circle of men. (Ladies, it’s amazing. I have a few tubes of it. That’s why I’m willing to part with one.) Plus guys, if you have any women you care about, everything else can make great gifts.

If I only get one comment, I will either nix the giveaway or reboot it and start over in January. So participate please!!!

50 Facts About Ellie, part 1

There’s a YouTuber tag going around called “50 Facts About Me” and I wanted to join in. But, I’m not YouTube ready! But, I’d like to share some fun tidbits about myself if you’re willing to learn!

  1. I like things in multiples of three, especially 15 of anything. 9 and 15 are my “lucky” numbers.
  2. Because of my three fascination, I’ve actually noticed I get restless every three years and ache for change.
  3. My middle name should have been Wanderlust. I’d be happy living from town to town and country hopping as I please. [The run off of last year’s multiple of three “I need to move” craving is lingering.]
  4. While I’m still adamant I’d like to be a published author, I still secretly wish I had majored in theatre & become a struggling Off-Broadway actress, mercilessly slinging Shakespeare or contemporary theatre to those who live for that type of thing.
  5. One of these days, I’m going to learn how to tap dance.
  6. When I was a child, I ate anything that was given to me, including steak & kidney pie, or liver, or fresh mussels. I’m sure my parents still have a picture of me from when I was about 5 or 6. In my wet raincoat, I was looking incredibly feral and canine, with a hand in a bucket of mussels and the other hand stuffing a mussel in my mouth. I remember that night vividly.
  7. Now, I am much more particular about what I eat. As I grew older, my tactile sense became a lot more sensitive. I love the taste of beef, lamb, and bacon. Both my body & mind can’t grasp the sensation & action of eating animal flesh. [Rice pudding, bread pudding, and Jello as well.]
  8. I’d happily eat nothing but broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, and lentils for the rest of my life. Those four foods are what I crave most.
  9. For someone who eats a vegetarian (with a Greek yoghurt or a few nibbles of cheese eaten very sporadically) diet, I constantly surprise phlebotomists & my doctor at how iron rich my blood is. I haven’t taken an iron supplement since I was 13. The last time I had my blood drawn, the guy doing so said “Wow, I haven’t seen this much hemoglobin in a long time. Did you eat a big, raw steak in the last 24 hours?” I said, “nope, I haven’t eaten beef since I was 11. I did, however eat a hefty salad last night.”
  10. I used to run competitively (and hard) between the ages of 12 and 18. The moment I graduated high school, I swore off running for a very long time.
  11. For my 31st birthday, I registered myself to run my first official half-marathon. This is a distance I was very capable of running as a teen and did so a few times to blow off steam. I’ll be running the 13.1 miles in less than a month.
  12. I can’t help myself when it comes to collecting books. I have a hideous amount of books I’ve bought over the last ten years that I’ve yet to read. A week ago, I made a promise to myself to not buy any more books until I’ve read twenty of the books on my bookshelf.
  13. The book that changed my life is Taming The Beast by Emily Maguire. For those of you who didn’t pay attention in English in high school, the title pays homage to my favorite Shakespeare play, Othello. Ms. Maguire’s book was jarring, unnerving, and emotional. I feel that this book came into my life just at the right time. I was destined to read the book when I did. I is a permanent fixture on my bookshelf, even if I haven’t re-read it yet.
  14. The quickest way to get me out of a crabby mood is to wave peppermint essential oil under my nose for 15 seconds.
  15. I think Mark Rothko is a genius and hope that all of you get to have a moment of peace with one of his paintings.
  16. I have an ear for (Western) European languages, even though I don’t spend anytime learning, practicing, and seeking them out. I hope that my wanderlust allows me the chance to finesse my francais and become more comfortable with my espanol and relearn conversational italiano and machen ein paar bier in deutschland mit freunden. I’m grateful to work with many native Spanish speakers. I desperately want to know what they’re talking about, so I force myself to figure out what they’re saying.
  17. I hate long, overly crafted nails. I think they are unattractive and useless. Nails that go just above the tips of your fingers are fine. I naturally assume a person with overly crafted nails don’t want to get their hands dirty or lift heavy boxes or do manual labor. With that said, I keep my nails short, and every time I try to grow them, I fail.
  18. My favorite household chore is doing dishes. I could easily live without a dishwasher, as I keep it basic and love doing dishes by hand. Some people knit. Others paint. I do dishes to calm down or distract myself on a bad day. It is such a simple chore that it doesn’t feel like a chore.
  19. As a child I hated milk with my cereal. I would either eat it dry or use orange juice. To this day, I still love Cheerios in orange juice.
  20. Just over a decade ago, I wanted to open a bookshop/cafe that featured art from high schoolers up to recent college graduates, as well as hosting a bi-monthly Salon and a bi-weekly open mic. I still do, and waxed mildly poetic about it in a post at A Life In Paperback.
  21. If I don’t have to wear shoes, I won’t. The shoes are on only at work or while I’m exercising or am in a place of business where social etiquette requires people to wear shoes.
  22. I don’t like driving, unless I’m driving long distances. I’d be happy to settle in a major metropolitan area with a strong public transportation system. Or in a contemporary commune that is able to sustain each and every resident.
  23. I’m convinced I was born 30 years late. The history of the 50’s-70’s in Western Society and amazing cultural & political changes that happened were amazing and seeing all of that happen first hand would have been amazing.
  24. I seem to always root for the underdog. Brian Kinney from the US version of Queer as Folk is my favorite underdog. He was incredibly selfish, pretentious, arrogant, and guarded. But, deep under that really hard veneer was a huge softy. In fact, I like the idea of doing a podcast about underdogs in literature, film, and TV.
  25. Video games baffle me. Sure, I understand that satisfaction of competition &  completing tasks. But, sitting at a computer or at a TV to get that kind of satisfaction doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather have some sort of physical or financial reward for completing tasks and having a healthy sense of competition. I’d rather play a game of touch football than play Halo.

I’m not going to take up anymore space. I’m going to make this a two parter! And, to be special, Part 2 is at my other blog, A Life In Paperback. To find out more about me, wonder over there!!

Treat Yourself Thursday!

I’m not sure if anyone else does this, but I’m going to start! Every Thursday, I will offer something fun you can do for yourself to lift your mood & take care of your wellbeing (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.). And, if you keep watch, something might just be in store for a lucky reader!

Today’s Treat will be a playlist to be played during a leisurely stroll. Walking, no matter the pace, is an amazing action pretty much anyone can do. Taking 20-30 minutes out of your day to go for an intentional walk is not only great exercise, but a way for you to process your emotions. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day, taking yourself on a walk by yourself allows you to take inventory of why you feel stressed & formulate a way of letting go. Also, exercise is a natural stress reliever in general. It regulates many hormones, including cortisol (stress hormone) and melatonin (hormone that helps dictate your own circadian rhythm & sleep). Walking outside in the sun for 20 minutes will also get you a good dose of natural vitamin D, an essential nutrient that allows your body to absorb other nutrients more effectively.

Treat Yourself Playlist:
Floetic – Floetry
She Gave Me Love – The Getaway People
Radio, Radio – Elvis Costello
Thing of Beauty – Hothouse Flowers
Trouble – Ray LaMontagne
Candles – Daughter
Dreaming – Loudon Wainwright III
Hold On – Alabama Shakes
Bad – Luka Bloom
What You Wish For – Guster
In The Twilight – Alexander
Revolution Song – Fefe Dobson
Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers
La ou je suis nee – Camille
Badass – Kacy Crowley
2000 Miles – The Pretenders

This playlist is just a start and enough to fill a decent walk. I like to mix up my playlists with some faster paced songs with some mellow songs, as variety is always a great motivator. If you do want to try out this playlist, please support the arts and use iTunes or Amazon or some other legal channel to access these songs. And, please check out any artists/bands I mentioned if you haven’t heard of them. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Happy Walking!