3 years to 50!?

I’ve had many words to say about inconsequential things, and inconsequential words to say about many things. Somehow that got us to 50 complete packages of things published on this here internet space we call Tales of Cass.

Three years! Fifty posts! I am equal parts impressed and disappointed in that figure.

A few weeks ago I stumbled back onto my landing page and started looking through the old drafts of some of the things I’ve saved to write over the years. I’ll be honest, it started making me pretty upset. I wish I could say in the past few weeks or even months but, in all honesty, in the past year (and then some) I’ve had such a stretch of lacking the desire to write anything at all – on and off this space.

If my personal journals ever make it into a museum exhibit, this time period will come to be known as The Barren. Correspondences with faraway friends via letters and emails, the kind that kept my fingers nice and toasty warmed up, have slowly dropped off. Scribbles of notes with ideas and words and strings of sentences sit in a notebook, unacted upon.

I remember the exact day that I started this site, which says a lot because I remember approximately nothing in my life (poor nutrition and homeostatic dehydration will do that to you, kids). It was while sitting on the bed of my tiny little dungeon (read: basement) dorm in Cambridge, convinced that I wasn’t going to make any friends during my study abroad experience (flash forward and I’ve now seen two of those friends get married) so I needed something else to keep myself occupied. It was a crazy, creative, wonderful summer for me because it was the first time I got to immerse myself entirely in the things that I loved – two whole months of reading and writing.

It made, and still makes, me so happy to post something here. To think of an idea and jot down a ton of random notes about what I envision I’ll be able to put together. Then to go out and do it so that I can sit down and write it.

When it comes easily, that’s when I know I’m onto something that I really truly enjoy – not just in the moment but in the now years later when I scan back through these pages on particularly bad days. I used to find any excuse to get my words out here, to make myself laugh and grow and do something a little outside my comfort zone. Now I find myself using Tales of Cass more often than not for the memorabilia – to look back on all of the cool things that I’ve done and to remind me of where my heart places lie.

I’m trying my hardest to get back to those words that we all know are in here somewhere.

In the meantime, and as a celebration of these three wild years, I wanted to do what I do best and look back on some of my top three categorized Casstastrophes. Obviously I can’t go without also giving you some slightly new content so “never-before-read” Editor’s Notes have also been added for every link, from me to me to you. Enjoy.


Top 3 Photos

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Top 3 Lists

Learn a Book, Every Annual
2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Pembroke Library

Probably the most consistent thing about this place. Technically this is cheating, you may say, these are four individual posts. But I say I do what I want. There will be a record kept of the books that I read regardless and I enjoy writing these annual challenges so much because they keep me on my toes. My past few years have gone so horribly off-course from the intended end results that even my intense internalized competitiveness couldn’t help drag them back, but here we are. I try really hard to write these as funny, punny, and informative. I’m also obsessive over page counts, which is why they’re always included. Engage me, I dare you.

A List of Cooking Tips For a Novice Like Me

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I am such a bad cook. And also still reeling from the fact that I baked bread once. As in, edible food bread. Like, bread that people actually ate. Shockingly enough, I actually still remember some of these tips that I was taught. I’ve also come to enjoy getting a little experimental in the kitchen every now and then. As long as the every includes a bottle of red wine.

23 Thoughts On Turning 23

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The OG of yet another annual series. 23 Thoughts is particularly fond to me because it essentially wrote itself in my head while I was driving down a well-worn street in my hometown, one I’ve driven at least 7,000 times. It was the holidays and I was home for indefinitely after just having finished my undergraduate education. Apparently I was in a reflective mood and a bunch of the Thoughts started begging for attention so I wrote them into a draft while waiting in line at Starbucks. Over the next month or so it grew into what it is. I’m either going to die young or we’re all going to be stuck living through this hellscape of wondering what gimmicks I can come up with until I’m 87.

Top 3 Written

Real Moments: “To Everything Its Proper Time And Place And Turn.”

I don’t really talk on why I do these but I do them. This one was a storm. I spent weeks barely sleeping on the floor of my college dorm room, drinking more apple cider than any human rightfully should, and playing hours upon hours of Gilmore Girls episodes because I was too afraid of quiet. Gogol’s ‘Dead Souls’ was the first thing to make me laugh again. A group of guys who asked to pair with me for a semester-long class project were the second. None of them were actually friends with me, but they’ll never know how much I needed them to be exactly them at that point in time. I had a duality to play. Go to class, finish your degree. Stay home, think of it all. Eventually this one wrote itself too.

Books I Brought Abroad

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Another one with strong associations to the floor. My room in Ireland had a heater settled at the wallspace between the bottom of the window and the top of the baseboards. When I was reading or writing I’d either sit in the chair at my little desk right next to it or on the floor with my body twisted and tucked to make the heat hit as many places as possible (my best was full back plus a thigh and a half). As a kid I used to lay on the floor next to the heater to read as well so if there’s two things we all take away about me today it’s warmth and floors. This was the first supplemental books posts I made (beyond Learn A Book), and it started the idea of bibliove.

To England, With Love: A Send-Off to Summer

Have I mentioned how important this experience was to me, yet? Cool, cool, just checking. To this day I am fascinated by the concept of a blue door. I don’t recall ever seeing them before this experience but there was something so soul-catching about the aesthetic of them. I learned a great many things during this experience and I really enjoyed finding a way to write the important ones out to share. It was my own little thank you to every person, place, and thing that was a part of it all.

Top 3 Voyages

Kancamagus Highway

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I believe I did this the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving one year. I really didn’t want to spend time around the house and for some reason this place that we used to visit when I was a kid just kept tugging at the back of my mind. Roadtrips are a favorite activity for me. I’ll find any excuse to drive around for a while. My family asked why and I lied and told them I was going to visit a friend because if I just said I wanted to take a drive they would have made it a big deal and ruined it for me (sorry, family!). I just missed the woods and the mountains and the feeling of Autumn. Boston and Newport weren’t delivering at the time. This was a day of getting comfortable with the quiet again.

Into Twilight

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It shocks me sometimes when people who really know me don’t realize how much I love Vampire lore. The Twilight Series meant a lot to me as a young teen, and it still means a lot to me today (I’ll hold my dissertation for another time but if you’d like to engage on this one too then you know how to find me). My best friend moved to the Pacific Northwest and during my first visit we took a roadtrip out to see the magical mystical realistical Forks, WA! It has since become our favorite annual excursion. If you’ve never been to the Olympic Peninsula you are missing out on some serious natural vigor. This trip was also my first time seeing the Pacific ocean.

Skibbereen & Baltimore

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This was a great day. It was brisk and Irish as all hell. I spent the morning wandering around on my own and appreciating the small town that is Skibbereen before Tony joined me and we took the tour a little farther out to the town of Baltimore. I don’t think I really have anything fresh and new to say that I didn’t already write into this – except for the fact that thanks to Tony, I am fully intending a return to the Emerald Isle so I can roadtrip the heck out of the Wild Atlantic Way. Windows down, old folk streaming through on the radio, winding my way around the ocean.

Top 3 To Make Me Laugh

Café Cake Crawl

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This was one of the funniest days I have ever spent with myself. Also one of the most physically grueling. Trying to explain to a bunch of Irish people that I was going to spend an entire day in town eating a ridiculous amount of cake… remembering their reactions to how I was choosing to spend my Saturday “off” and just in general the fact that this was an idea that I had… it still makes me laugh. I abused my stomach so much for this. Disturbing amounts of sugar layered on top with disturbing amounts of caffeine to make room for more sugar and thus more caffeine… what a day! I will surely do more ridiculous crawls like this in my lifetime. Little Birdie says stay tuned.

Scotland’s National Book Town

Hands down the best Voyage I have ever had. I wanted to save it for this category though because it was truly like some kind of TV special – a young girl trekking her way through the homeland lowland in pursuit of genuinely nothing at all. The entire trip was absolutely wild. I want to just quickly emphasize that I honestly truly laughed out loud to myself for three days straight on this trip. I did nothing but sleep and read and wander and laugh. I have a feeling this was a gift from the Universe to settle me and prepare me and bid me an apology right before it tore my world right into tiny shredded little pieces of heartache.

£5 Worth of Local Drinking Tips

this thing

Once again, I remember sitting on my bed in my little tiny dungeon (again, read: basement) dorm room in Cambridge (one more time for the people in the back), writing this post and cracking myself up. It was the first thing I was really putting out there on Tales of Cass and the jokes they were a-rolling! I doubt any of those jokes came through to anyone else reading it, but alas. I maintain that I am the funniest person I have ever known. No one can make me laugh like I can make me laugh, and that’s pretty special.


Looking back on all of this, what has stuck with me the most about this space is the people who have come along with it. I went through a ton of failed blog creations before Tales finally took hold, mostly because I was worried that I didn’t have anything to say to anyone. Now you’ve all shown me, friends and strangers alike, that I do. Months will go by with no content and yet you still reach out to send a message and start a dialogue, share your thoughts on what I wrote, or send support that makes me that much more encouraged to keep doing what I’m doing.

Tales of Cass was always first and foremost for me, but it continues from such a deep and heartfelt appreciation of the people around me that want to be a part of it too. No one on this planet, least of all me, can possibly comprehend what it means to me to share this space with others who actually want it. Thank you, thank you, thank you – if only that were enough.

25 Wants From Life After 25

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25 is a moment. It took me quite a few moons to get to this age.

This is the first birthday that I’ve actually looked forward to, felt excited about, etc. It takes too much energy to be someone actively against birthdays and I don’t naturally possess enough to be someone for them, so I generally land right smack in the middle of energetic indifference. I just have this feeling about 25. That sounds like something everyone this age says but I really mean it!

Piece by piece, the years have all been falling into place to make me into this person that I have somehow managed to personify. Things that I want for my life float into my brain and there’s not a single one of them that I feel I can’t do, or have to wait to make happen. If I truly, madly, deeply want something… I’m at a stage of existence now where I can very well get it. Do you know what that feels like!? It’s terrifying! And amazing!

At 23 we got random and weird and at 24 we learned some lessons. This year I wanted to share some of those rest-of-my-life wants. Spoiler Alert: it’s a great many of them. 25 to be exact. This is basically dissertation-level long so feel free to just skim the bold headers.


1. To watch every movie Sandra Bullock has ever made, in order.

Another revolution around the sun and this still hasn’t happened! How long have I been telling you all that this will happen? Too long. Now I’m hedging my bets. Eventually, in my life, I will achieve this feat. The list stands at well over 40 films and it’s only going to keep growing so whenever you see a new release, please check in on my progress. In case you somehow weren’t aware of this supremely fun fact about me: I love Sandra Bullock.

2. To become a whiskelier.

A whisk(e)y sommelier is not a thing because by definition a sommelier is a wine steward, but I want to become one anyway. I’m slowly but surely building a palate for whiskey, whisky, and scotch. I’d like to be able to say that it’s certified.

3. To move abroad.

Some people grow up in a place that they know they’ll always want to call home. Some struggle to find settlement and jump from city to city in remarkably short periods of time. I happen to envy the former and sympathize with the latter, but I also happen to have found the general corner of the earth that makes me feel unlike anywhere else. It’s a place I so desperately hope to call home as my honest to goodness, true heart place for the rest of my existence. If I’m not there in 2 years, please reach out and heckle me as to why. I hope I can give you a good reason.

4. To walk a runway.

In front of absolutely no one, preferably. It just always looks so fun! To have some M83 music videos projected on a massive screen behind you and strut your way to a fan favorite dance move finish in obscenely over-decorous formal wear.

5. To sink onto my hands and knees, dig my fingers deep into the mud, and scream as hard as I can.

There’s this scene in the movie ‘Testament of Youth’ in which the main character, Vera, runs up a hill, falls to her knees, digs her hands into the mud, and just sobs her heart open. Have you ever felt so emotionally compromised that you just couldn’t find a satisfying outlet? Maybe due to a specific life event or maybe due to many. The years build and build and eventually it’s overwhelming. Sometimes I wonder what it might be like to emotionally reset, to cleanse. To not worry about someone hearing you or seeing you, not worry about anything resembling an aftermath. Not only in heartbreak or pain, but in happiness and excitement. A compound of every emotion. Just animalistically exhausting it all out of yourself. Imagine what that feels like.

6. To find my Grandmother Willow.

There is something so mystical and magical about trees and if they had their own religion all to themselves I’d likely be the first to convert. Trees the world over possess this spiritual touch to the soul, a brush of the heart to the humans who’ve lost their way in returning it. I fully believe that there’s a Grandmother Willow out there, waiting for me to stumble upon it and find a confidant. You’ll know when I’ve found it because you’ll never hear from me again. I’ll spend the rest of my existence there beside it.

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7. To visit Alaska.

Fun Fact #1701: I LOVE ALASKA. This all began with a weird obsession that I developed over Alaskan television shows. Alaska: The Last Frontier, Alaska State Troopers, Alaskan Bush People, Ice Road Truckers, etc. I cannot predict what my reaction will be when some day I eventually visit this place but I can only hope that the rest of the world is prepared for it.

8. To find the final pieces of my pack.

Live your life by the wolves. When I watch television shows or movies where there’s a strong group of friends who’ve been together like a family, I think to myself how some day I hope to settle in a place where I can have that around me. The pieces of my pack who have known me through all of the goods and the uglies, who can call me in the middle of the night and know that no matter what happened I’ll be on my way to the airport in under 15 minutes to find them, who I can have round on holidays, who treat me as if we shared the same blood in our veins.

9. To dip myself in the Atlantic every Christmas Eve until I die.

This was a tradition I started with myself approximately 3 Christmas’ ago. I’ll be honest, the past few years I’ve woken up in absolutely no mood whatsoever to do it. But I get myself out of bed, I hype up on the drive to the beach, and as soon as I run into that salt water all hesitations disappear. This is genuinely a shock to the system, a defibrillator for the non-threatened living. The Atlantic is another piece of the lifeforce puzzle for me and I invite anyone who would like to try it to join me next 12/24.

10. To write a novel.

A fully finished, contentedly drafted version of a novel. It’s a secret to no one that I love to write. Most days I regret not taking the academia route and becoming a poor, starving writer living out of a 1-room apartment in Soho, feeding a mysterious cat leftover pizza crust when it comes to visit on my fire escape. For mostly myself but partly for others, I’d love to just be able to extract a full story from the hoards that swim up there in the ventricles of my brain. And better yet, to put it down in the way I know in my heart and soul that I can.

11. To go to Russia and channel my inner Lev.

Blame the birth of this random obsession on the mesmerizing writing style of Count Tolstoy in “Anna Karenina,” then allocate some more to Armie Hammer and Nikolai Gogol. Add a dash of the Napoleonic Muscovites and you’ve got yourself quite a few threads sewn into whatever it is that’s made me so interested in Russia. My fear with most places in this world is that some day humankind will ruin them. I’d like to see the beauty of the Russia that dear Lev wrote so wonderfully about before I can’t.

12. To cultivate a garden.

Gardening is a passion that I can’t say I possess any skill for, but I have a great deal of interest in it and that’s what matters! Some day I’d like to build a massive garden teeming with veggies, fruits, trees, flowers, and general shrubbery of vast array.

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13. To fall in love whenever I can.

A natural follow-up to planting lavender for luck. There’s a Great Love out there for all of us and I’d very much maybe I think like to find mine. I tend to not let myself near this within a 24,901 mile circumference but maybe some time I’ll give it a try. Whoever it is that gets stuck with me is gonna need quite a few new pairs of dancing shoes.

14. To see a ghostie.

This is and was and also still is one of my biggest fears. I 1,000% believe in ghosts and ghouls and spirits and sprites and whatever else you might want to term them. I believe that humans are not the only ones wandering around this planet. There have been several moments when I’ve gotten That Feeling but I’ll usually panic beg to see nothing, to experience nothing, to fall into a dreamless slumber and wake in the daylight and deal with nothing. But it’s a fascination, and some day I’d like to encounter something, or someone.

15. To overcome my fear of flying.

People continually scoff at me when I tell them that I am terrified of flying. Yes, it is something I do fairly frequently for my chosen career. Yes, I’ve also done it fairly frequently for my chosen leisure activities. Doesn’t mean that I don’t have a complete breakdown every time we encounter the slightest teeny tiny bump. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: some day I’ll learn to fly.

16. To learn the drums (only for very specific songs).

I want. To be. Dave Grohl. Have no fear, I’m not running off to become a rock and roll drummer in a Devo cover band (yet). It’s just that when listening to the music that I love, the drums are always the instrument that resonate the most with me (weak at best, I tried). There’s a handful of songs I’d like to progress from steering wheel slamming to kick drum stomping.

17. To get published.

By something with a little more reputational integrity than talesofcasstastrophe.com. Now, allow me to comment that I do in fact consider this as very much different from writing a novel. I have every faith in my abilities to write a novel in my lifetime. In fact, if we’re being really honest, I think I could muster up enough for half a dozen but let’s not expect too much from ourselves, shall we? Becoming published is something else altogether. I think it would be really cool to some day write an article or a short fiction for my dream publication The New Yorker, or even a 300 word book review for the local Daily News. Let’s go for gold. Both a published novel (to be picked up at your local brick and mortar bookstore, please) and a byline.

18. To learn how to fix my anxiety.

Many and much could be said on this matter, maybe some day I’ll give it a better story telling. It boils down to generalized anxiety, many people around the earth have it whether they admit it, know it, or not. I’d like to find out all the ways to cope and assuage and ultimately fix mine for the sake of myself.

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19. To spend a night under the Northern Hemisphere stars.

Ursas Major and Minor. Draco. Andromeda. Cassiopeia. I’ve never really seen a night sky. I’ve always been in places with a decent amount of light pollution and some day, I want to spend an eve in awe and wonder with my favorite version of the midnight hemisphere.

20. To amass a squad of little ones.

I toyed with replacing the . with a ? but for consistency’s sake I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Some time, in my life, I think that I want to have children? I always loved the idea of a home packed to bursting with the energy of kiddos running up and down the walls. I adore the idea of a big family, there for each other through every possible stage of humanity. As I get a little older, I realize just how difficult it is for me to picture the realities of this life. What it means to actually make it happen. But either way the love story goes, children will likely maybe could possibly come into play.

21. To rock and roll my way across America.

Partly inspired by items on my bucket list such as ‘drive Route 66 while listening to ‘Route 66” and partly inspired by Sonic Highways (again, Dave Grohl is my icon). Rock and roll is my most favorite thing about this country, and if #3 comes true then my time to experience it is drawing to a close. There are so many amazing, musically historical places. Underground Seattle, Chicago (Chicago!), the Hall of Fame in Cincinnati, Muscle Shoals, any and every hole in the wall across all of Tennessee.

22. To live in a home that is Broadway-level secluded.

Singing in the shower is a favorite pastime of mine. Relatable. However, because I’ve only ever lived in apartment buildings with uncomfortably close proximity to neighbors, I tend to sing very quietly in aforementioned shower. Which is not nearly as fun an experience as it could be! I want a place where I can crank the stereo to eardrum-bursting levels and really go for that “Phantom of the Opera” scale without fear of my neighbors broomstick-busting their ceilings.

23. To chase a storm.

In case you haven’t caught on by this point, pretty much everything I want to do in my life is unoriginal. This particular item is inspired by, you guessed it, you saw it coming: “Twister.” SUCH an incredible movie! I’d very much like to give this a try and end up cowering in a ditch, thinking this is the moment when I die, only to come out on the other side with my white tank-top moderately muddied.

24. To read every book I could ever possibly want to.

This one is a concession. I’d like to be Bill Nighy in “About Time” and just keep jumping back and forth to read millions and billions of books, but odds aren’t in my favor. This year I’ll take a list a little more seriously. I won’t just add things to my To Read on Goodreads and let them sit there for years, unattended. (If you believed that for one single second you are joking yourself.)

25. To want for nothing.

Self explanatory. To make it through my life doing and having and seeing and being all the things I could ever possibly want to.


Consider this my list of Casstastrophes on deck. I’ll do my best to update it as the years go on, so you can check back from your forearm-embedded smart screens in 2043 and see how cool and rad and awesome I always told you I was going to be.

In all seriousness, thank you from the every atom of my heart for being part of 25 with me. I’m very happy to be here.

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Learn a Book! – 20[18 Authors]

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2018 is the year of the people… who wrote books.

Believe it or not, I came up with the idea for this year’s annual reading challenge back in early 2016… two whole years ago (hint: lean towards believe it because it is 100% true). At this point I think I’ve booked myself out on reading challenges until at least the year 2020 (are you having that??).

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that I go through reading phases. Most times for a genre, some times for a style, but not so oftentimes for an author. This year, I picked out a handful of authors that I’ve been dying to get studious about… eighteen of them to be exact (Hello? Gimmick, is that you? How are the children?).

The name of the game is their first and last, or sometimes their first and most recent, works. Allow me to clarify immediately that some liberties were taken here. Works was a word chosen explicitly to allow for sometimes novellas over novels, sometimes first published over first written, etc., etc., and onward, and so forth. Hours more of research could have been dedicated to really get a definitive selection of first and last written novels, but you know what? This here life of mine is too lacking in a fellowship for that.

If you truly disagree over the following selections then please do reach out with suggested corrections and I will maybe possibly potentially be more than happy to oblige. I may also just tell you to get lost, so… choose wisely.

Here we go. 18 novelists in all. Well… with one exception. Spot the difference, and join in the adventure. Happy 2018!


1. Ernest Hemingway

First: The Sun Also Rises (1926) [251 pgs]
Last: The Old Man and the Sea (1952) [127 pgs]

Hem is my favorite male author and I look up to his technique and style more than I could ever articulate. I’ve read almost all of his works already, including these two, but I wanted to give myself a chance to get a little more studious about it.

Also, in case anyone cares to know, #TeamHadley.

2. Anne Brontë

First: Agnes Grey (1847) [193 pgs]
Last: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) [383 pgs]

The least loved of the Brontë sisters. I have a lot of thoughts about Anne, notably regarding her life and legacy, but I’ll save my dissertation for another time and place. In the meantime, let’s all just allow my imagination to submerge itself in the moors of her written words.

Ask me about Anne, I dare you.

3. Roald Dahl

First: James and the Giant Peach (1961) [146 pgs]
Last: The Minpins (1991) [48 pgs]

There isn’t much to say about Roald – except that he was positively instrumental to my childhood, as I’m sure he was to many of yours. Many moments in my life turn to early education reminiscence to remind me that I must never, ever, ever grow up. It felt right to take a look at some of the stories one of my earliest favorite authors put out there into the world, especially given I had never read these two.

I was a ‘Matilda’ kind of girl. Careful there! Roll your eyes any harder and they’ll get stuck like that.

4. Margaret Atwood

First: The Edible Woman (1969) [310 pgs]
Last: Hag-Seed (2016) [297 pgs]

I will be truly honest with you… Maggie here is an embarrassingly recent discovery of mine. I had never heard of her, never known of her works, never realized her significance as a woman writer until the hubbub around the television show and an article in The New Yorker.

I’m excited to finally introduce myself. Go ahead, feel those waves of disappointment in me. I’ll wait in the car.

6. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

First: Poor Folk (1846) [118 pgs]
Last: The Brothers Karamatzov (1880)

Oh Fyodor, my Fyodor!

Affectionately referred to around the Cass household as my second favorite Russian. His style is positively beautiful and his collection of works is one that I hope to spend a lot of time poring over in years to come. The man survived Siberia, for Peter the Great’s sake!

6. George Eliot

First: Adam Bede (1859)
Last: Daniel Deronda (1876)

AKA Mary Anne Evans. AKA the woman the White Rabbit was searching for. Turns out she withheld the last chapter of ‘Middlemarch’ and he had to know how it ended.

If you couldn’t deduce it from the way her first and last sounds like the very same on her list of conquests, then allow me to tell you that this woman had quite the love life and I adore her for it. I hope that every last word of it was true and that throughout it all she found happiness.

7. Neil Gaiman

First: Stardust (1999)
Last: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)

Neil here is hard to “officially” find a first and last for. Allow me to explain the logic behind my selection process for him: only works classified as standalone novels (not companion novels or short-fiction collections) and nothing with a co-authorship.

Also allow me to throw in that if you haven’t read ‘The Graveyard Book’ you should and then you should also allow yourself to cry and have a moment over it.

8. Virginia Woolf

First: The Voyage Out (1915)
Last: Between the Acts (1941)

The jury is still out on how I feel about Virginia Woolf, I’ll be honest. At one point I was radically anti, then recently flipped that switch for reasons unknown and consequently blacked out from my memory, but now I lean back towards I don’t think I really care for her as an existence? But should probably just start off with indifference? And that might be a really polarizing opinion?

I’ll get back to you all on this one when my soapbox here stops splintering.

9. Nathaniel Hawthorne

First: Fanshawe (1828)
Last: The Marble Faun (1860)

If you have not gone to Salem, Massachusetts and visited the House of Seven Gables then you are seriously missing out. I maintain to this day that I think I was the only person in my 11th grade English class to thoroughly enjoy reading that book. Years of begging for more 1800s literature yielded not much in the popularity of public school picks, let me tell you.

‘The Marble Faun’ appears to be the last fully finished published novel by Hawthorne, and as a fun fact: apparently he always hated all of his books when he finished writing them (according to dear Sophia). Typical.

10. Flannery O’Connor

First: Wise Blood (1952)
Last: The Violent Bear it Away (1960)

I know next to nothing about Flannery. I only know her name through googling “women authors” because as I was coming up with this list I was very disheartened in myself to find that the names that came easiest to mind were those of men. This is 2018, there’s no excuse for that, and I wholeheartedly apologize. I very much look forward to getting to know F O’C, and I’m intrigued that, like Anne, she only had 2 novels to her name.

Flannery had a self-described “you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex” which I very much identify with. Her first novel was published just before she was diagnosed with lupus and her last well into her living with the disease. Remarkable and amazing, just to name a few.

11. Ray Bradbury

First: The Martian Chronicles (1950)
Last: Farewell Summer (2006)

‘Fahrenheit 451’ is one of my coveted all-time favorite soul books – part of the handful that will hold a special place in my heart for making me fall deeply in love with literature. Really cool fact about his first and last: Bradbury’s intended first novel was to be titled ‘Summer Morning, Summer Night,’ composed of a bunch of stories and vignettes. Some of these were later extracted into what is now ‘Dandelion Wine’ and the originals that were left over were later pulled together into ‘Farewell Summer’ – his last novel. How freaking cool is that!?

Researching his works learned me that Ray is buried in Los Angeles and it’s only a matter of time before I make it that way to pay my respects. I don’t know if my heart can take the experience, but I owe him those tears at the very least.

12. Louisa May Alcott

First: The Inheritance (1849)
Last: Jo’s Boys (1886)

‘Little Women’ is one of the first big chapter books that I remember reading, and I have fond memories of reading it sort of, kind of with my mom. I think she had a free copy on her ereader when I was younger and we tried reading it together but I don’t think we ever officially finished it together. Regardless, I definitely watched the film with her (1994, Winona & Christian forever).

Let’s all just take a moment to also remember that Louisa grew up in the time of Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau. And that she wrote her first novel by age 18.

13. Cormac McCarthy

First: The Orchard Keeper (1965)
Last: The Road (2006)

In the mood for a little more honesty? Cool, so, I rolled my eyes when we were forced to read ‘The Road’ in high school (see above – years of begging). It wasn’t until college, when I had to study the movie as part of my Apocalypticism in Film class that I developed any sort of interest in it. Which is disturbing on many levels given my newfound obsession with Pulitzer Winners, of which ‘The Road’ is one!

Which concludes another growing up life lesson for a young Cass. This is turning borderline confessional. I solemnly swear I will pay Cormac here more respect.

14. Edith Wharton

First: The Valley of Decision (1902)
Last: The Buccaneers (1938)

THE FIRST EVER WOMAN. TO WIN. THE PULITZER FOR LITERATURE. Please see aforementioned newfound obsession. Never read any of her works before, which feels like an American Woman crime of Lenny’s highest nature. Wharton was also nominated for the Nobel three separate times, no big deal. Her first novel wasn’t published until she was 40 so she gives me a lot of hope for the nothing that I am currently doing with my life. ‘The Buccaneers’ is technically an unfinished work, but what the heck. If it’s good enough for Gogol, right?

Fun fact: apparently Edith and her family used to spend their summers in my little ol’ hometown of Newport, Rhode Island. Shockingly very much unknown to me until this actual second when researching her bibliography?

15. Norman Mailer

First: The Naked and the Dead (1948)
Last: The Castle in the Forest (2007)

There’s something to do with a Gilmore Girl and Mr. Mailer Man and that’s really the main reason that I’m here. Another Pulitzer Winner. Three’s Company, and that company is up there with Thompson, Didion, and Capote.

Something about the distribution of when his works were published gives me the utmost confidence that his will be the best comparative study of this whole lot.

16. Alice Walker

First: The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970)
Last: Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart (2004)

Someway, somehow, I ended up never reading ‘The Color Purple’ in all my years of public schooling. Likely because I was too busy complaining about the lack of Victorian-era fiction and the surplus of Shakespeare. Don’t get me started again. That’s your first warning.

I am truly ashamed to have realized post-original publishing of this list that I have seriously neglected African American authors. When I was originally looking for authors to include I was trying my hardest just to alternate between men and women, let alone minorities within that. Women authors were a challenge to find in and of themselves but there is no excuse for my lack of diversity in this list and I humbly apologize. There is a promise in here for me to do better. More cultures, more perspectives, more outside of my Victorian-era comfort zone. Please send recommendations for non-white male works of note.

17. Thomas Hardy

First: Desperate Remedies (1871)
Last: Jude the Obscure (1895)

Fun fact: Hardy’s first actual written novel was never published because he destroyed the manuscript. ‘The Poor Man and the Lady’ sounds so unlike anything else that he had ever done, too! Shame, Writing Cass. That is a historic work that we as a civilization lost, don’t poke fun. Apologies, Editing Cass, might also happen again though.

Fun Fact #687: apparently the term “cliffhanger” is attributed to people trying to follow serialised versions of some of Hardy’s works?! Which is… madness?! I’ll be the first to say that I don’t particularly like the stories this man has to tell. They don’t really turn out all that well for the heroines, but this is a hate to love scenario because his writing style is… admittedly formidable to me.

18. Robert Burns

The Completed Works of Robert Burns (Whenever, Wherever, We’re meant to be toge- I’ll stop)

Listen, this is my game, my rules.

Rabbie here is a poet, a bard if you will. The Bard, if you won’t. This little lass wants to get in touch with one of her heritigurgical noteworthies and this felt like a good place to put him so get over it and join in the merriment.

‘For auld lang syne, my Jo, for auld lang syne!’ Annotate it along with me, now!


As always, feel free to follow me on Goodreads. Reviews still not written but check out the shelvage. Let’s be friends over what we want to throw out of windows.

Additional Reads

  1. ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ by V.E. Schwab [398 pgs]
  2. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin [174 pgs]
  3. ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle [232 pgs]
  4. ‘The Raven King’ by Maggie Stiefvater [438 pgs]
  5. ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline [372 pgs]
  6. ‘Winter’ by Marissa Meyer [823 pgs]
  7. ‘Between You and Me’ by Mary Norris [200 pgs]
  8. ‘The Jane Austen Project’ by Kathleen Flynn [373 pgs]
  9. ‘Meet Me at the Museum’ by Anne Youngson [268 pgs]
  10. ‘The Price Guide to the Occult’ by Leslye Walton [272 pgs]
  11. ‘Stardust’ by Neil Gaiman [248 pgs]
  12. ‘A Secret History of Witches’ by Louisa Morgan [484 pgs]
  13. ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson [233 pgs]
  14. ‘Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe’ by Melissa de la Cruz [225 pgs]

Total Page Count: 6,613 pgs


6/1/18 Edit: Due to difficulty in finding her earliest work, Gertrude Stein has been replaced with Alice Walker. Sorry, y’all! See what I originally had to say below:

16. Gertrude Stein

First: Q.E.D. (1903)
Last: Ida: A Novel (1941)

The woman who taught Hemingway how to keep it simple. That’s likely not true, I like to think that Hem knew what he was doing all on his own, but I want to say that ‘A Moveable Feast’ is where he spoke about the influence that Stein had on his writing style. Either that or I picked it up in ‘The Paris Wife.’ Someone else can fact check me. I’m also just now realizing that I’ve always imagined Stein as a very Queen Victoria-esque person and that’s… pretty… not really… true at all. Her bibliography was the most difficult to research and I’m not at all confident that I got it right.

Also, apparently a woman named Gertrude Jekyll also existed around the same time, but as a horticulturalist. Which is pretty rad. Thanks, autocomplete!

Recent Reads – Halloween Edition 2017

Bookstores should offer human horse blinders at the front door, right next to the plastic shopping baskets.

We’re all either the type of person who needs the former or the type that needs the latter. Key word: “needs.” This girl right here happens to want a basket, but need some blinders. When struck with the urge to have a particular book, it consumes me. It quickly evolves into something primal, with a sense of the highest immediacy to get to the nearest bookstore. Upon arrival, rather than get what I came for and go, I tend to get carried away and submit to the frenzy. Few hours and many dollars later, I emerge with what some (looking at you, Mom) might consider too many too much. Unfortunately, the have-to-have-it craze doesn’t always translate into a have-to-read-it urgency. Stacks on stacks of volumes lay unread in a home by the name of mine.

I’ve recently tried switching to the online ‘Reserve In-Store’ option with the theory that this will allow for less ambling amoung new release tables, less perusing the YAF aisle, and fewer frenzied pick-ups. Get me in, get me out, small paperback in hand, only one addition to the stacks. Shocker, it hasn’t worked yet. Alas, there are worse things to foster an addiction for.

Now that we’ve gone through that little personal story time journey together, let’s get on with it. There was a point, I swear. It’s that we’ve done recent reads around here before, but this particular one features a few of those stack selections. They’ve been lying around my house for upwards of a year, just waiting for me to pick them up and dust them off and lovingly read them through with ample consideration for their poor spines (crack kills, folks). I’ve also held off because they align with a certain Octoberly theme…

Halloween is my absolute favorite season. Every year, I look forward to teeing up the hot apple cider and spooky-but-not-scary movies and pumpkin decor and autumnal playlists. Naturally, this love extends to the biblio nature. So here are some of my recent reads, ’tis the season edition. Enjoy.


Anno Dracula – Kim Newton

This has been out for a while and sitting in my ‘to read’ pile for almost as long. In one of my frenzies, the title caught my eye and the Neil Gaiman review snippet on the cover sealed the deal. This book is a take on vampire lore (check) set in Queen Victoria’s England (check) with references up the werewolf’s wazoo to other popular fictional characters of the time (the biggest check there ever was). Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Henry Jekyll and that other guy Mr. Hyde, Inspector Lestrade, Bram Stoker himself, Lord Ruthven, and more! A decently hefty read, it’s getting tough for me to lug it across the country and back (more on that another day).

Unlikely that I’ll finish this one before Halloween, but I’m giving it the good ol’ Monsters University try.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson

I cannot rightfully take credit for willingly wanting to read this one. My best friend has had this book on her list for quite some time, and I believe her spooky-horror-loving mama was the one to put it there. The cover art of this edition is absolutely beautiful so right off the bats I recommend it for that reason alone. Jackson’s writing style is interesting and her dialogue can get… unsettling. Not scary, not spooky, but there’s something about the emotional shifts in how her character’s talk to one other, or on occasion to themselves, that you can’t help but think something’s not all there. I came into the book trying to puzzle out the grand finale scare the entire time and I recommend others do the same… because there doesn’t happen to be much of one, so that’s as much excitement as you’re gonna get.

The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole

The veritable patriarch of the Gothic novel – the “OG,” if you will. Think Dracula, think Frankenstein, think The Monk (does anyone think The Monk anymore these days?). All inspired by Walpole and his tales of Otranto. I’ll admit, I had never heard of him until the professor of my Jane Austen class in Cambridge gave us some short passages to study. It’s a quick read, just over 100 pages, and the story keeps the pace at move-along speed. I got through it in the span of a bubble bath (I mean, blood bath…?) so you should be able to chomp on through it as well. Funnily enough, it may have been considered scary way back in the day but I wouldn’t worry too much about it in the present. This is just Stephen King’s world and we’re all living in it.

This fell into the frenzied pick-up pile courtesy of my time at Strand.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

I mean… I’m not even going to gratify this one.

The Dollhouse Murders – Betty Ren Wright

Not to be mistaken with The Doll People (which is precisely the mistake that I made, which led to completing yet another Reserve In-Store hasty pick-up because, again… have-to-have), this is another such doll-related book of a much more macabre variety. I recall going through a very odd, short-lived murder mystery phase in the days of my youth and this book happened to be part of it. Basically, a young girl goes to stay with her Aunt in their mysterious old family home with, you guessed it, history of a gruesome murder. The dollhouse happens to be an exact replica of said old family home and the dolls happen to be itching their wooden limbs with a story to tell. The overall plot is… interesting? It’s stuck with me in bits and (rest in) pieces(???), but I’ll also forewarn that Wright takes on some sensitive topic, social commentary threads that I completely forgot about. Wouldn’t really recommend this one unless it is literally one of the last books on earth. So. Yeah.

More importantly, anyone out there able to remind me what The Doll People is actually about? It’ll be a few years before I get around to that one, I’m sure.

Red Moon – Benjamin Percy

Another that’s been on my list for perhaps years, as in multiple. The cover art is rad. People who say don’t judge a book by it’s cover are lying to you, it’s something that is a very okay thing to judge it by. Percy has a really great narrative style and the story itself is so interesting and adaptive. It brings to mind all sorts of politically-charged times in American history (think AIDS crisis, think post and pre-9/11 terrorism, think the Red Scare, Civil Rights, World Wars, any oppression you’ve ever heard about, and riots for peace… think anything in the news these days, really) with a werewolf (“lupine”) twist.

This is a bit of a monster read (are you having that???), so it’s looking to be the one that carries me through to that Halloween finish line.


As always, feel free to follow along with my real time bibliove over on Goodreads. I’ve learned how to update page progress.

Learn a Book! – 20[Seven Teen Series]

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“Don’t let the Muggles get you down.”

One of these years I’m going to run out of gimmicks.

This is not that year.

Over the past two years (2015 and 2016, go check ’em out) I’ve found that my annual reading challenges have gotten pretty intensive. In 2017 I’d like to make it a bit more relaxing and, get ready for it…, give myself some time to do other things. Like finally watch Westworld and Stranger Things and actually do all that stuff that I said I would on my halfway bucket list (I know, I know, I get it, leave your judgment elsewhere, I’ve hit my quota for the month).

As we all (hopefully) know, I’m a HUGE advocate of Young Adult Fiction. This year I’ve decided to go back to the beginning of my torpent love affair – all the way back to my not-so-long-lost teenage years – and revisit some of the series that made me into the reader I am today.

By the end of 2017 I’m hoping to have finished at least seven popular “teen” series (it’s all relative). I’m sure a few other bits and bobs will distract me along the way so I’ve included a section accordingly. In order to get a decent mix of the old and the new, I’m soliciting fan favorites from back in your own younger years. I don’t ask for recommendations very often, so take advantage while you can.


The Main Course – Seven Teen Series

1. Harry Potter – JK Rowling

First up, the OG fan favorite.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [304 pgs]
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [341 pgs]
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [435 pgs]
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [734 pgs]
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [870 pgs]
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [652 pgs]
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [759 pgs]

2. Blue is for Nightmares – Laurie Faria Stolarz

These books have stayed on my mind for years and years. I was terrified of them, I loved them, and I can’t wait to get back to them.

  1. Blue is for Nightmares [283 pgs]
  2. White is for Magic [301 pgs]
  3. Silver is for Secrets
  4. Red is for Remembrance

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

In all honesty, I don’t remember ever finishing this series. Maybe I got through the first 6 before returning to the latest Junie B Jones.

  1. The Bad Beginning [162 pgs]
  2. The Reptile Room [190 pgs]
  3. The Wide Window
  4. The Miserable Mill
  5. The Austere Academy
  6. The Ersatz Elevator
  7. The Vile Village
  8. The Hostile Hospital
  9. The Carnivorous Carnival
  10. The Slippery Slope
  11. The Grim Grotto
  12. The Penultimate Peril
  13. The End

4. House of Night – P.C. Cast

One my my very first Vampire, or should I say “Vampyre,” obsessions.

  1. Marked
  2. Betrayed
  3. Chosen
  4. Untamed
  5. Hunted
  6. Tempted
  7. Burned
  8. Awakened
  9. Destined
  10. Hidden
  11. Revealed
  12. Redeemed

5. Heartland – Lauren Brooke

6. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

7. The Spiderwick Chronicles – Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black

  1. The Field Guide [107 pgs]
  2. The Seeing Stone [108 pgs]
  3. Lucinda’s Secret [108 pgs]
  4. The Ironwood Tree [108 pgs]
  5. The Wrath of Mulgarath [136 pgs]

Additionally

Not teen series, but you can’t expect me to rein in my wandering eyes all year long can you? No, I thought not. This is where I’ll list whatever else it is I’m reading, because I’m psychotic about tracking page counts.

  1. Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders [343 pgs]
  2. Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld  [488 pgs]
  3. Heartless – Marissa Meyer [453 pgs]
  4. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell [521 pgs]
  5. The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben [250 pgs]
  6. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles [462 pgs]
  7. Bear – Marian Engel [122 pgs]
  8. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith [336 pgs]
  9. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson [146 pgs]
  10. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley [197 pgs]
  11. The Dollhouse Murders – Betty Ren Wright [149 pgs]
  12. The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole [109 pgs]
  13. Red Moon – Benjamin Percy [530 pgs]
  14. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt [771 pgs]
  15. An Irish Country Doctor – Patrick Taylor [337 pgs]
  16. Talking as Fast as I Can – Lauren Graham [223 pgs]
  17. The Wild Robot – Peter Brown [273 pgs]

As always, feel free to follow me on Goodreads. I still don’t write reviews, but I’m getting better about remembering to rank the stars. So… enjoy that.

Be forewarned that some of these planned series may change with the seasons… I fall in and out of reading phases on a terrifyingly consistent basis. So check back every once in a while to see what’s happened – like, for instance, all of a sudden I’ve just decided to read all 62 original Goosebumps books…

24 Lessons Learned To Get To 24

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New year, new… just about nothing else.

The planets have been a-turning and once again, I’m faced with the internal dilemma of tacking another year onto my young age. As my mother so lovingly likes to remind me, every day is another one closer to 30.

Last year, I rather liked thinking up 23 thoughts on turning 23. This year, though, I thought to myself “Cass, what in the hell are you going to write for the big 2-4?” At the time, I was driving down a familiar street on a cold and rainy day, home in ‘lil Rhodey for the holidays, and it started to become apparent that it’s really a small miracle I’ve even made it to the age of 24 at all.

So there you have it, folks. 24 lessons learned that got me to the age of 24. This list is in no way exhaustive, I can assure you of that. But some of my favorites. Enjoy.


1. Laughter will not always be your best medicine. Sometimes it’ll be tears. Sometimes a little quiet contemplation. Sometimes a spontaneous trip across the Atlantic. Sometimes actual medicine, you idiot.

2. The best skill you can ever learn is how to be comfortable alone. By yourself. On your own. Don’t wait for other people to help you live your life, choose your own adventure book and then sit in a coffee shop all by yourself for a few hours and read it.  That’s how the proverb goes, right?

3. Slow down; in all things, slow down. You do not need to sigh loudly in line at the post office because I’m here to tell you that you sound like a jerk when you do. What is the actual rush? The world will keep turning. Patience.

4. Blueberries grow on tiny little tree bushes. I know. And peanuts? “Peanuts grow in the GROUND and are therefore GROUND-nuts, and after you take them out of the ground you grind them up and you have ground ground-nuts, which is a much more accurate name than peanut butter, you just don’t understand English.”

5. Always settle practical questions with sentiments which have nothing to do with them. Make your anger never furious; your love never fierce, but instead deep and tender.

6. People will change and you will have to adapt to that. Which maybe might mean taking separate paths. I speak from experience, though, when I say that those that are meant to join up again some day, will.

7. Impactful moments come in packages large and small. A good song on the radio when you’re having a tough day. An unexpected friendship that is on track to last a lifetime. When something wants to hit you, let it, and appreciate it for whatever it is.

8. Listen to your body and let it help you get to know yourself. For general medical problems, realize what your systems are trying to tell you and remember those signs for next time. But also we all have those moments where something ever so insignificant happens and it somehow manages to throw off your entire day, giving you that awful back-of-your-mind-anxiety or pit-of-the-stomach-discomfort. Call it out. If I say something I regret to a loved one or some kind of uncomfortable interaction happens with a friend or I do something embarrassing at work, I force myself to acknowledge it. Tell yourself it’s going to be okay. The day is gonna go on, life is gonna keep being lived, and it’s gonna work itself out. 9 times out of 10 confronting it helps me move on from those bad feelings a lot faster than if I had avoided and repressed to begin with. Know how to help yourself get over it.

9. You got the music in you, don’t let go. You got the music in you, one dance left, this world is gonna pull through. Don’t give up, you got a reason to live. Can’t forget, we only get what we give.

10. Family does not always mean blood. Not to me, anyways. There are so many people on so many corners of this beautifully expansive world that I consider to be my family, and I very much want them all to know that.

11. Listen with your heart, you will understand. And also left side, strong side.

12. Cry if you want to cry and don’t be embarrassed by that very natural emotional response. For joy or anger or sadness or because it’s Tuesday. A whole childhood of people scolding me for being “too sensitive” taught me that what the heck is wrong with crying? What the heck do I need to be from Mars for? (.2% of my readers will get that reference…)

13. There’re some things I know for certain. Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Plant lavender for luck. And fall in love whenever you can.

14. Get competitive with yourself, not with others. Getting competitive with others makes you obnoxious, but getting competitive with yourself makes you push your limits, hopefully in all the right ways.

15. When someone makes you laugh, tell them. It helps the both of you know that you want to keep them around. Nothing makes me happier than having a good laugh.

16. Make your time always well spent, never wasted. If there are things you don’t want to do, don’t. You’re the only one determining how you live this life and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

17. Potatoes have 48 chromosomes. That’s 2 more than humans. You can draw whatever conclusions you want from that one, I’m just providing the facts…

18. When you make mistakes, own them. Lying or avoiding it because you’re afraid of the consequences is not a good idea.

19. Never doubt yourself on your ability to adventure. Book the flight, google the bus timetables and write them on little slips of paper with emergency addresses on the backs. Get out there into whatever piece of the world it is that you want to see because I’m a firm believer that it won’t always be around to be seen like this.

20. When you feel love for something, anything, let it run unboundedly.

21. Have courage and be kind. Always, always, always be kind. And always have the courage to do so. There’s enough bad stuff going on out there, we don’t need to get it from each other too.

22. Trees. Are. So. Rad. Did you know the oldest tree in the world is over 4,000 years old??? And here I am stressed about being 24. Respect the trees.

23. Imagination is the most beautiful gift to ever be given to humankind. I feel so supremely sad for people who don’t use theirs. I entreat you, please find a way.

24. I still find that for all things in life, I can’t ask why. And I’m always going to be a better person for that.


As always, I’m thankful to see another glorious year on this here earth. And I’m thankful that you and I get to see it together, dear reader.

Something makes me think that 24 will help us find quite a few new Tales to tell.

6-in-6: My Halfway Bucket List

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Although I tend to opt for reflections over resolutions when we hit those end of December days, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a list of things that I want to accomplish throughout the year. My beginning half of 2016 was pretty action packed, but as I settle into a new home and a more routine life (at least for a little while) I wanted to make sure that I was still pushing myself to try new stuff.

So, I came up with this list of 6 things I want to do in the next 6 months.


1. Complete a basic coding class

Computer Science school drop-out doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but I’m sure Boys2Men as Teen Angel(s?) would have made it work. Please, someone out there appreciate the reference…

I started college as an Information Science major, if we’re going to get specific about it, and only lasted about half the semester before switching into Finance. My reasoning used to be that I didn’t have the brain for coding, but I’ve since decided that that excuse is entirely inaccurate. It’s more like I just couldn’t keep up with the speed of the classes. I wasn’t entirely new to this, I had done some beginner HTML and C++ in high school, but it was still hard to get a handle on! A year or two ago I tried teaching myself how to code again and it’s… still a struggle. So I’ve been looking at some open source courses and decided THIS is the year I’ll do it. I’ll get to the finish line and I’ll get there at my own pace.

2. Start drum lessons

Another story of prior failures in life: I’m not musically inclined. Not to say that I haven’t tried (violin, saxophone, guitar, chorus) but I never found something to stick with (aside from singing Paramore’s greatest hits in my shower) and I’ve wanted to get into drumming for a while now! It’s impossible for me to listen to music without moving, whether it be tapping a finger or bouncing a leg or flailing in circles screaming the lyrics to S Club Party with friends at a “silent” disco. Drumming felt good for me to get into so I’ll let you know how that goes.

3. Cross-stich Christmas

This is the year for a crafty Christmas. Believe it or not I started working on things for people in January and I’m determined to give my close friends and family personally cross-stiched gifts. I’m not ruining any surprises with this announcement because who knows exactly what they’ll get cross-stitched for them? That being said, funny suggestions are appreciated.

4. Visit 6 new states

I’ve moved to an entirely new region of the United States of America and as a newbie, I want to explore my surroundings a bit. It’s absolutely ludicrous to me that I’ve been bitten by this home country wanderlust bug all of a sudden when I spent the other 22 odd years of my life within a 6 hour driving distance of 10 other states and 1 other country and did I do much exploring of them? Honestly, not really. Now all of a sudden I’m like “woo! gonna take a weekend trip to Cincinnati!” The good side of this is that I’ll have so many voyages to share with you.

5. Go up in a small plane

In recent years I’ve developed a fear of flying, which is utterly insane given how much I’ve travelled in said recent years. My brain has started to rationalize that the fear is coming from the element of unknowingness. Since I don’t know the technicalities of how we’re flying and how the pilots are controlling the craft, it makes me that much more panicky. And I mean really panicky, like tears streaming down my face mid-flight panicky. How do I figure I’ll confront this fear? I’ve got it in my head to maybe get my pilots license. But baby steps! Let’s get me up in a smaller airplane first and see how that goes.

6. Make lasagna from scratch

Being one of my favorite foods, I reckon I should learn how to make it. When I was in Ireland I spent some time with an Italian couple who were amazing cooks and they shared a few secrets of the trade. Let me know if you want in on the taste test!

Inch by Inch, Row by Row: Life Lessons from the Garden

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Almost 2 months ago when I told my family I would be leaving to go work outside on an estate in Ireland for a little while, they were incredulous. To them, and friends, and many others, it didn’t fit their image of me. They couldn’t see why I felt a need to do this. But to me, a lot of my childhood was spent outside and a lot of my lifehood is spent searching for something, anything, new to learn.

So that’s why I did it.

I want to once again say thank you to Tony, the head gardener I had the privilege of working with at Inish Beg. We had many conversations over my 6 weeks in West Cork and while some days those conversations were more oriented towards my obsessions with potatoes and Ice Road Truckers, most days they were of a more reflective and thought provoking nature. Whether or not Tony was aware of all the cogs turning and perspectives shifting in my head is another story, but turn and shift they did and this post is only a handful of the ones I took away from it all.

A few weeks ago I watched a movie called “A Little Chaos” which is about the construction of the gardens at Versailles. Not only is the original score almost unbearably beautiful (highly recommend giving the title track a listen), but the story and design of the movie itself were really moving for me. There was a particular quote in the beginning of the film that struck me:

“God put us first into a garden, and when we lost Eden we were fated to search and reinvent it again.”

Maybe without the context of the film this isn’t so moving for you, but it’s definitely a notion that has stayed with me since I heard it. I love being outside, I’ve always loved being outside, and as a relatively young person a lot of my life now feels like a search for the places I feel most comfortable in.

In a way, this trip was a piece of my search for Eden – and here is what I found.


Give back what’s taken | bare root planting

I’m gonna kick this paragraph off by saying bare root planting is hard but it was probably the thing I enjoyed the most. Before this trip I had planted one single tree in my lifetime, on a study abroad trip, and it was quite a different lesson. People aren’t the only things that destroy nature (though I will definitely agree they’re the largest cause). The elements, disease, plain old coincidence and circumstance – they all have a hand to play. It became a sort of fundamental importance to put back into the earth whatever was taken, regardless of the cause. In the case of self-seeding plants, Mother Nature might just do it herself. But in the case of trees and hedge and fruits and veg a little human help is probably greatly appreciated.

Give and take has always been around, I’ve heard people saying it all my life. But now I see that it applies to all facets: to the things we consume and create as well as the friendships and kinships and small ships and big ships and what? Where was I going with that? Oh yeah, kindness finds its roots in giving – so that it can grow better branches to take from.

Keep it simple | small garden beds

Massive scale is hardly something I’ll be able to balance in my own future gardening endeavors, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still want to enjoy fresh foods, herbs, and flowers. Keeping it simple doesn’t always have to translate to keeping it small, that just happens to be how my own personal garden will manifest itself. In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed or discouraged it’s important to remember that a little can go a long way. So I’ll be starting with the basics: potatoes and maybe a flower or two.

Aside from gardens, there are a lot of aspects of my life that I want to simplify. I feel that there is so much overcomplication these days and that’s a huge stress trigger for me. I hate wasted space, I hate lugging around a huge closet of things I don’t even wear, I hate trying to make convoluted plans just to spend quality time with friends… so it’s all getting nixed! Simple eating, simple living, simple wearing, simple being – I’m here on out making the conscious effort.

Have vision | the winter season

Now, arriving to work on a garden in the winter season is not exactly the best idea if you want to see luscious, blooming flowers and fresh, green shrubbery. Most of what I worked with was brown and dampened, but I was conditioned into a sense of remembering that life was still in full swing all around us. Just because a plant was brown or wasn’t visible didn’t mean that it was dead. Winter is not a deadly season, it’s a resting season. Whenever I learned new plants or got assigned new tasks, we’d talk through what those plants would become or why those tasks were instrumental to promoting their growth. Creating those visions made me excited for the things I was doing because I had a better grasp on what was to come.

I consider myself a person with a healthy amount of creativity and a big imagination, but I also know that I struggle with preconception. If I’m working on something new, it’s fairly easy for me to open my mind but when it’s something I think I know and understand already, breaking down the walls to create that vision becomes more difficult. There are a million different adjectives you can use to describe this quality of myself (hey now, I heard that one!), but let’s just stick with visionistically impaired.

Work the lens both ways | the brassica bed & pruning the Rosa Rugosas

What I mean by that is step back just as much as you zoom in. The Rosa Rugosas were probably my favorite plants of the entire trip, and it’s a shame that I won’t get to see them in bloom. When I did a little research I discovered that they are not in fact a spell from Harry Potter but are actually noted in the US for being a tough dune plant, highly concentrated along the Northeast coastline. Pruning them, however, is relatively challenging considering the entirety of their branches are covered in small thorns. In gardening, there is a fine balance between the aesthetic and the practical. You have to be empirical in pruning back the roses because you want them to be healthy, however you also have to be conscious of the look and shape they will produce after said pruning. AKA you’ve got to step away every few cuts to make sure you haven’t lost sight of the bigger picture.

The brassica bed was a place I put a lot of work into my last few weeks. The bed itself was pretty much the only outdoor space we had providing fresh vegetables for the winter months, before the new seeds were sown and the new plants grown. Each week we’d pick through broccoli and cauliflower, parsley and wild chives, kale and assorted rainbow chards. In no way was the general health of any of these plants attributable to me, but I happily took on preparing and maintaining them for a bit. Pulling a few weeds, cutting off the dead or slug-eaten leaves, and giving the soil a good turn were all relatively minor tasks yet they made such a huge difference in the appearance of the bed. When stepping back suddenly the greens looked greener and the since-staked slumped over broccolis looked taller. I contented myself with knowing that for such small modifications, they seemed to make a world of difference in the grand scheme.

Be gentle… | encountering bugs & new growth

Honestly, I’m terrified of bugs. When I was little my tolerance had a hard stop at snails and worms. Hopefully it isn’t news to you that gardens have all manners of bugs but I had to learn to suck it up and accept that a lot of them were on our side (although the slugs had to go). Apparently bumblebees hibernate! They bury themselves in the soil over the winter and I came across several while working through the strawberry beds. The Cassie of yesteryears would have likely screamed and run away but knowing the importance, especially in the general population decline, of those bees I tried my best to leave them as undisturbed as possible… or at least move them to a safer spot of soil. I found myself feeling a lot more compassion towards bugs than I ever have before, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

Bumblebees weren’t the only things I had to be careful of though. New growth was everywhere, and I just had to learn how to look for it. What little gardening skill I brought with me on this trip culminated in the brute force method of weeding – tug that sucker out as hard as you can and rip at whatever is left. Wrong! I had to kick that habit upon arrival because in this garden, there was a necessity to be gentle. That new growth was usually hidden deep under all of the weeds I was clearing away, or even looked like a weed itself, so it became important to take my time and use whatever gentleness I could muster. There was a satisfaction that came from slowly working the entirety, roots and all, of a weed out of the ground and leaving the beautiful new plants safely undisturbed beside it. There is a gentleness and compassion that is warranted with even the most imperceptible of things – including the weeds. Make of that what you will.

… but not delicate pretty much everything!

Again, Ireland in the winter is not a forgiving climate and I wasn’t even there for the worst of it. That’s not to say that I was out battering the elements for the sake of tidying up a few dead stalks of parsley, but I still had to learn to embrace a little rain and mud. I was excited about getting my hands dirty for once. This whole experience was meant to push the comfort zones of my physical, mental, and emotional states – and I’m happy to report that it did. I worked hard at removing hesitation from anything I was asked to do because that’s how you learn and grow as a person (or something). I got comfortable with the dirt and the mud, the shoveling and the wheelbarrowing. Not being super strong didn’t stop me from trying as best I could and I like to think that I made my coworkers proud… because I can definitely say that I made me proud of me.

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A panorama from inside the Walled Garden. That big bed in the left-center is the brassica bed I worked on!

A List of Cooking Tips For A Novice Like Me [@WestCorkIRL]

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Go ahead and ask anyone who knows me and they’ll happily laugh in your face if you ask them about my past baking escapades. Nutella chocolate chip cookies? Apparently adding a whole jar of Nutella to the regular recipe is not how you do it. My misfortune extends into general cooking as well – I have a longstanding fear of chicken after all the times I’ve messed it up.

Now, this isn’t to say that I haven’t tried tried again over the years, because believe me I have. I find that I always get too experimental while baking, which requires being more exact, and too exact while cooking, which allows for being experimental.

Let’s quickly talk about the encore though because that certainly is something I excel in: I’ve been eating very well while here in West Cork. Georgie, my hostess, makes sure of that with whatever her berry crumble compote with homemade vanilla ice cream was last week (which I can confidently say I ate about half the pan of). And then there’s Fiona, the housekeeper here at Inish Beg, who (amongst many other kind things she does for me) has graciously invited me to family birthday gatherings with the headliners being her scrumptious cakes. If I didn’t know any better I’d say I’ve stepped right into the only child version of Hansel & Gretel.

This past weekend the Estate (Georgie & Fiona) was literally catering to a very large hen party and I had the extreme pleasure of being allowed to help out. Friday afternoon was spent preparing soup, main course, and dessert (though they call it “pudding” over here) for 26 hungry hens. While I helped with little bits and pieces of the main dishes, the two things I worked on in full were the loaves of Ciabatta bread and Parmesan Shortbread cookies (“biscuits”). Thankfully, Georgie & Fiona were constant fixtures in the kitchen so I was never lost for guidance. They’re seasoned professionals (are you having that???) in cooking and baking so many a word of wisdom was offered to a novice like me.

Throughout the afternoon I made a mental note of those little tips they told and showed me. While I’m confident that a few of them slipped through this flour-sifter-excuse-for-a-brain of mine, I hope you’re able to learn something useful from the list I’ve compiled here!


Check your ingredients before you start the cooking/mixing/baking/any preparation process. Seems pretty obvious, but I’ve messed this up with cereal before and that’s literally only two ingredients so I try to keep drilling it in and maybe you should too.

Pour the uncooked rice into the pot of boiling water, don’t pour the boiling water onto the pot of uncooked rice. This prevents the rice from sticking to the pan. However, you should also stir it to be on the sticking safe side because it can still happen. Not speaking from personal experience here, definitely not.

Clean your kitchen as you go. This was especially relevant given the amount of cooking we were doing throughout the day but in general I can see how nice it is to have everything tidied and put away when the fruit of your labor is ready to be enjoyed.

When a recipe calls for warm water, it means it should be on the border of just warm enough to not burn you when you put your fingers in it.

As you roll your dough, rotate it in a circle to keep it from sticking to the table. Assuming you already know to flour the surface you’re rolling on, put some flour on the rolling pin to keep it from sticking to that too. Also a little bit on your hands can’t hurt…

Pack your tablespoons.

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Oil everything when letting bread sit to rise. Similar to the whole flour concept, it’ll just make your life easier when you’re pulling it out of the bowl. Dough is incredibly sticky, who knew?

Save the foils from butter to use as an easy tool for greasing pans.

Give your bread a little tap on it’s underbelly when the bake time is up and if it sounds hollow, it’s done. The loaves we made were a bit thicker than the recipe had called for so Georgie turned them onto their backs for a few minutes to make sure the bottom cooked all the way through.

Fan ovens work best for baking. I’ve actually never even heard of a fan oven until I came over here. The circulation of the heat is really great for making your cakes and things bake evenly.

Egg whites are finished being whipped when you flip the bowl upside-down and they stay put. I had a mini heart attack watching Fiona test this one, I’ll be honest. Also as a side note, imagine how long it took to whip egg whites back in the pre-electric mixer days…

Taste test everything.


One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced is watching the loaves of bread, my loaves of bread if you will, come out of the oven all goldened and ready to eat. It’s one thing to dump a box of mix into a bread maker; it’s a whole other thing to work in all the individual ingredients and watch it rise before coming to fruition in a good old fashioned oven.

These tips have certainly helped inspire me to feel more confident, but I can’t say I’ll be hosting any 5-course dinners at my place in the near future. It was so much fun to watch and learn from two incredibly talented women such as Georgie & Fiona and I got a lot out of the experience.

But my favorite thing of all that I learned about cooking and baking?

It’s as easy as bread & biscuits.

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23 Thoughts On Turning 23

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I started working on this list a month or so ago, jotting down thoughts whenever they struck me of what I wanted the coming year to be like. Most are silly, some are serious – coincidentally how I would also describe the LinkedIn “photo shoot” outtakes I’ve included here. Realized it’s fun to document these things, especially for the sake of looking back a few years from now to see the changes.

Thanks for having me, 23. I’m super excited to be here.


1) Stop rounding up your age before you get there. You’ve got all of next year to be that old.

2) Eat more potatoes.

3) Eat less chocolate.

4) Always give your little brother a hug when you come home.

5) Keep poison out of your heart.

6) Another year gone by, another every-Sandra-Bullock-movie-marathon gone undone. JUST DO IT.

7) Hydrate.

8) Don’t force it.

9) Tell your friends that you’re proud of them because you are.

10) Have courage & be kind.

11) Crush that new job.

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12) Stop assuming the worst – sometimes the friendly stranger is just a friendly stranger.

13) Remember to miss the snow every once in a while.

14) Make yourself laugh every. single. day. (you’re very good at this, shouldn’t be a problem)

15) Follow those gut feeling first instincts. Instead of not doing that and immediately regretting it 99.87% of the time.

16) Don’t pet the sweaty things.

17) Never give a half-hearted hug. Bear or bust.

18) Surround yourself with more plants, they make you very happy. Just try to stop naming them, cause then they make you sad when they inevitably die.

19) Ask people to tell you their stories.

20) Learn some natural remedies.

21) Be prepared to lose arguments and practice taking it graciously.

22) Bite to ten. Your heart will feel happier after not saying what your flip-switch temper wants you to.

23) This is the year… to listen to more Incubus. (2009’s “Monuments & Melodies” – ENOUGH SAID)

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