Thursday, January 5, 2017

Favorites of 2016

So... it's been a little while. I've been doing twenty million different things and none of them ended up being this blog. But, I've always done rankings of my favorite things each year, and I wanted to keep that trend alive. That being said, after evaluating all the things that I ranked last year, I found myself at a bit of an impasse.

Last year, I ranked my overall favorite movies, musicians, albums, songs, TV shows, YouTubers, and BookTubers as well as my favorite albums and songs of 2015. When I looked back, I realized that my overall/all-time favorites haven't changed much if at all, so it seemed a bit ridiculous to re-rank everything. As for the favorites of the year, I realized that in my iTunes library, I only have 3 CDs from 2016 in my iTunes. And while I liked them, it didn't feel like enough to merit a whole ranking. And then I had to consider the new songs of 2016 and I couldn't even think of any off the top of my head. So, I'm just combining the two into one post and adding other favorites of the year into the mix.

Favorite New TV Show of 2016:
Stranger Things

This may be the most obvious answer ever because everyone loved Stranger Things, but I got SO obsessed. It was so good and I watched the entirety of the show in a day. After watching the first episode, I got hooked and watched the entirety of the show without doing anything else in between. I watch a ton of reality shows and very few scripted shows but this one completely stole my heart and I ended up watching it another two times over the following weeks and months. 

Despite the fact that there were new seasons of some of my favorite shows like Project Runway, Rupaul's Drag Race, and Big Brother, Stranger Things was the show that really grabbed me this year. 

Favorite New CD of 2016:
A Pentatonix Christmas by Pentatonix

Like I said earlier in the post, there wasn't really very much competition for the best CD of the year, but as always, Pentatonix was incredibly impressive. I actually didn't jump on this immediately upon its release, because I don't really listen to a bunch of Christmas music. However, once I started listening to it, I couldn't stop. It was so good! The standouts for me are their cover of Kanye's song, Coldest Winter, their cover of Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays by NSYNC, and their version of Up on the Housetop. However, the entire CD is really great. And those three songs are also probably my favorite songs of the year. 

The other two CDs that I have from this year were Panic! at the Disco's "Death of a Bachelor" CD and Parachute's "Wide Awake" CD. Both of them were good, but I definitely haven't had them on replay like with A Pentatonix Christmas.

Favorite New Song of 2016:
Bad 4 Us by Superfruit

I said above that the songs from A Pentatonix Christmas were probably my favorites of the year, which is mostly because I didn't listen to a ton of new music this year. But in terms of newly released songs, this is definitely my favorite. I played this constantly for a solid month after its release. I nearly forgot about it because it's Superfruit (Scott and Mitch from Pentatonix) on YouTube rather than one of my favorite bands or a song from a new CD this year. I love this song so much. 

Favorite Pre-2016 TV Show:
The Genius

For the pre-2016 choices, I'm going with things that I discovered in 2016 that didn't come out in 2016.
This one squeaked in there riiiiight at the end of the year but oh boy did it make an impact. The Genius is a reality game show made in South Korea. I discovered it through listening to Rob Has a Podcast, and I checked out the first episode back in the summer. It was great, but I didn't watch past episode 1 until the last week of the year. Although I loved episode 1 the first time through, it resonated a lot more the second time I watched it and I ended up binge-watching the entirety of the season. I didn't finish the season until after the beginning of 2017, but I watched a good chunk of the season in 2016. This show is absolutely amazing and so smart. I can't wait to see the other three seasons, because I've gotten obsessed.

Favorite Pre-2016 CD:
The Walking In Between by Ben Rector
 Technically, I didn't discover The Walking in Between in 2016. I listened to it quite a while back, but I just listened to it on Spotify and then forgot it existed. And then I re-discovered it in 2016 and actually downloaded and played it on repeat. This may not have been my most listened to CD of the year, but it was really high up there. And the songs on this CD all kinda count as my favorite pre-2016 songs. 

The CD I listened to the most this year was probably Astoria by Marianas Trench, which came out in 2015. I first listened to it when it came out, but I severely underestimated it. I fell in love with it in 2016, to the point that I really wanted to put it here, but I did discover it in 2015 so I unfortunately couldn't. It did appear on my favorite CDs of 2015 list, which you can check out here.

Favorite Podcast I Discovered in 2016:
The Black Tapes

2016 was definitely the year of the podcast for me. I'd dabbled in podcasts before 2016, but only minimally (notably, listening to Rob Has a Podcast's Big Brother coverage). However, at the end of 2015 was when I first started listening to fictional podcasts and by the beginning of 2016, I went full force into the world of podcasts. The Black Tapes was the new discovery that I fell in love with the most. (However, I will say that I fell head over heels for Limetown with like 2 days left in 2015)

The Black Tapes is an incredibly creepy but engrossing podcast that is super unique and really interesting. It's not my absolute favorite podcast ever (that honor still goes to Rob Has a Podcast) but it's definitely the best one that I discovered in 2016. 

So... that's all I have for my favorites of 2016. It's a bit of a hot mess of a list, but that describes my 2016 pretty well. This list has made me realize that I didn't listen to much new music this year, and I think that this is largely because of the vast amount of podcast listening that I've been doing on my commute to school/work. 

If you're looking for my favorite books of 2016 (given that I make BookTube videos), I promise, it's coming! As with the last couple years, I'm going to be ranking every 2016 read on my blog, and I'm going to be doing end of the year videos on my YouTube channel as well. Patience, young Padawan.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My NaNoWriMo Prep & Planning: 2016

NaNoWriMo is finally upon us, and I am SO. EXCITED.

I've gone all out with my planning this year- planning specific writing times each day, making goals, planning rewards, making playlists, and creating writing triggers. And, since I've been doing so much planning, I figured I'd go ahead and share some of my plans with y'all. I don't know how useful this will be, given that I haven't even started NaNoWriMo yet, let alone won. But, here it is anyway.

I guess the best way to start is by talking a bit about my history with NaNoWriMo and my current project. So, my first year of doing NaNoWriMo was 2 years ago in 2014. That year, I worked on a novel that I've been working on for several years and I got 23,000 words before eventually giving up. I then attempted to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April 2015 and July 2016, working on that same novel, giving up both times after about a week and a half. So essentially, I have been a complete failure at NaNoWriMo every single time I've tried to do it. But this time, I want to be successful. Hence all of the planning. 

This time, I'm going to be working on a completely different story. It's not a new story, but it's one that I haven't touched in several years. I already had a pretty detailed outline written for this story, so I was fortunate enough that I didn't have to do much prep in that area. I do have a full video on the topic so I'll keep this description brief and leave it to video-Kristen to give you the more in-depth details if you're curious. Essentially, this story started out as a Jonas Brothers fanfiction back when I was obsessed with them. Over the years, I've replaced them with a fictional boy band, but the story still totally reads as a very cliche, dramatic Quizilla-esque fanfic. Despite recognizing that I can't really do anything with this story, I love this really ridiculous aspect to it and am really excited about it. Further explanations can be found in the video.

Goals & Rewards

So, I'm going to be basing my daily goals off of the typical NaNoWriMo goals. I'll be trying to write the full 50,000 words, so my daily goal is 1,667 words. I've set up both a planner and a tracker in my bullet journal to keep track of the times I plan to write and my daily/total word count goals. I have a schedule that varies from day-to-day, so I have certain hours specified for writing for each day of the week. For each day, I've scheduled 2 hours of writing time, divided into 1 hour blocks. As you can see in the below picture, there are some times I tried to keep constant, but there are some days when times need to be shifted. I've also added in the possibility of extra writing time, but as long as I focus and reach my hourly goals, I shouldn't need the extra time. In fact, I don't expect to need both full hours every day if I'm really focused. 
On the left are the times I intend to write each day, and on the right is my tracker, where I have daily & overall goals and where I will fill in my actual word count each day.

So now on to the rewards for meeting my goals. I've come up with many different goals to keep myself on track. I have goals/rewards for each hour writing, for reaching my daily goal, and for winning NaNoWriMo. I think these are super helpful to get you through even the days where you don't feel like writing. So I'll lay those out for you as well as why I chose those specific goals.

Overall Goal: Write 50K words & WIN NANOWRIMO!
Reward: PlayStation 4

This is something I've saved for for quite a while, but I'm only up to 2/3 of the price. If I win NaNoWriMo, I'm going to go ahead and splurge for it because I've wanted it for so long. Your reward certainly doesn't have to be so big, but it should be something that will really motivate you to succeed.

Now on to daily and hourly rewards. The big thing for these is that you don't want to choose something that would be overwhelming if you reach your goal every single day. For example, do you really want your daily reward to be Starbucks every day if you have to pay for Starbucks every day? To combat that, I'm using a point system for my hourly and daily goals. Essentially, there will be points attached to each goal that will add up in order for me to "buy" rewards. That way, I reward myself, but I don't have to spend a lot of money on the same things day after day. I don't necessarily know that this will work for everyone, but I think this will be a good method for me. 

Daily Goal: Write 1,667 words
Reward: 5 points

Hourly Goal (for each scheduled writing time): Write 850 words
Reward: 1 point

I made my goal per hour 850 words because that evenly divides my 1667 words between my 2 hour chunks. However, when I do sit down to write for a solid hour, I find that I write somewhere around 1200 words or more, so I have a feeling that it won't take me a full 2 hours each day to get my words, but it will probably give me a chance to get ahead for those days when I inevitably don't feel like writing. 

As far as the points, essentially it's possible for me to earn up to 49 points per week. Honestly, if I get 49 points in one week, I'll give myself a bonus 1 point reward because A- I'd be totally SLAYING NaNoWriMo, and B-50 is such a nice round number. I do have rewards set up at specific point values. For example, buying a new book of my choice is 35 points. So if I meet my daily goal every single day for a week (even excluding hourly goals!), I could purchase a new book if I so desired. But there are also slightly smaller rewards, such as ordering non-fast food takeout for 25 points. 

NaNoWriMo Playlist!

This is the first time I've ever put together a playlist specifically for a project that I'm working on. There have certainly been times when I found myself only listening to certain CDs or artists while writing a story, but I never planned in advance. So, it was incredibly fun to go through my music and compile a list of songs that I feel fit my novel. 

Since I first started this as Jonas Brothers fanfic in jr. high and since it takes place in high school, almost all of the music is stuff that I listened to during that time of my life. Some of it is stuff that specifically fits the tone/plot of my story, while other songs are just there for the mood that they invoke to me-- bringing to mind that specific period of time in my life that I associate with this story. 

Now, before you jump on my case and judge me for some of the music that you find on the playlist (*cough*HannahMontana*cough*), I want to briefly remind you that some of the music on this playlist is not music that I still enjoy and listen to on a daily basis. Very soon, it'll become a staple in my life again because of the mood it invokes, but it's not something I still enjoy. I didn't really want to add some of this music to the playlist but it was way too closely tied to that time in my life and to this specific story for me to not include it.

The playlist is embedded at the beginning of this section for your perusal and listening. I also have a second, smaller playlist. Every song on that playlist comes from this larger playlist, so there's nothing new on there. However, that playlist consists of the 10ish songs that I most closely associate with my story. I'm really excited about these playlists and want to explain exactly why everything was chosen but ya know, spoilers and stuff. And it would take forever to explain all of the 50ish songs on the playlist. But feel free to ask questions and I'll go ahead and link the second, smaller playlist down below this. 

Writing Triggers

Writing triggers are another new thing that I'm going to be trying out this year. I've known for a long time about how certain scents, environments, tastes, etc. can be used as associations for things. For example, if you study for an exam while smelling a certain scent, if you smell that scent again while taking the exam, it can help recall the memories of what you studied. Don't go using this as a way to barely study for an exam and think you're definitely going to do well, but it could be a useful study tool that you can try out and see if it helps with your memory. 

Anyway, my point here is that there are a lot of other things that this can be applied to. For example, if you write at the same place, at the same time every day and light the same candle and drink the same flavor of coffee, it helps to create an entire writing atmosphere and can get you in the mood to write. These type of things are writing triggers-- things that you purposely do while writing to help get you in the mood to write or perhaps even recreate the mood of your novel. Often, these are also things that you only do while writing, so that it forms a habit and association. (I'm not an expert in these psychological matters, but I was a psych minor in my undergrad so hopefully that gives you just the slightest bit of faith in me here). 

Like I said, this is something that's new for me. I typically write kind of wherever I feel like it. Typically, that ends up being my bed. However, for NaNoWriMo, I've decided to try out some writing triggers and see how they work for me. I've decided to do all of my writing at my desk in my room (pictured below). One bad habit that I have is that because I typically do basically everything on my couch or in bed, all of my actual surfaces (dining room table, desk, etc.) have just become places to pile my junk. So I did a total overhaul of my desk and now it's a completely clean area for me to work at. So far, I've sat down for a couple hour-long writing sessions and I've been able to completely focus and get stuff written.

This is also kind of where my playlist comes into play as well. I only listen to this playlist (as well as many of the individual songs) while writing, so that should also help to get me in the mood to write. Also, if I'm especially distracted, I will listen to ASMR videos to get work done, so those also help me to focus on doing work. If you're not familiar with ASMR videos, they are basically just people making sounds for relaxation. Some people think it's weird but I really enjoy them and they help me to focus. I've linked one of my favorites below in case you're curious.

There are a lot of other things that come into play here, like the writing schedule that I showed earlier in the post. Since I already discussed that, I won't get into it too much. I also don't have a specific drink or snack for while writing, simply because I don't like eating while writing, and because I'm using caffeine as more of a reward.. and pretty much all of my drinks are caffeinated. So I guess I'll be drinking some water. Energy drinks will be saved for after writing. 

The other writing trigger that I'm very purposely trying to work into my writing routine is a specific scent for writing. Because of that, I went ahead and got a few candles to try out. I've never been someone who used candles, but I thought it would be a really great time to try them out. I went to Yankee Candle for the first time ever (which was super overwhelming- there are like 150 scents. The sales lady said so). It was really difficult to figure out what I wanted, because I wanted to pick a candle that would fit my story. Since the story is a rather lighthearted story set in the fall, so I wanted to pick a scent that matched both of those things. Something cozy and warm, but sweet. I found 2 there and another at Target that I liked, so I went ahead and got the smallest size of each so that I can try them out and get a larger one once I feel like I can commit to one.
L to R: Autumn Gathering, Cashmere Woods, and Mountain Lodge

So... I think that's about it. I mean, it should be after this giant post. I just really wanted to make sure that I got everything in here, both for myself and for y'all. I'm really excited about NaNoWriMo this year, and I wanted to go all out in order to succeed. Let me know down in the comments what all you did to prepare for NaNoWriMo this year! Did you do lots of outlining and planning, or are you pantsing it this year? Do you have a reward system set up, and if so, what is it? Are there any writing triggers that work for you? Let me know down in the comments! Good luck, everyone! I hope you all have a great NaNoWriMo this year and I hope that you all win!

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The 15 Best & 10 Worst America's Next Top Model Makeovers

Hey, y'all! I'm a long-time America's Next Top Model fan, but in the past couple years, I've fallen off the bandwagon-- not finishing off the few seasons I haven't seen, and not really re-watching episodes either. But, over the past week or so, I've been re-watching some older episodes of ANTM, including several makeover episodes, as those are my favorites. And given my love of lists and rankings, I decided that I wanted to do a blog post listing my favorite and least favorite makeovers in the 22 cycle history of the show.

Before I jump into the lists, I wanted to explain my criteria for choosing which makeovers made each list. As should be obvious, these are very subjective lists. While I typically try to be as objective as possible, I have my likes and dislikes-- and some of those will become evident pretty quickly. It should also be noted that these aren't rankings. The makeovers are listed in cycle order with only a couple exceptions.

When it comes to the "best" makeovers, the end result is not the only important factor-- how big of a change it is also plays a role. What I mean by this is that someone who walks into makeovers looking amazing and walks out of makeovers looking almost exactly the same isn't going to end up on my list. (Prime example being Kim cycle 5-- loved her look but it barely changed)

An important thing to note when dealing with the worst makeovers, however, is that I'm not taking into account "botched" makeovers. Throughout the years, there have been several cases where a girl has gotten a makeover and Tyra had to fix it because it was a disaster. You won't find those on this list, because the look itself wasn't the problem, but rather the execution. There are a couple looks on this list that technically fall under that category, but they were still awful even when they got fixed.

OK, I've rambled long enough-- let's just jump into the lists.

Top 15 Best ANTM Makeovers

Cycle 18 Makeovers

OK, it might be a bit of a cop-out to rank a whole season on the list, but the makeovers this season were seriously on-point and would've taken up a huge chunk of this list. Tyra went out on a limb and went for funky colors and interesting cuts, and it was a bold choice that really paid off for a lot of the models. Below are some of my favorites among the bunch. 


This one technically breaks my rule of the makeovers needing to be a significant change but I really loved her look.


Catherine has a very classic, very British look, and the bold hot pink/red hair made her look super edgy.


As you'll discover rather soon, I'm a sucker for ice blonde makeovers. The red and blue clip-ins were a little overboard with the "America" theme, but I love the overall look.


Despite her freakout over cutting and coloring her hair, the shorter hair looked amazing with her bone structure.


By taking her slightly more blonde and adding a subtle pink, Sophie got a really cute but high fashion look.


Alisha's short hair looked fine, but adding the hair on one side and shaving the other gave her a really cool, edgy look.

The Ice Blondes

Tyra really likes to give girls hair so blonde that it's almost white, and it almost always looks fantastic. Once again, these would've just dominated the list, so I lumped them all together. Laura from cycle 18 was a great example, but there are several more below. 

 Anya- Cycle 10

Taking Anya from brunette to ice blonde with matching brows gave her a really interesting look that worked really well for her.

 Erin- Cycle 13

Erin might be my favorite of the ice blondes. Her pale skin combined with the nearly-white hair gave her a super edgy look.

 Rae- Cycle 13

Rae was the least drastic change but bleaching her eyebrows and going even more blonde made a huge difference.

Amanda- Cycle 3

Amanda's ice blonde looked especially great because it was combined with her light blue eyes.

Laura- Cycle 19

Laura's makeover is different from the others because she's actually fairly tan, which gives the ice blonde a very different look altogether. 

Shandi- Cycle 2

Now, we're moving into the single makeovers. Shandi was really the first stand-out makeover. She was really nerdy and a bit mousy, but dying her hair blonde really made her stand out from the pack and gave her a totally different look.

Naima- Cycle 4

Naima had an interesting look beginning the competition, but her honey-blonde mohawk really complemented her skintone. I went back and forth between this one and Keenyah from the same season, but the more I looked at her hair, the more I realized how much I love this look on her.

Jenah- Cycle 9

TBH, this picture doesn't do the makeover justice. This makeover really took Jenah over the top. She looked a bit pedestrian before, but the long blonde hair really made her look high fashion.

Fatima- Cycle 10

This is the single makeover in the history of ANTM that really stands out to me as the best makeover in the history of the show. Her hair was a total disaster at the beginning of the show, and her makeover looked amazing. It was such a drastic change and it completely changed her look.

Allison- Cycle 12

This is another real standout, memorable makeover. Allison is one of the favorite models through the show's history, and her makeover was the better version of Shandi's. Her hair at the beginning of the show was very basic, and the big blonde curls added to her quirky ethereal look.

Fo- Cycle 12

Fo had a lot of trouble adjusting to her short hair, but I think it's probably the best "chop all the hair off" makeover in the history of the show. It kept her cuteness but gave her a little edge and it worked really well for her face.

Lulu- Cycle 13

Lulu's look was such a drastic change and it made her look super high-fashion. I'm not usually a huge fan of bangs, but they really framed her face well.

Raina- Cycle 14

Raina's lighter hair looked fine, but the dark hair gave her a much edgier look. Combined with her thick eyebrows and her blue eyes, her dark hair helped to create what I believe to be the best picture in Top Model history:

Phil- Cycle 20

We all thought Tyra was crazy for giving Phil a weave, but the long hair really worked on him. That plus the beard really gave him a distinct look that was really current and interesting. 

Nina- Cycle 20

I'm always a fan of Tyra giving a girl red hair, and I think this was the best. The blue eyes, pale skin, bangs, and vivid hair combined to give Nina a really interesting look.

Shei- Cycle 21

This was another makeover where we all questioned Tyra a little bit, but I really like how it ended up turning out. It gave her a really edgy, interesting look.

Hadassah- Cycle 22

Maybe I'm just a sucker for edgy haircuts, but shaving one side of her head took Hadassah from being almost too pretty to being pretty but with an edge.

Lacey- Cycle 22

Like I said earlier, bangs aren't always my favorite, especially heavy bangs. But they framed Lacey's face really well and really highlighted her eyes. Before, she looked pretty pedestrian, but this hair made her really high-fashion.

Top 10 Worst ANTM Makeovers

Ann- Cycle 3

I just don't understand the point of this, let alone when or why this was considered high fashion. Because those two front blonde chunks just look messy. The length is good, but that blonde can't be overlooked.

Michelle- Cycle 4

This is actually this hair at its best. Most of the cycle, her roots were growing in really dark and it honestly just looked really odd on her. This is one of the rare cases where ice blonde definitely did NOT work as it was supposed to.

Saleisha- Cycle 9/ Brittani- Cycle 16

I lumped the two of them together because they were given very similar makeovers. I'll give Tyra credit-- it definitely made them more edgy and both of them won their cycle. But, that doesn't mean the makeover was good. The general consensus is that these makeovers didn't really suit their faces, and I definitely agree. The bangs are overpowering on both of them, and the cut is much too blunt. I definitely agree that they needed to be edged out, but these styles were definitely not the right ones.

Dominique- Cycle 10

This is one where even Tyra realized it was botched. However, even after fixing it, this didn't look good. The short hair really aged Dominique. She was 23, and it made her look (as noted by a photographer) like the mom of one of the girls. The color wasn't great, the way it was styled was aging, and the cut itself was aging. Not. Good.

Stacy Ann- Cycle 10

Like with Saleisha and Brittani, I agree that Stacy Ann needed to be edged out. But this haircut was not the way to do that. Given her strong bone structure, a short cut was probably the way to go, but not this short cut. Maybe a nearly buzzed cut or a buzzed cut combined with long pieces in the front (a la Simone Cycle 14). It just seems like it's either slightly too long or slightly too short, which makes it look odd. 

Brenda- Cycle 14

This makeover is one of the standout worsts for me. As with the past few, I definitely think she needed to be edged out. But this short hair aged her quite a bit. With the long hair, she was deemed "too sexy," but the short hair made her look so much older than she was. On top of that, the cut itself wasn't that great. Like with Stacy Ann, shorter was probably the way to go, but not this cut.

Destiny- Cycle 19

I feel like a broken record. Yes, an edgy cut would work well on her. But not the way they did it. But why is the hair on the left side of her head so long? Just shave the side and leave the bangs. The way they did it in makeovers just didn't look good. It didn't work with her hair texture, and it just didn't work. 

Brittany- Cycle 19

TBH, I kinda liked her original look. Maybe it's the styling but I just really hated this makeover. Like with the others, I think some tweaking would really help it out. The color was off, the cut was off, and the styling was horrid. 

Kari- Cycle 21

And this, my friends, is the worst ice blonde makeover the show has ever done. There were just too many aspects that were slightly off. The shade of blonde wasn't right for her skintone. It was too yellowy and not enough ice. And then combine the bleached brows with her hairline being so far back, it just didn't look good. A few tweaks could've fixed it, but it was a mess as-is.

Denzel- Cycle 21

This is probably the worst idea Tyra has ever come up with for makeovers. She decided that Denzel needed a beard, but he couldn't grow it himself so she gave him a lace-front beard. It looked about as fake as you would expect it to. And the worst part was that no one seemed to realize it looked awful. Denzel thought it looked good, Tyra thought it looked good, but it looked horrible and fake- like someone had glued fur to his face or something. It was really bad.

Ava- Cycle 22

If Denzel's fake beard wasn't the worst makeover idea ever on the show, Ava's is. Tyra literally called this the "fashion mullet" (or something very similar-- mullet was definitely in the name). The sad thing is that if they'd just gotten rid of the "mullet" part of this, it could've been good. But it looked like a mess. No one can ever make mullets look good. It's not possible. Tyra tried really hard with this, but it was horrible. No, no, no.