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creative

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how to be a book lover

Books are complicated. There is so many of them, and more are being drafted, written and published as you read this. They are the final product of years of thought and experiences, and I find them to be one of the most rewarding and satisfying things that you can do to nourish your mind and soul. Throughout my long journey with books, I have come to see them as my long-term companions. They are there when I feel lonely, when I need some words of wisdom, or when I just need a fantasy world to escape into. They are collectively my lifelong partner, and I think they should be yours, too.

Let them be the first and last thing you see each day. What I love most about books is that they allow you to focus on one thing, and one thing only, at a time. It slows time down to its real pace, and it sheds the distractions from your surroundings. It’s the most soothing way to wake yourself up, and the most calm way to let yourself drift to sleep. As you become more comfortable with their constant presence in your life, you’ll know which kinds of books get you up from bed, and which ones get your eyes fluttering shut.

Keep your options available. Reading is not about being exclusive and sticking to just one method of reading. Physical books, e-books, and audiobooks are the three common type of reading methods, and they can each help you gain extra reading time in different situations. Personally, I use my kindle voyage the most often, because it’s so lightweight, small, and has a pretty cover (hehe). Of course, I also love how I can easily read samples of books that I’m interested in, how I can buy and download books immediately, and search up unfamiliar words whilst reading. I don’t read physical books as much mainly due to convenience, but if I someday have the space, I would love to have my own library room where I can retrieve to at the end of the day and read with my cats on my lap. Last, but not least, audiobooks are the smartest way to non-read read. I listen to them when I’m exercising, commuting, or doing some task that takes up little of my mental attention. It’s like having a companion whispering words of wisdom in your ear.

I know there may be other reading options available, and I encourage you to explore them. One that I’ve seen roaming around is Blinkist, which lets you read summaries of books. If you’re a busy person that would like to read a book without actually having to read the whole book, I can see why this is appealing. But for me, it defeats the whole purpose of reading. Reading makes you slow down and focus on one task at a time. It’s about taking things one step a time. I remember the books that I’ve read better than the summaries of books I haven’t read, and if this means that I’ll read fewer books, then so be it. I would rather choose the few books I want to read, and absorb the things that I think are most important from them. I also simply enjoy taking the time to understand the story, the author’s voice, and all the small details that are obliterated in summaries. But then again, that is just the opinion of someone who hasn’t first-hand tried out Blinkist.

Love with fervor, but know that it’s okay to take a breather. There are always gonna be some books that you click with more, some that you have to take it slow with, and others that annoy you to the core of your soul. All books are different, so it’s okay if it doesn’t work out with some of them. It’s also okay to take a break from all books for a while, and then slowly get back to the groove of it. It’s important to keep reminding yourself that reading is like relationships: they are grounded on the basis of love, but you have to put in the work. But at the end of the day, it is your happiness that counts the most. Love can’t work if you’re not happy or compassionate with yourself first. Then you can pure your heart and soul into the relationship and bury your face with books.

Make your relationship public. Goodreads is like the social media godsend for book lovers. You get to create your own virtual library, categorize your books based on your interests, make and read reviews of books that you like, and share it with lots of people. One of my favorite features is the yearly reading challenge: you basically set yourself the challenge of reading a certain number of books this year, and then it will tell you whether you are behind, on track, or ahead of your reading challenge. It’s an awesome way of keeping track of your goals. Goodreads also allows you to keep track of the books you’re reading. I find this feature the most helpful as I’m usually reading several books at once, and sometimes it’s easy to lose track of a book that you started months ago and have yet to finish. For me, Goodreads is my long-term memory jar for books.

Treasure your loved ones, but don’t be afraid to get inspiration from others. Browsing books in a bookstore is like walking into a roomful of doors, waiting patiently to be opened. Many, if not most, books are open for you to flip through the pages, which allows you to get a pretty good sense of the whole book without having to buy it. Some bookstores have chairs where you can sit for a while, especially if you’re considering getting the book. Personally, I tend to add books that catch my eye to my online library – aka my Goodreads want-to-read list. This will allow me to go back to the list when I’m looking for new books to read, and buy it on my kindle.

Treat them with kindness and appreciation. I love reading on my kindle. It’s the last thing I do when I go to bed, and it’s the first thing I see when I wake up. It’s never ‘put away’, because I grab it numerous times throughout the day. I have a white marble case on my kindle, and in the two years that I’ve had it, I haven’t felt the need to change a thing about it. It’s perfect the way it is. I make sure that they’re never out of battery, I clean the screen when it gets a little dusty, and I wipe its surfaces every once in a while.

Make them your lifelong companions. Be Rory Gilmore and carry them with you wherever you go. I carry my kindle whenever I’m going somewhere that I feel will give me some time to delve into another world. When you have it with you, it will take away the temptation to mindlessly browse your phone and allow you to progress at least a few pages of your book. Honestly though, I’m not a huge fan of this. I like having a good amount of interrupted time to read, and I most likely won’t pick up my kindle to read in spurts of a few minutes, as it could prevent me from getting the gist of the chapter I’m reading. However, this idea aligns with my belief of making books as accessible as possible. You will be more willing to read if the option is more readily available to you, if you are willing to include it as part of your life.

-Michelle

things i did in my gap year

One of the hardest things about my gap year was keeping track of my progress by myself. With no teachers grading me and no classes to attend to, with what means do I even measure my progress?

For me, it was a matter of trial and error before I found out what worked best for me. I started my gap year with a list of things I believed I wanted to accomplish, and every month I would review and tweak parts of it. You can see how my goals changed from 2016 to 2017 on this page. Below, I will comment on each of the 5 categories that I worked on in the past year. I hope you enjoy!

work

This involves college applications, classes I took online, and anything academics-related.

2016: A lot of my focus inevitably went towards my college applications – retaking a few standardized tests, researching for colleges, drafting dozens of essays, and all that stuff. The only part that I truly cherish from this arduous process are the essays. I could see how much my thoughts, mentality and writing style had changed since the previous year. As someone who writes, blogs and journals frequently, it was really uplifting to tangibly see my progress.

Additionally, I took some classes that I was interested in academically. This included psychology (one of my intended majors), coding, and a little of web design. I took these courses on Coursera and Codecademy, and though I didn’t love taking classes, they gave me the general insight I needed to become familiar with these fields.

2017: This year was very different. I focused a lot of my education in other ways (that you’ll see later in this post), and mainly brainstormed and planned long-term goals for college. I realized that I am very much interested in psychology and cognitive science in college, looked into other possible minors, researched the clubs and organizations available at my college (once I knew where I would be attending), looked into the ‘different’ types of classes and opportunities available, and mapped out a general 4-year plan for college. So, very college-focused, but also very concentrated on my interests.

health

This includes activities directly related to my emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.

2016: I tried out so many activities and classes this year: meditation, yoga, Pilates, Systema (a Russian self-defense martial arts), ballet, and strength-trained jogged, biked and roller skated on my own. I did not stick with all of these, but they allowed me to understand and take care of my body much better.

2017: I continued taking classes on ballet and Systema – both which I absolutely loved. I learned about beauty and poise in ballet, and the myriad of bio-mechanic skills that Systema taught me opened my understanding about the human body. I also started jogging more, and experienced runner’s high in my first 10k (6.2 miles) race for the first time! I continued to meditate when I needed to (though not as religiously as before), and strength-trained when I deemed it fit. This year was a continuation and consolidation of the activities that I believe helped me most.

personal

All about things that I deeply love and cherish: books, mistyprose (blogging), writing and creativity-related activities

2016 and ’17: I read 100+ books and started a new challenge of reading the world. I got more into photography and learned more about my ‘aesthetic’. I joined the bullet journal community, explored different styles of journaling – morning pages, 5-minute morning journal, gratitude journal, among others. I loved all these activities.

But my proudest personal achievement was creating mistyprose. It started out as The Sapphire, a blog about books, but as my passions started to shift during my gap year, so did the focus of my blog. Earlier this year, I ‘re-branded’ my blog as mistyprose, and realized that my content was varied, but also with a touch of my own style. I promote my blog through Instagram and Tumblr, platforms where I could share my photography too. A few months ago, after getting my (first) camera, I decided to try making videos. As more of a blogger person, this became a new but exciting field to me that I’ve yet to explore further.

wanderlust

This is about traveling, learning new languages, socializing, and volunteering.

2016: Fresh out of high school, I was so eager to travel during my gap year. I thought that backpacking around the world would make me into an independent adult, and I couldn’t wait to get started. However, my (tiger) mom thankfully prevented me from making such rash decisions, as I am a young and naive girl, fresh out of high school. So I started learning languages. I got into German, but couldn’t find my connection with it so I dropped it. I took up American Sign Language (ASL), having learnt Peruvian Sign Language already. I then also started learning Italian, and I loved it.  I also became the translation coordinator for this huge and admirable NGO, something that makes me proud to say.

2017: This year, I realized that I don’t need to physically travel to satisfy my wanderlust soul. I travel when I read books. I travel when I walk to the park and see the sky and the trees with a renewed sense of wonder. I can travel whenever and however. Traveling can be fun, and it’s always an amazing experience to have. But the fallacy in only wanting to travel is not seeing the value of the things that are surrounding you already.

Additionally, I continued learning Italian and ASL, by taking online lessons and/or reading about them. The most important step, however, was my decision to start learning Chinese again. Mandarin Chinese is my first language, but I barely know how to read or write in it. It was after visiting my family in Taiwan in early 2017 that I realized that I needed to learn to communicate properly in Chinese.

music

Instruments and music-related endeavors.

2016 and ’17: Music has been an integral part of my life ever since I was young. I still remember seeing a cello for the first time back in 3rd grade, and watching my cello teacher play the instrument with such expertise and ease. Thus, I learned the cello for several years at school, and then got into the national music conservatory. A year later I joined the national youth symphony orchestra, and then went back to taking private lessons again.

Though I am far from being able to call myself a true cellist, my journey with my cello has been a wholesome one. I learned what ‘passion’ means from other musicians; I saw the hardworking class of the music industry in Peru; and I learned a valuable skill that I will try to cherish for the rest of my life. My gap year allowed me to understand why music is important to me. I went out of my comfort zone and taught violin at a public school; violin’s not my specialty, but I know the theory well enough to teach beginner students.

Something new that I started doing in 2017 was teach myself the piano. My brother used to play the piano a lot, so we have a keyboard at home. I purchased a few beginner books and easy pieces on the Kindle, and that got me started. I love the sound of the piano, but whether I will continue this during college is another matter that I’ll have to decide later on.


So. I read, learned and discovered many things in my gap year, but I did not do so without endless nights of pondering about my personal interests and periods of self-doubt and distress. However, as I look back into this year with sweet reminiscence, I cannot help but be grateful for all that I’ve gained since then. My ‘hardships’ cannot compare to what many have to endure in their lives, but it has allowed me to see past my insecurities with greater faith. As Viktor Frankl once said,

If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.

-Michelle

current faves | june 2017

Hello! This is a post detailing some of the things that I’m loving, doing and enjoying as of now. Some of these are things that I’ve recently picked up; others are things that I’ve been enjoying for a while. In order to prevent this post from going on endlessly, I will name only 5 things per category. Please, enjoy!

youtubers

As a lifestyle blogger, I read and watch a lot of online content creators too. Below are some of the ones I watch most consistently (though it was hard to choose just 5):

  • krist & yu: Krist creates lifestyle & travel videos, and her personality is very bubbly and relatable in all of them. This is actually her second channel (her main is called krist soup); both are different in their content, but personally I enjoy the more personal and motivational content of this one.
  • Anna Akana: Anna’s this badass comedian who also creates (very pro) advice & lifestyle videos. I love how each one of her videos leaves me with an open-ended question, usually based on things that we may encounter in our day-to-day lives. Her videos are scripted, filmed and edited with the help of other people, but unlike some channels, I feel that her content stays true to her personality.
  • Conan Gray: Conan creates artsy, creative and lifestyle videos, and his aesthetic is very retro and cute af. I love how his content can appeal to an audience of any gender,
  • Jordan Clark: Jordan’s my fave new youtuber so far. Her DIY’s, lifestyle and travel videos are just so soothing and aesthetically pleasing to watch. Her DIY’s are really good, creative and not too hard to recreate, which makes them all the more appealing.
  • Thomas Frank: Thomas’ videos are very study and motivation-related, and his content is always very helpful and enjoyable to watch. His videos are also backed up by a detailed blog post, with steps on how to follow his advice.

things

These are some of the things that I’ve been using this year. I’ve had all of these items for at least a few months now, so I’ve had plenty of time to ‘get to know’ these items in detail:

  • Hobonichi Cousin Planner: I love how this planner has monthly, weekly AND daily planning. The layout is very visual, which allows me to plan neatly ahead of time. I also use it daily as a journal, and for anything I fancy, as it has enough space to allow me to explore my journalistic desires.
  • Kindle Voyage (& marble cover): this is my bible. I use it everyday, and I treasure it very much. It’s the size of my hand, and it’s very lightweight and convenient to carry around!!
  • Game of Thrones Leather-Cloth Boxed Set: yes, I only bought this set because it’s beautiful. I’ve read the first 2 books on my kindle, because the words here are TINY. I propped this set up on my bookshelf as soon as I got it, and I look at it everyday. It’s beautiful.
  • Olympus PEN E-PL7: this is the (only) camera that I have to film and take pictures. I use a pastel-ish filter for all my photos as well as most of my videos. It’s not the best camera out there, but it’s small, very pretty, easy to handle, and it does the job for me. It’s also pretty much a fashion accessory itself.
  • Fuzzy slippers that mop the floor: these slippers allow me to be lazy and clean at the same time. I wear these when it’s cold (so, during winter), and allows me to (kind of) clean my floor when I walk from place to place.

ios apps

I don’t have many apps on my phone due to limited storage (though I’m getting a new phone soon), but this has allowed me to use my apps efficiently. These are the ones that I mainly use to maintain my productivity, and the great thing is that all of them are free:

  • Reminders: This helps me keep track of my daily tasks and events. I create different lists, including “morning”, “afternoon”, “night” and “bored?” to remind myself what to do or what I could  be doing during the designated time. I personally think that it’s a great way to take advantage of this free app.
  • Notes: This is for anything I want to remember and keep on my phone, ranging from book quotes, things I aspire to be, blog post ideas, and packing lists. It’s the Microsoft Word of my phone.
  • Goodreads: THIS. Is where I keep my very own virtual bookshelf. I can track books I’m currently reading, want to read, and have read. I can also create bookshelves to separate books by genres and types, and basically keep an orderly record of all my books.
  • Quizlet: I hate studying vocab, but Quizlet makes it much more fun and bearable. Besides being able to create online flashcards, you can also play games and take tests to review your memory.
  • Clue: this is a life SAVIOR for all you girls and women out there. You can keep track of your period AND other details such as emotions, discomforts, feelings, etc. The more detail you give to this app, the more information it will give to you regarding your body. I think it’s amazing to get all this for free.

books & quotes

Books are the best tool for self-education that you’ll ever have. During my gap year, books were my source of comfort, solace, entertainment, and learning. I read fiction when I felt the need to escape to a different world; I read self-help when I was losing touch with whom I was; I read psychology to deepen my intrinsic interest for this field; I read any other book to deepen my understanding in such field. The following are 5 books that I’ve just read or am currently reading, and a quote to give you some insight into each book:

“You care too much about what other people think. But you know what? Because you are so desperate to win the approval of others, you’ll never get rid of their criticisms, no matter how hard you try.”

“knowing we have access to wonderful things undermines our happiness by reducing our tendency to appreciate life’s small joys.”

“Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, wheareas economics represents how it actually does work.”

“You can be male and domestic. You can have a career and be domestic. You can enjoy keeping house. No one is too superior or intelligent to care for hearth and home.”

“One of the main benefits of reading stories is that you gain exposure to large amounts of natural Italian. This kind of reading for pleasure is commonly known as extensive reading. This is very different from how you might read Italian in a textbook. Your textbook contains short dialogues, which you read in detail with the aim of understanding every word. This is known as intensive reading.”

songs

My favorite songs change so fast that by the time I publish this post, the top 5 songs that I’m listening to would have already changed. That’s why I make monthly playlists on Spotify to keep track of my favorite songs per month. The following are songs that I was listening to nonstop at some point in the near past, and I hope you like them too!


What are some of your current faves?

-Michelle

kindle voyage vs. fire

I recently got a new baby, the Kindle Voyage, after using my Kindle Fire for 5-6 years. As a bookworm, I love the convenience of using a Kindle. Not having to order books from Amazon and wait longingly for them to arrive from abroad, being able to carry a tablet-like thing with me at all times without anyone knowing what I was reading, and the fact that it’s always cheaper than buying a physical book completely bought me over. However, I do still own a collection of physical books so I can have the best of both worlds. If you’re a user of both forms of reading, you’ll see that they each have their own pros and cons.

In this post, I want to write a first-impressions review on the Kindle Voyage, in comparison to the Kindle Fire. Hope you find it useful!

kindle voyage PROS

  • SCREEN: Unlike the screens that we see on our laptops and tablets, this is an actual e-reader with an E ink screen (I think), which is less damaging to the eyes. This also means that the screen doesn’t give off a reflection when reading outside. This is a major factor for me, as I tend to read at night before bed, and staring at a LCD screen was neither good for my eyes nor for my sleep cycle.
  • SIZE & WEIGHT: It’s noticeably smaller and lighter than a Kindle Fire (it weighs just a bit more than the iPhone 6), which makes it so much easier to carry around and being Rory Gilmore everywhere.
  • FASHION: I definitely think the Voyage makes a better accessory than the Fire, but I may be biased. I got the marble case when I ordered the Voyage, and I love how it makes the e-book so much more stylish. It’s also very lightweight to carry around on your hand, in comparison to the Fire, which is heavier and more burdensome to do so.
  • PAGE TURNER: This one’s a pro and a con. You have PagePress pressure-sensitive sensor on both sides of the Kindle (outside the screen), which is convenient if you want to turn pages back and forth with the hand that you’re reading with. However, it’s not as pressure-sensitive as it could be – I often have to press a few times before I ‘hit’ the sensor. Most of the time, I just on the screen to turn a page, and this never fails me.
  • GOODREADS: I love that the Voyage can be connected to your Goodreads account, and automatically updates on the books that you want to read, are currently reading, and have read.

There are not that many benefits to getting a Voyage over a Fire, but the fact that the screen assimilates that of a book (instead of a laptop screen) really convinced me. There are probably more cons to buying a Voyage over a Fire – which you can read below – but, I am a heavy reader, so for me personally, the choice was clear.

kindle voyage CONS

  • PRICE: The Voyage is by no means a cheap item. And the starting price doesn’t include ‘additional costs’ that might add to the experience of the Kindle. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead and buy it because I’ve used the Fire very regularly for the last several years, and getting a Voyage is a really good investment for me. However, the Fires are now much more cheaper than it was before.
  • COLOR: As you can see below,  everything on the screen is black and white. After having gotten used to the colored screen of the Fire, I have to admit that it took me a while get used to the b&w feel of the Voyage. However, it really isn’t that big of a deal, as most of the books I read rarely have colored illustrations inside the book.
  • (FEW) OTHER USAGES: The Voyage is strictly to read books. This means that, unlike the Fire, you can’t listen to music or play games like on the Fire. Personally I don’t mind at all, as I barely used the Kindle Fire for anything other than books. Though they are not physically books, I treat them just the same.
  • ADS: Ugh, this one is annoying. Book promotions/ads completely cover the lock screen (each time, it’s usually a new book being featured), and it also appears at the bottom of the Homepage. It’s very annoying, and you CAN get rid of them but with an extra cost. I chose not to pay the extra cost, which I’m okay with, but it’ just a detail that still annoys me a little.
  • TECH: The fact that the screen is different to that of a Fire means that the ‘feel’ of it is different as well. The touch is not as immediately responsive as the screens that we’re familiar with, but it’s quite good nevertheless.

Overall, the only con that really bothers me are the ads. The others I can bear, because I pretty much treat the Voyage as if it were a physical book. Ultimately, it really comes down to what you want from the Kindle, and choosing one over the other is just about what you prioritize more.

-Michelle

how i use my notebooks

I… like notebooks. My collection has started to grow in the last few years (though not as much as books), and I’ve used them in many ways, mostly to record memories and thoughts that come and go. Here are a few ideas that I’ve used in the past:

morning pages

Writing 3 pages of thoughts that come to your mind. Though I’ve moved this habit onto my Hobonichi Cousin planner and don’t adhere to the 3-page rule, this is something that got me started with ‘therapeutic’ morning journaling.

5-minute morning journal

Instead of buying the actual 5-minute journal, I simply wrote down the prompts and answered them on each page every morning. You can either write your answers down each day, or just answer them in your head during your meditative sessions each morning.

bullet journal

Oh, I love bullet journaling. I’ve stopped for the year as I’ve switched to a planner, but the creativity that I’ve learned from this practice is just everlasting. The cool thing about this? You only need a notebook and a pen. I kind of regret spending more money than necessary on these expensive notebooks – they are very nice, but not necessary at all. So please don’t look at my bullet journal and think that you need to get yourself an expensive notebook to make your bujo look nice. It’s about what’s inside that matters, after all. (Don’t be like me).

calligraphy & ambidexterity

This is kind of a notebook for random skills and brainstorming ideas that come to mind. At the moment, I use it to practice and track my progress on calligraphy/ brush lettering, and ambidexterity (left-hand).

memories

I have just gotten into doing travel diaries. I have decided to do them like collages: printing out my favorite pictures from the trip, spreading them out on several pages of a notebook, and adding some details, stickers and writing to these memories that I want to treasure forever.

swatches

This is a silly one, but it’s currently what I’m using this notebook for. My stationery collection grew from my last trip to Taiwan (and mini-trip to Japan), and I’ve decided to swatch some of my most used stationery here. I love the design of this notebook, and I might use this as a planner/bujo next year.

to-do lists

This is mainly for those of you who don’t like keeping a planner. This kind of notebook is small and easy to carry around – perfect for making and scribbling lists. I’m definitely a planner person, so I don’t use any other notebooks to make lists.

revision notes

I’ve used this for 2-3 years at school for final exam revision notes. I literally carried this around the house and at school during those periods, and I’m surprised that it still looks as pretty as ever. I’m definitely taking this with me to college!

notebook collection

Finally, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I’ve got more notebooks than I need. But, just like books, I know that I’ll get to them some day. I’ll either fill them in with my rambling thoughts, future memories, or just any story yet untold.


😉

-Michelle

read the world | reading challenge

A few days ago, I listened to a TED talk about a woman who spent an entire year searching, seeking and reading 196 books from all 196 countries in the world. Her name is Ann Morgan, and she didn’t just read the world. She traveled across countries within her mind, got a glimpse of every culture and custom she came across with. She traveled the world through the eyes of people of different ages, nationalities, customs, and experiences. She did it with the help of many people who supported her along the way, but made the decision and took the steps herself. I want to take on this challenge as well.

I want to live inside the minds of those who have different values to me, who see the world in a completely different way than I do. As a bibliophile, I know how books have and can change a person. Though I’ve read books of different types and genres, but I have also enclosed myself within the Western-based literature. That will change now. As a wanderluster, my traveling experiences have always been intrinsically meaningful and unforgettable in their own unique ways.

By combining these two personal interests together, I shall travel the world.

How many books from how many countries have you read so far? How much do you really know about the world that you live in? Can you really call yourself a true bibliophile if you haven’t even books from most countries?

These were a few of the questions that I asked myself after listening to the TED talk. No matter how much I read and how many genres I touch, I’ll still be living in my happy little bubble if I don’t try to truly step out of my comfort zone. Read books of cultures that completely baffle me, written by authors I’ve never bothered to learn about before. It took Ann Morgan 1 year to complete the challenge, but it will take me at least a few years to choose, get hold of, and read all 196 books. And that’s alright, because the purpose is to achieve this challenge regardless of how long it takes me.

I have made a page to record my progress on this challenge – which I will start by May 2017.

-Michelle