Sunday, March 30, 2014

Thought of the day: "Niche-less" is not a bad word

So, technically, "niche-less" isn't a word at all, let alone a bad word. Nonetheless, it feels taboo. 

Being without a niche in my writing is something I've been struggling with recently. When you first meet someone, one of the first questions is, "What do you do?" Now that my answer is, "I'm a writer," the follow-up is immediately, "What do you write about?"

Ummm, do I start listing subjects? 

Just when I thought I would no longer stumble over answering the question that is most commonly asked to define someone, I begin rambling a mix of what I write in no particular order that really does not provide a clear depiction of the kind of writer I am. 

When I was a secretary, I always asterisked my answer of what I did by adding, but I want to be a writer. Like I had to be paid to write to be able to call myself a writer. That's what I thought. Otherwise, I felt like a fraud. I felt at any moment someone would say, you're not a writer, you're a secretary. And, they'd be right.

It's not that being a secretary is shameful. Lord knows I worked my ass off as one. It's the idea that I wasn't what I wanted to be.

And now I feel I need a parenthetical answer for being a writer without a niche. It's like without being able to provide a clear answer, I am aimless and not where I want to be all over again. 

Luckily, I am starting to understand that I'm still exploring. I write about nearly everything. Or, if I don't currently, I don't want to cancel out the possibility that I might in the future. I want to have a voice that is not limited. That's what kind of writer I want to be. 

I'm niche-less and I need to accept it.

And not just accept it, embrace it. It's not my style in writing or in life to fit into a mold. I hope people read what I write. Even more, I hope they like it and value it. But the truth is that I will continue to write no matter how many people read it, like it, comment on it, tweet it, or ignore it.

I don't like saying that I'm a writer because it is what I do for a living. I like saying it because it's something that feeds my soul and has for the greater part of my life. I rely on it in the same way I do prayer. That's not to be irreverent, the opposite, in fact. It is something I cherish and it defines the kind of faith I choose to live by.

I was talking with a friend who recently started her own blog and told her, you have to do it for YOU first. You can't write something for someone else's opinion. There will be tons of those for you to deal with. But your mind will become cluttered with what other people think you should do, and you won't be able to put down your unique thoughts, which is one of the many joys that comes from writing. 

Even if you never get paid for it, even if no one reads a damn thing you put down, for a moment you took the time to record something and make it count. 

No need for a niche; that's pretty awesome all by itself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

50/50 Challenge Update: Right on Track

sign outside Neighborhood in downtown San Diego
So far, so good on my goal of seeing fifty movies and reading fifty books this year. Where do you get your book ideas? The majority of mine come from the book clubs I'm part of as well as reviews I read in Elle, People, or any of the other number of magazines I read on a regular basis. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm racing through trying to reach the goal rather than enjoying the pleasure of reading a good book or watching a movie that moves you. Ah, doesn't that always seem be a struggle in life? The right balance between surging ahead, but stopping to smell the roses too.


I read The Orphan Train (Book #11) by Christina Baker Kline in two days. It was short, easy to read and a well-paced story, despite the switch back and forth between the past and present. When you think about the history of the story, it's fascinating. And reading about a red-headed orphan made me want to watch "Anne of Green Gables," the one starring Megan Follows. 

Glitter and Glue, (Book #12) the memoir from Kelly Corrigan was entertaining and certain quips had me thinking of my own mother. I got this by chance in the two-week lease option at the downtown library, which is honestly one of my favorites places to be.


You can read all my movie reviews that on You can even subscribe! Wink, wink. 

My "method" for writing movie reviews involves a simple two-step evaluation. First, I decide if the movie was entertaining. Second, I decide why it was. People need to keep in mind that movies are generated towards a specific type of audience. If you didn't like the movie, it doesn't always mean that it was poorly done. It just may not have been your cup o' tea. 

Who's seen "Divergent"? Clearly, that is directed at a very specific fan base. And let me tell you, it's not just the young adult audience. I love a strong female character. Understand what bigger topics these types of movies/books (Divergent, The Hunger Games) are covering: strength, intelligence, non-conformity. I say that's something to get on board with. 

#7: Bad Words 
#8: Need for Speed
#9: Divergent

Who else is doing the challenge? How are you tracking your progress? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

L.A. Day

I have to space out how often I visit L.A. because as my boyfriend's brother put it the "soul crushing traffic" gets to you. Even if you cruise up the 5 at a good pace, don't think you're getting past the Citadel shopping outlet without some traffic to stop you in your tracks. 

When I decide to head to L.A. it's for a specific purpose. This particular day trip was to see the Diane Von Furstenberg exhibit next door to the LACMA. 

DVF celebrates 40 years of the wrap dress, which is still such an iconic piece of clothing, and an iconic time in fashion. The moment I walked into the gallery of dresses, I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing for a few seconds. The dresses were all lined up, with dates, and some special anniversary pieces and they were all incredible. 

Timeless. Fabulous. Better yet, this exhibit was free!

Top right center dress was my favorite! 
I also had the chance to visit FIDM's Art of Motion Picture
Costume Design exhibit. It had costumes from Anna Karenina (exquisite!), Superman (awesome!) and other of this year's Oscar-nominated movies for costuming.
This special gallery was also free and gave me a chance to also head over to the FIDM Scholarship Store. All proceeds from this boutique go to the FIDM scholarship fund and there are pieces directly from warehouses, some starting as low as $5. There are mostly one of each design and some of the pieces did have some odd stitching, other assorted flaws, but the selection is incredible. I just wish I had more time to try some things on.

Beautiful display in downtown L.A. 
After my museum time, my boyfriend and I met up with his brother to check out some spots for a few drinks in West Hollywood. You can read my reviews on The Hudson (short rib tacos, anyone?) and Laurel Hardware (a speakeasy of sorts with strong drinks and fun atmosphere) at

My day in L.A. was fun, but just enough time for me to be ready to head back down the 5 to good ol' San Diego. About a month will pass before my next trip to L.A. for the Festival of Books and that should be long enough for me to forget how much the traffic gets to me every time I cross into Los Angeles County.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Housework - Make Way for Spring

Spring cleaning isn't something I would say I look forward to, but I love throwing things away. For a Virgo like me, clutter is not a friend of mine. When I was a kid, there would be times I would literally get out of bed in the middle of the night to clean my room. I've relaxed a little since then, but not much.

When you leave in a small space, clutter free living is essential. How much smaller does a space look when there are magazines stacked everywhere, receipts crumpled on a table, or just loose change finding its way to every surface of the apartment?

Spring cleaning gives you a chance to get rid of what is of no use to you anymore. This is a very basic part of feng shui or so I've read in Real Simple magazine. If it's broken, get rid of it. If you can't remember the last time you used it, maybe throw it away. I also don't need the user manual to my floor fan or my remote control. I'm pretty sure that I know how both of those work now. 

My bedspread used to be brown with a cool texture to it. When I bought it nearly six years ago, I thought brown looked elegant, simple, and chic. Over time, the brown changed to just looking dull. For a fresh start, I chose this: 

The gray, mint green, and white is a perfect combination for spring and makes the whole room feel lighter. The colors give off a soothing vibe. The bed in a bag even came with its own decorative pillows for a complete bed makeover. I also bought some new, fresh scents to match the good juju of my room. Even when I text the bf asking if he was down with the pattern, he responded with a response that included an exclamation mark! A pretty big deal in the code of guy text language.

In the winter, I like warm, vanilla flavors so it seems like there are always cookies baking. But for spring, I love ocean and clean scents. 

Both candles are from Bath & Body Works and I got them on sale 2 for $22 with an additional 25% off! Bath & Body Works does an excellent job at its packaging, and the smell is exactly what I was looking for. Beach Cabana is described as fragrant, sweet jasmine, orange blossom, and a hint of white fluffy towels. The Oceanside scent is a blend of sun-ripened citrus, juicy melon, and refreshing ocean air. Now don't you want some of that?!

The weather has definitely been warmer with the windows wide open and my neighbors odd outside conversations pouring through. Wasn't it just last week San Diego was experiencing the rain that was meant to end the world? It was a welcome, wet time that was a good excuse to be cozy inside with a good book and homemade chili. 

The beauty about making chili is that it's not exactly the same every time. When I made my latest batch, I just grabbed everything I had in the cabinets and poured it in. Three key ingredients that it made it oh-so-delicious: caramelized onions, cinnamon, and hot sauce! I have to admit, it was pretty darn tasty - maybe my best yet!

Courtney's Chili Recipe
  • 1 lb. ground beef - crumbled and browned
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 cans of water
  • Leftover rice (obviously, you don't have to add this, but I had some in the fridge)

All seasonings I say use to your taste. I like mine a little on the spicier side, so as little or as much as you want is how much you should add. How's that for measurements.
  • Chili powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Hot sauce
Start by caramelizing the onion and then add the ground beef to brown. Add all the other ingredients together with the onion and ground beef in one big pot. Don't drain the juices from the beans or tomatoes, add them in. Let everything simmer together to let the flavors combine. Serve with crackers, cheese, or whatever else you want. I also ate mine leftover on top of a baked potato topped with cottage cheese. Sounds strange, but don't knock it 'til you try it.

So that's what's been going on at my home lately. Homebody tendencies and changes all under one tiny roof. When you make chores like cleaning and cooking fun, it doesn't seem like something you have to dread. 

And when you live in San Diego, winter barely feels like a blip on the radar. Even so, I'm looking forward to spring!

Friday, March 7, 2014

50/50 Challenge: Back to Books

If you're going to be addicted to something, it might as well be books.
Addicted? Just a wee bit.
I'm not too off pace for my 50 books in 2014 goal. I've been reading a little bit of everything lately, mostly that which has been suggested for my book clubs. 

The Preservationist by Justin Kramon is a suspense novel, not too gory, and some pretty interesting characters. The cool thing is that I met this author because he paid a visit to our book club, which I think is just too, too great. What a great way to really get to know your readers (audience) and connect with them. He did this for his first book and he's done this with his new one. 

Side note: this must be the year of the author for me because I've been able to meet one, and hear two others speak last month (Jeannette Walls and Anne Lamott), and will be attending yet another book reading from another author. Check with your local bookstores or just visit your favorite author's website for appearances. I've been able to meet several of my favorites.

I also read a book about taxes, which sounds boring, and part of it kind of was. But it was helpful. I mean how fascinating can taxes be? There is a good section in Outsmarting the System written by former IRS agent Anthony Campidonica that is particularly of interest to me regarding self-employment and taxes. To win a free copy of the book, click here.

And, just recently I read Golden State by Michelle Richmond, whom I will hear speak at Warwick's in La Jolla next week. This book was fantastically written and was truly just a good story. It spans over the course of one day but takes on really heavy situations told in a way that makes it seem like the story is of someone you know. 

So, there you go. Three new books to add to my goal. Starting The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes next. I have picked up the Large Print version by accident. Although, I am not that bummed about this mistake. 

Happy reading!

Book #8: The Preservationist by Justin Kramon
Book #9: Outsmarting the System by Anthony Campidonica
Book #10: Golden State by Michelle Richmond