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Thursday, January 29, 2015

January Favorites (Plus Free Calendar Printable)

I survived the great Snowpocalypse 2015! And now it's onto my January favorites. With the holidays and everything, I completely skipped my December ones. Whoops! But anyway. Anyone else feel like January both lasted forever and was gone in a flash?

January 2015 Favorites - Kate the (Almost) Great


Spotify - my feel good playlist and the Workday - Pop playlist (it's 8 hours long!)

Lady Antebellum - 747

Little Big Town - Painkiller


The Pillars of the Earth

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Reading - Blogs

Constantly Seeking Wonder - "One day I woke up and decided I wanted to live my life surrounded by the pleasures I enjoy most: music, travel, fashion, and more!"

Kenji Is Here - "Rheumatoid arthritis warrior, follower of an all-mighty God, lover of all things glitter and floral."

The Siberian American - Olya is "a twenty-something originally from the coldest habitable city in the world. I'm passionate about travel and believe a girl can never have too many dresses."


Pixie pants (J. Crew)
Long cardigan (J. Crew, Target)
Chunky sweaters (Madewell, Anthropologie)


Past Favorites

Download Free February Calendar

Free Downloadable February 2015 Calendars

What have you been loving this month?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Let's Fall in Love with Each Other

The other day, I came across a blog post from A Sparkle Factory referring to another blog post referring to a New York Times article. In this article, the author talks about how there are 36 questions that could make you fall in love with anyone. Well, it's more like, "The intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions."

It got me thinking: a lot of my posts, even the personal ones, don't really give my readers a chance to get to know me. And I don't have a lot of chances to really get to know you, my readers. So today I'm going to answer some of those questions, but I'm not answering all of them. I'd love if you commented with some of your answers! If you want to see the full list of questions, it's in the article.

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? J. K. Rowling. I would love to pick her brain about writing, the Harry Potter universe, creating your own fantasy universe for a book, etc.

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way? I would like to be a well-known author, you know, the kind who has big book tours and such. But I would like to be able to go about my normal life and such. I would be much happier with my writing being famous and no one knowing my name than the other way around!

3. For what in your life do you feel most grateful? My family for sure! They have been incredible supportive and helpful, especially when it comes to making my life my comfortable and overall just doable with my health issues.

4. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? The ability to write the best quality novels ever.

5. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know? What's my romantic future? Just a timeline would be great.

6. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it? Getting a literary agent and publishing a book the mainstream way! I'm working on it. I've decided to wait until I have a manuscript for my next novel done (I'm probably about halfway through it) instead of trying with Aureole.

7. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? It's a tie between writing the first draft of Aureole when I was in high school and graduating college in 4 years with a good GPA considering all of the health problems I had.

8. What do you value most in a friendship? Loyalty and honesty

9. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why? Well I feel that it would make me become much more intentional with my time and how I spend it. I would also make sure that I got to see all of my friends at some point in the year and spend a lot of time up in Maine.

10. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s? My family is very close, and I would have to say yes to the second part of that as well. Other than my health problems and normal teenage problems - "You don't understand me! No one gets me!" - there were no major problems.

11. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know. Probably about my arthritis as it is an important part of my life and can affect many parts of it, but also that my arthritis isn't all of who I am.

12. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about? Rape and suicide

What are your answers to some of these? I'd love to get to know my readers better!

Monday, January 26, 2015

40 Blog Post Ideas

It's Monday. You're back at work. You're already dreading the rest of the week. Maybe you're a little burned out from trying to make 2015 great, or maybe you're just tired. Well, regardless of why you're feeling a little stumped in the blogging department, I'm here to help! Here are 40 blog post ideas.

40 Blog Post Ideas - Kate the (Almost) Great

1. What's something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
2. Where does your name come from?
3. Where does your blog name come from?
4. What's something you wished people knew about blogging/bloggers?
5. What's your blogging pet peeve?
6. Was your childhood "normal"? Why or why not?
7. Why did you go into the field you did?
8. Where did/do you go to college? What were/are some of your favorite traditions there?
9. What is on your travel bucket list?
10. What would you want to receive for your birthday/Christmas/Hanukkah/etc.?

11. Pick a family member or someone else important to you. What makes them great?
12. What are you bad at?
13. Have you ever been arrested? What's the story behind it?
14. What is something you used to be insecure about? How do you feel about it now?
15. What is your favorite part of amusement parks?
16. What is your favorite part of any season?
17. What would you like to achieve through blogging?
18. If I was a(n) ____________, I would ____________
19. What's one skill you would like to get better at?
20. What do you wish someone told you at the beginning of ______? (high school, blogging, etc.)

21. Never have I ever ________
22. If you're not/before you were engaged, did you have a wedding board on Pinterest? Why or why not?
23. What's the best advice you ever received? This can be in general or regarding growing up, working, blogging, etc.
24. Share an unpopular opinion of yours
25. I've never understood ________
26. How do you edit your Instagram photos?
27. Life lessons from a movie or TV show
28. Share your morning routine
29. Share some of your favorite products (beauty or otherwise)
30. What's your favorite childhood memory?

31. Have you ever thought about writing a book? What is keeping you from doing it?
32. We all have our little quirks. What are some of yours?
33. If you only got 5 adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be and why?
34. What are 10 things you have accomplished this month/year/decade?
35. What always cheers you up when you're down?
36. The top 10 reasons why ________________
37. Are you in sports? Which one(s), why, etc.?
38. What's something that you are ridiculously good at?
39. What's something that you are ridiculously bad at?
40. Take the Current Events in One Sentence challenge!

All together ...

Friday, January 23, 2015

On Grammar Variety in Your Writing

There's a definition of insanity that we have all probably heard before - doing the same thing the same way over and over, but expecting a different result each time. So if you're writing all of your sentences the exact same way every single time, and you expect the finished product to sound more interesting than if you read the same exact sentence word for word over and over again, does that also show insanity? Maybe grammar insanity?

On Grammar Variety in Your Writing - Kate the (Almost) Great

I'm not the only one who thinks that grammar monotony is a real and serious problem. If you're new around here, you may not know that I studied secondary education and English at Vanderbilt University - which involved multiple classroom experiences as well as a full semester of student teaching - before teaching ninth grade English for a school year. Throughout all of this, I spent a lot of time looking at different student writing samples as well as at Common Core standards and Tennessee state standards.

Common Core Language Standards Kate the (Almost) Great

Common Core Language Standard 1 for grade 9-10 students says, "Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking." Part b of that states, "Use various types of phrases (noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial, participial, prepositional, absolute) and clauses (independent, dependent; noun, relative, adverbial) to convey specific meanings and add variety and interest to writing or presentation." Standard 3 says, "Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening."

If your eyes have glazed over, let me translate: 9th and 10th grade students should know and demonstrate standard English grammar when writing or speaking and should be able to vary the types of phrases and sentences they use depending on their meaning and to add variety and interest. What does this mean to me? Anyone above the age of 16 should do this, too, in order to demonstrate their personal writing style and to keep the reader interested.

4 Ways To Add Grammar Variety to Your Writing Kate the (Almost) Great

If you're over the age of 16, I'm sure you're wondering by this point if I expect you to undertake a full grammar review just for the heck of it. I don't. (Unless, of course, you're a high school or college student, in which case you may want to look into it for your own good.) So here are a couple easy ways to add variety in your writing and what specific impact each step holds.

1. Vary your sentence structure - We don't really realize it in our everyday writing, but every complete sentence we use follows a formula. There are different types of formulas, all involving dependent or independent clauses and how they are connected. Your personal writing style and voice can really through by how you organize your sentences. (Would you be interested in reading more about this? If there's enough interest, I may write a separate post entirely about sentence structure.)

2. Vary your sentence length - Too many sentences in a row that are the same length can be boring or choppy, depending on whether they are long sentences or short ones. You may not notice it for what it is, but if your eyes start to glaze over when you read something that should be interesting, you may have your answer. I have seen many situations where all sentences in a blog post or an article online are all extremely long because the author tries to avoid having a whole bunch of short sentences, but the problem is the exact same either way.

Count the sentences in that paragraph. There are 3. It looks like a lot of sentences. Are you surprised? Are you doing it? What is your style?

Count the sentences in that paragraph; there are 6. How do both paragraphs affect how you read them? Usually, paragraphs full of long sentences tend to be long winded, while those full of short sentences tend to feel choppy. Changing things up as you write prevents that!

3. Examine how you use punctuation - This partially goes with the previous 2 points, but also has an additional point. Look through your own writing and see how often you use exclamation points, question marks, semicolons, commas, elipsis, etc. I've seen a fair amount of blog posts and pieces of writing where every sentence ends with an exclamation point. You're excited! That's awesome! I know you're excited! That's so great! Excitement!

Honestly, if you use exclamation points, question marks, or elipsis (...) extremely frequently, it decreases their value. In many cases, you can replace them with a period so that when you do use them, they receive the proper emphasis. You could also rearrange your sentences.

4. Read it out loud - This way, you'll get a better picture of how your writing sounds. And be sure to give plenty of attention to your punctuation when you read it! This may help you get a good feel for if you need to change that up and in what way.

Wow, that's a lot of information! Any questions? 
Anything you learned, are surprised by, or disagree with? 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How To Shop at Whole Foods without Breaking The Bank

The other day I mentioned how I'm cutting even more food out of my already limited diet. For those of you keeping track, that means that I am now not eating gluten, dairy, corn, soy, red meat, and eggs. The problem isn't necessarily cutting out those foods individually - it's when those foods sneak into other foods that problems arise. Do you have any idea how many processed foods have soy or corn randomly in them? It's a lot.

This means that I eat a lot of whole foods and foods from brands who commit to less processing. Which means that Whole Foods is my happy place. I did this when I lived in Nashville on my own and was paying for everything myself (remember how I live with my parents now?), so I know the argument that it's too expensive or what not. But today I'm addressing this head on. That's right: I'm sharing my secrets for shopping at Whole Foods without breaking the bank.

How to shop at whole foods without breaking the bank - Kate the (Almost) Great

My weekly grocery bill used to be around $90 at Publix, but if I went to Whole Foods, it was less than $70. If I shopped at Whole Foods just once a month every year, I would save $240 a year. If I shopped at Whole Foods every week and never shopped at Publix, I would save $1,040 a year. Here's how I did it.

1. Plan ahead

Two parts to this. One: grocery list. It sounds simple, but it makes a huge difference. If you know exactly what you need to buy, you're less likely to browse and buy a whole bunch of food that you didn't need and/or won't eat. Two: plan at least three meals ahead of time so you know exactly what you need to get for them. If you're not eating a whole bunch of ingredients like I am, then it takes a bit of time to adjust and get used to buying the other ingredients you need to replace those that aren't in your diet any more.

2. Food prep

Either the day you go to Whole Foods or the day after, take some time to prepare some snacks. How many times do you want to just graze on food but you don't want to take the time to cut up some carrots or what not? If you already have these foods ready to go, you're less likely to waste food by not eating something before it goes bad, and you're also more likely to eat healthy. This also saves you money because you won't need to buy as much extra food like potato chips to snack on. Or, if you still buy those chips, you will go through them slower and won't need to buy a bag a week.

3. Get food in bulk to stock up when you can

Whole Foods has their own brand - 365 - to provide you with good food at a low price. The Whole Foods in the South End of Boston also has a bulk aisle! What I suggest you do in general is stock up when you can and get foods in bulk, which will save you money in the long run and lower your weekly grocery bill. Some foods you may want to do this with is chips and snacks in general, but also buy meat, shellfish, frozen berries, etc. and freeze them. If you buy more than 3 pounds of meat at Whole Foods, you get $0.50 off every extra pound!

4. If you get nothing else there, get their organic produce.

So many stores now have organic food. But many of them have high prices for their organic produce, and (in my experience) Whole Foods has lower prices and more available. That's why my weekly grocery bill at Publix was so high for just one person!

If you live in Boston or the Boston area, you absolutely have to check out the new Whole Foods in the South End. I had the opportunity to visit it before it opened and I was in awe of it. It is gorgeous and has some crazy cool extra stuff there - like a spa, a coffee bar, and a fish shack.

Whole Foods South End Boston
Whole Foods South End Boston
I also want to introduce Olya of The Siberian American!

I named my blog The Siberian American because being born in Siberia is such a huge part of my identity. Although I now live in Texas, my parents kept many Russian traditions (and crazy superstitions!) alive for my brother and me growing up.  I am passionate about travel and believe a girl can never have too many dresses. On my blog, I write about my travel adventures, my adorable Corgi mix, our journey through my hubby's medical school and upcoming residency, and all the things that make me happy.

The only compensation I received from this post was the opportunity to visit the Whole Foods in the South End before it opened and some free products to try after visiting. I received no monetary compensation for this post. However, if Whole Foods is interested in compensating me, I won't protest. I love you. You're my favorite.

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