Three Non-Fiction Books You Should Read

I don’t get much time for reading these days; between a full time job and two toddlers, my “free time” in the evenings is spent sweeping Cheerios off the floor or mindlessly scrolling Facebook as I lie exhausted in bed. However, a luxurious week long vacation to Costa Rica with my sister and my mom afforded me the opportunity to devour three books; three incredibly different books that benefited me in unique ways. 

First, the career bolstering book, recommended to me by my new boss (A director of Story Development with years of experience churning out stories for major animation series and movies): Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar. This was a great read as it walked me through Pixar from its first day in existence to the giant of animation it is now. The most useful elements of this book include detailed notes and processes for how to handle feedback and critique as a creative, as well as how to work through “creative blocks”. As a writer whose livelihood now depends on churning out stories, I found it super valuable. If you love movies like Monsters, Inc. and Up, you’ll enjoy hearing anecdotes about how those movies came to be, and the transformations they went through to end up on the big screen. 

Second, the lighthearted read that made me snicker in the public hot springs as I read it – A Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. This book is also loaded with lots of background and notes on being a creative writer, but is more of a memoir based on Shonda realizing she needed to drastically overhaul her life and stop saying no to every opportunity that approached. I loved her no bullshit perspective on being fat, and consequently, how she lost weight. Also, her honest tales of motherhood and the challenge of loving her career AND being a mommy resonated with me, and how it’s hard not to feel like when you’re at your best at one, you’re failing at the other. This would be the fluffy beach or bathtub read I’d recommend for when you want something that feels inspiring but not too cerebral. If you don’t like poop talk or light crassness you should probably skip it, as Shonda, much like myself, is not afraid to wax poetic on the F word or the virtues of a good BM.

Lastly, the book I ripped through in one day, though sometimes caught myself skimming big, cerebral chunks that felt too smart for me- the Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. I’m a huge plant and food lover, and Pollan’s musings and research on both have made tremendous strides in people really thinking about the foods they put into their bodies. I admittedly don’t know much about GMOs, and this book helped me understand the connection between plants as business and why and how GMOs are changing the face of agriculture. I won’t get into my thoughts here on whether it’s a black or white good or bad type thing because quite frankly I haven’t decided yet, but as someone who loves both plants AND food, this book helped me see it’s something I need to pay more attention to. History lovers will enjoy all the research he put into it, like the true story of America’s Johnny Appleseed, the cultivation of weed, and why only one kind of potato is used for the legendary McDonald’s fry. I also liked the historical discussions about paganism and shamanism in relation to plants. Kind of cool to find out something as simple as growing tomatoes or potatoes could be seen as pagan, since they are both are from the Nightshade family. 

I would recommend all three of these books depending on your interests — one for greasing your creative wheels, one for some feel-good laughs and gentle self-help, and one for exploring the connection between food and plants, history and nature. If you give them a go or have read them, let me know what you think! (These are affiliate links, so if you click them or buy a book from this link, I might make a half of a penny. Thank you! I won’t spend it all in one place. 😉 )

Four things Friday

So, I’m cheating because it’s actually the last hour of Thursday night, but chances are you will be reading this Friday morning, hence my four things Friday title. You know, a brilliant webby friend of mine once said I need to stop using cute catchy subjects and instead do SEO-rich titles. He is right and I agree with him usually but sometimes, you write something just because you want to and your SEO rank at that moment doesn’t matter. Like right now! But anyways, here’s four things on my mind:

1) #DescribeYourselfInThreeFictionalCharacters
I like silly memes, because that’s a large part of what the Internet is great for: cats sitting on Roombas and double rainbows. So when this challenge popped up, of course I had to contribute. Here’s me, in 3 fictional characters.

2. One of the things that I suffered from during pregnancy was major prego brain — and the little brain storage vault it affected most were my passwords to online accounts. I typically keep a spreadsheet on my computer, but now that I’m back and forth between laptop and cell phone and iPad so much, I decided I needed something handwritten. Enter this handy, inexpensive, and cute little solution: the password journal! Thank you, wonderful password journal maker, for helping a gal out. (And yes, that’s an affiliate link, so blah blah the usual gist about how I’ll make 1c if someone buys it.)

3. I’m still working out with a personal trainer and I have ALL THE SORENESS. Especially in my quads. Squat goals, am I right? Anyways, do you guys know the miracle of epsom salts? Cheap, fun to pour into the bath tub, and really helps soothe your aches and ailments. This is 31: extra creaky. Get you some.

4. I’m walking in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention “Out of the Darkness” Walk in Santa Monica on October 15. If you’re local, I would love to have you join me on the walk. Please also consider making a small donation (Even $5 is put towards life-saving treatment.) Let’s end the stigma: more now than ever, people need our open arms so that we can tackle this public health problem head-on.

5. BONUS! It was only supposed to be four things, and you get FIVE! Poor Harambe – but oh, Internet, how you just keep going with the jokes. By the way, my patronus is an otter. What’s yours?

Happy Friday, friends! Watch this space and the Double Chin Diary soon for a feature about PCOS (it’s PCOS awareness month!) and a yummy new recipe featuring Sambazon, Bob’s Red Mill, and Pic’s Peanut Butter.


Six Things Sunday

I just ate a super delicious dinner of ribs, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, and I’m lying in my bed thinking, “Hmm, what do I want to do with my Sunday night?” And then I heard this sad little voice call from the corner of my mind, “Blog! On lalalyssa!”. So here I be, regaling you all with exciting tales from my life. Or, six things on my mind this Sunday. Whatever works, right?!

1) You should enter to win a yummy little prize package of pot de creme and cookies from San Francisco based company Petit Pot! I’m hosting this on my other blog and believe me when I tell you these desserts are luxe and well worth every single “my jeans are tight” moment.

2) This meme made me LOL for real, not just in my head. It’s pretty much how I felt on Friday after a super busy week.

3) I’m seeing Radiohead on Thursday night! I somehow got lucky and was able to buy tickets in the lottery they held, and I can’t wait! I’ve never seen them before, and my dear sister is graciously watching our kiddo. If you haven’t heard any of the new Radiohead, here’s one of my favorite new songs. (The video is a little bit sinister, but it’s really cool claymation.)

4) I was one of the 215,000 people who bought an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker on Amazon Prime Day, and I am in love. I was skeptical before I hit the buy button and wondered if it would collect dust in the corner of my cabinet like the ill-fated panini press or even my industrial sized food processor, but this thing is magic. I made Spaghetti Squash in 8 minutes start to finish, sweet potatoes tonight in 7, Rice in 12 minutes, a bolognese pasta in 30 minutes (including meat), and a pot roast in 40 minutes. I’ll write a blog post later on about the full wizardry of this appliance, because despite initial fears about blowing up the house, this appliance deserves a spot in kitchens across the country. Thanks to What I Run Into for helping me make the decision to invest!

5) I had the opportunity to watch From Fat to Finish Line, and I was so happy to see a documentary about a team of people from all across America who lost a ton of weight running the Ragnar Relay together. (Side note: two of my blog friends have run the Ragnar, and it looks so fun! Maybe one day if I find enjoyment in running I’d consider doing it… today is not that day 🙂 )  I think what I loved most is that the group had two people on their team who were still in their “during” phase of weight loss, and they spoke candidly about how it felt to be on a fitness journey surrounded by “afters”. I found their stories to all be really inspiring when many obesity documentaries can come off too dramatic and sinister. The fact is obesity is a serious problem many of us are facing (yours truly) and while there’s no denying the health risks or dire state of emergency we’re in, I like it when a documentary or film can add some levity along with the overall “This is why you need to change” message. I’d highly recommend From Fat to Finish Line, especially if you’re into running!

Here's one of my favorite people from the doc, Carly.

Here’s one of my favorite people from the doc, Carly.

6) It took me an embarrassingly long time to find this cat. See if you can do any better.

Find a cat from pics


That’s all, folks. Happy Monday to ya!

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday, friends! I have lots of fun planned this weekend, because I get to spend some time with my friends from the California Avocado Commission! More on that next week, but just know that I’m going to be doing a lot of eating of one of my very favorite things ever 😀

I wanted to share a few cool things with you this week…

1) I occasionally get to write for the Diet to Go blog, and I had fun writing this week’s article about top 10 diet hacks and snacks. How good does that orange chicken sound?!

2) I was honored to be blogged about on the Event 360 blog. I’ve been at Event 360 almost a year and a half and it’s pretty much the best job ever (I mean, I blog, I tweet, I Facebook, I work from home. I happy.) Click on over to read a lil’ bit bout lil’ ol’ me.

Me and “Mullet Pig”, an awesome Twin Cities 3-Dayer. Photo by Jenn Fortnash via Event 360 and Susan G. Komen 3-Day.

3) Next week I hope to have a very exciting announcement to share with you! It involves me, exercise, and a handy device that’s been around for a long time that features two wheels. To get a sneak peek… click over here.

That’s it – I’m out! Have a wonderful weekend full of good food, good sleep, and good times 🙂





What’s up, Wednesday: Three things

Howdy doo! I wanted to share a few things on my mind this week 🙂

1) I’ve been reading a ton lately, and the book I’ve enjoyed most recently is The Rosie Project. This book details a brilliant, Autistic genetics professor who embarks on a personal project to find himself a wife. He gets an unexpected turn when he ends up helping a student try to identify the father she never knew. I won’t tell you any more of the story, but I loved reading from the perspective of somebody who sees the world so bluntly in black and white, and the professor’s quirky habits were always worth a giggle. This is a great light read for a beach day, a Sunday hanging around the house, or on the train or bus as you commute to work.


2) I stumbled upon this quote on Pinterest and I adored it instantly. I decided I had to make a quote graphic out of it, so here it is!


3) I’m turning 30 next month, and I’m going to New York City! WOOHOO! I have only been once for a quick 36 hours, so I’m looking forward to exploring more at my leisure. I definitely want to see the statue of Liberty, Book of Mormon, walk the Brooklyn Bridge, Natural History Museum… what else should I be sure to catch? Definitely let me know.. and if you have any suggestions for places to eat, tell me that, too! We’re staying in Park Slope, Brooklyn, as we found it much more affordable than the city.

That’s all I got for now: I want to share some pix from my trip to the Bahamas later this week. As an FYI, the Rosie Project link is an affiliate link, so if you happened to buy the book I might make 4c. 🙂 Have an awesome day!


Succulents don’t suck.

One of my favorite things to do on weekends is dig in the dirt. Even when I still lived at home as a teenager, I bought tons of house plants, and started cultivating mini gardens in my bedroom. Some of my favorite plants still live in my parents’ house, but I brought a few with me when I moved to Southern California. Once I got to LA, I learned about the awesomeness of succulents. Most of them are simple to grow, require infrequent watering, and thrive just sitting in a bright window. Last weekend, I spent some time potting new plants (I love using old containers I buy at garage sales). Aren’t succulents awesome?


My favorite part about succulents is that they’re self-propagating, which means you can pull baby succulents off of big ones and make new plants. All of the succulents in the pictures below are babies from my other plants. Hooray for bargain gardening!


This one was a pain in the butt just because it was tedious to get the plants arranged in the jar. I used a chopstick to carefully push the tiny roots into the soil. But the end result was worth it, because this is adorable and sits on my desk for me to stare at when my eyes need a break from social media.


If you’re new to gardening and would like to learn more about it, I’d recommend the book You Grow Girl. It’s cheeky, helpful, and realistic when learning to practice with your growing green thumb. Here’s a gratuitous photo of my grumpy gray cat, Lucia.


Do you have any succulents? Which ones? This is one of my favorites. It’s called a Lithop, but you’ll see them marketed as living stones. Pretty cool, right?


Four Favorites on Friday

Howdy, y’all! Happy Friday from sunny Los Angeles. And when I say sunny, boy do I mean sunny. It’s almost cruel to talk about when parts of the country are so cold they’re experiencing Frost Quakes. I’ve been soaking up the sun by eating my lunch outside, and I even found a great deal on a used wrought iron chaise lounge for my backyard. And yes, I will wear sunscreen because I’m whiter than Olaf. Here are a few of my favorite things from this week, for your reading pleasure.


1) Love him or hate him, you gotta admit that Obama has some slick social media moves. Today, he announced on social media that fourth graders and their families will get free admission to National Parks, in the Every Kid in a Park act. That’s frickin’ cool! If you don’t already follow the White House on Instagram, do it. It’s a fun (and I’m sure carefully cultivated) look at life behind the scenes in the Oval Office and beyond.

2) Lately I’ve been all about yogurt for breakfast because it fills me up and some brands taste like ice cream (I’m talkin’ about you, Chobani Key Lime and Coconut). This week I tried two new stand-outs in the yogurt world, imo: Stonyfield Organic Petite Creme in Vanilla Bean, and Elli Quark in Blueberry. The funny thing is both of these aren’t even yogurt: Stonyfield is ‘spoonable cheese’ and quark is also a type of cheese that is less tart than Greek yogurt. The Stonyfield was super rich and decadent, and the vanilla bean had nice specks of vanilla in every bite. The quark is slightly less rich but more light feeling, perfect for accompanying some fresh fruit. It’s also less calories (80) and more protein than Greek yogurt, with way less sugar. I’m looking forward to trying Quark in some of their fun flavors like Bananas Foster. Right now, Whole Foods has a coupon in their store circular for Stonyfield, and you can find Elli Quark at Gelson’s in SoCal. It was  a little bit of a wild goose chase to find the Elli and I only found two flavors, but I’m hoping to find more soon!

3) I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday in NYC this year, and I’m pretttttty sure catching Pitch Perfect 2 on opening night will be in order. Rebel Wilson? In her words? Crushed it.

4) The Sims 4 for Mac has finally come out and it’s only $39.99 right now. Well, there goes my free time. I’ve been waiting for this for years. Fun fact: when Sims City first came out, I was addicted to it and built a bustling metropolis that I named Elma after the city in the movie the Big Green. My dad had to reformat our computer, and Elma’s existence was wiped clean. The world’s smallest violin is playing for Elma. Maybe now in Sims 4, I can rebuild! (PS: Love that the Sims now have tattoos and different body types and wrinkles! Yay!)

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.29.56 PM

That’s all I got — hope you’re having a fabulous Friday.


Thoughtful Thursdays: Where I Live

Hey guys! I’m answering today’s Thoughtful Thursday prompts from All the Weigh. Feel free to copy and paste, fill in your answers, and then link up via Kenlie’s site.

Thoughtful Thursdays on All the Weigh


Where I Live


1. Where do you currently live? I live in a little suburb of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley called Reseda.

2. Have you lived in your current state throughout your entire life? Nope. I was born in Illinois, then lived in Florida, and then moved to California.

3. If you answered no to Question 1, then where else have you lived? Oops, I jumped the gun!

4. What is the coolest thing about your city/town? Reseda is a little bit of a shady town. It’s a little bit more low-income and has lots of strip malls. While it has a certain grit and roughness to it, the community of people who live in Reseda really do work hard to make it feel like a community and watch out for eachother. I think that’s cool.

5. Are there any holidays that your state goes all out to celebrate? If so, tell us about it. Hmm. Not really, though I feel like SoCal gets a lot of love as the “Hollywood” and movie state.

6. Describe your neighborhood (climate, scenery, etc.) My neighborhood is very suburban. It has a wide street with lots of houses of all different shapes and sizes, built in the 1950s.

7. What do you wish you could change most about the place you live? I wish the city was better maintained. We’ve had some problems with crime, and I feel like if everyone chipped in to keep things maintained a little better (ie, pick up your trash, a street is not a dumpster), then maybe things would get better.

8. Describe your home. What’s your favorite thing about it? I live in a two bedroom, 1 bath, classic 1950s bungalow. It’s just shy of 900 square feet, but the owners renovated it to have a more open feel with a nice open concept kitchen and lots of cabinets. My favorite things are: the kitchen, which is nice and big, perfect for a couple that loves to cook, and the GINORMOUS backyard. We have a 9,000 square foot lot, which is hilarious because the house isn’t even 900 square feet.

9. Where do you shop for groceries? I get groceries from a few places. Costco for bulk items like eggs, chicken breasts, blueberries, and olive oil. Ralph’s for meat and vegetables. Jons, which is an ethnic market, for every day type things. I walk there often.

10.. What is your favorite regular activity in your city/town? We have some really good food. As a very diverse city, we have a melting pot of great Thai food, Greek food, Armenian food, Japanese food… you name it, we have it!


Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions! Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments! Happy Thursday!

From Four Eyes to Contacts: A New Adventure

I’ve worn glasses off and on since the sixth grade, when I suspect the doctor gave me them more because I wanted them rather than actually needed them. I remember the first pair of glasses I ever had: circular gold rims, horribly unflattering to my moon-like face. But, I was cool because I needed glasses. Yes, I now realize the irony of thinking a medical device you need to be able to see normally with is ‘cool’. I skated by with these not-so-necessary reading glasses until junior college, when I began to notice my growing annoyance with all of my teachers using what I thought were  light-colored dry-erase markers at the same time. Surely they were all using yellow pens on the white board, and writing tiny — there’s no way that it was MY eyes. Well, after asking a friend I sat next to if the writing was really small, she turned to me and said “You need glasses.” Lo and behold after my first adult eye exam, it was learned I had Myopia which in non-scientific terms simply means nearsightedness.

Pink cat-eye glasses? You betcha!

Pink cat-eye glasses? You betcha!

I’m lucky that my prescription is relatively mild, in that if I step on my glasses or forget them, I can see clearly enough to drive or navigate my way through dark alley. However, they’re just bad enough that it makes driving uncomfortable, or watching a movie a fuzzy two-hour long spectacle of blurry edges. When I got the right glasses prescription, it felt like everything was crisp and in high-def. Life had lines and edges and definition. Glasses and I got along for the next ten years, and once I discovered RX glasses I could order online, I was thrilled at the array of cute plastic frames I could get for less than ten bucks. However, as my life got more active, I started to get annoyed with glasses. Glasses fog up on trips to the rain forest. Glasses get scratchy when you throw them in a backpack with no case. Glasses get cumbersome when you can’t wear non-prescription sunnies, and you need to always have normal glasses and sun glasses in your purse. You can’t wear glasses on a roller coaster or in the ocean and they’re a pain when it’s raining.

Even my BitStrips avatar wore glasses.

Even my BitStrips avatar wore glasses.

So, I decided to get contacts. The eye doctor hooked me up with a week’s worth of dailies to try, and then on Saturday I go back in for a follow-up appointment. A very patient lady at the Valley Optometry Center sat with me for an hour showing me how to put in and take out my new contacts, and I’ll tell ya, poking my eye on purpose is strange. Putting them in for the third time today was much easier than it was that first day, but what I’m struggling with most is how to tell if they’re the right orientation (inside out or not). She showed me over and over, and I’ve asked all my contact-wearing friends, but the difference between “a punch bowl” and a “cereal bowl” is definitely not significant on something the size of a dime that’s translucent. (And, if you’re wearing contacts, you can safely assume your eyes suck. Why are we having to look so closely at these damn things?!) A few people have said some contacts have a “123” stamped on them, but mine don’t, and even folding the contact in half like a taco gets me nowhere, because both ways look like a taco to me.

My solace is that friends have told me if I have the contact on inside out, I’d definitely know. For now, wearing contacts kinda feels like there’s something in my eye… not in the “AGH GET IT OUT” type of way, but in the “Oh, there’s this weird little sheath covering my cornea, but it’s all good ‘cuz I can read street signs!” kind of way. Either way, I’m looking forward to getting through the adjustment period and being one of those people that can poke my eye without flinching to successfully wear contacts. The idea of not needing to always have glasses in my purse or being able to buy non-rx sunglasses is very appealing, so I’m determined to make this work.

Do you wear glasses or contacts or both? Do you have any tips for a newbie contacts wearer?