LessWithAlicia: A New Journey

At the start of last year, I wrote a blogpost that scared me: Hiking with Hives. This year, I want to write another scary one – but in a kind of different way. That one was all about being more honest and sharing a part of the journey my body has been on for the past decade. Now, I want to be honest about the journey I’m about to start.

I’ve spent a lot of the last two years buying less things so I can afford to travel. Along with that “buy experiences instead of things” mindset, I’ve realized my life was full of things. I had a shopping habit – and honestly, I’m still working to break it. It’s taken awhile but I’m starting to question the worth of something. Like how a “cheap” dress from TJ Maxx or Target could buy me a night in an Airbnb.

So as I started filling my life with moments instead of objects, I became even more aware of all the waste around me. Pursuing a path that was better for my body, for the environment, and for my life – I became even more aware of all the toxins and negativity I was surrounded by. Both literal and figurative.

I was in pursuit of a “simple” life, but also insanely stressed by all the things out of my control. So if none of this is making sense, I’ll simplify it. I want less. And I hope that will give me more.

I want to start watching what’s in the products I use, what’s in the things I eat, where my money goes, and how much I accumulate only to throw out. I’ve been on the start of this kind of journey many times. I’ve done the research on the meat industry, and “fast fashion,” and environmentally friendly practices. And all of it is really hard.

But I think making small choices every day is the way. I’m not going to change over night, but I can give myself time for this new lifestyle. I think by keeping my day to day simpler, I’ll have more time for the things I really want to put my effort into. So all this to say, I’m focusing on being more mindful. And if you’re at all interested in following along or seeing my journey, you can find me here: Intro to Simple Living

Here’s to less stress, more adventure, new experiences, and happy days for 2019!

Books I Read in 2018

I originally had an ambitious goal of reading 50 books in 2018 (because of my success with this goal in 2017), but around September I adjusted that goal to a more manageable 30. Well, 2018 is gone and I ended at a solid 25 books read. It was a busy year, I read a lot of “thriller” duds, I tried to make a dent in my Stephen King reading to-do list, and I read at least one book that has altered everything. Let’s get into the best and worst books I read in 2018.

In the Woods by Tana French

One of the only good thrillers I read this year! I love mysteries where you can’t trust your narrator, and this one really makes you question who the good guy really is. This book is very well written, where the characters have flaws but you still root for them (even though you’re not sure if one of them committed murder).

Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards


I was not expecting this book to be so good. I tend to not trust the popular opinion on books, and since everyone had talked endlessly about how good this one was, I figured it couldn’t be that good. Well, I was wrong. This book had such deep philosophical questions permeating its pages, I often had to stop to process the decisions made by the characters. I loved it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


I’m always trying to read the classics when I get a chance, and this is one I never read! Most people I know read this in high school, but I never got assigned it. I’ve heard of Atticus Finch and Boo Radley, and knew racism was a theme, but I was surprised how little I actually knew about the story. I’ll admit it’s a bit of “racism seen through a white’s eyes” so it hides a lot of the harder stuff, but considering it’s technically a young adult book, I think it’s fantastic. I can see why it’s an American classic.

Revival by Stephen King


So I’m obviously partial to Stephen King if I’m trying to read through his entire bibliography, but I’ll be honest and say they’re not all gems. This one definitely is though. I kept expecting a stereotypical story from this, not really sure what the initial chunk of plot was leading me towards, but the ending is so perfectly brought together by all the years of the protagonist’s journey, it makes for quite the climatic ending. It also still haunts me a little, because it is not one of King’s lighter fares.

White Fang by Jack London
Okay, so I’m just discovering the genius of Jack London, give me a break. I never thought reading a book from a canine’s perspective would leave me so emotional. (Stories that pander to doglovers make me roll my eyes.) But seriously! This book has adventures in the wild, showcases the human heart, and took me on a complete journey.

Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


This book was so, so boring. And purposely sad just to get a reaction it seemed. It is very finely written, I’ll give it that. But feels like reading someone’s high school assignment that the received a 100 on. As in, written to be perfect, rather than written for the story or the characters. If that makes sense. It’s beautiful, but so is some hotel art, you know?

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik


This one and Bonfire (by Kristen Ritter) were my least favorite books of the year. But this one won out because it was harder to finish. This book was so hard to finish – even being an “Adventure Novel” which are my favorite – that I realized sometimes having a reading goal makes you waste your time for the check mark, rather than the enjoyment. I hated the characters, the plot was unrealistic, and the dramatic way of storytelling left me beyond frustrated.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks


I kind of have to mention this one because he’s my favorite actor. I’ll admit I didn’t expect much from this collection of short stories, but I was pleased with the quirkiness and full-hearted honesty of all his protagonist’s tales. Worth a read, especially if you love America’s Sweetheart, T. Hanks.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides


I picked this up for two reasons: one, because I loved his book, The Virgin Suicides, and two, because Emma Watson told me to. And shit, you guys. There’s a reason she’s become the voice of our generation. (Because she totally has, right?) Your right, your right, I should be focusing more on Eugenides and his life-altering book. This was my favorite read all year, and quickly entered the all-time favorite reads of my life. I felt it in so many ways, by all three of the main characters. All of who, are so, so different, yet so, so confused. Even recapping it right now, I’m not doing it any justice, but it makes me want to pick it up and read it all over. I took my time with this one because at points I felt physically hit with the power of some of the words and intention behind them. If you’re struggling with success, be it in your romantic life or career, or even the long-term goals of who you want to be in this life, this book is for you. So I guess what I’m saying is, this book is for you.

Not a bad year, but it has made me set my 2019 reading goal a little lower to begin with. I also want to try for specifics like 3 Stephen Kings, 3 classics, etc. For my full 2018 reads, check out the Highlight Reel called [2018 Books] on my instagram, @wherewithalicia. I only forgot to capture White Fang and Bonfire pictures. Anyway, here’s to reading in 2019!

Things I Left Behind in 2018

As we’re all reading ourselves for resolutions, I want to talk about some of the things I gave up in 2018. It was a great year for me and I think a lot of that has to do with the things I stopped doing, just as much as what I started to do. So here’s five things I left behind that I hope to leave in the past as I head into the new year.

  1. Weighing myself
    After trying to limit my carbs by restricting all bread, I realized I’m a fad dieter in dangerous ways. I find it too easy to restrict. I’m much more likely to say, “I’ll never eat __ again,” rather than trying to figure out how to moderate a certain food group. So when I got on a scale after months of no bread and nothing much had changed, I decided I was done with a weekly weigh-in. It only discourages healthy dieting (at least for me). I wanted to work on what my body could do – not the number it showed. So I learned how my body felt after eating certain things, and stopped focusing on my weight. And there’s something to say about listening to your body and quitting the mental war based on how you feel before and after stepping on the scale.
  2. Buying “fast fashion”
    I can’t remember the last time I shopped at TJ Maxx or even Target, two of my go-to stores when I needed a top. In an effort to save money, I started thrifting. This caused not only my money to increase, but also my mentality of “buy, buy, buy” to lessen. As I entered more of the thrift community, I realized how terrible fast fashion really is from an environmental and social viewpoint. And personally, I was put face-to-face with my shopaholism. Which I know sounds dramatic. But I’m still coming to terms with how bad my spending (on useless stuff) was – I would buy a new top an hour before meeting friends , but like, all the time! Multiple times a week! So in the last couple of months, I’ve stopped letting myself mindless buy cheap clothes. And I’m happier with myself and my closet.
  3. Friends that felt like work
    Okay, this one was hard. I recently had two big epiphanies about friendship. One was that you have to make time to nurture a friendship – but not every friend needs the same amount. And the second was that you don’t have time for everyone who deserves it. Meaning that there’s a lot of great people in the world, and if you try and make time for all of them, you’re going to let everyone down. There’s simply not enough hours in the day. So I had to really evaluate my friendships and do more for the loved ones in my life by giving them more time – which in turn meant the hard truth of taking that time from other friends. This year I gave up a couple of friendships that brought me more negativity than positivity; if all I felt was guilt when I wasn’t able to see them, I knew I had to take a step back.
  4. Burying my feelings
    This one kind of goes hand in hand with the last one to be honest. Guilt is something I struggle with as a people pleaser. So much so though that whenever something happens, I always come away from a situation wondering what I did wrong or what I could’ve done better. Even when I’m the “innocent” party. I’ve been known to let things go, to decide not to stand up for myself because it’s easier to avoid the fight that would just make us both feel bad. Then I stopped holding back my feelings. I started expressing when I was hurt by people. Which I’ll admit, did cause fights for the first half of the year. But through this journey, my friendships grew stronger, my communication improved, and I’ve felt happier overall.
  5. Strict deadlines
    Let me start by saying this was not the blogpost originally planned for today. So this item number is very true! Instead of forcing myself to turn out a less than great blogpost (which will now come your way sometime next week fingers crossed), I stopped holding myself to strict deadlines. This blog is first and foremost, for me. It’s supposed to make me happy and only bring me joy. Sure, it’s still work at times, but I shouldn’t be so stressed out it affects my mental and physical health.
    I put a lot on my plate (in general) but especially these last few weeks of 2018 as I tried to accomplish everything I had planned. And as my “deadline” approached, I got more and more stressed. When I started making hasty decisions – which caused me even more trouble and wasted time – I dropped the deadline. I really want to do it all, and I always have lots of things I’m working on, but it’s okay to take my time. That’s the hardest lesson for me and I’ll probably have to learn it a few more times if I’m being honest.

Side note: The pictures used in this post were some of my favorite portraits of this year – a few taken by friends but mostly taken by myself (with the good ol’ timer feature). I’m glad to see they’re all happy! Happy New Year, everyone!

My Perfectly Planned Life

Ha! So nothing is “perfect.” I’m not crazy. If you’ve been following this blog at all, you know that I’m a huge planner, Type A, itinerary-loving girl – but things very rarely work according to plan. And that’s okay! I can only do my best.

Today I’m sharing with y’all how I manage my life. And it’s all thanks to my planner, how I’ve changed it, how I use it, and how obsessed I am with it. Seriously.

  1. Research Planners, Styles
    This was the first step, mainly because originally I was going to make a planner from scratch. I kid you not. I was creating layouts and comparing prices at places like Office Max. Then I realized it would be a lot of time, money, and effort to make it as cute as some of the ones I was running into at places like Barnes & Noble. I started realizing a lot of the planners had what I wanted in terms of style, I would just have to make it into my ideal.
  2. Figuring Out What You Need
    So I purchased the Rifle Paper Co. 17 Month Planner (with stickers!) in Juliet Rose pattern. It was a little pinker than I prefer, but it’s bright and floral and I love the inside. Part of figuring out what I needed, was to immediately cut out all the unnecessary pages I knew I would never use (like the Contacts section). I’m a list maker, so part of getting this planner was to stop me from making daily lists (and weekly, monthly, yearly, etc) that was creating a bunch of trash for the environment or getting thrown away because I couldn’t organize them. I love the Bullet Journal style of crossing things off or moving them to a different day, so I needed my planner to have the boxes next to the line item.
  3. Stick with a Style
    A planner should have organization – duh. So I created a system of how to do my weekly spread’s “list” and stick to it. I use an ‘x’ if the item is complete, a ‘-‘ if I have moved the item to another week, and cross it completely out if I’m no longer going to do it. I will put items under the day where I think I will do them, but I use those more as guidelines because you never know how busy you’ll get.
  4. Highlighting Based on Category
    Gotta love a good color code! Since my layout is setup in a list setting, I like to highlight my items so my eye can easily find what I’m looking for. Green is used for events, which are most important and set up under the day. I use pink for blog items and orange for travel. (That way it’s easy to see when I’m out of town.) I’m still toying with purple and blue, because I have goals of vlogging and starting a podcast, so we’ll see how much those get used.
  5. Bookmark Trackers
    This is my most recent update and I love it! Part of the “BuJo” style is tracking what’s important. Since it’s not exactly easy to add pages to this planner (plus they were small ongoing lists) I decided to make little bookmarks that could double as trackers. I have one for my monthly budget, one for my yearly goals, and one for the pictures I need (mainly for blogs). I have a weekly tracker for my most important habits (writing, working out, side income) but it isn’t pictured because I’m still perfecting it. I use it to make sure I hit certain amounts for the week.
  6. Monthly Spread Set Up
    I know I’m not utilizing the monthly section to it’s full potential yet, but for the moment I’m using it as a sort of organized at-a-glance. It’s got important events, out of town weekends, and blog post scheduling – all using my highlighter code of course! I also started using the Notes section (found under my little bookmark) for really happy moments of the month. I like tracking this gratitude. I also have a little coffee sticky note so I can keep a close eye on my coffee budget. Ha!
  7. Big Project Organization
    For those big projects, I want to keep ideas and checklists with my planner, so I gather (and simplify) them first, then put them in the colored envelopes located in the back pocket. These big projects are usually temporary or don’t have a permanent home yet (like parties or events I’m planning). I have them color-coded and I try to go into the envelopes to clear out whatever is no longer useful.
  8. Stickers & Personalization
    This is the fun part! It’s obviously not necessary to have ghost stickers or cute little binder clips – but that’s what makes it fun! My planner came with a few sheets of cute stickers, but I’m guilty of buying special monthly sticker sheets as well. My binder clips hold my bookmarks in a more organized way, so if they’re cute that’s only a bonus, right?
  9. Sticky Notes
    I try not to use sticky notes for quick lists, but sometimes it can’t be helped. If I have a busy day or a bigger than the norm grocery list, I will put it all down on a temporary stick note that I can grab from my planner. And then recycle! Otherwise these lists are defeating the whole main purpose of my planner.

There will probably be even more improvements in the future – but it’s on an as needed basis! Leave me a comment with any suggestions or ways you organize your own life. I live for this Type A nonsense.

Checking Out the Local Psychics (at a Dallas Fair)

When my friend Giselle asked me to check out the Dallas Psychic Fair with her, it was never a question of if I’d go but when I’d go. Just recently, I was finally able to make it. With a quick google search to checkout their website (and grab a coupon to the fair), all I really knew was their tagline: Spiritual growth through mind, body and soul connections. That didn’t give me a lot to go on, but since I’m fascinated by any kind of open-minded event or personal growth activity, I went anyway.

We entered into a large ballroom setup with different tables of handmade items and chairs circumventing the room. These chairs were set up with one-on-one sessions for psychic readings. After checking in, Giselle asked the woman who took our money how to go about choosing between them all. The woman told us to take our time walking around the room and just go with our gut to see which one was “pulling” us to them. I hadn’t come for a psychic reading (since I actually have one planned with the Jefferson psychic) but I was digging this fair already.

I mostly wanted to look at all the handmade jewelry, the mass amount of crystals, and the essential oil-based skin care. These assorted booths were all over and everyone was really friendly. Honestly, everyone was above and beyond nice about both Giselle and my questions. We didn’t know what orgonite, or lunar water, or channeled massages were. Or where the chakras were and what they meant. Or how to spell something. Or how to use a smudge stick. We asked a lot of questions. A lot of questions.

Across the room, we saw a food stand and went over to inspect. Everything looked very healthy, with fresh salads, vegan, gluten-free, and other specially baked goods. We decided to split a chocolate chip almond cookie, which was vegan and low carb. I’m not going to lie, it was very dry and bland. Haha! I’ve done my fair share of “healthy” baking and know it’s hard – that’s why I don’t bake as much now. But having a guilt-free cookie isn’t a bad way to spend a couple of bucks.

We lapped the outer rim of the room once again, and this time Giselle spotted her reader. He was an older fellow, cherub-cheeked, and looked like he’d know how to knit you a sweater. His name was Michael Runningbear. Giselle checked his availability (he had an opening in ten minutes) and decided she was going to go ahead and do it. Why not? She had a couple of questions she could ask and hell, we were at a psychic fair for some reason, right?

I sat awkwardly at the empty table next to Giselle as she got her reading, for anyone wondering. Having to half-listen to the irritable psychic who had graciously let me sit, but then wanted to mutter under her breath about how she most likely wouldn’t be back next month. Talk about bad energy. Giselle was five feet away and in a completely different world. Runningbear was reading her vibe and letting her draw the Tarot cards to give insight to her future. She came away a little awed. (Just like my mom if you’ll remember. Are psychics really real? I’ve got two people close to me who are now believers.)

Some homemade soaps from Moonlights Apothecary had caught my eye just before the reading, so once Giselle (who was anew woman) was finished, we checked out that booth. The owner, Jordyn, let us know what each one was made with and the intention behind it. She had spelled its energy on a certain focus. I bought two soaps, one because it smelled so freaking amazing and one because it smelled great and was on sale. Please don’t read anything into the “meaning” behind my purchase. Ha.

Overall, it was a great experience! We learned a lot, opened up our minds, made plans to work on ourselves (Giselle with her path in life, me with my skin care). The world will never cease to delight and inspire me. I’ll never possibly explore every unique and interesting facet.

Thankful for Coffee (Vol II)

I guess we’re starting a Thanksgiving tradition here on the blog, because yet again, I’m bringing you the hookup on the coffee shops of Dallas. (Last year’s edition: Thankful for Coffee. ) I love coffee! And even though I’ve been trying to budget my spending a bit more – which means less coffee – I’m also trying to write more (after almost a full year of writer’s block). All this to say, let me share more of the independent coffee scene in Dallas!

Houndstooth Coffee
9730 N Central Expy, Dallas, TX 75231
Hours: 6a-7p, Parking: Lot, Seating: Always something open, indoor and outdoor buildings, Tip: Try their different flavored espressos, especially something floral

The original (Dallas) Houndstooth is super close to my house but I hate the lack of parking and the limited seating, so I was so excited when I found out they opened a third location that’s exactly halfway between my job and my home! It’s much bigger, with a real parking lot, and a little bit longer hours. Also everything is so stinking cute. It’s also pretty great if the weather is good because it’s got a trendy outdoor space.

Mudleaf Coffee
3100 Independence Pkwy #300, Plano, TX 75075
Hours: 6:30a-8p, Parking: Lot, Seating: Options but might have to share big tables, Tip: Chat with the baristas they are the friendliest!

I kind of accidentally stumbled on this new shop because it’s close to my parent’s house (in Plano). Since it’s in a Dallas suburb it’s very spacious. It’s still new so they’re going to be adding stuff as it fully sets up, including more seating and cool merchandise. I love the openness because it makes for a very private writing time (i.e. I’m not stressed someone will want to read over my shoulder). The staff is super cool and ready to chat with anybody and everybody.

Drip Coffee
3888 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75219
Hours: 6:30a-6p, Parking: Shared lot, Seating: Good for 1-2 people, Tip: Add extra shot(s) because their espresso is a little weak

This is another coffee shop that recently opened a second location and I love their new one way more. Their original shop is fine, but dark with not much seating. This one has lots more tables (for couples or singles though) and is a much “happier” space. They’ve really figured out their merchandising and I love how they incorporate their “drip” theme! They also roast their own beans, so when you get their black coffee it’s always fresh. Any place with freshly roasted coffee is okay in my book.

Peridot Coffee
2240 Royal Ln #101, Dallas, TX 75229
Hours: 6a-7p, Parking: Lot, Seating: Limited but never full, Tip: Grab one of their homemade muffins

I discovered this little gem by needing to get away from work on a break (haha). It’s on the smaller side, but in a far off part of town so I’m not sure how much business it sees. The decor is cute and simple, and the seating seems to be focused for “students” or people who are ready to work. The man who served me was very friendly, but also promoted the atmosphere of a library, i.e. it was very quiet. Go here if you’re looking for good coffee and a focused mindset.

Fiction Coffee
1623 N Hall St, Dallas, TX 75204
Hours: 6:30a-6p, Parking: Good luck, Seating: Limited but not usually full, Tip: Always go for something “seasonal” or on their special menus

I passed this coffee shop so many times on my way home, I knew it was time to finally check it out. I’m not a fan of a place when parking is hard to come by, but luckily I went on a weekday and was able to snag a spot on the street. (If this place was open later, no way.) It’s so hip inside, very modern and bright. It’s probably a great place to get work done, but for me it closes just a tad early. It’s a great “pre-game coffee” for a Deep Ellum evening, though!

Native Coffee Co.
4319 Alpha Rd, Dallas, TX 75244
Hours: 7a-5p, Parking: Lot, Seating: Always something open, Tip: Oat milk coming soon, yum!

This shop just opened very recently and I kept passing it on the way to my boyfriend’s apartment. I recently decided to stop because I liked the name, and I was pretty excited to find a big clean open space with lots of seating. It’s so funny because it seems new coffee shops are definitely going with the trend of bright lighting, minimalism, and big spaces as opposed to the cramped cozy feel. This coffee shop is attached to a church (which I found out is a thing?), but honestly I didn’t mind that. The chai was good and the barista was friendly, so I’ll definitely be back!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Taking a Closer Look at the Dallas Vintage Shops

When I thrift, I mostly head to various Goodwills and various stores with the word Thrift in the name. However, for some who aren’t necessarily interested in going through a lot of bad for a big reward, there’s better secondhand shops that carry a lot more name brands and current trends. Not only that, there’s a couple of places in the Dallas area that are known for collecting amazing vintage finds. Here’s a roundup of some of the best Dallas thrift (with a focus on vintage) shops.

Buffalo Exchange

I love Buffalo first and foremost because I take stuff to sell there a lot. But they’re also one of my favorite places to checkout because they have great unique pieces! If you’re going for a resurfaced vintage trend or something a little more unusual, this store is great.

I’m not going to lie some of it can get expensive, but for selling some name brand stuff, it can also be such a great deal! I also just love the way they style their mannequin outfits. It’s always so unique and they have mastered styling different patterns and accessories together.

Genesis Benefit Store

I like shopping at Genesis because it supports a local women’s shelter. I don’t always get to make it out there because it’s kind of the opposite part of town, but it’s nice supporting local non-profit organizations. Everything spent at Genesis goes directly into helping out domestic abusive survivors who are trying to get back on their feet.

It’s also a super well-organized thrift shop. If you know you need a women’s coat, they’re very easily separated and ready to peruse. And even though their men’s section is a bit smaller, they have some great cardigans and sweaters. This shop usually tends to have nicer clothes too, for women needing interview clothes. So it’s great for when you’re looking for work wear.

Gratitude

I’d never heard of this store before researching local vintage stops. Gratitude came up on a couple of lists, so I knew I had to check it out. It’s located near the Oak Lawn area; a little house on top of a little hill. Inside is a theater production’s dream. The owner has carefully researched and classified every item by time period.

I’m not going to lie, it was too expensive for me, but you’re paying for authenticity. That’s why they also rent. If you have the perfect idea for a retro party or need a costume for some show, this place is sure to have what you need or something just as good (if not better). It’s an absolute adventure to explore all the pieces they have in this store. Especially the hats! I loved looking at all the different types and colors and shapes of vintage hats.

Vagabond Vintage

I passed this little shop a few times on my way to work and knew I had to add it to my list. Their Instagram makes it seem like they mainly have vintage t-shirts, but they honestly have so much more inside. They have all sorts of jackets and coats and truly unique pieces.

The store is on the smaller side, but it’s for those vintage lovers who are looking for those “cool” pieces. If you’re a little rock and roll, you’re going to find something you can’t leave without. And on the other end of the spectrum, for the more down-to-earth outdoorsy type, they have a lot of great warm jackets to take on your next camping trip. Overall, lots of great funky patterns (mostly 80s era) to check out.