Learn Voraciously: How to Be Smarter and More Interesting In 5 Minutes a Day


First of all, let’s get something straight —

You are smart.

You are interesting.

But we can all probably benefit from becoming more smart and more interesting.

We all have room to grow.

And as the new year inches closer, it’s time to think about how we can do that.

I think it makes all the difference in the world – if you have things to talk about, it’s easier to talk. It’s easier to make friends. It’s easier to avoid small talk in elevators. It’s easier to go to dinner parties without getting stressed out. It’s easier to survive long car rides.

For the past few months, I’ve made it a goal to learn voraciously, to fill my mind with new knowledge at every moment. I’ve collected a few of my favorite ways to learn about new things quickly. The best part is that you can get these delivered straight to your inbox. Read them on the train on your way to work. Read them during breakfast. Read them during class.


This site is amazing, everyone. I have been spreading the word about this like crazy. Highbrow has carefully crafted courses (holla back at that alliteration) about just about everything from American literature to street artists to trials that shaped the modern world. You can learn anything on Highbrow. When you sign up for a course, you get one (very brief) email in your inbox every day for 10 days. When the course is done, you can choose to enroll in another course, on and on for infinity.


Even though I’m not sure how you can be alive on this planet without having heard of the Skimm, I’m listing it anyway. The Skimm was started by two former news correspondents and it delivers the lowdown on today’s current events every morning at

Joy the Baker’s ‘Let It Be Sunday’ series

Joy the Baker is an absolute gem. I met her a couple of weeks ago and did NOT play it cool – I cackled because I was nervous and I told her where she could get a good cheese roll. On Sunday she gently sweeps up some stuff that happened that week on the Internet and shares it. It’s usually curated from blogs and podcasts and articles in The Atlantic and it’s just killer.

Planet Money

This one is cheating – it’s not 5 minutes. It’s 15-20 minutes.  I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not. I’m not sorry. Planet Money is one of my favorite podcasts because it generally revolves around one thing – one obscure person, event, or phenomenon – and how it has affected the modern world. I can crush through one on my way to work and one on the way home and I have two new stories to tell. Planet Money presents digestible narratives that teach you about how the world works.

How do you stay up-to-date? How do you learn new things?

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Practice and all is coming


Practice and all is coming.

I heard these words in a podcast over the weekend and they hit a tender place for me.

Here’s the deal with my life right now: I’m graduating from college. I’m starting my life. But that’s the situation – it feels like I’m starting my life, trivializing the 22 years I’ve lived thus far. I want to have control of the future. I want to take things into my own hands. I see a future that is bright and meaningful and awesome and I want to just grab it.

The future is a long game, and my personality does NOT like that.

I woke up that day craving words like, “you’re in a great place. Here are all of the answers you need. Here’s the plan to get you to the huge meaningful future that keeps you up at night.”

But I didn’t hear that.

Instead, I heard practice and all is coming.

Practice and all is coming.

These are words that untangle a frustrated mind. These are words that loosen tense shoulders and stretch clenched toes.

It’s easy to relax and say everything will happen when it needs to once everything has happened. But it’s a whole lot harder to say that when you’re waiting.

I want to meditate on this today. Waiting is hard. But when you’re moving, practicing, improving, it doesn’t feel like waiting. It just feels like living.

Your future will not slip through your fingers. It can’t.

Don’t worry about getting there. Just practice.

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I ate everything in Austin

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Let it be known – books are the ultimate social get-out-of-jail-free card.

If, on a sunny Monday afternoon in October, you find yourself eating lunch at a restaurant alone and if, on a sunny Monday afternoon in October, that lunch happens to be an enormous donut and a beer (because there’s nothing wrong with that), you pull out a book and all of a sudden you’re not “alone” – you’re just “having some me time.”

Pull out a book and all of a sudden you’re just a lady trying to get some peace and quiet around here.

Here’s what the Austin plan looked like (aka. the events leading up to the Lonely Donut Incident)

The absolutely delightful Blue Dahlia Bistro.

The Blue Dahlia Bistro serves breakfast food all day and an adorable patio. Shared stories and collected memories from the cousin as my skin tried to figure out how to be warm again in the sunny weather.

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A walk along the river.

Austin is SO outdoorsy, and they are especially pumped about their water sports. There was kayak traffic in the river. It was a balmy 75 degrees almost the whole weekend, so runners and bikers were everywhere. Austin weather makes being outside so easy.


Too much queso at Torchy’s.

Oh, friends. Torchy’s Tacos. The tagline for Torchy’s is “Damn Good Tacos.” That about says it all. I ate a salmon taco that rocked my world and about two fists worth of queso. Don’t skip the queso. Don’t.

Sunday service.

If you’re into this sort of thing, you should go to The Austin Stone. It’s a huge wonderful community church — they write a lot of their own music and it’s really good.

A stop by Half Priced Books.

Half Priced Books is like summer camp – you don’t want to hear other people talk about it. You don’t know how fun and amazing it is until you go yourself. You don’t want to hear stories and you definitely don’t want to see pictures. But once you go, all you want to do is tell other people how awesome it is.

I bought three amazing books for $3 and felt like I was stealing.

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Gordough’s Public House.

Then I ate a donut and a beer alone for lunch. My mom laughed at me when I told her that. Gordough’s Public House on South Lamar is just about the most wonderful place on earth. Their donuts are out of control. They have donut sandwiches, which seem a little aggressive.

I ate a Black Betty (house made blackberry filling, cream cheese icing, cake mix, cinnamon sugar & locally harvested honey butter). It’s one of those places where you take a bite then look around to see if other people are experiencing what you’re experiencing. Turns out everyone else was just trying to live their lives, virtually unmoved by the tidal wave of satisfaction that had just bulldozed me.

Eating alone is probably for the better.


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On Being Three-Quarters of the Way Through 2015: A Resolutions Check-In

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New Years Resolutions? Oh yeah… those.

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1. Throw a fancy cocktail party

Done! We simmered, we muddled, we made it happen. We made an amazing cocktail called A Brief History of Thyme because we think we’re just so funny (but I’ll give you the recipe if you want it).

2. Read every Psalm

Done! Five a day for a month or so and 150 flew right by. Now I should really do it again…


3. Run a half marathon

What’s that?! Done. Did it. Ended up running this half marathon in July instead of the one I originally planned to make room for the road trip in May, but it happened all the same. And my dad was there biking circles around me because dads are the best.

4. Record an album

It’s happening. Oh boy is it happening. Coming at you soon. Maybe October… probably November.

5. Master my camera

This one feels far. Much further than the other ones, I think because it’s so ambiguous. Will I ever actually master it? I can become better at it, but I won’t necessarily feel I have reached mastery, at least not this year.

This is a lesson for myself: next year, only set goals with clear moments of achievement. Like a half marathon – either you do it or you don’t. Ambiguous goals cause a little bit of stress because you’re never quite sure if it’s done.

6. Watch every Best Picture nominee

This is the one I’m still reaping the benefits of. Being able to talk to people about movies is so much fun for me – everyone has their opinions, everyone has their favorites, everyone’s still upset that Lego Movie wasn’t nominated (or maybe it’s just me?). Just last week I had a conversation with someone about Whiplash, and The Grand Budapest Hotel comes up on occasion. If you’re interested in what the nominees looked like this year, check out the Ultimate Guide to the 2015 Academy Awards.

7. Bake a Joy the Baker Recipe

Brown butter chocolate chip cookies? I messed them up big time. (I don’t know how – let’s not talk about it.) Vanilla cupcakes? Delicious. Thanks, Joy.

8. Read 3 C.S. Lewis books

I think this is going to be a fall thing. I HAVE at least three C.S. Lewis books, but I have only really read half of one. Actually, half of two. So, one…? Technically?

I’ll probably have to crack down on these while I’m traveling in October and November. Maybe the colder months will make this easier. I have plenty of faith that this one will work out.

9. Hike Mt. Washington

But I’ve hiked so many other things! Come ON. I haven’t done this yet and the hike-able weekends are dwindling… Perhaps late October. I will still hold out hope. This might be the one that gets away (until next year).

10. Pare my wardrobe down to 25 pieces

Let’s be honest. I forgot about this one entirely. Let’s get it done! Together, maybe?

What I’m Learning

One thing I have noticed, as I sift through these nine-month-old goals, is how these goals still apply – these are still things I value, things that are exciting to me.

I also have noticed my tendency to forget or minimize what I have accomplished.

I forget that there was a time when I hadn’t read all of the Psalms. When I had never run a half marathon. Goals that feel so far away don’t seem far away once you can cross them off of a list – in fact, they feel easy. I forget the work that went into them, the hours spent reaching them.

Setting goals, for me, means drawing the blueprints for the person I want to become. Imagining a wild, future world in which I can do everything I want to do. Imagining a future self.

And now, nine months in the future, I am that person. At least, technically I am. I don’t feel any different, but I am different.

I’m not sure what I want to say about that.

Maybe it’s that we should take more moments to look back on who were so we can realize who we are becoming. Things feel slippery and terrible sometimes, but goals, even September goals, allow us to envision a future self who will find those things easy. Doable. Done.

How are your resolutions feeling? Do they still feel like you?

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Hiking: A Beginner’s Guide


Hiking has quickly become one of my favorite things to do.

It’s travel. It’s exercise. It’s seeing beautiful things with beautiful people without emptying your wallet.

But it can be tough to know what to buy, what to wear, what to eat, and how to plan when you’re just getting started. So let’s chat.

What do you actually need?

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What Are You Doing These Days?

The summer is almost over. That’s it. That’s all there is. That’s all there’s allowed to be, because otherwise we wouldn’t fully appreciate it and blah blah blah gratitude.

It’s deep into the fall right now, which is absurd, and I want to know what you are all are doing. I want to know your plans and your frustratingly large goals.

I’ll go first…

Read a dang book

I’ve been reading, but not with the rolling motivating I usually have. I’ve been losing momentum this summer. I have a couple of books on my bedside table right now –


Orthodoxy: This is a book to wade in. It’s taking me a LONG time to read it, but I’m underlining and writing in the margins and taking time to soak it in. Even so, I think it’s going to take another read through to get it all.

People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There was never anything so perilous or exciting… It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad.

White Teeth: A Novel: So far so good. Her voice is rich and refreshing and I’m eating it up. I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorites this year.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake: Essays: I’m on the hunt for more female writers I love, starting with some essays from this lady.

Any tips for carving out time to read? I need to be better at that.


Climb some mountains

Ooh boy friends, I am on a hiking kick. I have spent countless hours in September planning hikes and looking at tent sites and researching trails and I am madly in love. Here’s what the fall hiking schedule is shaping up to be –

Franconia Notch (done)

Mt. Webster, Mt. Jackson, and the Mizpah Spring Hut (October 3-4)

Columbus Day hike (in planning mode)

If you have any suggestions for great hikes in New England, give a lady a holler.

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Spend time at home

This one is a biggie for me. September was full of plans and long luxurious coffee breaks and lingering meals in living rooms and it was so good. But my space is suffering. It is struggling along. My room? Let’s not talk about it. My pantry? I found something in there that expired four years ago. I have not lived in this apartment for four years. I want to hang up those shelves I’ve been meaning to install. I want to find a spot for everything. I want to buy the things I need but have been forgetting to buy. I had a dream last night where I had two cutting boards. My subconscious is trying to tell me that my life is a mess and I need to get it together and buy a dang cutting board.

What are you doing these days?

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How to Build a Creative Space

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Over the past month or so my apartment – my space – has been in a total state of transition. Furniture, no furniture, total anarchic mess, clean and beautiful. It’s been everything. Finally it feels like everything is settling down, and I want to focus during the fall on creating a space that feels like me. A space that allows me to move and breathe and create.

Make yourself comfortable.

First things first – your creative space should fit you, not the other way around. I have a couch, but I prefer sitting on a couch cushion on the floor. That’s fine. Do what you like. (more…)

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Watercolor Journaling


I have always been one to fill notebooks to the brim with words. Songs, poetry, snapshots of the day. But I have always been a words person – not a drawer, not a painter, not a creator of things. But over the past month or so, I have had such an urge to create. I picked up a watercolor set on a whim a couple of weeks ago and I did it – I started painted when I felt the need to paint.

If you need a creative pick-me-up, here’s what I found: (more…)

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Appreciate Everything And Maximize Your Joy

maximize your joy


I found some words I wrote during the road trip and thought I would share. They’re pertinent whether or not you’re on the road. I have been so focused the past few weeks. Summer feels like it’s spinning to a close, so soak it all up. New roommates are moving in, so get your life together and don’t leave leftovers in the fridge for that long. The fall is coming up, so find the perfect sweater and buckle up.

Take pictures.

Instagram gets a bad rep sometimes. People say photos are replacing memories and Instagram is replacing our presence in beautiful moments. Photos should never take the place of presence, of appreciating an event. But don’t be shy about taking pictures of details – things you might forget like the huge head of foam on your beer after a long day of driving or the pattern of the floor in that cute shop in Boise. Taking pictures can help you stay aware of little things – details, textures, and colors. (more…)

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