Turning A Closet Into A Bookshelf!

When we were all in full lockdown Spring 2020, I turned our guest room into an office. This was both good and bad: good because I now have an incredible space to write, bad because I now see all the ways I can turn our house into magical nooks and crannies.

Two days after Christmas I stood between my office and our bedroom, staring at the linen closet. I turned to Steve and said, “We don’t really use this closet, do we?” I remember him raising an eyebrow, giving me the look he does when he knows I’m going to suggest something… skeptical.

“It’s been falling apart since we moved in,” I continued. “All we do is pile sneakers and junk in here.” I cautiously opened the door to reveal a collapsing ceiling, falling down paneling, and a bunch of shoes. “I bet this would make a good bookshelf.”

“That sounds like a you problem,” Steve said. “Good luck, Gulliksen.”

Which is exactly the proper reaction to have when you’re living with me.

So over the course of the last month I changed this falling apart closet to a place to put the stacks of books living on my office floor. I already have three bookcases in my office, two on either side of the fireplace downstairs, and a windowsill in our bedroom – all packed. But I have acquired a lot of research books in the last two years for my novel and well, a girl needs a whole damn library, okay??

Back to the closet. This is what it looked like in it’s original glory. Why the previous owners of this house glued on the cedar panels instead of nailing them will forever elude me.

Steve handed me his air strike nail gun, which I handled with caution. Power tools? In my hands? My parents would have never. But in one afternoon I was able to reuse all the old paneling without having to buy any new ones.

I was going to leave the space in it’s natural wood color until I saw pictures online of other people’s DYI projects and the paneling looked much nicer when painted white. Thankfully I found an unopened can of a white paint + primer combo in the basement – the previous owners left a LOT of renovation supplies when we bought the place. Lucky me!

The problem with painting cedar paneling is that it 1.) soaks up paint like MAD and requires 6 or 7 coats and 2.) the imperfections are now glaringly obvious. So lots and lots of paint and wood filler later, it was shaping up to be pretty nice. I even bought some peel and stick wallpaper to use on the shelves to give the nook some color. It wasn’t until this point that I decided to keep take the door down. It opened the hallway more, but it also revealed the tiny holes, gaps, and imperfections in the wood.

Here is an example of wood filler in between panels and then one with the ceiling in tact! Some more touch up paint and even more wood filler, and voila! I was able to get all the books off my floor and into this lovely space.

The only problem now is that we have zero more closets I can turn into a home for books. The remaining ones have to stay for clothes, I guess.

Check out my Instagram, where I have a whole Highlight on my Book Nook including a video tour of the finished project: www.instagram.com/bookishbelle.

Back to revising my novel and no more DYI projects involving power tools. For now.


Welp, Got Covid. Again.

Today is day 9 since I tested positive for Covid-19. I’m exhausted and getting rather annoyed. I love New Year’s and the month of January! I love the symbolic fresh start and everything that comes with it: cleaning my house, refocusing my goals, and setting intentions. I was so excited to launch Bookishbelle, LLC but then Covid hit my household like a bus and I haven’t been able to get much work done.

Besides the monstrous sore throat and lingering headache, the brain fog and fatigue are getting in the way of my daily life. I’m struggling to write this because I can’t seem to stay focused on anything. Guys. I haven’t even been able to read. Listening to an audiobook isn’t possible because I zone out of the plot almost instantly. Forget trying to watch a show with a plot – I’m lost.

So what am I left with?

Last week, while up at 3:30am unable to sleep I discovered the unfair videos on A&E’s YouTube channel – 4 hour videos of Hoarders episodes. Several of them! I’ve never watched the show but oh boy in the last week I have watched hours of it. The satisfaction of seeing a clean house at the end is just enough serotonin to keep me going.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen my latest DYI home project, which I will feature on here once it is done. It’s a small project where I don’t have to think and can just do.

I’m thankful that we have tests, both in clinic and at home, because the first time we had Covid nobody had any idea what we had. Steve came back from a work trip in Miami the first week of January 2020 horribly sick. I remember picking him up from the airport and when he got in the car, he didn’t even say hi. He looked grey and asked if I had any water. I caught the same bug within a day and took a week off work, which is unheard of for me. Back then I worked for two ER doctors and neither could tell me what kind of virus I had that was lingering for weeks. Few months later, the whole world knew.

Well, 2022, you started off shitty, but I’m determined to accomplish many things this year. Let’s go.

Introducing Bookishbelle, LLC

We’ve made it to 2022!

After 13 years of adventuring around the Internet under my moniker, Bookishbelle, I figured it was finally time to make it official. Now operating as an LLC, I can offer my Social Media Development Consultations as well as lay the foundation for my career.

What is my career these days?

That would be a fair question to asks since in the last 10 years I have worked as a bookseller, a movie journalist, animal hospital receptionists, bar manager, medspa office managers, and so much more. However, I am lucky to be finally doing my dream job: being a novelist and working with writing nonprofits.

Wait, what the hell does that mean?

1.) I am currently in the (grueling, masochistic) revision stage of my gaslamp historical fantasy novel. I’ve had incredible feedback from my fellow writers and I’m excited to send it out to agents in Q1 of 2022. I am a writer. I have always been a writer but now I am several steps closer to being a writer that can find her published books in stores across the country.

2.) I am the Creative Marketing Manager for Project Write Now, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization transforming individuals, organizations, and communities through writing. You might have come across my work for them already with the 1st season of their podcast, PWN’s Debut Review.


3.) I am also now a founding member and Assistant Director for Book Inc.! After coming together in 2020 for the first Novel Incubator Program at Project Write Now, myself and 7 other writers decided to form Book Inc. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, it is a community of writers devoted to helping each other realize the artistic and commercial potential of our work. Our credo is simple: a community of writers is better than one. We believe that encouraging each other to cultivate our strengths as artists will lift all of us up, making us better people and writers, while helping us realize our art. And doing so we will have a positive impact on the world.

You can see my contributions to Book Inc on our social media pages: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. In 2022 you can look forward to a newsletter, a literary journal, and much more from me and my incredible fellow writers.

I am SO excited for all the things 2022 will bring including wedding planning, querying my novel, and the adventures I take Steve and Bug on. Thank you for sticking with me for the last 13 years and for everything to come.

“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.”

— Virginia Woolf

Boy, I am hitting the pandemic fatigue hard the last couple of weeks. I go into more detail on my Patreon (it’s only $1 a month to subscribe!) but basically being cooped up in this house for almost a year and the constant worry about something/anything/literally everything being on fire is breaking nearly everyone I know. Even people who were super creative during lockdown (*raises hand*) are facing inspiration droughts.

My personal breakdown is manifesting in sleeping all day and staying up all night reading Harry Potter fanfiction (I don’t even like HP! But my sister is currently obsessed) or rewatching ‘Peaky Blinders’ episodes. It just hit me over the weekend that I will have spent the entirety of my my 30th year of life in quarantine.  Fuck. Not how I planned to start my 30s but the concept of age truly doesn’t mean anything to me right now. Last year I planned to stay in a castle in upstate New York for my birthday – this year we booked a Getaway House cabin in the Catskills. Doesn’t it seem beautiful and relaxing? Plus it’s very secluded and COVID safe. Just hope I don’t get murdered in the wood.


Currently Reading


These days I am elbows deep in doing research reading for my novel. My stack of books I need to read to enhance my work-in-progress manuscript is overwhelming and I’ve felt a lot of anxiety over it. However this week I finally sat down and created a simple schedule for myself: Read 2 chapters of these three books (roughly 50 pages each) every day. This way I feel like I’m getting more done than just dragging my way through only one book.

In spite of all that, I am loving all the research I get to do on several different topics. I didn’t plan to write a novel that incorporated so many topics I didn’t know a lot about but as everyone says – the book writes itself. I’m just along for the ride, trying to make it the best, most accurate story possible.

Currently Watching

Besides sneaking in ‘Peaky Blinders’ episodes here and there, I’m spending a lot of time on Zoom (like everyone else). A great break was a webinar called ‘Nikola Tesla: The Man Who Sparked the Electrical Revolution’ by Prowler NYC Walking Tours by Deborah Zelcer. Deb was extremely informative during the two hours, providing a live lecture on the Futurist and the places in Manhattan and Long Island that he inhabited using Google Earth. A writer colleague, Allison, spotting it on The New York Adventure Club website. Now, if only it was safe to reopen the city because I’m dying to visit a lot of these places in person. I hope you guys are hanging in there!

Currently Listening To

I’ve finally joined the team of LoFi Beats! All of the videos by ChilledCow on YouTube are the perfect background noise for when I’m writing and reading. I mentioned this on Twitter and so many folks gave me recommendations for other stations! I love that the LoFi Girl isn’t just a picture but she’s studying along with me – it’s so cute! I hope you guys are hanging in there and I’ll see you on Twitter and Instagram!

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?”

Last week was a rough one for my family. It’s all very so I won’t put it on here but HOLY HELL it was a punch in the gut from multiple directions. But a gift from the Universe – The Lord of the Rings Blu-ray 4K set I was on the waitlist for and wasn’t expecting to come until the end of February – arrived on Saturday. Poor Steve has already seen The Fellowship of the Ring twice times but never the sequels. (1st time was when we first started dating and 2nd was at the live orchestra accompaniment at Lincoln Center in NYC). A blizzard was coming and we stocked up on snacks and I went full on mopey mode, sitting on couch crying about the people of Middle-earth – as one does.

Saturday we watched The Fellowship of the Ring, as the blizzard started Sunday night we watched The Two Towers, and about 10 inches deep in snow on Monday we watched The Return of the King. All extended editions, of course, I get annoyed when the theatrical versions are on TV. Finally at the end I asked Steve if the films were what he thought they were going to be after all these years.

He replied with a simple, “Yeah. There was a lot of walking and fighting.” Ha! He’s not wrong but I know it captivated him more than he was willing to admit. I joked on Twitter that it only took a pandemic and a blizzard for him to finally watch the movies after 6 1/2 years together.

Currently Watching


Even with all my sleeping pills, I’m still having bad insomnia. One night I stayed up until 4am binging season 2 of ‘Dickinson’ on Apple TV+. Listen – you guys are swooning over ‘Bridgerton’? GET OUT OF HERE! Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson is the real home historical home runner.


‘Sylvie’s Love’

I also watched ‘Sylvie’s Love’ (2021) on Amazon Prime last night! The movie stars Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha as two young lovers in the summer of 1957 in New York City. The movie is beautifully shot with an incredible jazz soundtrack. The script is pretty meager – but to be fair, that’s exactly how romance movies such as this were written in the late 50s & early 60s. I’d also recommend this one to watch, especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner already.


Currently Reading

‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ by V.E. Schwab

I’m only about 60 pages into this one but I’ve never read Schwab’s work before despite the fact that I love following her on Twitter! I’m already captivated and I want a color changing coat ASAP.

‘Winter of the World’ by Ken Follett

This is the second book in the Century Trilogy by Follett. I loved the first one ‘Fall of Giants’ and I’m already fully immersed into this next one. I’ll be a Follett fan for life – his ability to seamlessly weave characters in and out of different historic settings is astonishing.



Currently Listening To

‘Piano Chill’ Playlist on Apple Music Classical

I haven’t been listening to much this past week – just good background music while reading, crying, or in bed with a headache. I came across this playlist earlier this week and I’m so thankful I did – it’s going to be a staple in my musical habits for sure.


I hope you guys have a great weekend and I look forward to talking to you on Twitter!

“This Is Such a Bad Town For Such A Pretty Face”

A year ago around this time Steve and I had COVID-19. Of course back then we had no idea what it was other than a miserable time. On a Friday I picked Steve up from a weeklong work trip in Miami and when he got into the passenger seat of my Mini Cooper, he didn’t even say hello. His skin was gray and he asked if I had any water. By Monday I woke up with a vicious sore throat and  Tuesday morning I was full blown sick. I took a week off of work – which I have never done. I slept for days and couldn’t seem to catch my breath. It was a horrible cold but didn’t have the sinus headaches I’m prone to. My bosses at work (ER docs) said they couldn’t explain what it was but it was viral so antibiotics wouldn’t work on me.

The fatigue lingered for weeks.

A year later I’m sick again – IT’S JUST A STOMACH BUG I’M TOTALLY OKAY – but I wonder how long it will be, if ever, that I start to feel sick and don’t immediately panic that I have the virus that has killed over 386,000 Americans. The cases in NJ are at an all time high. The sitting president is being impeached after the attack on the Capitol last week. NJ Unemployment computer system is down and isn’t expected to be working again for weeks.

In the middle of all this and more, the rest of us are expected to live and keep living as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Still go to work, still go to class, cook dinner, shower, and repeat. For me this also includes writing a novel.

Really exciting things are happening with my novel and my fellow writers in our collective. We are laying the groundwork for something truly special and this is the most passionate I’ve felt about a company in years. But fuck is it hard to be a creative in this environment. To all of you still getting out of bed in the morning and doing what needs to be done – I see you and appreciate you.

As people have said on Twitter: ‘The West Wing’ didn’t prepare me for anyone of this. 

Since I’ve been sick the past week, I’ve been consuming other people’s fiction. During my process of writing this novel, I’ve been trying to only intake content that is somehow related to my own work. Luckily there are plenty of books and tv shows that inspire me.

Currently Watching

‘Peaky Blinders’ season 1 starts out right after WWI in Birmingham, England. Its about gangsters in the 1920s and the show is a masterpiece! People have been recommending this show to me for a long time but I kept having to rewatch episodes if I felt I was missing little tidbits due to the different accents. However this past week I turned on the subtitles and boom! it’s been so easy to follow along now. I’ve done a lot of research on life in Europe during the 1910s –  1930s so watching a show featuring people of all different nationalities and how they interact has been very helpful for my own work.

Currently Reading

Image from hookedtobookscad.wordpress.com

Another one of those things I just never got around to checking out until this year – “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett. This book ticks off nearly all my book needs: 1,000+ pages, ensemble cast of characters, religion, politics, classism, and sprawling settings. I’ve read Follett’s other Kingsbridge series several times – I’m not sure why I didn’t pick up his Century Trilogy until now but the timing is perfect! “Fall of Giants” starts right before WWI and deals with a lot of the same topics mentioned in ‘Peaky Blinders’ as well as correlates back to my own work. Follett is able to tell these grand stories without too much prose and an insane number of characters and yet still be reader friendly. That is something I aspire to accomplish one day.

Currently Listening To

A New Zealand angsty rock girl? Sign me the hell up. I had never heard of Gin Wigmore until I looked up what song I kept playing from Apple’s ‘Umbrella Academy’ Playlist. (It’s the perfect playlist for when you want to crawl into bed and cry over writing or politics or generally anything these days).) Wigmore’s song ‘Kill of the Night’ was featured on the tv show and good lord it’s exactly what I need when I need to dance in my office and clear my head. (The title of this blog is from the song as well.) Her whole ‘Gin & Wine’ album from 2011 is excellent and I highly recommend it.


I hope all of you are hanging in there as we figure out what the hell is going on in 2021.

Books of 2019

My goal this year was to read 25 books. This was a very low number for me but in 2018 my migraines were so bad that I hardly read. That year I devoured true crime podcasts an arguably unhealthy amount. In 2019 I wanted to cut down on the gory murder and instead signed up for an Audible subscription. If I wasn’t going to read read books, I might as well spend my time listening to them. 

Now I fully understand that the majority of people who listen to audiobooks consider it to be the same thing as reading them, especially if you have a disability. For me, I don’t find myself putting in as much effort to take in a story while I listen to it as when I do while reading one. Along the same lines, I could arguably also count the hundreds of hours I spent listening to podcasts, right? Or the weird YouTube obsession I started around May where I couldn’t do my makeup or take a shower without listening to Tana Mongeau or Shane Dawson ramble. 

So my own prosperity’s sake, I’ve divided my list into two lists.

Books I Read in 2019

  1. Love and Ruin by Paula McLain (432 pages)
  2. Mercury and Me by Jim Hutton (211 pages)
  3. The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes (400 pages)
  4. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Marino Tamaki (289 pages)
  5. New Plant Parent: Learning the Ways of Plant Parenthood by Darryl Cheng (208 pages)
  6. Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold (336 pages)
  7. Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill (368 pages)
  8. A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) by Diana Gabaldon (992 pages)
  9. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (355 pages)
  10. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (496 pages)
  11. Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family (304 pages)
  12. The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust #2) by Philip Pullman  (784 pages)
  13. Wicca: A Modern Guide to Witchcraft and Magic by Harmony Nice (240 pages)
  14. The Institute by Stephen King (576 pages)
  15. A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbiltsby Theresa Anne Fowler (560 pages)
  16. Clara’s Soldier: A Retelling of the Nutcracker by Brittany Fichter (164 pages)
  17. Witchery: Embrace the Witch Within by Juliet Diaz (243 pages)
  18. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (516 pages)
  19. Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge by Sheila Weller (416 pages)

Total Pages Read: 7,890


Books I Listened to in 2019

  1. Somebody to Love: The Life, Death, and Legacy of Freddie Mercury by Matt Richards
  2. Outlander by Diana Galbadon*
  3. Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
  4. Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister by Anne Choma
  5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King*
  6. 11/22/63 by Stephen King*
  7. Darling Days: A Memoir by iO Tillet Wright
  8. Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashmir*
  9. The Real Wallis Simpson: A New History of the American Divorcee Who Became the Duchess of Windsor
  10. They Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy In A Storeby Cait Flanders
  11. The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel by Georgie Balock
  12. The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan
  13. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern*
  14. On Writing by Stephen King (a second time) 


*means that I’ve already read these books in previous years but wanted to experience the audiobook.


As you can tell, this was the year of non-fiction, especially biographies. I lucked out and loved 95% of this list, mostly because I started and abandoned a lot of books this year. How did anyone keep track of what they read before GoodReads??

My goal for 2020 is to read 10,000 pages. I got into a year long writing program at a writing institute in Red Bank, NJ where the goal is to write a 50,000+ completed 1st draft of a new novel. Since the class requires 14 hours of writing per week on top of my regular 40 hours a week job, I’m not sure how much actual reading I’ll get done. I did join a book club though! So I’ll at least have to read 1 book a month. 

I have a stack of books I received as a gift or bought this year that haven’t been read yet and I plan on devouring them. The January book club pick was one I suggested actually, “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” by Alex E. Harrow so that will be the first read of 2020. After that I have “The Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern, “The Secrets We Kept” by Lara Prescott, and “David Bowie: A Life” by Dylan Jones taunting me from my nightstand. 

Here’s to good books and lots of writing in 2020!

2018 in Review: WTF


2018 was a hazy blur of a year for me. I spent most of it sort of wallowing that I was wasting so much time being physically sick as well as dealing with the lowest bout of depression I’ve had in years. However, in the last few weeks I’ve been able to reflect on everything that has happened and realize that though I was in pain and often sad, I also had very high highs to accompany those lowest of the low moments.

The best parts of 2018, and my life in general, were the days where I got to spend it at the beach with my boyfriend Steve and our two dogs. We are very fortunate to live less than a mile from the ocean and it does wonders for the soul. 

photo by Zoe Gulliksen

But, here is a little recap for posterity’s sake. I mean, that’s what blogs and diaries are for, right?


In fall of 2017 I had found out that the nerve disorder I have, Fibromyalgia, was not caused by a fall on an escalator in 2013 as I’ve always believed- but from a neck injury caused by an abusive ex boyfriend. I had long buried all my memories of that piece of shit human, but this diagnosis caused a lot of mental stress, most of all anger, that the pain I feel on a daily basis is his fucking fault.

I also learned that this ex of mine, Pietro Filipponi, had recently raped a young woman named April. This broke my heart & infuriated me, which is why I wrote the blog post “April Told Me to Write” on January 25th, 2018. It was terrifying and liberating to finally admit all the abuse I had received from this sociopath.  

The unexpected result of that post was that nearly a dozen woman have reached out to me in the last 12 months since that post was published. They filled my inbox with stories of assault, abuse, theft, and other unimaginable damage. Young women who had met Filipponi recently on Tinder and Googled him after they began dating him. Plus men who had witnessed him stealing from bars in Lower Manhattan or attempting to assault their female friends.

As cathartic and empowering it was to form a bond, this Girl Gang of sorts with these women who had been hurt by him – it was also left me emotionally drained. It made me feel incredibly guilty that I had not said anything when I finally was able to escape him in April 2014. That because I did nothing, said nothing, all of these people were hurt. This notion (along with having an abusive, unstable, maniac of a boss) sent me into a depression that lasted from February to July.

But another blog post in the upcoming weeks will focus more on the follow up to that now notorious blog post.

In July I started seeing a therapist and had my psychiatrist change my anti depressants. I found a new job in October at a medical spa not far from my home and I fucking love it. My type A personality thrives in the organization and endless Excel sheets. I have so much self pride in helping to run a medical office.

Steve has also proved countless times that he is indeed the perfect partner for me and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better person to spend the rest of my life with. (We aren’t getting engaged/married at this point basically to just annoy everyone around us hahaha. We have a house, are secure in our relationship, and don’t want kids. What’s the big deal?)


Holy crap I saw SO MUCH LIVE MUSIC THIS YEAR! Even while I was depressed, I went to a ridiculous amount of music concerts in 2018. Mostly because it took zero effort- everything was within 1 square mile of my house. As a homebody, it’s hard for me to want to do anything that involved leaving my house and being in a crowd of people.

There’s too many shows to list them all but the highlights are:

Seeing The Gaslight Anthem on their reunion tour three nights in a row down the street at the historic venue, The Stone Pony.  The first concert Steve and I ever went to together was a Gaslight show in September 2014 and it has been the band that we have bonded over the most. All 3 nights we shoved our way right up to the front of the stage and it was a mosh pit of craziness that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. 

photo by Pat Gilrane Photo (@njpatg)

I also saw the Queen tribute band, Almost Queen, three times this year! Since I can’t see Freddie Mercury live (RIP<3), this band is a remarkable second choice. I plan on seeing them again this February. As a life long Queen fan, seeing this band is much better money spent than seeing that infuriating movie that came out recently. (I could rant for hours on how inaccurate and horrible Bohemian Rhapsody was.) 

photo from AlmostQueen.com 

This was year of 3! I also saw the lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon, perform solo shows three times in 2018 (I can be obsessive, I know). The best of the 3 was the show at The Count Basie Theater that happened to fall on Steve’s birthday! It was one of the best shows of my lifetime. Fallon played stripped down version of Gaslight songs as well as songs from his solo albums.

But most of all he played an old Gaslight song “She Loves You” that I had never heard live before and never thought I would ever get the chance to because it was on a b-sides album. As soon as he played the first notes on the piano, I burst into tears like a lunatic. Plus a couple of weeks later my younger brother was able to see the same show out in California, and it meant a lot to us to be able to experience the same tour of one of our favorite musicians.

photo by Russ DeSantis for the Asbury Park Press

In September, the first annual Sear.Hear.Now music festival on the beach was held in our city, Asbury Park. Steve and I aren’t “musical festival” people so we opted to get tickets to an after party show at The Stone Pony the Saturday of the festival. This happened to be one of the greatest decisions we could have ever fucking made. Instead of paying a ton of money to stand is a packed crowd far from a stage, the headliners of the festival showed up as this tiny venue and all jammed together at midnight!

Steve nearly shit himself when Jack Johnson showed up on stage to play a few songs with The Preservation Hall jazz band. Then Brandi Carlile showed up to sing a few duets with The Tangiers Blues Band, which I also sobbed through, hahaha. Carlile’s music means so much to me and I felt honored to be able to see her perform live in such close proximity. (We’ve seen her once before, at Radio City Music Hall in NYC but that was a much different experience.) It was just an unforgettable night and will top our list of best shows we will ever see.

Brandi Carlile on stage with The Tangiers Blues Band, photo by Zoe Gulliksen
Photo: Noah K. Murray


In the first few weeks of 2018, New Jersey was hit with quite a few snowstorms. For the first storm, I remember layering up and realizing I was going to be shoveling snow for the next 8 hours so I needed something to keep me busy. The only podcasts I had listened to before this point was “Guys We Fucked” by Corrine Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson and “The Bailey Jay Show” with Bailey Jay and Matthew Terhune.

Thus, with a shovel in hand and the longest driveway full of snow up to my waist, I began my descent into the world of True Crime Podcasts. Like most, I started with the first season of Serial. Then S-Town. And a few others.

But then, My Favorite Murder.

Oh how I wish I could brag that I was a Murderino since Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark began their podcast in 2016, but I did devour every single episode published within weeks. I couldn’t get enough. They are still my favorite women to listen to twice a week and being a fan has truly made an impact on my life. I’m now part of several fan groups on Facebook: NJ Murderinos, Monmouth County Murderinos, etc and my personal favorite- Witcherinos (for the witches who also enjoy discussing true crime hahaha)

Once I was caught up with MFM, I tore through every series I could get my hands on: Hollywood & Crime, Dirty John, Dr. Death, Homecoming, The Teacher’s Pet, Up and Vanished, Unobscured, and more. I did listen to non-murder type of shows like The NYTimes’s Modern Love and The Jenna & Julien Podcast.

The thing is, I was so anxious and depressed that I couldn’t sit still long enough to read. My entire life I’ve been notorious for continuously having my nose in a book but in 2018 I was lucky if I got through 10 novels. Podcasts became my constant companion: I never had to be alone with my thoughts. Good or bad, it was a coping method that kept me sane. 

My mom and Steve began to get slightly worried though. Why this sudden obsession with something so horribly morbid? I eventually brought it up to my therapist, who said:

I mean, he wasn’t wrong.

Listening to stories about murder and mystery was so compelling, so fascinating, that they were able to keep my attention and distract me from my own demons. I’m going to make a conscious effort to go back to reading more in 2019. But I for sure will not give up my murder podcasts, goddamnit!

Major Events

I got to meet one of my favorite authors! Jojo Moyes who wrote “Me Before You”, came out with the third book in the series: “Still Me” in February. To kick off her book tour, the first book signing was at the Barnes and Nobles in New York City that I used to work at! It was so meaningful to meet a writer whose work has brought me comfort. Plus getting to meet her during a period this year when hardly anything made me excited. A few weeks later I finally got my bumblebee tattoo as a homage to one of her books as well as my yellow Mini Cooper (the other love of my life<3).

my bee tattoo done by Karissa Anne at Ninth Wave Tattoo, Asbury Park NJ

Something else I did in the midst of being depressed was get my nose pierced on a whim – which I actually fucking love and see myself with it for the rest of my life.

photo by Steven Shulze

But the biggest thing I did this year was RESCUE A DOG ON A WHIM.

Steve told me over and over again that a dog would not magically make me happy. But when your brain is chemically unbalanced, you’re willing to do anything to chase that sense of happiness again. Including getting a fucking dog. I mean, Carrie Fischer had her therapy french bulldog Gary. Why wouldn’t that work for me too?

Oh honey.

French Bulldog are fucking expensive and the breed is so sought after that they are never available from a rescue organization. But some backyard breeder on CraigsList in south Jersey was getting rid of his dogs because he was relocating to California. On a random Wednesday in June I told Steve I was going to come home with a dog. He said he would never tell me no, but he thought I should wait until I was feeling more myself. Psssh, reasonability was not my forte during this time.

photo by Zoe Gulliksen

So I met some random ass dude at a PetSmart parking lot, forked over $400 bucks, and came home with this sweet, crazy as fuck, cute Frenchie. Steve and I tried for weeks to find a suitable name for him, but he’s so goofy and clumsy and weird that I called him Bug and it just stuck.

And so my internet followers have been graced with this silly face ever since.

photo by Zoe Gulliksen

A dog did not fucking fix my depression, only hard work and new antidepressants did. But it certainly didn’t hurt =)

Overall, 2018 really kicked my ass. My fibromyalgia pain was the worst it had ever been, I had a migraine every other week, and I was just done. But Steve was there for every meltdown, for every day I spent curled up in bed from my whole body being in pain. He made me feel loved when I was certain that I was unlovable.

Getting professional medical help, changing jobs, and putting in the hard work on myself helped to close out 2018 on a very positive note. I’m no where near being physically better but I’m in a MUCH better mental place.

In 2019 my main goal is to take active steps towards my health. I’m in pain every day and that is no way to live a full life. So goodbye forever to 2018, a messy but adventurous year and onwards to healthier things!

photo by Zoe Gulliksen

“Most of the Sparks Are Just Sweet Little Cherry Bombs”

Hello hello!

Tuesdays are my day off and I’m going to plan having that as my update day of the week. 

Last week was rough but I still managed to do a lot, in spite of the migraine I was stuck in bed with all day Tuesday. I’ve lost so much of 2018 to migraines and staying in bed because of Fibromyalgia pain.

The one I had last week left a lingering dull ache behind my eyes until I woke up to no pain for once today! That’s a huge deal in my world these days. But even with the headache all week I still managed to check out a bunch of stuff, especially music. 

Wednesday Steve and I went to one of the local venues in Asbury Park, The House of Independents, to see Brian Fallon perform as a thank you to members of Brookdale 90.5 The Night, a local college radio station. Fallon is a local and the lead singer of the miraculous band The Gaslight Anthem. I’ve half jokingly mentioned before online that I only listen to ‘Gaslight’ and ‘Queen’ and it’s not exactly an exaggeration. Fallon is playing at another venue in New Jersey in December and including that show, Steve and Iwill have seen him play 6 shows this year (three of them were 3 shows in a row that Gaslight did as part of their reunion tour this past summer at The Stone Pony right in town). 

Fallon played a short acoustic set, mostly from his newest solo album “Sleepwalkers”. Below is a video from his first solo album “Painkillers” and most of this was shot in Asbury!

Sunday early afternoon another New Jersey native, Cranston Dean, was playing at a place at the boardwalk called Langosta Lounge. I had yet to see him live before, but Steve and my parents have and they are all big fans. It was so lovely to sit and have lunch with the ocean on one side and live music on the other. Dean is slightly gritty singer songwriter, very talented, and put on a great set!

Then Sunday night my dad didn’t get out of work on time to go see a show at House of Independents with my mom and she asked if I wanted to tag along. I’m such a homebody and leaving my house isn’t at the top of my To Do List, but living in Asbury has changed that for me. In a city that’s only one square mile, there’s 3 major concert venues and a ton of little famous bars that musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, The Clash, and more.With everything so close, I’m much more open to seeing live music than I’ve ever had been before.

The musician my mom had bought tickets for was Allen Stone, from Washington State. Stone is this kooky, hippie, goofy guy with a fucking knack for soul. I was really impressed by his vocal range and how vulnerable he was during his performance. It’s also really funny that my filipino mom is such a huge fan of his hahah. She even bought a signed poster afterwards!

Otherwise I’m just working a lot at my new job I started at in October, which I love tremendously. I’m also currently reading “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” by Michelle McNamara for the Murderino Book Club I’m a part of. A real, in person, bring an appetizer of a bottle of wine, hang out with strangers you’ve never met before, book club

I go see live music multiple times a week? I love my job? I do things with people not on the Internet?

Things are certainly changing around here.