Book Thoughts: The Handmaid’s Tale

[Spoilers for The Handmaid’s Tale Ahead]

I’ve always been into dystopian novels, so it’s a bit surprising to me that I waited until recently to pick up The Handmaid’s Tale.  1984 and Brave New World have always been some of my favorites reads, so it was only a matter of time before got to this.  After reading this in 2017, I have to think Margaret Atwood is a true visionary and her writing from over 30 years ago is more relevant than ever in today’s political climate.   This isn’t a full comprehensive book review, but rather some highlights of the pieces that stood out to me.

While this book has a huge, overarching theme of female oppression and women being reduced to nothing but singular roles (e.g. birthing vessels, cooks, maids, trophy wives, etc), I mostly enjoyed so many of the small details that led to and resulted from this oppressive government.  It’s stated that the rise of feminism throughout the 1970’s is the direct cause of this new oppressive government, and that allows them to use anti-feminist and religious rhetoric to strip women of all rights (e.g. women rights = access to birth control = drop in birth rate = bad for society…).  I really enjoyed details about Serena Joy being an extreme fundamentalist and popular televangelist in her past life who once advocated for stripping others other their rights now being trapped as wife to the Commander, showing that those who advocate for oppression are not always immune to the results of their messages.

All of the throwbacks to Offred’s mother protesting and the small details that led us through her journey and life as a passionate feminist left a huge impression on me.  I thought the little mentioning of her mother being shamed by her feminist friends for having a child is one detail that had a big impact.  Nonconformance of all ideals in a movement can be incredibly divisive within those groups, whereas solidarity and persistence are what’s most important.  I also enjoyed the little details about Offred openly questioning whether her mother needed to still be protesting after rights were won.  In the case of this book, it was particularly important that they keep protesting as the battle was never really won.  The book doesn’t go into huge detail about the start of Gilead, but there are also some mentions of how quickly it all happened.  It’s chilling to read about Offred’s hindsight perspective referencing the little hints of oppression that built to a quick collapse of modern society.  Perhaps the subtlety is the best part about this book.

Finally, in the epilogue, two things stood out to me.  First of all, the details revealed about the Commander were a nice juxtaposition to all of the humanizing moments that Atwood gives him in the second half of the book.  How he craves human interaction and gives Offred gifts, yet he is still purely evil and directly responsible for some awful aspect of Gilean society.  Second, it’s interesting to read from a historical academic perspective at the end of the book after spending 300 pages recounting a first-hand perspective of all the pain and suffering that Offred experienced.  The way professors minimize her pain and even make jokes about early Gilean society makes me think about how we think about past suffering of fellow humans in early societies (or even current suffering of human beings in oppressive societies like North Korea today).

These are just some of my thoughts on the The Handmaid’s Tale (link here if you are interested).  I’d definitely suggest it to anyone who enjoys dystopian literature.  1984 has a terrifying and mysterious Big Brother force and Brave New World shows a subdued society of brainwashed citizens in a classist system, but The Handmaid’s Tale does an excellent job of characterizing and even humanizing some of villains.  I’m planning on watching the adaptation soon and will report back on that. In the meantime if you’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale, let me know your thoughts on the book!



Five Products to Help You Reduce Waste!

I am always looking for ways to reduce my personal waste.  I have a background in environmental science, am an unashamed tree hugger, and am always looking out for new ways to help Mother Earth.  Many, many of these habits also come with the byproduct healthier living and saving money!  Win-win for all, I’d say!

Here are five products that ultimately help reduce waste:

Stainless Steel Lunchbox

I love these little containers for lunch! They have several different compartments that let you keep your lunch components separate.  They are durable, look nice, and easy to clean!  Bonus:  I also tend to eat better when I bring my own lunch.

Canvas Grocery Bags

These are such an easy way to reduce a ton of waste.  In fact, in Boulder, you are charged money for each bag you use.  There are so many on the market that you can find ones that match any style or pick one up as a souvenir next time you are on vacation.  I find that these hold so much more than disposable bags which allows me to fit my weekly grocery trip into one or two bags (great for us that have to haul our groceries up flights of stairs!). Bonus:  stores will usually give you a credit for each reusable bag you bring.

Net Bags

In the same vein as grocery bags, I like these little reusable bags to take to the farmers market.  They are so adorably cute and I love seeing the array of colorful produce through the netting.  These are incredibly durable and hold more than you might think.  Bonus: these pack down to a tiny compact size so you can easy throw one in your purse when you are on the go!

Reusable Water Bottle

I’ve gotten so used to bringing my water bottle everywhere that I was shocked when I really took the time to look around and saw so many plastic water bottles around.  This is an easy way to massively reduce a ton of waste (imagine having a new bottle to dispose of each time you refill your bottle!). Bonus:  having a bottle with me at all times reminds me to stay hydrated!

Travel Coffee Mug

Having a reusable travel coffee mug has become such a staple in my morning routine.  The smart spill-proof design allows me to take it on the go and the heat retention keeps my coffee warm all throughout the morning!  Bonus:  this has saved me SO much money as I no longer feel the need to drop $4-$5 at a coffee shop every morning.

Let me know what your favorite waste reduction habits are in the comments below.  I plan on diving into green habits and environmentally conscious living a lot more in the future!


The Five Best Affordable Mini Backpacks on the Market!

I’ve always been a huge fan of the backpack and couldn’t be happier with the resurgence of mini backpacks lately!  Whether it’s just a day out in the city or an international trip, this hands-free purse alternative is convenient, secure, and fashionable.  Here are my favorite mini backpacks on market right now:

Fjallraven Kanken Mini – for the trendy 

A symbol of Scandinavian whimsy, the Fjallraven Kanken Mini is one of the first backpacks that pops into my mind when I think of mini backpacks.  I love that they come in an wide range of colors from black to bright yellow so there’s a choice for everyone.  The full front zipper allows you to open the bag and grab exactly what you need so there’s not more digging around looking for that one small item that fell to the bottom of the abyss, and I do believe that the rectangular design makes this a bit more spacious than others of the same size. Bonus features: There are two pockets (one interior and one exterior) for added organization and the top handles snap shut for added security!

FIGESTIN Leather Satchel – for the classic

This is perfect for a day out in the city and can be dressed up if you need to stop by a more upscale event in the middle of your day out.  One of my favorite features of this pack is the secret pocket in the back that is the perfect size for a small wallet or card holder.  Not only does this feature make it incredibly easy to find your cards/money/etc, but it’s super secure while hidden against your body.  The vertical pocket on the front adds some flair to the otherwise classic and sleek design.

Anello Mini Backpack – for the practical

I saw a ton of Anello packs while traveling through Japan this summer, and now I know why:  they come in a large variety of colors, patterns, and materials with a smart design!  These backpacks offer a large wide mouth opening at the top that allows for incredibly easy access to the large compartment, a hidden and secure back pocket for valuables, and it’s one of the only mini backpacks that offers exterior side pockets for water bottles, travel mugs, umbrellas, etc.  Similar to the Fjallraven Kanken, it also has handles that snap shut for added security as well! I love this option for anyone looking for a functional, all purpose pack.

Heshe Convertible Daypack – for the versatile minimalist

I am absolutely smitten with convertible backpacks and this one is no exception!  This is the perfect day to night pack as it can be converted from a backpack to a shoulder bag in a minute.  The minimalistic sleek design makes this super versatile and appropriate for every occasion.  This option also features the hidden back pocket that is perfect for storing a phone or card holder for quick yet secure access. I adore the choices of black, cognac, or wine red leather-look finish as well!

Osprey Daylite Daypack – for the adventurer

I had to include a hiking day pack in this bunch for anyone that loves spontaneous adventure as it’s an inherent part of living in the Rocky Mountains (you never know when you’ll stumble across a new trail!).  While we have a few daypacks from different brands, I am a total Osprey fangirl! This might not be the most stylish option, but it’s definitely durable, practical, and comes in many colors.  This is waterproof, breathable, and packed with hidden features for customization. It’s small 13L capacity makes it the perfect size for a day carry, and it even has a sleeve for a hydration pack for the truly adventure-ready!  I also love small hiking daypacks because they tend to be quite easy to roll up into a small packing size, which is great for traveling!

I plan on doing another post showcasing what I carry with me for a day out with my mini backpack.  I am a total backpack junkie and couldn’t be happy that mini backpacks are on trend right now.  What do you look for in a backpack?  Leave your backpack suggestions in the comments and I will check them out!