Things I Love – May 2018

by Brenna Holeman

Loving life in St. Vincent earlier this month. More on this adventure soon!

I have two confessions:

  1. It turns out I SUCK SO BAD at travelling and working at the same time. I don’t know why I didn’t know this before, or why I was in such denial, but that whole “nomadic, have no home, as long as I have my laptop I can work” vibe that’s so popular on social media? NOPE. Not for me. I can’t do it at all, not anymore, anyway. I was nomadic for a big chunk of my 20s – I spent two years on the road, and have lived abroad since I was 22 – but I wasn’t trying to run a business then. This long-winded rambling message is brought to you by Mississippi, Grenada, Barbados, St. Vincent, and Toronto, because those were all places I did exactly zero work on this blog in the last month, which explains the near radio silence.
  2. I’m still not over Shawn Mendes.

In March, I wrote a post that I had a lot of fun with, called Things I Love – March 2018. I knew that there was no way in hell that I would keep that up in April (see point number one), but I do want to keep it up whenever I can, because I like writing them, many of you seem to like reading them, and I get to talk about my weird obsessions with Canadian pop stars whenever I want.

So without further ado, here are some things I love this month of May 2018. Please note that this post has some affiliate links, although I am not sponsored by any of these products or brands mentioned… I paid for everything myself (minus some concert tickets… read below)!


OK, so I am totally exaggerating about my love for Shawn Mendes, although his new album is pretty good; regardless, there are tons of other people I’m listening to instead. Right now I’m totally digging a local Winnipeg artist named Taylor Janzen whose video popped up as a suggestion on YouTube. I’ve been listening to this acoustic recording on repeat since then, as she is seriously talented. “The Waiting Room” (it starts around 3:15) is so beautiful that I cried when I heard it the first time. I’m hoping to see her live at some point this summer!

I’m going to say something super conceited (“You? Never!”). I pride myself on my knowledge of certain types of music; I minored in music history in university, I consider music to be a huge part of my life, and I have a collection of about 500 records (yes, I also play the ukulele and take my avocado toast seriously, why do you ask?). I consider my knowledge of music from the 1960s and early 70s to be pretty solid (specifically rock, R&B, and folk), and I have a very good grasp on R&B, gospel, and blues from the first half of the century. I’ve watched way too many documentaries on these genres, read way too many biographies of musicians from these genres, and will gleefully tell everyone and their mother about the time Bob Dylan winked at me (he really did!).

So how in the hell hadn’t I heard of Labi Siffre before?!

Labi Siffre, as everyone’s most trusted resource Wikipedia tells me, is of Barbadian-Belgian-Nigerian descent, and was born in London. He released six albums between 1970 and 1975 and, yep, there goes the next month of me trying to find all of those albums on vinyl. I am in love with his style of music. I had heard of a few of his songs as covers without realising they were covers (I am always so ashamed of myself when I don’t know they’re covers, anyone else?!) but Spotify, that beautiful thing, recommended his music to me and SPOTIFY WAS RIGHT. Spotify is so often creepily right when it comes to its recommendations to me, I’ve found.

Anyway, please listen to Labi Siffre immediately and let me know if you love his music as much as I do.

The first night I was back in Winnipeg after all of that travelling, about a week ago, I went with my sister and her boyfriend to a Queens of the Stone Age concert. Full disclosure: I don’t really like Queens of the Stone Age. I went because we had free tickets, and I will always accept a free concert ticket (or free alcohol, or free food, or… wait a second. Am I cheap?!). We ended up drinking an exorbitant amount of overpriced wine (did you know that hockey legend Wayne Gretzky makes wine, and you can buy it at concerts in Canada? I have been away for way too long, guys) and squinting to see the band, because they didn’t have any screens up and I’m old.

Anyhoo, in between the opening act and the main act, music was playing over the loudspeakers. Although the three of us were engaged in drunken conversation, we all stopped when a particular song came on. “Who is this?” we all wondered. One Shazam later*, we realised it was Antoine Dougbe and the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo. I have been Googling this to high heaven and can’t really find out much about this song or this group – I believe they’re from Benin? – so can’t tell you much about it, but this and a bunch of other Antoine Dougbe songs just became my summer jam. See? Sometimes you should take free Queens of the Stone Age tickets even if you can only kinda hum one song of theirs from the radio.

*In looking for a link to Shazam the app, I remembered Kazaam the movie, and then fell down a huge conspiracy theory hole of Shazaam and Kazaam, one starring Shaquille O’Neal and one starring Sinbad (the latter of which apparently doesn’t exist). I have so many questions, including:

  1. What??
  2. Didn’t I see BOTH of those movies in my childhood?
  3. Is everything I remember from my childhood a lie? If you’re telling me I didn’t collect full families of cute little animal dolls and that was all a figment of my imagination I will be very upset (UPDATE: Oh thank God).
  4. and What the hell is Sinbad up to these days? Is he still rocking the earrings?!


I have apparently been living under a rock for the past five years (or just… London) because HOW HAVE I NOT WATCHED BROOKLYN NINE-NINE BEFORE?! My best friend Rikki has been on my case to watch it for years, and I finally caved and watched an episode last weekend. I am now gleefully in that safe zone of binging a show that has five seasons – I’m currently watching season two – but I know that, at this rate, I’ll power through the entire thing in the next couple of weeks. I seriously need to learn how to ration.

It’s so good (you can currently find it on Netflix) that I repeatedly laugh out loud, and, as mentioned elsewhere on this blog, that’s not something I personally do that often. I suspect most people aren’t sitting around just LOLing on their own all the time… or maybe I’m just a curmudgeon. Anyway, it was recently cancelled and there was such a fan rebellion that it was picked up by another network in just 31 hours; if that doesn’t prove how fucking funny this show is, I don’t know what to tell you.

Also, I’m not alone in believing that comedies make much better binge-watches than dramas, because have you ever tried to binge-watch something like Breaking Bad? Trust me, I did, and those were some very dark days, my friends. I was convinced my neighbour was making meth in his basement. (Funnily enough, he very well could have been. I did live in on a particularly grungy street in East London. True story: when they needed an ominous, creepy East London street in that movie Legend about the notoriously violent Kray brothers, they picked MY STREET).

Because I was travelling, I didn’t really watch that many movies or TV shows, although on my birthday in Grenada one of the only channels on our hotel TV was showing Sharknado 5, and it was seriously the very best way I could have ended my birthday (I do love ridiculously bad movies). Please observe:

How freaking bad does that look?! And yes, I’m aware of just how sad it seems that I said that that was the best way I could have ended my birthday, but I stand by it.

I also watched The Book Club in the cinema with my mum, which was exactly as you’d think it would be (cute, silly, sweet, and also Jane Fonda is a BABE).


Shrewed: A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls

Shrewed by Elizabeth Renzetti is exactly the kind of book I love reading these days. Many of you wrote to me to say that you loved March’s recommendation, Anne Helen Peterson’s Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Womanand Renzetti’s Shrewed totally gave me those vibes. From ruminating on politics, to sexual harassment at work, to trying to raise her kids to be good feminists, this is a fantastic read full of fantastic essays.

Dispatches from Pluto

I often like to read at least one book from each place I visit, and, in going to Mississippi last month, I knew that there would be a plethora of amazing authors to choose from. For this post, however, I’m going to recommend Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant. Grant, a British travel writer, decides to move to the Mississippi Delta after falling in love with an old house there. Along with his girlfriend Mariah and his dog Savanna, he has to learn to navigate this often very misunderstood and troubled part of the United States. It’s one thing for me to write about the best museums in Mississippi after spending one week there; it’s quite another to give this kind of overview and history while commenting directly on what it’s like to live there.

I thought it was really interesting to read about Mississippi from an outsider’s view – he spares no detail, delving into the issues that plague the Delta including racism and poverty – and it made me want to research more books about the area. If anyone has some good book suggestions about life in the South, particularly from female and/or black writers, I’d love to hear about them!

The Lonely Planet Solo Travel Handbook 

Full disclosure: Lonely Planet sent me a copy of this book as a gift, but I was under no obligation to review it. That being said, I love this book, and I think it’s great for anyone thinking of travelling solo. The Solo Travel Handbook is exactly the kind of book I wish I had had when I first started out in 2006; the only thing I had to resort to, back then, was a book with horribly outdated information and the recommendation that I bring two t-shirts and two pairs of underwear and wash them out every night. Um… have they seen what I wear when I travel?

This book is practical but also fun, helpful but also entertaining. As much as I love reading travel blogs (you know, like the one you’re reading right now *cough*) there is nothing like holding a book in my hands and reading the old fashioned way. I’m still a diehard guidebook fan, and this one is definitely one to study before your next solo trip.


Yep, still obsessed with Rihanna’s Fenty makeup line and oversized caftans, just like I was in the last post. If you’re looking for an amazing, everyday lipstick that lasts forever and seems to look good on every skin tone (according to photos I’ve seen on Instagram, at least), try Fenty’s Mattemoiselle in Spanked. It’s my go-to these days. I’m not going to splurge on all of her new lip glosses – I’m not a gloss fan – but these lipsticks are amazing.

Speaking of other makeup, I’m really into this Glamglow Mega Illuminating Moisturiser. It’s kind of pricey, but a little bit goes a long way, and I’ve been layering that over my daily sunscreen (I’m a loyal Oil of Olay fan, as I grew up with my mum using it) and then using as little foundation/concealer as I can overtop to leave a really pretty, dewy look. I’m trying to cut back on how much makeup I wear on my face these days in time for summer, but this still gives me a look I love.

I have been following (and subsequently unfollowing) a few beauty bloggers on Instagram lately and some of their posts make me so sad… because I’ve seen a huge surge of people recommending preventative Botox. I mean, you do you, and I can’t say that I’ll never have any sort of similar cosmetic procedures done myself one day, but recommending injections to women in their 20s just seems… icky. I don’t know how else to say it. As someone in their (gulp) mid-30s, I’m often told I look a lot younger than I am (cue rolling of eyes at my humblebrag, I know, I know). I credit this for a few reasons: a) a round face (I swear I never lost my “baby fat” in my face) and b) really taking care of my skin.

Part of that is daily sunscreen – although I am definitely guilty of being in the sun without sunscreen sometimes, especially when travelling – but it’s also that I am so conscious of removing all of my makeup at night, drinking as much water as possible, and using the right skincare products for me. I can’t afford fancy cleansers and lotions (I just saw one blogger recommend a lotion that cost $345 per bottle… sure, OK, that seems reasonable for us commoners) and, quite frankly, they don’t often work on me anyway. While I’d love to get regular facials, at $100 or so a pop, that is also difficult to swing for me as I try to save money for a month in Southern Africa later this summer as well as renovating my house.

I have seen dramatic results with my acne (I’m at that blissful stage in life when I have both acne and wrinkles, whattup) by following this procedure every night:

  1. Use micellar water (I use L’Oreal) to remove makeup.
  2. Cleanse with a foaming makeup remover (Clean & Clear makes some of the best affordable cleansers, in my opinion).
  3. Every other day, I use a light exfoliant scrub like L’Oreal’s sugar scrubs.
  4. If I’m taking a bath, which is likely – I take a bubble bath with scented candles every night… yes, I am a romantic comedy single lady cliche – I use a mask every other night, either something like L’Oreal’s pure clay mask or a fantastic sheet mask that makes me look like a bond villain or maybe has a VERY unfortunate name.
  5. I then use a wrinkle cream made for women my age (*sob*) and follow that up with an eye cream (*double sob*).

I plan on doing a post about skincare and makeup soon, because I have seen some really good results; as someone who has had acne for nearly 25 years, it feels so good to not care about direct sunlight anymore. Seriously – for years I was so embarrassed about being in direct sunlight, thinking it would magnify the makeup that covered my acne. That is no way to live. Some of these results are just stemming from getting older, of course, but I do credit being extra cautious with my skin and spending more than just three minutes on skincare a day.

Sorry for the crap photos – it’s raining (terrible light) and I was too lazy to use my camera, so iPhone snaps it is. In other news, LOOK AT THAT GIANT GOLD FINGER I GOT FOR MY BIRTHDAY!!!

In house renovation updates, I’m building a front deck and I’M SO EXCITED. All of these beautiful, sunny days in Central Canada (as I write this it is absolutely bucketing down, naturally) are making me want to be outside as much as possible, because let’s face it – summers in London are not exactly reliable, and it’s nice to have a real summer season again. I’m also planting a maple tree in my front yard, because, duh, Canada. I’m a huge fan of gardening so knowing that I’ll soon be able to spend hours outside in the dirt every day makes me so happy.

Look at the tiny succulent!

And like any good hipster (see: record collection, ukulele, avocado toast) I am full on OBSESSED with house plants. Is it really, really bad that I didn’t get very excited to meet my friend’s new baby recently yet literally squealed with delight at finding the tiniest succulent at the greenhouse? I have about twenty plants and cacti at home now, and I honestly can just stand there and stare at them, I love them so much. A house tour coming soon, because I’ve been working hard to make it my dream home!

Crappy photo of my home office desk

Finally, my very, very favourite artists are Henri Matisse and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Since it’ll be a few years before I can own an original *cough* I’m making do with prints at the moment. I collect art and prints whenever I can when I travel – I have one gallery wall already, and am planning a second, with art on every other wall of the house – but I’ve been really happy with this site for finding exactly the print I want. My sister ordered my very favourite Matisse painting of all time for my birthday earlier this month, and now I get to look at it every single day. Heaven.

Finally… I was featured on Buzzfeed: 16 Female Travel Instagrammers Who’ll Make You Want to Take a Solo Trip Around the World, which is dope. If you’re not following me on Instagram already, I hope you’ll check out my account!

What are you loving these days?


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Christine May 31, 2018 - 11:53 am

Ahhh I hear you on the Botox thing! Between living in NYC and now So Cal, soooo many people do botox and fake lashes and all of these things and I’m just like….I would rather spend that $500 on a plane ticket! I’m also just way more dedicated to facials, sunscreen and staying hydrated. I’m also newly obsessed with The Ordinary products–very reasonably priced and they’ve been fantastic for halting my breakouts and also helping with my acne scarring. Highly recommend!

Brenna Holeman June 1, 2018 - 12:41 am

Amazing – I will check The Ordinary out! And yes… I would personally rather spend that money on travelling. Thanks for the comment, Christine – hope you’re well! x

Cate May 31, 2018 - 12:41 pm

Loved this! Currently I am loving Scotland (traveling there now!), sunshine, bagpipe music, hot showers, and full nights sleep. As you can see, simplifies have become luxuries the longer I am on the road

Brenna Holeman June 1, 2018 - 12:40 am

That sounds amazing! I hope you have a fantastic time in Scotland, it’s so great 😀

Jessica May 31, 2018 - 4:51 pm

B99!!!! Yes! Every single thing Captain Holt says makes me laugh.

Love these posts and can’t wait to see the house tour!

Brenna Holeman June 1, 2018 - 12:38 am

I know – he’s so funny!! I love every single character for different reasons. And thanks a lot! 🙂

Sarah Shumate May 31, 2018 - 8:26 pm

I’m 34 and can definitely relate to the wrinkles + acne struggle. I get that awful cystic kind that even once it’s gone leaves a mark that will probably remain on my face for another 2-3 years or maybe the rest of my life. Who really knows? Either way, looking forward to your skincare post.

Totally digging your ‘Things I Love’ series, by the way. 🙂

Brenna Holeman June 1, 2018 - 12:39 am

Aw, thank you very much, Sarah! I will try to keep them up. I’ll also try to get that skincare post up soon… agreed, it totally sucks to have that oh so 34 combo (I, too, am 34 😉 )

Paula June 1, 2018 - 2:22 am

Hi Brenna! The way you were talking about Labi Siffre remind me of a similar feeling when I listened the music of Rodriguez for the first time! Have you ver heard about him? There is a documentary (actually it won the Academia Award in 2012 for Best Documentary) named “Searching for Sugar Ray” you should see first. Aftr that Rodriguez’s songs will pop up in your head all the time, and it’s wonderful!

Dominique | June 1, 2018 - 3:42 am

Sooo many things to comment on! I have been listening to Shawn Mendes’ new album on repeat, but I’m 31 and I’m afraid to confess this to my friends. I happy I can admit to my addiction on here 😉

How did Sharknado already reach 5? I have watched 1, 2 and 3 with my ex, so I’m not about to continue the series but I’m surprised they made it this far. Today I’m going to go see Isle of Dogs, I’m really excited because it looks great!

I always try to read books from or about the places I visit as well, but I haven’t found anything for Peru.. Do you have tips?

LC June 2, 2018 - 5:38 am

Your bookshelf provides the most perfect backdrop for book recommendations. Lovely.

Brenna Holeman June 3, 2018 - 3:44 pm

Aw, thanks! More book recommendations coming soon! 🙂

Anne June 2, 2018 - 5:44 am

Your house looks amazing already. I can’t wait for the full house tour post. I’m always nosey about other people’s houses and travellers’ houses are usually the best because of all the interesting and eclectic bits and bobs they’ve collected.

Brenna Holeman June 3, 2018 - 3:46 pm

Aw, thanks a lot! Yeah, I’m working on it every day, and it feels so good just to rearrange things, ha ha. Post coming soon! 🙂

Katie June 2, 2018 - 10:23 pm

I LOVE Brooklyn Nine-Nine and think that Boyle and Holt are two of the best and most original characters to ever grace TV (along with Winston on New Girl). I recommend Deep South by Paul Theroux for further reading about Mississippi and the South – he spend months traveling through some of the poorer areas and meeting with locals. I am going to go and order Dispatches from Pluto right now in preparation for my two month southern road trip from Oct

Brenna Holeman June 3, 2018 - 3:47 pm

Nice – I have heard of that book but haven’t read it yet! Definitely checking it out. And yes… Holt and Boyle (and pretty much everyone on that show) are just so perfect. I’m trying to slow down so that I can savour them a bit more instead of just powering through! Thanks for your comment, Katie 🙂

travel and treatz June 21, 2018 - 3:45 pm

Here’s an interesting skin bit… something i’ve been doing for the past 3 years…. I have 2-3 oz of pure bitter melon juice 3 or 4 times a week. Your skin will become more radiant.. For my it was a pleasant side effect, i started drinking it to boost my immune /respiratory system….I must warn you, it doesn’t taste good…. but you get used to it 🙂

Brenna Holeman June 26, 2018 - 2:02 pm

Nice, thanks for the tip! 🙂

Pusat Jagaan September 5, 2018 - 1:51 am

Oh wow, love the books you recommended.

Maybe I’ll just read them on my Kindle.

Travelling and working don’t usually mix well. Its either you just travel, or just work. Period.

Brenna Holeman September 5, 2018 - 4:16 pm

I hope you end up enjoying the books as much as I did! 🙂

Haley October 1, 2018 - 11:28 am

I love the Loreal sugar scrubs they’re my favorite.

Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:29 pm

Yeah, I like them, too! 🙂

Megan October 1, 2018 - 12:49 pm

I love the solo travel handbook. It’s so good!

Brenna Holeman October 16, 2018 - 1:29 pm

It is indeed! 🙂


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