Cleaning Up Your Life (Tidying Up with Marie Kondo Review)

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, a Netflix original series, is focused on changing lives through the power of cleaning up. Marie Kondo is the author of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up where she explains her “KonMari” method (a combination of her first and last names, meaning that this system is uniquely developed by Kondo herself). This series puts that method, and her book, into action as she meets with families in their homes and helps guide them through it.

I immediately loved this series and watched through all the episodes (only eight of them!) in about three days. Kondo is the smallest, sweetest, cutest person I’ve probably ever seen. I loved her personality and also her attitude towards cleaning. She focuses on a few important ideas in the tidying process that make all the difference: gratitude, joy, and moving forward.

Let’s dive into the KonMari method for a second. The KonMari method is about tidying by category, rather than location. These five categories are:

1) Clothes

2) Books

3) Papers

4) Komono (Miscellaneous) items (this is the kitchen, bathroom, and garage)

5) Sentimental (The last and usually most difficult category).

Kondo highly recommends proceeding through these steps in this exact order so that by the time you get to your sentimental items at the end of the process you are much more adept at knowing which items spark joy. She also mentions that this keeps you from getting stuck as you keep going.

When beginning the process, gather all of these items (like your clothes, for example) and put them all together in one place in a big pile. This allows you to really see the amount of stuff you have. Pick up each item individually and hold it. If that item sparks joy for you (as Kondo says, you should feel something like “Ching!” or a literal rush of happiness when you touch it) keep it. If you don’t feel joy, say “thank you” to the item and let it go. (Throw it away or give it away). If there is an item you don’t know about you can ask yourself further questions like, “Is this something I use?” “Is this something I want to take with me into my future?”


One of the things I loved most is the inherit gratitude in this process. It reminds you to be thankful for what you have and even for the things you are getting rid of. Even things you don’t need or want have still taught you something or been useful to you before. Eliminating the unnecessary items in our crowded lives and houses make us truly appreciative and grateful for the things we really need, use, and love. It changes our perspective on “stuff” from just things that clutter up our homes to unique, important, and special things that we love to be around. Kondo herself seems to have a strong inner sense of peace that I think comes from extending gratitude towards every item in her life.

Another key piece of this process is joy. Kondo emphasizes that we should only keep items that bring us joy or happiness. By honing this recognition of what brings us joy we can reprioritize our lives. I think it also helps us better understand who we really are. A quote by Dolly Parton expresses this idea very well. She said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” (Thanks, Dumplin (yet another awesome Netflix original movie)). By discovering what we love we find out who we are and who we want to become. We become stronger by having that knowledge.

Finally, Kondo mentions moving forward. She often asks her clients to picture the space and life they want for themselves. One of the episodes I liked the best centered on a widow who was cleaning up her house after her husband died. Obviously, she had a lot of sentimental value attached to her husband’s things. Kondo gently asked her what things she wanted to take with her. There is no wrong answer here, it falls to the individual to decide what kind of life they want (and the kind of things they want to fill it).

As for the structure of the show itself, each episode included specific tips on storage, cleaning, and tidying. For example, what is the best way to store children’s toys? Or how should you best organize a kitchen utensil drawer? These tips are included as well as a focus on walking through the process. It was clear throughout the show that different people struggled more with different stages of the process. Each stage is given more or less screen time based on how each person moved through it. Since there were eight episodes, each of the steps got plenty of time given to it and various tips on getting through it.

Overall, I highly recommend this show. I thought it was very motivational- I definitely went on a cleaning spree after watching! I also loved the variety of families Netflix included. They were different races, different sexualities, and at different life stages. These families made this show perfect to speak into the mess of each of our varied lives. Going through the tidying process can be difficult, but it’s worthwhile when it puts our lives and ourselves into better perspective.

Happy tidying!

The Final Table: Netflix’s Newest Cooking Competition

The Final Table, a Netflix original global cooking competition, tries to become the biggest culinary competition the world has ever seen. Yet it seems to fall a little sort of these big claims. 

This show chose 24 talented chefs from around the world to compete (in teams of two) for a single seat at the final table. This legendary table has the biggest chefs in the world already sitting at it, chefs who have changed the culinary world of fine dining entirely. This includes chefs like Anne-Sophie Pic, Grant Achatz, and Helena Rizzo.  (I’ll admit I had never heard of them before this show, but they do seem really awesome.)

Anne-Sophie Pic

I absolutely loved the first few episodes of this show. They did a great job showcasing new and interesting culinary dishes and ingredients from various cultures. I mean, I have never seen or heard of Nopales before (a cactus used in episode one: Mexico as the native ingredient chosen by legendary chef Enrique Olvera).

This is not from the first episode, but is a great shot of Ash Heeger and Alex Haupt

I also loved that the chefs got two chances to make a great dish before they were removed from the show. I thought the editing and pacing was nicely done, with a good balance of tense cooking moments combined with slower more relaxing moments as chefs were introduced and we learned about different dishes. This show was interesting and explored new ways of cooking from other cultures. I really enjoyed learning about these new styles, techniques, and ingredients. 

During the beginning stages of this competition, it seemed reasonable when chef teams were asked to leave, they had failed twice to make a suitable dish, after all. As the competition entered the middle stages, however, I started to become more and more uncomfortable with the show. For me, episode six: USA was really the point I noticed things starting to go downhill. (Warning: some spoilers ahead.) 

I cringed through the entire episode. I disliked their choice of judges; Dax Shepard, Colin Hanks, and Sam Sifton. I especially disliked this because they seemed to try to have at least one female judge for every episode, except for the episode from the USA. I really felt that they could have done a better job choosing judges there. This was also the point I started to notice that all of my favorite teams, the chefs I’d come to care about were slowly getting eliminated. 

The next episode, Italy, cemented this feeling of growing unease with the show when the last females on the show (and the only female team) were eliminated by the end of the episode. (Also, Carlo Cracco seems super pretentious, especially in comparison to the other legendary chefs.) Monique Fiso actually broke down into tears after her elimination, saying she had sacrificed everything to be in this competition (she had no income coming in since she couldn’t work in her restaurant). That was definitely the moment this show wasn’t fun to watch anymore. 

Carlo Cracco

By the time I got to the finale, the only chefs left were the team from Australia (Mark Best and Shane Osborn) and the team with Canadian Darren MacLean and American Timothy Hollingsworth. Literally, all the of the “global” chefs from the show had been eliminated. (And all the chefs I cared about watching). After finishing the episode my only reaction was “Meh.” I didn’t really have any feelings, except disappointment.  

Does the lack-luster finale have to do with the casting of the chefs? The structure of the competition? I’m not sure, but I know that it didn’t feel very global by the time I got done watching it. 

Overall, if you love cooking competitions, you might like this one (and I do highly recommend the first few episodes!). But you might also feel pretty disappointed by the lack of representation by the finale. 

Exploring New Worlds: Hilda Review


Hilda, a new animated children’s show on Netflix, is a perfect mix of exploration and friendship, adventure and humor.

I seriously can’t recommend this show enough.

Hilda is based on a graphic novel series written by Luke Pearson focusing on the adventures of Hilda as she explores her world, including her new home in the city of Trollberg.  Hilda and her mother previously lived in the forest where Hilda’s friends were the creatures she met there (including one called Woodman. Yes, he is made entirely of wood.) They later move to Trollberg where Hilda befriends two other middle school students, Frida and David. Together, the three of them explore the city and discover some of its secrets.

This is a light-hearted series focusing on adventure, friendship, and comedy. It is perfect for anyone from young children to adults because all audiences will get something out of it.

One of the best parts of the show is the fun fantasy elements carefully woven into the daily life of the characters. Hilda meets strange and wonderful creatures, discovers secrets and explores every hidden (and unhidden) inch of the world around her. 

Let’s look closer at the main themes:


Hilda’s main friends in the show are Frida and David, whom she meets in her class after she moves to Trollberg. 


David, Hilda, and Frida

Hilda is also always making friends with the various creatures she meets on her adventures. She seeks to understand them and doesn’t run away from difficult or strange situations. Some of her other friends through the season include Alfie the Elf, and Tontu, a Nisse (a house spirit).

At the beginning of the series, Hilda doesn’t really know how to make friends or interact with others socially. She grew up in a very limited social environment, making friends with only the forest creatures around her house and no one her own age. After the move to the city, Hilda learns how to be a good friend to David and Frida, especially in difficult situations (interpersonal and otherwise). Her new friends must also learn to adjust to all of Hilda’s quirks and faults.


Hilda and her mom playing a game

After moving to Trollberg, Hilda often feels out of place and homesick for her old house in the woods. Throughout the series we get the chance to see her connect with her new city and new friends as she begins to call this place her home. In one episode she is temporarily trapped in a suspiciously similar house in the woods (even though her house in the woods was destroyed) that grants her every wish, except for letting her leave. She finally realizes that her way out is to wish for the one thing she really wants: a door back home. The house grants this wish and she finds herself in her new apartment with her mom again, finally accepting that this is the place she now calls home. 

Fantasy and Adventure:

Another thing Hilda does well is incorporating unique and fun fantasy elements in unexpected places. One of my favorite examples of this is the way they mention several times a specific weather station on the radio. This station is hosted by Victoria Van Gale, who has eerily accurate weather predictions. Somehow only about three people in the whole city tune in (because no one else except Hilda has found her station). We meet Victoria Van Gale in person in a later episode during which Trollberg experiences some crazy weather phenomena. 

Hilda is consistently finding hidden secrets, meeting mysterious creatures, and going on crazy adventures while the show maintains a light-hearted whimsy that makes every episode fun. Hilda’s world is made up of Rat Kings who trade you secrets in the gutters, large flying Woffs (like puffy, floating cloud dogs- seen in the first picture of this post, along with Hilda’s deer-fox, Twig), and nightmare spirits who give you bad dreams. Using her determination and resourcefulness, Hilda and her friends find their way out of almost any situation. 

Hilda and David flying through a storm

The gorgeous animation, using soft, dreamy colors for the background and more intense colors on the main characters (especially Hilda’s red sweater and blue hair), bring this world to light in a way that is truly special. Hilda is a carefully created universe shown in such a heart-warming way that you are bound to rewatch it again and again.

I really loved this show and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great cartoon show! 

Happy watching! 

The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell: Review

christine mcconell

Netflix’s recent spooky additions during October this year included a baking show called The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell.

Christine McConnell, the show’s main character and real-life baker, gained recognition as a self-taught baker who’s Instagram baking posts showcase her creepy (and delicious) desserts. Her show on Netflix is an interesting mix of baking how-to and spooky, puppet-filled plot.

I enjoyed the quirky, dark humor of the show and the subtle world-building. In fact, the two things this show does best are world-building and baking.

Watching this show will definitely make you hungry as you watch McConnell make her spooky (and delicious) creations. She makes everything from chocolate-peanut butter “bones” in the first episode to a cake replica of her house. Seriously. McConnell's house

10/10 for edible spooky houses.

She also makes some other craft projects throughout the course of the show, including items like this creepy candle with a face, and a stunning, hand-made red dress for a date. There’s no denying that McConnell is incredibly talented at making lovely, spooky-themed creations, both in real life and on this show. By taking the time to show how she makes these items, the mood tends to stay pretty light-hearted and relaxed.

creepy candle

The other thing Curious Creations does well is world-building. From set design to spooky characters, the world (and, specifically, the house) McConnell lives in is fascinating. The subtle layers of world building keep you guessing at the mysteries of this universe. How did McConnell come to live in this house? What is the rest of her family like? (To this question, we do see some answers in later episodes). How did all of these creatures come to be here? What or who is Christine McConnell exactly? And what kind of world does she live in? So many questions.

In one episode we see Christine in her bedroom, just waking up for the morning. It seems that she is “sleeping” with her eyes open, looking almost dead. This small detail gives interesting hints about the world of Curious Creations. I genuinely loved the idea of this creepy house and the kind-hearted, though dark and mysterious, woman who lives in it. I also love how she treats the creatures who live in her house like family, bring in the trope of the gathered-family and true warmth to their relationships and interactions.


From details like the spider-web cupboards to the reappearing skull (of a previous mailman, apparently) and all the creatures living around the house, world-building gets a 10/10 here. Quirky, spooky, and mysterious, Curious Creations aces this test.

On the other hand, while I enjoyed watching The Curious Creations, I did feel like it took its genre-breaking a little too far. In some ways, breaking the genre molds of typical baking shows and typical spooky shows is what makes Curious Creations so unique and fun. But breaking the genres like this comes with a price.

Curious Creations doesn’t fit very well in any genre. Is it a baking show? Yes, but it doesn’t give quite enough detail to become actually useful as a baking show. I felt that a few too many steps were jumped over in the recipes for anyone to actually try to follow along with unless they are a professional baker with professional tools. In an attempt to showcase McConnell’s creations to the fullest, the show jumps over a few too many minor steps to be a really good baking show.

Is this show a children’s show? The rating is PG, but some of the content seems a little bit too raunchy or scary to make it a really good children’s show.  I mean, serial killers welding axes does seem a little scarier than PG, and let’s not even talk about the time they tortured a neighbor in the basement. (I’m also not going to talk about my feelings on Rose (an undead raccoon) as a character. I understand that she was written to be obnoxious, but she crosses the line into highly annoying a few too many times for me to like her very much. I’m not sure she helps to make this a “kids show” either, although they might find her the funniest of all audiences.)


Is it a fictional, spooky show with a plot? Technically yes, but the plot is left underdeveloped so the show can focus on the baking. I wish they would have given more screen time to some of the other quirky characters living in McConnell’s house and addressed more some of the other intriguing plot points. By always cutting back to the kitchen so McConnell can talk about baking, the plot felt like it was cut a little bit short.

Breaking these barriers leaves Curious Creations in a strange, new territory for a spooky show. Who is the intended audience for this show? Children? Parents and children together? Young adults looking for something slightly spooky? I can’t help but feel that all audiences will be left a little confused and disappointed by how this show has divided itself between baking and fiction.

Final Thoughts:

If you love baking and spooky shows you will enjoy this one! It has a lot of super interesting concepts surrounding it that add to the mood of the show and help make it truly unique and fun. I really enjoyed both Christine’s baking and the idea of her house, but I didn’t fall in love with the show itself.

It is still a really good show to watch to get in the spooky mood!

Happy watching!

Everything Happens for a Reason (A Look at Dealing with Tragedy)


The book Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved) is a memoir by Kate Bowler about her life after being diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Her heavy, beautiful writing discusses her view of faith in the face of tragedy and living life when your sense of certainty has been completely stripped away.

Bowler was a professor at Duke Divinity School, mother of a two-year-old, and wife to the love of her life when she was told she had cancer and had only two years left to live. Her diagnosis ripped away her old life immediately and left her wondering how to live in the face of death.

This book is a perfectly paced story, carefully balancing all the darkest moments with snippets of information and daily life which makes it all bearable. For example, at the end of chapter two, “Object Lesson”, we learn that Bowler had previously had a miscarriage. This moment is one of the heaviest and most heart-breaking in the book. As Bowler shares this moment she says:

“I felt something strange and ran to the bathroom. I started to scream for Toban. As I sat crouched there, everything moved around me in a blur…When we had said all we could say and I had cried all I could cry, we stood there like fools, without language or focus… I could not look down. I was nothing but blood and water.”

But the next chapter begins again with something much more light-hearted: a magic show that Bowler attends wither her friend Blair. By taking the reader from one scene of heartbreak to another, lighter scene, Bowler is able to make this memoir readable and meaningful rather than overwhelming.

Another key part of this book is the two appendixes giving advice on how to interact with someone going through a tragedy. The first appendix, “Absolutely never say this to people experiencing terrible times: a short list”, is full of things to not say to someone (even if you think you are being relatable). Number 5 on the list is the lie “Everything happens for a reason” to which Bowler says:

“The only thing worse than saying this is pretending that you know the reason. So if people tell you this, make sure you are there when they go through the cruelest moments of their lives, and start offering you own [reasons]. When someone is drowning, the only thing worse than failing to throw them a life preserver is handing them a reason.”

The second appendix contains suggestions for positive, helpful ways to interact with someone going through rough times. It includes items like “Oh, my friend, that sounds so hard.” and “I’d love to bring you a meal this week. Can I email you about it?”

Bowler writes about her tragedy and her faith in such a beautiful, vulnerable way. At the very end of this memoir she writes:

“My little plans are crumbs scattered on the ground. This is all I have learned about living here, plodding along, and finding God. My well-laid plans are no longer my foundation. I can only hope that my dreams, my actions, my hopes are leaving a trail for Zach and Toban, so, whichever way the path turns, all they will find is Love.

Zach is beside me in our big bed as I write these words, rolling around like a polar bear cub… It’s another beautiful morning, and it’s time to yell with the pitch of the coffee grinder and make him French toast. I will die, yes, but not today.”

If you are looking for a memoir exploring life during (and through) personal tragedy, Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason is excellent and honest. I loved it!

Magi: Sinbad no Bouken


Adventure of Sinbad (or Magi: Sinbad no Bouken) is an anime coming from the same author as Magi and works as a prequel to the longer series. This show is only 13 episodes and is a fun fantasy/adventure anime focusing on world exploration. Yet, in many ways I found myself being disappointed in the plot and characters.

Our hero is a young Sinbad who sets out on his mission to start a new country that fights for justice for all citizens (this goal comes from his backstory: his father was killed when he was sent to war unwillingly). To do this Sinbad seeks power from mysteriously appearing landmarks called Dungeons (inside of which resides a fabled ‘King Power’). He also explores the many countries near him and meets their citizens (usually gaining a comrade or two along the way).

For me, there were three problems with this anime.

1st: Plot holes and Time Jumps

Several times throughout my viewing of Sinbad I found that the plot jumped rapidly forward during the most interesting and pivotal moments. Key examples of this are when Sinbad is working to capture the first dungeon and when he is given a month to get 1,000 gold coins.

During his dungeon capture, he successfully escapes the first room and when the door opens we see a long hallway with some more dragons still lurking inside. Instead of giving us the chance to see more of his resolve and cleverness to escape and make it to the throne room, the plot skips slightly forward and he is suddenly in the throne room. I realize this anime has a rapidly moving plot, but I was expecting him to fight for it at least a little more fiercely.

Again, when Sinbad arrives in the country of Reim, he is given an ultimatum by a merchant named Haran. In order to join the union and legally sell goods in Reim, he must have 1,000 gold coins for the fee, and this must happen in one month’s time before Haran returns to the city.

sinbad shiny

So, Sinbad is left in an unfamiliar city with a nearly impossible task to complete. This sounds like the perfect challenge for our clever and resourceful hero, right? But suddenly the plot skips forward again and we see that one month has already passed. Does Sinbad have the gold coins? No. Furthermore, (seen when he is riding through the city with Haran later and doesn’t even know what the Coliseum is) he seems to know literally nothing about the city he supposedly spent a month living and working in.

I realize that this is just a short anime series developing Sinbad’s character, but the plot jumps left me confused, disappointed, and skeptical of Sinbad himself.


2nd: World Exploration and Setting


One of the best things about this anime is the world exploration. Journeying along with Sinbad means we get to see the new people and countries he does. We got to meet the fierce warriors from Imuchakk (a country covered in ice), and the clever merchants from Reim, as well as the citizens of Sinbad’s home country Parthevia.

Yet I would argue that this exploration doesn’t go far enough. We meet these characters and places, but just barely. We are given a stereotype of them and forced to use that to fill in the rest of the information.

For example, the audience is informed that Reim is a country of merchants and traders, yet the only person we really interact with is Haran (later revealed to be from a different country himself). What do the actual people of the country act like? We might never know, considering that every other character who appears is a filler character with no real personality.


3rd: Character Motivation

Finally, the character motivation in this series seems unbelievable and completely unrealistic. I found myself unable to shake off my disbelief to fully enjoy the anime.

Let’s start with Sinbad himself. From the beginning, the audience is informed that a special person has been born and that Sinbad has a special power and is a completely unique person who will change the world.


That’s fine.

But I need proof.

His goal is to create a new kingdom that will be kind to its citizens. Who will rule this new kingdom? Sinbad himself, of course. My issue is not just that he seeks power, but that nothing in the series seems to even try to make this realistic and show him what a long, hard battle that will be. It’s one thing to have a goal. It’s another to just get handed power because you were born “special” and then to never learn to use it in a cautious way (because… he’s Sinbad, and normal rules don’t apply, I guess?)

The other characters have motivation issues as well. In the Imuchakk arc, we are introduced to Hina (later, Hinahoho) who is trying to become a warrior by killing an Abare Narwhale. Sinbad accidentally steals this moment from him, which leads Hina to seek power from a recently appeared dungeon in order to prove himself. He goes in, actually passionate and determined to prove himself. Yet, by the end of the arc (when Sinbad has captured his second dungeon), Hina has a sudden change of heart and recognizes that he will never be king. He now sees that Sinbad is the true King-Vessel and his destined master. (All in the course of a single episode!)hinahoho

Overall, I did think this was an entertaining and interesting anime. I enjoyed watching it, but I was disappointed with some of the plot holes. This might be because the animators had to tell the story in just 13 episodes (I haven’t read the manga), or it might be because this is just supposed to function as a kind of prequel. But if a story has such an interesting premise, I feel it’s a waste to not explore that more.

sinbad smile.jpg

If you love fantasy adventure stories this might be a good anime to watch! But if you are looking for something a little more serious and thought-provoking this is not the show for you.