What’s In a Name? The Story Behind An Aspiring Heroine

I've been thinking about personal branding and Instagram aesthetics a lot lately, so I thought it would be fitting to share the "Why?" behind An Aspiring Heroine. I'd love to know what you think! | An Aspiring Heroine
Photo by Catherine McMahon on Unsplash

An Aspiring Heroine wasn’t the first name of this blog, but it’s one that I’ve come to love. I can, however, understand how it might need a little explaining for new readers or even some who have been around for a while! Since I’ve been doing some personal branding exercises for both this blog and my Instagram account, I thought it would be fun to give you the story behind the name.

Let me set the scene for you:

It’s December 31, 2014. Spencer and I are in a cramped little room on the very top floor of an inn on the outskirts of London. We’ve had the most magical honeymoon exploring Paris and London, and now it’s coming to an end.

At this point, my blog has been filled mostly with wedding planning advice and random posts about our first six months living in Cincinnati. Now that we’re married and are becoming more settled in our new home, I know that I want to transition my blog’s content to grow along with me. I also know that I want to rebrand my online space to better align with these goals.

This blog began as a WordPress.com site called “Learning to Thrive in 1455.” As I’m sure you can imagine, there are a few problematic things about that name:

  1. It doesn’t tell you anything about what you can expect from my posts.
  2. What if we decided to leave our first apartment? The name wouldn’t exactly fit anymore. (Spoiler alert: We bought a house not six months later!)
  3. Internet safety, bro! I shudder to think how easily someone could’ve found our physical address with a few quick Google searches.

As I sat there with Spencer, watching London’s New Year’s Eve festivities on the tiny TV in our room (including a live concert with Queen led by Adam Lambert!), I considered what to rename my blog. I wanted something that encompassed the things I loved most: literature, fiction writing, new travel experiences.

But I also needed something that wouldn’t pigeonhole me. I’ve never been a huge fan of niches (something I’m sure many millennials can relate to), and I wanted the freedom to write what I wanted to, whether in 2015 or 2025.

A few songs into the concert, I started playing around with the phrase “aspiring writer,” a sentiment I don’t exactly agree with. (In my opinion, if you’re writing, you’re a writer.) And that’s when it came to me.

For years and years, I had looked up to my favorite heroines from literature, empathizing through their struggles and successes, their heartbreaks and celebrations. More than that, I had attempted to emulate them in my own trying moments. Nothing appealed to me more than being the heroine of my very own story.

And just like that, An Aspiring Heroine was born! “An” instead of “The” because we all have the capacity to be heroines of our own. “Aspiring” because, though I might be the protagonist of my own life, I’m always learning and working toward being my best self. And “Heroine” because it’s what I’ve always wanted to be!

It touches on the things I love writing about for the blog and the things you can expect when you pop over here:

  • unique travel experiences that push me out of my comfort zone and introduce me to cultures around the world
  • writing tips and resources that I come across in my own journey to someday publish a novel
  • lists of books that inspire me and teach me about new and different ways to be a heroine,
  • what I’m thinking and learning about feminism, sustainability, being a young professional, and current events,
  • the best products, brands, and technology that make life easier, solve a problem, or simply bring me joy as I continue on my journey toward being the heroine of my own story.

If any of that sounds like something you could use in your life, do me a favor and sign up for my email list, so I can keep you in-the-know about what’s going on here at An Aspiring Heroine! (You can sign up for blog post alerts or just my monthly newsletter. Whatever works for you!)

Thanks for reading through the “origin story” of the blog! I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a peek behind the curtain. It’s really helped ground me as I build out my editorial calendar for the next few months and solidify what I want from my Instagram account.

What do you want to see from An Aspiring Heroine this year? Leave a comment and let me know!

P.S. Curious about the post that’s been my most popular for three years? Read it for yourself!


Did this post help you? Excite you? Make you stop and think? Click to share it on Pinterest!

I've been thinking about personal branding and Instagram aesthetics a lot lately, so I thought it would be fitting to share the "Why?" behind An Aspiring Heroine. I'd love to know what you think! | An Aspiring Heroine

Kinder Beauty Box: Review

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. READ THE FINE PRINT.
The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine
Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash

Never have I ever been as excited to receive a subscription box as I was for the Kinder Beauty Box that was deposited on my doorstep two weeks ago.

You know from my post about zero waste living that 1. I have a likely unhealthy obsession with all the Potter alums and the awe-inspiring things they’re doing with their lives, and 2. I’m making an effort to be more conscious about my choices as a consumer. So, when I heard that Evanna Lynch was launching a cruelty-free, vegan beauty box, I immediately knew I’d be signing up. (And I did, months before the boxes were even available!)

This woman single-handedly got me to watch Dancing with the Stars, you guys. I didn’t stand a chance when she started advertising the Kinder Beauty Box, which includes at least 3 full-sized products and a variety of samples and cost me $24 for a one-month subscription. If you sign on for a 3-month or 12-month subscription, you get a break on the monthly price. Oh, and did I mention that a portion of all the proceeds goes to animal rights and environmental causes?

Okay, Tyler. We get that the whole thing made you feel warm and fuzzy, but were the products any good?

I’m so glad you asked.

January Kinder Beauty Box Review

The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine

Here’s a rundown of what I received in my first Kinder Beauty Box:

Honeybee Gardens Effortless Eyeliner in Belgian Chocolate

Retail price: $8.99

My review: ★★★★★

The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine

This is the best eyeliner pencil I’ve ever used. Full stop. No qualifying necessary. The application is as smooth as a liquid eyeliner, but it’s smudgeable in the best way. The color is rich and decadent as is the application, which makes me think I should be keeping real Belgian chocolate on-hand at all times, too.


Andalou Naturals Tumeric + C Enlighten Serum

Retail price: $24.95

My review: ★★★★

The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine
The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine

I’m a newbie to serums. This is only the third kind that I’ve tried, but I really love two things about it: 1. My skin feels brighter and more luminous (without being full-on shiny) when I put it on in the mornings, and 2. 1 pump is enough to cover my entire face and neck.

Also, it smells good. Fresh and zesty without crossing the line into fruity.


Inika Organic Loose Mineral Eye Shadow in Burnt Sienna

Retail price: $22

My review: ★★★★

The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine
The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine

This eye shadow was a complete surprise when I opened my box because Burnt Sienna wasn’t one of the original shade choices. But I’m very into it. It’s this beautiful earthy brownish-reddish color with just the tiniest bit of shimmer to it. The coverage is great with my eye shadow brush, though the ever-popular finger application is my favorite for this mineral eye shadow.


100% Pure Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream

Retail price: $26

My review: ★★★★

The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine

As someone whose “sad Irish eyes” (a phrase my dad actually uses to describe our eyes) make them look perpetually tired, this product is a lifesaver. It absorbs easily, leaving the skin looking dewy and feeling extra-moisturized. Also, can I just say that this product also smells amazing and makes me crave espresso in the mornings?

I will admit that it took a few days for me to start seeing a real effect, but now that I’m using it both at night and in the mornings, I think it’s making a different with my always-present dark circles.


JUARA Skincare Rice Facial Cleanser

Retail price: N/A

My review: ★★★★

The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine

I really like this cleanser! I think I was most skeptical about this product, to be honest. Rice? On my face? And it’s going to get rid of the makeup and everything else my skin comes in contact with throughout the day? But guess what. It does! (And I know you probably think I’m crazy at this point, but it also smells lovely, which I’m realizing is important to me.)

One thing to note is that, like other sulfate-free cleansers, this one doesn’t really foam. I know it’s something I’ve had to get used to since I grew up thinking bubbles = clean, but I’d always rather have a creamier soap than dry, moisture-stripped skin!


Pure Vegan Vitamin B12 Methylcobalamin Spray

Retail price: $19.99

My review:

It’s time to be real with you: I completely forgot I had this product in the box. It was a free gift for early subscribers, and since 1. it’s something you ingest, not wear on your face and 2. I’m not vegan (but might actually need more B12 after a little googling), it fell to the bottom of the box and wasn’t discovered again until I started taking photos for this post.

I have used it twice now, and it has a nice, almost fruity flavor. But I don’t really think I can review it until I give it a real try. So it will remain review-less for now, and you can come back later to see if this B12 spray changes my life like some of these other products have!


Does that sound like a subscription box you’d be interested in receiving? You can get in on next month’s Kinder Beauty Box now by using my referral link. At no extra cost to you, you’ll receive a free gift in your first box, and I’ll get a percentage off my next box, so I can continue to share some great products with you. Thanks for your support of the blog!

Which of January’s products would you be most excited to receive?

P.S. You know what this box would go great with? Self care routines!


Did

The Kinder Beauty Box is the newest makeup and skincare subscription box to hit the market, but it has a very special mission: everything in the box is vegan and cruelty-free! Read the January Kinder Beauty Box review and subscribe for a free gift in your first box! | An Aspiring Heroine

Travel Bucket List

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

I was bitten by the travel bug pretty early on in life. My mom’s a flight attendant, and although she didn’t work international trips often when I was a kid, I loved the gifts of German chocolate and British toffee (in a replica tin of Big Ben!) she would bring back for us.

The first time I left the country, I was twelve. My drama troupe was going on a mission trip to Lima, Peru, and I begged my parents to let me go. (I was very much the baby of the group, which is why my dad ended up going with me, a job he likely wouldn’t have minded had he not been required to wear stage makeup and be a part of our odd, evangelical tableau.) And even though there was zero sight-seeing and we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the daily, I fell in love with being surrounded by a completely new place and culture.

I quickly became the trip planner of our family and then my friend group and eventually even my pledge class. I bought travel guides and Pinned articles from travel bloggers. Even my choice of college had a bit to do with the prospect of studying abroad during Spring Term, which is a weirdly wonderful miniature semester singular to Washington and Lee University.

My appetite for travel is insatiable, and it felt like the right time to post a new travel bucket list. Way back forever and a day ago, I put together a list of the top places I wanted to visit around the world. And many of them are still among the ones I find myself wanderlusting over the most! (Because budgets and full-time jobs just aren’t conducive to the kind of traveling I’d love to be doing right now.)

I’m constantly reading blogs and watching Instagram Stories from people in places around the world, so I also decided to link to my favorite itinerary or secret place or must-see site about each location. Without further ado (and in no specific order), here are the places I’d love to visit before I die. You can just call it my travel bucket list roundup, if you will!

Spain

That’s right. España is still at the tippy-top of my list, and I’m hopeful we’ll finally be able to check it off this fall! I studied Spanish for four years in high school and then took a class in Spanish Literature in college. I’ve always wanted to use my knowledge in action. (Unfortunately, I only knew Dora the Explorer-level Spanish when I visited Peru.)

I’m working through Duolingo right now to see if I can get back to a conversational aptitude before our trip, which I’m currently planning for September.

Check out: The Perfect Week Itinerary in Spain | Wander Station

New Zealand

Let me be completely honest with you for a moment. About 93% of why I want to visit New Zealand has to do with my very first fandom obsession: The Lord of the Rings. I will see Hobbiton before I die.

I know it’s a beautiful island nation, and there are so many other things I would want to see while we’re there, but I just wanted to be absolutely transparent about how I discovered my love for New Zealand.

Check out: One Week in New Zealand: North Island Itinerary | Every Steph

The Isle of Skye, Scotland

At this point, Edinburgh is the only little piece of Scotland that I’ve seen, and if Outlander is anything to go off, it is an insanely beautiful country. Now that I’ve seen the city, I feel like I need to experience the Highlands, and I would really, really love to spend time on the Isle of Skye.

My friend Sarah has only wonderful things to say about it, and that’s usually enough of an endorsement for me!

Check out: The Complete Isle of Skye Travel Guide | Earth Trekkers

The Netherlands

You might not know that my maiden name is Van Riper, an incredibly Dutch name, making The Netherlands a bit of a motherland for me. When you have a “unique” last name, you’re basically expected to know weird stuff about it when people inevitably ask you odd questions. So here’s a little Van Riper wisdom that no one asked for…

  • The first Van Riper was named Jurian Tomassen, and he came over to New Amsterdam from (old) Amsterdam.
  • His ship called “The Spotted Cow” landed in New Amsterdam in the year 1663.
  • Van Riper was actually first Van Rypen, meaning “from Rypen,” which likely evolved over time because records were terrible and “is that an R or an N?”

All of that is to say that The Netherlands has been on my bucket list literally as long as I can remember, and windmills are among my favorite things (especially the totally cool wind turbines helping us collect wind power)!

Check out: The Complete Amsterdam Travel Guide | Find Us Lost

Greece

This travel bucket list is bringing up a lot of associations I have with destinations and movies I watched as a kid… So it will come as no surprise that Greece has been on my list since I first saw Hercules. My sister was obsessed with Pegasus, and I would walk around our house singing Meg’s song at all hours of the day. I guess those kinds of things leave their mark.

But really, there are so many places in Greece that I want to visit, and I’m pretty sure I’ve convinced my mother-in-law that she needs to find us a nice cruise that makes stops in each and every one!

Check out: 7 Archaeological Sites & Museums in Athens That You Can’t Leave Greece Without Seeing | YogaWineTravel

Iceland

You know those movies that you watch as a kid that just leave their mark on you? Balto was one of those for me. I loved the story, the whole idea of dogsled teams, and the fact that he got his own statue in Central Park. (Yes, I know Balto was from Alaska. I have a point, I swear.)

The image that I always come back to from that movie, though, is of the Northern Lights. It’s been on my bucket list to see them at least once ever since. Plus I feel like there was a time a few months back that I saw Iceland on Instagram once a day, and eventually I said, “Alright, fine. It is beautiful. I guess it’s going on the list.”

Check out: Complete 10-Day Road Trip Guide to Iceland | Helene in Between

The Peak District, England

In case you weren’t aware, I’m a bit of an Anglophile. Jane Austen is among my very favorite authors, and I’ve wanted to visit the Peak District since I experienced the breathtaking, stunning production that is Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice.

I would say more about my reasons for wanting to get out into England, but that’s legitimately feels sufficient.

Check out: The Peak District: Exploring England’s Oldest National Park | Hand Luggage Only

Machu Picchu

Remember in the intro when I said we didn’t get to do any sight-seeing when we were in Peru? My twelve-year-old heart was absolutely crushed when I learned that seeing Machu Picchu wasn’t in the cards for us. (I think I imagined Lima was right around the corner or something. Who knows?)

Ever since, I’ve wanted to see the ancient Incan site. I want to do it properly and enter through the Sun Gate after hiking part of the Inca Trail. The thought of eventually taking this trip is what gets me off my butt and to the gym when I’d rather be reading.

Check out: Hiking the 2-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu | That Backpacker

Vietnam

This destination is relatively new to my travel bucket list, but when one of my Cincy Next classmates raved about the experience she and her husband had, I knew it would find its way on here.

To be honest, I haven’t done a ton of research because Vietnam is so new to the list, but this itinerary looks amazing! I’m sure I’ll get my fill of blog posts before we actually get a trip in the works.

Check out: The Ultimate 3-Week Vietnam Itinerary | The Travelista

Northern Ireland

I’ve been to Ireland twice and Northern Ireland never, and honestly that’s enough of a reason for it to be on my list. Plus beautiful scenery like the Giant’s Causeway and heart-wrenching history surrounding the Troubles and the fact that I adored Derry Girls when it popped up on Netflix.

Check out: More Than Conflict: Things to Do in Northern Ireland to See it Differently | Borders of Adventure
What’s at the very top of your travel bucket list? Did any of my picks make the cut for you?

P.S. Japan was the latest destination we checked off our list! Check out my full itinerary for a week on this beautiful island.