Monday, December 31, 2012

Post-Holiday Doldrums: Beating the After-Christmas Blues

For many of us, myself included, the post-holiday period is a bit of a drag: all the season’s gifts have been unwrapped, friends and family members have puttered back to their respective homes, and the refrigerator is stocked with gelatinous leftovers.  Add to this December’s notoriously grim weather, the post-seasonal malaise comes as no surprise.

While attempting to address my own post-holiday glumness I compiled a list of simple to-do’s that will help keep your spirits high for the rest of the holiday-less winter.

Let There Be Light!


Just because the holiday season may be over doesn’t mean that you have to put all of your candles (scented or otherwise) away.  If you have ‘em, burn ‘em!  Fill your home with the spicy, woodsy scents of winter well into the New Year.  There is a lot to be said for the calming effects of seasonal scents, particularly when your nerves are frazzled; Emily Post isn’t going to jump out of your pantry (if she did, she’s probably a zombie, so you should definitely get a baseball bat!) and tell you that you need to be burning a lemon verbena candle and not a fresh balsam candle.
The soft light given off by candles is also a (very minor) substitute for the natural light we lack during the winter months.  Really, they are a win win.

Relish the scents that make you feel relaxed and stock up on them while they are on offer at Bath & Body Works!

Enjoy the Sales



The period between Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s is rife with bargains; many of the year’s best deals can be found during this lovely little “sale window.”  Christmas items are drastically marked down right now and are just waiting to be snatched up for next year’s festivities.  Why worry about next year today?-- because it’s 75% off!

As much as I hate to admit this-- especially since I am of a decidedly Marxist political persuasion-- there is something visceral about shopping: finding the best deal, trolling the aisles (real or virtual), and collecting items.  Really, there is something almost tribal about shopping that appeals to our most instinctive ways of being, something that takes us back to the days of the hunter-gatherer.  While that sounds silly (and I am well aware that it does), it’s a cathartic experience, this bargain hunting.

Do Your Community a Solid



By far, the best way to combat your Post-Crimbo sadness is to do something positive for others.  I’ve harped on and on about the importance of doing good works for others throughout the year. People it seems are at their most generous in the month-or-so between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Just because the calendar clicks over doesn’t mean that you no longer are “required” to be kind or generous to others; rather, this lack of charitability should your (my, our) invitation to do more for those who need our help.  Remember: no matter how deep your funk may be, no matter how bad off you think you are, there is always another person in greater need that could use your assistance-- financial, emotional, or in kind.

Forget your own blues and help someone else get out of their own.

Do you have any sure-fire ways of beating the post-holiday blues?  Let me know in the comments.

Cheers,

j.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Feminist Gift Guide #3: Quick Shippers

I know I have been lax in my gift guide writing, however, to my credit, I have been busy with work and, well . . . getting and giving gifts myself!  Rest assured, I've been having a think about the last-minute shoppers who read my blog and have been scouring the internets looking for solutions to their shopping dilemmas.

If you’re like me and you hate visiting a shopping center during the crazy holiday season--honestly, who wants to get crushed by a mob of people at the register or mugged in the parking lot?!-- than internet shopping is your best bet.  Even this late in the season there are online vendors that are promising delivery by Christmas Eve.  Members of Amazon’s Prime Program (which I know to be available in both the US and  the UK), for instance, have two more shopping days to purchase gifts for free two day delivery; other folks can-- depending on the item-- order as late as Saturday morning and still receive their items with express delivery.

Similarly, Sephora is offering free two-day shipping on their site through today which should get you your items by Christmas Eve; if you dally, make sure you use express shipping.  Express shipping is still available from Ulta’s site . . . but the company do not promise that items will be delivered by Christmas.

Toys r Us will allow shoppers to make an online purchase until the 22nd for home delivery on Christmas Eve (with express shipping) and December 24 by 11 am PST for in-store pickup.

Shoppers at Macy’s website who make a purchase before Friday at 2 pm PST should be in receipt of their package by Christmas Eve as long as you select express shipping; however, depending on the item and its availability, your shipment may be delayed.

Many of these same retailers will also allow you to purchase electronic gift certificates for your loved ones.  It’s worth noting that electronic gift certificates are, by their very nature, a last minute item and do carry a social stigma to them.  In all honesty, no one really likes getting a sheet of computer paper as a present on Christmas-- it’s rather impersonal.  So, if that’s the route you find yourself needing to take, make sure that you give as generously as possible-- an extra $10 to $20 can often smooth many ruffled feathers!

Another option for these electronic gift certificates is to gift someone the cost of an item (plus a few bucks more) they have been wanting for a long time but would not have purchased for themselves.  Giving in this way is less impersonal than a blanket $50, allows you to tailor your dollar amount to a specific item, and let’s you tell you intended that you wanted to buy them this particular item . . . but you didn’t know which option(s) they had they were interested in.  This, dear readers, is a (generous) artful dodge!

Alright folks, you’re burning daylight . . . go and get those gifts!  Hurry, hurry!

j.
Monday, December 17, 2012

Appy Daze: Smile Through The Tears

In light of all of the horror that has affected our world within the last week, when it is easy to lose all faith in humanity and become terribly frustrated by the inertness of our political leaders (Seriously: why can’t we do something to answer the problem of mass shootings?!-- it’s been thirteen years since Columbine and we still haven’t found the answer?), it is more important than ever to find goodness and happiness in the world.  By far there is more love and goodness in the world then there is horror and hate; I am making a conscious decision to focus on the goodness and the love and I would encourage all of my readers and my loved ones to do the same.  

In the spirit of my Appy Daze feature, I am going to give some “travel sized” nuggets of happiness and love that have kept me going lately as a reminder (to myself, to others) that there is goodness all around us, we only need to make a concerted effort to look for it.



  • My Mom: Without a doubt, as I have said dozens of times before and will say dozen of times in the future, my mother is my best friend.  Like any mother and daughter, we have our differences from time to time; however, these differences are only stand as reminders of how alike we really are . . . we’re both so stubborn we both think we have the right answer.  Even in the most challenging of times we know that we have one another’s best interests in mind and are one another’s biggest cheerleaders.  When God was matching up parents and children, he certainly got his pairing right when he put my mother and I together-- and for that i am eternally grateful!

  • Duchess: I waited until I was 28 to get a dog of my own, so I had many expectations about what pet parenthood would be like.  When we rescued Duchess, those expectations were far, far exceeded.  She is the furry love of my life, and my second best friend.  Duchess is a spunky little pug girl with lots of love and enthusiasm for life.  My mom and I like to say that she rescued us, not the other way around; she has made my mother and myself’s relationship stronger and has given our life a greater optimism and, with the strength of her puggy love, has given us a resilience that we have never known.  I am so thankful to have her furry little self in my life; find my true pug love was worth the 28 year wait.

  • The White House’s “We the People” Petition Site: I am proud to live in a country where people have a direct way to let the President and Congress know what legislation is important to them and, through the collective power of the petition, show just how important that issue is.  If you browse through the site, you’ll notice that there are a lot of petitions that have been created and supported by cranks.  While such petitions can certainly be an occasion to roll your eyes, they also stand as a stark reminder that our democracy works-- even the cranky people who don’t have a legitimate point (and no, the succession of Tennessee from the Union in 2012 isn’t a legitimate point) still have a right and a means to make their point.  It’s easy to feel jaded about our nation’s political processes and stop-go way in which they seem to work, but, unlike many places in the world, our political institutions do work.  That, dear readers, is something to be thankful for.

  • The Holiday Season: All commercialism aside, I really do love this time of year.  Beyond the inhumanity of the malls and big box stores, this season does bring out the better qualities of community.  During the holidays, people are more willing to open their wallets and give to the needy or even to lend a helping hand to those that are in the a bad way.  While I wish that this generosity extended to the entire calendar year, it’s heartening to know that people can be counted as generous at least 17% of the year.

  • Holiday Books: I have enjoyed reading the holiday themed books of my childhood to my pug, recently.  Yes, I know most of you will think it’s silly to read a bedtime story to your dog, but she loves to have a little story before she goes to bed.  I had originally started reading her bedtime stories as a bonding exercise when we first adopted her, now it is a nightly tradition.  It’s really great getting to relive all of my happy childhood (literary) memories with Duchess this year!-- what a blessing!



While this is not an exhaustive list, these points really speak to what I am feeling most happy about today.  What brings you happiness, even in the saddest of times?  Let’s share the love!
Sunday, December 16, 2012

What to Say When Words Fail You

On Friday morning, I was in my classroom, surrounded by my high school students preparing to leave campus until January, excited for Christmas and our extended winter holiday.  As we were laughing, exchanging cookies, and wishing one another happy holidays, tragic events were unfolding on the east coast.  While I have no wisdom to add or comfort to give-- nothing beyond what has already been said or given, in any event-- I feel it important to acknowledge the events in Connecticut.

In many ways, I wish that Monday were a school day just so I could go in to work and hug all of my students and let them know that I love them and how much they mean to me.  I always tell my students that I care about them  . . . but I really feel like I need to let them know how special they are more than I already do.  To be honest, I always try to live my life-- both professional and personal-- with the understanding that it is finite: I know that one day I will no longer be here and neither will the people I care about; so, I try to let my loved ones (family, friends, and students!) know how much they mean to me every day . . . not just when a tragedy occurs.  Nonetheless, when something tragic happens, as it did on Friday, it is a sober reminder of how tenuous our life truly is.

Further, as a teacher, I am proud of the brave actions of the educators at Sandy Hook who sacrificed their own lives in order to save dozens of children.  All children, regardless of where they go to school, should have teacher who are that brave and dedicated not only to their learning, but to their safety and well being.  As educators, we should all hope that we have the strength of character and the presence of mind to protect our children.

Make sure you’re saying your prayers for the lost, those that remain, for their community, and for our nation.  Let’s pray for peace and love.  Let’s pray for sanity and a different, safer tomorrow.

Love,

J.
Thursday, December 13, 2012

Feminist Gift Guide #2: Build Your Own Gift/ Subscription Box

One of the hallmarks, commercially at least, of the holiday season is the preponderance of gift boxes that stock store shelves.  Cosmetic companies, designers, and even candy companies package their most prized products into handy travel sizes that they sell at lower-than-average rates.  The point of these sets is to give consumers the opportunity to try the products out, develop a taste for them, and (hopefully, in the minds of said companies) become regular buyers.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="221"] Image from: favecrafts.com[/caption]

Subscription boxes work in much the same way, though they operate year round: provide subscribers with tester products in the hope they find something will find a product they love and cannot live without.  These services often allow consumers to buy boxes on a month-to-month, quarterly, or yearly subscription basis and can cover anything from beauty products to home goods and food.

The problem with these gift and subscription boxes is twofold: (1) they can be cost prohibitive and (2) you’re often left with products that you don’t like or cannot use.  Recently, I bought a cosmetics gift set from Benefit (Sexy Little Stowaways) and ended up giving a few of the products to my mother because they just didn’t suit me or my (oh so light) coloring.  While giving these products to my mom in October when I had bought the gift set myself wasn’t that big of a deal; however, if I would have been in the same position at the holidays with a gift set I had received . . . well, that’s a different story altogether!

Now, if you had been thinking of getting one of these boxes, I have a better (and cheaper!) alternative for you: build your loved one their own gift/ subscription box using miniature versions of products you are positive they will enjoy!

On Sinterklaas, I made a box for my mom built around a “Loveliness in Cold Climates” theme using a repurposed mini-pastry box (like the ones you get at bakeries for danishes) which I filled with miniature beauty products I picked up in the travel essentials section at CVS.  Since I know my mother personally (duh!), I was able to select items that I knew she would like and ones that would compliment her coloring.  Among the items I packed for her were some lip balms designed for wintery weather, some make-up, a miniature of a super luxurious hydrating shampoo, some of her favorite chocolates, and a nail polish.  All of these items came up to less than $20 and they were a hit with my mom-- all for about half of my Benefit gift box!

Building your own gift/ beauty boxes is also a great opportunity to repurpose any small boxes or wrapping items you have about your house but were unwilling to throw away (it’s ok, we’re all wrapping hoarders to one extent or another).  Also, DIY boxes are a prime opportunity to share any (unused!) samples you may have accumulated throughout the year and share them with someone who can actually use them and enjoy them.  Seriously, how many primer samples does a person really need?

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="420"] Image from Refinery29.com[/caption]

Additionally, building your own boxes for your loved ones is less dubious politically.  Often, subscription boxes (particularly beauty boxes) are based on sometimes degrading themes (e.g., sexy holidays, slimming for bikini season).  Creating boxes of your own lets you select an innocuous theme-- or no theme at all-- and share nifty things your loved ones without making them feel minimized.

You can make such boxes for anyone on your holiday gift list-- parents, siblings, friends, partners, and even pets.

Let me know if you have any DIY box ideas of your own or if you have made a box this season.  I’m eager to see what my creative readers have come up with.

Cheers,

J.
Monday, December 10, 2012

Back from the Ozone

The one downside to blogging for the enthusiastic unprofessional writer is the knowledge that, at some point (often, multiple points), you will have your attention diverted by some matter or another that is usually more pressing than your structured, leisure pursuit.  In the last few weeks, a combination of work, family, preparing for the holidays, and a lingering back injury have kept me away from my beloved WordPress.

Luckily, things are beginning to wind down at work and my holiday arrangements have already been made (suck it, day-before shoppers!) so I am beginning to have “found time” that I can devote to my hobby-- blogging from this nifty little corner of the interwebs that I inhabit.

With my evenings looks more open than they have in weeks, I have a few posts that will be coming to everyone over the next week including advice on how to create a vision board for yourself (a long promised and in-progress post!), the second entry in my feminist-approved gift guide, some bits on how to celebrate your pet’s birthday, and my tips for time management (ever a challenge in my world!).

It’s good to be back and I look forward to sharing some amazing ideas with everyone this holiday season.

Cheers,

j.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What's in your bag?

Being a teacher is a lot like being a boy scout: you need to be prepared for any contingency, be it personal or professional.  Along these lines, I thought it might be of interest to some of my readers if I were to share the contents of my on-the-go makeup bag.  Unlike many ladies, I do not carry the entire contents of my makeup collection in my handbag; rather, I keep a small makeup pouch full of cosmetic and health items that I may need throughout the day.

[caption id="attachment_372" align="aligncenter" width="300"] My makeup bag.[/caption]

The bag I use is a no-name bag that I have had and used periodically since my high school days.  As you can see, it is full almost beyond its capacity, to the point where it's contents are straining against the bag's stitching. In the near future, I plan to buy a new on-the-go makeup bag, one that's studier and larger.

[caption id="attachment_373" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Bulging at its seems![/caption]

Now lets take a gander at what I keep inside, shall we?

[caption id="attachment_374" align="aligncenter" width="300"] No, the zipper didn't break![/caption]

First, I have two pill cases and my asthma inhaler. The inhaler is a must for anyone like me who spends a protracted amount if time sat at bus stops in a traffic congested city, sometimes during the height of summer. I also live in a valley, so the air pollution gets trapped around here and irritates my already sensitive lungs. I also have half a pack of cough drops in case I get a sore throat-- tis the season, after all!

[caption id="attachment_375" align="aligncenter" width="300"] New Jack City: For Minor Ailments[/caption]

The pill cases, while they look a bit sketchy actually contain Tylanol, an antacid tablet, some motion sickness pills, and a pain tablet for when my back (which I injured in a bus accident last year) starts to seize up. The small case with Sigmund Freud on it (available from the Unemployed Philosopher's Guild) contains extra motion sickness/ nausea tablets. If you follow me on Twitter (@snnyjm) you might have read that I gashed my scalp on a door jamb at the weekend which was both excruciating and, in retrospect, hillarious. So, I've been a bit shakey since my (literal) run in and the tablets combat the swirling feeling I have been getting.

Next, I have two types of blotting papers for when my skin gets oily throught the day. The Boots ones are mine; the Clean and Clear ones were in my mom's handbag for ages and she recently gave me these to finish off for her. I've used blotting papers for ages and have found them to be more effective for sopping up excess oil than a tissue and way preferable to touching my face directly.

[caption id="attachment_376" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Oily no more![/caption]

Since I have such oily skin, I need to touch up my makeup through out the day; blotting my face down is an essential first step in my afternoon "freshening" routine.

Next I have a travel size hand sanitizer by Method. Since I take public transit everyday and work with teens, it is vital that I keep my hands clean to avoid getting sick. I spent most of my first year of teaching with one virus or another; now, I virtually bathe in sanitizer to avoid a repeat performance.

If  you are unfamiliar with the brand, Method is a cleaning products company that uses naturally derived ingredients. This hand sanitizer has a lovely fresh and slightly sweet scent while not being as harsh as some others on the market.

[caption id="attachment_377" align="aligncenter" width="300"] One must keep one's hands clean yet supple.[/caption]

Also, because I use so much sanitizer, I have to use a hand cream like Eucerine or my hands will get painfully chapped. Eucerine is very nourishing and calming for my sensitive skin without feeling too heavy. I generally hate the feeling of lotion on my skin, but Eucerine is a happy medium for me in terms of texture.

Lastly, my bag contains my cosmetic products. I change out the specific cosmetic items weekly, but the staples are always a blotting powder, a compact mirror, and a lip balm or two. My blotting powder for when I'm "On the Road" is a Revlon ColorStay in translucent that I apply with a mineral blush brush from Earth Lites. There isn't a fancy reason for the blush brush other than I hated the sponge the compact came with and the brush fit my bag. I also have a small ELF compact mirror with a nifty Hello Kitty sticker on it since the mirror in the ColorStay compact is woefully small (only half-moon shaped!) for my large face.

[caption id="attachment_378" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Face fixin's![/caption]

Lastly, I have two lip balms: a Maybelline Baby Lips that is clear and peppermint flavored and a Burt's Nourishing Lip Balm with mango butter. I switch between the two depending on what flavor sensation I am in the mood for and how my lips are feeling. When my lips are peeling, I'll use the Baby Lips; when my lips are just chapped, I'll use the Burt's.

So, save for a couple of Band-Aids which I'll add to my bag when I get home, I've managed to plan for most on-the-go personal emergencies. What do you keep in your beauty bags to stay prepared? Let me know in the comments.

Cheers,

j.
Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Questions!

Happy Monday, everyone!

I have a few posts that I am working on for this week that I hope will be both entertaining and enlightening for all of you.  I've really appreciated the recent follows and like I have been getting from everyone-- it's been really affirming and is greatly appreciated.  Today I thought I would nab a Monday questionnaire from one of my favorite beauty/fashion bloggers and a fellow NorCal kid, Sarah Hawkinson (you should really check her stuff out, she's cool).

Here are my responses:












































































































A:


Age.

29

B:


Where I'm from.

NorCal

C:


Where I would like to live.

London

D:


Favourite food.

Sandwiches (pastrami with mayo (lots of mayo), pickle, and onion on a kaiser roll!)

E:


Religion.

Bokononism (See Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle)

F:


Sexual orientation.

Got one, yes.

G:


Single/taken.

I'm my own person . . .

H:


Favourite book.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I:


Eye colour.

Hazel

J:


Favourite movie.

Fanny and Alexander

K:


Favourite TV show.

Market Warriors

L:


Favourite band/singer.

Ellie Goulding

M:


Random fact about me.

I've a massive cow lick . . . like Alfalfa.

N:


Favorite day of the year.

Thanksgiving

O:


Favourite colour.

Teal

P:


If I have any pets; if so, their names.

A pug . . . THE FOOSA

Q:


What I'm listening to right now.

The news

R:


Last movie I've watched.

Rear Window

S:


What's my ringtone.

The theme tune to Twin Peaks

T:


Favourite male character from a TV show.

Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks

U:


Favourite female character from a TV show.

Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks

V:


What my name means.

It's a reference to James Joyce who, in his youth, was called Sunny Jim.  It's an ironic nod to my Irish heritage (I'm half-Irish), dour disposition, and gamine countenance.

W:


Favourite superhero.

Hillary Clinton

X:


Celebrity crush.

Martin Milner in the late 1960s.

Y:


My birthday.

The Ides of March

Z:


Ever self-harmed?

I double majored in college, so yeah.
Sunday, November 25, 2012

Feminist Gift Guide #1: Penny Red by Laurie Penny

The holiday season is quickly approaching weather you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or celebrate the winter solstice with non-denominational socially obligatory gift-giving.  As such, I thought I would join the pack of bloggers offering their readers seasonal gift-giving guides . . . with a Sunny Jim twist!

Today’s entry will be the first in a regular series of posts designed to give readers ideas of what to buy the feminist in their life-- be the individual male or female.  These gift ideas are by no means limited to those who are self-identified feminists; rather, they would be appropriate for anyone on your gift list who is progressively minded or for those who have only just had their political consciousness raised.

I’ll try to update this gift guide at least twice a week (once at the weekend and once during the workweek) through the season.  My selections will all be below (well below, in most cases) US$50.00.

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -


Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent (2011)
by Laurie Penny
Pluto Press (ISBN: 9780745332086)
US$20.00 (paperback)

[caption id="attachment_364" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Penny Red by Laurie Penny[/caption]

If the ongoing protests against austerity measures in Europe have caught the attention-- or actively involved-- someone on your gift list, might I recommend picking them up a copy of journalist Laurie Penny’s relatively recent collection of essays.  This set of previously published reportage finds Penny, a columnist with The Independent and The New Statesmen, finds the author creating a new intellectual topography in the wake of the Global Economic Crisis.

In some intellectual circles, Penny has been heralded as the John Reed of our generation, unabashedly leftist in a world that seems more than willing to let itself be consumed by Neo-Conservatives. Her book lives up to this reputation.

Separated into five sections-- This is Actually Happening; Girl Trouble; Kingdom of Rains; Cultural Capital; Their Hallucinations, Our Desires: The Grassroots--  Penny Red, considers the political landscape in the late capitalist west, the state of (and necessity for) feminism, as well as the social justice movements that have risen up (and in many instances been wrongfully vilified by the media) in the past few years.  This isn’t a book just about Uncut UK or about the Occupy movement; rather, the collection shines a light on corners of our political battleground that have long been neglected by “mainstream” progressives and willfully ignored, or belittled, by the press.

Penny is at her best when taking on “Call Me Dave” Cameron and his Conservative cronies which, for her American readers, are analogous for the Republican power elite.  Though she writes about social issues within a specifically British context-- duh, she’s an English journalist-- the topics she writes about are of trans-national importance.  It’s hard not to place yourself in Penny’s shoes when she infiltrates a Young Conservatives event and not imagine a similar scenario set in a Campus Republicans event.

As you have probably figured out by now, I wouldn’t recommend buying this book for your ultra-conservative friend (by the way, why would you have an ultra-conservative friend *shivers*), but it would be a perfect gift for sister who loves Le Tigre or your cousin who is actively involved in an Occupy UC protest.  Even those on your list with a leftist bent, but without the desire to take those ethos on the march, would certainly find a kindred spirit in Penny.

Do you have any feminist-friendly books you are thinking about sharing with your like-minded friends this festive season?  Share your suggestions in the comments below.

Cheers,

j.
Friday, November 23, 2012

I HATE Leftovers

While I love the holiday season-- and the holidays feasts-- I have a particular hatred for leftovers.  Fresh off the bird, turkey is a lovely, juicy, oh-so-buttery seasonal delight; warmed over, it is nothing short of betrayal.  Even my beloved mashed potatoes taste frightful the second time around!

 

[caption id="attachment_343" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The Foosa gets into the holiday spirit.[/caption]

So, while my mother and pug blithely enjoy the remainders of yesterday’s Thanksgiving lunch, I have been striking out with *new* foods that, as the season insists, are comforting and tasty.

 

[caption id="attachment_344" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Chicken, Mac 'N Cheese, and Salad-- NOT turkey et al.[/caption]

Tonight’s fare include Parmesan and herb coated chicken, traditional Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and a American-style side salad with Italian dressing.

Cheers,

 

j.

 

[caption id="attachment_345" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The Foosa in a turkey coma![/caption]

P.S. Leftover pie is ALWAYS an exception to my rule.
Thursday, November 22, 2012

Appy Daze: Thanksgiving

Hello, dear readers!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US where we stop and consider how fortunate we truly are while gorging ourselves on poultry and watching bags of gas float through the streets of Manhattan.  Cynical as ever, I thought I should probably take a few minutes and share what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving because, quite frankly, I could use the Karma Points.

My Pug
In all honesty, I probably love my dog as much as many people love their children.  Duchess lights up my world and has given me a new lease on life.  Before she joined our family, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I even wanted to be alive-- my life had truly reached its lowest ebb.  Taking care of Duchess has helped me to heal the wounds of the past while forging new bonds with my furry companion.

I’ve written many times about how transformative it has been to have Duchess in my life.  Suffice it to say, she is a magical little person and I am very thankful she is a member of my family.


My Mom
My mother is my best friend.  Like any mother and daughter, we have our differences from time to time; regardless, we have a bond that is unbreakable.  It has always been the two of us against the world, supporting one another, and taking care of each other.  No matter what, we always have one another and we always will.

The wonderful turkey she made for Thanksgiving lunch was only the icing on the proverbial cake; she’s an amazing lady and I am ever so thankful that she is in my life.


My Students
Teaching is a difficult career path to take; it involves long hours and a great intellectual, emotional, and financial commitments.  Even though it can frustrate me and run me down, working with young people and helping to develop their critical thinking skills is both professionally and personally fulfilling.  Whenever I question my professional decisions, all I have to do is talk to my students and I know that I have made the right choice.

It is easy to be pessimistic about the course your country is taking if all you know of young people is what you see on television; however, when you are “in the trenches” with youth like I am on a daily basis, you can truly see the profoundly positive seachange that awaits our country.


My Freedom
I’ll be completely honest, I am a cantankerous person; I’ll say what I think frankly even if it isn’t want everybody else wants to heart.  To put it simply, I am the friend that will tell you your butt looks fat in those jeans before you leave the house.  Now, I don’t see this forthrightness to be a character flaw, but simply as real talk from a person who cares too much to let the shit hit the proverbial fan.

There are places in this world where my mouthiness could get me in a lot of physical and legal trouble, particularly because I am a woman.  I’m glad I don’t live in one of those places and I am thankful that my ancestors got kicked out of a decent country so I could alienate people freely in America.  Hurrah, ancestors!


My President
I am glad that President Obama won reelection.  Yes, yes, yes, I know I am a Progressive Democrat and that I would naturally feel that way; however, I think Mittens’ recent comments about why he lost the election have really put a bow on the national gift that is Barack Obama-- though I am still waiting for my gift basket or whatever we childless women are meant to get for our support.

In all seriousness, I know that President Obama’s reelection means that a large cross-section of the American people will benefit from compassionate policies that seek to grow our nation’s economy, invest in its future, and not renege on the promises made to our older generations.  I’m thankful that our country is on the road to recovery and that so many will have a bright future because my countrymen got it right a second time.

While my life isn’t perfect, and neither is my country, I know that I am well and truly blessed.  Even though I try to be thankful for what I have year round, there is something about a tum full of turkey and fruit pie that makes a gal feel particularly grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

J.
Monday, November 19, 2012

Tag: 10 Facts About Me

Even though I am yet to film for my YouTube channel, I thought I would still participate in the 10 Facts About Me tag.  I thought this tag in particular would be an important one to respond to since I am still in the process of establishing my blog and allowing my audience to get to know me as a writer and as a person.  So, here it goes, 10 Facts About Jamie That You Never Knew and Never Asked:

  1. My eyes change color.  Growing up, my eyes were always brown, a light brown but brown nonetheless.  As I’ve gotten older, however, they have started to look more and more green.  I’ve actually had people argue with me about my eye color as though their oscillation is something that I can control and am using to annoy them.  These days my eyes vacillate between a whisky color and tortoise green.  Since my eyes can’t make up their mind as to what color they are, I split the difference and say they are hazel.

  2. I can date a Rothko painting within a one-to-two year period by sight.  I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Rothko seven years ago.  After a  mountain of research and extensive study of the artist’s work, I came away with a degree of connoisseurship that makes a good parlor trick and makes my academic advisor proud.

  3. I’m scared of heights.  I’m okay in a plane, but if there’s a scaffold or a balcony (if I am on it or not), I’ll buckle and start to have a panic attack.

  4. The first movie I ever saw at the cinema was “Witness.”  I was a baby at the time and it was my father’s bright idea to take me, one of his many new lows in parenting.To this day, I can’t eat any Quaker product without getting the wiggens because the Quaker guy looks too Olde Tyme and Amish-like.

  5. The first time I knew I was a feminist was during the Iran-Contra Hearings in the late 1980s.  I remember watching the live coverage of the hearings and wondering why Oliver North didn’t shred his own damn documents (I was well into swears in first grade) and why Fawn Hall didn’t have more respect for herself.

  6. I’m scared of cats.  They’re furry and purry, but they’re totally apt to scratch or bite you without warning.  Basically, cats are loose cannons; I understandably prefer the company of dogs.

  7. I’m double jointed in three fingers and two toes.  I know, it’s a wonder that I am still single.

  8. I don’t have a driver’s license.  Unlike every other American adult my age, I never took my driver’s rest.  It is now four months out from my thirtieth birthday and I only have a learner’s permit (for the fourth time).  Maybe I’ll get my license before I’m sixty.

  9. My favorite color is teal.  Teal is neither green nor blue; it’s like the zippy baby of the two colors.

  10. I don’t like TV.  Save one or two shows, I find television to be terribly dull and patronizing.  I try not to give my attention to those who like to speak down to me or who assume I will align with the lowest common denominator, so why would I allow myself exposure to a media that does just that.  I’d much rather read, write, or sleep, quite frankly.


So, that’s me in all of my quirks.  What are some fun facts about you?  Leave me a link to your blog/ video response in the comments below.

Cheers,

j.
Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wishlist!

Here are some products that I'd like to get my hot little hands on.  As I acquire each item, I'll strike it from the list.  Items of particular interest are noted with an *.  Items I play to get for myself in the very near future are marked with a +. This page will be updated as needed.

Makeup

Clinique Brow Shaper in Charcoaled
Butter London 3 Free Nail Lacquer in Wallace
Butter London 3 Free Nail Lacquer in Slapper
Butter London 3 Free Nail Lacquer in Toff
Urban Decay De-Slick Oil Control Makeup Setting Spray
Benefit Blush in Bella Bomba
Real Techniques Blush Brush
Real Techniques Powder Brush
Real Techniques Expert Face Brush
Real Techniques Setting Brush
Soap & Glory Fab Pore Hot Cloth Cleanser
Soap & Glory Pulp Friction Fruity Body Scrub
Revlon ColorStay Makeup for Oily/Combination Skin (in Buff)
YSL  Teint Rouche Eclat (BR20)
Make Up Forever HD Invisible Cover Foundation (118 Flesh)


Skincare
Clarisonic Mia in Turquoise
Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask
Mario Badescu Seaweed Night Cream
Mario Badescu Special Cucumber Lotion
Mario Badescu Anti-Acne Serum
Mario Badescu Healing Cream
Benefit B Right It's Potent Eye Cream +

Fragrance

L'Artisan Parfumeur Fou d'Absinthe
L'Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu
L'Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier
Thierry Mulger Angel
Thierry Mulger Alien
Coach Poppy
Joe Malone English Pear and Freesia Cologne *

Clothes

Fox jumper
Color block jumper
So So Happy Waffles hoodie (XXL)*
Infinity Scarf in teal*

Accessories

Satchel
Ted Baker Wash Bag

Shoes

Tan Broughs (ask me for size)
Metallic Mouse Flats (ask me for size)

Books
Ten Days in a Mad-House
by Nellie Bly

Cookware


Slow Cooker
Kitchen Aid Mixer (black)

Home Goods

Seventh Seal Framed Swedish movie poster

Furniture

Black Lillesand Bedframe
Friday, November 16, 2012

'Appy Daze: The Pug of My Life

Yes, dear readers, ‘Appy Daze are here again (although a bit late)!  This week, I thought I would tell you more about my dog, Duchess (otherwise known as “The Foosa”), who just happens to be my best friend and and the coolest person I know . . . even though she has fur.

Like me, Duchess had a rough start; she spent the first six years of her life in the care of another owner who didn’t provide her with proper medical care (e.g., getting her fixed and giving her preventative medicines), fed her a low quality dog food that left her malnourished, and eventually surrendered her to a rescue organization.  When we adopted Duchess shortly before my birthday in March, she was very reserved and seemed understandably uncertain about her surroundings.  While she was immediately sweet and affectionate with us, Duchess took some time trying to figure my mother and I out; she knew she liked us, but she wanted to know she was at her forever home before she committed to loving us.

With lots of love, training, and consistency we have shown Duchess that she is in a safe, happy home that is forever her’s and that she will always be taken care of by people who love her dearly.  She is the light of our lives and every day we strive to let her know that.

[caption id="attachment_288" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Thank you, Washington Irving, for making this moment possible. Sincerely, THE WORLD[/caption]

Since her adoption, Duchess has morphed into another girl entirely: she is very affectionate (never shy about pinning me down and licking every speck of makeup off of my face), playful, and confident enough to voice her opinions (especially when she wants a snack).  Duchess knows what she wants and, more often than not, we are pleased as punch to give it to her.

Having Duchess in my life has truly been a blessing; she gives my life a meaning and dimension where there was none.  Before Duchess, I seemed to have an abundance of time that weighed on me heavily and never seemed to be full enough or spent meaningfully.  Often, the simple act of getting up in the morning was a struggle and the prospect of having to face another day was virtually unbearable.

While day to day life is still challenging for me, I still face each new day because I know that I get to spend at least part of it hanging out with Duchess.  Also, as irritable as I may feel in the morning, I know that Duchess needs me to take care of her and to give her the love and affection she deserves.  Some mornings, she even comes over and wakes me up!

Truly, Duchess gives me a reason to want to face the day.  It is not enough to do something because you need to, not when it comes to living, you have to find a reason to want to live.  Duchess is my reason and it is easy to see why.

As you will notice from my photos of her, Duchess, like all pugs, is ridiculously adorable and has the largest, most expressive eyes.  It is impossible to resist such a sweet little face; she’s just too cute and bear cub-like to ignore.

[caption id="attachment_200" align="aligncenter" width="225"] My lovely pug girl at bath time.[/caption]

When I am feeling low, Duchess is quick to lick me affectionately or jump on the couch to sit with me (or on me as  the case may be).  I don’t have to be crying or expressing my feelings outwardly for her to inherently know that I need her calming comfort.  From the very moment we picked her up, Duchess was affectionate towards me (even licking me senseless on the car ride home); it was as if she knew from the start how much I needed her.

For me, the decision to adopt Duchess was the best choice I ever made.  She needs me and I need her.  We’re two souls who, having been lost in troubled seas for so long, found safe harbor in one another.

The world is a happier, more manageable place for me because of Duchess.  She is more than my best friend and even more than a member of my family, she is my lifeline.

[caption id="attachment_37" align="aligncenter" width="225"] My girl, happy in her summer finery.[/caption]
Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: Wet 'n Wild's Party of Five Glitters

Last week, I took a tumble during inclement weather. As is typical, when my ego is bruised, I sooth the pain with purchases. One of these injury-induced purchases was a bottle of Wet 'n Wild Fast Dry nail polishes in Party of Five Glitters.

Wet 'n Wild is a bargain cosmetics company that I remember fondly from my girlhood; many young women my age bought their first totem bits of makeup from Wet 'n Wild. I still remember my mom painting my nails with sparkly Wet 'n Wild polish as a little girl and feeling all the more fancy for it. As I grew older and my cosmetic choices began to be more frequently from the department store counters, I all but forgot Wet 'n Wild.


Oh, how I was wrong to ever turn my back on you Wet 'n Wild!

First of all, let me say that most claims of rapid dryness are hogwash; you should always wait at least a solid twenty minutes before you do any real activity with your hands less your polish be compromised-- this is true of bargain as well as salon brands of polish. Wet 'n Wild was no exception to this rule.


As I mentioned in my CVS nail polish haul at the time, Party of Five Glitters ($1.99), true to its name, is a clear topcoat with silver, green, red, light blue, and fuchsia chunky glitters of varying sizes floating around in it.  Like all glitter polishes, it took about three coats for me to get a fair layer of glitter on my nails (yes and all five glitters are represented on each nail, I totally checked).
What sets this polish apart from other glittery offerings-- both high end and drug store-- is its finish.  Often, glittery polishes don’t leave a smooth finish on the nail which can easily get snagged on fabric or in your hair-- an annoyance I repeatedly encountered with OPI’s “Fresh Frog of Bel Air.”  Thankfully, Party of Five Glitters leaves a smooth finish, even after repeated coats, and is suitable both as a stand-alone polish as well as a shimmery top coat over a matte color.



Another aspect of Party of Five Glitters that I have greatly enjoyed is it’s staying powers.  I took the photos accompanying this review today . . . my fourth full day of having worn the polish.  Only today does the varnish show any signs of chipping.  Even though I am wearing an Essie base coat under the polish, this is a level of durability I am not used to, especially as someone who spends a lot of her day typing at work and during my free time.

So, without question, Wet ‘n Wild has earned back my love and admiration and Party of Five Glitters have my highest praise!

Go nab yourself a bottle today!
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Wrap Up: Voting My Conscience, Voting for President Obama

Yesterday I wasn’t mentally prepared to discuss the presidential election.  The vote was very close and this election season had been such an ugly one that I didn’t want to dredge up any additional negativity in the universe; I didn’t want to sabotage the outcome I had been envisioning in my head.

Now that almost all of the electoral loose ends have been tied up, I thought I would take the opportunity to share my views on the candidates and my thoughts on the electoral results.  Let me preface this post by saying that the views expressed are my own and (duh) are entirely subjective.  If you don’t agree with me, bully for you, I don’t want to hear about it; I do not troll your blog (unless you’re Donald Trump), so do not troll mine.

That being said, I’m decidedly thrilled with the outcome of the presidential election;  I, like a majority of Californians, voted to reelect President Obama. I voted for the President in 2008 and, after much soul searching and reflecting on the past four years, I decided to cast my vote for Mr. Obama against.  Let me tell you why.

I am better off today than I was four years ago.  Four years ago, I was working in my first post-graduate school teaching position and was preparing for the inevitable layoff notice that I was going to receive in the Spring (on my birthday, no less).  In 2008 I didn’t have a lot of hope that the future was going to be any brighter for my generation; to me, it seemed as if the Baby Boomer generation had destroyed the economy and watched the future of the younger generation-- my generation-- combust without a single protest.  At the ripe old age of twenty-five, I had virtually given up any hope of retiring or even getting to make a living in my chosen profession.  I felt that I had done everything right-- worked hard, went to college and graduate school-- but was still not seeing any of the fruits of my labor.

Four years on, scarily close to thirty, I do have an inkling of hope, a sense that the future will be (somewhat) brighter.  First of all, I am once again fully employed in a teaching position and I have been for almost two years; I managed to secure my “clear” teaching credential (a process that occupies the first two years of a teacher’s career); and I’ve consequently been able to gain professional experience while earning a decent wage and paying into a state retirement plan.

Though these professional gains are modest ones, they are improvements that I hadn’t expected to ever find four years ago.  I can’t say that the past four years have been all sunshine and roses-- they haven’t-- but I do know that I am better off today than I was four years ago to this day and I am in a better position because of the President’s leadership.  Our nation is still shaky financially; however, the President’s policies did help the situation from getting far worse than it could have been.

The financial crisis was a lot like a major bodily injury in which the victim loses massive amounts of blood.  As a first responder, all you can really do is stem the flow of blood and stabilize the victim; it takes time for someone to recover from major injury.  Truly, the economy is the same; it will take years for the economy to recover its recessionary losses; to expect the President to correct such errors in four years (two of which have been stalled by political gridlock) is impractical.

Another reason why I voted for the President is because he trusts women to make their own choices about their doctors with their medical professionals.  I think it’s important for people to understand the importance of allowing others to make choices they may not make for themselves.  Even if you believe in your heart of hearts that abortion is wrong, your moral objections should not infringe upon someone else’s right to have a safe and legal abortion.  You can morally object all you want, that is your right; however, your rights do not supersede another person’s.  Women should make their own healthcare choices; the government shouldn’t make those choices for them.  Full stop.

Perhaps the primarily reason why I decided to vote for President Obama was the Affordable Care Act which, despite the storm in a teacup it stirred up, is a fantastic thing.  I don’t think you can grasp how profound a change this piece of legislation will have on the lives of millions, myself included.  Like millions of other Americans of all ages, I have a pre-existing condition that, in many circumstances, could prevent me from being insured or even from getting the treatment that I require.  However, because of “Obamacare,” I know that I will be able to get the care that I need.  I’m not asking for Uncle Sam to pay my medical bills, just the peace of mind in knowing that I will not go bankrupt paying for my medical bills.

Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, it is important that you weigh your options carefully and really interrogate what a choice means to you.  No matter who you vote for, you cannot lose if you vote your conscience.

Cheers,

j.

P.S. No trolling! -_-
Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Distraction from the Election: Bargainous Weekend Shoe Hall

Hello, everyone!

Today’s Election Day in the US and the only way I can distract myself from the gnawing electoral anxiety I am feeling is to talk about something else entirely.  So, kids, let’s talk about shoes!

It’s a new season and you know what that means: new shoes!  This past weekend, I hit Payless ShoeSource looking for some flats and wellies to get me through the winter.  When it comes to skincare and makeup, I adhere to the adage “you get what you pay for” and are often willing to pay a bit more for items that I will get more use from.  Shoes, however, are a different animal entirely.

I literally work in one of the most dangerous cities in America.  My daily commute to work includes an intercity bus frequented by people in drug treatment, another express bus frequented by similarly sketchy folks, and a trek through two parking lots and a busy throughway.  This doesn’t count and side trips I might make during the day to get coffee or a bite to eat.  The idea of wearing fancy shoes when I am walking around uneven surfaces and in grubby areas freaks me out; I would rather muck up shoes that I haven’t spent an arm and legs on than a pair that I have invested in.  If I worked in a posh environment or if my commute wasn’t a bit treacherous and hard on shoes, maybe I’d feel differently.  For the time being, however, inexpensive footwear serves my purposes: practicality, comfort, and stylishness.

Here are the kicks I picked up this past weekend.

[caption id="attachment_299" align="aligncenter" width="300"] American Eagle flats in leopard print and basic black from Payless ShoeSource[/caption]

Two Pairs of American Eagle Brand Flats
($10 each, on offer buy one get one 50% off: $15)

I was in need of a new pair of black flats since my last pair basically crippled me.  Since they were on offer, I picked up a second pair in a cool leopard print.  Both pairs are suede-like, have a thin sole, and little arch support.  However, I wore the black pair to work Monday (about twelve hours of wear) and I wasn’t uncomfortable.  The leopard print pair, which I wore for some serious walking today, have given me some blisters; that's what I get for distance walking in a pair of new flats!  Ho-hum!

[caption id="attachment_300" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Me in the leopard print flats.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_301" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Me in the basic black flats that lasted twelve hours without discomfort.[/caption]

Normally, I wear between a nine and a ten in shoes depending on the brand; these are a size 9.5 and are a comfortable fit.  While I  know that these flats aren’t made for durability, they are comfortable, flatter most outfits, and truly bargainous.  

[caption id="attachment_303" align="aligncenter" width="225"] A basic pair of glossy black rainboots.[/caption]

Rugged Outback Rainboots
(approximately $29.99)

I’d really love to have a pair of Hunter wellies; I have a passion for heritage fashions and I have long wanted to have a pair set next to my Dr. Martin’s (which are now fifteen years old!) in my closet.  Hunter boots are pricey ($135 on Zappos) but are not price exclusionary; if I managed to keep out of Ulta for a month, I could comfortably afford a pair without cutting into my mayonnaise budget.  That being said, I live in Northern California where, though it rains, it doesn’t rain that much.  A $135 pair of rainboots is . . . . too much.  So, I found an analogous pair at Payless that is flattering, functional, and cheap as heck.  If a hobo accidentally tread upon me in these, I wouldn’t have to beat him up . . . just make him cry.

[caption id="attachment_304" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Here are the boots in without jeans tucked into them.[/caption]

Remember: rain boots run large, so unless you want to wear another pair of shoes inside of your boots you need to size down.  These are a size nine and I am able to fit a pair of tucked jeans in snugly into the boot shafts.  

[caption id="attachment_305" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Yes, you can wear boat shoes into fall![/caption]

Dexter Boat Shoes
($20 on sale, in buy one get one 50% off in offer with rainboots: $10)

These plaid boat shoes are in cute fall colors and are very comfortable to walk in.  They will go wonderfully with jeans and khakis and walk the fine line of business casual.  I would wear these both on the weekend as well as to work without worrying about professional dress standards.

[caption id="attachment_306" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Look! I joined Vampire Weekend! JK, I just bought boat shoes.[/caption]

The boat shoes run slightly larger than size, but I stayed at a 9.5 so I wouldn’t get any pinching or rub against my toes.

What are your thoughts on bargain footwear?  Should we favor price over quality?  Let me know in the comments.

Cheers,

J.  
Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Daze: Tea Time!

Since I am a teacher, I am no stranger to the caffeinated sunshine that is coffee. I often begin my (very) early mornings with a milky cup of french roast as I feverishly apply my makeup and dress for the day. All at once. LIKE A BOSS. However, now that we are moving into the wintery months, at least in theory (darn California sunshine!), my taste for coffee has waned in favor of tea.

To be perfectly honest, it feels almost treasonous to admit my love of tea, especially my preference for the beverage over coffee-- I’m a Dutch American, after all! Did the Dutch invent the coffee trade? Did America’s early revolutionaries not dump massive amount of tea into Boston Harbour to protest unrepresented taxation? Alas, dear countrymen my autumnal taste buds remain unmoved!

There is something decidedly sophisticated about a cup of tea, where you feel not only soothed cup of brew but decidedly proper and refined. In today’s fast-paced society, there is something to be said for a cup of tea which, to be brewed properly, takes several minutes to reach the peak of its flavor and cannot be gulped down quickly . . . unless you’re uncivilized or keen on getting a thermal burn.

This sense of sophistication is without question secondary to the calming affects a cuppa can have on your frayed nerves. On a tough day, I often find myself sipping tea to steel myself against the onslaught-- be it professional or personal. A well-steeped cup of tea seems to neutralize even the bitterest of gall.

I've often found myself in situations where I felt powerless to control my circumstances or irate because of a situation's perceived immutability. Having a cup of tea manages to soothe (some of) this aggravation and allows me the precious moments I need to regroup and not rip someone's face off.

Despite my love of the beverage, I do not consider myself an expert or an aficionado; rather, I know which teas I enjoy and how I prefer them served. Tea, it would seem, is one area where my tastes are discerning but (remarkably, for once) hardly pretentious. Here are three of my favorites and how I have them and when I enjoy them:

 



Twinings Prince Of Wales Tea
This, at the moment is my go-to everyday tea at work. I drink about two cups a day: one in the late morning and one in the afternoon. Prince of Wales is a traditional black tea with a lighter, less bitter flavor than an English or Irish breakfast tea. Earlier in the morning, if I were still trying to wake myself up, I'd opt for one of the more robust brews in lieu of this more mild formulation.

The perfect cup of Prince of Wales should be made with nearly boiling water and steeped for 3-4 minutes. Serve plain or with a slice of lemon; milk or sugar may overpower this light tea.

 



Twinings Earl Grey Tea
When I had my first cup of Earl Grey as a teenager (a Bigalow formulation), I remember thinking thy it smelled and tasted like my grandfather's hair oil. Certainly, Earl Grey is an acquired taste, but that taste, I believe, is best cultivated by the *best* formulation. Hands down, Twinings makes the best and the official Earl Grey tea, at the pleasure of the Earls Grey (or so says the glowing appraisal on the side of the tea box).

With a strong citrus flavor, and a robust black tea kick, I find myself reaching for Earl Grey when I need a perk up or, most especially, when I feel a bit rummy. You'd be surprised at how effective the brew is at cutting through post-nasal grossness.

Earl Grey is best brewed with nearly boiling water for 2-3 minutes to avoid over brewing and ancillary bitterness. Serve plain or with lemon unless you were raised by hillbilly wolves, in which case anything goes.

 


Tazo Refresh Tea
While I recognize the health benefits of green tea, I have always been slow to warm to it-- it’s far bit too bitter for my pallet. Unlike most green teas, however, Refresh is a blend of green tea and mint which neutralizes the somewhat bile-like aftertaste that has turned me off in the past.

Refresh tastes great both hot and iced and is best brewed for for 2-4 minutes in nearly boiling water. Make sure to not leave the tea bag in for too long-- over-brewed Refresh can become dreggy and sour. This tea is particularly delightful on a warm day when you want a drink that will cool you down and quench your thirst.

What are some of your favorite teas and what time of year do you enjoy them? Share some of your favorites in the comments below.

Cheers,

J.

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Petite Haul: Saturday Sojourn to Target!

Hello, everyone!  I hope you're all having a lovely, restful evening; per usual, I have spent my Saturday busy with shopping and chores.

I thought I'd make today's post a short, but sweet one about some (but not all!) of the highlights of my trip to Target-- two gift for myself and one for THE WORLD.

As fits an English teacher, I picked up two books:

[caption id="attachment_283" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, 75th anniversary edition.[/caption]

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (75th Anniversary Edition)

As hard as this is to believe, I have never read this book, or any of the Lord of the Rings-y books.  I've seen all of the movies (even the cartoon version of The Hobbit as a child), but I've never picked up one of the books in earnest.  In honor of The Hobbit coming out this winter, I have committed myself to finally read this book; I don't think it should be a struggle to complete the book for me (I love hobbits-- they're short and hairy like my pug!), I don't watch a lot of television, have a lot of found reading time on the bus, and I'd feel disingenuous as an literature teacher (particularly one who teaches European Lit!) if I didn't read the book before I saw the movie.  I have a reputation to protect, people!

 

[caption id="attachment_287" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith[/caption]

Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith

This is a journal that is specifically devoted to its methodical destruction.  Every page features a new and creative way to mess the book up.  While this tendency works against my better judgement (and my moral baring as an English teacher with a library science background), the book is a great (and fun) opportunity to work counter to my inclinations and live dangerously . . . at least between the bounded pages of the book.  Think of it as danger for the super-cautious.

 

Lastly, I picked up a gift for the world: a headless horseman costume on Halloween clearance just for my pug.  Here are the results.  You don't have to say it, I already know what you are going to say, and you are most welcome.  Check this out:

[caption id="attachment_288" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Thank you, Washington Irving, for making this moment possible. Sincerely, THE WORLD[/caption]

 

[caption id="attachment_289" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The noble steed, I mean pug.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_290" align="aligncenter" width="300"] "You had better have Chicken McNuggets or be willing to sleep with one eye open!" --My Pug[/caption]

 

Hope you're enjoying your weekend.  Let me know if you've been up to anything cool or have bought anything amazing.

 

Cheers,

 

J.
Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bargains for the Broken

Ok, kids, it’s time to get light hearted.


If you’ve been to my neck of the interwebs (either on Wordpress or Twitter), you’ll remember that earlier this week my beloved pug, The Foosa, accidently scratched my face, leaving an impressive looking but otherwise innocuous Dr. Evil-like wound down my right cheek.  I’m only partially convinced that the cut won’t scar and have already crafted a *just in case* scar-combating regimen should I be left with any residual pigmentation flaws.

Wouldn’t you know it, in typical Sunny Jim fashion (on a rainy day, no less), just as I was starting to notice that my cut was healing, another accident befell me.  As part of my commute to work, I have to walk down a through way that is roughly paved and often muddy while it is still rather dark out.  Half-asleep and not paying my stride any mind, I slipped in a muddy patch and crumpled onto one knee, mucking up my jeans and skinning myself up in the process.  Luckily, I was one of the first people to work and was able to rush into the bathroom and clean off my jeans (foaming hand soap, water, and paper towels are a Godsend to a girl in need!) and tend to my skinned knee.

However, while I am on the mend physically, my pride has taken something of a beating (is the week over yet?).  To cheer myself up, I went to CVS during my lunch break and picked up three bargainous nail polishes from Wet ‘n Wild for about $3.25 (including sales tax).  Those of you in your mid-twenties or older may remember Wet ‘n Wild as the 99 cent beauty line from whom we experimented with our first lip products, eye pencils, and bold nail polishes.  While I have moved on to more upscale brands in adulthood, I found myself drawn back to Wet ‘n Wild due to a coupon I had received through CVS’s Extra Care program: $2.00 off of a purchase of $4.99 or more.  Amazing, no?

Here are the polishes I picked up (from left to right):

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Party of Five Glitters, Hallucinate, and Gray’s Anatomy.

Part of Five Glitters is a clear topcoat with silver, green, light blue, fuchsia, and red glitters floating throughit.  The polish contains a combination of chunky and fine glitters; the silver and fuchsia shades predominate the assortment.  Now that we are moving into the holiday season, and since fall is finally beginning to hit California, this shade is a pretty and festive way to take advantage of fall’s berry trend without the threat of wrecking your nails with a highly pigmented polish.

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My second glittery color is Hallucinate, another clear topcoat with glitter thrown in for good measure, in this case a fine,  iridescent silvery glitter.  This polish reminds me of one of the first polishes I had as a girl and is both friendly to my brittle nails and work appropriate.

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Lastly, Gray’s Anatomy is an iridescent gray with green, teal, and purple iridescence.  The polish is so iridescent, in fact, that it’s hardly recognizable as gray at all.  I picked this one up primarily because it reminds me of one of the first OPI polishes I ever purchased, the now long discontinued Berlin Wall.  It’s a lovely color, suits my cool-toned skin, and a reminder of beloved polishes past.

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I’ve yet to apply any of these polishes, but when I do, I’ll post a Wet ‘n Wild nail polish review.  Wouldn’t it be great if these bargain polishes rival the quality and durability of both OPI and Essie?

Let me know what bargain polishes you love or how you treat yourself when you’re feeling blue.

Cheers,

J.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

'Appy Daze!-- Kurt Vonnegut Lovefest

Ok.  I had meant to begin the first ‘Appy Daze weekly post yesterday, but personal circumstances (an argument, a headache, and a nasty dog scratch *ON MY FACE*) prevented my update.  As you can imagine, happy thoughts were not forthcoming.

Though my face still hurts and I remain terrified at the prospect of facial scarring (I’m a hypochondriac), I feel entirely better mood today and more equipped to write about happiness.

This week, I thought I would talk to you about my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut.  Vonnegut (1922-2007) was a novelist and essayist known for writing darkly funny works that fused humor and science fiction into one quickly devoured nugget of zaniness (how’s that for mixed metaphors, eh?).  Today, Vonnegut is probably most remembered for his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five, subtitled The Children’s Crusade, sub-sub-titled A Duty-Dance with Death, a novel about the time traveling experiences of a World War II vet (and survivor of the 1945 RAF firebombing of Dresden, Germany).  Slaughterhouse-Five, you won’t be surprised to learn, is my favorite book.

For someone such as myself-- someone who has some traumatic events in their past-- Vonnegut’s works really resonate.  Like Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut was a former POW and survivor of the destruction of Dresden.  From some of the autobiographical details that Vonnegut wove into his works, it would rightly seem that being a witness to such unfathomable horror was an event that Vonnegut was never quite able to surmount.  From my personal experience, I believe this to be generally true about trauma: you are never able to “overcome” your trauma, you’re only able to come to terms with its presence.

Vonnegut’s work is a testament to life after trauma; In Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle (one of my personal favorites), and Breakfast of Champions among others, Vonnegut constructs narratives among the ruins of life.  The story goes on even when we know what’s going to happen or what has happened; time is secondary, time stops when the world as you know it has crumbled in front of you.

As depressing as that may sound, it’s terrifically uplifting for people like myself who have struggled to overcome a difficult past.  Often, life seems as though it will never go on, as though nothing worthwhile can emerge from the wreckage of your life.  Not only was Vonnegut able to create works about the wreckage of life, he was able to do so with a sense of humor.  There’s hope, at least for me, among the atomic bomb blasts and super-freezing chemicals that populate Vonnegut’s work.

You may never make sense of your own trauma, but if you can pull an amused, Vonnegut inspired smirk at life’s absurdities and slights, well, that’s half the battle.  
Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Movie Picks for the Squeamish and Persnickety

It’s almost Halloween and you know what that means: being guilted into putting a bunch of horror movies in your Netflix queue by friends who don’t seem to understand a) your distaste at having your renting cycle seasonably disrupted, b) your reticence at watching another person being eviscerated, and c) your desire to eat candy alone whilst watching White Chicks.  Fear not, dear reader, I’ve got you covered:

When in doubt, hipster it out.

What would a hipster do in a similar situation?  While not one myself, I am sure our NHS-spec friends with trust funds would profess to watching either something obtuse, foreign, and gorey (out of the question; “Just Say No to Argento!”); watching a B-grade horror movie that few of heard of (a legitimate possibility); or to watching a classic horror or monster flick from the golden age of cinema.  Well, they might make one of the above choices or make some asinine remark about life being a horror movie (blergh).

So, for the squeamish and persnickety among us (*ahem* moi) there are only two options: to watch B-grade horror-ish films or classic horror/monster movies; luckily, many of these films are readily available online either through on-demand services or from YouTube.  Here are a few of my personal-- and widely available--favorites.  


 







Night of the Living Dead (1968): This is the original-- and best-- version of this horror movie classic.  Yes, there is violence and gore, but the black and white film, B-grade production values, and captivating storyline make the film less graphic and more chilling.  I would recommend playing the film in the background during your Halloween party; those interested in watching the film can grab their sugary treats and watch away while those more interested in mingling and can listen to the film as background ambiance.

 







The Phantom of the Opera (1925): This is a silent film staring Lon Chaney, one of the first great Hollywood actors and makeup artists.  Chaney was known as "the man of a 1,000 faces" for his uncanny ability to physically transform into his disfigured characters.  Movie makeup was in its infancy during Chaney's time, so the (to our eyes) rudimentary makeup he uses was cutting edge in the 1920s.  Watch this film before Halloween and impress your friends with your knowledge of early cinema.

 







The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920): Here is another classic film from the silent era that is also foreign (two for the price of one!) that's widely considered to be one of the first horror movies.  The film still retains much of it's creepy value almost one hundred years after it's release.  For pretension's sake, make sure to refer to the film by its German title Das Cabinet des Doktor Caligari.

 







Carnival of Souls (1962): Again, here is another early horror film that, due to it's B-production values is more creepy than scary.  Being familiar with this film (which I also believe is available from The Criterion Collection-- BONUS) will earn you hipster points and make you seem like a real film aficionado.

 







Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959): Perhaps the best worst movie ever, this film is a perfect film (like The Room) to admit to having seen and enjoying in all of its horribleness.  This could be another candidate for a Halloween ambiance film to have playing at your party.  Might I recommend a sing-along party (Rocky Horror style) to accompany your festive viewing of the film?

 

And last, but certainly not least . . .







The Pit and the Pendulum (1961): What would Halloween be without a grand appearance from Vincent Price, hmmm?  Nada, I say!  This is my favorite Poe-inspired film that Price did with Roger Corman, it's deliciously bad. :-)
What are some of your favorite creepy movies to watch at Halloween time?  Share in the comments.

Cheers,

J
Saturday, October 27, 2012

'Appy Daze are 'Ere Again

Hello, everyone.

I’ve decided to reclassify the “Happiness” posts from a finite series to a regular feature on my blog.  For the time being, I think I have taxed myself out on finding and expounding upon the things in life that make me happy.  I’m not an optimistic person by nature (my handle is, afterall ironic as well as a nod to James Joyce), so this exercise-- while an important one-- isn’t one that I can come by easily.  If you want Oprah’s sage-like musing upon living your authentic life, go watch OWN. If, however, you want a snarky white girl musing about literature, film, feminism, and foosas (read: pugs), then stick with me kid . . . I’m going places (well, Safeway anyway . . .).

Shall we make Mondays our day’s for happiness?  Yes.

Let us call them “ ‘Appy Daze” and “‘Appy Daze” they shall be known.

Cheers,

J.

Looking for Happiness #4: Eating Like an Elderly Toddler

There’s no two ways about it: I loves me my food.  There is nothing that can beat the taste of warm, rich, comfort food regardless of what mood you are in.

Whereas many people carefully watch what they eat, or snob over their plates like they were a foreign film, I prefer to take a more pragmatic approach to my epicurean delights: I eat what I want until I am satisfied, share what tastes good with others (sharing the food love is almost as good as eating it yourself-- almost), and try not to deny myself when I want something.  I’ll never be a supermodel with this approach, but at least I’ll be happy and get to enjoy lovely eats with amazing people-- food is certainly a social lubricant.

In terms of what I like to eat, my tastes are rather conventional; I’ve loads of food allergies, so I dare not eat anything too exotic less I end up in the emergency room. One of my worst fears is dying and then having my harrowingly sad tale end up on one of those medical mystery shows.

I subsist primarily on a diet of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, sandwiches, cheese and jalapeno rolls, salads, and potato wedges.  I also enjoy the odd cupcake or bit of ice cream. Long story short, I enjoy many of the same foods as both the elderly and toddlers.

[caption id="attachment_259" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A chicken corn dog and potato wedges from the Safeway deli. Yumski for my tumski.[/caption]

More than once, I have ordered off the kid's menu as an adult because "grown up food" was too elaborate and heavy for me; more often than not, I could make a meal of a side dish or an appetizer. Give me a corn dog, some potato wedges, and a soda and I’ll be golden.  I’m also not afraid to admit that I still love Happy Meals, especially if there is a good toy theme going on (seriously, how cool was the Paul Frank collection kiddos?); you get well proportioned food, a toy, and APPLE BITES.

In addition to skewing towards the childish, my eating habits are also decidedly elderly in flavor as well.  I love peanut brittle.  I could live off of pickles.  Oatmeal-- who doesn’t love it?  Coffee needs to be milky, naturally.  Tea should be had throughout the day.  Also, let us not forget cheese.  Cheese should be sprinkled liberally on all baked goods, especially breads.  Oh-- I do love a good smoked meat as well (pastrami, I’m looking at you kid!).

In our society we allow ourselves to be “food shamed” out of eating what we like or made to feel as though our tastes are too pedestrian.  I’ve always been one for moderation: eat what makes you happy . . . just don’t eat a factory’s worth in one go.  Food can be one of the great joys of life when you make it and share it with the people you care about.

[caption id="attachment_258" align="aligncenter" width="300"] If you want a sandwich and Goldfish crackers for dinner, go for it!-- it's Foosa approved![/caption]

So, folks, what eats and tasty treats do you enjoy?  Let me know.

Cheers,

J.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Looking for Happiness #3: Moozikz

Wouldn't you know it: I, like most people, enjoy listening to music. There are times, when I am terribly sad, when I have compartetalized my feelings so securely that I can no longer access them, when I have no desire to listen to anything, music, television . . . the orders my neighbors' cat gives me (kidding, kidding!); however, more often than not, I can easily be spotted behind a pair of dark shades listening to my tunes.

For many years, from my college years until rather recently, my music collection was contained almost entirely on my iPod-- this after condensing a massive CD collection to digital files.  Within the last year, I have shied away from purchasing music outright and have instead become a premium Spotify subscriber which allows me to stream music on my computer (both my personal computer as well as my work computer) as well as my iPhone.  Certainly, this approach to music won’t work for everyone; however, if you’re a serious music lover who doesn’t want to worry about storage (physical or digital), Spotify is certainly a great option.

Here is a playlist that I have created for this blog post that will give you a general idea of what music that I, when the chips are down (and they are almost always down), turn to in order to perk up.  I’ve also included annotations for each song so you’ll know a little about what each song means to/for me:

 

  • “Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi” by Jacque Dutronc-- Dutronc’s sound is similar to the Kinks but with the distinct sound of French Ye Ye.  Basically, I love the beat even though I no idea what he is saying besides “and me, and me, and me.”

  • “Emily” by Carice van Houten-- Carice van Houten is one of four famous Dutch people (the others being Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Rutger Hauer) in the world.  She’s amazing and “Emily,” her debut single is catchy.  Did I mention van Houten is a movie star and once retweeted me?  Oh, yes, people.  Oh.  Yes.

  • “Paradisco” by Charlotte Gainsbourg-- Hurrah!  A French person who sings in English!  This is a catchy tune that has a dark undercurrent to it (e.g., “I wonder how long it will last/ Walking through a room full of broken glass”).  I like catchy tunes that are dark.

  • “Dancing With Myself” by by Nouvelle Vague-- Yes, I know this is a cover of the Generation X song (Billy Idol only covered his former bands old song).  However, I love this kitschy chamber pop version of this song.  Did I mention that the video for the tune is a re-edit of Godard’s “Vivre Sa Vie”?  Uh huh.

  • “Lili Marleene” by Marlene Dietrich-- I love a good torch song and Lili Marleene by Dietrich is the best.

  • “Ride” by Lana Del Ray-- Say what you will, the Lana Del Ray aesthetic is captivating as are the contrived short films that are meant to be her videos.  I particularly like this song as it’s classic sadcore ala Cat Power.

  • “Babel” by Mumford & Sons-- I just love Mumford & Sons and this is from the new album.  Woopie!

  • “The Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” by The Smiths-- “I’ve seen it happen in other people’s lives and now, now, now it’s happening in mine!”  Me, too, Moz.  Me, too. :-(

  • “Black Sheep” by Metric-- This song is not only featured in Scott Pilgrim-- which I loved-- but seems to be about a prodigal black sheep.  I empathize.

  • “Punching in a Dream” by Naked and Famous-- Again, another *cute* tune that has a dark undercurrent: “Like punching in a dream, breathing life into a nightmare.”

  • “Little Talks”by Of Monsters and Men-- Imagine if Belle and Sebastian had a sunny holiday every now and again-- that’s this.

  • “Endless Summer” by The Jezebels-- This is just a wistful tune which makes me happy.



If you’re interested in any of these tunes, feel free to subscribe to my WordPress playlist on Spotify, I’ll periodically add tunes as the spirit takes me.

Cheers,

j.