Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Blogmas Day 31: 2014 In Review

Aaaaaand . . . this is it folks: we have reached the final post in blogmas . . . now that we are half-way through January.  No regrets.

For my final Blogmas post, I am going to do a wrap up of 2014, which was, overall, a pretty good year for me.  A lot of things changed for me in 2014 and I spent most of the year preparing for and responding to these changes.  I think all of the changes I experienced in 2014 were positive in that they helped to move my life forward, but they did stymie my creativity.  I didn't read as broadly or deeply as I normally do in 2014.  I didn't write as much in 2014 as I have in previous years.  I didn't listen to as much music.  I didn't watch as many films.  I didn't fall in love with any TV shows.  2014 was an artistically dry year.

However, there were several amazing things that happened in 2014 that I will cherish for the rest of my life and I that I want to share with my readers.

I got a very high rating on my annual performance review at work.  My work means a lot to me and it was great to have my hard work recognized by my administrators.  Their respect means a lot to me and it was nice to have their high regard in writing.

I got to see my fur brother Harley before he passed away.  I am glad that I went to Arizona in August not only because I got to see my dad for the first time in more than a year, or because I got to meet my beautiful fairy princess niece, but because I got to be reunited with my fur brother just three months before he passed away.  I can't tell you how important it was to me to be able to be with Harley again.  Those are moments that I will hold close to my heart for the rest of my life.

I moved. I finally live in a nice, safe neighborhood that is clean and close to all of the shops that I frequent.  Also, this is the first time that I have lived somewhere that I am proud of.

I got to meet my new niece!  She's amazing and smart and beautiful and lovely and I love to her bits.  

I started my first (part time) library gig.  I enjoy getting to use my other professional skills and work with a different clientele.  Working at the library has given me a new perspective on my teaching and has also helped to get me "out of my own head" professionally.

I started taking foreign language classes again.  I missed formally studying a foreign language.  Brushing up on your language skills is good for the aging brain, dudes.

I bought my own domain.  Duh, you're here.

I started scrapbooking at the end of 2014.  I really enjoy getting to do something creative with the photos I have taken.  When you scrapbook, you get the chance to reminisce and make something beautiful out of your memories.  Maybe I will do a blog post about scrapbooking and about some of the pages I have created.  Let me know if that is something you would like to see in the comments.

I have started to be more forgiving and accepting of myself.  The best lesson I learned this year is that I like myself and that the quality of my life is far better when I am kind to myself. 

All in all, 2014 was a good year.  2014 challenged me emotionally and challenged the health of my loved ones.  For all of its ups and its down, I feel like I am richer for the experiences the year brought me and I am excited to see what 2015 has in store for me.


Blogmas Day 30: 2014 Favorites

Hello, everyone!  We're almost there-- the end of Blogmas!  In this thirtieth post, I will be discussing some of my 2014 beauty and book favorites.  Sadly, I didn't see any films or television shows last year that struck me enough this year to include in a favorites post.  That being said, let's crack on and see what did have me excited last year!


Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask: You can wear this like a mask and wear it overnight or, like me, you can use it as a night cream and work it into your skin.  Even on my oily-combination skin, this mask works to keep my skin balanced and plump.  My first tube of the product took about nine months to finish . . . and I am still working on the dregs.  Needless to say, I have already repurchased the product and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

First-Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream: When the NARS Tinted Moisturizer sent my skin into allergic reaction panic mode, the only stuff that got my skin to calm the fuck down was this.  The Ultra Repair Cream is oil-free, nourishing, and counts colloidal oat flour as one of its main ingredients.  If you are as prone to rashing-out like I am, it's a God send.

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser: I picked up this milky cleanser when I was in the midst of a post-move skin freak out and it sorted me out.  Throughout the year I have constantly returned to this product and, were I hard press to only use one face wash for the rest of my life, it would be this one.

Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer: After my ill-fated encounter with the NARS Tinted Moisturizer, I picked up this cult-favorite and found myself equally enamored.  Light, but with the slightest amount of coverage, this product is my go-to base on good skin days.

Lush Godiva and Karma Komba Shampoo Bars: I have long struggled to find a shampoo that left my hair feeling both cleansed and nourished.  I met my match with these two shampoo bars which, luckily enough, smell intoxicatingly of jasmine and patchouli.

NARS Laguna Bronzer: This year I finally listened to the hype and bought Laguna.  I can safely say that this has become my Holy Grail bronzer and I doubt I will ever stay from it.

NARS Lip Pencils: One of the best descoveries I made all year was of the NARS Velvet Matte and Satin Lip Pencils.  I currently own five shades (four matte and one satin) and I even managed to get my mom to buy one for herself.  They are good stuff, dudes.


Flavia de Luce Series Books #1 (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) and #2 (The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag) by Alan Bradley: I've never truly enjoyed a mystery series until I started to read the Flavia de Luce series after listening to Lesely from Words of a Reader's review.  If you loved Matilda growing up, you might want to give this series a go.

The Lazarus Project by Aleksander Hemon: I believe I picked this one up after seeing it in one of Rose Mannering's hauls.  I read much of this book pool-side during the late spring/ early summer.  While I wouldn't say this is a dishy beach read by any measure, I did find the story to be both engrossing and heartbreaking.  Given the events of the past six months or so, the book feels particularly timely.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg: As a young woman who is starting to become established in her career, I have personally found Sandberg's advice to be both compelling AND helpful.  You can read my review of the book here.

Elenore & Park by Rainbow Rowell: This is probably the book that had me crying the most this past year . . . and this was the year I read The Fault in Our Stars!  Without a doubt, I think E &P was was better than Fangirl . . . which is good, but over-hyped.  If you like classic post-punk music, graphic novels, and sad YA fiction, you should definitely give this one a go.

Let me know some of the books, products, film, or music that turned your head in 2014 in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blogmas Day 29: 2014 Discoveries

Hello, everyone.  Now that we are almost half-way through January, I have almost completed my Blogmas series (hahaha!—I’m ever so timely!).

For my twenty-ninth post, I am going to discuss the discoveries I made in 2015.  There were a lot of products that I grew to love over the past two months and there were plenty of clothes that caught my eye as well, but, the most important discoveries I made in the past year are more ephemeral than tangible.  Here are some personal discoveries made during my thirty-first year of life:

I like myself.  I have reached a point in my life where my self-worth isn’t linked to my figure or to a number on a label or a scale.  I’m a cool person.  I’m a smart person.  I do meaningful work that matters to my community.  None of these truths has anything to do with my measurements . . . or even what others think of me.  If I like myself and approach the world with self-confidence, others will respond in kind to me.

Pick your battles.  You can’t die on the cross for every cause or for every wounded soul who wanders into your orbit.  You don’t have the time or emotional or physical energy to make a big deal over everything that seemingly matters in the moment.  If my students are acting up in class, I don’t pounce on every rule they break—I address the big ones and give side eye to the smaller ones.  Only spend your energy on the causes that will matter to you in a year order more . . . if it’s not going to matter next year or next week, then it’s not worth getting butt hurt over.  Seriously. 

Skinny jeans come in plus-sizes. I used to think that my curvier build meant that I couldn’t wear skinny jeans without looking like a kielbasa.  This year, in a moment of sheer madness at Old Navy, I realized that the cut can look flattering and fashionable . . . even on me.  The moral of the story here is that you shouldn’t let the fear of looking foolish stop you from trying something you are interested in.  Worst case scenario, you look like a fool for a moment . . . then the moment is over.  Try new and innocuous things, kids, it’s good for the soul!

Consistency is key.  As in skincare, as in life.  When you find a routine that works for you and your unique circumstances, stick with it.  An easy way to get off track in life is to stray from your schedule—how many times have you forgotten to do something because you were interrupted in your routine?  There is nothing wrong with changing it up every now and then . . . but stick to what you know and what works.

Life is too short to keep reading a book you hate.  If you’re not clicking with a book, put it down and move on to another. Life is short and there is no logical reason why you should elect to be miserable if you don’t have to be.  The same principal applies to TBRs (to be read lists): you don’t have to stick to a specific list and read them chronologically—read what you like when you like and stop reading it when you don’t like it.  It actually is that simple, I promise.

I hope some of my 2014 discoveries rang true for you as well.  Let me know some of your 2014 lessons in the comments—words of wisdom are always welcome!
Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Blogmas Day 28: Winter Haul

Hello, everyone.  I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and a brilliant (and safe) New Years.  Now that we are in the home stretch with Blogmas (yes, I know I am behind, but the post-Christmas sales are still on!), I thought I would share with you some of the things I received this season.  

I am not going to show everything, but just some of the highlights that are still in shops to give some of you an idea of what to pick up in the post-holiday sales or what to get for your loved ones come Valentine's Day.

GAP A-Line Colorblock Boatneck Tee

Clarisonic Mia

GAP Reverse Terry Raglan Sweatshirt

NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Walkyrie [discontinued, but still available online]

Old Navy Women's Pattered Ballet Flats

 Old Navy Super-Soft Cinched Lounge Pants

If you like any of these items, act quick . . . the season's about to change and they'll (in most cases) be gone from shelves before you know it!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Blogmas: Day 27-- Creative Leftover Ideas

I hate leftovers, full stop.  Unless it is a rare, fantastic meal that magically improves its taste while chilling out overnight in my fridge (super rare), I will not eat leftovers.  Holiday meals are not the exception, they are the rule.  Even though I personally will not eat leftovers, I do have some leftover hacks that can make your nearly week old leftovers *new(-ish)* again.

Cranberry Sauce: Cocktail Mixer
Puree your leftover cranberry sauce in a food processor or blender until it is completely liquified.  Run the liquid through a strainer to catch any remaining solid bits in the mixture.  Use the strained liquid as a cocktail mixer-- in Kettle and Cran, martinis, cosmopolitans, and as a champagne topper.

Rolls: Breadcrumbs
Crumble leftover rolls into small chunks and spray with cooking spray.  Place the crumbles on a baking sheet and cook at 350 degrees until the crumbs are crisp.  Once the crumbs have cooled, run small amounts through a food processor or blender and pulse until they are the consistency of a fine meal.  Use this meal as you would breadcrumbs.

Turkey and Stuffing: Casserole
Shred leftover turkey.  Mix turkey, leftover stuffing, and half a cup of mayonnaise in a casserole dish.  Smooth the mixture out, top with cheese (if you wish) and bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and the ingredients are bubbling. 

Turkey: Turkey Tater Tot Casserole
A new take on a personal favorite.  Shred your left over turkey and combine with one can on drained corn, two cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup, and 2/3 of a can of water.  Spread half the mixture out in a casserole dish then lay a layer of tatter tots on top of the mixture.  Add the remaining mixture on top of the tatter tots.  Lastly, add the remaining tots and (depending on your taste) a little cheese on top.  Bake at 350 degrees until cooked through.

What creative ideas have you come up with for your leftovers?  Share your ideas in the comments.

Blogmas Day 26: Boxing Day

Depending on where you live, December 26 is either an extension of the Christmas holidays or it is the official end of the Christmas season.  Many Americans unknowingly accept our nation's cultural hegemony as "everyone in the world's culture" and assume that the day after Christmas is just the day when all of the leftover Christmas schtuff goes on clearance.  However, if you have ever tried to grab a Coke and a bag of chips in Amsterdam on the 26th of December, you'll know that there is more to the day after Christmas than cheap candy.

Outside of the U.S., December 26th is known as "Boxing Day," "Second Christmas," and "Saint Stephan's Day" among other monikers.  In the British Commonwealth, Boxing Day used to be the day when employers would give their workers boxes of goods as a thank you for their loyal service.  This was also the day when churches would open their alms boxes and distribute donations to the poor.

In other parts of the western world, predominantly Catholic countries, "Boxing Day" is instead called "Second Christmas" or 'Saint Stephan's Day" and it is officially the Second Day of Christmas, the second of the famous "Twelve Days of Christmas."  Many people have the mistaken impression that the "Twelve Days of Christmas" end on Christmas Day.  Rather, the Twelve Days represent the period between Christmas and Epiphany and therefore begin on December 25th.

Boxing Day/Second Christmas/ Saint Stephan's Day has never gained traction in the U.S. primarily because of America isn't traditionally a Catholic nation nor has the Catholic faith had a major impact on our national history (save for the Kennedys).  Similarly, unlike our British parent nation, we balk at class distinctions, like those that underscore the traditional Boxing Day celebrations.

So.  There you go.  That is what Boxing Day is all about and why Americans have never celebrated it.  The more your know! *rainbow*

Blogmas Day 25: Christmas For Non-Christians

Christmas.  Hanukkah.  Solstice.  Saturnalia.  Whatever you call the day, the 25th of December is what you make of it.  

For those of us who don't identify ourselves at Christian, the 25th can be totally perplexing or utterly frustrating (especially if you are Jonesing a Big Mac on Chrimbo, amiright?).  Over the years, I have come to realize that I can celebrate the 25th in a non-religious way . . . so long as I imbue it with personally significant meaning.  

Here are some photos from our family's celebration:

I hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful 25th, however you chose to spend your day!

Blogmas: Day 24-- Christmas Eve

In honor of the recently passed Christmas Eve, I thought I would share a little story with all of you, a story about the hot mess that was my Christmas Eve.  This, dear readers, was no ordinary hot mess-- no, no-- this was an epic, Lohan family-style hot mess.  Let me explain.

On Christmas Eve we were expecting two deliveries: one was a present for THE FOOSA (a new harness, she looks adorable in it, bee-tee-dubs) and the other was a parcel from Sephora that contained a present for my mom and something small for me (I had to make it to $50 to get free shipping, y'know).  Since one of us had to be at home in order to receive the deliveries, my mom volunteered me to do some last minute errand running while she did some of the pre-Chrimbo lunch prep work. 

If you're a late December shipping noob, let me tell you: being at any shopping center on the 24th of December is the ninth ring of hell.  The hellishness of last minute holiday shopping is only made worse by the fact that the city busses were not running on the 24th, a fact I conveniently forgot until I had been standing at my bus stop for more than twenty minutes.  The struggle dudes, the struggle.

Right after I managed to dodge traffic and skitter over to Target on foot, I got a call from my eye doctor's office informing me that my new specs were in . . . and that their office would only be open until one o'clock.  Mind you, it was already 11:15 am.  So, I hurried up at Target, dropped my purchases off at home, and managed to scurry to the eye doctor's just after noon.  Specs in hand-- or um, on my face-- I scurried back to the Target area and picked up some last minute food and a gift for my mom.  On my way back home (a three block walk, lightweight), I got caught in the obligatory Christmas storm and was sodden by the time I got home.

When I trudged in the door (remember, I was sodden), I noticed that one of our holiday deliveries had arrived but not the other.  I ate some lunch (tacos!) and took a bath to warm up before I checked the delivery status of my last package.  To my horror, I found that not only had the package already been delivered . . . it was delivered to my old address!

I moved at the beginning of 2014 and after dealing with criminally insane neighbors and shady management at my previous residence and I have avoid that side of town ever since.  So, as you can well imagine, I was scared, mad, and horrified all at once. With my adrenaline running, I speed-walked to my former residence (a mile walk) in the pouring rain to retrieve my package.

On my way there, I simultaneously hoped that the package would be out on the porch and I could quietly sweep in and grab my box and ran through scenarios for addressing aggressive former neighbors.  My fear kept me walking, my determination to retrieve a present for my mother (which was in the box) steeled my determination.  Luckily, I was able to saddle up to my former residence and grab the box without incident.

As I made my way home, I was giddy with relief . . . I got the box and I hadn't been harassed, or chased, or arrested!-- thank you Sweet and Savory Baby Jesus!  When I got home, I gave my mom the gift I retrieved and settled down for a quiet, happy Christmas Eve.

Despite all of the panicked walking I did this Christmas Eve, it was one of the best 24th of Decembers I can remember.