Month: May 2013

Random Thursday: 5 fun facts about me…

1. I fall asleep the easiest if the dryer, a lawn mower, or the dishwasher is running. When I was growing up we lived in a small house so you could hear the dryer all over the house, so now when I hear the dryer it’s a very comforting sound and makes me want to take a nap! The dishwasher sounds similar-ish, I suppose. And lawn mowers have a similar hum, plus the smell of cut grass is awesome!

2. I get on these kicks of eating the same food every day for a couple of weeks, like teriyaki noodles or oatmeal with raisins. Then I won’t eat it at all for a long time.

3. I actually used to not be a “cat person”, I was strictly a “dog person”. I didn’t like the idea of having a litter box or an animal in the house that would be climbing onto everything I owned. Then I wound up with a rescue cat and it all sort of went downhill from there, and now I prefer cats to dogs. They don’t need as much supervision since they sleep so much, they don’t slobber, they eat less, they’re easier to keep clean, and they don’t take up as much space.

4. As much as I love fictional stories about time travel, I would never want to do it in real life. I think the prior eras are highly romanticized in film and books and it would be much harder getting around back then, especially with no medicine, electricity, easy access to food and water, etc. Plus, think about how they treated women who didn’t know their “place”–I’d be burned at the stake as a witch in such a hurry.

5. I love buying gifts for other people…so much so, that I kind of have to watch my budget. It’s easy enough for me to put something back on the shelf if it’s a frivolous purchase for myself, but I’m constantly spotting things and thinking, “Ooh, I need to get that for so and so, she’d love it!” And then I’ll make up a ridiculous excuse to justify spending money on a present for no reason. I’m getting better about not doing this because I realized I was using up all of the good gifts ideas and then getting to birthdays and other holidays with no idea of what to wrap up for people. So now I buy things and store them in a box in the closet until an appropriate occasion comes up!

What I read this month: May 2013

May certainly flew by! I thought it would be fun to show you guys the books I’ve been reading this month and some mini reviews of each. If you’re a big bookworm like I am then feel free to look me up on Goodreads!

Okay, on to the books. I read six books this month, which is actually kind of high for me considering that I normally don’t have a lot of time for leisure reading.

Kingdom of Cages, by Sarah Zettel. (Paperback, 608 pages) This futuristic sci-fi novel isn’t something I’d typically pick up, but I liked it overall. In a future where humanity is on the brink of extinction, Chena and Teal Trust and their mother are chosen to immigrate to Pandora, a planet fiercely guarded by a group of ecologically minded scientists. Once they get there, the Trust girls learn that the Pandorans don’t want new inhabitants, only their pure DNA for a science project–and they wind up on the run as they try to beat a system that is trying to enslave them. There are some rough patches and the twists and turns aren’t always the most original, but overall I think the characters were believable and the pacing was steady enough to keep me turning the pages. (3 of 5 stars)

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini. (Hardcover, 372 pages) This one was kindly sent to me by Jasmine from Green Eyed Monster as part of the April book swap. The book spans about thirty years, from the era before the Soviet Invasion, through the occupation and the rise of the Taliban, to the post-Taliban era of rebuilding; the story is told through the eyes of two generations of women, Miriam and Laila. I’m not going to lie: this book was really hard to read, as it depicts the harsh reality of life as a woman in Afghanistan, where oppression and abuse are routine. That said, it’s a real page-turner and for all the sadness, bits of hope shine through so the story isn’t wholly depressing. You can also tell that the book was written by someone who has actually lived in Kabul as opposed to someone totally foreign to the culture; it was really interesting to see these decades from the perspective of a native author as opposed to an outsider. (5 of 5 stars)

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith. (Paperback, 235 pages) This was a zippy read! Precious Ramwotse is the cheerful Botswanan lady detective who often compares herself to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple–fitting, I think, since Miss Marple was the literary character who kept popping into my head as I was reading. This book also came from Jasmine in the book swap (I feel so bad that she sent me two books and I only sent her one!). If you’re a big fan of hardboiled crime novels or noir detective novels then you won’t like this one, but if you like laid-back mysteries a la Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes, where deduction and good sense wins out over violence, then this might be up your alley. (4 of 5 stars)

Requiem (Delirium #3), by Lauren Oliver. (Hardcover, 391 pages) I was really excited to wrap up this trilogy about a dystopian future where love is considered a disease and people are surgically “corrected” not to feel such emotions. I don’t want to give away any spoilers for any of you who haven’t read the book, but I felt like Lena really evolved over the course of the trilogy and the pacing stayed very taut throughout. That said, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the last two; I felt like the end wasn’t very satisfying, as it’s both the end I predicted and also a very open-ended, not entirely wrapped up conclusion. It was still a good book, I just wish the series could have finished on the same tense note as the first two books. (4 of 5 stars)

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, by Chelsea Handler. (Hardcover, 244 pages) Here’s the description from Goodreads: “Get ready for big laughs as Chelsea Handler lets loose with more comic personal essays. In this new, no-holds-barred account of life on the ridiculous side, Chelsea mines the wealth of material that is her family, her sex life, her career, and her distinctively outrageous worldview…Chelsea never lets anyone off the hook, even herself, as she delivers page after page of irreverent humor, biting wit, and deliciously off-kilter entertainment.” I’ve seen Chelsea on TV and read interviews with her in magazines, so I know she possesses the potential to be funny; but I didn’t find this book funny at all. Half the time she’s just being a jerk to the people around her, and the other half she’s making these jokes that are flatter than a slashed tire. My honest thought is that she wrote this book while drunk and/or high (both of which she talks about a lot), because that’s the only excuse for her thinking such a disjointed and crass series of ramblings was funny enough to submit to the printer. (Side note: I have nothing against crass humor done well. When you’re just being crass because you don’t know what else to do, that’s another story.) (1 of 5 stars)

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke. (Hardcover, 534 pages) This is supposed to be a young adult novel, but it’s just as entertaining for any adults who fondly remember a childhood steeped in books. Young Meggie discovers that her father Mo can read characters right out of books; unfortunately, his unique talent led him to accidentally read a troupe of villains out of a novel, and now they are targeting Mo and his daughter because of that talent. Meanwhile, a traveling performer who was also read out of the book just wants Mo to read him home, and Meggie wonders if her mother–who disappeared into the novel–can ever come home again. The pacing was fair enough, though I do think the book is a bit over-long, at least for kids. (4 of 5 stars)




Fave posts this month! May 2013

Hey lovelies! I hope you’ve all had a lovely May! I thought it was high time to return to doing an occasional roundup of blog posts and articles I’ve loved recently, so you guys can find some fun new beauty reviews, fashion posts, recipes, reads, whatever–maybe you’ll even find some cool new bloggers to follow in the process. :) Since it’s been just about forever since I did one of these posts I’ve got a roundup of links from the whole month of May, but hopefully in the future I’ll do these posts more often!

In no particular order, here are some posts I really liked this month!

On my recipe radar: this sparkling berry limeade from Beauty & Truth (wouldn’t this be a perfect summer patio beverage?) and a recipe for vegan almond butter cups from FitSugar. Since deciding to give up milk chocolate I’ve really missed Reeses Cups; I really do prefer dark chocolate, but that particular candy bar has always been a big weak spot for me! I’ll definitely be trying this recipe to make my own at home.

Also for those interested in the cruelty-free lifestyle: you might be interested in joining Bleat, a new social media site geared towards vegetarians and vegans. Find out more about Bleat courtesy of The Glambulance. And if organic beauty is a big deal to you, then you need to read Sugarpuffish‘s post on picking truly organic skincare. With all of the confusing labels out there saying things like “natural” “organic” and “green”, it’s important to know how to weed through the fakers to find the truly pure and natural products.

Wants some outfit inspiration? The Serena Saga posts some of the most awesome outfits ever, and this bright skirt and top combo is no exception. (She’s one of my favorite fashion bloggers!) C Michelle Styles posted this great mashup of neon, sequins, and cream (another great fashion blogger to follow, especially if you’re on a budget). And Andystyle has the cutest draped skirt here–I like that she paired it with an equally drapey top but kept things defined with the belt and ladylike pumps! Finally, Beauty By Arielle has me itching to go thrifting again with this pretty haul of prints and colors from Plato’s Closet.

If you want some cool new nail art ideas, check out this cute and easy marbling idea (using plastic wrap instead of water!) courtesy of Pretty Making. Or, if you’re into stamping, check out this tone on tone matte mani from RainySunRayNails–it’s such a pretty twist on traditional matte manicures!

I’ve had the itch to rearrange and redecorate in my home lately, so I got some fun design inspiration with these peeks into the homes of artist Anahata Katkin and musician Florence Welch from Bohemian Treehouse. Also in the home department: it was super-fun scrolling through the linkups for “My Dream Home” via Random Thursday, but I think the best of all was Katrin’s tower library (Land of Candy Canes). I’ve decided to just go be the ghost that lives up there and watches over all of the books, because how awesome would that be?

Beauty By Arielle pretty much summed up all of my frustrations with BB creams in this video. I’m giving her huge bonus points for referencing Grumpy Cat along the way! Pretty Squared picked out seven of their favorite drugstore blushes for summer and I’m psyched to see that five are cruelty-free options–and all so pretty, too! Beauty Redfined By Pang posts tons and tons of great reviews and swatches all the time, but one post that really caught my eye this month was her roundup of emerald green makeup. I love this color but finding true shades in the drugstore can be tricky, so I appreciated the picks and swatches from brands like Nyx and Milani.

If you want some non-beauty or fashion-related reading, Green Eyed Monster has been doing the same two Blog Every Day in May challenges that I’ve been struggling through completing–so if you’ve been having fun reading up on those topics, go check out her posts too! If you’re a cat lover or just love funny pet videos, you must watch this cat video as recommended by You’re Meaghan Me Crazy–it’s so true to life!

Finally, Dancing Branflakes is one of my favorite blogs that doesn’t focus specifically on style–you’ll find a variety of posts here on dance, beauty, fashion, food, decorating, relationships, and more, but also lots of inspirational posts and some that are just pure pretty photography. This series of photos from a trail in Virgina is so pretty, and the accompanying story is pretty sweet, too.

Blog every day in May x2: Days 24 and 25

Day 24 prompt: Describe and/or photograph what is in your fridge right now. Be honest! 

A huge jug of Gatorade (we mix it with water to fight dehydration, which seems to be worse when you work overnights). A big case of Monster for the husband and a container of coffee for me. Soy milk, soy cheese, some margarine. Tons of condiments! A tomato that will go into today’s pasta dinner. Some tuna and turkey for the husband’s work lunches. Some melon that probably needs to be thrown out. Eggs. Quinoa.
 

Day 25 prompt: What are your top 5 favorite albums and why?

I can only pick 5? No way!!!

  • The Joshua Tree, U2. This is probably my favorite U2 album and is the perfect album for a Western road trip.
  • Symphony No. 9, Beethoven. His best work of all, in my opinion.
  • El Camino, The Black Keys. Rock/blues that’s perfect for both rocking out and chilling out.
  • Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons. Their debut album continues to be one of my favorite albums to listen to on repeat at work.
  • Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, M83. This album is a weird mix of orchestral pieces, 80s rock and synth pop, in a really good way.



Day 24 prompt: Your top 3 worst traits

  1. I hold a grudge forever. FOR-EV-AH. As justification I will add that it takes quite a bit to get a person onto my grudge list. Someone told me that holding grudges is a side effect of being Italian, so I’m sticking with that!
  2. I have very little patience or tolerance for other people being stupid, rude, etc., which in this modern world basically translates to having very little tolerance for people, period! We’re all adults. Effin’ act like it!
  3. As my husband’s friend Roger delicately phrased it, “You have a very strong personality.” I’m very strong-willed and have a very clear idea of what is right and wrong and how to proceed with things, and it takes a lot to change my mind. Being married has taught me so much about compromise and consideration for other people’s viewpoints and feelings, because when you live with someone at some point you’ll have to give way on something!

Day 25 prompt: Something someone told you about yourself that you’ll never forget (good or bad) 

“You’re a big girl.” I was always a little thick growing up, I guess. Not “chubby”, but as I was told over and over, “big-boned”. It didn’t help that I hit my adult height in junior high. I guess this was how well-meaning adults thought they would make me feel at ease with my size, but it had the opposite effect; the tag of being “a big girl” clung to me like static electricity, wrapping around too tightly to emphasize that I lacked the skinny hips and flat chests of other girls my age.

At a certain age, an awareness set in that “big” is not desirable. I slouched and hid under baggy clothes. I was embarrassed to be tall, embarrassed that I couldn’t squeeze into hip hugger jeans and the tiny t-shirts that were super-popular back in the early 2000s. I realize the terms “big” or “big-boned” was probably supposed to head off any fears that I was “fat”, but they really only drew more of my attention to my body and to all the synonyms for the word “big”. When you’re a teenager, you tend to self-dramatize really quickly.

My parents were always really into fitness (hiking and biking) and “junk food” (soda, chips) was a luxury in our house, but at the same time nobody was nutty about health or anything like that, so you’ve got to give my parents a ton of credit for raising me with a balanced attitude toward eating and exercise. I think that’s a huge reason I didn’t end up with an eating disorder like some of the other girls I knew in high school, because I really didn’t get the chance and I had a lot of love at home. Still, I couldn’t really shake my warped mental image of a self who took up too much space.

After high school I got really skinny, mostly because I was super-busy and not eating. It wasn’t really a conscious thing, I just lost a ton of weight all at once. I reveled in people commenting on how thin I had gotten, especially boys. When I started dating my now-husband, I was squeezing into my tiniest jeans size yet and determined not to gain a pound. After all, I was finally thin and attractive to guys, and I wasn’t about to screw that up by becoming the “big girl” again! (Of course, my now-adult self realizes that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and when I think about how little I ate back then it’s insane. I wasn’t healthy! But at 18, you’re just kind of stupid like that.)

All things come to an end, and at some point I wound up gaining quite a few pounds back. And somewhere in the shuffle of sizes in and out my wardrobe I finally realized that the label of “big girl” did not have to define how I saw myself or what I put on my plate. My boyfriend loved me for a ton of things, but my jeans size was not one of them. I excelled at work for a lot of reasons, but my jeans size was not one of them. So many things could affect my happiness on a daily basis, and it’s true that my jeans size could be one of them–but so could the wistful thought of a dinner with friends, passed up because I was afraid of the calories. And so could feeling too tired for an activity because I had skipped my meals all day.

And at some point, once I stopped fretting about every bite and the labels in my clothes, I was finally able to look in the mirror without seeing a distorted reflection of someone with an inch to pinch here and there. I just saw me. I may not be able to squeeze my thighs into skinny jeans, but my muscular legs are the result of an active lifestyle and they mean I can walk for miles without getting tired! I’m proud of being strong! I’m happy to have curves, even if they mean I can’t shop the junior sizes, because I’m eating a healthy diet and not passing up the foods I love just to be smaller. 

So there’s my little speech on body acceptance! I wish I had gotten over myself a little sooner because I would have had much more fun in life, but better late than never!


Blog every day in May x2: Day 23

Tell us about the best compliment you have ever received.

I guess I would say that the best compliment I’ve received came from a former boss, who told me that I was the best on my team at completing tasks related to inventory and organization, and that was why I was always selected from the group for special projects in that area of our workplace–because our lead manager noticed a difference from when I was working on those projects or not and said that I was his preferred pick to complete those tasks! My cynical side says we’ll see whether I’m still “the best” when it’s time for my yearly evaluation and potential raise, heh heh. But I guess a compliment is a compliment and it’s nice to feel valued.

 



Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you 

  • Manners and basic respect for other people, including how to think before you speak!
  • Common sense. There is a difference between knowing something from a book and being able to apply it in real life.
  • How to interpret statistics and data. Numbers are often thrown around without any real comprehension of what they mean or how to apply them!

Blog every day in May x2: Day 21 and 22

Day 21 prompt: If you could do anything in the world to make a living what would it be?

I would be a full-time writer and churn out novel after novel! Maybe someday. :)

Day 22 prompt: If you could talk to your 13 year old self, what would you say?

I would tell her that while she feels very alone in the world, some day she’ll get out of her small town and find others who share her interests and she won’t feel like such a weirdo! 13 is a tough age for everyone (well, maybe not if you’re a trust fund baby!) and she shouldn’t feel so down about it, because eventually she’ll be an adult and then she can pursue the things she likes in life.

 



Day 21 prompt” A list of links to your favorite posts in your archives 

I’ll try to divvy it up and categorize a bit.

My favorite home/lifestyle posts:

  • My mini deck makeover. I put a lot of work into this and I was proud of it! (link
  • My “30 Before 30” list. It was kind of scary to actually write this out. (link)
  • Quite possibly one of the best desserts ever. (link)


My favorite fashion posts:

  • This orange and green blouse and skirt combo was one of my first forays into really bold color and I’m really happy with this outfit. (link)


My favorite beauty posts:

  • I admit that I don’t wear makeup every day! It was liberating to type it out. (link)
  • This is one of my favorite spring nail colors ever, and my nails actually don’t look too ragged for a change. (link)
  • My favorite makeup wipe. (link)
  • I had fun trying out this indie organic skincare brand, which I actually discovered thanks to one of my readers! (link
  • Yin Yang nail art! (link)
  • In which I explain what cruelty-free really means for makeup lovers. (link)
Day 22 prompt: Rant about something. Get up on your soapbox and tell us how you really feel. (a pet peeve, a current event, a controversial topic, something your husband or roommate or neighbor or boss does that really ticks you off)

Well, let’s jump right in shall we? I can’t stand hypocrites and I can’t stand people who are just plain ignorant. It seems like the two traits often go hand in hand. It’s pretty easy to find and dismiss these traits in someone who doesn’t believe in the same things you do, but when I find people in the causes I support displaying these two traits, it makes me want to rip my hair out. 

For example, I’m big on animal rights and vegetarianism/veganism, but I would be the first to admit that these communities contain lots of very spiteful and unhelpful people. There’s a reason for all those “how do you spot the vegan at a dinner party” jokes–these people do exist, loudly telling everyone around them how disgusting their dinners are and telling anyone who doesn’t use vegan beauty products that they are akin to a rapist or Hitler. These are the people who mock and deride people with severe food allergies and say that they are using their allergies as an excuse to not go 100% vegan, which is a pretty crappy thing to say if you haven’t lived with allergies yourself, methinks!

At the same time, I’ve also seen some of these groups holding up people like Mike Tyson as their vegan “role models”. So to be clear, a former rapist who now eats vegan gets a clean slate, but someone who is allergic to soy and nuts and therefore cannot go 100% vegan is akin to a rapist. There is no logic there to me.

I also understand why so many young women feel such a disconnect from feminism. So many of these so-called “feminists” say they’re all about being equal, but what they really seem to feel is that men are all just stupid dogs who should be shot. That’s not feminism, that’s reverse sexism. They also leave people of color, women of different faiths, and members of the LGBT community on the sidelines.

Then there’s the constant hypocritical reminder that feminism is about being able to do whatever you want with your body and your life, while also telling women all the things they should not do if they want to be a “real” feminist. For example:

  • The backlash against ridiculous beauty ideals has turned into a backlash against women who enjoy wearing makeup or frilly clothing. These “feminists” love to attack women like Zooey Deschanel for not fitting their ideal of what a woman should look like and how she should behave. Wait, why does that sound familiar?
  • Slut shaming has now turned into virgin shaming! Yay!
  • God forbid you decide you want to have kids and stay home with them of your own volition because, you know, a real feminist would be out there earning her own bacon, not putting in 20-hour days every day for 18+ years to raise a human being.
  • Not an atheist? Well, you’re an idiot.

I could go on, but you get the point. Somewhere along the line the drive for equality was hijacked, and feminism is in embarrassing disarray thanks to an army of women who don’t even seem to understand the basic tenets of what they purport to stand for.

Both of these causes are incredibly important to me, but the levels of hypocrisy and non-logic involved can make it really hard for me to identify with either cause. It makes it very hard to reach out to others within these communities and make new friends because you’re trying to figure out whether you believe in the same things or if something really dumb is going to come out of their mouth at any moment. (And yes, I realize this makes me sound like I’m up on my high horse. Oh well, that was the prompt for the day, was it not?)

Ten on Tuesday: 5/21/13

Celebrity edition! Warning, here be snarkiness.

1. So I wonder if Kim Kardashian found out that her baby daddy Kanye West was gay before or after they eloped to Paris? (Don’t freak out. Since these headlines came from In Touch Weekly and OK! Magazine respectively, I’m 99% sure they’re both utter nonsense.)

2. I’ve lost count, but I think the Kanye West rumors mark roughly the fifth of Kim’s “worst fears” that have been immortalized via tabloid headline, with the others being: getting fat, facing ex Kris Humphries in divorce court, getting fatter, and being dumped by her beau for being so fat. Harsh? Yes. But seriously, I have trouble feeling sorry for someone who seeks out the spotlight and then recoils under the harsh glare of rumors and criticism. You wanted it, and now you’ve got it.

3. On a more serious note: however you feel about Angelina Jolie, I think we can all agree that her decision to have a preventative double mastectomy and remove her ovaries following a positive BRCA gene test was incredibly brave–not to mention her decision to then write a full op-ed for The New York Times, going public with her story. It’s true that the story has opened up tons of debate about gene testing and the cost of health care in the U.S. but it’s a good start toward getting the discussion started and it will also hopefully help destigmatize this sort of preventive measure.

4. Also, I hope all those fashion bloggers who criticized her Jedi robe getup at the Women in the World Summit back in April feel like crap now, because if you do the math she was undergoing treatment at the time those photos were taken. (Just scroll down for some of the choice comments.) If I was told I had an 87% risk of developing breast cancer in my lifetime I would probably just be hiding in bed in my jammies; I would not be going out of the house for a Starbucks run, much less a global event liberally laced with photographers.

5. Cara Delevingne is just about the hottest thing to come out of Britain in, well, forever, which is all well and good for her, I guess. Her new lion finger tattoo is seriously badass but all I’ve got to say is, I hope this modeling thing works out for you and you never have to get a real job, because even the fast food joint where I worked in high school wouldn’t hire you with a visible tattoo like that.

6. If you somehow missed this news in your browser: Maxim magazine apparently chose Miley Cyrus as their “hottest woman alive”. Setting aside how I feel about these “hot 100” lists (stupid for so many reasons)…you cannot convince me that the best possible candidate these guys could possibly come up with for this post was Hannah Frickin’ Montana.

7. Thank goodness the people of Tumblr are here to put the a——s in their place.

8. I haven’t heard of Taylor Swift dating anyone new since she broke up with Harry Styles, which was like a whole four months ago. Shouldn’t someone check to see if she’s dead?

9. So if Beyonce is really preggers with baby #2, do you think we’ll have another round of fake baby bump accusations? And what will the couple name Blue Ivy’s potential younger sibling?

10. Because I don’t want to leave you guys with nothing but snarky celeb gossip: this week 25-year-old Raha Moharrak became the first Saudi woman to successfully scale Mt. Everest. Her words to mark the momentous occasion? “I really don’t care about being the first…so long as it inspires someone else to be the second.” Hats off to her!

Blog every day in May x2: Day 20

Talk about something that is in the news today.

Well, it might not be groundbreaking national or world news, but in this house we’re excited for the big announcements tomorrow afternoon about the next generation of XBOX consoles. And when I say “we”, I mean my hubby! We saw a reminder yesterday that there would be a live streaming conference out of Seattle on Tuesday afternoon and with 24 hours to go the hype is certainly at its peak. This is the hot news in the gaming world and all of the gamers I know are going bonkers making bets about the next generation of consoles, what they’ll be called, how much they’ll cost, etc. It’s crazy. Though, I suppose if I was a gamer, I would be going nuts too!



Get real. Share something you’re struggling with right now. 

I am really struggling to get back into a habit of working out! Like most people I hate exercise, so I really swing in and out of a routine. I have a yoga mat and weights, a stationery and an outdoor bike, hiking trails nearby, and exercise DVDs covering dance, yoga, and yogalates. So I’m not short on equipment, I’m just short on time and energy. I feel like it’s always a tossup: work out or blog? Work out or take care of my to-do list? Work out or get some sleep?