8/16/17

Lately


I know it's been quiet here on the blog. Sometimes I find it better to just let things simmer rather than forcing posts when I'm feeling uninspired/distracted/exhausted.

I've been trying to enjoy the summer before a new semester starts. Plenty of reading has been happening, whole neighborhoods of houses in Sims 4 have been built and then abandoned (I often like the game more for the building rather than anything else).

Ebay has taken up a lot of my time as I work to build my store on there. I enjoy the thrill of hunting for unique treasures and sharing them with others.



The flowers are in full bloom and the veggie garden is *knocks on wood* doing really great. Will this year be the year my tomatoes don't get any sort of disease?? I anxiously wait to see...

I've definitely been watching too much news... it's honestly hard not to. I find myself in a constant state of disappointment and anger lately. While there are certainly awesome people out there who are speaking out and standing up, it also feels like an endless cycle of ridiculous, angering, and offensive news. If you find yourself feeling frustrated as I often do, I suggest you find ways to get involved if you aren't already. A super easy way to do so is through Resist Bot. By texting 'resist' to 50409, you can fax or call your representatives in Congress. It's free and incredibly accessible. Whether it's noon or the middle of the night, you can easily shoot off a message! Do it frequently to unlock new features!

I don't have much else to report but I wanted to send out a quick post to say that I'm still around and I haven't forgotten about the blog. I've got some posts planned for the not-so-distant future, so stay tuned!

7/6/17

Recipe: Super Pumpkin Muffins - Gluten Free, Vegan



It might be July but today I had a craving for pumpkin. I wanted something savory and comforting, but also something not too sugary or heavy. Lately I've been feeling like a lot of different foods don't want to agree with me, so I was looking for something fairly simple. These pumpkin muffins are super dense and filled with plenty of good-for-you ingredients. There's no gluten, no refined sugar and they're dairy free - making them also vegan.

To whip these up all you need is one bowl and a spoon, so clean up is also fairly easy. They'd make a great breakfast muffin, but they're totally perfect for an afternoon snack or dessert as well.



Super Pumpkin Muffins 

Makes 6 hearty muffins 


Ingredients: 

1 cup pure organic pumpkin
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup agave
1 scant tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/5 cup Bob's Red Mill gluten free oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tsp chia seed
1 tsp flax seeds
1/2 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

Directions: 

- Preheat oven to 350, and grease a muffin pan (I use coconut cooking spray).
- Combine all wet ingredient together in a large bowl.
-Add in oats and other dry ingredients.
-Spoon into muffin pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (more or less, depending on your oven!)
-Enjoy!

These muffins came out super moist thanks to the pumpkin/apple sauce duo so if you like them dryer, you can lessen these amounts, or add a bit more oat. These are highly versatile muffins! They might seem like a fall dessert but I think pumpkin should be embraced year round! :)

6/30/17

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (REVIEW)

 

As I make my way through my goal of reading more diverse books, I've come across and read many that have to do with race relations in the United States. Piecing Me Together is no exception, and is perhaps (so far) one of the best that I've read which deals with this issue. Renée Watson delivers the subject with such honesty and youthful emotion that made this book impossible to put down. I read half of it in one sitting, and half in another. 

Piecing Me Together focuses on a young girl living in the Pacific Northwest named Jade. A black girl living with her single mother, and uncle in a low-income, fairly homogeneous neighborhood, she straddles different worlds between her home life and that at her private school in another area of town. Jade attends the school on scholarship because of her hard work and talent, but she struggles between resenting the assistance and trying to appreciate it. She doesn't want to be someones project. When she is offered an opportunity through a program at school that will provide her with a college scholarship, its both not what she wanted, and everything she needs at the same time (whether she knows this or not). 

In some ways Piecing Me Together reads like your average YA novel. In so many, many ways though, it is not. What I love about this book is how it not only tackles the issue of race on both micro and macro levels, but it also address other issues like poverty, body image, relationships and more. It is a book of layers and so many of the layers stood out to me. I found myself smiling and/or nodding my head as I read page after page of moments that resonated with me. The character of Jade is so profound even in her youthfulness. Piecing Me Together challenges the stereotype that with youth comes ignorance as Jade is wise beyond her years. 

This book should be a must read for adolescents, and really - for anyone. As an adult in my early thirties, I enjoyed the book very much. Piecing Me Together tackles the raw subject of race - one which pulses so intensely in our society right now, while also addressing issues that might seem far less consequential like body issues, misogyny, and even simply advocating for yourself and having self-confidence. Often these are identified as issues of adolescence but they are very much issues that linger with us throughout our lives, for some more than others, making this book a very valuable read. 

If you're looking for a book to fly through over your fourth of July vacation or on your next holiday getaway, give this one a try. Trust me - its worth it!

6/28/17

Budget Travels: St. Catharines & Welland Canal, Ontario Canada



Living in Western New York, sometimes I feel like there aren't many places to explore within a short distance. It's a wildly incorrect assumption and this summer, I've decided to try and explore the region in which I live a bit more. So naturally I started by going to visit my neighbors in the north, and took a trip to St. Catharines, Ontario Canada. ;)

Considering where I live, and the special relationship that exists and has existed for years between Canada and Western New York, it seems justifiable to include Ontario province in my adventure radius. I have always had wanderlust, but I often have my sights set on places far away. However, my bank account and my desires don't always align, so I decided that this summer would be the summer of budget friendly adventures! I thought it would be nice to try and document these excursions here on the blog, as I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to travel without breaking the bank or really, let's be honest, being able to do so. I'm also excited to really explore places within my own neck of the woods (more or less) as I'm embarrassed to admit just how little I have experienced in my own region. So here's to a summer filled with adventures seeking to change that!

Anyway, back to my trip to St. Catharines... it's a city I've heard the name of over the years but my knowledge really ended there. I still feel like I haven't really been there if I'm honest, because the place we really went to check out was the Welland Canal and Lock 3 which is located in St. Catharines. I can't even explain where it started but a few weeks ago, I was reading about the history of the Welland Canal and it really is a fascinating story. Start with wikipedia (just remember, it's wikipedia!!) and check out some youtube videos too if you fancy. The history of the canal really is interesting. For those that don't know, the Welland canal was built to allow large ships (like huge ocean cargo ships) to navigate through the Great Lakes, from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie and onward. It is part of a larger pathway that allows these massive ships to come from the ocean all the way to the Great Lakes. To get these ships from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie isn't as simple as navigating a smaller seaway - it involves going from a lower lake to a higher lake. To achieve this, ships need to go through a series of locks which raise and lower the ships to allow them to navigate from one lake to another.





After reading all about the canal, I decided I wanted to go check it out for myself. There are locks in the WNY region, but I've never seen them in action, so my curiosity, coupled with the fact that I could pick up more of my favorite Canadian treats made the trip a must. St. Catharines is a perfect spot to experience the canal since there is also a museum - The St. Catharine's Museum, and they have a really great observation deck to watch the whole process of ships coming in and out (or up and down as they say).

The museum is free, and the parking is also free. It's a gorgeous spot and when we went to check it out, it was certainly an international hub. People come from all over the world to experience the canal! As someone with a degree in sociology, I felt my ethnographic research skills coming back as I took in all the different exchanges occurring around me from people who had traveled far and wide to visit this one particular place. I could have easily sat and people watched for awhile.






Watching the ships is a fascinating experience and honestly, in some ways I find it hard to describe. I still don't fully understand how exactly it all works!! I was so mystified by the process that at times I just had to appreciate the ingenuity of it all. We got to watch a ship going down through the canal, and up. I could see spending even more time traveling along the canal to see ships pass through other locks as well.

A great part of the museum is that they post what ships are coming through and at what times, so it helps to plan your trip in order to catch them as they go through Lock 3. You can also call for the information - the number is on their site.

If you do go to Lock 3 in St. Catharines, do also take a walk around inside the museum. They have interesting historical artifacts from the history of St. Catharines and the region as a whole - including from the Underground Railroad, WWI, and WW2. 

If you live in the WNY region, and have not experienced the canal or see the big ocean liners coming through the locks, I encourage you to take the short trip north to experience it. It's free, you can pick up some Cadbury, grab some poutine and enjoy a *real* authentic Timmy's. What have you got to lose, eh?

6/23/17

Here Comes the Sun: Five Sunscreens Put To The Test

I will admit that I haven't always been that great about making sure to apply sunscreen. I used to go to the beach and crave a tan - something my Italian/German skin seemed conflicted about. I have sensitive skin though and any little thing can cause me a world of discomfort. Too much wind, too much cold, too much sun, abrasive products, complex chemicals, the wrong foods...I've learned over the years that my skin is cranky and while I still don't have a perfect system down, I have adopted the routine of putting on sunscreen, *nearly* every single day.

I started really giving my skincare routine and habits an overhaul a few months ago and when I started, I picked up a few new sunscreen products to use. Then, if I'm honest, I cleaned out my health & beauty hoard and found two that I already had. Oops... >_< So, since then, I have been putting them all to the test. Four different sunscreens over the course of a few months. I thought it might be helpful for others if I gave them all some scrutiny here on the blog. If I can encourage anyone else to start using sunscreen on a daily basis that would be wonderful!

 

I'll start off with the ones I picked up most recently, the first of which is the La Roche Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid. Oy. Long name!What I like about this is that it's super lightweight and has a nice high SPF. It's also good for sensitive skin. It didn't piss off my skin in any significant ways, but I will say that I found it to be a bit drying. It's also the most expensive of the products I have been testing. I would perhaps overlook the price, if it weren't for the fact that I later learned La Roche Posay is *not* a cruelty free brand. So once this product is gone, I won't be repurchasing. For this reason alone, I cannot recommend this product.

 

Next up is the Jason Sun Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Broad Spectrum. I like that this brand is cruelty-free and the size of the bottle makes it quite an affordable product. However, it is thicker than hell and I found that it did not work into my skin as easily as other products I've been trying. Due to the consistency, this is another that I would not re-purchase.

 

Now on to the two I already had. The first of which is the Kiss My Face Face & Neck Face Factor 30. This is in many ways, your standard sunscreen. It smells like sunscreen - but I don't think its too strong and I don't really mind the smell of sunscreen anyways. I think since it makes me think of summer, I kind of enjoy it actually. It's decently priced and cruelty free. I found it to feel fairly lightweight on my skin, but it took a minute or so to really sink in. I would repurchase this one, but I'm unsure as to whether I really find it necessary to have a separate body / face sunscreen. I also wish the SPF was higher.

 

Last up is the Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunblock Natural Protection with Organic Lavender. This one is also cruelty free, so it passes the test there. It also has a higher SPF - the second highest of the bunch at 45. I found that it goes on nice and smooth, and that it absorbs well, although when I ran from my car into a store the other day in the rain, I had little white spots on my arm afterward. No big though, I just rubbed it back in. I'm just glad I noticed and didn't look too crazy! My favorite feature of this product though, is the smell. The lavender is AMAZING. It's just the right kind of lavender. To me, not all lavender smells the same and there are some NASTY ones out there, but this one smells soooo good. Out of the four sunscreens I tried, this one is definitely the WINNER! It's affordable, with a high SPF and it works great. Plus, it smells amazing!!

I truly hope that this post inspires you all to grab some sunscreen and add it to your daily routine if it isn't already. :)