12/30/16

New Year, New Goals. (2017 Goals & 2016 Recap)



Every year, many of us look at the new year as a clean slate. A change to change something we don't like about ourselves, or our lives. I personally don't like calling them resolutions because I feel like that doesn't allow for any flexibility. Instead, I like to come up with a list of goals. I call them goals because they're things I'd like to accomplish, and I think that acknowledges the idea that change is a process and not an overnight experience (in most cases).


 Reflection: 
 
Looking back on the past year, I can say that I have not accomplished all that I wanted to, but I did make some progress. I beat my reading goal of 12 books, and more than doubled it. I quit smoking (something I'm ashamed to admit I even did) over a year ago now. I've done yoga more often, but not as nearly as I wanted to. I have created more - picking up knitting more for example. I've tried being more frugal, and in some ways I have been, and in others... not so much. I have though, worked on getting rid of something in my life that didn't see enough use or bring me joy, so I suppose that's being frugal to a degree! I've definitely tried at least twelve new recipes, but I cannot say that I've volunteered and that's something I'm disappointed in myself for not accomplishing. Overall though, I think that I can say I did fairly well at accomplishing some of the things I set out to do.

2017 Goals: 

This year I want to try working on caring less about what others think of me. I'm definitely an introvert, and I'm also an anxious human, and while it is often irrational, I often hold myself back over fear of the judgement from others, that likely wouldn't happen anyways. This year I would like to try and shed some of that anxiety and apprehension and just focus on my own feelings.

I would like to read twenty books this year. Last year, my goal was twelve and I beat it easily. So this year I'm raising that goal, while still keeping it fairly low. I am a grad student after all!

I want to travel somewhere I've never been. It doesn't have to be super far away, but it has to be somewhere new.

This year I want to focus more of my attention to improving my credit and paying off debt. This is certainly not a glamorous goal, but its a satisfying one. I struggle when I don't see progress quickly, but I'm hoping that over the year I can make some significant progress. This means spending less, or at the very least spending smarter!

Lastly, I would really, really love to work on my ancestry/family tree. I have done some research in the past, but I often hit brick walls. This year I'd really like to take some time to try and dig deeper and figure out some of the mysteries and missing branches!


There is a lot of uncertainty in our world right now, but I'm trying to look forward to the new year and the progress I can potentially make towards the goals that I have. I hope that everyone has a wonderful, and productive 2017!



12/27/16

The Bookshop on the Corner - Jenny Colgan {REVIEW}

 

I try to balance the books I read as much as I can. I enjoy reading non-fiction, especially books that deal with various issues of conflict that exist within our society, but I also enjoy YA novels, crime novels, and fiction in general. My interests are all over the place, and I like to try and read more lighthearted books in between more serious ones. I think that was part of what draw me to The Bookshop on the Corner, which I came across one day while browsing Amazon. In all honesty, it also reminded me of one of my favorite movies (You've Got Mail), which might have led to my picking it up on a whim.

When I bought the book, I honestly didn't know a thing about it. I had never heard of the author, Jenny Colgan before, and I didn't know the premise of the book. I tend to do that a lot, and in most cases I have a fairly good track record.

On Goodreads, I gave The Bookshop on the Corner three stars. Really, I would have rather given it 3.5. I wish Goodreads would allow you to give half...or even quarter stars. Sometimes it's so difficult to rate a book this way - I find that many times, I feel torn and I want to be able to rate a book in the middle of two numbers. Maybe that's more about me, and less about the books...anyway...

As my rating suggests, I did enjoy reading The Bookshop on the Corner. I think that sometimes we seek out books that take us to places with unrealistic expectations, but which are still set in the real world. I find this kind of adventure satisfying sometimes. Fantasy blended with the everyday. I think that The Bookshop on the Corner fits this description. I loved the main character Nina's love of books, and I was rooting for her dream of owning a bookshop, as I admittedly dream of owning my own bookstore as well. It's a pipe dream I've had ever since I was little. I also enjoyed the relationships, both romantic and otherwise, that blossomed in the book. The tension between characters often exploded from the page and I think that you could really grasp the emotion in certain scenes. I did though, find that Nina's adventures were often too easy, or too perfect - at least from my perspective.

Sometimes, I found myself having to reread a section because it felt like there was a lack of continuity in terms of the story line. Perhaps I was drifting off, as I tend to read at night when the house is quiet, but I think that the story sometimes got a bit confusing to follow.

There was also a language barrier so to speak, between the book and I. I found that some of the language, and the style of writing/dialogue left me a bit in the dark if that makes any sense. In most cases I could infer from the rest of it, but there were a few instances in which I simply felt lost. I don't really fault the author for this though!

I also really enjoyed a quote later in the book regarding community. Colgan writes, "Nina had grown to understand the longer she stayed there that because they were so far away from big-city attractions, and because the weather was so often not their friend, they had to rely on each other through the long winter evenings and difficult days. It was an actual community, not just a long row of houses full of people who happened to live next to one another. There was a difference, and she had simply never realized it before" (p.230).

This statement really resonated with me because while I have moved a handful of times in my life (or two handfuls really), I have never felt community. I have always lived in places where I had neighbors, but I've never felt any true sense of community. I've lived in rural areas, and in urban areas and that connection to those around you has consistently been absent. I think that theme sort of contributed to the feeling that this story was rooted in fantasy, as I have never experienced that kind of environment first hand.

I enjoyed The Bookshop on the Corner, and I would welcome a continuation of the story of Nina and her cohorts. Reading this book was a nice break in between heavier non-fiction reads. It was perhaps just the right kind of fantasy escape that I needed. I can also say that I now have a strong desire to travel to Scotland...so I suppose that means the book really had an effect on me. ;) 

12/21/16

My Top Five Television Programs this Fall (2016)



I've said it before, and I will say it again (and again...and again...): I am a huge TV junkie. I used to feel ashamed about it, but now I just enjoy it (I generally encourage this type of behaviour). I even turned my love of television into my final thesis for undergrad. Yep, I'm a TV nerd. So I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts on some of the current programming available, in a short and simple list, of my top five television shows this Fall. You know what they say, (don't) ask, and you will receive...



5. Scorpion - Scorpion is apparently a show you either love or hate, and I fall into the love category. In many regards, its incredibly cheesy. I'm aware. I enjoy the dynamic of the group, and that's generally what interests me more than any of the missions they carry out (which often make me feel anxious because tight spaces and danger. ahh!). This season has been a bit hopeful for me because there's been a lot of tension between Paige and Walter and yes, I totally ship them (#waige) and I hate the guy she's currently with and when I heard he was leaving, I was quite happy (sorry, not sorry).






4. NCIS: LA - So far this season has been full of plenty of mystery. Granger and Hettie are both shrouded in mystery. There is mystery between Deeks and Kensie, and Kensie has enough suspense on her own due to her injuries. Between the cases they take on and the personal conflicts the team faces, there is plenty of action to keep your attention. Or at least keep mine, anyway. When I first started watching NCIS: LA, I didn't really care for it too much, but honestly it's quickly grown on me and become a favorite. I blame the nerds. Nell & Beale forever.






3. Elementary - Elementary is one of my favorite shows, easily. When they moved it to Sunday nights I was okay with it because with The Good Wife gone, there was space on that night's schedule (unlike how they move around The Big Bang Theory, forcing me to miss most of each season....). Again, I love the dynamic between the characters, but beyond Joan and Sherlock's relationship, the cases they solve and the suspense are also incredibly intriguing. Sherlock's unique style for exploring, and solving cases is fascinating. The writers on Elementary are consistently impressing me and the show has yet to lose any of its allure. I've been a fan since the beginning, and likely will continue to be.




2. NCIS - NCIS is where it all started for the series and I can safely say that the original still has it. While I was seriously disappointed and upset when I heard DiNozzo was leaving, I've been pleasantly surprised by the new team members and what they've brought to the show. There are still enough senior characters to hold the show together through its transitions, which I think is key when characters come and go (*ahem* looking at you, Grey's Anatomy...). It gives the show continuity, and gives viewers someone familiar. I will cry if I ever have to say goodbye to Abby or Ducky in particular. I love the Ducky flashbacks!! (an I the only one who finds his younger self is reminiscent of Niles Crane from Frasier?? Just me? Okay....)




1. MOM - my top show this season so far, as been MOM. It's one of the few comedies I watch (at least with any sort of consistency...), and definitely one of the only TWO which still makes me laugh. Not only is MOM still as funny as it was when it started, but it also tackles real life issues like addiction, relationships, financial hardships, family conflict, etc. I appreciate shows that take real life and look at through a comedic lens and watching MOM has been a reliable comfort for me. I also have a special place in my heart for sitcoms, so that also gives MOM the number one spot on my list.

I'd love to know what you've been watching this fall, or what your thoughts on any of these shows are, so please feel free to share in the comments!

12/19/16

Buffering (Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded) by Hannah Hart {REVIEW}



I'm going to be honest with you all: I am a huge fan of YouTube and have been subscribing and watching various channels for many years now. Despite my support of the media format and many of the people on it, I have been quite wary of the books that Youtuber's have come out with. There just seems to be a trend with Youtuber's releasing books at such a frequency that its almost like there is a factory somewhere that's only purpose is to produce books for people on YouTube. Don't get me wrong: there are some positives to this new trend. People are buying books more!! Hopefully, that means that people are also reading books more!! Yay! There is NOTHING wrong with this. I'm also not trying to judge the people who have come out with books over the past few years. Especially, if they wrote it themselves, in their own words. I've just been hesitant to buy these books instantly upon their release. For one, many of these are "guide" style books and that's not really my kind of read, and for another, it's my whole vision of a factory churning out books without much really going into them, if that makes any sense. Hopefully it does. I'm not trying to be offensive here, just apprehensive. 

With all that being said, I did end up picking up Hannah Hart's book, Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded. I didn't pre-order it. I didn't order it right upon its release. Instead I got it this month (December). I wasn't sure if I wanted to pick it up, because I wasn't sure what type of book it was, and whether or not I would like it, but I can say that I am very happy that I rolled the dice on this one because I really, really loved it. Not only was the book itself enjoyable but I can honestly say that I now have a much deeper appreciation for Hannah Hart and all that she has done over the past few years. Hell, I have an appreciation for all that she has accomplished in her life. I think it is no simple task to open up and share the type of stories which she shared in her book. While in a way, it might have felt cathartic to do so, it might have also been scary to let yourself become so vulnerable to your readers, and the world, and in such a permanent way.


In Buffering, Hannah explores pieces of her past, while also looking at her present. She gives her reader an awakening view of what her childhood and earlier years were like for her, which for many of her fans, might include some surprising details. I think it takes a degree of bravery to lay your life out there as she has done in Buffering. The stories of dealing with her mother and Schizophrenia, her relationship with her father, and religion, her journey in terms of sexuality, and simply her experiences with her school cohorts, is not only eye opening but also at many moments, hart grabbing (get it?? See what I did there??). Hannah also uses this book as a platform through which she is able to educate readers on mental health issues, of which she is a strong advocate. The personal stories are moving, but this message might be the most important.

Hannah shares her stories in a way that also addresses what she has taken from her many challenging life experiences. She uses these memories to teach something to her readers. I'm not really sure if that was as much of a goal or priority when she was writing this, so perhaps it is more of an unintended consequence. Buffering gives the reader some perspective and in a way, has the ability to encourage readers to challenge themselves to better themselves and their lives. Through sharing some truly heartbreaking and shocking memories, it is possible that Hart has been able to connect deeper with her readers.

When we watch our various YouTube favorites, we only see the life they want to share with us, and often, what we see is a very manipulated and glossed over version of reality. It is rare that people want to let others into the darker aspects of their life. However, speaking on a personal level, it is often the individuals who do speak a bit more honestly, who do share a bit more authentically, who I have a greater appreciation for, and whom I am more dedicated toward watching. My life isn't perfect, and I am able to connect more to those who acknowledge the same. Fantasy is nice, but we can't live there.

So Buffering gives an honest look into Hannah's life and how she has come to be where she is, and who she is. It certainly gives me a greater appreciation for her! I'm sure most of her loyal fans, have read her book by now, but if you haven't, I urge you to pick up a copy. If you're not familiar with Hannah, I still suggest you pick up this book. It would even make a great gift for someone! It's an uplifting, and eye opening read. It's also written really well (oh, and I appreciated the use of footnotes because you know, I'm a nerd), and the type of read which you aren't going to want to put down. What are you waiting for?? Read this book! If you have read Buffering, I welcome your thoughts and comments! I tried to keep my review spoiler free, but the comments are fair game. ;)

12/18/16

Five Last Minute Gift Ideas Under $5



Sometimes, you get through your entire Christmas shopping list, get all your presents sorted and wrapped and realize that you had a space cadet moment and completely blanked and left someone off your list. Or maybe you decided last minute that you wanted to pick up something for someone else you hadn't intended to buy for. It happens to me all the time. Sometimes I want to get someone a little something extra or buy for someone beyond who was on my nice list. Additional gifts, and especially last minute gifts can easily add up to some major $$, or you might find the last minute options underwhelming. There's no reason to stress or to break the bank though - you can find some great last minute gifts nearly anywhere - even the dollar store. I've put together a list of five last minute gift ideas that are not only easy to put together, but they're also under five bucks. Everything on this list is from the dollar store (Dollar Tree to be exact). In fact, no gift idea on this list is over three dollars. So it's frugal friendly!



For the reader: 



Believe it or not, sometimes you can find some great books at the dollar store! It might take some digging around, but it's definitely possible. I even found a clip on book light! Put them together and you've got a great gift idea for anyone you know who likes to read, and it was only $2!!

PS - I realize this might seem like a bizarre book choice, but for the intended recipient, it makes complete sense.  ;)



For the techie: 



I grabbed a pair of ear bud style headphones and a pack of screen wipes, and while this might seem like a weird gift....the truth is that our technology can get awfully grubby so the wipes are actually a great idea. The headphones might not be the best, but they're perfect for travel (or teenagers) - you lose them and it isn't the end of the world)!

For the beauty guru: 





If you know someone who is into beauty, these nail decals might make a fun gift. Nail decals don't last forever, but they can often cost a lot of $$. These were only $1 a pack! Throw in a nail clipper and file and you've got two manicures for a grand total of three bucks!!




For the foodie: 



You can't go wrong with a nice mug, some tea, and some biscuits! I've always loved shortbread cookies (especially ones that come in tins!) and I was surprised to find non-GMO tea at the dollar store! Chamomile is a great choice as it tends to have a calming effect, and who doesn't need that??




For the crafter:







If you know anyone who crafts, or has a love of stationary, then some organizational tools like these calendars might be the perfect gift. I love that the one is a coloring book style calendar! It's two gifts in one! The little note pad/calendar duo is also great, because I find these little pads always come in handy. I loved the little eastern bluebird on it as well. :)


*      *      *

Hopefully this quick lists helps you not only take care of those last minute gift needs, but also helps you to stay within your Christmas budget! What's great is that these gift ideas aren't seasonal specific really, and could work for any gift-giving occasion!

12/16/16

Holiday Cookies: Giugiuleni



I love baking no matter what time of year it is, but there's something extra special about holiday baking. The first time I went to New York City, I walked all over Little Italy in search of two particular types of cookies to bring back to my grandmother: giugiuleni, and cuccidati. Of course, asking for these by name didn't always bring me success because these two cookies go by a handful of different names. I didn't know that at the time so it was quite the adventure, but eventually, I came across a bakery that understood what I was looking for and was able to get a box of these cookies to bring home. I can't lie: it was quite the challenge to not eat any of these cookies on the long nine hour train ride home. But I did it and being able to share these special cookies with my grandmother was a memory I will never forget.






To me, these cookies have become a way of connecting to the memory of my grandmother, and to my Italian heritage. They're also super easy to make and quite delicious! They're buttery with just the right amount of anise flavor. Their crunchiness makes them a perfect complement to a nice cup of coffee or hot cocoa.

Giugiuleni 


You will need: 
(makes about 3-4 dozen)

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened. 
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 scant teaspoon anise oil (if using extract, you can double this amount) 
  • 1 cup of white sugar 
  • 3 cups of white AP flour 
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • a dash of salt 

for coating:  
 
  • sesame seeds
  • milk  

Begin by preheating your oven to 425°, and prepping two cookie sheets with parchment paper. 

Combine your softened butter with the sugar in the bowl of a mixer - mixing until fully incorporated. 

Add the eggs, vanilla, and anise oil to the bowl and combine the wet ingredients well. 

Once you have your wet ingredients blended well, add in the baking powder, salt and mix. 

Slowly add in your flour until it has all been combined well. 

To make cookies: 

take two small bowls and fill one with milk and the other with sesame seeds for coating. 

flour your hands and then take small bits of dough (between a teaspoon & tablespoon's worth) and roll them into a log shape.  

take the dough and dip briefly into the milk, and then roll in the sesame seads until coated. 

line a cookie sheet with two rows of cookies and then bake for about 10-15 minutes. I found that 13 minutes was the perfect time for me and my oven. 

When done, cool the cookies on a cookie sheet before devouring. 






If you've never tried giugiuleni before, I encourage you to add something new to your holiday cookie lineup this year. Since they're not too sweet, they provide a nice balance at a time where sugar abounds!


12/14/16

Merry Christmas?? Happy Holidays?? My thoughts.



During the holidays the same argument always seems to come up....whether you should say Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays.

Every year, there are people on both sides arguing their stance on the matter. Some say that it is a "war on Christmas" if we don't say Merry Christmas. Others think its more politically correct to say Happy Holidays. That way we aren't offending people who don't celebrate Christmas for whatever reason (they observe other religious holidays/follow a different faith, are atheists, agnostic, etc.).





I think about this every year and my thoughts on the matter have always been.....who cares!?!? The way I look at it is, if someone says Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays...or Happy Hanukkah....Happy Festivus....whatever....I welcome it. Someone is saying something nice to you. Why fight over the exact words they choose?? We live in a world that is rather tense right now, and there are plenty of things to get upset over, or passionate about, and I think we could also use to take a step back for a minute and realize that this just isn't the thing to get all up in arms about. So whatever you prefer to say, say it!

/endrant ;)

12/12/16

Give us the Ballot by Ari Berman {REVIEW}

 

I have always been someone who finds an interest in politics, history and learning about different examples of conflict within our society and those of others. While some people might gladly reserve that type of reading for school only, I find that when I get a break from textbooks, those are exactly the types of books I gravitate toward (don't get me wrong though, I love me a good YA book all the same!). When I heard about Ari Berman's book, Give us the Ballot, it was right after the traumatic presidential election we just experienced, and I knew I needed to read it. I ordered the book from Amazon straight away and dug in just as soon as I could.

I have to admit that as I read through this book, I was disappointed in just how little I really knew about the history of voting rights in our country, and the struggle for those rights. I can honestly say that this was not material I learned in my middle school/high school education. This was not even information that was really touched on much by any of the courses I took as an undergrad. Something that has become increasingly clear to me over the years, is that as a country, we frequently seem to cover up, or gloss over the moments in our history which do not represent us in a good light. The conflicts that have been carried out on our soil, are generally told in a way that gives us as little information as possible. I would say that Give us the Ballot is a book all American's should read. Really, everyone should read this book. What stood out to me most from reading this book, is that while we have achieved certain accomplishments over the years in terms of voting rights and the accessibility of voting,  in 2016, we have not evolved nearly as much as we should have.

As the cover notes, the book documents the modern struggle for voting rights in America. While reading the book, we travel from the historical marches in places like Selma when citizens were fighting simply to be allowed to register to vote, to the more recent marches in North Carolina over restrictive voter ID laws. Reading the book opened my eyes to the lengths at which people have gone to suppress the vote of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and really, democrats in general. It also explores how dedicated freedom fighters have demanded change and gotten it.

While the book explores the many ways in which progress has been achieved over the years leading up to and following the Voting Rights Act in 1965, it also provides a grim look at the dedication of those who are determined to suppress the vote, while standing on the wrong side of history.

Through reading Give us the Ballot, I felt many different emotions. Grateful for my right to vote. Angry that others still are disenfranchised and unable to vote. Saddened to read some of the stories of different people who were turned away from the voting booth, like the elderly and men and women who fought (and continue to fight) for our country. Many of the stories which enraged me the most, happened in the last decade. If there are people who think that the fight for civil rights has been won, or completed, I strongly urge them to take off their glasses and read this book. We all need to read this book. You might easily know much of what Berman discusses...you might know none of it. Regardless of what you know, this is a book worth reading. In our current political climate, I think we could all stand to educate ourselves just a bit more...


12/9/16

Guest Post: Five Songs for Friday Holiday Edition



Today I bring you a special edition of Five Songs for Friday for two reasons: for one, its the holiday edition, and secondly, its a guest post from my sister Melissa, who happens to be a radio DJ at SUNY Fredonia. She's a huge fan of Christmas, and obviously an audiophile so I figured who better to put together a holiday play list than her?! You can find her and her show here on Facebook, and on Twitter. You can listen to some past shows here on SoundCloud. Give her some love!

Thanksgiving is over which means it’s officially go-time for listening to Christmas music. I’ve been delving into the Christmas music vault in preparation for my holiday radio show this year. With such a difficult and stressful fall this year, everyone could use a dose of some relaxing and joyful Christmas music! For myself as both an audiophile and self-proclaimed music addict, I have found Christmas music absolutely soothing while working on my final projects. Although it’s always difficult for me to pick just a small sampling of my favorites, here are five songs to get you hyped about all things Christmassy
 

Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" 

You’ve got your cocoa and some adorably-decorated sugar cookies besides a gleaming fireplace, but until this song comes on - it simply isn’t fully Christmastime to me. This song from one of my favorite crooners Nat King Cole is a beloved classic that makes me want to bundle up with a good book, a heaping cup of cocoa, and a nice blanket. His other Christmas songs are definitely worth checking into if you love this song as much as I do.


Stevie Wonder's "Someday at Christmas" 

Given this rough autumn, this classic Christmas song from Stevie Wonder is the perfect music to soothe our post-election souls just a little bit. With such uneasiness in the world, this song provides hope of better peaceful times - even if it’s just during Christmastime. This song also makes me more appreciative of the time I have had with my family and friends.


Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" 

You could be having the absolute worst day or even week, but one listen to this song and chances are you’ll be out of your chair and lip synching for your life along to this beloved Christmas tune from Mariah Carey. Simply put, there’s a reason Mariah Carey sings this song each Holiday season - it’s just so infectiously happy. I would even boldly argue that this song is of similar popularity as Darlene Love’s now-retired Christmas classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”.


Gayle Peevey's "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" 

This was already my favorite Christmas song, but with a recent adorable USPS ad I found a newfound love for the song. It’s one of the cutest songs of the season while lyrically ridiculous, but as a kid who loved hippos, I would smile from ear-to-ear after hearing this song (Although I still end up beaming listening to it). 


The Lumineers' cover of "Blue Christmas" 

The band recently released this gem and it’s honestly my new favorite version of this song. I already love The Lumineers and haven’t been able to stop listening to songs like “Ophelia” and “Cleopatra”, but this is just icing on the sugar cookie.

12/5/16

What I learned from a night of tv: an insomniacs ethnographic study*



I struggle with sleeping like a normal human. Sometimes, it's my brain that refuses to shut off and I lay awake thinking of anything and everything (I mean, it doesn't have to be anything heavy...it can literally be my to-do list for the next day, or how I think I should reorganize my book collection...), other times its my body which seems determined to keep me awake via various aches and pains. Either way, its annoying as shit and I find that the most effective comfort and (eventual) remedy, is often television. I can't read or do anything productive, it never works. But middle-of-the-night reruns of some classic sitcoms**? I find it not only comforting but effective in lulling me to sleep (eventually being a key word here).

Being the abnormal human that I am, I've become quite amused by the commercials that play during the middle of the night. Some of them are really weird, and I'm convinced would never see the light of day. Of course, I can't just ignore them like the average viewer likely does. So instead, I compiled my thoughts on them to share with the world...

First off, it comes as no surprise that a majority of the commercials that play in the middle of the night are for drugs. Hell, during the day, it's the same thing. I can't watch an episode of NCIS without being told about this great new drug for the life debilitating problem of double chins (the horror!!). Well, they play during the middle of the night too. The medicalization of society is a fascinating, and clearly profitable business. How did we live when dry eyes, male balding and double chins were just part of the genetic lottery vs. being diseases we can treat?




I learned that if we go to the bathroom, no one must know about it. Leave no trace, and spray weird poo marketed perfumes. Because nothing says you just went to the bathroom like a room that reeks of weird fragrances. When I was little, my grandmother used to burn a match. Now there's poo-pourri and VIPoo. I shit you not (see what I did there?). These are the names...




Can't Sleep? It's your pillow! You need My Pillow! They're made here! They're the only pillow you will ever want or need! American innovation! Magic pillows!! Oooohhhhhh!

Or maybe its your pain keeping you up? Go ahead and knock yourself out. No really. Have some Tylenol PM

Constipated? Try Dulcolax!!

You can keep little green men away for twelve whole hours with Mucinex!

No one has conversations in real life like they do in drug commercials. Seriously. I don't sit down and have heart to hearts about my need and love for antacids. ...or do I??

Airborne. Lysol. Immunity vitamins. Germs. Germs. Germs. Baby Steps down the hall...





Then there are the ridiculous commercials advertising the cable and internet I already have. I will never understand this. What is the point?? Who are they trying to reach??

You also can't forget the weird, oddly placed 5am toy commercials. Magic Tracks and crazy princess castles. You know you want them. You know you need them. Oh baby, Oh baby.

Seriously though. Middle-of-the-night commercials are weird. They're 90% drugs with some strange As-Seen-On-TV products thrown in. What does that say about what they view as their market in the wee hours of the morning? Do people actually watch these commercials and feel compelled to seek out these products? Or do they watch and feel like they're eyes have been opened to the medical condition they never knew they had? Or are these commercials simply seen as filler for the late night/early morning hours and we should take them as the fodder they are? Like I said earlier, I'm sure most people just ignore them. My brain apparently does not have an off switch...



*and by study, I merely mean observations made while lying in bed unable to sleep. This was not done in any formal way, and my neurotic nerd brain felt this disclaimer was necessary.

**In the case of this particular night, the show was Roseanne. My go-to shows are The Golden Girls, and Frasier (and Cheers if its really late and I really, really cannot sleep), but The Hallmark Channel hates me and took my shows off the air before Halloween and they won't return until January, because you know...Christmas. We must have a 24/7 Christmas station right? Blegh! I will continue to bitch about this.

12/2/16

All I want for Christmas: A Gift Guide for Dogs.



I live in a house with three dogs. Three adorable, smart-assed Labrador retrievers. Last year I did a holiday gift guide and this year I tossed around the idea of doing the same. I decided though, to switch things up a bit this year. So without further blabbing, I introduce to you, a holiday gift guide for the dogs!


We've tried Bark Box a few times in the past and the dogs always love it. They know the boxes are for them. I don't know if its their lab noses, or if they just think all boxes that come are for them, but they get super excited when we get one. I will say that as someone who has three large dogs, sometimes the items inside the box are a fail, and barely make it the day before destruction, but we've also got some great gems from Bark Box as well. I think this would make a great gift for your own dogs, or someone on your list who has dogs. We're not subscribed right now, but if anyone want's to send a subscription our way, we'd be happy to retrieve it. ha. ha. ha. ;)

These Kong Sticks are a great idea. I won't lie and say that they're indestructible, because they're certainly not, but my dog Nessie absolutely loves these things. She especially loves them when they've been destroyed a bit and become ratty and gross. She goes nuts for them. Since they're not that expensive (I've seen them as low as $4 on Amazon before), I don't mind their shelf life. They do last her a couple of months though, since she loves them when they're ready for the trash. Hey, I'm not judging. I just try to make her happy.

Looking for a more durable toy? These animals from goDog are awesome. Our one lab absolutely loves them. She has had two dragons (named Lucy), a Dinosaur (Dino), and a chicken (nugget). Lucy was definitely her favorite...so much so, that I've bought a replacement because while she does love to destroy them, she also loves to sleep with them.

Tennis balls are an easy go to. Maybe not the greatest indoor toy (though we do toss them around...especially down the stairs for our more hyper lab to retrieve). I got lucky and picked up a couple of packs at a thrift store awhile back, but you can find them pretty cheap on Amazon. Sometimes a good ol' ball or stick makes the best toy.

 

If you're looking for a food related dog gift, I would highly recommend these tiny dog treats from Nutro. They come in a variety of flavors and they all smell AMAZING. These aren't gross treats that reek of weird meat concoctions. The berry treats smell like berry (and you can see berry in them). The banana smell like banana....the apple...well, you get the idea. I love having tiny treats like this on hand for working on commands, and also to be able to give them tiny rewards without giving them a ton of big biscuits.

One of our dogs really loves dressing up. She will give me her paws to help get her sweaters on. She has a variety of different styles...she literally owns more sweaters than I do. My dog Nessie, doesn't care for dressing up all that much, but she will tolerate it. A fleece sweater is a great gift idea for your furry friends. When its colder out, or precipitating, putting a sweater on the dogs keeps them cozy and dry. I like that this one comes in a variety of sizes and colors.

 

Keeping with the theme of accessories, a good martingale collar is something I would highly recommend. When I took my dog Nessie to an obedience class, the instructor required us to get martingale collars. I had never heard of them before that, and now that I have one, I swear by it. They give you more control over your dog and I feel like they seem to bother the dogs less. My only complaint is that I have never found them in a store, including the larger pet chains. I got mine on Amazon though and I love it!

Another great way to do, would be to donate to the Beagle Freedom Project. While there are many animal organizations out there that need our support. I find that the mission of the Beagle Freedom Project stands out to me because not only are they trying to help dogs in need, but they're trying to help dogs who are purposefully bread for animal testing and then torture and killed in the process. It's not a subject we really care to discuss, or even admit is happening, but it is happening. It happens here in the United States on college campuses. I admire the work of this organization and I strongly urge you to donate to their cause if you can, and of course...go cruelty free! Vote with your dollar!! They also have a great shop with some adorable products that are great for both the dogs and humans in your life this holiday!

I hope this gift guide helps you to have a wonderful holiday season with your furry loved ones!

12/1/16

November Favorites

 Well, its over. We made it through November. It might have felt impossible, but here we are: December. If I'm honest, I had a hard time coming up with favorites this month. It's not that the whole month was bad, but it felt like there was this dark cloud looming over head for much of it (see: election). Nonetheless, I've put together the things that I was enjoying this month, because the show must go on!

Noms: 

When I was putting together my list of favorites for November, I came to realize that all of my food related favorites were drinks. I've fallen in love with Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk because it is addictively delicious. I also have been enjoying the Super Fruit Emergen-C (A target exclusive...ooh,...ahh!), and I drink it pretty frequently - not just this past month, but I don't think it has been mentioned here. Lastly, the Green Machine blend from Naked Juice is really delicious, even if it is green.

Beauty: 

I don't really have much to talk about in the way of beauty or body products, as I am currently doing a no-buy in this category, which you can see more about on my Instagram. I have however, tried out a few things, and I've been loving the Hurraw Cinnamon tinted lip balm, and the Doc Bronners Lavender Peppermint Oil Soap.  Keep it simple, Keep it safe.


Entertainment: 

In the way of entertainment, I've been enjoying my escapes from reality through two tv shows which I am a regular viewer of: Scorpion, and MOM. Certainly different genres but I'm pretty much all over the place in terms of what kind of television I like (although sitcoms are always a firm win). Scorpion is cheesy at times (as is MOM), but this past month I really appreciated that. Light hearted escapism was much needed.

On the other end of the spectrum, I enjoyed reading Twilight of the Elites by Chris Hayes. 
While the book is certainly about government and politics, I also ended up learning quite a bit about baseball, and the Catholic Church along the way. It was a really interesting book (although, I did find the beginning a bit slow going), and I enjoyed the chapter that dealt with the idea of the inner ring, which reminded me of a Frasier episode (or a few of them really). There is an episode where the Crane brothers become obsessed with reaching the most inner secret level of an elite spa which they have gained access to which I kept thinking of while reading this part of the book. Frasier has a recurring theme of obtaining and maintaining status which I think correlates well. I can bet that I am the only one whose brain thought of Frasier while reading this book, but hey, that's just how my brain works. Hayes has a new book coming out next year, called A Colony in a Nation, and hosts All in with Chris Hayes on MSNBC - 8pm, weeknights.


That pretty much sums up my favorites for November. It's been a long month and honestly, I'm glad that its over. Here's to hoping that December is much better!



11/23/16

Frugal Home: Spice Jar Labels for under Ten Dollars.



In this house, we do a lot of cooking. We also do a lot of baking. Inevitably, we have acquired quite the collection of herbs and spices. Most of them are in glass jars and while some spices are fairly identifiable (like turmeric for example), some aren't as clear (baking soda vs. cream of tartar). I've gone back and forth on the best way to label all the jars, and it's taken me at least two years to finally act and label the damn things. Some of the ideas I've toyed with would have been a bit pricey, but the idea I ended up going with? About nine bucks.






What I ended up doing is picking up an embossing label maker from Amazon. I knew I wanted something simple and clean. I also know I wanted black labels. I don't know why, it's just what I decided in my neurotic mind.



I went with the Dymo Handheld Embossing Label Maker, which was less than nine dollars on Amazon (and prime too!). It's wildly simple, super easy to use, and what's great is that I can use this label maker for other OCD adventures in the future (I will try to not label the entire house...).





We used to slap stickers on the bottom of the jars from the bulk containers they came in, but now when I open the cabinet I can easily tell what jar is what without turning them all over. Such a small difference but a big one all the same.



Seriously, if you want to make all your neurotic dreams come true, I urge you to grab one of these babies!

11/18/16

Five Songs for Friday - Ani DiFranco



Five Songs for Friday is a post I've done here on the blog in the past. It sort of became buried by other posts but today I wanted to post a new FSF post, but with a twist.

This edition of Five Songs for Friday is entirely from one artist: Ani DiFranco. I have been an Ani fan for as long as I remember. I distinctly remember picking up her album Up Up Up Up Up Up on cassette (yes, you read that correctly) from the library at random. I am so very glad I did because her music is one of the few musicians that have truly stayed with me throughout my life. I've seen her live, many times. I have one of her song titles as a tattoo. Needless to say, I am definitely a lifetime fan.

However,  I didn't decide to share her music today merely because she is one of my favorites. I'm sharing it because her songs have often been rooted in activism with political themes or calls of social justice and equality. Given our current climate, I think her songs - whether they were written fifteen years ago or last year, are so very timely. If you aren't a fan of hers, or even music like hers, I still urge you to listen to the songs I've selected. Look up the lyrics. Think about them.

Ani's music is one of the things that has felt like therapy this past week or so post-election.



11/14/16

Declutter: Nail Polish Edition



Happy Monday everyone! Today I want to introduce a new series here on the blog: declutter. The purpose of this series is pretty clear as the name kind of gives it away. ;) I'll be regularly talking about different areas of my life in which I am decluttering. There is something really satisfying to me about getting rid of things I don't need or don't want. Things that no longer bring me joy, aren't good for me, or just don't work.

Today, I'm starting off with my nail polish collection.



Over the years, this collection has changed quite a bit. Polish doesn't last forever, so colors come and go. I have fallen in and out of love with some brands, based on personal feelings, reformulations (and then reformulations again...), etc. But today, my goal is not just to purge the colors I no longer want or enjoy. I'm taking this a few steps further. First, I'm eliminating any polish from a brand that is not cruelty-free. Second, I am removing the toxic polishes. In all honestly, this one is going to be the hardest, because preparing for this post, I've learned through my research that many of my go-to polishes are quite toxic. The good news is though, that one of my favorite brands is non-toxic, so it will all be okay.



First to go: OPI. Honestly? I'm totally okay with this. I've learned over the years that I often purchase their polishes merely for a color or name. But in reality, I don't care for the formulation and find that they aren't all that long lasting. I won't miss the super strong smell of these either.

Next: LA Colors. This is a brand I've purchased from the dollar store before. So you won't be surprised to find that they're full of toxic bad ju-ju. Beyond that fact, they're exactly what you get for a dollar. Infer what you will. ;)



Revlon & L'Oreal are also out. These drug store polishes are toxic, but they also go against my first criteria, as they test on animals. I'll miss the textured L'Oreal polish but honestly, most Revlon shades were so pretty in the bottle and then major let downs. So adios!

Essie is another brand I'll be letting go of. Admittedly, I no longer have many polishes from them because for some reason, I found that they didn't last very long? I've thrown out many a bottle that got chunky & funky. They test on animals and are toxic so they're a no-go.


My Seche Vite base coat is also gone as they are pretty toxic. Also, I wasn't a total fan of it. I also received a sample shade from them awhile back, but I've never even tried that and it will go as well.

Now this is where things get a little more tricky. Sinful Colors is a cruelty-free, made in the USA, super affordable, three-free brand, but I'm looking for polishes that are at the very least five-free, meaning that they're out. While they likely hit all the marks for many, they just don't do it for my personal preferences. The shades I have I wasn't completely in love with anyways.

The biggest hurt is easily my collection of Wet & Wild polishes. I was really in love with their gel polish formula, and I recently talked about a couple of polishes I picked up from their holiday collection. They're drug-store and cruelty-free which is great. However, they're also quite toxic and that is the deal breaker here. Of all of the polishes I own, this one is the most difficult to let go of.

Now we can move on to the polishes that I am keeping. The list is quite a bit shorter, but that's okay. While I'm getting rid of quite a few polishes I liked, it still feels good to reduce my collection. Going through it all, made me find shades I forgot about. Going through what you own is like shopping your own collection! It's likely you've got things you've forgotten all about!



First up is Essence. Essence is a drug store German brand that is cruelty-free, as well as five-free. I've got a handful of their gel line polishes, and I really like the formulation.

The two polishes I have from Butter London's 10x shine collection are definitely keepers. They're cruelty-free and EIGHT free! I also love the shades. They're gorgeous neutrals.

I have one polish from Mineral Fusion, which I recently picked up and will be keeping. They're cruelty-free as well as five-free.




Last but not least is my favorite nail polish brand at the moment: Pacifica. I've been exploring Pacifica products for years and I generally love their products. These polishes are cruelty-free, seven-free and vegan! What's more is that they're awesome polishes. They last really well, the formulation applies fantastically and I love the shades they offer. The rainbow top coat is incredible!! If you try anything from their line, try that. Oh and drift! Definitely try that too! :)






I hope that this post inspires you to take a look at your nail polish and consider what you are okay with in terms of the chemicals within them. I encourage you to do your own research, and to decide for yourself. Either way, it doesn't hurt to go through your polish and weed out the old crusty ones, or the colors you just hated. A little decluttering can be clarifying! If you have any favorite non-toxic, cruelty-free polishes, please share with me in the comments!