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!







11/13/16

Things You Can Do (Post Election)




Source: Instagram




"‘Cause I know the biggest crime is just to throw up your hands, say this has nothing to do with me, I just want to live as comfortably as I can. You got to look outside your eyes, you got to think outside your brain. You got to walk outside you life to where the neighborhood changes." ~Ani DiFranco




If you find yourself struggling after the recent election, and perhaps wondering what you can do to channel your energy, you’re definitely not alone. I have found myself feeling so many things this past week, and it’s honestly been quite the task to try and function normally. My mind does not feel normal. My world does not feel normal. It got me to thinking of the different ways in which we can put our energy to good use. Hopefully this inspires you. If you have any other suggestions beyond what I’ve mentioned here, please share them in the comments!



Protest there are protests happening all across the country. I strongly encourage engaging in peaceful protests if you are able to. I would love to travel downstate to participate in the protests happening in New York. I think it is amazing how many people have come together to protest trump and current events. I think its an important part of our response. It’s also our right to do so. So don’t let any late night tweeting discourage you. ;)


Community
– the labeling of trump as the winner of the election* has acted like a green light for hateful creeps all across the country. There have been incidents of hate-fueled violence everywhere… because trump sends a message to them that this is all okay. So in our current climate, community is important. There is a campaign going on where people are wearing safety pins as a way of identifying themselves as someone who can be trusted if anyone ever finds themselves in an uncomfortable/threatening situation. I think that this is such a simple way that we can show solidarity and support for each other. trump and his hate speech are threatening to so many groups within our society and coming together is such an important action that we can take. You likely have a safety pin lying around your house, so it’s an easy way of getting involved. #SafetyPin


Donate – there are plenty of causes and organizations, which are threatened by the prospect of trump. See my recent post re: #GivingTuesday for some ideas!



“you've got your whole life to do something and that's not very long . So why don't you give me a call when you're willing to fight. For what you think is real for what you think is right” ~Ani DiFranco


Volunteer
– following the same idea as donating, if you have the time, volunteering is also a great idea. Find a cause that you’re passionate about and focus your attention on it. There are so many groups, which need help, you don’t have to look too far.

Subscribe – This one is another easy one. It’s super important, and I feel like its something that is overlooked right now. trump has repeatedly shown a clear hatred of the media, particularly those in the media who challenge him in any way via telling the truth (crazy thing). He has already acted out against the media twice since his win*. What is to stop him from going further? A great way to support journalists who work hard to share the truth with us, is by subscribing to their media. A few of my favorites are:


Oh and in terms of TV, I love the evening crew on MSNBC – Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and of course Joy Reid (who does weekends, but often is on during the week and I’m convinced sleeps @ 30 Rock)!


Boycott – Something I truly believe in, is the idea that we vote with our dollar. I remember years ago it was difficult to find that many organic options, and when you would find them, they cost a lot of money. These days, while some are still more expensive, there are far more options out there than there were only a couple of years ago. What we spend our money on sends a message. There are companies who have publicly supported trump, or which are run by trump supporters (and donors). These supporters get the money that they chuck his way from their business – from their consumers – from us. So boycotting those companies can surely send a message, especially when a large number of people joins in to do so. Some companies which have been known to support trump are:

  • New Balance
  • The Home Depot
  • Yuengling
  • Meat companies like Tyson

Speak out – there is currently a petition going around that is demanding the Electoral College vote in a way that honors the popular vote, which trump did not win. As of right now, it has nearly FOUR MILLION signatures. I strongly encourage you to sign it. We truly are #StrongerTogether



“I was born to two immigrants who knew why they were here. They were happy to pay taxes for the schools and roads, happy to be here. They took it seriously, the second job of citizenry. My mother went campaigning door to door, and holding to her hand was me. I was just a girl in a room full of women licking stamps and laughing. I remember the feeling of community brewing of democracy happening” ~Ani DiFranco


There is a lot we can do. There is a lot we should do. There is a lot we need to do. It can feel overwhelming right now – even hopeless. I think that is okay. I know that I’ve been feeling a whole boatload of different feelings this past week. That’s okay. What isn’t okay in my opinion, is complacency. If we sit back and accept things, what message does that send? I hope that this post leaves you feeling like there are ways in which you can act – we can all do something. ♥


*trump did not win the popular vote. I do not recognize him as a fair winner of the presidency. You lose. Good day sir.

11/11/16

Used Book Haul: Thrift Shop



This past week has been a rough one if I'm honest. I'm sure that has been made clear on here. I've been feeling pretty down, and this article from the Huffington Post describes my feels pretty well. I tried to give myself a break from everything the other day and went out to one of my favorite places: the thrift shop. I love thrift stores because you never know what you might find, and I find that mystery alluring. Getting a good deal also isn't bad. I picked up some books while I was there and I figured a small book haul was in order!



The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven - I picked up a book from Sherman Alexie - I've read one of his books before and really enjoyed it. The name escapes me right now (I'm still on my first cup of coffee), but when I saw this I had to grab it. It's pretty worn, and I've talked about how OCD I can be in terms of a book and its condition, but my rules generally go out the window with used books.



Veils - This book is a collection of short stories from Nahid Rachlin, documents the experiences of Iranian immigrants in both the United States and Iran. I'm always interested in stories like this.

The Meaning of Matthew - This book comes from Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard. If you haven't heard about Matthew before, then I suggest you look up his story. I didn't know she had a book, but I'm looking forward to reading it. I'm sure tissues will be required.



The Girls We Leave Behind: A terribly scientific study of American Women At Home - Now, this book attracted my attention both by title and appearance. You never know what sort of interesting things you might find at the thrift store. It was written in 1963 (the nerd in me appreciates that this copy is a first edition), and by a man. So for those two reasons, its very likely that this book from Jerome Beatty Jr., will likely irritate me in some way. However, it had me at "sociological study" and just from its appearance in general. For $1.00, I couldn't walk away!



The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - written by Ayana Mathis, this book tells the story of a family who moves to the United States from Georgia. Like I said above, stories concerning immigrants always grab my attention. That's what makes this country so unique.

When you've got some time to spare, I strongly encourage you to take a browse of the books at your local thrift store. There is guaranteed to be a lot of shit. But you also never know what you might find. I grabbed all of these books, a tote bag, a fleece jacket, and some music for about ten bucks. The music might have been the best part if I'm honest. Feeling bummed by current events, I wanted a break from NPR. I tried to pop in a CD (yes, CD's), only to realize that my CD player in my car had stopped working. So at the thrift store I browsed the cassette tapes (even more throwback) and happened upon Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA. I paid $0.49 for it and it really made me feel better (it not also a bit sad). I felt like I was driving around with my own secret liberal anthem of sorts. So seriously - go thrifiting. It's the best kind of retail therapy.

11/10/16

The Old School Electoral College & The Popular Vote.



The electoral college is outdated. It's unhelpful, and insulting to the American people. From a young age, I was told how important it was to vote. I remember learning about elections in school and the value of my vote was drilled into my head. As soon as I turned 18, I voted in the next election. I take pride in voting. I feel it is my civic duty, and I feel that when you do not vote, like over 40% of the United States population did not, you are forfeiting your right to complain.

When we are told that our votes are so very important - that we can make history with them. That we can change the dialogue - change the composition of our government - we generally take that as truth. We take it at face value.

While it has been learned before, we now are learning all over again, that our votes do not matter just as much as we claim they do - or as we are told they do. In fact, many of us might feel like our votes did not matter at all. I raise my hand with this group.

Let me be clear: Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote. That means that based on sheer votes alone, Hillary brought in more votes than trump. In fact, votes are still being counted. So, when they decided to call the election for trump, what did that say to all the people who voted for Hillary Clinton? More than half of the percent of people who voted in the 2016 election, voted for her. More than half. That's not even counting all the people who did not vote, who do not support trump. Maybe they didn't vote because they felt it was pointless (It's something I'm starting to understand as a thought - although no matter what, I still see voting as a mandatory civic duty). It is discouraging to a population to tell them that their votes matter, when indeed, they do not. Can we call our nation a true democracy? I'm not so sure...

So we know that trump did not win the popular vote. That was won by Hillary Clinton. Yet, despite this, trump is being labeled as the winner. Why? Well we can thank the archaic electoral college for that. Thanks to the electoral college, the winner is up to a number of people meant to represent each state. For every state won, a candidate wins a certain number of electoral college votes. This throws the popular vote out the window. It "matters" - quotes required. Really though - it doesn't. If it did, we would have a different winner in this scenario. More than half of our country wouldn't be filled with fear, panic, anger and hurt. They wouldn't be seething over the fact that their vote didn't seem to matter.

What is the point of the electoral college? Who is it meant to protect exactly. It surely doesn't represent anyone. The number of votes per state, based on population is wildly inaccurate. So what is the point? Why are we called a democracy, yet our votes are not valued like we really have a true say. How can a candidate, meant to represent the entire country, lose the popular vote, yet still be coined the winner? He is not my president. How is that a democracy?

The electoral college came into being in 1877. I don't think anyone would argue that we haven't changed a bit since then. The whole process is old and unnecessary.

There is currently a petition going around that is asking the electoral college to make Hillary Clinton - the winner of the popular vote, the president when they meet on December 19th. In less than twenty-four hours, it has gained over a million signatures. In the time it took me to write this post, it gained over 100,000 signatures alone. We need to send a message. The people are angry (and no donald, we weren't paid to protest you). We want our votes heard. If you value the importance of voting, if you value the idea that we live in a democracy, then I urge you to sign this petition. It matters. It might not feel like it does in these dark days, but believe me - it does.

Edit: Also important and helpful: this article from The Huffington Post which explains in detail the process of the electoral college and how it is meant to serve as a preventative measure against candidates such as trump. I strongly encourage you to read the article, and to follow the suggestions in writing to electorates urging them to cast their vote for Hillary Clinton. Is it really a protest vote if it is to follow what the people have chosen with their votes (via the popular vote?). Are we a real democracy? 

We need to bring about change. We need to be loud - stay loud - and force positive change.

Ten Charities to Support this #GivingTuesday



There's Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. But have you heard of Giving Tuesday? The purpose of Giving Tuesday is simple: GIVE. Help out a cause you believe in. Giving Tuesday is November 29th and there are an abundance of charities to support. With our current political climate, I've put together a list of ten charities which I think really need our support right now. Donate now. Donate often. Donate in honor of someone. Donate as a holiday gift. Just. Donate.

1. Planned Parenthood

2. The Sierra Club

3. ACLU 

4. The Trevor Project 

5. Human Rights Campaign 

6. NAACP 

7. Joyful Heart 

8. RAINN 

9. Council on American-Islamic Relations 

10. UNICEF 

Bonus: Donate to the Project for Awesome. Donate to #Dancember. Youtubers and #TeamInternet are doing amazing things. <3


11/9/16

We are the majority.

 *   *   *

I've been thinking about what to write, or whether I should write anything at all, since last night when the results started to go downhill and hint toward the great disappointment many of us are now feeling. I could easily not go there - and not share anything here on the blog. In my other social media spaces (Instagram, Twitter, etc.), I have been extremely vocal about how I feel regarding this election and the news that Donald Trump was labeled the winner. Am I alienating people by being so vocal and outspoken? Honestly, at this point, I truly do not care. There is a significant percentage of individuals within this country who voted on the wrong side of history. Who voted for hate. Who voted for racism. For sexism. Who voted against the environment. Against peace. So I write this post, not for them, but for those who were on the right side of history. I write this post for those like myself, who voted for Hillary Clinton.

It is incredibly difficult to truly convey how I feel - at least in a way that is clear and makes sense. I feel so many things right now, that its all jumbled together. I am angry. I am hurt. I am disappointed. Disappointed in my fellow Americans who are so close-minded and full of hate that they chose trump.* Disappointed in those who were so stuck on one issue or another that they could not see the big picture, or the potential ramifications of what electing him would mean. Disappointed by those who were bitter and jaded over Bernie Sander's not being nominated, and then refusing to vote for Hillary because of that. I am worried. Worried for what this means for our environment. Our relationships with other countries. Worried for the women in this country. Worried for the Native Americans...Muslims...Jews....Blacks....Latinos.....Mexicans...Immigrants...Students...Gay....Transgendered....Disabled...Veterans....Children. These are not groups that trump or his cronies seem to care about, respect or value. If you are not a part of one of these groups, or more. Someone you know is. Think about that. Think about what this means for them.

I am frustrated. Frustrated because I have never really understood the purpose of the electoral college. If you'd like to explain in the comments what the purpose of its existence is, by all means - do so. Hillary Clinton WON. THE. POPULAR. VOTE. All the polls suggested that she was on the path to become our next president. Apparently, the polls were wrong. However, the popular vote tells us that she won. She earned more votes than trump. Yet, she was not chosen. I feel that this adds insult to injury. It is insulting. What is the point? How do we feel like our voices were heard after our votes literally, do. not. matter? I'm really struggling with this point in particular.

I am sad. When I went to vote yesterday afternoon, I found it to be an emotional moment when I sat down to cast my vote. I voted for a woman to become president. I thought about my grandmothers and what a moment like that would have meant to them. I thought about my grandfather who was very involved in politics. The importance of this action was not lost on me. To know that in the end, she won the popular vote - it really makes this more difficult.

I don't know where we are supposed to go from here. I don't really know what is next. I know its going to take time to figure it all out. Here is what I do know though:

It's okay to mourn this experience. Whatever your emotions right now, they're okay. You're not alone, we're not alone. As I write this, there are thousands of people shutting down fifth avenue in New York City (I wish I was with them). There are protests all over the country. I personally find it comforting. Its a nice way of knowing that you're not alone.

We need to come together. We need to work together. We need to support each other. We don't know what will come over the next four years, but what is certain is that we need to do our very best to support each other. To be a positive, inclusive and supportive community. A lot of what we have fought hard for will be challenged. We need to stand up for what we know is right. Stand up for what we believe in. Volunteer. Donate. Speak out. We can be stronger together. 

I encourage everyone to get active in some way. Whether that means donating to a cause that you care about (that may soon be threatened...), taking to the streets in protest, volunteering to help people with disabilities....or using social media to engage with a community of cohorts, it all is important and valuable. Together we can achieve far more than is possible on our own. We aren't alone in this experience. We are the majority.

I welcome constructive conversation in the comments. Anything negative (hateful, trolling, etc.) will be deleted. If you have resources to leave which you think may be helpful,  please do so. <3 






*You might notice that I often write his name in lower case. Don't think that isn't on purpose.

11/5/16

Alton Brown's Peanut Butter Cookies + Everyday Cook Review



I remember years ago, how much I used to love getting lost in a marathon of Good Eats episodes. No cooking show has ever engaged me to the level that Alton Brown did on that show. From his quirky behavior to his sarcastic sense of humor, the show never failed to draw me in, and teach me something new...or a few things - Alton Brown is an overwhelming wealth of knowledge!





I know that Brown has come out with many a cookbook over the years, but for some reason, I can honestly say that I've never picked one up. Until now. I pre-ordered Everyday Cook and anticipated its arrival for weeks. When it came, I overlooked the fact that Amazon dinked the corner of my copy (I'm a bit OCD about my books...and in all honesty, Amazon frequently sends me books that have been damaged in some way and often shipped quite haplessly, but I digress) and immediately sat down to start paging through it.







Holy wow is this book INCREDIBLE!! I can honestly say that I was blown away and with every turn of a page, I was falling more and more in love. It can be hard to find a book that has so many recipes that appeal to me, but this one does. I guess that's part of why its called Everyday Cook? The recipes can get a bit detailed, but that is just keeping with Alton Browns style and its what makes him unique. I like his style, so it's not really a surprise that I like this book.

You also get a clear sense of his sarcastic personality throughout the book which I appreciate. It feels like a cookbook for real people. It doesn't have a snobbish, pretentious vibe or make me feel judged like some cookbooks have the potential of doing. It's raw, real and full of delicious looking, and inspiring food.

What probably won me over the most with Everyday Cook, is the photography & presentation. For me, food photography is important. It's what pulls me into a recipe, or gets my mouth watering, or makes me want to stop everything and get into the kitchen. This book is full from start to finish of recipes like that. Want to know the most brilliant part? All of the photos for the book were taken with an iPhone. Yep, a friggin' iPhone. I LOVE THAT!! Honestly, I find that while I have a nice big honking camera with different lenses and all that jazz, I often get the best photos from my phone. It's a frustrating, yet fascinating thing sometimes. I love that this book was done with a phone.

This weekend I've been really in the mood to bake. Last night I made a gluten-free banana bread (vegan), and then there were a few failed attempts at a pumpkin bread (Thank you Wegmans and your bad canned pumpkin!! Grr....). Today I decided to go with one of the recipes from Alton Brown's book that I've been dying to try: his peanut butter cookies. They're gluten-free (good for me, but something he notes that he could care less about), don't require me using the mixer (read: doesn't require me cleaning the mixer),  and comes together with only a few ingredients, fairly quickly. Win, Win, Win. As for the cookies? They came out delicious and I would highly recommend you grab this book!!




My little helper. Peanut butter cookies you say? YES PLEASE!!


I won't go sharing the recipe here because I truly do think that everyone needs to grab this cookbook. Not all cookbooks are worth buying for me, but this one is, without question. If even for the food photography alone, which will without a doubt inspire you to get in the kitchen. But the recipes...they're refreshing, they're simple, they're different....there is easily something for everyone. I mean, the cover alone!! Those fries!!!







11/4/16

Twenty-Five Things About Me (Get to Know Me)


While I have been blogging for a while now, I haven’t really shared all that much information about myself here on the blog. I will admit: I’m a fairly shy person, and that often makes me apprehensive in terms of what I do, and do not share. With that being said, I figured it was time that I opened up a little bit more here to give you all a better sense of who I am!

1. I’m a huge TV nerd and I get a bit obsessive about my shows. I always try to catch them when they first air and I really hate falling behind/spoilers. I’m also a huge sitcom lover. I did my final thesis for my bachelors on the family as it is portrayed in television sitcoms and it’s definitely my favorite genre. There’s something comforting to me about a nice block of a rerun sitcom!

2. I have my bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and I am currently in Grad School. Sometimes it makes me feel stressed, but I really love school.

3. I’m a huge dog lover and I live with three Labrador retrievers. They’re the jam. ;)

4. I’m a huge procrastinator – which is a trait I both hate, and find myself often impressed with. I do my best work at the last minute and as someone who is often anxious – I cause myself a lot of stress through this!!

5. I love Cadbury chocolate. It’s definitely my favorite. I can’t stand Hershey’s and when they banned real Cadbury’s from the country, my distaste (literally) for them grew immensely. #RealChocolateForever <3

6. I’m more of a Television person than a movie gal, but my favorite movies are Nora Ephron films. You just cannot beat You’ve Got Mail.

7. I struggle with anxiety. It’s been an ebb and flow most of my life and recently, I’ve really tried to understand how to work through it and keep it at bay, through natural and holistic paths. I’m trying to work through feeling embarrassed over it too. I’ve thought of making a series of posts relating to anxiety, so if that is something you would like to see in the future, let me know in the comments!

8. I am Italian, Sicilian, and German. Something that I have always wanted to do is to put together my family tree and try to get a better picture of my ancestry. I’d absolutely LOVE to do Ancestry DNA and it’s definitely something on my bucket list!!

9. I’m a total night owl. I feel like I do my best work at night, and I just feel more relaxed during the later hours for some reason. I also sleep more soundly during the late morning/early afternoon. I often feel guilty for it, but I feel far more productive following this type of schedule. It’s often something I try to battle with.

10. I hate spiders, heights, darkness (sometimes), tight spaces and sometimes thunderstorms really freak me out. I am Ron Weasley. Points if you understand the references. Leave a comment for a prize. ;)

11. Ice cream might be my favorite sweet treat and my total weakness. I try to opt for better options like fro-yo, but damn…nothing beats a nice bowl of chocolate ice cream (especially if you add banana!).

12. I love watching YouTube. There are some YouTubers that I’ve been watching for years. It’s become part of my routine to hop on every day and catch up with some of my favorites!

13. I’ve recently gone gluten-free and for the most part I’ve actually been loving it. I can now eat pasta without feeling like I swallowed a bunch of bricks and although I’ve only been avoiding gluten for a couple of months now, I think it’s definitely helped in terms of how I feel.

14. I’m a bit of a shopaholic. Whether its clothes, books or food, I’m definitely down for some retail therapy. I like to online shop a lot (I actually prefer it in most cases) and I love going through Ebates to do so! I’ve saved soooo much money by using Ebates, especially this time of year due to buying Christmas gifts! 

(The Ebates links above are referral links. If you are new and interested in signing up, you will receive $10 after your first purchase and I will also receive a bonus!) 

15. I hate winter. It’s ironic considering that I live in Upstate New York where we certainly get our fair share of winter weather, and the element which I hate the most: snow. I don’t like being cold, but I think what I really don’t like about winter is the snow and ice and how it often keeps me cooped up, makes me anxious about being out on the roads, and leaves me feeling the winter blues. I definitely get a bit down during the winter months, especially after the excitement of the holidays passes. It’s the winter bits after January 1st that really get on me!

16. I love to bake and cook, and it’s often a great way to procrastinate other things I need to get done. Big paper due? No problem, why don’t you cook all day!? Like I said above, I’m a bit of a procrastinator, so baking and cooking are great procrastination activities for me. As long as the recipe goes well though, I can’t feel too bad about it. ;)

17. Target is easily one of my favorite places. Sometimes I like to go during the middle of the day and just enjoy a good browse about the store to see what’s new (especially when the store is likely to be a bit more quiet!!).

18. I’m sort of obsessive about to-do lists. I keep multiple lists on my phone, use a planner and write myself post-it notes frequently. I’m always afraid that I’ll forget to do something important. I find that I can be absent-minded, but sometimes I think it’s an anxious thing.

19. I love playing GTA V. I’m not huge into video games (mostly because I’m not very good at them), but I love playing Grand Theft Auto – in large part because its open-ended and I can explore and do what I want at ease. It’s also a good form of stress-relief!!

20. Staying on the theme of games. I’m also a big simmer. I’ve recently been playing Sims 4, and I cannot wait to play the new release: City Living. Again, I like that this is open-ended and I can manipulate what happens. I also really love building houses! I could spend hours doing it.

21. I’m a Tim Hortons lover. I’m sorry if you don’t have this in your area because they make some great coffee (most of the time!!!). I used to like Starbucks a lot, but $5 for a medium latte is just insane. That’s two coffees at Tim Hortons. Since going gluten free, I do miss their Tim Bits though!!

22. I think grape jelly is the most disgusting thing. The smell…the taste. The only thing I feel it is good for is feeding the Orioles!

23. I don’t get the hype of all the Kardashian beauty stuff. If anything I’m turned off from the whole range and I find it very unlikely that I would ever try any of it… especially on account of the name alone.

24. I’m sort of obsessed with MSNBC. Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, and Lawrence O’Donnell are my favorites.

25. I often skip breakfast. I know it’s supposed to be the most important meal of the day, but I really like to start my day with a cup of coffee, some dog biscuits (for the dogs of course!), and Instagram. It’s my routine before I can proceed with much of anything else. I find I'm usually not too hungry first thing after I wake up either. I do have breakfast for dinner sometimes though. ;)

Well, this is quite a random list, but I thought it might be fun to share a post like this, which also gives a little insight into who I am allowing you to get to know me a bit better. J If you want to know more, be sure to follow me social media! Links are to the right, at the top of the page.

11/3/16

Ten Reasons Why You Should Vote for Hillary Clinton



The election is days away. Tension is running high and anxiety is ramping up. I don't hide my support for Hillary, so here are ten quick reasons why I think Hillary is the answer.

1. She has years of experience, and knows how to work well under pressure. Do you really want a hyper-reactive inexperienced, egomaniac with an anger problem controlling our nuclear weapons??



2. She cares about children. From supporting families with paid-family leave, to ensuring that our citizens are able to gain a competitive education from Pre-K through college, Hillary has children and our nation's future as a top priority.



3. She respects a woman's right to choose. When it comes to women's rights, Hillary has been a champion from the start. Trump and his minions will do all that they can to go back in time and erase history. He is a danger to women.



4. Hillary believes in, and supports equal rights for all. We live in a vastly diverse nation, and Hillary not only respects that, but embraces it.



5. Hillary has a thick skin. She has been in the public eye for decades now and has dealt with more than her fair share of criticism. She has been scrutinized left and right and she never gives in to the bullies, no matter how ludicrous they are. She can handle the presidency without question. 



6. She understands and acknowledges the threat of climate change. She doesn't deny global warming, and understands that we have to act against it.



7. She can really rock a pant suit. I mean, come on. She doesn't mess around. Especially when she busts out the leather jacket!




8. She cares about all Americans. She doesn't exclude people of different ethnicity, sexuality, abilities or races. Inclusivity is imperative.This country is what it is because of our diversity.



9. Hillary cares about gun control. She isn't afraid to stand up to gun lobbyists and will fight for reform to keep all Americans safe.


5

10. When they go low, Hillary goes high. Hillary will guide our country into the future, continuing the ground work set in place by President Obama. No matter what gets in her way. She will carry on his legacy, not destroy it.



I hope that you will make a plan to vote early if you can in your state, or to go vote on Tuesday, November 8th. We need to protect our country, and the future for all of its citizens!! #ImWithHer

11/1/16

The Sims 4: City Living Expansion Pack (REVIEW)



By most peoples definition, I'm definitely not a "gamer".  I can count the games that I like playing on one hand. The Sims has long been one of them. My sister got me into The Sims years and years ago and I've been playing ever since. The Sims 4 is easily the best game so far in terms of graphics and interactions, so when we heard about the next expansion: City Living, we were pretty excited. The city expansions before have honestly let me down. I found them to perform quite choppy and the activities were a bit "meh". The trailer for The Sims 4: City Living had me feeling hopeful for something that would cater to my interests a bit more.

City Living officially came out today, November 1st. So at midnight last night/this morning, I downloaded my preorder and got off to playing. For some reason, the sound wasn't working last night on the computer I use for playing the game (I don't use my laptop, and instead play on a PC desktop that in all honesty, is primarily used for simming) and I found it to be a bit disorienting without the music. I made a sim and built an apartment and called it a night. Upon first impression though, I can say that I was very impressed with the additions in terms of clothing, hair, and decor. There were some Indian and ethnic themed clothing/hair styles and decor which I really liked. I always go for a earthy, funky, zen-like apartment so that was really speaking to me. I feel it complements past expansions as well like the  Spa Day & Movie Hangout expansions.



Today though, I took a break from some assignments I was working on and dove in again. Luckily the sound was working again and we were good to go. I opted to start fresh with a new person and a new apartment, primarily because I learned last night, that I wasn't in the neighborhood I had wanted to be in. So today I rented an apartment in the Spice Market neighborhood. Once I got my apartment like I wanted (again, I love the new decor!) I started to explore different elements of the game itself.








I like that I could go right out my front door to interact with others easily. The basketball court is a nice touch, and my sim enjoyed a game there (although I wish she could have just played in her normal clothing - she changed into her yoga clothes and played barefoot!). The fact that there are kiosks to buy fresh fruit and veg, and food is also a really nice feature. My sim haggled and bought some fruit for 25% off (although $52 for blackberries is kind of obscene to begin with don't you think!?!). After playing around in the main park area, I tried to walk around the neighborhood. You really can't go too far, although there is plenty to see which makes it feel like you should be able to, or like you're being teased. I do like though that you can go to the water which is gorgeous (even with the giant rats - but hey, that adds to the urban vibe, right?) as most Sims 4 vistas tend to be.

This was as far as I could go: NONE SHALL PASS.

I then took my sim home. She became angry when she found out her neighbors were blaring music. She interacted with the neighbor who turned down the music, but not before getting a bit snarky which seemed to rile my sim up. I'm not complaining about this feature though - it's realistic. I like the realistic elements like the noise and the rats, or the scuffs on all the walls in my first apartment.





When she woke up, I took my sim out to get some breakfast and I was hoping for coffee, which I saw other sims with, but could not find. It turns out that you have to go to an entirely different neighborhood for coffee, which is ridiculously weird and definitely a huge flaw in my view. It might not be a flaw if it weren't for one of my biggest gripes: the neighborhoods are not fluid, but instead, disjointed and you cannot travel between them easily. There is a tram, which is featured heavily in the trailer, which is NOT USABLE in the game! I had a fear, but damn....what a tease. The fact that you have to wait for a load screen to travel between cities (your sim doesn't even hop in a taxi, or into a subway station before the loading screen appears), makes for a incredibly segregated vibe. It's absolutely a negative in my opinion, and a really, really big flaw.

Coffee Kiosk in the Art Neighborhood. The commute was a bitch.


Back to the coffee, why aren't there coffee shops or kiosks in all neighborhoods? Realistically, wouldn't this be the case? If the neighborhoods must be so disjointed, then they should be self-sufficient ecosystems of their own, and they aren't. I also thought it was weird that there weren't libraries, or more parks, or bookstores. There are karaoke bars, and an art gallery. The places to go are severely lacking. The organization is also a bit strange. My neighborhood has a more normal urban vibe, but the others are somewhat futuristic like which isn't my thing. I'm sure others probably like it though!

Overall, I am happy to play around with this new expansion, but I wouldn't call it perfect, and there are a lot of ways in which it let me down. I would LOVE to know your thoughts if you've played the new City Living (or even if you haven't), in the comments below!!

BTW, Sims people/EA/Maxis: this can call be rectified by giving me pets. Screw toddlers, I want a dog.

October 2016 Monthly Favorites

Whoa, it's already November!?! I know everyone says it, but I'll just have to join in and say that I cannot believe that it's already this late in the year! That means that I've almost got one grad school semester down, the election is days away (anyone care to share some anxiety coping mechanisms??!?), and we've got less than two months until Christmas!!Time surely does fly!

This month has been a month full of new things and I have plenty to share with you guys. I think that during the colder months, for some reason, I'm more likely to try out new products and this month was no exception. Like usual, this month's favorites are a mixed bag with no rhyme or reason... on to them!

 

Yama Moto Yama Green Tea with Toasted Rice - I've always enjoyed the taste of green tea, and I'm aware that it's a healthier option as far as teas go, but they often leave my stomach feeling a bit...dangerous. When I heard about green tea with toasted rice in it, I was intrigued and knowing that rice is often something people eat when they're stomachs are feeling a bit off, I decided to give it a go. I'm so happy I did because this tea is really nice! In all honesty, I started out with the Numi green tea with toasted rice, which I picked up from my local grocery store. However, they stopped carrying it (which is a trend I've noticed when I find something new ....*ahem* Wegmans, knock it off! *ahem*), so I headed to Amazon where I found this brand. I first ordered the tea in a smaller sized box and I'm definitely in love so I'll be ordered the larger box as soon as I'm out of the rest of my supply. It has a unique flavor and if you're a tea person, or perhaps not a tea person, and wanted to try a green tea that is different, I'd urge you to give this one a go!

I have struggled with chapped lips for as long as I can remember, and I'm perhaps a bit obsessed with trying out new lip balms, so when I saw Lanolips on the Ulta website, I had to try them out. I've heard of the brand before but I've never seen it available for purchase in the US. Luckily, when I purchased, there was a promotion so I received their strawberry lip balm for free with the original. I have to say that I do like both, but I enjoy the original the most. It's thicker, and I find it very moisturizing without being sticky. The jury is still out yet on whether or not its holy grail, but it's absolutely in the running!!

Sticking with beauty, I have to mention the mascara that I've been using all month, which is from Soap & Glory. I'm a huge fan of Soap & Glory and lusted over their beauty products which were UK exclusive for a long time. Finally they came to the states (albeit, not the entire range) and I've been slowly trying out different products. Their Thick & Fast Flash Extensions Effect Mascara is AH-MAY-ZING!!! It is honestly my favorite mascara that I've ever tried and I'm so happy that I did because I almost skipped out on it. I can do nothing makeup-wise but put on this mascara and that is good enough for me. It really volumizes, which is one of the main things I look for and is super dark. I find that it's easy to build up and it doesn't flake like other mascaras I've used in the past. It also comes off easy enough for a mascara that lasts all day. I think the price is great too - I'd say it's mid-range between drugstore and high end and absolutely worth it!!




While everyone is buying boots, I've been searching for a new pair of trainers. It took a few attempts (a good reason to love Zapppos and their painless return policy!), but I think I finally found a winner in these Nike Flex Trainer 6's. When I saw the black and rose gold combo (although they list it as red bronze??) I stopped in my tracks. I got a second opinion from my sister, and they were at my door the next day. These shoes are super lightweight and I love their simple design. I wear sneakers a lot so I wanted something neutral enough to go with a lot of different outfits and these fit the bill, while also having a little detail to them as well. I've worn them a bunch so far this month and I will say that they are a bit narrow and I've been trying to break them in, so I'll admit that they are not always the most comfortable, but I like them enough that they're definitely keepers and a favorite of this month.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here on the blog yet or not, but I've recently gone gluten-free. Despite being Italian, and a huge lover of carbs, it's been a fairly painless transition. It definitely helps to be able to find super delicious substitutes for those crappy food cravings that we all get. This Devil's Food Cake from Betty Crocker is a perfect example. Not only does it taste delicious, I would argue that it tastes better than normal cake mixes. It's super moist and chocolately and me and my hormones give it two thumbs up! and yes, I could make my own cake from scratch, but I like having this on hand and knowing that in a pinch I can easily make a delicious cake that is also gluten free!




Last but not least, I have to mention this amazing candle from Bath & Body Works. This is their Pumpkin Woods 3-Wick Candle and it's in my opinion, the perfect Autumn scent. I'm feeling a bit regretful that I didn't grab more than one when they were on sale because I've been burning it a lot this month. It's not too overpowering but has a nice scent that really fills up a room. It's woodsy and cozy, while also fresh from the apple notes. If you've got the chance, I would definitely grab one of these (or two...or three) babies up before they're overcome by Christmas scents (if they aren't already!). I couldn't find them online so I'd check stores near you!

Hope everyone had a wonderful October! I'd love to hear about what you were loving this month in the comments! :)