9/19/17

Save ACA - Act NOW against the Graham-Cassidy Bill!




Stop what you're doing and take a minute - this is important. Congress is now threatening the Affordable Care Act yet AGAIN with their new disastrous plan - which would take away health care from millions of Americans. The Graham-Cassidy bill is a death sentence that only helps the rich. We cannot allow this bill to pass.

Please take a moment of your day and call to make your voice heard against this life-threatening bill. Stand up for your fellow Americans. Those with pre-existing conditions. Children. Veterans. Don't like phone calls? I know. Me neither. But I did it and you can too.

You can also text RESIST to 504-09 to send a FAX to your representatives in Congress. It's easy and free!!

Share this with your friends and family - we need to make noise!!

Thank you to those who continue to stand up for all Americans and who fight day after day. <3

9/17/17

Let's Try It: Whole Foods Market




I live in Western New York. Wegmans territory. People take their love for Wegmans pretty seriously, and I can say that I have for most of my life, been a part of that crowd. Don't get me wrong, I still like Wegmans but I personally feel that as they have expanded into other regions of the country, the quality and selection at my local stores has gone a bit downhill. When Trader Joe's entered the region I was excited to try out a store I had heard of for years. Then, we heard we were getting a Whole Foods.

Whole Foods Market is a store I've heard of for years and years, but to which I have never been. I've thought of stopping at one when in New York or traveling up into Canada but I never did. I've always been a bit envious of those that have Whole Foods in their area. From what I heard their commitment to fresh and clean food is unmatched. Well, after what feels like ten years but was really only a few, Whole Foods is finally open in my area (it's still an hour drive away though)! Of course I had to make the trip and check out what all the fuss was about.

Whole Foods opened this past Friday, and I thought of going on opening day or Saturday but I just didn't want to deal with the crowds. I'm really not a fan of them. But after getting some school work taken care of, I felt like venturing out today (Sunday).

The store was definitely still busy but I wonder how much of that was typical Sunday traffic since I don't really go to any grocery stores on a Sunday if I can help it.




The first thing I noticed was how nice and organized their produce section was. It's a neurotic person's dream! Pyramids and rows of (almost) any produce you could want all lined up for the picking. Wegmans has always had a great produce section, but I can say that Whole Foods does it better. I was however hoping to find some Rapini but I didn't. I loved that the organic apples were the same price as the conventional ones and that they had plenty of my favorite kind of apple: Honeycrisp! The mangoes were a GREAT price and HUGE!!! I don't get mangoes often but I just couldn't resist.

I've got a lovely bunch of mangoes...


Something I was really excited to check out was their beauty section. Everything they sell is CRUELTY FREE!! It was an amazing experience to be able to browse the shelves and know that I could pick up any thing I wanted and not have to worry whether or not the products were tested on animals. I've honestly never been able to do that before and it was so nice!


I wanted this illume cider woods candle soooo badly but I had to stop myself. It smelled amazing though!!






Their middle isles were a bit smaller than what I'm used to, but they have an abundance of new and different products to try out. It was a bit overwhelming, but in a good way. If I hadn't just gone grocery shopping, I would have likely explored these isles a bit more.

I browsed their prepared foods section and it all looked divine. Wegmans used to have a good hot foods bar but I stopped eating there as the quality unfortunately has decreased. The set up at Whole Foods though, really blew me away. Next time I'm in this area, I will have to make a point to stop for lunch here. I did however, grab a slice of their pizza to bring home and try. I got the Rapini and Pancetta (ironically, I did find the rapini... just not in the way I was looking for it!).


Friggin' fresh pasta!!




I also grabbed a loaf of bread. It was REALLY hard to pick because they all looked amazing! I opted for the cranberry pecan. :) I love that the ingredients in their bread are simple and BS free!

It's also a really beautiful store. The bocce court is a bit weird imo, but I love the wood and grey combo they went with for the store, and everything is organized really nicely. :) 

I know everyone says that Whole Foods is super expensive, but I can't really speak to that too much. I did feel that some items were a bit pricey, but for what I got I don't know that I did too bad. I couldn't see doing my full grocery shop here though - but I will definitely return. Aside from the turmeric latte I got that was pretty horrible (I just needed to try it!), I have no complaints. Glad I finally got to scratch my Whole Foods itch and I'm happy that they realized Buffalo was a place on the map! Now if only IKEA would do the same!! ;) A girl can dream....

9/15/17

Aint Nobody Got Time: Super Quick & Easy Chili




The semester is in full swing, and there are days where I really don't have the time (or the energy) to cook up a full blown meal. But, it's pretty much fall and that means that I want ALL OF THE COMFORT FOODS. Give them to me!! One of the things that I always want to make during this time of year is chili. Usually, when I make chili, it's a full blown thing in the crock pot and I make tons of it and it simmers all day making the house smell amazeballs. However, I honestly didn't have the time for that today... and as a little bonus obstacle, the house is currently in the process of being remodeled and I literally couldn't get to the crock pot, so I decided to shoot for a more abridged version that would still satisfy my fall cravings but not consume my entire day.

Chili can be a super easy meal to make. It's not that it takes all day to make it, but there certainly is some prep and honestly, sometimes cooking takes more of my energy than I'd like to admit to so making this version is a nice compromise. You still get all those awesome chili flavors, but in a smaller quantity and with much less work.

I love how well chili keeps as a leftover. It seems to get better with age a lot of the time. You can make some corn bread on the side, top it with sour cream or cheddar cheese, or do my current favorite: top with Fritos (yep, super classy).  This particular recipe was also incredibly frugal to make thanks to Aldi where I was able to pick up everything I needed at a fraction of what it would cost me elsewhere. I talked about Aldi in my August favorites, and trust me the love is still going strong!

 - Quick & Easy Chili -


You will need: 

2lbs ground beef
1 large vidalia onion
3 bell peppers
1 15.5 oz can of mild chili beans in chili sauce*
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
1 1.25oz packet chili original seasoning*
3 15.50z cans light kidney beans
1 15oz can dark red kidney beans
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
About 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
Parsley - 1 tbs
Chili Powder - 2 tsp/to taste
Granulated garlic 2 tsp/to taste

*these were Aldi items I haven't seen elsewhere

To make: 

1. Star by prepping your peppers and onions by chopping them up and setting them aside in a bowl.
2. Brown the beef, drain and set aside.
3. In a dutch oven (or similar pot - mine is from Target because Le Creuset is a bit too rich for my blood!) add some oil and start to saute your peppers and onions over a medium/high heat - about 10/15 minutes.
4. Once the onions are translucent and the peppers are tender, go ahead and add the beef to your pot. Stir to combine.
5. Then add all of your canned items, as well as the chili seasoning, Worcestershire and spices, and stir to combine.
6. Lover the heat to about medium/low and let simmer for at least an hour - more if you've got the time. Stirring occasionally.

That's literally it! You can simmer your chili for hours if you've got the time, but if you don't, even 45 minutes is enough to allow this chili to come together. It's not an ornate culinary creation, but it's quick, comforting and most important - delicious.  Note: it was so good that there's no pretty photo of it actually in a bowl. But I wanted to share this recipe for you to try, AND for me to remember how I did it!




9/13/17

Let's Try It: Sonic




Okay, so Sonic is nothing new and has been in my particular area for at least a year now? Probably more - I honestly lose track of time. But when they first opened, I didn't try it because hype + hella busy just kept me away. Then I heard some iffy reviews, and honestly I kept forgetting about them. They're in an area I don't always frequent so I just never got around to giving them a shot. Fast forward to today when I was in the area *trying* to run some errands (and failing). I was cranky, tired and HOT (It's supposed to be Fall not near 80°). So I decided since they were nearby, to finally try them out.

I love trying new places. New foods. New products. New anything really. I'm also full of it. Opinions that is! ;) So I thought I'd start up a new series here on the blog called Let's Try It. Simple. No Frills - just my honest opinions on this and that. Really it's a way for me to neurotically categorize this type of post so it isn't sitting here without a home. Forgive me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So back to the grub. I pulled up to on of their food stalls and instantly was overwhelmed because they have a super huge menu - a lot of which I honestly couldn't read (yes, with my glasses on). I ended up getting their popcorn chicken with tots and lemonade. I knew I wanted tots - I really, really, love potatoes in all their glorious forms.

In terms of service, I have no complaints. The food came quickly and I was off on my way in less than five minutes. 

I'm happy that they offer a bunch of different non pop (soda if you rather) options since I don't drink the stuff. I often feel stuck with water or coffee when I get food, so that was a nice change. The lemonade was pretty good too - I'm super sensitive to things that are too sweet but this wasn't too bad. I will say that while I like the crushed ice, they lose MAJOR points for using Styrofoam cups. Boo!

The bag was a lil greasy, but the food was HOT.


The food came with a little mint!

The tots and popcorn chicken both came in little cups which I liked because it made it easy to eat while I ran the rest of my errands. I really liked the tots - which are sort of a dupe for Burger King breakfast hash browns which I only ever get maybe once a year but love.  The chicken was also surprisingly good. Nice and crispy, not too seasoned, and white meat.

Honestly I have no complaints for the food and I think they might even be cheaper than a lot of other fast food places around. My meal was about $7 which I didn't think was too bad for the amount I got. If they had a location near me I'd probably go just for the lemonade & tots to be honest! My only real gripe was that they used Styrofoam cups since that is so bad for the environment. Other than that, Sonic gets two thumbs up from me.


9/12/17

The best lip gloss ever: Anastasia Beverly Hills



Even though I sometimes go weeks without even touching my makeup, and there's plenty of times where I don't have the energy to even try and put anything on, I still love trying out new makeup and hoarding it essentially. ;)

I think the thing I'm drawn to most is eye shadow even though I wear it probably the least. I don't own many lip colors as I suffer from chronically chapped lips and have as long as I can remember. The whole matte lip thing is the worst as far as I'm concerned - I can't wear them (though, it doesn't stop me from buying one every now and then...) because they simply accentuate how bad my lips are. Things with sheen are best if I actually want to wear some color because they're often more moisturizing and they seem to disguise any texture in my lips a bit. Still, I can count on one hand the number of lip products I own that aren't lip balms (that I have a TON of - I'll try anything hoping it is the miracle I've been looking for). I'm jealous of everyone who can wear all these fabulous lip products and shades!!!

I was having a walk through Sephora recently - admittedly for the first time in months, and I came across the display of lip glosses from Anastasia Beverly Hills. I like shiny things so it immediately drew me in and what really got my attention was this shade that looks, upon first glance, like a white lip gloss. Hmmm......





In the right light, this lip gloss appears white but any sudden moves will make you realize that it's much more than that! It's full of mirco-glitter in a rainbow of shades that gives it this wonderful iridescent sheen. It's not glitter like back in high school, this is more of a subtle sparkle that is much more up my alley now! I swatched the tester on my hand and immediately fell in love. I knew this baby had to come home with me!



 I did my best to give you a true swatch but photos just don't do this gloss justice!

I love the colors in this gloss, but I also love the formula. It feels moisturizing and a bit thicker - it's not runny like some glosses, but despite the thicker consistency, it's not too sticky. *smacks lips* It's barely sticky at all actually! It also smells AMAZING! It's got a yummy vanilla scent - but as someone who has a hard time with scents sometimes (hello, migraines), it's not too much to piss of my head. It also has decent staying power. Generally, glosses don't last long at all, but this one stuck around even after drinking my morning coffee. Impressive!



The color is called Moon Jelly, which just seems like the perfect name for this. It's got a nice thicker texture and the iridescence gives it a sort of spacey glow. It doesn't look like you've slapped glitter on your lips but instead makes your lips just pop. I feel like it just brightens up my whole face. I've worn it with a full face of makeup, with some simple mascara, and on it's own. It's super versatile and oh so pretty. There's a subtle sparkle which you'll have to just trust me on - that was really hard to capture in photos!

It was $16 at Sephora, so not the cheapest, but for a nice gloss that is of course, CRUELTY FREE, it is a winner in my book!! Though, if you've got any dupes to suggest, please let me know!! It's also actually the first product from Anastasia that I've tried. I know they're a brand that plenty of people rave about, I guess I just like to do things at my own pace. ;) They're on my radar now though!

9/3/17

Five Shows I'm Excited About - Fall 2017




You should know this by now if you've ever read my blog before, but if you didn't: I'm a TV junkie. TV is my jam. I'm excited for Fall shows to come back and was thinking about which ones I'm most looking forward to, and thought I'd share my love of TV (and list making with you all.

1. Elementary - There was a bit of anxiety over whether or not CBS would renew Elementary and thankfully they did! I love this version of Sherlock (I've been enjoying the BBC version as well - don't worry), and I'm so happy it will be returning. The chemistry between Joan and Sherlock is electric, and the cases are always unique. I can't wait to see where they take us this year.




2. Superior Donuts - I quickly became a huge fan of this show last season. I watched the first episode with apprehension but then realized that the show is a gem. It weaves together comedy and important, relevant societal issues - giving the viewer honesty and humor and I think they do it really well. The cast is diverse which is great - and gives the show more sincerity in its content. I look forward to seeing what's in store in their second season.

3. Law & Order SVU - This is a no brainer. SVU is one of my favorite shows so of course its on the list. I hope that the 19th (19!!!) season brings us a good dose of all the characters - and I'd love to see them bring back my favorite Dr. (Wong) & Medical Examiner (Melinda) (long shots but a girl can dream...).

4. Mom - Mom is one of my favorite current sitcoms and I can't be alone since it continues to do well and get picked up for additional seasons. The cast is great, the story lines are awesome, real, authentic - and funny!! I am a loyal viewer of Grey's Anatomy (though a frustrated one to be honest, hence little talk of the show here, and it's absence from this list), and I truly appreciate that after watching Grey's, I flip to CBS to enjoy a sitcom. It's like a dose of therapy - for real.

5. NCIS: LA - *spoiler*  When the season closed up, Agent Sam Hanna had just lost his wife Michelle. During the season, Deeks and the team dealt with nearly losing Kensie, The future of Hetty was unknown, and they lost Granger. There was a lot of drama and flux during season eight, so I'm anxious to see what happens next for this team. Hopefully, they get some good news to balance all the loss from last season??



Honorable Mention: Like many, I am absolutely excited for the return of Will & Grace. Although I have not seen all of the original in its entirety, I did truly enjoy watching it when I did. I'm a huge fan of the classic sitcom and that's what Will & Grace delivers. Of course it's on at a time that conflicts with other shows that I've been watching for years, so I don't know how I'm going to swing both, but I will certainly have it on my radar and hope to find a way. <3

You know this list isn't all I'll be watching, but they're the top five in my book. Let me know what show's you'll be watching this season. Any new ones I should check out?? Give them a shout out in the comments! 

8/28/17

August Favorites

Hey howdy hey, it's already the end of August!?!? Today I started up with school again so it feels like summer is in its last moments. Technically, we have about another month, but yesterday I bought apple cider and today is the start of a new semester, so it's a comin'!

I haven't done a favorites post in a minute and I actually have a few things that I've discovered/obsessed over this past month, so I figured I'd share them. :) As always, they are in no particular order.



Seltzer. I'm a pretty boring person. I stopped drinking pop years ago and I rarely drink alcohol (I get crazy congested when I do, and it often makes my headaches worse so that kind of takes any fun out of it...). I basically only drink coffee/water/tea. For some reason, I had never tried seltzer waters because I apparently have been living under a rock. How have I not tried freakin' seltzer?!? Well, I have now and let me tell you, I am full on obsessed. I have been trying all the brands I can get my hands on and a bunch of different flavors and while I can't say I've got a favorite brand yet, I think my favorite flavor is lemon lime for sure. I'm so glad I've found something else I can actually drink because sometimes I really get sick of the coffee/water/tea routine.

The Sims 4. I've talked about this game on the blog before - I've even reviewed an expansion pack. Rest assured, my love is still strong for this game. I played quite a bit over the summer, and during my last week leading up to the new semester, I played quite a bit. My favorite bit is still building houses, but lately, I've been playing around a lot more with the actual sims. I've actually considered creating a series on the blog based on some of the experiments I do with my characters. Because of course, being a sociology nerd, I couldn't leave it at being merely a game. I have to pick it apart in some way. Whether or not I create said series, you can be fairly certain that this won't be the last you hear of The Sims 4. Pets are coming out in November (nope, not counting down anxiously at ALL....)!!

BBC Sherlock. Also over the break, my sister decided that while she was around, we should watch some of the BBC Sherlock series together. We started from the beginning, and while I still haven't finished, I am very much in love. I'm totally an anglophile, so the show wins me over quite easily, but it's such a good show regardless. With my usual shows gearing back up soon, I'm hoping I can still find time to continue the series. I realize how very behind I am! Trust me, it's typical.

Rituals Bed & Body Mist. I was so excited when I saw that Ulta was now carrying Rituals, which is a brand I have wanted to try since I first heard about it. Of course it wasn't so easy to get ahold of in the states and quite expensive if you did, so I've put it off for years. I randomally noticed the other day that Ulta is now carrying quite a few UK/European brands that I've been wanting to try so I placed an order and so far, this spray is my favorite thing. It's called The Ritual of Laughing Buddha Bed & Body spray and it's soooooooo wonderful. It's nice and light which means that so far, it hasn't triggered my migraines or caused me any issues (unfortunately I am pretty sensitive to scents). This particular scent is described as being sweet orange and cedar and it's just lovely. It's a very fresh scent - definitely not too strong. I love spritzing it on my bed, which ends up causing my whole bedroom to smell amazing. I've also used it as a quick spray before heading out the door, though I think it fades quicker this way. Either way, I really recommend this product - especially if you're like me and have a hard time finding anything scented that doesn't immediately cause headaches!

Aldi. I won't talk too much about this now because I plan to expand in a future blog post, but let me just say that I've become straight up obsessed with Aldi grocery stores. Being a born and bread WNY-er, I've been loyal to Wegmans for many, many years. However, lately I've been feeling like the quality hasn't been up to snuff, and I've been a bit underwhelmed. I'm not breaking up with them, but we're certainly seeing less of each other. Especially since Aldi is SO AMAZING! I'm able to nail nearly every item on my list and at less cost which are obvious wins. Another reason I love Aldi? Their stores are so much smaller. I find that grocery shopping is a love/hate situation for me. I'm a foodie so I love it, but the anxious me - the me who often struggles with some sort of headache or chronic pain, doesn't love the gigantic stores. The weekly grocery shop can easily deplete me of my energy. So I am immensely grateful that Aldi is such a smaller store. I still get nearly everything I need, but it's far less stressful. Ahhhhhh.

Thera Tears. This might seem like an odd item to share, but I'm doing so because it has honestly been a favorite of mine this month, and I know that it might be useful to someone else. As someone who blogs, writes, works from home online, and goes to school online, I spend a lot of time on my computer. I also like playing video games, and watching tv and .... screens, screens, screens! Unfortunately with that comes some inevitable eye strain. Sometimes eye strain is just that, but other times it seems to be a precursor to headaches or even a migraine. These eye drops are awesome because they instantly sooth my eyes when I start to feel strained. They don't always solve all my problems, but they often keep them at bay. I've linked them through Amazon so you'd know which type I'm talking about, but please shop around if you're looking for these - they're pretty expensive here!

Hope everyone had a wonderful August and is able to enjoy a bit more summer before it's gone!

8/16/17

Lately


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

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

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



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

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

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

7/6/17

Recipe: Super Pumpkin Muffins - Gluten Free, Vegan



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

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



Super Pumpkin Muffins 

Makes 6 hearty muffins 


Ingredients: 

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

Directions: 

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

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

6/30/17

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (REVIEW)

 

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

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

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

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

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

6/28/17

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



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

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

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





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

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






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

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

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

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

6/23/17

Here Comes the Sun: Five Sunscreens Put To The Test

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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


6/19/17

When Dimple Met Rishi By Sandhya Menon (REVIEW)

 

I can enjoy a young adult novel anytime, but there's something about a YA novel as a summer read that just feels right. They're often lighter reads (at least compared to the political books I frequently pick up), and they're a nice break from the heavier books and text book readings that often fill my time. When Dimple Met Rishi caught my eye because it was not just a YA novel, but it also fit into my desire to read more diverse books. It follows a girl named Dimple, and a boy named Rishi, both children of traditional Indian families living in America. Their parents want their children to be thinking about marriage, despite only being 18. While Rishi wants to satisfy the traditions his family finds so important, Dimple seeks out a life lived on her own terms. She has dreams of making a name for herself as a woman in technology. Dimple does not have dreams that involve domesticity or "finding the Ideal Indian Husband, like her mother seems to see as the most important goal.

When Dimple enrolls at a coding/technology summer camp on a local college campus, what she doesn't know is that she is to meet Rishi, who has been sent to camp with another mission in mind: marrying Dimple. Rishi doesn't seem to mind the idea of the arranged marriage their parents are hoping will happen, but upon meeting Dimple, he is in for a rude awakening.

Dimple wants no part of such archaic traditions and at first loathes Rishi - a stranger who is thrust into her life. Although, as the book progresses, we watch as hate and annoyance, evolves and blossoms into a true, and unexpected romance. Following Dimple and Rishi's journey pulls the reader in deeply as the frustration, love and fascination seem to seep from the pages. We watch as the characters challenge each other to see beyond their assumptions and own personal beliefs, and to really understand the differences between us, and the choices we make, in a way that turns them into better people. Both Dimple and Rishi encourage each other to be better versions of themselves through their love for each other.

There were parts of their story which I found to be predictable - in a way, it follows a romantic formula of sorts - intertwining love and conflict together.  But I wouldn't classify that necessarily as a negative, it's just merely a fact. I think a level of predictability is inevitable if you spend a lot of time in the same genre, just like how I can often guess the suspects on an episode of SVU or NCIS after watching for so many years. ;)

It caught me by surprise in other ways though... like how much the story grabbed me. I will admit that I teared up a few times while reading. Maybe it was my hormones. or maybe it was simply the story - but either way it got me emotional.

Being a diverse book, with diverse characters, there were some times in which I felt a bit confused. Such as when the author wrote in different languages without translation. I suppose in a way, the point of a diverse book is to expose you to different people and cultures, but I feel like some parts of the book were unfortunately lost for me because I did not understand them. It wasn't enough to ruin the story though - but for me, it did cause some snags.

My only other complaint for When Dimple Met Rishi, is that there isn't a sequel. I want to know what happens next in the lives of Dimple and Rishi - whom are left at the end of the book about to start their freshman year in college. The characters pulled me in and I would definitely follow them further. I think that Sandhya Menon did an excellent job at creating a world that envelopes the reader - pulling them into the story entirely. I feel like I am now invested deeply in the success of these characters and would welcome a continuation of the story any time!

I'd love to know your thoughts on When Dimple Met Rishi if you read it - feel free to share them in the comments!


6/16/17

American Street - Ibi Zoboi (REVIEW)

 

Some books seem to take us on intense and emotional roller coaster rides with the stories they tell.  Ibi Zoboi does this with American Street, which tells the story of a young Haitian immigrant navigating her way through dealing with a family that is as foreign to her as the city in which she ends up: Detroit. She does this alone as her mother is detained by ICE.

This is a book that I had wanted to read as I have been seeking out stories that were more diverse, and being a YA novel also drew me in. I think people often overlook YA as being only for a certain age, but they often offer stories that are intense, complicated and far more dynamic than many might guess or expect. American Street is a perfect example of this. Zoboi does a beautiful job of weaving together these complex characters and the memories and experiences that exist among them. While there is pain - physical, emotional, mental... there is also family and support, romance and laughter. As we follow Fabiola, we learn more about her past, and that of her aunt and cousins in Detroit. We follow these characters on a ride that brings with it hope and hurt in a way that keeps the reader intensely engaged.

It was difficult to put down this book. It reads easily from beginning to end and I would be lying if I said it didn't make me tear up on multiple occasions. The heartbreak that just seems to leak off the page from Fabiola being separated from her mother is strong. The book also tackles a variety of issues that would be impossible to not engage readers - the violence of our inner cities, drugs, gun violence and domestic violence for example. This book addresses topics that continue to be hot topics within our society.

American Street might be labeled as a Young Adult novel, but it truly is for everyone. I definitely look forward to whatever else Zoboi might have in store for us and I will certainly keep her on my radar. It is not the sappy, teenage angst, romance novel that many might think of when they head "YA", but is instead a deep and thought provoking book that will pull on your heart strings whether you like it or not. It does so in a good way though. Trust me.

6/8/17

Al Franken: Giant of the Senate (REVIEW)


I'm a sucker for a good memoir, and I'm also interested in politics (albeit its a subject matter that often fills me with rage, but nonetheless...), so generally speaking, I enjoy a good political memoir style book because it blends both together. I haven't read any of Al Franken's previous books, but having paid attention to him over the years through his work in the Senate, and knowing of his SNL history, when I heard about his newest book Giant of the Senate, I figured it was a good place to start.

Giant of the Senate blends together stories from Franken's life, with his views on politics, namely our current state of affairs. He recounts his experiences from childhood and through his SNL days, as well as his radio work with Air America, and his first steps into the political activism pool. He shares the journey that he embarked on with his first political campaign, and the experiences that have resulted from becoming a US senator in 2009.

I appreciated reading Franken's perspective on different issues and found that in many ways we were on the same page. I especially enjoyed how he discussed the issue of delivery reform in regard to healthcare and honestly, found it refreshing to hear someone actually address these types of issues within health care not only has problems, but really as merely existing. Personally, I feel like many view health care without considering the many ways in which the costs are inflated and manipulated and there are a million lobbyists and you know, things like Big Pharma that don't want us to dive too deeply into the matter. It was nice to hear someone touch on the issue, no matter how briefly.

I also liked the way that Franken suggested that trump had violated so many norms within our society. I find this to be both a frustrating, and yet fascinating topic. I find it interesting to examine the norms within society (ours or others), and how they shift and evolve over time. trump however, basically said to hell with it, and disregarded them in a way that makes me wonder if he was/is even aware of what the norms within our society might include.

Giant of the Senate was a nice blend of political reality and personal experience in my opinion and I truly enjoyed reading it. There might have been some points that lagged a bit for me, but in all honestly, I find that often happens with political books. Sometimes my brain simply feels overloaded. In general though, the book flew by. Franken's sarcastic humor certainly helped it along. I certainly enjoyed his picking on Ted Cruz, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the idiot brigade. ;) His humor made for a refreshing read from the political genre. Especially considering that we live in a world where laughter has become quite the high priced commodity.

6/6/17

Golden Memoirs: Reading the Books of The Golden Girls




I'm a huge fan of The Golden Girls. I watch it nearly every single night. I find the show to be wildly relevant even 24 years after it last aired. I wrote about the show during my undergrad because I found it to be such a wonderful example of a variety of different social issues. I also appreciate how it represents a less than traditional household composition. The show makes me laugh even if its an episode I've seen twenty times before, but I can also pick it apart and nerd out on it. There's just so much to analyze!

I wanted to further my knowledge of the cast members I have grown so accustomed to seeing on a nightly basis, so I decided to check out some of the books they have published. I ended up reading Estelle Getty's book, Rue McClanahan's and one of Betty Whites. Unfortunately Bea Arthur never wrote a book and there aren't any unofficial biographies to be had (that I know of, anyway!). I've learned over the years that I quite enjoy reading biographies/memoirs so it was fitting to read theirs.

The first one I read was Estelle Getty's If I Knew Then What I Know Now...So What? All three books are dated of course, and were written during/following the success of The Golden Girls, so it's important to keep that in mind and it actually makes for an interesting read in my opinion. It's sort of like traveling back in time, or opening a time capsule and I found it enjoyable to step back into the past. Estelle plays perhaps the most popular and well known character on the show: Sophia Petrillo. While much of the zingers written on the show come from the writers, that same humor is evident in Estelle herself. Reading her book was a quick and enjoyable read and I would certainly give it a thumbs up. It's difficult to read the book and not think of Sophia, but regardless, the book is full of laughs. I also learned quite a bit about Estelle Getty and she truly led a fascinating and action filled life.

The next book I tackled was Rue McClanahan's My First Five Husbands and the Ones That Got Away. I honestly found this book to drag quite a bit in the beginning, but once I got into it, things got a bit better. It's not that it was a boring book to read - having an interest in the actors kept me engaged enough, but it was just so action packed with names, dates and places and sometimes I felt that McClanahan drifted from one person or topic to another. After giving it some time, things started to go more smoothly and I enjoyed learning more about the woman I personally only knew as Blanche. There is always so much more to an actor than just one of their characters and Rue had really been everywhere, and seen it all. It was fascinating to enter into her world for a bit.

Lastly, I read a book by Betty White. Betty has quite a few books under her belt and I really felt overwhelmed trying to choose just one to start from. I ended up going for Here We Go Again, which chronicles her personal life and her career in television stretching a bit past The Golden Girls. All of the women involved with the show led such interesting lives both personally, and in show business, it is amazing to read their stories. Betty's love for animals (and Rue's for that matter) hits a soft spot with me as a fellow Animal lover and I loved all the photos Betty included in her book - I think more photos would have actually been nice in the other two books. Betty White is the lone surviving Golden Girl and I found myself often wondering what her life is like now and what stories she would tell if she were to write another book.

I enjoyed reading all three memoirs and I would definitely pick up another of Betty White's books...I'm just not sure which to pick up next! If you're a Golden Girls fan, then I encourage you to get to know the actors who took on these unforgettable roles! They're all worthwhile reads and I can't pick a favorite!


5/22/17

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas - REVIEW




Whenever I write a book review for a book that I enjoyed reading, I often say that it's a book I feel others need to read. Whether if it's because they might learn something, or because the story is told so well - I find I'm often writing something urging others to read a particular book. It might seem redundant, but I assure you, it's always genuine. I love reading, and the books I review on here, are often the ones that I feel a stronger need to share with others. It's harder to write a review for a book I maybe didn't like as much. I don't want to offend! So while I might come off as a broken record, I assure you - it's authentic.

With that being said, everyone needs to stop what they're doing, and order this book. Better yet, go to your closest book store (I hope that there is one), and buy it. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is astounding. I knew early on that it was going to be the kind of book I would want to review - and shout about from the rooftops.

The Hate U Give shares the story of a girl named Starr who grows up in a black urban neighborhood rife with poverty and violence. She attends a fancy private school in another area of town, which contrasts with her life in Garden Heights sharply, leaving her feeling strained by the mores of these different worlds. When she is the witness of her friend being murdered in Garden Heights, all things change. The story chronicles what comes after this both for Starr, as well as for her family, friends and neighbors.

Angie Thomas wrote a novel that needs to be read. It offers up diverse characters, which are so sorely needed in YA novels - and in general. It discusses issues of racism and prejudice and the police brutality and criminal justice issues that are inherently intertwined with these issues. Thomas tackles these current events in a way that made it nearly impossible for me to put down. While the book is fiction, it reads like it isn't. Perhaps that is because the story it presents could easily have happened yesterday - or it could happen tomorrow. It addresses subjects that are relevant because they are current conflicts within our society, and it presents this topic to a younger audience - giving them a story that goes beyond adolescent romance and cohort drama (not that there isn't a place for this either sometimes).

It doesn't matter your age - The Hate U Give is one of those books that everyone really should read. It gives the reader a lot to think about and does so in a way that draws you in - to the setting and the characters. I found that it moves quickly as you read and despite being quite lengthy, it doesn't take long to finish.

No matter your preferred genres, this is certainly a book I encourage you to read. I found myself reading slower in the beginning of the book, but I often do that as I get used to the characters and the story being presented. It was well worth the lag time though. I gave The Hate U Give a full five stars on Goodreads - where you can follow along with all my reading as I don't always write full reviews here.

I'm also always looking for more diverse books to read, so if you have any suggestions, send them my way!

5/21/17

Six Eco-Friendly Things To Do In Your Garden This Year



Living in Upstate New York, summertime is something to be savored. It doesn't last quite as long as I always want it to, and as someone who loves being outside relaxing or gardening, I don't know if I'd want it to end. Honestly, if I could have a really long summer and fall, and a shorter spring and winter,  I'd be totally down for that!

Our gardens, both veggie and flower are ever-evolving. Every year I make changes, adding plants and (sadly) sometimes eliminating them. Decor comes and goes, and I *try* to learn from my mistakes from previous seasons. Through it all, there are certain rules I go by: with my veggie garden I go for non-GMO always, and organic whenever possible and I don't use pesticides or any sort of weed killers in any of my gardens (veggie or flower). We try to conserve water, and plant things that make different animals happy so the gardens aren't solely for our own benefit.

Personally, I find gardening to be not only a rewarding experience, but also a therapeutic one. I feel like I have an overactive brain sometimes and when I'm working outside it seems to quiet the noise inside my head - at least somewhat. It's also a good form of exercise (trust me - lugging soil and mulch wears on you!) - and it gets you out into the fresh air!!  It's also nice to just sit and enjoy your work from time to time. :)

While the act of gardening might seem like an Eco-friendly activity on its face, there are ways in which our actions can actually be more detrimental - like using harmful pesticides and chemicals to rid our yards of weeds and bugs, or watering your grass (seriously - grass is overrated - plant a garden!). The list below is meant to help you find ways to make your yard work for both you and mother nature!

  • Plant herbs for warding off mosquitoes - mosquitoes are annoying - and scary to be honest. You can try to deter them naturally by planting herbs like lavender, rosemary, and peppermint. All of these are perennial too so you can enjoy them year after year! You can also plant citronella to ward of mosquitoes! 
  • Set up a rain barrel - allowing rain water to collect in a rain barrel is a great way of conserving your water usage. You can easily make one yourself, or buy one. Check your local municipalities - they might even sell them. If you live in Erie County, NY - there is currently a sale on for rain barrels and compost bins - hurry though, orders need to be placed by May 31st!
  • Watch what you plant! I love checking out different nurseries throughout the season, and I can easily buy plants anywhere, but you really need to watch where you're buying them from. This past weekend I went to Lowes and had amassed a cart full of plants I wanted to add to my garden. But then, when I was looking at a shrub, I saw an odd disclaimer that stated that the plant may, or may not have been treated with pesticides that might be harmful to the bee population. Say what??? I knew that Lowes and Home Depot had both come under fire for their use of pesticides that were found to be killing bees, but last I had heard, they had decided to stop using them. However, what I didn't know, was that while they do plan to stop using these harmful products, they are phasing them out over a period of years. Needless to say, I left my cart full of plants and went elsewhere. We need bees. Our plants - need bees. Why would I want to plant flowers that could possibly kill the partner-in-crime that they need??!?!
  • Compost - if you have the space to start a compost pile or bin, do it! If you live in an area where you can contribute to a town/city wide compost - do it! There are plenty of ways to compost, and doing so is a great way of reducing waste and also making your own soil amendment. 
  • Plant milkweed! The Monarch butterflies and milkweed are best friends. The Monarch butterflies are endangered so planting milkweed gives them one more chance to thrive. It's a perennial plant so it should come back for years to come! 
  • Perennial food - This one depends on what zone you live in, but if you live in an area with four seasons, you might think that there aren't many foods that you can grow which come back year after year. Not true!! There are plenty! Many herbs - like parsley, oregano, chives, mints, thyme, and rosemary are perennial. Fruits like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes can be planted one year and enjoyed for many years after. If you've got the space for trees, you can grow apples, peaches, and pears. Asparagus is a perennial food as well! Planting perennial foods one year can give you a harvest for many seasons after! 
I'm definitely no expert when it comes to gardening - I love to experiment and learn from experience. I don't always follow all the ~gardening rules~ and I enjoy seeing what I can do differently. I do try to make sure that what I'm doing outside isn't having any sort of detrimental impact on environment though so I hope that this list helps or inspires you. If you have any other recommendations, please share them in the comments! Happy gardening!

5/9/17

Elizabeth Warren: This Fight Is Our Fight (REVIEW)

 

When I heard Elizabeth Warren had a new book coming out, I pre-ordered it right away. When it arrived, I rushed through the book I had been reading so I could get to it quicker and it definitely did not disappoint. I've been a fan of Senator Warren for many years now. I think she is genuine, wildly intelligent, compassionate, and without waver in her dedication to fighting for those who's voice is rarely, if ever, heard. I find her intensity and passion to be refreshing in the world of politics as a whole. I think there are many politicians out there who have grown cozy in their bubbles and who do not truly care for their constituents back home or the average American *cough cough* I'm looking at you, Chris Collins! *cough cough* This Fight is Our Fight blends together Warren's scholarly style with her humanistic compassion and understanding of what it looks like to be an average American in our society. The book provides statistical insight, with the real-life challenges of many Americans through anecdotal evidence.

This Fight is Our Fight takes the reader on a journey - chronicling much of our history since the Great Depression, and what it took to help build a strong middle class. It also explores the ways in which that strong middle class has been challenged, and effectively destroyed. Warren looks at how we built up our middle class and the efforts we made to ensure that all citizens had a fighting chance at the American Dream, some stability, and opportunity. She also details the many ways in which these supports have been weakened, or in some cases, eradicated entirely, in order to serve the richest Americans, large corporations and industry. Warren argues that these actions - primarily at the hands of republicans, have allowed for our middle class to weaken, and that now with trump as president, our middle class is threatened with extinction.

I think that Warren does an excellent job of highlighting the many ways in which corporations, the mega-rich, and industries as a whole have manipulated the government over the years in order to make it work for them, and not the average American. While much of the book was not surprising, and I was aware of bits already, it was still enraging. Her breakdown of how big business has been screwing workers over the years drives me mad. It certainly makes me rethink the types of business which I will patronize... which I think is exactly the type of reaction that readers should have. This book should make you think twice...even thrice.

In This Fight is Our Fight, Elizabeth Warren not only looks at the past, but also at the future. The book is a rally call - it is meant to energize and wake up those who care about the future of this country. It is required reading for anyone who wants to see America thrive. The book is truly an excellent read which balances facts with slices of humor, and glimpses into real American life. The only thing that I would have done differently, is that I would have included more anecdotes. I think that in order to truly understand the plight of the average citizen, we need to hear their stories. Warren does this, just not to the level that I would have really appreciated. It doesn't make the book any less important though!

Honestly, if you care about the future of this country, you need to read this book!

4/25/17

Chris Hayes: A Colony in a Nation {REVIEW}

 

I've been following Chis Hayes for many years now. I think the first place I saw him was as a guest on Rachel Maddow, and I liked him pretty much right away. I was a bit slow at picking up his first book, Twilight of the Elites, only reading it last year, but I'm glad that I did. It was an impressive book - with no shortage of factoids and little tidbits to make me nod, or shake my head in frustration and/or disbelief. His newest book, A Colony in a Nation continues to highlight Hayes as a highly intelligent writer with a knack for examining some aspect of our society with refreshing perspective and honesty.

In A Colony in a Nation, Hayes examines our nation's criminal justice system, with a specific look at how race comes into play within this system, and our society as a whole. He suggests that race and our criminal justice system divides our society into two parts: the nation, which is comprised of white citizens, and the colony - comprised of black citizens. Through statistical analysis, exploring the works of others and his own vast knowledge, he gives a brief history of how our criminal justice system has worked both for, and against our citizens. Hayes addresses the significant inequalities and conflict that have arisen within our society - stemming from the relationship between race and our criminal justice system, highlighting recent events which have brought this conflict to the forefront of many conversations, such as Ferguson and the 2014 death of Michael Brown.

Throughout the book Hayes ties the present to the past rather well and I can certainly say that I learned a lot about our past as a country that I'm sort of ashamed to admit I did not know (I will confess: I don't have as great a knowledge of history as I would like). As someone who majored in Sociology, I really enjoyed this book and the way it examined our criminal justice system, racism, and overall conflict within our society, but I think that this is a book anyone could enjoy - and which, everyone should read. I wouldn't describe it as a book which forces you to think in any particular way, but which provides you with facts and background and forces you simply, to think. It forces its readers to consider their own privilege and circumstances, and the environment in which they reside. I appreciate that it is not a book that comes off as overly biased in any one direction, but rather is a book that challenges the reader without berating them or trying to force them into any particular line of thinking. It certainly made me angry. It made me feel wildly frustrated (a feeling that I'm all to familiar with, which I think is hardwired into my personality). It made me think about a lot of things.

The book highlights what I would consider to be significant flaws in our criminal justice system, and left me wondering how, if ever, we are going to fix such a one-sided operation? The issues that exist within this system directly and significantly, impact how society as a whole works. Unfortunately, I would say that I don't believe we are poised to reform any of these issues currently, but I hope that in the future, we can begin to change the mechanisms that allow for the colony, and the nation to exist in such vastly different worlds.

A Colony in a Nation is a book I would urge all to read. It's a quick read and it left me feeling energized to learn more. In all honesty, I enjoyed it even more than Hayes' first book and it makes me excited to see what he comes out with next (no pressure or anything! ^_^)!