2019 Reading Challenge

Howdy y’all!

It’s been a long time, and I’m kicking myself for putting the blog on the back burner. I have been writing, though!

One thing that I’m proud of myself for this year is recently imposing a reading challenge. Had I started at the beginning of the year, my goal would have been larger. However, I started at the beginning of July. My goal is to read 12 books between July 1st and December 31st. This is an extremely reasonable goal with two books a month. Who knows? I might read more than 12 books!

So far, I’ve finished two books and am in the middle of two books. The books I have finished are ‘Cut’ by Patricia McCormick and ‘Where Women Are Kings’ by Christie Watson. Both were interesting reads, however ‘Where Women Are Kings’ blew me away. I had never heard of the book or the author. One day, I was wandering the library, and this somewhat small blue book caught my eye. I read the description and was intrigued. I took a seat at a table and started to read. Twenty minutes later, I was hooked. Over the next week or so, I devoured the story. It is one about the foster care system, adoption, and family history. There is a book review post in the near future, I feel.

Currently, I am reading ‘How Not to Fall Apart’ by Maggy Van Eijk and ‘Sadie’ by Courtney Summers, both of which had been on my To Be Read list for a year. Updates will come once I am done with those.

After those? Who knows. I might restart the Harry Potter series, as I have only read through half of book five, and have only seen the first four movies. I desperately need to catch up and know that they will be easy reads. There are a lot of books I want and need to read, and I am glad I have found my love of reading that was lost for quite some time.

If you’d like, please follow me on GoodReads! I love connecting with people, as well as getting recommendations on what my next read should be.

Little Things

We all have our little comforts in life. You know, those things that make your day just a little more doable and joyful. These can vary throughout a year, and they should, as change is good.

A few weeks ago, my therapist gave me a really simple task to do every day. This is something that a lot of people already do, whether it be in writing or through prayer or in conversation with people they share their lives with.

Write Down Everything You Are Grateful For That Day.

Super simple and easy, right?

I started off with a bang. For a week, I made a note of things that I was grateful for. Of course, the habit didn’t stick. But, I have been taking gratitude mental notes everyday! Not an entirely wasted task to do.

But, this blog post is about little things that make me happy, therefore are worthy of gratitude. Enjoy the ride!

Hourglass Caution Extreme Mascara
Yes, sure, this is a beauty product. Vanity is unbecoming, and all that jazz. But, I don’t see myself as a vain person. I’m not perfect, and I am not everyone’s cup of tea. Here’s the thing: it’s perfectly acceptable to make yourself look nice within your own parameters. And, humans do a lot of non-verbal communication with their faces. My eyes and lashes are nice to look at, so I’ll make them pop if I want to. When I’m having a particularly drab day, I like running this mascara over my lashes. By doing this, my face appears softer and more welcoming, and I don’t mind catching a glimpse of myself when I pass by a mirror. This mascara is the bombdotcom and it’s vegan. Love love love it!

Carefully Curated Playlists
I’ve been told that I’m a music snob, as well as a walking Shazam. I wouldn’t call myself a music snob, just refined and well-versed. My music collection is vast and I don’t totally discriminate (unless it comes to horribly executed, mass marketed bubblegum pop). There are five playlists I have stored in my iTunes. Songs often get added, and some get nixed very rarely. These playlists speak to a multitude of moods and activities. Music plays a huge role in my life, as I grew up playing the violin, piano, and clarinet. In the very near future, I plan on taking up the ukulele and flute, as well as relearn the violin. Also, I would love very much to spend my days getting paid to create playlists for people. Dream job! Fun fact: Prince makes his way onto every playlist that I create.

Stretching
Every morning, I do a full body stretch before getting out of bed. I’ve made this a habit since high school, and, the older I get, the more essential this action is. Throughout the day, I take a minute or two to stretch different parts of my body, while taking deep breaths. Depression is a tough cookie a lot of the time, and taking care of my body can be a difficult task at times. But, the fact that I do this one small act for my body is a step in the right direction. This means that I am aware of my body and know that I should be listening to it.

Water
I am lucky to live in a part of the world that has clean water. Without it, living life would be really difficult. I love the fact that I have functioning plumbing, the ability to clean myself and my clothes whenever I need to, and water to drink and cook with. I keep a large Brita in my bedroom to ensure that I can hydrate myself whenever I need to. I also keep an electric kettle in my room in case I get a hankering for herbal tea at 1:20am. And, the most important why I love water is that if I don’t keep myself hydrated, my whole body goes out of whack, which is a disaster for my mental health. My digestive system and my brain love and need water.

Pillows
Between the ages of about 8 and 15, I hated pillows. I couldn’t sleep well with any kind of pillow under my head. But, now, I can’t get enough pillows. It’s an age thing, I’m sure of it. As I fall asleep, I love being propped up and supported, almost like I’m falling into a pit of pillows. Tuft & Needle have awesome pillows. They are expensive (at least, in my opinion), so I have only two right now. They are worth every penny, though. The most comfortable pillows I’ve ever used! Sleep is a key element to my mental and physical health. If I have awesome pillows, I’m going to sleep well. If I sleep well, I’m going to be happy. Such a simple concept!

So, here are a few of my creature comforts. Nope. Not sponsored by anyone. Hourglass and Tuft & Needle did not pay me to mention their stuff. They don’t even know how much I love their stuff! This love is coming from a very real and honest place.

What are some of your creature comforts?

New Adventures

Well, hello there!

It’s almost October, and you know what that means! Halloween is approaching. Everyone is gearing up, including getting out their cute autumnal clothes and chugging those dreaded Pumpkin Spice Lattes (can we say white gurl pumpkin spice wasted?).

We’re having a warm September here in the Bay Area, and I’ve been wishing the weather would cool off just a big and let autumn actually be autumnal. Nevertheless, I have a lot of knitting to be done, cute sweaters to buy, and books to curl up with.

I’ve been through a few changes this year, and those will be discussed over at Finding Love In Myself (my blog that deals with mental health, self care, etc.). But, I want to fill you in on the fun things that I plan on filling the rest of my year with!

Plan of Attack:

  • Knit beanies & ear warmers for friends and family, including a West Ham beanie for Dad.
  • Research DIY skincare and learn how to make my own bath bombs, bath salts, and other herbal bath time remedies.
  • Carve out 30-60 minutes a day for reading with a pot of yummy tea.
  • Share my crafty progress on blog, YouTube, and Instagram.

Y’all with me? Who wants to help keep me accountable?

Ciao for now, my lovelies! Enjoy your week.

2017: My Year So Far

It’s been awhile, and I am certainly not maintaining this blog very well. Many apologies!

As many of you are well aware, 2017 has been an interesting and trying time for the US (and the world, tbh). I have been trying my best to keep my head up and be a positive member of my community. But, that’s really exhausting some days.

Waking up to news of hate, violence, and someone who isn’t fit for their job? This is not a world I want to be a part of. And, any of you with a head and a heart probably feel the same.

With that said, I want to share some of the positives that have happened in my world this year.

  1. My cousin had a baby, and he is absolutely adorable. I haven’t met him, as they live across the pond.
  2. People I know and love are expecting babies this year. I’m proud of all of them, especially as I know that they are bringing humans into the world who are going to be compassionate, kind, smart, and strong.
  3. My beloved 1999 Subaru is out of steam. She’s done. Because neighbors can be wonderful, in an effort to make life easy for everyone, I purchased my neighbor’s 2006 lightly driven PT Cruiser. This saved me money, took a car off our neighbor’s hands, and taken some stress out of my life.
  4. I took myself on vacation to Maui in April. I needed a week to be by myself and far away from work. I needed to swim in an ocean for hours at a time. I needed to relax and decompress. I loved being there and didn’t want to leave.
  5. I have been walking regularly. Again, I thrive when I have time by myself. These walks are great for listening to the hundreds of podcast episodes I have saved. I’m using my legs and taking care of my body.
  6. Finally, I took back control of my body and have been eating well. Along with the regular walking, my body has let go of the extra weight it was carrying around. I am feeling healthier and we’ll. I feel empowered and ready to take on the world, even if I am taking baby steps.
  7. After not reading, I am back into it. I plan on making a huge dent in my bookshelf by the end of the year. With all the reading, A Life In Paperback will start to be updated regularly.

Very soon, I am going to do some updated favorites posts (podcasts, skincare, makeup, movies, TV shows, music).

In the meantime, I am going to be working at my 9-5 while looking for new, more fulfilling work.

Ciao readers! Be well!

She Stands Alone

Here’s a few facts about me: I’m approaching 35, I’m single, I don’t have any children, I identify as a cisgendered woman, I love cats (and appreciate dogs that are genetically coded to herd or rescue), and I am not ashamed of any of these.

Many single, childfree women of a certain age, particularly those who love cats, have such a bad reputation. Trust me. I am reminded of this constantly. In fact, something that always makes me laugh is when I politely turn down men I feel are not good matches for me, I often get such hate filled responses. These usually manage to include “no wonder why you’re still single; I bet you have ten cats and knit in your spare time.” These responses always clue me in even further to the fact that these men have not read a word of my dating profiles (that mention the most feminine thing I’ll do in my spare time take a long bath after an even longer run). Let me clarify, I love people who have ten cats and knit. You are giving ten adorable souls a home, and you are able to make your own clothes. I admire anyone who does both.

So, here I am, celebrating all you single women, cis or trans, especially those of you who are in your 30s (or older and wiser). I salute each and every one of you. Keep doing you, and whenever someone asks “when are you having kids?” or “you have 10 cats, right,” go ahead and tell them “Imma do me and don’t you fret about my choices, kthxbai.”

Let is rise up and celebrate each other. Let’s care for and support each other. If you witness a woman’s choices being judged and torn apart, be a voice of reason and love.

Vegan 101: Favorite Skincare

Often times, we forget that our skin is our largest organ and needs just as much love as our internal organs. I’ll be honest, I don’t have a specific daily routine when it comes to my skincare, especially as my days are never the same. For the most part, I take great care of my skin and am sure to slap some SPF on if I know I’m going to be outside longer than 20 minutes. No one is perfect, nor do I expect anyone to be.

Grandmothers, aunts, and mothers were all very correct in saying “you are what you eat.” The care you give your body often is very visible on your skin, in your eyes, and in your hair. Sure, a small group of people are lucky enough to eat horribly processed food and still look great, but most of us aren’t so lucky.

Being mindful of what we put in our bodies is a great way of ensuring our skin, eyes, nails, and hair will be happy. I’m not saying that eating vegan will solve your acne or dry skin or brittle nails. [Trust me, I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or doctor. Please consult a licensed professional if you plan on completely revamp your diet.] If you cannot forgo eating animals & their byproducts, the best thing you can do is limit your red meat, poultry, & pork, and focus more on omega rich seafood and eggs (including the yolk). Not only will your skin, hair, & nails appreciate you, your eyes & heart will as well.

As I choose not to eat any animal byproducts, I have to find other ways of getting great nutrition. I’m a fan of whole grains other than wheat, a variety of nuts (I make my own trail mix with raw nuts, dairy free dark chocolate, & salt), lentils & legumes, dense vegetables & dark, leafy greens, and lots of water. And, I pop a vegan Vitamin D, a vegan prenatal multivitamin (no, I’m not trying to get pregnant), and a vegan B-complex pill every day to ensure all my bases are covered. The nice thing about B vitamins is that any excess is secreted out through urine, so it is almost impossible to overdose on B vitamins. And, I do have days where I forget to take my supplements, so I’m never concerned about excess vitamins flowing through my body. Some people ask why I never take an iron supplement if I don’t eat meat. Simply put: I was only borderline anemic once in my life, and that was when I was about 12 or 13. Puberty & my menstrual cycle hit me really hard & at this time, I had started cutting out meat. My body was just adjusting. Since then, my iron levels have been very impressive (and frankly, often shocking) to everyone who has ever drawn my blood & done labs on my blood & any doctor who has evaluated my blood. I attribute my iron rich blood to the fact I love lentils & spinach.

Anyway, aside from eating for great skin, what one puts on their skin is important. I’m not about bashing skincare/cosmetics companies that aren’t considered vegan. I just like knowing that what I’m putting on my skin doesn’t have any animal byproducts in it. [I’m going to admit right now that, as I’m not perfect, I’m still using up a lot of stuff that I have which isn’t vegan solely based on the fact they have beeswax or honey in them.] When a company puts vegan on their label, that usually means that, by default, they are cruelty free. That’s what I hope, at least.

Here are some of my favorite skincare brands that are primarily or 100% Vegan (all are 100% cruelty free):

  1. Andalou Naturals [Please consult their FAQ page for their nonvegan products.]
  2. 100% Pure
  3. Schmidt’s Deodorant
  4. Tata Harper
  5. Acure Organics
  6. Herbivore Botanicals
  7. Yes To
  8. Juice Beauty

Currently, I am using products from Andalou, Yes To, Herbivore Botanicals, and, of course, trusty ol’ Schmidt’s Deodorant (it really is the best natural deodorant out there). I do mix up my routine sometimes, but right now, I’ve got a good thing going. [I’ll do an updated skincare routine very soon.]

Please not that this list is far from complete, and reflects brands I choose to use for my own skincare. Let google be your proverbial oyster (can we use pea, instead?). Some of the brands listed are budget friendly, others are expensive.

Here are some awesome resources for more comprehensive lists of cruelty free/vegan beauty brands:

  1. Cruelty Free Kitty
  2. PETA’s List
  3. The Organic Bunny
  4. Beauty By Britanie

Things I Love Right Now: Podcasts

I’ve been a fan of podcasts for awhile now. Storytelling, listening to people have conversations (friendly and/or intellectual), and learning something new have always been appealing. When my family moved to the States from London, my parents discovered public radio, and constantly listened to it. I’ve found comfort in public radio in my adult life. Not only is it often interesting, it reminds me of my childhood.

With podcasts, this allows me to listen to a lot of my favorite public radio offerings at my own pace. Of course, there are so many other podcast options out there aside from public radio offerings. I have a huge collection of podcasts in my Overcast library. Variety definitely is the spice of life! I must say, I have a couple hundred episodes to listen to at this point, and I am totally okay with that.

A few of my favorites are somewhat popular and probably don’t need too much of an introduction. Others might be completely new to you.

Dear Sugar
Everyone is gaga over Cheryl Strayed, and rightfully so. She’s insightful, caring, honest, and witty. This podcast was born from the Dear Sugar column in The Rumpus. Basically, both the column and the podcast are akin to Dear Abby. The difference is that Dear Sugar is raw, a bit brutal, honest, and incredibly helpful. I love hearing Cheryl and Steve Almond offer sage advice to people who write in. The letters that they get are exceptional, and the responses are equally amazing.

Ladies Who Lunch
This is a weekly podcast done by two YouTubers, Cat Valdez and Ingrid Nilsen. I stumbled across it, as I occasionally watch Ingrid’s YouTube channel. Sure, I’m a few years older than both ladies, and the content is definitely geared towards Millenials (I stick to my guns when I say I am Gen X). The content is still great, and it’s wonderful to hear two women have an intelligent conversation about a multitude of topics, including the election, our bodies, and dating.

#GoodMuslimBadMuslim
I love this podcast simply because offers such a positive insight on Islam. This is a podcast everyone should listen to, Muslim or not. Taz and Zahra are hilarious, well spoken, and downright awesome. I downloaded the first episode soon after it was published, and did so out of sheer curiosity and with the hope to enrich my own life. We all should expose ourselves to ideas and cultures that are different from our own. This podcast allows me to learn a little about Islam and Muslim culture, and hear from intelligent, thoughtful women.

2 Dope Queens
If you aren’t listening to this podcast already, please do. Seriously, stop reading this post right now, and download as many episodes as you can or want. For those of you who are unaware, this is an awesome comedy podcast lead by Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams. In this podcast, comedians of all genders, ethnicities, and sexualities are featured. I absolutely love and need this podcast. This is absolutely necessary on bad days, as I know that I’ll get a giggle. I mean, if you want free stand-up, this is right up your alley. And, I think we should be supporting women of color.

Not By Accident
The first episode of this podcast was featured on another podcast, Strangers (which I love, for the most part). I love the format of this podcast. It is a audio documentary of a single woman, who happens to be gay, getting pregnant and having a child. Sophie Harper’s story is very touching and inspiring. With every episode, I am reminded that I can do many things I put my heart and mind to. Also, I am reminded that it never hurts to ask for help. Sure, this podcast caters to a specific audience, but it really is worthwhile.

Stuff Mom Never Told You
There is one huge reason why I listen to this podcast: learning. There is a never ending slew of topics Caroline and Cristen talk about, some of which I know and understand. However, this is a basic jumping off point for getting inspired to research a multitude of topics that are female (cis- or not) related. My one gripe is that the two women hosting this podcast are cis-gendered and Caucasian. With that said, they do their best to be impartial and educated with the information they are talking about. They cite their reputable sources, which is incredibly important.

These are the ones I listen to the most frequently. If I am all caught up, there are a few other podcasts I’ll listen to, which I often reserve for commutes, cooking, or moments I need a giggle.

What are your favorite podcasts? What are you obsessively listening to? I love recommendations!