Things I Love: iPhone Apps

I live in Silicon Valley, the birthplace of Apple, Inc. Let’s be real, most people living here (middle or upper class) have iPhones. A good chunk of the people working in the tech industry have worked on an app or for a company that, at some point, has developed an app.

We all have our favorites, depending on our lifestyles. There are far too many out there, and I’m sure I’ve only tried an extremely minute fraction of what is available.

Aside from the generic apps, I have a few chosen ones that I use regularly.

I’m a huge fan of Headspace, even though I am only on day two. I have yet to subscribe to the service, but I’m sure I will. Headspace is a somewhat new app, but has already become very popular. A few friends suggested I try it. Then, my therapist even suggested it. Hey, if someone working in the mental health field thinks it is useful, I trust that it is a worthwhile app to have and use! Headspace offers a daily 10 minute guided meditation that allows people to relax, focus, and become mindful in and of their own body. The purpose of doing a meditation everyday is to get a person in the habit of doing it. Ten days isn’t quite enough, but it’s a wonderful start. There are also solo guided meditations for moments that are outside the realm of the daily meditation. Most of them are only accessible to subscribers, but there are a couple nonsubcribers can try. The man who’s voice we here is definitely from London, which I love. It’s an accent I am used to and find of. A person’s voice is a very important factor when choosing guided meditation, so this might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Because of this, I appreciate that users get ten free meditations before committing to the service. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a positive and healthy habit to gain.

In the same vein of Headspace, an app I use frequently is Relax Melodies. If I need to get something done, like homework or writing or reading something important, I need something to keep me from getting distracted. This app allows you to pick whatever sounds that are most soothing and effective to you and customize what you are hearing. I consistently blend together Birds+Ocean+River and tweak the volume of each. I’m very much a water baby, and the sound of moving water makes me happy. Also, birds softly chirping? Yes, please! I often yearn to move to a cottage by the sea when I put this on, and until I actually do, this app offers a nice respite from the busy urban and suburban sounds I hear everyday.

My physical health is just as important as my mental health. I have an app that is absolutely essential in my life. Ever since I got my first period 22 years ago, the only time it has been regular is when I’m controlling it with birth control (which is rare). I need something to, at the very least, give me some sort of an idea as to what my cycle is doing, so I can have dates and numbers recorded. This helps when I see any kind of doctor. I believe it is essential for women to truly understand their bodies and own their uniqueness. There are a bunch of apps out there that help women track their cycles. Some are extremely detailed and are great for women who are trying to conceive or who are experiencing chronic reproductive issues. While I might  be experiencing PCOS in my own life, I’ve learned ways to manage it, and don’t need extensive tracking. The app that has worked best for me is Period Tracker Lite. I have upgraded to the paid version, although I can’t remember why. At least, I know that I like the app and will continue to use it for years to come. I am not sure if it is available for android phones, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is.

Of course, I love the WordPress app. It is handy when I am away from my computer and an idea for a blog pops into my head. This allows me to start a draft for the post, jot down main points and/or ideas, and make sure I don’t lose inspiration. It also allows me to track stats on the go. Aside from the fact it feels good to see that someone has read a post, I like to know what’s working, what I can change, what content is more popular.

What are some of your favorite apps? What do you use most frequently? I’d love to know what other fun apps are out there!

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Current Faves: Fragrances, 2016

For the longest time, Stella by Stella McCartney was my signature fragrance. Amber is a note that I’m consistently drawn to. The mixture of rose, rose absolute, peony, mandarin, and amber always did something magical on my skin. Often, I was told that I smelled like a well made birthday cake or a bright summer day. I even had a very pregnant lady tell me that I smelled delicious and inviting. That might seem odd to hear, but I definitely took it as a compliment.

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten away from Stella. My body has changed, my hormones are working differently. Stella, while a beautiful scent, doesn’t quite do it for me like it did a decade ago. Also, I love change, even if I’ve been a creature of habit lately. I don’t like smelling the same every day. On the days I know I’ll be at a gym, I’ll just smell like my clean, masculine deodorant I’m wearing (I can’t stand the smell of women’s deos). When I wear a fragrance, it’s never the same one as the day before. Variety keeps people interested.

I have a few fragrances that are on regular rotation right now.

Jo Malone Earl Grey & Cucumber

A couple years ago, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. “Are these scents really worth the hype and money?” I thought. Well, out of all of the fragrances I tried, only two made a positive impression on me. Two! Earl Grey & Cucumber was one of them. I put some on my wrists and the back of my neck, and walked around for awhile. I wanted to see if anyone commented on how I smelled. A few people actually stopped me and told me I smelled good. Later that night, I asked my mother what she thought. She’s not a huge fan of fragrances in general, so she’s definitely a good person to ask. She was impressed and gave me the go ahead.

This fragrance is a perfect blend of bergamot, Earl Grey, cucumber, vanilla, and musk. When I wear it, it smells very refreshing, inviting, bright, and creamy. Because of the “masculine” notes of musk and Earl Grey, many people would consider this better for winter and/or evening. I love it all year round, as the bergamot and cucumber give the fragrance a very lively element.

Tocca Emelia

There is a group of people who blend together well. Our births fall somewhere between 1972 and 1983.  (I still claim I am a Gen Xer, because I have no emotional connection with Millennial). We are the Pearl Jam loving, super grungy, flannel and ripped jeans wearing people. We were the ones who paved the way for what fashion looks like today. Who wore cK one as religiously as me in the 90s? You know you bought, at the very least, a small bottle. You and your beau smelled and dressed alike. I wanted a bottle of cK one, because I wanted to be cool. Yes, I bought into the nonplussed, “alternative” lifestyle that Calvin Klein ads promoted. I remember loving the way cK one smelled. The fresh and crisp elements made me happy. I felt energized when I wore it. I also loved that people thought I was cool with my big bottle of cK one sitting on my desk. [I remember the day I got it. My mother agreed to buy it for me while we were waiting to get on a ferry between Ireland and England (or possibly Wales). It was duty-free, so I’m sure that’s why I was able to convince her.]

Well, I finally found something that reminds me of cK one (as it’s so hard to find these days, and I’m not 15 anymore). Toque’s Emelia is extremely reminiscent of cK one. In fact, the first time I tried Emelia on, I was taken right back to eighth and ninth grade. I immediately wanted to change into a pair of loose fitting 501s, a white tank top, and an oversized flannel. Pearl Jam’s ‘Daughter’ came flooding into my mind. Later that day, as I walked past a group of people, I heard one of them say “oooh, what’s that smell? It reminds me of being a teenager!” She looked my age, so I had to assume she was talking about cK one. I didn’t ask her, so I could be completely wrong.

There are so many notes in this fragrance: magnolia tree lead, bison grass, geranium, praline, coconut water, clementine, and so many more. It is a very green and citrus fragrance, but unlike an extremely popular and overused fragrance. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, hallelujah!) Emelia wears extremely well. It stayed on my skin for about 9 or 10 hours. It may have stayed longer, but I fell asleep smelling delicious.

LaVanila Vanilla Summer

Vanilla definitely has a bad reputation. There are many vanilla based fragrances out there in the world, and you can tell the quality of the fragrance by the way the vanilla smells. If it smells too sweet or synthetic, it’s probably not the best quality. It’s also probably not very expensive either. I am definitely picky about what kind of vanilla I have on and the concentration of the note.

LaVanila is known for their vanilla based fragrances. What sets them apart is that they don’t use synthetic chemicals to produce any of the notes in their perfumes. Each fragrance in the line is made with essential oils and ingredients that come from naturally derived ingredients. Even the alcohol in the perfumes is sugar cane alcohol. All of the products are free of synthetic fragrance, petrochemicals, parbens, synthetic dyes, and other ingredients that appear on consumers’ no-no lists.

Long before LaVanila created Vanilla Summer, I wore Vanilla Coconut. It smelled amazing and I got a lot of compliments. The only problem that I had was that the fragrance would quickly brown, due to the fact the coconut essential oil was naturally derived instead of synthetic. I love spritzing my clothes with a bit of perfume to allow the scent to linger. With Vanilla Coconut, I could only do that with black clothes. The moment Vanilla Summer was released, I was in love. It is absolutely a mood elevator. It makes me think of being on a beach in Hawaii, sipping an icy cocktail after a long day of swimming and surfing and running around. The fragrance motivates me to be active and get outside.

Aside from vanilla, the notes of Vanilla Summer are pineapple, mango, coconut milk, and sugar cane. Seriously, it’s exactly what a tropical smoothie or cocktail should be made out of. Every time I wear this, people who don’t like the smell of traditional vanilla (overly synthetic and saccharine) tell me that they love how I smell. This perfume seems to put everyone in a great mood. I wear this all year round, and it is very helpful during dreary, cold winter days. It snaps me out of any gloomy mood I might be in.


I do have other favorite fragrances, but these are the fragrance I am wearing regularly. Seek them out! Try them for yourselves. Sure, they might not work for everyone, but keep an open mind. It’s nice to try something new. These fragrances, in my opinion, are very versatile and can work for most people.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day & remember to love yourself!

Branching Out To YouTube

I’ve decided to finally branch out and start a YouTube channel. As of February 4th, 2016, there are only two very raw and mildly embarrassing videos up on my channel. I will become better at shooting videos & editing, as well as creating content that people want to see. However, I would love to get subscribers and views. Please take a gander and hit that subscribe button if you’d like: Ellie @ YouTube.

So, here’s the deal. The more subscribers and views I get, the more content I will create. I’ll do anything from a ‘get ready with me’ video to weekly recap video to a ‘my favorite xyz’ video. I’m happy to take suggestions now, so I can formulate what I’ll be talking about and when the videos will go up. Incredibly ludicrous ideas probably won’t happen, so please be reasonable with your suggestions! Please, tell me what you’d like to see!

Thank you, loves!!

 Nobody’s Perfect.

The thing about depression is that, while everyone experiences sadness and grief, those of us who are actually depressed get frustrated when people tell us it will pass. It often doesn’t. We’re lucky if we have one day in a long string of months in which we feel normal and can actually contribute to society in an acceptable manner. It’s also very frustrating when people are shocked when we actually seem genuinely happy. That diminishes our identities and is a huge hurdle we have to deal with.

I’ve known I’m not wired to be happy for two decades. Twenty years is a long time.

Here’s the thing: one can say that they don’t understand how anyone can be depressed. Well, those of us who struggle every single day to force a smile when we’re screaming on the inside can’t understand how people can be happy all the time. And, us depressed folk, we are highly functioning people. I’ve managed to stick around for twenty years. It’s been difficult, but I’ve made it work.

Describing depression isn’t an easy task. We all experience it in very unique ways. The general idea of it is the same, but we all cope with it in our own ways.

“Depression doesn’t define me.” and “I’m a real person with real value.” These two stand out. While depression is one of many parts of us, it isn’t who we are. We have plenty of things to offer this world. We are well aware of this. While it can often be challenging for some of us to be motivated to shine, we have the ability to. Instead of being stigmatized, we need to be loved equally.

There are great resources out there for those of us struggling with some sort of mental health spark. [I use the word spark, because issue, disease, and disorder each hold such negative connotation. Spark, for me, is a happy word. It is a motivating word in my life.]

If you live in a town or city with a public library, I highly suggest utilizing it. Depending on the town or city, there is usually a good selection of self-help books and books about mental health. Remember that not all self-help books are created equal. They often have a bad rap, but there are some great books out there, I promise! I suggest books on mindfulness, creativity, and other task based guides.

I know that it’s often difficult to find the strength or motivation to get up and move. But, movement really does help. If you live near a park, walk there with a book & some tea or coffee. Sit & read, breathe in some fresh air. Attempt to smile at three people. Then walk home. This helps me find some momentary peace.

If you are a college student, use the health services your school fees pay for. Many higher education have mental health services. They are staffed by a few licensed therapists (who are often professors at the school) and graduate students who are training to become therapists. It is an affordable way to get some counseling. If they don’t offer counseling, they are well connected to resources outside the school, and are able to assist you finding affordable therapy.

Also, research graduate schools in your area. Often graduate psychology programs will offer affordable group therapy or other affordable forms of care.

If you are religious, connecting with religious leaders are a great resource. They are usually trained to counsel individuals as well as lead a congregation. They are also able to direct you to proper venues for help.

My last suggestion is to search online for “affordable online therapy.” You’ll find a decent list of (legally operated) websites that offer counseling done online, usually through private chat or video.

I hope this helps everyone! This only scratches the surface, but it’s a start. If you know someone with a mental health spark, please educate yourself. If you experience a mental health spark yourself, I hope this motivates you to reach out for help.

Please remember that I am not a licensed therapist or doctor, nor do I have a Ph.D in psychology. I am speaking purely from my own experience. Always seek out the help of a licensed professional.

Get Motivated

As someone who has struggled with procrastination and motivation most of my life, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way(s) to get excited about each day. I work well under pressure, as do, I feel, many people. But, daily productivity makes life just a little easier.

The first thing is to create a clean & functional living environment. When your living space is clean and clutter free, it is easier to relax and enjoy downtime. Also, it allows one to designate different areas for different activities.

I’m currently in the middle of decluttering & deep cleaning my bedroom. I admit that is totally chaotic. And, the older I get, the less I can tolerate controlled chaos. So, I am sorting through clothes, cosmetics, books, etc., and compartmentalizing everything. Hopefully, by the end of the week my bedroom will be a million times better.

[Let’s be real for a moment, this blog post is a distraction from the decluttering process.]

Decluttering my room is a daunting task, as I am known for letting things pile up/collect. I’m not a hoarder; never have been, never will be. The thing is, when it comes to my stuff/my bedroom, I don’t clean as I go. It’s a bad habit, one that I am trying to break.

In order to get me pumped to reorganize, I’ll choose a Genius Mix on my iPod, and let the music guide me. If I am able to hear things that make me happy, I find myself feeling much more productive and willing to work. Some people need silence to be productive. I’m the opposite. While I am very sensitive to loud sounds (slamming doors, screaming babies, trains, etc. all stress me out), if I am in control of my auditory environment, I am a happy & motivated person. If you are like me, I suggest you make a few different playlists to cater to any mood, setting, or goal. I’ve got countless hours of music in my iTunes library, so it’s not very difficult to create a plethora of playlists.

Next, I make sure I am well fed and hydrated. I don’t focus well if I’m not hydrated. And, I hate feeling hungry. If it means having a bowl of berries and/or cashews within reach, that’s perfect. If the project is longer than a few hours, I take into consideration meal breaks. It’s always good to step away from something if you’ve been at it for a few hours.

Lastly, I set a goal time and/or date. I’ll post it on my mirror, my calendar, next to my bed – whatever reminds me to get stuff done. Within that scope, I make sure to factor in all other aspects of life: work, school, rest, exercise, and socializing. And, I definitely make sure I do take breaks. I’ll go at it for a few hours, take a break, then get back to the grind if there is more to do.

With that said, the most important thing to remember is to remind yourself that even if the task at hand is extremely daunting, there is a purpose to it, and the end result will be worth it. So, do what makes you most motivated. Music, the chance to see a movie you’ve always wanted, a yummy snack or dessert, a friend you’ve been dying to catch up with. Give yourself an attainable reward to look forward to and be reasonable with your expectations and timeframe.

Vegan Living 101: Building Your Kitchen

Lately, I’ve been considering what a vegan pantry should look like. There are things I have kept in stock at all times, even before I fully claimed veg*n status. All kitchens should share the same basic skeleton, vegan or not.

Being a student, working retail only part time, I don’t get to splurge on fancy meals every day. Creativity is essential, and dry goods are my friend.

Every vegan kitchen should have a well stocked pantry. The most important things are salt, pepper, olive and/or coconut oil, and a variety of herbs & spices. In my opinion, these are non-negotiable.

What spices & herbs (aside from salt & pepper) do I always have on hand?

  1. Sage
  2. Oregano
  3. Thyme
  4. Curry Powder
  5. Rosemary
  6. Cinnamon
  7. Cayenne
  8. Marjoram
  9. Bay Leaves
  10. Chili Powder
  11. Onion Powder
  12. Diced Dehydrated Garlic (or Shallots, or both!)
  13. Cumin
  14. Turmeric
  15. Red Pepper Flakes
  16. Chervil
  17. Vanilla, Almond, and Peppermint extracts
  18. Cacao Nibs or Powder

It’s nice to have this selection, especially when it comes time to making soup or cooking up a big batch of lentils or beans. The bay leaves help if someone is transitioning into a lentil/legume rich diet, as they apparently help break down the starch that causes stomach distress/gas. Plus, bay just makes any soup, stew, or pasta dish taste great! Just remember that bay leaves are designed to enhance flavor and to never be eaten.

Other essentials are dried beans & lentils. Beans & lentils are often considered the backbone of veg*n protein. A 1-lb bag of beans or lentils usually costs $1 or $2. A pound of legumes can feed a person for at least a week, if not longer. I say a week, because I love legumes.

Sure, they are carbohydrate rich, so one shouldn’t eat a huge mound of them. The carbohydrates in beans & lentils are comprised mainly of fibre, and let’s be real here, fibre is very essential to one’s overall health. I feel that fibre is just as important as protein & fat.

I consistently have a airtight container full of lentils. I love how versatile lentils are. You can make soup, stews, burgers, “meat”balls, chili, “meat” sauce for pasta, taco/burrito/fajita filling, or loafs out of them. In fact, sometime soon, I am going to actually try making burgers out of lentils.

If soaking & cooking beans isn’t your thing, I totally understand. You certainly can opt for the canned variety. However, canned beans always have a higher sodium content, even the low/reduced sodium kinds. Also, canned beans end up always being more expensive than the dried variety. I will always soak a large batch of beans the night before I have a day off, then cook them in the morning. Or, I’ll let them soak while I’m at work or school and cook them when I get home.

In my pantry, I also keep a variety of grains. Oatmeal is always there. I love oatmeal for breakfast. It also can be used for other dishes as a binder, and, of course, cookies. Quinoa is a grain that is great for veg*ns, as it has a decent amount of protein in it. And, apart from potatoes, I was raised with barley as a cheap, nutritious, and filling starch. I love barley. Sometimes, I’ll have a barley & oatmeal mixture for breakfast. And, I find myself wanting barely more than I want rice. Rice is a great staple to have, but I always opt for brown or wild rice. However, I find myself eating barley & quinoa more often.

I’m also a fan of nuts and nut butters. I know that some people are allergic to one or all nuts, so if this is you, ignore this little section. My favorites are almonds and cashews. There is always a bag of either or both hanging out. I also consistently have almond butter on the ready. I’ve found that a handful almonds is the closest thing veg*ns have to an egg… With the added benefit of fibre. Sure, there might be less iron, but that’s what spinach & kale are for.

When people ask me for advice on transitioning into a veg*n diet, the main question is “what do I do about protein?” Well, beans, lentils, nuts, and dense vegetables have sufficient protein for the average human being. But, if you are of the mindset that protein is king, I always suggest investing in a well-balanced vegan protein powder. I’m a huge fan of Vega powder and PlantFusion powder. PlantFusion is wonderful, because the have a variety of flavors, as well as unflavored. Many vegan athletes will often use the unflavored version to enhance mashed potatoes, oatmeal, or other savory dishes. I like the unflavored in a strawberry & almond-coconut milk smoothie. On a daily basis, I use PlantFusion chocolate powder, because I’m a chocoholic. I mix it with Almond Dream Unsweetened Chocolate (almond, duh) milk. So, the protein factor is easy for us veg*ns to deal with.

Last, a veg*n truly invested in their health should, of course, have a fridge constantly stocked with vegetables. But, remember, never buy more than you know you’ll eat. No one should be wasting any food!!

My dream fridge would be full of almond & coconut milk, colourful vegetables, and enough lentils/legumes to last the week. My dream freezer would be full of vegan sorbet & SoDelicious Simply Strawberry Coconut Milk ice cream. (No, SoDelicious is not sponsoring this post. I just love that specific ice cream so much.)

These are my staples, and I fell that every new & seasoned veg*n should invest in the same. Buying in bulk & having airtight containers are very helpful. Remember, our health is a constant journey. We need to treat ourselves & our planet well. And, we all choose our diets for different reasons. I have chosen this for myself, because it feels right to me. If you don’t agree with the veg*n lifestyle/diet, that is absolutely fine & [most of us] veg*ns respect that.

[This is just a little preemptive disclaimer: I am not a licensed doctor or nutritionist. Please just take what is written here at face value. This is what works for me and has worked for me for almost two decades. And, through discussions, this is what works for many veg*ns. If you are deciding to transition into a veg*n diet, please do further research, including talking to a licensed nutritionist and your primary care physician.]