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!

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!

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.