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!

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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.

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!

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: Personal Transformation

After deciding to do pieces on vegan living, my mother and I embarked on a weight loss journey. It is The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomory. So far, it has proved to be quite reasonable. I’m on day eight (of 28), and have lost about two or three pounds. Where I see it the most is around my chin and midsection. The most important factor is that I’m not required to forgo my quest for personal veganism. This diet is suitable for most people searching for optimal health. It’s broken into three phases per week and done for a total of four weeks. We are to eat five times a day: 3 meals & 2 snacks.

On Phase 1, we are supposed to load up on healthy, wholesome carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, barley, quinoa, brown rice and sprouted grains. Included in that is a lot of fruit. And, throughout the entire process, there is a focus on unlimited vegetables. Protein is included in two of the meals, and as a veg*n, I have to rely on lentils & legumes. These are the easiest two days for me, as I love me some grains and lentils.

Phase 2 is somewhat difficult for me, as it is protein heavy. The author (who has a BA in Animal Science & is a trained nutritionist) wants people to avoid soy for 28 days. She makes an exception for vegans on these two days, because she knows that a lot of natural vegan protein is somewhat fibre/carbohydrate dense. We are allowed edamame, tempeh, and tofu. I hate tofu, so that’s a no go. Frankly, tempeh isn’t my favorite. And edamame? That gets boring very quick. I have a couple vegan protein powders that are similar to the ones the author sells on her website. The ones I’ve found are half the price, so that helps. These two consecutive days are difficult because eating vegetables all day long can get a bit tedious. Also, drinking a protein shake that’s made with water instead of the unsweetened almond milk I usually use is not as delightful.

Phase 3 has a focus on healthy fats, such as olive & coconut oils, raw nuts & seeds, and nut butters. Again, this isn’t difficult for me. I love cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut milk, hummus… The list is endless. There is less of a focus on protein & carbohydrates, however, we start the day with a grain, have a couple pieces of fruit throughout the day, and can have an optional grain in the evening. But, frankly, I am usually pretty satisfied by the end of the day. I’d happily have a huge salad with some lentils or kidney beans topped with olive oil & lemon juice.

But, I have three more weeks, and I am doing this for the good of my body. I hope that this can train me to eat in a much more mindful and wholesome way. The logic makes sense, and a lot of what I am reading is stuff I have heard before from nutritionists and fitness buffs. It’s the practice that is the hardest. And, our bodies usually need at least four weeks to truly start to adjust to changes we make.

I do hope that in 20 days, I’ll be able to have half a cup of the So Delicious Simply Strawberry Coconut Milk ice cream waiting patiently for me in the freezer & be happy with that half cup. I hope that my body adjusts to this change and I don’t have to be so regimented, while not worrying if I’ll put on all the weight I’ve dropped.

After I complete the 28 days, I might do one more. After that, I plan on eating mindfully for 4-6 weeks, then doing a week of this, just to keep my body in check. She likens this process to cross training. This allows us to get our bodies out of a rut and get our organs working a bit better than they were. [Just a side note, I feel that this diet really should be called an internal reset, or spring cleaning for one’s health.]

Ms. Pomeroy does suggest we continue with the diet until we reach our goal weight (clothing shift, for me). After we attain our goal(s), we then maintain our metabolism & results be treating every day as it is Phase 3, but passing all allowed foods in each meal and snack. So, I could easily start the day with oatmeal & cinnamon, then have an apple & a protein shake made with almond milk as a snack. For lunch, I could have a salad filled with all the veggies & legumes I love, and for another snack I could have cucumber & cashews or some fruit. I could end my day with a wholesome meal, and feel full & happy. On days that I exercise, I’ll allow myself a tasty treat, such as my favorite ice cream. And, if I go out to eat with friends, I’ll do a Phase 2 day the next day. No one is perfect and maintaining health takes work.

I have been a fairly poor eater the last few years, not eating regularly and consistently skipping breakfast. And, I had a major relationship with Coke Zero. I still get cravings for it, but I’m happy without it. My main thing is running. I hate running with food in my stomach. This might force me to run early in the day. I’ll have an apple & almond butter half an hour before I run, then eat some oatmeal after I’m finished. This is definitely something that I feel will get my metabolism on the right track.

Anyway, I do hope I find success. I am just glad that this has pushed me head on into changing my lifestyle to be vegan. My diet has been completely vegan for 8 days. I love the way I feel, and after I get through the next three weeks, I will start putting more focus on lifestyle changes.

Gift Ideas: Graduation 2015

Many of you have people in your life who have just graduated from high school and college in the past month or two. All of these mark important stages in their lives. Giving a gift is commonplace, and should be done with the best of intentions. These gifts should be useful in the graduates’ lives.

Both men and women should be well prepared as they start searching for jobs. Part of getting the job is looking well presented.

For those who like to wear suits (men & women), I love The Tie Bar. This is a wonderful site that has a plethora of styles to choose from: bow ties, skinny, regular, pocket squares, belts, etc. And, seeing that Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) has a bow tie collection featured, I have a feeling that this company has a somewhat openminded outlook on life. Now, remember, men aren’t the only people who wear suits (including ties). Many women do, too. And, if I worked in an environment that had a business dress code, I’d wear a tie every so often.

The Tie Bar: Jesse Tyler Ferguson Tony Awards Bow Tie

Being dressed well is important, and accessorizing is part of that. Having a great bag or briefcase polishes off a “Hire me please!!!” look. Buying a quality bag or case for someone can be tough if you don’t really know their style, or even if they want to avoid leather. I personally choose not to buy leather, and feel that it is safe to do the same when buying gifts for people. Matt & Nat is an amazing Montreal based company that produces beautiful and ethical products. They have gorgeous, simple, stylish bags, briefcases, wallets, laptop cases, etc. all of their products are animal byproduct free, opting to use high quality faux leather instead. I wish someone would buy me a messenger bag or briefcase from this line!

Matt & Nat Lesson Messenger Bag

Jewelry is always a nice gift to give. Having a few simple pieces of jewelry, like ties and shoes, help complete an outfit. As I’ve said, looking polished is one of the many parts of getting hired. Chloe+Isabel is a great online jewelry retailer. They offer classic pieces, as well as seasonal collections and fun, costume jewelry. I am a huge fan of many of their rings and studs. In fact, I am obsessed with their Brilliant Crystal Ring, and wear it almost every day! My style is very simple and understated, however I am tempted to purchase some fun statement pieces myself! [Let me just clarify that I am a merchandiser with Chloe+Isabel, and through this, this helps me with extra income. Any purchase you make through the link I have given you, I make commission. I would love it if you purchased some jewelry, but don’t expect you to. Please, only do so if you see something you or someone you you know will love!]

Chloe+Isabel Brilliant Crystal Ring

Here is a gift I wouldn’t mind getting: a book subscription box. I love reading, and I like getting recommendations that are unheard of. Book Riot looks like such a fun gift! Every three months, the recipient receives a package with a couple (or more) books and other book-type stuff (notebooks, pencils, pens, water bottles). This is a great gift for anyone, especially those with extensive bookshelves. And, I feel that reading is a lost art these days. I’d love to see a wave of people getting back into reading.

For those of you who know people who are movers & shakers, another great option for gift giving is monetary gifts in the form of donations. Find out what charities or social causes your giftee is interested in, and do some research. Many charities and organizations have great incentives for gift givers, including access to events, literature, etc. I know that I would be thrilled if someone made a donation to one of the many organizations I support. JustGive is a great database of many charities/organizations that you can search. This gives you an option to figure out which is the most suitable place to make a donation.

*As per FTC Guidelines, all opinions are my own and I will always clarify if I am paid for or gifted items for anything I write. I choose not to write about anything if it is not a product or service I believe in. If I have been given something to try and I don’t like it, I won’t write about it. If I have been paid to write about something, it is only because I am interested in & support what I am being paid to write about. Thank you! In this post, my Chloe + Isabel boutique is a possible way to make money, but I only ever make a commission if someone actually makes a purchase through my boutique. Everything else is purely my opinion and I received absolutely no incentives to write about any of them.

Treat Yourself Thursday: I Covet Thee

I’ve been alive for 33 years. Thirty-three!! My 33rd birthday is coming up on the 9th, and there are a few things that are high up on my wishlist.

First and foremost, I’d love to be done with my Paralegal AA. But, that is something no one can do but myself. So, that’s all on me and that’ll be my birthday present to myself this year.

Things that I currently covet:

LASHFOOD Lash Enhancer

LASHFOOD Phyto-Medic Lash Enhancer
If you don’t know already, my lashes are the one part of my physical appearance I am OCD about. I’m picky about everything that relates to my lashes: mascara, makeup remover, eye cream, eye liner, and even the need to make sure I’m taking flax seed oil everyday. I’ve been told I have long lashes. I think they are of average length. But, no matter what, my lashes consistently get complimented. So, I don’t know if I really *need* this product. But, I’ll take anything that keeps my lashes healthy. And, the fact that it is considered vegan (cruelty free, by default), I’m intrigued. I’ll use anything cruelty free that will keep my lashes strong. And, it’s got the ECOCERT seal of approval. For those of you who don’t know, ECOCERT is a European organization that inspects products regarding organic status. Essentially, if something get’s approved by the organization, the product has to maintain honesty/transparency about the origin of the ingredients, and maintain a high level of organic ingredients & a low to nonexistent level of possible toxic ingredients. There are more detailed requirements and there is a lengthy manual as to what is entailed, but you can research that on your own time. Anyway, let’s be real, I’m a sucker for stuff like this.

Dr. Dennis Gross hydra-pure firming serum

Dr. Dennis Gross hydra-pure firming serum
I love this brand, so much so that I freelanced for the company a few years ago, back when it was called MD Skincare. A huge seller for me is that the majority of the products in the line are vegan. Again, by default, that means those products are cruelty free. Furthermore, the entire line should (and does) stick to that philosophy with every single item they create. This serum is something I need in my life. After three years of being a lifeguard, the chlorine & sun got the best of me. I got major forehead wrinkles whilst still a teenager. Since then, I’ve done a decent enough job to prevent them from getting any more noticeable, however, time & gravity still exist. I’d like to preserve my skin just a little longer. I wish I had the $95 to spend on this serum!

Dr. Dennis Gross clinical concentrate radiance booster

Dr. Dennis Gross clinical concentrate radiance booster
As I just mentioned, I was a lifeguard for three years. I am also a fan of being outside when the sun is out. Moving to California at six in the 80s, it’s what we grew up doing. If it was light out and we weren’t in school, the kids would be outside playing until the very last minute. I never baby oiled, thankfully. I wore sunscreen as much as possible. But, sunburns are inevitable when you have skin that is easy to burn and you spend hours upon hours outside. I love the freckles on my body and wear them with pride. They show the world that I enjoy being outside. My face is a different story. The freckling on my face is not worthy of showing up in Vogue. Instead, the sun kissed look is blotchy, red, uneven, and scary. I’ve become quite obsessive about putting sunscreen on during the day and adding lemon juice to my toner in the evening. I trust Dr. Dennis Gross, and I trust that this can help minimize the appearance of some of the discoloration. Sometimes, the lemon juice is just a little too exciting for my skin.

Harvey Prince Hello Eau de Parfum

Harvey Prince Hello Eau de Parfum
I got a sample of this in a Vegan Cuts Beauty Box awhile back and was so happy I did. I’ve been wanting to try this perfume for a long time. The entire day, I kept smelling my wrist and grinning. Such a delightful smell. I love pretty much all fragrances that have lemon or lime notes in it. And, as this is a cruelty free line (and apparently vegan), I am even more excited about it. The notes of the fragrance are: Meyer Lemon, White Grapefruit, Satsuma Mandarin, Summer Forsythia, Pink Plumeria, Wild Verbena, Tahitian Vanilla, Sensual Musk. Delicious!! So, I am not really one to justify a new fragrance for myself. Ignore the entire shelf in my closet dedicated to perfume. I’m in the process of getting rid of scents I don’t really wear. [HINT to my friends: come over and take them off my hands! Some are lightly used, others are halfway used.]

The North Face Stow-N-Go II Sports Bra

The North Face Stow-N-Go II Sports Bra (Size Large)
I have a habit of losing sports bras or wearing them out. I have one similar to this from lululemon, but the support isn’t quick as efficient as it needs to be anymore, due to a *ahem* decreased bust size. Plus, having more than one of these kinds of sports bras comes in handy, especially as I’m back on a running kick and would love to not wear the same bra for two weeks straight. I can get very sweaty when I run & sometimes I forget to put deodorant on. California is in an intense drought, so I’d rather not have to do multiple loads of laundry for one bra. The reason why I like bras like this is because I listen to music or podcasts when I run. I cannot stand holding on to anything when I run more than half a mile. Putting my iPod in a small waist pack is uncomfortable and the earbud wires get in the way. Having a place to put my iPod that is out of the way, comfortable, and easily accessible is great. And, seriously, how many women do you see running with keys, a cell phone, an MP3 player precariously stowed under a bra strap? If you haven’t noticed that yet, you will come summer months. Having a bra like this is very useful for those of us who like to listen to our iPods/iPhones whilst working out. As well as keeping things accessible and out of the way, it ensures that an iPod or cell phone will not go crashing to the ground.