2019 Favorites!

Howdy everyone! I hope 2019 treated you well. This past year has been interesting, to say the least. I experienced a few changes that helped me find some bliss and focus. Did anyone else go through something similar?

In a few days, it will be a new decade. Queue Jonathan Van Ness saying “can you believe?” With that said, it’s that time of year to talk about things that brought me joy.

  1. Ireland. Let’s be real, Ireland always brings me joy. It’s where my lineage comes from. My soul and heart belong there. Last May, after my mother retired, my parents headed over there to live. My mother’s parents’ house was passed on to my parents, so they are happily shacked up, living a lovely life of rest and relaxation. Over the summer, I went to stay with them for a couple weeks. During my time there, I applied for citizenship. Hopefully, it will be finalized sometime in the middle to end of 2020. I am looking forward to finally having an Irish passport and remaining part of the EU (currently, I am a UK citizen and US permanent resident). Also, I got the ball rolling on getting set up to be a student and a legal part of the Irish workforce. With all the upward movement, I plan on moving to Ireland in the next few months! It will be nice to not have an entire country and ocean between my parents and me. I am looking forward to this new adventure. Whilst I am there, I plan on doing a part-time online “coding bootcamp” to give my resume more oomph. This adventure will be awesome.
  2. Yoga. Part of me finding some bliss this year was taking a job at a yoga studio. For the past 11 or so years, I’ve done yoga off and on. After leaving an emotionally exhausting job doing retail management, I felt a bit lost. I picked up hours doing Instacart, which was even more emotionally taxing than working retail. While scouring job hunting sites, I decided to type in “yoga studio” just for giggles. I didn’t expect anything to come of the search. Lo and behold, a studio close enough to public transit was hiring front desk people. I applied, and a week or so later, I was hired. The experience has been amazing so far. I am constantly learning, meeting amazing people from all walks of life, and getting to practice yoga for free. Because of this experience, it has become clear that yoga and I go together. Once I get to Ireland and find a studio (or studios) to practice at, I will eventually do my RYT-200, adding another skill to my resume. I will be able to have a “day job” and teach on the side. I’ve always loved yoga and it is a physical activity that came naturally from the first class I attended. Not only does it help my physical health, it works wonders for my mental health. I can’t wait to share the benefits of yoga with people.
  3. Aromatherapy. My sense of smell has always been strong, and it has played a huge part in my decision to eat vegetarian at a young age. I’ve used essential oils for years, primarily as one part of my whole treatment of depression (medication, nutrition, exercise, and therapy are the other parts). Because I am such a fan of the therapeutic benefit essential oils, I jumped on the doTERRA bandwagon. Let me put a little disclaimer here: essential oils should never replace tried and true medicine and science. EOs can’t cure serious health issues, and I stand firm with that fact. EOs can do certain minor things, like boost mood, neutralize funky smells, freshen breath, act as mild antibacterial agents, add flavor to dishes, and calm mild anxiety, for example. If you have a serious medical issue, please consult with an educated, licensed medical professional. With that out of the way, I do urge anyone interested to check out the benefits of essential oils. Swing by my doTERRA site. It’s loaded with information, like how EOs are created and what they can be used for. My personal favorite EOs are Lime, Rosemary, Grapefruit, Lavender, Bergamot, and Peppermint. I often add a couple drops of any of these to my laundry, have made bathroom refreshing sprays, and always have a diffuser going while at home. I’ve also added Tea Tree to my hand wash and shampoo to help fight off bacteria.
  4. Loom Knitting. A couple years ago, I finally tried knitting a hat with a circular loom. I found LoomaHat on YouTube, and her tutorials are easy to follow and very informative. I’ve been hooked since then. I’ve knitted myself a few hats and headband, as well as a really cute hat for my mum. This year, I started many projects, mostly scarves. Loom knitting is extremely easy, and a wonderful form of meditation. Seriously, if you are looking for something to do to help take breaks from technology, I highly suggest knitting or crocheting of any kind! Not only are you helping calm and reset your mind, you are able to make functional art! I love that the lady who runs LoomaHat loom knits a lot of beanies and donates them to homeless shelters. We should all aspire to giving like her. I’m almost done with most of my scarves, and plan on finishing the hat I’m making within the next week. A week ago, I got most of my hair chopped off and need more than two beanies to add to the bad hair day mix.
  5. Reading. I’ve always loved reading. That’s not news. This year, I fell back in love. I finally dove headfirst into Armistead Maupain’s Tales of the City series, after attempting to start it years ago. Currently, I am on the third installment, Further Tales of the City, and am deeply absorbed in the hilarity and history of the Bay Area (my home for most of my life). If any of you didn’t know what TotC is prior to Netflix creating a series, I highly suggest reading the series. Also, watch the original series. This year, I’ve also discovered new authors, as well as finally reading books on my years old TBR list. And, because I plan on completing yoga teacher training next year, I have a stack of books that are essentials in the yoga sphere. I’m excited to power through those in the new year. I have a subscription to Book of the Month, and love that I can get my hands on beautiful hardbacks for $14.99/month. Do you love reading? Do you enjoy a hardback book that’s $14.99? Check out BOTM and sign up! If you sign up through my link, your first month is only $5! Five dollars for a hardback book? Yes, please.
  6. My loved ones. I miss my parents. A lot. I can’t wait to join them in Ireland next year. They are genuinely amazing people, and they have been an amazing support duo for me. Also, I am a huge fan of my friends who’ve I shared my life with for 31 years. Childhood friends who you are still friends in your adult life are gems. My childhood friend, Kristi, got married to her love, Ben, this summer. They had an awesome wedding party, and were kind enough to include me. There were 14 of us, and we were all super happy to support them! The wedding was amazing, and I was so honored to be part of it. My parents were in attendance as well, and it was fun for all of us. I got to see one of my other good childhood friends (who I had the honor of being a bridesmaid for, as well). It was a great summer, and I love celebrating the people in my life!

What are some of the highlights of 2019? Do you have any hopes for 2020 and the next decade? I hope you all reveled in simple joys like me. And, may the new year treat you well! Sending you all lots of love.

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.

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!

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.