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.

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

Nubian Heritage: Soaps & Deodorant
Maybe a year or two ago, I saw a newish brand of body care at the “holistic” pharmacy in town. I was looking for something to help exfoliate my feet. It was summer time and I’m wearing flip-flops. Nubian Heritage’s African Black Soap seemed as though it was the best choice. And, boy, was it ever!? Lately, I’ve gotten back into using bar soaps instead of shower gels. I’m about to break open the Coconut & Papaya bar (a golden standard in my life). Earlier this year, I noticed that the brand came out with deodorant. As I love the smell of their Coconut & Papaya products, I got a C&P stick. I absolutely love it! Sure, it is just a deodorant, so my underarms still get moist. But, I smell good throughout the day, and the smell isn’t overwhelming. The other day, I bought a fresh stick, but in their African Black Soap variety. I’m going to test it out this week and see how the smell works.

Rocksbox
After browsing Beauty By Britanie, I noticed a little ad banner on her page. I’ve been trying to spruce up my jewelry game (hence the chloe+isabel gig). I was tempted to click on the ad, because who doesn’t want to try out new jewelry for a month? How Rocksbox works is that you sign up, take a style quiz, and, if you have time, browse some jewelry & add pieces to a wishlist. The quiz & wishlist both help their stylists choose what to send in each box. Once you get a box, you can keep the jewelry as long or as little as you want, send them all back or keep them all (you’ll have to pay for them if you want to keep them). If you purchase all the pieces, Rocksbox will just send you a new box of jewelry to try. I’ll be honest, this might be a dangerous new fave. I signed up on Wednesday (June 17th), received my first box on Saturday (June 19th), fell in love with the earrings that came in the box, purchased them for $17 instead of $35, and sent back the other two pieces. I’m hoping that by next Saturday, I’ll be getting my second box. YIKES! If you want to try it out for a month (for free) use the link!

Farm Sanctuary
This will be a forever favorite. If you don’t know about Gene Baur & Farm Sanctuary, you should. Even if you are an omnivore, Farm Sanctuary is a great organization for anyone with a shred of compassion and concern for the planet. With three locations (two in California, one in New York), Farm Sanctuary takes in injured, stranded, sick, and/or abused animals (primarily for the “farm” variety). At each sanctuary, these animals are given the chance to heal and live a happy, full life. As a vegetarian with a soft spot for farm animals, I fell in love with the organization a few years ago. I got the chance to meet Gene Baur, the founder of the organization. His humbleness and kind spirit, and the fact he has personally responded to emails I have sent him, made me even more of a fan. It helps when founders/CEOs are down to earth and live the essence and core of their organizations. If you get a chance, please read Gene’s books (Farm Sanctuary and Living the Farm Sanctuary Life). And, if you ever find yourself in Orland (CA), Los Angeles (CA), or Watkins Glen (NY), I highly suggest you take a tour of one of the Sanctuaries.

Fresh Start

Happy New Year readers!!

As I was taking a peek at my stats, it looks as though there are a very few random (or not so?) people in the world taking a peek at this blog. Many thanks go out to you! Thank you for taking the time to browse through some of my posts. I’m not sure if they were appealing at all. The fact that you took time means gallons!

As it is the start of a new year, I am feeling renewed and excited for new journeys I’ll be on over the next twelve months. I will be completing a Paralegal AA sometime between June & August. I will be running a half marathon for the second time in my life. I’ll be apartment hunting, and possibly even making a move out of California.

I’ve got plenty on my plate. Enough to keep me busy and fulfilled. So, this month, expect a few posts about wellness: skincare, exercise (gear, workouts, playlists), recipes, and other uplifting topics. I might not get to them all, but I will get one or two posts up a week.

I wish you all a fantastic 2015! May you find joy and happiness!