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!

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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!

August Faves!

With summer officially at an end and an autumnal breeze rustling outside my window, it’s time to share my favorites of August. I’m excited to share what I’ve been loving!

[Disclaimer: An asterisk (*) denotes something that was given to me as gratis to try. Everything else was paid for with my own hard earned money. As I’ve mentioned before, I will not review something given to me as gratis if I wasn’t satisfied with the product. I will, however, give any free product an honest & glowing review if I do love it, as I will repurchase the item.]

My absolute number one favorite of August has been the local library. I’ve always been a fan of any library, and have found our local library to been pretty awesome. The past few months, I’ve been making more of an effort to read for pleasure, but don’t want to shell out $15 each time I need a new book to read. I find that checking out a book from the library not only saves money, but gives me a deadline to finish a book. I’ve had to renew some books a couple times when I get a bit caught up with other things, but I’ve managed to get through a few books the last couple months. I highly suggest you get a library card & read!

If I haven’t mentioned, I am a skincare junkie. I love good, effective skincare that is gentle on the skin and full of skin & environment loving ingredients. I will use some “clinical” skincare if the ingredients list isn’t too scary or overwhelming, but I generally keep my skincare to the more natural side. [And, yes, there are many natural skincare lines with great clinical research supporting their products.]

I have such a hard time finding a shampoo that takes care of my scalp as well as keeping my aging Irish curls healthy. It’s been a long battle this past decade trying to find the right one. My scalp is extremely delicate and most shampoos I have tried create small sores in random spots on my scalp. Aveda’s Be Curly usually is fine, however my scalp sometimes will react to it. But, I think I may have found a winner. Aveda’s Rosemary Mint shampoo is currently working wonders for my scalp. I think this is primarily because it doesn’t have any sodium laurel/laureth sulfate or ammonium laurel/laureth sulfate in it (which wreak havoc on my scalp). It does, however, have vinegar in it. Just a few weeks ago, I had to make a baking soda paste mask & raw apple cider vinegar rinse for a horrific reaction I had on my scalp. The only thing that soothed & corrected the reaction was the baking soda & vinegar. So, I think that the small list of ingredients that includes rosemary, peppermint, and vinegar has helped keep my scalp at bay. Any remnants of the past reaction are almost gone & I have had no flare up since using this shampoo. YAY! So, I went out and bought a litre of it. Yes, an entire litre. I know that I’ll use all of it, even if it’ll take me six months. [You may notice that I like Aveda’s Rosemary Mint. The hand & body wash made an appearence in my Summer Empties post.]

This past month, I’ve used up almost of my first bottle of Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner. Back in June sometime, I bought two bottles of this toner at GNC as they were having a gold card sale on it. It’s alcohol free and has a good amount of aloe vera & rose in it, which I need for my dry skin. This toner is great after I’ve taken off my makeup. After using my makeup remover (I rotate between two: Ren Cleansing Balm or a double wash with the Sephora Foaming Cleanser) & drying my face, I’ll swipe a good dose of this all over, then let it dry.

I’ve also been loving with my Josie Maran Rosey Mist which I apply after my Thayer’s toner. Just a few spritzes seems to lock in a light veil of hydration because of the rose oil. This is superb for drier skins, although I am sure it will work really well for normal/combination skin types. I really wish I had bought two in one go, because I have to schlep all the way up to San Francisco to repurchase (I’m not a big online shopper when it comes to anything that’s not electronics). I know, #FirstWorldProblems. Next time I do go to San Francisco, I’ll hit up Sephora and buy at least two bottles.

This month, I have been obsessed with layering two Korres products in the evening. After cleansing, toning, spritzing, and slapping on one of the many serums I have (all geared for hyperpigmentation & aging), I start with the Wild Rose+Vitamin C Sleeping Facial. Oh my gosh, I know, I use a lot of stuff with rose in it. What can I say, I’m an Isles girl. So, I’ll massage that into my skin, including my neck. This “sleeping facial” can work as a night cream for normal to combination skin. For drier skin, another moisturizer can be applied. As my skin is on the drier side, I layer the Greek Yoghurt Advanced Nourishing Sleeping Facial* on top. Man alive! This gets my skin feeling smooth, soft, and hydrated. The skin on my neck gets really rough if it isn’t hydrated properly, but this keeps my neck in check. This combination is working wonders for my skin. The Wild Rose will (hopefully) help with my discoloration and sun damage and the Greek Yoghurt is already working wonders for my dryness. I’ve noticed that if I don’t use the Greek Yoghurt cream one night, the next day my skin is visibly drier.

Like I said, I’m a skincare junkie, so there isn’t much makeup I’ve been fawning over this month. There is one thing that’s caught my eye, pun definitely intended. I’m always in the market for a new mascara, as Sephora stopped selling my one true mascara love (Fresh Supernova). Out of all of the mascaras that I have either bought or have been given to me to try, it took a long time for me to be blown away. So, when I came across a heavy tube of mascara in my cosmetics goody bag, I was hesitant to try it. The name is a bit off putting, even for a super liberal, outspoken gal like me. But, I’ve learned to ignore names of cosmetics if they get the job done. Okay, enough rambling. This mascara I’ve fallen in love with is Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara*. The name really isn’t an issue until someone asks what mascara I have on. My cheeks flush bright red and I find myself quietly saying the name. What I love about this mascara is that the brush is almost identical to the brush of Fresh Supernova. It is full, soft, and hourglass shape. And, the actual formula of the mascara is very smooth and also soft. When I put it on, almost immediately my lashes appear to look false. I get incredible volume, definition, and length. I will toot my own horn here for a moment and admit I’ve been blessed with long lashes that have a natural curl that holds. I’ve never bought an eyelash curler and I’ve never had to use an eyelash growth serum. I just got awesome eyelash genes. Thanks parental biochemistry!! But for people who don’t have uber-long lashes, you will still get great results. I’ve watched people with completely different lashes use this mascara. Just a quick pump of an eyelash curler and a couple coats of this mascara, and voila, you’ve got va-va-voom lashes! I am so glad I’ve found a replacement mascara that I can buy within a five mile radius of my house (instead of ordering it online & waiting & hoping it’s not dry, like would with a new tube of Supernova).

Lastly, laughter is always a good thing to have in one’s life. To ensure I have had a lot of that this past month, I downloaded a lot of comedy podcasts. Three that I’ve found really amusing are:
Ten Minute Podcast with Will Sasso, Chris D’elia, and Bryan Callen. There is absolutely nothing serious about this podcast. Every “episode” is, you guessed it, ten minutes long. And, every single time I am brought to audible amusement. I listen to a few driving to and from work or school and have found myself laughing really loudly with the windows down, startling people.
Go Bayside! with April Richardson. I just started listening to this podcast this week. The whole premise of this podcast is April Richardson and a friend discussing and analyzing an episode of Saved By The Bell that they’ve just watched. Like me, April loved SBTB when she was a kid, and now understands the complete wackiness of it. The conversation that happens in this podcast is amusing and entertaining and something I totally get.
I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman. Again, I only just started listening to this podcast within the last couple weeks. But, again, I’m completely amused. This is just Jen in bed talking into a microphone. And, I find that I share a lot of sentiments, outlooks, and general feelings about life with Jen Kirkman, so I find myself giggling along with her.

Wow, this went on longer than I thought. Many apologies! I do hope you check some of these places, products, podcasts out! Please do & report back! And, if you have already tried them, please let me know how you feel about them!