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.

Graceful Affirmation

To be honest, thesaurus.com was my friend for the title of this post. I wanted something other than Gratitude, because I’m sure I have a post with that title already.

Right now, across the United States, gratitude is everywhere. If you’ve walked past or into a grocery store, it’s there, maniacally staring you down. Thanksgiving is just another day (that leads into a feverish weekend) for companies to maximize profits. Said companies are grateful for Thanksgiving’s creation of Black Friday.

There’s a point to this post, I promise.

The very notion of Thanksgiving (as a US holiday) has always been lost on me. First, I am not American. Even after living in the States most of my life, the concept of devoting one lone day to giving thanks baffles me. Second, the fact kids are still taught a warped version of the roots of this “holiday” is annoying. Third, Thanksgiving probably wouldn’t exist if Puritanical colonists fled England because they wanted to seperate from the Church of England.

I’m going to ask questions that, I’m sure, hundreds of thousands (if not more) of US residents ask every year:
Why not give thanks every day?
Why market just one day and why have it lead into a day of unnecessary chaos?

Sure, I am grateful that I have worked jobs that result in having a Thursday off. There are far too many people who don’t get that luxury. (Thank you everyone who has to work on all Federal holidays! I see you.) I’m grateful that I’ve worked some jobs who have paid me to not work on Thanksgiving.

The thing is, I feel that a lot of people forget that daily gratitude is a wonderful act. And, I’m sure many of these people could afford to practice daily gratitude.

In every therapy experience I’ve had, gratitude is always something that is brought up. I’ve been told by each therapist that one of my strengths is my ability to be open with my gratitude. My parents instilled manners in my brother and I when we were very young, and I am so grateful they did. My maternal grandparents embodied gratitude and grace, which (I like to think) rubbed off on me. I say “thank you” without thinking all the time.

My journey with depression started when I was about 12. That’s when I started menstrating. The root of my depression is biochemical, and there are multiple ways I manage it. With a special blend of Lexapro, writing, yoga, reading, walking, lots of veggies, a high quality multivitamin, extra magnesium, and making daily mental list of what I am grateful for, I am able to feel not so lousy most days. Some days, the depression is the only thing I can focus on. But, recently, those days are few and far between. On those days, I struggle to find anything that fosters a sense of gratitude. At the end of the day, I make myself write down three things. The list often looks something like this:

  • I am grateful for time spent with Miss Cleo. (She is my roommate’s cat, and she’s loves me.)
  • I am grateful for my legs. They allow me to move freely.
  • I am grateful for parents who care about me.

Three simple things, right? With a list like this, I am genuinely honoring myself, as well as positive people in my life.

During my 37 and a bit years on this planet, I’ve finally accepted the fact that is incredibly important to honor myself everyday, even if I feel like complete sh*t. Dwelling in the depression isn’t healthy. Saying, “hey depression, I see you, however, I love myself,” allows for a healthy(ish) mindset. Being grateful to be alive is a simple way of reminding myself that today is one day. I might lounge around and not do much. I might muster up enough energy to do one load of laundry. I might walk the perimeter of the apartment complex. The most important of those things is recognizing my emotional state and thanking myself for getting through another day.

So, here’s my hope for everyone as the year comes to an end:
May we all continue to learn the value of gratitude. May we all take a moment each day to take a deep breath and be grateful for something, no matter how tiny or enormous. May we give thanks every day.

Little Things

We all have our little comforts in life. You know, those things that make your day just a little more doable and joyful. These can vary throughout a year, and they should, as change is good.

A few weeks ago, my therapist gave me a really simple task to do every day. This is something that a lot of people already do, whether it be in writing or through prayer or in conversation with people they share their lives with.

Write Down Everything You Are Grateful For That Day.

Super simple and easy, right?

I started off with a bang. For a week, I made a note of things that I was grateful for. Of course, the habit didn’t stick. But, I have been taking gratitude mental notes everyday! Not an entirely wasted task to do.

But, this blog post is about little things that make me happy, therefore are worthy of gratitude. Enjoy the ride!

Hourglass Caution Extreme Mascara
Yes, sure, this is a beauty product. Vanity is unbecoming, and all that jazz. But, I don’t see myself as a vain person. I’m not perfect, and I am not everyone’s cup of tea. Here’s the thing: it’s perfectly acceptable to make yourself look nice within your own parameters. And, humans do a lot of non-verbal communication with their faces. My eyes and lashes are nice to look at, so I’ll make them pop if I want to. When I’m having a particularly drab day, I like running this mascara over my lashes. By doing this, my face appears softer and more welcoming, and I don’t mind catching a glimpse of myself when I pass by a mirror. This mascara is the bombdotcom and it’s vegan. Love love love it!

Carefully Curated Playlists
I’ve been told that I’m a music snob, as well as a walking Shazam. I wouldn’t call myself a music snob, just refined and well-versed. My music collection is vast and I don’t totally discriminate (unless it comes to horribly executed, mass marketed bubblegum pop). There are five playlists I have stored in my iTunes. Songs often get added, and some get nixed very rarely. These playlists speak to a multitude of moods and activities. Music plays a huge role in my life, as I grew up playing the violin, piano, and clarinet. In the very near future, I plan on taking up the ukulele and flute, as well as relearn the violin. Also, I would love very much to spend my days getting paid to create playlists for people. Dream job! Fun fact: Prince makes his way onto every playlist that I create.

Stretching
Every morning, I do a full body stretch before getting out of bed. I’ve made this a habit since high school, and, the older I get, the more essential this action is. Throughout the day, I take a minute or two to stretch different parts of my body, while taking deep breaths. Depression is a tough cookie a lot of the time, and taking care of my body can be a difficult task at times. But, the fact that I do this one small act for my body is a step in the right direction. This means that I am aware of my body and know that I should be listening to it.

Water
I am lucky to live in a part of the world that has clean water. Without it, living life would be really difficult. I love the fact that I have functioning plumbing, the ability to clean myself and my clothes whenever I need to, and water to drink and cook with. I keep a large Brita in my bedroom to ensure that I can hydrate myself whenever I need to. I also keep an electric kettle in my room in case I get a hankering for herbal tea at 1:20am. And, the most important why I love water is that if I don’t keep myself hydrated, my whole body goes out of whack, which is a disaster for my mental health. My digestive system and my brain love and need water.

Pillows
Between the ages of about 8 and 15, I hated pillows. I couldn’t sleep well with any kind of pillow under my head. But, now, I can’t get enough pillows. It’s an age thing, I’m sure of it. As I fall asleep, I love being propped up and supported, almost like I’m falling into a pit of pillows. Tuft & Needle have awesome pillows. They are expensive (at least, in my opinion), so I have only two right now. They are worth every penny, though. The most comfortable pillows I’ve ever used! Sleep is a key element to my mental and physical health. If I have awesome pillows, I’m going to sleep well. If I sleep well, I’m going to be happy. Such a simple concept!

So, here are a few of my creature comforts. Nope. Not sponsored by anyone. Hourglass and Tuft & Needle did not pay me to mention their stuff. They don’t even know how much I love their stuff! This love is coming from a very real and honest place.

What are some of your creature comforts?

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.

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: 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!

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!!