Vegan Living 101: Beginning

For a good portion of my life, I’ve been a quasi- to full-blown vegetarian. Seafood was the first thing to go, and I can’t even remember the last time I ate anything from the sea. Chicken was the last to go. For 11 years, chicken was the only meat I consumed, and, while I only ate it once or twice a year, I felt guilty doing so. For the last seven years, I haven’t touched any kind of animal flesh. However, I do occasionally have a splash of milk in my coffee if I’m at brunch and don’t want to make a fuss. I’ll also have the occasional bit of cheese and I’m trying my hardest to breakup with milk chocolate.

Soon, I’ll be living by myself, like I did just over a decade ago. This will be perfect for me to fine tune my vegan cooking skills. The only person I’ll have to feed every day is myself, so I can have complete control over the food that is kept and the food that I eat.

For those of you who don’t understand what veganism is all about, the simplest way to describe it is: a choice to abstain from any animal product or byproduct in everyday life, including nutrition, clothes, household items, cosmetics, and personal hygiene products. (The link provided is the Vegan wikipedia entry, and I feel like it does a good job explaining concepts.)

This means that the diet a vegan eats is completely void of anything that falls under the animal classification, including their excretions. One thing that drives us crazy is when a veg*n (an umbrella term that is inclusive of all vegetarians & vegans) gets asked “but you still eat fish, right?” This is a question that we get asked constantly and often results in some fierce eye rolling or a gobsmacked laugh. Sometimes, we’ll be blunt and ask “were you asleep when your fifth grade teacher taught you about animal classification?” Other times, we’ll be kind and say, “thanks for asking, however fish are technically animals, so we abstain from eating fish,” while screaming on the inside.

Here is a list of things vegans get asked if they eat, but don’t:
1. Fish/Shellfish/etc.
2. Honey
3. Poultry (this one really baffles me)
4. Milk/Cheese/Eggs
5. Anything with gelatin in it (i.e. most gummy candy, anything that is a mass produced gel)

I live in a part of the States that considers itself progressive and liberal. It was a hotbed of counter-culture activity in the 60s & 70s. Even with the runoff from that, I find that people are really confused by the concept of veganism. When having a discussion about it, I have found it turns out that people are confused by even the concept of vegetarianism.

So, a series of blog posts is born! I’m going to share a few posts that cover a variety of topics regarding veganism. These posts will include (and aren’t limited to) pantry & fridge staples, vegan candy, vegan cookbooks, vegan cosmetics & beauty products, vegan fashion, misconceptions, personal meal plans for 1, 3, and 7 days, and my favorite recipes.

Please contact me with any questions or possible topics you would like me to cover. Also, please know that I am not a nutritionist, chef, or MD. The information I am giving is purely from my own research, discussion with other people who live a vegan lifestyle, conversations with nutritionists & doctors, and my opinion. I’ll will be citing the information that I give you & will clarify if something is an opinion. If you don’t like or agree with my opinion, I do ask that you remain respectful in your approach. Part of veganism is respect for fellow beings, human and non-human.

Happy trails!!

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Drink up!

Masks have seem to come back in style quite heavily recently. The oil trend has died down, and masks have taken over. I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it: the US is often late to both the progressive party & trendy party. So, what European & Asian countries have been doing for decades, the US is only really just catching on now.

I’ve always been a fan of masks, ever since I was a kid. I’d poke through the beauty stash of both my mother and grandmother in awe of the pretty bottles they had. However, it wasn’t until I moved to California that I truely discovered the joy of masks. I never really saw any of the women in my life do a mask, probably because I was too young to remember. By the time I was 10 or 11 and starting to feel my body change, I started to grow into my feminine side. I would hit up Payless (later RiteAid) and stock up on some Freeman masks and my friends & I would go to town with them at sleepovers. And, let’s be real here, I still love Freeman masks, don’t you?

Long gone are the days of innocent pre-teen girly sleepovers. It’s been about a year since I’ve slept over at a friend’s house, and that was out of necessity. Our time spent together no longer involve stuffed animals, Ouija boards, and yearbooks. Well, we might still get out the yearbooks and gawk at our lithe, carefree bodies & smiles. But, more often than not, wine is involved, which makes sense twenty years later. Point is: if I sleep over at a friend’s house, it is because it’s always wise to not operate a vehicle if a wine glass has been accurately used. So, no masks are applied to our faces. We’re lucky if the makeup even comes off.

So, it is up to me, during down time to pamper my skin. I have quite a few face masks that I absolutely adore and always suggest to people. There is one currently out there that is my ultimate favorite.

The mask I have been obsessed with is GlamGlow’s ThirstyMud mask. At first, I was really put off by the smell. I had smelled a tester that had obviously gone off and it smelled like moth balls. Then, I was lucky enough to receive a jar to try. When I cracked it open and took a whiff, I was surprised. It smelled like coconuts and apple juice!

GlamGlow ThirstyMud

This mask is a lifesaver!! It’s full of amazing ingredients, such as apple fruit extract, coconut fruit extract, ginger root extract, green tea leaf powder, olive leaf powder, and so many more. I learned it feels best chilled, so I keep it in my fridge. This mask is essential to anyone with redness, irritated skin, sunburned skin, surface dehydration, or genuinely dry skin. It’s great for all skin types, however those dealing with the issues I just mentioned will greatly benefit from this mask. This mask can be left on as little as 10 minutes or as long as all night. And, I always wear this mask overnight. My skin does really well when I use the mask this way. The company even suggests using this mask in-flight to prevent that dreaded dehydration many people get after a long flight. For my skin, I feel that the apple extract helps gently exfoliate and brighten, while the coconut, green tea, and olive are replenishing, and lastly the ginger helps energize my skin.

Please, if you can afford this $69 mask, invest in it! It is worth every penny. If not, stop by a local Sephora and, at least, pick up a sample to try. And, fret not my loves, I will write a post about my other favorite masks, which include a plethora of cost effective masks!

In the mean time, please visit (and follow & like) my other blogs, twitter, and Facebook:
DJ Toaster Biscuit
A Life In Paperback
@DJToasterBiscui
@RealEllieMcHale
@lovenugget
DJ Toaster Biscuit at FaceBook

And, I have a very special GIVEAWAY in the works! Keep your eyes peeled. It involves hitting a like button or two & hitting one or two follow buttons. Also, get your creative juices flowing. I might ask for a haiku, ya hear?

Pamper Time! Evening Skincare.

As my skin has settled down from its painful couple of weeks of dermatitis, I am able to get back into a comfortable skincare routine. I do all of my main skincare at night, as it is both physically and emotionally cleansing.

Tonight I am giving my skin some extra special love as it has been an arduous two weeks. I’ve been working nonstop and had finals this week. I desperately need some TLC! I want to share my pampering evening skincare ritual.

My skin type is dry, sensitive, and prone to redness & enlarged pores. I like to call my skin bipolar, as it really varies day to day as to how dry & sensitive it can be.

To start, I take off my make up with Caudalie’s cleansing water.

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This has been my favorite makeup remover for years. It takes off everything, including heavy foundation and waterproof eye makeup.

Next up is a proper cleanse!!

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Tonight I chose to use Ren’s cleansing balm with my Clarisonic Mia2. The cleansers I use vary. My other favorites are Ren’s Hydracalm cleansing milk, Nude’s cleansing oil, and Ren’s Hydracalm cleansing gel. It really depends on the day.

Next is a mask. I rarely do masks. Let’s face it, I’m lazy! So this is the unusual pamering part. And when I do a mask, it has to be amazing.

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Tonight I am indulging. Two masks! First is Ren’s Glycol Lactic mask to exfoliate, brighten, and hydrate. Then I hop in the shower. After the shower I slap some of Aveda’s intensive hydrating masque while I make some tea. This is supposed to be left on 5-10 mins, but I leave this on a lot longer sometimes. As it’s not a peel, it doesn’t hurt if I forget about it for awhile.

Once this is rinsed off, I finish with a serum & moisturizer.

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Along with Ole Henriksen’s truth serum & Korres’ wild rose sleeping facial, I have added some rose essential oil in a jojoba oil base.

Tonight I am all about exfoliation, hydration, nourishment, and brightness. I love nights when I pamper my skin!! It’s rare, which makes the ritual even more special. I do hope you enjoy this little snippet of my life.

FYI: I do not represent or am not paid by any of these brands for any usage or mention of them or their products. All of the products I used were paid for by my own money over the course of the year. Any product gifted me will always be disclosed and I will not use nor review something gifted to me if I do not like how it works for me. Thank you!!

Stop & Smell The…

Jo Malone Earl Grey & Cucumber

Being the English born Irish lass that I am, I’ll take some Earl Grey and/or Cucumber any day. Seriously.

When I ventured into Nordstrom the other day to see if a fellow beauty employee was working, I decided to give some Jo Malone fragrances a sniff to see what all the fuss is about. For the longest time, I highly doubted that any fragrance was worth $115 (or more). I was so exhausted, that I didn’t even look at all of the options, only the ones I assumed I would like.

The inevitable happened. I fell in love. Two fragrances stood out. First was Red Roses. As you know by now, I’m in love with pretty much anything rose. Therefore, any rose based fragrance is a winner (Stella and Burberry London will always be top in my book). But, as I let it linger on my skin, I reasoned with myself that I am happy enough to get Rose perfume oil at Whole Foods and rock that out. Sure, not as lovely & long lasting as Jo Malone, however the price plays a huge factor. I then sprayed some Earl Grey & Cucumber on my other hand. Immediately, a huge smile was plastered across my face. The crispness of the bergamot cut with the fresh juiciness of the cucumber refreshed me and reminded me of being young and enjoying summertime in England. As the night wore on, the vanilla and musk came through. All of the scents of the cologne merged together to create a sense of luxury and peacefulness.

Unfortunately, I don’t have $115 to splurge on a 100ml bottle of fragrance. I don’t even have $60 to splurge on a 30ml of fragrance. Believe me, I wish I did. I am officially a Jo Malone convert. I get it. The unique scent combinations are divine. Also, the staying power on skin is impeccable. The price is daunting, but a little does actually go a long way and without the need to touch up constantly throughout the day.

Go forth and become a convert, even if you can’t afford it. Jo Malone Fragrances are worth the momentary happiness.

Summer 2013 Empties

We’re in the first weeks of August and, by my pagan Irish standards, that means summer is officially over & we are in the beginning of autumn. Please, do not make any comments on the “correct” seasons, as pagans and Celts and agriculture have been around a lot longer than the USA has been as an official country.

Currently, I’m not making videos, although I am well aware that an empties post generally does better on YouTube. However, I do want to cover some of my favorite products I’ve finally emptied! Some products were given to me to try, and those will be marked with an asterisk(*) and I am mentioning them because I actually use them, love them, and will repurchase them.

The first to empty is the Sephora Collection Supreme Cleansing Foam. This cleanser I use as primarily as a makeup remover after using a cleansing wipe or cleansing water. This, I feel, is able to get off anything residual on my face. Two pumps on dry skin, then rinsed off, my face is completely clean without feeling tight. It took me awhile to get through one $12 bottle. I don’t wear makeup everyday, and sometimes I am too lazy to follow my cleansing water/wipe with a second clean. Yes, such a terrible habit! Also, I sometimes use the Ren #1 Purity Cleansing Balm as my makeup remover instead of the wipe/water+foam routine.

Next is the Aveda Rosemary Mint Hand & Body Wash (8.5oz/250ml). What an amazing scent combination. For 15 years or so, I have been a fan of the Rosemary Mint collection from Aveda. In fact, I keep a mini bottle of the lotion (which I refill from a larger bottle) in whatever bag I’m carrying so I can keep the smell near me at all times. This hand & body wash is a permanent fixture at my bathroom sink. The scent is fresh, crisp, and clean, which means it’s a hit for both men & women, and is always a hit with guests who use my bathroom. I always buy a new bottle when there is approximately a third left in the “currently in use” bottle. One of these days, I am going to splurge on the litre size & just keep it in my cupboard under the sink to refill the smaller bottle. Or, I will just recycle the smaller bottle & people will have to deal with the huge bottle of hand wash at the sink.

Another product I finally finished is the Ren Resurfacing AHA concentrate*. The bottle that I managed to finish was given to me from the brand, as I had mentioned I wanted to try it. After a few uses, I fell in love with it, so I bought another bottle, so I’d be prepared for when I finished my first bottle. Let me give you a little insight about my skin. Many products with glycolic acid are too harsh for my skin. There are products out there that I am glad I sampled instead of purchased. Many glycolic products that claim to be safe for delicate skin do not work for my delicate skin, even when used more sparingly than directed. For many of these products, within about 12 hours of one use, my skin looked as though I got a professional, medical grade chemical peel, you know, the really intense kind you get done by a dermatologist. Imagine the Sex & The City episode in which Samantha Jones gets a peel done before Carrie’s book launch party & she scares the little girl on the street. My skin wasn’t too far off from what her’s looked like. That’s how delicate my skin is when it comes to glycolic acid. So, you can imagine my excitement when I find a glycolic product that doesn’t rip my skin to shreds. I use this concentrate 1-3 nights per week, depending on how dry I feel. I focus primarily on my nose and forehead. My nose, of course, is the most congested. My forehead has the deepest wrinkles. This concentrate smells amazing and absorbs really quickly into the skin. The morning after, my skin always feels comfortable and more hydrated.

Sticking with the glycolic trend, another “empty” are the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads* in original. Again, a product gifted to me. I absolutely adore these pads. This 2-step system is phenomenal. Designed with glycolic sensitive people in mind, these pads have fairly low amounts of five different acids in step 1: Glycolic, Salicylic (hey, “beauty gurus” – notice how there is no D in salicylic?), Citric, Latic, and Malic. There is also witch hazel, chamomile, Copper & Sodium PCA in step 1. The second step, the neutralizing step, helps prevent over exfoliation and acts as a hydration barrier. I have never had a problem with the glycolic in this system. I can even use it every day, although I don’t out of sheer laziness. I know I’ll have better results if I do use them every day. However, when used 3 times a week (even on nights I use the Ren AHA concentrate), I notice my skin feels & looks fresher, the pores on my nose aren’t as noticeable, and my moisture levels are in check. This system is a must have for anyone, especially those with glycolic sensitivity.

I’m so picky about my unruly, independent willed curly hair. It’s difficult to find products that actually work & continue to work over time. Two products I love and managed to go through quickly are Bumble & Bumble’s Tonic Lotion and Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control spray. These two sprays have been permanent fixtures in my haircare routine this last year. The Bumble Tonic is a spray that has tea tree oil, peppermint, rosemary, and nettle extract in it to stimulate the scalp & keep it clean. I don’t use shampoo everyday, so I need something to keep my scalp on point. After the shower I squeeze excess moisture out of my hair, then spray some Bumble Tonic, focusing primarily on my scalp. After 20-30 sprays on my scalp & through my hair, I follow with Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control. This gets sprayed primarily throughout the rest of my hair, as it it is designed to hydrate & protect the hair. Apparently, this is a great heat protectant, but I rarely use heat on my hair. 99% of the time, my hair gets air dried. It is also a UV protectant, which is great, as I am now coloring my hair more frequently. Both of these sprays can be used on hair wet or dry, which is a lifesaver. As I mentioned, I don’t shampoo my hair everyday. In fact, I don’t even (traditionally) wet my hair everyday. These two products work as curl re-stylers, allowing me to reset some wayward curls if I am on the go. I do use other products in my hair, but I switch between a couple different ones, so it takes awhile to get through them. I’ll talk about them in a later post, possibly one about my haircare routine(s).

And, of course I have to mention some non-beauty items that I hold near and dear to my heart. I’m a candle girl. Always have been. A die-hard hippie at heart, I’d rather light a dark room with the glow from candles than the forced, uncomfortable light of bulbs. I made my way through quite a few candles this summer. My favorites were (and still are) Pacifica votives, TruMelange travel tins, and (surprise hit) a Bath & Body Works 3-wick candle.

The Pacifica candles I used and loved were the Indian Coconut Nectar, Persian Rose, and Island Vanilla. When I burned the Rose with either the Coconut or Vanilla, the house smelled luxurious. I couldn’t afford a tropical vacation, so the combination of the rose+vanilla or rose+coconut allowed me to visualize myself on a remote white sand beach. Tru Melange has a couple scents I used this summer, as well as all year round. Harmony was my introduction to the company and I used the scent in the evenings and/or if I was taking a bath. Harmony is a blend of vanilla & peppermint. The warmth of the vanilla mixed with the crisp liveliness of the peppermint allow me to get focused and relaxed before turning in. The other scent I adore is Refresh. This candle blends bergamot & lime together. A classic combination I often associate with drinking tea, this candle always energizes me. On my days off, I’d light a Refresh votive soon after waking. While relaxing or doing simple household chores, I never felt dull, instead happy. Lastly, I discovered a candle at Bath & Body Works that I could actually stand. This summer, they came out with some candles that were supposed to represent different metropolitan areas (and one tropical setting, perhaps). I remember there being a Parisian one, a Greek one, a Tropical one, and a London one. I’m sure there were a couple more. The one I instantly gravitated to was the candle named “London Calling” as that just happens to be where I was born. (I am still a UK citizen, 31 years later, and have lived in the US for 23 years.) This candle claims it is a blend of tea & lemon. And, sure enough, it smells like freshly (but weakly) brewed iced black tea with the juice of a lemon or two. I noticed that I couldn’t burn it too long as the smell filled the house quickly. That goes for any Bath & Body Works candle, I’ve noticed. Because I love these candles, I stocked up on quite a few of them. Bath & Body Works were selling the destination inspired candles for $12, so I bought a couple. And, the local Pharmaca had a 20% off Tru Melange sale, so I bought their entire stock of the Harmony & Refresh travel tins. Seriously, I did. I bought four of each.

My last empty I want to talk about is Traditional Medicinals Linden Flower Tea. I have a hard time sleeping, and don’t want to rely on pharmaceuticals to aid me. I usually use a combination of GABA & Melatonin to help. Sometimes, it is too late to take melatonin, or I have an overly anxious day, so a couple mugs of this herbal tea allows me to fall asleep without any trouble. It is a blend of linden flower, hawthorn, and lemon balm. I didn’t think it would do much other than calm down blood pressure. I was happy to find that the first mug I ever drank of it managed to make me drowsy within 20 minutes of drinking it. That was without any melatonin! Since that first mug, I have been a fan. I’ve noticed I don’t take melatonin as often, which is great, especially as I have become more busy incorporating school with a full work schedule.

These are my current empties! At the end of August, I have a feeling I’ll have more empties and will update you on them. Enjoy!

San Francisco Solo Shopping Date

Yesterday was the last day for awhile to enjoy a clear sky & sunshine in San Francisco, so I took myself up there for a date with myself. I had intended on picking up some things at Lush, but the Powell street location was having some remodelling done, and let’s be honest, I didn’t want to trek all the way over to the Cow Hollow/Pac Heights store. Sure, it was only a 2.5mile walk from where I was from, but I couldn’t deal.

Instead, I went into Sephora to see what brands they have that the Palo Alto store don’t. I played awhile with the Becca Cosmetics, as the line was reintroduced to Sephora and it is a brand I absolutely love. I was debating whether or not to get the Radiant Skin Satin Finish Foundation. I found that the finish is more semi-matte than satin. I liked that it is medium coverage & did a good job covering my naturally red cheeks. So, I decided to get a sample and wear it for the day. I did, however, purchase the Perfect Skin Mineral Powder Foundation. It is a water-resistant, buildable coverage powder. I did put it on over the liquid foundation with a sponge and it looked and felt great. I can’t wait to use it! I’m not a big foundation person, so I feel like I can easily get away with wearing just the powder and some bronzer/blush or cheek stain. While I was there, I also got Josie Maran’s Rosey Mist. Yum! I’m all about refreshing facial mists, especially ones with rose. I also grabbed a mini L’Occitane Almond Hand Cream. I love the smell & wanted something easy for my purse.

I then headed to Barney’s to check out their Ren selection, as they sell almost the entire line, including their body care. The visit in was quick, as I knew what I wanted. The most important item was a bottle of Hydra-Calm Cleansing Gel. I almost purchased a bottle of the Rosa Centifolia Foaming Cleanser at Sephora, but I am really loving the Hydra-Calm Gel right now and I already use Ren’s No.1 Purity Cleansing Balm to take off my makeup. I love to keep my makeup remover & cleanser seperate. I’m old fashioned like that. With my cleanser, I purchased the Hydra-Calm Youth Defense Serum. I like that it is hydrating, calming, strengthening, and anti-aging. I felt some on the back of my hand & fell in love with the fact it absorbed quickly.

After strolling around for awhile, I went into Old Navy to see what dresses they had. Sometimes, I feel I need a loose, comfortable dress to wear. I’m sick of wearing jeans all the time. Unimpressed with the dress selection, I tried on some jeans and decided that a new pair of jeans can be a reward for finishing my first half marathon in October. I have plenty of jeans that work until then. My grand purchase was a pair of black capri leggings, a pair of grey capri workout pants, and a chambray looking shirt.

My last official shop was at Lupicia Tea. I wasn’t really planning on buying anything, but I fell in love with the smell of their Melon Rooibos tea. I purchased a tin & two bags of the tea. In fact, I just steeped some a bit ago & am about to try it.

To finish the evening, I headed to Panta Rei restaurant for a quick bite. And, on a whim, I headed over to Punchline comedy club for Dov Davidoff’s final set. I went to his first set on Thursday & enjoyed that set. I like stand-up & am always game for a laugh. It was a great way to end the day.

Enjoy your Sunday & smile!

Well, hello!

A few years late to the trend, you might as well call me the American cosmetics sector. Yes, that’s biting. But it’s true. It took the USA about 15 years to hop on the BB cream bandwagon. Anyway, point is, I’m only now creating a beauty, fashion, lifestyle favorites blog. But, hey, that’s cool. I already blog about music (although, not currently in a way I’d like to), and occasionally art, film, and literature.

I will try to be as daily as possible, although I can’t promise that will happen. If I don’t mention a beauty product, fashion piece, or lifestyle item, I’ll talk about something that makes me happy. Even if it is just the workout I did. Swear!

Today’s favorite:
Hibiscus tea! What a hydrating way to end the day…