2017: My Year So Far

It’s been awhile, and I am certainly not maintaining this blog very well. Many apologies!

As many of you are well aware, 2017 has been an interesting and trying time for the US (and the world, tbh). I have been trying my best to keep my head up and be a positive member of my community. But, that’s really exhausting some days.

Waking up to news of hate, violence, and someone who isn’t fit for their job? This is not a world I want to be a part of. And, any of you with a head and a heart probably feel the same.

With that said, I want to share some of the positives that have happened in my world this year.

  1. My cousin had a baby, and he is absolutely adorable. I haven’t met him, as they live across the pond.
  2. People I know and love are expecting babies this year. I’m proud of all of them, especially as I know that they are bringing humans into the world who are going to be compassionate, kind, smart, and strong.
  3. My beloved 1999 Subaru is out of steam. She’s done. Because neighbors can be wonderful, in an effort to make life easy for everyone, I purchased my neighbor’s 2006 lightly driven PT Cruiser. This saved me money, took a car off our neighbor’s hands, and taken some stress out of my life.
  4. I took myself on vacation to Maui in April. I needed a week to be by myself and far away from work. I needed to swim in an ocean for hours at a time. I needed to relax and decompress. I loved being there and didn’t want to leave.
  5. I have been walking regularly. Again, I thrive when I have time by myself. These walks are great for listening to the hundreds of podcast episodes I have saved. I’m using my legs and taking care of my body.
  6. Finally, I took back control of my body and have been eating well. Along with the regular walking, my body has let go of the extra weight it was carrying around. I am feeling healthier and we’ll. I feel empowered and ready to take on the world, even if I am taking baby steps.
  7. After not reading, I am back into it. I plan on making a huge dent in my bookshelf by the end of the year. With all the reading, A Life In Paperback will start to be updated regularly.

Very soon, I am going to do some updated favorites posts (podcasts, skincare, makeup, movies, TV shows, music).

In the meantime, I am going to be working at my 9-5 while looking for new, more fulfilling work.

Ciao readers! Be well!

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Things I Love Right Now: Podcasts

I’ve been a fan of podcasts for awhile now. Storytelling, listening to people have conversations (friendly and/or intellectual), and learning something new have always been appealing. When my family moved to the States from London, my parents discovered public radio, and constantly listened to it. I’ve found comfort in public radio in my adult life. Not only is it often interesting, it reminds me of my childhood.

With podcasts, this allows me to listen to a lot of my favorite public radio offerings at my own pace. Of course, there are so many other podcast options out there aside from public radio offerings. I have a huge collection of podcasts in my Overcast library. Variety definitely is the spice of life! I must say, I have a couple hundred episodes to listen to at this point, and I am totally okay with that.

A few of my favorites are somewhat popular and probably don’t need too much of an introduction. Others might be completely new to you.

Dear Sugar
Everyone is gaga over Cheryl Strayed, and rightfully so. She’s insightful, caring, honest, and witty. This podcast was born from the Dear Sugar column in The Rumpus. Basically, both the column and the podcast are akin to Dear Abby. The difference is that Dear Sugar is raw, a bit brutal, honest, and incredibly helpful. I love hearing Cheryl and Steve Almond offer sage advice to people who write in. The letters that they get are exceptional, and the responses are equally amazing.

Ladies Who Lunch
This is a weekly podcast done by two YouTubers, Cat Valdez and Ingrid Nilsen. I stumbled across it, as I occasionally watch Ingrid’s YouTube channel. Sure, I’m a few years older than both ladies, and the content is definitely geared towards Millenials (I stick to my guns when I say I am Gen X). The content is still great, and it’s wonderful to hear two women have an intelligent conversation about a multitude of topics, including the election, our bodies, and dating.

#GoodMuslimBadMuslim
I love this podcast simply because offers such a positive insight on Islam. This is a podcast everyone should listen to, Muslim or not. Taz and Zahra are hilarious, well spoken, and downright awesome. I downloaded the first episode soon after it was published, and did so out of sheer curiosity and with the hope to enrich my own life. We all should expose ourselves to ideas and cultures that are different from our own. This podcast allows me to learn a little about Islam and Muslim culture, and hear from intelligent, thoughtful women.

2 Dope Queens
If you aren’t listening to this podcast already, please do. Seriously, stop reading this post right now, and download as many episodes as you can or want. For those of you who are unaware, this is an awesome comedy podcast lead by Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams. In this podcast, comedians of all genders, ethnicities, and sexualities are featured. I absolutely love and need this podcast. This is absolutely necessary on bad days, as I know that I’ll get a giggle. I mean, if you want free stand-up, this is right up your alley. And, I think we should be supporting women of color.

Not By Accident
The first episode of this podcast was featured on another podcast, Strangers (which I love, for the most part). I love the format of this podcast. It is a audio documentary of a single woman, who happens to be gay, getting pregnant and having a child. Sophie Harper’s story is very touching and inspiring. With every episode, I am reminded that I can do many things I put my heart and mind to. Also, I am reminded that it never hurts to ask for help. Sure, this podcast caters to a specific audience, but it really is worthwhile.

Stuff Mom Never Told You
There is one huge reason why I listen to this podcast: learning. There is a never ending slew of topics Caroline and Cristen talk about, some of which I know and understand. However, this is a basic jumping off point for getting inspired to research a multitude of topics that are female (cis- or not) related. My one gripe is that the two women hosting this podcast are cis-gendered and Caucasian. With that said, they do their best to be impartial and educated with the information they are talking about. They cite their reputable sources, which is incredibly important.

These are the ones I listen to the most frequently. If I am all caught up, there are a few other podcasts I’ll listen to, which I often reserve for commutes, cooking, or moments I need a giggle.

What are your favorite podcasts? What are you obsessively listening to? I love recommendations!

Gift Ideas: Graduation 2015

Many of you have people in your life who have just graduated from high school and college in the past month or two. All of these mark important stages in their lives. Giving a gift is commonplace, and should be done with the best of intentions. These gifts should be useful in the graduates’ lives.

Both men and women should be well prepared as they start searching for jobs. Part of getting the job is looking well presented.

For those who like to wear suits (men & women), I love The Tie Bar. This is a wonderful site that has a plethora of styles to choose from: bow ties, skinny, regular, pocket squares, belts, etc. And, seeing that Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) has a bow tie collection featured, I have a feeling that this company has a somewhat openminded outlook on life. Now, remember, men aren’t the only people who wear suits (including ties). Many women do, too. And, if I worked in an environment that had a business dress code, I’d wear a tie every so often.

The Tie Bar: Jesse Tyler Ferguson Tony Awards Bow Tie

Being dressed well is important, and accessorizing is part of that. Having a great bag or briefcase polishes off a “Hire me please!!!” look. Buying a quality bag or case for someone can be tough if you don’t really know their style, or even if they want to avoid leather. I personally choose not to buy leather, and feel that it is safe to do the same when buying gifts for people. Matt & Nat is an amazing Montreal based company that produces beautiful and ethical products. They have gorgeous, simple, stylish bags, briefcases, wallets, laptop cases, etc. all of their products are animal byproduct free, opting to use high quality faux leather instead. I wish someone would buy me a messenger bag or briefcase from this line!

Matt & Nat Lesson Messenger Bag

Jewelry is always a nice gift to give. Having a few simple pieces of jewelry, like ties and shoes, help complete an outfit. As I’ve said, looking polished is one of the many parts of getting hired. Chloe+Isabel is a great online jewelry retailer. They offer classic pieces, as well as seasonal collections and fun, costume jewelry. I am a huge fan of many of their rings and studs. In fact, I am obsessed with their Brilliant Crystal Ring, and wear it almost every day! My style is very simple and understated, however I am tempted to purchase some fun statement pieces myself! [Let me just clarify that I am a merchandiser with Chloe+Isabel, and through this, this helps me with extra income. Any purchase you make through the link I have given you, I make commission. I would love it if you purchased some jewelry, but don’t expect you to. Please, only do so if you see something you or someone you you know will love!]

Chloe+Isabel Brilliant Crystal Ring

Here is a gift I wouldn’t mind getting: a book subscription box. I love reading, and I like getting recommendations that are unheard of. Book Riot looks like such a fun gift! Every three months, the recipient receives a package with a couple (or more) books and other book-type stuff (notebooks, pencils, pens, water bottles). This is a great gift for anyone, especially those with extensive bookshelves. And, I feel that reading is a lost art these days. I’d love to see a wave of people getting back into reading.

For those of you who know people who are movers & shakers, another great option for gift giving is monetary gifts in the form of donations. Find out what charities or social causes your giftee is interested in, and do some research. Many charities and organizations have great incentives for gift givers, including access to events, literature, etc. I know that I would be thrilled if someone made a donation to one of the many organizations I support. JustGive is a great database of many charities/organizations that you can search. This gives you an option to figure out which is the most suitable place to make a donation.

*As per FTC Guidelines, all opinions are my own and I will always clarify if I am paid for or gifted items for anything I write. I choose not to write about anything if it is not a product or service I believe in. If I have been given something to try and I don’t like it, I won’t write about it. If I have been paid to write about something, it is only because I am interested in & support what I am being paid to write about. Thank you! In this post, my Chloe + Isabel boutique is a possible way to make money, but I only ever make a commission if someone actually makes a purchase through my boutique. Everything else is purely my opinion and I received absolutely no incentives to write about any of them.

What’s In My Bag: College Edition

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a few months shy of an Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies. I spend a lot of my week reading cases, writing briefs, and carting my life between home, work, and school. I have a tendency to live out of a backpack or large bag. Ever since I’ve needed to have my computer with me most days, life is a lot easier with a bag that’ll haul it around safely.

I’m currently using a Western Pack backpack, one that I’ve used for year. It’s got enough sections to make storing things easy and efficient. And, the part that is against my back is padded, which allows a bit of safety for my computer.

So, what do I have stowed in my bag?

The simplest items are my keyring and my wallet. It has a fob with a Shakespeare quote, my front door key, my car key, and a key for the lock I use at the gym. I recently downsized my keyring and am so happy I have done so! I’ve been reprimanded for not using a wallet, so I’ve forced myself to use one. Sure, I can see why it’s safer, but it still drives me crazy. Being the tomboy that I am, I usually like just carrying one card, my license, and a few dollars.

My parents were amazing and got me an iPad air for Christmas. I didn’t think I’d love it, but I do. This awesome device goes with me most places. I love having it accessible in case of waiting moments. I have a few books stored on it, a couple magazine subscriptions, and some Mr. Selfridge episodes. This makes travel time seem less tedious. Also, it’s great when I’m at the gym and opt to workout on the elliptical or bike instead of run.

Of course, my iPhone 5c is in there. Honestly, I miss the days of simple cell phones and wish I never made the smartphone leap. I do love the fact that smartphones are a lifestyle efficiency tool, and it’s great to have access to, what seems, the entire world at the tap of a finger. With that, I have a USB cord & USB wall adaptor. Usually, I have an external battery, but it is at home due to being charged earlier today.

Of course, I have my iPod with me. On lunch breaks, at the gym, walking places, doing chores; these are all times I love listening to music or podcasts. I feel engaged when I’m listening to good music or a funny podcast. I also love informative podcasts, too. Having my iPod accessible gives me the chance to feel engaged in the world, even when it is just me.

Depending on the quarter, I can be on campus anywhere from 7 hours to 11 hours per day. I’m not a huge fan of school cafeteria food, especially as I am a vegetarian. My options are limited and usually to dodgy looking salads and french fries. So, I like to keep some sort of small, nutritionally dense snack on hand. I’m addicted to salty cashews. Today, I’ve got a small bag of cashews waiting to be eaten when that 4.45pm slump hits.

Stemming from a few years of school in England, I’ve always been in the habit of using a pencil case. I still like to switch mine up every year or so and do have a couple going at all times. Right now, I have an illustrated one with cat faces on it. (Yes, I’m a proud cat lady.) In it, there are a plethora of ball point pens, mechanical pencils, a couple sharpies, and some paper clips. And, I have a mini leatherman in there, too. It’s come in handy quite a few times.

I keep forgetting that I have two fragrance rollerballs in my backpack, and am always happily surprised when I see them. The ones I have are Bobbi Brown’s Beach fragrance and LaVanila’s Vanilla Summer fragrance. As you might be able to gather, I like warmer fragrances. I always love any fragrance that has vanilla, coconut, pineapple, and even notes of Coppertone Water Babies SPF in it. Bobbi Brown’s Beach reminds me of being a child and being slathered in Water Babies.

Of course, I have two spiral bound notebooks. I always have something ready to take notes in while at school. I’m old school and learn better if I actually write lecture notes down. Typing has never proved an efficient way for me to truly retain information. At home, I do have a stack of partially used spiral notebooks and I definitely need to organize them. So, the notebooks I have in my bag are leftovers from last quarter, and I am determined to use them up. I have promised myself I won’t buy any more until I’ve used up the ones I have.

Speaking of spiral bound notebooks, I have my journal in my backpack. I’ve been working on this journal for five years and have a bad habit of going through phases of writing almost everyday to months of not writing, hence the fact I’ve been using the same one for five years. I like to keep it with me at all times, though. I’m not a fan of snooping eyes. I’m open with plenty of things, but my journal is for things I need to release without sharing with anyone else.

I do have a book in my backpack that has nothing to do with school. It is a book that I keep wanting to check out every time I go to the local library. Who knows if I’ll get around to reading it before it’s due, but I have it with me in case I am compelled to. It is Locas by Yxta Maya Murray. This book takes a look at Mexican women involved in gang life in East Los Angeles. First and foremost, I am actively trying to learn Spanish & am interested in working with immigrants from Latin America. So, this is one of many books that should be included in my learning process. I always love reading stories told from the female perspective, and as this is a life I am not familiar with, I hope this will be an enlightening read.

Lastly, I have five empty Lush Fresh Face Mask pots. They have been sitting on my desk for awhile, just waiting to be returned in exchange for a new mask. If we are let out of class early enough tonight, I am going to try and go get one. I want to try their Cupcake mask, but fear that I won’t use it very often, as I’ll only use it across my nose & cheeks. I might stick with Oatifix, as I know I like it and it’s easy to use.

What’s in your bag? Do you have three separate bags you constantly use? Soon, I’ll be doing a What’s in My Gym Bag post & What’s In My Purse post. Be on the lookout!

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?