Five Things (16)

Miles ran: 14 | Miles cycled: 0 | Steps: 146,506

I’ve gone and done another crazy thing …

— Thing One —

This week, while complaining about signing up for a half marathon, I decided to sign up for the 5 Boro Bike Tour. I think I’m sabotaging myself. I did it six years ago, on a borrowed bike, having no training, so I don’t believe that it would be a problem. At least, this time, I do cycle some (though no miles logged this year).

I’m riding with a team, a total of seven people. I’m certain it will be great. (She says, as she tries to convince herself that riding forty miles, after a few weeks of running thirteen would be great).

— Thing Two —

The Symphony Chorus is back in rehearsals, and my heart is happy! Last October I joined this group of singers and instrumentalists, all volunteers who sing in churches across New York (and other places). A friend of mine introduced me to the group and the first time I sang in a concert with them, I felt a strong sense of contentment. I’m looking forward to our Spring concert and the other concerts along the way.

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— Thing Three —

I had the pleasure of breakfast with friends. Getting up early and running is one thing, but getting up earlier to run so that I could meet with a friend for the best meal of the day is pleasing. I’m not a morning person, but I can get behind meeting people for pancakes, or omelettes.

I’ve also had the pleasure of sharing a free lunch with colleagues. We ordered from Maple; I got the chicken with roasted carrots and quinoa. It was delicious. I’m certainly going to order from Maple again. If you’re in Manhattan I suggest you check them out!

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— Thing Four —

In an attempt to continue using products that contain ingredients that occur naturally, I found a site, Meow Meow Tweet,  that makes deodorant creams. I can make my own, but seeing as I just finished the batch that I made, I thought I’d try their version. So far, I like it! I think I might try to use shea butter in my own mixture when I decide to make it again.

I found the deodorant cream in (what I can only call) an alternative pharmacy – which is a new favourite place of mine – called Stanley’s Pharmacy. I tried their sore throat tea – it was delicious – I think I’ll try others from them as well.

— Thing Five —

This week in pop culture, I saw the first two episodes of the new Shadowhunter series and the new Tarantino movie, Hateful 8.

I liked the little changes they did (from the book) in the Shadowhunter series; I think it was a good move. A lot of the story (in the books ) focused on the romance than the rich and vibrant world of the Shadowhunters – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, I don’t think it gives a film/show much material to work with, so adding a some new characters and stories fleshes things out a bit more.

Moving on to Hateful 8. It sits at #4 in the list of six Tarantino films I’ve seen, but it still had all the key factors that make a Tarantino film great.  He does an excellent job with the visuals and the directing, as well as in the stories that he created.

~*~

 

December’s Dottie Box

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Ok, this is my last Dottie Box (and thus post about it). I signed up for three boxes but I think I’m going to keep this subscription (though not post every month about it). All the boxes so far have been great and I’ve used pretty much everything in them, and this holiday box is excellent!

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Inside, the first thing I pulled out was a necklace from Sundrop Jewelry, a gorgeous blue pendant on a fine silver chain made by Tawny from CA who uses magnified sunlight to melt old glass into drop shapes for jewelry – geeky and cute, I am sold! Her site has a lot of great pieces, if you’re shopping for unique gifts.

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The next was a print from Spoon Lily Designs, I like the idea that the folks at Dottie Box did, in the picture on their Instagram, of placing the design in a red frame, very festive! There are some really cute prints on the site. I think I might put this on the wall of my cube to make it festive.

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Next were these gift tags from Dinglewood Design and Press. They do a lot of different designs for many occasions and work with you to create a unique design for you.

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Finally these festive candles from Scent Xpressions, which smell so delicious you can practically eat them. Actually, I’m just going to wrap up this post right now, put on some Christmas music and light one of these candles.

——

On repeat: Christmas Time by Christina Aguilera

Conscientious Consuming

There are a lot of sites out there that offer consumer goods and donate part of their profit to different causes. The first time I started noticing this was the (Product)RED campaigns that started some years ago where places like Apple and Gap would sell specific products and part of the profit went to help fund AIDS research.

It’s an appealing idea, paying a bit more at times for a certain item, having something tangible to use and knowing that part of the money you spent is also being used for good. Or, in some cases, knowing that the company has strong ethical values – taking care of their workers and the environment.

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The idea behind Toms is, you buy a pair and they give a pair to someone in need of shoes.

I currently own three pairs of Toms, but I’ve been a previous owner of about three more. In the warmer months Toms are the main shoes that I wear and they usually wear out from the constant wear. Currently, I have in my possession the navy blue, sand, and black glitter pairs. They are comfortable and go with almost anything. I stick to the classic slip on styles though, because I bought two pairs of the ballet flat ones and they did not last the month – the heel frayed, quickly!

There are a lot more styles now, so if you’re not into the classic look I’m sure something else will work for you.

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Similar to Toms, Warby Parker made a splash with affordable eyewear and the idea that, when you buy a pair they give a pair, by donating some of the profits towards training doctors and providing eyewear to folks in need.

It took me a while to join the Warby Parker bandwagon, but I finally did this year when I bought the Ainsworth pair in elderberry. I love my glasses! I mostly wear them for distance, and they are a great pair of glasses – plus the purple and green frame makes me happy.

If you’re shopping for someone else, they also have sunglasses (with and without prescription) so that could be a very thoughtful gift.

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I haven’t tried them yet, though I have my eyes on a few things, but I recently heard of Krochet Kids and I thought it was a really great concept. They started out by teaching folks, who wanted to be independent and provide for their family, to crochet hats and grew from there. They would then sell the product and pay the maker a fair wage. Every piece is personalized with the name of the person who made it.

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Two honorable mentions to this list are Patagonia (they take care of making their products in an ethical way) and Good Paper, very similar to Krochet Kids where they provide jobs for folks who want to be independent and help their families. I’ve bought cards from Good Paper’s Cards from Africa Christmas collection before, they are really well made and very adorable.

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On repeat: Patapan/O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Mindy Gledhill

~*~

3 Sites for Christmas Shopping

Christmas is just around the corner and the shopping frenzy has begun. I try not to go do a lot of spending for Christmas, and if I do, I try to get gifts that are unique and meaningful. Here are some sites that I shop around for ideas!

Modcloth

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One of my favourite online stores! I’ve bought a number of outfits from them and I find their site easy to use. Since it’s only online, the next thing that I look for is returns and customer service. If you purchase an article and something is wrong with it, they do a really good job of making the return process as painless as possible.

Not only do they have cute clothes, they have adorable extras that can add a unique twist to your gift giving.

Uncommon Goods

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I’m not entirely sure how I happened across this site, but I’m so glad I did! There are some unique gift ideas there and even if I’m not buying I love browsing to see what new things they’ve added, I mean, USB cufflinks and a metal band made out of … metal? What’s not to like?

ThinkGeek

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Fresh out of college I found this site and I went a little crazy, buying random shirts and gadgets. It’s easy to loose track of time browsing through all the nerdy items for sale on this site and I absolutely love it! There are a lot of pop culture things on it as well so there’s a little something for everyone.

That’s all for now, maybe later this week I’ll do three sites that will make you feel good about helping other people. We’ll see. What are some of your faves?

——

On repeat: You are the Sun by Sara Groves

~*~

A step towards natural

This year I made some big decisions when it came to skincare. There has been a lot of chatter out there about the products we use and the chemicals in them and how they affect our bodies and our overall health.

I want to believe that science has reached a point where we can create things that are useful and harmless to our bodies, but with the growing number of cases out there that show the long term effect of certain chemicals – and because I was just generally curious about a what it would take to use less chemicals and make my own things – I decided to take a step towards the natural, starting with the products I use for my body.

Now, before you go any further there are a few things you should know:

  1. This is not a post to convince you to stop using chemical products. Do what you think is best for you.
  2. I came to this decision because I wanted to be more informed about the things I put in and on my body. It’s a slow process.
  3. Every body is different and products react differently to those bodies. So what I might be doing might work for me, but might have to be tweaked to work for you.

Dealing with all this hair

This was the biggest one. Over a period of five years I have been slowly learning to appreciate the curly, frizzy, messy locks that grow on my head. I got tired of spending many hours a week straightening it, or buying the expensive no-frizz products that are supposed to leave your hair silky and smooth. No shampoo worked for me, no amount of leave in conditioner fixed the issue and if I did use a styling product it left my hair feeling messy the next day and I do not wash my hair every day.

So, the first step was to straighten my hair less. The next step was to cut out all the extra products that I was buying for the sake of taming my messy tresses and to let my hair be.

The next step was to move towards a more natural shampoo/conditioner combo, and this year I decided to join the “no poo” movement and do the whole baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinse. For me, finding the right ratio of baking soda to water for my hair was a pretty harrowing experience, and I spent months trying to figure it out. So now I use a shampoo bar that’s all natural (and vegan). It’s been working out great and I still use the ACV rinse with it from time to time.

Then, because the ends of my hair tend to be dry and since I’m not using a fancy smelly shampoo, I use essential oils (with a carrier oil) to add some moisture to my ends and roots.

I’ve also recently started using Henna, once a month. I though about the henna+indigo process, but I really do not want to spend a lot of hours dying my hair so I use a premixed version from Whole Foods.

I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my hair. It’s still a curly, frizzy, mess but it doesn’t feel brittle, it doesn’t fall out as much (just the usual when brushing) and it doesn’t break as much either. Overall if feels healthier.

Interestingly enough, there was a time during my baking soda phase where my hair felt really oily and I caved in and used shampoo. As soon as I put the shampoo in and rinsed it out my hair felt dry and brittle. That little episode reminded me of why I left shampoo in the first place.

I don’t think I’m 100% at the point I want to be with my hair, but so far I’m happy with the way things are going.

Making my own deodorant

Earlier this year I got a deodorant recipe from a friend, who saw very good results. I wanted to move away from regular deodorant so I decided to try it out. I’m still using it today and I absolutely love it!

I put in too much of the coconut oil so in the summer it was almost liquid, but not to a point where it made my skin feel oily. Of course, it’s now hard in the winter, so I let it sit in a warm bath while I’m taking my shower so I can use it. Perhaps I’ll try make it more stick-like next time around so that I can put it in an old deodorant tube.

Making my own body wash

This recipe I also got from my friend, when I visited her this past October I noticed that my hands were not as dry when I washed them using her hand soap. Usually my hands get really dry after washing them. The hand soap used part of the ingredients for the body wash so I decided I’d try it – since my skin is so very dry.

I tired it for the first time this week and it was divine. I loved it. The smell is amazing, and I loved that when I hopped out of the shower my skin wasn’t as dry as it usually is. I will give it some time before tweaking it, but right now it’s perfect for me.

Moving off of Proactiv

First let me say, Proactiv was wonderful for me. I was having some serious problems with acne in my late twenties and I couldn’t get rid of it, no matter what I tried. I stepped up to the advance formula for Proactiv and in a few months I was acne free.

I started stepping down from the advance formula to the regular this year and now, at the end of the year, I’m finally going to make the leap to come off of it altogether. It does help that lately I feel my face getting itchy whenever I use the product, so I am guessing it’s about time.

This is going to be the scariest part for me because I know I will probably break out again until my face gets accustomed to this new regiment, but hopefully I’ll be able to make a smooth transition. I’m also worried because my skin leans towards dryness, and I’m trying to do a baking soda scrub with almond oil as a moisturizer. We’ll see how that turns out!

The next step would be coming up with a lotion that I can use for my dry skin, that’s completely natural.

November’s Dottie Box

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November’s Dottie Box came this weekend and I felt a little surge of excitement as I opened it up. I was enjoying things from the previous month’s box and I kept thinking about the fact that I would probably never have heard about them or even think to use them if it hadn’t been for this box.

After briefly admiring the packaging I opened up the box to find this month’s haul.

20141108_092759The first thing I opened up was the Lillian Eve Royal Affair nail polish. On the site it says it’s a blue hue but this looked greenish blue to me when I put it on my nail. I don’t usually use nail polish, except once in a while on my toes, so I gave this one to my sister.

According to their website, “Lillian Eve was born from a simple love of color and a desire for that color to have as little impact on our health as possible. It’s what drives each creative individual who makes up our little family.”  I thought it was nice that they are 100% American made and practice buying local.

Each polish costs $12.00, which I’m guessing is a bit on the pricey side for a nail polish. But, if you’re conscious of the things they stand for then it might be worth it.

20141108_092843Next in the box was a Crocheted Coffee Cozy from The Cozy Project, one of those things that I’d probably never buy for myself but that I could find use for. Now that it’s cold and I’m driving to the train station instead of biking, I try to take a cup of tea with me for my train ride, so this will come in handy. It has a very fall look to it, I’ll be sure to enjoy 🙂

I haven’t tried it yet (at the time of this writing), but there was chocolate from Cacao 7, a company that prides itself in making organic, nutritive, diet and diabetic friendly chocolates. I’m skeptical, but I have decided that I would keep it as a prize – hopefully it’s a good one – for when I double up my NaNoWriMo word count (which means 15k words more at the time of this writing).

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Finally, I opened up the Warm Vanilla Sugar Body Butter by Botanical Bars. I am not certain that this is a 100% homemade product – it seems to be made with lotion (from their etsy shop), and on the site it does have a list that looks like the ingredients found in the lotion in my bathroom right now – but since I use regular lotion I do want to give this one a try, see how different it is.

Did I mention that the smell is wonderful? The vanilla is strong with this one. I sort of want to spoon it out for eating.

If they are anything to write home about, I’ll be talking about them again in a month like I did with the last.

 

~*~

One month later …

Last month I got my very first subscription box! It was a box of handpicked, homemade, delights and as a person who likes supporting artists and their works I thought that I might enjoy the monthly goodies.

Now it’s one month after my first box, one month to use the products and form my opinions and I have to say, surprisingly, I still love pretty much everything!

20141016_211120I’m still using my Voodoo Colour Balm from Black Widow Balm. I did notice that, since the weather got colder, it’s a little harder – most likely due to the ingredients in the lip balm, but a few rubs and it’s back to a nice consistency. I love the colour and I love that it seems to stay on – something other colour lip balms haven’t been doing for me. I have really dry skin and when the weather turns it gets worse, however, I have found that if I am consistent with using this balm that it soothes the cracks.

Surprisingly I’m still using the Lip Balm Holder from Gabriel’s Good Tidings. This isn’t something I’d purchase for myself – I still don’t feel like I would if I ever lost it or had to replace it, but time will tell. However, having received it in the box along with lip balm I find that I’m using it more that I would have thought. Often it’s easy to clip onto my bag strap for easy access and because mine is so bright if I leave it in my bag it’s easy to spot it between the other things I carry around all day. I can see this and the lip balm making really cute stocking stuffers this year.

One thing that I wasn’t sure I’d use but I am absolutely loving is, Not A Dirty Hippie’s Chamomile and Lemongrass Shampoo Bar. First of all, the smell of this bar makes me think of carefree summer days and beautiful blue skies. It’s super easy to use and leaves my hair feeling clean. I use an apple cider vinegar rinse afterwards and I absolutely love the way it makes my curls look. I’m glad I used this, I will be frequenting this store a lot in the future.

Finally, Plain J Body and Home’s Soy Candle, I rarely use candles, but when I do I like them to leave the air with a lasting, but not overwhelming, scent. I used this for the first time a few days ago and I love it! Definitely a great gift for any candle loving friend of yours.

~*~