Saturday, February 27, 2016

Monthly Favourites- February 2016

I don’t know about you, but it feels like February has flown by! I can’t say it’s been a busy month; it’s more like a month of sinking back into routine. Last month, I was so ready to get back to school. It’s been great so far. I’m loving my classes, and I’m doing well with keeping on top of readings. I went to watch The Superbowl with friends (we didn’t make it to halftime), took control of my own body, and I’ve made myself a solid group of friends. I’m really happy. Here’s what got me through the month:

1.       NetGalley
 
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I’m sure you can tell based on the sheer amount of book reviews I’ve been posting, but I have been reading quite a lot. This is all thanks to NetGalley. I have been a member of the site for over a year, but I never really got into it until now. At home, I have an extensive bookshelf, but I couldn’t bring that to the UK with me. I turned to NetGalley, and I have been rewarded. As a member, I request book titles and get a free e-book. In exchange, I have to post a review on the book on here or other places. I have 18 titles to be read at the moment, and although I’ve slowed my reading down since school started, there’s no way I’ll be letting this slide.

2.       Cosmetic Warrior
 
 
What I really should have done is taken before and after pictures to make my point here but oh well. This face mask is amazing. I started to get blotchy breakouts this month, so I decided to combat it. It has tea tree oil, garlic, and honey as ingredients and they all work to cut down the trouble spots. After about three weeks, I started to see a difference. I’ve been putting it on every day right when I get home, so it’s also a good mental relaxation period for me. I’ve already bought two, and I’m going to be buying a third this week.

3.       Lemony Flutter
 
 
Of course I have another Lush product on here. I went in to ask about a product for my feet, and I was offered a nice hand massage and array of products. The issue with my feet is that they are so dry and cracked and awful. The kind guy working with me says that although this is a cuticle cream, it will also work to soften my feet. My major issues with products in the past is that it will work temporarily, but I would have to use lotion every day to get the full effect. With this product, I can skip a couple days, and my feet still look great! I still give them a good scrub down once a week, but this has been the best supplementary product I have ever tried.

4.       Crème Eggs
 
Nail Polish: Vested Interest by Essie
 
 So here’s the thing: years ago, these used to be peanut/nut free in Canada and then one year, they weren’t. As it is the Easter season, Crème Eggs have been popping up all over. Out of curiosity, I picked one up here and read the label, and much to my surprise, IT IS SAFE. I have been buying these whatever chance I get, and I regret nothing. I may have already had one this morning, and I'm already considering having another.

5.       Straightener Curls
 
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Yes, this is possible. My hair dresser used to do this in my hair, and I couldn’t never figure out how to do it. A while ago, I did it by accident, and I discovered that you need to have a straightening iron that is slightly curved on the edges. This month, I have been trying to do my hair as much as possible. I have thin hair, and these curls actually stay in all day. Sometimes, I’ll curl it in bigger chunks to create more of a wave. This is now my favourite way to do my hair.

This upcoming March looks like it’s going to be busy. I have a couple papers due, it’s my birthday, some friends from last term are visiting me to celebrate, I’m going away for Easter weekend, and I have a two day trip to York planned. I am so excited for all this busy-ness to start, and I bet next month’s favourites will be chock full of exciting things!

What have you been up to this month?

-Daniella

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Counselling Story

              I’ve been realizing over the past few months in particular that the concept of “help” is different for everyone. At some point in everyone’s lives, we are all going to need help. The thing is, not everyone will actually get the help they need; some people will not have the capacity to look inside themselves and say “I am not okay.” I get it – inner reflection is terrifying. You could find out some pretty scary things about yourself, but when you reach for the outermost corners of your being, you could also find tools you never knew you had. In short, it takes a lot of strength and bravery to look inside yourself. It takes even more to realize when you are not okay and get help. At three crucial points in my life, I got help in the form of counselling.

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              When I was in elementary school, I was bullied by exclusion. I remember the last time I was ever invited to hang out with someone was at the beginning of grade 6, and it was because the girl was new and didn’t know that I was not someone to be friend with. It was lonely, and I was miserable. I would come home and cry every day. I wanted to kill myself. My mom got me connected with a local family counselling place that became a vital tool in my recovery. I learned how to talk things out and be assertive at school. It helped me cope with that difficult period.

              In high school, I returned to the same counselling place but for a different reason. In grade 11, a teacher came up to me and said “You got a B on this last test. That’s fine, but you’re an A student. Is something wrong?” I disregarded it. As the year continued, I find myself growing irritable and disconnected with my friends and taking that out on my family. The same teacher approached me with the same issue. It was then that I realized I had lost my energy and drive and decided to go back to counselling. This time around, I learned how to take a step back from issues and deal with my emotions in a constructive way rather than letting them eat me up from the inside out.

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              The third time I was in counselling was last school year. An issue with a family member prompted me to think about who I was living my life for. I don’t want to get into this issue specifically, but the original issue was diffused. I learned how to take a step back and collect myself before exploding. After I reached that point, I continued with counselling because talking everyone out was giving me a fresh view on my life. I stayed in counselling for six months, and I got so much out of the final sessions. I learned about who I am as a person, just how valuable I am as a person, and what I deserve as a person.

              As you can see, counselling has been a big part of my life in all stages. It has been so beneficial to me that I suggest to anyone going through a difficult time. Overall, getting the help I needed led to becoming the person I am today. Over various points in my lifetime, counselling has given me clarity, direction, and purpose. I would say that inner reflection that has been constant in my life has allowed me to become a well-rounded person. This is my struggle with mental health. This is how I overcame the small problems and the big ones. This is what I tell people when they come to me for me. This is part of who I am. This is my story.

-Daniella
 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Workplace Health Hacks

If you have a busy schedule, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If being a little healthier was one of your New Year’s resolutions and you’ve already forgotten about it, consider this post your opportunity for a resolutions- reboot. The people at Nuts.com understand how hard it is to stay healthy in the workplace, and they have given me the opportunity to share my own tips with you.

1.       Pack your own lunch.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen into the issue where it’s just easier to grab a sandwich or muffin for lunch instead of packing my own. I’m the kind of person that will see the chocolate bar and get it just because it’s convenient. You’ll be a lot healthier in packing your own lunch. Giving yourself one option makes it easier to stick to being healthy in the workplace. Make sure you pack it the night before so you’re not rushing in the morning!

2.       Take time to yourself.

Yes, you are at work to work, but if you’re not taking care of yourself, then it’s not good for your overall mental health which has a way of affecting your physical health and work habits. If you have a busy day, just five minutes to relax and do your own thing could alter your overall perspective on your day. If you can’t find the time to refocus during the day, make sure you do it before or after work. My dad works out every day at lunch.  My aunt listens to books on her trek to work. I do a face mask right when I get home to refresh and give myself time to relax. Find a tool that works for you and stick it out!

3.       Socialize when you can.

I find that when I don’t get social time, I go a bit stir-crazy. Socializing is definitely healthy for you and helps you focus. Talk to a co-worker when you’re getting coffee, call your mom at lunch, carpool so you aren’t journeying home alone before and after work. Even if it’s a small conversation, it can help your mind gain positive energy.

4.       Stay Hydrated

Do you ever find that when you’re at a restaurant where they’re quick to fill up your glass with water, you end up drinking a lot more water than you typically would? It’s all about convenience. It is so easy to buy a water bottle to keep at your desk. It’s there all day, so you can casually sip from it and stay hydrated as the day goes on. If you don’t like how plain it is, add some lemon or fruit to it and stick it in the fridge when you’re packing your lunch the night before.

5.       Take a walk.

This goes great with number two. If you have some time at lunch, go outside and take a walk. If there’s a great coffee place around the corner, get to work early so you can take a walk before work even starts. If you take the bus, get off a stop or two early to get some extra walking distance. By getting your blood flowing and staying active with a little bit of exercise, you’re keeping yourself motivated, and it’s not a big deal to take a small walk every day.

6.       Keep healthy snacks handy.

Nuts.com has some great tips about healthy snacking. Just like bringing your lunch, it’s easier to eat healthier snacks when they’re on hand. Bring baggies or containers of dried snacks like nuts or trail mix to satisfy your hunger in between meals. Snacks don’t have to be boring, and Nuts.com has brilliant ideas about how to jazz up your snacking life. If it tastes good and satisfies your tummy, then maybe those trips to the vending machine won’t happen as much.

7.       Take the stairs.

Stairs suck. I know it, you know, we all know it, but the thing is, it gets easier. You don’t need to walk up several flights of stairs to get what you need out of the excursion. I live on the fourth floor of my elevator-less flat, and I’ve been forced to take the stairs since September. It has become so much easier to get up those stairs every day. It actually inspired me to start taking to stairs to the third floor for one of my seminars. Taking the stairs may seem daunting and unnecessarily sweaty at first, but go at your own pace, and it will become easier. I promise!

If you’re healthy in your everyday life, and you carry that on to your workplace, your work day will most likely be better in general. Being healthy means less sick days that make you lose momentum and a focused mind to optimize work time. Nuts.com knows how difficult it is, and they want to help you stay healthy. Check out their website, and you’ll find even more ideas for healthy eating outside the workplace including recipes and information on their products. They cater to lifestyles of all kinds including paleo, vegan, gluten-free, and high protein. You can find snacks to suit your sweet tooth, caffeine addiction, and baking needs.
How do you stay healthy at work?
-Daniella

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Review- Fragile and Perfectly Cracked: A Memoir of Loss and Infertility by Sophie Wyndham

*I received this a free e-book from NetGalley, and all opinions are my own*

I decided to request this book because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. Fragile and Perfectly Cracked: A Memoir of Loss and Infertility by Sophie Wyndham is the most shocking introduction to memoirs I possibly could have chosen. The thing about memoirs is that it’s true, and it hits you where it hurts. I am young, and I have no reason to be reading a book about infertility, but I’m glad I did. Wyndham’s story shows us about the new hope of a baby and the cyclical nature of infertility. The jumps in time are significant and reflect the way thoughts and memories are formed when we reach for the past.

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It is written in a way that makes the author and the reader completely connected. We feel the heartbreak and disconnect involved with looking back on difficult times. Wyndham writes in such a way that gives us exact thoughts in her head as the events play out. I felt the tedious nature of each process her and her husband went through in the attempts to get pregnant. I could feel my heart breaking as various amounts of blame went around and she explains how she feels like a failure. I cannot imagine being in Wyndham’s position, and I hope I never am.

The lack of punctuation works to create moments of panic. It offers good advice for parents going through infertility issues, and provides an interesting perspective on parenting. The best part of this for me is the relationship between Wyndham and her husband. There is so much love and support between them. I can imagine times like this can drive couples apart, but they admirably remain rocks for each other. The only negative thing I have to say is that the end is deeply unsatisfying. This is not my kind of book, and I would read it again only if someone else, or me, is dealing with this, so I would rate it a 3/5 based on that. For those in the situation, this book would be a source of healing and relating. However, it is so well written that I would actually rate it a 4/5 if it was more relevant to my life.

-Daniella

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Problems of Living in a Sex Culture

We live within a society that places an importance on sex. All you need to do is look at pretty much any ad to see an over-sexualisation of the human body. I read an article by Rashida Jones in Glamour magazine in January 2014 titled “Major Don’t: The Pornification of Everything.” The article goes on to tear down our sex culture and explain the implications of “pornification,” particularly on women. Take me for example. It is extremely difficult for me to look in the mirror and say that I’m beautiful. And by beautiful, I mean sexy. “Sexy” is not a term I would use to describe myself whatsoever. The reason for that is that I don’t know what being sexy means. Media tells me that being sexy means being promiscuous and skinny and revealing parts of myself that I’m not comfortable with. That’s just not who I am. So am I still sexy?

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Apparently, I’m not the only woman to question this. Glamour did a study in 1993 that said 39% of women enjoy sex more if they lost weight. Then, at the time of the newest study, the number rose to 75%! Body image doesn’t just affect our minds, it affects our actual sex lives. How unfair is that? In ads and porn, women’s sexuality is portrayed in a certain way. Lorelei Sharkey, as quoted in Glamour, says “pop culture and porn . . . reflect a very narrow, preconceived idea of what female sexuality is ‘supposed’ to look like. It’s all sexiness as it relates to men’s fantasies, rather than actual female pleasure” (Glamour, January 2014, p. 68). So what does this mean? That when I look at what is put out there for my eyes as a consumer, all I’m seeing is what men expect me to be? Like I said, that is just not me. However, I don’t think this is accurate at all. Not all women are what is seen on a wide-scale basis, and not all men expect this out of women. In short, “[t]his isn’t showing female sexuality; this is showing what is looks like when women sell sex” (Glamour, January 2014, p. 37).
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So what’s the conclusion here? The conclusion is that I’m not going to find the answer to “am I sexy” by combing through ads and articles. Similar to the experience of feeling beautiful, feeling sexy is a personal journey. Media tells me I’m not supposed to feel sexy because I’m not skinny. I tell me that the right bra makes my boobs look great and the right jeans make my butt look fabulous. And that makes me feel pretty darn sexy. Take that media; I win again.
-Daniella

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review- 183 Times a Year by Eva Jordan

I am back with another book review through NetGalley. I received the e-book for free, and all opinions are my own.

183 Times a Year by Eva Jordan tells the story of a tumultuous mother/daughter relationship between Lizzie and Cassie. It is another duo-narrated story that accurately represents the major differences between mother and daughter. Lizzie is the mom putting too much pressure on herself within all aspects of her life. She does whatever she can as a mother, which often goes unappreciated.  She has brilliant moments of sass that makes one smile. Overall, Lizzie is a positive character, and we feel for her when she realizes her mother/daughter bond dreams are dashed. I felt so connected to Lizzie when she was seeking moments of clarity and laughed when the truth about her younger years came out. Eventually, Lizzie starts to break under the tensions in her life and the appearance of a “black dog” in her mind becomes troubling. Cassie is the typical teenage girl. She is self-centered, glued to her phone, worried about appearance, and curious about boys. Her need to impress her fake friends is disheartening, and her ignorance to popular sayings is frustrating to a reader. Her life eventually starts to fall into place when she moves on to college. By the end, Cassie is forced to grow up and is all the better for it.
The duo-perspective adds the best narration to expose the full tension between Lizzie and Cassie. Throughout the novel, we see the stress that generation gaps have on relationships. The issues the two ladies deal with are widely different, and it is interesting to see how they each deal with their problems. In these situations, we also see how similar they can be (which is everyone’s worst nightmare right?). Lizzie and Cassie are dealing with past emotional turmoil and it is clear that, although sometimes destructive, their actions and thoughts are a result of pain and resentment left from the past. Lizzie is clearly trying as hard as she can to be to be the best mother but tends only to come face to face with the wrath of her teenage daughter. Ultimately, this relationships is tested in an unimaginable way.
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When it comes to the breakdown of the novel, I love that the chapters are titled. The titles are usually clever and connect the Cassie storyline and the Lizzie storyline in some way. The duo-narration doesn’t always work for me in general, but this added the perfect touch for the nature of the novel. The narrations separately are wonderful as well. Jordan skillfully changes her style in order to create voices for her characters. This works well and creates a bond between reader and character. The narrations are accurate representations of the way people talk and think, and it is natural to read. The only issue I had is that it took a while for the two storylines to come together in the inevitable crash. During that major moment, other narrations are added in which creates an intensity that would otherwise be lost.
The issue I’m having with the media age is that authors must identify social media by changing the font, and I do not like that at all. The double narration sometimes switched too quickly within a chapter, and the way Jordan mimics the way Lizzie slurs when she’s drunk isn’t as effective as relying on the reader’s imagination. As I said before, it took a while for the inciting moment to happen, and I felt the novel starting to become tedious. Since being in the UK, I fully appreciate the mention of accents and slang, but I think it would be difficult for someone outside of the UK to understand. The twist in the end is emotional, and I fully did not expect it to happen. It was absolutely incredible to reach the end, and I had actual tears running down my face. Jordan is extremely skillful at I felt the novel starting to become  she't at all. The ending in cliff-hangers and leading us to make assumptions. The last chapter is absolute perfection, and I actually had to re-read to let it fully sink in.
This novel took me on an amazing journey that led to self-reflection about my own relationship with my mother. I’ve also ordered a hard copy to send to my mom. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did, and I’m giving it a 4/5. It doesn’t quite make it onto my favourite books list for a 5/5, but it is pretty close.
-Daniella

Sunday, February 7, 2016

TV Needs More Girlfriends

Sorry for the day-late post! I was so focused on my school work yesterday that I completely forgot about the blog - just goes to show you how focused I've actually been. I'll also be posting on Wednesday instead of Tuesday so I can maintain space between posts. Just to keep you updated.

I’m going to admit something straight up – I plagiarized this title from the article I was inspired by. The truth is, I can’t say it any more blatantly than that; it’s perfect. In the article found in Glamour magazine (I forgot to write the year down), the author Megan Angelo describes just how disappointed she is that female friendships are not portrayed on TV. I remember watching a documentary about how females are portrayed in media, and the reason we’re so misrepresented is because TV is a predominantly male field of work. We have shows like Sex in the City that show us accurate friendships: brunch, shopping, and dishing about the partners we’re into, but the higher Escalante isn't quite relatable, is it? As the article led me to think, it's frustrating to not be able to relate. Angelo has a point – where are myself and my friends? We all seek to relate to what we’re watching, and TV is missing the mark here.

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For the most part, TV is about women in relation to men. Have you ever heard of the Bechdel Test? It’s about the way women interact in movies. To meet the criteria, the movie must have at least two women in it, the women must talk to each other, and the conversation must be about something other than a man. It’s a good indication as to how women are portrayed. Think about it – how many of your favourite movies pass the test? This leads to my next question – why aren’t female relationships represented? Cheryl Strayed, in an interview, with Reese Witherspoon says “Female friendships are a treasure, which is a direct contradiction to the way they have often been portrayed” (Glamour, p.97, Nov. 2014). There is so much truth in this statement. I don’t know what I would do without my friends.
 
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I place so much importance on friends, and I know how my girlfriends have played roles in my life. I have relied on my girls for a shoulder to cry on, gossip about boys, advice on clothes, and countless other things. Why do I not see that in media? Why do I not see two ladies getting a little too drunk and giggly on wine night? Why don’t I see coffee dates and perusing book stores? Why don’t I see excited friends telling each other about the new guy they’re having sex with? Why don’t I see girls lying in bed after a night out and talking about their lives? We’re missing the immense support girls give each other. Female relationships are complex and special compared to the male bond. I yearn for the day that relationship is widely portrayed in TV.
Do you think this is an issue in media?
-Daniella

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Review- The Death of Ruth by Elizabeth Kata

As I mentioned in my monthly favourites post, I had a lot of time in January. I ended up getting back into reading. I feel so much more like myself, and I have been flying through novels. I finished this one in two days,  started and finished another, and I’m on another that I’ll probably finish within the next couple days! Get ready for more posts! I received this as a free e-book through NetGalley, and all opinions are my own.

The Death of Ruth by Elizabeth Kata takes on an interesting psychological view of a woman tortured by her own wrongdoings. Molly Blake’s life is set up as perfect compared to that of her neighbour Ruth Malston. When Molly confronts Ruth for her abusive actions towards her children, the confrontation will change the course of Molly’s life. Molly finds an unlikely partnership with Ruth’s husband who helps hide her secret. We see her completely deteriorate and find comfort in talking to spirits that haunt her mind. Meanwhile, the world around is moving onwards and upwards, while Molly is stuck with her guilt. The novel also exposes the consequential tension that uncovers while a husband and wife find themselves changing and sinking into a life of complete monotony. Molly spends her life carefully calculating what will free her shattered mind. The unfolding narration shows to prove that her entire identity buried with her secret in the camellias.
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The novel starts off with an eerie narration right from the start. The action is instant, and the novel continues to be fast-paced. The writing is skillfully reflected as disjointed thoughts, and I found myself wondering from the start whether Molly was the crazy one to begin with. The barely formed sentences show completely irrational thoughts and incite a sense of panic. The novel is set up as Molly’s perspective alongside her husband, John’s perspective. John’s perspective presents an outside view as to what is going on and acts as an address to the readers rather than digging inside his mind as Molly’s perspective does. John's outside perspective is a great way to show readers how Molly’s actions are perceived. He gives us a peek into their past and gives readers an idea of exactly how their relationship has changed over the years. Overall, the narration works well for the type of novel.
The duo-perspective is not my favourite. It works well for certain novels as I have found in other books, but I think this novel would have been more interesting if it focused more on Molly’s perspective. There were times when the narration switched in the middle of the chapter which was really irritating. I found the detective too cliché, and the time moves too quickly for my liking. There was also an affair in the plot, and I’m not sure if that was to add extra scandal, but I’m never a fan of a love story in the middle of action. I expected this story to be more mysterious. There were certainly some exciting moments, but I was disappointed. The last bit is a piece of a novel that the detective is writing, and I am not sure what the purpose of that was. It does provide a good inner and outer view, but I did not think it was necessary to the story. I found a lack of a “chilling twist” is stated in the description of the book. It starts and ends on an eerie note, but by the end, it was too late for me. This novel was an easy read, and I would suggest it for someone who likes secrecy and instant actions. I rate this book 2/5.
-Daniella