Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Musings - December 2019

December kicked off in the jungle! Seriously. Part of our fantastic trip to Belize. (More soon on that.)

Books: While we were on vacation, I read up a couple of books.  One good. One laugh out loud funny. The other super bad. 
- 1000 White Women: The Journals of Mary Dodd by Jim Fergus which was an insultingly poorly written book from a woman's perspective. If you see this book - which is unfortunately soon to be a movie - just burn it.
- Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb which is standard format good and as always Eve Dallas and the delectable Rourke triumph.
- The Housewife Assassin's Handbook by Josie Brown via my now beloved Kindle Unlimited (and that was laugh out loud funny). I need to read the whole series now.

I left the two physical books at different AirBnB's in Belize for the next folks to enjoy. (If you found them and are here from that - Hey! Welcome!)

Gratitude: Kitty snuggles. Exercising with friends. Dryers that work. Quiet time. Yin yoga. Groomed dogs. Scented candles. Thank you notes.

Listening: Holiday music! (Bossa Nova Christmas. Straight No Chaser. Also my Pandora channel, Tru-Holiday.) Podcasts - Million Dollar Bad Ass; Dave Ramsey; Don't Keep Your Day Job. Guided meditations.

Perfume: Killed off a couple of small scents - the Magazine Street and the Lily B scent that has been roaming my bag. The Lily B scent was Royal Peony, Rose, & Mandarin Musk. I've finished out the month using the Willow & Water cream perfume from the Library of Flowers most days while still coveting that Henry Rose....

Random: Mentally comparing Alias and The Blacklist.Big difference in that Sidney usually got her self out of trouble and spoke multiple languages. Elisabeth is much more conventionally "American". Biggest thing in common is that Russian women stay scary. (Both their moms). 

Recipes: We put jam in crescent rolls. AND THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. It's our new breakfast of choice.

For Christmas Eve breakfast ALL THE THINGS were made:
- Crescent rolls with jams in them
- Casserole bake with tater tots + eggs + cheese
- Corn cake with fresh whipped cream and berries
- Fruit pizza
- Christmas wreaths
- Our famous oatmeal cookies, but with M&Ms

Self-Care Overview: 

It was a soap happy month. Seriously. I think I bought 15 bars. (Some were gifts.) I bought a number of them from my favorite, Cellar Door Bath and also a new local soap company. (More soon on that one.)

"Keeping the Face Young" Skincare...
Day - Mad Hippie's Vitamin C Serum then 100% Pure's Super Fruit Oil Nourishing Eye Cream and then top my whole face with light application of Pacifica's Super Flower Power Rapid Response Face Oil.  (Which, I should note, is only okay - the ingredients are fine but not life-altering. I am unlikely to buy again.) This combo seems to work well with either quick Bare Minerals powder or with full-on Juice Beauty CC Cream + finishing powder.

Night  - While we were on vacation I brought my standard travel set, DHC Olive Oil Cleanser and Face Wash. While home, I've been using the Sea Change Cleansing Balm from  a recent Boxwalla - until I ran out on 12/28. On non-travel days, at night,  for moisturizer I've been using the African Botanics Le Masque Hydralift Intense (October Boxwalla box) all over plus African Botanics's Fleur d'Afrique Oil. Winter is setting in here and my skin needs the moisture.

Let's take a moment to discuss cleansing balms. I've now tried 4 different cleansing balms. And I have thoughts....
- In a pinch, the drugstore one (not pictured) is fine. I bought Physician's Formula's Matcha 3-in-1 Cleansing Balm. If your budget is tight, decent skin care is still available to you. The ingredients aren't green but aren't bad for you (although, they could lose the dyes to improve the formula, IMO). It's unlikely to make most skin break-out and several of the ingredients (bamboo, matcha, lotus) are high on the ingredient list -denoting higher ingredient quantity.  Overall, it's a budget friendly option but would not be my first pick.
- Heart of Gold's Sea Change Balm is not as budget friendly (I got it as part of my Boxwalla package) but is fantastic. (1st pictured) The ingredient list is lush. It melts into skin and rinses off - you almost don't need a cleansing cloth. (I like one.) Given how high shea butter is on the ingredient list, it was much less greasy than I thought it would be. (Castor oil also makes the ingredient list which is funny because a friend told me it was all her elderly and gorgeous aunt used to cleanse her face.) After using it, my skin was perfectly calm. Not dry. Not oily. Not tight. Ready to get double cleanser with my DHC face wash and get moisturized. I used this in the fall and into winter, so I'm not sure if it might be a bit much for summer. It was perfect for my winter parched skin. This is my 2nd favorite for my current budget and my planned budget upgrade.
- Soko Glam's Beauty of Joseon Cleansing Balm was also fine but not a green beauty buy. (It's the 2nd one pictured.) It's heavy on the beeswax and I felt not so much moisturized as covered. Did fine on the eye make up and washed right out of the cleansing pads. I ordered this because my favorite, the 100% Pure, was out of stock. And after using it, I tried the Physician's Formula because I didn't see the point of spending that much money on this one. 
- 100% Pure Blood Orange Cleansing Balm is my favorite. (3rd pictured) Even if my mascara stains on the cleansing cloth don't wash out as well with it as the Soko or Heart of Gold. (Heart of Gold is my new fallback. But it's a bit more $$ for 1/2 the amount.) The 100% Pure is oil rich (avocado, coconut, olive oil) without being heavy - and I know it works well in summer and winter. The beeswax gives it body rather than making your face feel waxy. My only complaint is that it needs to come with a small scooper. (I repurposed the one from the PF and that radically changed how much I used to a standard small amount. Really helped with using the correct amount.) It's a generous amount of product that lasts well.

Remember - double cleanse is the way to go on any day with make-up. Remove the make up, cleanse the face. (Non-make up days, you can just cleanse the face.) 

Take good care of your skin - it's the only one you've got!

Stress: Work is better. Mostly because I've made a choice. Choices are good.

Things 13 Said: 
Did. We got facials as part of her holiday gift and she now says this is the best thing she's ever done and all her gifts forever can be spa certificates.

Said. We were making sugar cookies and I told her I had no idea what I was doing while trying to make black frosting (it was supposed to be an accent color but I made too much.) She said," That's okay. Sometimes it's fun to experiment." As usual, a fairly brilliant observation. (I often suspect she's going to be a life coach.)

Watching: Bob Hearts AbisholaMom. Bull. I'm trying to finish up Orange is the New Black but I feel like I started it when I was a different person and now I'm just not interested. Maybe it's the issue with Tastee. Caught a new show called Emergence and I adore the sheriff! Binged the whole season - including a 2am wake up to finish the last episode. I also devoured season 4 of The Magicians. (Margo. Queen. Yessssss.) We got the Disney+ as part of a package and well, there has been some Marvel universe happening in the house.

Take- away - Never make decisions from a place of fear. Always know, you are enough, you are valuable and there is always a way.

Original musings posts you may enjoy:

All photos by moi! And you can tell...

*Juice Beauty is a staple in my beauty cabinet. I stray, I try other things - but it's my favorite "foundation" (I used the CC Cream) and great skin care. If you like Juice Beauty too, here is a link. I do get a small commission (at no cost to you) when you use these links which helps support this blog.

Skin Care by Juice Beauty

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

To My Girls - Part 3

It's time to discuss gratitude and thank you notes! As you move into world of adulthood, these two things will serve you well.

Did you know December 26th, in addition to Boxing Day, was National Thank You Note Day? Did you miss it? No worries - thank you notes can be sent other days.  (National Handwriting Day is January 23rd, for example.)

First, my girls, remember that grateful hearts see beauty others miss - and receive more opportunities. You really are among the lucky. (Most Americans are.) When you spend time being grateful for what you have, you may just realize how very much you truly do have. There is a reason that gratitude is part of my monthly musings. Some days, when my head isn't in a grateful place, I'll write down 3 things I'm grateful for that day. Gratitude is a beautiful trait.

Second, my girls, a well-meant "thank you" note is a treasure. Tangible evidence of you and your gratitude. A slice of a moment in time to be treasured. A well-written thank you note is actually a gift back to the receiver of your appreciation. Thank you notes are beautiful expressions of appreciation (which is all manners really are).

When is appropriate to send a thank you note? (Almost always!)

  • After attending a dinner or event at someone's home. (They went to effort to host you. It is appropriate to acknowledge it.) 
  • After receiving a gift - be it: birthday, holiday, or special occasion like a a graduation open house or a wedding. (Again, the giver spent time selecting the gift as well as hard-earned money/time on the gift. It is appropriate to acknowledge it.)
  • If someone does you a kindness. (Examples: they help you plant a garden or help you move or watch your dog without payment or write you a recommendation letter.)
  • Sometimes I send them just because. (I could not agree more with this Southern Living article on why write thank you notes.

What is in a thank you note? Five simple elements:
  1. Their name
  2. That you appreciate the effort, sentiment or thought (or care or time)
  3. What you like (even if it is just that they thought of you)
  4. The words "thank you"
  5. Your signature
Thank you notes are best hand-written. Preferably written on nice stationery and mailed. They can be emailed. Text, while sub-optimal, is better than not acknowledging the gift but certainly not memorable.

Hand-written thank you notes do not have to be lengthy tomes. They can be very brief. I've written them in as little as 3 minutes. (And as long as an hour with multiple drafts for a business one.) The hardest part can be finding the address! (I tend to solve that by just writing the name on the envelope and then looking up the addresses later after I several notes written. Alternatively, sometimes I pre-write the addresses per day and then do a bunch of notes on a specific day.)

And for those thinking, but.....I don't have an address, stamps, paper. Etc. STOP. Stamps can be bought at any post office or grocery store customer service counter - or even online! Any paper will do in a pinch. And if they sent it to you, you have their address. (Pro tip - when people mail you things, add their address to your phone contact for them.) You can also look up their address on the on-line white pages. You can always find an excuse. Be better at finding a reason to show people they matter to you.

What is NOT appropriate for thank you notes? 

  • Generic "thanks for coming" pre-printed cards. Especially when combined with a holiday greeting like an etiquette two-for-one sale! It is simply not done! (Oh, I've seen it done, and recently. It wasn't pretty. Especially since the wedding was more than 6 months from Christmas!) It's the thank you equivalent of a mass mailing. That is most certainly not a treasure and shows zero appreciation on your part. To prove you were not raised by wolves, a hand-written "thank you" and hand-writing their name in greeting would lend a personal touch to an impersonal act.
  • A picture. Unless you are under age 5 in which case a picture, especially hand-drawn or of you using the gift, is perfect. (Side note, one of the aunts once gave us all framed pictures of herself for Christmas. Height of narcissism. I do believe my mother still wrote her a thank you note.) And if that is done, as I've recently received, the bare minimum one can do is personalize with a small handwritten note, especially for family, on what you liked or appreciated about their pictured gift.
  • Texts are borderline. Not preferable as they have no longevity and display next to no effort on your part, but they are better than nothing.
  • Mentioning specific amounts of money received. (Or gift card amounts.) It's best to just thank them for their generosity.
For more specific guidance, Southern Living has a great Dos and Don'ts article on thank you notes - because Southerners have elevated thank you notes to an art form. (They even have a video option on that.) Whole books have been written on the art of thank you notes! (Some of you girls may remember I own several.) One of my cousins writes the most beautiful notes - letterpress handwriting and the perfect sentiment, every time - I aspire to be as good at them as she is! 

Here's a real life example of thank you notes for wedding gifts. If you had 100 guests, post honeymoon, sending 1 thank you note a day would get it all done in about 3 months. Two a day and you are done in less than 2 months! Contrary to old etiquette rules, you do NOT have a year after the wedding to send thank you notes. After the honeymoon, get rolling on those thank you notes. It will make you grateful for everything you received and what a beautiful way to start a shared life! (Plus, the sooner things like that get done, in my world, the less guilt/undone work I'm spending energy on in my head. But that may just be me.)

I know several of my girls have rolled their eyes while reading this and are thinking I'm old fashioned and thank you notes are ridiculous. Wrong. Thank you notes are timeless. Thank you notes are about more than "manners". They are part of the intricate fabric of social kindnesses that make bonds of friendship tighter. In this digital age, given how many envelopes one receives that are bills - what a joy to open a nice note from someone you love! Wouldn't you like to bring joy to someone? Especially someone who did you a kindness or gave you a gift? Aren't they worth 3 minutes and $0.50?

Whether or not you get those thank you notes out -  please remember 3 things, my darlings: I believe in you. I love you. And, I am proud of you. Always. (But a little prouder when you send thank you notes to people and they mention it to me.)

PS. Thank you notes also make a difference in business. They may be why you get the job or keep the client. Here are two resources:
- Templates for post-interview thank you notes
- The business impacts of thank you notes

Pictures are my own + Unsplash (first image)

Other posts you might enjoy:
To My Girls - Part 2 (Keeping House)
To My Girls - Part 1 (Self-Care)

Hey! If you are enjoying these pieces to my girls, you might like one of the digital books I wrote, Taking Back Control of Your Life

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Musings - November 2019

November is a wind-up for the holidays. We've been planning for that and a trip at the end of the month. Plus I had some business travel (scenes from my hotel). It's been busy! (And the trip is the WHY of why this post is so very delayed)

Books: Kindle Unlimited is the bomb! I ran a full series on a new-to-me author, C.N. Crawford.
- C.N. Crawford's Shadow Fae series (7 books) - not for serious fantasy readers. When you world-build, the details matter. But it's got beach read fun vibe going for it.
- C.N. Crawfords's Dark King (1st book of the Sea Fae series)
- All 4 books of Elle Adam's Library Witch series
- Laura Thalassa's War and Pestilence books
- Rise of the Fae by Linsey Hall - finished out the Dragon's Gift: Dark Fae books
- The Selling Staircase by Nikki Rausch, which was the only physical book I read!

I did not finish 1000 White Women in November.

Gratitude: Time with friends. Fresh laundry. Holidays with people who love me. Girls night out. New recipes. Kitten purrs. (Despite how soft and cuddly they are, they will be 2 in March. I should start calling them cats.)

Listening: Halsey. And a lot of podcasts. Million Dollar Bad Ass. Dave Ramsey. Planet Money. Dan Carlin's HardCore History (which you can listen to at 1.5 speed to power through those long episodes.)  Don't Keep Your Day Job. Marketing Duct Tape.

Perfume: Still rocking that Magazine Street. It's a travel theme.

Random: We are spending some time away for the holidays and I'm very excited about that. It has involved many vaccinations.

Recipes: Nothing new but we had a hell of a Thanksgiving Day menu. Traditional favorites all the way around. Corn casserole. Green bean casserole*. Stuffing with apples. Stuffing with mushrooms. Deviled eggs. Pigs-in-blanket. (Latter two courtesy of 13 - it's her specialty). Home-made cranberry sauce. Zucchini bread. Berry cobbler. Pumpkin pie. Ham. And then his family brought rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, turkey and a still warm apple pie.

*Let us discuss the green bean casserole. If you are American or Canadian and make it with canned beans - YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG. Frozen green beans. Garlic cream of mushroom soup. Fresh shallots. (I will accept frozen pearl onions.) Fresh mushrooms. A bit of milk and pepper. Then, the French's onions on top. There is no other way to make it. Soggy canned green beans are why people hate it. Made properly - this is how it looks.

Self-Care Overview: 

I've been wearing Country Roads lipstick (Kismet, an Amercian brand) the second half of the month. It's part of my travel theme for this month, too.

"Keeping the Face Young" Skincare...
Day - Mad Hippie's Vitamin C Serum then 100% Pure's Super Fruit Oil Nourishing Eye Cream and then top my whole face with light application of Pacifica's Super Flower Power Rapid Response Face Oil.  Seems to work well with either quick Bare Minerals powder or with full-on Juice Beauty CC Cream + finishing powder.

Night  - There was some travel. When I travel, I tend to use my DHC Beauty samples as night as lotions and to try different products. I also take my DHC Oilve Oil Cleanser and Face Wash during travel. (I love my various cleansing balms, but when I travel, I don't want to use the hotel washcloths on my face - who knows what those were laundered in?!? And balms need a face cloth wipe, for sure.) On non-travel days, at night, I've been using the African Botanics Le Masque Hydralift Intense (October Boxwalla box) all over plus African Botanics's Fleur d'Afrique Oil. 

Stress: Big. Family stuff. (Of which I've said before. But it's still tough simply not being invited to big holidays.) Work stuff. 

Things 13 Said: Did. She's kickboxing now and has become a very teen-age girl. Lots of time in her room.

Watching: Shameless. (Spoiler - really Fiona? $50K? Is that for your guilt so you don't see them again?) Bob Hearts Abishola. Mom. Finished The Blacklist

Take- away - Your life is built for choices. Make the ones that work for you. Because you are in charge of your choices- and your life.

Original musings posts you may enjoy:

All photos by moi! And you can tell...

*Juice Beauty is a staple in my beauty cabinet. I stray, I try other things - but it's my favorite "foundation" (I used the CC Cream) and great skin care. If you like Juice Beauty too, here is a link. I do get a small commission (at no cost to you) when you use these links which helps support this blog.

Skin Care by Juice Beauty

Follow my blog with Bloglovin  - A new way to follow!