Wednesday, February 27, 2013

yarn along - the time traveler's wife

I am so excited to have picked up my first project using tapestry crochet. It is just the coolest technique for making smooth, beautiful patterns, and I've been pinning all sorts of projects I want to try now that I've discovered this technique. My old phone case is too small for my NEW IPHONE 5 (have I told you I love it?), so I'm whipping up this new one with purple cats all over it. Ideal.

The tapestry technique makes for a very tight fabric, so I'm a little concerned about the fit. But it is way too late to turn back now.

www.findingclairity.com

The pattern is adapted from this kitty bag. I just adjusted my hook for the yarn I wanted to use, and decreased the number of cats in each round.

I'm also so happy to inform you that I finally made my way through LMA's collection, and had time to start and finish a new book since my last yarn along! I almost shared my current read instead, but how could I not acknowledge reading such a lovely story as The Time Traveler's Wife?

www.findingclairity.com

Between this book, the season finale of Downton, and a heartbreaking Swiss movie (seen with my dearest!), it's been a sob fest around here lately. I think J's a little concerned.

But this book is totally worth the tears. It's full of beautiful writing and a story line that won't let you go. If I had to make one complaint, it would be that the main character is a bit too wrapped up in the love story and I was hoping to see a stronger, more independent person there, especially at the end. But it's a romance novel, right? And you wouldn't have found me complaining as I finished the final few chapters surrounded by tissues and eating chocolates and wondering OH GOD HENRY WHY I MISS YOU.

Worth a read, my romantic friends.

Linking up with Ginny again. Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

science!

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Science

I've been sitting on these photos I took in J's lab for quite awhile now. They just didn't seem to fit with my usual content. But the truth is, the nerd in me thinks that there is much magic to be found in them and I couldn't resist sharing them with you.

I'm always amazed when I visit J at work, and see the highly specialized knowledge he has and how well he knows his way around such a complicated and potentially dangerous space. I mean, one of his "chores" is to refill the liquid nitrogen!

Awesome, huh?

Friday, February 22, 2013

firmoo - review

Someday, you might find yourself in graduate school turning 26 and losing your mom's vision insurance. You might worry about what will happen if you accidentally break the one (cheap) pair of glasses you own. It could definitely happen to you. Thankfully, there is an online wonderland known as Firmoo.

firmoo
Which of these things is not like the other?

Firmoo is an online glasses retailer that sells prescription glasses and sunglasses for super cheap (the average price is probably about $30-$40). And you can upload a picture of yourself to virtually try on the glasses before ordering...it works amazingly well.

My pair of glasses came really quickly (about a week), and arrived with a little repair kit and a solid case. The prescription (I'm nearsighted and have astigmatism) is great; I think it's somehow even a little better than my regular pair! Really, I lovelovelove these glasses.

The downside? I got a little worried about the low, low prices, and my conscience began nagging me with images of little children grinding glasses lenses in a stuffy factory. BUT. Firmoo attributes their low prices to cutting out the middle man, and my fears could be totally unfounded. Plus, I probably buy a lot of other things with less than ethical origins, so I didn't let it bug me too much. These days, it can be hard to avoid.

Of course, it's not quite the same as getting your glasses at the eye doctor. You don't get a personalized fitting, or any of the special upgrades that are usually possible. But again, I have been so happy with mine and am not missing anything I could've gotten for five times the price.

It's perfect for those of us struggling to maintain our eyesight without vision insurance, for fashion bloggers who need a pair for every outfit, or for anyone who is afraid of stepping on their own glasses (that one's happened to me too).

I always love to partner a review with a giveaway, but with Firmoo it's not really necessary! They have a first pair free program, so you can try it risk-free too! Let me know if you do. =)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

little crazy eyes

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Maus' fourth birthday is coming up.

They say that every year of a cat's life is equal to nine human ones, but Maus is behaving much more like a teenager than an almost 36 year old lately. She has made it very clear to us that this apartment is boring and for her birthday she would like new treats, new toys, and new adventures, thankyouverymuch.

The other morning, her crazy little eyes got so intense, I had to snap a few pictures.

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You'd hardly believe she was passed out on the radiator just a few minutes later.

Monday, February 18, 2013

natural beauty - makeup

This post already sounds a little hypocritical. Beauty without makeup is about as natural as you can get, and I fully support my barefaced sisters (and brothers). I won't pretend that I put on makeup because it's an artistic expression. Nope, I just like a light application during the day to even out my skin and boost my confidence. And for nights out, I like to get a little creative...and then it starts to feel a little more like art.

But makeup can be a surefire way to load up your face with toxins, so I prefer to use the gentler variety.

Besides health, what are the other reasons to switch to natural makeup?
Okay, mostly it's health. But I also think that the greater your makeup is in quantity and toxicity, the likelier it is to contribute to acne and irritation and aging.

What should I expect when switching to natural makeup?
If you're willing to spend some money and test some products, you can probably achieve pretty much exactly the same results as the traditional stuff. The brand that I use is really light and doesn't transform my face in the way some heavy makeup does...and I wouldn't want it too.

What didn't work for me and why...
Luckily, I had the guidance of a sister who was two steps ahead of me, and I've been slowly replacing my collection with the makeup she recommended from the start. What I have found is that what's available at the store just doesn't suit my needs, so I do order everything online.

What I use...

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Everyday Minerals for almost everything! Their stuff lasts forever, and they're always offering sales and samples. I'm still using some samples I received from my very first order. I particularly rely on...

Concealer: The sage blemish corrector. This can look a bit bruise-y if you over apply, so use sparingly, and don't blend around the blemish.

Powder: I love the jojoba line of bases, which are rich and effective at evening skin tone.

Highlighter: It looks like they're no longer making my beloved Aussie Perk Me Up, but the Sunlight Color Corrector looks pretty comparable.

Blush: Wild Vines is my color of choice, but there are tons of options for all skin tones.

The only two items I haven't fully transitioned are lipstick and mascara. It's rare that I wear lipstick, so I haven't had much reason to experiment. I was simply being stubborn about the mascara, but since I can no longer find my perfectfavoriteloveofmylife mascara at the store, I've been relying on Physician's Formula, which is at least cruelty-free, if not non-toxic.

Any recommendations? Thanks so much for everyone's comments so far...they are so helpful! Last week Danielle recommended coconut oil as a moisturizer (seconded!) and Emily suggested reading No More Dirty Looks (now officially on my goodreads list!).

Friday, February 15, 2013

pinspiration

Happy Friday, friends!

The beautiful combination of a perfect blizzard followed by warmth and sunshine has made me a happy camper this week.

Life is full of good things lately...weekday afternoons at home with my love, baking sessions with my bestie, dates planned for brunch and coffee and comedy shows.

Ok, yes, it's still February, but I'm already feeling that little itch again...that life is unfurling and my days will be less about warmth and coziness, and more about brightness and friends and being out in the world. I'm bubbling over with excitement. I think I can even stand a little more cold weather if Mother Nature throws it my way...

With all the inspiration in my heart, I decided to throw a little pinspiration your way. I'm always super proud of myself when I actually do something I've pinned. And I also often wonder if what I'm pinning is really as great as it looks. So today I'm sharing a few pins that I tried and loved.

Pinterest_1

Inspired by a pair of lovely little heart handwarmers that a blogger had made her SO for Valentine's Day, 1.5 years ago (!) I stitched up these baseball handwarmers for J. My sewing skills are nothing special. Since I was using felt, I didn't have to worry about being too precise, and just used a stitch I remembered from my childhood to close up a couple of circles. Fill with lentils or rice, then heat in the microwave to use.

I return to this recipe again and again, because it is that good. My only recommendation would be to add the dressing a little bit at a time (and maybe even only make half of it at first). Depending on how much kale you have, it can be very thick and heavy. But...so healthy, so creamy and delicious and perfect.

Follow Keiko's tutorial. It works. And it's beautiful. I'm missing my long hair right now, and might just have to figure out how to make this work with a pinned up-do.

Stay in and stitch handwarmers, or put your hair up and go enjoy some sun! It's a beautiful day either way. Enjoy the weekend...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

the best valentines

Oh my gosh, you guys, check out these dumbledorable valentines from yenniper (part i and part ii):





The BEST, right?!

I had a bunch of these printed up on card stock this year, along with a few other amazing HP valentines. I stuck a couple of chocolates on each and took them in to the office to spread a little loving cheer today. And because I just think they are amazing, I also attached some to a few emails to family and friends.

I might be obsessed.

Happy Valentine's Day...siriusly.

xoxo

Monday, February 11, 2013

natural beauty - body

Please check out my first post on natural beauty, and my recommendations for face care. This week I'm tackling body care.

Besides health, what are other reasons to switch to natural body care?
Just as with face care, switching to natural body care can help your skin rebalance in many ways. I tend to have dry, sensitive skin, and I've noticed that I have fewer reactions to products (like rashes or razor burn). I have read that some people don't need lotion anymore, but since I still use fairly traditional soap and go through New England winters, I still moisturize abundantly.

What should I expect when switching to natural body care?
This is actually a really easy area to transition in. The only thing that has been a challenge for me is giving up antiperspirant. No matter what anyone tells you, in my experience, there is no natural product that gets the job done like regular antiperspirants and deodorants. In finding something that works for me, I've just had to face up to a few days where I didn't smell my best. (I know...gross. The good news is, you can learn from my experience here.) You should also be prepared to sweat. It's a little strange to suddenly sweat again, but it's really an important bodily process for removing toxins from your system. The body is designed to sweat for a reason. Now, as long as I'm not smelly, it doesn't bother me.

What didn't work for me and why...
There are a lot of lovely, unscented body soaps available, and I just couldn't commit to them. I really missed having a light scent on my skin after showering. I've also tried a lot of deodorants that didn't work for me. For me, Tom's of Maine and any of those weird crystal deodorants just don't work. I also didn't like Jason deodorant, which didn't work and caused a skin reaction. I also tried a couple of homemade recipes, but had the same problems.

What I use...

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Soap: Until recently, I was able to purchase a Whole Foods brand glycerin soap that was scented with essential oils...if you can find it, I recommend it. The last time I was there though, all the glycerin soap was scented with "fragrance", which is generally something to avoid in your products, as it can mean a lot of different (toxic) things. So instead, I opted for Nubian Heritage, which smells amazing and strong. I haven't used it yet, but I'm not too picky with soap, and I'm really looking forward to the strong scent. Not all the scents have the same toxicity ratings though, so check the ingredients.

Shaving Soap: For shaving, I have found that unscented Kiss My Face olive oil soap is a dream come true. It is just as luxurious as shaving cream and so gentle on the skin. There are also scented varieties, but again, the unscented version is the least toxic.

Deodorant: Selecting a more natural deodorant is a very personal process. A Whole Foods representative told me that the one you select should smell really good to you, because that indicates it will be more compatible with your body (No idea if this is true, but it makes sense to choose something you love...). She also suggested occasionally switching between scents. I have landed on Desert Essence and Alba Botanica as my top choices. I also keep some Ban unscented for special circumstances (like lots of dancing and hugging at weddings). I try not to use it too often, since it still blocks sweat pores, but it has a great toxicity rating and works wonderfully. If you're not ready to fully make the leap, I'd recommend unscented Ban.

Moisturizer: I use a few moisturizers. I love this homemade lotion, which is cheap and easy to make. It works just as well as regular lotions, is non-toxic, and costs way less! I customize it with essential oils. Otherwise, I really just love oils. I'm less picky for body than face, and usually use sweet almond oil, or olive oil straight from the kitchen. Oils are great for locking in moisture right after a shower and generally soak in a little easier then, so they don't leave you feeling greasy.

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Any recommendations of your own? Last week my friend Jenna recommended lemon and sugar as a body scrub...luxurious!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

winter wonderland

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I'll be honest...I think this blizzard is exactly what we needed around here.

J got wiped out by the flu last weekend. I spent two days constantly texting my mom about whether I should take him to the ER, went to CVS five times, and dished up more chicken soup than I care to remember. Work was crazy this week too, and I arrived home after 8 on Wednesday, dropped a new humidifier on our floor, and choking bad tears, said, "I'm trying to be a good fiancĂ©, but it is getting really hard to take care of you!"

I'm glad he's almost all better.

But Friday afternoon was the calm that lasted through the storm. J made vegetable soup and got me some strawberries to return the nurturing a bit. We cleaned up our hideous apartment, watched movies (Sleepless in Seattle and The Lorax), and then I stayed up late reading.

I lovelovelove snow and blizzards. J was already in bed while I was reading and watching the snow swirl. There's a light outside in the corner of the building, where the wind swirls back around itself, and it was so beautiful and exhilarating to see the flakes whirling in all directions under the brightness. At one point I opened the window onto the street and was amazed by the calmness of it all...no cars, no people...just the muffled silence of winter.

We trekked out today and it felt post-apocalyptic. People were wandering around like survivors of some attack, trying to reconnect with each other. We did our best Kirk and Uhura impersonations; J kept the captain's log and I collected evidence for the ship's report.

I managed to catch a few good shots of J, but things got silly when I asked him to return the favor. Good thing I'm not a fashion blogger...

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Hope everyone weathered the storm well and enjoyed the quietude. If it's going to be cold, it might as well be a wonderland.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

complex personhood

via

"Complex personhood means that people suffer graciously
and selfishly too,
get stuck in the symptoms of their troubles, and also transform themselves.
Complex personhood means that even those called "Other" are never never that.
Complex personhood means that the stories people tell about themselves, about their troubles, about their social worlds, and about their society's problems are entangled and weave between what is immediately available as a story and what their imaginations are reaching toward.
Complex personhood means that people get tired and some are just plain lazy.
Complex personhood means that groups of people will act together, that they will vehemently disagree with and sometimes harm each other, and that they will do both at the same time and expect the rest of us to figure it out for ourselves, intervening and withdrawing as the situation requires.
Complex personhood means that even those who haunt our dominant institutions and their systems of value are haunted too
by things they sometimes have names for and sometimes do not.
At the very least,
complex personhood is about conferring the respect on others
that comes from presuming that life and people's lives
are simultaneously straightforward and full of enormously subtle meaning."

Avery F. Gordon

in

Monday, February 4, 2013

natural beauty - face

Okay, folks! Here's the first in my series on natural beauty. This post deals with general face care. It should be noted that my motivation is not to reduce acne (that process deserves an entirely separate post). As someone who has struggled with acne for the past few years, I am a firm believer that diet, lifestyle, and the general treatment of skin do way more than topical applications. Of the many face products I've tried, none have delivered on their promises...at least not for very long. So when I'm choosing how to care for my face, my goal is to minimize irritants and support the natural cleansing and balancing processes of the skin.

Besides health, what are other reasons to switch to natural face care?
There are two other motivations for me. First, in my mind, harsh chemicals work against most of the things we want for our face...softness, moisture, clarity. Adding toxins that your face has to filter out just doesn't make sense. Second, many face care products strip your skin of its natural oils. In response, the skin overproduces oil, contributing to acne and oily skin. Gentle, natural products help your skin re-balance and take care of itself.

What should I expect when switching to natural face care?
Some people report increased breakouts as the skin re-balances and eliminates toxins. I can't say I experienced any major changes, but I did have to make a mental adjustment to being gentler. Not having a taut face after washing was a change!

What didn't work for me and why...
One method that I actually loved was the oil cleansing method, which mimics the skin's natural ability to clean itself with its own oils. I ultimately decided to quit, because I didn't see enough improvement that made it worth the time and effort...OCM requires mixing up your oils, and then a significant amount of time massaging your face, steaming, and wiping. Not a big deal, really, but convenience is a priority for me and I got sick of the process night after night. But it's definitely worth looking into if you've never tried it. Please just be careful about the quality of oil you use...I recommend 100% jojoba.

What I use...

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Cleanser: Uncolored, unscented glycerin soap. One bar costs about $4 and lasts for a very long time. This is also typically recommended by dermatologists.

Morning moisturizer: Andalou Naturals Facial Lotion. I think I pay about $12 for this at my Whole Foods. The toxicity rating is actually fairly high (5 on Skin Deep), but this is mostly because of the chemicals used for sun protection. While it is possible to get less toxic sun protection, I like that this moisturizer is affordable and not too heavy for my face, so it's a compromise I'm willing to make...I'm a big believer in sun protection for improved aging.

Evening moisturizer: 100% jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is similar to the oil produced by our skin, so it's a great moisturizer. After washing, I feel like I am returning my skin's moisture right back to it. I use this fairly generously. You can find jojoba oil in the natural section of most grocery stores with the skin care products, and it also tends to run about $12 for a bottle.

Eye Makeup Remover: Jojoba oil again! After washing, I pour a little on a q-tip and swipe under and over my eyes to get any remaining makeup off. This is such a luxurious gift to the delicate skin of the eyes. Coconut oil is a good option here too.

Exfoliating: Rather than buy an entirely separate product for exfoliating, I just use a baby washcloth every few nights. While my face is still wet, I wet the washcloth, and then gently scrub my face in circles with it.

Lip balms: I love the sweet mint EOS lip balm, and Burt's Bees original lip balm. There are so many good, non-toxic lip balms on the market, there is really no excuse for the toxic ones!

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For other face care resources, check out my sister's face mask recipe, and the plethora of resources and recipes at Crunchy Betty. There are many, many recipes for homemade cleansers, moisturizers, and lip balms on the web. Just make sure you're using high quality ingredients (e.g., pure oils and raw honey) to avoid breakouts.

With any new product, it's also a good idea to test for allergies on a small portion of the skin...but this is why I really like products with minimal chance of allergic reaction.

My next goal would be to swap my morning moisturizer for something less toxic but still great for the sun. If you have any recommendations of one, or any other great face care products, leave a comment!

Friday, February 1, 2013

instagram

I could not be happier to have joined the ranks of the very blessed folks with iPhones last month. And you probably could have predicted it...my favorite part is instagram.

And I am so shameless. At first I felt a little obvious, digging out my phone anytime I passed anything remotely photographable. But now I am utterly, shamelessly addicted.

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Please feel free to follow me! I'm at findingclairity.

And to keep me occupied (as if I need it), I'll be doing the FMS photo a day challenge for February.

Here's what's on the agenda...


I am so excited.