Where has November gone?

(Warning: Unfocused, word-dump blog post ahead.)

Well, as you can tell by my lack of NaNoWriMo updates, I clearly didn’t get very far. I hate making excuses for things, but my goal of participating in NaNo was not really met. I mean,  I did do some writing. Just not very much. Between starting a new job, the holidays, and the never-ending drama that is being back home with family… let’s just say November was not my month to sit and be a productive writer.

As I mentioned in my last post, I started a new job. I work for an insurance company now. I know, a HUGE change from working for Disney, but it is challenging and the atmosphere and people are great. The hours are perfect and allow me to have my evenings, weekends, and holidays which is awesome because I’m preparing for an upcoming audition! I’m finally getting back into performing after… almost two years. Yikes! But, yay!

I’ve been spending almost all of my free time with family and friends, which has been a complete blessing. I’ve missed out on the last seven or eight Thanksgivings so it was great to see family I haven’t seen in ages. (Even if I did have bronchitis during the whole week.)

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Yesterday, I started and finished 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman which is honestly not something I’d ever thought I’d be interested in reading. I’m what you call a hardcore skeptic, but I actually started and finished it in one sitting. The focus of the book is on love for married couples (and it bugs me how it only focuses on male-female relationships but, that’s a whole other ball of wax.) Now, I’m clearly not married, but the book also discusses how this type of love resonates with children, family, and friends. I am always losing touch with friends and loved ones, going back to my introverted roots because it is where I am most comfortable. However, I hate how that can sometimes come across as a desire to lose or separate people from my life. So, I thought it would be a good read to see how I can become more aware of what others need to feel loved/fulfilled and maybe it will help me in that regard. I want to be close to people, but I fail at that quite often and I think this book is maybe a stepping stone to get to where I want to be and how I want to maintain my relationships.

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Tonight, while relaxing in the tub I started Mindfulness for Everyday Living by Christopher Titmuss. I’ve mentioned my interest and practice of Mindfulness in the past, and though I’m nowhere near an expert on the subject, I do utilize my version of it on a consisten basis. One of my main problems is that my mind races when I lie in bed. Even if I am super exhausted and feel like I’m dying for sleep, my brain just doesn’ shut off. Well, after watching a few videos on Mindfulness meditation and breathing, I’ve become pretty good at not letting myself get lost in the endlessness of thought, worry, and anxiety. On most nights, I’m able to calm my mind and my anxiety to a level where I am able to sleep. That has made a world of difference for me. Like I said, I just started it and hopefully it will prove fruitful as I continue reading it.

December begins this week. I can’t believe it. That means it’s down to the grind at work, so I expect to have some tired evenings ahead. But, I’m trying to get back into a good balance between work and life, so hopefully that will keep me sane this month. I also have lots of Christmas shopping I would like to get done so that will also keep me busy, but I love gift-giving so I’m excited for that.

I’m not really sure where this blog post has gone. It’s become more of a diary entry/book review. I originally intended it to be a bit more focused, but I guess this is where my mind wanted to go tonight. Hope you don’t mind.

As always, thanks for reading. Have a Happy December!

Until next time! ❤

 

Final NaNo Word count: 3,450

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Morningstar Farms Roasted Garlic & Quinoa Burger – Review

Hi friends!

I wanted to come to you today with a review of a vegan purchase I made at Target.

Morningstar Farms Roasted Garlic & Quinoa Burger

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I’ve been trying out various frozen foods that I can just heat and eat quickly in the morning before I go to work, and now that I’ve found some good breakfast options, I decided to try more lunch/dinner foods. According to the label on the packaging, this burger is:

Vegan, Non-GMO Project verified, and made with red quinoa, lentils, carrots, brown rice and bell peppers.

When reading these ingredients, I decided to go ahead and try it as I do tend to like all of those things. Boy, am I glad I did! I absolutely LOVE the flavoring of this burger. Like I said before, I’ve been trying quick heat-and-eat style foods so I’ve only ever tried this microwaved, but even then, it’s super moist and has a really nice texture. I don’t even feel the need to add any sauce or condiments to it, which is great.

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This is a not-so-subtle “hidden Mickey” I thought I was clever, *eyeroll* but it shows you what the patty looks like after being in the microwave, vs. the top picture which is still frozen.

I even got my carnivorous boyfriend to try it and he was shocked at how much he liked it. No, it’s definitely not a substitute for the taste of meat, nor does it claim to be. However, the taste and texture was really pleasant and I’ll definitely be adding this as a staple to our freezer. I also want to start getting a little more adventurous and trying out different breads to put it on and see what I can do to enhance the flavor. Also, I’ll try other ways of cooking it as recommended on the packaging.

The only thing I will say is that, for me anyway, I’d recommend pairing it with a side if you’re looking for a full-on meal as it’s not the most filling. However, I like to eat lighter meals in the evenings, so it’s perfect for my dinner.

As always, any recommendations or suggestions for other foods and recipes to try are more than welcome!

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Until next time! ❤

Sprinkles Vegan Red Velvet Cupcake – Review!

Howdy, friends! I hope you enjoyed your weekend. I know mine completely flew by. Don’t you just hate that? Why can’t the work weeks fly by as quickly and the weekends just be… well, longer? Haha.

Anyway, today I wanted to do a little review of a vegan treat I had while out recently. If you follow anything about Walt Disney World, then you’ll have heard all about the new Town Center that has opened up at Disney Springs. It’s slowly opening up in stages, but as of May 15th, a large number of shops and eateries opened their doors.

The most popular of them all, by far, has been Sprinkles, the cupcake shop!

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My friends and I were first in line the day that we went and as soon as I saw that there were vegan options on the menu, I jumped at the chance to try one of my favorite pastry/cake flavors: Red Velvet! According to Sprinkles’ website:

Sprinkles goes vegan! Traditional dairy products are substituted with vegan friendly ingredients, including all natural soy milk, tofu-based cream cheese and pure coconut oil. The result is a cake so moist and frosting so rich, it just might inspire your friends to go vegan too!

Just look for the red V to know it’s Vegan Red Velvet!

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Holy Moley. This cupcake was like actual heaven. If it wasn’t so humid that morning and the icing melting all over me, I would have tried to savor every last bite. The icing, as stated above, is made with coconut oil, which was the strongest flavor of the icing, in my opinion. I wasn’t expecting the red velvet and coconut flavor combo, but I was very impressed. They tasted delicious together. The cake itself was moist and delicious and I really *REALLY* wanted to go back for more.

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… and now I’m craving this cupcake again. Great! Haha. This was the only vegan option that I saw on their menu, but they do say to always ask and see if they have any other flavors that might not be on the menu. So, I will make sure to ask next time if they have any other vegan options.

Alright, I’m going to have to stop talking about sweets soon or I might go jump into my car and drive over there just to stuff my face with vegan treats! Haha.

I hope you enjoyed this review. I’m definitely looking forward to finding more places with vegan options in my area so if you have any recommendations or favorites, please let me know!

As always, thank you so much for stopping by.

Until next time! ❤

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Cruelty-Free Flops

Going Cruelty-Free when it comes to healthcare and beauty products is an incredibly long journey. One that, in my experience, has no ending. Companies are constantly changing their policies, new companies are sprouting up, and some products just stop working for you.

I’m here to post about a few products that just flat out didn’t do it for me. These products are by no means “bad,” they just weren’t right for me. Remember, everyone’s body chemistry, skin color/type, and needs are different so this is just a post about products that did not work for what I needed/wanted them for. Please keep that in mind as you read ahead.

In my most recent haul post, I showed you four products I purchased at Ulta. Fortunately, two of those work wonderfully and I will repurchase them. Unfortunately, the other two did not.

The first one was the Yes to Grapefruit Dark Circle Eye Correcting Cream.

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(Image from Tradesy.com)

As I said in my post, it was an impulse buy from their clearance section. Honestly, I wish I had just left it on the shelf. I don’t know if I had a bad tube, but if I didn’t, I can absolutely see why Ulta has discontinued selling this product. It comes out a strange off-yellow/white color which wasn’t particularly pleasant to look at, but who cares? It’s not about how it looks. The scent, however, was unbearably strong and so unpleasant. Imagine old lady makeup smell covered in maple syrup and sprayed with cheap citrus perfume. Oh my gosh, I couldn’t even keep this on for five minutes because I had to wash it off. The scent gave me a headache and would not leave my nose. I have no idea if this works because I couldn’t stand it being on me, but I can guarantee you I will be tossing it out and never giving it a second chance. This is a testament to why you should *DO YOUR RESEARCH* before purchasing a product. Trust me, you’ll thank me.

Product #2 from my haul is the Crystal Original Deodorant Stick

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(Image from Amazon)

I mentioned before that I was a fan of Crystal’s Roll-On liquid formula, but it wasn’t quite cutting it on these hot, humid Florida days. I figured, why not try the solid version. It has to be more potent, right? So. SO. Wrong. Using the crystal is a little weird. You dampen the top of the stick and then rub it under your arms. It took some getting used to, but I figured it would be worth a shot. This barely lasted at all and after a few days of using it, the crystal itself started to have an odor that will absolutely not go away. I might keep this for days when I’m around the house, but I honestly wouldn’t trust this to work just by itself.

The good news is, I immediately went out to find something else since I needed something for work and I fell in *love* with Crystal’s Essence Lavender & White Tea Roll-On. The scent is just enough to help it last throughout my work day and I feel like this is going to be my new every-day deo. Still hoping to find something stronger for theme park/pool/beach days when I’m out all day, but hopefully soon!

So, have you encountered any “never-again” products on your cruelty-free journey? I’m currently trying to use up what I already have before getting anything else, and I think I might renew my Petit Vour subscription so I can get back to trying out CF products before I buy.

Any suggestions for good CF/vegan brands I should be on the lookout for?

Thanks, as always, for stopping by!

Until next time! ❤

Necessary Lies – Diane Chamberlain (Book Review!)

Hi, folks!

Hope you’re all having a wonderful week. I figured I would do something a little different for this post. Since I was sick in bed last week, I got a good amount of reading done, which I always mean to do more of but always make excuses not to… Anyway, I figured I’d give a little bit of a review of one of the books I read.

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Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

I bought this book last year when I discovered the website, Book Depository. I had heard wonderful things about the author, and the little blurb I read sounded interesting so I decided to add it to my cart. There was a 50% off promotion going on, so I got a really great deal on it.

When I tell you I read this book in one sitting, I’m not even exaggerating. Granted, I was sick in bed at the time, but it was a book I just could not put down.

It’s considered Historical Fiction and centers around two characters, Ivy and Jane, who live in North Carolina in 1960 when the “Eugenics Program” was still in full swing. It had been banned most places because it was said to be too much like Hitler’s attempt at creating a “Master Race,” but in North Carolina, it continued on until the mid 1970’s.

Jane is a newlywed who wants not to be a housewife like all the other women of her time, and instead gets a job as a social worker, much to her husband’s dismay. This is how she meets Ivy, a 15-year old girl who is basically taking care of her elderly grandmother, 17-year-old sister, and her sister’s 2-year-old toddler. They live in poverty and rely on charity and the few cents they make working on a tobacco farm to survive, but by the time Jane gets the family’s case, she can see that they are doomed if she doesn’t step in.

Aside from the blatant racism, the horrors of sterilizing people without their knowledge and then lying to them about the sterilization, Jane’s husband, Robert is probably the most loathsome character in the entire book. All he wants from her is a housewife who cooks and cleans and doesn’t talk so much. He’d rather her, “Shut up and look pretty,” which made me want to throw the book across the room multiple times. However, I knew that the tone of the book wasn’t in support of those behaviors and I had to keep remembering it was based on a southern family in the 1960’s, but I couldn’t help feeling completely enraged every time he would speak.

Ivy, as a character, is absolutely wonderful. The poor girl has had to grow up so fast and doesn’t realize how incredibly gifted she is, despite what the rigged I.Q. test says. (Part of how they determine who needs to be sterilized.) Each page brought me closer and closer to these two characters and seeing their relationship grow and change just kept me wanting more.

I’ll be honest, I had NO idea that the “Eugenics Program” was ever a thing in the US. I’m from the south, and we never talked about it during history, so I was appalled at the thought and am now doing research so that I can become a little more educated about the subject. As the book says multiple times, it is way too much like Hitler’s desire to create a master race of what he considered the “best,” and it mortified me that this was happening in our country less than 60 years ago. It’s petrifying.

I encourage you, if you want to read a book that will both break your heart and lift your spirits, AND has some awesome female characters, you pick up this book and give it a shot. This has definitely made me a Diane Chamberlain fan and I can only hope that I enjoy her other works as much as I did this one.

Are you reading any books right now? If so, which ones? Also, which genre do you usually prefer? Like I said, I’ve never found myself to read historical fiction outside of school, but this book just might be what introduces me to a whole new world of stories I’ll enjoy. Now, to choose which book I should read next…

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Until next time! ❤

Cruelty-Free Products that didn’t work for me

Hello, everyone!

As you already know, I’ve been purchasing strictly cruelty-free beauty products for more than a year now, It’s still a learning process in terms of what certain companies consider cruelty-free and also which companies might be cruelty-free but are owned by parent companies who are *not* cruelty-free. It’s constantly changing as well, which makes it a constant learning process. So far, I have very much enjoyed getting to know brands and companies who are not only against animal testing, but are fighting to eradicate testing on animals as a whole.

Now, while I have found a multitude of products that I love and work well for me, there have also been some duds that I’ve come across. Products that do pass the cruelty-free test, but do not work for me. Here are a few of them I’ve come across. (Keep in mind, I’m not saying these products are bad at all. They just, like I said, do not work for me.)

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Product #1 – Evolvh Cleanse Shampoo

I received this products in my Petit Vour box, which I unboxed back in early February. First off, this products smells divine. I loooove the smell of it. It lathers nicely, which isn’t a necessity for me, but I know many people enjoy it. However, this product *hated* my scalp. Holy cow. I have dry skin already and I use a medicated shampoo on occasion to keep my scalp calmed down. This shampoo, however, completely dried out my scalp and – pardon the potential grossness – gave me the worst dandruff ever! My scalp was itchy, red, and super flaky. I was shocked and embarrassed when I realized it. I gave it a few more tries to see if maybe I was having an off day, but no. This was not meant for me or my dry scalp. Maybe if you’re someone who has more oily skin and hair? That might work for you. As for me? No way, Jose.

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Product #2 – NYX Incredible Waterproof Concealer Stick in Porcelain

I’m a newbie to solid concealers. I’ve always used liquid concealer that you dab on with the wand. When I was replacing my old CoverGirl concealer with a cruelty-free brand, I found NYX. This product was a similar color to the shade I’d used from CG and it said it was waterproof so I assumed it would have good staying power. Nope and nope. I mean, the color isn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong. I’m paler than the palest person out there, but this color honestly made my skin look… I dunno, dead? I tried it under my eyes and it literally did nothing for me. It was like I didn’t put anything on. And, if I used it on blemishes, it would maybe last an hour before disintegrating without me touching my face at all, and after I had covered it in powder. This product was a complete bust for me.

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Product #3 – e.l.f’s Flawless Finish Foundation in Porcelain

Speaking of being pale… I absolutely *adore* the entire e.l.f. line of products. Their eye shadows are fantastic, the tone correcting powder is my go-to for shine control, and I use their brushes for absolutely everything. However, when it came down to time for me to replace my foundation, I found this product to be a big flop. The formula is great. It has staying power. But, the foundation kept getting darker the longer it was on my face! When I would put it on, it seemed to be pretty close to my skin tone. Like I said before, I’m suuuuuper pale, so I expect foundations to not ever be light enough for me. However, I swear I could probably stand in a mirror and watch this foundation turn darker and darker as the day went on. Why would it oxidize so much that it would go a good 2-3 shades darker after it was applied? I’ve never seen that happen before and while I was very impressed with the formula, the lightness, and the lack of a strong scent, I will not be using this product unless I get a serious tan in the near future.

Overall, the majority of the products I’ve tried since going cruelty-free have been successes. I love trying out new products, learning about the practices of cosmetic and beauty companies, and sharing my discoveries in the hopes that more people will think about buying products not tested on animals. However, I want to try to also share the products out there that may not be worth a shot. Granted, like I said above, these products did not work for me and/or did not live up to what I felt they should do. Who knows? Maybe you *love* these products and that’s awesome! I’ve just found that as a ridiculously pale, dry, and sensitive-skinned girl, they are not my cup of tea.

Stay tuned next time for some raving about products that I just cannot get enough of!

Until next time! ❤

Review: The Body Shop’s Glazed Apple Body Butter

If you saw my post from earlier in the week, you saw that I had a little bit of a splurge at The Body Shop and I could not wait to try out my new products.

The first one I’ve tried is the INCREDIBLE new Limited Edition Glazed Apple Body Butter.

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I was so excited to use it, I forgot to take a picture of it before I used it, hence the finger-marks in the first picture, haha.

So, after I took a nice calming bath, I decided to use this all over and *oh my goodness,* was I pleasantly surprised! It’s body butter, so it’s thicker than a regular lotion or moisturizer, and a little bit goes a long way. It was so smooth and luxurious, I couldn’t stop smelling my skin after I put it on! That sounds weird, I know, but it is seriously so good. Even better on, than in the container, even!

Seriously, it’s like the perfect sweet-and-sour scent and it’s not overpowering at all, which is great when you don’t necessarily want to smell like you sprayed a perfume all over yourself. I often find holiday scents to be overly-sweet or spicy, though this is the perfect blend of fruity and sweet.

I wish I wasn’t so bad at describing scents. It is even harder when you’re trying to type it out, but this is really amazing and I highly recommend stopping by your local Body Shop to give it a try. If you hurry, they’re still having their Buy 3, Get 3 sale and you could try out all of the seasonal scents, including Glazed Apple!

Do you have a favorite holiday scent or product? I could really use some recommendations. Also, let me know if you try out any of the new Body Shop products. I’d love to hear your opinion!

Until next time! ❤