Sunday, August 20, 2017

Favorite New Body Lotion Thanks To Andalou Naturals

Andalou Naturals was one of the very first all-natural brands I tried, and is now fast becoming a favorite brand of mine. It should be no surprise then if I say my current favorite body lotion is from Andalou, right? Because, well--- it is!

I first tried the 1000 Roses body lotion two years ago, and although I was not particularly a fan of the rose scent (because rose is not my favorite) the lotion itself left my skin so, so, smooth! I mostly used it for my legs and feet after showering, because those are the two areas I struggle with dry skin the most, and the lotion did wonders to help! Since using this lotion, I have tried several conventional brands that have worked nicely, but I wanted to go back to organic, natural, and non-toxic products, so last month I was back looking for a lotion I knew I could trust from Andalou.

This time around, I decided to pick out the Mandarin Vanilla scented lotion! I am NOT disappointed at all. The lotion smells like an orange creamsicle (which is delicious by the way). Just like the 1000 Roses lotion, this one acts and performs the same. It's nourishing, creamy yet not greasy, easy to rub into the skin, long-lasting, and refreshing. I prefer to use this one on my upper body, especially after a shower since it's like wearing a treat to bed--- plus, I know my skin is getting the nourishment it needs.

From the Website
This ultimate skin food blends emollient rich rosehip and argan oils with shea and cocoa butters to nourish, smooth, and soften the appearance of dry skin. Vitalizing mandarin vanilla delights the senses as superfruit antioxidants and ultra-hydrating aloe vera help protect and uplift skin’s moisture barrier for a luxurious, all-over body treatment.
Ingredients (from the website)
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Purified Water (Aqua), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Vegetable Glycerin, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Glyceryl Stearate, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter*, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Tocopherol, Fruit Stem Cells (Malus Domestica, Solar Vitis) and BioActive 8 Berry Complex*, Citrus Reticulate (Mandarin) Fruit Extract*, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*†, Argania Spinsosa (Argan) Kernel Oil*, Allantoin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Algin, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Seed Oil*, Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos) Extract*†, Phenethyl Alcohol, Vanilla Isolates, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil* 
If you've tried this lotion, or any others from Andalou, let me know! Which one is your favorite? Do you have another brand you like better?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tips and Advice for Reading Literature

Before I get to my own tips and advice for reading literature, I just want to preface this entire post by saying these tips are my own personal tools, and may not work for everyone. I am currently in my senior year at Arizona State University, studying English, and have had to read a lot of novels, articles, poems, plays, etc., while working on my degree. I have gleaned so much from my experience so far, but I also understand that I still have a lot to learn as I pursue my future in English.

When I was younger, more specifically in High School, I was terrified to read any novel that was deemed "classic" because I didn't think I was smart enough to read and understand them. It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I realized I had a great passion for reading novels, especially classic novels. In my late twenties I decided I wanted to pursue English at college, and see what career opportunities open up for me after that. As you can imagine, I was absolutely terrified when I began my first university-level literature class. Guess what? I got an A in it! See, I put myself in an extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable position, but I also discovered that I had/have what it takes to achieve my dreams.

Okay, so enough with the backstory... now on to my tips and advice.

1) Research the novel you want to read, and the author of that novel. It is so important to understand why the novel was written, and the time/era the novel was written in. A lot of novels are hard to understand because we're reading them from a modern perspective and interpretation, so we need to dig a little bit into the past in order to fully comprehend the subject material.
2) Ask for help! One of the silliest things we can do is not admit when we need help. If you don't understand the text, it is incredibly easy to look up questions/answers online, or you can ask someone you know that may have the answers. Don't feel down on yourself because you don't quite understand the novel at first.
3) Read, reread, and then read slowly over and over. Get it? It takes rereading the text several times for us to be able to see things we may have missed. Even then, we'll most likely still not fully grasp every symbolic or metaphoric meaning in the novel.
4) Take notes, ask questions, and write in the margins. One thing I have learned over the years is to utilize the space between the words and the remaining page space. Fill it in with your thoughts, questions, and even concerns. I love talking to my books and characters when I read. So many times I'll simply write in the margin, "What are you thinking?" Or, "You idiot!" Later when I go back over the pages, I look at those notes and I am able to start getting in the head of the characters. It helps me then puzzle my way through what is happening in the text.
5) Look for repeated phrases and underline specific word choices. Writing is a form of art. One of the reasons it is difficult to read is because the author may use words that are symbolic, metaphoric, etc., which means the readers have the fun task of putting on their detective hats. If any phrases or word choices, or even character behaviors stand out to you, underline them and then write down what you think was implied by those choices. Remember, unless the author specifically said: "Hey, this novel is about this, this, and this, and you should know this, this, and this" the text is totally up for your personal interpretation.

I think that is enough for you to get started, otherwise I would go on and on, and bore you all to tears. Before I go, though, I do want to share some examples of how I would personally start a couple classic novels, and I'm even throwing in a surprise book at the end!

This first one is the opening of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. What I do is scan the first page, and then make notes of the most obvious details. A few I found are:
  1. The novel is written in first person, meaning the narrator is directly telling the story.
  2. It's a cold winter, as described in the scenery and setting.
  3. The narrator "never liked long walks..."
  4. Physically inferior to: Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.
  5. Made an outsider to the happy group by (presumably) the mentioned Mrs. Reed.
  6. Characters so far: Narrator, Mrs. Reed, Bessie (the nurse), Eliza, John, and Georgiana.
From the title of the book, we can guess that Jane (herself) is the one talking, but other than that the first page has just shared a few minor, or maybe not minor, details.

The second example is from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burrnett. From scanning the first page, I take away this:
  1. Chapters have titles, which are potentially significant: "There is no one left"
  2. Not in first person, so the story is being told ABOUT Mary Lennox, not BY her.
  3. Sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle.
  4. "Most disagreeable" meaning she was an ugly child. Here the narrator confirms this, so I automatically assume that the narrator has seen Mary, and knows this to be fact from personal experience. Then I question: who is the narrator? Why are they telling this story?
  5. Mary was born in India.
  6. Always sickly.
  7. Her father held a position under the English Government, which could be why Mary was born in India. He was sickly himself.
  8. Mary's mother was a great beauty, loved the party scene, did not want a daughter, and handed Mary over to the care of Ayah.
  9. Characters so far: Narrator, Mary, father, mother, Ayah, and possibly "Memsahib."
And the final example is from Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Let's see what the first page tells us!
  1. Chapter title: "The Boy Who Lived' meaning he was maybe supposed to die? If so, then the story will unfold the why's and how's of this event.
  2. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley live at "number four Privet Drive"
  3. Proud people. Didn't get involved with anything strange and mysterious because they were above that crowd. (note my implied sarcasm)
  4. This novel is in second-person perspective, meaning they use the words "you" and "yours" in order to talk directly to the readers. The narrator wants the readers personally involved with this story.
  5. Mr. Dursley, director of Grunnings--- which made drills. Big man with a large mustache.
  6. Mrs. Dursley, was thin and blonde, liked to spy on the neighbors.
  7. They had a small son, Dudley, who was perfect in his parent's eyes. (implied eye roll)
  8. They had a big secret. A secret they didn't want discovered.
First, the Dursley's prided themselves on their normal life, yet they were keeping a huge secret. It makes me suspicious of their too perfect life. Second, did Mrs. Dursley spy because she was paranoid? As much as I want to believe these are nice people, from the first page it is very unlikely that the Dursley's are as "normal" as they pretend to be.

If you've ever wanted to read literature, and have been shying away from it, I hope my tips can help in some way! It's a lot to take in when you first sit down to read, but if you do so with an open mind and a little bit of patience, you'll begin to see books and novels in a whole new way!

the lit nerd

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Summer Vacation (rambly ramblings post)

Even though summer is still going, especially here in Southern California, vacation is fast ending for me. The Fall semester at ASU begins Thursday, and it'll be time for me to hibernate (in a way) until the holidays are here. This time of the year is always bittersweet for me because it's the closing of another season, another chapter, but also the beginning of my favorite time of the year. In my mind, summer is beach waves, long nights, barbeques, and lazy days. It may be more fantasy then reality, but no matter what, summer always winds up going by in a blur. What did I really do with the months I had off? Did I spend my days wisely, did I see a sunset, did I appreciate waking up whenever I felt like it on Saturdays? These questions fill my mind when school is just a breath away.

Besides turning another year older in my 30's, I went on my first official road trip. From California all the way to South Dakota, hours and hours were spent on the road. The trip itself happened in June for just nine days and nine nights. It's crazy how much planning went into it, and then it was over in a flash. My favorite part of the trip was the scenery. I've never had my breath taken away as many times as I did. The last time I experienced anything like that was in 2015 when we went to the Grand Canyon. There truly are times when sights cannot be put into words. Driving through Arizona, for the half hour we did, the rock formations were so huge it still blows my mind. In Utah, we passed through the Rockies before winding up in Provo, and then soon after in Evanston, Wyoming. We saw more of Wyoming as far as states go, and I'm totally okay with that. I loved it there. It did not disappoint at all. I'm already wanting to go back to the places I saw, and then to the places I haven't seen there.

Despite getting sick near the end of the trip, and having to deal with it even now... this summer has been one of the more relaxed ones I think I've had in a while. I've had time to read, to listen to music, to sip coffee, discover new products, and enjoy spontaneous family visits. As sad as I am to begin school, I am glad this summer is ending (for me at least) with the sun still shining, and promises of a new season just around the corner!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Lover's Day with Elizabeth Bennet and Katniss Everdeen

It's Book Lovers Day! If you've seen my Instagram post, then everything below will be repeating, but I do want to expand just a little bit more on what I said. The past two years, it seems like all I've done is read books, analyze books, and write about books (which I'm not really complaining about). Being an English student has helped give me the tools to read literature with a critical eye. I have learned to look at every detail, which is why it may seem odd that I'm connecting Elizabeth Bennet and Katniss Everdeen--- two characters that seem to have nothing in common--- with the same theme. To me, both Elizabeth and Katniss were placed in peculiar situations, and rose to the challenge in brave ways. What theme? What ways? See below.

One of my favorite authors is Jane Austen, and Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels. With this novel, we tend to get caught up in the swoon-worthiness of Mr. Darcy (for obvious reasons--- like heart eyes and all of that fun stuff) but we may be skipping over one of the most significant scenes: when Elizabeth denied Mr. Collins. In the movie version, this scene is quite comical, and although I like it--- it can be slightly misleading because I find the scene to be more significant then just humorous. When Elizabeth refused to marry Collins, she placed herself in a vulnerable position as a woman in her time. A lot of women were marrying for security instead of for love and happiness. Those things (love and happiness) were unrealistic to some women, because their reality was facing being alone and without any income (see Charlotte's reasoning in the novel). If they did fall in love, or at least come to some love, with their husband it was a bonus. They couldn't trust or risk waiting for their soulmate because it was too scary for them. So, when Elizabeth denied Mr. Collins, everyone was shocked. Why would she risk potentially everything for a dream that may never happen? Elizabeth's outcome could have led to devastating consequences, but she still wasn't willing to risk her own happiness for a loveless marriage, one she would have had with Mr. Collins.

It was incredibly brave what she did. Elizabeth chose to take a risk, and so did Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Katniss defied President Snow's rules in order to save her sister and also to put an end to his unspeakable actions with the games. She could have submitted to the rules and lived her life the way others had, and were wiling to, but she instead made a choice to place herself in a deadly situation. Katniss went head-to-head with Snow in order to inspire the Districts. She gave the people a reason to fight for their freedom. Katniss "the girl on fire" knew happiness would never be hers if she submitted to Snow's will. Both characters, in two totally different eras, and two totally different genres, are inspirational and empowering women. They did the opposite of what others in their times and situations did, and without knowing what would happen to them in the end. To me, they both had to try for something better, chance it all, because not trying was even worse.

the lit nerd

Two Natural Products I've Recently Added To My Collection

Acure and Andalou were the first two organic and natural skincare brands that I tried. It should be no surprise then that two years later I'm still using their products and recommending them to others. Recently, I saw a post on Instagram Stories that had the Acure dry oil body spray (although it was the coconut one). I immediately looked it up and placed an order for it on Vitacost. Instead of getting the coconut dry oil, I opted for the citrus ginger because I always gravitate toward coconut oil based products, and I really wanted to try something new and different. I'm glad I did, because the scent is so light and soft. I have a sensitivity to scents, and easily get headaches, so trust me when I say that the scent of this oil is faint enough not to cause sensory overload, but also strong enough to leave behind a fresh citrus scent.

In the same order, I picked up Andalou's Clementine hand cream. As you can see, there was a citrus theme going on. I didn't even realize it until I was going through the package and realized almost everything I ordered was citrus scented in some way! Although I've tried Andalou's body cream before, I've never tried one of their hand creams. I'm really, really, fussy with hand creams because I hate it when they're too greasy, or take too long to seep into my skin. I don't want to have to wait a long time before I feel safe enough to touch things. With this hand cream, it absorbs almost immediately, smells just as refreshing and soft as the Acure dry oil, and leaves my hands feeling incredibly soft. The clementine scent is slightly sharp, but it also smells exactly like the fruit. I like this since it feels like a natural ingredient, and not something artificial that smells too sickly sweet.

Overall, I am more than pleased with these two products, and happy to have them in my beauty collection. I've been using them daily, and am already planning to repurchase when I run out. I also want to try out the other scents in both of these lines!

Monday, August 7, 2017

What I'm Reading #5: "Moonglass" by Jessi Kirby

I seem to have found another YA novel that has a heavier theme then a lot of them do. In Moonglass by Jessi Kirby, the main character, Anna, is angry at her father for moving them away from their home. Throughout the novel, Anna learns why her father moved them back to the beach town he first met her mother, and also discovers the answers behind her mother's death. This novel, similar in it's heavy content to Kirby's Golden, manages to weave humor and tragedy in a way that is both fitting for a YA novel, and yet still poignant for older adults reading.

Anna's journey through her grief is at times upsetting, especially since Moonglass doesn't shy away from the topics of depression, possible mental illness, guilt, death, and even suicide. This novel is definitely not an average cute read, but it is also really (ironically) cute, funny, and charming with its inclusion of Anna's love interest, and the friends she meets at school.

When I picked up this book from my shelf, I did so knowing I would probably like it because I loved Golden... and also because I had the chance to meet Jessi Kirby in 2012, and now her novels have a deeper connection with me since I can tie them to the author. I already have another Kirby novel on my iPad waiting to go plus I'm already eyeing the book she just released this past week. Yep. Jessi Kirby novels (at least the two I've read) have both been great reads!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Choosing Healthier + Natural Products (organic ramblings)

About two years ago I started looking into more organic and natural skincare because my face was breaking out with almost any moisturizer, etc., that I was putting on it. It was also around that time I discovered beauty videos on YouTube. Although I went the conventional makeup route, I did start buying skincare products that were made with clean ingredients. I'm happy to say that since then, I really haven't put skincare products on my face that aren't made with mostly organic ingredients. Sure, some of them test high on the Think Dirty app, but I've been slowly replacing those. What I am saying is that I've been way more ingredient cautious with skincare then I have with makeup, for which I am going to rectify because I want my makeup to be as clean as any other product I use.

In May, when I was looking up an ingredient in a product, I was honestly shocked by what it was made of and that most of the makeup I own/ed is not cruelty free. From that moment, I've been clearing out my makeup that has been tested on animals. That day, something stuck me and I haven't been able to shake the feeling that I don't want to buy any product that an animal had to suffer for in order for me to have. There are so many brands and options out there that don't torture animals in the process, so I've decided to use up what has already been in my collection, and then never buy those products and from those brands again.

In that same mindset, I have also been looking into natural and organic makeup brands to slowly begin building a new collection of beauty products from skincare, makeup, hair, and hygiene. I know it's going to be a long process, because it's going to require plenty of research in order to educate myself on good verses bad ingredients, and weeding out the brands that claim to be organic, yet rate high on the EWG and Think Dirty apps (two that I am now using to check ingredients). For the last three weeks, I've been watching/finding green beauty videos, and am so relieved to know that even they say it's overwhelming at first to get started in the more healthy alternatives for beauty. Honestly, it is overwhelming, but I am firstly making sure things I buy are cruelty free, and then moving forward with finding and choosing healthier/more natural and organic products. Whew!

Products pictured // Schmidt's Bergamot + Lime Natural Deodorant // Bare Republic Mineral Lip Balm Sunscreen // Vitafusion MultiVites /