health

Herbalism: My Favorite Tools

As a baby herbalist, I feel fortunate to have so many tools at my disposal. Plant identification apps, online herbalist courses, and countless hours of discussion on YouTube have really opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of the herbalism world.

Today, I’ll be sharing a few tools that I’ve found invaluable in my growing herbal practice. If you’re interested in taking your wellness back into your own hands, I implore you to research safe and effective plants that you can incorporate into your wellness plan, and then venture out into preparing those plants in different ways: as infusions (teas), tonics, tinctures, poultices, and more. The more that you experiment, the more that your knowledge grows. I hope this little list of tools helps you. Enjoy!

One of my first major investments into my herbal practice is my drying rack. I love using this when preparing herbs that I harvested myself, or when I purchase a bundle of fresh herbs at the store. This one by Adwaita is large, and can accommodate a lot of plant material. I use this almost every day, as I frequently find myself eager to preserve my fresh herbs.

After trying to crumble herbs by hand a few times, I knew that I needed a mortar and pestle. This one has a really nice weight and ergonomic design. I love that it doesn’t shift around when I use it: the weighted base keeps the bowl firmly in place. It also has a sleek look that I enjoy.

I regularly prep my herbs on this cutting board. It’s a large and attractive workspace: using it is always a pleasure. I sometimes use it to take photos of some of my herbs as I’m trying different blends. I love this work surface!

Eventually, I’ll be standardizing some of my preparations, so an inexpensive digital scale was a must. I purchased this last week but I haven’t used it yet: I’m looking forward to eventually offering my herbal mixtures and I fully intend to be consistent in my formulations.

These are my favorite herbal tools at this point, and I’m slowing growing my collection to include all of the tools that I need to create the herbal products that I enjoy using. That’s all for today: let me know if you use anything like the items that I mentioned above!

beauty

Review: LA Colors Velvet Lip Mousse

So . . . A few weeks ago, I took a little trip to the Dollar Tree and spent WAY too much on cheap makeup. As you all know, bargain beauty items are my kryptonite, so I find it hard to say no when the products are so cheap and fun to try.

I saw that LA Colors has recently released a line of lip colors, and the name of the products intrigued me. LA Colors Velvet Lip Mousse promise to deliver “velvety matte texture” and, I’m assuming, vivid color. I bought one in each shade available, because even if the color was “off”, I was confident that I could finesse it into a more flattering hue.

Lip Mousses in (l to r) Rhapsody, Souffle, Silky and Whipped

The shades I purchased are Rhapsody, Souffle, Silky and Whipped. Rhapsody is a deep berry shade, Souffle is a peachy nude, Silky is a vivid cerise, and Whipped is a bright crimson with orange undertones. Kudos to LA Colors for creating lipsticks to flatter both warm- and cool-toned girls.

Color swatches (l to r) Rhapsody, Souffle, Silky and Whipped
Silky mixed with Crucifix

The colors apply smoothly and don’t have any flavor or scent. I wore Silky paired with one of my favorite lipsticks – Crucifix by Kat Von D – and I loved the combination. The lipstick has a matte finish but doesn’t feel drying, which is nice. The Velvet Lip Mousses appear to mix well with other lipsticks, and, while not smudge-proof, they do last a long while. I ate and drank while wearing Silky, and I didn’t have to reapply. I haven’t tried pairing these with glosses, though I’m assuming that could be a pretty look, too.

My thoughts? These are a great inexpensive product and certainly worth trying. If you want to experiment with a different lip shade, or if you like low-cost cosmetics, this is a winner!

Have you tried this product? Let me know your thoughts below!

beauty · health · life curation

June Empties

Hi friends! I was feeling a little unwell, so I skipped yesterday’s post, but I’m making up for it by posting a HUGE June empties post! I am amazed at how much product I emptied last month. In a future post, I’ll explain why I’m focusing on empties and the overall goal of this little project. For now, here are my thoughts on my June empties. Enjoy!

So I have a LOT of perfume samplers/minis. I adore scent so I like to purchase trial sizes so I can try a fragrance without having to make a huge commitment. I had a trial set from Commodity which I had planned to review but I ended up disliking most of the scents so I didn’t bother to write about it. However, there were three fragrances I really enjoyed, and I ended up using the last of those this past month. Magnolia, Mimosa and Tea were lovely fragrances that I look forward to wearing again. On a side note, I saw that Commodity closed unexpectedly on March 31st, but the brand was saved by an investor and is experiencing a reboot, so the fragrances can still be purchased at this time.

Magnolia by Commodity
Mimosa by Commodity
Tea by Commodity

Onward to skin care . . . I really love The Ordinary, and I’ve discussed it multiple times so I’ll spare you my profuse praise. However, I used up my Argireline Solution this past month. I love to use it on my smile lines and forehead creases. I’ll purchase more after I use up some of my other products for facial lines (like The Ordinary’s Alpha Arbutin).

Argireline Solution 10%

As far as body care goes, I finished using my mini L’Occitane Amande Shower Oil. I got this as part of a L’Occitane gift set earlier this year. This product smells incredible: floral yet slightly musky at the same time. The scent doesn’t linger, but the moisturizing effects remain after scent dissipates. Once I use up some of my other body washes, I’ll repurchase this.

L’Occitane Amande Shower Oil

Now onto hair care. The funny part of my hair care is that it’s minimal at best: I don’t spend a lot of time on my hair, though I anticipate that will change in the upcoming months. I use these very inexpensive conditioners to detangle my hair prior to shampooing. My hair is kinky/curly so I use a lot of product to detangle and moisturize. VO5 and Pantene are low-priced so I don’t mind being a little “heavy-handed” when applying. When I’m running low on deep conditioner, I will use the Pantene to help “stretch” the product.

VO5 Passion Fruit Smoothie conditioner; Pantene Curl Perfection conditioner

After shampooing, I apply a deep conditioner to help moisturize my hair and restore the protein balance. I recently finished this jar of Aphogee Curlific Texture Treatment and I must say that I’m VERY impressed with this product. I noticed that my hair retained a “stretched” state once dried, and my post-shampoo detangle session was a breeze. If you want a product that can help elongate the hair in preparation for stretched or straightened styles, this is a great product to try.

Aphogee Curlific Texture Treatment

After shampooing and deep conditioning, I moisturize using the LOC method – Liquid, Oil, and Cream products, applied in that order. My liquid product of choice is Infusium 23 Leave In Treatment. This bottle was large, so it took a while to use it up. I occasionally tried other liquid leave-ins, but I always end up coming back to Infusium 23. I only wish that the product was in a different bottle (with a spray top). I ended up transferring the liquid to a spray bottle for easier application.

Finally, I finished a tube of an eco-friendly toothpaste that I purchased. Hello Epic Whitening Toothpaste has activated charcoal and acai berry, along with mint for freshness. The product is black but it brightens the teeth as you use it. I love the flavor and I enjoyed the results. I’ll certainly use it again, but I have a TON of toothpaste that was gifted to me (long story LOL) so it will be a while before I do a repurchase.

Those are my empties for June! I love that I have so many items that I’m using up completely before repurchasing. It feels good to know that I’m being smart with my money and purchasing from an empowered, instead of desperate, emotional space. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!

***Post contains affiliate links

health

Fibro Fridays: My Difficult Diagnosis Journey

As promised, I’m back to share with you my journey to diagnosis. I’ve discussed some aspects of this journey before, but I really wanted to share additional details of what was involved with getting diagnosed. It’s really easy for me to focus on the immediate months leading up to my diagnosis, but, in all honesty, my diagnosis was a nearly 5-year journey of doctors’ visits and frustrating experiences before I confirmed what was happening with my body.

I had two primary care doctors throughout the time that I’ve suffered from fibro symptoms. My first doctor didn’t see anything concerning on my bloodwork, but she believed me when I said that I felt unwell. She referred me to a rheumatologist for clarity (an appropriate response), because some autoimmune conditions cannot be determined from basic blood testing. I visited the rheumatologist, who seemed to understand that I was experiencing extraordinary stress along with physical discomfort. However, after completing one round of blood tests, she ended up dismissing my concerns (as you all may know, fibromyalgia cannot be determined by blood testing, which is why some medical professionals deny its existence). I was discouraged by my pain but also relieved that I was not suffering from an autoimmune condition.

I continued to battle my symptoms and found myself vacillating between less pain and more pain, but never experiencing a complete absence of pain. After the first doctor decided to retire from medicine, I started working with a second doctor, who repeated the blood work 3 years after my last round of testing. This doctor also didn’t see anything concerning on my blood testing, but she attributed my symptoms to stress and a demanding daily routine. She didn’t seem to believe that my physical symptoms were real and not easily remedied by minor lifestyle changes.

After having a horrible symptom flare, I knew that I had to take my health into my own hands. I directly contacted a rheumatology office that had good reviews and scheduled my appointment sans referral (I have a PPO for this reason: waiting for referrals can be frustrating). I had already been discussing my symptoms with friends, and more than one of them mentioned fibro as a possibility. I did a little research and was able to clearly communicate my concerns with the rheumatologist. Less than one month later, I had a diagnosis confirming that I was indeed suffering from fibromyalgia.

I “fired” my primary care doc and got a new doctor that was far better for me and my condition. I worked with several specialists and finally started to feel better for the first time in years. The journey wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I’m just glad that it only took me a few months from the time that I took control of my healthcare to get a diagnosis: for that, I’m fortunate. I know intimately how this process can take many years and many tears, and anyone suffering from this condition has my sympathy and empathy. This path isn’t for the weak, which is why some have labeled themselves “fibro warriors”.

If you have a fibro warrior in your life, please send them a little loving energy: this isn’t an easy experience, and many are doing the best that they can.

That’s all for this week. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe 4th of July weekend. Take care!

travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: China Pt 3

My final installment of the Throwback Thursday Travel series takes me back to China. This time, I’m reflecting on Shanghai, the last city I visited in China. I’ll always remember SH as a dynamic city with a vibrant nightlife and fantastic shopping. Here are some of my photos from my trip. Enjoy!

Stopping at Gucheng Park
Shopping in SH
The hotel where I stayed
Interior chandeliers
Mini fountain display at the hotel
The larger hotel fountain
Sightseeing
More sightseeing
At Meters/Bonwe
Going to see the acrobats

life curation · Uncategorized

Welcome July!

Can you all believe that we’re halfway through the year? This was the LONGEST six months ever! How are you all holding up?

It’s been a difficult year for most of us so far. We’ve been challenged with natural distasters, health pandemics, and political upheaval. Yet, we’re still here. We are survivors, and that is reason enough to celebrate.

In spite of the year we’ve experienced up to this point, there is no reason to have a negative perspective for the months to come. We can still plan to have a beautiful summer, a gorgeous fall, and a spectacular winter. There is so much to look forward to: let’s embrace it!

As for me, I’m rewriting some of my 2020 plans, as I have gotten some additional clarity on some of my goals. I’m excited to incorporate more beauty, relaxation, and quality experiences in my life during the upcoming months. The first order of business is enjoying a luxurious picnic as soon as the weather is a little more favorable (it’s far too hot to enjoy outdoor dining at this time).

Do you all have any plans for how you’ll make the most of the remainder of this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

beauty · hollywood glamour

Vintage Beauty: Francine Everett

A few months ago, I was browsing one of the many Facebook groups that I joined for photos of vintage fashion. While perusing some pics, I was quickly drawn in by one beauty that I’d never seen before. After a little digging, I confirmed that the lovely woman was Francine Everett, a Black actress from the 1930s and 1940s. Her career was brief, but she was a luminous and talented woman. I was so intrigued by her that I spent some time watching a couple of the movies that she starred in, as well as a few shorts that featured her.

Francine Everett (from Tumblr)

I want to discuss “Dirty Gertie from Harlem“, which echoed the theme of “loose” women being doomed to a tragic ending. During this period, female characters that were not traditional or conservative were almost always written as tragic figures. It’s fascinating to see how, less than 60 years after “Dirty Gertie”, shows like “Sex and the City” thrive on the premise of women being in control of their sexuality and not “doomed” because they refuse to marry and “settle down” with one man.

Screenshot of Everett in “Dirty Gertie from Harlem” (from MoMa.org)

I wish that Everett had more movies because she truly “lit up” the screen. I was impressed with her acting and I know that should could have been a star if she had only been born at a different, later time.

I hope you check out Everett’s movies, and tell me: do you have any vintage actor or actress favorites?

food

Fun New Recipes to Try

Happy Monday! This weekend, I found some great free food and drink workshops, as well as some creative, tasty menu ideas for when we are able to be social without the need to do much distancing. Here are the fun ideas I’ve found recently: enjoy!

Freedom Fruit Cocktail and Mocktail (presented by the US Botanic Garden)

Zuke Alors! Zucchini Salad (also presented by the US Botanic Garden)

Garden Tea Party Menu (TeaTime Magazine)

The Perfect Martini – Three Ways (Robb Report)

I hope you all have fun with these recipes! I plan to experiment with a few of them in the weeks to come. If you decide to give any of them a try, please let me know: I’m dying to see how it turns out for you!

health

Fibro Fridays: My Five Favorite Spoonie Essentials

Happy Friday! I hope you all had an amazing week and an amazing weekend ahead! It’s Fibro Friday, so I’m sharing some more tidbits from my fibromyalgia journey. One of the things I’ve noticed is that there are a few items that I keep nearby (especially during flares) to make my life a little easier and more pleasant. Here are five of my favorite “spoonie” essentials (if you want to know more about “spoonies” and Spoon Theory, you can read my post here). If you have some essentials that you think should be on my list, please share in the comments!

If I had to toss my spoonie essentials into a backpack, these are the ones I would include.

Knee pillow – Sometimes, my trigger points can be especially sensitive, to the point where it hurts for the insides of my knees to touch one another. When this happens, I love using a knee pillow for relief. There are knee pillow designed for side, back, and stomach sleepers. I have two knee pillows, but this one is my favorite.

Magnesium cream – I’ve written about this before, so if you want more information, you can check out this previous Fibro Friday post.

Ginger candy – This is one that I suspect a lot of spoonies keep nearby, because they are so handy and effective. Sometimes, even if you don’t have a digestive condition (such as IBS or chronic nausea symptoms), you will still find yourself feeling a bit nauseous. Fibro is a condition of nerve dysfunction and improper nervous perception, so there’s an element of unpredictability with the symptoms. In any case, nausea can flare up unexpectedly, and ginger candy can be great for soothing upset stomachs. I’m including the link to my current preferred ginger candy (you can probably find it for a much better price in stores, but if you can’t find it, this Amazon link may help). I prefer a stronger ginger flavor, so ginger mints are my favorite. However, I’m also including the link to a milder version that I used years ago, which are also effective.

Kindle E-reader – When I’m spending a lot more time in bed, I like having my Kindle e-reader nearby. My Kindle is OLD (LOL!) but it still works well. The most economical Kindle available right now is less than $100 USD but it is a great item to have, especially if you’re a bibliophile like me. I love that Kindle e-readers retain their charge much longer than my cellphone, and it’s far more portable than my laptop. Here is the basic black Kindle e-reader.

Easy-to-prepare foods – Some days are more exhausting than others. When I simply don’t have the energy to prepare an elaborate meal, I enjoy having a few easy-to-prepare foods around the house. I love instant soups, noodles, and even protein shakes that take less than five minutes to prepare. The local international grocers have a lot of healthier quick meals than typical grocers, so I generally prefer to shop there. However, one of my favorite meals is by Tsubi Soups (I’ve written about it here) and I can only order it online.

That’s all for this week! I hope your weekend is spectacular, and I’ll be back on Monday. Take care and be safe!

*This post contains affiliate links.

life curation · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: New Orleans, Part Deux

As promised, I’m sharing the second part of my photos taken during my trip to New Orleans several years ago. These photos were taken at Woldenberg Park, which is on the Mississippi riverfront. I loved the statues and beautiful setting. The only thing I wish could be improved was the cleanliness of the Mississippi River. Such a striking body of water deserves to be cleaner and beautified. However, only time will tell if this is possible. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these pictures!