Sunday, June 20, 2021

Beauty at Any Age

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 “I don't believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one's aspect to the sun.”

- Virginia Woolf
 
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It's almost that time of year again, when I turn over another year on the calendar.  And once again I find myself stumbling across Facebook photos of yet another of my 40-something friends who has opted for plastic surgery rather than accept her age.  Am I crazy to think we can and should age a little more naturally?  I'm always a little disappointed when I see this because I was looking at them to be my example and show me how to have grace and class without desperately giving in to the pressure to be forever-young.  But they always do, especially in their 40s.  And the result is not usually someone who looks much younger, but rather someone who's trying to seem like they are younger and it's pitiable rather than enviable.

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The 40s seem to be that in-between phase where women still feel young and vivacious but are considered "old" by society.  They're told they are no longer relevant, attractive, desirable, etc. while at the same time many of them have daughters who are just beginning to get attention and it can create rivalries (which is basically the entire premise of that sad show Cougar Town).  As someone who started going gray at seven years old and is now as salt and peppery as a venerable grandmother, I understand not wanting to look old before your time.  And I'm all for spending quality time on your appearance at every age.  It's part of self-care.  A stylish wardrobe, a little make-up, a little color on your hair and a little Photo Shop smoothing tool in your photos, those are all good things, but at a certain point people take it too far and it stops looking nice and begins looing freakish.  When a person reaches a certain ratio of gray hair, there's just no amount of highlighting that can cover it.  There's only so much smoothing you can do in  Photo shop before it begins to look plastic.  There has to be some measure of acceptance to aging and even better if it can be joyfully embraced.  So, let's talk about aging a a few things that you can do at whatever age you currently are to skip the scalpel and age naturally and gracefully.  *throughout this post you're going to see links which will take you to articles and studies about each topic for further reading.
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7.  Eat Well.  Having homeschooled my children and then worked at their school I used this analogy often:  Your body is a house that you're building.  If you use cheap junky materials you're going to have a cheap junky product.  If you use high quality materials you're going to have a strong solid house.  Put healthy foods into your body, plenty of protein from meat and fish for muscle building vitamins, fruits and vegetables for vitamins and fiber, and whole grain carbohydrates for energy, and healthy fats are so good for you.  Save the refined carbohydrates and sugar for occasional treats.   Unfortunately the opposite is usually true of our diets in this country.  Most of our calories come from sugar and refined carbs which leads to a host of health problems in the long term like diabetes, gallstones, estrogen imbalance, etc.  Poor diet can also lead to poor sleep.
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6.  Sleep Well.  Sleeping well sets you up for aging well as studies have shown that getting enough quality sleep each night puts you at a reduced risk of things like cancer, heart attack, depression, weight gain, and the list goes on.  During sleep your body is repairing itself outside and inside, keeping your immune system healthy and better able to fight off illness.  Studies have also shown that this is also the time when your brain is flushing toxins which probably why sleeping well improves memory and reduces depression.  As someone who has struggled with insomnia for most of her life, I've become a bit of a self-taught expert at relaxation techniques and optimal bedtime routines, both of which are important for a good night's sleep.  One of the best ways to improve your quality of sleep is to get plenty of exercise.
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5.  Exercise.  Exercise has been shown to increase the amount of deep sleep a person gets and deep sleep is when most of the body's restoration occurs.  Beyond an improved quality of sleep, exercise reduces stress, anxiety, depression--all of which can cause you to age quickly--, and contributes to healthy weight maintenance.  Think of it, depression and anxiety can be managed without expensive prescriptions that carry dangerous side effects.  Exercise is free and the only side effects are weight loss and better sleep.  Exercise also promotes better circulation which makes your skin healthier and look younger.
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4.  Skin CareIf you don't have a skin care regimen, Get One and then stick to it daily for the rest of your life.  Skin care should be like brushing your teeth and showering, it's just something you do daily as part of your self-care routine.  Keep in mind that your routine and the products you use should change each decade or so.  I've been using Mary Kay since I was in my early 20s and one of the things I love about it is that they have a different line for each phase of life.  I'm soon to start my nightly retinol + skin milk creams since I'm beginning to have fine lines and wrinkles.  It's also important to apply skin creams not just to your face but also to your neck, chest, and hands, and anywhere that gets tons of sun exposure.  Don't avoid the sun, just plan on it with before and after care products.  
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3. Socialize.  We need people in our lives.  I don't know if it's the mid-west, or America in general, but it's like pulling teeth to get people here to leave their houses for any reason.  I've been stood up more times for lunch dates in the past few years living here than I have in all the other years of my life combined.  It's harder than ever to tear people away from their computers and phones for real conversation and interaction.  The thing is this:  we're social creatures; we need each other.  Studies have shown that having an active social life  adds quality and quantity to your life.  You'll live a better life and live it for longer when you have close family and friendships than if you sit at home alone.
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2.  Keep LearningLearning new skills and trying new things is exercise for your brain.  At a certain point most people lose interest in keeping up with the times, but that can be detrimental to your health.  By trying new things, you're using more of your brain and creating new connections as well.  And keep in mind that hands on skills are far, far better than anything digital, so a video game habit just won't do the trick.  Plus, trying new things is really fun, especially when you make it a social event.
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1.  Forgive Daily.  This one is truly the number one thing that you can do.  Forgiving people who've hurt you, forgiving yourself, letting go of circumstances beyond your control; all of these things lead to less stress, less anger, depression, and anxiety, better sleep, and better relationships.  All of that aggression, stress, and resentment lead to premature aging and a reduced quality of life.  In other words, you'll wear that bitterness on your face.  Forgiveness does more than just improve your health; it sets you free.  And, it's something you should do at the end of each day to keep your heart and your mind free of bitterness.  Make forgiving people, including yourself part of your nightly routine and you'll soon see a huge difference in how well you sleep and your outlook on life.
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While I think that there are times when surgery can be a very good thing for a person's self esteem, more often that not, it is a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable or deny reality.  And, I do understand the pressure on women in particular to stay young and beautiful forever.  My dear reader, I want you to know that your beauty doesn't come from a number.  Beauty is not your age, your weight, or your cup size.  True beauty comes from a joyful, healthy life that is lived to the fullest and all of these steps will help you live your best and happiest life.
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Friday, June 18, 2021

Adventures in Homesteading

When I first started my blog five years ago, I didn't just focus on fashion.  I featured posts on baking, sewing, favorite artists, travel, the works.  As I entered a very difficult season in my life, some of these things fell by the wayside and my main focus was on surviving.  It was enough for me to just get through each day.  Little by little my favorite things are returning, but cooking has been the last thing that I carve out time for.
For whatever reason, I am feeling the cooking bug this year.  I walked out into my yard the other day and saw a host of golden dandelions that had sprung up overnight.  I've been drinking dandelion tea for years, but I've always wanted to try baking with them.  So, I did a little research, employed the help of my youngest child, who happened to be home for the day, and together we made Dandelion Syrup and Dandelion Banana Bread--which in spite of being a very pretty yellow color didn't taste any different from regular banana bread, so I won't be talking about it in this post.
Although we think of them as an indigenous plant, the dandelion was first brought to America by early European settlers for its medicinal uses in aiding digestion and as a diuretic.  Dandelions are also one of the first blossoms of springtime, so I imagine they were used as an early food source at the end of winter when supplies were dwindling.

Dandelion Syrup is a Dutch food, and one which I had never heard of or tried before, but having tasted it I know I will make this yummy treat each spring.  Here's how we made it: First we picked 50 dandelions and removed all the greens.  Only the petals are used for syrup as the greens are quite bitter.  We chose not to wash them so as to preserve the pollen--it's supposed to help with allergies, but we did allow the blossoms to sit in a bowl for 30 minutes so that any tiny things living there could crawl away and find new homes.  
Next we peeled and chopped three medium apples and juiced one lemon.  Then we added petals, apples, lemon juice, and one quart of water to saucepan.  We let that simmer for 30 minutes.  We then strained off the pulp using a cheese cloth, returned the liquid to the pot and added 2.5C (500 grams) of sugar.  We returned the liquid to a simmer until it thickened to a syrupy consistency and poured it into sanitized jars.  
I did not can this syrup, I don't expect it to be around very long.  The taste and consistency of our batch is quite like a lovely floral honey, perfect for biscuits, crackers with smoked Irish cheddar, or as a little topping for vanilla mascarpone cheesecake as you see here.  
So delicious, where has this been all my life.  This whole endeavor has me more than a little excited for my next cooking adventure.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Hey, Lipstick! You're the Balm!

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 "I feel absolutely naked without my lipstick!"  bonus points if you know from which classic movie this quote has come.  Lipstick: love it or hate it, need it or forget it.  Personally I'm of two minds about lipstick, because I love the way it looks but hate the way it feels.  I always remember to take it with me but almost always forget to put it on.  If you're on the fence about this cosmetic staple, let's go over the benefits of wearing lipstick and a few work arounds if it's not your most favorite accessory.

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1.  Protect & Heal.  A moisturizing lipstick can protect against chapping, pealing lips, and one with SPF can even protect against sun damage on this very delicate skin.
2.  Confidence Bump.  Hey, remember that post about power suits, well think of lipstick as the power suit for your smile.  No, wait, don't think of it like that, that's a terrible analogy.  The psychology is the same though.  Lipstick, particularly a bold bright shade, makes you feel beautiful, powerful, confident, and that's the best reason to do anything.
3.  Define your lips.  In the same way that shoes can make or break the outfit, pale lifeless lips can ruin even the best features or make-up application.  And, let's face it, when you talk to people they're going to be looking at your mouth, so why not make it look its best and put on a little color and shine.
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Those are just a few of the benefits of wearing lipstick, but if you're still not a fan, here are a few work arounds.  1.  Go Matte.  Most people's problem with lipstick is the sticky feeling or the fact that it smudges.  Finding a nice Matte lipstick, I like NYX Suede Matte-$8, feels like wearing nothing at all and I haven't had a problem with smudging, but I do still remove my lipstick for mealtimes and reapply afterwards, just in case.
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2. Lip Stain.  Lip stain goes on wet but then dries leaving behind a color that won't smudge or have that sticky feeling many don't like and is supposed to last for 8-12 hours.  L'oreal Rouge Signature Lightweight Matte Lip Stain has great reviews and only costs around $10.  Personally, I love this stuff for wearing to work where I feel like I need to have some color on my lips, but I don't have time to be constantly checking for smudges, but I do have to reapply at least once during the work day.
Ashley Dress in Blue Lipstick Print from Bernie Dexter Dress Review
3. Tinted GlossA nice tinted gloss like Baby Lips by Maybelline, is very lightweight with just a hint of color so it feels and looks very natural.  You get a little color with this brand, plus you get the benefit of being protected from chapped lips!
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Monday, June 14, 2021

When the Schedule Runneth Over

This charming daisy meadow is one of the many things I look forward to each summer along with the quiet mornings spent wandering here, watching the sun kiss the mountains good morning.  Today more than usual, I've earned this quiet meadow wandering.
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Walking here, listening to the birds, picking wildflowers and losing myself in my thoughts and plans, this is something I'm doing just for my own relaxation and enjoyment today.  I've had an incredibly full weekend and I believe in balance to all things, so this is the calm after the clamor.  
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I don't like to be super busy, and I don't have any problem saying, "no," to people and tasks if I don't have the time or the interest, but now and then everything happens at once and my schedule runneth over.  But, it also happens from time to time that it's all too important to skip or decline, so I put my big girl dress on and get to it, giving my attention to one thing at a time.
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Everything I did this weekend: helping my daughter train for sports---have I mentioned how much I hate jogging?--, weeding the garden, fence building, whispering soothing words to an ill kitten as it passed from this life--there was nothing the vet could do to help--, helping neighbors move equipment out of their shed in the summer heat, attending the birthday party of a friend-of-a-friend, covering an extra shift at work--none of it was "for me."  
None of those things were how I wanted to spend my weekend after such a long, tiresome work week.  None of those things were even important to me, but everything on that list was important to someone I care about, so I embraced the overflowing schedule and made time for each and every thing that needed tending this weekend. It was necessary because I care about the people involved and I wanted to be there for them when they needed me.
It is at moments like this after my schedule hat runneth over that I find that my joy is full to the brim as well.  The greatest measure of contentment in this life does not come from checking all the things of my own personal wish list.  It comes from clearing my schedule, extending a hand to those around me, and helping when I can.  It comes from putting myself aside and putting someone else first.
And then, at the end of those tasks, I always make certain to leave just a little time for my desires and projects.  I don't regret a single thing I did this weekend, and I am truly enjoying this simple wandering far more than I would otherwise.  Keep yourself on the list and you'll enjoy that blessed time of repose all the more.  

Saturday, June 12, 2021

I Put the Fun in Defunded

I don't do this very often, but get ready for an angry rant.
Do you see this pretty dress?  Who would have thought a few little dresses like this could lead to so much trouble?  But, they did.  You, see I have done a series of posts reviewing dresses like this--that is to say imposters.  I didn't know they were dupes when I first purchased a couple of them, but I quickly learned the hard way.  These dresses are advertised with stolen photos and then when someone places an order, factories scramble to try to make a facsimile of that stolen photo.  So I decided to investigate to see if some of these companies were legit and it was just a few bad seeds.  Turns out, it's all of them.
But, do you know who got in trouble, darling?  Was it the companies stealing photos?  Was it the factories stealing designs?  Was it the marketplace allowing them to profit?  No, it was me.  For talking about them.  I've been demonetized by Blogger and Google because of "promoting counterfeit goods."  Hmmmmmmmmm.  Let's talk about that.
First of all "counterfeit" is a legal term which according to Google means:  made in exact imitation of something valuable or important with the intention to deceive or defraud  I'm not making anything or selling anything here.  I provided links to the specific dresses I review, but I don't profit off of that in any way, shape, or form.  I also, always include the link for the original designer dress, also without any profit for myself.  Furthermore, I have been nothing but honest about the fact that these dresses are knock-offs, I have provided honest, unbiased, extensive reviews.  So, how exactly am I intending to deceive or defraud anyone?  It is the sellers, the factories, and the marketplace, not myself, who are intending to deceive people with stolen photos, stolen designs, and fake reviews. 
So, all the thousands of penny pincher blogs out there that have been telling people for years to buy the off-brands of cereal to save money, are somehow doing something different from what I'm doing?  No, they're saying, "hey, someone's making a cheaper alternative to this.  It may not be as good, but it will save you money."  Does that mean those bloggers will be labeled as counterfeiters or promoting counterfeit goods?  No, they're praised as helping people save money.  Why?  Let's face it, Malt O Meal's Tootie Frooties is totally ripping off Kellog's Fruit Loops.  Malt O Meal is counterfeiting, not the bloggers who talk about it as a money saving option.

 If Google actually cared about stopping this sort of thing those are the people they would go after, and they easily could ban or penalize sites like Ali, but they don't.   They went after me.  I was told to remove my posts or be defunded.  I could remove the posts, except those posts have been among my most popular with so many people telling me they are glad that someone warned them before they spent money on dresses that were not going to look like the photos.  Beyond that, I am just so tired of being told what I can say and to whom, tired of being told how I should look, act, dress, think.   So, I've decided not to remove the posts.
Plus, the joke is on them, because in the five years I've been using blogger, do you know how much money I've made from Google AdSense? $0.00.  That's right.  This is a hobby for me; it's not my source of income.  I do this for fun, so they can't dangle that over my head.  It's my blog and I'll do what I want.  
I understand that it's being hosted by Blogger, so I don't have total autonomy, but I'm not doing anything illegal and as I mentioned, if they actually cared about this issue they'd go after the people who are making and selling these goods, not people like me who are just talking about them, saying they exist, and calling out the lies. 
I really hate censorship.  And, I really, really hate it when people attack my integrity, especially when those people are some of the most power-crazed and crooked people on the planet.  Rant officially over.  I'll go back to smiling and wearing pretty dresses now.
By the way, I do not recommend this dress at all!  It looks nothing like the original PINK IVY Dress from Teuta Matoshi, they promised to send photos for my approval before shipping it and didn't, and it arrived with a stain on it.  I don't recommend doing business with Verngo as this happened with two out of three dresses I purchased there.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Sunshine & Sanguine

I first saw this glorious mural over a year ago and I knew I was going to come down here with my polka dot Karina Dress and take these photos, it just, took me a while to make it happen.  Just looking at all these happy colors puts me in a better mood.  I used to be a very dark and serious person and very unhappy.  I wanted to change all that, so I had to start by getting to know myself.  What's your disposition?  Are you a naturally sunshine-y person, or a gloomy Gus?  If you've never taken one of those personality tests I recommend it.  You can learn a lot about yourself, what you're like, how others perceive you and how you can become a better person by shoring up the weak points and and playing to your strengths.
The whole theory of the four basic personality types--sanguine, melancholic, choleric, and phlegmatic--is an ancient forerunner to psychology.  This theory of the four humors, or temperaments, first described by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine and after whom the physician's Hippocratic oath is named,  in many ways has a basic accuracy that can be useful in self-improvement and in achieving a balanced mental and social life.  So, let's take a moment to talk about the four humors.

1.  Sanguine.  The sanguine personality is the social butterfly:  talkative, charming, high energy, loves crowds and gatherings.  The trouble with the sanguine personality it that they also tend to be self involved (i.e. talking about themselves and their children non-stop for hours....even though no one asked and no one cares), overpowering, and prone to hysteria.  The Sanguine person needs to learn how to be alone and to be quiet to bring balance to their personality.
2.  Melancholic.  This is me to a T.  It's the shy violet, the total opposite of the Sanguine.  Melancholiacs think deeply, feel deeply, prefer to be alone, and like everything neat and tidy.  The downside to melancholiacs is that they become obsessive, isolated, and depressed.  In order to bring balance to this personality, the melancholy person has to reach out, get involved, relax a little, and not over analyze everything.
3. Phlegmatic.  This personality type is so chill, willing to compromise because they value peace so much that people think nothing bothers them but in truth they care deeply.  To find balance this person needs to confront problems and deal with them.  Be honest about being hurt and expressing love, and be ready to stand up and fight for the things and the people that truly matter.
4. Choleric.  This personality type has risen to recognition recently by another name--Karen.  I really, really hated the whole "Karen" thing, but that's a topic for another post.  Choleric personalities are extroverted but goal oriented, they're the take charge type.  Or the "get me the manager" type.  Being a leader is a great quality, being a domineering dictator isn't.  To bring balance to the choleric personality, they need to chill out a little, unclench their iron grip, and accept the fact that they can't control everything-- and they're also not good at running everything--and let other people do their jobs without oversight.  
It's likely that you've identified one or more of those types as being dominant in your personality, and you should know that no matter what type you are, you are a valuable part of the social tapestry, but even more so if you work to have a balance to your temperament. When I started on this journey years ago, I thought I could change my temperament.  I realized that I couldn't change that, but I could bring balance to it.  Don't let your nature and desires rule you.  You can't decide what your tendencies are, but you can decide whether you'll act on them and how you react to the personalities of others.  Take charge, darling; be your best you.
Shopping Info:  Karina Dress is old, Arromic Shoes--$14.99, Bow Knot Hair Hoop - $3.00 from: SHEIN
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