At the end of 2017, my resolution to reduce plastic use was all-encompassing with plans to revolutionize my lifestyle! To fully embrace the art of slow living!... A lifestyle which, according to some of the Instagram accounts I follow, looks like an existence bedecked with lavender garlands, white linens, and old-fashioned bottles of frothy milk. Basically, I'd made plans to live a fantasy not a sustainable reality. Plans that quickly ran up against a couple toddler-sized roadblocks that shall remain nameless, although the biggest roadblock actually proved to be the kind of plastic packaging I suddenly noticed EVERYTHING we consume comes in. (As for that, here is a brilliant piece by Renee Peters of Model 4 Green Living about her own monthlong attempt to cut plastic out of her life.) So, despite those challenges and despite the setbacks, I'm proud that I still made a few small changes to my daily crazy.
Or... is the word "proud" when these changes (listed below) were soooooo easy to make that it counted more as a shift in awareness than willpower or effort? I emphasize the ease of these particular changes for two reasons: yes, I want to entice others to cut out single-use plastic, but, also, I sincerely hope I don't come across as holier-than-thou in these sustainable pursuits of mine! What I hope I come across as is what I am: a totally ordinary but concerned mommy with all the limitations of time and energy that come along with that role. Basically, if I can do it, anyone can! And, whether you're an ordinary, exhausted, and often bedraggled mommy with nary a clean linen in sight or not, once you become aware of the scope of our planet's plastic catastrophe, you do begin to feel icky using and tossing products made of plastic. Even recycling is problematic these days! Overall, I'm learning these changes are a learning process. I still have many goals for 2019, but as for 2018 here are 5 simple, easy changes that have become part of my daily or nearly daily life, and that I think could be achievable for anyone! Click on the pics for a direct link to purchase these reusable goodies from Amazon. For a more comprehensive list of resolutions, check out Eco Cult's 50 Sustainable Resolutions for 2016 here!
1. Reusable Dryer Balls
I promised these changes were super duper easy, so let's start with the easiest of all! $8 wool balls that you simply let lie in your dryer. Added bonus: my kids think gathering them back up after running a load through the dryer and having a few of the balls inevitably tangle up in the sheets is FUN. So you're not using and disposing of single dryer sheets any longer, all without having to do a single thing once you've made the initial purchase. (FYI I bought my reusable dryer balls last year for $8.99 and still have four usable ones left! And we do a lotttt of laundry in these parts. )
2. Reusable Straws
Actually, did I claim switching from Bounce to dryer balls was the easiest switch? Well, reusable straws might tie with that first change. I did accidentally purchase glass straws my first time however. Be warned, those shattered in the sink and made me realize they were dangerous to give to tots. If you're a mom (or as embarrassingly clumsy as I am), consider silicon straws. They come in bright colors, and my kids love them! I know some people need straws, but if you're not one of those people, and I doubt most of the people who use 500 million straws a day are, consider making this easy switch and keep a couple colorful silicon straws in your cutlery drawer or your purse.
3. Reusable Cotton Pads
This switch was originally the most challenging only because it was hard to keep track of those slippery little suckers. (Sorry to plagiarize a phrase, but I just rewatched Pretty Woman and it's on my brain, because I Googled it to see if other women felt like it held up surprisingly well in the #MeToo era, which I'm happy to say they did! Because of Julia Roberts! I recommend it! However, less watchable is the new Broadway musical version, which ugh... there are no words... or Julia Roberts. I mean, why? Whyyy resurrect this tired story of materialism making everything better??? Anyway, this is a rant for another day.) Well, a way around the issue of keeping track of the slippery guys finally occurred to me: keep the box the pads come in for storage, so I can keep track of them! I then hang up the little laundry bag they come with next to my own laundry bag and toss the little bag in with the big one when it's full. That keeps them all together in the wash! I rarely paint my nails these days, so I can understand if people want to use the cotton, disposable kind for harsher chemicals or does the scent wash off? If anyone has used them for both makeup removal and nail polish removal and had success, I'd love to know in the comments below!
4. Reusable Menstrual Cup
Here's where I'm really going to harp on what a 2.5 children-having-married-to-a-corporate-guy-ordinary-basic lady I am, because I know SO MANY women, who continue to be grossed out by the idea of menstrual cups and think they're only for die-hard environmentalists who live on remote islands and don't use shampoo or something. (Or [insert your image of the perfect environmentalist here]). However, if someone as basic as me is using them, I hope more women get inspired to use them as well. I had the same hangups all my friends have until I decided to go ahead and give one a whirl as part of my whole self-education in sustainability. No, I didn't want to mess with my vajajay, either, which is the number one worry I hear from my friends: that there's something icky about the whole idea. I too feared it would be gross or messy. It's not. It's liberating. You become less grossed out by your own body, which is as it should be. It takes a sec to master the whole breaking the seal thing, but only a sec, and if you're careful and slow with learning how the seal works, it's not particularly messy or different from the tampon... er procedure, either. I also know tampons contain toxic chemicals, but I was more concerned with how many tampons a woman uses in her life and tosses-- about 11,000. That's expensive for you and expensive for the environment.
However, if toxicity does bother you, consider this: if you wouldn't put a tampon in your mouth, why put those chemicals in your vagina? Same body! At any rate, some of my friends prefer the Luna cup. I prefer the Diva. Here's another bonus: I was at the pool with a friend who hadn't had kids yet. She's a swimming instructor and one day I noticed she was wearing shorts in the pool. Her flow was really heavy she explained and she didn't want to risk... you know... anything, because as anyone knows with a heavy flow, tampons are limited in their effectiveness. "Oh my God, you have to try a Diva cup," I told her. "You can wear bikinis again. And white pants! You don't have to worry about accidents." It was like those tampon commercials only way grislier and wayyyyy more liberating! Her life changed, my life changed. Trust me: go get yourself a cup!!! Take ownership of your body and your flow and your impact on the planet! Just all good things! If you get inspired by anything on this list, I hope it's this, because, really, tampons are some bs. (That is, unless you have a medical issue that disallows use of a cup! I'm only talking about the women who have a choice.)
5. Reusable Water Bottle
This one became a concern when my sister who's a water scientist and professor-- or a fluvial geomorphologist as it took me years to learn to say-- informed me that most tap water is actually better quality than bottled water! (It was such a shock I wrote a haibun about it which was published at Every Day Poetry, which now no longer exists online, sigh, so allow me to plug my book real quick, because it's the only place you can read it now.) If you live in Flint, Michigan, bad tap water continues to be a problem, which is some more bs for a different day, but anyway you might be surprised at the quality of the free water flowing from your own tap! Here in Philly, because of taste issues, we filter our tap water with a Brita, but overall I'm in love with my 'Swell bottle! It's so easy to carry around and it keeps my water cold even on a hot day!
Wearing all thrifted clothes from eBay or Greene Street Consignment. Another change! I LOVE thrifting!
These were all such simple changes that involved a couple small initial purchases-- most of which meant investments in reusable objects that were priced under $10! And there's plenty more changes I can make in that price-point! For example, I only recently learned there are small amounts of plastic in teabags after beginning to follow 1 Million Women on Instagram, so my Christmas present to myself this year was a tea strainer. That might sound like a lame self-gift, but I really love my evening cup of tea and I think it will add another element of grace to the nightly ritual.
I'd love to keep on adding changes from here well past 2018, 2019, and off into a better future for all. Have you guys heard of the 1 Million Women Movement? It's all about (mostly but not exclusively) women around the world making these kind of small daily changes in how our households are run, because these small changes when done on a larger scale can affect nearly 17% of greenhouse emissions! What are some changes you'd like to make in 2019? Any ideas you'd add to this list?
Temperatures are dropping and 'tis the season... no, wait! Not that yet! Bad brain! Gahh! I am not ready for that kind of cold yet, brrr humbug, although we definitely do seem to have Christmas on the brain around here already. My 5-year-old is a mini-Lorelai, obsessed with snow & kitsch, while temperate fall might be my new favorite season. I love curling up indoors (because I want to, not because I have to) either on my couch with a cup of tea and a book or lying on the faux-fur rug in my office-closet, pretending to organize/ list things to my Poshmark closet, while really I'm listening to hilarious or informative or scary podcasts. (Or to My Dad Wrote a Porno, which somehow manages to be its own unique decoction of all three adjectives.)
So here's what's keeping me & my cozy cup of tea company this fall. What would you add to this list? Be sure to comment and let me know!
1. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
'Tis definitely the season for Practical Magic, so the list must start here! Hallowe'en is almost here, and soooo many of my girlfriends & fellow bloggers have been posting about their favorite movie. I can't believe I only recently saw it!! (I think I had to rent it on Amazon Prime. It was available to stream on Netflix for a while but no longer is. At first I hated how they change up their availability so frequently, but now I love a leaving-Netflix list just as much as seasonal book lists! On that note: must see Big Eyes before October 25, gah!)
Anyway, I'd never seen this movie somehow, even though I've always had a thing for blue-eyed Irishmen. (It's little wonder I married one!) Aidan Quinn is adorable in the movie, as is the whole spectacular cast featuring a who's who of great actresses: Dianne Weist, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Evan Rachel Wood, Stockard Channing, Camilla Belle, and, one of my all-time favorite character actresses, Margo Martindale. So yes, the movie is definitely movie magic, but guess what? The book is even magicker! Well, it's just slightly different enough that I'm not going to actually compare them. The book has the kind of warm, wise, gorgeous prose that you almost feel you could dip into your tea like a crumpet and let it melt in your mouth. That's all to say: if you love the movie, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!! (Let me know if you do so and agree!)
2. UnF*ck Your Brain
This summer I had a couple odd interactions that left me discombobulated, which led me to believe, despite my official grownup card as a mommy of two, that there was room for personal growth and boundary-setting in my life. (Especially true for me now that I'm living in a huge apartment complex where my neighbors number in the thousands, and I'm having to become a pro at small talk. Never one of my strengths.) Seeking guidance, I stumbled onto "Drama & Toxic People", my first UnF*ck Your Brain episode by the inimitable Kara, who might be gorgeously unique but whom I will still compare to Cheryl Strayed, because I love their advice equally-- albeit for different reasons.
They both exude warmth and wisdom, but I think Cheryl's podcast Dear Sugar is more about exploring relationships with others, while Kara's podcast is a primer on how to have a more constructive, positive, and powerful relationship with yourself. (Oh, and how to set boundaries like a boss! Feeling so much more empowered since I started listening!) Each episode is more life-changing than the last. Also, both Cheryl and Kara (much like the queen Oprah herself) effortlessly exude that magical aura of best friendship. Both are perfect, comforting listening whether in my car or "organizing" my office-- aka hiding from my little ones at night when I'm off the clock and my husband's home and my babies still haven't gotten the memo that it's Daddy's turn to play ponies. Still working on that boundary-setting... it's harder to do with people you love to pieces, but I feel 100% more empowered in every other aspect of my life!
3. Life By the Cup by Zhena Muzyka
I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I picked this up at the library both for the cover photo-- tea! Flowers! Happy-looking hands!-- as for the blurbs on the back. Gloria Steinem says of Life by the Cup, "[It's] a true story that stretches from single motherhood and hard times through unique personal success. Pour a cup of tea, open to the first page, and find a friend who will teach you: Your hopes are a form of planning." It's due back at the library soon, and I can't wait to start it just as soon as I finish up my current read (or rec #9 further down this list)!
4. My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgaraff and Georgia Hardstark
Or maybe I should make rec #4 Dear Sugar with Cheryl Strayed for the more faint of heart, which I might be myself? I haven't decided. Although... on the other hand, that kind of neurotic, funny, self-aware banter and feminist-friendly inner debate is exactly what makes My Favorite Murder compulsive listening. Although, on the third hand, (is there a third hand???), I'm streaming American Horror Story, and that might be all the horrified sensations I can endure for a while. If you're into funny horror, and it is almost Hallowe'en after all, then go for it! If you're a little squeamish or find shows like American Horror Story as stomach-churning to watch as I do, you've been warned! This pod is the aural equivalent of that show. These witty LA dames paint a grisly, vivid, but still somehow fun (or maybe the word is campy?) picture!
I5. Climate Justice by Mary Robinson & The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh (together)
Early this fall, I had what I guess I'd call a stroke of life-changing luck. I happened to pick up Climate Justice and The Art of Living from the library at roughly the same time & had the brainwave of reading both...together! So I, like many, find that climate change as a topic gives me hives. However, I do also agree with former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, who pointed out recently in a Guardian piece that "feeling this is too big for me" is just plain "not useful".
It didn't change how anxious the topic can make me feel, until I hit on this solution: if you're as freaked out as I am by climate change, you might want to try what I did. A chapter of Mary's, followed by a soothing, meditative chapter by Hanh (see below). Not only do they both write in similarly warm and friendly styles, dripping with wisdom and experience-- and I do seem to like my information to be tendered to me by best friends, see rec #2-- but Buddhist monk Hanh is just as passionate about sustainability and about caring for the Earth and all the humans on it as Robinson is. In fact, both short books, when read together in this way, felt almost like a dialogue about the ways in which inner care mimics caring for others and the Earth itself. I'd like to write a separate post about this experience, so I'll stop here. But suffice it to say: this tandem read was life-changing, eye-opening, and in general a perfect, heartening (vs. frightening) match!
“Aimlessness does not mean doing nothing. It means not putting something in front of you to chase after. When we remove the objects of our craving and desires, we discover that happiness and freedom are available to us right here in the present moment.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now
6. My Dad Wrote a Porno
It feels a bit perverse to follow the wise words of a Buddhist monk with this rec, but that also squares with the cock-eyed universe this British pod inhabits. Really, what can I say about My Dad Wrote a Porno, that isn't better said by Jamie, James, and Alice, a trio of insanely funny best friends, who have made sexual innuendo an art and who come together once a week... (oh God, now I'm doing it! Forgive my choice of words.) They... er... gather together once a week to read a chapter of Jamie's father's would-be erotic, but actually hilarious and anatomically-inaccurate, book. The trio have such powerful group charisma, the kind only true, old friends possess, that you feel like you're in on the greatest in-joke ever. One of the extra "footnotes" episodes, which features famous fans like Daisy Ridley, had Ridley of Star Wars fame wistfully wishing the trio could be her friends, too! Something about the title turns off American audiences, but it's honestly much more innocent than erotic in its completely (and truly hilariously) inaccurate portrayal of what human sexuality is. Comedians Rachel Bloom and Thomas Middleditch number among the pod's biggest fans, too!
7. The Witch Elm by Tana French
There's a new Tana French book in time for Hallowe'en! There's a new Tana French book in time for Hallowe'en! I think that's about all I need to say about that. To the uninitiated in the realm of creepy, page-turning Tana French's brilliant mind, start with Edgar-award winning In the Woods. That is, if you're in the market for a creepy, brilliant, unputdownable page-turner, and who isn't this time of year?
Very cozy: each episode of Criminal is the listening equivalent of a blockbuster film. Very creepy (to say the least): before even the #MeToo movement revealed how indifferent our culture has been about sexual assault and harassment, Criminal introduced me to the fact that rape kits are back-logged by the thousands. However, it also introduced me to housewife-turned-P.I. Sheila Wysocki, who decided to become a private detective twenty years after her college roommate was raped and murdered and the crimes remained unsolved...until Sheila came along!!! For as many awful people that there are out there, Criminal also tells stories about true life heroes and heroines as well. It's not all grim, either. I really enjoyed a recent episode about how prevalent airplane highjackings were back in the day. It was like listening to a Scorsese movie in thirty minutes. In fact, each 30-minute episode feels as cinematic, thrilling, informative, and interesting as is whole seasons of S-Town or Serial. I just love it. Also, if you're interested in the topic of housewives who become private detectives, This American Life also did an episode on the phenomenon.
9. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
I haven't read another Hardy book since Tess of the D'Urbervilles took my heart from its chest, filleted it neatly, and left all the bits that were nostalgic for the old days in little pieces on the ground. (If things are bad now, it sounds beyond horrible to have been a woman back then.) Later, I avoided Hardy, because I loved and laughed at him throughout the comic genius novel that is Cold, Comfort Farm far too much. (BTW Cold Comfort Farm, a send-up of Hardy's late Victorian long-winded prose style and über-melancholy, pastoral heroines, could make any cozy, fall list. It's the definition of home-making coziness with its solid, sensible, adorable heroine and a makeover of a cozy, English cottage to boot.) However, despite all that, I'm giving Hardy another crack, because the movie showed me Hardy's range extends beyond the unbearably tragic and the ridiculously dramatic. Bathsheba Everdene, ridiculous name notwithstanding-- although she completely acknowledges how ridiculous her name is. I think Hardy does have a sense of humor!!-- is a tough, smart, feminist heroine. The love story is satisfying, even if, because this is Hardy, there has to be a tragic side plot. I watched the movie first, but there's so much there about human nature that I had to read the book, too. So far, it does not disappoint! And after all, fall is the perfect time to grapple with love and feminism in the English countryside.
FYI speaking of Aidan Quinn (see my first rec!), the crown has passed to my next screen crush, Mattias Schoenarts, who stars in Far From the Madding Crowd (see above), and is being called the Belgian Brando. You have to see this movie in addition to reading the book! I'm keeping my streaming suggestions for another list, but I couldn't resist this one... you won't even need a cup of tea. Matthias brings the heat is what I'm saying. (Joking.) (Kind of.)
10. Jam Session on Channel 33
One of my friends, hearing that I liked pop culture podcasts, recently recommended The Read to me. I started listening to it and realized it reminded me of Jam Session but with many more mentions of people of color. I had heard of some but not all the celebrities they were mentioning, and it opened my eyes to how white-centric my consumption of pop culture has become. I think that could be its own post, but if you enjoy smart, chatty podcasts about pop culture either Jam Session or The Read are excellent. Jam Session has also introduced me to fantastic pop culture I was unaware of-- I started reading Liane Moriarty's books on Amanda Dobbins' rec! Moriarty's books are much more clever and meatier than their pastel covers suggest and ALL of them could make this list. I've now read/ devoured most of them barring her newest release Nine Perfect Strangers about a health resort that is potentially less idyllic than it seems. It's available now for pre-order. I can't wait!
If you love these kind of book lists as much as I do, here are a few more for you to peruse at Pop Sugar, at HuffPo, at Elle, at Bookish, at Vulture, and at Vogue. What's on your fall reading/ listening list?
The Simplest, Most Affordable Way to Up Your Fall Style Game (Spoiler Alert: Fishtails, Velvet, & Etsy Make a Killer Combo)
Etsy has never failed me, and yet I have failed Etsy time and time again! What I mean by my overdramatic claim is that it's like I blackout about Etsy's existence from time to time. They're always there for me, yet sometimes I wander in the desert of overpriced, online accessory shopping, fruitlessly searching for an affordable & attractive option. However, I always come back to Etsy, and wonder why I ever strayed in the first place! As in, recently, I've been searching high and low for a silk scrunchie. They're meant to be gentler on the hair. I guess I'm not the only one who knows that, because silk scrunchies are sold out everywhere...Everywhere but Etsy that is!! (I'll be reviewing this Etsy silk scrunchie & comparing them to a department store brand in an upcoming post.)
Another simple item that I purchased from Etsy and that revolutionized my hairstyles was this simple velvet bow for $6.50. I also have it in a small barrette and a larger barrette iteration as well. For about the price of a latte, I can add one of these babies to a ponytail or an easy fishtail braid (see my quick tutorial below or check out this post for a more in-depth, step-by-step look at how to do this complicated-looking braid as easy as 1-2-3.)
The bow is such a small, inexpensive detail, but I have gotten so many compliments from strangers about it! The tech who did my x-ray when I was having my wisdom teeth checked out at the oral surgeon's worried she'd mess up my dirty mommy hair, simply because I'd added this simple bow to my side pony! Or the used car salesman the other day suggested I should go to the DMV that day to get ,y Philly license (I still have my old CT one and we were trading in our car.) He thought I'd just gotten my hair done! When all I'd done is what you see below: a quick braid as easy as 1-2-3 & a $6 bow!
Good luck and let me know if this tutorial was helpful. Be sure to comment and let me know if you have any questions or thoughts!
Green beauty and vegetarian eating are areas I began to explore simultaneously, which made my recent discovery of a brand like Edible Beauty feel extra serendipitous. A little over a year ago, my husband and I made a switch to a mostly vegetarian diet. Ryan had just had a physical, and his cholesterol and blood pressure were both high. Along with a change in our diet, I also began to be more conscious about what I was putting on my skin. It made sense, especially when I noticed how eating more veggies and fruits and fewer processed foods made my skin look brighter and my eyes more awake.
I'm happy to report that these changes are not in my head! Ryan just had his yearly physical, and, after a year of making an effort to eat healthier, his blood pressure is now perfect! And his cholesterol is actually too low! We're now eating more eggs as a way to raise his "good" cholesterol levels. (See our last post in our foodie section for an easy, delicious dinnertime egg dish). I'm also happy to share that I like my skin for the first time in my entire life! Yes, fine lines are on the horizon, but, in the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy this period of my life in which acne is no longer an issue. Of course, I also know prevention is key. While I wear sunblock every day (or...er... pretty much every day!), I have actually grown to love pampering my skin every night. At first I found a nightly routine overwhelming, but I noticed my skin looked so much better when I managed to dash on even one treatment. And so, like so many things in my life, I broke a routine down into a few easy steps, and now I enjoy it! I thought my simple approach might be appealing to others who feel overwhelmed by all the options out there or who are too tired come night to get into more complicated beauty treatments.
I'm currently really enjoying Goop's Luminous Melting Cleanser, which you can purchase here . It's made of all natural ingredients like almond and coconut oil and leaves your skin feeling moisturized after cleansing. It's pretty pricey, but I also actually really like good old Pond's in the winter when my skin is very dry. I find Pond's too greasy the rest of the year, though. While the Goop cleanser is a bit pricier, I don't use it year round, so I'm hoping it balances out. If my makeup is really being stubborn, I'll also wash my face again with Bliss's Melting Jelly Cleanser. I love Bliss as they're not only cruelty-free but all the products are high quality and super affordable. The cleanser is only $12 and so far it's lasted a really long time, even though I use it nightly!
2. Serum Time
You should apply your thinnest products first. I read that somewhere at any rate, so that's what I do! I am madly in love with Edible Beauty's cruelty free line and particularly their Ageless Godless Beauty serum. But so is the whole world! It was actually sold out at Sephora yesterday, but it's back in stock today. There's only one bottle left on Amazon... at double the price! So check it out at Sephora here. For the price point, I think it's magic. Similarly effective serums cost double. I also love Edible Beauty for their choice of using glass bottles instead of plastic, which would have probably helped them drive down costs but filled our oceans with more garbage, and, then of course, there's also their cruelty-free and edible ingredients! Not to mention, this stuff is MAGIC, you guys. One of my mommy friends I talked into trying it said she thought she must be imagining things, it was that effective that quickly. I told her I had the same thought. I cannot wait for you guys to try it. Let me know if you do, please!
3. Nighttime Cream
I also like Edible Beauty's Coco Intensive Repair night cream if my skin is looking really dry. (I still dab on petroleum jelly as well, so I am by no means a perfect green beauty or a perfect anything, haha). Edible Beauty's cream smells amazing to me, and I've learned that making my nighttime routine not only simplified but also pleasurable helps me stick to it, and I really look forward to the scent of this cream. If my skin looks really tired and dull, though, I'll also use Bliss's honey mask and sleep with a mask on. I always wake up looking much more refreshed! If you like eye cream, I think adding it after a serum is better. It sometimes gets into my eyes, so I'm not a huge fan of employing this step every night. If my eyes do look very tired, I love both Edible Beauty's gold rush eye balm available here or the Honest Company's Younger Eye cream available at Target or Amazon.
4. Turn on Your Humidifier!!
I use mine year round. I think it makes a big difference, and it's so easy to use. I'm in love with this humidifier by InnoGear. It looks pretty on my night table, and it's easy to use and clean!
5. Dab on Any Extras
I keep extra creams and serums in my nighttable drawer. If I'm feeling really yucky and tired, I'll add them before I go to sleep. For example, sometimes I'll dab on lip plumper right before bed. I don't know if it actually plumps my lips, but when I wake up they're nice and soft and hydrated.
Overall, I've learned that keeping my nigthtime routine simple and centered on a few favorite products with scents that I really love, means I'm more likely to keep up with it! What's essential to your nighttime routine?
P.S. Here are a few of my coin necklaces from my collection. Mine are from Edge of Ember, Shashi, and Bluefly, but there are SO MANY options on Etsy now. Here are a few faves...
There are books that wash over your hands like sunlight and beg to be read on a hot summer's day and maybe even soak into your soul all the better beside a large, lapping body of water to boot.
Here are 5 of my all-time great summertime, sunlight, ocean, and water picks! What books remind you of summertime?
1. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Considering that this book begins with the bliss of summertime and all it's herb-filled, rose-colored joy, this book practically begs to be read in the summertime, whether or not you find yourself lucky enough to dabble your toes in water while doing so. It's the prequel to Practical Magic, once made into a pretty good film, starring Sandra Bullock I believe, but it's an even better book about the Owens sister. This tale concerns their mysterious aunts' coming-of-age in the summertime, and it's just liquid gold sunshine and cool, blissful shadows. Read both if you haven't read either! Particularly salutary for the soul in this cynical day and age of Internet trolls. It's truly bottled up, or I guess paged -up, old-fashioned magic. Your summertime soul will thank you!
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
If you haven't read this classic yet, you're in luck! A. Because it's an immensely readable novel, not a stuffy "classic" at all. And B. because Lydia Davis's translation is as close to the original as to be indistinguishable from the French text, except, of course that it's in English. (I'm French-American, and I've read the book in both, most memorably one summer in my grandparent's sleepy, dull village of St. Aubin de Locquenay. A town in the Sarthe region with more cows than people. It spiced up a dull summer for a teen, although I was way too young to understand any of the sex stuff. In fact, I think I'm the only extremely plain adolescent on the planet who could empathize with Madame Bovary as I did. As for the English translation, I agree with everyone: this is a beautiful translation.) So much of Madame Bovary has to do with summertime lovin' gone wrong. It's a great summer read about the original, realest, baddest housewife of them all.
3. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
Best for rainy days. This collection of essays might be best read indoors on days too hot even for dabbling toes in cool bodies of water, because it will have you humphing and hawing with unrepressable laughter, so much so that your neighbors might start giving you funny looks of their own.
4. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
"The desire to freeze reality is about avoiding reality."
I've heard so much about Cixin Liu's Hugo-award-winning phenomenon "The Three Body Problem", but for some reason the book feels too hardcore sci-fi or winter-timeish at least for me to crack it in the summertime. Instead, I stumbled upon a book of short stories by the writer who translated Liu's popular series. Ken Liu's short stories run the gamut from tales of relationships to steampunk to folklore-- or rather a mix of all and more. Most of them are Hugo, Neubula, and Theodore-Sturgeon award-winning tales. These are melancholy, poetic tales, perfect for a quiet night in. I'm so excited to sink my teeth into more of them!
4. The Witch Doesn't Burn In This One by Amanda Lovelace
The Princess Saves Herself In This One won Amanda Lovelace the 2016 Goodread's Choice Award, and the beloved poet is back with another gem in her "Women Are Magic" series. This next book is dedicated to "all the princesses, all the damsels, and all the queens" who "have rescued themselves so many times now...." Enough said. Read this after a particularly low moment of hanging out in your bikini by the pool and rediscover your power!
6. Diana: Her True Story-- In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton
I was never particularly invested in the Royal Family. In fact, do you capitalize Royal Family? Well, the fact that I do in my head says it all. Like it or not, they've entered the collective imagination in a major way, following the marriage of an American commoner to one of their handsome princes. The excitement surrounding the wedding made me wonder about the hysteria surrounding an earlier wedding. I had no idea, though, how much I'd be moved and inspired by Diana's humanitarian work and her beautiful soul. Plus, she was only 36 when she died! Megan Markle's age when she married Prince Harry. She accomplished so much through sheer intuition, kindness, and courage. Yes, she was as beautiful and fashionable as the day is long, but she had a uniquely feminine, maternal perspective of world events, and her whole story is very much worth knowing, especially if you've ever admired her photographs! Andrew Morton creates a really interesting work with his unique combination of Diana's own words alongside his incisive explanations of British politics, history, and, most of all, the tangle of family politics. She also definitely spent a good portion of her life on some glamorous escapes, making this a great summer read!
7. The Power by Naomi Alderman
This book sizzles with all the drama and terror of being caught outside in an electric storm in July. I mean, just check out this list of accolades! It definitely stands up to the hype! It's both gorgeously written and a thrilling read!
One of the New York Times's Ten Best Books of 2017
A Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2017
One of the Washington Post's Ten Best Books of 2017
An NPR Best Book of 2017
One of Entertainment Weekly's Ten Best Books of 2017
A Bustle Best Book of 2017
A Paste Magazine Best Novel of 2017
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2017
8. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
I actually haven't read this one yet, but it seems incomplete to have a list of beach reads without a thriller counted amongst them! It got amazing reviews, sounds like the Gone Girl of the summer. If you also thought the latter was a fun, gritty read, you'll probably enjoy this, too. Stephen King calls it, "Unputdownable."
Check my TBR list below for more ideas! What's on yours? Have you read any of the above? What did you think? Any books of you own that you believe should only be read in the summertime?
P.S. Also SO many of my favorite fun writers have books coming out??!! Tana French. Ian Rankin. Alexander McCall Smith. Alan Bradley. It's going to be a great summer/ fall!
Recently, we moved into a new apartment in Philadelphia, which means I went through my regular routine of trying to settle in while experiencing about a month of insomnia. It strikes every time I move, but this time I decided to be more pro-active. Lavender oil was incredibly helpful at helping me reestablish a night-time routine, and in my research I also stumbled upon this recipe for lavender tea (below) and had to try it. Ever since my pregnancy with my first baby, I'd been hearing about the magical, soothing properties of lavender. Here are a few of my favorites that I've learned about since then. Would you try lavender tea? Does it sound as good to you as it did to me?
1. Lavender Scrubs to Revitalize Winter Skin
Not only is lavender great for eliminating the nervous tension caused by, oh, childbirth-- before I gave birth every blog I encountered, insisted I had to pack lavender oil for my hospital stay-- but it improves blood circulation as well. Put a few drops of lavender oil into your next foot scrub or foot soak. Along with epsom salts and sea salt, just add a few drops! (Or check out this recipe for more details for an at-home spa soak.) Keep in mind the smell is pretty strong, so experiment before you dump in, say, a whole tablespoon the way I did to my diffuser the first time I used lavender-- oh dear God, that was an intense two weeks before the smell faded, which brings us to point 2.
2. Lavender for Insomnia
You can add a few drops of lavender oil to your diffuser if you're suffering from insomnia. Again, keep in mind and learn from Mama Izzy's misadventures. A little goes a long way. I love this
diffuser for only $23, because you can also use it as a humidifier and it's super duper easy to refill the water and keep it clean as well. My kids love the changing lights. It's one of my favorite possessions.
3. Lavender as an Ingredient in Dessert
One of the things I've loved most about blogging is having my world opened up to new possibilities. When I first started blogging, I mostly followed either poetry or fashion pages, but as I began to join blogging communities, lots of recipes and interior design inspiration got added to my daily blog intake. I love the idea that you can add lavender to honey and cheese or to cupcakes or to puddings. The result is so pretty a purple it's just guaranteed to be delicious. I pinned a bunch of the yummiest options that I can't wait to try myself. Just keep in mind, it's not lavender oil but loose, dried lavender, which you can ingest and purchase for about $20 a pound. If possible, maybe even find someone to share that pound with. A pound of lavender is A LOT of lavender.
3. Lavender Tea
I was so excited to hear of lavender as an ingredient in tea, because I knew about it's calming, soothing, and antiseptic qualities when applied externally. I had no idea you could also drink it! Lavender is an anti-inflammatory that also helps maintain cardiovascular health. In addition to its antiseptic qualities,
4. Lavender Candles
When I was looking into uses for my giant bag of lavender, one of my followers suggested I try making my own candles. One of my favorite memories from childhood is making candles at Busch Gardens when I was a kid, and I think my kids would really enjoy making candles with me! I love this Town & Country blog post for making your own candles. It sounds like a fun rainy Saturday afternoon activity.
5. Lavender Oil for Cleaning
The cat bathroom has to be my least favorite part of apartment living, although to be fair in our last house, the basement was only half-finished, so I ended up using the top floor bathroom for the kitty litter for the kitties' safety as well. (We have two rescue cats and one large Newfie... and two toddlers-- keeping the house smelling nice used to be, well, challenging. Lavender has really helped our situation!) When I heard I could use lavender for cleaning, I began adding it to the cat bathroom's garbage can after I washed them out and sprinkling it around the litter box. The smell is about 1,000% better in there!
6. Upcycling Garment Bags into Lavender Sachets
Most of the sustainable designers and secondhand shops where I shop, now send their items in little muslin sachets like the ones pictured above. Making sachets is probably not that difficult, either, but it takes about two minutes to gather your muslin bags and fill them with lavender from my pound bag. The kids watched Wreck-It Ralph, and I poured a glass of wine and listened to John Mulaney on Pandora's comedy channel. Maybe it was the soothing scent of lavender filling my nostrils, but it was one of the nicest, most relaxing evenings I've had in a while. And the first two sachets, went straight to the cat bathroom! Thankfully, cats aren't as attracted to lavender as they are catnip, which is kind of what the little bags look like. I've also been leaving them throughout the house.
Do you keep the bags your jewelry or clothes come in? Sometimes I reuse them for gift-wrapping as well! Any other uses for lavender that I should know about? Be sure to let me know in the comments below, and I'll do a follow-up post!