Category Archives: Lifestyle

A New Year

new_yearMy sisters and I (that’s me in the white sweater) with our significant others this past Christmas.

Long time no blog! It’s hard to believe that it’s already March and we’re a couple weeks away from Spring. It’s been a pretty snowy February up here in the northeast, and I still long for those mild Tucson winters. But so far, it’s been a pretty good year. My sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, my twin sister, Jackie, is getting married later this month to a guy that I love like an older brother, I’ve been doing a lot more artwork lately, and Jon and I are planning a trip to Iceland this Spring!

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Jon, me, Jackie, and her fiancée, Chris.

At the end of last year, I was caught up with a lot of anxiety and stress, so I started busying myself with other creative endeavors and began digital painting again. Maybe if I’m feeling up to it, I’ll start an art blog/portfolio blog in the future. We’ll see! In the meantime, you can see more of my artwork on my DeviantArt page here.

nova_artworkA sample of my more recent work!

I haven’t fallen off the beauty blogging bandwagon. and I actually have a bunch of new stuff I want to share and review within the next few weeks, especially skin care items. This bitter cold weather has me itching (literally) to try some new things.

Hope you’re managing to stay warm! How’s your year been so far?

Fun Find | The Wild Unknown Tarot

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As mentioned in my previous post, I recently started playing around with tarot cards again. I came across The Wild Unknown Tarot and was immediately drawn to the artwork.

It is a self-published deck that was illustrated by the very talented Kim Krans. It’s a standard 78-card deck. It comes in a sturdy box with a black lifting ribbon. In lieu of the typical “little white book,” the deck is accompanied by a double-sided fold-out sheet. It lists the meanings of each suit (swords, cups, wands, pentacles) of the minor arcana, the major arcana, as well as each individual card with a few keywords. Sort of like a tarot cheat sheet. The guidebook comes separately. It features an introduction to the tarot, how to do simple spreads, grayscale images of the cards and goes into more depth with the artist’s interpretations and meanings.

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If you’re looking for a deck that mirrors the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith imagery, this is not it. It’s easy to see how some of the cards “nod to” some of the RWS symbolism, but overall this deck is quite unique.

Each card measures 4.75″ x 2.75″. They’re made of thick, nice quality card stock with a matte finish. They are not glossy or slippery, and feel very comfortable to handle and shuffle. There’s something very primitive and simplistic that I love about the artwork. Krans uses pen, ink and watercolors. I love it when you can literally see the artist’s “process” in the medium they use. Even the backs of the cards are beautiful and kind of hypnotic.

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The deck is full of animal and nature imagery. Each suit of court cards features a different animal “family” — instead of your standard page, knight, king and queen, Krans uses daughter, son, mother and father, respectively.

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The images are mostly black and white, with a very selective use of color. The limited colors definitely add to the mood of the cards that use them. Some of the cards are quite dark or disturbing (worms, eyeballs, a buffalo carcass), but then there are also cards that are very upbeat and ethereal (butterflies, twinkling stars, rainbows). The deck doesn’t try too hard to be a certain way.

wildunknowntarot_majors wildunknown_minimalcards

Some cards are much more minimalist and abstract than others (see above), which can make it harder for those just starting out with tarot to understand their meanings. But I think it can be more fun this way. It engages our intuition at a very primal level — our response to color, placement, direction of line, negative and positive space, shapes, textures, etc. Meanings may not be as blatantly obvious in representational depictions featuring people or animals, but I think once you do get an idea of what it means, it’s a very honest interpretation.

I’m a big fan of this deck, and I recommend it. I look forward to discovering new things about the imagery as I continue to work with it.

My Tarot Experience

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Long time no blog. I’ve rediscovered my interest in the tarot recently and have started putting more effort into working with and understanding the imagery. I’ve been having lots of fun with it, so I thought I’d share my personal experience.

I was first introduced to the tarot in high school, when I acquired my first deck — the Hanson-Roberts deck. It was a time when I was suddenly intrigued with the metaphysical and pagan culture. I’d skim through the cards while perusing the accompanying guidebook. To me, it became more of a game of memorization rather than developing an intuitive thought process. It was kind of overwhelming — “How am I supposed to remember all of this? 78 cards with different meanings (plus reversals!).”

I abandoned the deck for a good few years, but have since become very interested in learning to read the cards again. Jon gifted me a beautiful deck last month — Kat Black’s Golden Tarot, and I’ve been practicing again ever since, even maintaining a tarot journal that I write in almost daily. This time, less effort is spent trying to memorize the traditional meanings, and more is spent on noticing my immediate emotional responses to the images presented to me. It’s a lot of fun to discover that your first instincts often align with what the standard textbook meanings are. For the first time, my tarot cards didn’t feel like flash cards.

I’ve been looking for other decks with artwork that I feel very connected to (there are literally hundreds to choose from) and came across The Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans. The artwork is just so beautiful. I think I’m going to do a separate post just to review the deck.

I’m not seeking to develop “psychic” abilities or become a fortune teller. For a lot of people, tarot is a very spiritual experience (maybe even religious or magical), but for me, it’s more of a practical meditative guide. I think it’s a really fun and interesting way to tap into your creative insight and view certain situations from different perspectives, and maybe even find out more about yourself. I love looking at the artwork and comparing different artists’ interpretations, and learning more about the symbolism and history of such an intricate system.

Do you have any experience working with tarot cards? Have you ever had a reading done? What was it like?

My Acne Story

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Acne is a sensitive subject for me. It has been a significant source of my insecurity for a very long time. Even now that I am older and my acne is [usually] under control, I still become very self-conscious about my “bad skin days.” For the past couple of years or so, I have been able to find great comfort in hearing about other people’s experiences and struggles with dealing with acne. I thought I’d share my acne story too. 🙂

Yay, Puberty…
I started getting my first pimples in the fifth grade. It didn’t even start to bother me until some of my classmates asked me about it — “What’s that on your forehead?” Ah, the catalyst for years of self-consciousness. My skin started becoming oily, and I developed blackheads on my nose. I started washing my face every day, but when that didn’t seem to be enough, I turned to makeup. I used my mother’s foundation almost every morning to conceal every blemish as best I could.

Middle School & High School
The severity of my acne peaked through middle school and high school. I would describe it as moderate acne. It seemed like when one pimple healed, a few more popped up the next day. And I was a such a “picker.” I remember crying about it sometimes. Before bed, I’d go into the bathroom to brush my teeth, but I wouldn’t turn on the lights because I couldn’t stand seeing my own reflection in the mirror. My doctor prescribed a topical antibiotic. I didn’t notice much of a difference in my skin (except increased irritation) so I was finally referred to my first dermatologist. I was on an oral antibiotic for a little while, but a prescription topical retinoid seemed to provide the most improvement, at least for a few years.

College
Once my skin seemed to be under control for the most part, I eventually stopped the prescription retinoid and just used over-the-counter products for a while. At this point, I was better about cleansing and treating my skin consistently. I was on the ProActiv system for a year or two, but found drugstore brands to be just as good and cost-effective. When I was diagnosed with depression a couple of years into college, all of the emotional stress began manifesting itself physically, and my acne seemed to come back in full force again (which didn’t make dealing with depression any easier of course…). Eventually, I was back at the dermatologist’s office, this time for a combination of topical antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide. My skin got a little bit worse before I started noticing an improvement again.

Post-College & Present
I sort of came across the most effective remedy [for me] by accident when I was prescribed birth control pills for the first time. The unexpected side effect of clear skin seemed to indicate that most of my acne was actually hormonal. For the first time since I hit puberty, my skin was actually pimple-free.

•••

Of course, this is not to say that what has worked for me will work for everybody. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for acne-sufferers. Many people have even been able to find great improvements with a more natural, drug-free approach. It took me many years to figure out how to control my acne. I’ve stuck with a consistent skin care regimen, making sure to cleanse and moisturize daily, as well as apply adequate sun protection. Over time, you start to learn what your skin needs to look and feel its best. I only wish that during that period of trial-and-error, I was better equipped to deal with the emotional issues that came with having acne.

My skin is far from perfect, and I still get breakouts (especially during that time of the month), but instead of longing for “perfection,” I’ve learned to make more of an effort to just take better care of my body and become more comfortable in my own bare skin. My skin is much healthier now than it was years ago, but I’m still working on building my self-esteem back up.

I’ve had people make rude and judgmental comments about my pimples before, and that always fueled the fire of insecurity in me. I’ve never had anyone sit down and tell me that my acne didn’t make me hideous or unattractive. I think having acne held me back from being more comfortable in social situations. If I was having a conversation with someone, I’d always assume that they were looking at my zits, and not at me.

So I’m here to tell you now that acne doesn’t make you ugly, or unclean, or stupid, or unworthy. It may take some time to find what works best for you, but in the mean time, understand that your acne doesn’t define you or lower your value as a person. I know that sometimes it can feel like people are looking at you with a magnifying glass when you’ve got angry blemishes on your face, but nobody’s going to bed at night wondering why you had those big zits on your chin.

How have you dealt with the physical and emotional issues of acne? I’d love to know your story too. 🙂

Picture Post | Niagara Falls + Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

pp_nf_4pp_nf_3pp_nf_1pp_nf_2pp_ra_3pp_ra_1pp_ra_2pp_ra_5pp_ra_41. Our first view of the American Falls from the American side.
2. The American Falls, with the Bridal Veil Falls to the right, viewed from Skylon Tower.
3. Cooling off under the Bridal Veil Falls.
4. The Horseshoe Falls, viewed from Skylon Tower.
5. Sawshark. Didn’t know there was such a thing!
6. Delightfully colorful coral reefs.
7. Eels.
8. A pair of sea urchins.
9. Cute jellyfish.

Polyvore | Chalkboard Décor

Let's Talk Chalk | Chalkboard Décor

Chalkboard Décor

I like the sound of chalk tapping on an old-school chalkboard. It makes me think of pre-school/kindergarten/elementary school. I think an entire chalkboard wall could be a fun thing to have in an office to make it seem a little more playful, or maybe as a stove backsplash where you can jot down recipes and grocery lists.

These are a couple of sets I designed for Polyvore’s Chalkboard Décor Contest.

I think my favorite item would have to be that chalkboard pig statue in the first set. It’s just so darn cute.

What do you think of chalkboard-inspired home décor?

Tag | “Why Do You Wear Makeup?”

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1. “When did you begin wearing makeup?”

I began wearing makeup in middle school to cover up puberty-related acne. But it wasn’t until my skin started clearing up (just a few years ago!) that I actually began enjoying makeup as something that was fun to do and experiment with, and not just something that I thought I needed to feel better about myself.

2. “How do you feel without makeup?”

Honestly, I don’t always feel my best without makeup, but I never want to become the type of person that cannot leave the house without having it on. It’s important for me to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m trying not to depend on makeup to feel good about myself, and I never want to think of my “makeup face” as my “normal face.”

3. “What do you like about makeup?” 

I often feel like I am pampering myself when I put on makeup. I enjoy the process. It can help make me feel a bit more polished or awake. I like how it can be used to complement an outfit or fit a certain mood or style — playful, sophisticated, androgynous, retro, feminine, etc. I think it’s also cool how makeup can be used to enhance and alter one’s facial features (like theater/special effects makeup).

4. “What are three of your ‘Holy Grail’ (HG) makeup items?”

• Vichy Dermafinish Corrective Foundation in “Opal” (formerly called “Vichy Dermbland Corrective Foundation”). Like many others, I discovered this gem after watching Lisa Eldridge’s Acne/Blemish Covering Makeup Tutorial. It’s my go-to for covering zits or other dark spots.

• Kryolan Anti-Shine Powder. There’s no such thing as a “bulletproof” powder for oily skin, but this is the closest I could find. You can read my full review on it here.

• Sephora Collection Skin Perfect CC Cream in “Light.” It’s one of my more recent favorites. It has the lightweight feel of a tinted moisturizer, but provides a bit more coverage. I’ve been enjoying it more and more now that the weather is warmer and more humid.

I would love to know your answers to these tag questions too. 🙂

Mindful Monday | Eating Mindfully

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My relationship with food has changed quite a bit over the last year or two. Growing up, there were always healthy food options available (during the summer, many of our fresh fruits and vegetables actually came right from my grandfather’s garden), but I was not much of a healthy eater. My diet was quite high in fat, salt, and carbs. It was all about rice and meat. But now that I’m getting older, and well-beyond my adolescent years, I’ve started to notice how my diet affects not only my body, but my mind as well; I want to make more positive lifestyle changes. I don’t avoid fried chicken like the plague or anything, but I am just trying to become better about taking care of my body.

I’m not claiming to be a nutritionist, or dietary/culinary expert by any means, but I thought I’d talk a little bit about how I’m trying to be more of a “mindful eater.” I want to become more mindful of what I eat and how I eat it. I think that being more conscious of what we put in our bodies and how our bodies react to it is a very powerful tool for self-love and self-care. I’m not touting this as a quick-fix diet fad, but as a long-term healthy lifestyle change. The goal is not to “get skinny” or necessarily lose weight (because let’s face it, we need to stop equating “good health” with “thin-ness” — healthy people come in all shapes and sizes), but to feel better from the inside out.

These tips are what have helped me along the way:

mealtime_selfcareNo more standing up, ironing your shirt and talking on the phone while you scarf down a sandwich. Take the opportunity to really enjoy your meals. Notice flavors, aromas, textures. Take your time. Consider your meal time a time when you are doing something very good for your body; it’s a time of nourishment and healing.

fooddiaryI’m not talking about counting calories. For a few months, I kept a little food diary on my phone to note what foods I ate each day and how I felt after eating them. Did I feel sluggish? Bloated? Energetic? Jittery? Content? Relaxed? Depressed? Sleepy? Did I have stomach pains? Indigestion? Insomnia? Sudden bouts of acne? Notice what foods make you feel your best, and think about incorporating more of such foods into your meals regularly.

yourmealsPreparing and cooking your own food gives you the most control over what goes into your body. Try to do this as often as you can. You can learn to make healthier choices (and become a better cook while you’re at it!) Take this time to experiment with different ingredients, techniques and new flavors and spices.

dontdepriveOnce you are consistently eating healthier and healthier, it may seem like the right thing to do to eventually avoid all “bad” foods forever. But I don’t want that to ever be the case. For me, it is not just about eating healthier food, it’s also about having a healthier relationship with food too — being able to enjoy and appreciate healthier foods but still be able to enjoy not-so-healthy food without being overcome with guilt. I never want to consider junk food an “enemy” and I never want to consider healthy food a “restraint.” If I find myself craving a piece of cheesecake, some bacon strips, a beer, or french fries, I’m going to enjoy some!

What do you do to try to be more mindful of the foods you eat? What foods make you feel your best?