Earth Day: Hot, Flat and Crowded

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Happy Earth Day! Hot Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman was on my TBR list for a while, and when I realized it was also on President Obama’s reading list, I figured that now was the perfect time to read it.

This book is divided into five parts:

  1. When the Market and Mother Nature Hit the Wall
  2. Where We Are
  3. How We Move Forward
  4. China
  5. America

With chapters ranging from energy poverty, oil and geopolitics, and why a green revolution in the United States “to end oil addition” will help us promote democracy abroad and greatly increase chances of developing renewable energy alternatives that helps everyone, not just us. The 2008 Recession was a wake-up call, Friedman says, “a warning heart attack” in more ways than one.

“This was not just a deep economic slowdown that we can recover from and then blithely go back to our old ways…we have been growing in a way that is not healthy for either our markets or our planet, either our banks or our forests, for either our retailers or our rivers.”

Here is what led to the title of the book, Friedman’s main argument from the first addition in 2008 in which he stated:

“[the world] was getting hot (global warming), flat (the rise of high-consuming middle classes all over the world), and crowded (on track to adding roughly a billion people every thirteen years).”

But don’t worry, there’s still time to change our ways and become the leader in developing and implementing strategies to combat the environmental chaos that has been the last few years, and to power a green revolution. It is about us, now, and it is urgent. Every chapter, every page, had me nodding along in agreement because of how effectively Friedman presents his arguments, with research, facts, examples from the past, and professional insights. This then made me a little sad that if someone like a me, a twentysomething English major (ha) with no direct experience in anything related to this field can understand this and the importance, then why do so many of our (illegally?) elected officials refuse to see facts that are right in front of their faces? *sigh*.

Here are the key problems that we are currently facing:

“the growing demand for ever scarcer energy supplies and natural resources; a massive transfer of wealth to oil-rich countries and their petrodictators; disruptive climate change; energy poverty, which is sharply dividing the world into electricity haves and electricity have-nots; and rapidly accelerating biodiversity loss, and plants and animals go extinct at record rates.”

Finally, Friedman shares a particularly profound Chinese proverb that speaks volumes:

“When the wind changes direction, there are those who build walls and those who build windmills.”

I truly hope we can undo the last six months or so and become a country that gets back to building windmills (quite literally) again, soon.

Are you going to today’s March for Science? Bill Nye is going to be speaking today!

Mindfulness Tip: Try Music

Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly anxious or stressed, the best thing to do is to retreat to a quiet room where I can gather my thoughts, rest and recuperate. Other times, surprisingly, what helps the most is listening to music. It can be anything: pop, hip hop, jazz, movie soundtracks, even country music at times. There is no right kind of music, but the right kind for you will be something that makes you feel relaxed and at ease.

My Spotify Daily Mix recommendations have been on point lately with giving me awesome music suggestions that I have been loving. Here are six songs that have been on repeat lately:

  • Model Behavior by Mack Keane
  • Make it Right by Britt Daley
  • Child’s Play by SZA feat. Chance the Rapper
  • Send Me Down by Haim
  • Dreamers by Scavenger Hunt
  • Rosie by John Mayer

There is nothing compared to when you find an artist whose music you love and they end up having a bunch of albums . It’s like discovering a new author and realizing they have a handful of other books, or even a series, under their belt, too. Haim and John Mayer are two such artists for me; give me any of their albums and my headphones and it is bliss. But it’s also fun to find new songs too, right? What do you like to listen to? What are your go to Happiness 911 songs? All of these songs above can be found on Spotify and iTunes. Thanks to Bradscribe for adding the inspiration for this post.

P.S. Do you listen to music while you write? I love playlists, so if you ever want to see more of that, let me know! 🙂

Being A Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide

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Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide by Charles Foster was by far one of the most unique and intriguing books I have read.

Foster, a veterinarian with a doctorate in medical law and ethics from the University of Cambridge, decided he wanted to really understand “the other”, in other words the nonhumans, the beasts as he calls them.

So what did he do? He went to live among them to see what their lives were really like in order to understand, in turn, the human experience even more. Foster chose five animals to experience life with: a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer, and a swift. Each respectively representing the ancient elements: earth, fire, water, air.

“Nature has generally been about humans striding colonially around, describing what they see from six feet above the ground, or about humans pretending that animals wear clothes. This book is an attempt to see the world from the height of naked Welsh badgers, London foxes, Exmoor otters, Oxford swifts, and Scottish and West Country red deer; to learn what it is like to shuffle or swoop through a landscape that is mainly olfactory or auditory rather than visual.”

My favorite chapter had to be Otter. Since there has been a surge in popularity of otters, due to all the cute videos of them sleeping and holding each other’s paws or playing with their favorite rocks, it was really fascinating to read that they actually are not so cute and fuzzy as they appear. (Similar to dolphins, who are actually quite aggressive predators i.e. should not be locked up at aquariums…!) Foster writes:

Being an otter is like being on speed. In suburban life the nearest I can legally get to it is to stay up for a couple of nights, drinking a double espresso every couple of hours, before having a cold bath followed by a huge breakfast of still-twitching sushi and then a nap, and then keep repeating until I die – which I would do most authentically by running in front of a car, or from septicemia from an abdominal wound…they spend more than three quarters of their lives asleep. That’s more than eighteen hours a day. The remaining six hours are spent in frenetic killings.”

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Aside from the year after birth that they spend with their mothers, otters live relatively solo lives going from river to river searching for food. It really is a go, go, go type of lifestyle and they truly are fastidious creatures.

I loved this book for its uniqueness and open-mindedness. Foster spends the first chapter explaining that there may be faults with his methods, and if you disagree with him about his approach to animals and his theories on what divides humans and beasts, he does his best to explain how he’s arrived at his conclusions. Although I read it primarily for the animal aspects, there is plenty of science in this book as well. I have never been to Wales, or Oxford or West Africa, but after Foster’s expeditions and experiments and thorough descriptions of the environments he lived in, I now feel like I have.

For anyone who has ever believed they have had a special connection with animals, but could never quite explain or understand it, this book is for you.

 

Target April Beauty Box

My Target April beauty box arrived last week and this month it was full of so many great products.

I have already tried a few of these products, so reviews are mixed in as well:

Organics volume shampoo and conditioner: these smelled really, really good. There wasn’t a whole lot in each bottle, maybe 2-3 uses at the most. I couldn’t really tell if the volume aspect of it “worked” since my hair is already pretty curly and wavy but it smelled delicious

Acure Clarifying Red Clay Scrub: I haven’t tried this one yet but I have liked every other Acure product that has been in the beauty boxes so far. This one is a three-times-a-week max product that smells quite strong and look more like a treatment than a scrub

Raw Sugar: lemon sugar body wash, it smells so strong and citrusy that it would be a great morning body wash to use to help you wake up!

Hello Whitening Toothpaste: I am a sucker for great packaging and this toothpaste tube was so cute; also love that it is free of dyes, artificial sweeteners or flavors, microbeads, preservatives and gluten!

Burt’s Bees Cleansing wipes: works as well as any other makeup remover wipes and smells delicious like all Burt’s Bees products; didn’t fully remove my eye makeup but I usually use special eye makeup remover for that

Say Yes to Tomatoes Mud Mask: this mud mask smelled amazing. You smooth it on and let it sit for about ten minutes before washing off with warm water. I was most impressed with this out of all the products and I would definitely buy it separately

SheaMoisture Cream & Cleanser: Kukui nut facial cream and cleanser delivers youth-infusing vitamins and antioxidants to help protect against aging.

 

So that was the April target beauty box! Like I have said, one of the benefits to getting the beauty boxes is getting to try new products you normally might never have picked out yourself 🙂

 

The Magnolia Story

I love Chip and Joanna Gaines. I have been watching their HGTV show Fixer Upper for years and was so excited when their book The Magnolia Story came out. On Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna, a husband and wife home renovation team, flip houses for families in their hometown of Waco, Texas. It only took one episode for me to be hooked by their charm and humor, and the classic yet functional design aesthetics they incorporate into their work.

The Magnolia Story is a combination of both Chip and Joanna’s lives growing up in Texas and Kansas respectively, later on after college when they met and began working together, and how Fixer Upper came into existence. When watching the show, it’s hard not to feel like Chip and Joanna lead a charmed life what with how successful their business is, their picture-perfect family with four kids, and their involvement to the community in Waco. But it wasn’t always that way. That things were not always perfect, much like life is not always perfect, was made clear in their book. One of the things that surprised me the most was that they actually didn’t always get along, and they still do not always see eye to eye on everything. Whereas Chip is a go go go kind of guy, Joanna has always been reserved and conservative, so their personalities were conflicting from the start.

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Thanks to Chip’s impulsiveness, they ended up in a lot of sticky situations when they first started out as a couple and as business partners, but Joanna insists that if it weren’t for Chip always pushing her to go outside her comfort zone, she wouldn’t be where she is today, living her dream of being a designer. One of the crazier stories in the book has to be the week that Joanna had her first son, Drake. She and Chip had racked up a few citations with the local police because of Chip’s three dogs that he let run through the neighborhood off leash at odd hours of the day, and just a few days after her son was born the police showed up to arrest her. Chip insisted that he should be the one held responsible since they were his dogs, so they arrested him. Joanna was left standing at the courthouse with her newborn baby, panicked trying to think of how to come up with the $800 it would take to get Chip out of jail. Can you imagine? The book is written from both of their perspectives, mainly Joanna’s but with Chip’s own input here and there. It is as breezy as if you were having a candid conversation with two close friends, just like how they appear on the show.

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Chip and Joanna also have a new quarterly magazine called The Magnolia Journal that features some of what’s on the show like design renovations, before and after stories and a mish mash of tips and tricks, as well new things like easy healthy recipes, and short articles by both Chip and Joanna. Better yet, fashion features (because if you have seen Fixer Upper, you know that Joanna has an amazing wardrobe) and, in issue two, a feature on flower arranging that has a series of beautiful flower classification illustrations. I would say it is like a combination of Real Simple, HGTV Magazine, and Better Homes & Gardens. It’s like your favorite lifestyle blog times ten, and will make you fall in love with the Magnolia story all over again. Both the book and the magazine are so inspiring and uplifting and I would highly recommend both if you have any interest in home design.

Nighttime Routines

I am very particular about my nighttime routine which is simple, yet necessary for me to get a perfect night’s sleep and be able function properly the next day. Here’s some of what’s involved:

Micellar Water: I always, always, always take off my makeup before bed. Micellar water is a great way to remove makeup and eye makeup, like a quick rinse before washing my face. These are actually really nice, too

Moisturizer & Eye Cream: I love my moisturizers. Philosophy Renewed Hope in a Jar is so light and creamy, and this Belif eye cream is just as nice. Both have a slightly cooling effect, go on easily and are super hydrating

Lip Balm: Not sure how this habit got started but I cannot sleep without lip balm. I really like Burt’s Bees (in a tin or a stick) and I also use this rose salve or good ‘ol carmex

Nail file/buffer: When you’re sitting in bed idly watching tv what do you do with your hands? I always end up filing or buffing my nails. I love these things from Target. They are so cheap and I have a few handy by my bedside or in bathroom drawers, on my desk…you get the idea

Earth Theraputics hand cream: one of my favorite brands, they have the nicest variety of hand creams (and foot creams) This dream silk one is particularly nice to use in the evenings because it is lavender scented i.e. very calming

Ice Water & Lemon: some people prefer hot tea before bed, but I like ice water with a dash of lemon juice or, if I happen to have them on hand, a little slice of lemon. It’s so refreshing and hydrating and I always have a bottle of it or a glass by my bedside

Reading material: I like to have some light reading material on hand to peruse before I actually go to sleep. I don’t know about you, but staring at screens, be they TV’s or phones, right before bed makes it infinitely harder to fall asleep. More on that, here. Putting the screens aside and resting your eyes before bed is really important especially if, like me, you are someone who wears glasses or contacts most of the day. I like fun magazines like HGTV magazine, Better Homes and Gardes, etc. and fun, light reads like anything by Sarah Jio or any of these 🙂

Doggo: And finally, the best way to relax before bed is to have your furry friend by your side 🙂

What is your nighttime routine or ritual?

What We’ve Been Up to Lately

It seems like most of us are thawing out and getting to enjoy some real spring weather finally. I can’t believe it is already (almost) May! Before we know it we’ll be halfway through the year, which is all the more reason to make these days count, right? Here’s a mini-recap of what we’ve been up to and a couple snapshots:

  • Instagram stories are turning me into even more of a dog-paparazzi than I already was. My stories are 89% just pictures of my dog doing funny poses or with lots of emojis surrounding him. I don’t think he minds 🙂
  • I finally got around to trying Yogi Tea and I was impressed. There are so many different flavors and each tea bag has some words of wisdom to contemplate as you drink, kind of like a fortune cookie.
  • We went to our library’s used book sale over the weekend and I got some great finds. I can’t wait to start reading.
  • Lately we have been those people who seem to be at the gym 2-3+ times a week. No real reason why, other than it’s warming up quiet a bit here and the cabin fever of being stuck inside all day at work is kind of getting to us! We are lucky to have a gym so close by that we can frequent on week nights or whenever the feelings strikes.

Not pictured: sneezy spring allergies, worrying about international events, early mornings spent working on creative projects, obsessive spring cleaning once we realized how dusty every surface in the house is, and the hours spent binge watching Once Upon A Time (highly recommend if you’re looking for something light and with minimal drama!) 🙂 What have you been up to?