First impression review: John Fluevog shoes women’s Zachary boot

As usual, I have not been compensated in any way for this review, and the product being reviewed was purchased by myself at full price. (Not that I’d turn down a discount if it was offered…)
I just started breaking these beauties in, so expect a follow up to this review once they’re a bit worn in.
So, I have a really bad addiction to quality, and ‘Vogs are the perfect package of quality and style. I couldn’t really afford these, but I had to have them, so I apologized to my credit card and went for it anyway. 😄
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When I opened the box, I was greeted by the wonderful smell of nice leather. Then I noticed the sweet postcard from Ramona at the NY store whom I spoke to a couple times during the order process. I love personal touches like that! ❤
Needless to say I was already grinning like an idiot before I even pulled away the signature shoe print tissue. The boots are absolutely beautiful, and I tried them on immediately. Perfect fit, as usual. (If you order some 'Vogs online its always a good idea to consult with a "Fluevologist" about size, because they KNOW their shoes and will help you find your perfect fit.) The boot itself is beautiful and feels strong but supple. So far my ankles haven't gotten a single blister, which is pretty amazing really. The foot area is lined in leather, and feels comfortable and not at all sweaty. The upper is unlined, so they fit nice and snug. I have skinny-ass ankles and moderately big calves, and I love that these boots manage to accomodate both comfortably. The sole is quiet and feels almost bouncy. It also says it resists oil, alkali, and Satan, which could come in handy some day… ;D
I especially love the lucky swirl at the bottom of the lacing, because it gives these boots a certain girlyness I wouldn't have though big, tough boots could have.
I love them so much that I already have a second pair on hold in purple (to match my hair!) and I can't wait to finish paying them off so they can be mine! (Hey, they say you aren't supposed to wear the same shoes every day so the leather can dry completely. That's my excuse for needing two pairs.)
In summary, these boots are one of the best things I've ever bought. They're gorgeous and suit me better than anything I've ever owned that I didn't make myself. The pull loops on my boots say it best: DDFT (don't delay, fluevog today!)

Update: I went for a mile and a half hike over the weekend, and no blisters, no sore spots, no discomfort. At the end of the hike my feet felt great!
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It’s time to apologize…

We are almost all mean people. We are hopelessly cruel, more likely to insult than compliment. We are the harshest bullies in the world.
I know many of you (hopefully all) are thinking, “I’m not mean! I’d never insult someone! WTF?!?”
You are though. Want to know who you’re bullying? 
Look in the mirror.
Think about what you say to yourself day after day. Would you say those things to a stranger? A family member? Your best friend? Would they say them to you?
I hope the answer is no.
It’s time to stop.
I want you to take a selfie right now. Don’t fix your hair. Don’t do your makeup. Ignore the lighting. Just take a picture.
Got it?
Now look at the person in that picture. Look them straight in the eye. Don’t analyze the picture.  Don’t pick yourself apart. Pretend it’s your best friend in the world, because really you should be your own best friend anyway.
Now apologize.  Apologize for all the times you called you fat. Apologize for all the times you called you ugly. Apologize for all the times you said you weren’t good enough. Apologize for all the times you compared yourself to models and pictures instead of appreciating your unique self. Apologize for thinking you weren’t worthy of love and respect, and for hurting yourself to try and “fix” the problems that were never really there to begin with. Say it out loud, even if you feel stupid doing it. Keep saying it until you forgive yourself.  Keep saying it until you can look at that picture and see how beautiful you actually are. Until you realize you’re looking at a picture of a really amazing person that you honestly love and respect.
This stuff is hard.
You might have to do this every day for a long time before it starts to feel okay. Keep doing it. Trust me. You’re worth the effort.
I’ll be doing it too.
When you’re feeling brave, post your selfie with something you needed to apologize to you for, and tag it #imsorryme so I can find it. Post more if you want to. Post a new one every day even. I’m posting one today, so I hope you’ll join me.

I’m back from my extended absence…

I’ve been up to a lot of things lately, so this week I’m going to make a general update on what’s in the works. I’ll expand on the interesting bits later. 🙂
I graduated in August, and have been job hunting constantly since then. I don’t want to take just anything.  I want to find the RIGHT job.  It’s a ton of work. 😛
That’s been taking up most of my time really.
I’ve also been doing a lot of sewing and crafting, as usual. I’ll make a separate post about that soon, because I need to take better pictures of most of it.
I recently opened a Cafe Press shop called Notes From The Valley because I’ve been doing lots of photography lately. If you check it out, please tell me what you think! It isn’t “finished” yet, but it’s getting there.
Finally, there’s two big projects I’d like to talk about a little, one of which I plan to devote an entire post to next week. First, I’m starting a second blog devoted to something that has become very important to me: buying better quality things, less frequently,  and in smaller quantities. I’m not going to go into detail here because I’m hoping you’ll go check out the first post later today! You can find it here. Secondly, and this will be the topic of next week’s post, I am planning to enter at least one (hopefully several) beauty contests because I want to stand up for alternative beauty standards, and use the appearances to speak out against bullying and spread a body positive message. I don’t expect to win (purple hair and piercings are not usually beauty queen material…) but I think it will be fun, and hopefully I can reach some of the girls while they’re still young and malleable.  🙂
I’ve officially scheduled Wednesdays as WordPress Wednesdays, so expect new content every Wednesday from here on out! Thanks for being patient during my absence! ❤

The trainwreck phase…

One of the most important things I learned from a jewelry class I took had very little to do with jewelry. I was working on a project and it looked absolutely awful. I was frustrated and showed my instructor while complaining that I wanted to chuck it and start over. What she told me changed my life in a small way: keep going, because you’re just in the trainwreck phase and if you keep working on it it’s gonna be great!
First off, she was absolutely right. It came out wonderfully.
Beyond that though, I realized this advice applies to SO many things. For example, skin care. Often when you start a new skin care routine such as peels, dermabrasion, or retinoids, frequently your skin seems to get worse for a little while. This is the trainwreck phase. If you keep going, your skin adapts and improves, and eventually you get the results you wanted!  Dietary improvements can have a trainwreck phase too. For me, that’s a given since I have IBS. Any major change to my diet tends to be a trainwreck. For a lot of people though, an increase in hydration and fiber leads to bloating. The healthy diet you decided to use to lose weight might initially make you seem fatter! Oh noes!! But fear not! It’s just the trainwreck phase, and once your digestive tract gets used to the new food pattern the bloat will stop and the weight will come off. Even exercise has a trainwreck phase. The first few weeks can be AWFUL. Persistence will get you through though! You’ll probably still be a little sore some days if you’re varying your workouts,  but it won’t be nearly as bad as the first couple weeks.
Whenever I’m struggling with something I’m working hard at, I try to remember that it’s probably just a trainwreck phase, and if I keep going it’ll get better soon!

Note: there are places this doesn’t apply. If you’re being abused, that’s not a trainwreck phase. Walk away.  Sometimes things won’t work no matter how hard you try, and those are also things to walk away from. My rule of thumb is if it takes more than a couple weeks to make progress, you should consider if it’s really the right choice. Irritating the skin a little can be good, but over a longer term it’s definitely not. Pushing yourself too hard can damage your body. Respect yourself enough to trust yourself if something doesn’t feel right.

What I’ve been up to…

I haven’t had the chance to post in a while because my senior thesis is looming, but I thought I’d give a quick update for anyone who’s still following.
I had the privilege of participating in Kent State’s Undergraduate research symposium.
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It was hard work, but really fun!
I left before the awards because I had to write a midterm, but I got an email from my advisor a little later, and to my amazement I took first in my category!
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I got this cool award and some money I’m going to put toward the two classes I have to take this summer. 🙂

Recently I’ve joined in on Zatchels’ contest in hopes of winning the 12 bags they are giving away. I don’t want to win for me though! I have so many friends and family that have loved my bags and can’t afford to buy one, so I want to win so I can give them to people I love! I want most to be able to give them to my mom, because she’s hard on bags, and my sister-in-law, because she loves mine but she’s a broke grad student in NYC. It would be the most amazing prize to me if I could give them Zatchels for Christmas or their birthdays!!!
Here’s a collection of the pics I’ve submitted so far, along with some closer shots of the makeup for most of the looks:

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I’ve made it a personal challenge to post a new outfit every day until the contest ends, so check out my twitter/instagram accounts to see the latest pics!

I also took my new favorite selca ever!
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I don’t usually think of myself as pretty, so when I find a picture I really like I get really excited about it! (Which is probably kinda sad, really…)

The only other important thing that’s happened lately was I got a root canal yesterday.
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(Yup. I’m that cool.)
It was a super painful abscessed tooth, so the root canal was a relief,  not something negative.  🙂

So yeah, that’s pretty much my life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a 20 page thesis to write…

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How to have good skin and hair part four: difficult advice to follow…

Finally getting back to things after the holiday madness. Sorry about the wait. I’ll be more regular from here. 🙂

So, here I go again with advice you probably don’t want to hear!
The previous posts were full of advice that I follow religiously. Today, I will discuss the things I know I should follow but tend to screw it up. 😄

1. Don’t pick at your skin.
Picking at pimples, etc. leads to scarring and dark patches. It’s best if you can avoid touching your face at all.
I have OCD, and skin picking is one of my symptoms. I don’t even realize I’m doing it sometimes. I’m worst about picking my upper arms (I have keratosis pilaris so there’s plenty of bumps to pick!) but I also pick at large pores, blackheads, whiteheads, dry patches, random lumps, etc. It’s an awful habit, and I’m doing my best to stop. I carry silly putty so if I need to stop picking I can occupy my hands with something else. I also do needlework when I’m watching movies or chatting so I know what my hands are doing at all times.

2. Don’t pull skin around your cuticles
Hands are skin too! Pretty hands are an asset that anyone can cultivate.Use cuticle cream or oil at least twice a day, and lotion every time you wash your hands. If you do get a hangy bit, cut it off with a cuticle nipper, or cover it with a bandaid until you can cut it. While I’m on the hands, DO NOT BITE YOUR NAILS!!! It can permanently damage the nail beds, especially if you bite them really far back. I was never prone to nail biting, but I have seen the result on the hands of others. I also recognize the difficulty of breaking habits. Try that bitter stuff, or use silly putty to keep your hands away from your mouth.
I’m a licensed manicurist. I know not to pull the hangy bits. Half the time they end up bleeding everywhere if I do. I carry a nipper everywhere now, and I’m religious about cuticle cream, but there are times…

3. Cut back on sugar!
Apparently one of the processes that leads to the breakdown of collagen and elastin is called glycation. It happens naturally, but sugar makes it worse. *sigh* Science, why must you ruin everything…

4. Wear sunscreen. Every. Damn. Day.
Usually it’s pretty easy to remember this for me, but if it’s not sunny, or I’m not going outside…
Do it anyway. Fluorescent (and some incandescent) bulbs give of UV. Windows don’t block much either. Even tvs and computer screens can produce UV. ALWAYS wear sunscreen. I just saw an article in a magazine (I forget which one) that said a study demonstrated people who wear sunscreen every day look noticably younger than those who wear it only sometimes. And don’t forget to reapply!

5. Avoid touching your face, rubbing your eyes, or playing with your hair.
Touching your skin means that dirt and bacteria from your hands get on your face. Gross, but true. Also, rubbing your eyes too often can stretch the skin and can cause dark circles. (Not to mention that I always forget I’m wearing makeup and end up looking like a racoon) Try to keep your hands away from your face as much as you can. Playing with your hair isn’t SO bad, but it can lead to breakage and frizzing. I find that these habits, along with picking, are the hardest to break, so if anyone has done it I’d love to hear how!

So, there ya go. I have trouble with these too, so please share any tips you’ve found in the comments.

I’m back! (Workout update, etc)

I lost track of time and never blogged over the whole holiday break. Yikes!
I hope everyone had a nice holiday. Mine was okay, but I would much rather not traveled to see family. It’s really tiring since I’m an introvert, and my OCD doesn’t like travel very much. Hopefully next year I can excuse myself without hurting too many feelings.

I’m still doing those workouts, and I am absolutely in love with them! I can do push ups now! (Real ones, not girly ones) I can hold a plank for almost two minutes! I’m just SO much stronger!
I’ve been on the three cheat treat challenge for 21 days now, and I’m still going strong. It’s gotten much easier, but sometimes I still really want to go back to my sugary ways. 😄
I am still losing weight as well, although it’s not as rapid as on the no snacks/no cheats challenge. I think I’m down 6-7 lbs so far, although I’m not calling it official until my next nutrition appointment weigh in. I’m feeling a little frustrated though, because I’m apparently losing weight, but I can’t find any evidence of where I’m losing it from. My measurements (natural waist, full hip, calf) haven’t changed really. Maybe it’s just me measuring weird, or it’s coming from spots I don’t measure. Again, the next appointment will tell me more. I’m doing my best not to feel too discouraged until I have official numbers.

Sunday afternoon I will post the next edition of How To Have Good Skin and Hair, so please watch for it!

How to have good skin and hair part three: science! SCIENCE!!! *evil laugh*

Let’s talk ingredients. Everyone put on your labcoats and goggles. We’re going to try science!

First, some basics. Let’s go over some terms you may see on packaging and what they do (or don’t) mean:

Natural- I know. People like natural products. They sound safe and earthy, right? Don’t be fooled. Many things are natural that aren’t safe, and many things that are safe that aren’t natural.  Natural could be something nice like aloe, something nasty like arsenic, or something that isn’t really different from the conventional version.

Organic- this means the ingredients were produced without synthetic growth enhancement. In skin care, this is often a synonym for natural. I know someone is going to argue that I’m wrong, but I don’t think organic skin care is worth spending extra money.

Chemical- people are afraid of chemicals. It’s pretty stupid really. Everything is made of chemicals. Knowing what chemicals are and do is important. For example, you’d be in real trouble if instead of h2o you drank a chilled glass of h2so4!

Okay? Good. Let’s talk about some ingredients with good science behind them! I’ve oversimplified some of the descriptions for brevity.

Retinoids- this is just about the best stuff out there! You can get prescription creams like retin-a, or over the counter versions.
Alias: retinoic acid, retinol, tretinoin, retinyl palmitate, vitamin A

Peptides- peptides are componds that tell cells to behave certain ways. Different peptides do different things. Some increase collagen, some relax muscles, some make hair and eyelashes grow! You can find plenty of information online about which peptides do what.

Alpha and beta hydroxy acids- these vary in strength from removing entire layers of skin (performed by a derm) to gentle enough to use twice a day.
Alias: glycolic acid, salicylic acid, acetic acid, ascorbic acid, trichloroacetic acid

Hydroquinone- this substance bleaches melanin from the skin. Despite rumors to the contrary,  it is safe and effective.  Many “replacements” such as alpha arbutin are converted to hydroquinone in the skin, so you may as well go with the real thing.

Antioxidants- oxidation is what causes rust in metal. In skin it does similar damage, but it isn’t as obvious. Antioxidants help stop, or even reverse, this damage. There are lots of good ones, but I’m partial to white or green tea, and vitamin c.

Look for those things when shopping for skin care.

For hair, it’s important to remember that hair is dead. Your scalp needs care and nutrients, but most nutrients can’t be absorbed by the hair. Biotin, keratin, and oils are good for the hair. Other than that, look for lower sulfate products because they’re gentler.

That give you a good start. Next week I’ll share some advice I have trouble following!

How to have good skin and hair: part two (in which I end up sounding like your mother…)

Hello again!
Last time I talked about the most important things NOT to do. Today I’m going to talk about some really basic things you NEED to do if you want to have good skin and hair.
It’s really important to remember that good skin and hair require good health. Yes, you can fake it pretty well with makeup and procedures.  So what. Isn’t it better to be able to skip makeup entirely and still look lovely?
Okay then!

1. Get enough sleep.
The term “beauty sleep” exists for a reson.  During sleep the body repairs itself and renews the skin. If you skimp on sleep, not only will you look tired, but your skin won’t recover from the environmental damage it got during the day. 8 hours is about right for most people. No less than 6 though, and more than 10 is not so good either.
Bonus: if you can sleep on your back you will wrinkle less. If you can’t (like me. I keep trying though) use a satin pillowcase and try to put less pressure on your face if possible. Satin pillowcases also prevent tangled hair, so they’re a hood choice for anyone.

2. Get some exercise regularly.
You don’t have to spend hours at the gym, but you really should get off the couch and do something almost every day. Not only does it make you healthier, but it improves blood flow to the skin. Better blood flow gives you a glowing complexion and helps your hair grow faster! About 30 mins per day is good. Anything will do. A brisk walk is nice. I like strength training and HIIT but I’m a glutton for punishment.  If you’d rather play tag or go dancing, go for it!

3. Eat your vegetables.  (And fruits, and protein and good fats)
Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.  So are fruits. The more colorful your diet, the better! However, don’t forget that you need protein for healthy hair, skin, and nails. You also need good fats (omega fatty acids) to avoid dry skin and reduce inflammation.  I like sardines and salmon because they have protein and good fats, but if you don’t eat fish there are plenty of other options.
Bonus: make a skin smoothie.  Put 1 cup skim milk in a blender with 1/2 cup each frozen strawberries and blueberries and a peeled banana. Add about a teaspoon cocoa powder and blend until smooth. Yum!

4. Keep your skin and scalp clean. (Gently)
Don’t sleep with makeup on. Ever. I wash my face twice a day, but a lot of people just wash at night. I like to get the night products off before I put on my day stuff because I think the spf is more effective on clean skin. Some people might go for three times if oil is a problem or the gym is a priority. If your skin is dry and tight after you wash your face, use a gentler cleanser and wash less often. I also LOVE my Clarisonic brush. It’s a bit spendy, but it leaves my skin really clean.
Some people say you shouldn’t wash your hair every day. I really think it depends on the person. I have eczema, and if I don’t shampoo daily my scalp gets super itchy and I end up scratching/picking at it until it bleeds. It won’t hurt you either way, as long as you use a low/no sulfate shampoo and a good conditioner.

5. Drink plenty of water.
Hydration makes a big difference in how you look and feel. Most people don’t drink nearly enough water. Carry a bottle (preferably a metal one that you fill yourself) with you everywhere. Green tea and white tea (brew them yourself and don’t add sweetners or dairy!) are awesome since they have minimal caffeine and tons of antioxidants. I love the using loose teas, but there’s nothing wrong with the humble teabag. (Bag tea isn’t as tasty though.) Decaf green is actually great too, but try to find the oxygen decaffeinated kind, rather than by water or chemicals. I love Bromley decaf green when I get teabags, because it’s decaffeinated the right way and the customer service people were super nice and very responsive when I emailed to ask! Coffee and soda, are not so good. Juice isn’t great either, since it’s mainly sugar. Vegetable juice is better than fruit juice, but not as good as whole veggies. Just get a bottle you love and keep it full of water. It’ll be your best friend before long!
Bonus: filtered water is better tasting, so get a filter pitcher and keep it full. I track my water by keeping 4 20oz bottles in my fridge filled with water and trying to finish them by the end of the day.
Bonus 2: learn to make green tea properly. Most people use water that is way too hot and then wonder why the tea ends up bitter. Different teas require different temperatures and steeping times, so learn about the tea before you brew it. There are also lots of different kinds of green and white teas, so try as many as you can! I like sencha, which tastes kind of asparagus-like and vegetal. I also love silver needles, which is a white tea where the leaves are rolled into long, thin needle shapes. It tastes almost sweet, and is a subtle flavor.

And finally #6. ALWAYS WEAR SUNBLOCK. EVEN IN WINTER. EVEN INDOORS. JUST WEAR IT, OKAY?
Reapply every couple hours if possible.  I admit, I cheat on reapplication if I’m not going to be outside, but I am always wearing SPF 70 mineral block, over a moisturizer with sunscreen. Powder sunscreen is a nice way to reapply since it doesn’t leave you greasy or smear makeup.
Bonus: mineral block also blocks infrared light, which may increase photoaging. There isn’t a ton of evidence since UV is the supervillan in sunlight, but it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution. 

Well, that’s the basics. Again, probably stuff you already knew. And probably not the answers you were hoping for. In the next post in this series I will get into what ingredients to look for in skin care/hair care products and why they work.

In the mean time, let me know in the comments if you found this helpful/interesting,  and if you have any tips to add!