Duck & Cover

As children, we’re told to not judge a book by its cover and this is great metaphorical advice. Not leaping to conclusions is always a good rule to stick to. However, how many of us literally judge books by their covers?

The cover of a book tells us so much, from how the publishing house wishes to market the book, to what kind of story we might find inside. I mean, that’s the point of the cover. Whether it’s an illustration, a version of the adapted movie poster, or covered in excerpts of reviews, the cover is there to tell us both what to expect from the story, who the story inside is for, and whether or not it’s in Oprah’s book club.

 

I recently saw a list of similarly comped up book covers (I will add the link when I find it!) and then made these myself based on the tropes that always jumped out to me. Is the difference between a ‘cultural dramatic fiction’ and ‘chick lit’ just having a male or female author, respectively? Who decides when the name of an author is worth outweighing the title of the book? Why have stock images on the cover to give the reader a predetermined visual instead of letting them use their imagination? Nobody likes it when the movie adaptation is used for the cover, right?

I know that in the past I’ve not read a book because I didn’t like the cover, only to really enjoy it when I begrudgingly read it. If the cover were blank, would it be better? Do we enjoy books more or less when we know the general gist or theme? There is no right answer, but I think a good answer is for the publishing houses to find some new ideas when it comes to covers.

 

Advertisements

Insomniac Productions

Anyone who has insomnia, knows how annoying and frustrating it is. Sometimes all you can do is stare at the ceiling, but sometimes you can get itchy to make things. Last night was a ‘make thiiiiings!’ night. I’ve found it best to just roll with it.

CatnipFeline

I can’t explain why I created cat magazines, but I did. I imagine them in one of the hipper and fancier cat cafes, where someone (cat or person) is wearing a beret. Then, because all cats aren’t necessarily cool cats, I created a gossip rag for them. Something to bring to the litter box, perhaps.
Can we collectively blame my lack of sleep for this?

Gettin' Catty IssueOctober 2019Issue 2 _ Vol 2

They aren’t perfect – the one above definitely isn’t – but running on fumes is never the best way to get good kerning. Oh well.

Who knows what tonight will bring? Hopefully sleep!

Asking For It: Help

Asking for help isn’t easy. We should get that out in the open first. Asking for help is admitting weakness, which few of us are willing to do. It has always been something I struggled with, for better or worse. It was often a curious situation of being chastised half the time for not asking for help when I needed it, or being praised for my self-reliance and figure-it-out-myself independence.

I know I could improve with this, and have been making an effort to be more willing to ask for help when I need it, but it’s also important to figure out why you were reluctant in the first place. Maybe you can empathize with some of these situations I found myself in.

As the youngest in the family, I was often held to the same standard as everyone older than me. Asking for help was publicly admitting I wasn’t at that same standard, and when things were then explained to it, it often made me feel small. Similarly, for whatever reason, there was an expectation to get things right the first attempt. If you couldn’t be perfect on your first try, you had failed. As you can imagine, asking for help was admitting your failure and it was better to keep quiet and practice until your “first” effort could be witnessed. I don’t begrudge being held to a high standard, it definitely made me work harder, but there should have been a distinction between the standard set, and the journey made to achieve it.

I thankfully now do not fall to pieces when I fail upon my first attempt. I tell myself that a high standard cannot be attained without trial and error.

Then there were the times when I did dip a toe into the asking-for-help waters, only to get bit. To reach out for help, especially in a moment of fear, to then not be heard or listened to is enough to make a person shut down. To work up the courage to speak, and for it to be ignored or twisted, would stop you asking in the future. I know that “safe spaces” are mocked in some circles, but simply letting a person know that if they speak up, they will be listened to and heard, is their greatest purpose.

Asking for help does not come naturally for everyone, and each person has their own reasons for it. If someone comes to you for help, please listen to them. Listen to what they are asking for, and hear what they need. These could be two different things. 

 

Cake Slices: Basic Cooking

One thing that stood out to me when I moved to America was the amount of times people seemed to go out to eat, or order take out. Having come from a place where meals out were saved for special occasions, and from a family for whom regular take out was not financially viable, it sort of blew my mind. On the flip side, I’ve blown the minds of some people here who can’t believe that it’s possible to cook for yourself for more than 6 days running. I wish that was a joke.

Therefore, the next slice of the self-improvement cake shall be cooking. It honestly isn’t that difficult, and luckily there are a whole lot more resources out there now. There are the food services, like Blue Apron, which would be a good place to test the waters for yourself and create the habit. I like the idea of these in theory, but they produce so much waste with the individually wrapped ingredients that it turns me off.

I once was told “if you can read, you can cook” and then handed a recipe book. Thankfully, there are so many recipe websites and inspired week menus to help you out with planning and making your meals. While no recipe has a guarantee of success, I’ve found that if you follow the instructions then more often than not you will get something edible. There are so many reasons to eat at home more: save money, reduce waste, relaxation, healthier, and time away from a screen.

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 1.50.59 PM

  1. Choose a day to do a weekly grocery shop on, and make a menu plan before you go so you can list out all the ingredients you need. The added bonus of a precise list is that you’re less likely to have impulse purchases!
  2. Start with simple recipes to build up your confidence.
  3. When planning your week, think about how leftovers can be repurposed for other meals. Tacos can become a taco salad for work the next day. A roast chicken can last through a variety of meals and days.
  4. If you have a busy week at work, plan accordingly! Make a big pot of soup or stew at the weekend you can heat up easily when you get home, or have frozen leftovers thaw during the day for a quick microwave when you’re home.
  5. Be safe with reheating leftovers, especially meat and rice.
  6. Bookmark successful and tasty recipes for you to reuse in the future.
  7. Give each day a theme to make it easier to think of new meals. Such as “Meatless Monday”. That said, if you like a meal and want to repeat it, then go forth and enjoy.
  8. Wash up as you go, or put things into the dishwasher as you go, to keep the kitchen tidier as you cook and to avoid having to do it all in one go.
  9. Don’t oversalt!
  10. Miss your fave take out meal? Look online for a dupe recipe and try making it for yourself at home! It will probably be healthier, and you might even like it better.

SaveSave

Stay Golden

I only recently started getting into skincare products, and I know I’m late to the game. The rise of brands like Glossier and The Ordinary, as well as the collaborative community of reddit’s skincare addition board, skincare is a lot less daunting to approach.

Admittedly, I am pretty lucky in that I haven’t had acne and don’t sunburn, so I’ve been able to coast on face wipes and toner. Now that age (sob) is catching up, and cameras are HD, I’m starting to be more critical and thoughtful in my quest for poreless and ageless skin.

The most fun, in my opinion, has been learning about what things are and what they do. The difference between BHA’s and AHA’s, what rose hip oil is for, and finding those HG (holy grail) products. I am definitely not an expert, but I’m enjoying learning about Korean beauty products, and dupes of expensive brands.

The key things I’ve learned to stay golden with your skincare may seem basic, but I want to pass them on regardless:

  1. Moisturize your face. It won’t make you break out. Find a light one, preferably with sunscreen in, and do it twice a day. Maybe more in winter.
  2. Don’t freak out if you do break out after starting a new product, as your skin may be just purging all the bad toxins.
  3. Take off all your makeup, and wash your face with warm (not hot) water every night. I personally also use a different washcloth/flannel every time, which I think might help too.
  4. Don’t cake on foundation everyday. You can if you want to, but your skin will appreciate the time to breathe.
  5. Don’t touch your face. Every one always says not to pick, which is true, but I encourage you not to touch it in general. Germs from your hands can easily transfer. This includes leaning your cheek on your hand, or prodding at a zit.

I couldn’t use the expression ‘stay golden’ and not include a gold mood board, especially when this time of year calls for some shimmer!

gold mood

Mutton Dressed As Fabulous

Do you ever wonder if you’re too old to wear something? That thought is a milestone unto itself since I never wondered such things when I was 23. Society is keen to point out what is age appropriate to wear, via shaming articles dressed up as sartorial self-help pieces. When I started thinking about these standards, the ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ sayings, I began to notice that it’s always aimed at women. Not once did I find an example of a man being told to dress his age.
(Although if you can find one, I’d very much be open to seeing it!)

Regardless, it cannot be argued that ‘dressing your age’ is a female-focused topic. The subtext is sexual, as most subtext tends to be. ‘Dressing your age’ translates to “nobody wants to see that!” and sometimes removing sexuality from women society deems too old to be reproductively ‘useful’. At other times, the ‘do’s and don’ts’ seem arbitrary and rooted in outdated norms: why should we care if people over 40 want to wear distressed denim?

Whenever a woman decides to shun the subtly imposed uniform of the aged, and reclaim her body, the response is most likely to be of the “Put it away, lady” variety. The uniform, often unique across cultures, races, and economic status, shares the underlying theme of muted, covered up, and invisible. The uniform should be optional, with Iris Apfel and Baddie Winkle leading the way of advanced style.

real estate in the city
Advanced Style, Baddie Winkle

When we are also told that 40 is the new 30, and “you’re only as young as you feel”, what does ‘dressing your age’ even mean? The Advanced Style publication showed us that fashion and style has no age limit, and that we aren’t all destined for Chico’s. Happy, healthy and comfortable always look good, whether wearing orthopedic shoes or thigh high boots.

We don’t think twice about these helpful guides online, telling us to throw out our miniskirts when we reach our 30th birthdays, or toss our glittery eyeshadow when we leave our parents Obamacare plans. Magazines and stylists tell us how to dress our body in an ‘age appropriate’ manner, and banning us from certain stores. I’ve counted too many articles chastising me for owning graphic tees, sheer dresses, and a Hello Kitty purse. Well, excuse me, but fuck your articles.

While we focus too much on 30-something women reclaiming a youthful style; we need to look older. Can we stop nagging women over 60 who want to wear fast fashion or light up sneakers? Can we just focus on encouraging the exploration of personal style, regardless of age? I’m sure I won’t have exactly the same style when I’m 70 as I do now, but I would hope that wherever my style goes, I’d be free to wear it without the fashion police tutting at me for not dressing my age.

Cake Slice: Learn Easy Skills

If you want to be the girl with the most cake, aches and all, it’s important to not neglect your slices. A cake slice can be anything in your life, from hobbies to goals, but it’s a nice bitesize (nom) way of approaching things.

The first cake slice I want to talk about is the slice of easy skills. There are some really easy-to-learn skills that less and less people are learning, and they can save you money, perhaps become a hobby, or allow you to help your friends out. It’s a win-win-win situation.

The first skill is one I learned in school, which probably dates me even if it was quite rare for my age to be taught in school to begin with. The class was Home Economics, and the skill is sewing. I am not a fancy cross-stitcher by any means, but I can sew on a button, make small alterations, and fix holes and rips. It’s incredibly easy to learn how, and you’ll probably become the go-to lifesaver in your group of friends.

Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 2.44.08 PM
via Apartment Therapy

Most drug stores have little sewing kits for sale, which is the perfect place to start. I’ve seen them at Walgreens, CVS, Target, and Walmart. It will come with thread, needles, scissors, and maybe even a placement button or two. It’s common for the thread to be already threaded into the needle, which is very thoughtful of them.

There are lots of great tutorials online – both video and infographic formats – to teach you, and they can probably teach you better than anything I can do. While there are some very tricky sewing techniques, learning a simple stitch for a button or hole is incredibly simple and logical to learn. It will likely take you less than an hour to get the hang of it! If you’re feeling more ambitious, you can try out a sewing machine which is also easy to use. Although threading the bobbin is a huge pain in the arse, but modern machines may make it easier than the older ones I learned on! You may also discover you really love it, and go on to do the fancy cross stitching.

So, I highly recommend your first easy-to-learn skill to tackle is simple sewing. It’s a very small cost and time investment to get started, and the internet can provide you all the info you need. Knowing how to fix simple clothing issues yourself can save you time and money in the future!

SaveSave

No Reason

It’s sometimes the simplest piece of advice that can have the greatest impact. A few years ago, when in a session with my doctor, she said something so… obvious, and yet it kind of blew my mind.

You don’t have to justify why you say ‘no’.

How many of us feel guilt when refusing or declining something that we feel we must give a reason why?
“No thank you… I have a boyfriend.”
“No… I’ve been really busy lately.”
“No… but we can definitely do it tomorrow.”
I’m not suggesting that you need to stop giving reasons completely, in fact sometimes it is necessary. It’s more with the situations when you maybe can’t articulate why something doesn’t feel right, or you’re not in the mood, or you’ve had a long day and you’d rather scream into a pillow. It should be enough to say “no, thank you” but it often isn’t, especially for women.

At work, it is often more diplomatic to agree to tasks outside our job descriptions, but there should be another way to deflect. Our friends should know not to push why we don’t feel like drinking that day. In dating, it should be enough to just say no.

We are guilted into being accommodating, because heaven forbid we’re seen as a bitch or not ‘nurturing’. We’re scared into giving reasons that cannot be dismissed as easily as it is to dismiss what women say.

Saying “no” in and of itself is oddly empowering. When asked if you want to eat somewhere, you can say “no” without following up with “but I love that place, I just ate there recently” even if it’s a lie. You can say “no” to being a bridesmaid, and thank them for the honor, but you don’t owe them a reason why.

We also need to look at ourselves. Do you push things when someone says ‘no’? Do you push them to give a reason why? Do you keep bringing it up later? Do you try and guilt them into saying yes? (Obviously, if a friend appears depressed and you’re concerned, you could try to get below the surface!). How many of us who claim #MeToo were guilted or chastised for saying no? No means no, and you don’t need to apologize for it.

Don’t abandon manners, but don’t always feel like you need to justify why you say no. If someone makes you uncomfortable, you can say no and not owe them an explanation of why they are leaving. If you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do, even by your boss, you can decline. It’s better to explain later, than to try and justify your fears in the moment. A reasonable person will understand if you tell them ‘no thank you’. It’s a good barometer for the type of person you’re dealing with.

Hygge Mood

hygge

A vast majority of the country is very chilly right now, so I hope you are keeping warm wherever you are. I miss having a real fireplace, one that you had to build yourself and not just flick on with a gas light.

When we had a wood fire, one of my chores would be to stack the logs in the greenhouse. We’d get a delivery, and it would need carrying around to the back. It always took ages, and I soon learned gloves were a necessity to avoid splinters or close contact with a spider. That said, it was always preferable to a coal fire which ran the risk of smudging soot everywhere.

As Dickensian as it sounds, one of our ‘family activities’ in the autumn was to go hunting for kindling. On a rare dry day, we’d head to the nearby woods or forest with tote bags and collect twigs for the fire. It was essential they were dry, and I quite enjoyed it. I have a feeling this was a bit unusual even back then, so it must sound ridiculous now.