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.

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  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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Golden Roses

rose gold mood

I feel like the popularity of rose gold is waning. Will yellow gold have a comeback? Are we due for a silver domination? I’m rather fond of mixing metals, and I’m still fond of rose gold.

There was a time when rose gold seemed to cover anything and everything. It was to accessories what mason jars were to weddings, which is to say it was everywhere. I like rose gold because it is flattering to everyone, and a more delicate metallic than its cousin bronze.

2018 is the year of ultra violet, which has a natural match with silver. That said, I wouldn’t throw all your rose gold things out too soon.

Time Is A Flat Circle

I know it’s cliched, but what’s the harm in making some changes to your life? Last year wasn’t the best, so here are some resolutions and goals I have for a more positive 2018, starting with…

  1. Be more positive. I consider myself a realist, which others call a pessimist, so maybe it’s time to be more optimistic about the world and give people the benefit of the doubt. Within reason, I mean.
  2. Flake less, and be more social. I am rather shy, and I know that reserved behavior can come across as anti-social (which I think is a bit unfair). I will try to go out more, and stick to the plans I make.
  3. Be more active, and make better food choices. To be fair, I’m already quite active and tend to make good food choices, but I could always be better. I should snack of less cereal (even if it’s organic oat flakes with no sugar) and walk the dog more instead of just playing fetch with him in the yard.
  4. Force creativity. I love to write and paint, but found myself utterly zapped for creativity as I went on various meds in the last year. My doctor says I just need to set time every day to be creative, which seems… not conducive to creativity? Anyway, I need to at least try this more. Which is one of the reasons I’m doing this blog thing.
  5. Oh yeah, remember to always take those aforementioned meds.
  6. Work on my self esteem. I’m self conscious, and I hate the way I look. I’m not sure if I should change my appearance or just make peace with it, but I’m going to work on it. I will make an effort to learn new makeup techniques, as I’ve been rocking the same look for years now, and maybe try a new hair cut. There is so much makeup out there, with tutorials and the like, so this can be a learning exercise and maybe even a way to be creative.

7. This is the big one, and I don’t know how easy it will be, but I want to give it a try. I am not going to buy anything this year, like clothes or shoes or miscellaneous crap. I have too much stuff and I don’t need new jeans, I just need to lose 10lbs to fit in my old jeans. I have tshirts, dresses, shoes, and bags for every occasion so I have no excuse to buy new things. I’m already good at making lunch and coffee at home, so taking my reduced spending to the next level is a logical step. The exceptions for this ‘no buy’ resolution are:

  1. Food at the grocery store (duh) and chipping in my share whenever I go out for drinks or a meal with others.
  2. Presents/cards for others on their birthday, because I’m not a monster. Balls or toys for the dog are also included.
  3. Toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, face wash, toothpaste, etc. No extra frills, like perfume. Makeup will be allowed so long as it’s replacing something I already own (and that I throw out the old one instead of hoarding). Mascara and such have use-by dates, so I’m going to respect that.
  4. Donations to charity as a pure donation, but not a ‘I’ll buy this tote and 10% goes to charity’ type of donation.
  5. Art supplies. In my quest for creativity, I don’t want to stifle it by not having the art supplies. However, like the rule for makeup, I will only purchase to replace something I own and throw out the old one. I have a good stash already, so it’s unlikely I’ll need to buy much.
  6. Replacements. This is tricky, because I need to weigh the ‘necessity’ of a product. For example, if I break a mug I do not need to replace it as I have plenty. However, if my headphones crap out, I will need to replace. I think the rule will be only to replace so long as its the only one I own. So I can replace things like my phone, headphones, or gym shoes. However, if I own something multiples (like hairbrushes, socks, a watch) then I will make do.

Is this too ambitious? Well, only one way to find out. I expect there will be some growing pains like ‘I’m thirsty, can I buy water or should I wait until I get home/to a fountain?’ and of course, the wanting to buy something. I’m hoping it’s like when you give up sugar, you know, you crave it for the first month like crazy but then it’s out of your system and it gets easier as it goes.

I’m going to hold myself accountable, and use this blog to track my successes and (hopefully only few) failures. I am also going to be downsizing by selling additional things I don’t need, and getting better at throwing out old things like half-empty nail polish.

Wish me luck!