Saturday, November 21, 2009


Hi everyone!

I know, I know. It's been like weeks since I last wrote. Unfortunately, I have been totally slammed with work, my thesis, and classes. I feel so overloaded right now. I've gotten to the point where I'm pulling 14-hour days and I had to choose between my blog and my social life and, well....sorry all, but I need the human contact.

I may have to put OHP on a sort-of hold until I can get things back together. I will be dropping in as I'm able to update you all and let you know whenever I see anything interesting, but blogging will most likely be sporadic for awhile. That said, I WILL try to drop in every now and then, so I hope you don't all get fed up and disappear on me, dear readers. Hopefully once this quarter gets wrapped up at the end of November, things will be less crazy.

In the meantime- how have you all been doing?

Photo via Wikipedia.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Need a Repair Week

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope you all had a great Halloween weekend. Mine was tons of fun- almost a little too fun if you catch my drift. After three days of late-nights, parties, eating mostly variations of cheese and bread (grilled cheese, mac 'n cheese, pizza), and sugary drinks I feel bloated and sort of gross.

So this week I'm proposing a repair week. It's kind of like a detox, except less formal and less extreme. I'm thinking of it as getting myself back to where I should be health-wise. This week I vow to:
  • Eat three sensible meals a day and some snacks, instead of waiting until I'm starving and then stuffing myself (not that I ever do that).
  • Drink tons of water and tea to stay hydrated.
  • NO pop. This is always hard after a few days of drinking tons of it.
  • Make most of my meals at least half vegetables or fruit. Catsup doesn't count.
  • Get back on track with running- I think I only got one run in last week. Eep.
  • SLEEP. 8-9 hours a night. Easier said than done.
All simple stuff, we'll see how it goes.

PS: Unexpected silence last week due to a series of massive projects due and some power outages at my apartment (fun fun). Hopefully this week will be better :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Hunting Weekend

Happy Monday Readers! I hope everyone had a great weekend?
I went pumpkin hunting with my sister Becky and the Lil' Bro. Here are some pictures we took.
At the pumpkin farm:

Typical Midwestern fall weather:

Pumpkin in progress:


The finished product:
In case you can't tell, I'm really excited for halloween. How about you?
*Crappy Blackberry pictures courtesy of my sister. One day, I will own a real camera. Please do not use without permission.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cooking For One

Let's talk food today.

Recently I stumbled on the book Solo Suppers, and I love the idea of it. Author Joyce Goldstein, after going through a divorce, realized that most traditional recipes which serve 4-6 don't easily translate into single servings, or even two servings. Which means that people who frequently cook for just themselves are left with a conundrum: cook for 4-6 and end up with way more leftovers than they will ever eat, or try to downsize the recipe at the risk of it coming out all wrong. So she came up with this book, which is full of classic recipes in smaller sizes, designed for the single person who doesn't necessarily want to be eating the same leftovers for a week.

I've been trying to cook different things lately and it's definitely hard to find recipes for one. While I do have the Lil' Bro to cook for every now and then, most of the time I'm just cooking for me. I think this book could be a lifesaver. Now only if I could get my grocery store to start stocking perishable food in smaller sizes...

Image via Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Etsy Finds: Fall Fashion

Today I'm feeling materialistic, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite current Etsy finds. Right now I'm thinking anything cozy and autumn-like.
Like this great leather carry-everything-even-textbooks bag...
And a cute floppy hat.
A girly top in my favorite autumn color...
And gorgeous twig stacking rings.
Maybe even some leg warmers (Confession: I think legwarmers are cute, but I feel ridiculous wearing them. Thoughts?)

What's your favorite fall fashion?

All images property of their respective etsy sellers (see links).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blogs Without Topics

I just read and wanted to respond to this post by Amber over at Girl with the Red Hair.

In it, Amber discusses another blog post which claims that blogs without topics are inherently useless.

Of course, I'm a little biased here. I say that OHP is about "whatever makes me happy," but that's essentially a nice way of saying that I can't pick just one topic to stick to. Just one topic doesn't make me happy. It takes a lot of things- from books to being healthy to green living- to make me happy. I choose to blog about all of those things.

I agree with Amber that we could pick a single topic and get really, really into it. There are some absolutely amazing blogs out there that are devoted entirely to fitness, or relationships, or even nail polish (check out my side bar "Blogs I Heart" if you want to see some of my faves). But there are also some amazing blogs that are devoted to whatever catches the blogger's fancy, like Ambers, or Cup of Jo. Both have a good number of devoted followers, so that sort of debunks the idea that people aren't interested in them. Plus, I love reading blogs without topics because, personally, I like not knowing what I'm going to get when I log on each day.

Arguing that blogs have to have specific topics is kind of like arguing that newspapers should focus only on politics, or current events, or crime. Blogs aren't just about "topics". They're about human communication. And as anyone who has taken intro psych (or sociology, or anthropology) will tell you, humans thrive on communication. We love to share things- ideas, opinions, rants and raves. So if only for the communication aspect of blogging, I think topicless blogs are totally worth it.

What's your opinion on this? Agree, disagree, kind-of-sorta agree? Leave it in the comments- just be respectful :)

Big thanks to Amber for bringing the topic up! It's one I've been thinking of lately but didn't know how to tackle. If you haven't checked out Amber's blog Girl With The Red Hair, you can (and should) do so here.

This Week Bullets and TGIF

This week almost killed me I think. Well maybe that's a little dramatic, but it was pretty rough. Here's the rundown:
  • On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I worked pretty much 15 hour days. That's between my paying job, school work, and my thesis. Oy.
  • On Tuesday I got a flu shot because my work essentially required the staff there to do so (herd immunity and all). The shot itself wasn't bad- a relief since I hate needles- but nobody told me that the flu shot can make you feel terrible for several days after you got it. I essentially spent two days with sniffles, a sore throat, a headache, and other fun symptoms, and it's just now clearing up today.
  • I haven't gotten more than 6 hours a sleep a night any day this week except Thursday. Thursday I got nine hours, because I slept straight through my morning class.
  • Today my thesis advisor asked me for a progress report on some computer coding I need to get done to get my project rolling. My report: "not much progress". *wince* Looks like I've got some work cut out for me this weekend.
On the positive side:
  • I did decent on my exam that I was worried about.
  • I got all my homework projects done, and most of my reading.
  • I skipped a meeting for my flu shot Tuesday night, which left some time to get pizza and chill with big sister and the Lil' Bro.
And this weekend shouldn't be as bad. I don't have a lot of plans besides getting a little work done and vegging.

Have a good weekend everyone! What are your plans?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


This week is uber busy for me which means instead of sitting down to three square meals a day, I will probably be doing a lot of on-the-go snacking.

To keep myself from devouring muffins at the coffee shop between class and work (and the lab, and more class, and more work...) I compiled a little list of my favorite snacks to eat when I don't have time to sit down for a meal, much less cook one.

My current faves:
  • Spicy paprika and garlic almonds.
  • Raw almonds and dried cranberries.
  • Yogurt. Blackberry, apple cinnamon, blueberry, peach, anything but strawberry (for some reason, I hate strawberry yogurt).
  • Chocolate milk and a banana.
  • String cheese and an apple.
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich, especially if the bread is toasted and the PB is melting (mmm).
  • Leftover tomato soup with chili spices, black beans, and corn (especially good when it's cold).
  • Scrambled egg with spinach, chopped onion, and bell peppers- this is about as close to cooking as I'll get this week.
For lots of other snacking ideas, I go here.

Your turn: what are you fave on-the-go snacks? I can always use more ideas!

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Heart October

Autumn is by far my favorite season (in case you couldn't tell) and every October I fall in love with it all over again. So today I thought I'd just gush a little bit.

I love Autumn for...
  • Pumpkin pie (and pumpkin bread, and pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin rolls, and...)
  • Snuggly sweaters (like this one)
  • Haunted houses and hay rides
  • Tights under a summer dress
  • Flat boots over the tights under a summer dress
  • The end of what I call "the sweaty season"
  • Hot apple cider and hot cocoa
  • Jack-o-Lanterns!
  • An excuse to hold hands and snuggle (it's cold!)
  • Apple pie candles (mmm)
  • Gigantic scarves
  • Crisp fall air
  • Running outside in the crisp fall air
  • Driving over a hill and seeing all the trees lit up in red and gold, and having my breath taken away.
Happy October everyone! What's your favorite season, and why?

(PS: Apologies to everyone for the lack of updates last week. I was unexpectedly slammed with schoolwork and other responsibilities, so I couldn't get on and write. Hopefully this week will be better.)

Image: "October Love" from briefmoments' etsy shop.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Busy Day

Another late post- today ended up being surprisingly busy. I accidentally woke up late and had to run out the door to get to class by 8:30. There was just enough time to grab a sandwich between classes, and just enough time to grab a coffee between my last class and work. When I finally got home from work and classes, all I wanted to do was collapse, but Lil' Bro was starving so I ended up making potato soup instead.

Now I'm going to snuggle up with my bowl of soup and my textbooks and read the night away. Sometimes I actually don't mind having busy days, because they make me appreciate the calm moments at night even more.

In other news, it's finally feeling like fall. Today was chilly and overcast, which didn't do much for my energy levels but does make me appreciate my warm house and a cup of steaming hot tea (I like this kind). I can't wait until the leaves change and start to look like the picture above (which you can check out here).

Image via dahliahousestudio's etsy shop.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What I've been doing instead of blogging...

Sorry for the slow posting everyone. I have no good excuse other than the fact that I have been feeling rather lazy. I spent most of my weekend either outside enjoying the autumn weather, or on the couch watching movies with Lil' Bro. Sometimes you just need a long-walks-and-movies kind of weekend.

Back to a regular posting schedule tomorrow. In the meantime, check out the posters for my four favorite movies above, then leave a comment with your favorites (I always need something new to Netflix).

I hope you all had a great weekend :)

Images via wikipedia.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Family Photo Time

I've always had a thing for old family photos. When I was little I would stay with my grandma on weekends and I could spend ages looking through her old photo albums. The best part of inheriting my grandpa's old computer was getting all the family photos he'd scanned into it. These ones of my dad and his sisters when they were little are my favorites.

The bottom photo is my grandparents in California right after they got married- don't they look cute?

Have a good day everyone! I'm off to go work my butt off in class and the lab :)

All images in this post are mine.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New School Shoes

Today marks the start of a new school year for me, a day after the official start of fall.

For some reason, autumn always makes me feel nostalgic. I remember when I was in elementary school my grandma would always insist on getting me a pair of new school shoes to start the year. I have always had big feet which were hard to fit, so we would spend hours driving all over town, looking for the perfect pair of new school shoes. I don't remember a lot about those early shoes, except that they always smelled like rubber and I was always SO excited to pull them on for my first day of school.

Flash forward a few years- here I am, 20 years old with a job and over halfway through my college career, and my grandma still insists on going shopping every August for new school shoes. So today I'm going to be pulling on my brand new size 11 navy blue Converse and heading off to my first class of the year. The shoes still smell like rubber and while I'm not quite as excited for classes as I was back in elementary school, I still love the tradition of new school shoes because they remind me that I am cared for. They are one of my favorite parts of autumn.

Happy autumn everyone! Now tell me: what's your favorite part of the season?

My rockin' new shoes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let's make a list...

Awhile ago I read an article in one of my favorite magazines that equated running a business to life. In it, the author discusses 10 common business strategies that can be used by everyone.

I won't paraphrase the whole article* here, but there were two "strategies" that I found particularly life-changing:
  • #1: Identify your core values. Companies list what is truly important to them so that those things can guide their decisions- that's something we can all do.
  • #2: Understand your opportunity cost. Time, energy, and money are not unlimited resources. Devoting yourself to one thing (opportunity) means detracting from another (cost). For every minute I spend on my blog, that's one less minute spent studying. The trick is to balance costs with opportunities.
The other day I was thinking about this article and I decided to figure out what my core values were. So I pulled out some paper and listed the things that were important to me (not the things I think should be important to me, the things that actually are), in descending order. At the top of the list were values like giving to others, my relationships with the people I love, my education, my health and financial stability, etc. Toward the bottom of the list were things like my hobbies, my ever-expanding makeup collection, my clothes.

Then I took a look at how I devoted my time, energy, and money. In short: not very efficiently. Even though I know what's really important to me, I devote most of my time to less consequential things. To some extent, I think we all do that.

The good thing is, knowledge is power. From now on, I'm going to try and use my values to guide the way I use my resources. That's one of the reasons I wanted to switch the focus of OHP- so that I could spend more time on the important stuff. And I've got my list taped up on my mirror now, so that I won't forget what's important to me.

Readers- what do you all think of this new plan? And a challenge to you: make a list of your own (you don't have to share it with us).

*For the curious, the article was titled "10 Business Strategies to Organize Your Home Life" by Patrick Lencioni, and it was in the Feb.2009 edition of Real Simple Magazine. I highly recommend looking it up on their website.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The New (Improved?) One Happy Panda

Happy Monday everyone!

I promised to say a little bit about the new direction I'm hoping to take the blog in today, so here goes...

When I originally launched One Happy Panda, I did it with the intention of sharing the things that make me happy. These things fall into one of two camps: those that can be bought (a pair of perfect-fit jeans, a gorgeous new lipstick) and those that cannot (less stress, more laughter, solid friendships). Typically, as you might imagine, it's the things that cannot be bought that make the most difference as far as happiness goes. I mean, c'mon, would you rather have a new pair of jeans or less stress?

However, I came to realize during my little blogging hiatus that for whatever reason, OHP focused much more on things that can be bought. Perhaps it's because those are easier to find a write about, perhaps it's because I live in a material society. The "why" doesn't really matter. What matters to me is changing OHP so that it more accurately reflects what really makes me happy.

Which is why I'm switching gears a little bit, and planning to write a little less about "things" and a little more on, well, life. In no way am I an expert on what makes a person happy, and in no way do I intend this blog to become a handbook on how to live the perfect life (like that even exists). However, I do know that even the most tiny life changes can add up to a lot more happy- and since I'm constantly trying to adopt tiny changes that will improve the way I live, I would love to share those things with you, my awesome readers. Those are things I would like OHP to focus on, though I won't be abandoning material things entirely.

PS: Along the way, feel free to suggest new topics and new directions for OHP, either by leaving them in the comments section or by emailing me at onehappypanda at hotmail dot com. I always love to hear what readers have to say, as long as you aren't too mean about it. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Comback of the Year (well, sort of...)

Hello readers!

It has been SO long since I have been able to visit the blog and post. I have missed it terribly, but I felt I needed the time to focus on other things and get my life together. I can't promise that I'm all put-together now, but things have settled enough that I would like to start posting again.

A few little notes on what's happened since I last wrote:
  • I temporarily have aquired a new roommate- Brandon, also known as Lil' Bro. He's super awesome and often hilarious, so expect to hear about him from time to time :)
  • I had a birthday back in August: the big 2-0. Basically that means nothing other than I can now grumble about "annoying teenage girls" without being hypocritical :-P
  • I quit my (2nd) retail job, so theoretically I will have more time now (and free weekends!). On the other hand, I'm also launching into my honors thesis project. Which means my chances of having a social life these next few months are slim.
  • I'm reevaluating the things I'd like OHP to focus on and considering making some changes. I'll write more on that topic tomorrow, but if anyone has feedback on the blog or topics that you would like to have covered, feel free to email me or leave them in the comments.
Many thanks to all of you who have dealt with my absence, I certainly hope that some of you still remain. To anyone who is just now stumbling on the blog- welcome!

Image via my computer- it is not my photo, but I forget where I got it from. If anyone knows, let me know so I can credit it properly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's everybody's favorite disappearing blogger...

Dearest readers,

I have to apologize for my recent absence from the blogging world. Unfortunately, life has become quite crazy for me in the past month and I just couldn't squeeze in any time for blogging. But I hope all of you know that I miss writing for all of you and reading all your wonderful comments. One Happy Panda has become a part of my life that I've really grown affectionate of, and I hate to leave it just sitting like this.

I'm not sure when all the dust will settle and I will have the time and energy to start blogging again. I hope it is soon. In the meantime, keep checking back for updates. And thanks to all of you who have been reading and leaving me comments. I always love reading them.


PS: If any of you have comments/suggestions for OHP (things you like, things you hate, things you want to see more of) feel free to email me or leave them in the comments. That way when I do get back, I can start right off making OHP even better. Thanks!

Panda photo via Wikipedia.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Greenify Your Laundry

When it comes to greenifying my laundry routine, I was a little nervous. I tend to be choosy about my soaps and dryer sheets and I wasn't sure I wanted to throw my old, non-green favorites away. But after a single trip to the Whole Foods laundry aisle, I can just about promise you that I'm never going back. There were a ton of great, natural, affordable (and nice-smelling!) options there that I couldn't even start to go into them all. But here are two of my current favorite laundry products:
For laundry soap, I wanted something that would be effective at cleaning but not at all harsh on my clothes. Ecover Ultra Ecological Laundry Wash does the trick for me. It's nice to my clothes, doesn't fade the colors, and leaves them clean and smelling nice. The lavender scent is plant-derived (unlike the synthetics at the regular grocer which I actually hate) and I find it herbal but light. It's also a high efficiency product, which cuts down on product and packaging waste.

Dryer sheets are one of those products that aren't strictly essential, so if I really wanted to be green I could go without them. But I really like the way they make my clothes soft and non-staticky, plus their scent usually lasts longer than that of a detergent. I found true love in Mrs. Meyer's Dryer Sheets, which are biodegradable and the essential oil scents are strong enough that I only need one for a large load at the laundromat (vs. the two or three I used to use). I like the Lemon Verbena scent currently, but they also come in Lavender, Geranium, Baby Blossom, and Basil. And at $8 for 80 sheets, they're not too expensive to use frequently.

So there you have it, my new "green" laundry routine and I'd love to hear your thoughts or suggestions. :) Have you ever used "green" cleaners?

PS: If you aren't much for dryer sheets, you could scent your laundry by adding essential oils (like lavender) to your wash to lightly scent the clothes- just make sure whatever you add won't stain or bleach. You could also add a drop to a clean washcloth and add it to the dryer for the same effect without the waste.

Images: Laundry wash from Vitacost, dryer sheets from Mrs. Meyers Clean Day

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fitness Confessional: I Don't Stretch

Lately I read an article (which I promptly lost, or I'd reference it for you all) about the importance of stretching. We all know that stretching is good for us because it helps maintain flexibility and reduce muscle and bone injuries. But how many of us actually do it?

I, for one, rarely stretch. The last time I stretched regularly was a year ago when I still did daily yoga. Even before a run, I'll maybe spend 2 minutes stretching my calves before I head out the door. But just as an experiment the other day, I tried full-body stretching before my run, spending a good 10 minutes making sure my arms, legs, and shoulders were all loose and ready to go. Wow did it make a difference! I felt like I had SO much more energy at the start of the run, probably because I didn't need to spend the first five minutes warming my muscles up. Also, stretching out my back and shoulders after spending the day hunched in an office chair really seemed to help my posture (which is terrible).

So now I'm making the resolution to stretch more often, perhaps even daily. And I wanted to hear from you all: do you stretch very often before or after a workout? What about on the days you don't work out?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Comfort Food: What's Yours?

I've always had a thing for homemade potato soup. There is something so simple and familiar about it, and it always brings me back to when I was little and my grandma made it from scratch for me. If I'm ever craving comfort food, potato soup is my go-to.

Today I stumbled on the Wikipedia page for "comfort food" (there is a Wikipedia page for everything) and got to reading about comfort foods throughout the world. Potato soup isn't on the list anywhere, but chicken noodle soup was one of the common comfort foods in the States. Other common ones included pizza, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, and applesauce (mmm). Canada is similar to the States, while the United Kingdom prefers "bangers and mash" (sausage and mashed potatoes) and Ireland likes boiled stews, soda bread, and butter. Other popular choices include fried eggs with fries or rice in Spain and miso soup in Japan. You can read the full Wikipedia article here.

Also according to Wikipedia, comfort food is usually something simple and familiar that is associated with childhood. So I guess my love of potato soup isn't so far off after all.

What's your favorite comfort food? And, just for fun, do you think it's related to where you live?

Image: chicken stew via Cambell's Kitchen. Nom.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Local Goods (the Etsy way)

We all know that buying local is good for us. Local goods don't require as much packaging and fuel for transportation, making them green-friendlier. Plus buying local supports your city's economy and keeps small businesses afloat. The trick, of course, is finding local goods that you actually want to buy. Which is one of the reasons I'm in love with Etsy's "Shop Local" feature (thanks to my friend Hilary for introducing me to it!). Using their Shop Local search, you can buy handmade products (and some vintage too) made right in your very own home town, or at least very near by.

I did a search for my city and here are just a few of the things I found:
A cute clutch just big enough for summer essentials (wallet, keys, sunglasses, chapstick).
A mellow scent (the seller claims it can calm a rowdy 2 year old).
Black and white photography (my favorite)- this one is titled "blight 2007."
All-natural with an attitude. This tank is made from organic cotton, and the print is "inspired by the art nouveau movement and modern tattoos".

Go here to search for Etsy shops in your area. But before you do, tell me- do you ever try to buy things locally?

All images belong to their respective Etsy sellers (see links).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Let's Discuss: Birth

Has anyone been keeping up with the blog Pacing the Panic Room? The author Ryan Marshall recently wrote about his wife's at-home water birth, and I found it totally fascinating (you can check it out here).

I'll admit that I've never been much for the idea of at-home births. I've heard enough stories to know that even normal, healthy births often require emergency medical attention for some reason or another. Often the window of opportunity for that attention is mere minutes- meaning that even a quick car ride to the hospital could put off treatment long enough to put someone (mama or baby) in trouble. And while, yes, our great-grandmothers may have successfully given birth to 12 children at home, it's probably not a coincidence that their rates for infant mortality and birth complications were a lot higher.

That said, reading the Marshalls' birth story still has me intrigued at the idea. Maybe as our medical knowledge of birth and its risks increase (and as we develop medical technology that's easily transportable), safe home births will become a reality for more women. And being able to give birth in a comfortable, familiar environment versus a sterile hospital DOES sound a lot better.

I thought I'd open the floor up for discussion: what do you think of home births? How about the recent increase in birthing centers, which are designed to give the feel of a home while being close to medical help if needed? I'd love to hear opinions! Just remember to keep it nonjudgmental, we're all friends here :)

Personally, I feel like we still need more impartial, unbiased information. What's the risk of birth complication in a normal pregnancy? How about a pregnancy with slight complications? Will being at home increase any of those risks or decrease them? If the risk of complication is low assuming there is a midwife present, then maybe home birth is a viable option.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Running Playlist

I never had a workout buddy until Ernie. All through high school track, I used to run solo, just me and the road. Then a couple of years or so ago, I found Ernie and it was love at first sight.

Ernie is my ipod.

I inherited him from Nathan, who moved on to a newer and better ipod. Ever since I got him, I've been totally addicted. I love having music that I can carry with me, especially when I'm running. It's like fast, upbeat songs make me forget (well, distract me from at least) my tired legs and side stitch, so I can run faster and longer. And it turns out I'm not making that up- some research studies have found that people burn more calories when they work out to music.

So in the name of calorie-burning, here's some of what I listen to when I run:

The Rolling Stones- Jumpin Jack Flash
Franz Ferdinand- Take Me Out
Franz Ferdinand- The Dark of the Matinee
Muse- Stockholm Syndrome
Muse- Hysteria
The Clash- Should I Stay Or Should I Go
The Mars Volta- L'Via L'Viaquez
Michael Jackson- Smooth Criminal
Modest Mouse- Dance Hall
Creedence Clearwater Revival- Fortunate Son
Queen- Another One Bites the Dust

...and that gets me through just about any workout :)

What songs do you listen to while you work out?

Image by Per Briehagen via Runnersworld

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sunny Days

Yesterday I spent the entire day lazing around the local pool with my sister and cousin. I haven't been to the local pool since I was a little girl, and I was surprised by how much it changed. What used to be just a regular pool now includes two huge water slides, diving boards, and a lazy river that you can float on for hours. Of course, there are some things that never change: kids were still running around screaming and splashing their parents, the snack stand was quickly selling out of $2 popsicles and $3 bottles of water, and the teenage lifeguards were all lying around in their getting deep brown tans.

For reasons of health (skin cancer!) and vanity (wrinkles!) I avoided tanning the whole day. I was actually pretty impressed that my sunscreen held up to the hot afternoon sun. I got zero sunburn and barely any tan, which is what I was going for.

Here's what I used to protect my pastiness:
Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Sunblock has high SPF and is water resistant. It's designed for babies but ideal for adult skin too, especially sensitive skin as the physical blockers are less irritating than traditional chemical ones (and more green-friendly). The sunblock goes on white like most physical blockers, and it takes some rubbing to get it to sink in- this will probably leave a white cast on dark skin. But it was gentle and kept me from frying all afternoon.
Blue Lizard Australian Suncream for Sensitive Skin is one of the few sunscreens with high SPF that my face can tolerate without breaking out. It has SPF30 and is water resistant and, like the Neutrogena one, this takes some rubbing to get rid of the initial white cast. It also goes on really sticky, but that fades after 10-15 minutes and it leaves my face less shiny than most sunscreens do. I like it because it's stable, chemical-free, and inexpensive (~$10) so that I can actually afford to use it.
As for everyday protection, I like to use a moisturizer with SPF. Right now I'm using Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion with SPF15. I wouldn't dare use this on a day where I'm going to be outside a lot, but for normal everyday running-around, it works for me. It's inexpensive ($11 for 12oz.), easy to get ahold of, and easy to slap on in the morning.

What about you all: do you wear daily sunscreen? What do you rely on for sun protection?

All images:

Friday, July 10, 2009

The upside to the economic downturn...

Yesterday I picked up a copy of the August issue of Real Simple and I really loved the article "anything for a buck" by Julie Rottenberg. It details how before the economic crisis, the author used to deal with scrutiny for her penny-pinching ways but now that the economy is in a constant downturn, her frugality is much more accepted. I like how she finds the silver lining to our economic woes through its effects on our society. I too have always thought that, while it's not a good thing that people are losing their jobs left and right, it has spurred some positive social changes. Being spendy is no longer the popular thing to do, extravagence is seen as wasteful, and conservation is back in a big way. I've never been much for extravagence anyway, and I think that this current economic climate has forced us as a society to question our values. Are things really that important? Do we really need the latest this-or-that, especially if it won't be popular in two months anyway? Studies have already showed that recessions are better for people's health by reducing work hours and increasing healthy habits like cooking at home, and maybe they're better for our wallets and bank accounts in the long run as well. While I naturally would love for the economy to pick up a little (so, ahem, the government will stop trying to cut my college grants) I also hope that we can come out of this a little financially smarter.

I know I have some very intelligent and thoughtful readers out there, so I'd love to know what you all think of this. What positive effects have you seen from the economic downturn?

PS: Have a great weekend everyone! And if I haven't commented on your blog lately, be patient. I'm still catching up on all the reading I missed last week :)

Image by Howard Sokol via

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In Case of Vegetarian Kitty: Check for Toxic Plants

Every cat owner knows that cats tend to have their quirks. Some cats love singing at odd hours, some love swimming, some have a thing for licking the walls. My cat Tigger? She loves eating plants. It's odd because technically cats should be strictly carnivore, but in the 9 years that I've owned her, I've seen her attempt to eat cut roses, daisies, a mint plant, corn husks (her fave), cactus (not her fave) and a whole myriad of other green things. This is the cat that turns up her nose at store brand cat food, but if I bring in anything even remotely plantlike, she will try to eat it. She's even tried to eat the fake plant I have sitting in a corner. Seriously.

For awhile now I've been thinking about bringing in some houseplants to make my apartment look more "alive" but I was worried about potential ill effects on Tigger if she got ahold of it. So on the recommendation of a friend, I looked up the ASPCA's list of Toxic and Non-Toxic plants for pets. Turns out most of the plants I wanted are highly toxic to cats, causing everything from vomiting to seizures if eaten. A big bummer for me, but I'm glad I looked before I bought.

You can check out the ASPCA's list of toxic and non-toxic plants here. Also- I'd love to know if any of you cat and plant owners have any advice for me and my vegetarian kitty. :)
Tigger: vicious plant hunter

Images: Aloe, ASPCA website (see link). Tigger, mine.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Greenify Your Makeup: Part 1

Over the past month or so I've been testing out natural makeup brands to replace some of my old, chemical-laden stuff as it wears out. The website MakeupAlley (MUA) has been a great help for finding some of the lesser-known makeup brands and in learning how to apply them. I'm not even close to having replacements for all of my old makeup (especially since I'm only replacing things as they run out) but I have found a couple of rave-worthy brands already.

100% Pure was one of my first favorite green beauty brands, and I've written about them before. Their products have great, mostly natural ingredients lists without synthetic chemicals or any artificial fragrances. They're not cheap, but they do come highly rated and might be worth a splurge every now and then. I'm currently loving their Pure Peach Concealer in White Peach. It brightens dark undereye circles and contains both caffeine and antioxidants like green tea to nourish the sensitive skin there. You can easily get 100% Pure products through QVC, Amazon, or their website.
The first time I tried mineral makeup, I hated it. It itched my face and made me break out in horrible cystic acne all over my chin. It turns out that many well-known mineral brands contain a lot of talc and bismuth, which act as skin irritants for many people. Thanks to MUA, however, I discovered Everyday Minerals, which creates affordable mineral makeup that is free of talc and bismuth. Their makeup comes in tons of colors and it doesn't itch my skin at all. Right now I'm craving Net Surfing eyeshadow, a gorgeous amythest with pink shimmer (above). The best part is the prices, which (unlike 100% pure) don't send my wallet away crying. A set of 6 full-sized products of your choice goes for $34 on the website, and you can get a sample kit containing 5 sample products of your choice for free- just pay shipping, which only ran about $3 for me. You really can't go wrong with decent minerals that run less than the stuff at the drugstore.

Have you ever tried any "green" beauty/skincare brands? Would you?

Images: Concealer, Eyeshadow,

I'm Back

I have to apologize for my recent absence from the blog. I was feeling uninspired and a little stressed last week, plus working a 40+ hour week so I took a little blogging vacation. But now I'm back and I've got a fun lineup of posts for the rest of the week, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's a picture of one of my favorites gorillas at the local zoo (I know, I'm random). I nicknamed him (her?) Bubbles for his/her habit of hanging off of the exhibit fence and blowing spit bubbles at passerby.

I hope everyone had a wonderful week/weekend! :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Leg Therapy

I normally don't have too much of an issue with tired legs. I run and walk a lot, and I'm rarely bothered by soreness. But this week, after working at a department store (read: on my feet for 6 hours at a time), weight lifting for the first time in years, rock climbing, and running more than usual, my legs are shot. AND I work at the department store again tomorrow, so it'll be another 5 hours standing. Oy.

When I ran track in high school, we used to do ice baths or, worse, showers alternating between hot and cold for sore muscles. It's kind of excruciating at first (if you hate being cold like me anyway) but it really does help.

I also discovered this nifty little leg gel from The Body Shop. It's made with peppermint oil, which is supposed to cool and help revitalize your legs (without some of the nasty ingredients in Icy Hot, or the funky odor). I won't say it works miracles, but it does cool my legs and moisturize them a little bit without being at all greasy or smelly. And bonus- the smell of peppermint is supposed to be an instant mood-lifter.

Share your sore-leg cures with me in the comments!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Amazing Sand Art!

Get this: today I stumbled on (literally, found using Stumble Upon) an article about sand artists' abilities to render human emotions in sand form. As someone whose childhood sand art consisted of essentially bucket "towers", this blows my mind. They're so realistic! And there's something to be said of artists who slave over these creations for hours, despite knowing that they'll eventually get washed away.

Have you ever seen sand art like this? You can check out the rest of the article (with more pictures!) here.

(PS: I know this is another late post. I hope that you all can please bear with me while I transition into having two jobs taking over my time. Once I get into the swing of things, posting should become less sporadic).

Images via Woman's Day (see link).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Name three good habits!

Random red panda, because it's cute and I was blanking on pictures.

After all the confessions yesterday (if you missed it, scroll down) I thought we maybe needed some extra positivity. So what are three GOOD things that you do for yourself?

Here are mine:
  • Drinking water- I love water, plain and simple. You know how you're supposed to go through 8 servings a day? Well I go through about 15, easy. I carry bottles of cold water around with me everywhere (I'm drinking one right now, actually).
  • Activity- I genuinely love moving around. Being stationary for too long actually makes me more tired than moving does.
  • Goofiness- I'm pretty much a dork all the time. And to be honest, I really don't mind that. It makes me happier and (I hope) makes others laugh. Which is so much more fun than being moody right?
So there you have it, I'm a goofy runner who loves water. What're your good habits?

Have a good weekend every one!

Red panda image via Wikipedia.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What's your worst habit?

We all have bad habits. I have more than I could possibly list- everything from nail biting to procrastination. But what do you think is the one that impacts you the most right now?

For me, it's not getting out of bed in the morning. Every morning is like a fight for me, because I never want to get up, even when I've had plenty of sleep. On a good day, I will only hit the snooze button two or three times. We don't even need to talk about what a bad day looks like.

I know to some extent it impacts me because I never get things done in the morning. This morning I wanted to blog, make a real breakfast, maybe take a quick jog before work at 10am. I did none of that. Instead I got up just early enough to run out the door with a glass of juice and some string cheese (breakfast of champions).

The good news is technically I could turn my habit around. The bad news is that it's really hard to tell that to my sleepy brain, especially on those days I technically need to get up at six.

Your turn: what's your bad habit? Sugar? Shopping? Wasting time reading blogs (*wink*)?

Image via Domino.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Daily Puppy!

It's a little bit late for posting but I just had to share this one. A friend from work showed me this website where you can check out daily pictures of adorable puppies. That's right, a whole website devoted to adorable puppies. Isn't that genius? There are also lots of articles on puppies and their care but honestly, I just like the adorableness.

Now we just need a daily kitten and a daily panda and I'll be all set.

Edit: Turns out there is a daily kitten, which you can check out here. No word on a daily panda yet, but I'll keep an eye out :)

Image via The Daily Puppy.

A little technical difficulty.

Had a little technical difficulty today in that blogger wasn't letting me log in to post. So here's a picture of a cute panda and I promise I'll have a real post up and running later tonight :) In the meantime, don't forget to check out my greenify post from yesterday, it has lots of info and I'm still looking for suggestions!

Image via Wikipedia.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Greenify Your Skin- Body Edition

Skin is your largest organ. It is extremely important to your health because it keeps nasty stuff out of your body, keeps good stuff (like water) in, helps regulate temperature, and does a whole host of other important things. Not to mention, it's the first thing people see when they look at you. So when I was deciding which parts of my "routine" to greenify first, it made sense to really look into my skincare. I want to take care of my skin using natural products that will perform just as well as, if not better than, the ones in the drugstore without breaking the bank. And after a little experimentation, this is my routine so far:

I have to admit that the thing I liked most about Pangea Organics Bar Soaps is that they smell absolutely amazing. I have Italian White Sage, Geranium, & Yarrow; Pyrenees Lavender with Damiana Tea; and Canadian Pine with White Sage. These soaps don't strip my skin like a lot of other bar soaps, they moisturize using natural oils, and the scents are all-natural. The coolest part about them is that not only are they made of minimal packaging, but the box it comes in has seeds imbedded in it and can be planted. Total gimmick, but a fun idea.

The bars are about $7, so not the cheapest, but I found mine for 50% off at World Market and stocked up, and a bar will last you for awhile.

I prefer bar soap to body wash because it cuts down on packaging. However, if you really don't like bar soap, I found lots of natural body washes too. Hugo Naturals Shower Gels come highly recommended by just about everyone I asked. They use mostly natural ingredients and contain no SLS, but they wash thoroughly without stripping. Not to mention, they come in delicious-sounding scents like Sweet Orange & Lemon and Shea Butter & Vanilla. Plus they're not terribly expensive ($8-9 for a big bottle) and easy to find at places like Whole Foods and online.
When it comes to moisturizer, I'm pretty low-maintenance. I want something light that I can slap on after a shower, and that won't irritate my skin or smell like butt. Nature's Gate moisturizers do the trick for me. They're inexpensive (about $9 for a huge 18-oz bottle) and easy to find, made with mostly natural ingredients, and the scents are light. I like the Pomegranate Sunflower one for its antioxidant properties but they have a whole host of other lotions for everthing from aging to very dry skin. There is also a fragrance-free line if you're sensitive.
When it comes to body scrubs, I prefer to make my own. Take olive oil (or anything oily) and add brown sugar or oatmeal and voila, you have a scrub. It's so easy I don't really see the point in buying one from the store. If I did decide to purchase a scrub, however, I might splurge on 100% Pure's body scrubs. They come highly recommended for being effective at smoothing without irritating sensitive skin, plus the ingredients are all-natural and mostly organic. Plus there's a huge variety, from Pomegranate to Fuji Apple to Sugared Lemon Peel (and lots more). They're not cheap (around $22 per scrub) but I think they'd be a fun treat for when you don't want to make your own.
Sunburn happens. This weekend I went to a parade covered in SPF 60 and still somehow came back with a nasty sunburn on my upper back. Jason's 98% Aloe Vera Gel has been my lifesaver. Aloe Vera is useful post-sun exposure, as well as for general skin irritation, and it makes a great light moisturizer if you have oily, acne-prone skin like me. And like all the others, it's inexpensive and easy to find in most natural grocers and some drug stores.

Tell me what you think of my new skin routine, and keep an eye out for the facial skin edition, coming just as soon as I get done testing products! :)

PS: You can check out the rest of the Greenify posts here.

Images via