Fashion // Blue Hydrangeas

Happy September! Soon the days will shorten and it will snow and then Christmas will be here…I love autumn. Here are some photos from the end of August when I took a walk around my ivy-covered backyard. I’m going to miss summer.

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shoes from Nasty Gal (Jeffrey Campbell), necklace Betsey Johnson, dress from Charade

Beauty // The Magic of Tea Tree Oil

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So: let’s talk about the magical wonder of tea tree oil. To quote Frank’s Red Hot, I put that shit on everything. (Not food. Not food.) But anyway, tea tree oil is a substance made from fairy dust and unicorn tears, and it will magically heal everything it touches. Dandruff? You got it. Acne? Please. Other things? Definitely. Let’s explore.

Tea tree oil is related to Myrtle, whom you can find at the bingo parlor*. It’s the distilled oil of the tea tree that has antiseptic properties, and can be used on so many skin infections that are gross, like scabies, lice, fungal infections, even toothaches. It can even be added to bath water to treat bronchitis, or as a remedy for an ear infection. JK Rowling can’t make this stuff up. (In my head I imagine tea trees with faces like the ones that warn Sarah in Labyrinth.)

Seriously, I use this stuff like it’s water. I love tea tree oil because it works just as well as a topical acne treatment as benzoyl peroxide, but it’s stronger and yet natural. Even though chemicals can work well as an exfoliant for your face and to dry up breakouts, I always strive to use products that are more natural, even if it’s for nothing other than my own peace of mind. Tea tree oil is my secret weapon, the product I use for everything, from a flaky scalp to huge pimples.

A lot of organic beauty products feature tea tree oil as a main ingredient, and for good reason. Just a drop of this stuff can go a long way, especially if you have a flaky, itchy scalp like me. I use tea tree oil mainly for my dandruff and my acne. If I have a breakout, I spot-treat it with a dab of oil placed on a cotton swab. An overabundance of tea tree oil can dry out and irritate the skin, so I only use a drop or two. It’s all I need. I also place a drop or two in my nightly astringent of apple cider vinegar, to dilute the oil and give my astringent some extra oomph. Even though the shampoo I use has tea tree oil as an ingredient, I add a drop there too.

Some things you should know: If you’re shopping for a bottle of the magic, make sure to look for the phrase “pharmaceutical grade.” This is the stronger stuff used as a remedy, not the aromatherapy crap that does nothing. Keep it away from your mouth as it has kind of a foul taste. And even though I love the smell of the oil (it’s sort of like eucalyptus), some people absolutely hate it. Don’t over apply the oil; too much of a good thing can act as an irritant. It’s also pretty cheap: I spent $9 on a bottle at my local Harmon store and I’ve had it for a good three months now, and it’s very slowly depleting. Make sure the oil you purchase is 100% tea tree oil, with no additives like alcohol or water. You don’t want that aggravation.

In summation, tea tree oil was given to us by Aphrodite and that wood nymph who slaps Philoctetes in Hercules. I don’t know why. Maybe she wants us to be happy.

*combination bad joke and Gilmore Girls reference

“Divergent” and YA Dystopia

I was really excited to read the Divergent trilogy. So excited that, when faced with a week-long wait at the library, I instead drove straight to Barnes & Noble and paid full price for the three books plus the collection of short stories. This excitement began when I saw the film version of Divergent last fall and fell in love with the character of Tris, thinking of her as the new-and-improved Katniss (I do like Katniss, but thought her character was destroyed in the third novel by her PTSD, her general abundance of inertia, and a bad plot). I don’t read a lot of YA, unfortunately, but I do like dystopia, and YA dystopia is fun and interesting and as an added bonus, comes with a lot of ass-kicking heroines. So yeah, my expectations were high.

8306857If you’ve read the trilogy, then I assume you know about The Big Bad Ending to Allegiant. Before I started the books, I heard a lot of people complaining about it and hating it, but because I hate surprises and have to know everything, I found out about the ending before I started reading. And I was okay with it. I thought it must make sense in the course of the story. I have read books where someone sacrifices themselves for another, where main characters die, and even though it’s heartbreaking the way books can be, that grief I felt was always assuaged by the certainty that the ending was cathartic, satisfying, sacrificial—the “good sad.”

I don’t think this was like that.

But let’s start at the beginning. Divergent is awesome. Beatrice Prior is in a muddle. In a world where one must choose which “faction” to belong in forever: Abnegation, Candor, Dauntless, Erudite, or Amity, Beatrice feels like she doesn’t measure up to her faction, the selfless Abnegation. At sixteen years old, Beatrice makes a courageous decision: to leave her family forever and join the raucous, risk-taking, dangerous Dauntless faction, the protectors of the city, the gun-toting, tattooed and pierced adrenaline junkies. She goes from a quiet, insecure Abnegation girl to “Tris”: one of the strongest new Dauntless members. Her growth and strengthening identity make this book wonderful to read, and there’s also a healthy bit of romance in it. I loved Divergent, movie and book, and I eagerly began the sequel. Continue reading…

The Gothic Elizabeth Gaskell

Let me preface this review by saying that apart from one attempt to read Mary Barton in high school, I had never read any Elizabeth Gaskell before. She’s been on my to-read-eventually list forever, but I hadn’t actually gotten around to reading anything of hers. That changed when I read her novella The Poor Clare. I read the book in two sittings one day, thin as it is, and was surprised to learn how well Gaskell does Gothic considering she’s more well known for buttoned-up ladies and critiques of society. But even within this supernatural gothic story, Gaskell manages to weave in commentary on the friction between Catholics and Protestants, and the idea that the “sins of the father are visited on the son.” It’s chilling.

thepoorclareThe narrative begins in Lancashire in 1747, with an old man reminiscing upon old happenings, old, supernatural happenings surrounding a girl he used to know: Lucy. “Poor Lucy,” he calls her. The more time he spends in the area, the more he learns about this girl named Lucy, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her family. He learns about a woman called Bridget Fitzgerald, an Irish woman whose daughter left her for the continent decades before, never to be seen again. Bridget mourns her daughter, whom she believes lost to her forever, and grows old as a servant on the property of a wealthy, landed Jacobite.

One day, when Bridget is still mourning her daughter, Bridget’s small dog, once owned by her beloved daughter, is slaughtered by a man named Gisborne. Gisborne kills the dog with nonchalance, simply because it got in his way. Bridget, embittered from long, lonely years exiled from her daughter, curses the man:

You shall live to see the creature you love best, and who alone
loves you—ay, a human creature, but as innocent and fond as my
poor, dead darling—you shall see this creature, for whom death
would be too happy, become a terror and a loathing to all, for this
blood’s sake. Hear me, O holy saints, who never fail them that
have no other help!

The narrator tracks down Bridget’s daughter and finds that she met a man and secretly married him; their daughter is Lucy. Unbeknownst to Bridget, the man her daughter married is none other than Gisborne himself, whose daughter Lucy, Bridget’s granddaughter, is now the victim of her grandmother’s terrible curse. It is a curse that forbids anyone from loving Lucy or from growing close to her, because everywhere she goes, she is accompanied by a phantom double, a ghostlike creature who looks like Lucy, but is evil and terrifying in nature.

This slim volume manages to make a lot of insightful commentary about wealth disparity in Britain and the conflict between Protestants and Catholics, and I’ve also read that this novella may be interpreted as commentary on the Irish Famine, as Bridget eventually dies of starvation. But I just loved how much it gripped me; I’ve always loved Gothic novels, and deep, Romantic emotions, and The Poor Clare didn’t disappoint. I suppose it’s the Catholic in me. Buy the book here!

Redecorating

Today I wanted to share with you all a project I’ve been working on for the past few months: redecorating my bedroom. Since high school it’s gone through many transformations, but now that I’m an adult and working from home, I really needed a space all to myself, that I loved and wouldn’t mind spending hours in.

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I painted one wall red and the other ones gold; I love bright, dramatic colors and this was perfect. Can you tell I’m obsessed with mermaids? And John William Waterhouse!

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All the pieces of furniture in my bedroom were white before the redecoration: kiddy white furniture I’ve had since I was young. To redecorate, I scoured thrift stores, Home Goods, and estate sales and found some pretty awesome pieces for absurdly cheap, like $15 to $20 dollars! I also love decorating with souvenirs from places I’ve visited. My cousin calls me Ariel, because I hoard junk like The Little Mermaid.

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All of my clothes are in a wardrobe in my sister’s old room, so my bedroom feels more like an office now! Except for the shoes, which are the focal point, of course ;) It was also a challenge finding places to put books. I had everything organized and perfect, until a B&N shopping spree left me with no room again! Maybe under my bed?

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It also took me a while to find the perfect chair, one with the right height and comfort level, without being ugly. I got this one from Pier 1, and I’m obsessed with it. It has three different patterns. The desk is my old art desk from high school that my art teacher let me keep when they got new furniture for the art room. So that was free! It’s chipped and has paint stains all over it, and I love it so much.

I’m kind of attached to my old dolls, and semi-afraid that if I move them into the attic they’ll get mad and kill me in the night, so they stay in my room.

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I’m so happy with the finished product and I just love my room now! What do you guys think?

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My Twilight Confession

Around Valentine’s Day, Twilight in all its many film manifestations dominated the movie channels. And I mean, eight-hour blocks of time where each movie was played back-to-back sans commercials. Almost every day. If this sounds horrible to you, rest assured that that’s how I felt, too. I switched off the TV in disgust…but then something strange happened. I caught the beginning of Breaking Dawn part 1, you know, the one where Bella has a demon baby growing inside her. Since the vision of Kristen Stewart emaciated and bruised was oddly gripping, I kept watching. Before I knew it, I was hooked. I watched almost every single Twilight film playing nearly non-stop and I loved every minute of it. Whoops.

Now, when I was 15, I jumped on the Twilight bandwagon. I got super excited when my copy of the first book came in the mail, devoured it, and before I knew it, I was 17 with my friends at an awkward, tween-infested midnight party for Breaking Dawn. For about two years, I really liked Twilight. I thought it was romantic, interesting, and even if it was terribly written, it was a gripping story. I never hit that point of being “in love with Edward” but I really did like the love story. It wasn’t until I grew up a bit that I realized Edward was kind of a controlling, abusive boyfriend, and that Bella was a bit of an idiot.

So I backtracked. I became rather outspoken against Twilight and roundly criticized it. I perhaps went too far in the opposite direction. And now, seven years after I first picked up Twilight, I find myself kind of liking it again. Liking Twilight again was surprising considering all its major flaws, but I kind of want to apologize for hating it so much. Sure, it’s sentimental, and some of Bella’s decisions are a bit dubious, and Edward is more creepy than not, but there’s something about Twilight that’s fun, romantic, and a bit transporting.

Recently, I read Gone With the Wind, and was surprised at the amount of racism and propaganda present in the novel. Parts of the book, especially the pro-KKK bits, were difficult to read, but I loved the book just the same. I loved it for the story, for the characters, for the way it swept me up into a different world. Though deeply flawed, I could not help but adore the story.

I think I feel the same way about Twilight. I’m not perhaps the wide-eyed fan I was at 15, but I surely don’t hate it just for the sake of hating it, not anymore. And there are things about it that I truly like, even though it’s so far from perfect. I like Bella’s selflessness and her capacity for love, I like the vampires’ redemption journeys, I like the backstory Meyer wrote about the werewolf clan. It’s a fun story, and it’s entertaining. So I’d like to take this time to apologize for hating Twilight, and maybe admit that now I’ve come to see things in that story I hadn’t seen before. Or maybe it’s just fun to watch Kristen Stewart as a vampire.