My new commute and my need to read

Last week, I mentioned here that I’ve started a new job. Prior to this, I had worked from home and so I basically went to bed whenever I wanted, woke up with just enough time to start a shift, and had zero commute, obviously! But this new job is over an hour away and so my schedule has changed drastically.

I’m such a night person, but now I wake up at 6 and I don’t usually get home before 7:30, and sometimes even around 9 o’clock. Since I really like the job, I don’t mind the hours, but it’s the fact that I don’t have time for much else that bothered me in the beginning. I’m used to my hobbies: reading, writing, obviously writing this blog, and doing creative things. So in an effort to multitask on my hour-and-a-half long drive, I’ve started listening to audiobooks.

And it’s awesome! I’ve never been an audio “reader,” and I never thought it would be easy to concentrate while driving, but it turns out that listening to a book is not only a great use of my three hours/day commute, but it’s also much more calming than listening to music is. I’ve made it my mission to stay as focused as possible on my hobbies despite the long hours of the job, and I feel like listening to books rather than reading them is a great compromise, and as an added bonus, there were so many resources I found online that offer free audiobooks.

Right now, I’m listening to Great Expectations, a book I have had on my TBR for years. I “read” about 200 pages (according to a corresponding physical copy I already owned) during my commute this past week, and I’m going to make it my mission to “read” the big classics like this.

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It’s twofold: listening to books sort of takes away the effort of getting into a difficult novel. It’s more passive than reading since it’s being read to you and so it’s sort of mindless—in a good way. After Great Expectations, I’m going to read Charlotte Bronte’s Villette and then maybe War and Peace, both books I’ve been meaning to read forever but never had the time to devote to getting into it. Audiobooks and my commute turned out to be a perfect combination.

Here are some free resources if you want to listen to the classics on your downtime, and finally get around to reading those books you always meant to: Librophile.com, LoyalBooks.com (where I found Great Expectations), LibriVox, and Audiobooks.net. I considered an Audible account at first but the $14.95/month price tag put me off. Trying to be economical here!

Note: none of this is sponsored; I just like to read books. :)

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Beauty // 2 new ways to use turmeric

Recently, I read an article about how turmeric is a magic, cure-all beauty item, and I decided to give it a try. Turmeric is known for a lot of things; it’s a yummy spice in a lot of Indian cuisine, it’s known for its ability to shrink or kill cancer cells, and it’s apparently a great way to brighten your skin. It’s high in antioxidants and can help with skin inflammation—everything from dry skin to eczema and psoriasis. So I tried a turmeric mask.

To start, I combined 2 tablespoons of flour, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 3 tablespoons of milk, and a couple drops of honey in a bowl and stirred it into a bright orange, gritty mask. I smoothed a little bit over my face—aaaaand looked like an alien:

Be warned: you may have to wash your face after rinsing off the mask because turmeric stains. Not forever, or even for a long time. But your face will be faintly orange if you don’t wash it afterward.

I only put the mask on once and didn’t notice a huge difference, but I’m going to keep using it once a week to try to reduce inflammation and irritation from my very bad, bad habit of picking my breakouts! And there’s another use for turmeric that I want to try: turmeric tea.

Turmeric tea can help stave off seasonal depression, as well as help you sleep better and longer. To make this tea, combine 1 cup milk, ½-1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 teaspoon honey. You heat the milk first in a saucepan and then add the other ingredients.

Apparently, the curcumin in turmeric is an antioxidant that makes your body produce more serotonin and dopamine, two hormones that boost your mood. If you’re looking for a natural way to feel and sleep better, turmeric tea may be the trick. I’ve heard good things about it, and I’m eager to try it out.

I love finding natural health and beauty remedies, like my obsession with all things tea tree oil (because it’s a magical, magical fairy substance) and giving myself steam facials and exfoliating with nutmeg. Looks like turmeric may become my new obsession! Despite the crazy orange face. ;)

Let me know if you’ve tried either and these, and tell me what you think!

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Fashion // All the words that you said

I’m really into monochrome outfits right now, that incorporate different shades of the same color. This one is a little dark green/forest green/brownish outfit that of course I had to ruin with a long lace vest. I’ve got two of these skirts from Boohoo—I’ve worn the other before—and I think this one will become a staple throughout winter.

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top thrifted, skirt from boohoo.com, necklace gifted

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A massive, fictionalized history of London!

Way back last year, I bought a bunch of Edward Rutherfurd novels that take place in a specific city/country and span centuries. These books, of which he’s written like ten, function as both amazing historical fiction and an ode to their respective places. Last August I read Paris and could not stop gushing over it. This year, I read London.

92160I know you’re probably sick of me talking about London, but hear me out.

I started this book in December, weeks before my trip to London over New Year’s, but since it was Christmas and I was really busy, I didn’t finish it until I returned from my trip in January, and reading this book ended up being the perfect bookend (pun intended) to a wonderful return to the city. This book made me get to know the city’s history, even as I wandered its ancient streets.

It begins in pre-Roman, Celtic Britain, and ends in 1997. Between those 1100+ pages, six families come to life over 2,000 years. In these pages, we get to know Londinium, the Roman city, with its amphitheatre, gladiators, and rampant money counterfeiting. We see William the Conqueror invade the city in 1066, and build the impressive fortress, the Tower of London, on the banks of the Thames. We see the plague rip through the towns, the Great Fire absolutely demolish the wooden houses, and Mayfair rise up from its ashes a century or so later. The same families appear in each chapter, and the author is tongue in cheek, knowing that the readers know so much more about each family’s history and ancestry than even they know.

I have always felt that historical fiction, provided it’s as accurate as humanly possible, is the best way to learn history. I don’t think history can really be learned from history books (if you’re anything short of a historian) and Edward Rutherfurd is not only a very detailed history writer; he’s also a masterful storyteller. Each chapter is rife with vivid characters, heightened tension, excellent plot development, and the perfect set-up for future characters—and future settings. It’s like two dozen novellas in one, or as if someone had dictated their family’s history to a talented ghostwriter.

“Each year, each age, leaves something. It gets compressed, of course, it disappears under the surface, but just a little of all that human life remains. A Roman tile, a coin, a clay pipe from Shakespeare’s time. All left in place. When we dig down, we find it and we may put it on show. But don’t think of it just as an object. Because that coin, that pipe belonged to someone: a person who lived, and loved, and looked out at the river and the sky each day just like you and me.”

A character says that to another on the very last page, two archaeologists walking through the Museum of London (which I was lucky to visit when I was first there, and it’s a must-see). I love that quote.

Some people will have trouble getting into this one; it is a slow starter. But it’s absolutely worth the effort.

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7 Travel tips for a holiday in London

London is my favorite city (that I’ve visited). Aside from New York, which is home, London has my heart. I spent this past New Year’s Eve there, the second time I’d visited since studying abroad in college, and I didn’t want to leave. I decided to share some travel tips in case you’re also planning a visit to the city!

Frequent your local pubs. //

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Wherever you’re staying will have probably a dozen good local pubs within walking distance. Get to know them, as they will each probably have a great history, story, and special brews on tap. Seat yourself anywhere, and order both food and drinks at the bar. Pro tip: always drench your chips in vinegar. It’s the only way.

When pub food gets old, check out the diverse multinational cuisine in London, especially Brick Lane if you love curry (I do)!

The tube is super easy, but the buses will give you the view of the city. //

Get an Oyster card your first day, and use the pay as you go/top-up option. Remember that you have to tap out of the turnstile as well as tapping in when you enter the station! Keep that card handy so you’re not fumbling for it and holding up the queue. To keep track of tube stations and stops, download a tube app. I liked the “London Tube” one. It’s easy, quick, and it works when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.

Tip for the tube: it shuts down at midnight, making your transport options the night bus or black cabs. General wisdom is that black cabs are expensive/rip you off, but I think this is relative, because as a New Yorker, it didn’t seem that unreasonable (even considering the currency change).

Tipping isn’t always necessary, but we did it anyway. //

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As an American and a server, I will never get out of the habit of tipping, even when the service charge is included. I always tipped the bartenders a pound for pouring my drink and ordering my food, and even if their looks are quizzical, I keep doing it. I feel like it’s so much more appreciated. The same goes for cab drivers. Speaking of…

Talk to your cabbies! //

Whenever we took a black cab, or even an Uber, we started conversations with our cabbies, and their stories were always excellent. They’re often friendly and interested in where you’re from and what you think of the city. They can provide some answers to questions provided you’re not taking guided tours (we didn’t) and they’re some of the most cheerful, friendly people.

Get the Fast Track option at the London Eye. //

It’s more than worth the extra few pounds for the fast lane onto this attraction. Our queue was ten minutes long at most, while the regular option had wait times upward of 45 minutes.

Check kitchen closing times before going to eat. //

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I’m used to NYC hours, i.e. things never closing, so adjusting to the hours of London was a little tricky. Plan ahead to make sure the place you’re eating/drinking will be open when you arrive.

Read your history. //

One of the biggest draws for me in London was the history of the city, obsessed as I am with British history. If you’re not paying for guided tours, buy a few books and make sure you know what you’re seeing, especially in places like Westminster Abbey, where there’s so much history it can get overwhelming. Last time I went, I completely missed the tomb of Elizabeth I, and never forgave myself for it.

Also, take time to explore the city, stopping one Tube stop short of your destination to take a look at the many and varied neighborhoods sitting right next to each other. London is so extremely mishmash, and it’s beautiful.

One more thing: Pack a compact umbrella and treat it like your child. I happen to love the sudden showers, but getting caught in them sans umbrella is somewhat less than pleasant.

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Snapshots of London, my New Year’s vacation

Over New Year’s, I visited London for the second time, and I’m so happy I was able to go back to one of my absolute favorite places in the world. I thought I’d share some photos and highlights of my trip here, and later on this week, I’m going to share some travel tips for visiting this amazing metropolis.

Last time I was in London (in college), I took upwards of 5,000 photos, I’m sure. This time, I had basically seen all the “big sights” so I let myself relax in terms of photos. But here are some of my favorite moments:

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view from the London Eye

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New Year’s Eve as flappers!

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the Tower of London

London = Love

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Fashion // Old Money

Happy Tuesday! I started a new job this week so I’m still adjusting to the schedule change. Here’s an outfit I put together with some old and new pieces. My favorite part of this outfit is my necklace: it’s actually a pound coin I brought back from London and stuck in a coin bezel. I spent New Year’s in London, and since I’m not really one for souvenir shopping, I decided to make this little memento of my trip!

Pretty scarf from The Scarf Shop, and the whole outfit is sort of styled around its colors. Hope you like! 6_the_most_happy_blog 2_the_most_happy_blog 1_the_most_happy_blog 5_the_most_happy_blog 4_the_most_happy_blog 7_the_most_happy_blog
scarf c/o The Scarf Shop, top c/o Dressin, skirt from boohoo.com
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