Thursday, January 4, 2018

{small steps to clean beauty}

Everyone is all about CLEAN these days—from food to beauty. And since my sister works for goop, I've been introduced to many clean, organic products that I've slowly started investing in over the past few years.

Clean products can tend to be more expensive, but I believe spending a little extra money is worth using products that aren't harmful to my body. I didn't replace everything in my beauty bag all at once, but started with one product at a time to see what works, what I like, and what I wanted to prioritize. (And save money!)

All of the products I use need to be gluten free as well, so luckily everything below is celiac-friendly. (As an example, if I'm using shampoo that has gluten in it, there's a high chance I'll swallow soapy water and ingest gluten. Not good!)

This goop article is a great resource if you don't know where to start. It highlights the most important products to swap out first and aligns with what I've done so far.

FYI: I'm not being paid to write this by any company, my sister gets nothing out of it (she doesn't know I'm writing it!), nor am I posting affiliate links.

Okay, here's what I swapped out:

1) Deodorant
This is the #1 thing you should replace first! Usually people's first thought is that clean deodorant doesn't work, and honestly, I was skeptic too. But the tip is: the more you use it, the more it'll work. You just have to give your body time to get used to it.

I first used Schmidt's Bergamot + Lime deodorant then switched to this Jasmine Tea scent. Not only do they smell great, but I haven't had any issues with perspiration or odor. I'm obsessed.

2) Face Oil
Not a replacement, more an addition. I've heard from a few different people that using oil on their face has changed their skin entirely, so I was thrilled when I was gifted the goop Face Oil for Christmas. I use it twice daily and it's added so much moisture to my dry skin. I really love it. (For those willing to splurge, I've heard Vitner's Daughter is exceptional. We gave it to my mom and I'm excited to see what she thinks of it!)

3) Sunscreen
I made the switch to Juice Beauty last year and haven't looked back. I have two:

Sport Sunscreen SPF 30. Perfect for things from the beach to hikes. It smells amazing and offers great protection. The only downside is you have to rub it in thoroughly if you don't want to look too pale, since it's very thick.

Green Apple SPF 15 Moisturizer. This is a great daily moisturizer to use before putting on makeup. It also goes on pretty thick, but feels smooth and light once it dries.

4) Shampoo
A quick side story. I buy a giant bottle of Neutrogena Rainbath (body wash) once a year at Costco, since it's my fave and lasts forever, so I picked up a similar-sized Kirkland brand shampoo to try out. A few months after I started using it, I went to get a haircut and complained that my hair just felt so heavy. I kept asking the stylist to thin the layers and finally she turned to me and said, "It's not a matter of lightening your layers, it's a matter of changing your shampoo." She then proceeded to hold up a piece of my hair to run her scissors across it. A thick layer of WAX came off! No wonder my hair felt heavy–the strands were covered in wax from my Costco shampoo. Apparently it is added to a lot of drug store brands. I was horrified.

I haven't found a brand I'm loyal to just yet, but here are two I've tried this year: Derma E Hydrate & Smooth ShampooDesert Essence Coconut Shampoo and Acure Clarifying Shampoo. I didn't love either of them, though, so I'm still on the hunt. Any recommendations?

5) Face wash
On the days where I actually wash my face (I am guilty of just the water and paper towel method), I use goop's Luminous Melting Cleanser and accompanying cloth. I've never used a cleanser like this before - it's so smooth and wax-like - but my skin looks and feels amazing after each time I use it.

6) Face masks
I use two:

goop's Exfoliating Instant Facial. Just a quick 3-minute mask that you can use 3-4 times a week. It's the best.

Goldfaden MD Facial Detox. I use this once a week and have noticed a huge difference in my skin.

7) Face lotion
I don't own them personally, but I use both products below when I'm staying with Dylan. They are the best and next on my list to buy.

goop's Revitalizing Day Moisturizer & Replenishing Night Cream

I don't know if this is clean, per se, but I will always use it: Paul Scerri Ph Balancing Cream. I put this on every night before I go to bed. I wish I could bottle up the smell and use it as perfume—it's my favorite.

8) Blush
The only makeup I've replaced thus far... this Lip and Cheek Tint. I mainly use it as blush, rather than lip gloss, but I love the subtle rouge it adds to my cheeks.

What I haven't replaced yet:

Most of my makeup. I use Laura Mercier products because they are gluten free, but I'm slowly going to swap out things like mascara and lipstick.

Body wash. I can't quit Rainbath yet ;)

Monday, January 1, 2018

{2017 year in review}

–Rang in the new year at our beach house.
–On 1/4, I spent the night in the ER... for medical issues that would eventually haunt me the rest of the year.
–Work was crazy busy.

–Car troubles.
–Dylan and I planned our English countryside road trip one night, on a whim, and I started studying for driving across the pond.
–Went on my last shoot ever for the account I've worked on for 3+ years. So bittersweet!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

{how i found my way back to piano}

A friend recently told me a story about how when she was a little girl, she wanted to learn to play piano. Her mom set up the lesson, but during the first meeting, the teacher told my friend that her hands were too small to play and refused to teach her.

I expected the story to end on a higher note—like how her mom found another teacher, and she learned and fell in love with the instrument. But that was the end of the story. She never found another tutor and never learned to play.

This gave me a flashback to when a teacher refused to teach me piano in third grade. I've always been naturally musically inclined—trained classically in voice since I was six, played both the violin and cello when I was little, perfect pitch by middle school—but with piano, it was harder. I play by ear, which means it is easier for me to learn by just listening to the full song rather than the recommended method: reading the actual sheet music. Though I didn't ever fully give it up, thanks to the piano in our living room, I wasn't formally taught the instrument again until high school. Until I found a wonderful teacher who adapted his teaching style to mine.

(Taking a moment here to side-eye those two teachers. I don't want to think about how many other students they refused to teach.)

I finally learned to play the piano the "right" way, but it still never came as easily as I wanted it to. Back then, my goal was to be able to accompany myself (or sister) while singing, and that's where I ended up—only able to do exactly that. My ability never went beyond the basic chords and I was rarely able to play the entire piece of music as it was written. And as I went into college years and beyond—now in the stages of life without regular piano lessons—I just settled with playing the same eight songs I knew. Every time I went home, my mom not-so-secretly wished I pulled a new song out of my hat, but the truth was...I never really considered trying. I had convinced myself that my left and right hands couldn't play anything complicated together, and that I would always struggle with reading sheet music. I stuck with what I knew.

But I yearned to play more. When I moved to San Francisco, music was no longer a part of my life. I lived across the country from my sister and singing parter, and voice lessons felt like a step back. My ice-breaker answers at work events shocked people: like how I've performed at Carnegie Hall three times and was a special guest on someone's tour in Ireland.

It seemed like a different life from the one I was living on the west coast and I desperately missed the thing that made me me.

So I bought a keyboard...

...and let it sit and gather dust for the better part of three years. I played it maybe a few times, but I still could not get over that hump of not being able to play anything beyond basic chords or songs. It was so disheartening and really ate away at me. I've since changed rooms from that one above, and even though the piano moved with me, I let it become another surface where I drop my mail and bills, instead of something that makes me happy.

Until this past fall. This year has been tough—my health, career, and personal life all took hits in different ways. I was constantly stressed, overanalyzing every part of my life, and I needed a jolt.

I listen to film scores and piano pieces while I work, and so on a whim, I downloaded sheet music to a song I'd been listening to on repeat. When I brought it home, I committed myself to it. 

I made a goal: learn it by Thanksgiving. Not just the chords—the entire thing, line by line, note by note. It was mid-October and the 5-page song seemed doable in that amount of time.

I set aside at least 90 minutes per weekday, with more hours on the weekend, and though I was rusty that first week, my hands eventually warmed up and it came back like muscle memory. It was like I never stopped—but this time, I was even better. There were days when I played the same three bars for five hours straight just to get the finger movements down, but I eventually nailed it.

I found myself more capable than I gave myself credit for, and it just...clicked. I identify notes quickly, I can play the treble and bass clefs at different tempos (at the same time!), and my fingers deftly move from key to key as fast as I can type.

Imagine my surprise when I finished learning the song by the end of the month.

So I downloaded another, and told myself I'd learn that one by Thanksgiving. And then I finished that one just days before the holiday, and downloaded another. And another.

I now have three-a-half completed songs under my belt, and have made a new goal for Christmas. I purchased a music binder with plastic page covers, so I can keep everything organized and protected, upgraded to a more robust pedal, and even bought some fancy keyboard headphones so my neighbors aren't sequestered to constant piano.

My roommate has been a rapt and supportive audience throughout this process, indulging my ego with startled reactions at how easily I picked it back up (considering she, too, had only heard the same eight songs I played for my mom). It hasn't just decreased my stress. I am having so much fun. 

I had visions of going home for Christmas, sitting down, and surprising my family with a repertoire of new songs. But the truth is, I've been so proud of myself, they've already seen snippets of the songs via FaceTime or videos. I don't care...I'm still counting the days until I go home and sit down at our baby grand (so different and better than a keyboard!) and play all of the songs over and over for them.

I still write the individual notes with a pencil on the bass line, and I still practice getting the tempo right by playing aloud to the actual song, but even though it is my own way, I am doing it. I am reading music and playing the piano and I'm actually good at it.

I still start and end each day at my keyboard. It wakes up my mind in the morning and relaxes it before bed. I have fallen in love with it all over again and found a piece of myself that had quietly been floating away. It has been the biggest gift over the past few months and I regret not doing it sooner. I can't even think about how many songs I could play by now.  

If you are reading this, take it as a lesson to not give up on something that you love—even if it's hard. Keep doing it. Maybe you will surprise yourself. And more importantly: it is okay to learn differently than others. I'm going to repeat that again: it is okay to learn differently than others. I have had to adapt my way of understanding things to what is not the norm all of my life, and that's okay. It really doesn't matter how you get there, just as long as you do.

I am so deeply moved by the piano; there is something about it that is beautiful and calming and significant in a way no other instrument is to me. I am so happy I found it again.


Friday, June 16, 2017

{england: road trip tips}

That photo above was taken when we were still in the rental car parking lot.
So many pamphlets. So much jet lag. So little makeup.

Did you think I was finished writing about our England trip??

I thought I'd write a post on renting a car and driving in England, from an American's perspective. It may have been our favorite part about the whole vacation, so I couldn't recommend it more. We can't wait to do it again.

Here are my big tips:

Monday, June 12, 2017

{england: from tea to gluten free}

To wrap up our trip, I wanted to write about our tea experience and eating gluten free in England.