Thursday, January 28, 2016

Playlist and Spring Cleaning in Winter

It's a little bit below freezing outside, but I feel like it's springtime.  Maybe it's all the sunlight reflecting off of the 2+ feet of snow.  It's coming in through the windows and brightening everything up, and it's making me think of gardens and giveaways and cleaning and all those other springtime-y things.  Unfortunately, homework has taken most of my time, but I did manage to distract myself for a few minutes by watching recordings of university English literature lectures.  There was a very interesting one about macro-history as a lens through which to view the works of Hemingway. 
My literary ventures aside, though, it's playlist time!  I haven't done a playlist post in what feels like a long time, so I'm excited to share the music that's been helping me get through midterms and the beginning of the new semester :).


Gin Wigmore: "Black Sheep"
 
Lissie: "2000 Miles" (Cover of The Pretenders)
 
Sam Cooke: "You Send Me"
 
Michael Franti: "Life is Better With You"
 
 
<3 Frances 


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Beatrix Potter Has a New Book!

This is serious breaking news in the bibliophile world.  Since childhood, I've loved Beatrix Potter's world of posh mice and rustic rabbits, and when I saw the news today that an unknown work of hers was recently discovered and is set to be published, I couldn't help but to write about immediately. The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, which Potter was working on in 1914, is about a fancy cat with a "double life," and, though manuscripts were written, it wasn't published because of Potter's marriage and, of course, World War I.  But it's being published soon, and it even features Peter Rabbit!  Though he's much older now.  Oh, Peter. We always wondered what became of you....

The original Kitty in Boots, which Beatrix Potter illustrated herself
Kitty-in-Boots himself

<3 Frances 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Enviro-Hack Your Life

I think we can all pretty much agree that we love our Earth.  I mean, without her, none of us would be here.  She's literally what "here" is.  But she's also really sick.  Years of environmental mistreatment (carbon dioxide emissions, deforestation, overfishing, pollution, etc., etc., etc.) have really taken their toll on her, and if we don't do something to change our ways now, we may never get a chance to save her.  Global temperatures are supposed to continue to rise over the next several decades, possibly increasing between 2.5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit within the next hundred years (IPCC and NASA). This increase will have different impacts on different parts of the world, but it'll cause big problems in terms of melting sea ice and crazy weather (like what we're having now, for instance).  Depressing side-effects of global warming aside, though, what are we supposed to do to make things better?  Contrary to how we may feel, we're actually not powerless when it comes to saving the world.  Small changes can make big differences.  Here are some of my favorite #enviro-hacks.


  1. Thrift. I love thrifting because I find things that I can actually afford, and, as it turns out, thrifting is also really good for the environment! It takes over 2,500 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans (Chang), but by buying a used pair, we help eliminate the need for all that water.  I mean, who said vintage jeans aren’t as good as new jeans?
  2. Upcycle your wardrobe.  It’s like recycling, only with a sewing touch.  Take old clothes--things you’ve torn or stained, things that don’t totally fit anymore--and make them like new again by sewing them together.
  3. Recycle paper media. Donate books to a library or nonprofit, and repurpose magazines and newspapers into art projects.  Paper doll collages!  Paper beads!  School posters!
  4. Find reusable containers.  The chemicals in plastic bottles aren’t great for you or for Earth.  Reusable water bottles and food containers may be a bit pricey, but they’re worth it in the long run.  If you can’t afford them or simply want to be more unique, you can try to find your own vintage bottles and containers.  Think mason jars and old Italian sparkling water bottles--they’re chic, different, and bohemian, and they look adorable storing everything from buttons to beads to brown rice.  
  5. Buy local produce and avoid factory farms.  Living in the city can make it difficult to imagine getting food from a farm, but farmers’ markets and specialty grocery stores make it more accessible, and it’s worth it for your health and the planet’s.  Also, be sure to avoid factory farm-raised meats if you’re going to eat meat. Animals given antibiotics in their feed can get infections that are resistant to drug treatments, and factory farm animals are horribly abused, many of them torn from their families and kept in cages so small that they can hardly move around.
  6. Play Tetris.  Okay, I know this idea seems a bit unusual, but I’m not talking about 1980s videogames.  I’m talking about dishwashers!  When you load your dishwasher, put the dishes in it in an efficient, space-conscious way in order to make sure that you fit as much as possible.  It’s a surprisingly tricky task, but it can be totally fun if you make a game out of it. Just make sure none of your dishes disappear the way Tetris blocks do....  
  7. Shorten your showers and get a low-flow shower head. If everyone had a low-flow shower head, 50% less water would be wasted per shower. And if everyone took an 8-minute shower, only 20 gallons of water would be used per shower, which is a lot less than the 55 gallons used for a 15-minute shower with an average-flow head.
  8. Garden.  Even just a few flowers in a pot on your porch can help contribute to the preservation of the natural world, and there are even some plants that help save the bees.  Saving them is really important for the long-term survival of life as we know it.

 <3 Frances

Friday, January 22, 2016

Writer's Block: How to Handle It

It hasn't stopped snowing yet.  At all.  As much as I love the snow, I'm worried about the plants and animals (and people) that are facing it right now, and I really hope all are well and safe! Sitting inside, I've felt very grateful for a roof and heat, and I've been trying to get some work done.  This brings me to my next subject: writer's block!  Yay! (Cue sarcasm.)

 


Writer's block--the bane of creativity--is an unfortunate phenomenon marked by an abundance of blank pages and a lack of inspiration.  It can be incredibly disheartening, making writers everywhere feel like they'll never ever feel inspired again, and it can cause major problems when you have essays due. But don't worry!  (Worrying is the root of all stress, and stress causes way more trouble than it's worth.) Here are some of my favorite ways to deal with writer's block.  I've by no means found the cure (does one exist?), but these things can help:
  • Listening to music.  Anything works, really. It all depends on how you're feeling. Some of my favorite anti-writer's block songs are "Wings" by Birdy, "1904" by The Tallest Man on Earth, and "Midnight City" by M83.  And Lana Del Rey often helps me write history papers.
  • Looking at art. Noticing a trend?  Art of any kind can be inspiring.  Photography can be the needed inspiration for a short story. Monet can spark an idea for your book report.
  • Reading.  This is an obvious one, I know, but it really works!  There's nothing like reading Les Mis excerpts to inspire you to aspire to Victor Hugo-level literary brilliance.
  • Dancing.  Not for everyone, but fun when it works.
  • Watching movie trailers.  Some trailers have amazing combinations of visuals and music. I love the trailer for Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby
  • Talking.  Even to yourself.
  • Moving around.  Take a walk outside (or not, given the weather).
  • Cleaning.  It's oddly therapeutic, and it'll help you think.  Plus, you'll end up with a cleaner home afterwards ;).
<3 Frances

Millet Squash Bread

It's a snow day! As in an actual, legitimate, OMG snow day. But it's also sort of a blizzard, day, too, so I hope everyone is staying safe and warm.  As for me, I'm doing a lot of homework and cleaning...and baking. Or rather helping my mum do baking. It's not something we typically have time for, so it's a special event, but I wanted to share our fun millet squash bread recipe. It's bitter on its own, but pumpkin seed or almond butters go great with it, and it's delicious right out of the oven. Plus, millet and squash have a lot of wonderful health benefits. And you can find pureed butternut squash from the Farmer's Market brand, so no cutting and baking of a squash is required :).

Ingredients
3 cups millet flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ginger
1 3/4 to 2 cups pureed butternut squash
1 cup soy milk
Walnut oil

Directions
1) Preheat the oven to 350.
2) Oil a 9x9 glass baking dish.
3) In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
4) Add squash and milk.
5) Pour into baking dish.
6) Bake for 35 minutes.
7) Cool completely.
8) Transfer to wire rack.

<3 Frances



Thursday, January 21, 2016

NASA's Space Garden

Well, NASA's done it.  There are now officially space flowers that can grow "from seed to maturity" (CBC) outside our atmosphere.  One of my resolutions this year is to get better at gardening/gardening-related things, and while I'm super excited that there are space flowers, I'm also realizing that their existence renders any excuses I have for garden fails significantly less legitimate.

U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted a photo of his orange success, a zero gravity salad-worthy zinnia from the International Space Station's veggie lab.

Anyway, about the space flowers.  They're beautiful orange zinnias, and they mark a brilliant success following several very sad plant deaths :(.  Of course, plants have been grown in space before, but, as I mentioned above, these ones grew from seed to adulthood entirely in space.  It's pretty poetic, isn't it?  I mean, space flowers! Space. Flowers.  I just keep thinking about it over and over again, like the existence of a "space garden" somehow means everything's going to be alright.  Flowers (and all plants in general) are very impressive and inspiring, aren't they? I mean, they die every winter and come back every spring, and now they live in space, too.  If you're feeling down today, remember that.  There are flowers in space.  They're up there, watching over you.

<3 Frances

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Yoga for Flat Feet

Hi, lovelies!  It's snowing today!  I keep looking out my window in disbelief.  I was beginning to give up on the possibility of snow this year, so it's very exciting to even just have some flurries.
Speaking of exciting, I saw an article yesterday about yoga stretches for unhappy arches.  I have very flat feet (my arches aren't so much arches as they are suction cups, LOL) and my knees turn in, and I'm starting to recognize now how important it is to maintain foot health because foot problems tend to only get worse as time goes on.
Now, I'm not by any means a "yogi" when it comes to flexibility and all that admirable stuff.  I love dancing (yay, music!) and have done Pilates, and I've tried to do yoga, but I'm just not very bendy.  That said, I think yoga has a lot of benefits for foot health.
According to the Art of Yoga site, prasarita padottanasana can help to strength the tibialis posterior, which, when weak, can cause the foot to turn in the wrong direction (both inwards and outwards). I found this pose to be very helpful for me, and I could really feel it in my feet (in a good way).  Get into a wide-legged squat and bend the knees slightly, sort of like a football player at the scrimmage line (or at least that's what the article said, LOL--I'm not a sports person).  Turn your feet to lift the arches. This will cause your knees to turn straight if they tend to turn inwards.


According to Yoga Journal, other poses that can help strengthen feet include Tree Pose, Downward Dog, Chair Pose, and Bound Angle Pose. Be really careful when trying any of these positions and do your best to maintain proper form so that you don't injure yourself.  Some of them may look "easy," but they really involve a lot of focus with regard to stance and breathing so that you aren't rolling or pulling too much. Over time, flexibility will increase and you'll be able to do more. Hopefully your feet will get better, too.  Remember that it's all a process!

Yogapedia Dec 14 Tree Pose Vrksasana


Downward facing dog pose_450x450
Nov 14 Home Practice Utkatasana Chair Pose

Bound angle pose

<3 Frances


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Quotespiration

Here's a little quote inspo to get your day off on a literary note.



Victor Hugo



<3 Frances





Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ground Control to Major Tom


We lost David Bowie this weekend. It's difficult to imagine that such an incredible artist is gone because his musical influence is still felt so strongly everywhere, and it's heartbreaking to hear that he was struggling with cancer.  With that said, here is our little tribute to him--and to everyone else out there that we've lost recently.  Love and light to all <3. 


"Space Oddity"

"Heroes"



Monday, January 11, 2016

Gardenspiration

Flowers disappear in winter and return in the spring almost as if to show that, no matter what, you can always have hope for there being some sort of beauty in the world even if you can't see it for a while.  Flowers are rather inspiring in that way, aren't they?  As yesterday was the new moon in Capricorn, marking a time for fresh starts and goal-setting (though some goals may not manifest as quickly as others), I decided that a mini-goal of mine is to get more familiar with flowers and gardens and all of nature in general because it's so amazing and genuine and isn't at all appreciated as much as it should be. I gave the plants in my apartment showers so that they could get their leaves glossy and hydrated, and I picked out some of the dead leaves from their soil.  I cut my finger a little bit, but being around the plants and smelling their soil and talking to them made me feel so happy inside, almost as if I were standing on the porch in the sun.  This is one of my propositions to you this new year: if you have time (and, trust me, I know that's difficult to come by), spend some of it in or around nature.  Even if you're just taking a moment to be with the ficus tree in your living room, make it a special one and open your heart up to nature and the incredible power that is our planet <3.







<3 Frances


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Music and Misc.

Hi, darlings!  I hope you're all well this first Thursday in January. It's funny to think that this is the very first Thursday of the year, but it is, and the last day of 2015 was a Thursday, so perhaps that makes today special.  Or perhaps all days are special and I'm just getting too excited about it.  I don't know. I'm studying for midterms (fun!), so my mind is a bit preoccupied as of lately. History dates, science terms...it's all very interesting, but it's hard to keep it all together sometimes.  I get things a bit mixed up.  And I'm trying to read Les Mis on the side, which just gets things more confusing, I think, because Fantine and Jean Valjean keep sneaking into my thoughts whenever my history textbook mentions France.  Sigh.
Brilliant tragedies aside, I'm excited to share YouTube user alexrainbird's one-hour indie/pop/folk compilation for January 2016 today.  I'm not really much of a YouTube video surfer myself, but I do enjoy digging into its indie music side (sidebar adventures!), and it's exciting when you find compilations because they're a great way to discover new music.  What have you been listening to lately?


I'm sending warmest wishes to everyone!  We're only a day from TGIF.

<3 Frances 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

No Worries

Let's make today a positive day. A productive day.  A procrastination-free day. 


The truth about worrying is that it often doesn't get you nearly as far as you think it will, so instead of worrying today, try putting love on all situations and just doing the best you can to make the world a more positive place for yourself and for those around you.  With all the craziness of the new year and being back at work, doing that is a lot easier said than done, but here are some songs to help get you started...


Bob Marley: "Three Little Birds"

Bobby McFerrin: "Don't Worry, Be Happy"

Lykke Li: "Dance, Dance, Dance" (Feat. Bon Iver)

Len: "Steal My Sunshine"
<3 Frances


Monday, January 4, 2016

Back to School & Scarves

It's Monday, which means we're back in reality after a two-week hiatus in the world of no alarm clocks.  And it's really cold, too.  On Christmas, it felt like spring, but today it's freezing. At least there are scarves. They make early-morning, still-dark-outside studying easier and keep cold necks warm.








Stay warm!
<3 Frances