On Burnout and the Rest Cure

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in two weeks. Well, I’ve had a phenomenally busy couple of weeks. I’ve also felt less-than-inspired. That’s not to say I’ve had nothing to write about. I’m still gleefully trying out new skin care products from Korea and Japan, as well as some handmade things. I’ve started tweaking my hair routine. And just after my birthday a couple weeks ago, Boyfriend took me on a lovely outing, during which I took many, many beautiful pictures that I have yet to download from the memory card of my camera.

It’s daunting to tackle, to say the least. And I’ve been tired, mentally and physically. Rehearsals have started running later, and I’ve gone and gotten myself cast in another show already, so I have the looming prospect of double rehearsals again that preemptively paralyzes me.

And so I decided to just step back. I know that posting regularly is good to keep an audience, but I’m sure readers prefer quality posts to harried ones. Even this post was a gamble, as I have nothing really new to share with you. Just my musings on “self-care” and forgiving yourself for not meeting arbitrary goals.

And maybe a few tantalizing hints at things to come. So here’s a future attractions:

  1. I will finally get my birthday outing photos processed and do a big post about that. Probably picture-heavy, and they will be lovely pictures. Spoiler: it involves flowers.
  2. A possible theater update. I’m currently rehearsing a show set in the 20s, and just got cast in a late-Victorian-era piece, so it fits in well with my preferred vintage aesthetics.
  3. A skin care update, though this will be a long time coming. I’m still testing and hope to have a routine finalized (at least for now) by the end of April.
  4. A hair care update. Again, this is a work in progress, but I have a more concrete regime in place right now, despite the potential changing of exact products.
  5. Of course, I will be musing about springtime. The cherry blossoms and tulip magnolias are blossoming and soon I hope the wisteria will be out as well.

So that is where I’ve been lately. I hope to be back soon with more updates!

Musings and Ramblings

I’ve been a bit remiss about posting. Part of the reason for that are rehearsals ramping up for my next theater project: Enchanted April. I’m so excited to be playing Lady Caroline Bramble in the stage adaptation of the novel. Lady Caroline is a lovely young socialite with a troubled past and plenty of secrets. She’s very private and quiet most of the time, so it will be an interesting role. And she has a very daring and ecclectic wardrobe, which will be fun. The costumer and I have worked together before, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she pulls for me in a couple weeks.

I’ve also been spending a not-small amount of time planning out my recently-upgraded skin care routine. Because I’m waiting on packages from overseas, I have time to really spread out the testing of different products and watch for adverse reactions from each one. Because I love organization, I’ve put all this into a spread sheet. I’ve also decided to organizer my hair care routine like this as well. This past weekend, I indulged in a scalp massage with peppermint oil, a lovely scalp exfoliation with an acidic shampoo, and a deep conditioning treatment. I have a few new hair treats coming soon to add in, as well.

This weekend, I also had another opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to see a matinee of their production of Manon Lescaut. It was a gorgeous production, with sets and costumes inspired by wartime France in the 1940s, which I thought was a neat update. The singers were not only wonderful singers but also fantastic actors, and the lead tenor managed to make it through despite suffering from the flu! Having just had the dubious honor of performing with an unhealthy voice, I could hear where he really started straining and I was that much more impressed at how well he was able to maintain the strength and quality of his vocal sound.

So a whirlwind week of rehearsals, a whirlwind weekend of travel and culture, and what little time in between taken up with beauty planning means less time to plan, write, and take photos for blog posts. But I am not going anywhere for long, and I do have posts planned and photos to take for the future. Until then, I hope you will curl up with a cup of tea and wait patiently!

Friday Musings: Lip Treatments, Asian Skin Care, and Lady Friends

I was going to post about the new lip treatment I made this weekend, but I am not as enamored with as I thought I would be. I wanted something similar to the Bite Beauty Agave Lip mask because, while I love that, it’s rather expensive and it seems like I could make something similar for less money. Plus, I wanted to incorporate honey instead of agave into it. So I made a version of Egyptian Magic, but with some coconut oil instead of beeswax, so it had more of a soft texture than a salve/balm texture. Unfortunately, coconut oil always feels too light on my lips. I suppose the lanolin in the BB mask is necessary. I shall keep experimenting.

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So as you know, I’ve been shaking up my skin care routine. After going about a month without putting anything but water and a little rosehip oil on my face, I’ve determined that I have dehydrated, combination skin, and I get clogged pores in my oily areas. I found Caroline Hirons, who convinced me to use non-foaming cleansers, perform a two-step cleansing in the evening, and layer my skin care to create a “moisture sandwich.” She also taught me the benefits of using hyaluronic acid on breakout-prone skin.

I took this one further and joined Reddit this week. I at first started posting in the Skincare Addiction subreddit, but soon found that many of the posts that interested me were in the Asian Beauty section. My routine is already an Asian-style routine, with several layered steps. And this week’s research has convinced me to try some actual Asian products to replace certain steps of my routine.

Of course, no Westerner’s discussion of Asian skin care is complete without mentioning the snails. One of the higher-profile Asian skin care ingredients is snail slime, which is supposed to have benefits to repairing the skin. So I mentioned to Boyfriend that I might try snail skin care and his response was that I wasn’t “allowed” to use snails. This naturally made me determined to put snails on my face. I went to some well-reputed Amazon sellers and found two bundles of sheet masks (a product I use, but that I have currently run out of) that each included one snail secretion sheet mask, among others that are also intriguing. For good measure, I threw in some cushion makeup and an undereye concealer with salmon in it. They just arrived yesterday, so we shall see how they treat my face.

And then, I plan to replace items in my current routine with Asian options as I run out, if I’m not already in love with the product I’m using. Most intriguing is Asian sunblock. Asian women seem to have the same love of tanning that I do: that is to say, none at all. And so they actually wear sunscreen every day and reapply it. This means that it has to be light and cosmetically elegant enough to wear every day without disrupting makeup. So I’m intrigued to see if an Asian sunscreen is more appealing than the current product I use.

I’ve also taken a step back from “clean” personal care. I still use a lot of my old favorites, and my hair will always prefer more natural products without silicones and the sulfates necessary to wash them out. But I’ve come to realize that certain ingredients I was avoiding were based on outdated research. And so I’ve tentatively embraced more conventional, albeit unconventional, products.

Finally, as I continue to delve more into skin care and makeup, I’m thankful for my lady friends. This weekend, I’m having an outing with two friends of mine, so we can go to Sephora and Ulta, and maybe Target, and just generally shop around. I don’t do a lot of shopping, and part of that is that I find shopping alone to be awkward and shopping with Boyfriend to feel rushed. I’m excited to shop with a group of ladies who wants to be there! And it will be a far different experience than researching online to find a product that I was already looking for.

So that was my week and look forward to the weekend. Happy Friday, all!

On Enjoying Shakespeare

I’ve teased in the past about a recent project in which I’m involved. Well, we opened two weekends ago. I’ve spent the last few months rehearsing a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I’ve loved to act since I was a young child, and I’ve been doing Shakespeare since I started in a local theater school’s company over 20 years ago, but I hadn’t had a chance to perform the Bard since returning to the stage two years ago after graduate school.

My first Shakespeare role was Ferdinand in The Tempest and it rather set the tone for many of my Shakespearean roles. I’ve played as many male characters as female ones. And that’s the beauty of Shakespeare: he creates characters that often transcend stereotypes and categories despite drawing on familiar tropes of comedy and tragedy. And I just love getting into these characters.

The language is what frightens some people when they think of Shakespeare, but the language is what I love. His words are his canvas and he paints beautiful pictures, both with the word meanings and with the sounds of the words themselves. My most recent role is that of Feste and he dallies nicely with words. It was a challenge to memorize some of his more mouthful pieces, but so, so fun to deliver them. He talks circles around most of the characters in the show (with the exception of the other two characters I’ve played in Twelfth Night in the past: Maria and Olivia).

But the language of Shakespeare truly has to be heard to be appreciated. Reading the text on the page has little of the same appeal. A colleague of mine commented that he’s decided to try to read his way through Shakespeare’s complete works, to which I responded with a grimace. That sounds like truly grim work. But a Shakespeare club? Get together a group of friends to read scenes from Shakespeare as a way of getting through the works? Fantastic! I suggested he at the very least look up films of the various plays that have had films made of them. So you don’t get much of the histories, but the more popular tragedies and comedies have some representation.

Above all, I think that most people take Shakespeare too seriously. He’s fun. He’s a playwright who chose to insert knee-slappingly funny bits into some of his most serious plays, often at the most intense points in the main action. He did this because he wasn’t catering to the enjoyers of high art, but the enjoyers of entertainment. Shakespeare is a reminder that sometimes in the darkest times, laughter is necessary. Sometimes you need the drunken porter or the nostalgic gravedigger to break up the intensity of life. Take the laughs as they come and let them temper the tragedy just a bit.

I’d love to hear anyone else’s views on Shakespeare, acted or read. And who wants to start a Shakespeare club?

Renewal, Rebirth, and a New Year

With the new year beginning and the solstice signaling the return of longer days, even the most devout shunner of resolutions can feel a bit of the pull of renewal. Throw a holiday illness into that mix, and one finds a perfect storm of beginning again.

This week, I open a play. It’s Shakespeare, something I haven’t done for ten years. I will expound upon my love of the Bard of Avon later, but suffice to say, it’s been fantastically fun. Except when I’ve been worried all week about the impact of my lingering illness and raw sore throat on my performance. Thankfully, I seem to be on the mend, just in the nick of time.

Last week, I spent most of my time on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket, with a cup of honeyed tea, and either my work laptop or an episode of Midsomer Murders keeping me company. I had started a calisthenics routine after Christmas, but found that cut short. So with a new year, a schedule newly free of rehearsals, and new health, I plan to take on some new exercise. Perhaps jogging on the weekends, and calisthenics in the mornings. Something to get the blood pumping and tone my muscles for aerials.

In the past, I’ve been a New Year’s dieter and exerciser. One year, I actually began my training for a marathon race with a 5k run on New Year’s Day. Other years, I’ve gone through some sort of elimination or detox. Now that I’m older, wiser, and less willing to give up life’s pleasures, I’m less likely to adhere to any sort of detox. Perhaps I shall try an electronic detox to get myself reading some of the books that have backed up. But it will be done with scone in hand, in moderation.

And really, rather than overhauling, I’ve learned instead to refine. Rather than throwing out my wardrobe and revamping it, instead I figure out how to put together what I have in new ways and buy only to fill the gaps. I’ve come to accept myself rather than wanting to change it. And that is the best kind of renewal for a new year: the renewal of one’s ingrained sense of self.

On Holiday Illness, plus Topics to Come

When I was a young child, I always fell ill on Christmas, usually while we were at my father’s family’s Christmas dinner celebration. It was a mixed blessing because I got to escape the clamor of a large Catholic family with many active boys and go have a lie-down in an empty room. But I was always really sick, often with something like strep throat, which had to wait until the doctor’s office opened again to be treated.

Since then, I’ve had a few Christmas colds, usually happening during years when I’d been rather overworked leading up to the holidays and finally had some time off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. This year, I had no such luck, but instead found myself having an unexpected holiday extension when I woke up with a low-grade fever and a raw throat yesterday. My throat had been feeling poorly for a couple of days, but I had thought I was getting better. Evidently I was wrong.

Today, I am back at work and feeling better, if not entirely well. And I will be previewing some posts to come:

  1. Of course I will want to post about my holidays. Our trip back from Boyfriend’s family’s house was almost an ethereal journey as the way was mostly bathed in thick, white fog. We did not indulge in quite so many radio plays this year, but instead largely were entertained by the second season of Serial. And of course, there were some fabulous gifts.
  2. I’ve been in rehearsals for a community theatre production of one of William Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, and I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy acting the Bard. This time, I’ve also got one of the standing best roles in most of his plays…
  3. Finally, while working on my vintage-inspired capsule wardrobe, I stumbled upon the site eShakti. Other bloggers have had mixed results with them, so I contacted them about a blogger sample. I honestly wasn’t expecting it before the middle of January, but it arrived yesterday. Once my health and the weather clear up, I’ll have to have a little photo shoot and share my thoughts.

So there are exciting things to come. Stay tuned and keep warm! I hope everyone had lovely holidays and are gliding into another wonderful new year.

Pursuing Less But Not Little

As I’ve mentioned previously, throughout my life, I’ve flirted with the idea of minimalism. I like the idea of a simple life with only a few possessions. When I travel, I take what will fit in a small bag. On a day-to-day basis, I stick to a capsule wardrobe that is practically a uniform, with makeup that requires only 4 or 5 items.

But I am not a minimalist. I will never again be the kind of person who tries to limit her possessions to an arbitrary number. Perhaps that seems a bit like a woman who believes in equality but says she’s not a feminist. But I truly believe I don’t belong among the ranks of true minimalists, who eschew accumulation of any kind (except perhaps snow).

Because I don’t count or trim. I clear out what needs clearing, but I enjoy receiving and buying when I need it. I may have 5 dresses, 5 cardigans, and a single pair of shoes that I wear to work almost every day, but I have a proliferation of scarves that I refuse to curate. I have jewelry that I receive as gifts or buy as it strikes me. I have probably a dozen red lipsticks because I still haven’t found The One (I think I’m close). And I still have little bits and bobs that I use to decorate.

But I avoid unnecessary indulgence. I live my life with less than I could. It started when I got my first job after graduate school. At a time when I was living in a room in a shared house, scraping together what I could to pay the bills while going through a divorce, all of a sudden, I found myself making much more money than I was used to. But I was still living like a poor student. And instead of going out and blowing all that money, getting a luxury apartment, and filling the space my new salary afforded me, I stepped back. I examined my finances, indulged in a few things, like a private, one-bedroom apartment, and some furniture (not enough, my family told me), and then put the rest into savings.

Less than one year after getting my new job, I crashed my car. I went three months without a car of my own, relying on carpooling, my bicycle, and public transportation, while I saved most of each paycheck. Then, I bought a car, paying upfront. And by the time I was two years out of graduate school, I had paid off my student loans from college. I was debt free fully eight years before I thought I would be.

But I still live in a house where I get one room entirely to myself, other than the bedroom I share with Boyfriend. We certainly have more space than we strictly need, and we could live more frugally without too much sacrifice. But the extra cost of a house with a yard is worth it when the weather is beautiful and I can plant herbs in the ground instead of in pots.

It is a quiet sort of cutting back, and one that rarely gets touted on blogs or websites, I think, but I think it’s worth sharing how I was a minimalist, but I’m not really anymore. And that’s okay. It’s peaceful to live my life in a sort of moderate minimalism, having neither an excess, nor a paucity.

Bittersweet

Friday is my last day at my current job. I am excited and happy about my new job, but I’m also a little scared. It’s very different than what I’ve been doing for the last ten years. I find myself falling into the depths of “what if I can’t do it?”

And my cubicle has slowly but surely become my space at this job. I have my kettle, my mug, my tins of tea. I have my theater postcards and a strip of photobooth photos with Boyfriend tacked up. This week has seen all those things leave, get packed away, and taken home. Today is the last full day that I’ll work here, and the cubicle is quite empty. I’ve made my last cup of tea (Earl Grey), which is sitting in front of me. I’m finishing the last two biscuits with it for an afternoon treat. I’ve unplugged the kettle and stowed the tea tins in a box, where the kettle and mug will join them.

It’s a sad sort of quietness before what promises to be a busy week full of new beginnings next week. Again, I’m feeling my transitions acutely. I’ve been fielding the outpouring of well-wishes and sad-to-see-you-goes from colleagues and I realize that I will miss all these people, no matter how crazy they may have made me at one time or another. I will miss this space and this community and this job.

But it’s also the beginning of an adventure.

Quiet Transitions

For those of us familiar with pagan holidays, we are nearing what is considered the pagan new year for many. Samhain (Halloween for most) is considered the end of the old year and the beginning of a new year. By an odd twist of fate, it is also when I am going to leave my current job for a new endeavor.

Transitions always come with a fair serving of self-reflection and attempts at self-improvement and perhaps re-invention for me. This time, however, I am perhaps a bit more comfortable with where I am. I don’t so much feel the need to re-invent myself, but instead to hone myself. Temper what I like with some shedding of the excess to emerge a stronger version of me.

Lately, I’ve realized I’ve amassed a lot of stuff over the last year. When I went through my divorce, I found Zen meditation and minimalism and threw myself into it. It helped that I moved around a lot and dislike moving all that stuff with me. It helped to downsize, but eventually I found myself missing certain things and realizing that I was unprepared for some of life’s events.

So I eased up, stopped policing my consumption unless it grew to obviously excessive levels. Little breaks, like my buying break earlier this year, became enough to rein me in. Or so I thought.

As I look at the boxes from the things I’ve bought recently, I’ve realized that needs to stop. I am not a minimalist, at least not in the sense of bloggers who count their possessions and live as stuff-free as possible.

But I am not happy surrounded by things.

So I’ve started to hone my wardrobe, realizing that I wear a tiny fraction of what I own on any given day. Also, I will have to rise earlier and be ready to go earlier with my new job, so I’ve started gravitating towards the idea of a personal uniform, at least for work. While I’m not quite there, I’ve put away a large portion of my wardrobe, just to see what I truly miss, and what I would only keep out of a desire to have backup clothing when I’m too lazy to do laundry.

I’ve simplified my exercise routine, as I no longer have morning daylight in which to run during the week. I still go to my aerials classes, and other than that, must satisfy my active urge with walking and whatever yoga and strength routine I can eke out of my pre-dawn self.

And fall has brought a return to simple eating. There is just not so much choice at winter markets for fresh veggies, and so I find myself gravitating towards hearty meals based around just a few ingredients.

It is a quiet way of improving myself, but I believe it may be better for me.

A Brief Life Update

I’m still here, I promise. And things are still happening.

Sadly, my gardens are not doing so well. A combination of vacation and busy weekends left us with little time to weed. One of our azaleas seems to be dying, and most of my herb garden has been re-conquered by weeds. The basil and parsley are making an heroic effort to fight back, and the sage is doing admirably, but I’ve lost the rosemary. In an odd twist, some weeds grew in my potted peppermint plant and seems to have completely killed it. Killing mint is a new one for me! But I was able to harvest some parsley for a pantry bean soup a couple weeks ago, and some sage for a sage-and-garlic-rubbed pork roast. But my visions of herbed bounty has been tempered somewhat by my natural dislike of actual garden work.

I’ve started walking much more, in addition to my newfound swimming practice. I’m feeling healthier, though also tired. But I’ve discovered that a weekend walk to the local herb store is the perfect distance to tire me out without being too onerous. And buying a few ounces of herbs is a rather cheap shopping trip.

Boyfriend and I also put up another batch of mead this weekend. We chose to use a local apiary’s honey because it comes in bigger jars, but we kept the same recipe as before otherwise. We made a 5-gallon batch! So hopefully it turns out well and next summer we will have lots of honeyed bounty to share with our friends.

I’m experimenting with my hair care again. I’m trying to become more natural, after deciding to grow my hair out longer. My hair is finally long enough to wear up most of the time, without resorting to sad, floppy ponytails, so I’ve rejoined the Long Hair Community in which I participated for a couple years before my divorce. While going through my old journals, I discovered that I had luck in the past with soap-based washing. Since I’ve recently moved to a homemade facial cleanser made with Dr. Bronner’s soap, oil, and honey, I’ve decided to try using the rest of the soap I’ve bought to wash my hair. It’s a simple process: just unscented soap to wash, rinse quite well, and then rinse with diluted apple cider vinegar to rebalance my hair, and rinse the whole thing again. A little oil or tallow balm on the ends of my hair keeps them soft. And I can use aloe vera when my hair feels a bit dry. So far so good.

But… I have some new surprises on the horizon. I don’t want to give too much away, but stay tuned next week for a very vintage hobby post, hopefully. I’m also going to the local renaissance festival this coming weekend, which is a lot of fun, and progressing with my aerial silks. So that will probably be posted as well in the coming weeks.