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Indulge a Holiday Craving

Crave toys came into our world several years back with their high end body safe duo motor Duet toy, but have more recently expanded their line to include a range of ingenious strategic designer toys like their oral-sex enhancing Vesper or their industrial strength rechargeable Crave Bullet. All body safe, eco-sex friendly and guaranteed to last! What better gift to give than the gifts of pleasure?

BYO Sunscreen

We were all strangers to each other last summer when we first tentatively took our seats around a table in a classroom at the Stonybook Southampton College Summer Writers Conference. Everyone was nervous. The students all had submitted manuscripts waiting for critique. And I had signed on to direct the workshop for the next five days. Would the work be strong? Would the level of critique be high but not harsh? Would I, as the teacher, have enough to say to fill the time?

Flash forward to next Friday. Almost a year later, that same group is meeting for a reunion. To celebrate the pending publication of one students book. To celebrate one student whose book was selected for the prestigious Blue Bonnet award in Texas. To congratulate another student whose book has topped an Amazon.com contest for new writers. To celebrate one students decision to pursue an MFA. And to catch up on each other and try to recreate the magic that we shared for those five days.

Somehow, I was lucky enough to draw a dozen talented, thoughtful, smart, well-read, funny, kind and just delightful students. Their work was consistently good, deep, and rich. And their feedback for each other was generous and consistently thoughtful. And not only did I have enough to say, we all agreed to squeeze in an extra session and skip a trip to the beach to discuss the ins and outs of publishing and to tackle all those questions aspiring writers are dying to ask. I also met with each student privately. It was a whirlwind schedule but a very rich and rewarding experience.

It was a very special week. We went deep in each session because of the trust we had for each other. I knew I could count on the students to give positive, useful feedback to each other and they knew they could count on me to have enough publishing war stories to suit any occasion. We all came away inspired by each other and ready to run back to our computers to write more.

I was lucky enough to be invited back to the conference this summer. This time, the conference will last for a few extra days, giving students time to write in between workshop meetings and giving all of us more time for private meetings, for casual lunches, evening readings.

Ive already heard a whoop of excitement via Facebook from one student who was accepted into the program and am hoping that this summer, with its more expansive schedule, will bring me into contact with another batch of talented and inspiring writers. Ill put next years reunion in my date book now!

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Hi! Houses A rejuvenation of Hong Kong heritage

In Hong Kong many heritage buildings have been destroyed or neglected, and the government has only had a heritage-preservation policy since very recently. Its Art Promotion Office invited four Hong Kong artists to revitalise four centuries-old houses in different corners of the territory, using art as a subtle but powerful tool to link the past with the present and revive collective memory.

The exhibitions recall in particular the Hakka heritage of Hong Kong, the commercial prosperity of the city during the 19th century and its role during the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty through the figure of Sun Yat-sen. All the heritage buildings connect Hong Kong with the history of China from different perspectives, at a time when the question of identity is particularly strongly contested.

The artists’ research involved meeting descendants of the clans, neighbours, guards and village elders, in order to collect micro-histories, which they mixed with their own stories and historical events. They thus became storytellers, weaving fiction and reality to transform archives, empty walls and facts into vivid contemporary experiences. The cultural heritage consists not only of the buildings but also of traditions, oral histories, social practices, knowledge, values and skills that increasingly tend to be forgotten.

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Installation view, Wong Uk Village – Old House by Lam Tung Pang, Mixed media. Courtesy the artist.

Invited to intervene in the Law Uk Folk Museum, an overlooked 18th-century Hakka house lost among high-rise buildings in Chai Wan, Fiona Wong underlined the importance of connecting the past with people’s daily lives so that visitors start actively thinking about their own histories. The Hakka kept moving south during their long migrations, and used to leave everything behind them, except their language and will for learning, so their traditions incorporate elements of many other cultures and keep evolving. To embody this constant adaptation, Wong composed her own Hakka-style song, based on a traditional melody.

Originally from Guangdong province, the Law family, who built the house, were rice-farming peasants who also raised chickens and pigs. Wong tried to imagine their lives and felt particularly touched by the frugal, hard-working lives of the Hakka women. She introduced pieces of furniture and new art works to the former farm house, as if she were going to move in. She even decided to dedicate one room to her pottery studio and added a window to invite light inside the dark main hall; there had been few windows, for fear of thieves.

Wong also gave shape and weight to the archives of the house she collected, like a wizard transforming paper and data into ceramics. She invited six artists, including ceramicists and a carpenter, to collaborate on the project, which was a good way for her to open up her practice and to give opportunities to young artists. Together they brought life to abandoned tools and made new vases, with ceramics in the shape of salt-roasted pigs, a classic dish in Hakka culture, popping up in the fireplace. The harmony between the old and the new is amazingly successful.

Specifically, Wong created a ceramic dress resembling the ones that Hakka women used to wear. Both fragile and massive, this representation of a traditional garment is especially moving because it stands out of time while still being tangible and accessible. In the courtyard are shades inspired by the women’s black hats; the construction is basic but the idea of searching for protection under these hats is poetic.

Bearing in mind the strong links in Hakka families, Jaffa Lam surrounded herself with more artists, forming the Jaffa Lam Collective. They revived the Sam Tung Uk Museum, another typical Hakka walled-house built in the 18th century, with the idea of celebration and reunion.

Lam was inspired by lyrics she heard in Penang, a place that also has a Hakka tradition, and mixed them with lyrics and poems from the Song Dynasty, a time when Hakka ancestors moved to south China. These are nostalgic songs about farming and people’s daily lives. She directed Lee Man Sang to sing them in the Hakka dialect and recorded them, and then Steve Hui, aka Nerve, recomposed the whole piece.

In the entry hall, an imposing yet delicate stainless steel sculpture representing sea waves broadcasts recordings of Lam’s heartbeat. They echo and join the songs so that the energy of all the artists seems to merge together. They represent the spirit of the family that Lam wanted to highlight in the installation as a whole.

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Jaffa x Sam Tung Uk, Installation in residence hall of period house, bamboo-constructed carousel lantern, team members silhouettes. Photo: Jaffa Lam Collective: Tang Fei Lung.

Another key element is the omnipresence of water as a link to nature and as the centrepiece of the place. Before the construction of the house, a well was dug in the courtyard to designate the centre of the building and to respect the feng shui alignment. Lam’s almost liquid sculpture forms dark, shiny curves that reflect both the sky and the person looking at it. The artist made it in her home province of Fujian, from which the former inhabitants of the house, the Chan clan, originate. The sound of the water flowing, recorded at the water source of the relocated Sam Tung Uk Village, fills the whole space, while a turquoise light invites visitors to escape from the present and wander back into the past. All the works are deeply in line with the architecture of the place and sometimes so cleverly entwined with existing artefacts that they can be hard to find.

In the former bathing area, the artist has transplanted a strong tree from the new village, helped by the village chief. Lam likes to recall the old Chinese saying about moving mountains. Everyone thought that a single individual couldn’t move a mountain, but one man did it by moving the rocks one by one, finally getting the support of his family and others, and moving the mountain. She felt she did the same, bit by bit, with the help of everyone. As a symbol she collected rocks from Hakka villages, a gesture typical of her practice, which is based on community and social sharing.

Both Jaffa Lam and Lam Tung Pang sowed green plants as a symbol of rebirth and people’s ability to adapt to any new environment. The two artists are originally from Fujian, and these old villages revive their own stories: Lam Tung Pang even came back to visit his father’s home, connecting his childhood memory with the Wong Uk house where he was invited to work.

Wong Uk Village’s story reflects the history of urbanisation of Hong Kong: founded in the 18th century, it became a major trading station on the route between Guangdong and Kowloon, then fell into ruins and was later demolished to make way for the development of Sha Tin New Town. All that remains is the Old House, a two-storey green-brick structure with fine mural paintings and traditional decorations. Lam, who has been living nearby for more than 30 years, discovered it, and by visiting it regularly started to build a relationship with the building and its carvings.

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From the installation Chronicle of Law Uk Retold by Art by Fiona Wong. Courtesy the artist.

Like Fiona Wong, he wondered what it would be like to live there, and brought some furniture to fill the house, which was absolutely empty. Collecting these antiques was part of the process of creation, with the artist searching for the right pieces and collecting their stories together with them. He spent four seasons inside the building, from winter to winter, trying to create a link with it, and visiting it like an old friend. While dreaming and watching how the sun entered the space, he decided to add two more suns in the form of video projectors, to repeat this effect all day long. The artist also added his own paintings on wood, naive figures of men or animals that seem to have been there forever. Lam’s work has always reflected the passage of time, embracing a fluid identity. The warmth of the wood and the delicacy of his installations invite the visitor to travel in time and daydream.

For Wilson Shieh, it must have been a real challenge to work within the space of the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum, a huge Edwardian mansion transformed into a cold, pedagogical museum. His clever idea of working on screens has allowed him to maintain a distance from the imposing architecture of the place but add his own touch with large, vivid, colourful paintings. Since it is difficult to feel at home in such an impersonal volume just by adding something personal, the artist focuses on the life of Sun Yat-sen, choosing to illustrate the places he travelled to, including Guangdong, elsewhere in China, Hawaii and Japan. In this way, both Sun and Shieh navigate between the east and the west, and this interlocking of influence and fusion is interesting at a remove of 100 years. Born in Hong Kong, but with parents from Guangdong, Shieh feels that Sun’s early life resonates with many later generations of southern Chinese. As a student, he was familiar with the neighbourhood where Sun used to stay and study.

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Nanyang background building drawn by Flyingpig, figures drawn by Jess Leung Lai Man. Courtesy the artists.

The artist selected four art-school graduates to work with him, which explains the different qualities of the various works. Each artist brought his or her own style, from oil painting to watercolour to gongbi, the traditional Chinese brush technique used by Shieh. All the drawings were scanned and arranged on computer by designer Max Tsoi, before being printed on cotton fabric and mounted on screen panels. Despite the diversity of the styles, Shieh and his team succeeded in adding life to the austere presentation of the revolutionary heroes. Shieh’s series of portraits of politicians, artists and writers from the turn of the 20th century is especially accomplished and, as usual, full of humour. This was Shieh’s first experience of working in a historical building, but it’ssomething he wants to do again.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Vegan Christmas Sugar Cookies #VeggieAngieVegan Christmas Sugar Cookies

Today is Christmas Eve and Im spending the day with my hubby baking sugar cookies for all of our Christmas Parties well be attending, four in total over the next three days! I was baking all last week as well, making cookies for the two parties we threw here at the house.

Vegan Christmas Sugar Cookies #VeggieAngieChristmas Sugar Cookie Cutters

Vegan Christmas Sugar Cookies #VeggieAngieI love cutting out all the shapes!

The best cookie recipe I baked this Christmas has been Minimalist Bakers 1 Bowl Vegan Sugar Cookies. They come out perfectly just make sure you freeze your batter as recommended (at least 15 minutes) before rolling and cutting your cookies. I used the cookie cutters I inherited from my Mom (meaning she left them behind and hasnt taken them backyet).

Vegan Christmas Sugar Cookies #VeggieAngieVegan Christmas Sugar Cookies with Sprinkles!

Vegan Christmas Sugar Cookies #VeggieAngieVegan Christmas Sugar Cookies ready to take to our first party!

These Sugar Cookies were the hubbys favorite, especially when we covered them in colorful sprinkles. My favorite ones were the Christmas Trees with Dark Chocolate Chips as ornaments. They are best served with a glass of almond milk or a warm mug of cocoa. Try making your cocoa with a couple drops of peppermint extract, so good!

Vegan Christmas Sugar Cookies #VeggieAngieVegan Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies

Im looking forward to sharing these cookies with our families and friends soon. Many of our friends already received their cookies last week after I threw a Cookie Party with my Mom, Sister, and adorable Niece. Here are some of my favorite photos:

Christmas Photo Booth 2014 #veggieangieI know right?!

Christmas Photo Booth 2014 #veggieangieThe Ladies of the Christmas Cookie Party, we made our own beards!

Cookie Party 2014 #veggieangieMy beautiful sister Sarah and her sweet little girl Lillian

Cookie Party 2014 #veggieangieChristmas Cookie Party Success!

The hubby and I decided not to exchange Christmas gifts so we could go all out for our parties. We made Chucks Curry Tuna Fish Sandwiches, gathered fun Photo Booth props, and I purchased lots of different cookie gift boxes to give away to our family and friends. Im so glad I got to spend time with my Mom, Sister, and Niece they are so much fun!

Christmas Photo Booth 2014 #veggieangieChristmas Photo Booth with Jimmy James Canales

A couple of days later the hubby and I had a small party with a few friends. We ate yummy Vegetable Fajitas and Chili, played Christmas Minute to Win It games, slow danced, sang karaoke, and had fun in our Christmas Photo Booth. Mark and I spent a couple of days planning that party, but it was so worth it.

Christmas Photo Booth 2014 #veggieangieChristmas Photo Booth with Megan the Christmas Pirate

Christmas Photo Booth 2014 #veggieangieLill and Mat enjoying some cookies and candy canes!

Christmas Photo Booth 2014 #veggieangieWrapping up Jimmy James Canales! (Crazy eyes)

Our friend Jerry stopped by yesterday to give me a wonderful Christmas gift a handmade frame for a Keith Haring print I bought earlier this year. It goes perfectly over our fireplace mantel. We stuck him and his tiny dog Luna in the Photo Booth before he left to spend Christmas with his family in Lubbock.

Christmas Photo Booth 2014 #veggieangieElf Jerry and his tiny Reindeer Luna 

I did almost all of my Christmas shopping and decorating a few weeks ago and our home has been filled with Christmas spirit since then. My favorite thing was wrapping presents and baking cookies while blasting Christmas music thanks to my hubby for always providing the perfect music mixes!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas Eve!

xo angie

p.s. Weve watched 10 Christmas Movies and counting, my favorites were Christmas at Pee Wees Playhouse and Home Alone 2. Whats your favorite Holiday Movie??

Spirit Hero Poll #2 Results

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The time has come to finally put the second edition of the favorite Spirit hero poll to bed. The first run of the Spirit hero poll was conducted early in the days of this blog. Which Spirit heroes have grown in popularity? Which have fallen from favor? Which of the newer heroes have endeared themselves? Lets get some answers!

The sample size for this poll was 1,225 voters. For the second version of the Tactics poll, Legolas repeated his victory from the first version. However, the first place finisher in Spirit last time around, Glorfindel, did not repeat his domination this time. Instead, we have a Core Set staple hero winning the sphere in the form of Eowyn. The shieldmaiden of Rohan gobbled up 28.24% of the vote. Her victory this time wasnt too surprising, as she did earn second place in the first poll (with 29.28% of the vote among a much smaller field). More importantly, Core Set heroes will always have an advantage in that every player will have experience with them, no matter how many expansions they have or their experience with the game. Eowyn happens to be the best of the Core Set heroes, and has lasted as a mainstay of decks due to her simple nature and no-nonsense willpower. The arrival of new questing alternatives might mean that she doesnt show up quite as often as she used to, but there will always be a place for her in the game.

Glorfindel dropped to a respectable second place with 18.12% of the vote. Due to his ludicrous stats-to-starting threat ratio, its hard to image there will ever be a day when he isnt in the top three of Spirit heroes. The battle for third place was perhaps the most interesting, as two relatively new heroes competed for that spot: Galadriel and Arwen. Ultimately, Galadriel took third ahead of her granddaughter, with 11.92% to Arwens 9.71%. Both of these heroes occupy somewhat similar positions as they fill the support role and help to provide some fundamental abilities that the Spirit sphere was previously lacking (card draw in Galadriels case and resource generation in Arwens case). I somewhat suspect that Galadriel and Arwen voters were a kind of bloc that was split, and if either was missing, the other might have had a shot at first or second place. Altogether, a strong showing from both of these heroes, and in the early months of the poll, Arwen was actually in the lead for awhile. Few can deny that these two are among the top tier of Spirit heroes and fully deserve their spot alongside Eowyn and Glorfindel.

After the top 4, the rest of the field looked like this:

5th: Cirdan  5.22% (not present last time)

6th: Frodo  4.16% (down from 3rd place)

7th: Eleanor  3.18% (down from 5th place)

8th: Theoden  2.94% (not present last time)

9th: Dunhere  2.78% (down from 4th place)

10th: Merry  2.61% (not present last time)

11th: Fatty  2.53% (not present last time)

12th: Idraen  1.88% (not present last time)

13th: Dwalin  1.55% (down from 6th place)

14th: Lanwyn  1.47% (not present last time)

15th: Pippin 1.39% (not present last time)

16th: Caldara 1.22% (not present last time)

17th: Nori 0.73% (down from 8th place)

18th: Oin 0.33% (down from 7th place)

Theres not much separating heroes after the top 4, but there are a few interesting observations. First is that Frodo has seen one of the biggest tumbles, falling from a top tier spot at 3rd place down to 6th place. I attribute this more to the arrival of a few very strong Spirit heroes in the form of Arwen, Galadriel, and Cirdan that have usurped his spot rather than a fall in his power. In fact, Frodos fall from favor is possibly unwarranted, as an argument could be made that his ability has only become more clutch as direct damage, archery, and high attack values have become a constant in the game. So if you havent played Frodo in a long while, give him a try against more recent scenarios.

Perhaps the craziest result of the whole poll was Caldara coming in at a dismal 16th place, capturing a mere 15 votes. Although she received a lukewarm reception upon release, in the last year or so, she has really come to the forefront of the community as the lynchpin of one of the strongest deck types in the meta. Caldara decks are easily up there with Dwarves and Boromir super builds in the top tier, so it is definitely surprising to see such a lack of love for this hero. Of course, it could just be a matter of players either not being familiar with Caldara or not having an attachment to the hero herself even if the deck type is acknowledged as powerful. Other heroes are also more versatile in terms of what decks they can fit within.

If I had to pick my own favorites (not necessarily strongest), its a tough call once more, but Caldara would probably be third (Ive developed a bit of Caldara fatigue, but shes still a blast to play), Glorfindel would earn second place (yes, I get it, hes boring and everyone hates him, but hes so useful and I love the character), and Arwen would be my pick for the top. She is just so amazingly useful and requires so little setup that I find myself using her in deck after deck these days.

With Spirit and Tactics out of the way, its time to check in on the Lore heroes. Will a Core Set hero win the day again or will a newer hero take the crown?

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

RiverWinifred Allen needs a vacation.

She, along with three of her friends, decide that vacation is going to be rafting down a virtually uncharted section of the Allagash River, led by an “experienced” 20 year old named Rory. What could possibly go wrong?

If your go-to answer isn’t “Everything!”, than this isn’t the book for you because the answer, my dear readers, is always everything.

The River at Night begins innocently enough, despite Wini’s doubts about the trip. She’s a thirty something graphic designer; stifled by a job she’s not passionate about, still mourning the recent loss of her brother. Pia, the leader of the group, is the go, see, do type of vacationer, while the others want a warm beach and tequila. In the end, Pia wins, and they go rafting.

If the four inexperienced friends venturing out to an isolated part of a river to raft through the wilderness sounds familiar, that’s because it is. James Dickey’s ode to masculinity Deliverance* followed much the same premise, with the same disastrous results**. Despite the similarities, I appreciated The River at Night on its own adventurous merits. I’m in what I’ll refer to as a get back to nature phase; because I cannot get enough of novels that, well, get back to nature. And this book delivers just that. Heart pounding rapids, murderous hillbillies, and pervasive, wild isolation attack the women and their guide as the make their way down the river. Ferencik prose absolutely oozes dread, so there’s no surprise when things go wrong.

Down a short dirt drive, a log cabin butted up into a hillside, a satellite dish stuck to its flank like a wart. A wooden sign that read sundries/guns/tackle/bait hung askew over the door. A smaller sign underneath – an afterthought read Carhartt Quality Boots. A yellow light burned behind glaucous windows. Heavy pine branches clawed at the car as Pia crawled along the shoulder. I was struck by the sameness of the view in all directions, the sheer density of growth, and how easy it would be to lose our way just steps from where we sat. I felt watched, though I couldn’t remember feeling farther from civilization.

It’s how, why, and what they do in response that keeps you reading. Survival against all odds will always be a fascinating story. Despite the premise, I still find myself want to raft through the Allagash wilderness, so I’ll call Ferencik’s debut a success.

Though it’s a shame there isn’t a banjo.

*Deliverance is one of my favorite novels.**Incidentally, the book touches on Dickey, Maine, which is a real place. A rather charming coincidence.

Gifts for Someone Serious About Becoming a Magician

magic table

Several folks on Reddit and elsewhere have been asking about gift ideas for a teenager or adult who is serious about learning magic tricks. Ive given some of this advice before, but thought it was time to do a serious write-up.

Magic is expensive if youre buying one-off tricks. What I would suggest is getting the tried-and-true material that always gets recommended. Its going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. If you think the person youre shopping for would just want an easy trick, theres plenty of that out there. With these books and props, they could learn hundreds of great tricks.

If I were to do this for someone on a budget, I would go with these three books:

Joshua Jays Magic: The Complete Course (comes with DVD) ($18)J.B. Bobos Modern Coin Magic ($9)Jean Hugards The Royal Road to Card Magic ($9)

If you want to spend a little more, there are DVD sets for both Modern Coin Magic and The Royal Road for Card Magic. Theyre only $15 each. You can get them along with the books or on their own, and theyre made for beginners.

Coins and cards are the bread and butter of learning sleight of hand. If you know the person is interested in just cards or just coins, you could get them just the book or DVDs on that subject alone.

As for props, you want five fifty-cent pieces (assuming youre in the US). You can get a roll of them at the bank for $20, take out five that match and deposit the rest back in. With five coins, you can do almost anything in the Bobo coin book or DVD.

Get a couple of decks of Bicycle playing cards from the store. If you want to get really fancy, Monarch playing cards are on Amazon for $8. Theyre gorgeous, but totally unnecessary. If youre practicing card tricks, youll wear out a few decks of cards anyway.

If the person youre buying for decides magic is something they want to keep doing, they can always get fancy coins, special cards, and more expensive tricks later.

Amazon links:

Magic: The Complete Course: http://amzn.to/1lW2Y80 Modern Coin Magic book: http://amzn.to/1lW31kaModern Coin Magic DVD set: http://amzn.to/1lW3bZ1The Royal Road to Card Magic book: http://amzn.to/1Ov2EIuThe Royal Road to Card Magic DVD set: http://amzn.to/1Ov34P0Bicycle cards: http://amzn.to/1lW3keKFancy Monarch cards: http://amzn.to/1lW3mTT

If you want the bare minimum, just get a couple of decks of cards, the five fifty-cent coins, and Magic: The Complete Course. It has card tricks and coin tricks, so it would have plenty to get started.

One request: if you buy someone a book on magic, resist the urge to flip through it. Theres a good chance theyll want to show you some tricks, and knowing how its done can ruin the fun for everybody. Plus, the Magic Police will round us all up. And I cant go back to Magic Prison. I wont go back.

I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments. Im happy to help.

The post Gifts for Someone Serious About Becoming a Magician appeared first on Four Color Bleed.

An Open Letter to My Mom

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I know its not always easy.

As a single parent, raising two children on your own, I can only imagine how difficult parenting has been and still is at times.You made a few mistakes along the way, and our relationship isnt the best that it could be, but no parent is perfect and I forgive and accept you for your faults.

As Mothers Day slowly approaches, Id like to take the time out to thank you, for everything youve done, (and havent done) which has helped shape me into the young woman that I am today.

Thank you.

For not giving up.

If I had to describe you in one word, I would definitely use the word strong.

When the doctors announced the day my brother was born that he only had a few months to live, you never lost hope and stayed by his side during his fight.

When the medical bills piled, on top of the everyday bills, you made sacrifices and did things you arent proud of to make sure we still never went without.

When I didnt understand why our father abandoned us and you didnt have an answer, you held me as I cried myself to sleep, not knowing that at the time, you were fighting back tears of your own.

Although I was too young to realize then, you had fallen into a state of depression, but you never gave up, and for that, I thank you.

Thank you.

For always humbling me.

When I complained about the lack of Christmas gifts I received one year, you returned everything and taught me how to be more appreciative.

When I complained about the things that I did have, you took them away and gave most of it to those who were more than thankful.

When I simply didnt appreciate the sacrifices you made daily, you sent me to live with my father for a year (which was easily the worst year of my life) and you reminded me to be more grateful.

I didnt agree when your decision of letting him be involved in disciplining me. He had proved plenty of times before that he could care less about my existence. However, I did learn a lesson.

Thank you.

For not always letting me follow the crowd.

When I hated how strict you were and couldnt understand why you didnt let me do the things my peers did, I grew up to realize you were only protecting me.

Although I think you sheltered me a bit too much, especially as I got older, I thank you for not always letting me follow the crowd.

You forced me to be different. You forced me to be a leader and not a follower. And as a result, I turned out better than most.

Thank you.

For not always spoiling me.

Although you enjoyed buying me anything I asked for what you had the extra money, you still taught me to get it on my own.

You pushed me to work hard for things I want and to never beg. You taught me to be independent. You taught me that nothing in life should ever me handed to me.

And for that, I grind twice as hard today.

Thank you.

For being emotionally unavailable.

Growing up I dealt with a lot of problems on my own because you showed me that you arent a person I can confide in.

Whether is was because you were always at work, too tired to care, busy doing other things, or was simply uninterested in having a conversation.

Your mother was emotionally unavailable as a parent and as result, you too became a parent whose emotionally absent.

Although I wish you were someone I could voice my emotions to, or to simply have a conversation with, it wasnt your fault that you werent taught to be that kind of person.

Learning early on that you werent one I could call a best friend, you unintentionally taught me to be cautious and second guess those I think I can vent to. You taught me how to be less sensitive and to deal with things on my own.

You taught me early that in order to survive in this world, I need to have tough skin and I have to have my own back at the end of the day.

Thank you.

For not always telling me how much you love me or how proud you are of me.

These were things you were never told as a child and again, as a result, you never told me these things. As a parent, I wished you were more affectionate at times however, this also taught me to be less sensitive.

You unintentionally taught me to never expect anything from anyone and to never feel entitled. You taught me to not always seek approval. You taught me to not always seek praise and to clap for my damn self at all times.

Thank you.

For not being the perfect parent.

Were all human and everyone makes mistakes. Life doesnt come with a step-by-step parenting guide, and some women simply arent fit to be the stereotypical, loving and caring mothers.

However, Im appreciative of both the things you did and did not do, and continue to do today. You always made sure I had the basic necessities and you supported me financially the best that you could.

When I fell in love with color guard and the membership fees were more than you could afford, you always made a way and allowed me to do what I enjoyed, even though you rarely attended my competitions.

You made sure I had everything I needed for college and moved me in, even though the summer before was filled with fights, arguments and toxic distance, at a time I needed you the most.

Although I may not verbally express or show my appreciation for everything you do (and dont do) as often as I should, I truly am thankful. Through both the good and the bad, its all shaped me into the person that I am today, and the woman I am still becoming.

Thank you, for setting an example for what I should and should not be as a woman. (And as parent if I ever change my mind about wanting children of my own, or God decide to place them in my future.)

In the humblest way possible, I dont want to be like you. I simply wish to better, which is something all mothers should want for their children.

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Introducing BEAUTY DISCOVERY Osmia Night Body Oil + Sidekick of The Lip Doctor (both full size). USE LESS LOVE MORE  HERO ON in 2017

Sleep is the best medicine, and scent and ritual are the key ingredients to a good night’s rest. Osmia’s Night Body Oil is a plant-based prescription for peace specifically formulated with ingredients that signal the autonomic nervous system to relax and restore, including French lavender, Roman chamomile and Moroccan atlas cedarwood oil. When applied habitually, the brain adopts a Pavlovian response, creating a healthy evening ritual of sense, scent and deep sleep.

Being a person that has severe insomnia this is a welcome discovery month for me. I’m committed to setting a set sleep time, massaging the Night Oil on my body after showering before bedtime. I follow by cupping my hands in front of my face and breathing deeply for the aromatherapy boost to let my brain know it’s time to wind down and get my body ready to prepare for sleep. By designing a nightly sleep ritual you also can enjoy soothing aromatherapy to calm your nervous system and signal that it’s time for sleep. You will support healthy melatonin production and an added benefit of all these rich oils is that you will get stronger, soft and deeply healed and beautifully scented skin.

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NIGHT OILS SUPERPOWER INGREDIENTS:Avocado – nourishing, anti-agingBorage – anti-agingCedar Atlas –balancing, upliftingChamomile – calmingCoconut – nourishing, repairingEvening Primrose – nourishing, anti-agingHemp – nourishing, calmingJojoba – nourishing, repairingKukui – nourishing, anti-agingLavender – antibacterial, calming, clearingRosehip – anti-agingRosemary – antibacterial, clearingSea Buckthorn – nourishing, anti-aging

The value of this month’s Beauty Discovery is $76.00. Members pay: $115.00 for three months pre-pay, $225.00 six months pre-pay or $450.00 twelve months pre-pay. Members also get a 15% everyday discount on ALL items in the online shop. The value is here in each box and there are limited quantities. Sign up before the 20th of February!

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Lip Doctor is an all-purpose lip soother made for those with especially sensitive skin and lips. Formulated with only six simple ingredients and no essential oils. Organic avocado, argan and olive oils give this lip butter it’s beautiful glide. Beeswax gives it the sustenance. The Lip Doctor is unisex. This is quite possibly my favorite lip repair balm ever. I keep one in my purse and one by my computer. This is the greatest product and I love the super-size. (full review of this Lip Balm coming on the blog soon!)

I encourage everyone to support Beauty Heroes by joining. I’ve been here since the beginning as an Ambassador of the brand and I can’t tell you how much respect I have for Jeannie Jarnot. She continually finds and brings to us some of the products that have become the most important staples in my personal skincare routine. January’s Beauty Discovery brings that point home to me more than ever. I simply have to say that I’ll be a Beauty Hero Member forever and will never stop being amazed at the commitment that Jeannie has to our green beauty community.

Sign up before February 20th because you will not want to miss out on even one Beauty Discovery of 2017. You can also spread the love because I truly believe this is a gift that you or your family friends will enjoy month after month. Plans that work with your lifestyle and budget: (This month the value alone is $76.)

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sarah Villafranco the Founder of Osmia a few years ago on my blog. I’ve been a devoted customer of Osmia for years as a matter of fact, Osmia is one of the reasons I began my blog about green beauty and skincare. I was amazed at how beautiful and powerful green beauty really was after trying out Osmia. Click below to learn more about Dr. Sarah.

I’m so excited to bring you new monthly discoveries and to be here with you every step of the way with Beauty Heros! SIGN UP HERE.

(photos courtesy of Beauty Heroes)

A tale of three cities

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Haha, yes, I have very spoilt children. The fidget spinner is strangely compulsive though. They say its good for people with ADHD and ASD and I am reminded of the wooden helicopter Gus used to play with as a preschooler, turning the propeller around and around it was easier when they were younger and didnt know about all the latest fads!