An Update & June Favorites

Monday, June 29, 2015

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It's been entirely too long since I've done a Monthly Favorites on here, so I figure June is as good a month as any to restart the tradition. June was such a wonderful, full month of reading and travelling and journaling for me, as well as being tied with May for my favorite month of the entire year, and I'm reluctant to see it go! Yet onwards and upwards we continue, always onwards and upwards . . .

1. The Harry Potter Series
I promised, at the beginning of the month, to give you an update on my feelings for the books as I read them, and it would be foolish of me to brush over what has dominated my reading time these past 30 days. I fell in love with the Harry Potter series (and yes, I finished all 7 this month). I've read popular YA fiction before, and while some books are better than others, am rarely too impressed by it; this, however, is quite different. Contrary to most Christian's fear of magic, this is, quite clearly, just like Lewis' fantasy worlds, simply in a different arena. I love that Rowling creates a world of beautiful magic, like the creatures we know and love from mythology and fairy tales, and contrasts it starkly with the cruel magic of the Dark Lord. Her characters are incredibly endearing, real, and humorous; the women in particular are so strong and intelligent, instead of your typical girl-in-a-romance who has no purpose but to fall in love with the hero. The writing quality improves with the books so that as you go along you mature with the characters, and end up quite fond of them. My only qualms? I wish there was more elaboration on the ending: it felt, to me, a little too abrupt for the pattern set out by Rowling in the previous books.

2. Psithurism
In the realm of literature still, my writing this month has consisted entirely of Psithurism edits and added scenes (no surprise there). It's exciting to me that, after nearly three years' work on this book, I'm finally producing something much closer to the world in my head than I have in past attempts. It still needs work - it always needs work - but I'm making progress, and it's good.

3. Coconut Oil
And we swing subjects! I've been told by about a million and one people to use coconut oil for a million and one purposes and finally, a week or so ago, I gave it a try. First: it smells of heaven and the tropics. Oh my word. I would use it just for the smell. And though it's great for removing stubborn eye makeup (supposedly, it lengthens/thickens your eyelashes by overnight application, though I'm not sure how effective it's been for me) and a nice, heavier duty moisturizer before bed, it's best purpose is as a hair oil. A friend of mine at work shared with me that about an hour before she showers, she drenches her lengths with coconut oils, lets it sit for 60-ish minutes and then procedes to wash as usual. Not only did this method make my hair so. soft. (literally I cannot stop touching it) but also prolonged the time I can take between washes. Brilliant.

4. Sally Hansen Insta-Dry Nail Polish in Set Sail
I bought this color for use during the spring whirlwind of events and only ended up wearing it once, but I've reapplied it twice in the month of June alone. It's a beautiful cornflower-blue color, long lasting and under $4. What's not to love?

5. e.l.f. Flawless Finish Foundation
This is a great foundation for the warmer months, as it literally does. not. budge. I wore it a couple of days ago (over a bit of primer, with a light dash of powder in the T-zone) and it lasted all day, through my work shift and a 7 mile walk afterwards with no touchups at all. At the end of the day it had sunk into my skin more, and therefore the coverage was not, of course, as flawless as it was originally, but my face was still not shiny. I have oily skin. This is a huge accomplishment. The formula is quite thick, so I apply a small amount with a moist beauty blender, to avoid a cakey finish.

6. Twenty One Pilots
You might have seen in my Summer Playlist that more than one of the songs were by Twenty One Pilots, a band whom I've quite recently been loving. Their sound is unique - some songs I love and others, not as much - but their lyrics are quite fantastically open. Like John Mayer, they're not afraid of heaver things, deeper lyrics, harder truths. (Also: really fun songs that are perfect for summer afternoons.)

What have you been loving this month? Let me know in the comments!

Summer Style Survival Kit

Friday, June 26, 2015

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When it gets hot and sweltering (as it is starting in May and ending with the end of September down South) the last thing I want to do is layer on the clothing, no matter how cute the desired look. And there is something to be said for that cool, silky look of minimal layers and light, delicate pieces. Here are my 5 favorite ways to stay cool (while remaining stylish) in the summertime. :)

1. Light Fabrics
A lightweight fabric is the quintessential summer staple. Whether its a dress, pants, or top, your best bet is something not necessarily thin (we like to stay classy, after all) but not something heavy. Cotton/rayon mixes are ideal, as well as jersey knits. This is also a lifesaver when travelling, as you can easily pack multiple outfit options without pushing your suitcase over weight limit.

2. Loose Cuts
I love my palazzo and harem pants in the summertime. In a nice airy fabric, you can get away with practicially anything, despite the heat. Contrast them with either a structured fabric or style to keep from looking too drowned in your own clothes.

3. Bright Colors
I love a bit of color in the summertime, (what? did I just admit I wear some non-black clothing?) especially bright shades of pink, purple and blue (not. together.). Along with being delightfully season-appropriate, neon shades look wonderful against our skin in the summertime, increasing the effects of even a light tan. :)

4. Simplicity
No bells and whistles here. In the summer, for me, it's all about a few statement pieces and minimal to no accessories. Bracelets are too fussy in the heat; a small, delicate necklace and a few slender rings are just enough to add sophistication without overpowering the simple beauty of a striped top, a palm-printed dress, or a swingy skirt.

5. Leather Accents
I absolutely love the look of brown leather in the summertime, whether in a small crossbody purse or some cute sandals. It's a wonderful way to add depth and earthiness to a look without needing a jacket or heavier outerwear.

What about you? How do you survive the summer heat and stay stylish all at once? 

Summer Playlist 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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For me, certain types of music are eternally etched "summer music," and each year invariably ends up with its own song or two that, upon listening to them, sum up that summer in a nutshell. But whatever the song is, it's always a part of a decent list of songs that are my go-to during the warmer months. This is this year's lineup...

1. Geronimo by The Sheppards
2. Nothing Without Love by Nate Reuss
3. It Is Well by Bethel Music
4. Bright by Echosmith
5. Anything Could Happen by Ellie Goulding
6. My Blood by Ellie Goulding
7. Brother by Needtobreathe
8. Not Today by Twenty One Pilots
9. Welcome to New York by Taylor Swift
10. The Judge by Twenty One Pilots

What are you listening to this summer?

7 Tips To Waking Up Beautiful

Monday, June 15, 2015

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Hello lovelies! First off I want to say a round thank-you for the kind and honest responses to my most recent post - I was certainly not expecting the sort of response I got, and it was not only encouraging but humbling, knowing I'm not the only one here who doesn't have it all sorted (heck, I don't even know what I want for dinner tonight). I really appreciate you.

Today's post is one I've held on the backburner for quite a while. I wanted to experiment; to find what truly gives me the best night's sleep and the best morning following, and this is what I've come up with. I hope you enjoy, and I hope it's of use to you. Xx

1. Plan ahead
The key to a beautiful morning is entirely in how you prepare yourself the night before. If you roll into a messy bed with makeup still on, read till one AM and then zonk out, you're not likely to wake up looking like Kate Middleton. (And trust me, I've done that before.) Give yourself decent time before bed to follow a good routine; if you're a reader like I am, leave yourself enough time to get into the book without staying up to outrageous hours; always take off your makeup and get in your nightclothes before you tuck in. You will not "get to it later," no matter what you tell yourself.

2. Stick to a routine
My skin always acts the best when I'm following a steady skincare routine (if you're interested, I'd love to share this with you!). Don't go trying a bunch of new masks, products and creams at one time; if you're trying something out on your skin, you need to give it time and repeated use to truly see its results, whether positive or negative. And a combination of multiple testings will only leave your skin feeling irritated when you wake up the next morning.

3. Moisturize
It's incredibly important to moisturize your skin to avoid waking up with tightness, or for the oilier skin types like me, feeling gross and shiny. A good, balanced moisturizer will eliminate both problems.

4. Drink water (it's a life philosophy)
I can't talk about this enough. Drinking water, especially right before you sleep, solves a multitude of issues. Drink up.

5. Get your beauty sleep
That old myth about beauty sleep actually does have truth to it: your skin is fresher and more accepting of care when it's well-rested. If getting 8 hours nightly is not a possibility for you (and believe me, I only get 8 hours about once a good week) at the very least try to knock off hours on the morning-end. The hours before midnight are worth double the ones after midnight, so instead of staying up late, get up earlier. And by all means if you can avoid it, don't pull an all-nighter.

6. Get up earlier
You may think that sleeping in later will make up for what you lost the night before, but while it helps take the edge off things at first, it is ultimately detrimental. Stay in bed much past 8 AM and you will only feel more exhausted; it would be better, instead, to get up right when you wake up (or - would you believe it? - set an alarm, even on the weekend!) and get to bed early the following night. This also conditions your body to a healthy cycle of early nights and early mornings which, if your schedule can afford it, is the best way to live.

7. Sleep like a queen
Change out your pillowcases often, tie your hair back gently, make your bed in the morning so it feels crisp and clean at night. It's the little things that make a difference, and if your bed feels luxurious, you're much more likely to sleep well in it.

What do you do to make your mornings (and nights) beautiful?

I Don't Have A Four-Year Plan

Friday, June 12, 2015

I'm interrupting the regular flow to talk a little bit about life: just real life.

As my Junior year just recently closed, a lot of people have been asking me if I know what I want to do next. College? Internships? Majors? Jobs? As a person with very little skill at decision making, and even smaller idea of what I want to do after next year, answering these questions is, to say the least, difficult. "Well, I'm not sure...I might want to go to a college of the arts...and I'll still be blogging and writing, of course..." You catch my drift.

There's nothing wrong with people being curious (and let's be honest, it's a good way for the neighbor you haven't spoken to in a year to get to know you a little better) but there comes a point where what you want to do with your life starts to become "you" - and that gets a bit frustrating, you know? Things like graduation ceremonies and senior-centered events become awkward when everyone's bio reads "plans on going to (such and such) college in the fall..." and all you can think of is "Carmel likes fashion and wants to pursue some career with it." Hrm.

I know I've got time to sort that out. And still, to some extent, I know I'll never have full confidence one way or another, and whatever decision I make will ultimately be on faith. That's life. And how do you sort out what you want to do with your life if you don't know who you are?

I want to be graceful, a hostess, a woman of God. I want to travel and learn and soak up knowledge. I want to school people in the art of beauty and makeup. I want to style people for red carpet events. I want to absorb fabrics and textures and colors and maybe someday create my own things. I want to write books that bring people to their knees. And from there, not from the pressure to "have a career" or "go to college" or "plan a life" - from there, I'm building an idea of what the next right step is.

Do you know yourself? How do you cope with people asking about your next step? 

It looks like I have my life together, doesn't it?

Saturday, June 06, 2015

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We're lifestyle bloggers. We've got pretty homes, organized closets, shoes to spare. We can do a wicked cat eye flick in about five minutes because we probably do it every day. We've got a glam desk with strategically places candles, glittery frames and posh desk-calanders without a tick out of place. Our lipstick collection is running into the second drawer. We always look beautiful; our hair is curled, our nails are painted, our clothes fit and we have all the right undergarments to fit both neatly and comfortably behind even the daintiest of lace tops.

We eat healthy. Smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch, flavourful stir fry for dinner, and we look beautiful because of it! We have the sort of money that allows us a new dress for every occasion, and we just have a knack for beautiful things (who cares if the lipstick works if it looks beautiful on my desk for my next post?) Right? Right?

I was reading a book recently about the mayhem behind photoshoots by an interior designer with a collection of the most gorgeous projects you can find, and it gave me a little bit of insight into this world of "perfectionism." She shared that what often looks good on the camera doesn't look the same (or good) in real life, and vise versa. The day before a shoot, the designer explains, is spent running around buying and borrowing antiques, shopping other corners of your house and finding flowers and candles for the one space being photographed: not simply vacuuming the carpet and putting away stray books. As bloggers, whether lifestyle or otherwise (though particularly lifestyle), there is a certain enigma belonging to our world. A standard of perfection, set partially by our own ideals and encouraged by the web to which we belong, makes us constantly aware of every detail in our lives, and we spend a lot of time and resources attempting to make everything match, to make everything pretty, to make everything photo-ready and beautiful. And I am a firm believer in beautiful things; whether they are being photographed or not. But what I've noticed is that this tendency, nice as it may be, has begun to be a barrier.

People have asked me before if my life is perfect, and I'm here to entirely debunk that idea, because as pretty as perfect is, its difficult to get to know someone you cannot relate to. Mostly I like to keep things elegant and uplifting here, but I have to be honest, and my life is not. perfect. I stay up late reading and often have dark under-eye circles. More often than not, my nail polish is chipped and two weeks old. I bite my nails when I'm thinking. I spend too much time staring at screens and not enough time outside. I drink more tea and coffee than is good for me, even though it gives me a headache if I drink it past 4-ish in the afternoon. I forget to shave my legs a lot, until 10 minutes before leaving for a nice event (hello razor burn). I am insecure about my figure. My desk is not always neat. My laundry stays in the basket, waiting to be put away, far longer than it should. I only make my bed half as often as I should.

We're bloggers, but we're also people, and it has to be said that I'm not the only one with issues. No one's life is together: this concept of life-together-ness is something we've invented to suit our fancies, but does not actually exist. We're broken. And you know what? It's ruddy beautiful. 

SNIPPETS OF WRITING: a game of catchup from the last few months

Thursday, June 04, 2015

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(disclaimer: I've been meaning to post this for over a week, but my computer was having issues opening documents. I have written since then, but those snippets will be included in a later post - read on!)

I mentioned in a letter recently that now the school year is finished, I'm eager to get back in the swing of writing. My work over the past semester was almost strictly platonic, but with long free afternoons at hand, I'm ready to cement the thoughts and ideas into words and people.

Before I get there, however, here is a look at some of the sporadic work that happened over the spring semester!

"Summertime came late that year. From the smoke-ringed mountains in the east to the tawny fields of the southwestern islands, a chill had settled in that did not like to be moved, and like those barren landscapes, many eyes were sallow and empty longer than usual; longer than necessary." -Psithurism

"She recoiled from him, saw how dark his skin was against her own and took it as an omen, reaching back her hand, poised to slap him. For a very brief moment everything was blurred; a blueish light flickered in the window behind them, adding to the haze of the overcast day." -Psithurism

"The sky was dark, but inside the tavern it was warm and welcoming. The flicker of the hearth stuck in his mind’s eye relentlessly, waving like an army’s broad colors, a constant filter over the rest of his memory. The flames danced queerly.
Tables were half-full as they often were, men in scattered clusters about the sagging place, their clothes and shoes caked in dirt and stinking of fish, for they spent their days on the riverbanks as a living, catching fish to sell in the marketplace.
“Edeson!” someone had called, and Adair watched himself stroll over to the table, his clean hands a contrast to the filth of this young boy.
“Ajax.” His lips formed the queer name slowly, or perhaps it was only his memory." -Psithurism

""Are we not gathered to fight, to ally against a power the Southern Region has long resented? Why now do you cower and frown and tell me to quiet my tongue, as though I were naught but a boy? This is the day we have awaited for the years over: we are at the cusp of the prophesies, and you bid me hold my tongue?” For a tense moment Adair did not speak; his hand was shaking even as he stabilized it against his belt-loop, and he glanced around the room to be sure they were, truly, alone." -Psithurism

"He said no more, and his wings were still, yet the feathers spread like dove-fans, fluttering and rustling and always moving. Ara wondered at them; how curious that they should move so! How brilliant the colours! It was in her heart – her head – her body that she should stay here forever, for here it was warm, a warmth that made other warmths seem only a shadow, where this filled her eyes and ears and tongue with the taste of it. It smelled, it heard, it was deep and it was wide: it made any other warmth just a faint imagining." -Psithurism

"“I don’t know,” she whispered, just above the air, for she didn’t want to break the mist that clung in dewy particles to the folds of her clothes. They would roll down, mixing with the fabric and making dark spots, marking their places, but they would dry in time too. Perhaps it was so with the blood on the stones – perhaps, that too would dry, and be washed away with time." -Psithurism

"“And if I had much to offer?”
“Still I would take none.” Here a beaming smile grew on the lady’s fair face, and Ara was confused as to her purpose. “It is my joy that I may help others; not my job.”
She did not know what to do. Should she sleep, she may not again wake for two days. Still, she knew to travel would be to call for certain death. She feared the touch of this curious old woman, and what healing it brought; for surely, only bad can be wrought from a woman who does not request pay?
“Do not be afraid,” the woman whispered at last, and there was earnest in her voice. Why did she care so much for a girl she’d never known, a girl who’d shown her no kindness?
“There is yet more to be done; do not give up. Your path may be tangled; but there, who’s is not? For the sake of this child at least, on whom you have a hold I do not try to understand; for her sake, struggle on. There is morning, always coming.”
Ara was still confused by this woman’s riddles, but one thing was made very clear to hear, sharp and present and sluicing across her vision. The woman was true."

Top 5 Summer Packing Tips

Monday, June 01, 2015

One of my favorite parts of summer is the travelling. Whether you're backpacking across Europe, (or dreaming about it like I am!) visiting the beach for a handful of calm days, or touring a city and soaking up the sun and the culture, the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not your equipped to face each day's adventure.

I won't say I'm a packing expert, but I have done it a few times, and there are certain methods I have found to work better than others.

1. The key is to not overpack, because not only does a large amount of luggage often cost more to put on a plane (if you're travelling by air) but also becomes quite a burden to keep a handle on. It also doesn't leave much allowance for anything you might want to bring back with you, whether you've gone shopping or have a few souvenirs. Pack light & leave a small allowance for the return trip.

2. Pick out your outfits ahead of time. If at all possible, get a list of the activities you'll be doing each day, and plan your clothing accordingly. This saves so much time on the days you're actually wearing the clothing, keeping you from having to rumple through your bag and piece together an outfit and also keeps you from overpacking "essentials" that you may or may not actually wear. Be sure to also check the weather an make sure you're choosing clothing appropriate for the climate.

3. Shoes on the bottom, roll your clothes. These are the two most important things about packing that my dad has taught me, and it's the difference between a suitcase that looks nice before you close it (but not when you reopen it at your destination) and one that stays put and organised. Plus, rolling your clothes neatly saves a lot of space.

4. Keep it lightweight; dresses, slender sandals, shorts, t-shirts. One pair of pants is usually all you'll need in that department in the summertime. Use a few standout accessories to mix it up, or to elevate the elegance, but don't go overboard on the jewelry; I find that I almost always overpack jewelry, and in the end I probably wear the same watch and rings the whole trip, maybe swapping in a necklace and earrings here and there. Unless you're going to a fancier event, keep it simple, delineated.

5. Pick a good, sturdy bag...because you'll probably be using it the whole trip. If I'm travelling by plane, I like to have something big and structured enough to support a good few books, and also have room for my essentials (a few small makeup essentials, pens, my phone, earbuds, wallet, travel journal). But I don't carry all of this around with me during the rest of the trip, so I make sure I have room in my suitcase for a small crossbody (flatpack or slide it down the side of the suitcase). This way I don't have to carry everything in my pockets, nor am I lugging a large handbag around sightseeing. A crossbody is handsfree, lightweight and easy to keep track of.

What are your best packing methods?
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