Uses for Alexa

Uses for Alexa

Two Christmases ago, I was lucky enough to get an Echo Dot* as a Christmas gift, and I was introduced to Amazon’s Alexa.  Technically, she’d already been a feature on my Kindle, but I’d never found that to be particularly intuitive, much less useful.  But, that’s a story for another day! I was finishing up my degree at the time, and now running a blog, a small press, and my own writing career, I’ve found my own little personal assistant to be a lifesaver.  I’ve compiled some of my favourite skills and uses for Alexa, which I’m sure will come in handy for you, too!

This post contains affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure for more information!

Note that I frequently refer to my “assistant” as Alexa, but the more accurate phrasing would be Echo, or Alexa-enabled device.

Sleep Sounds*

This is by far the feature of my Alexa that I use most frequently.  I don’t sleep well very often, but I’ve found that sleep sounds–especially thunderstorm sounds!– give me a bit better of a chance of getting a half-decent night’s sleep.

Speaker

This is a pretty basic feature of the Echo Dot (and other Alexa products), but it’s nevertheless one of my favourites. Whenever I want to hear my music (or whatever else I’m listening to on my phone), I can easily connect over Bluetooth to listen right through Alexa!

Spotify

I’m not currently subscribed to Spotify Premium, but when I was, this was probably the most-used command on my Dot.  Alexa, play [Song] on Spotify.  This doesn’t work with free Spotify accounts, but, if you already invest in the Premium option, it’s a great resource.

While I haven’t used it myself, you can also connect to Amazon Music, of course!

Smart Home

This is another that I haven’t tried out for myself (my current space is far too tiny to both investing in smart plugs and the like), but it’s a huge part of many people’s interest in Alexa (not to mention the many commercials for it!).

Podcasts

I recently got back into podcasts for the first time in ages (with a post in the queue featuring a few of our favourites!), and I love that I can listen to them through Alexa! I use Castbox,* but there are plenty of options.

Conversions

This is a huge benefit when cooking–my mom keeps her Dot in her kitchen and it’s perfect for in-the-moment conversions.  Tablespoon in the dishwasher and need the conversion to teaspoons? She’s got your back. And it’s not just recipe-related conversions! Get the right amounts for unit conversions for temperature, currency, and more with just a question.

Meditation

I only recently learned about this feature, but I’m shocked that I hadn’t thought to check for it earlier! I’ve been through an assortment of different meditation programs since I first started meditating, so utilising Alexa’s capabilities to do so is an awesome addition.  Right now, I’m checking out this skill,* from Stop, Breathe, & Think.

Timers

This one’s pretty self-explanatory … it also comes in handy in the kitchen!

Be prepared for allergy season

This is another new-to-me skill! Zyrtec’s Daily AllergyCast* will give you the pollen count for your area, which could be a great help this allergy season.

Calculations

I’ve never been particularly stellar with math, and sometimes I just don’t want to do mental arithmetic. But do you know who will? Alexa!

Learn something

There’s a whole array of different Alexa skills to teach you something new–Cat Facts* is a personal (albeit goofy) favourite!

Flash Briefing

All too often I forget about this feature, but it’s one of the strongest of this device, in my opinion. Not only can you personalise your very own morning news brief (a “Morning Report,” if you will, Lion King fans), but you can add in some fun, like an “on this day in history” throwback or even a Supernatural exorcism, just in case ridding your apartment of demons is on the agenda.

Control your Calendar

Speaking of your agenda, if you use a digital calendar, such as Google Calendar (my personal favourite as of late), you can add events right through Alexa! Want to check what’s on your schedule for the day? Yep, she can do that, too.

Check your Fitbit stats

Alexa, ask Fitbit how I’m doing today. Use the Fitbit* skill to keep an eye on your step count and other goals for the day!

Alarm

Like any good device, you can use it to make sure you wake up on time! Terrified your normal alarm might not go off? I’ve been known to set more than one just in case–set up an alarm clock at 6:00, your phone at 6:15, and your Alexa at 6:30 to make sure you’ll always have something waking you up on time!

Add to your grocery or to-do lists

As you probably know, I love a good list! I keep most of my running to-do lists in my bullet journal, but Alexa is an absolute lifesaver on those rare occasions I don’t have my bujo in hand.  Simply tell her to “add X to my to-do list” and it will be there waiting for you! You can even review your lists in the Amazon Alexa app.

The same principle applies to a grocery list.  This is especially helpful when you run out of an ingredient as you’re cooking–if I don’t make a note at that moment, I’m bound to forget it!

Put the Law of Attraction to work

Check out the Daily Affirmation* skill for some quick motivation to help you improve your mindset (and your life, by extension!).

Play games

I don’t utilise the many games of Alexa frequently, mostly because I don’t often have free time. But, there are so many options! Play trivia games, a virtual escape room, would you rather, and more through just your Alexa device!

Even more

Obviously I can’t touch on any and all possible uses for Alexa in this post–it would be hundreds of thousands of words long and no one would want to read! But, there are plenty more uses for Alexa (including lots that are just for fun, like Box of Cats)…and even more if you integrate IFTT!

IFTT is one of my favourite websites (perhaps in need of a post of its own in the future?). By attaching it to various other services, like your social media accounts, Evernote, or, yes, Alexa, you can trigger events to happen when something specific occurs: if this, then that.

For example, I have an IFTT applet set for my Instagram and Twitter accounts–whenever I post a photo to Instagram, it’s automatically sent to Twitter as a direct photo, rather than just an Instagram link. It’s not an Alexa-related trick, but it’s a lifesaver!

What are some of your favourite skills and uses for Alexa?

Uses for Alexa

Course Review - Expressive Writing

Course Review: 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain

As you may know already, I live with an assortment of chronic illnesses, both physical and mental. Some are diagnosed and others are in limbo.  As you’re even more likely to know, I’m also a writer when I’m not blogging.  So, when I heard that Esther of Life in Slow Motion was looking for bloggers to review her course, 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain*, I just had to reach out!  Fortunately for me, she was willing to have me review the course and to become an affiliate for this and her other courses*.  I’ve truly loved the course and I’m more than happy to share my experience and thoughts with you in this Expressive Writing* review!

I’ll be drawing from the facts of the course itself, but also from my own experiences with it.  As I’ll explain further on, this is an incredibly personal course. So while we won’t have the same experience, I’m confident that it will be just as powerful an experience for you.  

I received a copy of 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain* in exchange for my review.  As always, my opinion is nevertheless 100% my own and completely truthful.  Additionally, I am an affiliate for this course, so this post does contain affiliate links.  See our disclosure for more information on reviews and affiliate links!

ABOUT THE COURSE

As you may have gathered from the full title, 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain* looks into using expressive writing as a tool for dealing with chronic illness and pain.  After a brief introduction to the course and to the concept of expressive writing, each module is focused on a series of prompts to inspire your writing.

A few of the benefits given for expressive writing and for this course:

  • Increased awareness
  • Increased understanding
  • New insights
  • Decreased pain intensity
  • Increased overall being

From my own experience, I can confirm each of these!

The course is set up to be taken over 31 days but is entirely self-paced.  For me, this was especially beneficial as I found myself needing to write more and ended up moving through it much more quickly.  For others, I’d imagine, this level of internal contemplation could be a bit too strong to work at that pace.  Or, if you’re especially busy, you can postpone a day’s writing without guilt.

Expressive Writing* looks at a variety of concepts including Grief and Emotions, Relationships, and Goals.  Each larger category contains a few days’ prompts. Esther recommends following these in order, and I completely agree.  I found myself referencing previous writings as I went along, too.

Perhaps most importantly, this course is a very personal one.  The prompts and subsequent pieces are meant to be for you. These prompts ask you to delve deep into yourself and really examine your thoughts, goals, emotions, and pain. It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster at times, to say the least.  But the benefits are truly innumerable; I’m still working through some of them myself.

With that, it’s also recommended that these writings be personal so that you can write freely, without censoring yourself.  This is something I really struggled with, personally. I’ll be sharing an excerpt from one of my own prompts below, but otherwise, these writings have been kept to just me, myself, and I. I really recommend a level of privacy.  Much like a journal or diary, these are meant to be a sort of safe space for you to really engage with yourself.

MY REVIEW

The overview description of Expressive Writing* begins: “Chronic pain and illness change everything.  Sometimes you begin to lose yourself in the process.” I was struck by how strongly these lines hit me.  I’ve been going through quite the quarter-life crisis and while a big portion of that is simply my age and the point I’m at in life, I know that even more of it comes from my health and the limitations it inevitably puts on me.  When I started this course, I’d only just begun to realise how much this phenomenon was affecting me and seeing it written out so succinctly was poignant. This really stayed with me throughout the course and it definitely made my writing more effective.  

As I entered the course itself, I continued to learn from it before even putting pen (well, pencil, actually)  to paper. “Expressive writing is a type of journaling that focuses on emotions surrounding significant or traumatic events.” Coming from writing poetry, this immediately stood out.  To some degree, I was already using a similar concept in my typical writing (if you’ve read Mistakes Were Made*, “Fracture(s)(d)” stands out in particular).

One thing I noticed in going through this course is that I struggled to encompass my full experience across my multitude of illnesses in one piece of writing.  I may go back and re-do portions of it, focusing specifically on a single diagnosis, or just physical or mental illnesses.  This is, of course, not a fault of the course—I’m actually very excited at the thought of revisiting some of the prompts!

Overall, I got so, so much out of this course. I found myself writing pages at a time for the various prompts.  Conversely, for some, I ended up with only a paragraph or two. I found these were sometimes the most powerful bits of writing.

Emotional impacts aside, the most complicated aspect of the course, for me, was the section regarding faith.  As a non-traditional Christian, these prompts were a bit out of my comfort zone, but I nevertheless found them to be powerful, maybe even more so because of this.  

I found the most emotionally difficult prompts to be those regarding identity and bearing burdens.  I definitely struggle with defining who I am outside of my illnesses and other external factors. Feeling like my illnesses are burdens to others is one of the worst issues I’ve encountered in my own chronic pain and illness journey.  For these, I found myself writing out things I hadn’t given much thought to and it gave me an awful lot to think about. I’m still sorting through some of the thoughts and emotions I uncovered here and I’ll definitely be returning to this over time.

One of the prompts in Expressive Writing* has to do with writing a letter regarding your pain or illness.  From the given choices, I chose to write a letter to my loved ones who have stood by me throughout these seemingly endless health issues.  This was the piece I think I was most proud of. While The Mighty, my usual spot to share pieces like this, was unable to publish it, I’ve realised that here on the blog might be even more appropriate a spot.  After all, you’re all incredibly dear to me and have been through much of this journey with me, too. So, in reading the excerpt below, know that this applies to you wonderful readers just as much as it does to my “real-life” friends and family.  

A Letter to My Loved Ones, On Chronic Pain

Dear _____,

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my chronic pain.  

It’s impossible to really explain what chronic pain is really like, to let you walk in my shoes.  It’s even more difficult when my other chronic illnesses join the party.

It’s exhausting.  It’s like someone’s torturing your voodoo doll while someone else periodically hits various parts of your body with a sledgehammer.  It’s like you have an eternal flu and every time it starts to feel better you just catch it again. It’s a psychic sort of pain telling you it’s soon going to rain.  It’s wanting to do something but knowing you’re not strong enough or won’t have the energy—the spoons— to do it.

So, thank you.  Thank you for recognising that I’m not lazy, not unmotivated, not refusing to try a little harder.  Thank you for trying to do something like understanding, for recognising it’s not all in my head, for taking care of me at my worst.  

Thank you for loving me anyway.  

Phew. There’s a lot in those couple of lines and, again, I’m still working through pieces of it myself.  But this is the sort of provocative start provided in this course. The self-discovery is honestly priceless.  

ABOUT ESTHER AND LIFE IN SLOW MOTION

Beyond Expressive Writing*, Esther runs the blog Life in Slow Motion, where she helps people “address the physical, spiritual, and emotional impact of chronic illness and pain.”  She’s grown her blog from her own personal experience to a site that truly helps people who are grappling with chronic illness and pain. Additionally, she is a certified counsellor and offers a variety of resources, including this course.  

As well as this course, she offers two others, What Really Helps People With Chronic Pain* and  A Complete Guide to Pacing for Chronic Pain*. After experiencing 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain*, I have no doubt that these will be equally powerful, helpful courses!  

Be sure to visit Esther at Life in Slow Motion and on Facebook, and to check out her courses.  

HAS OUR EXPRESSIVE WRITING* REVIEW CONVINCED YOU TO CHECK OUT THE COURSE FOR YOURSELF? SIGN UP HERE* AND LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS WHAT YOU THINK!

Course Review - Expressive Writing

Opportuniteas Review

Opportuniteas Review

Opportuniteas was kind enough to send me an assortment of products to review and share with you all! I’m super excited to work with them and to try out these supplements in today’s Opportuniteas review: Wheatgrass Juice Powder, Coconut Milk Powder, Liver Detox Tea, Kidney Cleanse Tea, and Turmeric Tea.

Thank you to Opportuniteas for providing these products to us for this review!  Additionally, this post may contain affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure for more information on brand partnerships and affiliate links. 

About Opportuniteas

When I first responded to the call for bloggers to review “organic health supplements” by an unnamed brand, I was intrigued solely by the type of product. As you know if you’ve been around the blog a while, natural products are especially important to me. And, given my plethora of health problems, I’m always on the lookout for products that might give me a leg up, whether that be in nutrition or energy.

When I was selected for the campaign and learned more about Opportuniteas, the range of products was the first aspect to catch my eye. Not only do they have a great assortment of products, but they’re clearly marked with ingredients (which is super important for those of us with allergies!).

But it was when I looked into the company itself that I really found myself elated to work with Opportuniteas.  Founder Greg Bastin was inspired to create these supplements when his mom, Ann, was diagnosed with cancer.  He tried countless products and tested the opinions of various experts but couldn’t find something that would work for “normal people.”

From the Opportuniteas website:

Normal people play many roles in life. They are parents, spouses, employees, friends and so many more things. This leaves them with a limited amount of time and money to spend on themselves. Doctors tell people to consume expensive drugs and to endure challenging workouts. Nutritionists often tell people to spend hours shopping, cooking, and meal-prepping.

In real life, people have to pick up their kids from school, walk their dogs, talk to their friends, and work part-time jobs. They can’t do everything.

So Greg sought to create the ideal product for the “normal person,” something that he would gladly give his family.  With a cause and inspiration that noble, it’s hard not to look at both the company and its founder with admiration!

Read more of Greg’s story and the story of Opportuniteas here.

My Opportuniteas Review

Firstly and foremost, I need to give a shoutout to the company itself. Not only do they mark their products as gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, etc. accordingly, but they were more than willing to work with me when I specified that I could only test their vegan products. That sort of inclusivity is so impressive!

Opportuniteas Inclusivity

Additionally, I was incredibly impressed to receive full-size packages of an assortment of supplements for testing.  All too often brand-blogger collaborations include trial size products or just one sort of product, which, while still allowing you to test a product, don’t always give you the full effect. With products like these supplements, it’s especially important to test more than once for an accurate review and to get a wider idea of the benefits. Even with my getting this post prepared rather quickly, Opportuniteas was generous enough to make sure I could fully test their products and give you the best possible review!

In short, they’ve been a stellar brand to work with and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the experience!

Some thoughts on the products in general:

My first concern was “how much is a scoop?” Of course, Opportuniteas had thought of that – each of the products came with its own little plastic scoop! It’s important to note that they have different sized scoops, though, so if you take them out of the bag, ensure that you don’t mix them up. I’ve used a small piece of tape on each to keep them with the appropriate product, but you can certainly keep them in the pouch, too!

It’s important to note too that a few of these contain matcha, so there is some caffeine involved. If you’re watching your caffeine intake or limiting it before bed, be sure to consume these earlier in the day or in moderation. Read more about matcha from TIME.

Wheatgrass Juice Powder

I tried this one first out of pure curiosity.  It’s been years since I first tried wheatgrass and it didn’t have much of an impression on me then.

The packaging suggests adding a scoop to a 12 oz juice or smoothie. I threw together a pseudo-smoothie in a BlenderBottle with almond milk, a touch of maple syrup, and a scoop of wheatgrass.

Now, if you know you don’t like the taste of wheatgrass, this won’t magically change your mind. But if you’re a fan or if you haven’t tried it yourself, give this one a chance!

Opportuniteas Wheatgrass

Purchase on Amazon* or via Opportuniteas

Coconut Milk Powder

As a coconut milk fan, I was pretty excited to test this coconut milk powder.  I added a scoop to my morning coffee and oh my goodness. 

Opportuniteas Coconut Milk Powder

It was the creamiest cup of coffee I’ve had in ages, and almost definitely the creamiest I’ve made myself.  I usually drink my coffee black because, in part, it was almost impossible to find vegan creamers until recently. This may very well change that habit, at least some of the time!

The directions specify that some clumping is normal and that the powder will mix more easily into hot drinks than cold.  If you haven’t used this sort of product before, these are important things to keep in mind – even if you have, it’s a nice reminder!

Opportuniteas - Coconut Coffee

Purchase on Amazon* or via Opportuniteas

Liver Detox Tea

A few days into a migraine (and several doses of painkillers later), I thought it was the perfect time to test out OpportuniteasLiver Detox Tea. I’m constantly worried about the impact my various health issues – more specifically, the medicines they lead me to take – affect my body, especially my liver.

Admittedly, I usually stray from products that claim to “detox” the body, bringing to mind images of a Kardashian promoting some sort of weight-loss tea. But as I’d had such a good experience with the other Opportuniteas products, I figured I had nothing to lose.

I can’t vouch for whether or not it actually helped my liver, but it was definitely good! I added a scoop to hot water with a bit of lemon juice and it was stellar. It’s definitely a taste that takes a bit of getting used to, but it hit the spot once I did. Like the wheatgrass, it tastes healthy; you’re not going to trick yourself into thinking otherwise. But if, like me, you legitimately enjoy that sort of healthy taste, you’ll enjoy this tea.

Better yet? It even seemed to get my migraine to lighten up a bit! I don’t know which of the superfoods in this blend did the trick, but it was nice to get a slight reprieve.  This certainly isn’t an advertised effect of the tea, nor can I say it’s a guaranteed remedy, but, in my personal experience, this was an added bonus!

Liver Detox Tea - Opportuniteas

Purchase on Amazon* or via Opportuniteas

Kidney Cleanse Tea

Again, I typically stay away from “cleanse” or “detox” products. But, yet again, I’ve had such a good experience with these Opportuniteas products that I was no longer as hesitant.

This one was my second-favourite flavour-wise.  The combination of cranberry, ginger, and lemon is delicious.  I can’t vouch for how much it’s actually helped my kidneys, but it really did make me feel a bit healthier!

Opportuniteas Kidney Cleanse Tea

Purchase on Amazon* or via Opportuniteas

Turmeric Tea

This was the product I was most excited to test out! I’ve heard countless times that turmeric is beneficial as a remedy for chronic pain (more on that from the Arthritis Foundation). I occasionally add it to foods, but I hadn’t yet found a tea that focuses on turmeric as a primary ingredient. This fit the bill perfectly!

This was the first and only of the teas that I used in place of my first-thing-in-the-morning coffee (I know, I shocked myself, too!).  After overworking myself the day before, it seemed like a prime opportunity (pun unintended, but appreciated) to test it out!

This was definitely the best-tasting of the teas. I had it on its own in some hot water and it was delicious! I can’t vouch for it helping with the pain just yet, but it’s already a favourite.  I’ll certainly be pulling it out again – both for bad pain days and for the taste alone.

Opportuniteas Turmeric

Purchase on Amazon* or via Opportuniteas

My final thoughts:

Overall, I really enjoyed these Opportuniteas products!  The coconut milk powder and turmeric tea were definitely my favourites. But there isn’t a product in this bunch that I wouldn’t recommend.  Of course, I can’t vouch for their non-vegan products, but if you aren’t vegan then I’m sure they’ll be good for you too.

If you’re looking for a way to sneak more healthy goodness into your day, these may not be the products for you (more on that below). But if you’re like me and enjoy this sort of healthy taste, you’re in for a treat!

While I didn’t try any for the sake of this post, I’d be remiss not to point out their recipes page! These would be perfect for those of you who may not want that healthy taste I mentioned earlier.  Or, it would be great for the days you’re not in the mood for a plain smoothie, juice, or tea.  With just a glance at their recipes, I can tell you there’s lots of room for creativity with these products.

Thank you again to Opportuniteas for providing us with these products for today’s Opportuniteas review! Be sure to check out their website or Amazon storefront* to try some of these for yourself.

Opportuniteas Review

EL Card - Vegan Course

Self-Care for Working at a Computer

Self-Care Tips for Working at a Computer All Day (featuring Pure Journi’s Foot Rest)

I’ve been incredibly lucky in being able to work from home as of late, but this requires a lot of computer work.  Even with the portability of a laptop, this can take a toll on the body, especially if, like me, you have pre-existing conditions that are exacerbated easily. We’ve compiled some of the best self-care tips for working at a computer all day to help you ease that burden!

Thank you to Pure Journi for sponsoring this post!  Please read our disclosure for more information on sponsored posts.  Additionally, this post may contain affiliate links.  Again, please see our disclosure for more information!

Look away from the screen

Even the tightest of deadlines can spare a few seconds. Take your eyes off the screen. Close them for a few seconds. Look around the room. Look out the window for a few moments if you can.

Make screen time better for your eyes

Use an app like f.lux to adjust the colour tint of your screen. Reducing the blue light is especially helpful if you’re working on a project at night! Be sure to adjust the brightness of your screens, too.

Keep a healthy snack on hand

It’s hard to focus when you’re hungry, so this tip will help your work, too! Keep something like these 100-calorie almond packs*, your favourite dried fruits, or trail mix in a desk drawer to catch cravings before they become a distraction.

Stretch

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. A quick stretch can do wonders! Try searching Pinterest for a short yoga routine for some inspiration.

Some of our favourites:

Office Workout

9 Yoga Poses You Can Do at Your Desk Right Now

12 Stretch Exercises You an Do At Your Desk

Keep your to-do list nearby

Whether you use pen and paper in a bullet journal or tell Alexa* to remember it for you, getting those to-do items out of your brain and somewhere they won’t be forgotten will do wonders for your mental health. Personally, I use my bullet journal, or tell Alexa and then transfer my list from the Alexa app to my daily spread.

Stay hydrated

I constantly find myself mindlessly sipping a drink (okay, almost always coffee) while working at the computer. “Trick” your brain into hydrating while you’re at it – check out our ideas to drink more water to go above and beyond. Staying hydrated will help avoid headaches and other not-so-fun symptoms of dehydration.

Organise your workspace

Cleaning up your desk area isn’t just a procrastination method. Not only will a clean and organised space make you work more effectively, but it’ll also make you feel better about working at it! While you’re at it, add something special, like a plant or family photo, to make it an even better place to work.

Take a hike

Or at least a quick walk! Head to the coffee shop for lunch or just step outside for a breath of fresh air. If you can’t leave the office, at least take a lap inside to clear your head.

Meditate

I’ve talked about 10% Happier before and this is yet another benefit!  You don’t need to waste your working hours by trying to give yourself a mental break – you can check out meditations under five minutes for a quick and effective breath of fresh air (pun intended).  If you use an app like 10% Happier, you can even strive to keep a streak going. It’s a great motivator!

Dress correctly

If you work from home, you don’t need to work in your pajamas. Conversely, an office job doesn’t mean you need to be uncomfortable! A cosy jumper* is a perfect combination of classy and comfortable.

Look forward to something

Whether it’s your favourite cup of coffee or chatting with a favourite coworker, find something you want to do every day. You can’t help but be a bit more excited about the workday if you’re looking forward to even a tiny detail. Bonus points if your excitement is one of the items on this list, like your daily meditation.

Rest your feet

While it’s better than being on your feet all day, even sitting to work at a computer can be uncomfortable for your feet and legs! Whether you work from home or in an office, try throwing on a pair of fuzzy socks* to add a touch of cosiness to your workday.

Want an even bigger boost of comfort for your feet and legs? Check out this under-the-desk foot rest by today’s post sponsor, Pure Journi!

Full disclosure: For the Sake of Good Taste received this product at a discount in exchange for our honest review. As always, we’re sharing only our true thoughts and opinions for this recommendation. 

I’ve tried this foot rest for the past few days and I can’t say enough good things about it! In fact, I’ve started using it when I’m not working, too. We had an especially crazy week in preparing for a concert this past Saturday and my graduation party this past Sunday (Want a post all about either? Let me know in the comments!), so it was especially nice to put up my feet after a long day.

The foot rest is the perfect height to rest your feet on the ground while working at a desk, or you can put it on your couch or bed for some extra elevation. You can even turn it upside-down for a gentle rocking motion!

Even better? The foot rest‘s cover is removable and washable! If you’ve been around for a while, you know how important cleanliness is to us here at For the Sake of Good Taste, so this is a huge bonus for us.

After just a few days of using this foot rest, I’m blown away. If you’ve been around the blog a while, you’ll know already that I struggle with chronic pain. This has reduced the pain and stiffness in my feet and legs after working at the computer all day. Even my back and shoulders feel a bit better! I recommend this without a doubt.

Which of these self-care tips for working at a computer is your favourite?

Self-Care for Working at a Computer

Thank you again to Pure Journi for sponsoring this post! Get your own foot rest here.

 

My Skincare Routine + Favourite Products

My Skincare Routine and Favourite Products

Last week, I published part one of my massive Wish haul with all sorts of beauty-themed goodies. In the process, I promised a look into my skincare routine soon to come, which I’m happy to bring you today.

I’ve always struggled with my skin. It’s never been horrendous, but it’s never been great, either.  As a young child, I battled terrible eczema, but it mostly cleared up as I aged (though it’s actually cropping up again this summer—thankfully, I’m experienced enough to catch it before it gets worse!).  I’ve dealt with plain ol’ dryness, absurdly sensitive skin, and acne. But I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’m mostly happy with my skin as it is today, though there’s always room for improvement!

This post will focus on my face, but I use most of these products skin-wide. Feel free to comment below or on social media if you have questions about any of it!

Now, this routine is very much a work in progress. I’d love to hear your suggestions and recommendations!

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure for more information!

Skincare Routine: Cleansing

First and foremost, a clean face is a must. A few months ago, I came across a blog post by VL-Beauty, The Secret Tool to Clear Skin, which was a total game-changer.

In the post, Vicky explained that she gets lots of compliments regarding her clear skin, which, per her photos, is absolutely gorgeous! She explained that her secret weapon is this Real Techniques Cruelty Free Miracle Cleansing Sponge*. I was intrigued by her glowing review and I’m never one to turn down an affordable, well-reviewed cruelty-free product, so I ordered one for myself.

I am so glad I did.

I’ve been using it with this sensitive skin-friendly cleanser* and it has yet to disappoint. My skin genuinely feels cleaner and clearer!

About once a week, I’ll use my cleansing brush from Wish instead.  I don’t know if it actually cleans much differently, but it makes me think of the claims that electric toothbrushes inherently clean better.

Additionally, for times that I need to remove dirt and makeup but don’t have the time or energy to do a full wash, I use micellar water*.

Skincare Routine: Maintenance

Once my skin is clean, a few more steps ensure my skin is at its best.

Every few weeks, or a bit more often when acne strikes, I use a bit of rubbing alcohol as a quick, effective toner. It sounds counter-intuitive, especially when I struggle with dry skin, but it works wonders! Read more about this use of rubbing alcohol on Livestrong.

Otherwise, I use this rose petal witch hazel toner*. Not only does it smell lovely, but it’s so effective!  I love the way my skin feels after using it—so clean!

Then, a moisturiser is an absolute necessity. My go-to is usually this Garnier moisturiser with rose water* (can you tell I’m a fan of rose? White roses are my favourite flower, too!), but I received a whole bunch of this bliss Drench & Quench* which I’m really enjoying, too.

Update:  I recently started using the rose moisturiser more and ended up with an allergic reaction, so I won’t be using that one any longer!

Though it’s not a part of my regular routine, I also throw in a face mask when I’m in need of a little extra self-care. Most of the time, I use one by Freeman Beauty; most recently, it’s this sweet tea and lemon mask*. Everything is better with tea!

Skincare Routine: Cleaning the Cleaners

In addition to these directly-related-to-skincare products, the suggestion I’ve found most useful is to keep your products clean.  In my Wish Haul: Beauty post, I featured my makeup brush cleansing pad. Clean makeup brushes make a huge difference! The same goes for sponges like Beautyblenders or the cleansing sponge discussed above and for towels!  If it’s going to touch your skin, keep it clean.

Skincare Routine: Going forward

Going forward, the two items I most want to amend are including a great facial sunscreen (I avoid sun exposure at all costs—my sister likes to say I’m a vampire—but better safe than sorry!) and transitioning to more cruelty-free and vegan products. As I’ve said before, it’s a work in progress!

What products do you use for your own skincare routine? Let us know if you’ve tried any of our favourites!

My Skincare Routine + Favourite Products

Little Things to Make You Happy

Little Things To Make You Happy

I recently took to Twitter (are you following us yet?) while writing my 15 Things You Might Not Know About Me post to see what people might want to know.  When Alyssa of The Wise Willow suggested talking about things that make me happy, I was inspired . . . a bit too inspired for the sake of that post.  So, the greatly anticipated post is coming to you today:  little things to make you happy . . . because they make me happy, too!

1.  Animals

Obviously, Fitz (and his friends!) is at the top of the list, of course, but there are remarkably few animals that don’t make me happy.

2.  Accidentally vegan junk food

Oreos? Chili Doritos? Thin Mints? I may love to cook, but sometimes you just want a quick, unhealthy snack.

3.  Great pens

Lately, I’ve been especially partial to my Sakura Pigma Microns and my Paper Mate Flair (especially in the shade “Surf’s Up”).

4.  Cosy blankets and fuzzy socks

I’m far from as “advanced” as I’d like to be, but I’ve been becoming more and more a fan of the ideas behind hygge.  Surrounding myself with warm, fuzzy happiness? Yes, please! My mom recently gifted me a pair stripy, fuzzy socks and it’s nearly pained me to take them off since.

5.  Funny videos

When depression hits hard, one of the few things that make me smile are Filmcow videos (check out my favourites in my favourite YouTubers post!).  I also rediscovered the beauty that is CollegeHumor—I recommend the If Google Was A Guy and Badman series!

6.  Streaming services

Moment of appreciation for streaming.  I’m forever grateful for services like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify for the sheer simplicity of entertainment they provide.

Need ideas for your next movie to stream? Check out some of my favourite films for self care days.

7. Fancy tea/coffee

There are remarkably few instances in which I would turn down tea or coffee in general, but a particularly fancy blend hits the spot from time to time.

8. Recipes that turn out well

Whether I’m trying out a recipe from Pinterest or creating one from scratch, there’s little as satisfying as that recipe turning out perfectly!

Try one of our recipes and see for yourself!

9. Texts

Disclaimer: not all text messages qualify. That girl who only complains about her ~terrible~ life or the guy who turns his second message into an innuendo . . . they don’t make me happy. But a good morning/night text from a loved one?  A friend checking in? Somebody asking how you are or what you’re up to and actually caring to hear the answer? Love it.

10. Letters

As much as I love technology, a handwritten letter makes me so, so happy.

11. Learning

Maybe I’m a nerd, but I legitimately enjoy learning.  That may be why I’ve signed up for six online courses since graduating. . . .

12.  Snuggles

Another shoutout to Fitz, he gives the best snuggles (when he wants to).

13. The Green Light

No, not Gatsby’s. . . my fellow bloggers will empathise with my love for the Yoast SEO green light!

14. A good book

I guess this one’s obligatory for a writer!

15. Sales

When I can get something for a discount, my day is made.

16. Office supplies

Bonus points for Clippy, the Microsoft Word feature from days of yore.  But real stationery is pretty cool, too.

Find our suggestions for the best school supplies for college students here.

17. Blogging!

Especially after our recent break, I absolutely love the feeling that comes with blogging. Hopefully reading the end result makes you happy, too!

18. Puns

The worse the pun, the better.

19. A Good Lip Balm

I always seem to come back to Blistex.

20. Tiffany and Co.

“. . . nothing very bad could happen to you there.” –Breakfast at Tiffany’s

21. Old Music

I’ll always have a soft spot for Sinatra, but there’s so much to love about the decades surrounding him, too.

By that logic, though, even nostalgic songs from the past twenty years or so can bring a smile to my face!

22. Gudetama

If you thought an animated egg wouldn’t give you a rush of emotion, you were probably wrong.

23. Rompers

I just really, really love rompers.  If I could wear only rompers all of the time, I’d be pretty content.

24. Poetry

Surprise, surprise, a poet enjoys poetry. I not only love to write it, but I love reading it!

Interested in some of the poetry I’ve written? Check out Mistakes Were Made on Amazon or Goodreads.

25. The night sky

I didn’t suffer through a semester of Astrophysics for nothing! I can’t claim to actually know much about it, but I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky.

26. Disney movies

If someone claims you’re too old for Disney, they’re wrong.

27. Rain

Especially thunderstorms!  I love curling up by an open window and listening to the rain fall.

28. Old cars

I have a friend who can identify nearly any old car at a glance. It’s seriously amazing.  While I don’t have that impressive talent, I do enjoy old cars from an aesthetic point of view!

29. Travel

I’ve done far too little travel as of late. But even memories of travel can spark a bit of happiness!

Check out our traveller’s guide to Bath, one of my favourite cities!

30. Listening to someone talk about something they love

One of my favourite things is watching someone explain something about which they’re truly passionate. Even if you don’t share the interest, you can’t help but smile watching their eyes light up as they talk about it!

Do any of these little things make you happy, too? Which one is your favourite? Let us know in the comments!

Little Things to Make You Happy

Inspiring Mottos

Inspiring Mottos to Live By this New Year (12 Days of Blogmas 2017, Day Six)

So far in our 12 Days of Blogmas 2017, we’ve focused primarily on organising and decluttering your physical space.  Today, however, we’re targeting your mind by featuring inspiring mottos to help you live your best life this new year.

“Hakuna Matata”

Hakuna Matata

“What’s a motto?”

“Nothin’, what’s a motto with you?”

This one is a given.  It means no worries for the rest of your days…. Easier said than done perhaps, but inspiring nevertheless.

“It’s okay to be a glowstick; sometimes we need to break before we shine.”

It's okay to be a glowstick; sometimes we need to break before we shine.

Remember the excitement of getting a glowstick as a kid?  Channel that excitement in your everyday.

“She remembered who she was and the game changed.”

She remembered who she was and the game changed.

A modern adaptation of “to thine own self be true,” without Polonius’ rambling to detract from its sentiment.

“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.”

Make self-care a priority this new year.

“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

Roald Dahl truly has infinite wisdom.

“Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

Be the person your dog thinks you are

No other motivation needed.

What are your inspiring mottos for this new year?

Catch up on our 12 Days of Blogmas 2017 here!

Inspiring Mottos

Reset Your Life

Reset Your Life for the New Year with These Tips (12 Days of Blogmas 2017, Day Three)

For many people, the new year serves as a fresh start.  Launch that fresh start and reset your life with these tips:

Take stock of where you are now

“Life audit” sounds like a fancy term, but it’s a great starting point.  Check out the concept of a Level 10 life for an especially helpful introduction (and an excellent idea for a bujo collection!)!  Once you know where you stand at the start, you can figure out where to go from there.

Be honest with yourself

This relates directly to the earlier tip, too.  If you underestimate how much you’re struggling with a certain category of your life, you can’t improve appropriately.  Overestimate and you’ll be doing more work than necessary.  Ask a friend for insight if you need a second opinion!

Launch some healthy habits

Have you always wanted to do yoga regularly?  Do you want to start drinking green smoothies?  Want to start a vegan lifestyle (stay tuned for our upcoming course!)?  Now’s a great time.  Check out our first day of Blogmas for advice on sticking to your New Year’s resolutions.

Make time for self-care

This one could be a habit or resolution all by itself!  Make a list of mental healthy things to reference when you have free time or queue up some movies for your next mental health day.  Prioritise yourself and your life will improve by default.

KonMari your life

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of KonMari-ing, I can’t recommend The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up enough!  For this reference though, you only need to know one question:  Does this spark joy? In Ms. Kondo’s method, this refers to getting rid of items that do not bring you joy.  Here, this can refer to items to organise, habits to break, or commitments to break.  Does that hobby bring you joy?  If not, why keep it up?

Practice Gratitude

Even on the worst of days, you have something to be grateful for, even if it’s just having air to breathe.  Maintaining gratitude puts the bad moments in perspective.  Keep a gratitude journal or download an app (or even the Notes app!) and watch the benefits multiply!

What are you doing to reset your life this new year?

Check out the rest of our 12 Days of Blogmas 2017 here!

Reset Your Life

10 Movies for Your Next Self-Care Day

10 Movies for Self-Care Days

Sometimes, you just need a self-care day, mental health day, what have you.  Sometimes, the best way to accomplish this is to put on a film!  Here are 10 movies for self-care days that might just inspire you to take that well-deserved break.

1. Say Anything

I have this theory of convergence, that good things always happen with bad things.  I know you have to deal with them at the same time, but I just don’t know why they happen at the same time.” 

There’s just something about a quintessential 80s film that never fails to cheer me up. Say Anything is my go-to because I’m in love with John Cusack Lloyd is one my the most heart-warming characters ever, in the dorkiest, most adorable way. Not going to lie, one of my goals in life is for a guy to hold up a boombox and play In Your Eyes.

Alternates:  Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink

2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“You know those days when you get the mean reds? …the mean reds are horrible.  Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what your afraid of.”

This just one of Holly Golightly’s iconic lines in this film, and it definitely applies to most of my self-care days.  Unfortunately, I can’t pack up and take a trip to Tiffany’s every time I’m down.  Instead, I pop in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard are absolutely amazing as Holly and Fred, er, Paul.  The movie isn’t without its problems, but it’s remained a classic for a reason.

Alternates: Roman Holiday, Sabrina, The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

3. Frozen

“There’s beauty in it and also a danger. Fear will be your enemy.”

Really, Disney movies overall, or any favourite childhood film!  Frozen is particularly appropriate if you consider Elsa’s struggles with her powers as an allegory for mental health issues.  If nothing else, this film will remind you to Let It Go.

Alternates: Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, The Land Before Time

4. Legally Blonde

“If you’re going to let one stupid prick ruin your life…you’re not the girl I thought you were.”

The ultimate girl power movie.  This one is particularly effective if you’ve been struggling with schoolwork.  If Elle Woods got into Harvard, you can finish your assignments!

Alternatives: 10 Things I Hate About You, 13 Going on 40, She’s the Man

5. Harry Potter

“You’re a little scary sometimes, you know that? Brilliant…but scary.”

Any of the Harry Potter movies. For me, they’ve got a comfortable familiarity. Chances are, if you don’t feel that toward this series, there’s probably another that you do.

Alternatives:  Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia

6. Silver Linings Playbook

“The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday.  That’s guaranteed.  I can’t begin to explain that.  Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else.”  

Guess what?  Nobody’s perfect.  Everyone’s a little “crazy.”

Alternatives:  The Theory of Everything, Black Swan, The King’s Speech

7. Pride and Prejudice

“Believe me.  Men are either eaten up with arrogance or stupidity.  If they are amiable, they are so easily led they have no minds of their own whatsoever.”

It’s a fact universally acknowledged that you can’t be sad when watching a Jane Austen adaptation. Or any adaptation of a famous classic!  Pride and Prejudice is my personal favourite, but branch out if you prefer! 

Alternatives:  Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina

8. Twilight

“About three things I was absolutely positive: First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.  And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”  

We all have that guilty pleasure movie.  Most likely, you got super crazy into it in middle school.  For me, that’s Twilight.  I recognise it as ridiculous, but can still appreciate the nostalgia.

Alternatives:  The Hunger Games, Divergent, Fifty Shades of Grey

9.  Mamma Mia!

“Did you feel it?  The earth moved, darling.  We’re falling apart here.”

Musicals make you feel better.  It’s a rule.

Alternatives:  High School Musical, Chicago, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Grease, Rent, The Producers

10.  Love, Actually

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere.”

Have a different favourite holiday film?  Grab that one!  And it’s okay:  I give you permission to watch it regardless of the season.  Some holiday cheer can prove to be a key ingredient when it comes to movies for self-care days.

Alternatives:  Elf, A Christmas Story, Jingle All the Way

What are your go-to movies for self-care days?

10 Movies for Your Next Self-Care Day

Meet My New Kitten

Meet My New Kitten!

If you haven’t been keeping up on social media, I’ve had some major life changes as of late. I’ve moved into my new apartment, started my final year of undergrad, and, most importantly, adopted a precious little furbaby!  Of course, the only natural thing to do is to introduce the new kitten to you all.

Allow me to formally introducing Varjak Fitzgerald, informally known as Fitz!

Story Time:

As some of you know, my plan was to begin training a service dog this fall.  A friend of mine was helping me search through shelters for the perfect candidate when she found this little guy in our local Amazon’s parking lot.

fitz - baby

With a coating of asphalt and a cut on his lip, this little guy was in pretty poor shape.  Fortunately, our friend is a long-time animal lover and gave him some TLC.  Some time in the process, she messaged me:  “Want a kitten?”

“…I kinda want a kitten.”

And so began my journey toward adopting this little floof.

fitz - string

But Jules, you’re in school…?

Yes, yes I am.  And no, my school doesn’t allow pets.  However, in compliance with the ADA, it does allow emotional support animals (ESAs).  Unfamiliar with the idea?  Lauren from Lauren’s Journey has a great piece on them as compared to psychiatric service animals here (also, how cute are her rabbits?)!

Disclaimer:  I was already aware of my qualification for an ESA though I had not yet requested a formal prescription.  With a rise in fake “registries” across the internet and a popular life hack of getting your pet “registered” as an ESA to avoid pet deposits, all too many fake ESAs exist.  He has a prescription letter and is legally recognised both on campus and within the ESA community.  In short:  don’t fake an ESA, it makes the rest of us look bad.

With the sermon over, back to Fitz!

6 Things to Know about Fitz:

1.  His toys have names and backstories.

fitz - sweatshirt nap

The struggle of Mommy being a writer, I suppose.

2.  Speaking of, his own name is filled with meaning!

fitz - bedtime

Varjak is the name of the primary male character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and, I later realised, another PLL reference) while Fitzgerald/Fitz covers a bit more ground:  F. Scott, JFK, characters from both Pretty Little Liars and Scandal, Fitz(william) Darcy… The list goes on and on!

3.  He’s been known to enjoy dog food.

fitz - dog food

When he first came home with my friend, he (understandably) didn’t want to eat.  Eventually, it was the dog’s wet food that coaxed him!  He lived with his “Aunt” for a while until his paperwork was completed and he could move into my apartment and had a tendency to try to steal dog food even after he’d switched to kitten food.

4.  In fact, he gets a bit confused in terms of not being a dog.

baby fitz with moxie

He loves tennis balls and tries to bark.  Perhaps I didn’t stray too far from my original plan after all!

5.  His favourite toys are his string, the Crinkle Fishes, and Mousie.

fitz and sushi crab

The Crinkle Fishes are Mr. Crinkle Fish, Crinkly Fishy, and Bob, respectfully. Note that he loves Mousie far more than her companion, Mousier.

6.  He’s extremely social.

fitz - planner

He absolutely loves to meet new people!  Like any baby, he gets tired and grumpy after too much attention, but he loves it while it lasts.

7.  Computers are his favourite things, followed by boxes and bags.

fitz - GOT

Despite his canine tendencies, he’s still a typical cat.

8.  He’s highly educated.

fitz - reading

While ESAs don’t have the public access rights of a service dog, one of my professors allowed me to bring him to class for a few days while we covered some particularly touchy material.  Fitz loved the adventure, and our classmates loved him!

9.  He loves kisses.

Fitz - recliner and squirrel

He will actively raise his face to mine for a kiss.  If he’s particularly adamant, he’ll even reach up with his paws to pull my face to his!

10.  He’s a good boy.

fitz- snuggle blankets

No explanation needed.

Meet My New Kitten

Follow Fitz on Instagram or follow FTSOGT for blog updates AND cute cat photos!