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Reading fewer books

Last year, I resolved to savour the books I read. I’d been accumulating respectable “book counts” for the previous years. I had a 30 minute train ride to/from work, and I’d spend that time buried in a book.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really remember much from those books. I blasted through them, having momentary episodes of “that’s interesting” or “that makes sense” but nothing really stuck. So I resolved to read less books, but really savour them.

When “How to read fewer books” appeared on my feeds, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly.

Except for one thing — I don’t read much at all nowadays. Oops.

Now that I don’t travel for work, I don’t have the time to get stuck into a book. And being at home, surrounded by all my other things, means I’m less likely to do it.

I lost my rhythm with my local library. When the lockdowns started, I reserved books from my local library as I usually do, but found that they were only open during times I was working from home. They’ve since reopened on weekends, but I’ve lost that habit of dropping by during our weekly shopping trips, to either pick a book or return it, if not both.

So. I’m trying to get my reading mojo back.

I’ve since resolved to get through the entire Harvard Classics. The books listed there are so different from ones I’d typically pick out for myself, I figure it’s as good idea as any to start chipping away at them and open my mind to new things. Also, it’s a good thing that most (all?) of them are freely available because of expired copyright.

I’m still on the first book (Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography). Good luck to me!

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Sometimes I miss social media…

…if only to post about Aussie businesses and products we’ve/I’ve used these past few months.

Years ago, I bemoaned the demise of the Sydney Yelp Elite community. I loved writing reviews on Yelp… Admittedly, my first post was a rant about a cafe (my food had plastic in it) but most of my reviews were positive.

I liked how people found my reviews helpful and checked out places partly on my recommendation. When I moved my adventures from Yelp to Instagram, I loved it when restaurant owners commented on my photos and reposted them on their own accounts.

Becoming a “food blogger” wasn’t the primarily goal. I never pulled the “I’m Yelp Elite, give me free stuff” or “I’m going to post a negative review about you or else” cards. I genuinely wanted to share my experiences.

In these times, it feels a bit more important.

In my previous role, I spent the last few months on projects for local businesses. I interviewed several business owners as part of research. Every one of them spoke passionately about what they were doing.

They would say: I want to share my culture, our food. I want to share my love of art. I want to help people, that’s why I want to do this.

Outside of my actual research scope, they peppered me with questions: How can I reach more people? How can I find a venue so I can expand? Does the government have more support for businesses like mine? And they were grateful, so grateful, if I pointed them to services they happened to not know about.

It pains me to think of the economic impact of the coronavirus. These smaller businesses were probably the first to go.

That’s why we’ve made a conscious decision to support local. I’ve also made it a point to be especially kind… I always let the business know if I’ve had a good experience. We’re all in this together, right? More than a few times after sharing my feedback, I’ve been asked: Could you leave us a review? Please?

I don’t publicise this blog so I know only my friends read it (hi guys!). I know one of the benefits of Google reviews or Instagram is that it’s not wholly dependent on the popularity of each particular writer – make sure it’s tagged correctly, and a review’s more or less findable. However, I still don’t like social media as a whole, and I feel like Google reviews aren’t too reliable, but… I’ll see.

Even if you’re not from Sydney and haven’t benefited from any of the recommendations I’ve made lately, I plead: Please support local, support small businesses.

P.S. There’s another reason I’ve been thinking about rejoining Instagram: I’ve been obsessed with looking up sewing projects online! But that’s another story for another time.

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Skincare snapshot

I was browsing a skincare site the other day when I came across product reviews I’d written years ago. I’d forgotten I’d used those products, much less what I’d felt about them!

I figured I’d write about my current skincare routine so I don’t forget. I don’t have a solid routine down because (1) I’ve been trying to fix my skin and (2) I haven’t found my Holy Grails yet. I think I should at least try to remember which products my skin liked, even if they aren’t HGs, in case I need to fall back on them.

Truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten skincare. If my skin ever looked halfway decent, it was probably due to luck. As I mentioned in my last post though, I’ve been getting into The Beauty Brains and Lab Muffin. I’ve also been browsing /r/SkincareAddiction and /r/AusSkincare for tips and localised knowledge.

I’ve since discovered that my oily skin was, in fact, dry and dehydrated, and that all the harsh products and masks I was using had destroyed my moisture barrier. So, late last year, I cut down on those products and focused on fixing my moisture barrier instead.

It’s been working pretty well for me. My skin is definitely a lot less dry, dehydrated and sensitive.

So here’s my daily routine for dry, dehydrated and sensitive skin:

Lookie! I’m trying to upload more photos! This one isn’t that great. But it’s a start. Haha.

Cleanser
Water (AM)
MooGoo Milk Wash (PM). This cleanser is super gentle and doesn’t irritate my skin at all. However, when this runs out I’m looking for a more actively calming one, instead of one that just doesn’t irritate my skin.

Side note: I’ve also changed how I cleanse my skin. I use cold water and reusable rounds to pat dry (no more using hot water on my face or scrubbing it with my towel).

Serums
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic (AM). To be honest I’m not too sure what this does, but I read an article before saying this was great for anti-aging and brightening.
Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Intense. This has been a godsend this winter.

While I do want to keep using a Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid in my routine, I’m on the search for Aussie-made, hopefully more affordable brands.

Spot/redness treatment
Laroche-Posay Rosaliac AR Intense Anti-Redness Serum. I have redness on my cheeks and an annoying patch in between my eyebrows. While concealer can cover it, I’d rather fix my skin instead. I’m not sure if this serum is doing much, so when it runs out I’ll be on the lookout for other products.

Special mention: Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Calming Serum. I loved this, but it was expensive. It cost $338 for a 30ml bottle here in Australia. And while it made a huge difference when my skin was red and angry, I’m not sure how effective it was for the last stubborn bits of redness, which made me hesitate to repurchase. I’d go back to this though, if my skin freaked out as much as it did late last year.

Facial oil
Emu Ridge emu oil
. I love how moisturising this is and how it calms my skin. Despite being thick, it doesn’t clog my pores. I use this all on my body too whenever I get sensitive, dry patches.

SPF
Natio Daily Defence Face Moisturiser SPF 50. I love how this feels on my skin, it doesn’t feel like sunblock at all. It’s a combo moisturiser-SPF though, so if I find a moisturiser I like, I might want to look for an SPF-only product.
An acceptable second: Cancer Council Face Daywear Moisturiser Matte SPF 50+.

Though I haven’t been wearing a lot of SPF lately after watching Lab Muffin’s “Should you wear sunscreen indoors?

I’m currently on the fence about:

Moisturiser
I really liked Kate Somerville’s Goat Milk Moisturizer Cream. However, it came out to a pot a month – over $100 here in Oz – which meant it ended up more expensive than the Sturm serum! I’m currently trying different brands to find one that’s more affordable, but the last few moisturisers I’ve tried have irritated my skin.

Eye cream
I’m still on the fence if this is necessary. I’m lucky my eye area isn’t really a problem area, so I’m not clear if I need a separate eye cream. Nothing I’ve tried yet has wowed me though, including the cream I’m trying now.

Given my skin’s improved, I’d like to focus on improving texture and congestion next. I’d like to bring back exfoliation into my routine and hopefully add a Retinol in the future.

I’d have to say though that the biggest change to my skincare is…

*drumroll please*

Giving less of a f* about what other people think of my skin. Why was I putting all that pressure on myself that I needed to have flawless skin all the time? It’s not like I actively look at people’s skin when I’m out and about – it’s unlikely they’re paying close attention to the imperfections in mine.

I’ve always said I’d like to be able to go out without make up. I mistakenly thought the only way to do this was to get perfect skin. While it’s good to make sure my skin is healthy, I’ve learned there was another way to get there – and that’s by being OK with my imperfect complexion.


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How I buy stuff

I’ve changed the way I buy things lately. (I suppose this is what it means to be a person in the world, constantly figuring out how to live life using my reasoned choice.)

Lesson #1: Natural is not always better.

I remember posting, a few years ago, about wanting to become more “natural” and “green.” Like with skincare. I religiously looked up ingredients on the EWG Skin Deep database and sought out (supposedly) greener products.

I’ve given up the “natural products only” schtick, especially after I got hooked into The Beauty Brains podcast and Lab Muffin. I realised that a lot of “green brands” made unsubstantiated claims. I’d bought “green” products that worked poorly or caused breakouts. So-called natural products don’t work for everyone and that’s okay.

I’ve learned just because something’s “natural” doesn’t automatically mean it’s better. (What does “natural” mean, anyway?) I’ve found out cramming numerous essential oils into products is a no-no and that chemicals aren’t the devil. (Everything is, after all, made up of chemicals.) Sellout-y as it sounds, at least bigger brands have gone through more rigorous research and testing.

Right now, I’m using a mix of “natural” and otherwise unnatural(?) products. And I’m not beating myself up over it.

Lesson #2: Green consumerism is still consumerism.

A few years ago, I started to become even more conscientious about my purchases. I really liked the idea of buying things that were ethically sourced, locally made, sustainable, biodegradable, yadda yadda yadda.

I obviously still had a lot of stuff that weren’t any of those things. Part of me resolved to stock up on items for my idealised, low-impact, zero-waste life. But then buying those things was still buying things.

A friend of mine had lamented that reusable coffee cups were supposed to fix disposable coffee cup wastage. But then the reusable coffee cup business has turned into a massive manufacturing effort on its own. There were cups for sale in every cafe and branded ones being given away at the conferences I went to. I’m not too sure how much it saved vs disposable coffee cups exactly.

Lesson #3: I will pay more for some things.

Like quality, seller reputability, local products, or for a good cause. And time savings. I no longer spend as much time as I’d done in the past trying to find the best deal.

So where does that leave me?

One thing I’d like to stick to, become even clearer with this pandemic, is to buy local. I like supporting local businesses. (With the decreased number of flights the parcels are likely to get to me faster, which is an added benefit.)

Second is to only buy new things if my old ones need to be replaced.

Third, I’d like to make most of my clothes that I can. I’m not up to knits or complex pieces of clothing yet but I can make simple tops, skirts and dresses!

Finally, I don’t buy things right away. Even though it’s something I could easily afford, I only buy things on the weekend. A lot of times I realise that I don’t really need to.

Any purchases the past few weeks?

Outside of groceries and meals, I’ve purchased a Spinaleze pillow. I am officially an old person – I’ve resolved to investing in pillows, haha! I used to scoff at my dad who was particular with his pillows. Now here I am buying an exxy pillow hoping to relieve my neck and back soreness. 😛