Well if you’re near me, in Ontario, or if your area is similar to ours, then you’re back in lockdown. This time is a little different. We’ve been through this before and we’re better prepared to cope with the realities. Along with our own improved coping abilities the businesses in our communities have the experience to thrive. They’re improving their curb side pick up protocols and they have a better understanding of how they can tailor their products and services to this reality. For example, providing take-home kits to fuel your creativity and pre-packaged bundles that will allow you to spoil yourself and support local.
There’s still a lot of empty time to fill, though. So what better time than now to join a book club? Reading is a truly independent activity. Unless someone is reading to you then you’re on your own as you work your way through a book. You control the pace and you can pick the moments you need to read most. A book club just creates a little social aspect, knowing that in your own cozy corner curled up with the book you’re not alone. It gives us some common ground to meet on and ideas to discuss. Reading may be totally independent but book clubs create a connection.
So, this is the official launch of the Tea with Books book club!
Each month we will meet with a zoom meeting and enjoy some tea & socialization inspired by our book of the month. Since I’m making this official today let’s set our first meeting for somewhere around February 25th or so – once I have a better idea of interest we’ll work out the ideal day and time for our group =)
I’d also love for people to share their developing thoughts on the Tea With Carmen social pages by posting to the Facebook community, commenting on instagram or tweeting me!
Without further ado – what should we read first?
Didn’t See that Coming by Rachel Hollis starts off talking about a major unexpected (and unwelcome) life event – an experience you may or may not share. She’s using that experience to talk about the bigger picture and recovering – in her own words – “when your world falls apart”. It’s safe to say that regardless of how kind, or unkind, the pandemic has been to you personally we’ve all experienced our lives falling apart in one way or another as we’ve transitioned through various lockdowns and whatnot. So I’m hoping this book will be a great place to start our year and our book club.
If you’d like to make sure you’re totally up to date on all things related to the book club please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the list.
It’s hard to feel optimistic about 2021 because many of us might feel like we kind of got tricked by 2020. We remember this time last year, when we looked with such anticipation to 2020. We had many plans, hopes and dreams. Places we wanted to visit, people we wanted to see.
Then it all went sideways so fast and the challenges 2020 brought have dragged on for months, and months and months. Certainly longer than most of us could have expected. Back in March when Ontario entered its first lockdown it was hard to imagine that we’d still be talking about lockdown restrictions at Christmas.
So what now?
How do we recover? How do we recapture the optimism and hope we felt a year ago and bring that kind of light with us in to 2021?
The most obvious part is that it’s going to look very different from before. We have the advantage of knowing that 2021 will continue to bring us new and previously-unimagined experiences. So we already know that 2021 will be different from any year before it, and therefore so will our thoughts, resolutions and plans going in to it. Our ideas about what a successful 2021 will be are going to be shaped by what we experienced in 2020. Even though that seems like a let-down, here’s why I think it’s similar to any other year, and can have some serious silver linings.
Other years the way our current year has shaped our resolutions might have been more subtle, and more individual. We might have moved and therefore created a resolution to finish perfecting our new home with paint and renovations. We might have gained a little weight and so created the resolution to lose it. We may have created resolutions that were specific to our job, or our relationship, or our finances. We looked back on our year and figured out exactly what we wanted to do differently in the coming year. It was a personal reflection process that was unique for each of us.
It’s all different, but also so familiar
We will do those things again but we’ll relate to each other more closely than before because so much of our hopes and resolutions will come from what we experienced in 2020. For example, we might be focused on diversifying our income or creating a more robust savings due to the struggles we experienced this year – and anyone in that boat has to know they’re not alone. It’s been a record year for professional and financial instability.
We might create resolutions about building home offices and home gyms. A vast majority of us have found ourselves significantly increasing how much time we spend at home – and the way we spend our time in our homes has changed. It’s now the office, the gym, the yoga studio, the video studio, the music studio, the content creation hub and the table at which we have tea with our friends (albeit in front of a laptop).
We might resolve to embark on a journey of self-improvement. Read more books, take some online courses, and reflect on how we can grow, change and improve our skillsets to respond to our changing goals and challenges.
Then again, it’s also worth resolving to be good at and commit to self care. With so much change and instability you’re giving a lot of energy to keeping up with what’s going on around you. It’s more important than ever to find moments of joy and moments of peace. Bump up your skincare routine for a little built-in self-love daily. Perhaps finish your day with a gratitude journal or take a part of your lunch break to do some yoga or a work out (especially if you work at home and stay seated and still throughout the day, like me).
It’s also possible we’ll collectively resolve to be less materialistic, to shop small business when we need things, to use more sustainable products. Bonus points if you buy your sustainable products from small local businesses! In this perhaps we’re resolving simply to help each other. To support our community members, friends and neighbours.
We’re Going to be Alright
So, as we have in other years, we’ll all look at how 2020 went and develop goals that reflect what we can and want to do better. Our goals are personal and individual to us but they’re also likely to have similarities to those around us. After all, as isolating as the pandemic has been, it’s also been a collective experience. That means that the resolutions we’re setting are similar to other years – simply more reflections of changes we feel empowered to make – but it’s also more communal than previous years. This year we also have the major advantage of knowing a lot more about what the year will ask of us and being better prepared.
Exactly what it is that will shape and define 2021 may be unknown but we are better prepared for surprises than we were going in to 2020. We’ve developed new coping skills and found opportunity in chaos. Let’s keep doing that, keep getting better at it, and make 2021 unique, collaborative, and better than ever.
It’s a bad habit many of us have to let our routines become chores. We just kind of accept that the routine is going to suck but, what are you gonna do? You gotta work, right? With many more people working from home during the pandemic and a number of companies exploring longer term work from home policies here’s a few ideas for creating a work from home routine that doesn’t suck.
Lunch time: This is the easiest answer to where some mid-day you time comes from. Lunch hours are there because it’s no secret our brains need breaks. Humans are just not designed for 8-9 hours of focused work. So leave your work station during your lunch time. Even if it’s as simple as moving from your office space or computer desk and sitting in your kitchen to eat. In a small space like a small condo or apartment just make sure you’re in a different seat that allow your body to relax and perhaps facing a different direction – like out a window – so you’re not just staring at your computer from another angle.
2. When the work day is done, Shut down. Walk away. Be done. This was my absolute biggest challenge working from home. Work was always right there. I could just pop in to the office and… and, and, and… it never ended. I was always just a thought away from work mode and it made life difficult. I couldn’t really relax and just focus on the time and people I was with. Don’t get sucked in to the vortex of always working just because it’s right there.
3. Find a task management system you like. It’s easy to finish a work day and wonder what you even did all day and where the time went. Whether it’s an old fashioned to-do list, a task management app you’re loyal to or a time-tested strategy like the Pomodoro system – find a way to manage your tasks that you will like and use, and that will allow you to know you got done what you needed to.
4. Don’t forget to move and hydrate. If you’re like me and wear a fitbit then it will remind you to take a minimum number of steps per hour. Apple watches have a similar feature but it’s also just as effective to set hourly reminders on your phone to have a stretch, pace around a bit, look out a window… anything that means you aren’t stuck in one position all day long. Same with hydration. There’s apps that will remind you, as will simple phone reminders or drink wear with time-goals on it. Regardless of how you go about it don’t get sucked in to a work vortex and forget to look after yourself.
5. Stay connected. If your workplace has work-approved methods of staying in contact like an employee chat then use it. If they don’t have this type of set up then go ahead and reach out to text your colleagues from time to time. Whether it’s to pick their brain the way you would if they were just the next office over or for a little water cooler chat don’t let working from home become extra isolating.
Overall, think about the parts of your workday that you enjoy the most and how you can build a schedule and routine that flows and balances all of your needs. It should include focus time and allow you to be a badass powerhouse but also should include time that nourishes you and boundaries that let you be so much more than a workaholic.
Drop a comment with your fave work from home tips, tricks and routines!
I know a lot of us are spending way more time at home and fall somewhere in between eating everything in sight and frantically redeveloping our fitness routines. I thought it was about time I pull this piece out of drafts, blow off the dust and post it.
Anyone who knows me knows that saying I like Apple products is putting it mildly. I love the way my devices work together and that makes it easy to choose Apple whenever I need a new device.
So a while back I thought I’d upgrade from a Fitbit Alta and add an Apple Watch series 2 to my Apple family. For the first little while that watch and I got along wonderfully. Pairing it with my phone was easy. If you’ve ever had 2 apple products you know how well they’re designed to work together. My iPhone, iPad and MacBook have always encouraged a seamless transfer of information. It was no surprise that my watch worked with my phone exactly as advertised.
Still, I found with time I wore the watch less and less until finally I pulled my old fitbit out of the drawer and relaunched my fitbit account.
Now, thanks to my parents and Christmas I’ve even upgraded from that old Fitbit Alta that I bought in University to a Fitbit Charge 3. I love it so much.
Here’s a few points of comparison that are key for me. Read it all or skim through and find the points of comparison that matter to you.
If you’re comparing the Apple Watches currently available to the Fitbit’s currently available one thing is clear from the very start: Fitbit offers a lot more choice.
Apple Watch is Apple Watch – that’s pretty much it. You might be able to pick up a model from another year with slightly different materials (aluminum versus stainless steel), and if you go back to series 2 you can maybe find a 38mm watch versus a 42mm watch. But realistically there’s only one style of Apple Watch with minor differences to warrant different price points.
Fitbit on the other hand offers slim and simplistic trackers that are a little more “dainty” alongside the larger screened model intended to compete with Apple Watch.
When I purchased my Apple Watch, series 2 was the current lineup. I chose a 38mm black stainless steel model. I loved the dark, shiny metallic look for this watch but damn was it heavy. It doesn’t help that it really does look best paired with a black stainless classic link band (a knock off of Apple’s $600 band that I picked up for $50 online). If I wore it with a sport band it would be way lighter but it would lack a certain shiny style pairing that stainless steal watch with a rubber band.
I denied it for as long as I could but honestly the thing was just too big for my wrist. It took up like my whole arm, it seemed. Visually it seemed even heavier because of it’s dark colour. The actual heaviness of it could be dealt with for daytime wear but I noticed that if I wore it continuously while sleeping (since sleep tracking is an advertised capability) my wrist would start to ache after only 2 or 3 days.
Fitbit on the other hand is much lighter – I haven’t experienced all fitbit models, of course. The fitbit alta and the fitbit charge 3 both are very light, and I honestly forget it’s there. It’s so light it never causes any aches or issues.
Plus the smaller profile on my wrist fits in to my style a lot better. I can add a bracelet or decorative hair tie and accessorize. With Apple Watch adding any bracelets or anything just made my wrist look even more cluttered. I was drawn back to fitbit in part for the ability to accessorize.
Information on your Wrist
One of the big draws for the Apple Watch is the claim that it can put basically all your information and notifications on your wrist.
It does deliver a lot of information. There’s no denying that.
But then again, so does Fitbit. Even though the Alta wasn’t the most up to date model of Fitbit it still picked up and displayed my text messages. Later models of Fitbit even allow you to reply while Alta only allows reading. Fitbit Charge 3 also allows reading only although the format is much better than Alta’s. The smartwatch version would allow some reply capability. Phone call notifications are delivered as well with a display of the caller ID and vibrations to alert me on both Alta and Charge 3.
The issue with Apple Watch here isn’t that it doesn’t deliver. It delivers the information but it’s not as useful as you might think. While yes, technically, there’s a lot of built in capability to do tasks such as replying to messages, viewing photos, or adding notes to your reminders app etc, in reality why would you do that on a 38mm-42mm screen when you could pull your phone out and use that screen?
By the time you put in the effort to navigate the tasks on your wrist, holding the watch at an odd angle and probably hitting the wrong tiny button once or twice, you might as well just get your phone out.
Well it is true that the Apple Watch delivers a little more information and has more customizable watch faces this takes a toll on its battery life. If I really used the capabilities of the watch – reading notifications, occasionally completing tasks, and relying on it day in and day out as advertised I’ll also be charging it day in and day out. Or at least every 2-3 days.
Meanwhile I have to ask myself when I last charged my fitbit because it lasts like a week at a time. Charging is a rare need, which is a surprise given that I do maximize my use of it by actively tracking my heart rate through workouts, checking the time and date a dozen times a day and tracking walking and running work outs.
I love that with both devices you can challenge friends to see who can get the most steps or crush their goals. The thing is… in both cases you can only really compete with someone who has the same device as you – or at least one in the same family. Let me tell you, there’s a lot more fitbit users out there. It’s a lot easier to find friends to compete with on fitbit.
It doesn’t hurt that one of those other fitbit users is my boyfriend so we can cheer each other on. Nothing gets me moving like the pride of reminding him over dinner that I kicked his butt in our step goals and move goals.
That social competition feeds in to this piece too. Both companies advertise their devices as a tool to add motivation and push you to be your best self. They both do a good job with reminder notifications prompting you to move, drink water, etc. Realistically though that better version of yourself happens with or without the device. It’s all about you taking the actions and making the choices that need to happen.
So – all this to provide some thoughts on Apple Watches versus Fitbits for those of us wanting a piece of every day smart wearable technology that helps us out with fitness and then some.
Do you wear a smart watch or activity tracker? What do you use, what do you love and why?
Just wanted to pop in with a plug for my cute little etsy shop Seashell & Mermaid =)
Here’s a few of my fave designs – but I also do custom work! Think that sweet t-shirt you’ve always wished you could find, or sets for bachelorette and besties groups! Just drop me a line and we can talk about styles, colours and everything else to make your vision a reality.
Last year around this time I took some time to reflect on my first year of blogging. Back then this blog was called Oh My Mermaid – it launched in early 2018 and it was great to see how the first year went. Those stats and that review told me a lot about the response I had gotten and motivated me to keep showing up and putting myself out here.
Of course reflecting should be a habit we do annually, at least, if not more. So here I am reviewing 2019.
Curious thing about 2019’s stats. They demonstrate that there’s still a growing audience for this blog – and oh my god I’m so grateful for that revelation I could cry. More on that in a bit. What 2019’s stats reveal more so than 2018’s did, though, is my life offline.
See, 2018 showed great growth from launch onward. 2019 shows a slower, more steady growth but fewer blog posts, fewer words. A symptom of a complicated and changing life offline.
In those changes and the battles that were going on I lost a part of myself and the blog suffered because of it. Now I’m back. I feel more like myself than I have in a long time and just as losing myself took away from the blog, finding myself has started me writing again.
I want to take a moment now and really tell you – from the bottom of my heart – thank you for reading. Even when I was distant and posts were few and far between. Even when I seemed so far away and you may of thought I’d forgotten and abandoned this blog all together… I hadn’t. And this little corner of the internet has been a source of motivation to get to a good and healthy place in life. Writing for this blog – even bits and pieces I never published – has helped me sort and understand my own feelings. Messages I’ve received after posting have reminded me how much I’m part of a community and never alone. I am so grateful to my readers and well, ’tis the season to let ya’ll know you truly mean so much to me.
So without further ado, a few stats from the previous year and a promise to post a 2020 sneak peak, just as I posted a 2019 sneak peak this time last year.
While I made 72 posts in total for 2018 I only made 18 posts in 2019… actually seeing that stat today was kind of a shock. I knew I had lost myself in what was going on offline but I didn’t totally realize how much of myself I’d lost.
Still, despite the scattered posts I had more views and more visitors this year – that… that fills me with gratitude and hope. I had 6713 views from 3362 visitors. As I said last year – not half bad, but with room to grow!
I grew from 103 followers to 160 here on wordpress.
I switched my facebook page to a new Tea With Carmen one – leaving the old Oh My Mermaid page – please come join if you haven’t yet.
I grew from 163 followers on twitter to 200 even and counting with every tweet – it’s a weird habit to get back in to!
On instagram I held even – not to shabby given long absences.
I have some new social strategies I want to try going in to 2020 and I’m excited to be coming back to the online projects I started with such passion.
As promised, stay tuned for a 2020 sneak peak shortly after Christmas and some new comment in January! Drop a comment with any requests so I can get to work bringing you content you’ll love =)
Well it’s officially been 365 days since I launched this blog. I’d planned and planned and one year ago today I launched with the full roster of social media accounts to connect people with this blog and share what was happening with this project.
It’s been an awesome year and totally surpassed all my expectations. I mean, I’m not totallhy sure what I expected. I guess, of course, I figured there was a potential audience for this project but I didn’t know if I’d actually live up to that potential.
Today, not only do I feel like I’m reaching a wider and wider audience with this project but I’ve been given opportunities I never expected that have lead to the launch of my Social Media Business – Seashell Social Media – just last month and an Etsy shop – Seashell and Mermaid – this month!
I never expected that my work with this project could lead to so many blessings and opportunities so I’m here today to say THANK YOU to my readers and share a few of my accomplishments from the last year.
Crunching the Numbers
73 Posts 85 Comments 481 Likes 54,900 Words
3, 606 Visitors 7, 657 Views Whoa! I kinda secretly thought I’d get just, like, pity reads from friends and family. I’m so grateful to every single one of ya’ll who has been reading and always returning to the blow!
Working on the social media for this project helped me learn a lot and continues to be my sort of playground and experiment in what works and what doesn’t so I can grow with my social media business. I’m sorta my own guinea pig client!
We all know it’s true that most of what can be bought at Sephora can be bought elsewhere for less. Affordable brands line the aisles of any drug store and one has to wonder how different the products can really be. I mean from one concealer recipe to the next, from one mascara to another, is it worth the price jump to pick up the designer brand in a Sephora?
I think so. Today I want to share why. Many beauty bloggers share the pros and cons of products from all price ranges in specific reviews for “X brand Y product” but they don’t always share, over all, why their best looks come with a such a pricey list.
I do want to acknowledge that being able to choose a pricey product is a position of privilege. I prioritize this cost in my budget to make it work and I’m here to share why I do so.
Before you even get to the product, the service itself has a dollar value
Once upon a time I thought shops like Sephora were for girls and boys who really knew what they were doing. Like, they were maybe trained make up artists or at least more successful at learning from artists on youtube than I was. I thought Sephora was all about those make up users. I didn’t really feel I fit in.
In reality the staff at Sephora know those products and how they correspond to different needs. They aren’t trained like that for the pros who also have that knowledge. They’re trained to help us – #realbabebeauty squad. When I walk in and say I’m struggling with something like finding a full coverage foundation that doesn’t cake, or a brow product I can use blind, or a face wash to win a battle with my hormonal acne… I know I can trust the staff there.
When I ask the same questions at a drug store I usually get anecdotal answers. “My friend also struggles with… and she loves…”, “I use this and I swear by it!” and so on.
But at Sephora I hear more reassuring things like “This product line contains ingredients x, y and z which are known to help with sensitive skin.” or “This brand can be used this in this way for…”
The knowledge the staff have is reason enough to pay a little extra. When you don’t know all the answers you can place a lot of trust in the staff to help you out.
You have to find products that feel good to use
I tried to go back, okay? I thought hey – I could probably save myself some money if I just bought mascara at shoppers instead of Sephora.
Two hours later with red, itchy eyes I swore I’d never cut my budget in that way again.
If you use more affordable products and don’t have side effects like flaking make up, itchiness, redness, soreness or anything else then I salute you. However for me, this isn’t the case. I have super fair, super sensitive skin and when I sacrifice the quality of my products I feel it (and see it!)
Even some brands at Sephora cause problems for me. Sephora, though, will let you exchange products and work with you to find the right one. When I brought back an expensive foundation that reacted poorly with my skin and made me look diseased they gave me full store credit to find a better formula.
Better Products Look Better
I denied this for a long time but in recent years I’ve come around. Some girls can make anything look pro but I don’t have those skills.
What I lack in skills can be made up for with products that look good to begin with.
That’s it. This one’s pretty simple.
Sephora’s Point System is Actually Pretty Good
As every point system should be, this one is designed to recognize regular customers who are spending a lot on the business. Right from signing up you earn points and at milestones like $1000 spent in one year you get big perks.
That sounds like a lot – once upon a time I thought I’d never be that level. But I’m here. I did give my card to friends a few times so I know some of those points came from their purchases. Even without those purchases though, the side effect of shopping at expensive store is that spend-based loyalty programs are genuinely rewarding.
You can get your make up done, pick up free samples and even attend exclusive events.
It’s not worth shopping there only for the loyalty program but the loyalty program goes a very long way to making me feel appreciated for my decision to frequent the store.
Take a deep breath #realbeautybabe You deserve a less complicated relationship with your beauty routine
At the end of the day Sephora has made my relationship with the beauty world 1000x healthier. I shop with more confidence knowing if a product doesn’t work I can come back. I get answers from staff I trust. And I get the perks of investing in myself both in my results and in the beauty rewards program.
There a lot of complicated decisions to make in life. There’s a lot of things that can’t be made easier. Why not invest in this and make this one thing a little less complicated?
It’s that time of year again! Just days ago untold numbers of us pledged to ourselves – and perhaps our families, friends & followers – that we would change our habits with the intention of losing weight.
I kinda get it. I mean, for years and years I pledged along with the rest of them. I always used January 1st as the beginning of an imagined weight loss journey. Doing so came with a lot of negative side effects, like writing off the progress of the previous year and chastising myself for every goal I’d missed.
I can only speak for myself here, but these resolutions never really stuck. Or rather, the weight always stuck far better than the resolution.
So what’s with the mass desire to loose weight and why do so many of us keep failing?
I think the key is that most of the time these resolutions are reflecting the marketing of gyms, health food companies and sports clothing brands. We’re focused on looking a certain way and being able to make trendy statements about our lifestyle. We want to be in the club of super food eating, 0 calorie snack carrying, on-brand fitness gurus.
It’s not really about eating healthy for the actual health benefits, it’s not about how we’ll feel or the energy we’ll have. It all comes from superficial status symbols instead of a genuine care for our bodies.
I think that’s a big part of what has always been missing for me in my weight loss journey. I got the message to go to the gym and to eat a certain way but it always came from outside. It came from marketing, blog posts, health magazines and the like.
What if instead of simply saying we have a resolution to lose weight we had a resolution to nourish our bodies and paid attention to what our bodies actually wanted?
Not simply eating this “superfood” or that “negative calorie snack” because we were told that’s what we should do but instead exploring and experimenting to find what really feels good and gives us energy, strength and health?
I imagine this kind of mental shift is where the real change happens. Not in what we’re told to do but in what we feel good doing.
What about you? What are your resolutions and how are you planning to turn resolutions in to reality?
Can you believe we’re already here? Prepping and planning and celebrating the arrival of 2019?
I can’t. It’s been a crazy year and I am so excited to tell you about just a few of the things I have planned for the upcoming year.
I hinted in my review yesterday that I am planning to do a little beauty blogging. I said I wouldn’t be a beauty blogger buuuuut I have always love make up. I just felt like I didn’t have anything to add to the beauty blogging sphere. Yet I think I might have something to add, after all?
More on that later.
I’m also working on an awesome content calendar full of beauty posts and everything else. That means more frequent posting for you. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to be specific! There’ll even be themes. Mondays will usually be beauty and lifestyle posts, Wednesdays will usually be relationship related and Fridays will usually be fitness Fridays.
I’m a little addicted to planning, but that works out well for projects like this!
Most exciting of all: A New Business!
Oh My Mermaid has allowed me a few opportunities to work as a social media manager and build on past social media experiences in the volunteer world. It’s become a bit more than a side passion to be a full blown project.
Fear not – this blog isn’t going anywhere. This brand is just growing to include Seashell Social Media. My specialty is small businesses, like start ups and Etsy shops along with other bloggers and not-for-profits because those are the projects I’ve worked with before and know the most about supporting.
I’ll be launching Seashell Social Media fully in the next week or two but if you’re interested in being a founding client message me to find out about all the perks that come with getting involved now, at the beginning of something beautiful!
Well, that’s all for now – just a little sneak peak of all that’s coming in 2019!