Divided we fall

My heart is so heavy, I am not sure how to even start to write how I am feeling. I am sitting here with my laptop. My daughter is curled up next to me playing house on my iPad. I stayed up late watching the Brexit results and it totally broke my heart. I don’t even live in England anymore so maybe I shouldn’t care so much but I do. Being an immigrant was one of the most important things I ever did. It helped me to become more empathetic. It helped me to understand how to assimilate into another culture but it also helped me to understand the difficulty of being an outsider. So why did I have that experience? What lead to nearly 10 years living in a foreign country?

When I was 19 and in my first year of University, the Internet was still a very new thing. I was fascinated with the idea that I could meet someone from anywhere else and I really wanted to figure out how to join a chat room. I knew almost nothing about computers so it took a lot of tinkering around but eventually I found a chat room that I could log in to and I met a lot of people from everywhere. One of the people I met introduced me to a guy my own age in England. Over time, I realized we had a special bond and I became determined to meet him in person. After about three years of chatting online, I graduated from University (and so did he) and I got a 6 month student visa to England. Those first six months were such an incredible experience. It completely changed how I viewed the world. I was so happy in my relationship that I started trying to figure out how to stay in England. It turned out to be much more difficult than I ever thought it would be. Eventually I figured out that the clearest path was further University education and I applied for a Masters Program.

I had to leave for nine months to save up money and then I returned. My program included 14 people- 5 people from England, 3 people from Ireland, 2 people from the US, 1 from Taiwan, 1 from Malaysia, 1 from Germany, 1 from Kenya. It was amazing to work with people from all over the planet.  It was a wonderful time but I was feeling the pressure of what would happen next.  As the end of my student visa neared, my boyfriend and I discussed the future of our relationship. We both knew that the best way to stay together was to get married. I am sure some people wondered at us both but it was the best decision we ever made.

I remember my first trip to the Home Office in Croydon for my marriage visa. There were so many people lining up outside from everywhere. I had my folder full of documents and after several hours, I left with my visa in hand. I’ve had people tell me that I wasn’t like other immigrants because I was American and spoke English. Let me tell you, having lined up for visas with everyone else, having worked alongside so many immigrants during the next few years in England; I never felt like I was less of an immigrant than someone from Poland or Ecuador or any other fellow immigrant that I met. We all had our reasons for being in England and those reasons were important to us. We all worked hard and tried to make a good impression on our employers and our customers.

As I mentioned before, I ended up living in England for almost ten years. When I started on that journey, I never imagined that I would spend most of my twenties and my early thirties in a foreign country but that is how it worked out. Some people were welcoming to me and the kind things they said made such a difference in my life. I also encountered negativity. I began to understand what anti-American sentiment was. It was hurtful. When people express that kind of view to someone, I am not sure they have any idea of the pain they cause. We all have our general impressions of what people from different countries are like and those are dangerous. People are just people. Human nature is international. Every single person has reasons for being who they are and where they are and those reasons are important to them, even if those reasons seem foolish to someone else. I try to remind myself of that all the time.

I am reminding myself of that today as I try to process the outcome of the EU referendum in the UK. People had their reasons to vote the way they did but here is the thing: Once your choices hurt other people and negatively impact their own choices, you should seriously consider how you would feel in their place. I am heartbroken for all my friends who will be affected by this and I am hurt by the message it sends to me. I made England my home for some of the most important years of my life. I did my best to leave a positive mark. I feel like I achieved that. But I don’t feel like I would be welcomed back.

I am sad for my daughter and the opportunities she might miss out on because of this. I am sad for the divisive world she is growing up in. I realize how important it is going to be to teach her to respect other people’s differences and yet not tolerate people belittling her for the things that will make her different. I want more for her than what is happening in the world right now.

I guess the main thing I am trying to say is I want more empathy from everyone. I want less hurtful words and I want people to think twice before they comment to anyone dismissing their views or feelings. I hope that anyone who reads this little blog post about my journey will understand why I made the decisions that I did. I hope you realize that every single person who lives in a foreign country has a story to tell and if you listened, then maybe you would understand.



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Cruelty-free products: Continued!

I can’t believe it has been almost a year since my last post. I have been meaning to write this update for awhile but the whole process of taking stock of all the new products I have tried just kept slipping down my list of priorities! The nice thing I have found is that once  I started looking for cruelty-free products,  I discovered more and more options exist. There are still a few things I am looking for. I discovered that my previously cruelty-free brand for hair oil spray has started selling their products in China. China requires all cosmetics to be tested on animals so that was the end of my Ogx hair oil. I am sad about it because they have a lot of great products at very reasonable prices. Anyway, here is a list of products that I have used since my last post.

  1. The Honest Company
    • Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 30: I have heard some mixed reports on Honest Sunscreen but I found this product to be very effective. I like sprays because they are the easiest way to get decent coverage on a wriggly toddler.
  2. Mario Badescu
    • Enzyme Cleansing Gel: I really like the Glycolic Foaming Cleanser. The cleansing gel was recommended for Clarisonic users so I thought I would try it out. It is a great cleanser, more creamy than foamy and very gentle.
    • Honey Moisturizer: I got a free sample of this with the cleansing gel. I don’t think it has any SPF in it but it makes for a great night-time moisturizer. It smells wonderful and does make my skin feel and look better.
  3. Alba Botanica: Having enjoyed the pineapple face wash, I thought I would try a few more products. Everything I have tried from them has been great!
    • Hawaiian Facial Wash- with Coconut Milk: This is another great product. It is creamy instead of producing a lather and the Ginger in it makes it feel very refreshing.
    • Very Emollient Sunscreen Active Kids Clear Spray SPF 50: This is my favorite sunscreen now. I love the spray’s consistency and it offers great protection.
  4. Physicians Formula: I bought some of these products because I was looking for an inexpensive waterproof mascara. I was surprised to discover this brand is cruelty free. There are so few drugstore level brands that are.
    • Organic Wear 100% Natural Origin Work It! Full + Flared + Fit Lashes Mascara: I just had to copy and paste that title because it was so long! lol. Anyway, this is a decent mascara. It is relatively waterproof and provides lash definition. It is definitely not a volumizing formula but it is a decent option if you end up like me, looking for a waterproof mascara that doesn’t cost over $20!
    • Organic Wear 100% Natural Origin CC Cream SPF 20: I have been looking for a cruelty-free CC cream to try out that didn’t cost the earth. I found this one at Ulta when I was buying the mascara. They were doing some kind of buy one, get one 50% off or something like that so I thought I would try it. Turns out, I like this product way more than the mascara. They have a few more color options than other brands which was helpful. I had tried another brand but the lightest color offering was way too beige on my pale skin!  The light color option works really well on my skin and feels much lighter than regular foundation. It is a great product for Texas summer!
  5. Pur Minerals:
    • Volume Vixen: I got a trial size of this mascara in an Ulta goody bag and I really like it. I was impressed to find out that this is a cruelty free brand. It is a nice formula that adds volume without being clumpy.
  6. Hempz: As I have been branching out more from just cleaning supplies, this was one of the first haircare brands I tried out.
    • Triple Moisture Rich Herbal Whipped Creme Conditioner: This is a really, really fantastic conditioner. I have curly hair which gets really dry and frizzy. This conditioner is rich and deeply moisturizing
  7. Fairy Tales
    • Lifeguard Clarifying Shampoo: I found this product after my daughter started swimming more frequently. It smells wonderful and has a nice lather. It does a good job of removing chlorine and other swimming chemicals from Georgia’s hair.
    • Lemon-Aid Conditioner: This also smells fantastic. It is moisturizing and helps a lot with detangling hair.
  8. Everyday Shea
    • Babies & Up Bubble Bath – Lemon Lavender: This is a great product for a relaxing bath time. The lavender smell is authentic rather than that fakey perfume smell you get with a lot of baby baths. It also produces plenty of bubbles.
    • Babies & Up Bubble Bath – Coconut Chamomile: This is also a relaxing scent with plenty of bubbles. I prefer lavender but this is also a great product.
  9. Babyganics: I have been using their products since Georgia was born, before I really committed to phasing out products employing animal testing. I am really happy that they are a cruelty free brand.
    • Bubble bath – Chamomile Verbena: The Babyganics bubble baths all produce a nice amount of bubbles and have a nice scent. My only issue is that the bottle isn’t that big and costs quite a bit.
    • Night Time Bubble bath – Orange Blossom: This is a really nice scent but I don’t find orange blossom as relaxing as lavender. That is the main reason I went to using Everyday Shea bubble bath.
    • Night Time Shampoo + Body Wash – Orange Blossom: This is my favorite product of theirs. As I said before, I don’t think orange blossom is a particularly relaxing smell but it is a wonderful smell all the same and I love this shampoo. I bought it before Georgia was born because it was a foaming shampoo instead of the usual liquid which meant I would have less issues with it dripping into her eyes. I have never had that problem with this product and I would recommend it to anyone with a newborn at home! It is great for all little ones and we still use it now that Georgia is 3.
    • Shampoo + Body Wash – Chamomile Verbena: This is exactly the same as the Orange Blossom version with a different scent. It also smells great but Orange Blossom is my personal favorite.
    • Mineral-based Sunscreen: This is a great sunscreen for babies once they are old enough for sunscreen. (I think you can apply from 6 months, but check with your pediatrician). It is a spray cream which makes it pretty easy to apply.
  10. Supergoop!: Another product that I tried before I really began looking for cruelty-free products. I received a free bottle at an event and absolutely loved the product.
    • Skin Soothing Mineral Sunscreen: This product has a great consistency and is very gentle. It was the first sunscreen I ever used on my daughter.
  11. Method: Now on to cleaning products. I was already impressed by this brand so I have continued to try products from their range. I have yet to find anything I didn’t like.
    • Bathroom Cleaner – Eucalyptus Mint: This is a very effective cleaner for sinks, toilets and tubs. The smell is nice. There is nothing chemical about the scent and it is not overpowering. With many other products, I have to take a break from cleaning because the scent overwhelms me. That is not the case with this cleaner.
    • Hand Wash Dish Soap – Clementine: Method’s dish soap for hand-washing dishes is very nice. It foams well and smells fantastic.
    • Smarty Dish Plus Dishwasher Detergent Packs: I have tried both scented and unscented varieties of this product and they are both great. The scented ones have a very mild clean scent. They are very effective.
    • Wood for Good Daily Clean Spray: I recently bought a bottle of this and I am so impressed. It is far nicer than Pledge. It cleans well, has a wonderful scent and really seems to condition the wood. Our dining table has not looked so good in quite awhile.
    • Foaming Hand Wash – Juicy Pear: Oh my goodness, I love this scent so much. It really does smell like pears and is so nice to use!
    • Nourishing Hand Wash – Almond Flower: This is another wonderful scent. I use it in the kitchen since I end up washing my hands while cooking so much. It is better to have an extra moisturizing formula for that purpose.

Well I think that covers everything I have tried. I am now realizing why it has been so long since I have posted anything. It took me three days to write this!




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Adventures in cruelty free shopping

I’ve been trying to find cruelty free options for toiletries and cleaning products and it has proven less straightforward than I would have thought. As a supporter of the Beagle Freedom Project, I decided that if I wasn’t able to provide much financial support, I could reduce and eventually stop supporting companies that use animal testing. However, I have a toddler who makes a lot of messes and it is just as important that cleaning products work REALLY WELL on top of being cruelty free. I thought I would list the products I have found thus far that I like. I am still on the lookout for either a detergent or stain remover that can get rid of food stains so any recommendations are appreciated!

1. Honest Products

I love the way Honest works and I really wish that more of their products would work for me.  Here are the products I like from them:

  • The leave in hair detangler: I love this product so much! My daughter has curly hair and this stuff really helps me get her hair combed out with minimal fuss. It smells great as well. It doesn’t have a baby smell so anyone could use it.
  • The hair conditioner: This also smells wonderful and rinses out well. It leaves Georgia’s hair soft and more manageable.
  • The bubble bath: You will discover a theme with honest products. They all seem to smell really good! This produces a decent amount of bubbles and a nice, relaxing scent.
  • Dishwasher tabs: These seem to work fine and don’t have a strong scent. (Some dishwasher tabs seem to have a really strong “clean” smell)

Honest has a huge range of products which you can check out here.

2. Method

So far, I generally prefer Method cleaning products to any of the other options out there. I haven’t tried their regular dishwashing liquid yet but here are the things I like from them.

  • The laundry detergent: This is by far the best of the cruelty free detergents that I have tried. Most of them don’t seem to do much of anything which leads to throwing out clothing with depressing regularity. It doesn’t quite cut it for the level of food stains that Georgia gets on her clothes so I am still using a regular baby detergent for her until something more promising comes along.  I use the scent free option and I really like it for regular use.
  • The cleaning spray: I will make an exception for scented cleaning products when it comes to their cleaning sprays. They smell really great and work extremely well.
  • Foaming hand wash: Again, the scents are all fantastic and often they do more unusual ones that are really nice. I like that they smell more natural as I hate really fake perfumey soap.

You can visit Method and view their products here.

3. Earth Friendly Products

I have tried their ECOS laundry detergent and the dishwashing cleaner. The laundry detergent was fine when Georgia was a newborn. It is very gentle but I have struggled to get the hardcore toddler stains out with it as she has gotten bigger.

  • Ultra Dishmate Liquid Dishwashing Cleaner in Almond. This is my favorite of all the dishwashing liquids I have tried so far. It smells so good and foams really well. A little goes a long way which is a rare trait in cruelty free dishwasher liquid!

You can visit their website here.

4. Mrs. Meyer’s

Another brand where I’ve only tried one product. I do like their dishwashing liquid as well. I prefer the honeysuckle scent so far. I am currently using their lavender scented dishwashing liquid and I don’t like it as much. I do think the scents are a bit more intense than I would like but they foam really well and I can often find them on sale.

Here is a link to Mrs. Meyer’s website.

5. Alba

I recently discovered this drugstore beauty brand and I am really impressed with the one product I have tried. I found them at Target but have seen them in a few other places now. I am currently using their Hawaiian Facial Cleanser and it is one of the nicest ones I have ever tried. It has a pineapple scent and produces a gentle foam. It doesn’t make my face feel remotely dry afterwards. I am looking forward to trying more of their products. There are so few budget toiletry products that are cruelty free and I really want to support them!

To see their complete range, visit them here.

6. Mario Badescu

This is an upscale toiletry brand that I discovered on a cruelty free list. I have their Glycolic Foaming Cleanser and I would definitely recommend it as well. I use it with my Clarisonic device and it works well.

I found this brand at Ulta but you can order their products online here.

7. Lush

I am saving my favorite for last! I love this company and have been using their products for many years. I first discovered them when I was living in England. I found them (very appropriately) at their location in Bath and I was in love! They make a huge variety of beauty products and everything I have ever tried from them is amazing. If my budget allowed, all my beauty and bath products would come from them. My absolute favorites are:

  • Handy Gurugu – This is the most amazing lotion ever. It is meant for hands but it is a fantastic foot lotion as well. It is great for foot rubs!
  • Full of Grace- This is a solid face serum bar. I use it every night and I love it!
  • Honey I Washed the Kids- A sweetly scented soap with gentle lather. If regular soap dries your hands, you will really appreciate this!
  • Christmas Eve- This is a limited edition Christmas bubble bar that comes out every winter. It is my favorite scent of all their bubble bars and I always stock up when it comes in. I can’t remember if I have the name exactly right but its primary scent is jasmine. It is blue with a yellow moon on it.

Go visit Lush’s website and check out all their amazing products. I will say, if you only order a few things it could be cheaper to order from their UK website. Check the exchange rates, see how much shipping would be for your order and see for yourself.


I think that covers all the products I have tried and liked so far! Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

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Hello again

It has been quite awhile since I last posted here. I can’t say that I have much to report. This is my first day off in seven days so I’ve just been recharging. This week has been very draining. Paul has been sick and I’ve been trying to keep up with my committment to the gym. As a result, I haven’t had much spare time!

The gym thing has been going better. I used to be so good about going to the gym but that habit died off and then when I resumed it was more of a chore, not something I wanted to do. I joined Gold’s Gym back in October and once again, started trying to go more often but it still wasn’t very much fun and for the slightest of excuses, I would avoid going. However, I signed up for the 12-week challenge and invested in a course of personal training sessions. In the last few weeks, my attitude about exercise has been changing and I’m feeling more compelled to go exercise instead of finding reasons not to. I don’t know if I am losing weight or inches or any of that stuff but I do know that I am getting stronger and as a result, a lot of aches and pains are diminishing. I’ve still got a ways to go but I find that very encouraging. I don’t think I would be achieving as much if I didn’t have a personal trainer. Weight training has always been a mystery to me and I’ve relied on using a series of machines to exercise certain muscles. My trainer has been isolating a lot of areas of weakness and as a result, the improvements I’ve been making have been considerable. If you are considering getting a personal trainer, my advice is to go for it!

Apart from that, I’ve been busy doing my taxes. They were kind of complicated this year and I did them via H&R Block. I wasn’t able to efile thanks to the kajillion forms I had to fill out. Hopefully they will be ok. I managed to glitch up the system a bit and spent some time talking to customer support to make sure everything was ok. I figure that if there are any problems, at least I’ve filed ahead of time so there is time before the deadline if the IRS gets back to me! Next year, they should be much more straightforward, which is a very good thing! I can also recommend H&R. When I started having problems, their customer service was awesome.

I’m trying to get back into making jewelry. I’ve signed up for an online video course but this poor little netbook can’t hack the whole multi-media thing. I’ve been thinking about upgrading and that finally moved me to action. I got a great deal on a Sony VAIO and it should arrive this coming week. I’m also planning to get back into playing around with graphic design. I have this cool illustration tablet that I haven’t been able to use because the netbook is not really suited to that either. I’ve never used one and I’m really looking forward to learning more about that.

I guess that is about it for me. Thanks for reading!

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A wild Danni blog post appears!

Procastination: +5

Creativity= -3

Burnout= +99999999999

This whole coming up with original and interesting things to write about while maintaining a full time job is not going so well. Unfortunately, I have a lot of committments on my time and when I do get some free time, I’m so burnt out, I sit there like a lump, watching old episodes of Buffy or Angel. It isn’t good, I know but that is just the way things have been going lately.

I even had a few weeks away when I went home for Christmas. Sadly the first week I had to work remotely so I ended up with one week where I really got to relax, and once again, the concept of writing a blog seemed like to0 much effort for my foggy brain. I know, it is weaksauce really.

So what has been happening since I last posted? Well my contract got extended to March which is good news. As I said a moment ago, I went home to see my family. Paul and I flew from Austin to Billings, MT where my parents met up with us. From there we drove on to Williston, ND and we also spent a few days with my grandparents in Baker, MT. It was really, really nice to see everyone. A lot of my family  I hadn’t seen in TWO YEARS which is totally mind-boggling to me. I can’t believe I went that long without seeing them. I hadn’t seen my dad in over a year and the person I had seen most recently was my mom, who came down at the end of May when we moved to Austin. I’m hoping it won’t be so long before I can see everyone again.

I’ve read a few books although my reading has decreased since I spend my entire days proofreading magazines. One of the most recent books that I read was by Michelle Evans, my stepmother-in-law and it was totally amazing. Whether you live in the US or the UK, you can order Am I Me? from amazon.co.uk. Considering how much time I spend reading about yachts, horses and trains (amongst many, many other things but there are an enormous number of magazines on those particular subjects), it was a real pleasure to read something so insightful and well-constructed.  I’m in total awe of Michelle for creating it.

Paul has suggested that perhaps I should write and share about some of the random and often bizarre facts that I learn from magazines. That seems like a good idea to me so I’ll go through the notebook I have at work in which I write down some of the more intriguing things that I run across. I will try and write here again a little more frequently. So far, I haven’t been doing so well with that.

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Long time, no write

Sorry, sorry sorry! I haven’t written here in such a long time. I do have a good excuse though. I got a job just over three weeks ago and I have been kept very busy by it. I’m working as a proofreader which involves reading hundreds of pages of text every day so my appetite for writing anything has been seriously diminished. However, today I am sitting in my favorite coffee shop drinking a gingerbread latte and I’m finally getting used to my new and insane schedule.

My job is an eight week contract at  LibreDigital. I am proofreading magazine text for them, mainly checking for formatting errors. It is interesting work and suits me since I love reading anyway. I’m getting faster now which is good. I’m hoping I get another contract after the Christmas break is over. My current contract ends on the 16th of December and I’m heading to North Dakota via Billings, Montana on the 17th of December. I am really looking forward to seeing my family. Apart from my mom, I haven’t seen anyone else in over a year and in most cases almost two years. I was so happy to discover we would be able to go up for two weeks. I did not anticipate getting so much time but I certainly appreciate it.

Apart from that, my birthday was almost two weeks ago. I worked but had a really nice evening out with my husband, Paul at The Melting Pot. I got some great presents, including a new point-and-shoot camera from Paul. I’ve been pining for the Lumix LX-5 for ages. I’ve had a few chances to try it out and so far, I really like it. I need to read the manual so I can better understand how to change settings and stuff like that. It’s great to have a camera that I can keep in my handbag. I am forever seeing nice things to take pictures of and the SLR is kind of big to lug around everywhere. I’m hoping to go to the German Market in Fredericksburg in a few weeks and taking both cameras. That way, both Paul and I can take pictures to our hearts content!

I worked last weekend so it has been very nice having this one off. They need proofreaders  7 days a week so I trade off with my colleagues working weekends. During this 8 week contract, I’ve got two weekends to work. I try and get in as many weekday chores as I can when that happens. I get Thursday and Friday off on those weeks. Anyway, this weekend I have enjoyed catching up on sleep. I went to a bead store yesterday evening while Paul spent a couple of hours at his office. Then we used a Groupon I bought a little while ago at a restaurant called ‘Texas French Bread’. They are all about using seasonal and locally-sourced products and their menu changes constantly as a result. We both had mussels in a fennel and Pernod sauce and shared a big bowl of fries. We shared a slice of coconut cake with meringue frosting for dessert. Everything was delicious and I would definitely recommend this place to anyone!

Well, I think that is it for me. Hopefully I’ll be back a little sooner this time!

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“Your best investment is in yourself”

The other day, Paul and I decided to head over to Chick-Fil-A for dinner because I was in a funk and didn’t feel much like cooking. I accidentally parked in the wrong parking lot, which belonged to Panda Express. Although we could easily have walked over to Chick-Fil-A, we decided to go to Panda Express instead since neither of us had ever been to one. The food looked yummy so we decided to give it a try. It kind of reminded me of the chinese places in The Stables in Camden, where there are loads of different dishes out and the attendant lets you try them if you like (Although in Camden, the people behind the counters have samples ready and call out to anyone passing by to try them).

Anyway, we had a few fortune cookies with our meal and the above title was the message in mine. Now, I’m not sure that this statement is always true but right now, for me, it is. I have a lot of free time right now and I find myself often wondering what to do with it. Then I end up doing fairly unconstructive things like playing Plants vs Zombies or a variety of Facebook apps (Hello Cityville) for ages. Not good. Then I find myself feeling depressed and blah because at the end of each day, I feel so dissatisfied with how much time I’ve been wasting. This week I finally gave myself a kick up the butt to do things that are more likely to benefit me. I’ve started going to the gym on our apartment complex more often. I’m writing stuff and reviewing work from my writers’ group. I baked cookies for a friend and Paul’s workmates the other day. I read books and analyze their structure to understand how to improve my own writing. I run errands so that Paul and I don’t spend our time together on the evenings and weekends doing all that boring stuff. In short, this week has shown a much improved outlook for me and the time I spent actively working to improve me has made a big difference. Now I just need to keep it up!

The funny thing about investing in yourself is that it gives you the appetite to do more. Hey I’ve been exercising; Maybe I should go visit all the job boards and apply for at least one job! Hey I’ve written the short story for my writing group and got it in on time; Maybe I should catch up on my jewelry design newsletters! I really do not know why I stop doing all those things. I feel worse and worse, the more I avoid doing constructive things. This week, I am facing the weekend feeling more optimistic about everything. When you invest in yourself, you know exactly how it pays off and sometimes, it leads to a bigger return than you expected.


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