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Allysia

books and reviews

I read 55 books in 2016, and these are my top 5 favorites

At long last, I crushed enough books this year to warrant making a list about it.

I’ve always been into reading, but I haven’t always made time for it as an adult. Sometimes it seems like too much effort in comparison to easy internet browsing (my generation’s version of flipping TV channels).

On Reddit, I can read about reading. Or I can read short, easy-to-digest articles that pass through my mind without leaving a trace. I can look at pictures on Pinterest or Foodgawker, and I can even think it’s useful. I’m planning recipes, see. Or my mind is tired and I just need a break, see.

But it’s all brain junk food. Maybe there are kernels of thought-provoking writing in the echoes of the internet, but it’s mostly noise that blocks me from hearing my own thoughts.

So if I’m going to absorb other thoughts in lieu of my own, it might as well be from literature. I might as well absorb style, and depth, and live an alternate reality, instead of just doing shallow dives of itty bitty articles and images.

Like treats and chocolate, I’ve been dieting from these websites. Some of the books I’ve read this year wouldn’t classify as true health foods – Tolstoy was my broccoli but King was my pasta – overall, though, I’d like to think that my brain has been better-fed.

Anyway, my tirade is complete. What follows is a list of the 55 books I read this year, and what my top 5 picks are – books that I truly think will improve your life in some way.

Books on diet and health

My reads:
The Healthiest Diet on the Planet: 4/5
The Blue Zones: 5/5
Food for Life: 4/5
Super Immunity: 4/5
The Beauty Detox Solution: 3/5
Whole: 4/5
How Not to Die: 5/5

Winner: How Not to Die by Michael Greger
Runners-up: The Blue Zones and Whole

I read a lot of specifically nutrition-related books, so they warrant their own category. This year, the clear winner was “How Not to Die”, which I’ve probably read three times this year and bought for people (read: forced on people). I recommend it all the time and reference the information within. It’s a great read for anyone looking to – you guessed it – not die (of the most common diseases).

The runner up would be a toss-up between The Blue Zones and Whole. I like that The Blue Zones was written like a story – it’s great for people who struggle with non-fiction, or find it too dry. I love reading about cultures with high rates of Centenarians (people who live past 100), and there’s some good insights on what contributes to longevity.

Whole is more dense and informational, but it’s extremely interesting and an important read. The premise is that whole foods are always greater than the sum of their parts (an orange is better than taking a vitamin C supplement). It goes into lots of depth and spends quite a bit of time discussing industry as well. There were parts of this book that blew my mind and made me stop in my tracks, and I know I’ll be rereading it in the near future.

Fiction

My reads:
The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2): 5/5
The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1): 4/5
The Alchemist: 4/5
The Stand: 5/5
The Time-Traveler’s Wife: 3/5
Harry Potter 1-7: 5/5
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: 3/5
The Rosie Project: 4/5
The Martian: 4/5
Neverwhere: 3/5
Hunger Games 1-3: 3/5
The Signature of All Things: 4/5

Winner: The Stand by Stephen King
Special mention: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

This list looks shorter than it actually is, since I put all of the Harry Potters and Hunger Games in one column.

I’m not going to rank the Dark Tower series yet, simply because that’ll come in next year’s review once I finish all seven books. I’m also not going to include Harry Potter in my picks, simply because I’ve read them before and it feels like cheating. But if you’ve never read Harry Potter before, what are you waiting for?

If you take those two series out, my #1 choice this year is The Stand. The full unabridged version is epic – well over a thousand pages – and the audiobook, which I listened to 2/3rds of, is also epic at around 40 hours long. It was just such a great ride. It wasn’t without flaws, but I loved the adventure of it, I loved the characters, and I loved that I couldn’t predict it. If you’re into apocalyptic scenario novels, this is a great one.

Classics

My reads:
Pride and Prejudice: 4/5
Rebecca: 5/5
Murder on the Orient Express: 4/5
Anna Karenina: 5/5
Animal Farm: 5/5
The Death of Ivan Ilych: 5/5
Tao Te Ching: 5/5

Winners: Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and The Death of Ivan Ilych

My Classics list is a little small compared to the other categories, but I hope you’ll cut me some slack since these ones generally take longer to read.

This is probably the most challenging category to assess. Because really, it comes down to two books, and they’re both by Tolstoy.

One is a novella, The Death of Ivan Ilych, which was my gateway into other Classics and has haunted me ever since I read it. The other is a lengthy, full-blown novel – Anna Karenina. Anna Karenina is a relevant and human tale (well, the Russian politics and land discussions aren’t current, and those parts felt a little long), detailing with precision and insight the mental decline of the heroine.

Anna just felt so true, and so ordinary. It’s not a story with crazy plot twists and bizarre events – it’s daily life. It’s all the little ways in which a person can slowly unravel. Because usually it’s not just one big event that makes or breaks us; it’s a chain of seemingly insignificant events that are our undoing.

Ivan Ilych is about a middle-aged man who is confronted with disease. Having never contemplated death, the novella is his experience of going through denial, avoiding it, descending into poor health, and finally accepting his eventual demise.

I love the start, when Ivan is already dead, and his lawyer “friends” are at his funeral. The funeral makes them uncomfortable, since death is unpleasant to contemplate. Ivan wasn’t well-loved, and his death was untragic and ordinary. He wasn’t even an interesting character. But because of that, the story was fascinating. Tolstoy just gets people.

I thought that reflecting on these two stories would allow a clear winner to emerge, but I think we’re going to have to resort to a good ol’ tie.

Non-Fiction

My reads:
Better than Before: 4/5
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: 4/5
Master Your Workday Now: 5/5
Talking to Heaven: 3/5
After This: 4/5
The Artist’s Way: 4/5
Why Not Me? 4/5
Modern Romance: 4/5
Tiny Beautiful Things: 4/5
Committed: 3/5
On Writing: 5/5
The Art of Mindful Living: 5/5
Outliers: The Story of Success: 5/5
Yoga Sequencing: 5/5
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus: 4/5
Big Magic: 5/5
Daring Greatly: 3/5
Lean in: 4/5
Spark Joy: 4/5

Winner: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Runners-up: Master Your Workday Now and On Writing

Finally we’re left with non-fiction. I always read whatever seems interesting at the time with no regard for a “type” of book, so the topics here are all over the place. Some are historical, some spiritual, and others are about creativity and personal development. I read comedy books and autobiographies, weird books and standard business books.

Master Your Workday Now and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up are the two books that had the biggest impact on me this year. Master Your Workday is not a popular book, but it’s really useful and completely changed how I organize my work and to-do list. There are some solid ideas in there that I’ve been using for months.

The Life-Changing Magic is a book I felt was a little silly, since the author loves tidying so much she personifies her home and belongings. That being said, it’s a book I think about often, and it has really started to transform my perspective on belongings. The whole idea is that if you spend the time to tidy your house once, you never really have to do it again. All you have to do is put things where they belong, and clean surface dirt. It’s an oversimplification, but the book is really quite profound.

On Writing by Stephen King deserves a shout-out, because, if it weren’t for that book, I wouldn’t have read any of the other Stephen King books this year. It re-introduced me to his style, and reminded me that his novels aren’t strictly for teenagers.

But since I can only pick just one, it’s going to be The Life-Changing Magic. Interestingly, even though I gave this one a lower rating (4/5 instead of 5/5 like some others), it has stuck with me more than books I considered much more interesting at the time.

Conclusion

So my top 5 picks are as follows:

1. How Not to Die by Michael Greger (health/nutrition)
2. The Stand by Stephen King (fiction)
3. The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy (classics)
4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (classics)
5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (non-fiction)

And five honorable mentions go to:

6. The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner (health/nutrition)
7. Whole by T. Colin Campbell (health/nutrition)
8. Master Your Workday Now by Michael Linenberger (non-fiction)
9. On Writing by Stephen King (non-fiction)
10. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (fiction)

It was with great pleasure that I was able to create this list. I’m very proud of my January 2016 self who decided to read more books, and I am eager to tackle new books in the New Year.

Come and join me on Goodreads if you haven’t already, and let’s read some books together!

Happy reading, friends!

product reviews

Nyx Soft Matte Lip Cream in Amsterdam (with higher-end comparisons)

Hey friends,

I always love a good swatch post, so I figured that’s what I would do here today. I picked up my very first NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Amsterdam, a warm peachy color. I’d heard good things about the formula – matte, but not too matte – and since NYX is becoming more available in Canada, I figured I’d pick it up and give it a try.

My lips are pretty sensitive to anything drying, so I always struggle with mattes. Because of that, I feel like I’m always on a quest for a good matte!

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Amsterdam

Here it is on my lips (no lip liner):

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Nyx Soft Matte Lip Cream in Amsterdam

And here’s a further back shot:

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Nyx Soft Matte Lip Cream in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is such a cute color – very peachy and summery. When I put it to the wear test (and the lips-not-shriveling-to-prunes test), I went about 5 hours without a touch-up. I was eating some oranges while I wore it, and I’m not talking nicely-segmented tangelos – I’m talking messy navels.

It lost some definition at the edges after 5 hours and 2 oranges, but it passed the chin-smear test. Does that happen to anyone else? If I’m eating something large or awkward, like a burger or something, my lipstick tends to smear on my chin. But not with this one!

NYX soft matte lip cream also didn’t dry out my lips (too much). It never dried down to a complete matte – there was always a feeling of something sitting on my lips – which is probably why it wasn’t too drying. But because of that, you will get some transfer with these.

After 5 hours, my lips were a little dry in the inner edges, but nothing a bit of balm wouldn’t fix.

Formula-wise, these actually remind me a lot of Too Faced Melted lipsticks – liquid but not matte, a little drying but not as much as a true matte.

Comparison Swatches

I actually have a couple shades in my collection that come close to the color of NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Amsterdam, so I wanted to swatch them all together and compare.

The other two shades in question are ones I really like: Bite Mimosa and Nars Lana. Sadly, Bite has discontinued the Luminous Creme line, which means I’ll be looking for a replacement of my beloved Mimosa.

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Bite Mimosa Lipstick

Mimosa is semi-matte, so the wear of it and NYX Amsterdam are very similar. Mimosa does wear longer, but still needs a little babysitting throughout the day to combat encroaching dryness. Mimosa is also more creamy and opaque – Amsterdam needs a little layering to get the color right, but Mimosa only takes one swipe.

Here’s Temptalia’s review for Bite Mimosa.

The only problem I have with Mimosa is that since it’s so thick and opaque, it’s not very forgiving to apply, and it doesn’t create a smooth line on my lip line on initial application – it needs lip liner on my lips to really apply well.

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Nars Audacious Lana

Nars Audacious in Lana is more of a satin finish. I find it the most comfortable of the three to wear for long periods of time because of that, but texturally it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

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I thought it was interesting that when I first tried on NYX Amsterdam, I thought it was quite bright, but compared to Mimosa and Lana it’s actually fairly muted.

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It’s a very flattering color, even with pale skin and purple hair (which sometimes makes lipstick look strange, like Nars Lana). And as long as you’re not looking for a transfer-proof matte, it’s definitely worth the $10. I’ll be looking to pick up some more shades this month – I would say my first tentative foray into NYX lip products was a success!

xo,
Allysia

books and reviews

How Not To Die: Thoughts on Diet and Health

During my 30-day trial with eating healthy for the sake of my skin, I thought it might be a good idea to pick up a book on diet and health. I’m not a big fan of pseudo-science, and wanted something I could really sink my teeth into – something with lots of scientific backing.

So I decided to download How Not To Die by Michael Greger on my Kindle over the spring break, and read it voraciously. And now that I’ve had time to read and digest it, I thought I’d share my thoughts of the book with you, and how it’s changed my perspective on health.

Check it out on Amazon here!

How Not To Die: A Review

First of all, it’s huge – over 500 pages. Second of all, it’s an extremely comprehensive review of the latest scientific studies on food and health. The footnotes section alone is gigantic.

The way the book is laid out is in two parts. The first part has a chapter for each of the 12 leading causes of death, and how diet plays a role for each (including suicide and depression, seriously). The second part includes a really useful and logical food guide that is simple to follow, with science to back it up.

I want to give this book to everyone I know – that’s the kind of impact it had on me. I’ve read tons of health-related books before, but I loved how thorough and readable How Not To Die is, without dumbing it down much. I appreciate that this book treated me like an intelligent human being, not someone that needed to be shielded from harsh truths and big words.

This book explained to me why it’s so important to add spices to food (antioxidants!) and why turmeric is the bomb. It explained the risk of animal product consumption and how much I should really be exercising (90 minutes of moderate or 45 minutes intense exercise daily). It talked about how broccoli is an amazing anti-cancer drug.

Really, just read it. It’s great.

How I’m changing my diet based on this book

I eat a relatively healthy diet, but this book has swayed me to change a few things. First of all, it convinced me to eat more fruit (4 servings a day, which includes 1 serving – 1/2 cup – of berries). I love fruit, so it really didn’t take much convincing. Fruit is, in general, the best source of vitamins and antioxidants.

As a personal side note, Michael sometimes needs a little push to eat fruit. He’d much rather eat a plate of veggies than fruit. But eating fruit seems to be one of the biggest things that keeps his immune system running properly – it seems once he falls off the smoothie bandwagon, he’s way more likely to get the sniffles. This isn’t a scientific fact or anything, just something we’ve both noticed.

How Not To Die also convinced me to use oil (even olive oil) sparingly, especially when it’s been heated. Oil basically just adds calories minus the nutrients – it’s much more valuable to eat a handful of nuts instead.

I’ve been working nuts and seeds into each meal as well, including some ground flax with my morning oatmeal. Again, I love nuts and seeds so I needed little convincing there.

I tend to be a big fan of grains, but I’m trying to even out my grain-to-bean ratio. So instead of having a cup of rice and a 1/2 cup beans, I might flip it around, or do 3/4 cup of each. Beans are so freaking nutritious. They aren’t really glamorous, but they’re tasty and about as cheap as cheap gets when you buy dry beans.

Conclusion

There were so many nuggets and takeaways in How Not To Die, but I don’t want to bog you down with a giant essay, so definitely take a look if you’re into health reads. 🙂

Thanks for hanging out!

xo,
Allysia

life

Why I Quit Coffee for 30 Days

I am passionate about coffee. Coffee is beautiful. Fresh-ground + French press = eternal happiness.

Spoken like a true addict. That is one of the main reasons I decided to quit coffee for 30 days – to see if I could release coffee’s death grip on my life.

I don’t know if I’m going to quit coffee forever and ever, but I’m quitting it for 30 days to see if it makes a difference in my skin, my energy, my stress levels, and my hormones. More on my 30-day trial here!

Take note that I am not wildly addicted to coffee. I have 1 – 2 cups a day, and seldom if ever do I drink it later than 4pm or so.

I’m also replacing those 1 – 2 cups of coffee with green tea (which I’ll talk more about tomorrow), so it’s not like I’ve gone completely caffeine-free.

So why quit coffee? Let’s talk about some of the reasons that compelled me to jump off the bandwagon!

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product reviews

Makeup Graveyard: Brushes I Don’t Love

In the last Makeup Graveyard post, I talked about Blushes I Don’t Love. To be extra-confusing, today I’ve decided to change just one letter and turn it into Brushes I Don’t Love.

I don’t have a big collection of brushes (yet). I have some (cruelty-free) Real Techniques and Hakuhodo x Sephora brushes, and that makes up about 95% of what I use on a daily basis.

Brushes were one of the last things I came around to. I’ve always loved lipstick, and it doesn’t take me much convincing to splurge on a new one (as is evidenced by my large lipstick graveyard post). Brushes just don’t seem like a “fun” purchase the way lippies do.

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product reviews

Makeup Graveyard: Blushes I Don’t Love

Hi friends!

It’s time for another installment of Makeup Graveyard, where I show you the products that I’ve phased out of my vanity, to either be sent to the garbage, or to a new and loving home.

The previous installment in this series was all about the lipstick I don’t love, so definitely check that out if you haven’t already.

Today we’ll be looking at blushes I don’t love. Let’s hop to it!

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product reviews

Makeup Graveyard: Lipsticks I don’t love

Hi Friends!

Welcome to my first installment of the Makeup Graveyard! I’ve been gradually decluttering my house and my life, and recently went through all of my makeup and skincare products. I put the products I’m either trashing or giving away in a box, and left the products I really love in my vanity.

So since I’m a little obsessed with lipstick, I thought I’d show you all of the lipstick in my makeup graveyard. These are lipsticks that, for one reason or another, I don’t love.

I got rid of lipsticks based on this criteria:

-Low quality/cheap packaging
-Not cruelty-free (making my collection almost exclusively cruelty-free now)
-Unwearable colors

So let’s get on with it!

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looks

Emilia Clarke Makeup Look from the Golden Globes 2016

Hi all!

Today I wanted to show you my take on the Emilia Clarke makeup look from the Golden Globes (More on my favorite looks from the 2016 Golden Globes here).

It’s more of an “inspired by” as opposed to a direct replica – I wanted to create a soft look that would be appropriate for work. Since her look was so soft and simple to begin with, this wasn’t a challenge, and I really like the way it came out. Read on to see how I got this Emilia Clarke makeup look!

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Urban Decay Spectrum Palette
product reviews

Urban Decay Spectrum Palette: Review and Thoughts

During Sephora’s VIB/Rouge sale in November, I picked up a few things that I was really excited about, including the Urban Decay Spectrum Palette. This palette is/was limited edition, and has 15 colorful, jewel-toned shades.

This isn’t a practical palette if you don’t have a lot of space for makeup storage, or if you travel a lot – it doesn’t seal tightly, so I wouldn’t take it with me anywhere. The idea is that the packaging can be re-purposed once you’re finished with the eyeshadow, and turned into jewelry storage.

I’ve tried multiple looks with this palette, but since I’m a colorful makeup n00b, some of the attempts have been a little disastrous. So far, my favourite of the bright shades are Omen (lilac purple that works really well with my new purple hair), and Backlash, a bright and punchy pink.

Playing with my new #urbandecay #spectrumpalette!

Playing with my new #urbandecay #spectrumpalette!

Pinks can look a little sickly without some eyeliner (which creates a barrier between your eye and the pink color), so I made sure to apply a thin line of gel liner when I did this look.

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Omen is such a beautiful color, and definitely my favorite from the Urban Decay Spectrum palette. For the most part, I’ve been sticking to one color at a time – wild rainbow looks are a little beyond my skillset at this point.

Temptalia has a thorough review and swatches, if you’re interested in checking that out.

If you’re a beginner to eyeshadow I probably wouldn’t recommend the Urban Decay Spectrum palette, simply because of the wild colors. And since all of the shades are shimmery, it might be necessary to use a different palette or shadow if you need matte colors (I often use matte colors for the crease or shading).

But if you’ve got a bunch of nude shadows and are interested in trying out some new vivid shades, I’ve been really enjoying playing with this palette. Most of the colors are flattering and more wearable than the colors in, say, Urban Decay’s Electric Palette.

Have you tried the Urban Decay Spectrum Palette? What are your favorite bright and colorful eyeshadows?

inspiration

Favorite Makeup Looks from the 2016 Golden Globes

Good morning!

I tend to be a sucker for awards shows and red carpet events, partly to ogle celebrities, and partly to ooh and ahh at the fashion and makeup choices. Seeing the makeup looks from the 2016 Golden Globes has given me fresh inspiration, and now I’m eager to go play with my makeup this week. The following are my favorite looks, I hope you enjoy!

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