Friday, April 26, 2013

Au Natural

Natural woven dress Lauren Conrad, Cardigan Target

Shoot, my ponytail is getting long! I never notice.

I love this cardigan, it was from my roommie Rosi's wedding.  It makes me happy every time I wear it.:)  I also was wearing a wooden beaded bracelet from El Salvador, but I forgot I had taken it off when I took these photos:)  My favorite part is that the lining only goes down to my knees (originally it was mid thigh, but I added a little more fabric) and I can feel the breeze on my legs through my dress:) 

Golden Girl

I was just feeling golden this morning:)  I have yellow gold and white floral cutout earrings from Forever21 (don't you love their super cheap girly earrings???) Gold sequined tank from Forever 21 (seriously, where else are you going to buy sequins?) grey pants from Forever 21 and Yellow cardigan from Target.

Shuga Shuga

Today's post is dedicated to sugar.  Kind of the way I'm dedicated to sugar.  I majored in public health. I try to live a healthy lifestyle, you know, fruits/veggies, whole grains, sleep, physical activity.  If I have one Achilles's heel, it's sugar. I just love me some sugar.  In basically every form.  When I was diagnosed with dairy allergy, I had to give up ice cream (I have almond ice cream sometimes, or sorbets, but they're just not the same). Since cutting out milk, cream, cheese, ice cream, cream cheese... my diet's gotten healthier, but I still eat cookies/chocolate/treats every day, sometimes multiple times a day;)

Over the last few weeks I've been getting the message that I need to be eating less sugar.  I keep talking to friends who tell me their worried about diabetes, just trying to be healthier, etc. and they're decreasing their sugar intake.  I've been in the "contemplation" stage of change:) I know there's too much sugar in my diet, but there are barriers to cutting it out.  For example: I love it.

But I've committed to my first baby step of change.  Because I'm serious about this.  Diabetes runs in my family, and also in our I want to get serious about not overworking my dear pancreas.  I've decided to try this:  no sugar before lunch or after 8:00pm.  

It reminds me a little of a roommate I once had (who shall remain nameless) who gave up food after 8:00pm and felt the need to force her diet on us all whenever we ate something at night by saying, "uhhh, you really shouldn't be eating.  It's too late." Well maybe I'm hungry!  I still eat late when I'm hungry, I'm just eating real food, not sugar.:)

Anyway, I've been trying it for the last few days and it hasn't even been hard:)  Which is why I chose to start with such an achievable goal;)
I will probably add some better guidelines to help me stop eating so much sugar in the future.  I feel like the less processed sugar/foods you eat, the less you crave them. We'll see how it goes!

52 New Things: Mountain West Burrito (37 to go

YUM! Mountain West Burrito!


I'd heard great things about Mountain West Burrito being the best in Utah County and all that jazz, and guess what? It is:)  At least one of the best.

My roommate Kait and I went because we were STARVING and it was close to our apartment.  Best decision ever.  I got a vegetarian taco (only $3) and the best part is they had vegan sour cream!!!! Which means I had sour cream for the first time in over a year since I was diagnosed with dairy allergy.  It was sooo good!

Second best part: Churro chips.  Wow.  I love me some churros.  I got a whole paper bag full of fresh, warm churro "chips" (strips of pastry vs. the traditional stick) for only $1! Three of us ate them and there were still leftovers.  We're talking churro pot of gold.

I will be back for more, Mountain West Burrito.  Maybe every day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

In Defense of Dove's Real Beauty Campaign

There has been a LOT of backlash against Dove's Real Beauty campaign piece "Real Beauty Sketches."

I know there are flaws in this campaign.  But it is still such a good thing.  Such a powerful, bold thing.  I think critics overlook the good in this campaign in the frenzy to point out why it's not optimal.

I don't know if the way I interpret this is right, but I've spent a lot of time in my undergrad in public health learning about media messages and how our thought processes and emotions are affected by them.  This is what I think.

  • Some of the things others have been criticizing that I don't think are worthy of criticism: use of beautiful women, focus on beauty as the most important value, lack of diversity, and they are created by a beauty company.

  • Some of the things I see wrong with this campaign: research design, artist bias and reporter bias.

  • Some of the things I see right with this campaign: focus on the emotions the women are feeling, focus on how destructive self-perception can be, bold stance against the beauty industry standard.

Let's get started. First, I want to clarify two points. (There's a whole post about how our brains interpret this.)  

Soooo many women think they are above being affected by this.  It makes me sad.  Because rather than learning to rebel against the system, they feel guilty for worrying about their something as trivial as their appearance.  And they feel guilty for not being perfectly "beautiful." (Read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.)

Criticisms I think are invalid:

The campaign only uses traditionally beautiful women.    
I want to be very clear.  The women in this campaign are lovely.  None of them will ever model for Victoria's Secret.  
These women are short and tall, young and middle aged, big and small...they are different.  Have you ever seen a line up of models?  It's like they dyed one girl's hair a bunch of different colors and put new makeup on her for each image to save on model salaries.  They look EXACTLY the same.  The modeling industry is very explicit that there is only one standard for beauty, only one way to be beautiful.  If you don't fit the bill, well, you can try to buy products to turn you into that ideal so you'll look less embarrassing, but you'll still probably never measure up.

There is no diversity. 
Okay. The simple answer is that there is more diversity in this quick clip than in 10 hours of beauty advertisement. The women shown for the longest period of time are white or white-esque people.  White washing in the beauty industry is a big deal.  I would just like to point out (again) that there are women in this clip that are different.  They aren't all white-esque. Could it use more diversity?  Most def.  But there is some diversity of race, age and build.  No one can deny that.  Baby steps.  People don't seem to understand that this is a process.  If there were a bunch of traditionally unattractive, unkempt women ranting that beauty is not important, it would just reinforce that beauty IS important. (This also applies to those who criticize Dove for editing real beauty images.)

They focus on beauty as the most important value. 
People are so upset that Dove's message is "You are more beautiful than you think," rather than, "Beauty is not important, so stop thinking about it."  Sorry, Dove's mission isn't "How to Be a Great Human Being." We're talking about beauty here. That's why we're focusing on it and not other important qualities.  I don't think anyone working on the Dove campaign thinks beauty is more important than being a good person. But I mean, I don't know them all personally, so who knows?:)  This is a beauty campaign, it makes sense that it should focus on our ideas about beauty.  It's not a life campaign.  I just want that clarified.

It's created by Unilever. 
There have been complaints that since Dove is owned by Unilever, it's an untrustworthy campaign.  Once again, Dove is part of the beauty industry, something it's never sought to hide.  The campaign is by Dove, not Unilever.  Yes, the Dove company is owned by someone who owns other companies.  I don't think this is worth losing any sleep over.

Criticisms I have for the campaign:

The criticisms I have all deal with the research methods used in this "experiment." This experiment is not scientific.  They didn't want to test a hypothesis.  They set out to make this campaign piece and manipulated the data to prove the point that they wanted.  I'm not too worried about it, because I think it's a pretty universal truth that women are self-conscious when they should be more confident about their natural beauty, and about other aspects of themselves too, of course.

Participant selection:
Not random.  They had to volunteer, then the volunteers were weeded through, then the footage was weeded through until Dove had exactly the proper evidence to support the universal truth they set out to prove.  Not scientific.

Artist bias:
The artist was biased.  He stated that he was interested in the campaign and wanted to help women (his daughter included) learn to feel better about themselves.  He knew when he was drawing a woman describing herself and when he was drawing a woman described by the stranger.  He used a lot of artistic techniques that probably had nothing to do with the descriptions and more to do with proving the point that women are more beautiful than they describe themselves.

Reporter bias:
The strangers who described the women are here for a campaign to support true beauty.  Are they going to be that critical jerk that says the woman was ugly?  No.  They are going to focus on her positive, inviting attributes and happy, open personality.  Since they knew the basic purpose of the campaign, they weren't free to be totally unbiased.
The women who are describing themselves are also aware of the campaign.  They know perhaps, that they would be called out if they weren't totally honest about how they look, rather describing themselves as they hope or want to look.  Again, biased by knowledge about the campaign (if not about the specific experiment.)

Take home message: 
This "experiment" is biased, and not 100% reflective of real life. But I think the point they're trying to prove is valid: we often think our "flaws" are a big deal when they're really not.  So, they are trying to promote a good, healthy message, but they are going about it in a non-scientific way.

The Good Stuff

Whew, that was a lot of negativity!  Let's talk about the things that are right with this campaign:

The focus on emotion: 
The filming in this campaign is incredible.  It captures emotion.  It says things that words are not saying.  I love how accurately it shows the women as they are talking.  It shows the guilt, the embarrassment.  When the women are talking about what they would change about themselves, when they are admitting to possessing features that are not traditionally considered beautiful, their eyes flit nervously to the side and shamefully to the floor.  They bite their lips.  They fidget   They obviously look uncomfortable, embarrassed.  The point being, they shouldn't feel this way.  They are lovely.  They need not be so ashamed of their deviations from the prescribed epitome of beauty. It shows the smile fading as a woman realizes she doesn't think she's beautiful.  It shows a smile grow on a woman's face as someone describes her positively.  It shows a broken nail, messy mascara- the unending, unwinnable battle to be perfectly beautiful. This is why the campaign exists: to help women with these destructive emotions.

The focus on destructive self-perception: 
The Real Beauty campaign tries to help women understand that they worry way to much about being beautiful.  This is a good message.  It supports the criticism some have had that it should not focus on beauty as the most important thing.  * Reemphasize: if you're not worried about your appearance, it becomes much less important.  If you are worried that you're not beautiful enough to be accepted, successful, a good friend, a fun will be a self fulfilling prophecy.

Bold stance against the beauty industry: 
Dove is a beauty company.  They sell soap, shampoo, deodorant and the like. But they are fighting against traditional messaging that you need a product to be more beautiful.  Since advertising has existed, the hook for beauty products has been: buy this.  It will make you more beautiful = accepted = happy.  Dove says, we support women the way they are. If you think that's good, support us by buying your toiletries from us.

And I totally do support that.  That's my stance.

How our Brain Interprets Media Imagery

Without getting too scientific, there are biological reasons that we respond to messages about beauty.  

There are three primary sections of the brain we're going to focus on.
Forebrain: the most developed part of the brain. It's logical, and thinks critically.  It remembers and works out problems.
Middle brain: this brain interprets thoughts and produces emotion.  It is illogical.  It can't reason.  It responds to external and internal stimuli (like seeing an image or thinking a thought.)
Brain stem: the least developed part of the brain.  It's primitive, concerned mainly with keeping your DNA on this earth by keeping you alive (chances to eat, being aware of danger) and reproducing (chances for potential mates.)

Thinking is learned.  Did you know that? We learn how to think and interpret what we think.  Our thoughts have patterns. Critical thinking is taught so we learn to question if our thoughts are valid.  We can learn to have positive, constructive thoughts rather than negative, destructive thoughts.  We are pretty good at manipulating the forebrain.  But the middle brain is a little more elusive. The words we think are concrete.  The feelings we feel are more abstract. They are harder to recognize and regulate.  And very difficult to manipulate with logic. 

So here's what happens.  A woman sees a picture of a beautiful woman- or a picture of a beautiful woman receiving attention from a man.  Her primitive brain recognizes it a something sexual and desirable.  It says "Hey, midbrain, we should be like that so we can keep our DNA on this earth." Midbrain passes along the message to the forebrain.  Forebrain is logical.  It says, "Mmm, we don't look quite like that woman.  Since all we get from this imagery is that she's hot (we know nothing about her morals, sense of humor, intelligence) I don't think we can be quite like her."  Midbrain is a little childish and gets upset when forebrain says this. It reacts with emotions.  "Why aren't we like this? Why can't we be? It's not fair!  We don't deserve a mate!" Sometimes forebrain hears these rants and tries to calm midbrain down with soothing thoughts, "It's okay, she's photoshopped, no one looks like that in real life, we're desirable and worthy of a mate just the way we are."

Many times, we're distracted though, and don't realize that midbrain is having a meltdown while we're watching our favorite TV show or reading a magazine.  And midbrain doesn't really understand what photoshop is.  Brain stem really doesn't understand.  There was never a biological situation before this time where it was necessary to distinguish a real image from a false image.  When we see a human being, our primitive brain can't tell it's not real.  Read: even when we logically understand this is an impossible standard of beauty with which to compare ourselves, our less developed brain areas do not.

Some women struggle because they know that logically, it's impossible to look like a photoshopped, make up wearing, posed, well lit image of a woman, but they don't know it emotionally.  They are confused because they think they can outsmart their brain's natural processes.

What can be done then?  Are we all just victims in an increasingly oppressive beauty society?
No!  There are some things we can do.

  1. Limit media exposure.  Just say no to exposing yourself to unrealistic images and conceptions of women.  In our society, it's impossible to escape advertisement.  But a lot of what we see we choose to see in film, magazines, TV and other media.
  2. Listen to your midbrain.  Become aware of when you feel sad about how you are/look.  Address those feelings.  Allow yourself to feel that way.  Understand why you feel that way to stop feeling that way in the future. (E.G. Please, please, pleeease never watch the Victoria's Secret fashion show.)
  3. Think and say positive affirmations.  When you notice yourself thinking, "Wow, I should really lose some weight," or "I need some new wrinkle cream," or whatever...stop.  Pause and consciously send a message to your subconscious   Say, "I am beautiful and worthwhile the way I am.  I am enough.  I am valuable.  I am not a victim of society's standards." Etcetera. 
  4. Be real.  Live in the moment.  Be connected.  Spend time with real people, helping, serving, interacting.  It will help you keep a proper perspective and remember what's really important.
  5. Help other people struggling with the same issues.  We all have times of strength and times of weakness.  Be a beacon to others when you can, and allow yourself to be lifted by others when you are feeling weak.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Finals Survival Kits

I'm compassionate service leader in my ward, and we put together 150 finals survival kits to give to the ward.  They just had some treats and a quote about triumphing over adversity.  We had maybe 225 mandarins on the table and EVERY PERSON that saw them commented on them.  After a while, I just wanted to be like, "I had a citrus craving, okay? Back off!  At least they're not Cheetos!"

Feels Like Summer!

Blue and White Stripes and My First Pair of Colored Jeans!

I love this combo.  Can I just tell you something awesome?  $12. Plato's Closet. Also, you are witnessing my first pair of colored jeans ever.  Too bad I couldn't get great color in the pic...they're kind of wine colored.

The Bicycle Project: Step One

Awesome.  I got a free bike:)  But it needs a LOT of love.  It's a super pretty frame and a nice bike.  I cleaned it up and removed as much of the rust as I could, stripped the saddle and polished the chrome with aluminum.

Nas. Ty. There were spider corpses all over this bike.

It was pretty rusted up in here, up in here.

About halfway through washing it, I thought I should take before and after photos:)

The sidewalls of these tires were coming off like dried grass.

Summer | Sun | Stripes

Pretty summer stripes and sun:)  Just a great angle, no filter <3


Why is "pho" so good??  My roommie Christine loves pho.  She's on a mission now in Scotland/Ireland.  I miss her!  I want to go get pho in her honor.

Violets in the Lawn

One of my favorite things about my house is that we have violets growing in the lawn:)  All year, there are just some subtle green leaves among blades of grass, but in the spring, there are thousands of tiny purple flowers everywhere.  I've still never found anything that smells as good as they do.  And they are so pretty!  I love everything about them!  When I have my own lawn, I want violets in it.:)

Mom's Magnet Board

"In all of living, have much fun and laughter.  Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured." -Gordon B. Hinckley

It was my mom's birthday and I made her this magnet board:)  She saw a similar one at Deseret Book and really liked it, and I decided I could probably make one.

My friend Justin outlined the lettering for me (It was too big for my printer) and I filled it in with sharpie.  I hot glued the edges around the back to a metal board and added magnets.  Voila! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I'd Like a Little....Perspective.

"I'd like a little...perspective.  Fresh out, I take it?"

Today's post made me think of one of my favorite movies, Ratatouille. I could write an entire blog about my love for and belief in cooking... but for now I just want to nod to a quote from the movie because yesterday I was blessed with a little perspective.

Before we get started though, one of my favorite quotes from Anton Ego the angry food critic, that I quote all the time.  In response to Linguini's jab that Anton is thin for someone who likes food:

"I don't like food!! I loooooove it! And...

Anyway, Anton comes back ready to destroy the restaurant Gusto's reputation.  When he arrives, the waiter asks him what he wants.  

Mustafa: [taking Ego's order] Do you know what you'd like this evening, sir? 
Anton Ego: Yes, I think I do. After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? 
Mustafa: With what, sir? 
Anton Ego: Perspective. Fresh out, I take it? 
Mustafa: I am, uh... 
Anton Ego: Very well. Since you're all out of perspective and no one else seems to have it in this BLOODY TOWN, I'll make you a deal. You provide the food, I'll provide the perspective, which would go nicely with a bottle of Cheval Blanc 1947. 
Mustafa: I'm afraid... your dinner selection? 
Anton Ego: [stands up angrily] Tell your chef Linguini that I want whatever he dares to serve me. Tell him to hit me with his best SHOT. 

Then, of course, the song starts playing in your head.

Over the last few months, I've been on a journey and I feel like it materialized into a spiritual awakening yesterday.  It was my 23rd birthday:)  I was chatting with some friends and we started talking about something  I've been thinking about for months.  Particularly well articulated by President Uchtdorf in his talks Of Regrets and Resolutions and Forget Me Not: "Forget not to be happy now."

I've been trying to make a lot of life decisions lately.  I graduated college.  Now what?  I never before realized that my life plan culminated with that accomplishment.  I just figured my life would pretty much be set by now:) There are a lot of paths ahead, big choices.  Marriage, grad school, masters and doctorate programs, career choices, debt.....

A lot of things.  I've been a little scared trying to look at the fact that I don't know where I will be in 5, 10, 15, 20 years.  And that I can't know.  I can't know.  Sure, I can plan.  I need to plan.  But there will always be uncertainty until it's over.

Anyway, our conversation.  We were talking about relishing what we have and allowing ourselves to be happy in uncertainty.  Not just to "live in the moment," but to choose to enjoy things as though the outcome doesn't matter.  Because, really, the outcome doesn't determine present happiness.  Even if it all ends badly, is that any reason to be unhappy now? If you have to deal with dissapointment later, wouldn't you rather have times of hope and happiness to look back on rather than only dread, doubt, and going half way? If it ends well, won't you feel silly for wasting all that time you could have been happy?

Example 1: My friend broke up with a girl a few weeks back.  It was really hard on him, but one of the things he really regrets is not enjoying what he had when he had it.  He only dated her for a few weeks, and he would come home from seeing her every night and be stressed and worried and freaked out about where it was going and what he wanted and what she wanted.  He wishes he had just enjoyed and cherished those few weeks while he had them.  Maybe it wouldn't be so hard for him to let go now if he had.  Point: he was putting his happiness on hold over worries that didn't end up mattering.

Example 2: For about a year, my friend has been stressed out over this guy who kinda wants to date her, but won't commit and won't meet her emotional needs.  He's a great guy.  But I know she would have been happier if she could move on.  I felt a little hypocritical as I was later talking to my roommie about a guy I used to date.  I sometimes still struggle with dating other people because he left such an impression on me of how great a guy can be.  My roommate told me that she wanted me to be able to let him go, because what we had wasn't that amazing.  Sure, he was an amazing guy, but I never fully had him and I certainly didn't have him now. Being able to fully let go and not worry helps me be happy dating amazing guys who do want to be in my life. Point: I was putting my happiness on hold because of something that isn't really pertinent.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking through scenarios, worrying about what path to take.  I spend  a lot of time worrying about things that will never happen.  I worry about getting another degree, the possibility of marriage and a family, career... I want the attitude of, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."  I don't have to worry about planning the best year of a grad program to get married; or when I should have my first kid. Those things are not relevant in my life and to my happiness right now.  Of course, I should take things into consideration and be flexible, but I tend to take it to the extreme and worry about choices I will probably never have to make.  

I just want to be filled with love for the people around me and enjoyment of my life today.  To snatch little pieces of happiness as they come to me, rather than waiting for the big, perfect, happy life situation.  Because that will never come.  So what if I'm a new mom as I'm working on my grad program? I'll figure it out.  So what if I'm not top of my class?  It will work out.  I just want to enjoy the imperfect, small victories of every day.  Enjoy what brings me happiness now without worrying where it will take me in the future.  Without grieving over things that haven't happened and don't matter.  

Anton's face as he is offered perspective.  I had the same face as I sat in my bed writing in my journal, realizing that I just want to appreciate and enjoy what I have, while I have it and not worry about the past or future.

Then he happily devours his meal.  

And turns into a turtle-neck/beret-wearing weirdo.  But we still love him and his new-found happiness.

Birthday Cupcakes! Rose Ombre

Yaay! Rose ombre cupcakes!
Ombre cupcakes
Rose cupcake:)

For the frosting, I just made two batches, one purple, one white, then mixed them in varying proportions in four bowls until I got the colors I wanted.  I think I added the color too quickly, though and I didn't save enough white to bring the color down once it was a little to intense.:/  I would have liked a little more of a gradual ombre. But still beautiful:)

I used Wilton Violet and Rose to get the color.

It was my birthday and I made 4 dozen ombre rose cupcakes:)  They turned out so beautiful!  But I with the middle shades were a little more distinct.  
Happy birthday:) <3