Stuff I Liked: September 2018

This is only a week late! I’d apologize for neglecting my blog, but traffic was actually up in September for the first time since I’ve started my new job.Bar graph of traffic from April to September. There was a steady decrease, but September raised a little bit from August.
I guess I’m doing fine blogging, then. I’ve got a September Birchbox post in the works, as well. I’ve used up some of the samples but am keeping the empty bottles around so that I can take pictures of them in a faux unboxing photo set. Now you know the secret.

We’re moved in, unpacked, and I’ve started to hang up some art. I bought and assembled an office chair. Things haven’t quite calmed down, though. We’re working on getting our heat set up for the winter. The house currently has a decrepit oil system in the basement. It’s converted from COAL. It has little door to shovel the coal into and everything. There’s no way that it’s going to last for as long as we want to live here.

I’ve done a wee bit of painting. You guys like the watercolors, right?
Scan of a watercolor painting of a green sea turtle. This is Myrtle, if you've been to the New England Aquarium. The colors are a little muted.
I’m still working on how to digitize them. I think that photographs (below) look better than scans (above).
The same postcard, but photographed with my phone under bright light. Myrtle is much brighter and contrasts with the ocean water around her. I've put three blue blocks of paint under her and my brushes above her for the aesthetic.
I need to play with my scanner settings some more, but I think that I’ll end up pulling out my good camera going forward. Anyone have any tips?

ICYMI/Blog Stuff

Stuff I liked July 2018/August 2018
Funkless Deodorant Tangerine & Lime Review My holy grail, eco-friendlier deodorant. I’d post this in the summer if I was more savvy about my clicks. What’s up Southern Hemisphere?
Birchbox August 2018
Clinique Moisture Surge Intense Skin Fortifying Hydrator Review
Rimmel Lasting Finish Colour Rush in Give Me a Cuddle Review
Tomoson Review
Valjean Labs Facial Serum in Hydrate

Grumpy Skin has a facebook page! I’m not being irritating with it, WordPress just wont push to private pages anymore. Give it a like, if that’s your thing.

Books

Heathen by Natasha Alterici and Rachel Deering
I am HERE for some modernized Norse mythology. I’m also very deceived by the library categorizing this as teen. There are a ton of boobs. I tried to read it on my break at work.

I did not get fired, so we’re good.

Ms Marvel Volume 7 by G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa
I’m still SUPER INTO Ms. Marvel. It’s all ages, but somehow more political and current than a lot of the “adult” comics I read.

Fruits Basket Volume 4 by Natsuki Takaya
Getting this from the library has been an ordeal. Someone entered the original volumes and the collected volumes as the same book into the catalog. I’ve been having to request three or four books before I get the right one. Worth it. Furuba is holding up.

Video Games

I’ve been desperately trying to play through my Steam sale haul before Fallout 76 comes out. I haven’t decided if I want to play it or not, but I want to be ready if I do. I’ve opened the pre-order page a few times and keep deciding that I don’t want to spend $60 on maybe liking a multiplayer game yet. We’ll see.

Fallout 4 Another great game with a subpar ending from Bethesda. And bugged, oh man. I’m so glad the internet exists to tell me how to get around game breaking bugs. It was fun, though. I’ll probably do what I did with Skyrim and spend a year replaying it while mostly ignoring the plot.

Final Fantasy 7 I desperately wanted this game in high school. I couldn’t find a copy of it to save my life. I’m glad I’m finally getting the chance to play through it. Though it has aged HORRIBLY. There’s a particularly bad part of the story where you crossdress to save one of your party members from potential sex work. Man. I’m really curious how faithful the remake will be. It needs some updates.

Movies


Guess who ugly cried over the Captain Marvel trailer? I did. She’s my absolute favorite Marvel character. I’m excited and terrified for the movie.

How was your October? More importantly, do you also stan Captain Marvel?

Tomoson Review

We’re going a little meta today. Blogging about blogging.

Tomoson is a platform that many bloggers use to get free stuff. Uh, I mean, it’s a platform that bloggers use to receive items for “testing and review”. I understand why it exists on both sides. Bloggers spend a lot of time, effort and their own money to grow their blog. New businesses have trouble getting the word out about their products. I don’t have a problem with the idea of these kinds of platforms.

I’m on a few of them. I’ve been a member of Influenster since before I had a blog. I’ve received items from Brand Backer. I tried Tomoson.

I’m not above wanting free stuff. The problem with these platforms is that you’re often incentivized to leave positive reviews to keep receiving things. With Tomoson in particular, “influencers”/bloggers are rated by the company they work with, with the more legit companies seeking out people that have done more campaigns and have a higher rating.

What ends up happening is that people request a lot of the easy items to review (ebooks, weird supplements) in hopes that one day they can get nice products. A lot of these campaigns request Amazon reviews. Amazon has a HUGE problem with fake reviews at the moment. I wasn’t planning to be part of the problem.

I did one campaign for a menstrual cup, Cali Cup, which was great. It’s a genuinely good product that I was happy to put the word out about. I did a facebook and instagram post for them. And then nothing. I realized that I needed to play the game and do some ebook reviews.

Now, I like books. I just thought that the ebooks on Tomoson seemed like garbage. I bit the bullet and requested a kind of self-help/time management/personal success book. Right up my alley. I love planning stuff. I thought FOR SURE I could find something nice to say about this book.

Guys. Entire pages were missing from it. Short lists of tips had duplicates. There were weird condescending bits about kids these days. The author photo was a stock photo. This was a clear scam product.

I had no way to report the listing on Amazon for being a sham book. There was no option to contact Tomoson directly about my issues with the product. I emailed the company through the platform and told them about the missing pages and poor editing, asking if I had received a draft. They just emailed me the same book in a different format.

So my options were to give the book a nice Amazon review, or to not submit anything and let my account be shut down for not completing a campaign. I didn’t complete the campaign.

And now I’m SUPER suspicious of any disclaimer that says the item they received was from Tomoson. There’s absolutely no product oversight on that platform. I don’t want free stuff that badly. Neither should you.

(Edit: Side note, pretty sure that leaving Amazon reviews in exchange for products is against their ToS and people are having their accounts shut down for that. Fun and good ethics all around!)

We bought a house!

Or more realistically, we are now renting our living space from the bank for an amount of time that I cannot conceptually understand because it is longer than I have been alive.

This has been me for the past two weeks:
I'm sitting on the floor but only my feet are in the frame. I'm in my empty new living room surrounded by a few boxes and stacks and stacks of books.

We are mostly moved out/in. Our lease isn’t up until the end of August, so we didn’t have to do the mad August 31/September 1st dash. I’m so happy about that. It’s A Thing in Boston.

Baker is adjusting well. We have some stairs for him now. For some reason he loves the stairs. I had to get him a nice, heated bed to try to tempt him to stay on the first floor with his food and litter box. He’s old. Our stairs are steep. He’s also an idiot, so we’re terrified he’s going to fall down them.

Image of Baker curled up in a large cat bed. It's almost not big enough. He's fat, even with all of the extra exercise.
I have room for plants and cooking now! I can open my oven while standing in front of it. For the past five years I’ve had to stand to the side because the apartment oven opened directly into the cabinet across from it. I’ve been baking and tending a little herb garden in the kitchen window sill.

Grumpyskin is gonna be getting some hecka domestic posts coming up, if you can’t tell. Just look at my cilantro coming in!

Image of a little biodegradable pot with 15 cilantro sprouts.

We’re super pleased with how it ended up. Our lease renewal window closed before we closed on the house, so we were going to have to move either way. I wasn’t saying much publicly because I was terrified I’d jinx it. My commute is better. We’re closer to a library. We didn’t end up as far away from the city as we thought we’d have to be. It’s all great.

So this is why I haven’t been commenting on your posts. I was without internet for the first week of moving because someone inexplicably cut. the. wire. from the outside of our house. We think that it happened when they painted the siding before it was sold. No other reason made sense. It took a little while for RCN to understand that yes, we did actually need a pole person and not a technician to come over.

It might be a little while before I’m caught up on my reader. I’ve got things queued up, so you shouldn’t be able to tell a difference other than my lack of comments on things.

And yes, I will post more pictures when I get my life out of the boxes. It will be a few weeks before we’re cute.

9 Apps That Help Me Organize My Life

I’m going to tell you the secret to being organized. The whole secret. Are you ready?
It is a learned, developed skill. You have to practice it. You do not emerge from the womb completely organized. It is something you become. You have to figure out what works for you to keep you on track. It’s a process.

I use apps for a lot of organization/productivity. I also have two notebooks and obsessively put things into my Google calendar. What needs an app and what needs to be down on paper are different things for different people. This list of apps can help you get started, though.

And finally, all of these apps are free! I’m also only linking to the android store. Sorry, iphone users. You can handle searching.

Image of ClearFocus timer.
ClearFocus
Have you heard of the pomodoro technique? It’s pretty simple. You time how long you work and then take a short break, and repeat in cycles. It doesn’t sound revolutionary, but it really helped me plan my study time when I was in college. I like this app because it lets you name what task you’re working on, and then go back and see how much time you’re spending on each one. I don’t use it as much now that I’m out of school, but I can see it being useful if you have a job where you’re juggling multiple projects.

Image of the Sleep Debt Tracker dashboard.
Sleep Debt Tracker
This isn’t going to give you fitbit levels of sleep tracking, but it does help me make sure that I’m laying in bed without staring at a screen for a minimum amount of time. I find the bedtime reminders particularly helpful. I tend to ignore them if I set them myself.
I need my phone to be an authority figure. #millennial

Image of the Hydro Coach dashboard.
Hydro Coach
Hi, I’m April and I’m admitting to the internet that I am too dumb to remember to drink enough water. This app was EXTRA useful when I was working a job that didn’t let me keep water at my desk. Those exist. It’s rough for the chronically dehydrated.

Image of the Loop Habit Tracker dashboard.
Loop Habit Tracker
This app is so simple, but so useful. I’ve tried some of the fancier habit trackers and they just don’t do it for me. It’s just a checklist. You can set how often you want to do things, and are able to look at a plot of how you’re performing. I use this to keep track of what parts of my rotating skin routine I’ve done most recently.

OurHome
OurHome is definitely made for parents to schedule chores. I don’t have kids. I’m busy and have a busy partner. We set each chore to be worth an amount of points equal to the number of minutes it takes. So ten points of dishes is ten minutes of dishes. It eliminates wondering if you’re doing more housework, and also helps us keep track of when we last cleaned the bathroom.
Though, if you have to ask..clean it again.

Memo
Yeah, the regular memo app in your phone. I use it to keep track of how things fit when I’m shopping and to type up book quotes that I want to use later. I used to keep longer term lists in there, but it turns out I just ignore them.

Mint
I’ve been using Mint for something like seven years at this point. Keep track of your money.

I get daily texts to help me live intentionally & feel like a boss. -Shinetext app
Shine
The only referral link of the bunch. I think I get a sticker if a few people sign up? I love stickers.
Anyway, shine is a little text bot that sends you motivational messages at a set time every week day. I set them to send while I’m on the train for my morning commute. It’s helped me to be a little more reflective and ready to attack my day.

Sample texts from BGSDlist.
BGSDlist
Have you ever wanted Kelly Sue DeConnick to send you sporadic motivational texts? She has lowkey changed my life. I love her.

What are your favorite productivity apps?

Stuff I liked: June 2018

I almost have some exciting real life news, but I’m going to wait until next month to tell you all. I don’t want to jinx it.

I can tell you that my birthday fundraiser for the ACLU went really well! I raised $200 with an additional $10-30 in late donations. I need to hunt those down. That translates to A LOT of painted postcards. I wasn’t expecting that. He’s two that I’ve mailed out already:

Watercolor painting of Killmonger from Marvel's Black Panther movie. It says "IS THIS YOUR POSTCARD?"
Watercolor painting of a Siamese cat on a blue background.

Only, uh, 20 more to go.

ICYMI/Blog Stuff

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod Review
The Ordinary Granactive 2% Retinoid Emulsion Review
Birthday Fundraiser for the ACLU! (The fundraiser is over, obviously, but there’s some more art here!)
What Subscription Box Should I Try Next?
June 2018 Ipsy Bag — LAST IPSY BAG!
Beyond Intensive Ampoule Hyaluronic Acid

Podcasts

Reveal I’ve been going through Reveal’s back catalogue. They’re a treasure. They have a really good series on immigration, if you’re not quite sure what’s going on.
ZigZag Radiotopia got new summer shows! This one has women explaining blockchain. I’m two episodes in and it seems like a great podcast.
Ear Hustle Episode 17 – The Row Ear Hustle is on their summer break, so now is a great time to get caught up with them. They interview inmates on death row in this one. An important listen.

I clearly don’t know what fiction podcasts are any more. If you listen to a good one, let me know about it in the comments.

Books

Saga Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, and Fonografiks
Saga is so consistently good. If you’re looking for trans characters and discussions of abortion in your sci-fi/fantasy, this is the volume for you. And yes, I look for those things. I can only read about so many stoic middle aged men in spaceships, okay?

Video Games

That summer Steam sale got me. I bought something like 6 games, hated three of them, returned them, and bought two more. Steam has a nice return policy. “It wasn’t fun” is a valid return reason.

Right now I’m playing Fallout 4 and I love it. It got some bad reviews, so I had stayed away from it. I don’t trust anyone anymore. I’m having a great time with it.

What are you guys doing this summer?

Birthday Fundraiser for the ACLU!

Hey everyone! I mentioned at the beginning of the month that there would be an opportunity to get some watercolors. A few of you have had some really sweet comments about the paintings I’ve shared, so I wanted to show you a few more paintings and let you know about the fundraiser that I’m putting on for my local chapter of the ACLU.

The link for my Facebook fundraiser is here. It will be active until my birthday on the 21st. I’m sending everyone that donates at least $10 a handpainted watercolor postcard.

And now, what you’re really here for: More paintings.

2018-06-15
Sometimes I do fanart.

But mostly I’ve been practicing floral designs to help train myself to work quickly and decisively.
2018-05-07-3

2018-05-04

2018-04-16

I typically post new paintings over on my instagram. Feel free to give me a follow over there!

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod Review

I’m officially branching out into the “privileged white woman self help daydream” genre. There’s probably a shorter name for that, but you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I picked this book up because someone had abandoned it (and 19 others) during move in month at my apartment building. I’ll start any book. Whether or not I finish them is a different story.

Cover of Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

I did finish Paris Letters. I’m going to give it some shit here, but it was honestly cute. It was well-written and lovely. I was wholeheartedly invested when I thought this was fiction. Janice is likeable. The idea of quitting your corporate job and mysteriously making a living while sleeping with a hot butcher is likeable. I’m down with escapism. I wanted it to happen. Please read this book through that lens.

About three chapters in I realized that this was a memoir. I was supposed to be reading this under the guise of “oh, I can do that with my life.” She even gives her money-saving tips at the end.

So can I? Can I Paris Letters my life up?

Janice’s Goals (AKA The Plot)
– Save/make $100 a day to support herself and quit her job. Tasks are enumerated in The List in the back of the book.
– Quit said job when she hits $30k and move to Europe.
– Fall in love and be utterly content, freed from her corporate hell.

She ends up saving $60k remarkably easy, which is the only number about her finances that is ever given. This book pushes the vagueness pretty hard in attempts to be more relatable. I was bummed about that. I love a girl that hustles, and this book minimizes how much work changing her life like this would have taken.

Can I live Janice’s Life?
There are 100 money tips in the back of the book. The person that previously owned this book dog eared the page for reference. Maybe they had to get rid of the book because they were moving to Europe? I hope they’re doing well.

70+ of the tips are to stop buying things and to sell what you don’t need. I’m crushing this. I’m not making a net gain of $100 a day from it. Lame.

Most of the other tips are basic financial literacy things. She paid off her credit card debt. She started dabbling in the stock market. I honestly think the reason she couldn’t immediately quit her job is because she had always lived a life that didn’t require having a handle on her finances. That’s not a cute love story, though.

There are a few things that I found useful. While she was planning her escape, she took 20 minutes a day to clean up her apartment. I’ve started doing 10 minutes a day. Not because I am actually planning to run off to Europe and find a hot butcher. My apartment just has too many things for the amount of space it is and needs some love after I spent five months working full time and taking classes.

She also journals, which I agree is immensely helpful in sorting out the thoughts in your head.

And then there are two things that are uncomfortable goals for me, but I’m going to make them. She puts a donate button up on her blog and sells some art. I’ll accept those two challenges. (There’s a Ko-Fi link in the sidebar if you’d like me to move to Paris.)

After I learn to properly paint and open an Etsy shop, I will come back and point out that it will take me over a decade to save the money that she did to move. This isn’t looking like a great plan.

Instead of faulting Janice for my inability to emulate her, I am going to point out that she has read Eat, Pray, Love and The Secret. Maybe my problem is that I just haven’t read enough of the privileged white woman self help books?

Which one should I try next? How many until I’m properly enlightened and free? Will the number of books that I’ve read directly correlate to how many years it takes for my Bachelor’s degree to start paying off? Stay tuned.