October Favorites 2021

October Favorites 2021

What a year it’s been. What a year. I lost my cat and my mom more or less one month apart. Almost to the day. Sarek died June 21, and my mom died July 20. So… needless to say, I didn’t have any favorite things for quite some time. I don’t want to say I feel better now. Better isn’t the right word. But I’m capable of enjoying things again, even though nothing will ever be the same. Without further ado, here are my October favorites.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Felicity Morrow’s girlfriend, Alex, vanished last school year, leaving residents at Dalloway School (a prestigious, all-girls academy) with only rumors and speculation. Did Alex run away after suffering public humiliation? Or did Felicity murder her? Convinced she’s being haunted by Alex’s spirit, Felicity is determined to discover what happened to her — no matter the cost. When acclaimed writer Ellis Haley comes to the Dalloway School to research the Dalloway Five, an unsolved 18th century murder of five young girls, Felicity finds a new friend — and possibly more.

Lee centers their plot around queer characters without falling into the category of writing yet another coming out story or the dreaded ‘kill all your gays’ trope. Lee’s novel dovetails gothic horror and fantasy while confronting privilege and mental health head-on. A Lesson in Vengeance is an ideal starting point for readers new to the genre while providing enough depth for seasoned veterans of dark literature.

(I read this back in early September, but I still wasn’t emotionally ready to consider anything a favorite at the time. But! It was one of the first things that came to mind when I was putting my list together.)

Powdered Oak & Seven Metals by Ryan Kurr

Guided by Spirit, Nina relocates her coven to the small, snowy town of Nova, Colorado. Unfortunately for Nina, a change of scenery brings changes within the coven. Leo, her most gifted witch, ventures off on his own, causing the coven to splinter. With dangerous witches, haunting prophecies, and moral dilemmas abounds, Leo must choose between saving the world or saving his soul. What does this mean for Nina and the coven? How does the story end? We’ll have to find out in the third installment, which Kurr is working on now. (Type faster, please. Like… seriously.)

Kurr’s second book in the Esoteric Alchemy series is nothing short of triumphant as he leads us on an intricately plotted journey featuring rich characterization, dazzling prose, and the author’s expansive knowledge of the occult. The witchy and queer communities will particularly adore Kurr’s deep, insightful work, but even non-witches will cherish this twisty, unputdownable novel. While this novel is stylistically different from the first in the series, the changes feel natural and appropriate given the complex plot line.

(Fun fact: I’m a few dozen words short of being classified as a speed reader, so I plowed through this one in a couple of days. It’s dense, but it also comes with recipes and a grimoire, so it’s not as daunting as you think. 10/10, highly recommend.)

Midnight Mass (Netflix)

When a charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater) brings miracles and mystery to the remote fishing village of Crockett Island, the townspeople grapple with renewed faith, guilt, and unknown terror. Don’t let the religious content frighten you away — Midnight Mass offers cerebral, creeping horror set against a backdrop of Catholic mysticism. Witness the slow decay of a dying way of life, character-driven twists and turns, and a shocking ending you won’t see coming. The series relies more on weaving a pervasive dread throughout than it does on jump scares. Midnight Mass is a slow burn, and the final conflagration is worth the journey.

As the heart and soul of the series, Kate Siegel and Zach Gilford turn in sweet, vulnerable performances. Samantha Sloyan channels Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus as Beverly Keane, playing the role so perfectly you begin to despise the actor herself. Fan favorite Rahul Kohli shines as Sheriff Hassan, a New York transplant who shoulders racism and religious discrimination with grace. Henry Thomas, Annabeth Gish, and Robert Longstreet (frequent Flanagan collaborators all) ground the series with subtle, emotive performances. But Midnight Mass is ultimately Linklater’s vehicle, and he steers it with raw precision.

(Props to my brother from another mother for putting up with my numerous quips and incessant need to scream about my love for Kate Siegel, corn, plantain chips, and blueberry muffins during our binge. You’re an actual saint.)

Aesop Seeking Silence Facial Hydrator

If you’ve been around a while, you know I used to have the oiliest skin on the planet. When I turned a little older (and a lot drier), I had to completely revamp my skincare routine. With the weather taking a turn for the frigid and heaters blowing on high, we’ll all be facing the winter scalies. Made with Dunaliella Salina Extract (a microalgae packed with antioxidants), ginger root, Bisabolol (a colorless oil from chamomile), and Narcissus Tazetta Bulb Extract (which comes from daffodils), Aesop’s moisturizer soothes redness and irritation without leaving the skin greasy.

I have combination-to-dry skin, rosacea, and eczema, so I need extremely gentle, hydrating products that won’t irritate my skin. Unfortunately, I also have acne-prone skin, so I have to avoid certain ingredients. As a vegan, it’s also essential that my skincare products (apart from prescription drugs) are never tested on animals. Products can be vegan — lacking animal by-products — without being cruelty-free. If it comes down to choosing a vegan product or a cruelty-free product, I will always go for the cruelty-free one. Fortunately, this one from Aesop is cruelty-free and vegan.

(I got my brother hooked on this stuff, too! The rings seen in this shot are also my favorites. Since it’s kind of hard to review jewelry, I’ve linked them. Moonstone ring: Bloodmilk. Wheel of Fortune ring: Etah Love. Sarek ring: Acid Queen Jewelry.)

Adana Beauty Pacify Rosacea Oil*

Tapping into the wisdom of Ayurveda, Adana Beauty uses a calming blend of Ashwagandha oil, Safflower oil, Honey, Safflower flowers, Kulisha oil, olive oil, Chamomile flowers, turmeric, and cornflower petals to calm redness, irritation, and burning. While the original blend isn’t vegan because it contains honey, the brand makes each batch by hand. Message them and ask for a honey-free bottle.

Many of Adana’s products are vegan — they’ll be clearly marked on the website — and they all smell heavenly. I slather my skin in Pacify every night (and sometimes during the day if I know I won’t be leaving the house), and I’ve seen a dramatic reduction in facial redness. It also helps calm down the eczema itchies.

(*The brand kindly gifted me a box of goodies to try out, but I’m not being paid for my review. I’ll always disclose when I’ve received payment to review a product, and I’ll give my honest opinion.)

So those are my October favorites. What did you love last month?

Where I’ve Been

It’s been almost a year since I’ve updated this blog. I would apologize, but a lot has happened. Some of it has been amazing, but a lot… hasn’t.

My beloved cat, Sarek, passed away from a stroke on June 21. Not even a month later, on July 20, my mother died of lung cancer. She was admitted to the hospital with a bowel obstruction, something she had numerous times. We thought it would be like the last time: drop an NG tube, deflate her stomach, and the obstruction will resolve.

Unbeknownst to us, her cancer had already metastasized to her brain. My uncle and I were at her side when she passed.

I say “unbeknownst to us” because she kept scheduling PET scans over the past year, and she was repeatedly told the same thing. Due to the pandemic, PET scans were being performed “on an emergent basis only.” She would have to wait. The wait cost her her life.

Please, please, please, get vaccinated and continue wearing a mask. If you’re hesitant about receiving the vaccine, please wear a mask and avoid crowds. Please be responsible. People who did everything right are dying because so many have fallen prey to misinformation, are crippled by fear, or blatantly disregard the lives of others.

You may not know this, but I’ve been my mother’s caregiver since 2015. It’s been the one thing that defines my life above all others. Losing her has thrown my life into a state of flux. I genuinely don’t know who I am without her.

I changed my URL as a tribute to my mother. “Golden Slumbers” was her favorite Beatles song. It’s the first song I remember hearing as a child, and it’s the last song I played for my mother on her deathbed. I also want “smiles await you” to become a motto for me. Right now, life feels unbearable, but I will grow around my grief. Eventually, I’ll smile again.

Thank you to everyone who’s been so supportive. You have no idea how much I appreciate your kindness.

Chadwick Boseman: American Hero

Marvel’s Black Panther

Actor Chadwick Boseman has died of colon cancer at the age of 43.

Boseman, most famous for his portrayal of T’Challa in Black Panther, personified grace and dignity onscreen and off. In April of this year, Boseman donated $4.2 million worth of PPE to hospitals serving the Black community.

A staunch supporter of the BLM movement, Boseman challenged Hollywood’s encouragement of “the epidemic of police violence and culture of anti-Blackness.”

Boseman made a name for himself playing Black icons like Jackie Robinson (42), Thurgood Marshall (Marshall), and James Brown (Get On Up), but it was the role of T’Challa that bridged the generational gap.

Black Panther gave Black filmgoers of all ages a portrayal of Africans that had never been seen before. In the fictional Wakanda, brains receive as much praise as brawn. Wakanda’s fiercest warriors, the Dora Milaje, are an all-female unit, and there is a heavy focus on STEM education in the Black community.

Boseman knew the profound impact the film would have on impressionable young minds. “There’s a thirst for a Black superhero,” he said. And he was right.

In the wake of protests following the tragic murders of Black people by the police, Boseman’s death feels especially heavy.

Black communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the death of such an inspirational figure adds another layer of grief.

It’s normal to grieve for someone you’ve never met. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of pain and suffering the world has faced this year.

I can only imagine how tired Chadwick Boseman must have been, but he chose to share his gift with the world anyway.

Diagnosed in 2016, Boseman portrayed T’Challa, king of Wakanda, in four action films. He allowed us to witness his strength and dedication without ever letting on that he was suffering.

But Chadwick Boseman should not be used as ableist porn. We can applaud his efforts without shaming others. I believe that’s the last thing he would want.

While most of us never had the opportunity to meet him, we let him into our lives (and our hearts) through his work.

He will never be forgotten.

Friday was the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. It was also Jackie Robinson Day.

From now on, it will also be remembered as a day we lost a superhero.

Rest In Peace, King.

Wakanda forever!

Donations to BLM can be made here.

How to Help the Navajo Nation During the Pandemic

help indigenous population during covid theunscaryvegan

The Navajo Nation, the country’s largest reservation, stretches across 16 million acres of land in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. As of May 27, the Navajo Nation had the highest per capita infection rate — over 4,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 out of 173,000 residents.

By June 14, over 6,600 cases had been confirmed with over 300 deaths. While no longer the country’s coronavirus hotspot, the Navajo — or Diné, as they prefer to be called — suffered an infection rate higher than 15 states.

With an unemployment rate of over 40% and many residents living on less than $12,760 per year, the pandemic is yet another challenged faced by an impoverished nation.

One third of the population suffers from diabetes, heart conditions, and lung disease, further exacerbating the virus’ impact on infected individuals. Worst of all, the abysmal lack of grocery stores — only 13 in a 27,413 square mile area — makes social distancing nigh on impossible. Residents from different households frequently carpool to the nearest store to save on gas.

The lack of access to clean water is also a massive barrier against fighting COVID-19. According to a study conducted by the US Water Alliance and DIGDEEP, Native Americans face a greater lack of clean water than any other group in the country.

Casino closures have also devastated tribal nations. Dr. Philip Smith, a Navajo Nation resident, states that those living in the interior of reservations — in other words, further away from non-tribal land — rely on seasonal tourism work as their sole source of income.

help the navajo nation theunscaryvegan

And if all of this sounds like a disaster of epic proportions, bear in mind that it’s all a direct result of deeper, systemic abuse perpetuated by the American government against Indigenous tribes.

The CARES Act, the Federal coronavirus relief bill, allocated $8 billion to Native American tribes, but much damage had already been done by the time payments began to trickle out.

The Diné are fighting for survival amidst a global pandemic while facing abject poverty, limited access to water and fresh food, a crumbling infrastructure, substandard healthcare, and limited opportunities for education.

Here’s how you can help:

Donate directly to the Navajo Relief Fund.

Donate to the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 GoFundMe.

Donate to the Far East Navajo COVID-19 Response Fund.

Donate to Protect Native Elders.

Buy from Indigenous-owned brands.

Shop Native-owned Etsy stores.

If you run an Indigenous-owned shop, please leave the link in the comments so I can update this list!



The Ultimate Guide to Making Money Online

Remember back in March when we all thought we’d be sipping Mai Tais on the beach by now if we just stayed home for a few weeks? Remember how idealistic we were?

Miss Rona remembers, and it looks like she’s here to stay through summer. (At least.)

With many schools putting out official statements that they won’t reopen until January, several governors threatening noncompliant, mask-hating morons with another statewide shutdown, and the state of the economy basically turning into a steaming pile of shit… can you really afford not to make money online?

I don’t mean to sound like a scary Arbonne Hun — you know, the ones who say things like, “If you can’t afford the $250 sign-on fee, you can’t afford not to do this!” — but it’s  getting really scary out there for a lot of people.

So I’m breaking down legitimate ways to make money online that don’t involve the usual advice. I’m not going to tell you to start a blog or a YouTube channel. I’m not going to advertise my Pinterest course. (Hint: I don’t have one.) Sure, those can be great in the long run, but it takes a whole lot of hard work, even more luck, and there’s no guarantee you’ll make a single penny doing it.

I’m going to give you real, actionable advice on how to make money online without taking a single survey or selling your soul to an MLM.

(No shade to the consultants. I truly believe most of them are victims of the companies they work for. If you’re making bank with an MLM, good for you, but this is a resource for people who don’t want to do that.)

Why should you listen to me? Because I work online. I didn’t start off in an office and transition to working from home during quarantine. I found my job online, and you can do it, too. Let’s get into it.

the unscary vegan ultimate guide to making money online

Search Legitimate Websites

I know how tempting it is to Google “work at home jobs” and go click-happy with the links. We’ve all been there. It’s because I’ve been there that I wanted to make this guide.

Always consider the source. You wouldn’t look for jobs on a website called Joe’s Plumbing unless you’re looking for a job as a plumber, so why not take your job search to a trusted website?

(Yes, okay, it’s ironic for me to say that considering I’m making a “real online jobs, no scams” guide, but I’ve put a lot of work into it.)

Indeed is free, has an amazing resume template — which is free to use — and allows you to create an alert for jobs in your chosen field. I found one of my jobs (yes, I have more than one job; more on that some other time) on Indeed and have actually had five companies reach out to me since I submitted my resume.

I’ve heard of paid job listing sites, and I’m sure some of them are great, but when you’re strapped for cash and freaking out, the last thing you want to do is pay to look at job listings.

Other sites to consider:

Search Specialized Job Boards for Specialized Jobs

Let’s say you work in tech. Sure, the sites I mentioned above will have some tech jobs just as they’ll have HR jobs and medical billing and coding jobs. To save yourself time, check out a site that caters to jobs in your field.

  1. Fairygodboss: This is a site by women for women. It has everything from female empowerment to job listings, and it’s one of my favorite places on the internet.
  2. Hired: For my tech people, Hired is the place to look for your job. So many listings. So many! Not gonna lie, the salaries kinda made me wish I’d gone into tech.
  3. Behance: This site is for my graphic designers and digital wizards. Check out the jobs section on their navigation bar.
  4. Lawjobs: For my legal ghouls and goblins, look no further than Lawjobs. You can search by location or even legal speciality.
  5. Mediabistro: You’ll find jobs for journalists, PR professionals, and even freelancers here.

the unscary vegan legitimate work from home jobs

Think Outside the Box

Bear in mind that not all jobs are looking to hire someone full-time, so you may need to take on more than one job. While the 2020 census is still ongoing, results from last year’s census show it’s more common than you think: 13 million Americans work more than one job, a massive uptick from 2018’s figure of 7.8 million.

Consider a side hustle as a web search evaluator if you love working with computers. Speak more than one language? There are loads of jobs out there for translators. Give transcription a go if you have a good ear and a lot of patience.

Web Search Evaluator Jobs

Translation Jobs

Transcription Jobs

the unscary vegan online job guide

Think Inside the Box… with Wheels

(Sorry, sorry, I couldn’t resist even if it’s peak Dad Humor.) It’s not quite working from home, but if you’re able-bodied, have your own car, a valid driver’s license, and a smartphone, you can pick up extra cash as a delivery driver. Some options are:

  1. Waitr
  2. UberEats
  3. Instacart
  4. DoorDash

Keep Looking

If I haven’t touched on anything that resonates with you, do some research. If you’re a virtual assistant, look for virtual assistant jobs on the jobs listing site of your choice or visit a trusted resource like Virtual Office Temps. Bookkeepers should look into Accounting Department for job listings. You can even look on Craigslist.

Last, but certainly not least, is the power of word-of-mouth referrals. Ask your friends and family if they know someone who’s hiring.

Looking for work is always daunting, especially during this challenging time, so I hope this guide has made it seem a little less scary.

Stay safe, wear your damn mask, and happy job hunting!

If you have any tips or resources you use, feel free to leave them in the comments. Let’s help each other out.