Treat Yourself: DIY Steam Facial

You know when your vacation is over and you realize you need another vacation just to relax from the first one?  My recent trip to Asheville was supposed to be full of hiking, reading and getting in touch with my inner Goddess but…nope.  I crashed with my awesome friend Kara and it quickly became apparent that this would be more of a drinking, eating, shopping, non-sleeping kind of vacation.  Suffice it to say that my body is still recovering.

Fortunately, I have learned over the years to build in time post-vacation to gently ease back into regular life, and yesterday I took full advantage of this by performing one of my favorite, simple self-care rituals: the steam facial.

DIY Steam Facial | Whisper & Howl

This easy practice is relaxing and great for your skin.  Facial steaming has several benefits:

  • Increases circulation in the face
  • Increases perspiration, which helps to release toxins from the skin
  • Softens debris in pores and lifts it to the surface of the skin, where it can be more easily removed
  • Feels really indulgent
  • Can also help loosen up gunk in your sinuses and lungs

Do-It-Yourself Steam Facial INSTRUCTIONS

The hardest part about this is gathering the ingredients.

DIY Steam Facial | Whisper & Howl

Ingredients

3 parts comfrey

2 parts rose petals

2 parts chamomile 

2 parts calendula

1 part lavender

I have most of these things laying around the house or in my garden, but if you’re not a secret witch then you may need to buy them.  I collected mine from various health and/or whole foods stores and co-ops.  Mountain Rose Herbs is an amazing resource for all things natural.  I like to keep a jar of steam facial herbs on hand for emergency self-care sessions.

Water

Cooking Pot

Large Towel

Something to listen to

Comfortable place to sit with your face over a pot for 15 minutes

DIY Steam Facial | Whisper & Howl

Instructions

  1. Set water to boil in a medium pot, something large enough to put your face over comfortably.
  2.  Mix steam facial ingredients.  You can mix a small amount for one batch, or a larger amount for future use. Store in an air tight glass jar.
  3. Find a good playlist, mantra or podcast.  I highly recommend Jordan, Jesse, Go!, a comedy podcast with which I am obsessed.
  4. Once the water has come to a boil, remove it from the heat, add herbs and cover for a few minutes so they can steep.
  5. Bring the pot over to your comfortable sitting place.  Sit.  Turn on music.  Place your head over the pot and a towel over your face and let that sweet, hot steam dissolve all your problems for the next 15 minutes.
  6. It can get really hot under there, so you may need to come up for some cool air or lift the towel every now and then.  That’s cool.  Don’t burn your face!
  7. When you’re finished, splash your face with cold water or apply a face mask of your choice.

DIY Steam Facial | Whisper & Howl

Feel great?  I hope so!  I know I do.

What is your favorite way to recharge when you need a vacation from your vacation?

Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Summer Capsule Wardrobe | Whisper & Howl

Fancy background, eh?

Shopping and returns have been completed.  (Actually, they were completed 2 weeks ago but it took me this long to get photos together and have a strong enough internet connection to post them!)  I started transitioning into my Summer Capsule Wardrobe in early June because it was just so damn hot, and I culled and incorporated and curated up until July 7th. I am now fully committed to wearing the same 35 items every day for the next 3 months!

Well, kind of. Since I started this one early, I am also ending it early, transitioning back into what I’m calling my Early Spring/Late Summer capsule wardrobe. I won’t be buying anything new until September  when I will start working on my Fall Capsule, but I may switch out some pieces as the air starts to cool down toward the end of summer. At least, I hope it will cool down!

These photos aren’t ideal, but I have figured out a pretty brilliant scheme to set up a photography “studio” in my room, so hopefully I’ll have some better images in the future, as well as outfit photos.  I used BeFunky‘s online collage maker to create these images (and somehow managed to leave the “add ” and “delete” icons on some of them! Please ignore!).

Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Newly acquired pieces are indicated by an asterisk.

Tops 1 Tops 2 Tops 3Tops 4

sleeveless white blouse with embroidery (GAP) / pink tank (LOFT)* / tulip-hem tee (Old Navy) / 2 easy, breezy rayon tops in white and black (LOFT)* / chambray button down (similar here) / boxy trapeze tee (GAP, similar here) / slouchy blouse (LOFT)* / graphic blouse / silky mint tank (The Limited) / coastal stripe dolman blouse (LOFT)* / trapeze tee (LOFT)* /  tulip-hem tee (Old Navy) / tank (Target) / tulip-hem tee (Old Navy) / tanks (GAP) /  shirred blouse -also in white  (LOFT)* / cardigan (Banana Republic) / triangle cardigan (LOFT)*

Dresses 2Dress 1Dresses 3

nautical stripe tshirt dress (Bass) / vintage romper / tie dye dress (Bass) / matchstick print wrap dress with flutter sleeves and tulip hem (made by me from the Victory Nicola pattern with this Cotton + Steel fabric by Rashida Coleman)* / pineapple dress (Banana Republic) / chambray trapeze dress (LOFT)* / print dress (River Island from ASOS) / maxi dress / striped jersey dress (Target) / tribal maxi dress ( (Target, similar here)*Bottoms 1Summer Capsule Wardrobe | Whisper & Howl

vintage polka dot skirts / mini skirt (Old Navy) / palazzo pants (Target) / tulip-hem maxi skirt (LOFT)* / cut offs / high waisted skinny jeans (GAP)*

Note: Not counted in the capsule are pieces of lounge wear and exercise gear including yoga pants, many t shirts, pajamas, and house dresses.  I might go through my t shirts one day, but I really love the ones I’ve got and I primarily wear them for working out and sleeping.

Honestly, I feel like I have too many pieces.  I’m interested to see how I feel by the time Fall rolls around.

Have you started a capsule wardrobe?  How’s that going?

Moving Through Resistance

Moving Through Resistance | Whisper & HowlThese past few weeks I’ve been working on creating new, positive habits–specifically, establishing a morning routine.  I’ve mentioned that I want to become a morning person, and I’ve decided that I should be well on my way by my birthday, August 31st.  As of today that gives me 6 weeks to 1) break old habits and 2) establish a new pattern.

I wish this were easier.  It seems so simple and direct:

  • Determine a goal.
  • Figure out the steps required to achieve said goal.
  • Set an intention, move forward with purpose, think positively, yadda yadda.
  • Do it.  Goal accomplished.

That’s nothing, right?  Hah.

Of course, in this case I’m not just adding sweet morning habits to a morning devoid of habits.  I have to make time for them as well.  I have to wake up earlier in order to add these sweet, energizing activities.  I have to wake up and decide to stay awake.  This is the hard part.  This is where breaking the old habit comes in.  This is where the demon known as Resistance rears his sleepy, lackadaisical head, blinks his eyes, and goes back to sleep.  My mornings, therefore, are an epic struggle with this lazy monster who has reigned inside my head for far too long.

Resistance shows up often, manifesting as procrastination, frustration, depression, “I don’t waaaaannnaaaaa,” giving into the snooze alarm.  I remember it well from my childhood.  Although I didn’t know what to call it, I remember feeling a tightening in my chest, an almost physical inability to perform tasks I’d been asked to do such as putting dishes away or cleaning my room.  I felt it in a different way when it came time to practice piano, and I feel it now when I think about picking up my ukulele to learn new chords.  I didn’t know how to deal with this feeling when I was younger and I recall hot, unexplained tears, tantrums and time outs.  Fortunately, there are ways to cope that don’t result in hurling one’s self on the ground and screaming.

What To Do When Resistance Shows Up

1) Acknowledge It.  

When you notice the discomfort of resistance arising, recognize it for what it is.  Name it.  Acknowledge it.  Invite it in for tea. Naming the discomfort and acknowledging it loosens the knots it creates.  (This works for all kinds of discomfort.)

2) Contemplate It. 

Consider where the resistance comes from.  For example, if it’s time for me to practice my instrument and I am overcome with a physical sensation of stiffness in my chest, almost a feeling of anger or even just a dismissive thought that I’ll do it later, I can sit quietly for a moment, check in with myself and ask, “Why don’t I want to practice my instrument?  Am I frustrated by a particular piece or technique?  Am I afraid I will never learn it?  Am I falling short of my own perfectionism?  What happens if I allow myself to sit with the discomfort that arises when I practice, or simply the feeling of resistance?”

3) Move Through It, Gently. 

More often than not, when I sit with the discomfort, I realize its source and I can acknowledge that and move on.  Then the task at hand can be performed joyfully or at the very least, performed.

Through these practices, we can accomplish the goals we’ve been putting off.  In my case, I can wake up and stay awake, arise and begin establishing my positive morning habits.  I may need to program my alarm clock an extra 5 minutes early just to move through the resistance. Perhaps this, too, is part of my routine: step one, the first habit. Maybe this is a lesson in itself, to begin at the beginning.

How does Resistance show up for you?  Do you have any practices for moving through it?

 

Weekend Wanderer

Weekend Wanderer | Whisper & Howl

I start every week with good intentions. I get up on Monday, teach my yoga class, drink a smoothie and head to work. If it’s not too hot, I walk. I wake up Tuesday through Friday to do 5 minutes of pranayama (breath work) and 5 minutes of meditation–a new practice to help me establish the habits that will make up my morning routine--and start the day off with focus and clarity. After work, I walk home to cook a healthy dinner and enjoy the evening by painting, reading, sewing, attending a class, spending time with friends, or vegging in front of the TV (too often, honestly). Around 9 I go upstairs and do 7 minutes of asana, which usually lasts much longer than 7 minutes, perform my evening skin care routine and go to bed, where I do my castor oil pack and read for 45 minutes before I sleep.

I mean, this is ideal. Sometimes I fall off the wagon and eat junk for dinner, plopping down on the couch to pass the evening with Netflix. I think that’s okay. Some nights my asana is just a very long savasana, and some nights I read Tarot cards or meditate and suddenly realize I am staying up way too late. Most mornings, I used to pound the snooze alarm for a long time, although I’m on a mission to change this and have so far been doing pretty well with establishing my morning routine…

Except on weekends. On the weekend, everything slips away and I find myself wandering far away from my path of good intentions. Sometimes it’s because I’m having a wonderful time out with friends and am up way past my bedtime having excellent conversations and drinking too much wine. Other times, I am worn out from the week before or am nursing a cold and choose to sleep late and laze around–and this is totally fine! I’m not rigid. If I were, I wouldn’t be striving so hard to establish some healthy habits. These occasions are totally “allowable,” not wandering so much as being fluid and attuned to the body.

What does bother me, however, is when I stay up until 2 am binge-watching TV. I do this thing where I stay up super late and fall asleep on the couch when my roommate is away. For some reason it feels really indulgent. It also makes me feel like shit. I end up sleeping until 11 or later the next day. I drop my morning routine. My face goes unwashed. I feel like I’ve wasted half the day and I get stressed out thinking of all the things I wanted to do, and how I must now choose. On Sunday evening I have to reset, and on Monday waking up early is more difficult than it should be.

It’s not that I want to impose a structure on my weekends that would make me, you know, super boring. It’s that I want to do more: have more fun, accomplish a mini-goal, be more active, enjoy myself more. When I stay up late and sleep in nearly ’til noon, I can’t do these things. I miss the Farmers Market. It’s too hot to go hiking. I still have chores to do and that interferes with my social time, or I am social and my house remains a mess for the upcoming week. I break out because I’ve neglected my skincare. The list goes on.

What I’d like to do is to maintain a bit of my weekday routine, but to stretch it and be more flexible with it. I used to think I wanted the opportunity to sleep late but now I want the opportunity to enjoy the whole day! As I’m establishing my weekday habits, I need to be mindful of what I want for my time off. How can I live to the max Friday-Sunday? How can I make the most of the time I have? What can I do to become a warrior instead of a wanderer?

What is your ideal weekend like? How do you spend your time currently, and how would you like to change?

Outfit Photos: Is This For Me?

LOFT tank, second-hand skirt | Whisper & Howl

LOFT tank, second-hand skirt

Well, taking outfit photos is exactly as tough as I thought it would be.  I did a mini-shoot up against the exterior wall of my apartment last night and got a couple of cute pictures out of it. There are a lot of blurry shots of me jumping and spinning, making faces, and laughing *with* the neighbors who thought I was nuts.  It was sort of fun? Mostly though, I’m dealing with a lot of feelings that always come up when my picture is taken.

I’ve given a lot of thought to whether I should even have outfit photos on the blog.  I like the way I dress but I don’t know that I’m uniquely fashionable.  I also want to share my capsule wardrobe journey, to show that you can be stylish, happy and content with less.  But there are plenty of selfie-taking bloggers out there and a lot of them have excellent photography skills, equipment, and experience.  Why should I dive into a pond that’s already full of beautiful, fashionable fish?

I’ve followed a lot of fashion bloggers over the past few years and I’ve noticed that they tend to fall into 2 camps: slim and plus-sized.  I absolutely adore the plus-sized fashion bloggers; they are bold, fierce, fun, gorgeous and inspiring.  I like the slim ladies, too.  My issue here is that I am basically an average-sized American woman, and I can only find a couple of fashion bloggers with my body-type.  Perhaps it’s that thinner women are more confident sharing their photos online, and that the plus-sized women are radical, stereotype-defying badasses?  This is not to say that thin women can’t be radical, stereotype-defying badasses in other areas, but that being a larger woman and deigning to take up space, wear loud prints, and demand to be a part of the world of fashion is pretty righteous.

Plus-sized models are closer to my size, starting at a size 8, but they are taller and I don’t actually fit into plus-sized clothing.  When I search for clothing in a size 12, I am shown how it would look on a size 2 model.  This gives me absolutely no idea how it would look on my curvy, 5’5″ frame.  I often feel like I’m in this zone where I’m not quite thin “enough,” where I could definitely lose 20 lbs., but where I’m also not plus-sized.  I’m just a gal who likes clothes and getting dressed and wants to see people of all shapes and sizes in fashion, not just extremes.

Basically, this is a personal project.  Taking these photos forces me to confront my own body and face, the way I stand when I’m not posing, the way I smile when I’m trying to act naturally.  I’ve struggled over the years with feeling “not pretty enough,” especially when photos are taken.  I can get dressed up, perfect my makeup and hair, go to a party and have a total blast–but if someone takes a picture and shows me, I will crumple.  I thought I looked great, but I was wrong!, my Inner Critics will say.  I will turn inward, become self-conscious.  This problem is unique to digital photography, that instant-replay feature that steals our memories and loads them on a hard drive.

Sharing these photos forces me to be okay with the way I look, to be unashamed of my body, to be cool with my scrunched-up laughing face.  It’s not radical, but it’s important to me.

 

All gunked up

Whisper & Howl

I realized something important about my body last week.

It’s whack.  Wacky.  Out of whack.  Whacked?

The alignment is all off.  There’s no balance.  Not that it has been balanced in years anyway.  I’ve been dealing with poor health for years: low energy, congestion, GI issues, back pain, occasional fatigue…just feeling kind of crappy all of the time.  I’m so, so tired of it.

I remember 2 years ago, my Birthday Resolution was “Health.”  I knew that was pretty broad so I tried to break it up into segments like Spiritual, Mental, Physical, because that makes it so much easier (hahahahaaaahhhhhhhsigh).  After the year was up I certainly didn’t feel that I’d accomplished that goal.  I was in grad school, dealing with a lot of anxiety, stress and loneliness.  I was fatigued and bloated all of the time, and I’d totally let my asana practice go.  But you know, I got by.  I got through that.   I also realized that year that gluten was causing a lot of my fatigue issues, so I cut that out.

Actually, looking back, I did totally start something that year.  I set the intention to improve my health and while I didn’t find the cure and solve all my problems, I started on the path to feeling awesome.  I guess that’s what intentions do.  Ah hah!

Since then, I have put a lot of energy into healing my digestive system.  Again, as a sign of my natural impatience, I was focusing on immediate results and not thinking about the long-term effects that this would have.  Focusing on the immediate made it easier to slip up and eat things that cause a reaction.  For instance, it’s really hard to not eat cheese.

Cheese is like, the best thing.  It’s delicious, fatty and salty and interesting, and it’s packed full of chemicals that make us feel amazing.  When I’m in situations where I’m literally touching it, like cutting pizza for kids or slicing a chunk of Jarslberg for a gallery opening, it is almost impossible for me not to put it in my mouth.  Lots of it.  Even though it upsets my tummy.  Even though I’ll wake up with a sinus headache that could definitely turn into a sinus infection.  Even though I am basically one big snot monster.  It’s just SO GOOD.

What I didn’t realize before is that I have done a pretty good job of healing my gut, and that has allowed me to see other problems that still exist.   I have connected some dots and now know that I’ve got a lot of inflammation in my body, which is causing congestion and back pain.  Now that my gut is better and that’s not the focus of all of my healing energy, I can move on to a new phase of healing.

My impression is that I need to cleanse now, to get the leftover junk, the junk that’s built up in my body for all the years when I was eating the wrong foods or whatever caused all these things, to flush all that shit out.  We’re in Cancer Sun time, a time for healing, and Capricorn Moon time, a time for setting routines and putting systems into place. Perfect timing, right?!It’s like Phase 2!  (Or really, like Phase One Zillion.) I have to maintain my diet.  I have to FIGHT THE CHEESE (or as my acupuncturist said, “Don’t feed the monster”).  I can’t put gunk in my body if I want to get gunk OUT of it!

You won’t see my on a juice cleanse–first because I think it’s super unhealthy and second, because I think it’s stupid and I don’t want to, harumph–or any other fad detox diets.  Here are some things I am going to do, and I’m putting them here on the internet to officially set my intention and challenge myself to commit:

  1. SMOOTHIE CHALLENGE!!!  I’ve been really bad about having a daily smoothie and I feel better when I do have them.  They increase my fruit and veggie intake and are easy to digest, good for an irritated gut.  I have already started and will continue to have 1 Smoothie each day in July and hopefully will keep doing it in future months.
  2. Acupuncture and treatments: I started acupuncture on Tuesday and have made appointments for the next month, every other week.  I’m also doing what my specialist tells me to do, which at the moment is Castor Oil Packs over my liver each evening and Wet Sock Treatment for 3 nights in a row.  Yes, it’s weird, and yes, I love it.
  3. Sticking to my diet: Absolutely, 100%, no excuses, doing this.  I WILL DO THIS!!!  THIS IS HAPPENING!
  4. Immune-boosting, dosha-balancing, cleansing foods and herbs: Turmeric and ginger in my smoothies.  Hot water and lemon. Apple cider vinegar.  Triphala and Neem.  Bitter, pungent, fresh, spicy foods.  Immune-boosting soup.  Fresh fruits and veggies.  You get the idea.

And the MOST IMPORTANT THING:

Have PATIENCE.  Oh this is so hard for me!  Once I have identified a problem, I feel like I should be able to fix it immediately and when I don’t see results right away, I get frustrated.  I have to let go of my Virgoan perfectionism, breathe deeply, drink my smoothie and remember that good things take time.  Monsters can be tamed.  Small steps.

If you are dealing with something similar, or have gone through this and come out the other side, monster-free, I’ll take any tips you’ve got!

Summer Capsule Wardrobe Pt. 1

Summer Capsule (still in progress) | Whisper & Howl

Summer Capsule (still in progress)

I’m not quite finished curating my Summer Capsule Wardrobe, but I’ve made progress since last time.  I did some analyzing and shopping last week.  I’m focusing on light, breathable fabrics; light colors; flowy cuts like that of the swing dress partially pictured below.  This is one of the hottest summers we’ve had in years and I want my clothing to be airy.  I want movement.  I want to catch the light breeze and feel it on my skin.  I want to reflect the sun.  For the most part, I want simple, well-cut clothes that I can add to with accessories.  I have a few summery print dresses leftover from years past and made in my sewing class that add some fun (matchsticks and pineapples!) but for the most part the focus is on mint green, light blue, white and black, with accents of light pink and fluorescent green.

I’m hoping to practice my outfit-photography skills this weekend but until I find a nice, private-ish location in which to  unselfconsciously take well-lit self-portraits, here are some detail shots.

Crown Vintage sandals and LOFT chambray dress | Whisper & Howl

Crown Vintage sandals and LOFT chambray dress

Banana Republic pineapple dress and cardigan | Whisper & Howl

Banana Republic pineapple dress and cardigan

Crocs Adrina flats and GAP jeans | Whisper & Howl

Crocs Adrina flats and GAP jeans

I still feel like this capsule is a little too large and varied right now so I’m planning to return some items tomorrow and to make sure I don’t have any “orphan” pieces.  I’ll give the run-down of my wardrobe next week when it’s set, along with some notes on my process. 

If you’re interested in learning more about what a capsule wardrobe is and how to create one for yourself, I recommend checking out Un-Fancy and Project 333 for information and guides.