8 Things to Beat the Wintertime Blues

For many of us, February is a long, dreary month. Before Christmas, winter is a majestic season, with the crisp, cold air giving a refreshing cleanse to the earth; however, this side of the holidays, winter becomes an irksome cold that seems never-ending. Snow and slush becomes cumbersome to drive and walk in, and it’s just so unreasonably cold, preventing you from going out and doing things!

Many people get into a slump this time of year, myself included. But looking forward to the spring doesn’t make it come any faster. Here are some ways to beat the Wintertime Blues:

1. Try a new healthy eating regimen. Meal plan at the beginning of each week to incorporate healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Though it’s enticing to eat carb-loaded junk food this time of year, it will only leave you feeling sluggish. Look for healthy, easy, quick recipes online, and utilize your slow cooker!

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2. Spice up your exercise routine. Try a new group exercising class, or for those on a budget, buy a new workout DVD. If you belong to a gym, try out new machine or go for a swim. Change will get you excited about exercising again.

3. Dance like a fool. That’s right. Blast your favorite tunes and start moving. It will instantly boost your mood! Spectators not allowed.

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4. Organize your space and time. Laziness begets laziness, and vice versa…so start turning those tables and you will automatically get re-energized! Start by cleaning your house or apartment. Organize your receipts. Create a system of cleaning/organizing that works for you, and stick to it! Use a planner to schedule what you need to do and when. Make sure to include your exercise and personal time in your schedule.

5. Let yourself self-indulge a little. Recharge by treating yourself to a hair trim (or cut if you’re ambitious), brow wax, a couple hours soaking up the scene and browsing your local B&N…whatever makes you feel good about yourself and won’t break the bank!

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6. Do something for someone else. Cook a meal for a friend. Babysit a family member’s kids for free. Give someone advice, or help them with a project. Most importantly, get over yourself.

7. Read a kids’ novel…or a few. There are some really great stories out there, and it doesn’t have to remind you of your college lit class to enjoy reading them! I recently read Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth, which was engaging and I learned about a different culture and era – even if it was written for middle schoolers. I highly recommend it! Also a good way to relax without rotting your brain with TV as you spend more time indoors.

8. Let your creative juices flow. Creating something to be proud of will lift your mood and get you excited about pursuing your hobbies. Write lyrics to a song (a.k.a. a poem), make a vision board, learn you to crochet a blanket…the possibilities are endless!

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10 Best Books & Blogs for Job Seekers

Sometimes the job search can make you feel like a needle in a haystack. There are so many people out there competing for the same positions you are, and it’s hard to know how to stand out. When you’re looking for direction and strategy, it’s often helpful to go to the experts to evaluate if you can use some of their pointers and adapt their advice for your own use. Here are the 10 best books and blogs/websites I’ve found to be most helpful for job seekers:

Books:
1. I Got My Dream Job and So Can You, by Pete Leibman

I was so impressed with his insight after I read it, that I emailed him immediately after finishing it to let him know how much I loved it. He replied to my email the next day, blowing me away even more! Great read with lots of useful advice.

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2. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

This is the classic book on human relations skills. A must-read for everyone, everywhere, every career, because of it’s useful application of how to communicate better. There’s a reason why this is still a hot seller and still relevant over 50 years later!

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3. 48 Days to the Work You Love, by Dan Miller

This view had a very unique twist on the job hunt – it looked at the whole person, and finding fulfillment in what you do, not just paying the bills (though that’s important too!) A very uplifting read, so if you’ve been struggling with pessimism, be sure to pick this one up!

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4. Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies, by Josh Waldman

Great tips for using your current media outlets to connect and aide your job search. Because that’s where the employers are looking!

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5. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Career Girl Should Know, by Kate White

I couldn’t put this book down! Kate White, former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo Magazine, shares her career experiences and motivation for professional development. Though this book doesn’t stick exclusively to the job hunt process, it’s very motivational and will get you thinking about your career path, not just the next job offer.

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Blogs & Websites:
1. Classy Career Girl – Anna Runyan shares great tips for developing a job search strategy. She has posts and webinars on resumes, cover letters, networking, etc. She also has some great interviews with writers and successful professionals that are worth checking into.

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2. Levo League – Tons of articles with insightful advice about careers, skills, lifestyle, fashion, etc. Also, they have articles about successful professional women that motivate and inspire.

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3. The Undercover Recruiter – Brought to us by our friends in the UK, the Undercover Recruiter has a great collection of articles about career management, the job search, interviewing, personal branding (my favorite), resume tips, and salary.

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4. The Daily Muse – Ok, like everyone else on this list, they also have an outstanding ensemble of articles about anything you can dream of involving careers and the job search. I especially their new feature of Muse University, which allows you to pick a topic that you’re interested in learning more about, and take a “class” on it, and you will get a daily email for 5 consecutive days with a recommended article and homework assignment to help you learn that skill. Don’t worry, you’re not graded, it’s for your own personal development! Topics include Kick Start Your Job Search, Becoming a Networking Master, and Ace Any Job Interview.

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5. Life After College – this blog talks about exactly what it suggests – life after college, and figuring out how to function in the real world, in regards to Life, Career, Money, Goals and Relationships. If you feel like you’re a fish out of water after your undergrad years, this blog will comfort you that you aren’t alone – and give you useful advice along the way!

Book Review: In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez

I hate finishing a good book.

After becoming attached to the characters, seemingly at their side with the struggles they endure and the triumphs that they win, it’s sad to see them go. An end to a good book is like saying goodbye to a friend, with the hope of meeting one day again.

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Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies was one such book, and it resonated even deeper because, though this is a novel, the characters did indeed exist. The story of four sisters living in the Dominican Republic during the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo transports us to the era and enables to visualize what this regime was like. Patria, Dede, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabel each narrate a section of the story which helps us to become equally attached and identify with their circumstances and actions. The girls face various struggles due to their once-idolized leader throughout their childhood and youth, and in adulthood, led by third sister, Minerva, the sisters begin to participate in an underground political movement fighting to stop the dictatorship. Trujillo gets wind of the work of the sisters (known in the underground code as “The Butterflies” or “Las Mariposas”) and plots to have them removed. Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa were assassinated by a group of Trujillo’s cronies on a dark mountain road in 1960. After this, the Mirabel sisters became icons of freedom and women’s rights in the Dominican Republic and in the world.

Julia Alvarez used her creative license to construct historical events into an engaging novel in memory of The Butterflies. Though these sisters are very much intertwined with the identity of a nation, she was able to express their personages in an accessible, and approachable form. We are often faced with textbook interpretations of history, which make important figures like statues in a museum instead of once thinking, breathing individuals, capable of making choices and walking uncharted paths. We see these people as stagnant, unchanging. However, as we know with ourselves, our family members and our friends, this is not how humans operate. We are constantly evolving, and a life-changing decision we made today did not define who we were six months ago. The person we will be ten years from now will have experienced more joy and pain than the person we were ten years ago, and each day will define us a little more than yesterday. This is the beauty of historical fiction, and particularly this novel. As we journey with each sister, we come to understand her and the choices she makes. We see Patria, Dede, Minerva and Maria Teresa grow, and walk along side them. We begin to truly understand the environment and the people, not just what a textbook tells us is so.

The real-Mirabel sisters came to be known as heroines and martyrs in the Dominican Republic. Their death in 1960 inspired many to publicly denounce the cruel regime which signalled the beginning of the end of Trujillo’s reign. Through this novel, these women have become close to my heart for their small daily acts of bravery and standing up for justice that led to the ultimate act of bravery: the loss of their lives for what they believed in. Their story inspires me, and I hope it will you, to fiercely uphold what is just and right in our world, despite the resistance of others. Thank you, Las Mariposas, for your bravery and commitment to freedom – may we not forget your sacrifice.

Book Review: Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, by Paula Begoun

Happy Monday! I thought I’d kick off the week with some words of wisdom – a whole book full, in fact! I’ve had my eye on this book for quite a while during my frequent Barnes and Noble “window shopping” visits, and a couple of weeks ago, I finally broke down and bought it! And right now, I’m kicking myself for not doing it earlier, because there is so much great skincare and beauty information jam-packed into this book.
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Paula Begoun, a.k.a. the Cosmetics Cop wrote this book to give an honest evaluation of beauty and skincare products for most major drugstore and high-end lines. Paula began her journey as a makeup artist behind a cosmetics counter, and found it frustrating that she wasn’t able to help customers find the best products for them; instead she was instructed to just sell products in the line she worked for. I can definitely relate to this, I found the same frustrations working behind a makeup counter. So, Paula set out to teach consumers about what products actually work and is best for them, and this resulted in her own makeup line, a research team investigating all of your household beauty products, this book, and additionally thousands of reviews available on CosmeticsCop.com. She states, “my team and I remain steadfast in our mission to provide current and insightful information about skin care and makeup to help you find the best products possible, regardless of your budget.”

Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me begins by explaining some of the lies that are fed to us by the beauty industry about what products we need, and goes on to explain real solutions for every skin type and the best skin-care routine for you. The rest, and the majority of the book then lists product-by-product reviews from over 100 different lines of makeup and skincare products.

For example, flipping to any line – take Chanel for example – will first list a brief description of the strengths and weaknesses of the line in general. Then the different Chanel products are listed under the categories of cleansers, eye-makeup removers, toners, moisturizers, lip care, specialty skin care products, foundations & primers, concealers, powders, blush & bronzers, eyeshadows & eye primers, eye & brow liners, lip color & lip liners, mascaras, face & body illuminators, and brushes (Whew!) Under each category, each product is listed with ratings in quality (poor, average, good, and best) and expense (pretty much everything Chanel is listed as $$$), and then a description of why this product will or will not benefit you.

So of course, after skimming through this awesome and thoroughly detailed section of the book, my first question was, “well, what are the best products to buy?” At which point, Paula seemed to read my mind, as the last chapter of the book is “The Best Products.” She lists all the different types of skin-care and makeup products in different categories based on skin types, and lists all of the products that received “best” ratings in her reviews, with prices included. This is great, because it shows you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get makeup that works – you can buy some drugstore makeup that works just as well as some luxury lines! Fantastic!

I can’t explain how handy this is! I’ve already toted this book along with me when I went makeup shopping last week. Paula and her research team have given us so much knowledge about all of the products out there, and how to move past the lies sold to millions of women everyday to find the truth about what we need for our skin. This is a must-read for anyone with questions about what types of makeup and skincare products to use, and to learn more about the cosmetics industry in general.