Hiatus Report

Sometimes in life we get ridiculously buried in work and stressed out over changes that are happening to us or around us. I am in one of these states at the moment. Needless to say I have a lot of priorities, which include but are not limited to: training for a 5k race, working a full-time job and writing this blog. However, it is time for a restructure of this blog, to keep it running and not into the ground.

So I’m taking a week or two, perhaps up to a month but certainly no longer than that, to get my life sorted out, my time managed and my blog restructured. When I return it will be with a bang, I promise you that! I will miss you, Audience, but I will see you again.

Need a Spa Day? Grab a Body Scrub!

There are a few different types of body scrubs out there, varying in the ways they can help your skin. Some release toxins, others moisturize and still others will slough off dead skin as well as tightening the remaining layers. Overall there are two sub-categories of body scrubs: exfoliating and moisturizing. These are sometimes mingled as it all has to do with the mixture of ingredients and how they affect your skin. There are also other sub-categories that have to deal with what their main ingredient is: salt, sugar, coffee, herbal and oatmeal.

Salt is good for exfoliating the skin as it is more abrasive as a body scrub. Salt draws out toxins and promotes healing, so if you eat a lot of heavily processed foods, a salt based scrub may be best for you. Here are some salt scrub recipes that may interest you:

Coconut Lime Scrub

Margarita Salt Scrub

Raspberry Coconut Scrub

Sugar scrubs are great for sensitive or dry skin. They are much more gentle than the abrasive salt based scrubs, so if you’re a red head: stick to the sugar scrubs. Here are some sugar scrub recipes just for you:

Baby Rose Scrub

Coconut Birthday Cake Scrub

Basic Ideas for Sugar Scrub Recipes

Moisturizing Brown Sugar Scrub

Chai Tea Scrubs

Coffee scrubs are good for tightening the skin and getting rid of cellulite. They are very fragrant, but mix very well with chocolates and vanillas to soften the scent and take away the bitter edge. Caffeine is very energizing and helps to achieve a glow to the skin, so if your skin is looking a little dull, reach for the coffee scrubs.

A Great Coffee Scrub Recipe

Herbal scrubs focus mostly on lavender and chamomile, but there are plenty of other herbs out there that can make any combination of scents and effective skin care ingredients. Mostly these are made of oils and herbs, nothing much else. Because of the various mixtures this kind of scrub can be good for almost any type of skin.

An Herbal Scrub with Sage and Almond

The last type is oatmeal. Oatmeal is great for dry or oily skin, as it draws out the toxins and helps to balance the skins natural oils. The only downside to oatmeal is that it makes the scrub a lot more chunky, however throw it in a blender and you no longer have to suffer with that consistency.

Oatmeal Coconut Cookie Scrub

Oatmeal Scrub

Just remember that you shouldn’t use body scrubs more than 3 times a week. When using them, use a circular motion to apply the scrub and not a side to side motion, as it is less abrasive to your skin to do so. If your skin is reddened, feels bruised or is much more dry than normal, you should cease using the scrub until the symptoms dissipate. Good luck and enjoy!

The Plot can be Your Demise

Plot [plot]

Noun

1. Also called the storyline. The plan, scheme or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel or short story.

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Plot is both easy to come up with and hard to keep coherent. Plot is what ties your story together and keeps the characters in it moving. Usually the plot gives them a sort of goal, like Mount Doom was the goal for the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings. There are many things that make a plot what it is and should be: flow, reason, conflict, timing, coincidence and devices. I will be covering each of these in this article.

Flow is a big part of the plot. If you’ve ever spoken with a critic or a creator of any literary piece, you might have heard the term “plot hole” and heard the subsequent groaning and floundering over it. Basically, every creator and thus, the audience members, wish to have some sort of logical flow to the plot. For instance, you wouldn’t want to skip a very relevant scene leading up to the climax of your story. It will confuse readers if you do, and disrupt the flow of your story.

Reason is motive; whether it’s the motive of your characters or the reason the plot is being driven in a certain direction. There should be a reason for everything. Especially a reason why some questions remain unanswered (if any) and when they get answered. This should follow with cliffhangers as well as overall plot arcs.

Conflict is what makes or breaks a plot. If there’s no conflict, there’s no plot. Conflict between factions, individuals, species or what-have-you’s are important. You may resolve one conflict and then pick up another or perhaps you start off small and then something bigger comes their way that was connected to the smaller conflict in the beginning. The latter can be seen in Teen Wolf and Bitten.

The timing of everything matters a lot to the plot. Mostly what I mean by ‘timing’ here is not actually about the devices, but when the story picks up and when it ends. Does it seem like the perfect spot for it to begin and end? Or does that need some more work and careful consideration? With keeping that in mind, you also want to balance the ‘perfect beginning’ and ‘perfect ending’ with the idea that there is much more to the story and the characters than this isolated set of circumstances. Or perhaps if your characters don’t make it past the end, or aren’t in existence before the beginning of the story, that the world continues, or the universe. However broad you need to go.

Something else to think about while writing your literary or dramatic piece is coincidences. Are there any? Are there too many? Either way and your story could be caught in the danger zone. If nothing is a coincidence then your audience may find the contents too suspenseful or intense. However, if there are too many coincidences then they may find it to be silly, implausible and underdeveloped. Be careful when weighing the options between coincidence and not.

Plot devices are just about anything that continues the plot rolling forward. They can be unexpected twists, reveals, actions, dialogs, etc. Absolutely anything goes. What really matters is that the plot isn’t propelled just by the characters alone. It can’t just be your main characters that are driving the plot forward with actions, reactions or decisions made/not made. If the characters are the only thing going for your writing then you may need to think about fleshing out the rest of the world. Your setting may need to be changed, or the other, minor characters that your main characters interact with, circumstances may need to be altered.

Most of all, as a creator, you want your piece to be coherent and stylistic. You want it to be a complete world with an interesting plot. You need to be aware of everything and make sure that whatever ends are left loose are of your choosing. Make sure you know everything there is to know about your plot, characters and world. The plot makes or breaks the story, so don’t just let things slide.

A Guide to Living with Your Parents

Okay, so my last how to that had to do with parents (and moving back home) was more on the humorous take. While this may have bits and pieces that you find humorous, it’s intended to be a more serious piece. I’m writing this one mostly because my older sister is about to embark on a journey that involves living with parents in the house, so I thought I’d make a sort of guide on how to cover your bases. Here we go: how to live with your parents.

1. Make sure you each have “get away space”. Whether this means that you retreat to a bedroom, outside, or just a space where you don’t see, hear, smell or even have objects that are one another’s (this could mean going shopping), you have got to have this. Personal space is a biggie, especially when everyone is in the same house and stressers are involved.

2. Evaluate your income. If all adults in the house are contributing income that’s fine. If the child is living with the parent and there is no rent negotiated, offer to pay some. What my parents did when I was living with them was a percentage of whatever I was making. This way I could save for things I needed to save for (a new car; moving out) and still had some spending money as well.

3. Contributing to the household. Not just monetarily, but with cleaning and upkeep. If you’re uncertain how to contribute, then ask. If you need something done for you, ask. Communication is key. Make sure that everything is covered and everyone has some chores (even including kids on this is a great idea!).

4. Interact in positive manners. Family game night? Watching a movie together? Do it! These are great positive interactions, so even if you’re on rocky ground normally, this can help. Granted, if you’re argumentative then a game or movie isn’t going to stop you from picking a fight, but generally this gives you enough time to chat amiably and relax in one another’s presence.

5. More communication. This has to do with where people are and when. Find a way to communicate, think about how the other person will feel if they wake up and expect you to be there, but aren’t. Different ways to communicate: handwritten notes, emails, texts, magnetic word poems. Phone calls are great during the daytime, but if it’s the middle of the night, don’t call unless it’s urgent.

6. Pay attention to one another. Don’t shut each other out, do ask about each other’s day. Ask questions, be sincere about your interactions. Don’t take the person for granted. Know if they are stressed and how to make it better. Know their favourite colors, foods. Ask them what they would like for dinner or breakfast or lunch. Surprise them with take out, flowers, something they’ve been wanting for a while now.

7. Make sure everyone in the house is okay with any changes you want to make or are forced to make. Sometimes it’s picking up groceries on a different day. Sometimes it’s a change in job. No matter what the change is, it’s important that everyone is both notified and gets to have input.

8. Always tell each other what you appreciate. If someone else has done something for you or for the household and you appreciate it: tell them. They deserve to know that what they just did or did a week ago is something you don’t take for granted and you noticed that they did it particularly well or when you were too busy to have done it easily yourself.

9. Never forget to tell them that you love them. Especially before someone leaves the house. Even if you’re pissed at them for something said or done (or not done). In fact, if you’re angry with them, it’s even better to say it. I don’t care if you slip them a note, paper airplane it to them, leave a sticky note on their steering wheel or shout it at them. Tell them.

10. Hug it out. When you’ve made up, when someone’s going out, when they’ve done something outstanding or just because. Hug them. It’s important to have eight positive physical touches during your day. Make sure the other people in your house receive those.

There Are No Reasons to Not Watch Guardians of the Galaxy Right Now

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I’d been waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy to come out since they first announced the film. Today I got to see it and was absolutely thrilled with how it came out: it was hilarious, action-packed and well-rounded.

For those of you who don’t know who the Guardians of the Galaxy are, you might want to check out the Marvel comics because they’re wonderful and worth the time. To give you a short view of them, they are made up of an outlaw, an assassin, a living tree, a cybernetically and genetically enhanced raccoon and a big guy with a vendetta. These guys tend to find trouble everywhere they go, and in this particular instance it all starts out with Peter Quill, the outlaw, stealing an important orb from an abandoned planet. The thing is, this orb isn’t just some decorative item, it’s actually a really powerful weapon, on par with the Tesseract from The Avengers and Thor. But wait, there’s more! He’s not the only one after this weapon, it seems like everyone is after it, including one of the most powerful forces in the universe: Thanos.

So there’s quite a bit of action, due to all the various fight scenes, but right when the tension gets to that cut-it-with-a-knife level, someone makes a joke. Talk about great writing! The jokes fit perfectly too, so it just makes the audience relieved and keeps them enjoying the film during it’s just over 2 hour run-time.

Something that I noticed that was a wonderful thing to see and you don’t see too often was character development all the way around. Each one of the characters had some kind of revelation: Drax the Destroyer learned that his vendetta didn’t have to end in a suicide run at the bad guy; Gamora learned to trust in others and not just herself; Rocket learned to accept the fact that he was different; Groot not only learned to speak other words than “I am Groot”, but he also learned that sometimes you must fight for peace; and lastly Peter Quill learned to forgive himself for things done in his past. All in all, there was a lot of great advancement in the plot and each subplot based on what these characters learned. I absolutely loved seeing such well-written characters on the big screen.

All in all I definitely recommend going to see Guardians of the Galaxy or at least watching it when it comes out on DVD/BlueRay. It’s a great movie for any member of the family and funny enough to keep you going through the whole movie!

From Candyland to Pictionary

Board games are an absolutely wonderful way to relax, whether there’s only two of you or there’s eight. I know that my own collection of board games has done nothing but grow, especially with the more friends I have found. From Candyland to Pictionary to Dominion—even Tabletop RPG board_gamesbased games like Pathfinder have their rightful place among the thousands of board games I suggest sampling from.

Kids games can be fun for anyone, but the basic ideas behind them might be a little too boring for adults, if it’s solely adults playing the games you might find that making up your own system of rules or adapting the existing rules would make the game more fun for the players.

There are games for those aged 12 and up, Monopoly and Parcheesi are good examples of these types. They are a great way, sober or inebriated, to relax. The only thing about Monopoly? It can sometimes ruin friendships. Be careful with that one, but otherwise you’re bound to have a great time.

There are tabletop RPG games: yes, Dungeons and Dragons is what I’m talking about. They are a great social game that is a little more in depth to set up and play, but just as enjoyable (maybe more so for people who prefer to be immersed in a game). Pathfinder and D&D are a game that is going to be spread out over multiple sessions in order to get through a campaign, so be prepared to play this often and with generally the same people.

Card games are another form of “board games” that you might find to your taste. Games like 46153-collectionDominion and Munchkin are based in cards, but Uno is just as fun and relaxing. These are usually great for all ages, although Munchkin has complex rules that are generally more made up as they go so it might not be as suited for youngsters if they don’t have a dedicated helper.

Overall games can bring people together, relieve stress and give you something to do in times when you might not have much else to do. They’re a great way to relax and enjoy your day. So break out a board game and rope in the family or invite some friends over!

Pavlok: The Shock You Need to Change

Lots of people have heard of FitBit, the bracelet that measures sleep cycles, steps taken and even your calories, giving you updated information to your mobile device on how your fitness regimen is going; but have you heard of Pavlok? Pavlok is also a wearable fitness bracelet, but instead of just keeping you updated with your latest information regarding your body and fitness, it also has a negative reinforcement to go along with it. To put it plainly, it emits an electric shock if you don’t meet your fitness goals (say, 10,000 steps in a day).

Of course, your goals would be programmed into your smart phone, which would then give the Pavlok the parameters to go about shocking you, so you would be in total control of why it would be shocking you: sleeping in too late and lack of exercise are two major selling points. However, that isn’t all there is to offer. Pavlok also allows you to team up with other wearers to become accountable for one another—thus adding in a app2social element. In this event your buddy would get to keep tabs on you as well, and be able to push the button to have you shocked for not completing the goals you set forth. There are also positive reinforcers for completing some challenges, such as money.

If you’re worried about the shock being bad for you, not to worry. This shock is about as bad (and annoying) as a shock you could sustain from shuffling your feet across the carpet and then touching a doorknob or light switch. It’s bad enough to be a negative reinforcer, but not bad enough to cause you any injury. But shocking you isn’t the first thing it will do to you. Pavlok will start by vibrating and ringing, and then graduate up to giving you an ultimatum. Either your monetary bounty will be given away (say bye-bye to your money!) or you can choose to take the shocking punishment as well as having your failures posted to your Facebook wall.

Think this drill-sergeant bracelet is for you? Fork up $249.99 for an early alpha model to test out, or wait for 2015 to roll around and purchase yours for only $149.99. Good luck to you, if you go for it, as I think if I received one it would be sitting on the table collecting dust after the first shock was administered.

For more information visit pavlok.com